Making Metal Jewelry IS Fun: Mixing Favorite Techniques and Supplies with Jen Cushman
After years–wow, it’s actually decades now–of working in the crafts/maker industry, I’ve picked up so many favorite techniques, materials, and genres along the way. So my happiest projects to work on are usually ones that combine two or more favorites. Paper ephemera with metal? Gem beads in fiber art? Found objects with resin or fine art supplies like paint and gold foil? The more the merrier! I enjoy all of that when crafting or making metal jewelry.
ABOVE: Fork Bracelet by Jen Cushman, from Making Metal Jewelry.
The Path to Making Metal Jewelry
So it’s no surprise that Jen Cushman’s book, Making Metal Jewelry, is a favorite as well. As a longtime mixed media artist who later learned metal jewelry making, Jen had a similar path to her anything-goes style as I have had. We’re both hooked on balled wire ends, even, which Jen says was a turning point when she first made one.
While taking a class with her future business partner Susan Lenart Kazmer, “there was also something magical that happened. Students were lined up with fistfuls of wire in hand, patiently waiting their turns at the torches to draw a bead on the ends of their wire. The moment I dipped into that blue flame and watched the wire ball up and roll in on itself, was, literally, the minute my creative life changed. I felt like a bolt of lightning hit me between the eyes and all I wanted was to learn more.”
Same, same, Jen Cushman! Me too. I sometimes joke that I wish I could get a job making balls on the ends of wire all day. It’s very Zen.
After Jen was hooked, she wanted more. She searched for a great beginner metalsmithing book, but “all I found were books overly detailed for my beginning needs.” So she signed up for a metal jewelry-making class.
The Struggle is Real
“On my first day of class, I was instructed to make a bezel-set ring. I struggled with the jeweler’s saw, snapping one thin blade after another. I was so frustrated during my third class that I must have let out a long, loud sigh, and my professor inquired as to what was wrong. At my wit’s end, I said, ‘This just isn’t any fun.’ He looked me squarely in the eye and dryly replied, ‘Making jewelry is not fun.’ I was stunned into silence,” Jen writes in the intro to Making Metal Jewelry. “I packed my tools and left my college class that day wondering if I should give up and return to my first love of mixed media. . . . Sheer tenacity kept me from quitting, and I finished up the semester.
“With these experiences, I bet you’re wondering why I would ever wish to write a book on making metal jewelry. The reason is simple: Manipulating metal stirs my soul with a sense of wonder and awe. Shaping, forming, annealing, forging, and folding a solid piece of metal is not only fun, it’s downright thrilling!
“I have one simple goal for this book: I want metalworking to bring you the same joy that it brings me. I’m not a master metalsmith or studio jeweler by any means. While I have definitely learned the ‘right way,’ meaning the safe way, to do certain techniques—such as working with fire or using chemicals, and I will keep safety in mind—this book is written for other creative people, like myself, who want to explore metal’s potential and do so in their own way.”
Making Metal Jewelry YOUR Way
You get me, Jen Cushman. Who could know more about how making metal jewelry can be fun than someone who went through that? Making metal jewelry is too fun, Mr. Jewelry Professor Man, and the satisfying mixed-media metal jewelry projects in this book prove it.
Manipulating metal stirs my soul with a sense of wonder and awe.
For treasure-hunting artists like I am and I know Jen is, too, it’s rewarding to not only find and collect vintage treasures but to also someday find just the right way to fit them into a project. And that’s what her book is all about, to me. Sure, the artist in me (and you?) hoards antique buttons, metal tidbits, paper ephemera, and little whatevers. Then the metalsmith in me finds ways to set them in bezels, wrap them in wire, or coat them in resin and cold-connect them into jewelry. And trust me, it is so very fun.
Making Metal Jewelry the Fun Way
Learn to have fun making metal jewelry with Jen’s beautiful book. It combines the best of both worlds for mixed-media enthusiasts and metalsmiths, resulting in one-of-a-kind jewelry designs. The combinations seem even more unique than usual thanks to the smattering of found treasures scattered throughout.
Mr. Jewelry Professor Man would be pleased to know that you’ll also learn things like soldering, etching, fold forming, making findings, texturing and forming metal, cold connections, and more in Making Metal Jewelry. But Jen’s way, you’ll have fun doing it!
(All photos from Making Metal Jewelry; designs by Jen Cushman.)
Have fun making metal jewelry with with Jen and others!