LORETTA LAM'S NEW BOOK • review by Martina Malášková

The much awaited book on contemporary jewellery design by Loretta Lam promises to be “an accessible and easy-to-use guide to the principles and elements of jewellery design“, which will – at the same time – help you discover your inner voice no matter what mediums you work with. We set out to explore the book and tell you what you can and can’t expect.

At first sight the book is obviously a real labour of love. Having studied art, the author is passionate about all its aspects and it shows throughout the publication starting with its design. The content is printed on high quality heavy glossy paper and bound in hardcover. The text is accompanied by a carefully curated selection of quality photos that illustrate individual areas of design discussed in each chapter. The book is divided into three parts plus a gallery and the logical progression of topics helps the reader build their knowledge gradually without getting lost along the way. It is far from being just theoretical, it is quite the opposite. There are useful practical tasks and exercises in each part and section, so it can actually be used as a workbook. The book is intended for both beginning artists as well as accomplished ones, regardless of the medium they work with, because it provides not only basic definitions and explanations, but also lots of inspiring imagery and thought-provoking ideas.

In the first part, Loretta talks about the importance of exploring the things that inspire you. Finding out what triggers your imagination is an essential part of the initial phase of your creative process and she provides you with many tips and tricks on how it can be done. The whole first part is also heavily interspersed with personal statements of many artists who share their own insights into the topic together with the photos of their pieces, so you can see how their approach translates into their artwork.

In the rest of this part, the author deals not only with the individual steps of making, but she also pays attention to practical concerns regarding each type of jewellery and you can find here a short section concerning the commercial part of jewellery making. This, however, will not give you any specific tips on how to market your jewellery, it focuses on the importance of authenticity in your art, which is based on tapping into your feelings.

The second, and largest, part of the book explores two basic areas of design – its elements and principles. The visual vocabulary of design is served in easily digestible chunks, which means that even though there is a lot to consider and take in, the information is not overwhelming. Each element and principle is clearly illustrated on a piece of jewellery, so that you can get a good idea how they work in practice. This is extremely helpful especially if you do not have a lot of experience with design, because you can easily see the practical application and outcomes. In this way we learn about line, shape, form, colour, pattern texture and position in the section dedicated to design elements. Loretta pays special attention to colour, which is her favourite element. In the subsequent section on design principles, she gradually deals with the concepts of movement, balance, contrast, variety, rhythm, emphasis, proportion and scale.

Loretta posits that “art communicates your worldview, without words, through the use of the principles and elements of design.” Studying this part of the book and completing all the exercise she offers in it will surely help you master the powerful tools of design so that you can express your ideas through your art more easily and clearly.

Before moving on to treating the reader to many great pictures in the gallery, the author focuses on finding one’s own voice as an artist. One’s own personal style of work is not something that is found outside, it has to be discovered or extracted from within. It is a process of self-inquiry. Once again, Loretta shows many representative examples and asks the reader to take an active part in the process by carrying out various creative tasks.

If you are a seasoned artist who sometimes experiences a creative block, this section may be especially interesting for you as the author gives some advice on how to overcome this frustrating feeling of being stuck. The very last section of this part deals with giving and receiving critique. She stresses the importance of learning this skill because being able to analyze one’s work is a necessary step to growth and improvement.

The gallery is visually extremely pleasing as it contains many outstanding examples of great desing in jewellery. It covers a wide range of different mediums and materials, from precious metals, stones, enamel, through polymer clay and glass to fiber, paper, leather and various found objects. You can use the gallery as yet another form of creative exercise and spend some time with each picture, just observing all the details and trying to identify all the elements of design and its underlying principles applied in the given piece. It is truly inspiring.

To sum up, the book fully accomplishes what it sets out to do – with almost 200 pages it is a solid source of practical information on jewellery design. The interactive form of the book with a number of tasks for the reader serves to develop skills and knowledge in a pleasant and engaging way. Except for the tasks, there are many intriguing questions and reading the book may remind you of an enjoyable and beneficial coaching session. The author says that “the purpose of this book is not to establish hard-and-fast rules, but to illustrate the possibilities” and the book is imbued with this attitude. It encourages you to play and explore in order to discover the world of jewellery design and your own signature style. The book will be a gem in your studio or art library.