More Waves With Sharilyn Millers Wire Art Jewelry Workshop

I love hooking up with other author/designers and chat about creativity. I really enjoyed my visit with Sharilyn about her new book/DVD set, Wire Art Jewelry Workshop. Here's more fun tidbits about wire jewelry from Sharilyn.

"Everyone asks me how an artist comes up with her designs and the answer is always rather a long one! One thing leads to another. What I mean by that is, you may take a class or read a book or magazine article and learn a technique that is new to you, or a specific wire-wrapped bead or a wire link or a wire clasp. From there, if you are creative (not everyone is), you begin to think "what else could I do with this technique?"

The Bird's Nest Bangle is an example. I had learned knotless netting several years ago. I cannot now recall if it was in a workshop or from a magazine article. It doesn't really matter since knotless netting as a technique is not original; it has been around for many years. However, I really loved it and was wrapping lots of big pendant stones with it and teaching a workshop that I called "Alien Egg" because the particular way I wrapped my rocks reminded me of something alien and weird.


A couple of years ago I began to think of other ways to use this technique; I tried a little design for an earring but it didn't come off well. Then I made an intriguing beaded wrap on a dowel with 26ga sterling silver wire to create beaded beads, which I love and featured in a self-published book of mine called Arty Jewelry. But then I thought, why not try to make a finger ring using the technique and heavier wire? But this design didn't quite work for me; the ring was interesting but too wide and too thick to wear comfortably. But this led to a new thought: Why not make a big bangle bracelet with the knotless netting technique, using 14ga wire? Thus were my Bird's Nest Bangles born.

I used 14ga wire at first, and then added to the width of each band by embellishing it with 16ga wire. In one bangle, I added still more wire, this time 18ga. It has a filigree look that I love; quite elegant. The bracelet looks great in sterling silver; fine silver would be much easier to work with because it is so much softer, but it would be very expensive. Another alternative is copper wire, which is very beautiful. I'm very proud of this bracelet because it evolved over time with creative thinking and diligent application, and is not based on copying anyone else's ideas. I tried some things and failed. I did not give up, however, I just kept trying more new things. This is the typical road to success, whether you are making up a new jewelry design or a cake recipe or anything else worth doing."

Gypsy Stick Earrings

I love to ask other jewelry designers about exciting trends. Here's Sharilyn's take on the subject: "Exciting trends in wire jewelry: What I have observed from teaching at two bead shows this year is that wire in itself seems not nearly as popular as it once was. Perhaps I am dead-wrong about this; I hope so. What I have seen is lots of chainmaille, which is so boring, but I have not seen a lot of innovation in the area of wire jewelry in recent years. Everyone seems very interested in learning low-tech metalsmithing skills such as sawing out metal pieces and attaching them with wire links or wraps to make jewelry, or using resin with wire and pre-made bezel cups, or riveting, or capturing cabs in various ways, tube setting stones, enameling, dapping metal pieces, texturing sheet metal, soldering… these areas of interest are extremely popular right now, and the great thing is that you can learn all of these techniques through local colleges and parks & recreation departments in the larger towns and cities. So it's all out there and accessible to nearly everyone, which is terrific. But I love wire itself, and I continue to use it as an art material in pursuit of my own ideas."

Bead Connector

I asked what Sharilyn was working on in her private studio: "I have several ideas for new designs that I have not worked out yet, they are still percolating in my brain. I'm coming up with some interesting sketches, but I have found that sketching is quite different from making the object in wire, which is 3-dimensional. I'd like to do some riveting, but I don't want to do what has already been done before. I'm thinking of some new ways to rivet with wire, but don't ask to see anything just yet! I am also working with small pieces of sheet metal now but again, I want to do something entirely new and original. As soon as I see what others have done, my first thought is that I am "off the hook," I don't have to do that myself because it has already been done. My only interest in wire jewelry is in trying something new, trying to make something I've never seen before. This process takes much, much longer than simply copying another artist, which is a very sad trend I see in jewelry design in general. Everyone seems so focused on success, they don't want to even try making something out of their own heads; ask to see their sketchbooks of ideas, and they don't possess one! How sad."

Cage Bead Bracelet

"Art is all about expressing yourself, your own ideas, thoughts, dreams, whimsies. It's about making odd connections: for example, an Art Deco iron railing photographed in Prague can become the basis for a bracelet design that, in the end, bears no resemblance to the iron railing that sparked the idea. It becomes its own self, an original idea expressed through the medium of wire and other objects. This is so much more satisfying to the artist than sitting down and copying a jewelry design verbatim, then changing it a tiny bit and claiming it as a new design of your own. I have seen much too much of that. I know that I am swimming upstream here, but I have always regarded wire as an art material, no different from oil paint to the portrait artist, or stone to the sculptor. I don't approach jewelry as a craft but as an art form with infinite possibilities. I love the fact that when you first see wire, it does not suggest a work of art to you. It's just wire on a spool, an item with a utilitarian purpose no doubt, but not necessarily inspiring as a creative medium. Then you clean it with steel wool, cut off a piece, begin to bend it, add loops, coil finer gauge wire upon it, hammer it and spiral it, and before you know it you have a little work of art in your hands, molded and shaped by your own fingers and tools and ideas, something that is yours, something that no one can ever take away from you. That's what I love about wire."

I could just swim away with Sharilyn's designs! Lap stroke your way to the store and buy Wire Art Jewelry Workshop NOW!

The best is yet to bead!



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