A New Approach to Wire Jewelry Making: Wire Weaving with Mary Hettmansperger

Every time we release a new video, I get excited about being able to have a one-on-one jewelry-making lesson with an expert jewelry instructor. Whether it’s soldering, hammering and texturing, etching, electroforming, or wirework, each one is just as fun and informative as the last. Weaving Wire Jewelry with Mary Hettmansperger is no exception. I loved Mary’s video so much, I took a two-day Bead Fest master class with her on these same techniques. It was fantastically fun and informative–and you can get the next best thing in this video.

Simply put, Mary incorporates weaving and basketry techniques into wire jewelry making to add depth and texture in the wire designs. The result is artisan-quality jewelry that looks like it was more difficult and took more time to create than it actually did–and who doesn’t love that? An added bonus is that the weaving techniques eliminate much or all of the need for soldering, because you use cold connection techniques, such as folding, riveting, and tying/stitching, to fabricate and assemble the metal and wire jewelry.

Mary’s step-by-step wirework tutorials focus on four wire techniques and then build on those techniques to create variations, which you can play around with and use to create your own unique handmade jewelry. The four wire and weaving jewelry techniques she covers are:

1. Looping: Mary loops wire to create a cage-like wire net that you can build around a cabochon, rock, stone slice, etc. Once mastered, you can also use this knotless netting technique to encase a pottery shard, piece of sea glass, a coin, a polymer clay creation, or just about anything else you want to use as a pendant or other jewelry. The looped wire cage is found-object friendly and can be made large or small to suit your needs. Mary even shares how to use this looping technique with a drilled object.

2. Weaving copper foil: As a metalworker at heart, I think this is my favorite technique in Mary’s DVD. Remember weaving strips of paper into a new masterpiece of paper in elementary school art classes? Mary uses the same children’s art technique with grown-up materials–thin untreated copper foil and decorative papers–to create artistic metal jewelry that’s definitely not child’s play. Later, she sandwiches those woven pieces between metal frames and adds additional wirework to create stunning pendants.

This is a great mixed-media technique for a paper fanatic like me, but I also love the opportunity for mixing all kinds of metals here, textured and not textured perhaps, as well as creating unique effects by mixing metal foils with and without patina. The simple addition of patinas, textures, and metal treatments in this way can be the little extra something that elevates your jewelry to handmade art jewelry status. Mary also shares a unique new-to-me method of altering and decorating the copper foil by painting designs on it using gel flux and then holding the foil in a torch flame for a few seconds.

3. Twining: A popular basketry technique, twining combines wire “weavers” and “spokes” into elongated cages that naturally resemble baskets or seed pods. Watching Mary demonstrate twining, you learn the different affects you can achieve by using one vs more than one color of wire and by using even vs odd numbers of spokes (such as spiraling colors or checkerboards), as well as how to add in different wires during the twining process. The process is simple but the results are stunning.

Did you know that copper wire ends will ball up in a torch flame like fine silver wire will? For some reason it never occurred to me, but it does! Mary balls the ends of the copper wires that she uses for spokes.

4. Weaving wire: Mary’s woven wire looks similar to the looped netting (though tighter and more compact, sort of like chain mesh) but utilizes weavers and spokes like twining does.

It’s a simple over/under weaving technique that creates special detail and texture in your metal jewelry and, when combined with paddled wire spokes and set peeking through a patinated copper window pendant, results in gallery-quality handcrafted metal jewelry.

Hot tip, literally: Air cooling copper wire after torching before you quench it creates black balls, but quickly and immediately quenching a hot balled end in water makes it red.

In addition to Mary’s unique wire weaving techniques, throughout the process of creating her sample projects, you’ll also learn to:

  • hammer and texture metal
  • flute metal edges with bent-nose pliers
  • combine multiple metal pieces with cold connections and make your own rivets from wire
  • shape and fabricate metal into domed and circle shapes using disc cutters, scissors, dapping blocks and more
  • make balled and paddled wire ends
  • create patinas and colorful effects on metal
  • create unique handcrafted wire wrapped and rolled metal bails for your woven wire pendants
  • incorporate paper, seed beads, stones, and found objects in your wire-woven jewelry
  • create blues, purples, reds, greens, and black on copper using flame painting, liver of sulfur, or gel flux

I can’t imagine a jewelry maker of any level, beginner to advanced, who wouldn’t enjoy learning Mary’s wire-weaving techniques. The added beauty of this tutorial DVD is that the jewelry-making techniques are simple enough for the newest jewelry maker, but the results are artistic and original enough to make any experienced artisan jeweler proud. Download Weaving Wire Jewelry with Mary Hettmansperger now!

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