Jewelry Design Challenge: Piet Mondrian

modern abstract art necklace

Modern abstract necklace.

The “iconic painter” for week two of the July challenges on the Self Representing Artists in Jewelry Design blog is Piet Mondrian.  I had a difficult time getting started on last week’s theme, Pablo Picasso, because abstract art is not “my thing.” But as I read and learned more about cubism and the evolution of abstract paintings, I finally found inspiration for a few Picasso-ish designs.

This week’s challenge was equally educational as I spent a bit of time reading about the work of Piet Mondrian. It also turned out to be a little easier to come up with a design. The hard part was putting the design together, because the beads I ordered went on vacation to Honolulu. Happily, everything worked out in the end.

As I have done for many of the other themes in these weekly challenges, I started with an online image search. The first image search for Piet Mondrian returned this spectacle of primary color blocks, and a tree. How did the tree get in there? More on that in a moment. Mondrian is best known for these abstract geometric grid-based paintings. I’m not an art historian, so I’ll not get into the details of his inspiration, or the deeper meaning of his art. I’ll just say, inspiration for a jewelry design was almost instantaneous after looking at these images. But I wanted to learn more about the artist, so I went beyond the image searches and starting reading.

screen shot of image search for Piet Mondrian paintings

Examples of paintings by Piet Mondrian (Google image search).

One thing I learned is that even before he went all black and white and primary color grids, his style was moving in an abstract direction.  This screen shot of an image search for his early work shows trees, windmills, and other landscapes, some more naturalistic, others impressionistic, and still others becoming more abstract. If I looked long enough, I may be able to come up with a jewelry design from these. But I already had a vision from the first image search, so I moved on to my design.

screen shot of image search for Mondrian's early paintings

Examples of some of Piet Mondrian’s early paintings (Google image search).

I sketched a basic shapes and layout design in my notebook. But I couldn’t decide where and which beads to make color. Rather than make a dozen sketches, I mocked up a design on the computer, where it was easier to switch colors. No, I don’t have any fancy jewelry-design software. (I wish.) This was just created in PowerPoint.

necklace design layout

The concept and layout for my necklace design.

With a design idea in mind, I needed beads. Mostly white, in assorted sizes. Plain white beads are remarkably difficult to find, at least in stores near me. So I went to a favorite online jewelry supplier and placed an order 10 days before the weekend of this design challenge. With 2-day priority mail, my beads should have arrived mid-week. When I checked up on them around that time, this is what USPS tracking showed. What’s wrong with this picture? I don’t live in Hawaii. I live in Maryland.

USPS package tracking for my beads

US Postal Service tracking information shows my beads on their way to Hawaii.

I called the company to confirm that my order was associated with the correct address. The friendly customer service representative verified the correct address. She also told me they see this “all the time” where orders go to Hawaii before heading back to the mainland. She didn’t know why. I was still skeptical, but waited another day. The tracking information for Thursday evening (the “expected delivery day”) looked just like this. And it looked the same on Friday night, and Saturday morning, too.

So I got to work on “Plan B” early Saturday morning, making dozens of whitish roundish beads from polymer clay. About four hours later, just a few minutes after I put my beads in the oven to cure, there was a thunk outside my door. My mail carrier had just tossed my box of wayward beads onto the landing. (It was very nice of him to carry them upstairs or I might not have known about them until much later in the day.)

Okay, back to Plan A. Why not finish what I started with the polymer clay beads? Because after they baked for an hour, and cooled off, they needed to be sanded, painted (because you can’t get perfectly white polymer clay anything unless you work in a clean room), and sealed to make them shiny. I could spend the rest of Saturday and most of Sunday doing that, or I could sit down with my relaxed-from-their-tropical-vacation beads and get to work.

cat napping on bead mat

Inspector Mango taking a very close look at the design in progress.

I was assisted in my assembly of the necklace by Inspector Mango.  Normally Design Consultant Cloud is the one giving advice on where to place the beads and things while Inspector Mango steps in when things are completed, to give it a final once over. However, as Cloud was otherwise occupied, Mango had to fill in. He found overseeing the assembly of all those wire-wrapped links thoroughly exhausting. Cloud was on a break after overseeing the morning’s bead making efforts.

cat napping on perch

Design Consultant Cloud taking a much-deserved break.

With help from my two assistants, I completed the necklace.

Mondrian-inspired modern abstract necklace

The completed necklace inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian.

I thought about making a cuff bracelet as well. I still had plenty of beads and another geometric grid primary color jewelry idea. I also still had several loads of laundry, dishes, and floors to clean.  And I needed to set up the light tent, take photos of the necklace, edit them, submit one to the challenge, and write this blog. So, this necklace is it for me for this challenge. Do you think it captures the spirit of Mondrian’s iconic work?

Mondrian-inspired modern abstract necklace

A modern abstract necklace design in black and white, with primary color accents.

The artist for next week’s challenge is Leonid Afremov, a contemporary artist who paints with a palette knife rather than brushes. Stop by next week to see if I can I translate his vibrant images into a jewelry design. To make sure you don’t miss it, subscribe to this blog by RSS feed, email subscription, or feed servers linked in the right column under my photo. You can also follow me on Facebookjoin me on Google+, and tune in to my Twitter feed to get updates on my newest jewelry designs, new listings in my Etsy shop, and other design challenges and adventures from Paisley Lizard.