Planning for a Sequel: New Metalwork Essentials from Helen Driggs

Helen Driggs is senior editor of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

The most important thing I learned in art school had nothing to do with talent. It was that planning well—but being creative and adaptable if the plan changes—is the key to success. That lesson has played out for me in an amazing way.

You see, somehow, in the span of a year I have experienced an unexpected, radical personality transplant. I've gone from being serious, somewhat aloof and reserved to becoming a "DVD personality"—and the only reason I was able to accomplish that was because I had a solid plan to rely on.

One thing I'll say about my job, it is imperative that you are comfortable with moving out of your comfort zone. After the success of my first DVD, Metalwork Essentials: Basic Fabrication, my bosses came right back after me to shoot another one. That DVD, Metalwork Essentials: Riveting and Cold Connections, is set to hit the Interweave store on April 15. It wrapped late January, right before I headed out for the Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows.


OK. I'll admit it. Sometimes I am only pretending to be listening in meetings … here is my original sketch for a pair of earrings (on my legal pad!)


The next logical step was to document my design plan. Here, you see the order I'll follow as I fabricate the earrings.

As I fabricated a few samples and played with the construction, other ideas for design options kept popping into my head. I always keep paper at the bench so I can jot down fleeting ideas as they come to me.


The funniest thing about the whole experience of shooting it was how simple it seemed–because of the plan. I'm known for planning like a field marshal, and this DVD is no exception. Because of the experience I'd had shooting my first DVD, I knew what I was in for. I was really, really ready for it, because I created dozens of demo pieces, cue cards, and scripts. I'd over-rehearsed, if there is such a thing. Planning for the Cold Connections session was very complex, and because of all my advance preparation, filming went without a hitch. I didn't even have any bloopers to write about this time—sorry about that!

The Value of Planning for Jewelry Making
I know I keep mentioning planning, and here's why: This DVD is all about cold connections, and planning is essential to creating them with success. I demo everything from tube and wire rivets, tabs, tensioned joins, micro hardware, folds, and lapped joins to movable rivets.

But, my favorite thing about this DVD set was that I started off doing some detailed demos on creating a design plan for a piece. I thought discussing design and planning before doing anything else in the DVD was critical, because jewelry making is complex, and mistakes can be expensive.

Making Jewelry Design Plans
Design plans can be formal or informal, but either way, you've got to have one when you create jewelry. In this DVD, I show you pages from my sketchbooks and how I get from an idea to a sketch to the fabrication of a jewelry object using any number of methods. Did you know you can use foil, tissue paper, or Sculpey clay to "sketch" a piece of jewelry before you commit to metal? Or, that you don't need to draw well to design something—you just need to be able to think something through clearly and write down the order you'll do it in.


These earrings resulted from my original sketch. I had to make them a little easier for a beginner, so I changed from forged wires to flat textured sheet. I think they are OK, and they fit my assignment criteria, but I still want to make some using my original idea–I just think the active line in the original sketch is somehow lost when translated to sheet. (March 2008 Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist) Photo: Jim Lawson.

I also show you how to "riff" on an idea using a design plan to create many versions of a jewelry design and how to make a measured pattern for a new piece of jewelry using a piece of jewelry you might have already made with different materials.

I hope you'll plan to check out some of the clips from the new Metalsmith Essentials DVD. I really enjoy making mixed-media jewelry, so cold-connection techniques are some of my favorite ones to use in my own work.

In the DVD, I'll teach you how to get from start to finish on many types of connections, with several different design options, plus I'll explain how to use some tools specific to cold connections.

It was great fun making this set, and I am planning on shooting another volume in the Metalsmith Essentials series (ssshhhh—we are still ironing out the details) in a few months. . . .

So, go grab your riveting hammer, and I'll see you in the studio!

Post a Comment