The Creation Process – Annette Piper

17 08 2008


A lot of people ask me how I manage to create the pieces that I do.  Its not that they’re that complex, but even simple pieces can take a lot of organizing!  


Unlike some designers who start with a design in mind, I start with a beautiful stone or strand of stones.  Beautiful to me of course.   When I look at them I see the possibilities of how they could be in a finished piece that would be attractive to wear, even if they don’t look that spectacular all by themselves.  


Some pieces you just know are going to be stunning and going to be snapped up quickly.  Others may quietly achieve and these can’t be discounted as there has to be items for those people who don’t like their jewellery to loudly announce their presence.


Once I have the stones I look at the colour, patterns, texture and automatically, possible combinations are being imagined.  I consider them all and those that may have some merit I haul out and place next to the stones, to see if there is that ‘spark’ that will make them irresistible, or whether there is a gentle acceptance of each other. 


Sometimes the possibilities that I imagine so vividly end up sitting there with their backs to each other in a standoff situation.   It’s okay, I realize I’m not always right.


After the basic combination is there, this is followed by moving things around and often a partial mock up to see if it will work.  Once that shows promise, it is ready to be completed.  

A combination like this can take quite a while to get just right

A combination like this can take quite a while to get 'just right'




With some of my more complex combinations it starts off the same way – to see if the individual stones looks great together.  Once I have that right, then I start tipping quantities into a container and keep adding to the mix until the overall look is ‘just right’.   Then comes the construction.


It can be quite a lengthy process.  The actual creation time may take half an hour or it may take days.  (Some pieces are very reluctant to change their state in those latter cases!)   The actual construction is usually fairly fast, but I have to be in the ‘mood’.   If I’m not, regardless of how good the combination is, it just won’t have the pizzazz of the pieces I make when feeling quite passionate about them.


It could reasonably be said that there is a little bit of me in all my pieces – through the creations process of my inspiration, my skill and my passion.  So when people buy my jewellery, they are buying a little touch of me too.


Colour – Annette Piper

15 03 2008

Colour can have such an effect on the way we feel that it is an integral part of the jewellery designer’s process.   We must consider not just the beauty of the components, their patterns and their wearability, but how they will look when in the finished piece – are the colours harmonious, will it flatter most skin tones or only a few?  Will it have to be worn over clothing to get the best impact or is it best worn against the skin?  Will the majority of your customers be able to wear such a colour? 

I love greens and yellows – to the point of where I really buy more of these coloured gemstones than I can in reality use.    Yellow is a colour that, for the most part, looks better on those with olive skin, or at the very least, someone with no ruddiness.  Yet I live in a location with a high density of fair Caucasians and I myself have fair skin with a slightly ruddy cast.  Citrine and lemon topaz look awful on me if worn against my skin, but I can get away with a little if I put such stones with some rich browns and deep reds.    

Greens have some of the same problems, but the different shades of green mean that most people can wear some version of green well and there are a wonderful array of green gemstones that are available.  Of course, just to be difficult, I personally love the yellow- greens (such as peridot) which, once again, looks awful on me unless it is surrounded with other stones or given a border of gold or silver. 

Everyone, it seems, loves blue and it tends to look very good on a high proportion of people.  Naturally, blue is one of the most difficult colours to obtain in gemstones.   Sapphire of course is the best known blue gemstone, but at a substantial cost.   Likewise, other costly varieties include blue diamonds, blue topaz, aquamarine, spinel, zircon, tourmaline, and so on.   More affordable blues are found with iolite, kyanite, turquoise, blue lace agate, blue chalcedony, lapis lazuli, sodalite …. but the vivid, desirable blues in less costly stones are still difficult to find. 

I am often asked for jewellery made with red stones.  I show these people the deep reds of garnet and orange-reds such as found in coral and carnelian, but no, they want bright, fire-engine red.   I usually have to tone down their expectations at this point of getting affordable gemstone jewellery in this colour.     At least with reds most people can wear them –  albeit with limitations (with either the cool reds (blue-red) or the warm reds (orange-red) being suitable ).   

I have the added limitation with my jewellery that those that make their own beads don’t have – unless I go to treated stones, I am limited to what nature provides.  If I can get people to look beyond their immediate desire for a particular shade, however, they soon learn the delights that can be afforded by looking deeper into gemstones and the value of something natural and unique. 

Lemon Citrine Necklace by Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

A beautiful lemon citrine necklace, but a hard colour for some skin types to wear .

Motivation – Lori Anderson

29 02 2008

Motivation is one of those intangible things that I can’t really define as it pertains to ME.  It seems to change all the time.  So I’ll give you some “for-instances”. 

  • I’m motivated when my design table gets overloaded with beads, to the point where I can’t see the table top any longer.  I start picking up whatever’s on the table, and I MUST make something with it.  That way I clear the table and have a lot of new things made, too – but wait, now what do I do with all the beads I took out to accent the beads that WERE on the table……

Messy Studio  

  • I’m motivated when I have a show coming up.  I always like to have new things at each show, and it seems that the couple of weeks before a show I go into overdrive.

  • I’m motivated when I have the house to myself.  If I have no interruptions, I turn on TIVO’d programs to listen to (CSI, Cold Case Files, things like that) and go to town.  I so rarely get alone time that it’s a real treat, and I use it!

  • I’m motivated by some inner drive that keeps me going – the desire to constantly change, to constantly improve what I do, to every now and then make something that really amazes me.

    Motivation is such a personal thing, and it can take on many faces.  Whatever it is for you, I hope that it propels you into new and exciting ventures this year!  

Balancing Career with Life – Lisa Liddy

23 02 2008

I’ve procrastinated on this one for long enough. The whole balance thing is not my strong suit, as anyone who knows me well knows.
I’ve had my own book design business for 17 years and added the Joolz jewely design side about 3 or 4 years ago (in an effort to maintain my sanity…jury is still out on that one!). Building the book design business has been successful enough that I no longer fear having to go back to corporate America (good thing as I no longer have the shoes for it!). However, it has taken most of that 17 years to learn to “try” to enjoy the valleys that come with the peaks in business. And I’m still learning how to carve out time for Joolz, when the reality is that The Printed Page still pays half the bills around here.
And somewhere in there, you’ve got to make room for Life. I’ve been fairly lucky in that regard. Owning the business means I can determine the hours the work gets done (and often time those hours are when most of the country is sleeping). It has meant that I can take my daughter to and from school and until recently (she’s 14) use the drive time to find out how her day went. I can plan my schedule for the day and adjust it for unexpected things like a sick child, chaperoning field trips, and helping with last minute assignments that crop up. It means I can take a day in the middle of the week and call it a mini-weekend (especially if I’ve worked a weekend to make a deadline).
I am most productive late in the day and evening. I am never a bundle of energy first thing in the morning and since my DH is out of town 5 days a week, I don’t have to deal with that morning energy that he brought to our marriage! My work day is broken down into chunks. The morning to early afternoon chunk that is often interrupted with client calls and emails, a couple of hours some days when my daughter is at tutoring in the early evening, and the “night shift” (from 9pm to midnight or later) when I can really get cranking on production work.
So where does the jewelry design fit into this? That’s a question that has been such a struggle this last year. The desire is there. I certainly have the materials oozing out of whole sections of the office. I have beads for all seasons and occasions. Finding time in the course of a day hasn’t worked regularly.
Depending on the stresses of the day, when the time is there, the creativity and desire is not. And so the frustration builds. Couple that with not yet finding the proper niche for regular sales of somewhat eclectic jewelry and I’ve hit some major walls this year.
I have a plan, though. Not sure why it didn’t occur to me sooner but sometimes the obvious is not so obvious. Briefly (as I’m sure I’ll use this topic as another blog entry) when I work on jewelry I have a “method”. I have multiple projects going at any time…laying out beads and pushing them around into bracelets and necklaces. Earrings come later and rings are a process unto themselves. Once I have an assortment of items laid out to my satisfaction (over several sessions usually), I spend time stringing or wiring all of them. Not finishing them with toggles and clasps. Just assembling, if you will. Another session is devoted to finishing work and earrings that match. Photos and web work is last (and often where the process breaks down since I’m on the computer hours at time for the book design work…spending more of it that isn’t chatting with forum friends is not my strong suit).
So my latest “brilliant” idea for fitting more Joolz time (and therefore more ME time!) is blocking several hours first thing in the morning several days a week. Before anyone else is up if I can pull it off, otherwise after the school run. Before the business of books heats up and I wonder where the day has gone. Given the way I like to work on my Joolz, I think it makes sense.
Stay tuned for an update on how it’s going!

Fashion and Trends – Annette Piper

3 02 2008

Spring, summer, autumn and winter, seasons inextricably linked to the fashion world and all that entails.  Fashion can be inspiring and sometimes, simply frightening!

Basically I am old enough to not follow the trends or fashion.  I know what I like and what suits me, which makes shopping a whole lot easier.   But we can’t help be guided a little by fashion if only being limited to what we can purchase in colour or cut.

As a jewellery designer I can certainly be affected by trends and popular fashion colours or even fashion designs.  But as artists and artisans should we be slaves to what the fashion houses declare?

For example, a design of high necks or collars would mean my necklaces have to be longer to accommodate going over shirts/tops.  They may have to be a little bolder to be noticed.   Popular colours can affect my selection of stones a little eg. soft baby pink or hot pink, apricots or creams, icy clear or straw coloured.  Trends such as linear or chandelier earrings or chunky necklaces will encourage me to make a few of these and include them in my range for those that are more fashion conscious.

Usually I find if I follow trends too closely the jewellery created has limited appeal.   It’s important to define your ideal customer when considering your new creations.  Luckily, my market is women just like me !


Inspiration – Lori Anderson

30 12 2007

Inspiration in design is such an individual thing that I’m going to tell you what inspires me.

My inspiration for jewelry design is really quite simpel — I am inspired by the beads themselves and color combos.  It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it does go deeper.

When I go to a bead show, there is almost a sensory overload from the sheer numbers of beads available.  Where to start?  What to pick?  More often than not, a strand of beads or a stellar finding will just “appear” and make itself known to me amongst the hundreds of other strands.  It could be the color, the texture, the shape of the bead that attracted me – it could be how it feels in my hand when I pick it up. 

One of my favorite gemstone dealers knows me well enough now that he holds back some “ooh aah!” strands for me, and as soon as I see them, a design almost immediately pops into my head.  It’s almost like getting a vision, for lack of a better description – but it’s very handy!

Color combinations inspire me as well.  I have a huge notebook of magazine clippings from flower catalogs, fashion magazines, and (of all things) bedding catalogs.  I’ll snip out a bit of the color combo and stick it in my book for later.  I collect paint chips from Lowes and will sort them around until a color goes, “Ah!”.  If I see someone wearing a really cool outfit, I’ll rush to right down the colors in a notebook that I carry everywhere.

My design table is constantly FULL of beads.  I’ll go to the bead cabinet to retrieve a bead for a project I’m working on, and beside it will be one that triggers an immediate design in my head.  I’ll put those on the table, and then the same thing will happen again when I got to get out another bead.  It can get overwhelming so I have to be a little strict with myself – if I can’t see the table top ANYWHERE, it’s time to show some restraint.

Regardless of what inspires you, embrace it, and work it for all it’s worth! 


Fashion and Trends – Connie Wyatt

26 12 2007

Fashion is, to say the least, a transient thing.  Fashions come and go with the times and seasons.  Women today are bombarded with choices all clamoring for their attention, and more importantly, their dollar.  Women are sometimes referred to as slaves to fashion.  A trend is here today and out tomorrow.  Some of my girlfriends have closets that are obscenely crammed with articles of clothing and then complain that they have nothing to wear, and off to the mall they go for another round of shopping for the latest style, in the hottest colors.  It is like a merry-go-round that never ends until you are either too exhausted or too broke to play the game. 

I do believe that a woman can go about the game in a way that will not break the bank or dampen her spirits or injure her self esteem.  I heard a woman, who was in a position to know what she was talking about, give some great advice that I have never forgotten.  Her sage advice was to invest in really top quality basic pieces in very basic colors that are classic in design.  I think black is the favored perennial color that lends itself well to the idea of accessorizing these basics with trendy items in the hot colors of the season.  Perhaps you could have two very basic black dresses, one in a lightweight fabric that works well in summer, say with short sleeves, and one that will be of a heavier, warmer fabric that can take you thru winter.  You would want to choose figure flattering designs that might go a long way toward camouflaging your particular figure flaws and highlighting your great features!  Or, you might have a summer palate of basic colors and a winter palate of basic colors.  Perhaps in your winter wardrobe, you have blacks, dark blues, and chocolate browns as your basic palate and in summer you choose brighter basics of khaki and white and of course, your basic black is for all seasons.  If you choose your basics with great care, you will be able to wear them for years to come.   

Now it is time to take these basic pieces to the next level!  Take for instance the animal print trend!  If you had a good basic black dress in your closet that was designed to wear with a belt, you could get yourself a wonderful belt in an animal print and maybe add a fun pair of shoes in a matching animal print and walk out of the house feeling well put together as well as in fashion!  Or, what about when HOT pink was all the rage?  That same basic black dress would have looked just as great wearing a belt in hot pink, or perhaps you could add a really gorgeous hot pink beaded necklace?  Do you see how you can make a basic wardrobe work for you and still keep you in style and be able to keep up with seasonal trends? 

For me, I love basic black because it covers a multitude of sins.  It also provides me with a great opportunity to display my vast collection of jewelry to its best advantage!  I also personally prefer to wear dresses most of the time as I find them more comfortable, as well as always acceptable for any occasion when out in public.  One of my little tricks is that I have a basic black jumper or two, and I love to find different blouses in assorted colors to change it up.  This strategy allows me to maintain a simple closet and relieves me of having to buy so many clothes.  Do you have a good strategy to help you keep up with the latest in fashions?  Feel free to share your comments!