Monday, September 24, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Clasps...

Clasps are often the “forgotten design element” in a piece of jewelry, but I'm here today to change that thinking!  While clasps serve a vital function in jewelry, they are also an intrinsic part of a piece’s style, and shouldn’t be overlooked as far as design goes. So, I’m going to spend a little time talking about how clasps are much more than a mechanical device, about how beautiful they can be, and how selecting the right claps really “completes” a piece.

When we teach classes, one of our goals is to encourage students to consider the clasp as more than just a fastener; that it is an integral component in the overall design of the piece. Sometimes this means using a traditional, simple lobster claw that disappears into the design of the piece, sometimes the clasp should be a decorative component that flows effortlessly in to the design and style of the piece, and sometimes it means that the clasp serves as an eye-catching focal point that the entire piece is designed around!

When selecting a clasp, the main things to think about are the general style and scale of what you are trying to achieve: Are you designing a very delicate necklace? Is it a chunky bracelet loaded up with all sorts of colorful beads? Is it a finely detailed fabric of woven beads? These are just a few possible questions you may want to ask yourself; needless to say, just like the world of beads, the world of jewelry design is endless. These sample questions give you a starting point of what you’ll want to consider when selecting your clasp.

For example, if you’re creating a piece that is simple and sleek, such as a single bead pendant that is dropping off a thin chain, then a small, plain lobster claw is one of the best options for your clasp, because it will disappear into the background, and not overpower the rest of the piece.

However, if your piece is comprised of heavier, chunkier beads, then a decorative toggle clasp, box clasp, or s-hook would be a more suitable closure. In these instances, the clasp becomes part of the design itself, and flows seamlessly with the rest of the piece.

You wouldn’t want to use a simple lobster claw here, because that natural flow of your beadwork would be interrupted; something just wouldn’t seem “right”, visually. At the same time, while decorative, the clasp in this case does not command the front-and-center spotlight.

Yet another great design option is using buttons as your clasp. Buttons work beautifully as closures on anything from wide beadeweaving projects to the popular wrap bracelets, and just about anything in between!

Using buttons for clasps really opens up a wide world, because they come in so very many styles, ranging from simple and understated to extremely elaborate; there are artisan buttons, glass buttons, clay buttons, manufactured buttons, antique buttons...the list goes on and on! Having so many options available makes it very easy to match a button to your piece.

But, there are times when the clasp itself IS the “wow” point of the piece. These types of clasps are really exciting to work with, as they provide you with a fresh new perspective on design! When the clasp is the focal point, everything else included in the piece is selected accordingly. And, when you look at such a piece of jewelry, you really don’t even see the clasp; all you see is endlessly stunning beauty.

As you can see, there are lots of things to consider when choosing a clasp. Clasps must be sturdy, strong, reliable, and funtctiona - but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a gorgeous component of your piece as well! The options avialable for clasps are virtually endless, so be sure to put as much thought into the style of your clasp as you do in the rest of your piece, and you will be thrilled with the results!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Adventures in Contrast...

Glass Pearls, Crystals, Antique Skeleton Keys,
and Hanforged Copper Chain
What do you think of when you hear the word “contrast”? I bet the first thing that popped into your mind was how colors contrast with each other. And, of course, that is a very valid definition for the term.

But contrast runs far beyond color. Personally, I thrive on playing with contrasting materials. I enjoy wearing pretty, frilly tops with “distressed” (ie, holey!!) jeans and rugged riding boots.
Crystal Cupchain, Faceted Fire Polished Beads, Heat-Treated
Copper, Handmade Brass Beads on Waxed Cotton
And, when it comes to jewelry, I love working sparkly, refined crystals and glass pearls together with rustic cords and hand-forged metals. Or, I’ll pick a pair of crystal earrings – you know, the kind you’d normally wear to a formal event - to wear with those holey jeans and rugged boots. I find the play between these sorts of materials to be so visually pleasing, satisfying, and – truth be told – empowering, because it’s verging on being rebellious. And this form of rebellion is probably the most fun, because it’s subtle – it keeps people guessing about you and your personal style!


I like to encourage my customers to take a walk down the adventurous road of contrasting materials. There is so much exploring to do, so many materials to work with, and when it comes to jewelry, there’s a reason we’re into making it ourselves rather than buying it at generic chain departments stores: because we, as bead people, have a unique sense of style, and we have a need to express it in our own way. By working contrasting and unexpected materials together into a single piece, you are busting your beading world wide up…you’ve just magnified the possibilities manifold!

Vintage Glass Pearls, Handforged Silver Rings, Faceted
Green and Red Garnet, and Hilltribe Silver

If you’re not used to working in contrasting materials, finding a starting point can seem intimidating, but it’s not…really, I promise! The first suggestion I always make to people is to stop thinking all together, and just “do”. I’ve found that the more I think about something, the harder it becomes, the less inspired it is, and I generally don’t end up loving the results. Some of my most favorite projects (and outfits) have come together in a very brief time frame.

Glass Pearls Overwrapped With Sterling Wire,
Handforged Silver Rings

Yes, it seems counter-productive to NOT put much thought into a project, but give it a try! I’m betting you’ll be thrilled with the results…with both your finished piece of jewelry, and the liberation you’ll feel from just letting your mind run free. It's not something we get to do very often in life, so we might as well grab a little fun anywhere we can!