A New Collection: Designing the First Piece, Part 1

Creating a new collection is not something I do on a timeline. I don't release a spring collection and a fall collection. I have ideas for new pieces all the time. It's a regular part of my day, like breathing. Most of my visual ideas come and go like song fragments drifting through my mind-scape.   Many of these ideas drift away or are left abandoned before they fully form. What replaces those dream-like ideas is the persistent vision of a fully formed design concept. It's an idea that gets my attention. It feels fresh, new and exciting. These ideas are easy to carry around with me, and when I'm ready, I can sketch them out. Listening to music, or a long walk can bring an idea to the surface.

A few weeks ago I was at Le Piano, a terrific new jazz club in Roger's Park, when I started the proverbial cocktail napkin sketch. Even with an original idea formed and at the top of my mind, it was still a brainstorming process, of finding the balance between editing the idea and just letting it flow, of getting to the essence of the design. Later, I left the drawings out where I could see them, letting them ferment. Then, I started developing the ideas, by indicating the different materials.  I use graph paper, to explore realistic scale, and vellum with pencils to look at the way different colors could bring the forms to life. I think about the manufacturing process. I create the questions and look for the answers: What must happen to make this idea into a pendant or a pair of earrings? How large is the first piece? How many components will we need to make? How modular will the design be? What gemstones, in which sizes are available in the market? What is the budget for this necklace? What other options could I use to broaden the appeal? But first, design the first piece.

Expand and Refine, Expand and Define.

This sketch depicts a large pendant in 18k gold with inlaid American walnut, orange spessartite garnet,  rubellites and peridot. The “First Piece” defines a collection. It’s the couture of a series, a seed from which smaller simpler pieces will grow.