Storytelling with Shape in Jewelry Design

All the elements of design tend to have certain connotations to makers and viewers. Shape is no different. Rectilinear geometric shapes, for example, often create a feeling of something artificial, man-made, architectural, or structural. Some people may consider these shapes more masculine, intellectual, planned, thoughtful, or contrived. They may seem aloof, rigid, distant, stable, dependable. Such shapes may feel conservative—even the slang term “square” means out of step with the times.

Triangular geometric shapes may appear aggressive, sharp, or dangerous, but they can also create a feeling of stability (especially if one long side is parallel to the ground) or equality (if all sides are of equal length). For some, they may have a spiritual aspect: triangles have often been used to represent the Holy Trinity.

At the other end of the shape spectrum, flowing organic, biomorphic shapes that seem derived from nature, may have connotations that are the opposite of those of geometric shapes. They may seem more feminine, softer, more intuitive, warmer, more inviting the touch. They create feelings of approachability, caring, compassion, and safety. Angular or irregular organic shapes may appear rugged, strong, enduring.

Circles have a wealth of meaning for maker as well as viewer. Circles can signify continuity, protection, enclosure, safety, spirituality, wholeness, completeness, the universe. But they may also represent exclusion, imprisonment, closed thinking, circularity of thought.

What a maker intends, and how a viewer interprets, the elements in a design often depends on the personal experiences each brings to the piece. The complexity is increased when you use a combination of shapes, as you’re not restricted to using one type of shape or the other in a piece of jewelry. A rigid rectangular shape might contain a soft organic shape, or a soft organic shape might contain a triangular opening. These kinds of juxtapositions create interesting contrasts of ideas, can increase the depth of meaning in a piece, and can result in unpredictable reactions from a viewer.

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