Simply Charming

A part of my job that I really love is that I get to be creative almost every day. I am lucky enough to work with people who know the value of getting your hands dirty every now and then, and we all dedicate ourselves to making time to share our hobbies with each other. This week, fellow Jewelry Stringing editor Debbie Blair (who you might recognize from her recent blog post) and I led a charm bracelet workshop for some of our coworkers who were relatively new to jewelry making.

We knew that we would have participants with varying levels of experience with jewelry making techniques, so we designed a bracelet that we hoped novices and pros would both enjoy making and wearing.

In the end, we settled on:

– a variety of antiqued, silver-plated heart charms (with Valentine's Day right around the corner, we guessed that heart charms would be a real crowd pleaser),

– silver-finished steel chain (we selected unsoldered chain so it would be easy for everyone to customize the length of their bracelet by adding or removing links, and we chose steel so that the bracelets would still be sturdy enough to withstand wear and tear),

– and a silver-plated hook-and-eye clasp.

We liked the idea of making a charm bracelet for a number of reasons: all of the materials that you need to make one are fairly inexpensive; charm bracelets made with all silver components look great, so we didn't have to worry about choosing a color palette that would suit everyone; those who wanted to add a splash of color to their bracelets could easily weave a ribbon through their chain (for tips on how to embellish chain, see the Technique Focus in the Winter 2011 issue of Jewelry Stringing); even though we all created the same design, anyone who wanted to add a personal touch could replace one of their silver hearts a sentimental charm or token (a few of our participants added cute little angel charms to their bracelets).

The design ended up being very simple – there is really only one technique that you need to put it together – but it served as a good reminder that a piece of jewelry doesn't need to be complicated in order to be a success.

Aside from being a perfectly charming afternoon (horrible pun entirely intended…unfortunately), I found that our workshop was very illuminating from a personal standpoint. For the first time in years, I had to revisit the basics of jewelry making in order to coach our participants through tasks that I do without even thinking about them, like opening and closing a jump ring, and holding pliers properly. It's been a long time since I learned these techniques myself, and teaching others how to do them really gave me perspective on how far I have come since then.

I was also surprised how much I was able to learn from our students. So many of them had their own approaches to constructing these bracelets that were different than the techniques I usually use. Some decided to count out all of their jump rings and open each one before they assembled their bracelet. Others left their bracelets flat on their work surface while they attached the charms to make sure that the chain wasn't getting twisted. As nice as it was to see that I have learned a lot since I started making jewelry, I also like the idea that there is still room to improve.

Overall, I think everyone involved, including Debbie and me, had fun. The workshop was easy to organize, a great way to meet some of our fellow employees that we don't get to interact with very often, and a perfect way to share our craft with other people.

Any project suggestions for our next workshop?

Until next time,


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