How do you make jewelry?

I started my artistic career as an illustrator. I can draw very well, and I used to make my paycheck by making drawings. Thanks to a changing market, the demand for good, old-fashioned hand drawn art has diminshed. But, that didn’t stop me from wanting to draw, and I still use drawing as a way to explore and explain my artistic point of view.

Here is a page from my sketchbook for a series of pieces I am working on this year.

When I make jewelry, an idea usually comes first.  Ideas often pop up when my mind is engaged elsewhere. Once I toy with the idea in my mind for awhile, the next thing I do is start to draw around it. I will make lines, explore forms, textures, dimension, color, space and movement. I will explore other things related to the idea at the same time, so my mind may know the topic well. Once I am confident the idea is sound, I will start the hunt for materials relevant to the idea.

I will then begin to toy with the materials I have

I have begun to gather these materials together in a “job jacket” because I intend to take my sketch to a finished work.

chosen to create the object in the same way I toyed with the idea in my mind. I will cut or texture metal and stone and search for meaning and “rightness.” Once I feel that I have a solid plan, I will go forward and make that object. Sometimes, this process takes months. Sometimes, I’ll abandon an idea after toying with materials, because I am no longer interested in the idea enough to take the time, or make the investment in the materials needed to make the object. Often 3 or 4 ideas are all swimming together on my bench and in my mind. I am always thinking about my work.

Some of my friends work very differently from me. One very good friend has 10 or 12 things going all at once. Another friend works from start to finish on a piece in 1 or 2 sessions. Some design around an existing stone. Others cut a stone and regard the metalwork as a frame for the stone. Thankfully, there is room in the world for everyone’s way of making, and for every artist there is a different way of seeing. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Todays tip: I gather small plastic take out trays with lids to serve as “job jackets” for pieces I am thinking of. As I cut stones or texture metal, I put those tests in the job box until I am ready to make the piece. Then, when I have a block of time in the studio, I don’t have to search for something — it is all right there together.


About Helen Driggs

Metalsmith, Teaching Artist, Writer, Maker of things. Former Senior Editor of Lapidary Jewelry Artist Magazine View all posts by Helen Driggs

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