Jewelry Design: Start With Sketches, Save Money!
Jean Campbell is the senior editor of Beadwork and a contributing editor to Jewelry Making Daily.
I'm a subscriber to Drawing magazine. How come? Because that's actually where I started my creative journey—pencil and paper. In fact, I love sketching so much that I got myself a college degree in fine art. I've had lots of creative exploits since I sat in intensive drawing classes all those years ago, and although my bread and butter these days is jewelry making, I always go back to pencil and paper as an easy way to exercise my creativity.
As I recently paged through the little sketchbook I take with me everywhere, I realized how absolutely silly it is that I haven't utilized my sketchbook to get my jewelry designs down on paper before I go to the bench. What a simple concept! And an especially important one for people like me (primarily a beader and wireworker), whose jewelry-making techniques are rather time-intensive. I don't know about you, but as I'm designing, I can spend hours and hours making little samples that often end up in the dog pile, as I like to call my monster plastic bag of mis-starts. I'm not sure why I haven't utilized sketching as a tool in my beadwork design arsenal. Oh, I've sketched out lots of design ideas—broad-stroke sketches that give a general idea of how a piece might flow—but I'm thinking I need to get a little bit more detailed with my sketches for several reasons:
As I mentioned before, I spend lots of time working up design ideas, only to realize halfway through that I'm not liking what I see. I think I'd save lots of time if I worked these designs out on paper first before stitching them.
Since I often use crystals in my designs, which are more spendy than other beads, I figure that if I planned out my designs in a more technical way, I might save a little dough. There are more crystal-encrusted mis-starts in my dog pile than I care to admit, and I don't cut them up because more often than not, the mis-starts teach me something for a future design. But what if those mis-starts were just on paper instead?
When I design by doing, rather than sketching, I can be well into a project before I realize the colors aren't quite right. Perhaps using colored pencils that match the materials I'm considering would allow me to experiment a bit more than I might if I'm locked into a certain bead color?
Experimenting with Shape
One idea I had while percolating on this revelation was that I could place a focal piece (like a big pendant or cabochon) right on my sketchbook and use a pen to sketch a possible design around the focal piece. Wouldn't that be handy? I mean really, how often do we start a design with a focal bead, doing all sorts of fancy stitching, bezeling, or wireworking before we get to just the right embellishment? Of all the ideas I've been thinking about since flipping through my little sketchbook, this is the one I'm most excited about trying.
Do you use a sketchbook to flesh out your designs? Great! We'd all love to hear how you make it work for you in the comments below.
Not a jewelry-design sketcher? Maybe you and I better reconsider that and take on this newfound quest together. Or maybe you're reluctant to sketch because you don't feel you've got the drawing chops? In any and all of these scenarios, I'd suggest joining me in getting inspired by tips and tricks from the sketching pros and subscribing to Drawing magazine.
Happy jewelry making! —Jean