That's So You! Finding Your Own Personal Jewelry Style

Today's guest editor is Leslie Rogalski.  Leslie has a degree in illustration and design, and she sold wearable art and handwoven beaded fetish art at the American Craft Council Shows and Buyers Market before joining Interweave in 2005.  In addition to being editor in chief of Step by Step Beads, Creative Jewelry, and Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, she often teaches at Bead Fest and is a presenter on the PBS television series, Beads, Baubles, and Jewels.

That's So You!  Finding Your Own Personal Jewelry Style

by Leslie Rogalski

I have a style, more than one, actually. Along the way from there to here, in the many years I have been making adornment, my work took on a certain look. The shapes of my designs, the materials and techniques, and especially the colors I choose have become part of my identity as an artist. Sometimes people even ask me if a design is mine when it isn’t! I laugh and tell them whose work it really is, and they say, “Oh, well, that looks like something you’d make.” And though I work in a variety of materials and have different “lines” of materials and designs I explore and develop, I still have a style that’s inherent in each and every piece I make. There is no doubt that I sell my work to a certain market because of this distinct look in my designs. Knowing my style helps me know my market. Knowing my market helps me sell my work.

What's Your Style?

I bet right now you’re all asking yourself, “Oh, gosh, what’s my style?” If you’re shrugging in confusion, relax. It doesn’t happen overnight, and exploring many themes and materials is part of the process. In the 2008 issue of Creative Jewelry, noted jeweler and marketing pro Viki Lareau shares some tips from her book, Defining Your Style. Viki gives you some very helpful points to consider in your quest for your style. She suggests, for instance that if you lay out your work on a table, to think about how you would describe the overall look. Good advice. Is your work mostly modern? Romantic? Bold and a bit funky? Maybe you love fringes and have them in everything. Maybe you only like designing long necklaces with chain. It’s especially important as you develop your style to know who buys your work. One supports the other. Are you selling to women of a certain age? A certain lifestyle? A certain economic bracket? You don’t want to sell high-end jewelry at a flea market, to paraphrase Viki.

Where to Start

A great place to start looking for your style is in a bead magazine. Earmark the pages with things you really like, anything that catches your eye. Put little notes on those pages as to why you like them. Did you like the color? Did you like the combination of materials? Did you like it because it had flowers, or striped beads, or lots of crystals? But please keep this in mind: don’t copy the designs and call them your style. Be motivated to explore the techniques and materials in your own designs. Spread out piles of your favorite materials and play!

My Own Style

My style came about over many years, from many sources of inspiration and many experiments with various materials. Part of my style is about color. I use lots of purple, lots of black and red and white, and I love matte black. I also like mixing matte with shiny. I like things with art deco modernism, like my mom. I like minimal components that I make in multiples. I like symmetry and the matte metallic surfaces that evoke industry or futuristic detail. I like the shape of medals, like those on my dad’s Coast Guard uniform. I like triangles and have no clue why, but you see them in my work all the time. I like tiny cylinder beads and beads that look like unearthed archeological discoveries. I love the aura of mysticism in tribal beads. But it always comes down to what I would wear myself. I know what I like, and I know my style has come through in the jewelry that makes people say, “Oh, that piece is so you!”

What's your personal style?  Come discuss this topic in the forums!


 Free Project: Big Island Necklace by Leslie Rogalski 

This necklace from Creative Jewelry is a good example of how my style remains even when the finished piece is very different from my signature seed bead pieces. In this strung necklace there's still a geometry to the pattern, the use of black and white, and an ethnic feel in the African beads and fiber-wrapped turquoise beads.

Download Big Island Necklace

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