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 wire jewelry. It’s especially useful in capturing the feeling of hundreds of antique ironwork fences and gates I’ve photographed through the years. I always assumed it would be difficult to make them in wire, until now!
Jodi Bombardier’s book Artisan Filigree shows the best of what wire jewelry making can be in more than 20 delicate and pretty projects. Jodi breaks down each design into smaller components that you learn separately and later combine into wire jewelry. Plus, there’s no soldering involved–the wire sections are connected with finer-gauge wire wraps.
Here are six wire jewelry tips (for 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. Tapered jaws cause the wire to tilt, but it can be straightened.”
2. Aligning Wire Shapes: “Square wire, rather than round wire, is my first choice for the projects in this book. When you coil square wire, 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.”
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.”
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. 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 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 that makes this book a complete wire jewelry-making resource for beginners. But, with projects that are involved and enticing, it’s also great for accomplished jewelry makers. I fall somewhere in between, but I’ve never tried filigree, so I’m excited to attempt this pretty technique.
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 wirework, this book, or or the Wire Lover’s Collection? 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!
Online Editor, Interweave Jewelry
Social Media Manager, Interweave Bead & Jewelry
Updated January 15, 2018.