Design How-to : Direction


Welcome to the next instalment in my series on Design How-To. (You can find the rest of the series¬†here.) I trust you’ve been enjoying it so far! And I really hope it’s been helpful. This post is on Direction.


Lines can lead your eye in a particular direction, as can shapes (for instance, an arrow). Lines and shapes often work within an image or design to create Direction. And Direction can be used to great effect to enhance the mood of a piece.


mylittlepixels – quiet contemplation – photograph


Simple horizontal lines always suggest a feelings of calmness and serenity, while vertical lines suggest active alertness. We can connect it to our perceptions of sleep (horizontal) and awake (standing).


theaterclouds – catch – {photography} diorama, paper & ink drawing


Soft, low waves also suggest calm, but are a little more active. This is a very gentle image, enhanced by the soft, luminous light and clear colours with hints of aqua and pale gold.


vesselsandwares – wave cupcake stand – ceramic


When you look around the rim of this sweet cupcake stand, do you notice your eyes pause at the peaks? It has an interrupted flow – although it is still gentle, it feels even more active than the waves in the previous image.


raceytay – venice, california – photography


These waves are not turbulent, but despite their relative order, we can still feel the enormous pull of that water as it sucks to the peak. Strong diagonals are responsible for this effect – the peak of the wave, as well as the stripy ripples of the water. Diagonals always convey a sense of strong activity (and if you want chaotic activity, use lots of diagonals at different angles).


designedbyjane – marrakesh – brooch, felt & embroidery


Lines that radiate out from a centre remind us of all the goodness that comes from similarly radiating things; especially the sun, and flowers. Its symmetry is also very pleasing. It tends to suggest centred-ness, happiness, and general well-being.


AnastasiaMak – flatiron building – acrylic on board


The Flatiron Building in Manhattan is already famously imposing, but the lines converging beyond the top of this painting enhance that idea, suggesting immense and magnificent height. The idea of strong verticals that are so tall they appear to converge is also utilised to great effect in grand cathedrals to ensure the patrons on the ground remain humble to the magnificence of God.


As always, there’s heaps more to say about this Principle, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to Direction in my series on Design Elements and Principles, and I hope it’s given you some inspiration!

If you’ve got a project that you’re proud of, that uses any of these Elements and Principles, I would LOVE to hear about it! If you’ve got a pic of it up online somewhere, please add a link in the comments below, so you can show it off!! ūüôā
(and add a little comment about how you’ve used the Element/Principle/s?)

The NEXT Element in this series is the ever-fabulous COLOUR!! So stay tuned.


The crafted object : Gemagenta – jewellery


“Curiouser and curiouser” said Alice.

Indeed, the more I investigate the work of Lorena, the Mexican-living-in-Amsterdam industrial-designer-turned-jeweller, the more layers I find.


gemagenta – bunny ears – ‘cactus’ series pendant – clay, thread


gemagenta – gymnocalcium – ‘cactus’ series pendant – clay, thread


I first came across her work on Etsy, when her ‘Cactus’ series caught my eye, with its cool porcelain and richly coloured threads. These are gorgeous pieces, and I still love them for their fabulously tactile qualities.


gemagenta – old man cactus – ‘cactus’ series pendant – clay, thread


But then, one day I happened to visit her blog¬†and discovered –¬†The Little Prince. (If you are unfamiliar with this classic French story from 1942, you should really read it – a surreal tale of a small prince who lived on an asteroid with boab trees and a rose. Despite it being ostensibly a children’s tale, it is also filled with astute observations on human life and relationships). Lorena says she loved this classic story when she was young, and only rediscovered it recently. When she read it again through adult eyes, she said she was filled with joy and inspiration, and immediately set about sculpting these small pieces to be set atop rings.


gemagenta – rosa (the little prince) – ring, cast sterling silver


ZORRO ring - Infancia Series - Le Petit Prince inspired, silver fox ring, organic, delicate, animal, miniature, french, white, handmade

gemagenta – zorro the fox (the little prince) – ring, cast sterling silver


And then there’s more. Another visit to her blog recently has uncovered some completely fabulous pieces which not only look wonderful, but also push technical boundaries – these new pieces are cast from sugar models! So grainy, so textural, and so, so pretty. The patterns are inspired by Moroccan decorative patterns from¬†ornamented tea glasses, carpets, henna tattoos, and Berber symbolism.


gemagenta – sukkar – pendant, cast sterling silver


gemagenta – ashum, ayn, hama & nana – rings, cast sterling silver


I am so looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next!


With thanks to Lorena for generously sharing her images. You can find more of her work as gemagenta in her Etsy shop and on her blog.

Design How-to : Shape

Welcome to the next instalment in my series on Design How-To. (You can find the rest of the series here.) I trust you’ve been enjoying it so far! And I really hope it’s been helpful. This one’s on Shape.


A shape is an area defined by line, or by colour. Shapes can be angular, organic, geometric, bulbous, skeletal, gentle, and more.


Lindsay Lewis Jewelry – Cube Ring (brass, enamel paint)


The strong boxy shapes in this ring have been put together in a very scattered, organic way. Imagine the same group of box shapes stacked in a tight, orderly fashion – a grid – and think about how that changes the result. The seemingly random effect has been enhanced through the use of deeper and shallower boxes, to create darker and lighter areas.


Calamari Studio – Mehndi Peacock


What a fabulous drawing! The gorgeously sensual curve of the peacock’s neck and body give way to increasingly more vibrantly curved feathers and tail. The tail uses only a few basic types of shapes¬†repeated¬†throughout, but adds huge variety through the use of pattern, and the whole effect is one of profuse, flowing lusciousness.


Nancy & Burt – Teapot with hovering leaf


By defining a shape, you automatically define negative shape as well (i.e. the space around it), and here’s a great example. That gap that is made by the handle is a negative, and it is used here to balance the bulbous shape of the teapot very nicely. If the handle was much closer to the body, it would start to look cramped. The protruding bits – the spindly handle and spout, and the lid handle – all provide a nice contrast to the fat body of the pot. It’s got a great mix of layered shapes decorating the surface of the pot too. Overall, the shapes and colours work together to produce a sense of quirky fun – kind of a bit like Tweedle-Dee with his fat tummy and skinny legs.


Umb Designs – Ring with chalcedony & garnet


Sophisticated and casual, the settings complement the stones well in this ring. The chalcedony setting is big, asymmetric, rounded and soft like the stone with its milky translucency, whereas the garnet setting is finer, more controlled and geometric, to suit its faceted, bright clarity.


The JTO – Rabbit in the daisies


I love the unexpected shapes in this image. Rabbits as we know them are soft and round creatures, but this one is full of spiky fur. Those sharp angular shapes contrast with the bright, perfectly round eye, ¬†to give a feeling of great¬†alertness and imminent action. We can see he’s just about to jump. Lots of other contrasting shapes to love too – the soft round pink inner ear, the digital exactness of the flower shapes over spiky grass, and the curvy, gentle clouds, reminiscent of mid-century amoebic shapes. These odd combinations make us think twice about the age of this image. Even though we know it’s new, the distressed scratchy finish and ochre-muted colour make it feel retro, until we re-check those digital flowers.


As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this instalment in my series on Design Elements and Principles, and I hope it’s helped you with a little fresh perspective.

If you’ve ever got any questions about your own work, I would love to hear from you! And now, which Element to study next?? Oh! and I have a few Principles to talk about as well. Design ones of course! I have few of my own ;P


Design How-to : Tone


Welcome to the next post in my series on the Elements & Principles of Design! The purpose of this series is to get makers/designers/artists of all descriptions to think about exactly what it is about their work that they love, and what could be improved. There is never any one right answer, and there are always infinite variations. But all of us agree that some things look better than others (even just a cursory glance through Etsy will tell you that!), and I’m here to help untangle the reasons why.

Today’s how-to is about Tone. Sometimes it is referred to as Value, it is the contrast between light and shade.

The light and shade in a piece can be muted with low contrast, or bold with high contrast; it can be graduated, and used to convey a sense of depth. It can also utilised to convey the mood of a piece.


minicyn - double happiness embossed ring - sterling silver


This beautiful silver ring uses tone through its embossed form. Not only are natural shadows created by the raised surfaces, the effect is enhanced by blackening the lower surface of the silver slightly, thereby especially showing off the lines in the feathers and the flower.


namolio - lavender sachets - linen crochet on linen


Again here, the tone is mostly a by-product of the shadows created by the crochet on the weave. However, there is a slight difference in the two colours, and the paler thread is more noticeable at the centre of the crochet. Overall, the effect is very muted though, conveying a soft and romantic feel.


owl creek ceramics - bohemian mandala - stoneware


Boldly graphic, high contrast is all there is on this plate, and it is used well with strong lines and simple shapes. Overall, the effect is bright, fun, and a little bit dramatic.


aitmarina - flower brooch


This great little felt brooch uses high contrast to emphasise its shape. It is important to note that colour also has tone (and more usually, it’s referred to as colour value). The value of the pure colour itself depends on its hue – yellow is quite light, while purple is dark. And so, the orange felt of the background provides great contrast because of its colour, but really, its value is not very much different to the mid grey of the layer above. (I will be talking more about colour, with its¬†tints¬†and shades, as well as its saturation¬†or intensity¬†in another post soon.)


janet hill studio - library ladies


While the colours in this curiously fun painting are reasonably pure, overall, the tone is softly muted Рthe shadows are not intense, and neither are the highlights very bright.  This softness conveys a sweet and feminine gentleness.


time captured - zion's national park


The tones in this stunning image have been manipulated to intensify contrasts and give a fabulous strength to the composition. There is still gradation of the tone (which is what conveys a sense of roundness and solidity when we look at an image), but the heightened contrasts lend an incredible drama and majesty to the work.


I hope you have enjoyed my picks for this post, and that it made you consider tone just that little bit more. I look forward to sharing the next Element with you – SHAPE!


Do you have any questions about your own work? I would love to hear from you! Leave me a comment here, or feel free to shoot me an email –

Julie x


The crafted object : Gerry Wedd, ceramicist

I am so honoured and thrilled to be able to share my interview with Gerry Wedd here!

Gerry is an internationally acclaimed artist. He has won numerous major prizes for his ceramics, and is represented in many private and public collections, including the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, and the personal collection of H.G.Nelson. He spent around 15 years designing work for Mambo¬†too.¬†(If you’re not Australian, and/or you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 28 years, you really MUST check those guys and their very nice shorts.)

He was also 5 times South Australian State Surfing Champion in the 1970s. That’s impressive! Is it relevant? Well of course. Keep reading.


gerry wedd - birds 2

gerry wedd – birds 2


gerry wedd - wall willow

gerry wedd – wall willow


First, some basics ‚Äď Gerry¬†was born in 1957 and grew up at Port Noarlunga in South Australia. He¬†studied jewellery making, painting, drawing and ceramics in which he has a Masters degree. In 1991 he began designing for Mambo Graphics – it was a beautiful ¬†relationship which continued until 2006. He has worked in consultation with a number of community groups to produce graphics and public art works, and he continues to exhibit work both nationally and internationally.


So what’s inside Gerry’s head? He is surprisingly unassuming for someone who has excelled at such an amazingly diverse range of pursuits – graphics, surfer, ceramicist, and jeweller.


st. kilda thongs


gerry wedd - beastie

gerry wedd – beastie


There is doubt.¬†Despite the years of international acclaim for his craft, he still suffers from “constant doubt about the general worth of his activity”. When this happens though, he says he overcomes it by forcing himself to work – ¬†“sitting in the studio throwing, decorating and firing useful objects”, or else spends time in contemplation, “seizing upon those moments where thoughts, ideas, notions seem to be running through my head without being forced or contrived”.

There is also joy. For him, one of the best things in his life of craft is “meeting strangers who tell me they have been using my cups with pleasure for every day for the past 15 years”. (I love how that connection between maker and user works both ways!)


undertoad - urn 1

undertoad – urn 1


red sea dish

red sea dish


skull t 2

skull t 2


And there is sharp wit in that head too – even a cursory glance reveals ‘grater’ teapots and panelvans on willow-ware plates. Take the time to investigate further and you will be rewarded with fabulous snippets of surfing culture, curious dogs, and sharp criticisms of government policies.

Surfing appears responsible for much of his life – his creative output seems to have coalesced when he started producing work for iconic surfwear company Mambo. It also forms a core theme in his overall body of work – references to surf culture are everywhere, from his trademark ceramic thongs, to¬†plates,¬†images and stories of surfing legends. He told me he has never really done anything else¬†that wasn’t related to drawing and making, ¬†except surfing.








large poppy dish

large poppy dish


When he’s not surfing, he makes. He described his studio space as open to the elements, which gives it a beautiful light. “It moves between functional and chaotic and ordered depending on how many projects are on the go” he said, but he thinks it’s “probably toooo small” (well, I’m pretty sure most makers would say the same – seriously, who wouldn’t like a larger workspace..?)


gerry wedd - studio

gerry wedd – studio


And the best thing about the place he lives in?

“The sea.”


You can find more about Gerry on his blog, WeddWould.

I would like to thank Gerry for generously sharing his images and words, and his time.