Hi there! Tammy Adams of Paisley Lizard here today as a guest author. I'm an alum of the first B’sue Boutiques Build A Line Challenge, or BALC as we nicknamed it. I wanted to share with you a few lessons I learned from the class.
The BALC was a combination of jewelry design challenge and master class about creating a line of jewelry for sale, with Brenda Sue Lansdowne as our intrepid instructor.
Why did I rush to sign up as soon as I heard about the challenge? I wanted to develop a cohesive look to my designs. A look that was distinctively “me” to anyone who saw it.
I’ve been designing jewelry for over 10 years. And if you looked at my portfolio, you might think it was the work of 3, or 30, different artists. It was a little bit of a lot of things that didn’t go together. And I was at a loss as to how to pull it together.
So it was a bit of synchronicity that Brenda decided to hostess the BALC right around the time I was contemplating how to go about creating a cohesive portfolio of jewelry. I could fill pages and pages with the things I learned, and the reasons I’m glad I participated. But I don’t want to give away all the great tips and tricks you should get by taking the class yourself. So I’ll limit this post to three things I learned that have changed the way I do things.
But first, a quick look at my line
Before I jump into my lessons-learned, here’s an overview of the line I designed for the BALC. One requirement of the class was that we use components from B’sue Boutiques. I was relatively new to the world of brass stampings and assemblage, but I am a mixed-media artist. I was stumped for a minute, and then found a way to blend the new-to-me components with a technique I know.
I called my line Elemental Lizards. The focals are centered on lizard stampings. Technically, they’re salamanders, but I figured I was entitled to some artistic license. Mine were rusty black versions of these stampings. I also used bead and link connector chain like this in various finishes. The rest of each design consisted of polymer clay backgrounds for the lizards, with coordinating polymer clay beads, and Czech glass accents.
Lesson 1. Don’t get distracted by shiny things.
Predicting what people will like is a challenge. I was quite surprised that the white focal, for the aether element, was the most popular among those who commented on my blog. I don’t know if this is because as a group, my classmates prefer shimmery pearly sparkly things over more matte colors. The white focal is the only one on which I used mica powders and pearl paints.
Do the preferences of this group reflect the preferences of my target market? Do I need to rethink my entire line? Hmmmm. In looking at my classmates designs, I saw lots of shimmer and sparkle, flowers and some very romantic ultra-feminine pieces. When I shared one of my first lizard focals with the class, quite a few suggested I use gilder’s paste or something to add sparkle to the lizard. There are definitely women who like their jewelry to sparkle.
There are also those who, like me, prefer something less sparkly, more rustic, perhaps even a little grungy. They are the target market for my rustic organic art jewelry. And they are who I need to keep in mind when designing. I need to stay focused on them and not get distracted by, well, shiny things.
That focus has helped me invest more wisely in components and know what I need to keep in stock. Do I still buy the occasional shiny thing? Of course. And I still make OOAK pieces in addition to my limited edition collections. But I think my storefront is looking increasingly cohesive as I focus on pulling design elements and themes into coordinating pieces.
There was a fair bit of discussion about the pros and cons of making what sells versus creating what you like. You don’t have to choose one over the other. You can find a balance. But first you need to figure out who it is you’re designing jewelry for and what they want.
Lesson 2. There’s nothing wrong with repeating a design.
I went into this class with my hands on my hips, determined to continue making “one of a kind” art jewelry no matter what I learned. I just knew I would be bored to tears if I ever duplicated a design, much less got into production work.
As it turns out, making a cohesive line doesn’t have to mean generating carbon copies of the same thing over and over. It’s finding design elements and themes that can be carried across pieces and combined in different ways.
For my Elemental Lizards line, one of those repeating elements was the lizards. By varying the colors and patterns used for the backgrounds, I was able to create a cohesive-looking collection that was still true to my art jewelry aesthetic.
And I learned something new with each focal I made. Repeating the same basic design in a variety of colors allowed me to refine the design and streamline the process. Not only did I get more efficient, I think my technique improved.
I re-made a few of my pieces after the final reveal. At some point during the class I drifted so far in the opposite direction from OOAK that I lost sight of where I was going with the line and who I was making it for. I fell into an “everything has to look alike” fallacy of my own creation. That was never what Brenda said we had to do.
After that little course correction, I found I quite like taking a design and exploring the many different ways it can be executed. In fact, since completing the BALC I have created several limited edition collections that are variations in color and pattern for the same basic shapes. My muse is happy, and my customers have a choice.
I decided to go the “limited edition” route over production pieces. It’s what fits with the materials and techniques I prefer to use. And yet, when I’ve had requests to re-create a sold piece, I’ve regretted not having what I need to accommodate a customer. So, clearly, I am still a work in progress. But I am much further along my creative journey, thanks to the things I learned in BALC.
Lesson 3. Be open to change.
I like to think I am reasonably open-minded, and willing to consider new information and perspectives. I also know I am stubborn and, like many people, not always happy to find I have been wrong about something.
I paid attention to all the things Brenda said, I read all the information she shared, And yet, my inner monologue was sorting the tips and lessons into two baskets. One basket was the “Yes! I completely agree.” collection of things I already believed and therefore considered right without a second thought.
The other basket was, well, a virtual waste basket. That’s where I subconsciously put things I wasn’t ready to accept because they meant I had to let go of some of my own ideas and opinions. We all have one of those mental waste baskets.
As the class went on and I took my hands off my hips long enough to do the things Brenda was advising, I gradually pulled things out of that mental waste basket, uncrumpled them, and filed them in the “Yes! I completely agree.” basket.
Being open to change isn’t a lesson I thought I needed to learn. But maybe it’s one about which I needed a reminder. Or maybe it’s a habit I need to practice more often. I haven’t completely kicked my old habits when it comes to designing jewelry. But when I find myself drifting down the wrong path, it’s easier to recalculate the shortest route back to where I want to keep my focus. And that’s thanks to things I learned, and learned to accept, during the BALC.
Written by ~ Tammy Adams, owner/designer at Paisley Lizard
Designs available on Etsy at PaisleyLizardDesigns