Step Into the World of Beaded Jewelry Design with Jean Campbell

Jean Campbell is Senior Editor of Beadwork magazine.

Creating your own beaded jewelry designs is one of the most challenging, but most rewarding, things you can do with your bead-weaving skills. And who better to get design advice from than the always awesome Jean Campbell? Jean's beaded jewelry design ideas were among some of my very first and most important inspirations when I started to design my own beaded jewelry.

I asked Jean if she would share some of the ways that she comes up with ideas for beaded jewelry designs, and she had some great tips to share! Are you looking to find new and creative ways to design your own beaded jewelry? Try one of these suggestions and see what inspiration follows!

Above: A quick snapshot of my daughter and a friend playing on Venice Beach.

Below: The resulting Pacifica crystal bracelet design that came from the inspiration provided by the photo.

Before you bake cookies, you preheat the oven. Before you exercise, you stretch. And before the in-laws stop by for a quick, unexpected visit, you shove the dirty laundry under the bed…right? Doing these pre-activity activities makes for evenly golden cookies, no pulled muscles, and less eyebrow-raising from the in-laws. They serve the main event to make it smoother, easier, and relatively painless.

The same goes for jewelry design: You do warm-up activities to make the process go smoothly. There are lots of ways to prepare for inventing an original jewelry design. Here are a few of the ways I do it:


As a creative person, I'm guessing you've doodled on whatever you can get your hands on since you were little. I know that artists like to keep their hands busy, so even if you don't consider yourself a drawer, I bet you've scribbled concentric lines in the margins of an Excel spreadsheet at a sales conference or circled the title of a PTO agenda, adding dots and arrows coming off the circle. Think about coming up with jewelry designs in the same way. Play with lines, circles, dots, and squiggles that might translate into real-life jewelry. You don't need a special notebook or a scheduled timeslot to do this. Just use whatever paper you've got around and sketch away. In fact, I have a history as a painter and illustrator and have loads of formal sketchbooks around the house, but find that my best jewelry-design sketches are on the pieces of scrap paper that I keep on my office desk. My Lilium bracelet's design beginnings started as a sketch on a piece of one of those pieces of paper.


Ten years ago, I would never have suggested this as a warm-up activity for jewelry design, but now just about all of us have digital photography at our fingertips. I use my little Canon Powershot or my iPhone to take quick snaps of things I see in gardens, at museums, and out the car window. Not all of the photos I take turn into jewelry designs, but taking shots like this helps me remember to really look at what I'm seeing. When I take the time to look through the camera lens, I shift my focus from scuttling about from point A to point B like a hamster. I slow down and become almost childlike, finding wonder in the simple things around me as I notice shape, color, and connections. This photo of my daughter and a friend on Venice Beach was the inspiration for my Pacifica bracelet. The photo helped me choose the bead type and color that mimics the blue sparkle of the Pacific Ocean.


Sakura: A beaded jewelry design born of a daydream.

This suggestion is not as concrete as the other two I mentioned. Basically, it's this: Do more daydreaming! If thoughts about your job and housework and kids and Mrs. Kravitz are bouncing around inside your melon like a tangle of crazy monkeys all the time, there's no room for creativity. The remedy is to take a dedicated amount of time every day to spend zoning out. It doesn't have to be a long time. I do it right when I open my eyes in the morning, looking out at my urban skyline. Everyone in my house knows what it means if "I'm looking at the city": don't bug me, I'm clearing my head. It's when you let your conscious mind take a rest in a little brain hammock. You don't need to do this in an "I need to come up with a jewelry design,"pressure-filled way… It's quite the opposite, because you only need to let your mind rest. When you do, you're letting the monkeys out where they belong so you can invite in the peace and quiet required for creative business. I think you'll be very surprised to see how this simple act is like vitamins for the creative mind! For instance, the braidlike feature on my Sakura bracelet was born this way…after doing some daydreaming, POP! The construction idea came into my head.

Do some of these ideas seem familiar to you? What other ways do use to prepare foe designing? We'd love to hear your ideas. Share them here on the Beading Daily blog!

Jean Campbell

Senior editor, Beadwork magazine

If you just can't get enough of Jean's fabulous beaded jewelry designs, you're in for a treat: the new Best of Jean Campbell Ultimate Collection, available now in the Beading Daily Shop! You'll get five fabulous beaded jewelry design resources including The Beader's Companion, Creating Glamorous Jewelry with Swarovski Elements, two of my personal favorites. All of these beaded jewelry design resources are available at a special price for a very limited time, so get your Best of Jean Campbell Ultimate Collection today!

Bead Happy,


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