Black and White Earring Design Challenge

Black and white trapeze earringsThe theme for this month’s We’re All Ears earring design challenge is “black and white.”  I made a batch of black and white components using silkscreening and polymer clay.  I turned some of those components into earrings for this challenge.  Mostly not in the way I had initially planned.

Sheets of black and white clay with silkscreened prints

These are the sheets of silkscreened clay I made using two different leaf patterns. I originally planned to mix and match the patterns in individually pairs of earrings.

My initial idea was to make pairs of earrings that mixed patterns and textures, pairing black-on-white components with white-on-black of the same leaf print.  Or pairing the small leaf print with the large leaf print.  Things rarely go according to my initial plan, partly because I don’t always have a good idea how to execute an idea except via trial and error.  I don’t have formal art training, unless you count that semester of art in high school where I accidentally made my mom a “moldy apple” ceramic pencil holder when the glaze didn’t go according to plan.

Black and white leaf print earring components.

Here are the components I cut from those silkscreened sheets of black and white clay. After they were cured, I sealed them with a glossy coat of liquid polymer clay, using a heat gun to make them super shiny. (I also experimented with colored pencils on the set in the upper left corner.)

After my polymer clay focal components were done, I stared at them and thought “What the heck was I thinking?  I have no idea how to put these together to make earrings.”  I started to make some accent beads, to add some texture and more patterns.  I don’t have any photos of those because what I got after two hours of trying was a big pile of black and white scrap clay.  So I switched gears and raided my stash of glass and gemstone beads and started with some simple dangle earring pairs.

I don’t love this pair and I’m not sure why. I auditioned several different accent beads and these black glass rounds seemed the best fit. But something seems to be missing. Is it texture?

“Simple” earrings are the most difficult for me to make.  I feel as if I haven’t worked hard enough if the design doesn’t have all kinds of bells and whistles.  And yet, I own and wear more than a few pairs of “simple” earrings. There’s nothing wrong with simple, if the design is good. Maybe on some level I am uncomfortable with simple because I am not as confident about my design abilities as I would like to be?

It isn’t easy to see in the photos, but the white glass beads in this pair of earrings are faceted. There’s not as much contrast in the texture as I would have liked.  The third “color” in this design is silver metal, from the silver-plated wire wraps and steel ear wires.

I’ve heard and read that designing without color forces you to focus more on the composition.  That makes sense.  It is often the color of a thing that first catches our eye.  And it can be very easy to rely on color to compensate for lazy design. If your focus is on the brilliant blues, vivid violets, rich reds, etc., you may not be paying as much attention as you should to things like balance, space, line, form, and overall harmony of a design.

White leaf print dangle earrings

This pair is similar to the first pair, except the bottom dangle is round rather than teardrop shape. I used the same round black glass beads on silver wire.  For reasons I cannot explain, I like this pair better than the teardrops. Maybe I just prefer circles?

After making a few pairs of simple “beads on a wire” style earrings with round or teardrop shaped focals, I switched to the semi-circle or half-moon components.  As I was making them I was planning to have them hanging vertically, and pair two semi-circles connected with a jump ring.  When I tried that, the balance was off, visually and literally, so I had to come up with a different way to hang them. That’s where the trapeze style came in.

Small leaf print trapeze earrings

This pair uses the smaller semi-circle components. I put white glass rounds and hematite rondelles and rice beads on dark annealed steel wires to connect the focals to some Vintaj Arte Metal matte black ear wires.  It isn’t an elaborate design, but I do feel like I worked a little harder because I must have tried a dozen different combinations of small black and white beads on the wires.

Despite having a whole large drawer of assorted black and white beads, I had a tough time finding the right ones for the trapeze wires.  If I had the right size and shape of white beads, I didn’t have the right size or shape of black beads, and vice versa.  It’s not unlike the reason I need five pairs of black shoes: flats, heels, lace-up ankle boots, tall boots, and cowboy boots.  No single pair of black shoes can possibly work with the variety of clothes in my closet.

This pair of trapeze earrings pairs some of the larger white semi-circles with round white howlite beads and faceted gunmetal rondelles. They hang on Vintaj Arte Metal matte black ear wires. I like that the howlite beads have just a hint of black matrix.

After much trial and error, including a small pile of waste wire from do-overs, I finally found some accent beads that were good enough. I really think I should have gone bead shopping.  That’s the only way to be sure you haven’t overlooked the perfect beads for your design.  Right?

This is my favorite pair of earrings from this design challenge. The black semi-circles hang on matte black rolo chain. And there’s a round white glass bead swinging from the top.

After feeling less than satisfied with my accent bead options, I tried some chain and finally had a design I felt completely satisfied with.  Not too simple, not too busy.  I toyed with the idea of re-doing all the other pairs using chain instead of beads, but I resisted.  While not every pair of earrings I made for this design challenge is a show-stopper, they don’t always have to be.

Overall, I’m happy with the way my silkscreened polymer clay components turned out even if I didn’t use them the way I thought I would.  And I once again had fun with a design challenge.  Many thanks to Erin for another inspiring theme. Be sure to hop over to the Earrings Every Day blog to see how she interpreted this challenge, and then follow the links at the end of her post to see more earrings by other artists.  And if you’re interested in my black and white earrings, you can find them in my shop on Etsy.

24 thoughts on “Black and White Earring Design Challenge

  1. Kathy Lindemer

    I think all of your earrings are wonderful. I love the leaf patterns on them and the look great in black and white. Well done!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Barbara. It is true I love working with polymer clay and making jewelry. 🙂


    I adore your silkscreened components! It never occurred to me that I could make my own parts. DOH! I agree, losing the color I had to focus on placement of the patterns and making the most of the simple designs. Thanks for playing along with me! Enjoy the day! Erin

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks for the challenge and inspiration theme, Erin. Your monthly challenges keep me creative.

  3. CraftyHope

    Those silkscreened components are AMAZING! And, your last pair are my favorites too, though they are all really lovely. But those last ones are the showstoppers of the mix. Well done!!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you. It’s amazing how impactful a simple pattern can be in black and white.

  4. Rozantia Petkova

    To me your black and white components look gorgeous! Even though you call the first designs simple, it’s those components that take them a step up! I like the trapeze earrings for the construction and assembly moment!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Rozantia. It’s difficult not to be overly critical of my own work when things didn’t turn out as planned. I have to learn to sometimes look at them for just what they are rather than what I wanted them to be.

  5. Divya N

    Love the silk screen patterns and how you have used simple beads to bring out interesting composition. Yes, removing colour from the equation makes you consider all other aspects of design. I totally agree with what you say about the need for simple pieces. I own and wear simple pieces all the time. But when it comes to making pieces I complicate it unnecessarily. Making something simple makes me uneasy as though, its not good enough to sell. By the way, in India we have a name for the style of earrings ( last three pairs) you have made. Its called Chandbaali – earrings that look like the crescent moon 🙂

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      I wonder why we think our designs have to be complicated to be worthy of selling? Mysteries of the universe, LOL. Thanks for the note about what that crescent moon shape earring is called in India. Sounds much nicer than semi-circle trapeze style. 🙂

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Christine. I was thinking they looked like a good fit for those seasons as well.

  6. Mona Arnott

    You did a marvelous job. I like each and every one of your creations and you have inspired me to take the plunge and try silkscreen too. I’ve been accumulating screens but have been too “chicken” to try yet. Thanks for the push

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      I think you’ll enjoy playing with silkscreens. I had some oopsies in the beginning when I was using paint that was too thin. Once I got better (thicker) paint, it was fairly simple.

  7. Sarajo Wentling

    Wow! I adore the polymer components you made! So impressed! I really like the “simple” pairs you made… they have tons of visual impact. Those half moon shapes are super fun too… and I like all the versions. You rocked this!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Sarajo. It’s so weird that I think simple is a problem for my designs, despite how many pairs I’ve bought and wear on a regular basis.

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