"I Can Make These": Basic Jewelry-Making Techniques
Have you ever seen a pair of earrings at a craft show and whispered to a friend, 'I can make these.' You'd never picked up a tool in your life and had no idea where the thought came from; but you believed it when you said it.
Except by the time you got home, the idea of making earrings with your own two hands struck you as a bit silly. You had a day job, after all; and with housework piling up, who has time for creative pursuits?
The answer is simple: As a new jewelry-maker, you probably won't be able to make complicated designs like the ones in the photo. However, with the right motivation and a few instructions, you can begin making basic jewelry and move on from there.
Artisans in your family tree?
That call to creativity could be a quirky notion, but what if it's a summons from artisans of a long forgotten branch of your ancient family tree... your inner artisan struggling to be set free? Perhaps your roots grew deep in ancient Mesopotamia, Greece or Rome, where working artist groups created everything by hand.
Those ancient artisans considered metalwork, glassblowing and yes, jewelry making, as art; and saw their skills as God-given gifts. They mastered their arts from childhood, crafted for kings and queens, exported their work to the far corners of the earth and passed their artistic traditions to the next generation.
You can learn how to make jewelry
Even if your ancient relatives were not grand artisans, there's a good chance you descended from family members who dipped candles, built furniture, wove dress fabric and created the household utensils they used every day. If your great-great-great grandfather could whittle forks and spoons, surely you can learn how to make jewelry as your part in carrying on the family tradition.
You, an artisan? Imagine that, creating metalwork, enameled or sculptured wire fantasies? Wearable art. It's true, many new students do begin with the more demanding artisan skills, but you'll have a better chance at success if you begin simply.
Lofty goals have their place but a complicated first-time project can be the road to easy frustration for a novice jewelry maker. Keep your grand ambitions, but start out with a few simple ideas in mind: Get used to working with your tools. Develop dexterity. Have a little fun.
Start with these simple projects for beginner's success that will give you a dash of confidence. You can grow into a true artisan from there.
Simple beaded earrings
Create simple earrings with a these few materials:
- Findings (the metal parts to construct your creation)
-A pair of ear wires- (wire pieces hooked at the top with a loop at the bottom.)
- A few beads in a color you like
- Tools: Pliers, Cutters, Round Nosed Pliers
Assembling your earrings
- Slip your beads onto your head pins. (Figure 2) Add two or three beads, if you like, arrange them until you like what you see; but make sure you have at least 3/8 inch of head pin remaining to create a loop on top.
- Use your cutters to clip away any excess wire.
- Use your pliers to bend the remaining headpin to a right angle. This gives you a good start for forming your loop.
- To form a loop, grasp the tip of the headpin with your round-nosed pliers. (Figure 4)
- Roll into the metal using a slight bit of pressure and a smooth, rolling wrist motion (like turning a car's ignition key.) (Figure 5)
- Your completed loops won't be perfect, but you will get better with practice.
To finish your simple earrings (Figure 6), open the loop on the bottom of your ear wire. Slip your beaded headpin on the open loop, then close it. (Figure 7)
That's all there is to it. Now slip your simple earrings into your ears and wear them until someone asks you where they came from. You can say, "I made them myself."
To add a bit of pizzazz to your simple earrings, you may wish to add metal trim beads in gold or silver or even brass or copper.
Create a Simple Bracelet
Step up your artisan's tradition by creating simple bracelets almost as easily as your earrings. You will need the following supplies to make a basic beaded bracelet.
- Tiger tail, Beadalon or other coated beading wire
- A clasp (shown here is a heart-shaped toggle clasp)
- Beads and trim beads in your choice of colors
- Crimp beads (Little metal tubes with ridges inside to hold things together.)
Simple Bracelet Assembly
- Cut your beading wire (The average bracelet size is 7 inches but measure your own wrist and cut your wire with a few inches extra to work with)
- Insert one end of beading wire through a crimp bead, then through the jump ring on the end of your clasp.
- Loop it and back through the crimp bead (Figure 9)
- Squeeze the crimp into place with a pair of pliers. If you like this method of stringing beads, you can buy crimp pliers, a tool made especially for closing crimp beads.
- Add beads, separating each with a trim bead. (Figure 10)
- After you've added enough beads to fit your wrist size, slip on a second crimp bead.
- As you did at the beginning, slip the tiger tail through the crimp bead, then the jump ring on the other half of your clasp and back through the crimp.
- Gently pull the loose wire end to tighten your arrangement and eliminate any bare wire spaces.
- Push the end of the wire through a few beads (See figure 11)
- Clip off the remaining loose end of the wire.
- Squeeze the second crimp into place.
For a beaded necklace, use the same techniques you used to make your bracelet. Bead shops offer a variety of trim beads and clasps to help you add details that reflect your own unique, creative personality. They also have bead boards to lay out your designs before you put them together.
A few tips for overexcited jewelry-makers
Messing up is part of the process
You are learning a new skill, give yourself permission to mess up. Minimize the consequences by starting out with inexpensive tools, beads, and findings; so when you do mess up, it won't be an expensive lesson
Practice, practice, practice
Your mother was right; practice makes perfect. Sort of. Perfection should not be your initial goal; but over time, practice will help you rise to your highest skill level.
Start inexpensivelyDon't spend hundreds of dollars on supplies and books that end up stuffed in a drawer never to be seen again. Start with simple, basic supplies and tools. When you are certain, buy a few more. Don't go broke figuring out if jewelry-making is a craft you can stick with.
Set Aside Some Quiet TimeOf course, you're busy, but you are starting a new tradition. Find a quiet corner to work in between household tasks or wait until the kids are asleep. Most of all, enjoy your crafty self.
Written by Carol, The Nice Lady
Revised from her 2008 article published by Yahoo