Jewelry, Wire Weaving, and Family: Sarah Thompson Shares Her Passion and Wire Expertise
During Bead Fest Tacoma, Sarah Thompson, jewelry designer and author, hosted a book signing for Fine Art Wire Weaving as well as talked wire with everyone who stopped by. There were a lot of questions being asked and there was a lot of passion and energy in the room! It was a pleasure to meet her, learn from her, and understand more about her process. It was also really nice to meet her daughter!
Sarah took some time to answer questions after the book singing so we could bring you into the room, with us.
In the beginning
Tammy: How long have you been making jewelry? What drew you into the craft?
Sarah: I started making jewelry when I was 14. It was a way for me to add a unique touch to my outfits, my own personal style.
T: Did you start with wire or did your path begin somewhere else?
S: My background is in beadwork, particularly off loom. I loved the intricacy that you could achieve with beads. When I first started to work with wire I found it rather bland and awkward to work with. I yearned to add more depth to my wirework. Wire weaving was critical in allowing me to layer the wire in such a way to add more depth and detail to the design
T: What are your most important tools?
S: My hands. After that, I would have to say my Tulip Beading Awl.
T: Any tips on how you store your wire?
S: I had my husband build me a wire rack from a 4-inch PVC pipe. He cut the pipes in half (length wise) then, suspended them from the ceiling so it would not take up room on my desk. It stores my wire spools perfectly and allows me to grab whatever wire I need and easily put it back when I’m done. Projects are stored in Ziploc bags to prevent them from tangling with each other.
T: Any advice for those just starting out and feel intimidated? What exercises can you offer that would help someone?
S: Start small. We all want to do “that” amazing project that gave us the spark of inspiration to try, but remember, it’s a journey and we all had to start in the beginning. Work at laying a strong foundation first in perfecting the weave. We often look at our piece and see all the flaws and how it’s not what was planned. Instead, break it down.
Focus on one thing you want to perfect, like creating the perfect loop. Focus on this for each project you work on and, once you’ve perfected this skill, pick the next thing you want to work on. This is what I did, and trust me you will be amazed at how much you will improve over the course of a year. And remember, the best thing about wire is that if you do make a mistake it’s not the end of the world. Instead it’s a design waiting to be realized; embrace the mistake and alter the design around it, in the end making it unique and one of a kind.
Wire Wrapping and Wire Weaving
T: You share that wire weaving and wire wrapping are different, can you explain this further?
S: When I first started working with wire it was traditional wire wrapping, which consists of heavier gauge wire wrapped around a cabochon, or shaped into a frame that beads were then added to. It was also a way to create links and attach beads. Coiling was the most you got with texture, and while there were flowing lines, it was simple without much depth. Wire weaving to me is more like beading. The weave is the peyote or brick stitch. It creates the foundation that allows me to add more layers of wire to build depth, and more intricacy.
Unlike wire wrapping, what pulls the wire together and makes it possible is the finer gauge wires, like 28 and 30 gauge. These create a delicate backdrop to work from and add strength to the wire; this also allows for more open designs. In many ways it allows you to create a look similar to metalsmithing. And where wire wrapping is more about the stones and beads you use, for me wire weaving is more about the wire and the story it is telling through each twist, turn, and swoop.
Wire invites you to follow the line flowing through the design as it meanders in and out and between the weave. The weave also allows you to sculpt the woven wires and keep them in place. Wire weaving allows me to do more with the wire. And to this day I still can’t wrap a cabochon in a traditional wire wrap and make it look good.
T: What are your favorite parts of Fine Art of Wire Weaving and what did you enjoy working on most?
S: I love the technical section. My goal in writing Fine Art Wire Weaving was to create a go-to book on the essentials of wire weaving and I wanted to make sure each technique was broken down into a detailed explanation. I wanted to create a strong foundation in wire weaving for the reader. Show how each design and technique can be broken down into more manageable steps. The photography of the book is something I love still to this day. I enjoyed creating the designs the most.
T: What can we look forward to in your next Wire Weaving book?
S: The next book will be focused on taking your wire weaving to the next level up from Fine Art Wire Weaving. There are three things that I focus on in the new book.
- How to add sculpting to your design. Whether it is extreme or subtle, dimension is key to all my designs and there is never a time when I don’t add a little sculpting to the jewelry I make.
- Then we move onto symmetry, as this something I know many struggle with and I give all my secrets on how I achieve symmetry.
- The last section of my book is what I’m the most excited about. In this section I will show you how to break down a design to individual components then use those components to build a highly intricate design, similar to my master designs. My goal is to get you to start thinking about how you yourself can start becoming your own designer. Expect to be challenged in this chapter!
Thank you again for your time and sharing so much with us, Sarah. We cannot wait for you next book! Thank you also for the love, caring, and passion you put into Fire Art Wire Weaving — it has inspired a generation, and then some.
Web Producer Bead & Jewelry Group
Learn wire weaving from Sarah Thompson in her best-selling book or her interactive online workshops!