Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Method in the Madness

I was flipping through my workbook last night when I came across this. Although I didn't date this entry, as you can tell by the heading (if you can read my handwriting - my mother claims it hasn't improved since I was about seven), these were my preliminary sketches for entries in the first Bead Star contest held last year. I thought this was a pretty clear illustration of my design method, so I thought I'd share it with you. Now, sometimes, I just get out the bead board and start playing with shapes and colors of beads, without doing any preliminary sketching, but I often find this the most efficient way to design my pieces.

At the time I drew this, I owned a strand of center-drilled keishi pearls and a variety of loose freshwater pearls and that's about it. I had never made a medallion shaped-dragon heart pendant or related clasp at that point but thought it would be interesting to try. (This is kind of embarrassing, but I had also never wire-wrapped a horizontally drilled teardrop-shaped bead, either - I had been creating jewelry for less than a year at that point - but that's a different issue. I often find that my designs are more ambitious than my limited technical skills, but I feel that it keeps me on my toes. And you never know what you can do until you try, right?)

As you can see by my notes, I felt that a drop-shaped bead would work well dangling at the bottom of the focal, but I didn't have an idea at that time what kind of bead I might be able to use. With this draft in mind, I went shopping during a local bead show and found some nice faceted onyx drops. (And I opened my copy of Stringing to the basic skills section, and learned how to wire-wrap them. Ahem.) I also found a larger faceted round onyx bead to string immediately above the dragon heart pendant. In the end, the piece turned out like this:

As you can see, the over-sized drops I found didn't need any further embellishment (and I only needed three of them), and I changed the clasp from a toggle to a button (and fiddled with the scale of the pendant). However, overall, the design came out pretty similar to the initial concept, right? In this case, using a preliminary sketch helped me focus the design more quickly and streamlined the whole process.

Of course, it doesn't always turn out this smoothly - you can probably also see a partial sketch of one of my double koi pendants on that page. That necklace design didn't quite work out for me, and I never completed it. Still, putting the concept down on paper first helped me determine that I didn't want to take the process further with that particular piece.

Oh, and how did I do with my entry? Well, I did make the finals last year, but I didn't end up placing. This piece ultimately appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of Stringing, instead. However, if you are not already aware - Bead Star 2009 is underway! Go here for more details.

Thanks for visiting.


Michelle Mach said...

I loved seeing your sketch and finished design. I find I sometimes make several different sketches of a piece, trying out all the possibilities. (And then once I'm actually working with beads, things are apt to change again.)

Melissa J. Lee said...

Hi Michelle, Thanks for visiting and for your comment. I always wonder what process other designers follow. It's good to know that I'm not the only one to fiddle around with these types of sketches!

Meadowbrook said...

Great ideas! It is amazing to see the sketch and the final product. Thanks for sharing your thought process. -- Connie

Jean Katherine Baldridge said...

I was just ADMIRING your necklace, looking stunning in the magazine today!
How fun to read about your thought process, which is totally different from mine! Ha! Sometime I shall explain! Let's just say yours is more ... thoughtful!



TesoriTrovati said...

What great insight into the mind of a creative! Thanks for sharing your process. I approach things in the same way, and I am always open to learning new tricks... some of my best pieces came out of a need to finagle something and fiddling until I learned how to make it work! Enjoy the day!