The Wonders of Wire Embroidery: An Interview with Melanie Schow

Iris, Melanie Schow, May 2007.

I interviewed wire artist Melanie Schow earlier this summer, after I read about her work with wire sculpture. Melanie understands how even the simplest classes can be life changing. She recalls, "In 1995, I treated a friend to a wire class at the local bead store. She finished the class and went home. I went back for another class and another."

Here is an excerpt from our interview:

Michelle: I noticed in your bio that you’ve been teaching wire classes since 1999. What kinds of problems do new students have with wire? Are there any tips or advice that you have for someone who is just beginning wirework?

Melanie Schow: I think the most common "problems" I see are more about philosophy than technique. As adults, we are used to being competent and I find it is hard for adults to allow themselves to be beginners. I combat this in class by giving my new students copper wire to practice with and showing them where the one dollar strands of beads are. I encourage students to keep their early work so they have a reference to see how far they have come.

The other "problem" I see is students who say "I am a perfectionist" and question very minor issues in their work. What I tell those students is, "jewelry is worn at a social distance". When you work on wire you are looking at it very closely; when you wear it, people are looking at the big picture: the design, color, and flow, and not scrutinizing minute details. I encourage students to be patient with themselves and assure them that when they have been practicing the techniques for ten years it will look like mine. 

One thing that is common in beginning wire workers is how tightly they hold the tools and the wire. It takes time to develop a feel, but most wirework can be done without using a death grip. I also encourage students to sit up straight, shoulders relaxed, forearms on the table. I also advise them to work sitting in a good chair with good light and to stretch their hands, shoulders, neck and anything else that feels tight about every half hour. If you love wirework, then buy the best tools you can afford. The quality of your tools makes a big difference.

Coiled in Color Close-up

Download the entire interview and learn more about working with wire and Melanie Schow's "wire embroidery" technique. More of Melanie's work is available on her website:


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Michelle Mach is the editor of Beading Daily. She is working on her version of the Faerie Queen Cuff (a new netted bracelet project that will be free on Beading Daily soon)!

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