Principles of Design

I doubt that one of the people with the biggest influences on me would even remember my name.

Study the basic concepts of figure, ground, line, contrast, pattern, proportion, color, symmetry, movement, unity, and balance. Students learn the principles of two- and three-dimensional design and develop language to analyze product design, plate presentations, decoration, and packaging on visual, tactile, and conceptual levels.

In 2004, I was quite young, yet already three years into my culinary career, and already terribly jaded. I had an associates degree in culinary arts, and had worked in several restaurants of varying quality, back of the house, front of the house, a little bit of everything. And I was accepted to what is probably still considered “the Harvard of culinary schools” into the baking and pastry program.

I had started out my culinary career as wanting to pursue the savory side, and that the sweet side was all wedding cakes, bread, and bakeries – nothing I was interested in. It was midway through my associates degree that I fell in love with pastry. With pastry, you could make anything you wanted utilizing several fundamental ingredients – namely sugar, butter, eggs, flour. And suddenly it was like my world opened. With savory food, you were tied to ingredients and keeping those ingredients recognizable. Who would want to eat a chicken thigh that looks like a flower? Baking did not have aesthetic limits.

Boom.

Which is how I found my way to The Culinary Institute of America, and specifically to Bruce Ostwald’s Principles of Design class, the first college level art class I ever took. Sure, the curriculum was based around food, creating plates that would have interesting textures and colors, as well as incorporating different complementary flavors and temperatures. But at the heart of this class was design – art. Visuals. Contrast. Texture. Negative space. Color. Movement. So while I was trying my hardest to continue cramming knowledge about food into my brain, my heart was learning something else – creativity. Expressing myself through a variety of mediums.

 

The problem was, sugar and chocolate couldn’t hold my interest. I was too interested in people, and when you make food, you have essentially no contact with the people you’re making it for.

Less than two years later that I returned to school, and this time I was aiming for art history. I had picked up some culinary French, and I had always had an interest in architecture, so art history made sense.

Until it didn’t.

At 22, I had just spent five years working towards a career that I really enjoyed, but that felt somewhat lacking in the practicality department – the restaurant world is very difficult to have a family in, and making a living wage seemed downright impossible – I had the best culinary school in the country on my resume and was only able to command $9/hour with no benefits. What sort of career could a bachelor’s degree in art history give me? On top of that, I felt like an anomaly – my peers were just graduating with their four year degrees, and I was already well on my way to being career changer.

So while the practical side of me chose something that was somewhat more useful – a bachelor’s in psychology is applicable in a variety in positions, though not exactly a career jump starter – I used everything in the rest of my background’s arsenal, including my interest in my father’s long time career, to gain enough momentum to create another career for myself. Which, over the years, I have turned into my day job.

And then there is the creative side, which you see here, where the spark that was discovered through Mr. Ostwald’s design class has been a glowing ember and has turned into a bonfire. Only, it’s in jewelry, rather than food. Because I can work one on one with my clients, and hopefully create something that they hold dear for years, or even generations, to come.

My most memorable piece in my principles of design class was mixed media on blue background, with diamonds cut from magazine ads exploding outwards. I should have known.

 

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Imitation vs. Inspiration

Roughly a year ago, when I first started to get the idea that I might actually design for a living, I got the opportunity to speak with a renowned designer/jeweler. One of the first things I asked when I got the opportunity to ask him questions was what his inspiration was. I look back on that and laugh because it really was a fangirl type question to ask. He gave me some sort of benign answer about anything inspiring him, and I went on my merry way.

Now, over a year later, and feeling much wiser, I know that it’s a silly question, because I know that anything can inspire you – in fact, you never know what will inspire you until it hits.

Imitation

: the act of copying or imitating someone or something
: something that is made or produced as a copy

And

Inspiration

: something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone
: a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something
: a good idea

In the jewelry world, there is really very little that is a new idea. Everything has been done before. So it’s hard to come up with new and fresh ideas.

It’s not that I don’t take inspiration from other items of jewelry, but it pains me to see an antique ring, and then later see almost an exact copy of the antique, with slightly changed elements. Why would you want to make a copy of someone else’s idea when you can make something completely different and new?

I like to borrow elements from other jewelry all of the time, and I combine them with other elements to create something that is entirely different and hopefully unique. I don’t want something that someone else has! Typically, the original is always the best anyway, so why make a copy? It’s rare that I see a copy and think it’s more beautiful than the original. Especially with antique pieces.

I have one upcoming setting that will be in my jewelry line, and I can think of 5 rings that either inspired me or  I borrowed an element from, to combine those elements into something new that I’d never really seen before. An antique, an Erika Winters design, a Leon Mege design, a David Klass design, and anyone who has ever made a ring with flower petals (which are a lot of designers, let me tell you). I sort of hope that someone digs up an antique version of what I’ve done because, in a way, it sort of validates that I had a good idea.

Here is a design I’ve been playing with for a while with some spinels for a North/South orientation. I doubt this will come to fruition, but it’s still fun to play with! Thanks to Lorraine Schwartz for the idea to try something that stretches along the finger length!

Ring 1, Ring 2, Ring 3 (there are more, but you get the idea!)

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