Sunday, January 13, 2013

NEW: Caterpillar Cuff

I love mixing different materials to make interesting jewelry and other small works of art. Perhaps because it's the beginning of another year, lately I've been thinking about what I can add to my favorite media (metal: sheet and wire) to make more interesting jewelry. Copper sheet and plastic? Wood? Perhaps fibers or paper....
I have so much yarn leftover from the days when I knit up a bunch of scarves. I also have leather belts, thin strips of leather, and boxes full of interesting vintage fabrics, handmade lace, and buttons. I've collected loads of shrink plastic, mica, and embossing inks and powders from my rubber stamping days. Bookmaking requires the use of a few interesting tools and some materials that I enjoy playing with, such as waxed linen thread, book-board, handmade papers, PVA glue, bone folders, and awls. But how does all this relate to jewelry? I think it has something to do with experimentation.
An experimental approach to jewelry making always renders surprising results—some you'll love, others, not so much. Being willing to try out new ideas and embrace the truth that you won't always love the end result is the best path toward true individuality. For every successful piece that I've made in the studio and turned into a workshop project or the subject for a magazine article or a book, there have been other attempts that will never see publication. And that's OK; that's the way it should be. If the end result of a new piece of artwork is predictable, it was hardly an experiment. And this one thing I know: Without experimenting, I'll never break new ground.
Last year I decided to combine waxed linen thread, vintage buttons, tiny beads and fine-gauge wire to make a colorful, Victorian-style cuff bracelet. I didn't know how it would turn out and I was a bit worried about the combination of materials I had chosen. But you know what, I ended up loving it! And now my cuff graces the cover of the February 2013 issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry magazine. Talk about unpredictable! I'm amazed and so grateful at this turn of events, which all began quietly and privately in the solitude of my home art studio, with the spark of an idea and a whole lot of disparate materials fueling my ambitions.
The same goes for my most recent experiment with mixed media, using textured copper sheet and an ancient stitch pattern of waxed linen thread to make a Caterpillar Cuff bracelet (pictured at the top of this post). I was worried about dipping the cuff in liver of sulfur to artificially age the metal; would this ruin the thread, tighten it too much or loosen it?
Turns out it was just fine, no need to worry. And I had the opportunity to learn a lot in the process of making my cuff: how to bend it first before adding the stitch, to make the holes large enough to accommodate a bookbinder's needle, to file all the punched holes very carefully (jagged holes will cut the thread), and so much more. I'm grateful for the opportunity to experiment, to make mistakes, learn from them, and quickly move on with my creative ideas. Practicing the stitch over and over helped a lot; it was new to me and somewhat complicated until I got the hang of it. I now feel very confident in teaching it to others.
So now I have a new, fun project to offer my students and—more importantly—a challenge for you. Ask yourself what new materials you would like to incorporate into your jewelry designs this year. Try to come up with lists of items that you might not have previously thought of using, like leather or rubber or found objects. Ribbon scraps, broken toys, puzzle and game pieces, paint, plastic... the list goes on. I hope you'll try it. Sometimes we need to shake things up a bit. Trying out new media in our designs can take us to a whole new level in our creativity.
I wish the best for you all this year, and especially that it be your most creative and innovative year ever. Don't be afraid to try things. You never know how far your experiments will take you.
Happy wrapping,


Marti said...

That turned out really well! I like the combination.

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