4 Ways to Make Playful Beaded Jewelry

I can't stop buying little face beads and cabochons. Some of those in my collection are more than five years old and still unused.  It's not a lack of ideas that's stopping me.  In fact, it's quite the opposite: I have so many ideas that I can't settle on a single one.  Should I make hair with tiny strands of peyote stitch or should I create some interesting curls with tubular herringbone?  What color beads should I use?  What size? Should I make accessories?  Maybe an easy top hat out of a stitched tube or a scarf of square stitch and fringe?

Every time I open one of my bead drawers and see the face cabochon and bead pictured here (left, Suburban Girl Studio and right, Off Center Productions), I smile and think about how much I love making whimsical jewelry.  Even if you don't have funny faces in your own bead stash, you can still make some lighthearted creations.  Not-so-serious jewelry has one or more of these qualities:

Childhood Motifs: Use a pendant or beads that that recall childhood such as animals, candy, toys, or games.  Even teen or tween jewelry such as an inexpensive rubber bracelet can spark a beadwoven design such as this Creative Cause Bracelet by Katie Hacker.

Pictured here: While this Flamingo Evening Bag by Judi Wood is not jewelry, it's a strong example of how an animal can change the tone of a potentially serious object.  (Is it even possible to design a completely serious statement piece featuring a flamingo?)

Color:  While a playful piece might only have a single color, it's typically a case of "the more, the merrier" when it comes to colors.  Calypso Squares by Julie Glasser, for example, combines hot pink, turquoise, lime green, orange and purple.  Too much color for you?  Roller Girl Bracelet by Linda Gettings does a nice job of toning down some of the candy-colored brightness in her peyote- and square-stitched bracelet with a solid dose of black.

Pictured here: The Gumdrops Necklace by Dana Rudolph is a good example of a fun project with just two colors per necklace. (The cute project name also helps underscore its fun vibe.)

Movement:  Jewelry with movement such a necklace with fringe or the curves in the  right-angle weave Twister Earrings and Bracelet Set by Janel Gradowski makes for a fun experience for the wearer. Jill Wiseman's Rolling in the Deep bracelet with its removable sliders in the book Mastering Herringbone Stitch by Melinda Barta is another great example of a piece with movement. 

Pictured here: Charmed I'm Sure by Sue Jackson.  It's hard to beat a charm bracelet for fun-to-wear movement.

Non-Matching Elements: Fun jewelry designs often contain elements that do not match perfectly, almost as if they were thumbing their noses at traditional design.  Think about making non-matching earrings or an asymmetrical necklace. Those design techniques may not be laugh-out-loud funny on their own (many serious designs use non-matching elements), but are often one aspect of playful work. Squared Elements by Sue Jackson is a good example of a bracelet design that mixes serious neutral colors with non-matching patterns.

Pictured here: Memento Magic by Jeanne Barta Craine connects non-matching bezeled elements into a single bracelet.  You could amp up the fun factor in this bracelet by using non-traditional materials such as poker chips or old subway tokens. 

The more elements you mix, the more playful the piece.  Take a look at Going Bananas by Lynn Davy.  It's an asymmetrical necklace in bright orange and yellow with fringe and beads that look like pieces of candy.  It's hard to look at this sunny necklace and feel grumpy.  That's probably the main reason I enjoy making lighthearted pieces so much, especially after a long winter.

Do you ever make playful jewelry?  And more importantly, do you have design suggestions for my little face beads?

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