Thursday, September 3, 2015

Artist Beads and Earrings - Learning the Jewelry Basics

Sometimes in life, things work out in ways that you feel pretty fortunate.
Like having the opportunity to spend a good portion of my 30's making beads and traveling around the U.S. to sell them (before the internet took over).
Marsha Neal Studio and Thornburg Bead Studio Artist Bead Earrings
While traveling, meeting SO many wonderful bead makers, jewelry designers, jewelry hobbyists (which a lot of those people had serious jobs, and dabbling with jewelry making was their relaxation and they did not want it to be another job).

 Growing up I never dreamed of making beads or jewelry, but I always dabbled.
Here is a bad photo of a back shelf where I have all of my beads purchased at big craft stores, as I grew up. There are also some beads in there from when I first discovered the bead shows in my area. I quite remember getting sold "silver" beads, but the silver plating coming off over time, then the vendor - the next time the show came around - denied that they were his beads (he had more of the exact bead strand on the table - what a jerk taking advantage of a new beader!)


We all have to start dabbling somewhere. Sometimes the easy and cheap is the way we go.
And that is great when you are experimenting, or can use the product in ways that are very creative.
But your work goes to the next level (in my opinion) when you start to really understand your materials, and can start to design with them to have a great look, a good wearable feel - if that is your goal, and will hold up over time with intended wear.


I work part time at a wool shop and art house in Elkton, MD called Sarafina Art House.
It has been a blessing for me to have a job outside of the house around inspiring people and creative energy. We all bring a little something extra to the table creatively, and when it comes to classes, I tend to lean to the basic jewelry side of things.

The above photo is a quick shot of some of the materials I am going to bring with me to a series of classes I am going to teach in October "Earrings in an Hour". I am going to go over some of the basics of jewelry making: tools, supplies, techniques, design and inspirations. Each person is going to be able to make up to two pairs of earrings that night to take home, and I am going to be doing this for three weeks straight - with two different designs each week!


I really wanted to help people understand some different things about materials so they can start to find their creative way with jewelry making.

What are some fun tips you would share if you were teaching a beginners wire working class?
I may print some of these off with your name of course and let them read them in their take home.

PS - I have a ton of things in my head already, so asking for "tips" is just to make sure I don't forget anything important - which can happen frequently once you get comfortable with your wire work.

4 comments:

Patti Vanderbloemen said...

First off - I love those earrings - they are so darn colorful! Wish I lived closer - I would get lost in a world of wonder in that shop!

When I started making jewelry years ago, I only used sterling silver. I was "afraid" of using copper or brass - as I just did not understand its properties. Now I use copper - almost more than silver. I still get a few comments from people who feel that copper is a "lesser metal". While it is obviously less expensive, through the beauty of patina and other methods of applying colors (fire, enamel, alcohol inks, etc.)- I think it is a most marvelous material to use - ESPECIALLY for beginners! So, my tip would be to not be afraid of using these metals to begin with!

Best of luck to you with your classes!

freshbakeddesigns said...

Love your style...it's colorful and unique!
One tip...when learning a new technique, I alway work it out in inexpensive copper wire first. I have a 'free' stash available in my husbands electrical bin in the garage or purchase spools at the hardware store. When I've got it down, I might go to sterling...or often I stick with the copper and finish with a nice patina.

Tip two...learn to make your own ear wires! Saves a huge amount in costs and there are so many wonderful variations that can make your earrings really special.

Good luck!

Carol Dekle said...

Wow Marsha, it sounds like you have found a wonderful balance with your creativity and in your life. You are working somewhere that nourishes you, making amazing beads and jewelry, and now you are teaching. I think that is just great. I wish you luck in your new teaching venture, you will be a natural;) I know I've learned bunches from you!

As far as some wire tips. I would first let them play with it with their hands and fingers to help them understand wire properties. If they run their fingers through the wire fast, they can heat it to be softer. Then if they hammer it with a leather or plastic mallet, they will understand it hardens it. You know, basic stuff, but a good starting point.

Have fun teaching!

Mary Redman said...

I don't have any suggestions for you but I sure wish I could take your class!

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