5 Secrets for Creating Artistic Wire Jewelry from Susan Lenart Kazmer’s Wire Cages Video
Oh friends. I have been waiting for this day forever! Knowing that this video was coming has had me excited like a kid on Christmas Eve, for months and months. Finally, Susan Lenart Kazmer’s video workshop on making wire cages and other cage-like 3D forms for jewelry is available!
I’ve admired Susan’s cage designs and her big prong rings for years. Her work with wire looks so effortless and fluid, as if it was string that she tied into the designs she wanted and magically made it freeze in place–so I wasn’t surprised to learn that look was inspired by her studies of ancient textiles and how they are constructed (and that her secret is multiple annealing!).
Finding a jewelry designer whose work you adore is a beautiful thing, but when that same designer is willing to share and teach you how they made those designs? Sweet solder, that’s fabulous. I’ve learned so much from all of Susan’s videos, but this one is focused on the part of her work that I most admire, so I feel like I’m being let in on her secrets. Here are some of those “secret” tips that will help create artistic jewelry with SLK flair–and the utilitarian purposes behind them.
1. Flatten wire: I’ve long wondered what kind of wire Susan used in her wrapped, caged, and spiral creations–square? flat? I’d never seen anything like it on the market for sale. Now I know why! Even standard round wire stock can take on a unique, more handcrafted look when you hammer it flat. Any old hammer will do, but some will leave more marks on the wire than others. A plastic mallet will flatten it without damaging it; more texture and depth can be achieved with a steel hammer.
2. Flip bezels: Everyone who makes jewelry knows that bezels, while sometimes also serving as design elements, are basically support structures and frames for stones, artwork, and resin, but watching Susan create her wire cages helped me realize that bezels can be design elements on their own, as the bases or tops of wire cage designs.
3. Skip bezels: Susan shares in the video that her wirework grew when the price of silver went up so much. Understandably so–there can be quite a bit of expense hidden in a bezel back plate that will seldom be seen. I like Susan’s alternative of creating big prong wire frames or cages to act as bezels for found objects, stones, art, and more. For me, looking at metal for the utilitarian purpose of holding or encasing a found object rather than as a design helps me think differently and create more interesting designs. Think outside the box, inside the cage! (You know I had to go there.)
4. Ball wire ends: As much as I love the look of balled ends on wire, it took awhile for me to realize they really act as cold connections in some of Susan’s designs. They’re a prettier, more dimensional alternative to the rivets that I can never seem to get right! Ball ends create a “stop” on one side of punched metal pieces to create Susan’s cage styles. Flattened balled ends make a fun design element, too. And I have to admit, balling the ends of wire is still one of my favorite things to do in the studio! Crazy, I know, but I love it.
5. Anneal, anneal, anneal: Susan prefers working with the softest metal possible. That’s how she is able to achieve the fluid, interesting shapes in wire and metal that are her signature. Annealing wire (or metal) multiple times throughout the fabricating process will help it work with you instead of against you and take on the curvy, fluid, fiber-like appearance that it has in Susan’s work.
You won’t believe how much style and interest you can create in your jewelry simply using wire, ball-end wires, and cage designs. And this video workshop is FUN! Join in and order or instantly download your copy of Forge Wire Cages and Other 3D Forms for Jewelry Making: Capture Stone, Glass, and Found Objects. Wireworkers will love it, metalsmiths will love it, anyone interested in trying new techniques will love it!