How to Bead Your Own Jewelry Designs

The first set of beaded rings came out exactly as I had envisioned them!
The second set of beaded rings were destined for my UFO drawer. Oh, well!

I have a friend who, as part of her New Year's resolutions, wants to become a beader who "does things" instead of just "makes things". She's got plenty of ideas for beaded jewelry designs in her head and written down on paper, but she's feeling stuck and uncertain of how to bead these projects into reality.

Figuring out how to bead a design from a sketch into a finished piece of beaded jewelry isn't the easiest thing in the world. Even when I have a clear picture in my head of which beading stitch or jewelry-making technique I want to use, there are times when once I sit down to start the actual beadwork it becomes apparent that my original ideas are not going to work.

A perfect example of this was the series of Jewish wedding rings that I designed after being inspired by photographs of 13th and 14th century artifacts from a European museum. The original rings were topped with beautifully ornate structures meant to resemble Jewish synagogues, and I had plenty of ideas on how to recreate these using my favorite beadweaving stitches and size 15o seed beads.

But, you know what they say about the best laid plans. I created the first two rings with relative ease – they only included some fancy filigree around the center and on the edges of the wide bands. Inspired by those beaded rings, I thought I had figured out how to bead the more intricate rings, and discovered that my ideas just weren't going to work. After half a dozen broken needles and many more broken beads, I took the little parts of my would-be beaded components and stored them in my UFO drawer until such time as I can figure out how to make them work.

  • When writing down or sketching your ideas, include as much detail as possible, including colors. Since I frequently get inspired by pieces that I see in museums and art galleries, I carry a tiny portable set of colored pencils with me. The whole set isn't much larger than a credit card and includes eight colored pencils, a tiny eraser and a tiny pencil sharpener. It fits right into my pocket or handbag next to my sketchbook when I'm traveling.
  • Look for inspiration everywhere. You can find ideas for original beaded jewelry designs in places like your fish tank, your vegetable garden and even on your morning commute. Look at colors, shapes and people to see what kinds of ideas they can create in your sketchbook!
  • Not every single beaded design will be a winner, so don't expect it. Even the professionals have designs that just don't work out. Instead of stressing out over your "failures", chalk them up to experience and let yourself move on to the next design!
  • Make more than one version of your beaded jewelry design. If you think the piece looks great when it's been stitched up with cylinder beads, try using Czech seed beads next. Change up the colors and materials to see what else you can create from your original beaded jewelry design.

It might sound counter-intuitive, but stitching up the beaded jewelry designs of other beaders can be a great way to learn how to bead your own jewelry designs. Learning how one bead artist uses a particular beading stitch or jewelry-making technique can give you valuable insight into just how versatile these beading stitches can be.

One of my favorite resources for creative and innovative beading projects is, of course, Beadwork magazine. I spend hours looking through each issue to find out how today's best beading designers are using my favorite beading stitches. If you are missing a few issues of Beadwork magazine, now is the time to complete your collection during the Winter Wipeout sale. All back issues of Beadwork magazine (and your other favorite jewelry-making magazines) are on sale for a limited time, so stock up while you can!

Have you ever tried to bead your own jewelry designs? If not, what held you back? Have you resolved to try to do more of your own beading designs in 2012? Share your thoughts on the blog!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer

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