Top Tips: Helpful Tips for Making Jewelry with Wire, Clay, Metal, Metal Clay, and More

Whenever I sort through my books, it’s the how-to books that I can never seem to part with. They’re always packed with so much information and inspiration, I just can’t let them go! If you could see my bookshelf from the inside, you’d see tons of colorful little paper strips that mark techniques I want to learn, projects I want to make, or tips that I must never forget. Here are a few of the great tips I’ve gleaned from some of my favorite jewelry-making books over the years–because who doesn’t love a good tip?

Practice Metal Clay Techniques
Yes, a few years ago I dared to call The Jewelry Architect: Techniques + Projects for Mixed-Media Jewelry one of my favorite jewelry-making books of all time. It’s absolutely packed with good jewelry-making information and project ideas using metal and metal clay, along with wire, glass, gemstones, fabric/felt, and other beads. Here’s one great tip from it: Kate suggests using porcelain clay for practicing metal-clay techniques, because they feel about the same in your hands and they dry at about the same rate. Considering the cost of precious metal clays and all their nuances, I think this is an extraordinarily useful tip.
Make Consistent Wrapped-Wire Loops
It the past few years, I’ve grown really fond of lampwork glass beads. The color they bring to metal jewelry designs is like the sprinkles on a cupcake, and Kerry Bogert’s book Totally Twisted: Innovative Wirework & Art Glass Jewelry is a great resource for combining metal and lampwork glass beads in your jewelry designs. In addition to the super handy reminder of marking pliers with a permanent marker in order to make consistently wrapped loops (always wrap on the mark and they’ll always be the same size!), Kerry also shares a little tidbit that is more important than it seems at first: “Keep in mind that when it’s time to wrap the loop closed, you’re coiling the wrapping wire around the wire stem, not twisting these wires together.” I read that a few times before I thought, “WOW!” It’s so simple but it’s a shift in thinking that has become really helpful to me. I’m never consistently happy with my wrapped loops, but whenever I remind myself of this, they immediately improve.
Don’t Forget the Wire and Metal Findings
In Ronna Sarvas Weltman’s beautiful book Ancient Modern: Polymer Clay + Wire Jewelry, you’ll find over 100 pages of project instructions, polymer clay tips and color recipes, plus inspiring polymer clay jewelry designs. But in the middle of all that, there’s a tiny little tip about tiny little wire jewelry components that really made a difference to me: When you’re texturing wire for your wire jewelry designs, don’t forget about the components and findings–even the jump rings. They’re almost always visible, after all, so why shouldn’t they receive a little special treatment as well? Just be careful not to overwork or distort them so much that they can’t do their jobs. Otherwise, give them just as much love as the rest of your project–the whole piece will benefit from the extra effort.
Buy More Supplies Than You Need
Like I have to tell jewelry makers to buy more jewelry-making supplies, right? I know! But it’s true. I don’t know how many times I’ve bought just one strand of gemstone beads–plenty for what I knew I was going to make with them–only to find that some of the beads were cracked or had holes too small for my cord or wire. It happens a lot with pearls. So here’s the tip: Sort through and put aside irregular stones before beginning your project and buy more than you think you’ll need, because you may find that many of the bead holes are too small or poorly drilled and some of the stones might even break when you try to string them. It’s better to find out before you’ve worked on it for hours, trust me! So avoid do-overs; you know you’ll always find a way to use the extras. I got this great reminder from Mixed Metals: Creating Contemporary Jewelry with Silver, Gold, Copper, Brass, and More, by Danielle Fox and Melinda Barta.

Want to know another great tip? You can get all of these jewelry-making books and more on sale now at great prices in the Jewelry Making Daily Shop, so get your little strips of paper ready! Bonus: We’ve just added jewelry workshop videos and DVDs to the sale, so hurry! Some of my favorites are there at great prices, including Explorations in Jewelry Enameling with Susan Lenart Kazmer, Lexi’s How to Solder Jewelry, Weaving Wire Jewelry with Mary Hettmansperger, and One Hour Bracelets with Jeff Fulkerson.

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