A matter of taste
It’s hard to respond without seeing the end result. Here comes my two cents anyway:
I save my mistakes and try to analyze what went wrong. Sometimes it is a matter of taste. Sometimes I find the answer after I’ve really looked at the piece more objectively: What is it about the finished pendants that I think is “clunky”? Is it the colors of the dichro? The size of the dichro? The amount of dichro? Is it the finished size of the piece? Usually I find the answer.
Dichro loves contrast, so it’s placed on black. Clear dichros on lighter colors work where the idea is to add some sparkle, but it’s not for everyone. I’ve been adding clear dichros to darker colors– red, green, blue– to good effect. It’s more of a subtle sparkle, but it works for some people and looks better, to me, when the dichro is complimentary to the background color rather than contrasting. For those, I try to keep it 80-90% complimentary and 20-10% contrasting. The contrasting dichro needs to help set off everything else without overwhelming the piece.
I have a background in photography, so I tend to think in terms of focal points. I want to direct people’s eyes to a particular spot in a photograph or in a pendant, so I tend to build around that spot. I put one bigger (or patterned or showy) piece of dichro there, then build around it with smaller pieces. Too many pieces of the same size and sizzle compete for attention and my eye doesn’t know where to go to first. I also try to avoid centering everything– dichro seems to be more fun if it’s not smack dab in the middle of something. It will draw attention to itself.
Have you tried the thin glasses that are 1.5 mm thick? Black on the bottom, dichro then a clear to encase the lot? If you think of it, the dichro pendant itself could be like a small stained glass window. Maybe put little squares and rectangles or chips of dichro on a black background, making sure that the black “lines” set off the different dichro colors?
I don’t know that there is a magic formula for everyone. Dichro can overwhelm a piece and I’ve seen horrendous examples as well as created a few of my own. I try to keep it simple and remember that sometimes less is more.