Putting Down the Beads

Lately, almost all of the design work I have done on new projects has happened on a deadline. It always seems like I am working against the clock, speeding through projects to meet an upcoming submissions due date, or finish a birthday gift on time, or move on to one of the other million things left on my to-do list. I have learned to work under pressure…and most of the time this is a good thing. But recently I realized that I haven't been making time in my fast-paced creative schedule to step back after I finish a new project and really consider and critique it.  

They might look harmless, but these
earrings are deafening when you put
them on! Lesson learned…

A few days ago, an artist who makes custom clasps got in touch with me to ask if I had any feedback about one of his clasps that I used in a recent project. He explained that he was working on a new line of clasps and would love to hear any suggestions or comments I had about his previous pieces. I'll admit: At first I drew a total blank. I was in such a hurry to get that piece finished that I barely remembered anything about it. It wasn't until I pulled it out and re-examined it that I realized I actually had a lot of ideas about how I could improve the design as a whole (as well as a few specific ideas about the clasp).

Performing this exercise reminded me that I used to sit with each of my jewelry projects after I finished it–wearing it around for a day or two, taking note of where it poked my wrist or tickled my neck, observing whether it settled into place when I had it on or if it needed constant readjustment. There were always a few tweaks that needed to be made before I was really ready to call a piece finished.

Thinking back over the projects I have made in the last few years, there are more than a few design snafus I made that could have been avoided by allowing myself enough time to "test drive" each piece after I finished it. (A particularly apt example: I finished a pair of earrings just in time to rush them off to a photo shoot, so it wasn't until I got them back from the photographer that I tried them on and realized the bead caps I used were so big that the beads inside of them clanged against their sides like little clappers. It sounded like someone was ringing a tiny bell in each of my ears every time I moved my head!) 

I am a self-taught jewelry designer, but lately I haven't been making the time to actually teach myself anything. We have a lot to learn from our own design successes and failures as long as we make the effort to notice them.

So. After you finish your next jewelry project, I urge you to take a beat before you rush on to the next one. Put the beads down and take (at least!) a few minutes to really consider your work. Try it on. See how it feels. See how it moves. Is there anything you don't like about it? Do the components work well together? Do the materials play out your color palette the way you wanted them to? Are you happy with the way you executed your abstract design ideas? What really works in the piece?

In short: What did you learn?

I think you will be surprised by how much you still have to teach yourself.

Happy beading!


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