Antidote to Jeweller’s Block!

Half the fun of making jewellery is thinking of the design.  It is amazing what can become of a gemstone and a reel of wire.  You’ve heard of writer’s block…well have some sympathy for us jewellery maker’s too as we have jeweller’s block!!

I have said before that most of my designs are freestyle and I think organic is a good word to use.  Let me explain; I have my materials, but no pre-planned design.  If I am using a cabochon (flat backed stone) for example, I will wrap the stone to secure it, but the main design will flow where the wire takes me.  The problem lies when ‘jeweller’s block’ sets in – where does the design go from here, or that’s not going to work, or what do I do now?

This Red Stripe Agate is a typical organic design which was created without the design being planned.
This Red Stripe Agate is a typical organic design which was created without the design being planned.

I often find that when I do reach jeweller’s block I simply place my piece down and return to it the following day.  A fresh mind can work wonders.  Am I my own worst enemy for not pre-planning my designs?

Work in progress - Green Onyx with gold coloured copper wire. Another organic design.
Work in progress – Green Onyx with gold coloured copper wire. Another organic design.

I previously received an order to make a tiara for a wedding and in that instant, I had to draw the design I had in mind to receive the Bride’s approval before I commenced the actual design (you can read more on this here).  I have also recently received an enquiry for an order – 6 bespoke pendants, each one to feature a heart.  Well, I thought, there’s no getting out of this one…planning is definitely  required.  So I have put pen to paper (well, pencil actually), and have designed 6 variations of a heart.

one of the 6 heart variations for a custom order.
one of the 6 heart variations for a custom order.

Then something dawned on me;  I am actually building up a portfolio of designs.   When I think about it, I can compare organic designs and pre-planned designs to e-readers and books…you don’t have to have just one as you can enjoy both, each having merits of their own.  In other words, I don’t want to stop creating organic designs as it’s very much a part of what I do, however, it has also dawned on me that pre-designing could  be the antidote to jewellers block!

Is there any part of your lifestyle that’s organic or freeform, or does planning help you?

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Hannah Spannah Coco Banana

Review of Jewellery Maker’s Beaded Bangle Kit

 

I have been approached by TV’s Jewellery Maker to write a review for one of their products – a beaded bangle jewellery making project kit.

Here is the kit in its packaging.

Beaded Bangle kit

There are four colours available on Jewellery Maker’s website; silver plated copper, gold plated copper, rose gold plated copper and black plated copper.  I was presented with black in a generous sized sturdy box.

The kit comprised of :

50 x 8mm metal beads,

2 x 7.5″ black bangles and

5m of 0.6mm black coated wire.

Beaded Bangle 2

The beads are a good weight and the shiny coating on the beads, wire and bangles clearly shows this product will not tarnish.

There is also a set of instructions which concertina out.  These consist of 5 easy steps to complete the bangle.  It also advises on the tools required i.e. flat nose pliers and wire cutters.  There is also a jewellery making tip on the back.

Beaded Bangle 4

In summary, you attach the wire on one of the bangles…

Beaded Bangle 5

thread a bead and wrap the wire around the second bangle..

Beaded Bangle 6

and you continue to thread and wrap until the end.

Beaded Bangle

I fell into the rhythm of weaving the wire in an under/over motion.  I found this quite therapeutic, however, if you’re not used to threading ‘hollow’ metal beads, be prepared for some fiddly wriggly fun!  My advice would be to keep the end of your wire as straight as you can.

The completion of the bangle took less than an hour and the result was an attractive looking quality sturdy bangle.

Beaded Bangle 10Beaded Bangle 9

Beaded Bangle

After completing the bangle, there was a generous amount of leftovers!

Beaded Bangle 11

If I could make a suggestion to Jewellery Maker, it would be to have a removable sticker on the box (perhaps the brand could be placed inside the lid), as the box would make a lovely gift box.

Beaded Bangle 12

If you’re thinking of starting jewellery making, want to try working with wire, or simply want to make a lovely design where all the components are ready to work with, then this kit is for you.  You can find the Jewellery Maker Project Kit here.

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All Wired Up

wire reels

As my jewellery making medium is wire, I thought I would write a little about it.  Although it is no definitive guide, it will give you a glimpse into my world of wire.

Lets start with the shape of the wire.  If you thought all wire was round,  then you’d be mistaken.  Of course, wireworker’s use round wire, but sometimes we have to think about the design and how the wire would work with that design.  Other options are square wire and half-round wire.  I have never disagreed with the fact that wirework can be fiddly, especially when it comes to wrapping the wires together.  Wrapping square wire together with its straight edges has a much even fit compared to two round edges which ‘roll’ round together.  Half-round wire is shaped like a semi-circle, so you have the flat edge which fits snuggly round the wire, especially square wire, whilst the rounded edge leaves a smooth finish.  In addition to shaped wire, you may decide to use patterned or fancy wire; not all wire is smooth.

The next important thing to consider is the size of your wire.  Different designs use varying sizes of wire.  For example, wire that binds or wraps the wire together would be thinner than wire used as a frame.   This is where you need to keep your wire collection organised, but help is at hand as all wire sizes are categorised.  Here in the UK, we tend to refer to the actual size of the wire i.e. 1mm, 0.8mm or 0.6mm.  The USA tend to use a gauge system based on numbers; the higher the number, the thinner the wire.  I must admit, I prefer the gauge system, but have found that after using wire for a while, you refer to both of them hand in hand.  I use between 14g (gauge) which is very thick wire and use it for frames, to 30g which is very thin and used for crocheting, for example.  You can experiment with wire weaves and which wires work best for your design i.e. 18g as the frame and 26g to weave.

copper heart wirework pendant
This pendant was made with 3 different sizes of wires.

Finally, when you know the shape and the size, you need to decide what type of wire you want to use.  When I first started, I used silver plate wire but as I’ve progressed, copper wire appears to be my predominant choice.  It comes down to how comfortable you are working with the wire.  Options include plated wire, craft wire, copper wire, coloured copper wire, silver wire, and Argentium silver wire, to name some.  Each have their own qualities.  If you choose copper and silver wire, for example, you can patina/oxidise the finished design to give it an “aged” look.  Copper wire is relatively cheap as well, and if you’re lucky, you can source copper wire from  used cables!  Copper wire is considered good to practice with due to its costs and it’s forgiving wire temper.  Silver can be costly as it’s no secret that the cost of silver has increased considerably over the recent years, so ideally some practice would be recommended before purchasing silver wire.  Argentium Silver wire is very popular with wirework too due to its high quality, tarnish resistance and durability.  Don’t rule out other metals though like brass, aluminium and stainless steel.  Bear in mind though not all wires are as malleable as others and consideration should be given to which wire would be best to hammer, heat or oxidise, should you decide to do this.

I hope this has given you a little insight to what goes into the art of wirework.  If you enjoyed reading this, perhaps you could share it for me.  I would also welcome you to sign up for my newsletter.

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