Sketching Jewelry Designs: Creating an "Idea Book" with Lexi Erickson

When I asked my friend and metalsmithing teacher Lexi Erickson to share with me her thoughts on drawing and jewelry design, she was generous and brilliant, as always. After teaching for more than twenty years, Lexi has encountered her share of students of all skill levels, in drawing and in jewelry design.

"Sometimes my sketchbooks are just a jumble
of random thoughts, things I never actually produce, but things that are 'in progress'."

Overcoming Fear: Just Do It!
"As a teacher, I'm constantly told by my jewelry students 'I can't draw, so I can't do my assignment' and sketch out designs in a sketchbook. I totally understand this," Lexi says. "So many people feel intimidated by simply picking up a pencil/pen and drawing in a new sketchbook. You are not alone. A brand new sketchbook terrifies me. There is something 'sacred' about a brand-new sheet of white paper glaring at me that makes me just glare back, and my mind just goes as blank as that page." Isn't it comforting to know that a professional jewelry artist like Lexi has that same feeling?

Through years of working at it, though, Lexi has mastered that fear. "I start out with a series of soft triangles, circles or shield shapes, simple shapes that I use a lot. Maybe I will use a template and just draw circles, and then draw a dangle from that. It's a great way to get started, and it gets rid of that intimidating whiteness of the blank page. Try it and see for yourself, or as my very precocious five-year-old grandson says, 'Just do it!' Really, what will it hurt? If you don't like it, rip the page out. A sketchbook is not an endangered species."


Pencil or Pen?
"I sketch with a technical pen, preferably a Pigma Micron 005, thought I'm not religious about this and use several similar brands," Lexi says. But here's the most important part: "I sketch in pen because I just may have an idea that I don't like at the moment, but I can come back a few weeks later after I've thought about it and tweak that idea. If I sketched in pencil and then erased what I didn't like at that moment, the idea could be lost forever." Brilliant!

Lexi's Sketchbook Collection
While I haven't been prolific enough to fill more than one jewelry sketchbook (don't get me started on other craft and design idea books, though . . . ), Lexi has an entire bookshelf full of years of jewelry sketchbooks and idea notebooks. 


"I have sketchbooks that date back from the 1980s when I started doing jewelry, and they are a source of delight and amazement to me. They contain inspirational quotes, are part journal, along with ideas cut from catalogues and postcards picked up at shows and galleries, and of course, my drawings. (It's better than keeping all these pieces of paper in a pile somewhere in my studio, or by the couch. . . . "

"Sometimes I'm surprised by an idea I had in 1992, that I maybe thought was really dumb looking and didn't fulfill the needed purpose at the time. Maybe I didn't quite know how to do the technique, or didn't like it then but it really talks to me now," Lexi says."So I may tweak it a bit, or add a stone, and love it. Whatever you do, no matter how rough the drawing looks to you, make notes, write in stone ideas, and as you practice and do it more, it will get easier, I promise. I've never lied to you before and don't plan to start now! 

The idea of trying and practicing seems to be a popular one–first Kate McKinnon, and now Lexi. "It takes discipline, doing it several times a week," Lexi says, "but 'Just do it!' You will be surprised how good you will become, and a few years from now, you will look back and really enjoy the trip down memory lane!"


If You Really, Really, Really Can't Draw
Lexi has a solution for that, too. "Something I have enjoyed introducing students to is the geometric Colorforms. These clingy plastic shapes have been around for 60 years. The kit I have is available from and comes with colorful geometric shapes. When students have an uncreative moment, I have them play with the shapes, and soon they are stacking circles on squares, or even cutting shapes from the extra plastic pages (available at many art supply stores) and coming up with their own new designs," Lexi says. "It's a great creative tool and I highly recommend it."

Lexi's Best Advice
"Have fun. You are doing this for fun. Don't stress. . . . No one will see your sketchbook except you, or me, if I'm your teacher," Lexi says, with a big smile, "and for a small fee, I won't tell anyone!"

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