Designing Arabesque

We lead charmed lives, we artists.

Sowing seeds of beauty and manifesting works of skill and wonder…it can seem like magic to the eye of the beholder. I’m going to dispel that notion right now, and let you in on the months of frustration, head-banging and creative coercion that eventually leads to the pretty, shiny things you see us put out into the world!

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When Josh and I decided to create a jewelry company together, I was immediately consumed with the idea of “designing” the company, alchemically incorporating all of our combined esthetics, outside interests and creative hopes and dreams into one perfectly imagined entity. Right?

Ummm, no.

Settling on a name alone took several months, and many linguistic arguments! Two very stubborn, opinionated Capricorn artists = more rounds of negotiations than Congress could shake a stick at. We ran circles around each other trying to come up with words or symbols that each of us related to that sounded nice and evoked something classical but also contemporary (oxymoron? why yes, yes it is) AS WELL AS not being in use, especially on the internet. Anyone who’s ever shopped for their dream domain name and been devastated to find every possible permutation of it already taken will feel my pain here. That search alone was half the battle, if not more. Then there was the complication of my existing illustration business, Raven & Rose; we wasted a lot of time trying to shoehorn those symbols into a hybrid that worked for both of us as a jewelry company. After many exhaustive weeks of brainstorming and picking the brains of everyone we knew, we finally found itI was flipping through a list of jewelry “styles” on the interwebz, and there it was…so poetic and lovely. Arabesque.

This is the first silver cast sculpture Josh ever made in jewelry class at College of Marin. A ballet dancer in an arabesque pose. Coincidence?

This is the first silver cast sculpture Josh ever made in jewelry class at College of Marin…a ballet dancer in an arabesque pose. Coincidence?

Josh instantly loved it–for him it evoked the classic pose in ballet which he had studied briefly some years before. Being a fantastic dancer of multiple disciplines, he was all over it. For me, always having had a flair for the exotic in art, music and culture, arabesque was the perfect term that captured the esthetic I’d always been drawn to. Thus, Arabesque the jewelry company was born.

Step 2: visual branding. Heavens, the branding. The quest for our “look” was almost as tortuous as the naming. Josh is not a sketch artist by any stretch–but he is definitely opinionated! The man works with fire and metal and stone…totally elemental but near impossible to translate into a two dimensional rendering. So the forging of a visual brand between the two of us was quite a tug of war at times. After many more weeks of sketching, Photoshopping, colorizing and manipulating in multiple directions, we settled on the basic logo that we used for most of 2014. Neither of us was in love with it, but we had to start putting something together to present to the public, especially since we stumbled our way into a Valentine’s Day show at the Albany Arts Gallery. So the new logo went into business cards, postcards, the Facebook page et al, and we went back to focusing on making and photographing the jewelry. But the one thing we never could get this design to work for was the jeweler’s hallmark.

Arabesque for SignatureThis is a tiny steel stamp with the jeweler’s logo or cypher, basically a signature in metal to distinguish one jeweler’s work from another. I tried to simplify the design’s interlaced scrollwork to a degree that it could be read and recognized at a few millimeters’ scale, but it just wouldn’t work and I gave up trying. That nagging reminder that anything he made would not be “signed” by us is what ultimately got me back to the drawing board.

Step 2A: The new logo design quest was nearly as frustrating as the first time around. I’d convinced Josh we should try for something a little more organic and scrolled, like the classical acanthus motif in art and architecture. Josh really wanted the letter “A” to be the structure behind the flourish, so the first round of sketches were almost entirely devoted to the letter and how to make it work with the font we’d chosen for the text version of the logo.

Many A’s came and went. Many lines, many scrolls, many ill-fated wisps of foliate adornment came and went.

At one point I had actually come up with something that I was totally convinced was “it.” I even started putting it into our PR materials, going so far as to upload several versions to our Moo.com account, stopping just short of clicking the “submit order” button. Josh was not convinced. Sure, he said he would be fine with it if I went ahead and started using it, but the fact that he didn’t LOOOOOVE it held me back. He also reminded me effectively of how many times I’d changed my illustration business name and logo/branding over the years. Ok fine, I grumbled. Once more into the fray.IMG_0811_2

And then, a breakthrough. We were on the crux of just having enough time to order new business cards and associated materials for our upcoming holiday shows when the idea came to me. I was looking at a matchbox we’d gotten at a recent Urban Air Market show, a handmade shoe vendor’s logo (who by the way makes INCREDIBLE boots–we both got a pair at that show).

beneduci_logo⇐ I loved how simple it was, how crisp. How perfect a maker’s mark it would be in its simplicity. I resigned myself to create an A with that same esthetic, something that would work equally well for business cards as it would for the hallmark. When Josh saw the first batch of sketches I did with this in mind, he actually liked them all. I was finally on the right track. Between the two of us we came up with three similar designs, all very simple with an antique wrought iron plaque look to them. When all was said and done, we came up with a lovely fresh new look!

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It’s clean and elegant, and rustic and earthy at the same time. And the way the logo is designed allows for a number of variations that will still read together consistently and work in an overall branding esthetic (i.e. room to play). Which leads me to the subject of our next entry in Le Journal de Bijoutier, creative merchandising. Stay tuned for Step 3!

But for now, it feels really REALLY good to have that one fateful little piece of the puzzle fall into place.


Want to see us and the jewelry in person? We have 2 very exciting events coming up this weekend!

Friday, November 28, 12pm-8pm: Black Friday Trunk Show at the Opera House Gallery in downtown Petaluma

Saturday and Sunday, November 29-30, 11am-5pm: SF Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium, Pier 35 San Francisco

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