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Design Elements For Jewelers - Let's Start With Line!

In my own work line plays a very big role. I like line and I use it for the cloisonne wires in my enamels, line work in resin, wire inlay in metals, etching and more.

A Line by any other name...

Line is a versatile ingredient of design, it can suggest many things, such as:

Shape; which can be filled with color or texture, or left just as they are

Texture; scribbled lines, cross-hatching, directional lines etc. imply texture that can be played off against smooth metal or colors

Form; the way you use line can give the idea of form, lines bending to follow the shape of a tree branch make it look round

Space; we've all seen pictures where two converging lines suggest a road going from nearby to the distance

Value; placing lines close together, then further apart will give the appearance of darker or lighter values

Pattern; Lines made into shapes, then repeated and arranged will form patterns

The kind of line-work I like to use is often based on small drawings I've done. And the way to do these drawings is fun in itself. Here's what you do:

Take a 'collection' of small objects such as leaves, pebbles, shells, sticks, wooden beads or anything else that takes your fancy, put them in the lid of a medium sized kitchen box, or a small shallow tray and then just draw the things that are there, outline only, no shading. I use a small sketch book for these drawings, an A6 size, big enough the get the lines I want, but not too big so that the drawing can be done in 15 - 20 minutes.

For this exercise it doesn't even matter whether the lines you draw are accurate, just go for some interesting lines. Next you would use a view finder to pick out interesting areas in the drawing and make new little drawings, traced or redrawn from the first one. The view finders I find work well are square, rectangular, round or you could make a shape especially for a project you are working on.

Lines as an expression of emotion

Lines can be very evocative of certain emotions. Imagine soft undulating lines - they are peaceful, tranquil, serene. Now think of hard edged angular line - they are much more dynamic and can portray a variety of emotions such as energy, anger, aggression. They are far from restful and will convey a different feeling about the piece they are used in.

Lines in jewelry can also be made of wire, cable, leather or rubber cord, these materials can be used in a graphic way. Edges are a kind of line as well, overlapping edges can add extra interest to a piece. Using wire as an outline around a more solid shape is another way to use line in jewelry, as a kind of frame, close or a little away from the edge. There are a lot more ways to use lines then you might first think, look around you in you everyday environment, line is everywhere. Look at how you can get ideas from the things you see every day.