This is the first of two posts that describes the birth of a product from concept through to shop. The lockdown has forced me to have a rethink about my product lines because of supplier issues, so it seemed a perfect time to give you a sneak peek at how I go about creating a piece or a product line. It’s a strangely simple yet convoluted process.
Simple because all I’m doing is converting what is in my head into a piece of jewellery; convoluted because I don’t use any automated processes. I’m a little tired of seeing machine made perfection in jewellery that has barely been touched by human hand. It’s all computer-designed, 3D printed and auto polished. Now don’t get me wrong; much of it looks beautiful, but it’s oddly lacking in soul. I much prefer good old-fashioned hard graft, where no two pieces will be exactly the same, because that’s what gives them soul.
So, where does it start? Well, it usually starts with a walk. Almost all my ideas come to me when I am away from my workbench and away from technology. It’s when I can let my mind wander that I think of ideas I can try out. It also means that although others would have inspired me, I’m not copying anyone’s work. Then I go to my trusty little notebook. I use this for literally everything jewellery related, from drawing to calculating initial prices. So if you look at the picture below, I’ve shown a page from it, which has a bunch of ideas sketched out. In my head I wanted to create something that was mostly plain silver but had a tiny splash of colour. So I started drawing. I draw all kinds of shapes that roughly match with what’s in my head.
Van Gogh apparently said “I dream my painting and then I paint my dream.” Unfortunately, I’m not Van Gogh, so much of what pops up in my head won’t look good, or even be feasible. It may turn out to be too heavy, or not strong enough or any of a myriad other things that means it can’t become a piece of jewellery. I usually have about three pages of drawings before even one makes it to the shortlist. I make a prototype of the shortlisted design in silver. And out of every five pieces I make in silver, only one will make it to the shop. So don’t be surprised if you never see this one there.
To you all this palaver may sound painful, but I can’t think of anything I would rather do. I simply love the process! I even love the sense of fear when I have the design equivalent of writers block, nothing good comes to mind for days or weeks, and I have to look at unlikely places for inspiration; ceiling lights, for example. Yes! I’ve actually got some rough sketches inspired by ceiling lights. The good thing is that once a piece has figuratively jumped through all these convoluted hoops, it’s there for as long as I want. The next time round, I only have to make it, knowing that it will work out.
All the while that I am doing this, I have another thought going on in my head. Will this design lend itself to becoming part of a range? If not, it still may get discarded. If I can’t make a matching set of earrings, bracelet and necklace, or have a theme or create variations, then what’s the point of making the item? I don’t want to create a random bunch of objects and throw them online to create a modern version of The Old Curiosity Shop. No. I want every piece to belong in the shop, and be part of a cohesive style and feel, so that further down the line, when there are more pieces, people will be able to look at the shop and say “OK, that’s the sort of stuff she makes.” Some won’t like what I make, and others will. And that’s fine. But at least they don’t get all confused.
Once I’m happy with a design, I draw it to scale, and then trace it and add it to my trusty little Van Gogh notebook, where I keep all my shortlisted designs. It’s only a small notebook, and rather impractical, but I love it. It was given to me by my cousin Seema, and whenever I use that notebook, I feel as if she’s there, chivvying me along to do better. I also use a fountain pen my Dad gave me for all my jewellery related writing, as if using that will guide me in the right direction. It’s irrational, but comforting.
I think you’ll be able to see from the sketches why only one out of many makes it to my little Van Gogh book. But what makes me decide whether it will make it to my shop? Lots of things. I’ll describe some of these in my next post, but for today, I’m happy to have even gotten this far.
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