Wired on Wire
Remember your first simple loop? I remember mine. Santa Monica, 1990. It wasn't neat and it wasn't pretty, but it opened up a whole new wirey world to me. I guess you could call it an "entry" technique. Not far behind were wrapped loops, coils, and free-form wrapping. Next thing I knew I was pawning my wedding crystal for hand tools and bumming wire off my metalsmith buddies.
Since I was strictly a needle-and-thread beader up until then, working with wire was pretty exciting. Come to think of it, I felt a bit giddy to be working with tools for the first time. Things that were out of my reach beforehand were suddenly at my fingertips. I could crank out a charm to add to a stitched bracelet, whip up a quick pair of earrings, or create a custom clasp for a necklace–all were possible with just a few tools and some wire. It was quite staggering.
I’ve learned a lot about wire since that first simple loop in 1990. The most surprising lesson? There is no other handcraft I've ever learned that has taken as much practice. Really. Thousands of wrapped loops later, I'm still learning how to make them look cleaner and more even. I've also come to the conclusion that wirework is not an option–if you're a beader, you need to know how to do it.
So, what's the best way to get started? Here are a few tips.
Take a lesson from a real person. If you can swing it, take a beginner's wireworking class. Learning from a pro right off the bat will save you lots of time you might otherwise spend frustrated, not to mention the cost of yards of experimented-on wire. If there aren't classes offered in your area, see if you can find another beader who's good at wirework to show you firsthand. It really does help to learn this skill from another human.
Buy your own tools. If you take a wireworking class, there will most likely be tools for you to use, but you'll want to buy some for yourself nonetheless. These are specialty tools, so you'll be shopping for them at a bead shop or jeweler's supply, not at the hardware store. Buy the best kind you can afford. These tools will last for years so don't be chintzy! To get started, you just need 2 chain-nose pliers (the extra one is for opening jump rings), 1 round-nose pliers, and 1 pair of flush-cut wire cutters.
Use copper wire to practice. Copper is soft and cheap, so it's a great wire to practice with before you spend the extra money on sterling silver or gold-filled wire.
Design a charm bracelet. Make it so "fluffy" with beads and wire that you can't see the chain. Such a chunky design will ensure that you're not only proficient with wrapped loops by the time you've finished it, but also that any clunker loops you made will be hidden by all the beads.
Making the Perfect Bead Dangle – Check out this step-by-step guide with photos!
Congratulations to the Bead Star Early Bird Winner! Sarah Sharp won the $250 gift card in the random Early Bird drawing for Bead Star. She doesn't know yet exactly how she'll spend her windfall, though she's pretty sure that sterling silver wire and PMC will be on her shopping list. When asked about her designs, Sarah said, "I love to combine natural stones with creative wirework and have been working on more elaborate designs in the past few months. While my work focuses mostly on necklaces, I have been making a lot of earrings lately as well. I find that earrings are good small projects for developing new techniques." Bead Star is Sarah's first beading competition–what a great way to start!
The Early Bird deadline has passed, but there's still time to get your entry in for Bead Star! The deadline is next Tuesday, May 6th. Enter today.
Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks!