Perhaps I should clarify: even though I've titled this piece 8 Tips to Improve Your Jewelry Making Skills, please don't stop reading if you don't make jewelry. Most of these tips (if not all) can apply to other crafts as well. Either way, I've put a lot of thought into this article and since you're already here anyway, you might as well finish reading it. Plus it's good manners. If you get to the end and feel I've wasted your time or you don't agree with me on one point or another, you can always leave a comment and give me a piece of your mind. With that out of the way, let's get to the list.
1. Practice! Although we all like to think we are the 1% who can pick up something and do it perfectly the first time, it just doesn't work that way. If you ask your most admired artists, they will tell you that they've come a long way and devoted a lot of hours to perfecting their craft. Which leads us to #2...
2. Strive for perfection. This one might not apply to every art equally, but in some mediums, like micro macrame, neatness counts. It's all about keeping the knots even with the same tension, crisp corners and straight lines. In other mediums it might be a matter of getting a smooth solder or a perfectly coiled wire. Mediocre isn't good enough - strive to do the best work you can. You won't get this one without #1 (practice). Fact.
3. Play! #1 and #2 make it sound like making jewelry is drudgery and it couldn't be further from the truth. Allow yourself time to play around in whatever way is fun for you. Sometimes I like to goof around with random knotting just to see what develops and sometimes I like to try the strangest color combination I can dream up. Just for fun.
4. Take a class. I had never been able to take a class until last year, and I thought I'd done okay for myself with the self-teaching bit. And I had. But when I had a chance to take a class I was really excited by the whole experience. There's just no substitute for learning from someone who really knows what he or she is doing. I picked up some great tips and got a fresh infusion of enthusiasm for possibilities I hadn't considered.
Even if you live in the middle of nowhere like me, with no access to local bead shops or experts, there are online classes available. Although a live class is nice so you can interact with the instructor and other students, online classes have some strong points of their own: you can pause them, replay portions and tailor the experience to your own schedule without disrupting other students. Whether live or recorded, classes offer you an opportunity to grow and develop your skills.
5. Network. Find a local group of like-minded enthusiasts or join an online community. It's fun! I belong to several groups on Facebook and I really enjoy them. I love to see the different styles of artists from all over the world. Plus, having a group of friends who have the same interests can be helpful if you get stuck. Usually there's someone who has faced the same issue you're experiencing , or at least someone who can offer some creative solutions. It's also a great way to find inspiration, which leads to #6...
6. Look for inspiration. Whether you find inspiration by taking a stroll through the park or a hike in the mountains or a trip to the zoo, or something more sedentary like scouring the Internet, inspiration is there and free for the taking. Clear your mind and take a fresh look at everyday objects. Think in terms of texture or color or lines, then try to replicate even one part of that in the medium of your choice.
7. Experiment. Don't be afraid to fail. Try something different - if you usually work with polymer clay, try your hand at micro macrame. If you are a knotter, pick up a bead weaving tutorial and give it a go. Try torch fired enameling (make sure the blinds are out of the way first and don't ask me how I know that). The point is to step outside your comfort zone, color outside the lines. Sometimes when you do that, it blurs where you thought your boundaries were and opens the door to some amazing things!
8. Find your style. It has taken me a long time to put my finger on what makes one piece fantastic and another mediocre, even when the two are very similar and I've finally boiled it down to one thing: authenticity. The whole point of art is to express yourself. It's great to learn from a class or follow someone's pattern, but in the end, you need to find a way to make it yours if you want to take your art to the next level. Find your voice and then sing like nobody's listening (cliche, cliche, cliche - but accurate). Do you like no one else can!