When Good Design Ideas Go Bad

sketch of necklace designI don’t always sketch my jewelry design ideas before getting to the business of assembling a necklace, earrings, etc.  When I do sketch, it’s very rough and tends to resemble one of my old cellular biology lab assignments where every little part is labeled and has a line connecting the label to the doodad.

So maybe it’s not too surprising that there are times I have to go back to the bead board because the execution of my idea does not connect to my vision of the design.  Here’s an example of what I thought was a pretty good design idea (in my mind’s eye and in my doodling) that went so badly some of it ended up in the trash. 

These are some not-so-great photos of the first rendition of that sketch. I didn’t set up the light tent to take “good” photos because I knew this design was not destined for my Etsy shop. I took the photos so I could stare at them on my computer monitor to figure out where and how things went awry.

beaded necklace photo collage

The first version of the necklace.

Let me start by admitting I deviated from the initial design right from the start. In the sketch, my focal is suspended from silver chain. Period. There were no big round beads or shiny silver circles.  Why did I change the design? I didn’t have enough chain to make a necklace and was trying to avoid shopping. (Shocking, I know.)

What I ended up with was essentially two different necklaces that had no business hanging out together. Or, as my friend who is a commercial and residential color consultant and has studied design said, there are two different stories there. I reluctantly took the necklace apart and then tried to decide how best to complete each of the separate stories.

Jewelry Design Challenge Water element

Version #2 using just the focal.

Here’s the bottom half of the necklace, on some silver chain as originally planned. It still doesn’t look right to me. Those long beaded dangles are pretty, but they aren’t telling the story I intended. Much as I hated to do it, I had to cut them off.

Why was I reluctant to cut the dangles off? It’s wasteful. What were once a bunch of 1.5 inch sterling silver head pins full of wire-wrapping potential become fractional bits and pieces of silver wire that can’t be used for anything other than poking you in the foot when they fall on the floor to hide in your carpet.

Design re-do part two coming up.

crescent moon necklace

Version #3 using a variation on the moon focal.

I made the beaded dangles shorter, using three different sizes and shapes of apatite beads. Why do I need the beaded dangles to be three different lengths or sizes? Because this design, which I call “Spring Tide” was my vision for representing the ebb and flow of water under the influence of the moon.

This version looks better to me, but it still isn’t telling the story I want. I’m wondering if having just a single beaded “drop of water” falling from each of the three points at the bottom would be better? And if those beaded drops should be small, medium, and large? Or just a single size?

Sadly, the only way to really see how those different options will look with these exact beads is to assemble them. And then disassemble what doesn’t work and waste more wire. Simply sketching won’t do it. Partly because they all look equally good given my sketching ability. And mostly because a sketch won’t show how the final connections hang, move, etc. I may take this apart and re-do a third time. But not for while.

I decided to move on to the top half of the necklace before I ran out of head pins and patience.

beaded necklace

The final version, using the beaded links with a different focal.

I lengthened the necklace a bit by adding more silver circles to the back. I didn’t have to cut any wire to do that. Yippee.  Then I added a round focal to the center. I only had to cut and re-wrap two beads.

My design-wise friend had recommended I use three larger circles, with beads between them, as the focal. I tried that, and I think it would have worked if the circles I had were larger. They were only slightly bigger than the links already there. To be the focal point of the necklace, they needed to be larger-er.

I also could have simply added enough more wire-wrapped bead links to the front, or plain links to the back, to make this necklace longer and sans focal. Not every necklace needs one.

This necklace in no way tells the story envisioned in my original sketch. There’s no moon. It does tell an alternate water-themed story. That of water falling as rain and forming puddles.  At least that’s what I see.

Some jewelry designs come together almost by themselves while others get made, taken apart, revised, and sometimes scrapped entirely.  More often than not, when I design around the beads, or a focal, ideas and designs seem to flow more freely than when I try to find components to represent an idea.

Is that because my search image is so fixed I cannot see the forest for the trees? Do I have such a precise image of what I want to create that I blind myself to the possibilities and options of the beads all around me? Sometimes, I think the answer is yes. Odds are good there will be other design fails along the way. Hopefully, they will happen less often over time, and each will teach me something new about improving future designs.

I hope you will stay tuned here (you can follow this blog by email subscription, RSS feed, and feed servers linked in the right column below my photo), and follow me on Facebookfind me on Google+, or tune in to Twitter to see what I design next.

2 thoughts on “When Good Design Ideas Go Bad

  1. B. Petricoin

    I can relate to this! Though I liked all of your versions, I have to agree that your final piece is the one that stands out for me. Kudos for keeping at it until you found something that felt right for what you were trying to convey!

    1. Tammy Adams

      Thanks! I don’t hate the intermediate versions. But what doesn’t come through in the photos is that I didn’t love the way the dangles hung when the necklace was on a person.

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