Aug 17 2009

Learning via osmosis

Published by at 9:40 pm under amy's head,crafty,jewelry

It’s funny how one learns things. Sometimes, all it takes to pick up a lot of things is just immersion into the subject. But if one can’t immerse oneself, it’s hard.

I’m just thinking over how my course of jewelry making has taken in the last year. I decided about this time last year, that I was going to make jewelry for the females in my family for Christmas. I hadn’t done any jewelry making since high school, when I would do some stringing on fishing line, and then take a lighter and melt the knot so it wouldn’t SPROING apart. In case you don’t know, this is a pretty juvenile approach to bead stringing, however, it served pretty well, and I had several necklaces for many years before they broke.

So when I first started, I bought a bead stringing book, and some beads during a trip to Michaels. The book was a great start with the introduction of some basic stringing tools – the proper kind of material to string it with, crimping pliers, crimp beads, clasps, design elements. I knew that I couldn’t keep going to Michaels – I was still uneducated, but I knew it was over priced, and cheap. The first site I stumbled on was and while it is a decent site, it’s not one of the better jewelry supply sites that I now know are out there.

So I strung a little and read my book and looked through the site looking through the various tools they had wondering what in the world one would do what THAT. I started scouring etsy for inspiration and also, some direction. Stringing wasn’t really for me, honestly. It was too easy and too hard, all at the same time. Too easy in that all you have to do is slip a bead onto a strand over and over until you have your piece. It’s too hard in that you have to decide WHAT to string and WHERE and in what order and how long and multistrand? and does this stone look good with that one and… It’s harder than it looks.

But I did make jewelry for all the females on my list, and I think back on them and still think they looked pretty good. In the meantime, I had taken a wire working class and learned how to wrap a bead, make some figure 8 connectors, twist wire in new and fun ways. The class was actually kind of an accident, in that if I knew what it was about, I think I would have passed, but in fact, it was exactly what I needed. I took in the language, the terminology of the wire work and yearned for more. I discarded what I didn’t like about the class and honed the skills it taught me.

I found a few of the jewelry supply monoliths out there and again pored over their catalogs and built wishlists. I went to local beadstores and bought way too many beads. (And never too many!) I joined a yahoo group for wire wrapping and continued to track and absorb. I looked through galleries, I knew what I liked, I knew what I didn’t like.

Somewhere in there, I found a few chainmaille sites. This is where I think I may have gone a little haywire. I think chainmaille is fantastic for many reasons – in the right material and sizes, it almost never fails to impress. It’s so intricate and meticulous and yet one can do it while they sit on the couch watching TV. (What’s not to love?) One can adorn it with beading or leave it plain and it still looks jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

I was a smitten kitten. I bought my first (last? I know james hopes so!) jump ring cutter and my love affair with sterling silver was fully underway.

I scoured forums, chainmaille weave tutorials, added super sale dates to my calendar so I could be sure to buy my expensive sterling silver wire at the best price, cursed my jumpringer, smooched my jumpringer, wove and wove some more. I branched back out from time to time, to make some wire wrapped beaded items that I was proud to see had a unique design to it, something I could proudly point to and say, “I designed that.”

Another class, this one on soldering, light up a big compact flourescent bulb over my head. I was on the search again, this time, poring over torches, solder, flux, pickle, and let’s not forget disc cutters, doming blocks, rolling mills, flexshafts. More groups to join, more forms to explore, more words, this time on smithing, to hang on to every one.

There is a great jewelry artist community out there that has given a lot to me (whether they knew it or not) just from my careful observation. Just from my reading every word I could find on the subject. Almost just through my proximity, my hovering around to hear every morsel, every drop. almost, one could say, through osmosis.

Still, I guess there comes a time where even learning through osmosis needs actual instruction. And so I’m very excited and absolutely giddy that I am taking a class in the fall term of the Art League, on silversmithing. Nine glorious weeks of bench time with someone to watch and hang on every word. Though this time, not in virtual space, but in real space.

I start mid September. Very excited.


One response so far

One Response to “Learning via osmosis”

  1. Sara Hardinon 18 Aug 2009 at 1:29 pm


    Loved this post. Thanks for sharing your evolution….