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Two unattached necklaces artistically displayed next to one another in a circular pattern

How to Design A Jewelry Collection: Part 3

-by Marlene Richey.

“Design theory involves an understanding of the tangible elements including form, space, proportion, color, scale, texture, structure (grid), composition, line, shape and volume and how to arrange them to achieve balance, rhythm, pattern, hierarchy, emphasis, and unity. Design theory, blended with a purpose or problem to solve, results in effective design solutions.”

In part one and part two of my series on Designing a Jewelry Collection, I discussed how to pull together a cohesive, concise, clear and consistent body of work and the value of knowing some basic design parameters. In this third article about how to design a collection, I am going to cover the differences and similarities between being a designer and being an artist. My goal is to help you understand where you are and how to capitalize on your career decision. I want to emphasize that sometimes you might be more in touch with your design side and at others with your artist side. That’s okay. Decide what works best for you and go for it.

Double sewn earrings in Suzanne Schwartz‘s Interwoven collection Double sewn earrings in Suzanne Schwartz‘s Interwoven collection

Let me start by saying, I am not trying to promote your choice of being an artist or being a designer. The two can work in tandem and are not mutually exclusive. I feel both directions are equally honorable. The subject of the differences between art and design has been debated for a very long time and to some degree there are no definitive answers, only thoughts, suggestions and opinions.

One thing is for certain, the approach to making or creating a piece of work is different for an artist and a designer. Artists start out by creating something that expresses their thoughts and emotions to eventually share with the public. Designers start out with the ultimate customer in mind and create something that will fill their needs and that has a purpose. As British designer John O’Nolan states, “Good art is interpreted. Good design is understood.”

Design doesn’t need to be interpreted. Art can be interpreted from many different directions and viewpoints. Viewers bring their own interpretation and perspective to the piece. “Ensuring that user interactions are as smooth as possible is good design,” according to a post on the subject by the web design firm Webpage Fx. “This is what design is: It’s art with expectations, patterns and consistency. It’s art meeting science.”

I read the other day a comparison of art and design. There are definitive shared characteristics, from their creative nature to relying upon the visual senses for interpretation. Both entertain. Both connect with their audience. But the author, John O’Nolan, worked very hard to point out their differences. Art inspires and is interpreted, while good design motivates and needs to be understood in a universal way. Makes sense

Still, I wonder a bit about his contention that art is the result of talent, i.e. ‘natural ability,’ while design is a skill that is simply taught and learned. I think each is a combination of both. Da Vinci didn’t paint the Mona Lisa the first time he picked up a brush. He perfected his skills according to his natural abilities. And the great designers of today’s visual communications certainly have perfected their skills – but they couldn’t succeed without talent.

Artist or designer, blank canvas or paper, talent or skill – it all must be drawn from within.—Greg Daake

Earrings in Suzanne’s Schwartz’s Interwoven collection Earrings in Suzanne’s Schwartz’s Interwoven collection

The most important thing to remember and acknowledge is that both artists and designers work in the visual arts. They both need to have a strong background and develop a set of skills to create their work. Both artists and designers are highly creative. And they need to understand and honor their differences and similarities.

Alvalyn Lundgren, in her blog says, “Design involves specific criteria, research and study, along with extreme creativity. Where an artist can begin with a blank canvas and creatively pursue a serendipitous route to an end result, a designer begins with a set of criterion and creates within specific boundaries all the way from concept through completion.”

Necklace in Suzanne Schwartz’s Interwoven collection Necklace in Suzanne Schwartz’s Interwoven collection

People often use the term “designer” with absolutely no idea what a designer is or what one does. And yet they use the term to describe what they are doing … they call themselves “jewelry designers.”

With the thoughts and ideas I have shared with you, let’s keep this dialogue going. Please let me know what you are thinking. I want to discover more about the concept and the use of these two words which are casually flung around so often. I would love to create a continuous forum about what jewelry designers and jewelry artists do, feel, experience and how they express themselves for us all the share.

Marlene Richey started a jewelry design firm with no prior business experience. During the 35 years since, Marlene has run a wholesale business and a retail gallery, participated in hundreds of craft and trade shows, and traveled across America selling the pair’s jewelry. She has served on the boards of SNAG, CJDG, Maine Craft Association, Metalwerx and WJA. Marlene consults with artists, teaches workshops and was professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Maine College of Art. She is also a contributor to various jewelry and craft publications and wrote an award-winning book on running a jewelry business, Profiting by Design.

'Beneath the Stars + Around the Cosmos' in 18K rose gold set, with a pink tourmaline and diamonds.

Meet February’s Profile: Kristen Baird of Kristen Baird Jewelry

Kristen Baird: Blue Dress Shot.

Kristen Baird

Located in Savannah, GA, a city known for its strong historical heritage, inspiring devotion to the arts and even a museum dedicated to a century of hats, is Kristen Baird Jewelry. Founded in 2015, by designer Kristen Baird, this charming working studio is capturing formidable recognition, both locally and nationally.

Since its grand opening, both the jeweler and the company have received glowing accolades from Jewellery Business Magazine, The Creative Coast, Savannah Magazine, Art Jewelry Forum, The Business Journals, Swaay, Lowcountry Bride, Charleston Magazine, Jewelry Making Daily, National Jeweler, SNAG and numerous other publications.

If all of this seems impressive—and maybe a bit impossible—it is the jewelry itself that is most notable. Kristen Baird’s organic, whimsical and methodological designs are worth every bit of attention.

Tell me a bit about your background.
I have always been a crafty person. As a kid, I would make macaroni necklaces and string any bead I could find. But, jewelry was never on my horizon. I was accepted into SCAD—Savannah College of Art and Design—in 2007 as a dual major in architecture and interior design. It was three years later that I walked into my first jewelry class and I found my true calling.

How did your company, Kristen Baird Jewelry, begin and what have been your defining moments of success?
My success derived from my experiences. After graduating in 2012 with a 4.0 GPA, I entertained several design-house offers, but the cubicles seemed stifling. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit so I decided that I would create something big in a small area, rather than produce something lost in a large city. I built my business initially through side-work supplemented by part-time jobs. Within three years, I accumulated enough business for me to open Kristen Baird Jewelry. Last year, I won the Halstead Grant—that was a big one—and the Generation NEXT rising stars of business in Savannah. I was the one with the fun business in a room full of doctors, lawyers and accountants!

A studio shot of Kristen Baird Jewelry.

A studio shot of Kristen Baird Jewelry.

What are the Kristen Baird Core Values?
These are four pillars that are important to my business strategy and success.

1. Excellence in design and craft: I strive for perfection in craftsmanship, quality and comfort. 2. Client-relationships: I strive to be approachable, available and ethical. 3. Social Responsibility: I strive to use ethically sourced materials, create a fun working environment and maintain awareness of the environment. 4. Community: I strive to volunteer, be a mentor, be involved in non-profits and contribute to local charities.

What is your biggest challenge as a business owner and/or designer?
Prioritizing daily tasks to resolve every issue efficiently and quickly is my biggest challenge as a business owner. As a designer, I struggle with time. I’ve learned I must schedule uninterrupted blocks of time to achieve the craftsmanship, the technique and the process that is so essential to each creation. At heart, I am a maker and I refuse to compromise this area of my work. Even when it is hectic, all challenges are fun challenges. I would rather do this than anything else.

'Meteor Shower Stack' in 18K rose gold, platinum and 18K yellow gold set, with diamonds.

“Meteor Shower Stack” in 18K rose gold, platinum and 18K yellow gold set, with diamonds.

How does nature play into your designs?
Growing up in the South, I spent much of my time outdoors surrounded by the love of my family. I remember warm summer days playing sports with my cousins and watching my Nanny harvest vegetables and flowers from her garden. Nanny was a craftsman. She used to buy old trunks and I would watch her refinish them, mesmerized by her talent and patience. She made true southern meals that we would eat under a blanket of stars. My childhood memories are interconnected with my art. Both embody the aesthetic of balance in natural surroundings, supported with a twist of structure.

Can you speak to me about the inspiration behind the Ripple Collection?
I am interested in things that are organic, elegant and structured—designs that are clean with a pop of color or smooth with some of texture. The Ripple Collection reminds me of stones sitting peacefully at the bottom of a clear pond—viewed through the ever-so slight flow of rippling water. I have created a uniform jewelry collection using a methodological process of reticulation, yet the different ripple, texture and wrinkle patterns makes each piece unique. I also add versatility with semi-precious and precious stones and 18K gold granules.

'Pinnacle Necklace' in sterling silver and18K yellow gold, with a Swiss blue topaz.

"Pinnacle Necklace" in sterling silver and 18K yellow gold, with a Swiss blue topaz.

What are your jewelry design interests moving forward?
I am really getting into my fine jewelry collection featuring designs in 18K gold and platinum. My “alternative bridal” collection is fun because I create my own version of a traditional design, using different colored precious gemstones, heirloom diamonds and a variety of textures. The response has been so positive!

Tell me about a bench or workshop tool that you find indispensable.
[Laughing] Just one? Oh, man! I love tools! I am the biggest tool-nerd ever! One of my mentors, Blaine Lewis, stressed the importance of spending money on good tools because they will last forever. So, I am all about my Fretz® hammers, my Foredom® Flex shaft and my Lindstrom and Swanstrom pliers and cutters—all from Rio. Oh, and I can’t live without my Leica microscope (which is permanently attached to my eyes) from Rio too!

What is your most successful sales channel?
This is a split between commissions from my direct-to-consumer website and my sales in galleries. My jewelry is sold in the Grand Bohemian Galleries within The Kessler Collection Properties and local galleries in Savannah and Charlotte.

What advice do you share with others? Invest in good quality tools. Always be a student. Always be learning. Surround yourself with positive people because positivity will only elevate your game. Get an awesome accountant and photographer.

Learn more about Kristen Baird Jewelry on her website. You can also see her work on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Rio video of Kate Wolf completing work on a wax ring with a set center stone.

Tech Tip: How to Attach a Wax Bezel to a Ring Shank with Kate Wolf

Watch renowned jewelry designer and tool maker Kate Wolf attach a wax bezel to a ring shank. She then fits the ring for a center stone to create a one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted finished design.