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Developing signature style

I have been making jewelry for about 2 1/2 years. I love this forum
because I learn so much from the best in the world. So here I go
with my first question.

How does one develop a “personal style” or signature? That "thing"
that people see in your work and they automatically know who made

I work primarily with silver, bronze and copper. I gravitate towards
organic looks but quite frankly love all types of jewelry. My stuff
is honestly all over the place. I can’t seem to narrow it down to
one type or style that I can call my own. Where people would look at
it and know it was mine.

I don’t expect anyone to share their personal secrets but would
appreciate any direction that you might be able to offer.

Was there a moment when you made a piece and said “this is it”? Is
there something that you add to every piece that makes it your own?
Is it the way you sign your jewelry? Package it? Present it in your
marketing materials? Do you stick with a certain style of jewelry?

Please know that this question is not necessarily about level of
talent. It’s about developing a signature style.

Thank you for any advice you can share.
Barbara M. Bear

There was a thread on this in the past, here’s a good answer to your
question from 2001:


This is a great question!

I have been designing for more than 12 years but in all that time, I
was designing for clients… Their style was the dictating factor.
Now I design for three stores worth of clients and I literally just
came up with my first of three to four design elements I can see
being a signature “recognizable” aspect to pieces I design under my
name. That being said, over the years I have discovered what I place
importance on: stone quality: wearability in real life and
versatility (the piece can shift from informal to formal).

Honestly, if I were to recommend any one designer to study, it would
be Yurman (as much as I hate to say it)… He is brilliant at
incorporating a consistent design style into all his pieces and yet
not seeming to be boring/too repetitive. The newer pieces actually
incorporate the pattern he put on the back of his pieces. He picked
several repeating design themes… Let’s say 3… And to what degree
they appear in any one piece will vary - yet, irrespective of which
one he uses… You know it is his and when layered with his other
pieces, they form a cohesive look.

The packaging, etc., are incidental because what you want is for the
piece to be recognizable when being worn - not in it’s package.

All this comes down to… Give yourself time - you have a style
already - it is just in the process of being sharpened/honed if you

Finally, there are pros and cons to designing your own line(s) and
designing for clients. After years of doing the latter, I am just
now entertaining the idea of doing the former (in addition to my day
job). So, don’t force it because as you evolve in skill, so too does
your style. And, once you find your elements - think a little like
an interior decorator… Pick the main colors (design elements)…
Change them up in each room (piece of jewelry) but keep them
consistent because you want to see them tie together as you move
from one room to the next… As you layer your pieces… As you
slowly collect them, you do so knowing they will work in harmoney
because they have common design elements that connect them
irrespective of when you created them.

I wish you all the best and nurture your talent/creativity… It
will come to you naturally.

Here’s another thread, from 2004. Here’s the first message, then you
can read more by clicking “thread next.”


I work primarily with silver, bronze and copper. I gravitate
towards organic looks but quite frankly love all types of jewelry.
My stuff is honestly all over the place. I can't seem to narrow it
down to one type or style that I can call my own. Where people
would look at it and know it was mine. 

Is this just your opinion, or do others agree that “[your] stuff
is… all over the place?” See, I’ve been making jewelry for about
two years, and I have had the same thought about my own work. But in
my effort to label my work for marketing purposes, I’ve bugged a lot
of people for feedback: friends, fellow artists, local retailers, and
so on. One of the questions I always ask is “do you feel I have a
particular style?” And although a lot of people simply won’t give
specific, descriptive feedback, everyone who has answered that
question has said, strongly, yes. I still have trouble seeing it, but
enough people have said that that I suppose it must be true.

So it could be that you already have a signature style, and just
don’t know it.

I wish I had more to offer, but I wish you the best of luck in
finding answers!

Matt Gushee

How does one develop a "personal style" or signature? That "thing"
that people see in your work and they automatically know who made

I have to say I have a style that my customers recognize in a heart
beat no matter where they see it. The way I did that was to teach
myself metalsmithing. I did not have the money or time to go to a
teacher, other than for the very basics. So, as a result, I did not
copy my teachers work, because, well, that is what they taught.

However, as a result I also have poor craftsmanship. My work is too
edgy for the regular gallery, and too “craft” for the upscale art
jewelry gallery. I still do sell my work, but not where I really want
to. To help you develop your own style, look at books with jewelry.
Cull out the ones you like, and decide why you really like that. Look
at your favorite magazines UPSIDE DOWN, and pick out the image you
really like. Look at a book of scupture upside down. Then you will
find the element you like, and develop that.

Cut up some tag board into shapes you like, arrange them various
ways. Then try to find the common thread. Use that thread.

Roxy Lentz

How does one develop a "personal style" or signature? That "thing"
that people see in your work and they automatically know who made

A signature style is when your work is so consistent that you have
become a caricature of yourself. That is not an especially elegant
description, but not as bad as it sounds. Best if you try a lot of
things and figure out what you like to do, that also has an audience
that is willing to reward you for doing it. Early in your career you
should try a lot of different things before you get cornered being a
narrow a stereotype of something that isn’t a good fit. Figure out
what you are best at and then make a lot of it so you get very good
at it.

BTW juried art fairs tend to reward work that is hyper-consistent
and punish artists who are too diverse in their style. This is
unfortunate because access to sales opportunities become dependent on
sticking with what has worked in the past.

Q. Can I exhibit something that wasn’t in my jury slides?

A. Only if it isn’t too different

Stephen Walker

Hi Barbara,

Your question will make a lot of folks really THINK!!. It did me!

I wish I had a good answer. I’d like to know too. When I think about
all these years that have passed, I remember not really a
"Signature" overall. I remember doing some high end collections that
carried a signature look or I guess one could say theme. I wonder if
a signature look is something that folks really plan or if it just
happens?? I have an Italian friend that has signature work. I’d know
it anywhere. He always uses crisp lines in his pieces and this makes
them geometric looking. They look like they would be uncomfortable
to wear but they certainly aren’t. He has never made jewelry any
other way so I am supposing he planned the look.

Thanks for asking that question. I’m really anxious to read the
replies… of which ALL will be better than this one.

All this comes down to.. Give yourself time - you have a style
already - it is just in the process of being sharpened/honed if
you will. 

This comment reminded me of this quote from Ira Glass, here’s a link
to a video and a printable poster:


Dear Barbara,

For me, it just evolved. After many years of being all over the
place, trying every new and old material or technique, I have
finally begun to narrow it down to what is truly mine. I realized I
could not be outstanding in everything I tried, and began to put
aside what was not approaching that excellence. I also began to put
aside things that did not fully engage my creative curiosity.
Eventually a thread of consistency that one might call a personal
style began to emerge from all that chaos, to the point that I now
think I can recognize it, and so can others who view my work. I have
no idea how other artists get there from here. That’s what is
happening to me, and it is an ongoing process.


As a Painter and now Jewelry artist, I can tell you, I too struggled
with that in the beginning of my painting career. I found If you just
continue to make what you really like, eventually it morphs into
your own style. I find all kinds of help full ideas from others
designs, how to link this or how to set that, but in the end

those ideas and techniques are used in the creation of my own
designs. Personally, I only make what I like and would want to wear
myself. May sound limiting but I have found there are plenty of other
people who want to wear them too…

I think there are many directions people take before they all of a
sudden see they have a “Signature Style”, learning new techniques,
building on your knowledge and being fearless (that’s my favorite!).

All that and much more will contribute to your style. As a fairly
new metal smith myself, I still have a way to go before I will feel
like I’m “there”. As I build onmy techniques my style will evolve

and become more sophisticated but I feel the basics of my style will
stay the same. All the Best,


Wow Elaine, that is so true. That’s a great description of the
situation in question - one which I’m also still struggling with.
Thanks for sharing it.



How does one develop a "personal style" or signature? That "thing"
that people see in your work and they automatically know who made

I was thinking about this today.

Q) How do you develop a personal style of signature? That thing that
people see in your work and they automatically know who made it.

A) (Well a possible answer). To develop a personal style requires
research, assuming you want something unique, and a lot of research,
so that you don’t inadvertently copy someone else’ design, and cause
all sorts of problems.

To make a piece that is automatically recognised as being made by
you, you simply need to be prolific in your work, and very visible. I
mean apart from making bulk product, you need to place that product

It’s like going to a bar once, maybe someone will recognise you next
time you go. If you go that bar many times, the chance that people
will recognise “you” would have dramatically increased.

Regards Charles A.

Sometimes it is something very simple. I have made thousands of
necklaces. I started crimping a different way. A few years later a
piece of jewelry was taken to a local repair person. The owner said
it was one of my pieces and she was very dissatisfied with it. Donna
then told her that it was not “One of Pat’s” because the crimp was
not done my way. Sometimes it is habit that makes a signature.

I like “Being all over” No two stones are alike, and no two days
have the same influence. Different pendants call for different
treatments. I am so happy that now years later, I am still able to
produce something new and refreshing. I would hate it if all of my
work looked the same. Enjoy the thread, getting to know you all.

How does one develop a "personal style" or signature? That "thing"
that people see in your work and they automatically know who made

Writer’s call it ‘voice’. It isn’t something that happens
immediately. Each piece takes on a bit more your unique persona, and
sheds outside influences a bit more. Ultimately your work will
become yours alone, and voila!, you will have a signature style. Is
there a way to hurry this development? Yes: play to your strengths.
But the downside of that is you will almost certainly limit your
breadth, and not achieve everything you have in you.


Hi Barb

I’m struggling with the same issue. I have been making sterling
silver chainmaille and selling (or trying to) at art fairs for @6
years now, and have really hit the wall with the need to develop a
signature look. I’ve spent countless hours struggling in my head,
some time journaling and rereading The Artist’s Way by Julia
Cameron, looking back over all my coffee table jewelry books to ID
the thread in each artist’s work, and looking at trade magazines
with a fresh perspective, “what do I like about this, why, what
don’t I like, why, what common thread do all the pieces in this
collection share, are they TOO similar or not enough, why” etc.

I can’t tell you which was the magic tool that helped me, and I’m
not there yet, but this weekend I realized I have several new
pieces that, while being chainmaille, are distinctly my own design
and offered by no one else - contemporary, sensuous and feminine -
what I’m struggling towards. Part of what has helped me are those
’why’ questions - I never felt that I had something to say, so my
jewelry never said anything cohesive, but analyzing my likes in
others’ jewelry has helped me codify what I want my line to say, to
be. I now know that I don’t like right angles, for example, and that
I do like versatile pieces that are feminine, with clean lines but
not boring.

I would say being more conscious as I create has helped me - instead
of zoning out and coming up with a piece, I’ll try to stay 'present’
and observe the act of creation, with a dialogue like a Utube video

  • “OK, that circle isn’t quite to scale, let’s see what a larger one
    looks like. Perfect, but go back - why does that size appeal to me
    more than the other? What if I apply that scale to this other piece?
    Better or worse, and why?”

I’ve actually purchased art school textbooks to seek the answer from
that arena, since I don’t have an art education, and that would have
been one avenue, maybe quicker, to get where I want to be, but as I
never actually cracked them open, can’t say that has helped me. I
have been doing a lot of Sudoku lately, in an attempt to better
develop that side of my brain, and I am noticing a difference in my
ability to discern patterns, so I think it is working - whether or
not it’s worth the time I’ve spent on those addictive little
puzzles, I can’t say. I probably would have been better off reading
the art textbooks, but I did puzzles instead.

Great thread - thank you for asking your question in such a clear
manner, you’ll never know how many people will benefit from the
answers that are sure to come. I know I will be paying close


Sam Kaffine
Sterling Bliss, LLC

How does one develop a "personal style" or signature? That "thing"
that people see in your work and they automatically know who made

This development comes directly from the activity of doing and
making. There is an iterative process of creating which includes
conceiving, designing, editing, refining and executing. The process,
when learned practiced and applied, will greatly facilitate an
expedient development of artistic maturity and a recognizable

It can certainly be done on one’s own, but It takes a lot longer to
make definitive progress. Guidance and direction from a skilled
practitioner speeds up the process and improves the result.


I have some theories about jewelry and style, and I think to some
degree that a signature can be developed, but that a good bit of it
is beyond the conscious control of the artist. That said, I also
don’t think it’s something to worry excessively about unless and
until one has the basics down to make a piece of quality jewelry. If
the techniques utilized are sound, and the materials are good
quality, and the product is something that the artist can feel proud
of…I think the signature style will gradually reveal itself. Just
my two cents, for what it’s worth. It might change tomorrow if I
wake up on the wrong side of bed, or choke on a cashew, or find out
mycat ralfed up a hairball in the left toe of my favorite pair of
ballet flats (again).

For students and other beginners, “developing a signature style” is
somewhat at odds with the exploration and trying new things that is
the usual path of learning the craft. As a student you really
shouldn’t specialize too soon lest you never try the kind of thing
you are likely to excel at.

But on the other hand, the folklore of our art culture puts such a
high value on one-of-a-kind that some aspiring artists only allow
themselves one shot at each idea they get, no matter how good that
idea is. Most of us figure out that do-overs are how you get better,
but I run into a surprising number of beginners who somehow feel
that one-of-a-kind is such a virtuous thing that they will only give
their best ideas one expression. Practice makes perfect. Doing the
same piece over and over again, fine tuning the design and technique
is how you learn to soar.

Last month Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” sold for the
staggering price of $120,000,000. What surprised me was the
revelation that Munch made at least four versions of this painting.
Surprising because the usual narrative is that great artists only
paints one-of-a-kind. In reality the most expensive work of art ever
sold WAS NOT one-of-a-kind.

I have a friend who does watercolors. Many years ago he painted a
beach-scape titled “Beer Can Island” Not an especially ambitious
painting but it turned out really well and sold immediately. So he
painted another and sold that one right away. The first painting took
him about six hours. After a while he could paint it from memory in
45 minutes and make better paintings than the original. Some people
would have big ethical issues about the originality of a painting
done as multiples. I don’t remember what he told his customers about
that. But he practiced painting Beer Can Island like a musician
practices and the result was very good for him.

“Developing a signature style” isn’t just about the “look”, it is
about mastery. This comes with repetition and practice. Fortunately
in jewelry we don’t have quite the same aversion to multiples as some
of the fine arts media. The sooner students and beginners figure this
out the better their chances of getting on with it and developing
into mature professionals.

Stephen Walker

Andover, NY