The Stages of Design

Sandra tearing into her latest purchases. It's like Christmas!

Sandra tearing into her latest purchases. It’s like Christmas!

Sandra, one of our artists-in-residence, came to the shop recently with a package she’d just received. She wanted us to see the latest jewelry components she’d ordered, in part because she knew we would appreciate her latest sparkly purchases (who doesn’t love sparkles?!), but also because she said she may need “design moral support.” We asked her what she meant by that. She said that there were times when items she ordered didn’t always turn out how she expected, and her initial reaction might be disappointment. She wanted us there to give her some hope that she could still use her less-than-thrilling components, if that’s what they turned out to be. She (half-jokingly) said she went through the same “stages of design” with almost every jewelry project. We decided to expand upon the stages she described, because we’re pretty sure many jewelry designers go through the same process, and we wanted you to know that you’re not alone!

Excitement: “Ooo! Something new to work with!”
There’s nothing quite like purchasing a particularly awesome pendant, inspiring strand of beads, or another cool jewelry component. You can’t wait to take your new item home, haul out your bead stash, and start designing. You’re not sure what you’re going to do with it yet, but it’s so pretty! You’ll find a way to use it, you’re sure of it.

Anxiety: “Is this going to work?”
You bring out your boxes ‘o beads, lay out your bead board, and start thinking about what you are going to make. A necklace? Hmm… Sure. Is it for you? Well, maybe. But your best friend’s birthday is coming up, so maybe you should make something for her. Would she like this pendant/strand/other cool doodad? Hmm… You’re not sure. Maybe this necklace should be for you, after all. But do you have other beads/spacers/etc. that will work with your latest purchase? Oh, geez. You’re not sure if this is going to work.

Dread: “This is never going to work.”
You shuffle your beads around in your tray, play with different lengths, multiple strands, different clasps…and nothing seems to be working. Either the proportions aren’t right, the colors are all wrong, or the end result just doesn’t get you excited. It’s missing something, but you just can’t quite put your finger on it. You leave your project for a little while, come back to it…and still nothing. Argh! Why is this so hard?! You give up, walk away, and leave your project for a few days. Just like during a tiff with a loved one, sometimes you just need time to cool off.

Hope: “Hmm…this could work.”
Now you’ve had some time to think. You’ve looked up some pictures in your beading magazines, you’ve gone online and done some searching for design ideas, and you’ve asked some fellow beaders (like the gals at Blue Door Beads!) what their thoughts are about your problem-child project. You’ve compiled a group of sketches of designs that intrigue you and have done a little more planning. Those spacers that you thought were perfect for this design? Scratch them. The brightly-colored beads that popped out at you at the beginning? Let’s try ones that are a bit more subdued. They’re equally pretty, and they may be just what this necklace needs. The gears in your brain start turning, you start putting things together, and then…

Sandra's finished necklace! She wasn't sure how to incorporate the mother-of-pearl components at first, but she made it happen, and the results are stunning!

Sandra’s finished necklace! She wasn’t sure how to incorporate the mother-of-pearl components at first, but she made it happen, and the result is stunning!

Satisfaction: “Woo hoo! This totally works!”
You weren’t sure if you’d ever get there, but lo and behold, you have a completed necklace. And it’s FABULOUS! It was frustrating at first to have to change things around so much, but it was worth it. This is a piece you LOVE, you feel great wearing it, and it’s just what you had hoped for. Even if the style is much different than what you are used to, or if it’s a color you don’t wear very often, fret not. Keep in mind that, if you find later on you don’t wear it as often as you thought you would, you can always re-work it into something even more beautiful. True, you may have to go through the “stages of design” all over again, but that is part of the creative process. You may not go through all of the stages with each one of your projects, which is OK, but if you do, that’s OK, too. Just remember we can’t always control where our designing brains takes us. The important thing is to enjoy the ride!

Check our Sandra’s work in person here at Blue Door Beads on the third Thursday of every month from 6pm-9pm during the Piedmont Avenue Stroll.


2 thoughts on “The Stages of Design

  1. You really nailed the stages of the creative process – when it comes to many areas, not just jewelry making! Great post

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