"Design is a mix of craft, science, storytelling, propaganda, and philosophy."
— Erik Adigard
Simply put, design is the arrangement of visual elements in a space. However, we know it is so much more.
Part I of the series of articles on The Art of Design:
5 Essential Design Tools:
Craft Skills and Techniques
Acquiring skills and technique takes time, investment in tools and materials, and practice. This is one of the essential foundations that can take years and thousands of hours to become a master.
In this age of expediency and DIY, we no longer focus on education and practice but on results. This is drastically different than how artists and craftsman came to be prior to the technology age.
Apprenticeship came about during the Middle Ages as a way for young people (10-15) to trade labor for their keep (food, lodging). Often after their apprenticeship was over they would become Journeyman, which is similar to a contractor, who would work for a Master in their employ. Then eventually they too would become Masters with time, accumulated knowledge and practice.
Practice is essential to the mastery of anything. Old Masters (painters) would paint for years before ever selling their work. I think artists sometimes forget, because of economics and the rapid pace of this world, that it is unusual to sell work without fine tuning, editing and developing their story over a long period of time.
A lack of sales and profit can often be attributed to this lack of development. The connection to the work, the seduction of the buyer, hasn't fully formed. Developing that story and the artist's sense of self, is a process of evolution. It's okay if it takes years to develop and establish.
It isn't essential to draw perfectly to be an artist. Having owned 2 paint your own pottery studios, I was told by 99.9% of all adults "I can't draw, (therefore) I'm not an artist."
Rarely does someone have instant drawing excellence. It is the accumulation of hours of sketching… practicing. From this perhaps boredom of simple sketching has sprung the popular journaling movement which combines words, sketching and visual collage together.
The ability to draw is an essential element of communication. It helps you communicate your ideas, document or capture designs for future use, and to work with customers in a commission-based way.
It doesn’t have to be perfect and often imperfect or stylized drawing can be a creative art form in itself. However, if you plan on selling your designs or having them cast, you will need to learn a more technical approach.
Do you keep a journal, a sketchbook, or perhaps both? Some artists just do quick thumb nail sketches and others are more detailed.
A sketchbook can be a great place to keep "recipes". What worked, what didn't work, experiments, texture samples, finishes, interesting findings and more! It’s a great place to try out color combinations, engineering ideas too.
I find working on index cards handy, as they fit on my bench. They can be glued into whichever sketchbook it fits best or into a special section.
Say you design a great clasp, but you end up discarding it for another, more suitable design. You can then easily move it to another page where you keep clasp ideas. I also love them for class notes as they can be stapled to handouts, etc. so they are easily coordinated with other notes.
I also enjoy keeping many 3 ring binders full of magazine tear-outs, printed photos, and gathered artist postcards for inspiration.
I have tab separators for techniques, color combinations, clasps, clever engineering/connectors, beading, materials, etc. I think having these sources as a backup whenever you need a “clue” is invaluable.
I have an 3 ring binder dedicated to samples. I have these great pocket sleeves and inserts where I can keep in one place all my etching, enameling, hinge, and stamping samples. It’s great for teaching or to keep notes on your process. I can’t recommend this enough!
When I take a class, I never make a finished piece because I’m there to play not perform. I am always more interested in using the time to make several samples from which to inspire me to create many more pieces. Samples are excellent learning tools.
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