There’s an enormous billion dollar industry out there that supports this highly specialised form of functional art. You’ve got the sketches and the talent … now what? How do you make that transition from dreamer to a jewellery designer that’s a style leader in their own right? It’s going to take a lot more than your good drawings that’s for sure. Here are some aspects you should consider before making the decision to dive in and pursue the title of ‘Jewellery Designer’:
Learn the basics
Having a great idea is one thing, figuring out how to make it reality is another. Sure, you may figure you’ll just hire artisans to do the work for you. But as a designer, you have to understand the materials you want to work with and how they’ll function on your customers so as to design a viable product. Remember, artisans will follow your design as a blueprint. If you haven’t mastered the basic concepts, techniques and strategies of design, the idea may not successfully translate ; no matter how skilled your team is. There are several stages in the production process that need to happen before you can see the final piece. Understanding each step can help a designer candidly critique their work to see if meets desired expectations. From there, they can branch away from standard or traditional pieces and delve deeper into their person style that’s innovating but still comfortable, functional and a value-add to their clients.
If you haven’t mastered the basic concepts, techniques and strategies of design, the idea may not successfully translate ; no matter how skilled your team is.
Narrow down on your path
Don’t let the influx of brass designs fool you, there’s a wide array of routes to take in jewellery design. Now, we’re not knocking brass creations at all. But you’ll notice that for every designer with a vision there’ll be a bunch of companies that pop-up creating something similar (or completely identical). To be a designer means being on the frontier of creating something that’s novel and speaks to your identity. You just have to figure out what you want to specialize in, and if you only want to design or go the whole nine yards and create it too. Once you’ve done that, you can set out to learn those specific set of skills that will help you actualize your vision. If that happens to be a path that works with a fairly common material, at least you’ll understand how to use it to input your signature style.
Consider formal education
In this business, practice makes perfect. With proper material and tools, as well as, unlimited information sources like the internet, you can gain experience right from your home. Nevertheless, you may want to consider if a formal education in jewellery design is something that would further your career. This would be particularly necessary if you plan to work for a large manufacturer/brand. However, if you’re planning to go it solo, a formal degree could still help you.
For starters, it could be a starting point to build those necessary professional contacts you’re going to need to make it in this industry. Secondly, it would introduce you to advanced software and technology that jewellery design is embarking on. If you do decide to head to school, do ensure that it’s a reputable institution and an accredited program. Note, it doesn’t have to be an art-centred course. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to do the business-oriented side of jewellery design (which can be a snooze fest for some designers). Fact is, if you want to be successful, you’ll have to stock up on those all-important entrepreneurial skills such as merchandising and business administration.
Whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to do the business-oriented side of jewellery design
Brush up on leading tech
Whether you’re thinking of being a beads, brass, or gold designer, you’ll need to know more than the basic or traditional technique. Being proficient in computer-aided design (CAD) software can be an asset to your creative process. It not only broadens your design options, but it also helps you determine precise aesthetics and dimensions. What most jewellers are recognising with CAD software is that it helps them create designs that would have been considered too expensive to do by hand. It’s also augmented the possibilities when it comes to the materials designers can use and the time-frames they work under.
Like in any profession, experience is the best teacher. Getting your hands a little dirty helps you gain the skills and knowledge you’ll need to succeed in this industry. We’re talking working in jewellery stores to understand things like display logic, customer interaction, start-up costs and the fashion culture. In addition, working in jewellery manufacturing plants to truly understand each step of the production process and the right tools you’ll ultimately need to invest in. Learning every part of the business will come in handy when you’re crafting your own outfit.
Build portfolio & Network
This is a visual industry and one that constantly needs to see fresh work from you; pieces that communicate your style but also show your evolution. No matter how successfully you get, your work will always be scrutinized and critiqued by your clients and colleagues alike. Your body of work, also known as your portfolio, is your advocate. It will be what gets you that donor, work position or new customer. So with each professional piece you finish, consider if it demonstrates your versatility, compelling narrative, as well as, your jewellery design ability and artistic expression. If it does, invest in quality photography and add it into your portfolio.
No matter how successfully you get, your work will always be scrutinized and critiqued by your clients and colleagues alike.
Your proof is for nought if you haven’t worked on your network. You’ll soon find that a lot of creative jobs are based on the affiliations you make within the industry. Creating meaningful relationships with the right designers and individuals can help propel your career to where you want it to go. It also creates avenues to collaborate with other professionals to push your own creative envelop. Not to mention, it’s through this communication that you can figure out what is working for your brand and what isn’t.
Define your style and customer
Some of the top reasons why jewellery designers fail include not knowing who they’re designing for, they lacked vision/cohesion in their collections and they hadn’t defined their style. So answer the question: what is my signature style and how do I define my speciality? Then hone in on them. Next, develop a well-defined brand story that will bring in the right partners that share your vision, and the spot-on clients who’ll be devoted to the brand.
As glamorous as becoming a jewellery designer may seem, it’s not for everybody. It has its fair share of ebbs and flow that will require a strong will to not only survive, but thrive in. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There is a great sense of fulfilment that comes from your aptitude and inventiveness being recognised, appreciated and proudly worn by customers. If you do choose this career, invest in yourself, make a concrete plan and learn from those who’ve gone before you.