How to Design Like a Pro

By Eloyne

One of the most rewarding aspects of my role here as a teacher is to witness a student developing a design or creative thought-process and begin applying it to their own work. It’s a thrilling experience for me. Developing one’s own design style is a process, and I feel honored to watch it unfold.

In the beginning, we replicate. We work hard to learn what we see others doing. We practice. Refinement of technical skills holds our attention. Learning the skills of cutting and shaping, fitting, soldering and finishing take center stage.

Soon though, the urge to put hard-fought-for skills to creative use emerges. What I find so exhilarating is when a student begins to describe their design thoughts behind what they are creating. When that occurs I feel I’m listening & watching a technician give way to an artist. It’s so very exciting!

Here are some thoughts and sentiments students have revealed as they have shared their creative design process with me.

 A creative design process is fueled by personal experience. We create from the things we see, hear, touch, taste and feel. Our perspective is unique – no one sees the scene in exactly the same way. Creative expression is a beautiful way to honor yourself and your unique point of view. Experimentation and/or trying new things seems to stimulate the creative/design process.

Speaking of experimentation, learn to try-and-fail. Take some risk. Work on getting okay with that. Commit to a path of creative activity with high hopes coupled with a sense of being perfectly content if the activity goes awry. There’s much to be learned in the nooks and crannies of a project gone sour. Trust me on this…

Risk becoming inspired to create something different you see around you, in nature, online images or in books – and then add your own taste, lines, experiences, ideas and messages. Artists apply their personal style to foundational inspiration.

Copyright issues. We all use the work of others as inspiration and sometimes the basis for our projects. (See above)

Here’s a great rule of thumb which can help avoid a copyright infringement claim:

Put yourself in the shoes of the other artist… if they saw a piece for sale in a display window created by you, could they recognize it as their own?

Notes: Most images and patterns on the internet are copyright protected even though you are able to easily download them. Please be mindful of the rights of others as you refine your final designs. Finally, when you visit a gallery, art show, market or retail store, please ask if it is okay to take photos.

Click for more information about Copyrights, Fair Use and other related issues.

Practice. Work on your skills during both the rich creative times as well as your creative dry spells. Practice. Creativity is maddeningly spontaneous. Be open to ideas as they come; great ideas always seem to come on their terms, not ours. Honor that phenomena – Keep a notebook of ideas that includes written descriptions, sketches, line drawing, or photos. Practice.

Every design starts with that first line on a piece of paper. Practice. Don’t be scared to just toss that first, second or third design to start over. Designs evolve.

But what about the glass artists I see who seemingly create their design on the fly?” See “Practice”, above.

Throughout this brief post I’ve often made reference to “you”. Introducing ‘you’ into your work adds a personal dimension to your project that is impossible to re-create. As you put more and more of you into your projects they become infused with a soulful, ineffable, personal quality. But… it’s not about “you”.

Paradoxically, as you invest more and more of ‘you’ into your designs – especially your gift and commissioned designs – your investment will become acknowledged, perhaps more aptly described as ‘felt’ – and will be considered a valuable, selfless act of yours by others; an act of “leaving it all on the stage” or “leaving it all out on the field”. Your gift recipient or client will recognize your personal effort, style & grace and appreciate you for it.

You will have provided for them an experience they could not provide for themselves.

And they will be grateful.

As you make work that is meaningful to you, it resonates with others. Every. Single. Time.

About the Author

Eloyne Erickson is the Owner/Operator of Grand Central Stained Glass,  serving the Tampa Bay area for nine years. She has been involved in the craft for over thirty years, and serves as Principal Designer, Project Manger and fabricator of all custom pieces.