Wednesday 5 December 2012

My purple notebook of Ideas

For several years now (slightly over three of them, to be more precise), I have used a special tool when I make jewellery. I use this very tool every time I sit down with silver to hand, and it sits on the table alongside soldering torch and piercing saw, pliers and snips.

It's an A5 purple notebook, not an expensive one, and not even a particularly nice one. If I'd known it would be with me so long, and become so important to me, then I suspect I would have chosen something a little more special to look at. But it's a hardback, its cover is wipe clean and that's always handy in the workroom, and the purple colour is distinctive enough that I can normally find it amongst heaps of emery paper, or under plastic bags half-filled with silver off-cuts and dust.

For many years when I started making jewellery, I winged it. I always promised myself I'd make notes, jot ideas down, make sure I knew what I used to get which effect, both to replicate successes, and to avoid repeating disasters. I just didn't get round to it until the purple notebook came along.

Very rarely now do I not use it when I work. If I don't use it at the time, I fill it in later. I add the date, draw some truly amateurish sketches of ideas that I'm going to try, annotating them when they don't work out, or adding details such as trying a different wire gauge, or a different length of silver. I draw little images of things that have worked, sometimes using a shorthand of a big tick next to them. As my writing is normally an illegible scrawl, a large tick by a familiar looking design is a great shorthand when I'm flicking through, trying to find just the right 'ingredients' of silver and skills that I need to recreate a particular style.

And I have found this invaluable time and again, to have a written note of things that work, as much as things that don't. If several weeks or months have passed between me 'perfecting' (as much as you ever can) a new idea and then trying it again, it saves an afternoon of frustration if I know exactly what I need to do, rather than having to make some educated guesses, and then find they're not as intelligent as I thought they were.

The notebook is equally as handy for jotting down inspiration for designs as they come to me. Working with silver can easily spark new inspiration for how to use it (often in the middle of something else, when it's inconvenient to take that inspiration any further). But a small note in that old purple book means I can return to that same idea, expand upon it, and add the same positives and negatives that inevitably arise as I attempt to turn a flat, pencil sketch into a living piece of jewellery.

I do regret, very slightly, not using a spiral bound book, something that would lay open on the table easily, but that aside, I'm more than happy with what has become so important to me. In both front and back, receipts and invoices are tucked away, along with a few dried leaves, kept for inspiration and memory.

Whilst it's not a tool in the conventional sense, in terms of making jewellery, it's one I'd recommend anyone interested in designing, in any type of craft, to invest in. You don't have to keep it with you all the time, although it might be worth having a small notebook around for that purpose, but it is worth having some kind of record of your ideas, your failures, and your successes  - and how you achieved them.

Does anyone else have a notebook that's also a time and lifesaver? Links to similar posts are most welcome!

PS. If you read the comments you'll notice that Vic said she was going to do her own notebook post - and she did! Do check it out.


  1. I like your purple notebook! I've got two - one is plain and I tend to use it for sketches. The other is lined, larger and spiral-bound. This one I write everything in - ideas, plans, sketches, methods that work and don't work, websites, layouts for my own websites, little business plans... Gosh, all sorts really! I don't know what I'd do without it.

    I may try and do a similar post when I get a minute. I know a few people who love notebooks!

  2. Thanks for the comment :-)
    I have a whole stack of notebooks for other projects but this purple one just lives for jewellery! ;-)

    Do let me know if you do that post - I'd love to read it :-)


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