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Monday, September 6th 2010

10:13 AM

We are Surrounded by Design


Hello Everyone!


The September 2010 issue of Jewelry Artist magazine had a wonderful article on Cartier. I love learning about other designers and how they found success. The article focused not only on the history of Cartier, it also gave a glimpse into their design theory. The article told of an incident between Jacques Cartier and a young designer by the name of James Gardener. As Gardener was designing a piece for Mr. Cartier, Cartier showed him a picture of a table leg taken from a book on Chinese furniture. Mr. Cartier pointed out some of the design aspects of the table leg to inspire Gardener to create jewelry using similar forms.

Mr. Gardener’s experience really struck a chord with me. Over the years I had used a similar technique to create some of my own work. I’ve spent many hours pouring over books on antique jewelry to get a better idea of design. Looking at what others did in the past helped me better understand how a piece should flow.  After reading this article however, I realize that I was limiting my design inspirations.

If you think about it we’re surrounded by design. Take nature for instance. Walking through your backyard garden or a local park you’re inundated with design ideas. Something as simple as a flower can provide you with endless design possibilities. Look at the shape of the petals, the curve of the stem, the color variations, all of these elements can be used to design jewelry. Am I saying make jewelry that looks like flowers? That’s up to you. If looking at flowers inspires you to design a line of flower jewelry, then by all means do it. However, my point is far more abstract then that. The various design elements found within nature can give birth to new and exciting work.

Here’s an example of a design inspired by nature. This Feather Brooch has many elements that are based on a literal feather; the center rib, stem, and basic shape. But that’s where the similarities end. The overall piece lacks some of the fine detail that would make it look like a literal feather. There are just enough details to give the viewer the illusion of a feather. By using some of the feathers elements I was able to create something that was familiar but different at the same time. This design intrigued the person who eventually purchased it. They loved the overall shape and familiarity of the design.


Feather Brooch Tutorial Available at -

But don’t limit your design inspirations to nature. As I said, design is all around us. I remember an evening when my wife and I were walking around the downtown area of our little town, Paducah Kentucky. As we sat on a bench in front of a store we began to look at some of the architecture. The old buildings had wonderful design elements, beautiful facades, stunning brick work, and wonderful window frames. After studying the building in front of us I became fixated on its windows. I thought, “That would be a wonderful pendant”. I pointed out to my wife how the various design elements could be used in creating the piece and she agreed. So I pulled out my camera phone and snapped a picture of the window so I could use it as inspiration later.

This is just another example of how design inspiration can be taken from anything. Look at the curves on a sports car, paintings found in an art museum, sculpture, or even a table leg from a book on Chinese furniture. All of these can inspire you to create new and interesting jewelry. Studying these design elements can help you progress as an artist. They can also help cure creative blocks in your inspiration and pull you out of design ruts.  

After reading the article on Cartier I am more determined than ever to look for design inspiration around me. I plan to start collecting books and magazines on nature, architecture, furniture design, as well as jewelry. I hope that by expanding my design horizons that my work will take on a whole new look.

You too can find inspiration in your surroundings. I hope that I was able to inspire you to look around you and see design.

Until Next Time,

Jim McIntosh      

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