View Full Version : Design and Composition?

03-28-2004, 07:57 PM
Just joined this forum and I've been enjoying going through the archives. As I'm relatively new at assembling beaded jewelry one topic that really interests me is the Design and Composition forum. It pretty much is focused on canvas, however, and I wondered if anyone would be interested in building a discussion relative to jewelry making.

I think some basic design concepts are universal, such as working in odd-number groupings, but are there any other 'rules' when putting together bracelets, necklaces, and the like?


03-28-2004, 08:12 PM
Welcome to WC :)

Here is a link that might help you out - I don't have the energy to do more than cut and paste right now, but I hope to stop back another day and contribute more on this topic... or learn a few things myself ;)


and a list of links aimed toward beginners:


03-28-2004, 08:21 PM
Welcome Jacy!!!

When I design, I love lots of contrast - etched beads with Swarovski crystals, mixed metals, acid colors with Swarovski pearls, AND I even love assymetry - anything to make the piece one-of-a-kind!!! I must also state here that I BREAK lots of so-called design rules, and my jewelry is not for the masses.

03-28-2004, 09:37 PM
The thing about asym is knowing how to work with empty space, balance and color. (I'm going to reference a bangle of mine posted earlier since it's already uploaded)

If you notice on the right side of this bangle, there are more beads than on the left, however, the eye sees it as balanced because of the negative space on the opposing side and the use of color. Red is a very strong and dominant color, therefore it carries more "weight". The red bead near the clasp on the left supported by the red dangles visually draw your eye around the bracelet. If those red beads weren't there, or they were replaced by a "weaker" color, say, something light green, it would throw the balance of the bracelet.

If I have a design that's heavily loaded with beads on one side, I usually counter it with two negative spaces on the opposite side of the bangle, and incorporate a strong matching theme color to that side to balance the piece.

Hope that helps, and if I've just confused you more, feel free to throw lemons at me! :D



This is a good piece of design advice that Danielle posted in the 'Show & Tell 3/18 Wearable Art' thread. I thought it might help you. :)

03-28-2004, 09:44 PM
Good information from Danielle's post and photo! :) Maybe I need to 'think' more about this .....normally I just work intuitivily...:D

03-29-2004, 12:46 AM
Good stuff, thanks much!

I try to go with the intuitive thing, too, but sometimes my muses are having a party to which my invitation was apparently lost and I need a ready reference (AKA a good kick in the inspiration butt.) :p

Also, I find myself re-stringing the simplest stuff (like 3 beads on a headpin for a counterweight) again and again until I finally get a That's it! If I had at least some of the 'rules' in my head maybe I'd reach for better beads the first time around and save a bit of time. I've never had even a single second of art class beyond grammar school, basically because I cannot draw the proverbial straight line, so all those building blocks of art/design have escaped me.

I prefer the asymmetical look myself. The few times I've raised the courage to post photos, though, people have generally said stuff along the lines of oooohhh, mixed beads, asymmetrical, wow, you're brave.... And I never really know if it's a good wow or not.

These are all very helpful comments, thanks again!


TurtleBay Jewelry
03-29-2004, 09:03 AM
I try to go with the intuitive thing, too, but sometimes my muses are having a party to which my invitation was apparently lost.


LOL! Now that was funny.

Jacy, do't be shy. Always feel free to post photo's here, and I think I've come to be sure in my observation that in this forum, you'll get honest answers. It helps to work around design minded people, as they're usually forthcoming about how to improve upon your design if it's lacking in something. But don't worry! We're "soft critics". ;)


03-29-2004, 11:03 AM
Good post! I'll share what I do.

I hoard other's designs. I rip out magazine ads, catalogue pictures and tack them up on the wall. I circle the components I really like. I also put up color combinations I like from any type of publication picture. As ideas form in my head I sketch them out on paper. I don't always think about what stone or bead I will use but more about the shapes I'm after. The components and colors come later. I will scan and copy the designs I am taken with and color in different combinations with colored pencils. Then I may jot down some stone/components I think might work. Then I search out the right parts for the piece.

BUT!! I do also work on a whim. I fondle my beads often :) Sometime they just talk to me and I have a sudden urge to just go with their direction. These are the pieces I don't finish off right away. Unless I just know it is a stunner, I set it aside and check it out again in a couple of days. If it is still talking to me I finish the piece. If not I try to figure out what part was good, make a quick sketch or take a digital picture of the good part and then put those beads back in the box.

So see, you can have the best of both worlds! You can be a planner and impulsive.

Shirley C.
03-29-2004, 07:34 PM
i often design a piece around a focal bead. i'll look at the focal and it will tell me what colors to use in the necklace strand. sometimes i'll create a piece that has a lot of contrast, sometimes it's monochrome - depends on my mood or the mood i want the piece to create. i made a focal bead awhile back that i really disliked when i took it out of the kiln. it was very dark and didn't have much depth, which is uncharacteristic of my beads. i left it on the kitchen table for a few days and every now and then i'd stop and look at it. the more i looked at it, the more my head started playing with design possibilities, and using the colors in that bead along with my "stash", i ended up designing a necklace that i ended up really liking (bead and all). ;) it was the colors that spoke to me. the focal has touches of blue on a black background, with a few dabs of neutral. the necklace is mostly blue coral with touches of black lava and natural mother-of-pearl here and there. sometimes the colors of the focal can help guide you completely. for interest, i wouldn't use the same amount of "stuff" of each color. pick one predominant color, then accent it with other colors. or not... :D

here's the necklace to which i was referring:

blue sponge coral necklace (Moontide) (http://www.jumpingjackglass.com/ShirleyCookDesigns/MoontidePage.htm)

03-29-2004, 07:51 PM
Great thread, I'll be reading with interest. I just had to post because my 10 year old daughter's name is Jacy too. There aren't too many of you so I felt compelled to comment. :)

03-29-2004, 08:04 PM
My bracelet from show n tell today probably breaks some design rules. But when I got the idea for it I was thinking about teeth. :D

My son told me it's ugly and he doesn't like it (In most cases I do trust his design sense.) However, I am absolutely crazy about it, if I do say so myself! :D

Edited to add, this isn't my lampwork, it's glassjungle (i can barely make a pair, myself :rolleyes: :) )

Shirley C.
03-29-2004, 08:08 PM
um... donna? i LOVE that bracelet. yep, i sure do!

03-29-2004, 08:12 PM
Thank you Shirley! :) :) :)

03-29-2004, 08:36 PM
Well, here goes with a recent piece. Please be HONEST -- I really do want to learn.

And please ignore the really lame photography. I'm still struggling to come up with my Look. I'm aiming for that floating-on-glass look in 925balisilver.com's header image. My aim is not true. :(

I'm sorry, Jennifree, but it's not my real name, just a nick. I like it though, and your daughter's lucky. :)


03-29-2004, 10:15 PM
Um, will I go first then? Jacy... I am not exagerating here, that piece is perfect in every way, to my eye. It's breathtaking!

03-30-2004, 08:36 AM
Here are some more design techniques lifted right out of a good article by 'Linda Ligon'. The article is called 'Design Tricks' and is in "Beadwork Magazine Presents Stringing" January 2004. If the magazine is available for back issue order I recommend you order it.

This refers to the darkness or lightness of a color. "High" value colors are light, "low" value colors are dark. The value scale, often called a gray scale, is a useful tool in determining the value of beads or other objects."

If you don't have a grayscale or are having trouble determining what the value of your beads is try putting them on a black/white photocopier and copying them. If you don't have access to a photocopier but you have a digital camara you can take a picture of them and then change them to black & white using your photo software. However you do it, it will then be easy to determine which beads have the same value. They will look alike so you might want to label each group you photograph so you'll know what is in the group.

"A handy little fact: Colors of the same value almost always look good together."

"Or try this: Pick four or five colors that look awful together. Using the gray scale, narrow your choices down to those that are closest in value. Then go to your bead stash and find another color or two in the same value. Voila! A color scheme that's interesting and subtle."

You'll need a color wheel for this next one. Here is a link to an interactive Color Wheel (http://home.att.net/~rocq/SIHwheel.html).

There are more ways to think abut color relationships than you can shake a beading needle at, but one that I find invariably pleasing and easy to work with is analogous colors. That is, colors that lie next to each other on the color wheel. You really can't go wrong with this scheme, but you can get boring. So for accent, choose the color exactly opposite the middle of you analogous array. For instance, if your analogous colors are int he violet-blue-green range, accent with a small bit of flaming orange. Don't the possibilities excite you?"

Donna, I love glassjungle beads, I have a couple of sets myself. I like the way your bali bead caps repeat the design in the beads themselves. Teeth??? who knows where inspiration will come from. :)

Jayce, I think your bracelet is very pretty. It is a little busy for my personal taste but that is just me. Don't worry too much what other people think, follow your own muse and if she is at a party, crash it! :)

TurtleBay Jewelry
03-30-2004, 09:37 AM

Barbara's tips about the grayscale and the color wheel are great. I'm a graphic designer by trade, and I have both of those scales in front of my nose here in the studio, so I didn't even think to mention them since literally use them in my sleep.

As for your bracelet, I like the different Bali pieces to add some interest to the design. Sometimes it's good to keep the eyes guessing like that, since it tricks the viewer into looking at the -entire- bracelet to see if there's anything alike. Your colors go well together, as they are the same value, so that works well. All in all, it's very well done.

The only suggestion (and this isn't a criticism at all) is to not get stuck in the mentality that it has be blue, green, blue, green, blue, green. Or whichever colors. I was guilty of that for a while myself, and it's yet again a form of symmetry. If that's your aim, then have at it. But dare to be diff't here and there! Try using a cluster of blues, throw in a random green, etc, etc.

Great work! Show us more! :) :clap:


03-30-2004, 11:14 AM
I like the way your bali bead caps repeat the design in the beads themselves.

Thank you Barbara! I am addicted to to GJ beads! :) :)

Did anyone mention the tip of looking at the layout of the piece "squinting" your eyes? I do this, it helps to see if the value of the colors are balanced, overall.

TurtleBay Jewelry
03-30-2004, 11:19 AM
I am addicted to to GJ beads!

Ok, hit me with a clue, Donna..what the heck are GJ beads?



03-30-2004, 11:56 AM
Here ya go D:


They make nice 'lil lampwork beads on the 3/32" mandrels, so they are good for bangles! (They have 2mm+ holes :) )

The bangle I posted in this thread is their lampwork!

03-30-2004, 11:59 AM
Look at these 'lil sweeties I got a couple weeks ago:


Theyre mine, mine, mine! :evil:

TurtleBay Jewelry
03-30-2004, 12:03 PM
Ahhh, I gotcha.

Least I'm "in the know" now. /wink


03-30-2004, 12:12 PM
Sheesh, Danielle, I hadn't consciously even realized I was so symmetrically alternating blue/green. Yikes - that's embarrassing! Then again, maybe that hidden little note of symmetry helps the eye rest from all the other goings on? Ugh... I'm CONSTANTLY second-guessing myself like this. Can you say Virgo rising?

Thanks again for all the great comments and tips. Color theory is especially challenging for me. I do OK with two colors, but it's when I want to throw in a third that I get a little skittish. I'm getting tired of black/white/blue or b/w/purple or b/w/red... ;) For instance, if I wanted to shake up an aqua/olive combo (one of my personal favorites) what besides tanzanite would work? The neighbors of yellow and blue do nothing to make it shake and the fourth point on the compass -- red -- just makes me gag. Maybe I'm not finding the right hue (if that's the right term) of red. Color theory is certainly a beast entirely unto itself, isn't it?

Most of my items are similar in style and after reading through this thread and some of the others -- of special note the thread about negative space in the general Design and Composition forum -- I've browsed through my folder of photos and I can immediately spot what needs to be restrung, without even resorting to the greyscale technique. Some pretty obvious muse parties goin' on there, heh. :D

It's also interesting that it's easier to spot the flaws viewing a photo of jewelry on my monitor, than to judge by handling it in 3D. I guess digital media depersonalizes and removes emotional attachment in a postive way in this case!

03-30-2004, 12:13 PM
Just make sure you clean out the bead release if you get some lampwork from GJ, you don't want the dust on your jewelry. I don't complain about the bead release, because the prices are so low, after all.

TurtleBay Jewelry
03-30-2004, 12:28 PM

Yes, color theory really is a beast. They have classes an entire semester long just on that topic. There's much more involved than people realize. But, I think your color symmetry works well on that last bracelet, so don't sweat the small stuff.

I do agree about the digital personification of jewerly. It is a help to myself when I view my images to be sure that what the customer is seeing is what I wanted to represent.

Hang in there Jacy, you're doing great. There's a lot to absorb, but at least you can have fun while doing it! ;)


03-30-2004, 12:30 PM
aqua/olive combo (one of my personal favorites) what besides tanzanite would work? The neighbors of yellow and blue do nothing to make it shake and the fourth point on the compass -- red -- just makes me gag. Maybe I'm not finding the right hue (if that's the right term) of red. Color theory is certainly a beast entirely unto itself, isn't it?


May I suggest any green stone that is close to true green and matches the value of your aqua and olive? Try going to ebay and look in loose beads, stone and enter 'green' in your search argument. You'll get lots of different ideas. (Of course you'll want to buy some so make sure you have good resistance.) Or instead of red push your red a little toward purple but in the same value. That'll be pretty wild.

TurtleBay Jewelry
03-30-2004, 01:26 PM

Here's a little tricolor mount I did for you quick. Maybe some of these colors will help you out.

They're all part of the split complementary on the color wheel.