Category Archives: Bracelets

Goldilocks and the Three Bracelets

Once upon a time, a little girl named Goldilocks was getting ready to go to her very first dance. She wanted to look just right and knew that even though her dress was pretty, she really had to have the right jewelry. She had already looked in all the stores at the mall, but just couldn’t find anything that was unique. Then, she read on Facebook about an independent jewelry designer who lived in the forest near her home. Maybe that designer would have something she could wear to the dance.

One day, Goldilocks followed her GPS directions and arrived at the home of the independent jewelry designer. She knocked on the door, but no one came. She rapped hard one more time and the door pushed open. Thinking this was a good sign, she went right in. At first she thought it was a bit strange that no one came to greet her, but she quickly erased this thought as she began to look around. “Wow,” she said to herself. “This is really cool stuff!” There were necklaces and earrings and bracelets the likes of which she had never seen. Why, this was just what she had been wanting.  At the mall things looked just the same from one store to the next, but here everything was unique, just like Goldilocks.


Goldilocks quickly spotted the most beautiful bracelet sitting on a table right in front of her. It was the perfect color to go with her dress for the dance and even Pantone had recommended this tangerine orange as the color of the year. She had to have it! So, she tried it on. “Rats,” she muttered. “This bracelet has very small beads on it, but it is too big.” Goldilocks was so disappointed that she failed to put it back on the table where she had found it. As she turned to walk away, she spotted another bracelet in the same color that was made from big beads; so she tried it on, but it was too small. Maybe coming to the independent jewelry maker was not such a good idea after all. As she turned to leave, she caught a glimpse of something sparkling on the corner of the work bench. Even though she was really tired and discouraged, she decided to give it one more try. She slipped the third bracelet on her wrist and it was just right! Goldilocks whirled round and round admiring the bracelet and imagining how beautiful it would look on her wrist at the dance. When she finally stopped, she was so dizzy that she dropped into a nearby chair and closed her eyes to dream.


About that time, the independent jewelry maker came in the back door of her home. First she noticed the big orange bracelet was not where she left it and then she found a second smaller bracelet out of place. Grabbing her big hammer off the work bench for protection, she began to look around to see if there was an intruder roaming about. That’s when she noticed a teenager plopped in her favorite chair. That girl was wearing one her original orange bracelets. Hmm . . . the independent jewelry maker’s first impulse was to call 911, but her cell phone was still in the car and the girl looked harmless. She gave Goldilocks a little nudge and the surprised girl hopped up exclaiming about the beautiful bracelet she found.
Now everyone knows that a good compliment about an artist’s work goes a long way and so Goldilocks and the independent jewelry maker made nice and searched the studio for a pretty necklace to match the bracelet. Goldilocks used her Dad’s credit card to purchase the jewelry and went happily away to tell all her friends about the independent jewelry maker and her wonderful wares.

 
As for the independent jewelry maker . . . she decided to lock her front door the next time she went out, but to leave a note saying when she would be home just in case any more girls were tired of the mall.

The moral of this little tale for consumers is that the independent jewelry maker CAN provide something unique that you won’t see at the mall. The moral for the jewelry maker is to always have product available (and lock the door).

It’s Cursive

“Joined up writing” or “running writing”, aka cursive formed the basis of the idea behind the pieces shown here. I think of cursive as continuous movement and connection between alphabet letters to form words as opposed to printing wherein each letter is made separately. It works for words; so why not for wire?

I’ve always hesitated to cross wires in a piece because I like a hammered look and hammering crossed wires weakens them. With the bracelets below, I simply avoided hammering the crossing points and hammered around them. It was tricky, but turned out OK.

I enjoy making this style because it naturally flows from one end to the other and forms a sturdy bracelet. I instituted a clasp on the first bracelet shown, but felt it was not needed on the second one since is was narrower.

cursive bracelet      cursive bracelet2

This necklace evolved after I took one of the cursive bracelets to a boutique and the owner kept wanting to make it into a choker. It doesn’t have any crossed wires and technically shouldn’t be labeled cursive. I was largely concerned with filling the space of the piece with swirls that fit together. The trick on this piece was to go back and bind those curves in place so they wouldn’t change shape. This turned out to be a very comfortable, yet unique, necklace. I can usually tell if it is TOO unique the first time I wear the piece. I had this on the other night and individuals kept looking at it, but not turning away. If they turn away, I assume it’s not pleasing. (But they could just be nice people . . . ?)

cursive necklace

Next, I would like to experiment with a necklace wherein the wire forms a V in the from as opposed to this arc shape. I’ll let you know if that hatches.

Variations on a Theme

 

Dimensional Cuff Bracelet Tutorial       oval bracelet

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I make many analogies between jewelry design and music. This is yet another. Variations on a theme bring to mind classical music in which many of the great composers embellished their own basic motives to create numerous variations. Some contemporary musicians have also taken short snippets from classical music, varied these and employed them in new music.

Variations are also a big part of training in creative thinking wherein we ask participants to think flexibly and change an original idea. Sometimes the ideas that follow are better than the first and sometimes this exercise simply serves to reassure the thinker that they had the best idea in the first place.

The same is often true in jewelry design. I try many different versions of a “theme” or design to see whether it might be improved. Sometimes I initiate this process out of sheer boredom when I’m tired of the same design, yet it is still popular with customers. The following is an example of this.

You will likely recognize the bracelet on the left above that is a design I’ve been making for at least five years. I also sell the tutorial for it in my etsy shop and it has also been popular there. (Thank you customers!) https://www.etsy.com/listing/91729421/dimensional-cuff-bracelet-tutorial

When a boutique customer called to she needed more of the same, I realized it was probably time for another variation on this design. I’ve made it with square and rectangular faces in the past, but wanted something new. After experimentation with shapes, I created the bracelet shown on the above right – a variation on the theme. I plan to make this one again using more colorful gemstones that will show up better against the weaving.

Another popular bracelet, the wave, that initiated so long ago that I can’t locate a photo, also needed revamping. I changed the initial bracelet shape to triangles as shown below.

wave tri

Finally, still considering the wave bracelet theme, I made a new “cursive” bracelet that proved to be a bit tricky. This one required plenty of wraps to help the 14 gauge wire hold its shape. I think this one holds further possibilities.

cursive bracelet

This was an interesting and somewhat challenging exercise and I continue to think “what if” regarding variation possibilities. But for now, I think I’ll just go play some classical music on the piano with a score that someone else wrote.

Teach Me

Lately, I’ve once again had a chance to teach others. Although I’ve tried several times to veer into other paths, I seem to always come back to education. It doesn’t seem to matter to me “what”  I’m trying to teach. The important element for me is “how to teach” it.  It’s always been both challenging and fun for me to try to figure out how best to help others learn.

Yesterday, while preparing to teach a leather wrap bracelet class, I went back to pedagogy in designing a teaching aid. The bracelets, which I’ve shown before, are below.

wrap

  I had close to the maximum number of people enrolled in the class and wondered how in the world I was going to show everyone how to do the weaving required on this bracelet. For this bracelet, we were using smoke colored Fireline fishing line which it difficult to see and weaving it with beads over and under leather cord. It’s a piece of cake to demonstrate when you can sit right beside someone, but not so easy when the person is across the room from you. Therefore, I went with an enlargement of the technique. I dug in my ribbon stash and found scordome gold cord and some red ribbon. By attaching the cord to my giant clip board, I had my enlarged replica. It looks a bit silly, but it seemed to work and people could see it from across the room. I appreciate the participants who didn’t laugh at my replica.

This happening reminds me of teaching preschool piano classes when I had my father cut large music notes out of wood which we painted black. Then I made a big music staff on heavy white plastic. The children and I sat on the floor to learn concepts. (Those were the days when I could still get up off the floor as quickly as they did!)

One of the best things about teaching is that students inadvertently teach me what works. When I demonstrate something and they don’t get it, I have to figure out what to do next instead of just thinking they were slow to learn. As these difficulties arise, I need to figure out a different way to teach the same thing and make it clearer. Also, when numerous students make the same error, I know it’s because I did something wrong. That’s something I need to fix.

Students also teach me through their questions. A query is often indicative of something I might demonstrate in a better fashion next time. The students teach me through these questions.

I think one of the best parts of teaching is that the process is reciprocal. Both the students and the teacher learn when the environment is risk free.

Forming with Folds

Those of us who love to learn new things sometimes move to new avenues for this too soon. Either the initial fun wears off, something new calls our name, or time for the learning simply runs out. Often for me, I move on to something new before completely exploring the myriad of possibilities for creative development in the existing arena. This may have been the case with fold forming, a technique  developed by Charles Lewton-Brain. “Mr. Fold Form's” book, Foldforming, contains a wealth of information on how to construct various shapes from metal; yet, it doesn’t show as many completed pieces of jewelry as I would like to see.

Frequent and long time readers may recall that fold forming was the new technique I chose to develop last December and January during the winter lull between completion of the Fall products and the development of the Spring designs. Unfortunately, I may have moved too quickly from fold forming last year and back into rapid production for my customers. Also, I “closed” on the technique partly because I couldn’t figure out new things to do with it. I chose not to face the somewhat discouraging struggle that forces one into creative generation. I currently have renewed interest in fold forming due to a couple of happenings. Two of my lucky friends took a recent workshop with Kim St. Jean at the Texas Beadfest and their discussion of the class helped add to my refinement of the technique. Also, I gave a demonstration on the technique at a recent gathering of wire workers. Therefore, I had to practice.

The trick for me with fold forming has been trying to make something besides a leaf that would comfortably work as a piece of jewelry. First, I practiced some different ways to hammer on a few leaves and learned how to better ruffle the edges. Then I created a couple of copper cuff bracelets. I like using a long diagonal fold to start the bracelet design and following this with appropriate texture. I quickly learned that it’s important to begin with a longer and wider piece of metal than the size of the anticipated product. I folded the metal first and then cut the final bracelet shape. When I annealed the metal bracelets with a torch during the fold forming process, beautiful colors appeared on the pieces.

brace cuff

I’ve also been experimenting with a star shape shown in Newton-Brain’s book. First I made several pairs of earrings and then I created a larger star and used it as a pendant on a strand of coral. I gave the pendant a liver of suphur bath, tumbled it and then used the torch on it again. It adopted a very rich color.

star                   star2

coral Now the struggle is to try to develop some ideas of my own for fold formed shapes. Hopefully, I’ll have the time this year to stick with fold forming until I’ve either developed some new ideas or convinced myself that I CAN’T come up with anything new. Wish me luck.

Set

If we brainstormed meanings and contexts for the word “set” the list would be fairly long. I guess early encounters of the term was when we learned about “ready, set, go”. Later, in school we learned about things that come in sets and about the specific mathematical use of the term.

The term also has multiple connotations in the context of jewelry design including how to “set” a stone and my most familiar phrase, “where did I set my glasses down?” When I first started making jewelry, it seemed my customers wanted things in sets. I never strung a necklace without also making matching earrings and often included a matching bracelet as well. Then later the trend of matching changed and I quit making sets. Many customers wanted a more eclectic style that didn’t include those perfect matches.

Now, I’m back to including earrings from the same stones used in a necklace mainly because I don’t want to have to hunt the stones when a customer requests a match. This week, I decided to go back to the early days and make a true set that included a necklace, earrings and a bracelet to match. I made the bracelet first and then used the same weaving and stones on the necklace. I couldn’t decide which necklace picture was best so below you find both. The stones are lapis and azurite from Magpie Gemstones (www.magpiegemstones.com).

 

lap            lap2

    lap brace

I hurried to finish the above set before a show I did at a community center yesterday. I just knew someone would want the whole thing. Wrong! The necklace, with earrings, was the first piece that sold at the show, but the bracelet remained behind – so much for sets! Today, someone else selected the bracelet.

The question now is whether or not to make another full set. I guess I’ll try it again since even though the pieces didn’t all go home with the same customer, they did all go home. Isn’t that what really counts?

Right now, I think I’ll just “set” my body down and rest while I contemplate what stones to use in my next set.

Off the Design Table . . .

AND on to someone’s wrist. I’ve been working for several weeks to get the new bracelet design where I want it. The dimensional bracelets, for which I have a tutorial on etsy, have continued to be popular, but I think it’s really important to stay ahead of the market. I’m continually wondering what the next bracelet design should be. Since those dimensional bracelets are so comfortable and fit most anyone, I thought I should stick with another cuff type bracelet.

front2                tiger

As I played with a new design, I employed the SCAMPER (from Bob Eberle) creative thinking technique in which each letter stands for a different way to make a modification. Using the ‘C” verb,  combine, I wanted to put the wire cuff and some wire weaving together. The “R” verb, reverse, led me to move the swirls in the middle of the dimensional bracelet to another point on the cuff. This also helped me decide to pull in the top middle rather than expanding it as I’ve always done before. I played with the other Scamper verbs and feel they helped contribute to the final product.

front                    tibet

I’m still contemplating which of the various versions I like the best. The weaving was probably too difficult for my current technique on the two shown below. This will need practice. Yet, I was able to do a smoother job on the first bracelet shown at the top, indicating the promise of a smooth weave. I’m hopeful that I will continue to improve my skills.

side                   side2

It’s interesting that these bracelets are so comfortable. I’ve been letting various people try them on and they usually comment “this feels good.” I think that means I should stick with it.

My favorite part of the design process is the development of an idea and I’m truly thankful for the many creative thinking techniques I keep tucked in my back pocket. Now I’m at that tedious stage where I simply must keep practicing without much more modifying. Let’s just hope that my technique is on a fast learning curve!

I also hope these new bracelets will be coming to a wrist near you.

Spangled Bangles

Do you spangle?

I’ve been enjoying making bangle bracelets the last couple of weeks. They are certainly the easiest bracelet that I’ve made in quite some time and with slight variations in diameter they fit most folks.

banglesThose in the above photo are formed with a basic 12 gauge copper wire armature that I soldered together and then hammered into shape. With a liver of sulphur bath and only a couple of hours of tumbling, they are ready to be spangled.

I thought I knew about “spangles”, but did look up the term just to be sure. A spangle is a small shiny/sparkling spot or object. It might be a sequin, a piece of metal or a bead, etc. If you spangle something, the dictionary suggests that you are sprinkling it with spangles. Hmm . . . it didn’t take any deep thinking to figure out that one, did it?

I wrap the base of my bangles with different sizes of copper or artistic wire and decorate them with small beads or charms.  Most of these are adorned with gemstones, but the red one shown below features glass beads. The turquoise spangled bangles seem to be the most appreciated.

brace

 

I tried putting just a few charms on one of the bangle and like the look. I haven’t yet given it a trial wear and don’t know if it will be comfortable. I made small loops in the wrapping wire and attached the charms as I wrapped.

 

charms

 

 

It remains to be seen whether these spangled bangles will be popular with customers and friends. I do, however, know that people like spangles of one kind and another. Whether these are on jewelry, garments or in the form of smiles on friendly faces, we can all use a spangle now and then. How will you create yours?

Squared

One definition of squared is to set things straight. You can readily see from the new jewelry pieces below that even if I use square beads, I just can’t allow a design to be totally straight. After all, do any of us really want to be called “square?” I don’t want my jewelry to be called square either!

I’ve often thought that square gemstones were difficult to work with, but lately many of them have a nice little extra flair that’s too good to let go. These interesting stones have a slight curve in the middle that eliminates the flat surface usually found on square and rectangular beads. The stones below are jasper on the left and tigereye on the right. The stones in all the photos herein come from www.magpiegemstones.com.

stones

The bracelets shown below may look familiar since they are made just like the dimensional bracelets that I’ve made for several years. I have previously done oval faces on them, but the square fits nicely on the wrist. If you have purchased the Dimensional Bracelet tutorial (,http://www.etsy.com/listing/77795508/dimensional-wire-cuff-bracelet-tutorial?utm_source=custometsywidgetword&utm_medium=api&utm_campaign=api) why not try it with a square stone?

square brace2

 

square brace

I didn’t get good color in the photo below, but this necklace matches the bracelet above right.

squiggles

 

You may have realized that the stones in the first photo are smaller than those in the jewelry shown. I have used the smaller jasper in a bracelet as well, but customers seem to prefer a big square if they’re going to get squared at all. I guess you may as well go all out! Originally, I tried making square wire embellishments atop the square stones, but found the curvilinear specimens more pleasing. They are also easier to create since the sides don’t have to be uniform as in a square. I wonder if this ease affects what I like . . . that bears consideration.

When I looked up the term squared, I thought some of the other definitions might ignite a design idea or two. For example, think about squaring a number and how that might create a design. (2 squared becomes 4 squared and that squared is 16 – you already knew that didn’t you?) I wonder how those numbers could create a design.

Another definition suggested the terms meant putting things at right angles. That too might provide the basis for a design (or have I gone to far). I’ll bet those of you with math anxiety already tuned out!

Whether you want to go mathematical or not, I think you, too, might enjoy designing with these newer square beads: but don’t go too square! People might talk behind your back.

Time to Weave

I would like to believe that the verb “weave” implies compatibility. Woven garments and rugs come together with complimentary colors and fibers whose blend creates something of beauty. Tapestries and other wall hangings do the same as the threads weave together in harmony.

Families, communities and cultures are also woven and consist of unique individual “threads” that come together to produce the whole. I’d like to believe that the majority of these result in compatibility, but know this isn’t always the case. I do, however, appreciate the idea of being woven into a family where I can retain my individuality yet mesh with my loved ones to create the personality of the group. (We do have personality!)

I think it is interesting how our personalities and mannerisms may vary slightly when we are woven with different groups of people. Just as the other threads of a woven art piece can affect the look of the individual fiber, people influence one another. Some human tapestries bring out my better side while others do the opposite.

Many years ago we lived in Alexandria, Louisiana. There was a weaver in my housing edition and I could see her loom in a big window when I went on walks by her residence. I often thought it might be relaxing to learn this skill. It seemed the ultimate art form resulting from knowing just what fibers and colors should be brought together; yet I never felt this was my artistic calling.

I also admire those jewelry artists who do a beautiful uniform job of wire weaving. I find it to be a difficult technique to master, but refuse to give up. This week I noticed a bracelet design in one of the bead magazines at the bookstore. (Yes, we are lucky enough to still have a bookstore!) The bracelet featured a weave I hadn’t yet tried; so I read the directions and went home to make it. It’s true that I’m often refuse to buy the entire magazine for just one thing I like. Shame on me!

The picture immediately below shows the first piece I tried. It was going to be a bracelet, but I couldn’t ever quite get the clasp right, so it ended as a necklace. I used 6 copper wires as the basis for the weave. They wanted to curve and I let them.

weave

I wanted to see if I might include beads in between the weaves and tried adding small blue seed beads on the second necklace. I would have liked using larger beads, but found they created too much distortion in the shape. You may note some of this even with the tiny seed beads.

weave2

After practicing on two necklaces I decided to try another bracelet and used nine base wires in this. Again I worried with the clasp for several evenings and eventually found that with nine wires, the bracelet really didn’t require a clasp. You can see from the photo that I simply swirled the wire ends.

weavebrace

       

weavebraback

There are many other methods for finishing these, but this seemed appropriate at the time.

There is a certain rhythm to weaving. I thought the repetition would be tiresome, but find it somewhat relaxing in its tedium. Wire weaving, however, lacks some of the personality of weaving with fiber. I’ve yet to discover any surprise regarding how the wire will come together; perhaps I’m too new to the adventure. I think, however, that my next weaving will include some colored hemp along with the wire in order to play with a broader spectrum of possibilities.

While I continue to practice this wire weaving, I likely continue considering what I bring to the tapestries in my life and will hope to add something positive to each. By doing so, perhaps I can influence another “fiber” to do the same.

What have you woven today?