After leaving the fine art world to pursue fashion jewelry design, I was a little worried at starting over with a new industry. Happily, I found that utilizing my contemporary art education really helped me move forward in the direction that I wanted to take with designing and handcrafting jewelry.
With any profession, you need to have an “eternally a student” mentality to keep yourself relevant, and once you get out of school you’ll definitely have to be the one to kick your own butt into gear and remember what you learned. It’s been 7 years since receiving my Masters Degree from CalArts but I still use the concepts of creation that I learned while there in my current jewelry practice. Some if it was instilled, some of it I gleaned through example or conversation with others, a lot I found through the years of developing my personal guiding principles, and of course being extremely patient to the process of development.
PROJECT DEVELOPMENT 101
1 [ Patience & Time] Patience was a difficult one for me to learn right away in school with so many eyes on my work because for some reason I thought I could make a masterpiece on my first try and proclaim it on the mountain top. But since then, I’ve learned that the sooner you learn that being great at what you do takes time plus trial and error, the sooner you’ll get there. Give yourself permission to develop and revise along the way. If you talk to anyone great at their craft, they’ll probably tell you that they worked for it, put in the hours (whether it be “in the zone” or frustrated), and made several revisions until they were truly satisfied with what they had in front of them.
3 [Research & Collection] In addition to experimenting, it’s also great to see whats out there in the big ol’ world. You might be surprised and inspired at what you find. No one lives in a vacuum, so it’s very important to see not only what others are doing now, but what has been done in the past. I’ll take inspiration wherever I can get it; from an obscure book at the library, to something I saw on social media, to cladding on the side of a building, to a floral pattern on a piece of fabric. I can be caught taking a photo or a screen shot for my own personal collection to reference later.
Despite the easy accessibility of the internet, I’m still a fan of the library and books. Pinterest might seem like it has everything in the universe, but it doesn’t (or at least it hasn’t been pinned yet). The library just might have that rare jewel to take your project to the next level..plus all you need to borrow something is a library card!
If you live in Los Angeles and are driving distance to Glendale, CA, check out the beautiful and recently renovated Brand Library. It’s an Arts and Music Library that has the largest music selection West of the Mississippi! The Moracan architecture is to die for as well!
4 [Point of View & Continuity] Originality is a very fine line and difficult to achieve, but paramount if you are interested in establishing yourself as a leader in your field.
Be unique not to be special, but to actually make yourself and what you do valuable to the world around you. This is why I can’t stress enough to absolutely take your time in the development stages (1-3). You can’t possibly make yourself valuable, without knowing what’s others are doing and especially without knowing what you are doing that’s different. It’s easy to take an idea from something you’ve seen, but if you don’t make it your own in some way, it’s pretty much just an appropriation/ a copy. That’s fine if that is what you do, but not good if you want to be valuable and competitive. Don’t let this stifle you in the beginning process. Imitation is fine when you are just starting out and you are looking at others for inspiration or learning techniques. You should learn from the best examples.
Once you’ve found your point of view and gained a positive response, stick with it and make subtle variations! Take this with a grain of salt as defining a style is subjective, but you’ll definitely be able to tell when something is an afterthought.
One of my favorite artists is Ellsworth Kelly, who has made an amazing body of work for the past 56 years completely devoted to shape and color:
5 [Technique & Critique] Funny enough this last step could actually be your first step if you would prefer to learn from an expert right away. A class or buying a book is a great way to get you going. When I started No Ordinary Love Handmade, I already had a knack for design and hand craft through my fine art experience, so I simply started making jewelry by using a tutorial I found via Pinterest.
I took baby steps when I first learned. I taught myself to wire wrap, purchasing some tools at Michael’s Arts & Crafts with a coupon. When I was ready a few months later, I went to an in person class and was actually able to refine my technique before I opened my Etsy store and launched my company.
I gave myself a lot of time before learning my next jewelry making technique since I knew learning soldering and metalsmithing would be a big investment. During that intermediate period, I developed my wire wrapping skills so that I was an expert, found my go-to suppliers, and researched the kind of jewelry I wanted to make once I finally learned how to solder. About a year after I first bought my first set of tools, I sold enough pieces to invest in a soldering class! And I took a terrific personal lesson with an established jewelry artist Lucia Pasquinelli in West Los Angeles. There I learned the traditional techniques of metalsmithing in order to “mix with more modern concepts” – which is her awesome teaching philosophy.
As for me I’m certainly in the mindset that I’m on a long adventure with this and hope to meet some cool people along the way that are doing the same thing. Stay tuned, in just a few weeks, No Ordinary Love Handmade will be launching our new fall line! But for now, just because you took the time to read this post I’m offering 15% off for this week on your entire purchase – Use coupon code: “FORDREAMERSSALE”.
Wanted to leave you with a teaser of our first commercial for our upcoming fall line, which will be coming out this month!
Until next time!