Make Masterpieces from Mistakes

Karla Rosenbusch
is the managing editor
of Jewelry Making
and associate
editor of Lapidary 
Jewelry Artist.
My new aqua terra jasper and Canadian jade necklace. See if you can spot the mistakes.

I would love to tell you that all of my jewelry-making attempts work out. I would love to tell you that I never make mistakes. I would love to tell you all of that . . . but I can't. No, like every other jewelry maker, I mess up. The good news is that many of my mistakes have turned out to be some of my favorite jewelry creations. The "trick" is to take your mistakes and make works of art out of them!

Apparently, I Can't Count
I recently picked up some fabulous gemstone beads at Bead Fest Philadelphia and was so excited to get them home and play with them. Among the treasures I acquired were some lovely round aqua terra jasper beads and small Canadian jade beads.  Since the beads were so beautiful, I decided to combine them but keep it simple by stringing them with small silver spacer beads. It was just a basic stringing project–what could go wrong. Right? Well, not so fast.

For my jewelry projects, I very much love symmetry.  And for this necklace, I came up with a symmetrical pattern of spacer-jade-spacer-jasper-spacer. I was delighted with the elegant outcome, or so I thought. The first time I wore the necklace, I was absentmindedly running my hands along the beads when I realized that something didn't feel right.  In two places, I had neglected to string a jade bead, messing up my pattern. Ooops. However, the two places in which I had omitted the jade were exactly the same distance from the center of the necklace. When stringing the piece, I had worked out from the center and had simply miscounted my jade beads. Rather than taking the necklace apart and starting over, I've decided to tell people that I meant to do it. So don't tell anyone!

This wire-wrapped pendant is nothing like the design I originally intended–but it worked.

Knowing When to Stop
When I was first experimenting with wire wrapping, I decided to play around with wrapping a wonderful freeform amber cabochon that I had been holding onto for awhile. My original idea was to create an elaborate wire-wrapped pendant, perhaps fashioning a butterfly or a heart or something equally lovely around the cab. I had the image in my head, but as I worked with the wire, I was having a lot of trouble transferring that image to reality.

I was getting rather frustrated-and wasting a lot of wire. As I sat there, trying to figure out my next step, I kept playing with the wire. I thoughtlessly wrapped the wire around the amber, making sure to avoid my thumb which was holding the cab down. I looked down and started to laugh. I had created a very nice wire wrap with a rounded angle where my thumb had been. It wasn't at all what I started to make, but it worked! It's still one of my favorite pendants.

When You Don't Read the Instructions

My very failed chain maille experiment. This what happens when you don't follow the instrucions.
My successful chain maille bracelet.

I've picked up a very bad habit from my father. Dad didn't believe in reading instructions, feeling that he always "knew" what he was doing. And I often fall into the same trap. Not long ago, I saw a great chain maille (chain mail) project in Step By Step Wire Jewelry for a modified Byzantine chain. Even though I had never made such a complicated chain maille project before, I thought to myself, "Hey, I can do that!" Famous last words!

I had a gorgeous clasp with a Czech glass button set in a platinum bezel, and I thought that the chain project would be perfect for it. I had a lot of aluminum jump rings, and so I set to work. Well, first of all, the rings were the wrong size, they were different colors, and I didn't have enough. And I hadn't read the instructions very closely. So essentially, I made a mess. There was no way it would work and no way to salvage it. I was frustrated and disappointed.

But then, I got some divine inspiration. I was in church the next day, and during the sermon, I found my mind wandering. (Sorry, Pastor.) I came up with a rather simple ladder pattern that I could make which would definitely work for the clasp. I rushed home after church, disassembled my chain disaster, and created my own pattern. It was a success, and I've had plenty of compliments on it.

My chain maille experiment done "the right way" but too long.

And the original project? I still wanted to try it, so the next time I was in my favorite craft store, I picked up a lot of large 10mm aluminum craft wire jump rings. They weren't what the project writer recommended, but they helped me see the pattern more easily. And I got it! In fact I was so proud of myself, that I actually made another mistake! The final bracelet is at least two links too long. But at least the pattern is correct!

Do It the Right Way
Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes you get lucky like I did. But if you want to learn new techniques, my best advice is to take a class, read a magazine or a book, and learn from the experts. The Interweave Store has some fantastic downloadable videos that will get you started. One of the best of these videos is Tornado Beads. Lisa Niven Kelly will teach you how to create your own sculptural wirework beads with easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions. That's the right way to take on a new project!

And be sure to post both your mistakes and your masterpieces in the Members Gallery on Jewelry Making Daily. We love to see what you've created-either accidently or on purpose!

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