Weaving, Painting, Sewing, and More: Using Nontraditional Techniques to Create More Interesting Jewelry Designs


I jumped at the chance to take a two-day immersions metal class with Mary Hettmansperger at Bead Fest last August after I watched her Weaving Wire Jewelry DVD. In a luxurious two-day class, we were able to mimic some of the techniques from Mary's DVD and others, including coloring on metal, enameling (faux and real), wire weaving, cold connections, and more. Even though I'd already seen the DVD and knew how to do most of the techniques we covered, I still learned so much in that class–the mark of a great teacher!

While Mary taught us various techniques, I was reminded about her background in basketry and weaving. Her website calls her a "multi-media fiber artist" with a "specialty in rib construction and sculptural basketry"–and now she has added metal and jewelry design. That set my mind to pondering the nontraditional techniques we use or could use in jewelry design.

Nontraditional Techniques for Jewelry Design

In addition to making jewelry using traditional jewelry-design methods and techniques, I love mixing ideas and techniques from one hobby into another. Since I've done so many crafts before getting involved heavily in jewelry design, the latter has become the melting pot for all the former techniques. It broadens my mind and, I think, the interest level and artisan quality of my jewelry designs to combine techniques I've learned in other crafts. Here are some we put into practice in Mary's class:

Rubber Stamping: One of the best things I learned I Mary's class was how to use gel flux with rubber stamps and the torch to create colorful designs on metal. It's so simple, I don't know why it never occurred to me before! Simple brush gel flux onto a rubber stamp as if it were ink and then stamp the design onto a piece of metal. Then torch the design. That's it! As you know, the flux protects the metal from the flame, keeping those areas from changing color like the non-fluxed areas will. The result is as many stamped patterns and designs for your jewelry as you have rubber stamps–or you can create freehand designs by just painting lines, swirls, dots, and more on your metal before torching. So. Much. Fun!

Weaving: We wove our own combinations of paper strips and strips of metal foil to create a "fabric" of metal. These woven pieces (sometimes sandwiched behind mica sheets) served as inserts for bezels or wire frames, which we then turned into jewelry pieces (making pendants and brooches, mostly) that resembled miniature quilts or wall hangings. (You can see a woven piece on Mary's DVD cover, below). It's a great way to elegantly and safely add paper to your metal jewelry designs. Speaking of quilts. . . .

Sewing: We used very thin-gauge wire like a needle and thread to stitch together (aka cold connect) other wires or pierced metal pieces. This allowed our jewelry designs to have movement if we chose (I stitched butterfly wings onto a wire butterfly "body" and ended up with a metal butterfly whose wings could flutter. It will probably be a brooch or perhaps even an ornament.


Painting: True, we didn't paint in the traditional sense with paint and a brush, but we did create beautiful rainbows of color on copper and brass sheet by flame painting. By simply holding a sheet or piece of metal in the torch flame, moving it in a specific way, quenching at specific times, and thoughtfully using flux, we were able to achieve gorgeous colors. The design possibilities are endless, as is the fun for a firebug like me. While I knew this was a possibility, I didn't know how to get the exact colors I want, just where I want them–and now I do! And speaking of color. . . .

Coloring: In this case, we used PrismaColor colored pencils to add color to sheets and strips of metal. Much easier than enameling (and even the faux enameling I recently wrote about), this technique is as simple as coloring in a coloring book . . . perhaps more so, as there are no lines to stay inside!

Embossing: This was where I realized that I didn't dream up the idea of using embossing powders and a heat gun to create faux enameled designs in my jewelry, which I wrote about on Monday. But even though it wasn't my idea, it's a great one–and faux enameling (embossing) is an easy, and inexpensive ways to add texture, color and/or linear motifs to your jewelry designs. The colors in this piece are a combination of flame painting, true enameling, and embossing.

I had so much fun playing with Mary's unusual techniques that I barely finished any pieces during class; I just made lots of cool components.


Even if you aren't able to take a class like I did with Mary, you can still learn some of Mary's unique jewelry-design techniques in her DVD, Weaving Wire Jewelry. And don't be fooled by the name–it's so much more than wire! It includes the use of paper and metal foil, texturing techniques on metal, using rivets, brads and other cold connections, and more ways to create wonderfully interesting jewelry designs. You can order the Weaving Wire Jewelry with Mary Hettmansperger DVD or instantly download Weaving Wire Jewelry. I know you'll love it and the interesting, artisan qualities it will help you add to your jewelry designs.

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