Overthinking

I have one particular client-friend who will tell you just how much I overthink pieces. She has listened to me, more than once, go on and on and on about how much time I put into designs, and how ridiculous all of the thought I put in before I even start sketching out what is going through my mind. Of course, once I start sketching is when the pieces all fall into place and I can see, granted in a 2D representation, how everything fits and flows together, what works and what doesn’t. I feel like a lot of jewelry out there doesn’t take every angle and every single element into consideration, which is so sad to me.

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For instance, why is the basket so enclosed?

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Two reasons, it’s highly polished to reflect the stone’s color back at the wearer and in a stone that isn’t cut perfectly, it helps camouflage any windowing.

I have just spent the morning and early afternoon rough sketching a design that has been plaguing me for weeks. Part of the reason it’s been plaguing me for so long is the fact that I was writing descriptions, taking photos and actually doing the legwork myself to get my collection onto the site, but also, I’ve been seriously stuck with where I wanted to go with the design. Today I finally had a bit of a breakthrough, and I finally put the pieces together. The structure of what needs to be there to hold the stones down has been holding me down, but I finally feel like I got it today. The pieces started to finally come together.

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Basket detail? Not just pretty, it also provides structure and support for the halo.

So much of jewelry design is holding stones. Lately I’ve been taking note of designers who don’t use prongs. Polly Wales, for instance, just casts the stones directly into her items. It is a really cool look. Bezeling is popular too. But I feel like most people work around prongs, and don’t incorporate them into the design. I think it was in my beloved architecture book, a quote about how a design element should have at least two uses, otherwise it shouldn’t be there. I will have to go look it up. My point there is that I think and think and think about those design elements.

It’s not just a prong. It should never be considered just a prong. What ELSE can the prong be? What else does the prong WANT to be?

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It wants to be a mermaid, but will settle for being part of the split shank.

And with that, I’m starting to sound like a slightly deranged philosopher. But these are the things I think of when I design a piece of jewelry. It’s not just something to be worn – it’s wearable sculpture. Each element should be practical AND beautiful. Otherwise, what is it doing there?

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Ok, well, sometimes I add things that are just pretty…like that design element on the end of the stone.

Aesthetic & Philosophy

I’ve had some questions recently about my particular design philosophy, so I figured I’d talk about that a little bit.

I tend to do really rough sketches before I get to a general shape or aspect that I like enough to start working with. Sometimes I will see something, whether it’s a shape in a pattern, or a flower, a color combination, or anything really. I never know what will inspire me, and I always have a sketch book close at hand.

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Often I really like to watch and wait for a stone to tell me how it wants to be set. I realize that that can sound corny, but I want the stone to have a setting completely designed around it and for it. I think that some stock settings can work for a variety of stones, and while I appreciate that, I don’t find it to truly work for things I like to produce. I like to make custom designs that are specifically made for a specific stone or stones.

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I love the unexpected. I am just about impossible to surprise, but I love to surprise others, or just catch them off guard with something awesome. I expect that from my jewelry too. I don’t want to make something that has predictable elements. This is much harder than you might think! I embrace an amount of whimsy, considering it to be key in making a jewelry item intriguing. I think jewelry should be striking and delightful.

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I have been heavily influenced by my past, working in the food service industry. In fact, I credit my art and design professor in pastry school as really pushing me and making me feel potential within myself to take ingredients and make them into art, with height, color, temperature, texture and finally flavor. He pushed me to see the plate as a canvas, not as a something so mundane as a plate. When I originally decided to go to culinary school, I wanted to work in the savory side, but it was after starting with baking and pastry that I came to realize that the sky really is the limit aesthetically when it comes to 5 simple ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar, butter and dairy. I learned that it was only my imagination that was holding me back. My first art project in his class was a collage – black, blue, and white, incorporating gems/jewelry cut from magazines into the night sky. Taking pieces of something, and combining them into something entirely different.

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It was after my culinary stint that I was, uh, pushed into furthering my education into a Bachelor’s degree, and turned an art history major into Psychology, concentrating in romantic relationships and gender. That influence has been more abstract, giving me a better understanding and view of humanity through romantic relationships.

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Ultimately, I take a look at the solid gemstone I have in front of me. I see the lifestyle, the tastes and desires of the person who will be wearing it, and let intuition guide me into combining the structural needs with my unique aesthetic and melding it with unexpected elements to create something that is distinctive, extraordinary and flavored specifically for it’s owner.

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Regrets and General Musings

I’m a little bit sad because I recently let go of two stones that I’ve had for a long time and had previously spent a lot of money to set. However, sometimes things just change and you have to let go. I’ve owned enough gemstones and jewelry items to realize that if you are meant to have it, it’ll probably come back to you. And if it doesn’t come back, odds are pretty dang good that something “better” will pop up later.

To date, I don’t regret passing on most of my gems, although there are some that will stay with me, and I will continue to think about them for a long time. Now that I think about it, there is no one gem that I say, “Man, I regret letting go of that stone!”

If anything, I regret certain settings for some stones, and often take big hits there. I’ve learned over the years to let a gem tell me how it wants to be set, which sounds kind of corny and New-Agey, but I can’t figure out a better way to express how I feel. I have set things before and gone on to regret those decisions mightily when coming to the realization that they just didn’t work together the way I wanted them to.

I’m a big believer in matching the stone to the jewelry item and to the owner, and I am glad that I’ve developed a stronger sense of how I best operate. It has taken many gems to get there, but I think that I, my collection, and my knowledge base really have a strong background for what I want in a piece of custom jewelry now. It has taken a lot of gems to do it, but I think that knowing the gems went to good homes is part of why I have so few regrets.

So, while the stones that I recently parted with are beautiful and I will remember them fondly forever, I am so happy they went on to new homes. I hope that their owners love them just as much, or more than I did, and I hope that they give me updates on what they did with the stones, or even let me help them figure out how to set them.

Say “Adieu!” to these guys:

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I’ve been working on designing a lot (with a couple personal projects, a design contest and some other random stuff) and blogging not so much. Between the holidays coming up and all of the craziness that accompanies them, I’ll be slowing down on the blogs a little bit until the first of the year.