Beading, Bead Weaving, and Jewelry-Making Tips & Tricks from the Pros
We asked a handful of prominent designers for their best advice on how to improve a beaded jewelry design. Whether you struggle with color selection, tool choice, or just plain old inspiration, read on to see what the experts recommend!
Sara Oehler, Soft Flex Company
To improve your jewelry designs, choose the best products possible both on the inside and outside of your design. This guarantees that your design will not only look great but also hold up to the test of time. A good-quality crimp, the right diameter or gauge of wire, and decent tools can make a real difference.
Cynthia Rutledge, beadwork designer
Inspiration is the fuel to my design work. Creativity is the vehicle that takes me from a small idea to actually creating a new design. I keep notebooks and folders of paintings that I have seen, interesting architectural details, images of antique royal jewelry, and anything that has struck my eye to use as inspiration at a later date. I also feel that color can make or break a design, no matter how great, so don’t be afraid to use a color wheel! And finally, buy quality tools and you won’t have to buy them again down the line. I have a studio set of tools and my supplies are all handy, but when traveling, I have another set so that I can bead on the road, anywhere and at any time.
Cynthia Kimura, ArtBeads.com
The Bead Stopper is a handy tool I use all the time. No more beads coming off my wire or thread, and I can put aside my work with no worries. They are great for holding multistrand pieces.
Jack Davenport, Bead Master
I start by conceptualizing a color story for the piece. By beginning with color you can be assured that whatever you assemble will appear harmonious first and foremost. When you improve your color combinations, you improve your jewelry. Naturally occurring color schemes are a great source of inspiration.
Becky Nunn, Nunn Design
I create my best jewelry designs when I give myself time to experiment and play. Often, the designs that are seen on my company’s blog or website are pieces that I have done multiple times until I produced just the right look and feel. Just like any craft, it takes time, patience, practice, and the willingness to keep pushing the design until it is just right.
Wyatt White, Beadalon
For avid wire wrapping, the MultiPliers tool, which I invented, allows most people to enjoy at least a 30-percent increase in productivity. The two heads (round-nose and chain-nose) eliminate the time that is wasted picking up and putting down two pliers. I love using a tool that decreases my production time, which increases my profit margin.
Kathryn Silvia-Lecrivain, Beadaholique
When it comes to stretching my comfort zone as a designer, I first look to where I can experiment with color. I suggest not only pairing colors in a unique way but also thinking about the ratio to which you use the colors in your piece. A beautiful teal can come to life with a tiny splash of deep plum, or you can tone down an orange using accents of a warm marigold yellow.
Marcy Kentz, Nina Designs
The way I improve my jewelry designs is by always experimenting with new techniques and color/texture combinations. By letting go of the fear of “messing up,” I allow myself to create things that don’t work, and in the process, I find new designs that do work, which opens the door to a whole bunch of new ideas.
Allie Buchman, The Potomac Bead Company
In almost every design, I add a metallic color to give the project a rich, more luxurious look. I often mix metals (such as silver and gold), so the piece is more versatile to be worn with existing jewelry. And threading a needle can be the most frustrating start to any project, so having needle-nose pliers handy to flatten out the end of the thread makes it easy to slide through the eye of the needle.
Tracy Gonzales, TierraCast
I find that I can improve most designs by simplifying them. The inspirational stage often leads to too much good stuff! I set the idea aside for a bit, and when I return it is easier to see where elements can be removed and the design refined. The “walkaway” approach can often help with engineering issues as well—solutions come when I’m less focused on a problem.
Helena Chmelikova, Preciosa
I love nature, especially summer meadows full of blooming flowers. I seek inspiration in everyday details of our lives like observing how people dress and how they use and combine accessories. I’m interested in the evergrowing assortment of glass beads and seed beads made in the Jablonec region of Northern Bohemia, and I appreciate the unparalleled assortment of beads, components, and other types of materials available to us. When it comes to color selection, I often follow the color trends presented by Preciosa Ornela, since the trend book is based on both research and prior experience.
Leslee Frumin, beadwork designer
For color inspiration, I suggest looking at garden magazines, interior decorating magazines, or fabrics that appeal to you. Use unequal amounts of the colors to add appeal to the work. Repetition of the color in the elements or component parts and consistent stitching tension help create a successful piece of jewelry.
Sarah James, JesseJamesBeads.com
I like to curate blends of color and texture based on ideas that inspire me. It could be a place, a person, a feeling—such as French Polynesia, Frida Kahlo, or the edgy vibe of a Stone Cold Fox. My advice is to hone in on something that lights you up from the inside. Look at photos of it, immerse yourself in the color and the vibe. Seek out beads and components that match this same inner fire and you are more than halfway to your next impassioned jewelry design.