Behind the Scenes: How Do Designers Design?
This isn't your average "behind the scenes post"! This is a post about the ethereal nature of ideas - how they seem to come about and how designers translate them into items we use and wear. I have a lot to say on the subject from my own perspective, but when I first went to write this post, I realized that it would be egotistical of me to talk about the translation of design and only reference myself! So I enlisted two other artists whose work I respect - Stephanie of SMStoner Design, and Erin of Dreamy Ewie.
Stephanie is another jewelry designer, and Erin is an illustrator. I wanted to talk to another artist that wasn't a jeweler, because for me, the gemstones have a very high impact on my ideas. If one doesn't have the vehicle of a "material" to guide the design, how is one inspired? Erin said that for her, ideas mostly pop into her head at random times. She'll record the idea on her phone, and then when she has dedicated studio time, she can reference all the fragments that coalesced at random times. "You can't force it," Stephanie tells me. She also says that you have to write the idea down, or quickly make a version of it so you don't forget. Also, this clears your brain for MORE inspiration to come!
For Erin, I learn that materials ARE still important. She'll choose her drawing medium and paper based on how she wants the design to appear. More whimsical, airy designs require watercolor; more complex textures might evolve from colored pencil.
All three of us list "nature" as something that inspires us most. Honestly, I hear a good 90% of artists say this, and I always thought of it as a cop out. But recently, my mind has changed on that front - how can nature NOT inspire you as an artist?! From the unique build of animals, to the foliage colors during a hike, to the uniform yet organic shape of different flora. Stephanie often gets inspired by "shapes". When she was young, artworks like the MC Escher stairs were of particular interest to her. Erin, who often paints animals, told a story about a hummingbird she would see each day when she was taking a break on the fire escape. "One day, it just flew up to me and was darting around my face!" she exclaimed, "And I said, ok! ok!, I'm sorry I haven't painted your portrait yet! I'll do it right now".
So, we have the idea, and sometimes an idea of the materials... now what? How does it get from head to hand to object? Erin has a pretty lengthy manual process she goes through to reach the final product. It can include sketches, color studies, and sometimes up to 8 or 9 traces before the final piece is begun! Stephanie and I usually just dive right in. Sometimes we are working from a quick sketch on a post it, scribbled down during a time when designing wasn't possible. But since the materials really speak to me, I seem to move in whatever direction feels appealing as it unfolds. "You can't be too rigid when designing", Stephanie tells me, and I agree. We both admit that often times the hands don't create exactly what the mind has pictured, but new forms emerge as you work with a fragment of the original idea.
Another aspect I was curious to hear about, was how often do these women think about how well a design will sell when they sit down to create? I personally have a grand list of all sorts of ideas, but when I set time aside to create them, I often prioritize the ones I think will resonate with my audience. I loved Stephanie's response, she said she "designs from the soul". "There's something out there for everyone, so why not this?" she tells me. And it's true! This answer just feels so pure to me! Erin tells me that this question is often on her mind, same as me. Even when she is just painting for pleasure, she asks herself "could this be profitable?"
Although this is just a fraction of the fascinating conversations I got to have with these other lady artists, I think it will start to give you an idea of how designers go about making their ideas tangible in the world! We are inspired by a myriad of things, and sometimes we don't even know why an idea has appeared in our mind! But we know we better write it down before we forget ;)
If you would like more information on our guest designers:
Stephanie Stoner of SM Stoner Design recently launched a new website, and has the most unique tassel jewelry I've seen!
Erin LaCerra of Dreamy Ewie is currently offering pet portraits in her signature style!