Design and Creation

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Nancy LT Hamilton

Last updated:  8/6/21

Question:  How do I enlarge/reduce images for creating jewelry designs?

You can edit photos on your phone, with photo editing software, or even with your printer.  You’ll have to check your printer’s manual for how to adjust the aspect ratio.  Google search your printer’s name and model and type in the search bar:  “how do I adjust the aspect ratio on my _________printer?”.  On my Brother printer, I hit copy/scan, enlarge/reduce, or I select the enlargement/reduction percentage.  I just typed in “brother printer how to adjust the aspect ratio” to find this information.  You’ll have to print a few test pages to figure out exactly what percentage/ratio works for you but, it’s relatively easy!

For photo editing software, check out my Photo Editor page:  here, on my website, which offers some photo editing software sources.
Adjusting the ratio on your phone is easy.  If you have an iPhone, you can read this.  Here’s a link for a Samsung phone, if that is what you have. Otherwise, Google “changing image/photo aspect ratio on my _________________ phone”.  That will surely lead you in the right direction!  Good luck.

Question:  Designing jewelry and design basics

I’ve been working with metal and wire for a couple of years now, and am wanting to get into the basics of design . . . like how to put stuff together to make jewelry (colors, balance, etc.) rather than just stringing stuff on a chain. Do you have any ideas???


This is a huge question – one that I can’t answer fully here. But, I will give you as much info as possible.

There are two books listed on my Books: Jewelry Design section of my web page that will be really helpful. They are older books but, they are really good.

Many websites have jewelry projects online. Art Jewelry Magazine and Lapidary Journal Magazine have jewelry projects to make. Make some of these pieces – it will teach you a lot.

Look at jewelry in books, online, in magazines – everyday. One of my favorite things to do is to look at jewelry on Pinterest. I have a Pinterest site with a lot of my favorite jewelry and other things, if you care to check it out (
Draw EVERY SINGLE DAY until you get good at designing. The quality of the drawings does not matter. What matters is that you are drawing.

Create a sketchbook and put images of inspirational, interesting work in it – alongside your sketches. Rip images from magazines, print out pages of inspiring work, collect things that appeal to you, in your sketchbook like pressed flowers, a dead moth, a bottlecap.

Try to develop a design vocabulary about what you like and put your thoughts into words and pictures. The tough part is determining WHY you like something. Is it the contrast in shades? The color? The contrast in texture?

Conversely, think about why you don’t like something and try to put your feelings into words.

Our minds get used to the expected, very quickly. What attracts us is the new and unexpected. You’ll know your brain is excited when an object stops you in your tracks and holds you there.

Look at other forms of art. Pottery, painting, welding, glass work, wood work, fashion – all can be inspirations. Jewelry making is all about problem solving – determining how to turn ideas into something wearable (well, some don’t consider wearability essential – especially conceptual artists but, that’s a whole different message!). Try to imagine that painting or that teapot or that statue as a piece of jewelry – how would you have to change it to make it work? What about it appeals to you?

Once you train your brain to be a designer, designing will become much easier. The key is practice.

When you love a design, make it and then, be very critical about your finished piece. Does it work? How could you make it better? What do you love about it? Ask the hard questions.

Try multiples: In jewelry school, we often made multiples of one piece. The process of repeating a design not only teaches you how to streamline the process but, you also end up altering the design – cutting it down to the essential parts. Making beautiful jewelry is like beautiful writing: it eloquently conveys your message, creates intrigue, makes you think – all with a minimum of parts (or words). To do this is very challenging and something that may take years to accomplish but, this exploration is, after all, all part of the adventure.

Take a design class. Take a jewelry class. Read books, go to museums, study the history of jewelry, draw every day, make a lot of mistakes, learn and Practice, practice, practice.

I have a video on how I create some of my design patterns – using the computer . Don’t know if it’s something you need right now but, maybe in the future. Hope this information helps. Good luck on your journey.

Question:  How do I come up with design ideas?

I live in a small town with very few resources for metalworking, so I’m teaching myself via books and videos. I want to eventually sell my work and have invested a lot of money in tools and materials.  I’m all set to go – but…I seem to be stumped at basic design!  (Maybe I’m just intimidated). Would you recommend a particular book or video to help?  Tips and do’s and don’ts?  I see and pin SO MANY beautiful pieces, but I don’t want to be a copycat.


I wrote the following for my Facebook Page and thought that it might help you to find your artistic voice:
Ever feel unloved creatively? Know you couldn’t design your way out of a paper bag? Wonder where everyone gets all those amazing ideas from? Me too! When I first started practicing my craft, I was so frustrated, with my wasteland of a mind, that I decided to dig a well and grow me some grass. (Obviously, I love analogies).

My big (irrigation) plan was to sketch everyday. I gave myself license to copy other people’s designs. I couldn’t sell anything I made (no one was buying anyway!) but, I could copy anything I wanted to.

I copied Egyptian jewelry, Art Nouveau, modern stuff – anything that appealed to me. Scan forward a year or so, and I’m building on someone else’s designs – taking what I like and dumping the rest. A few more years and BLAMO (it wasn’t that sudden!), I’ve got tons of ideas. Suddenly, I could see it all around me. I found jewelry in everything.

I still draw, pretty much, everyday. I am an impassioned sketcher: there are doodles on envelopes, constructions on paper towels, masterpieces on inkjet paper and, wow, drawings in sketchbooks.

The idea of drawing myself into becoming a jewelry designer worked not because I was a good jeweler or an especially talented artist – I am neither but, I do have a well trained brain that thinks like a jeweler.

I’m going out on a weak and fragile branch now but, I think, if drawing practice worked for me it might work for you! So, sharpen your pencils, get out some junk mail and start drawing!

Don’t forget to look at art. Wander through a gallery or a museum, click through Pinterest, open a book, flip through a magazine – look, look, look at EVERYTHING – not just jewelry. Art is art and inspiration can be counted on to sneak up on you when you least expect it. All you need to know is how to catch it!…/design-and-creation/

Check out some of these books on jewelry design:…

The following quote strikes a chord with me.  Mr. Glass is talking about writing but, I know that it applies to all creative endeavours!

Ira Glass quote:  “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Get out that sketchbook and draw away!  Copy jewelry – not just on paper but, actually try to figure out how they made their pieces and try constructing them.  It will teach you a lot.  Just don’t sell the design as yours – that would not be right.  Copying is what I was taught to do in art school.  We went to museums to actually replicate the paintings we saw.  Copying is a fabulous training aid.  Once you begin to see as a designer, your brain and your own experiences, will take care of the rest.
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