Wednesday, June 27, 2012

DVD Review: Riveting & Cold Connections

I'm so pleased to be reviewing this DVD in the Metalsmith Essentials line, Riveting & Cold Connections, produced by Interweave Press. As promised on the cover, you get two full hours of instruction on this two-DVD set. Each DVD is jam-packed with information, instruction, tips, and tricks. So, let's get started...
First off I'd like to say that I really like the teaching style of Helen Driggs, who demonstrates all of the techniques on this DVD set. She has a calm, matter-of-fact, systematic approach to teaching, and her voice is easy to listen to as she clearly articulates each word. This makes it much easier for a student of metalsmithing to follow along or take notes (as I did) to use later in the studio. I also appreciate the professional filming of these DVDs, which feature excellent lighting, close-up shots, and no distracting background noise. It's a very well-done instructional DVD set, and after viewing the two DVDs twice and taking copious notes, I can confidently recommend the set to you.
Now for a more detailed analysis of the contents, which is pretty intense!
The first DVD in the set offers four chapters: Planning a Design, Creating a Pattern, Tube Rivets, and Wire Rivets. I was riveted (if you'll excuse the expression!) to every chapter, but my hands-down favorite is her introductory chapter on using a sketchbook to plan your jewelry designs.

Planning a Design

A sketchbook is invaluable for organizing your thoughts, generating creative options, and saving money—better to design on paper than waste metal, wouldn't you say? Drawing loose sketches in a big book is a quick, easy way to work out design possibilities as well as potential problems. Helen also advocates drawing a front and side view of each design before you begin any fabrication—a great tip. And then she demonstrates using aluminum foil, folded paper, and Sculpey clay to create 3-D maquettes of your jewelry designs before committing yourself to expensive metal.

Creating a Pattern

The next chapter continues on in this vein: Creating a Pattern features more detailed instruction on making a plan for how to construct a fabricated jewelry piece. Helen suggests using base metal first to work out any design issues before switching to sterling silver or gold. She shows you how to take one finished jewelry piece (such as a wire-wrapped cuff bracelet) and use it as a pattern for fabricating a similar cuff in sheet metal. As she likes to say, the design possibilities are endless! She then shows a simple riveted earring, which she sketches in her book so that she can then freely explore six more creative options based on her initial design.
I wish that more students of wire and metal jewelry would do this, because it's really the only way to come up with creative designs of your own instead of simply copying the jewelry designs of other artists. My students often ask me how they can be more creative and original with their designs, and although I've tried to explain it in various ways, Helen really cuts to the chase by demonstrating how she uses simple pen-and-ink sketches to "riff on her ideas," exploring a variety of options on paper before she ever touches metal.

Tube Rivets

The third chapter on the first DVD features tube rivets. You might wonder, how long could it take to demonstrate them? Tube rivets really are pretty simple (in theory, anyway), but I like the fact that Helen takes her time showing how to make them—doing it right the first time—measuring carefully, cutting with a saw and a tube jig, etc. She first emphasizes safety (goggles, work apron, etc.), and then demonstrates the process of making tube rivets in great detail. She discusses items that can be riveted with tubing (metal, plastic, resin, ceramic, glass, paper, wood, formica, shell), and shows you how to drill holes that match your tubing perfectly. Here's a tip: Always drill your hole just slightly smaller than the tubing or match it as perfectly as you can. Better a very snug fit than a loose one, which will not hold anything together for very long.
After watching this DVD, I realize that I need a drill gauge (you'll see why once you watch Helen use hers over and over again). And I'd love to own the tube riveting tools she briefly shows on the DVD. Now, because Helen didn't mention the manufacturer of her tube riveting tools I went on a google search, and quickly found a set of four tools made by Tim Lazure which looked identical to Helen's. Can't say for certain, but this is probably the set she shows you on her DVD; here's the site:

Wire Rivets

Much, much more was demonstrated and explained in the chapter on tube riveting, but it's time to move on now to the fourth and final chapter on the first DVD: Wire Rivets. Helen shows several jewelry pieces made with wire rivets and discusses different types, including some new bronze rivets from Vintage that she's gaga over. She points out that wire rivets can be decorative or functional (same goes for tube rivets). Then she discusses incorporating soldered pieces with cold-connected pieces, and demonstrates her technique for making a rivet with a plain piece of wire.
Now here is where I had a little disagreement with Helen: She shows a thick piece of wire that's been cut with wire cutters, leaving a wedge-shaped end that she then files off. I could not help wondering why she didn't save time and effort by using a nice pair of heavy-duty Tronex flush cutters to flush-cut her wire, thus eliminating the need to file off the wire end? I love my flush cutters because they really make an awesome, flat cut that requires absolutely no filing, even on 12-gauge wire.
Another thing: Helen never shows using a brass riveting block. I would not make my wire rivets without one! You can find one through online vendors, and I highly recommend purchasing one if you plan on doing any cold-connections with wire. A brass riveting block makes the process of creating a wire rivet pretty simple. Also, Helen does not show balling up one end of the wire with a torch to make the first rivet end, which is so popular with metal artists today. Instead, she demonstrates the traditional way of hammering one end of the wire to make a sort of nail-head on one end, and then runs the wire through her flat pieces, measures the opposite wire end to cut off the wire, disassembles everything, and then forms the nail-head-style rivet on the other end of the wire.
Hers is a very good technique, and it's quite  functional, but I prefer to use balled-up wire ends whenever possible in my designs. To each his/her own when it comes to jewelry design and fabrication, so no criticism is intended!

Moveable Rivets

On to DVD #2! Yes, it's true, all of this material (and much more, with tons of great tips) is included on the first DVD and we haven't even begun the second one, which features so many cool ways to cold-connect components for jewelry making.
The first chapter on the second DVD in this set features a really fun and quirky way to use rivets so that your jewelry has articulated, moveable parts. Ideal for steampunk jewelry, as Helen points out. This is a playful approach to jewelry assembly, and there are many, many possibilities here...

Perimeter Tabs

If you've ever wondered how on earth to make cutout metal tabs to set pieces (such as cabs, buttons, etc.) on a piece of metal, well, Helen shows you. She takes the mystery right out of the process while showing variations on this style of cold-connection. Starting with design, she then demonstrates using a commercial circle template (you can find these at most art and craft stores in the graphics dept.) to accurately position your tabs, use a flex shaft, and hold an object in position. Cutting out lots of little tabs with a saw is time-consuming, there's no way around that. But you needn't make more than three or four to hold most objects in place, or saw out more if you like for decorative purposes.

Overlapped Joins and Folds

OK, are you exhausted yet? There's still more to come! Helen demonstrates in this chapter how to use folded metal to hold things together with tension, creating a folded seam first and then using a metal corrugator to make micro folds that can grip wire pieces (very cool); she also makes use of confirming pliers (now I want these, too!), and even tells you how to rescue your mistakes. Lots of tips and helpful asides are offered throughout this DVD, far too many to list here! You just have to watch it for yourself, and take lots of notes.

Micro Hardware

We've all seen jewelry pieces made with teeny-tiny mini-bolts, screws, and nuts; in this chapter, Helen shows you some neat ways to use them in your jewelry fabrication. Brass hardware is most commonly found. You will discover a plethora of vendors with a simple google search, so have fun shopping...

Tension Joins

We're heading down the home stretch now: Tension joins include such items as twisted wire, staples, sewn wire, laced metal strips, self-hinges, and spiral bindings (useful for mini-books as well as jewelry). Again, lots of tips and tricks are offered in this chapter. I especially appreciate Helen's use of the flex shaft throughout her instruction, and the way she manages to fit in so many valuable tips, such as how to make sure your drill bit is properly inserted into the chuck and doesn't wobble.

Putting It All Together

The final chapter on the second DVD is really fun to watch. Instead of teaching or demonstrating techniques, Helen holds up a sampler (not sure if it's a necklace or a sort of belt) of various cold-connected pieces and parts, and then talks about each one in detail as the camera zooms in. It's a very good way to end this DVD, because once again the viewer (this viewer, anyway) gets really excited about the endless possibilities that cold connections present to the creative jewelry artist.
I love this DVD set; I've already said that, but for $40 retail, how can you beat it? Presenting the same information in a live workshop would take at least two intensive days, at a cost of hundreds of dollars. This DVD demystifies many, many cold-connections that you may have been wondering about, and it's all done in closeup detail. Helen Driggs is an educated, experienced, knowledgeable metalsmith who knows how to teach novices in such a way as to inspire as well as educate them. I'm so, so happy to have this DVD set in my collection and I know that I will be referring to it over and over again.
Happy wrapping (and cold-connecting),


Blogger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Blogger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Blogger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Blogger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.