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Designing Your Piece - Originally posted in the Orchid Forum 03/08/2008
SKU: CWX-CBTS6
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Originally posted in the Orchid Forum 03/08/2008

Design and learning design started with photography for me. You can find a simple way to learn design where you might not expect. Learning design can mean taking a 2D design course at a local college and extrapolating from what you learn a 3D design. Isn't this what journals do? Design is everywhere and in everything. It's just that there is so much out there that the information is overwhelming.

I gave myself an assignment during my elder care duty, which was to take a series of photos in Tiburon, CA on a day after it rained. Water saturates and heightens color. The object of this round of photography was to look at how high income home owners identify their houses with numbers, to isolate those numbers, mailboxes, and reflections of water, signage and color. Will some of these manifest themselves as jewelry? Perhaps, but that is the challenge of design. Here is a link to my photos from that day.

Here are a few tricks I use for design. You will need a bound sketchbook, A4 if you are in Europe, "Journal Size" if you are here in the US. I use Rag and Bone sketchbooks (www.ragandbone.com.) They make journals which are handmade, beautiful and rugged. Decorate the cover with a photo-etched plate and rivet. Note the attached photos in this article of one of my journals.  Everything I suggest should go into your book.

1) Take 15 photographs of just the shadows from any object. You begin to isolate edges and negative space.

2) Take 15 photographs of hinges, gates, door knobs and forged iron balconies. Here you look at curves, geometry, construction and gestural flow.

3) Find 15 examples of jewelry work you really like and put it in your sketchbook. With each example, write out what you like about it and what you would do to change it if you could.

4) Find 15 examples of jewelry work you don't like. Critique it to your heart's content. Is the piece cohesive? Is the craftsmanship poor? Are the elements mismatched? Does it look like a workshop project?

5) Take 10 photographs of an egg and make them each look different.

6) Pick up a found object off the ground and create a body of work that reflects the essence of the found object.

7) Framing. Cut out 2 "L" shaped pieces of light cardboard and use them as a "frame" to isolate parts of a picture. Capture just the eye and nose of a portrait, or a scene from nature or a building. Use the lines from this as a reference point for your design.

These are all design tricks I learned in college. I have 9 journals, which contain everything from grocery lists, to writings about my time in Thailand, to beautiful images that inspire me and projects that I am thinking about. I set a time during the day to just cut stuff out of magazines...things that strike me, patterns, repetition, obsessiveness, humor, anything really. Then I sift through those and put the ones I really like in my journal. Design is everywhere and in everything. Bad design, poor craftsmanship and poor execution are like eating a McDonald's burger. I cook quite a bit, and when I am not at the bench, (and I mean when I haven't touched my bench in ages), photography, journal entries and cooking are my way of design. It's in everything we do. We just don't think of it like that. Enjoy what is around you, but if you want to design, learn to filter, enhance, enlarge, minimize and most importantly, make it yours.

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