Design By Necessity a.k.a. Accidental Design

Design By Necessity a.k.a. Accidental Design

Have you ever made something that turned out completely different than you first imagined it? Not because you had creative inspiration in the middle of making it, but because you mistakenly thought you had enough supplies (food, fabric, metal, whatever) to get the job done. But you didn’t. So you had to improvise and make due with what you had on hand. It’s happened to all of us.

Think about the last time this happened to you. Were you happy with the result? I’m guessing, if you’re anything like me, sometimes this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method leaves you whimpering in a corner and other times the sky opens up and rays of sunshine fall at your feet as celestial voices fill the air. This is only a scale, of course. I usually end up somewhere in between on the spectrum.

I recently had one of those, “Oh, no, I don’t have enough…” moments. I’m happy to say this one ended up closer to the celestial voices end of the spectrum. Even though I’m trying to be more intentional with my design choices, sometimes we just have to go with the design-by-necessity approach.

So, here’s what happened.

I’ve been making glass vessels since late last year. I introduced them at an essential oils open house where the host was kind enough to offer me a table to display some of my stuff. I thought the vessels might sell a little faster if they were already made into necklaces. So I repurposed some leather cords from another project.

Small Vessels on Leather Cords

The leather cords were very basic. I simply slipped them through the vessel’s handle, tied a knot above the handle and another knot at the end of the cord so customers could slip the necklace over their heads. Easy and functional.

And I was pleased with the response. I took five vessels and ended up selling them all!

I could have left things alone, but I rarely do things the simple way. It’s a fault at times. But, I like to offer a few options to my customers. Even with my other glass pendants, at shows I always have a few chain options AND a few cord options. We all have our own preferences, right? So of course I had to offer at least one chain option for the vessels.

That same generous host from the open house ordered several vessel necklaces. She wanted to take them with her on an upcoming trip in January to give as gifts to some of her essential oil buddies. I had made the vessels ahead of time, and I knew she wanted chains rather than leather. What I didn’t realize was that I didn’t have enough antiqued chain in the style I decided looked best with these small vessels.

I totally did this to myself.

Before you decide my materials management is out of whack, it was actually my time management skills that were lacking. Since I had just started making the vessels, I hadn’t spent any time figuring out which chain looked best with them. I knew I had plenty of chain, but most of it was raw and still on the spool. I had plenty of thick chain left from the last batch I had antiqued, but it was too bulky for these small vessels.

The small but sturdy chain was my favorite. And it definitely looked best with the vessels, but I had only two feet of it antiqued. That wasn’t enough for four necklaces. The truth was, I didn’t want to take the time to antique and seal a new batch.

Instead of getting out the liver of sulfur, latex gloves, and sealing wax, I looked at the jewelry I had already assembled, the pieces that didn’t sell at the open house.

I spotted a few necklaces that used the chain I liked and disassembled them so I could reuse the chain. The problem was, the necklaces I took apart had lava beads in the center. And the beads weren’t strung onto the chain, they were attached with wire. So what I had were two pieces of chain from each repurposed necklace, not enough continuous lengths of chain to simply string the chain through a vessel handle and call it a day.

It seems easy enough to figure out now, but this was my near-celestial moment! I ended up using one of the lava beads on each chain. This way, I could use the shorter pieces from the necklaces I disassembled. The lava beads don’t just add interest. Their pores also hold onto fragrance for hours, making them great for diffuser jewelry. Isn’t it nice when form and function come together?

Small Vessels on Chain

In the end, I put a considerable amount of thought into the design, trying the bead placement this way and that. I though about using two beads symmetrically on the chain, but that was too balanced. Something about the tilted vessel hanging from its handle and two symmetrical beads didn’t fit.

One asymmetrically placed bead about an inch from the vessel was just the right balance.

And that’s when the clouds parted!

I have even begun using this same design in other non-vessel necklaces with a glass bead instead of a lava bead. I think this one is a keeper.

Have you had any accidentally inspiring moments lately? I’d love to hear! Tell me in the comments.

Back to Basics With Design

Back to Basics With Design

I was an impatient student, always preferring to get my hands dirty with the making rather than sit and learn the basics.

Many of us pause and evaluate how our lives are going at the start of a new year. The current trend, maybe even in place of new year’s resolutions, seems to be choosing a word for the year.

And I get it. It’s good to set an intention, a focus, a reminder of how we want to spend our time for a given period. Maybe one overarching word that encompasses any number of goals is easier to remember and stick with than a fistful of unrelated new year’s resolutions.

This is the first time I’ve chosen a word to set the tone for the rest of my year. I’ve chosen the word Design. I had an ah-ha moment about a week ago after realizing this is what has been missing from some of my jewelry pieces. There are times I get so caught up in experimenting with techniques that design becomes an afterthought. When this happens, the piece often still works, but sometimes it pretty much falls flat.

In addition to paying more attention to design upfront, I want to spend a good amount of time reexamining the elements of visual design like line, color, texture, shape and form as well as principles such as space, repetition, balance, contrast and unity. I learned these elements and principles as an art minor, of course. But I was an impatient student, always preferring to get my hands dirty with the making rather than sit and learn the basics.

The word Design will be useful on another level in both my work and personal life. When things need to change, we come up with a plan, right? Well, designing a few new systems is what I plan to do. I’ll share more about this in a future post.

As with any resolution or goal, saying it out loud does not make it happen. We are much better off sitting down and mapping out, or designing, systems that allow us to track our progress and feel like we’ve accomplished something when a goal or milestone is reached.

Likewise, having some sketches of a piece of jewelry I want to create not only gives me a physical representation to refer to as I’m working on the piece. It also helps me gauge whether I’ve reached the goal I set out with once the piece is finished.

Have you chosen a word to set the tone for your year? I’d love to hear what it is! Let me know in the comments.