Design Dissection: Amphitrite Pendant

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Welcome to the first Design Dissection! A few things before you start:

1. This is an experiment that I originally posted in my business Facebook group. I had an idea that seeing a window into the design process might be helpful to some folks. I've never really done this before, so I really don't know how effective this will really be, and I hope ya'll will give me feedback.

2. This is not really a tutorial. My purpose here isn't to show you exactly how I make a particular design, but more what I'm thinking while I design and the kinds of decisions that I make along the way.

3. This is only a window into my particular design process. I have absolutely zero training in art or design, and I would never, ever claim that my way of doing and thinking about things is the best or the most effective.

4. I can't lie -- there were points that I got kinda lost in what I was doing and forgot to take process pics. But where that happens. I'll try to show you on the finished piece what I did and what I was thinking at the time.

5. There's enough process photos that you may be able to reproduce the pendant, and you are welcome to do so. However, I do ask for design credit if you replicate the design. And if you tag me or send me photos so I can see what you've made, I would absolutely love that! It always makes my day!

6. I can't draw to save my life. Yet I included pictures of my design sketches. It's an adventure for both of us!

7. If you enjoy this or the other free resources I offer, please consider leaving in a tip in my virtual tip jar here.

I often start a project by choosing which stone I want to use. In this case, a pretty labradorite.

It doesn't really show in this photo, but this lab had the best flash when oblong. So I needed to design around that.

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The way the labradorite flashed really reminded me of this moonstone piece I made a while back. I had really liked the basic shape of the pendant when it was done, so I decided to play with that basic pendulum-type shape.

The shape I chose to work with works best--at least for me--if everything's really symmetrical (then again, nearly everything I make is really symmetrical). For me, that means planning on paper somewhat.

I started by putting the cab on a piece of graph paper, centered between the lines, and traced around it.

I marked the midline of the cabochon...

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...and then the outline of the basic shape that I wanted, using the midline hash marks as a guide to make sure it's all balanced and even.

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I roughed in a bail and sort of shaded in the cabochon -- in my own personal "shorthand" in sketching out my designs, that means that I'm looking at the pendant from the front of the stone.

At this point, I was assuming there would be a central "post," as there was in the design I was building off of.

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Before I added to the sketch, I just sat and stared at the stone and the shape I'd sketched out on the paper for a bit. There's a lot of staring involved in my design process. Sometimes muttering. My family's used to it.

I decided against the central post idea. I thought instead, a filigree/openwork back for the pendant would be really cool. Those scrolls, in my mind's eye, go behind the stone instead of in front of it.

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And then I added notes to my sketch. If a design takes a long time, or I'm doing it a little bit at a time between other projects (which is my norm), notes are helpful in remembering what I'd planned. I don't usually need to look back at them, but the act of writing things down helps cement them for me.

That upside down "Y" shape was planned to go behind the filigree back. My idea was that it would give the piece more stability, and if I polished the visible filigree, wouldn't be distractingly visible behind it.

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I cut my wires (four lengths of 20 gauge); I didn't measure, but just sort of estimated based on the sketch how long I'd need them to be. I always cut way longer than I know I'll need; I want wiggle room because I almost always change my mind about things throughout the process.

Once I wove the bottom portion where the cab would sit, I used the sketch as a guide to the shape of the frame.

Those wires that are bent at the bottom are mostly like that to keep them out of the way of the weaving at this point.

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After trying several variations on the scrolls I'd sketched, I scrapped that idea. To fit that much scrollwork into that space, I needed to use 22 gauge wire, which seemed too flimsy for this design. So I decided to use a "Y" shape like this one on the top half of the back in 20 gauge, and a larger version of the same shape on the bottom half.

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To make sure this shape is balanced, I make a loop at the center of a length of wire (20 gauge in this case), and estimate how long the "legs" need to be to shape the size spiral I want. (I don't have a precise method for deciding this; I usually guess).

Because the legs need to be the same length, I cut one, and then mark that length on a piece of graph paper as shown.

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Using the marks I made, I cut the other leg to the same length.

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I use the graph paper to make sure I've cut the wire evenly, and adjust if needed.

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When I finished the back and seated the cab, I discovered that the stone was too jiggly in its setting; I don't like to have a cab move at all, for fear that as the wire ages, the cab will slip out of its setting.

So I decided to take those wires that I'd bent to get out of the way around to the front, to make a decorative "guardrail" against the stone slipping.

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Once I'd brought the back wires to the front, I decided that the most stable design would be one that bound the stone at its four "corners." I bent one side in the general outline that I wanted on one side...

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...and then repeated that on the other side. I knew that I'd be making a loose spiral shape, so I cut the wires to similar lengths once I shaped them. I did this on both the top and bottom sets of wires.

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I used "pinched" loops to spiral both the upper and lower wires; the smaller loops usually make the design feel more delicate to me. It's an aesthetic I rather like and use a lot.

At this point, though, the stone was still too jiggly for my comfort. I thought that fully caging the stone so it didn't have wiggle room at the top would solve the issue.

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Right where the weaving ended at the bottom of the bail, I split up the wires and brought them around the sides to the front.

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Where the tails of the bail wires met in the front, I wove them together for stability. I spiraled the ends to echo what I'd done with the bottom half, and wrapped them together where they met.

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And viola! That is the Amphitrite pendant, dissected!

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I hope you've enjoyed this design dissection! If you enjoy this or the other free resources I offer, please consider leaving in a tip in my virtual tip jar here. Thank you!




What a lovely gift. Thank you

What a lovely gift. Thank you for publishing this.

You're welcome!

You're welcome!

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