I received the following question by email:
“Do you design a piece first and then buy stone and embellishments to fit the vision...or do you study the cache of stones and let them inspire the design...I struggle with getting started on any piece. I am artistic by nature so I am not without talent, but… etc. “
The answer lies somewhere in between: since gemstones always come in different shapes and sizes, I usually first look at the cache of stones I have at hand and let them bring some inspiration. With that said, after a while of working with the same suppliers of stones and beads, you come to know what you will be able to find in your personal cache and even at your favorite bead supplier, therefore you CAN design first and then go shopping for the items of your vision, as long as you respect the limitations of what you already know will be available.
Think about it, isn't it always that way with any other form of art? Doesn't any good designer need to be familiar with the materials available so that the designs are not impossible to execute?
I would recommend that any jewelry artist study the market of supplies a little and become more familiar with sizes, colors and types of stones and beads. This will make the designer more secure about the possibilities AND will start the gears turning: "what if this particular stone were combined with this other bead" or "what if this stone were used with wire in a certain technique".
Keeping a creative journal with ideas and designs is also a very good idea. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a good journal to just pour ideas into. Every time inspiration happens, (by a stone, a vision or anything else) the idea is registered in the journal. When time comes to develop a piece, I only have to flip through the journal and pick one. This creates an endless source of ideas readily available, especially for those times when the muse doesn't seem to want to work overtime. :-)