Problem Solving in the Design Process

Last fall I took an on-line class called Composition and Construction taught by Christine Dumont and Donna Greenburg at their on-line school Voila. It is the third in a series of Creative Design Courses addressing design elements and how to apply them. It was FULL of great information (a major understatement).

The first part of the course taught you about the tools and the language used in composition.  I found it really interesting that I struggled so much when pressed to put into words why a piece of art pulls you in, engages you and evokes a response.  But forcing yourself to verbalize what you observe and feel about a piece of art is very enlightening  . . . . . and it takes practice. Weighty stuff . . . . . right?

The other part of the class focused on moving from inspiration to completed project all while executing your chosen compositional design intention.  It felt like walking a tight-rope while keeping the plates balanced and spinning . . . . . . okay maybe not that bad . . . . . but it was challenging. 

First we worked through exercises focusing on where to find inspiration, how to embrace it and pull what you need from it. Tools were discussed for aiding in this process. But the most important thing required was time. It is rare that an idea jumps out at you. It needs to be coaxed and reworked. Time must be allowed for brainstorming and playing with the ‘what ifs’.

After wondering through my yard and pulling out my various collections, I ended up choosing inspiration from a bougainvillea flower, a porcupine quill and a fossilized clam shell.  My compositional intent was sensuality as expressed through the shapes, shading and lines of each element.  

So you now have an idea and want to execute it . . . . how do you get from one point to the other . . . . where do you even start?  A large part of the process is all about problem solving.  You start by identifying your options and hurdles and then tackle them one by one. From this point, I began to develop a variety of components that represented each element of inspiration. I needed to think about how to limit the options, how far to abstract each piece, what surface treatments to use, and how can I take each piece one step further. Each problem solved, question answered or iteration brought me closer to the final story and the pieces I was going to use.  

But it’s not just about making something pretty. Strength, connections, wear-ability, surface treatments, sequence of assembly, etc. may all come up as issues and in multiple ways.  The assembly was layered and utilized cold connections.  Copper wire, with a dark patina, waxed linen, and balled copper head pins. I attempted to use the cold connections as part of the narrative but hide the messy parts where possible.

I ended up with a series of brooches. These talismans represent the beauty, strength and perseverance of the feminine.  

–  The soft form but strong color from the flower represents the beauty in all of us.

–  The porcupine quill represents strength and evolved with the addition of symbols through carving.

–  The fossilized shell represents perseverance and provides the strong base that holds the pieces together.

I loved taking this on-line class.  I feel like I learned a ton of information and had an amazing opportunity to spread my wings, try something new . . . .  all with a safety net, of sorts.  Seeing students working through the same or similar problems was encouraging and let you know you were not alone.  The feedback from the instructors (constructive criticism and course corrections as you progressed) as well as comments from other students was so beneficial.  But now it’s my turn to see where I can take this.

If you have the chance to take one of their classes, I highly recommend it!!

This entry was posted in Contemporary art jewelry, inspiration, learning, polymer clay jewelry, workshops and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Problem Solving in the Design Process

  1. Comcast says:

    Lynn, What beautiful new pieces! They prove what a versatile and talented artist you are! Terry

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Pat Freeman says:

    I love the results! Very striking and unique.


  3. Vicki G Colburn says:

    Your talent and execution are overwhelming. I am in awe!
    Go get em!


  4. monsoonwendy says:

    I just loved seeing all these and hearing about the process involved. It sounds like a fabulous course and I will definitely contemplate it!


  5. Raquel Fraga says:

    I think this is by far my favorite collection. It is organic yet structured and sophisticated. Love,love, love, it.


  6. Katharina says:

    Was this course just for Polymer clay? Loved this blog. You have courage!


  7. Peggy Ward says:

    You are an amazing artist! Where in Florida do you live? Our polymer clay guild is looking for a new artist to come to St. Augustine for a weekend workshop. I see that you will be at Fandango, and that’s exciting! My name is Peggy Ward, and my email address is You can see our facebook page if you search for First Coast Polymer Clayers.


    • Hi Peggy! I am in Miami but love to travel and St Augustine would be a great place to visit! I am already booking for 2020 and will be teaching for the West Coast Polymer Clay group (Tarpon Springs area) in March 2020. Are you coming to Fandango?? Would love to meet you there!


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