Artisan Filigree: 6 Tips for Transforming Wire into Pretty Wire Jewelry Art

Squiggles and spirals, hearts and scrolls, flourishes and loops! I’ve always loved the look of filigree, especially for capturing the feeling of all the hundreds of antique ironwork fences and gates I’ve photographed through the years, but I always assumed it would be difficult to do. Jodi Bombardier’s book Artisan Filigree shows the best of what wire can be in more than 20 delicate and pretty projects. She breaks down each piece in to smaller components (which you learn to make individually and then combine into projects), and there’s no soldering involved–the wire sections are connected with finer-gauge wire wraps.

wire jewelry filigree pendant by Jodi Bombardier

Here are 6 new-to-me jewelry-making tips (for wire, filigree, or any wirework projects) I’ve excerpted from Jodi in Artisan Filigree.

1. Matching Pliers to Wire: “When making loops in square wire, it’s best to use bail-making pliers, because the wires won’t ’tilt’ on the straight jaws. If you don’t have bail-making pliers, you can use round-nose pliers. The tapered jaws will cause the wire to tilt, but it can be straightened.”

wire jewelry filigree bracelet by Jodi Bombardier

2. Aligning Wire Shapes: “Square wire, rather than round wire, is my first choice for the projects in this book. When square wire is coiled together, the wire shapes sit neatly next to each other. With round wire, one wire can ride up onto the second wire to which it’s being coiled.”

3. Take Meticulous Notes: “I do this for everything I make, so that if I want to remake a piece, I don’t have to rethink the project. In my notes, I include wire gauge, size of loops, length of wire–anything that pertains to the piece I’m constructing.” 

wire jewelry filigree earrings by Jodi Bombardier

4. Sketch on Graph Paper: “I use gridded composition paper, or graph paper, with 1/4″ squares (4 squares = 1″) to sketch projects to scale and to check that wire components are straight when necessary.”

wire jewelry cross pendant by Jodi Bombardier

5. Roll Pliers Away from You: “I learned wire wrapping from Mark Lareau’s book All Wired Up (Interweave, 2000). Lareau instructs the reader to roll or bend the pliers away from the body, and this is what I’ve always done. There are exceptions to this rule, but it’s important to develop a consistent construction style and use the exceptions only when necessary.”

6. Let the Tools Do the Work: “I often see students pulling the wire around the tool rather than rolling or bending the tool against the wire. Pulling the wire around the tool allows too much flexibility in the wire, creating inconsistency in the results. If you can’t roll or bend your tool, or if the step you are trying to achieve requires pushing–not pulling–the wire around a tool, it’s best to start pushing at the point where the wire touches the tool and work your way around the tool.”

Now I’m ready to start practicing and making the jewelry art projects in Jodi’s book. She named each project after a friend or family member and shared a little background about why–I love that! Plus Artisan Filigree includes a thorough introduction to wire characteristics, tools, and techniques, including extensive coiling and filigree-related technique tutorials, all of which make this book a complete wire jewelry-making resource for beginners with projects that are involved and enticing enough for even accomplished jewelry makers. I fall somewhere in between but I’ve never tried filigree, so I’m excited to attempt this pretty technique.

wire jewelry bracelet by Jodi Bombardier

I’m looking forward to giving these beautiful projects a go. I think I’m going to try them with fine silver wire and try to fuse the connections together instead of wire wrapping . . . we’ll see how that goes! I’d love for you to learn along with me by ordering Artisan Filigree. It’s also available as an eBook, so you can learn to make the most of wire’s special qualities in your handmade jewelry without waiting another minute. And if you’re in the mood for a super value, check out our Wire Lover’s Collection–it includes this beautiful book along with an eBook of 10 wire jewelry-making projects, a collection of colorful ParaWire (5 spools!), two pairs of Xuron pliers, and a Conetastic tool and mandrel set to help you create wire jewelry shapes easily–all at a very special price!

Have any questions or comments about this book or information? Drop me a note in the comments below!

Bonus: The photographs of the finished wire filigree jewelry in Jodi’s book are beautiful, as you can see here–each one on the simple prop of a loose bundle of velvet ribbon. For those of you searching for your own special art jewelry photo backgrounds, take note–and kudos to photographer Joe Coca for the beautiful shots!

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