How to Draw Your Way to Inspired Jewelry Designs

Being the editor of Beadwork, I’m obviously entrenched in the world of beads and beading all day. But in my off time, I’ve been circling back around to my art roots. In the process of unburying my creative space in the basement with the goal of having a clear surface to work on, my bead tools and stash have moved to a secondary workspace. In their place are jars of markers and paintbrushes, pads of watercolor paper, and an old toolbox my dad scrounged up for me in college and spray painted bright blue so that I could carry my drawing tools to and from art class. These things had become forgotten, yet remain so familiar, just as if I’d never put them down during what’s become a years-long hiatus.

ABOVE: Melusine’s Gift Bracelet, by Cynthia Thornton, and painted butterflies to fit inside.

How to Draw Your Way to Inspired Jewelry Designs

The Nixie’s Necklace, by Cynthia Thornton, and a few of her sketchbook paintings that inspired the piece.

Start an Inspiration Journal

I was recently asked to write about a favorite book from Interweave. Enchanted Adornments by Cynthia Thornton immediately came to mind, perhaps because my subconscious connected the inspirational art-journal aspects of the book to my creative drive to do more with my art. Cynthia’s book is unlike any jewelry book I’ve seen. It’s formatted like an artist’s sketchbook; the jewelry projects are accompanied by drawings, paintings, and journal entries which all point to the inspiration behind each design.

Do you keep a journal? Are you dabbling in creative writing? Are you prone to doodling during long office meetings or while you’re on the phone? Any of these endeavors can lead to some very creative jewelry designs.

Never drawn before? Don’t let that intimidate you! Enchanted Adornments includes tips for beginners, like how to deconstruct objects into outlines and basic shapes and then go back in and work on the details. I love Cynthia’s suggestions for keeping a sketchbook handy at all times. For example, I would have never thought to include bits of overheard conversations, maps, ephemera, etc., in my own sketchbook. What a great way to capture inspiration from moments during your day.

How to Draw Your Way to Inspired Jewelry Designs

Customized cuticle sticks and African porcupine quills, which have been shed, are great tools for adding detail work to clay.

Tools and Techniques

Enchanted Adornments also includes chapters on working with many different materials, like polymer clay, metal clay, wire, resin, and found objects. I found the suggestions for what tools to use for carving and texturing clay to be very helpful. I want to dig around in my art supply stash and see what I can use to add dimension to my clay.

How to Draw Your Way to Inspired Jewelry Designs

A sampling of shrink plastic designs by Melinda Barta.

Borrow Your Kid’s Shrink Plastic

As another form of self-expression, draw a favorite pattern on shrink plastic for an individualized pendant or pair of earrings. Simply draw or trace your desired design onto a circle, square, or teardrop shape, shrink it down using a craft heat gun or your kitchen oven, and now you’ve got a one-of-a-kind jewelry component. What a great way to preserve your children’s doodles as well!

Custom Cool Jewelry, by Melinda Barta, explores how to add a personal twist to your handcrafted jewelry using shrink plastic, fabric, lace, playing cards, rubber stamps, and more.

How to Draw Your Way to Inspired Jewelry Designs

Jeannine Stein’s shrink plastic flower charms were shaped using a special mold.

Our coworker Jeannine Stein, editor of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, used an inventive bead mold tool created by Julie Haymaker Thompson to turn shrink plastic flowers that she doodled on into these cool shaped beads (see Julie’s fantastic charm bracelet project in the September/October 2017 issue, and read Jeannine’s full article here).

Remember all those art supplies I mentioned before? Now I’m excited to put them to use by combining my love for art with my love for jewelry making!

Do you have other ideas for incorporating drawings into your jewelry designs! I encourage you to explore all of your artistic sides and see where they lead!

Debbie Blair
Editor, Beadwork magazine

For more great ideas to jump-start your creativity, check out these products in the Interweave Store: