Monday, December 7, 2020

Ready to Learn Something New?

 Author’s Note: Lately I've made it my business to offer suggestions for new activities during the BV (before vaccine) phase of the pandemic. Some people are challenged with depression since the pandemic has taken over the news. My solution has been to battle it by staying busy and working with my hands. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have a tough day here and there but having a project in progress helps me get through those days quicker. Creativity is a motivator! This series of posts will offer a new way to use your hands and fire up your creative spirit.  

Do You Want To Make Your Own Jewelry?

While working in my studio recently, I wondered if you've ever considered making your own jewelry. If you’re not interested, then read no further than this one paragraph. Before you go, consider watching this 10-minute Youtube that could tempt you to dabble with macrame. Try making those cool little Christmas trees. It doesn’t matter if you don’t celebrate Christmas. You can always give them away to someone who does. The idea is to do something meditative, distracting, and calming. I think I’m going to give these...

a try sometime soon. It relaxes me just to watch it! Here is a more advanced version using beads to distract you for at least an hour. By the way, should you need a macrame board, here is what I purchased.

Let’s Get Started

I don't plan to reinvent the jewelry making expertise that you can find on Youtube. What I will do is point you to the best resources, in my opinion, that offer good basic instructions and do a great job of teaching. There are lots of avenues to take in jewelry making so, along the way, you will be exploring different skills and methods. Whatever attracts you the most is what you should do. You can get into hammering metals, wire wrapping stones, beading necklaces, just to name a few. I can only speak to the skills I've acquired and that will be my approach to this series.

What Will You Make?

This is your first decision to make before you start buying tools and beads and wire, etc. If you've read this story about how I started making jewelry-- or you are already making your own-- then you know that life happens and opportunities just seem to present themselves. If I had not started recycling my mom's jewelry, I might not be making jewelry now. I barely wear more than earrings on a regular basis, especially being home all the time. But I am so drawn to the details of tying together colors, texture, and shapes that THAT is why I make jewelry. To me, it is ART.

Deciding what to make has a lot to do with your own style, or in my case, my mother’s style. She loved costume jewelry and the Dollar Store. She always managed to find incredible looking pieces there! She swapped out her jewelry on a daily basis, sometimes twice. She was a true fashionista in her day and her love for “something different” became ingrained in my creative process. I think that my NOT being a big jewelry wearer has freed me to consider more styles and types because I’m not necessarily attached to any one stream of style. I like the challenge of new ideas!

Deciding what to make can be a challenge. Here is a terrific post of 10 tips to consider. It recommends that you “Choose one medium to focus on first, knowing that you can always try something else later… and in fact, the skills may even build on each other and you’ll have an easier time learning a new technique because of what you can already do!” They agree with using household tools on hand at first, and they offer great tips for getting familiar with tools and materials without investing right away! They advise on setting up your workspace too.

If you want to get really excited and start salivating over your first project, just take a look at inspiring jewelry on Pinterest, Instagram, and Youtube. After I learned the techniques I needed from Youtube, I made a point of staying off those sites. I wanted to express my own style and not be influenced. It is harder to do that when just starting out. Now that I have more experience, I love my pieces much more because they truly come “through” me. You will get there if that’s what you choose to work towards.

One of the first steps I took was to purchase a book. I chose the one I liked best from local library shelves and purchased “Teach Yourself Visually: Jewelry Making & Beading” by Chris Franchetti Michaels, still
available online and under $5 used. It explained all the tools and materials, bead sizes, and techniques. I realized that it was an incredible resource for me as a visual learner. It got me even more excited to get started and gave me a foundation I could go back to for guidance. I highly recommend this treasure! I have not YET learned everything it contains.


What Tools And Materials Will You Need? If the expense of buying tools and materials has kept you from moving forward, worry no more. I’m here to tell you that a jewelry hobby can be more affordable than you think-- especially just starting out. For example, I took my mother’s old jewelry apart and recreated it--not because I didn’t want to buy anything--but because the challenge was exciting to me. So since you will be learning and practicing, feel free to use materials you might already have on hand. Lots of materials get damaged and trashed while you're learning to use pliers, for example. When you get more skilled you will graduate to the next level of tools and materials. Why rush it? I know, I know, I’m a thrifty soul.

My advice? Keep it simple. Until you're sure you've found your thing, don't over analyze how much to spend. This blog post on tools supports that idea and provides good advice for the most important tools to consider when purchasing for the first time. I use those important tools on almost every project I touch.

So here's my two cents about tools:

  • If you have a small pair of utility pliers, use them until you realize they just don't give you what you need. Once you get fussier over your work, you can "buy up".

  • You may screw up a lot of materials before you find your groove, so find stuff to recycle or buy cheap.

  • Remember that you are in training and it won't be for long! But why waste good wire, or the best threads, when you can use whatever you have around the house?

  • Got any picture hanging wire you haven't touched for 5 years? Try using that.

  • My husband, a master recycler, was stripping appliances for scrap and gave me all the copper wire components to practice on. By the way, copper wire is an affordable material for starters. So is aluminum crafting wire.

If you’re anything like me, you will be learning the art of patience while you learn the art of making jewelry. I can’t help you with the patience but I can provide direction to getting your tools and materials. This is a nice video on putting together a basic tool kit. Before you buy, though, search for the project(s) you are most interested in. See if they actually use everything in the kit suggested. For example, you may not need “headpins” right now. Once you've found your main interest, you’ll know better what to buy.

Coming In Future Posts! Part TWO Part THREE Part FOUR

  • Where To Buy Your Tools & Materials

  • Who Will Teach You?

  • And much more...

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