Torch Fired Metal Clay with Metalsmith and Jewelry Designer Darlene Armstrong

Darlene Armstrong teaches you how to make jewelry, including these earrings which include torch fired metal clay components.

I first met Darlene Armstrong at the Tucson “gem” (and bead, mineral, fossil, jewelry, etc.) shows years ago. We’d been e-mailing about some projects for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Then, as the calendar rolled around toward year’s end, we did the usual “Are you going to Tucson? Let’s meet” bit. She was, I was, and we did. It was a blast!

She’s funny, curious, creative, and very friendly. Recently, I asked Darlene to tell Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist readers about herself, and decided to share some of her answers so you can also e-meet this talented metalsmith, jeweler, and instructor.


“I am a life-long learner,” Darlene started out.

Perfect! I think it’s great that someone who teaches thinks first about what else she can learn, don’t you?

Metalsmith and Jewelry Designer Darlene Armstrong Loves to Learn and Share What She Knows

Darlene’s The Blue Challenge: cuff, sterling silver, blue mabe pearls, cubic zirconia, 4″ wide. Made during a wire cuff class she was teaching, and shown at the Denver Art Museum’s Cartier Exhibit in 2015. It took over 40 hours to complete with about 100 solder joins.

Anyway, here’s her story. “I am a life-long learner. Each year I take 1-2 Masters Classes at my jewelry school, The Denver School of Metal Arts in Denver, Colorado. Even though I’d never been exposed to jewelry making, I knew when I was five that I wanted to make silver jewelry. Happily, I have been metalsmithing for almost 30 years now and enjoy making diverse styles of jewelry.  It is such a joy to create mini works of art to be used as adornment.


“The best place in the world to me is sitting at my bench making jewelry or teaching others. I find inspiration in almost everything: the work of other metalsmiths and lapidaries (and especially those who are both!), but any kind of art, too. Still, I find most of my inspiration comes while I am working, making jewelry or teaching jewelry making to others.

“I have a lot of ideas for jewelry designs and jewelry classes to teach and I spend a lot of my time developing them. I have written articles for Lapidary Journal in the past, and quite recently I did a four-workshop series of Precious Metal Clay Earrings.  Currently, I am videotaping workshops for my schools’ online campus. As you might imagine, I’m always busy!  To me, being creative is not a job but a calling.


“I’m probably best known for being a teacher of jewelry making, which I have been doing for 20 years. I enjoy learning new techniques. I believe that learning new ways to build jewelry is of the utmost importance for being über creative.  We can only create within the bounds of our technical abilities. More techniques = more ways to create something brand new. That is what I am continually pursuing and teaching my students: how to get to the fresh and new.

“In my own work, I do traditional metalsmithing, enameling, dichroic glass, and precious metal clay. I also learned to cut stones so I wouldn’t necessarily be limited in design by the stones I could purchase. I took casting at Front Range Community College. I have studied cuttlebone casting, bimetal etching, keum-boo, metal weaving, glass casting, and chasing and repoussé.

What’s Next?

“At the moment I’m experimenting with enameling techniques — but then, I’m typically experimenting with something because I want to discover how to get an idea out of my head and into our world. That’s the most fun to me: finding out what will happen ‘if,’ and figuring out the best way to build a piece that doesn’t exist yet.

Metalsmith and Jewelry Designer Darlene Armstrong Loves to Learn and Share What She Knows

Before soldering all those joins in her Blue Challenge cuff, Darlene had to figure out how not to melt any of the ones she’d already made. With about 100 joins altogether, that took some figuring out!

“Most of what I find out is through trial and error, making adjustments and trying again. I have had more failures than most people could imagine, except other artists who have been working at their craft for decades! It’s a crucial part of the creative process: having something come out less than what was intended is how we learn.”

Reach High – But Have Fun, Too

Metalsmith and Jewelry Designer Darlene Armstrong Loves to Learn and Share What She Knows

Although as a newbie to jewelry, she started out making a piece way over the head of a beginner, Darlene learned from that experience. When she teaches, she starts with something that beginners can complete successfully. She also wants them to have fun creating and finish up with something beautiful, such as this pair of dangling earrings set with amethysts — beautiful!

“The first metal piece I made was an overlay bolo. I even used the design as the logo for my jewelry business when I first started out.  Unfortunately, it was a very advanced project for an abject beginner. I wish the instructor had put me off of it. I was struggling so much that I did not touch my saw frame for over a year afterwards! And that wasn’t the only jewelry course that left me unsatisfied as a newcomer.

“That unfortunate experience really informs my approach to teaching now. No one has to learn jewelry making, and I believe that jewelry-making students challenge themselves plenty.  What they need from an instructor is encouragement and pragmatic instruction that gets you from A to Z in the most efficient manner, and with the least amount of physical effort. I respect the time and money my students invest in learning metalsmithing skills. I make it my job to provide them with what they need to be successful and to have fun!”

Teaching New Online Metal Clay Courses

Metalsmith and Jewelry Designer Darlene Armstrong Loves to Learn and Share What She Knows

You can learn to make these metal clay earrings with Darlene by using molds.

“Recently, I spent four days filming for four precious metal clay online courses for Interweave. This was an exciting way for me to expand my relationship with Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. It was just amazing. The most difficult part was trying to do a lot of smiling and be more animated while on camera. Luckily I’m not self conscious! The most enjoyable part was meeting the video crew and the other behind- the-scenes people who made it all possible. There was a lot to do, and everyone was wonderful!”

You Can Take Her Class Now

Darlene will also appear as the Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Doer for our Doer’s Profile in the July issue — but you can e-meet her right now in her first, brand-new, multimedia e-course that’s just been released: Getting Started Precious Metal Clay Series: Torch Firing PMC Introduction Course with Darlene Armstrong, designed to give you all you need to get from A to Z, navigate the route with ease — and have fun doing it!

— Merle White

For additional information on Darlene and her other metal clay courses, check out these other posts:
Top 5 Metal Clay Tips from Darlene Armstrong
Metal Clay with Darlene Armstrong: Creative Inspiration, Where are you Hiding?
Torch Firing Metal Clay: Overcome the Fear of the Flame with Darlene Armstrong

Be inspired! Jump into Darlene’s courses today.


One Comment

  1. Terri F at 10:12 am December 6, 2017

    We absolutely need a tutorial or LJJA article on that pearl bracelet.

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