Q&A Part One: Wire Art Jewelry Workshop Author Sharilyn Miller

Tammy Jones editor Jewelry Making Daily  
Tammy Jones is the
editor of Jewelry Making Daily.

Craft books are full of fun anecdotes and other glimpses into the author's personality, and that just makes me want to know more about the authors and the stories behind the projects. So I was excited when given the opportunity to ask Wire Art Jewelry Workshop author Sharilyn Miller some questions to get to know her a little better. Enjoy!

Q: It's the age-old question asked to nearly every designer who has ever been interviewed—but folks want to know! What inspires your wire jewelry designs?

A: I find inspiration for my designs in many places, instead of relying on just one particular source. Nature, of course (flowers, leaf shapes, twigs, rocks, and gemstone beads and pearls) but also in architecture, especially ironwork found in Italy, the Czech Republic, and France, where I have taken many photographs of gorgeous iron fencing, balconies, railings, and the like. I also find inspiration in catalogs of reproduction fittings such as doorknobs and pulls, lamps, faucets, and other items of interior decor. But regardless of my original sources of inspiration, I always alter them significantly to fit my own designs. I also find that inspiration never strikes when I'm just thinking about designing a piece of jewelry, but only when I'm actually sitting down at my worktable with my wire and beads and tools. It's important to be found working when the muse visits; at least that is what I have found.

Faux 4-in-1 Bracelet

Q: When you first began working with wire, what was your greatest challenge with it?

A: My greatest challenge was learning to make a perfectly round wrapped eye-pin loop. Fortunately, I had the best wire teacher in the world to help me over that hurdle: Lynne Merchant. She was very patient even though she had to show me her techniques repeatedly until I got it. Everything fell rather easily into place after that, although I am very glad I made the decision at that time (late 2001 to early 2002) to take nearly every workshop Lynne offered before she retired from teaching in late 2002.

Q: What do you find most challenging about making wire jewelry, now that you're a wirework pro?

Bird's Next Bangle

A: To be honest, making wire jewelry is not challenging for me at all. I have been making this type of jewelry for about ten years now and have practiced every technique, made it my profession, and invested thousands of hours into it over the past decade. So it's not challenging for me anymore. However, I do enjoy the challenge of designing jewelry that is unique and original, using wire as well as beads and pearls, and sometimes found objects and other items. My focus has shifted over the years from an interest in making to designing—the two endeavors are completely different, although related. My constant hope now when I sit down at the bench is to come up with something brand-new and never before seen, at least by me. I'm not saying that I always hit that mark, but it is my goal.

Q: What's the best tip or advice you were ever given about making wire jewelry?

A: I cannot think of a specific tip or piece of advice, but I am forever grateful to my instructor, Lynne Merchant, for encouraging me (and all of her students) to pursue excellence in making wire jewelry. It's my nature to do this anyway; I have always preferred quality, and when I was younger I was quite the perfectionist. When I grew older and a bit wiser, I realized that perfection wasn't attainable, but excellence is a worthwhile pursuit, so I shifted my focus to making items of superior craftsmanship. My jewelry is not perfect, but it is made carefully with excellence in mind. This means that if I design something and I like it about 90 percent, I'll start over. I'm willing to deconstruct a piece again and again until I have found a better way to make it exactly right. This has to do with the mechanics of a jewelry piece as well as its aesthetic appeal.

Thai Heart Pendant

Excellence also reveals itself in craftsmanship, so I pay attention to all the little details. I try to make perfectly round jump rings, eye-pin loops, and other shapes. I make an effort to file and polish away any tool marks. I coil wire carefully with no gaps and no over-wraps. My spirals always start with a very tight "bellybutton" in the center. Using a texturing or embossing hammer is fun, but it means that afterward you must polish the edges of the wire to remove any roughness. I actually feel my jewelry with my fingertips, and if I find any roughness that I've missed, I polish it again. I always tell my students that your eyes will lie but your fingertips won't, so be sure to feel your jewelry carefully after examining it for flaws. Taking time to design and craft the best piece of jewelry that you are capable of is a reward in itself. I think it all has to do with your own personal integrity and love for what you do.


Want to know more? Come back tomorrow for part two of my Q&A with jewelry designer and author Sharilyn Miller. Meanwhile, order Wire Art Jewelry Workshop for wire instruction, sixteen stylish wire-jewelry projects, and an instructional DVD!

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