An eclectic blog about beads, beading and beyond

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sophistication in beadwork – how do we create it and judge it?

Sophistication in beadwork is the third of my posts reflecting on criteria used to judge beadwork in competition. Like all things socially and culturally created sophistication is a tricky thing to define and therefore to create and judge.

The concept of sophistication has it roots in Ancient Greece where a "sophist," was a master of knowledge or learning and it is derived from the Greek word "sophia" meaning wisdom. For beaders in contemporary times mastering sophistication in beadwork is linked to mastering broader contemporary cultural ideas of sophistication in fashion. These centre on ideas of good taste, classiness, refinement and elegance. They privilege subtlety rather than ‘bling’ and flashiness in the materials, shapes, colours and patterns of a design.

Sophisticated or not? What do you think? Hedron Rising by Glenda
Many writers suggest that these ideas of sophistication in fashion derive from European and Anglo-American middle and upper class definitions of good design, luxury and style associated with ‘old-money’ families and the traditional elite of a given society, such as royals and aristocrats (see for example, Cameron, 2010).

So, if you are not an aristocrat or royal whose sense of fashion and design defines what is sophisticated what do you do? How do the non-royal and non-elite beaders amongst us pursue sophistication in our beadwork? How we gain this allusive knowledge and master it? How we become masters of elegance, elite taste, refinement and elegance? How do we pursue subtlety?

A good place to start is Google images – try putting in some search words that take you to images others define as sophisticated. Look at the colours, shapes and patterns that emerge. Use these as inspiration for your designs. Mock up some colour palettes and keep them for your next design. Some word combinations that I found worked were:
  • sophisticated plus - royal fashion; women; colours; patterns
  • elegant plus: colours; jewellery; beadwork. 
You can also set up a special folder where you place images of colours, shapes and designs that others label sophisticated. Grow this over time and then try to generate some common themes/ideas that seem to emerge. When you design something have someone seen as sophisticated and elegant in mind, and ask, would they wear this? For instance, Mary – Crown Princess of Denmark, is often referred to in the Australian media as having an elegant and sophisticated sense of fashion. Choose an outfit she has worn and design something you think she would wear with it. Check with others to see if you have 'got it right'.

Often you will find the motto, ‘less is more’ summarizes sophistication. So, try reducing the number of colours you use, reduce the amount of bling (sparkle), pull back on complex patterns and reduce the diversity of shapes that you use.

On the other hand, if you just love bling and flashiness you might enjoy this quote:
 "[...] sophistication is a form of snobbery - it's based above all on knowing something another person does not." (Holleran, Andrew (January 2001). "Staying a Step Ahead". Out (Here Publishing) 9 (7): 38–80. ISSN 1062-7928. Retrieved 2011-03-06.) 
To explore the allusive nature of sophistication more you might enjoy these texts:
  • Faye Hammill (2010), Sophistication: A Literary and Cultural History.
  • DeJean, Joan (2003). The essence of style: how the French invented high fashion, fine food, chic cafes, style, sophistication, and glamour. New York: Free Press. 
  • Douglas Cameron (2010). Cultural Strategy: Using Innovative Ideologies to Build Breakthrough Brands. Oxford University Press.


Beverly Herman said...

Glenda, I saw your piece of Beadart on display at the Bead & Button show. I was drawn to the texture, shape and color of this piece. Very well done!

Glenda of Dax Designs said...

Thanks Beverly for your kind words - I wish I had been able to see it insitu - maybe next year. Hope you enjoyed the show.

MegansBeadedDesigns said...

Excellent post! I love that you show both sides of the definition. As a personal lover of all things sparkly (hello rhinestones!) you can count the majority of my beadwork to be outside of the realm of sophistication. And that's okay! :-)

Glenda of Dax Designs said...

Megan - thanks for the comment. Like you I think we all need some sparkle in our life - like the sunshine it just makes many people happier when it shines. Enjoy yours.

Dax Designs - now on Artisan Co-op