Recently, on a jewelry making forum that I participate in, a fellow member posed a valuable question.
“A Wise Guide is a Gift … This was a saying I saw while reading Tim Mccreight’s book. For those who have been working with wire and metal for sometime, what would be the most important piece/s of advice you can give to those at the beginning of the journey?”
That question set me to thinking about what I had to share that might be valuable to others.
My Answer would be:
Practice, practice, practice! Be daring and try new things even if you think they are beyond your level of experience. You will never expand your level of experience otherwise.
Continue to browse the forums and take inspiration from other artist. You will discover techniques that will take you in new directions.
When you make a mistake, keep it around for a while … continue to play with it and watch how mistakes can become treasures.
Below is a very useful exercise in helping to develop yourself as an artist:
Choose a technique to work with. Commit to making at least 3 pieces, each time changing something about the design but utilizing the same basic technique. Watch the technique evolve right before your eyes.
To offer an example, I will share the three stages I went through in developing my needle lace line.
Stage One: Flat Work
Stage one was actually the most difficult. I had to refine the technique, and that took practice.
Back to what I was saying about how mistakes can become treasures – my first attempt to create a flat worked needle lace piece landed in the scrap pile. I was disappointed with it and reached the point of giving up. I left my apparent failed experiment sitting on the end table next to my favorite chair in my temporary scrap pile. Items thrown in this pile either evolve or they eventually get thrown into the permanent scrap pile.
The next time I was sitting in my chair having a conversation with my other half, I unconsciously reached over and started to fiddle with the piece. I wasn’t really very invested in what I was doing … I just let my fingers do the walking while I did the talking. Suddenly, I looked down and was surprised to see that I actually LIKED the piece I had in my hand. No longer a failed experiment … it was now a unique and lovely pendant! I made a second pendant and was even more pleased with the results. I was encouraged to move forward.
Sometimes, my hands just want to be busy whether I am in full jewelry making mode or not – this is the perfect time to fiddle with experiments gone awry. Because I am no longer afraid to ‘mess them up’ I am much more relaxed and prone to take more chances with my experiment. The results are often favorable.
Stage Two: Circular Work
I found this stage easier than the first. Having something to cleave to and to form the wire to seemed to make a big difference in the difficultly level of the project. Of course the practice I had with the techniqe while experimenting with the flat work no doubt contributed to making it easier as well.
In stage two, I worked the needle lace in a circular pattern to ‘cage’ a stone in order to make a pendant. The results were more than encouraging once again.
Stage Three: Circular Bezel Work
Now THIS was fun! Filled with confidence from my success with the circular work I ventured further and applied the use of an armature to adapt the needle lace to create a netted bezel pendant. I wanted to keep it simple to keep the focus on the netting while showcasing a beautiful stone. This stage was more difficult than either of the previous stages, but the effort was well worth the outcome.
After becoming comfortable with the needle lace technique I began looking for variations on the technique. Below are two examples of variations;
Button Hole Stitch:
Button hole detail:
Adding Windows to the Netting:
The same technique results in three very unique though clearly related pieces. Adding variations only adds to the fun and adds additional interest to the work. This was really a fun experiment. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot along the way and you will too if you apply this exercise to a technique. It doesn’t have to be an uncommon technique. You can work variations on border wrap styles, coiled work, scroll work – your imagination is the only limitation!
It’s important to try new things if you want to keep your interest in jewelry alive and feed your inspiration. Set a personal challenge for yourself and go for it. The above experiment is ideal to get you started. If you pick a technique and apply the same principle I think you will be delighted with your results and learn a great deal in the process.
If you would like to learn the netting techniques used in the experiment above, you can check out the downloadable tutorials on my website, DeliaStone.com. The Needlelace Caged Pendant (example number two) and the Netted Bezle Pendant (example number three) are available in a tutorial package for just $12.
So what are you waiting for? Pick your technique and get started today!