Maker Stories

The Science of Design

August 11, 2011

Do you have a formula for success when it comes to design? Do themes in your work emerge as a signature style? We’d love to see your original jewelry designs! Enter our first ever Jewelry Design Challenge for a chance to win $500 and the opportunity to sign a vendor contract with UncommonGoods.

Some people see math formulas, the Periodic Table of the Elements or text books and feel overwhelmed. Tiffany Ard sees these things and gets inspired. From her Chromosome Earrings to her Math Symbol Cufflinks, Tiffany is proud to produce beautiful jewelry for fashion forward nerds.

Tiffany says she’s always been an artist. Her earliest memories are of sitting in a stream of sunlight, painting and cutting paper. When she was in the seventh grade, she recognized that she was also a nerd. Instead of trying to hide her true nerdiness, Tiffany embraced it. She realized she could combine her artistic side with her inner-nerd and create fun designs other happy-go-lucky geeks might enjoy as well.

These educational designs include synapses, neurons and electromagnets , which originally appeared in her Nerd Flashcards.

Tiffany had the concept and the drawing part of the process down, but found a new venue for her nerdy creativity in jewelry design when she met her husband. “I married a metalsmith,” she says. “My husband, Kevin, can make anything out of metal, and seeing what’s possible inspired all kinds of ideas.”

Her new creations often start out when she contemplates how to represent an element of math or science in an image. “I start by doing some research to make sure my understanding of the science concept is right on,” she explains. “Then Kevin and I talk through the different materials or techniques he could use, and I sketch out possible designs.”

According to Tiffany, taking the piece from a concept to finished jewelry is a very involved process. “Once we’re happy with the basic design, Kevin cuts the image into a steel plate, ” she says. “He then rolls the plate with a sheet of silver through the hand-cranked rolling mill, stamping the design into the silver. Then he does all the finishing work by hand, stamps each piece with our signature, adds a pendant loop or a backing, etcetera. We patina the whole thing and then gently sand away the raised areas, leaving the lines darker.”

Tiffany says she loves collaborating with her husband, and she loves that her kids get to see her work evolve from ideas, to sketches, to final, wearable pieces. “The whole process takes several hours from start to finish,” she explains. “My favorite part is seeing the pieces being rolled out — plain silver feeding in one side, turn the crank and thunk! There’s our drawing embossed into the silver! The kids love that part too.”

She’s also enthusiastic about using art to share math and science, subjects she loves, with others. The artist explains, “Focusing my creative energy on a single theme has led to more ideas, and helped [me] find a loyal, enthusiastic audience of like-minded people.”

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