Designer Q&A: Meet Jewelry Designer Tracy Stanley

By Kerry Bogert

One of the things I love about being part of the jewelry and beading communities are the unique friendships that develop between the most unlikely people. Whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, on one side of the country or the other, a love of beads and jewelry making can bridge any gap.

You might not think a former glass artist in western New York would have much in common with a world-renowned metal jewelry-making artist and metalsmithing instructor from the Pacific Northwest, but we do, and I think you’ll find you do, too! Today I’m excited to share a Q&A I recently had with one of my dearest jewelry friends and new Interweave author, jewelry designer Tracy Stanley.

Tracy Stanley’s New Book!

Tracy’s no stranger to Interweave. I’m sure you’ve seen her fantastic collection of educational metalsmithing videos or been inspired by one of her beautiful magazine tutorials. And I know many of you have had the pleasure of being her student in one of her popular Bead Fest classes. It’s only fitting that Tracy now adds “Interweave author” to her bio, and here in the book department, we’re just bursting at the seams to finally get to share some peeks into her new book Exploring Metal Jewelry: Wire Wrap, Rivet, Stamp & Forge Your Way to Beautiful Jewelry.

learn essential metalsmithing skills like texturing with hammers from Tracy Stanley, jewelry designer

Presented in a way that makes you feel like you’re right in the classroom with her, Tracy shares countless tips and tricks alongside metalsmithing techniques and projects anyone can accomplish with a bit of practice. Like so many of us, she’s a self-taught jewelry artist who simply loves to make.

Let’s get to know Tracy a bit better . . .

Meet Metalsmithing Expert Tracy Stanley

Kerry: First of all, thank you for taking the time to chat with me, Tracy! I couldn’t be more excited to have worked with you on this project. Can you believe it?! That book we developed almost two years ago is making its debut! YAY!! I want to help readers get to know you as well as I do, so to start, tell me a little about how you became a jewelry artist.

Tracy: I have always loved making things. As a teenager, I remember going to my first bead store and exploring how to make different types of jewelry. Years later I became intrigued with beads and was asked to teach some classes. This led to exploring different techniques from bead weaving, to wire and metal. I found a real passion for the wire and metal, especially riveting. Because I had students asking for more and more projects, I just kept designing fun and different pieces.

Stamp, layer and create unique jewelry with Tracy Stanley

To the Moon and Back, in process

From the Beginning

Kerry: That seems to be a reoccurring theme among jewelry makers. Rarely do we hear, “I woke up and decided I wanted to become a jewelry maker.” Instead, they sort of fall or evolve into the craft. We become smitten. Was it love at first sight when you discovered metalsmithing?

Tracy: My first jump into metalsmithing involved soldering. It was okay . . . but not love at first sight. It was when I learned to rivet that the clouds parted and the passion began. I fell in love with the simplicity of it. As I continued to explore, I wanted to come up with low-tech ways of applying texture to metals I was working with, without having to use expensive rolling machines. I came up with using simple things, such as screens, sandpaper, washers, even brass texture plates to create surface textures on metals without special tools . . . just you and your hammer! I share many of these ideas in my new book.

The "To the Moon and Back Bracelet" by jewelry designer Tracy Stanley is an ideal metalsmithing project for new metal jewelry makers.

To the Moon and Back Bracelet by Tracy Stanley

Can Anyone Jump Into This Book With You?

Kerry: Your ingenuity is one of the things I love about your style of jewelry making. You make seemingly difficult techniques so accessible! In Exploring Metal Jewelry, you invite jewelers of any skill level to try their hand at metalsmithing. Which project would you say is the best to start with if you’re a true newbie? Which one might teach a seasoned pro something new?

Tracy: I would recommend starting with the “To The Moon and Back Bracelet” for a newbie. It is a great project to practice different types of metal texturing and riveting in a project that is made in small sections. It’s perfect for exploring layering pieces, without having to manage larger pieces of metal. Plus, those small components work up quickly leading to an instant gratification finished piece!

For the seasoned pro, I would say take on the challenge of the “Beautiful Sea Pendant.” You will find lots of layering and different areas of fun and unique embellishments in it.

explore wirework and metalsmithing with the Lasso Earrings by jewelry designer Tracy Stanley

Lasso Earrings by Tracy Stanley

Beads to Metal – Fits all Sizes!

Kerry: Oh, the “To The Moon and Back Bracelet” is one of my favorite projects in the book. Like so many of the projects, it would be easy to personalize. Another favorite is the “Lasso Earrings.” The wire link is so clever! Any suggestions on how a traditional seed-beader might incorporate some of the ideas in Exploring Metal Jewelry into their work? This book is for them too, right?

Tracy: Yes! I always tell seed-beaders this type of metal work would make such a great addition to their beautiful work. Seed-bead work can be such an investment in time…many of the riveted metal pieces can be completed much faster. Adding a metal or wire component, such as the ones included in this book, would complement the beautiful beadwork so well! And let go of the need to be perfect. Mistakes are okay! And I share ways to fix or hide common mistakes anyway. So it’s about exploring and having fun with metal and wire.

Never Ending Story

Kerry: So true. A touch of copper or silver can make a lovely addition to a bead embroidered pendant or wire links can make a beautiful clasps for carefully stitched bracelets. Possibilities for combining beads with metal and wire are just endless! But some makers struggle to stay inspired. How do you keep coming up with new work?

Tracy: I just always love to create. It’s kind of like breathing for me. When I teach classes and everyone tells me how much they love the pieces, it really keeps me wanting to design more!

detail from Tracy Stanley's Beautiful Sea Pendant

I’d like to thank Tracy for spending a bit of time with us and sharing how she got into jewelry making, peeks into her new book, her thoughts on personalizing jewelry, and staying inspired. Get your hands on a copy of her new book, Exploring Metal Jewelry: Wire Wrap, Rivet, Stamp & Forge Your Way to Beautiful Jewelry!

–Kerry

Learn More About Tracy Stanley

Tracy has been teaching beading, wire, and metalsmithing techniques for over 25 years. She has taught classes at bead stores from Alaska to Florida and at the major bead and wire shows across the country. Check out Tracy’s blog for her upcoming classes and other news at Tracystanleywireandmetalarts.blogspot.com.