7 Tips for Designing Mixed-Media Jewelry

Collect Ideas to Become Part of Your Art
An Interview with Cynthia Thornton

Cynthia Thornton, well-known Green Girl Studios jewelry artist, knows that inspiration isn’t just a wispy cloud that magically alights on her head: She works at it. Many know Cynthia for her amulet-like pewter and shibuichi charms, beads, clasps, and pendants. Like any sought-after artist, she is frequently asked, “Where do your ideas come from?” This designer of mermaids, elfin figures, mysterious keys and locks, flowers, trees, and faeries says: “I don’t go into a trance. There’s no shamanism or voodoo. It’s very formulaic. I see a tree and I draw it.” Her exciting new book, Enchanted Adornments: Creating Mixed-Media Jewelry with Metal Clay, Wire, Resin & More (Interweave, 2009) is layered with what could best be called “practical magic” for everyone who wants to make mixed-media jewelry that tells a story.

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Pages of fantasy drawings based on nature from Cynthia's sketchbooks.  

The entrancing miniworlds that Cynthia creates with mixed-media techniques—a raven holding a mysterious key in its beak, a faun with a woman’s head, a tiny fox, and more—are mysterious. Where did that key come from? Why does the faun have the head of a woman? The practical skills Cynthia acquired working in a 3-D illustration lab, plus her formal training at the Columbus College of Art and Design, mixed with a lifelong love of legend/myth/fairytale/short stories, are key ingredients of this artist’s success. Here are just a few of her valuable tips for designing mixed-media jewelry:

1: Collect bits. “You just need the essence of something.” Photos, pressings of leaves and flowers, rubbings of architectural features, fragments of letters are examples. And be sure to follow Cynthia’s tip to carry empty ziplock bags wherever you go. “That way, you don’t have to worry about finding something like woodland rot loose in the bottom of your purse.”  

2: Record ideas and images in a journal.
Why? “Because you forget things, especially your good ideas.” Another tip is always to carry some scotch tape with you to affix bits and pieces to your journal—a scrap of an article, a ticket, the cover of a matchbook.
 

3: Use your dreams for inspiration.
“I don’t remember a lot of my dreams. But I do record my life’s dreams, like ‘One day I want to be a writer.’” Keeping track of your wishes and reviewing them at different points in time can stimulate new ideas.
 

4: Pay attention to nature.
It’s especially important to appreciate your natural surroundings. Cynthia says she’s home a lot and often notices things in her own backyard that give her ideas for designs, from a twig on the ground to a bird winging by.
 

5: Experiment freely.
“You won’t learn if you’re afraid to fail. Take up felting. Take up knitting. Skills like these can be applied to whatever you’re making.” Cynthia also is quick to point out that whenever she tries something new, it takes repeated tries to develop something wonderful.
 

6: Mix elements creatively.
“It’s good to limit yourself sometimes: Don’t mix everything.” Cynthia says many of her best results come from having to be resourceful and simply make something work.
 

7: Collect words and phrases.
“I use a lot of quotes in my work. I love words. I have a dictionary in almost every room of my house.” Words have great visual qualities and add several dimensions to pieces—meaning, symbolism, humor, wisdom.
 

If Cynthia could be any mythical or fairytale creature, what would it be? “An angel type of creature—a winged thing. I’d fly off and find Shangri-La.” Her Woodland Wings Necklace  featured in the book shows Cynthia’s fascination with flight. Buy Enchanted Adornments to boost your creativity!

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View Cynthia's video "Deconstruction" for an intriguing look into her method for harnessing inspiration! Watch her video here!

How do you capture your ideas? Share your tips here!

 

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