Design Process – From Beads to Jewelry

March is National Craft Month, which is all about bringing creative ideas to life. Since this is the perfect time to get creative, we thought we’d talk with our designers about how they bring their ideas to life. Artbeads Designers Cynthia and Cheri answered some questions about how they design jewelry. Read on to get inspired for your next jewelry-making adventure.

How do you choose colors?

It really depends on my mood! Right now, because we’re at the end of winter and going into spring, I would like to see more sun. So, I tend to choose brighter or pastel colors. Sometimes, the colors need to match my clothes. That’s what’s inspired me to make so many Aiko rings. If I am working with a pendant, then I try to match the colors from the pendant design with the beads. – Cynthia

Azalea Peyote Stitch Ring
One of Cynthia’s Aiko rings in spring colors.

Sometimes matching an outfit will be the starting point, but usually I’m inspired by the colors of the beads themselves or the colors in a focal pendant. In the end, those beautiful colors will usually go with something I have. – Cheri

Gabriel's Announcement
Gabriel’s Announcement Necklace, featuring beads perfectly matched to the focal.

What comes first, the beads or the design?

It depends on the technique I will use. For my seed beading, I think of the design first. For example, if I want to make a peyote bracelet, I think, “Do I want to make a straight band or will I decorate it with some crystal beads or some daggers?” For a simple peyote band, I love the feeling of Aiko beads, but I might use bigger seed beads to go with some other shaped beads. Sometimes, the beads will inspire me. I can get very excited by the colors of the beads or the picture on a pendant, or even a type of charm. In those cases, the design comes after. – Cynthia

I work both ways. Sometimes the beads or a great focal pendant are the driving force for a design. Other times, a design comes to mind and the hunt for just the right beads follow. – Cheri

Do you sketch out your designs first?

Only if I am making a special design with seed beads, like the Aiko rings. For stringing, I pick different beads/charms/pendants/spacers that match and start to string. It can take several tries before I am happy with the final design. – Cynthia

It depends on the project. Sometimes I’ll sketch out a design for pieces that are strung or linked, maybe not in great detail, but just enough to get a feel for the overall scale or balance. For loomed or bead weaving projects, I will usually create a pattern. – Cheri

Brick Stitch Designs from Cheri and Cynthia, sketched out on our Printable Seed Bead Graph Paper

Where do you find inspiration?

I am on Instagram a lot, not for just looking at jewelry. I actually like looking at beautiful pictures of nature. I am always inspired by colors, so I like to look at combinations of colors. It can be in art, in Mexican tiles, in the interior design of a house, in fabrics, etc. – Cynthia

I find inspiration everywhere. Nature, architecture; vintage fabrics and vintage jewelry are some of my favorites. Pinterest is my favorite tool for collecting inspiration. – Cheri

Cheri and Cynthia have also talked about their design processes in videos! In the Artbeads Cafe episode above, the ladies share how they start designing and even talk you through their process as they make beautiful jewelry.

They also discuss overcoming creative blocks in this quick live video we shared on Facebook.

Finally, Cynthia has some tips if you are new to beading or are ever feeling frustrated with the creative process:

The most important tip that I could give is, just try it! Sometimes I don’t come up with the perfect design right away or even understand a new technique quickly. Like anything else, it takes practice. When we started Artbeads, I never thought I was creative, but I was fascinated by beads so I took classes in a store, tried different things, and practiced. You should have seen my simple loops at the beginning – scary!

Have fun with your beading. If you are getting frustrated with your design, put it aside, take a break, go get some tea or coffee with some chocolate, or take your dog out for a walk. Go back to your design when you are feeling better. I like to bead with music. It helps me to clear my mind because I want to sing and I don’t think about any stress or frustration that I could have that day.

My brother gave me the best advice when I was starting to bead. I was frustrated because I couldn’t think about what to make, and I told him that I was feeling so intimidated because there were so many great beaders out there. He told me that there will always be someone better than me and I just have to try to do my best. He was so right! Yes, there are a lot of amazing artists and I love seeing what they create. It actually inspires me. So I stopped worrying and let my creativity guide me.

What’s your design process like? Let us know in the comments below and feel free to share any beading tips!

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