Monday, June 29, 2009

Pseudocode for jewellery

One of the things I had drummed into me while studying was that you have to write pseudocode before you start programming. For the less nerdy of us, that is you basically write in sort of english the framework for your program before you start chipping away in the programming language.

This was something that never sat well with me. I would write myself comments for the major milestones and go straight to programming. For the sake of my assessments I would reverse engineer that into pseudocode afterwards. I am not a programmer now, but I do write SQL code, yet I never ever write pseudocode.

Fast forward a few years to when I was studying jewellery, the message that was driven home constantly was that you MUST MUST MUST document your design process. I have a confession that reading the previous paragraph wont surprise you, this is something that I am very lax at.

While I was studying my designs were well documented, they had to be. But I found now that I have slipped into my old ways of thinking through my designs in my head. This is not to say I get an idea in my head and just make it, that is not really designing per say. The design process involves starting with a concept and developing that over time, working through design and construction issues, "if I do this it will be too weak" or "after I attach that I can't do any more soldering" maybe "if I change that from a circle to an oval it may sit nicer" or "if I attach the stone on this angle it will catch the light better" etc.

I have had a wakeup call today. I am a member of a team on Etsy of jewellery artisans. Controversy arose when one member of the team accused another of copying designs. Now it is quite possible that these two people independently came up with the same design. But what is important is being able to show the process involved in the design. This is not a drawing of just the item itself, but they way in which you developed this idea. It can be accompanied by writing, descriptions, annotations or whatever. I used to do this and sign and date it when I did.

My exhibition pieces started from the same concept which I explored and developed over two years. The newer pieces in the same range stem from these. One of the big inspirations for some of my pieces was a method called paper tolle that my sister and I used as kids to make cards. In exploring these childhood activities further I had planned to make some paper chain people jewellery, however I did a search on Etsy and found that someone has already done exactly that. Although our interpretations would have been different I immediately disbanded that idea.

So today I make a mid-years resolution (it's close enough). I am going to be much more studious at documenting my designs. It will probably help me as a jeweller to further develop my skills, and if god forbid anyone calls my integrity into dispute, it will act as evidence that my designs are all my own.

The images throughout this blog post are pages from my journal documenting my art deco opal ring. Although a traditional styled ring you can see a lot of design development and technical design went into this piece.


  1. Excellent advice - I have a design book where I sketch and write measurements for all of my designs... mostly so I can remake them precisely, but now I have another reason...

  2. That is really impressive. Really useful and your use of a working example is very effective. (much more detailed and neat than my own design scribbles!)

  3. I never write anything down-the designs come from looking at the beads but after reading this I think I will try to. Thanks Erika

  4. great post - thanks for sharing your process and the importance of documenting your work. This is something that i need to work on a bit more, too:)

  5. Although a great idea I have never been much of a sketcher.. I tend to learn by trying. Ha, I really through myself right into things without thinking twice! But I think it's super cool for people who are good at it, to document their process. It's a bit sad if you have to keep a paper trail to protect yourself against being falsely accused of copying...

  6. i'm always scribbling ideas down on post it notes and on the back of shopping lists! off to get a sketchbook i can carry around. good article, thank you.

  7. This is a great idea! I very rarely sketch my ideas either.

  8. Thank you for sharing your design process sketches and your thoughts about the value of documenting what we create. I have been getting too lax about getting my ideas developed in my design book before picking up materials and experimenting. Your post is a good reminder!