New Techniques for a New Year: What Jewelry-Making Skills Will You Learn?

When it comes to metalsmithing and jewelry making, there’s almost no end to the techniques you can learn and develop. That is probably why we love it so much. Like all good beginnings, the new year is full of exciting potential. An untouched landscape awaits, a pristine layer of freshly fallen snow. Take a moment to revel in the possibilities – then dive right in and make your mark with footprints and snow angels.

No doubt you have all kinds of dreams you hope to accomplish in 2019. The Interweave Jewelry staff is here to chime in, too. I suspect all of our wish lists will grow longer after sharing what we hope to learn with each other!

Enter the World of Metal Clay

When I first learned of metal clay, I knew this was a medium I would have to try. I love clay of all kinds – from polymer to potter’s – and the idea that I could sculpt with clay and end up with fine silver was intriguing.

In Jackie’s advanced metal clay jewelry making workshops, you’ll see how versatile this medium can be.

In Jackie’s advanced metal clay workshops, you’ll see how versatile this medium can be.

One of the first artists I had a chance to work with at Interweave was Jackie Truty, a metal clay expert. Imagine my luck! While working with Jackie to prepare her four online workshops, she walked me through all the amazing things that can be done with Art Clay Silver, from quilling and enameling to ring-making and even mokumé gané. I was fascinated.

Darlene’s online workshops cover PMC jewelry making basics and several techniques for making torch-fired earrings.

Darlene’s online workshops cover PMC basics and several techniques for making torch-fired earrings.

To make sure I really understood this medium, I went back and watched all of Darlene Armstrong’s workshops on Precious Metal Clay. In her beginner-friendly courses, she covers every step thoroughly, from how to keep clay from drying out to how to recycle the leftover scraps–and of course, how to torch fire metal clay. From there, she covers finishing techniques, like polishing and patinating.

Darlene covers safety tips for firing metal clay in this helpful video:

Darlene covers safety tips for firing metal clay in this helpful video.

Metal clay has been on my mind for months; I even purchased a tiny amount of Art Clay Silver already, plus a torch that I have been bonding with over crème brûlée. I’ve decided 2019 is the year I’ll experiment with metal clay for myself!

— Tamara Kula
Producer, Bead & Jewelry Group

See It a New Way

I’m always amazed at those “how obvious” moments. You know, when someone shows you something that’s been right there all along but you never noticed. It takes a special kind of mindset to spot those things. Some people are just born with that drive to defy expectations and push boundaries, and some of us need to push ourselves to get there. So my suggestion for a new technique for the new year is to push yourself to find alternative approaches.

Travis Ogden teaches Intro to the Flex Shaft in one video and wax carving in Flex Shaft Essentials.

Travis Ogden teaches Intro to the Flex Shaft in one video and wax carving in Flex Shaft Essentials.

Start with the mighty flex-shaft (affiliate link), as a goldsmith once described it to me. A power boost to all kinds of operations, this tool is intended to be used in diverse ways. That’s why there are so many accessories for it. Learn to work with greater speed, ease, and precision using the flex shaft for grinding, sanding, finishing, and polishing metal, stone, wax, and more.

The unconventional Andy Cooperman demonstrates many unintended ways to use the flex shaft for jewelry making in Master the Flex Shaft.

The unconventional Andy Cooperman demonstrates many unintended ways to use the flex shaft for jewelry making in Master the Jewelry Flex Shaft.

But not all accessories have to be put to their original or intended use. So next, learn unconventional ways to use that mighty tool from unconventional Andy Cooperman, who asks not “What more can it do?” but “What can’t it do?” Keep running with that thought, and in addition to learning to exploit the full power of the flex shaft, discover your own “how obvious” moments, too.

— Merle White
Editor in Chief, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Step Up Your Wire Weaving

Fine wire weaving with Sarah Thompson

Fine wire weaving with Sarah Thompson

When I met Sarah Thompson during Bead Fest Tacoma, she was working on her next book (now available): Woven in Wire: Dimensional Wire Weaving in Fine Art. A fan of her first book, Fine Art Wire Weaving: Weaving Techniques for Stunning Jewelry Designs, I had to know how the second book on wire weaving would be different. Her reply was succinct. “It takes all you learned in my first book and builds upon it for more complex designs.” More complex? Wow! I’m in, but gosh, now that I’m ready to dive in, I need to practice! So for me, it’s back to the first book in the new year for some fine wire weaving–then on to more complex designs. Won’t you join me?

Close up of design from Fine Art Wire Weaving, by Sarah Thompson.

Close up of design from Fine Art Wire Weaving, by Sarah Thompson.

For more on Sarah and her creative path, read: Jewelry, Wire Weaving, and Family.

— Tammy Honaman
Group Editorial Director, Bead & Jewelry

Bring on the Sparkles with Faceted Stone Setting

I have good news and bad news. Bad news: almost all of my jewelry studio has been boxed up for a few years. Yes, years!! But the good news is, that’s about to change in the next few weeks, so watch out! I’m bursting with ideas and jewelry making want-to. In addition to the techniques and materials I love—metal clay, enameling, keum boo—I really want to dig deep with stone setting this year.

gemstones

Gemstones.  J-Palys; Getty Images.

Bezel making for cabochons and found objects (another fave) is comfortable for me now, but faceted stones? Not so much. Prongs? Scary! And frustrating, because I have an extensive faceted gemstone hoard, er, collection that I want to use in jewelry. Using gemstones in jewelry is a rewarding way to add color and value to metal jewelry. It’s also an essential skill for an accomplished metalsmith to have. If anyone is in a fortunate position to learn, I am, with the expert resources I have access to here. More good news: you’re in that same fortunate position! You can join me in learning to set faceted stones in the new year.

prong setting gemstones in earrings by Sam Patania, from Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine Jan/Feb 2018

Sam Patania’s easy prong setting technique

Speaking of experts, I’m relying on Ann Cahoon’s gemstone setting videos, Introduction to Gemstone Setting: Prong, Flush, and Bezel Setting and How to Set Fancy-Shaped Faceted Stones to help me master this technique. Ann’s quiet, masterful videos hold the perfect building blocks to get me on the path to making gemstone jewelry in the new year! Watch for blogs about my progress and great tips I learn along the way!

— Tammy Jones
Web Producer and Social Media Manager, Interweave Jewelry

No matter what you have your heart set on for the coming year, we hope you venture out into new territory to master something exciting!


Equip yourself to succeed in learning new jewelry techniques at Interweave.com!