Understanding How To Make Jewellery Ideas Work
This isn’t so much of a ‘how to’ as it is a few thoughts on my personal experience, which I hope might be of help to other beginners who, if they’re anything like me, have a thousand ideas that only sometimes seem fully realised.
If I made any resolution for the new year, it was to try and make more distinctive, one-off pieces. That was actually my primary goal when I first started mailling, or rather, the reason I started mailling, since it wasn’t something I really saw in mainstream jewellery, but when I first started making jewellery (before I’d even looked at chain mail techniques), I quickly realised that my ideas were rarely translated well to finished pieces. The reason being I simply didn’t have the knowledge or technical skill to do so, and it took me a while to realise that putting a bunch of components I liked together without understanding or knowing how to properly refine the ‘fit’ was like trying to finish a puzzle with pieces missing, you might know exactly what the picture is supposed to look like, but without those pieces it’s just not going to look right.
So, for the last year or so I’ve been building on my basic skills, and I guess you can say I’ve been ‘learning the language’; learning how to fill in the blanks, construct, deconstruct, and play with formation in the hopes of ultimately arriving at my own distinctive style – something more than being able to construct weaves well enough. I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but being able to create pieces like this makes me feel like I’m one step closer (particularly in comparison to the first piece of mail I made!)
This matching necklace and earrings is still quite simple in terms of design and construction (helm flowers with azurite chrysocolla beads), but I think it has a level of finesse that I wasn’t able to give my jewellery a year ago. I used to try and make my ideas work no matter what, often using crude methods that resulted in poorer quality, and even downright ugly, pieces. Wanting to be able to create unique, hopefully desirable, jewellery meant I had to stop being as impatient as I usually am with artistic pursuits and start from the beginning, which has also meant I’ve been able to progress from ideas inspiring the drive to create, to skills and knowledge being able to inspire new ideas (especially when the original idea just won’t work, at least not yet).
These pieces are actually quite far removed from what I wanted to do with the Helm flowers, but matching them with the chrysocolla beads was (for me) unexpectedly effective, both in terms of the colour combo and the alternating shapes. I’m also glad I persisted with some of the wire techniques (having come to chain mail after giving up on wire-work). I haven’t perfected them, but I’m glad I can do some of the basics well enough to incorporate a wide variety of different materials to the mail.
I still consider myself a beginner, and I’m still at the stage where I’m predominantly in awe of, and inspired by, the work of others, but I’m also beginning to see that concentrating on learning over just trying to be different has started to result in my ideas actually working and in more accomplished pieces.