Metalsmithing Buddy System: Join Lexi and Challenge Yourself with Richard Sweetman’s Box Clasp Tutorial

Remember the buddy system in elementary school? Our confidence increased and our fears were calmed by having a buddy to learn or venture out with, someone who was in the same situation as us. Even now, I love learning and collaborating with a friend and sharing our skills.

I was so fortunate to learn metalsmithing and soldering from Lexi Erickson. Her expertise was apparent, and sitting in her unbelievably well-appointed metalsmithing studio, I remember thinking that there must not be anything she couldn’t make. So imagine my surprise to learn that there was (until recently) a metalsmithing task she didn’t know how to do! I really like the idea of learning along with her, the same way she learned, kind of like the childhood buddy system. You can be our buddy, too; read on for her story and get ready to challenge yourself!

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Metalsmithing Buddies and Making a Box Clasp with Richard Sweetman

By Lexi Erickson

I have found it interesting that for the past 10 years, the length of time I’ve been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine, I have been sent questions from all over the world, regarding techniques, stones, tools and anything else to do with jewelry. One reader said I was her “go-to girl” for all the information on our favorite art form. But for almost 20 years, my “go-to guy” has been college teacher (including one of my teachers), tool inventor, artist, furniture maker, welder, and my good friend, Richard Sweetman.

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I remember his no-nonsense, though sometimes funny, answers to some of the questions I’ve had over the years. I was very lucky to have this man of knowledge as a part of my life, and he has helped me in so many ways. So I am extremely happy to have his newest video, Metalsmith Essentials: Make a Box Clasp, because after all these years, I still didn’t know how to make a box clasp.

How did I ever live without this information, I wonder? As Richard says, “Take your metalsmithing to the next level.” Yep. That’s just what I am gonna do.

What I love most about Richard’s video is that after years of teaching (he has been teaching this technique for so long, and in so many classes), the words just roll off his tongue. He shares all the materials and tools needed, so you can be prepared and have everything ready from start to finish. Unlike my organization when I’m starting to work alone in my studio . . . I’m usually wandering around the room looking for that elusive pair of pliers or tweezers . . . so that was the first thing I learned. Oh, yes, I tell my students to do it–it’s just that I don’t follow my own directions! (Imagine that!)

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The organization in the video, the examples he shows, and the actual demonstrations are easy to follow. He talks about design and how to vary the design, what to do and how to avoid the mistakes of what not to do. Somehow, I always learn the “what not to do” somewhere along the way, after the dreaded disaster of it not working! Oh? That’s the way you do it, too? Then I am in good company. But Richard’s way makes so much more sense.

He shows techniques and explains why techniques work the way they do. Students remember things much better if they understand why the technique works, instead of just being told to do something that particular way. He explains such things as why he uses the metals he uses in the clasp construction, and why exact measuring is important, and why he likes white paste flux. All of this information is something that, while not being exclusive to making a box clasp, is something that is applicable to any metalsmithing project, and something every metalsmithing student needs to know. That’s why he is such a fabulous teacher and taught me so much.

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One thing that Richard and I have both discussed is that though we both have Master’s degrees or MFAs in metalsmithing, and we both learned so much more AFTER we left college than we did in our metalsmithing classes. How true that is. Every time I visit Richard’s studio, I learn something new. He is so open and giving with his information–and that readily comes across in this video. So even if you feel your technical or designing skills are not ready to tackle the often intimidating box clasp, you will have a totally different feeling after watching Richard.

At Interweave, we are very lucky to have some great teachers, and I count my blessings that Richard has been a part of my metalsmithing education . If you are not lucky enough to live only five miles from him, then the next best thing is his metalsmithing video, Metalsmith Essentials: Make a Box Clasp. It’s like having him in your own private studio. Good luck and I hope you enjoy your new adventures in metalsmithing. I’ll be hoping to see many new clasps on your pendants! –Lexi

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We always say that your jewelry designs deserve handmade findings, so that your projects will be totally handmade. But in addition to being handmade, the style and complexity of the clasp needs to match the complexity of your chain, bracelet, or necklace/pendant. Sometimes a simple S-hook is just the thing–but sometimes, it isn’t. Add box clasps to your clasps and findings repertoire, for those more advanced metalsmithing projects when a manufactured clasp or simple S-hook just won’t do! Learn like Lexi did, from her buddy Richard Sweetman’s newest video, Metalsmith Essentials: Make a Box Clasp.

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