I know, it's a trite subject, being yourself. But this is what comes to me at 1 a.m. when I'm making inventory for a show...
What follows is an excerpt from a post I made in the Art Jewelry forum http://www.artjewelrymag.com/art/community/forum/:
You'll also notice that Dana Kellin has a *very* recognizable style - as does Yurman with the twisty stuff, Mann, etc. This helps to build brand recognition and appeals to certain markets. Many of us would do well to develop a recognizable style ourselves. Just like a Gucci bag (with the double-G's) or a designer dress is instantly recognizable (maybe not to most of us, but to other people who are wearing designer clothes), David Yurman jewelry is instantly recognizable, people know it costs A LOT, and so it conveys status. Like a big house or driving a Lexus. Most of our jewelry doesn't convey status - by way of a recognizable name and the means to afford it - to this type of customer. That can make a big difference.
The forum has many members who are very new to jewelry making, and of course their style is all over the place. As it should be - when first starting out in any medium, one's inclination is to try everything! So many choices, so many new things to make...but eventually, and *especially*, if one decides to earn one's living at their chosen medium, then having a distinct, recognizable style is priceless. It doesn't have be an "over the top" or "super-expensive" style, either. But it should be a style that people can associate with the designer - a style that is recognizable as your own.
It's commonly said that there's nothing new under the sun; everything has been done already...in fashion, jewelry, Art...but things keep getting reinvented, and even though an artisan might work in the Etruscan style, or the Art Deco style, they're trying to make a living now, not a hundred years ago, and *their* Etruscan style, while maybe derivative, becomes known as theirs - they own it, they promote it, they stay true to it, and the public begins to recognize it. And, if the designer is very lucky, they will make a good living from it.
I still haven't quite developed *my* own style, but I'm getting closer to it. In fact, I hope to have several styles (or at least a few) that become recognizable as distinctly Blue Piranha. I have been struggling for months to design in collections, instead of just a mishmash of "wire work" designs, and the collections are kicking my butt - by that I mean that they're harder to make than I thought. I think I have finally been able to start coaxing out a couple of collections, but still have to figure out the stones for them, which must be readily available, consistently cut sized, and in good enough supply for me to purchase more as needed. My goal is to move from mostly retailing to mostly wholesaling, and I want to do production work, which means I have to be able to consistenly have access to the necessary stones. That part I'll deal with later, but first I have to develop the designs themselves - the framework, so to speak.
How do you develop your own "look"? The best way is to be true...you know where I'm going with this, don't you...to yourself. A very wise artist gave me this advice, and I have carried it around with me ever since, thinking about how I want my jewelry to reflect who I am as a person and a designer, as well as appealing to my target market. Erika, who gave me this advice, is a natural girl, very down-to-earth and straightforward, with a sense of calm about her that I've never seen in another person. I suspect she could easily live "off the grid" and totally enjoy herself. Her jewelry is solid, bold yet delicate, earthy; some of it has a weathered, very nature-ish look...it's an absolute reflection of the artist who designs it.
If you analyze your life (or what you want it to be), and who you are - or who you want to be - then your designs should reflect that. It's rare that a tall, large-framed woman makes tiny, delicate things, and vice versa. It would be unusual for a minimalist to make glitzy, frou-frou designs (though there are always exceptions). My friend Jeannie, of J Jewelry, is small and delicately built, and that's the type of jewelry she makes. My friend Beth, of BT Designs, loves her trips to the beach, collects Folk Art, and likes earthy stuff. Her jewelry...you guessed it, is bold and organic-looking.
And me? I am a city girl at heart, though I love the outdoors, I love fashion and dressing up and wearing pretty things. I like clean lines and am a fiend about proportion, and am trying (though the clutter often defeats me) to live a minimalist lifestyle (shoes excluded, LOL). I will always choose classic things over trends, in my wardrobe, my home, and my jewelry. So the jewelry I design fits that aesthetic - or at least, I hope it's starting to. As I said, I'm not quite there yet.
Another reason to design true to who you are is that if you are selling your designs, it's a lot easier to sell what you really believe in. If you are not interested in trends, then don't design to them. If you can't *rave* about turquoise - or whatever stone is "hot" - then don't use turquoise just because it's "in". If glass really moves you, design with glass. If you love sourcing vintage items and incorporating them into your work, then by all means, do it. Design from your heart, and you (and your customers) will be happy. Our customers are not just buying our work; they're each buying the bits of ourselves we put into our designs. And you will enjoy knowing that they love owning / using / wearing the work as much as you love creating it for them.
Original post date: 09/15/05