Announcing “The Tao of Wire” Online Video Course

Announcing “The Tao of Wire” Online Video Course

For a long time, people have commented to me that they would love to take my classes, but live too far away from me.

So, last year I started work on a new project, which I’m happy to announce is almost ready to launch!

The Tao of Wire, an online video wireworking course by Dianne Karg Baron

The Tao of Wire is a step-by-step online video course to help you discover your own creative voice through making wire jewelry. You’ll learn professional techniques for making wire jewelry that you are proud to wear, give and sell.

FoundationSkillsCourse1Cover

Foundation Skills: Introduction to Wire Jewelry is launching soon!

This free course introduces you to the tools, metals, and types of wire you’ll need to start working with wire. Learn how to straighten wire, how to work with square wire, and tips for avoiding strain while you work. You’ll also learn step by step how make one of *the* most fundamental and multi-purpose links – the S-link – and a hook, using square wire.

Sign up today to start your creative journey!

 

Tutorial – Sweetheart Ring

Sweetheart Ring - Tutorial Instant Download from wrapturetutorials.com

Sweetheart Ring
Level of Difficulty:  Intermediate

This little ring is very economical in its use of wire, but what a pretty result! Its look is perfect for delicate fingers, but the pattern can be easily adjusted for larger ring sizes and stones. For those who have mastered the basics and are looking to move on a new skill level, this project introduces some precise measuring and calculation.

13 pages, 45 photos, 40 steps, plus design notes

USD $15.00

Tools & Materials You’ll Need:

Tools:
Flat Nose Pliers
Round Nose Pliers
Chain Nose Pliers
Flush Cutting Wire Nippers
Vernier Caliper
Permanent Marker
Measuring Tape/Ruler
Jeweller’s File
Rouge Cloth
Wooden Ring Mandrel
1/4″ (6 mm) Masking Tape

Materials:
16″ (41 cm) 22 ga. (.65 mm) Soft Square wire
1 1/2″ (4 cm) 22 ga. (.75 x .5 mm) Half-hard half round wire
1x 6 mm facetted Cubic Zirconium or other stone

Substitutions:
Substitutions are not recommended for this project.

Available now from my Tutorials Page and in my Artfire Shop.

Tutorial – Ancient Whispers Earrings (Free)

Tutorial - Ancient Whispers Earrings

Ancient Whispers Earrings (Free download)
8 pages, 43 photos, 43 steps
Level of Difficulty:  Easy

What do these earrings remind you of?  A lady of Ancient Rome strolling in her garden, admiring the mosaics and calla lilies?  The Ionic Columns of Ancient Greece soaring above the Acropolis? Whatever springs to mind, the classics are never out of style!

It’s been quite a while since I released a free tutorial! While I put the finishing touches on my upcoming (and first!) Intermediate tutorial, I decided I’d make available this pair of earrings, which were originally featured in Week 13 the Year of Jewelry 2010.

This project was developed for a workshop I’ll be teaching this week and next at Harbourfront Community Centre in Toronto.

Tools & Materials You’ll Need:

Tools:
Flat Nose Pliers
Round Nose Pliers
Flush Cutting Wire Nippers
Permanent Marker
Measuring Tape/Ruler
Jeweler’s File
Rouge Cloth
Materials:
33 inches (75 cm) 20 gauge (.80 mm) Hard Round Wire  

Substitutions:
Half hard wire can be used for this project.

http://wrapturewirejewellery.on.ca/blog/2010/03/yoj10-13-ancient-whispers-earrings/

Click here to download!

Other tutorials (fee and free) are available on my Tutorials page.

A Rant about Quality & Best Practices

Bang Head Here

For at least a decade now there has been a very concerted effort to bring wirework into the mainstream consciousness.  Many people have dedicated a lot of time and effort to raising the profile of wire – and specifically solderless wire – as a legitimate medium for fine craft.

Thanks to the efforts of these people, and the influence of the Internet, wire artists have been able to show their work, and to connect with each other to share their passion for this form of metalworking.

In recent months I’ve noticed a change in attitude even amongst seasoned metalsmiths.  Where previously wirework was written off as not worthy of consideration, I’m seeing it given more prominence.  For example, The Metal Arts Guild of Canada – the Canadian equivalent of SNAG – is currently featuring the work of Sarah Williamson on the front page of its website*.  Sarah incorporates a lot of Rainbow Wrapping into her pieces.  In MAGC’s recent exhibition, not only my work, but also the wirework of Tamara Kronis, Lissa Brunet and Gillian Batcher figured prominently.

I see genuine interest light up in the eyes of people who ask me what I do, instead of watching them turning away and copping an attitude of “Oh… you don’t make “real” jewellery.”

Unlike 10 years ago, information on making wire jewellery is easy to find.

All of these developments are very positive.

Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time knows that I am committed to producing quality work.  Anyone who has taken a class with me, or who has bought one of my tutorials knows that my commitment to quality also extends to my teaching.  One of the most treasured compliments I’ve ever gotten came from a Professor at George Brown College who taught the full-time jewellery program’s first year courses.  She greeted me one day while I was setting up for my class, and said that she had “heard good things” about my course.  I’m very proud of the fact that several people who took my class enjoyed it so much that they went on the enroll in a full-time jewellery program.  It’s equally gratifying that students from the program have joined my class and showed openness to this alternative form of jewelry making.

So… it drives me crazy when I see self-styled “instructors” churning out tutorials that teach bad technique.  Worse still is when I see a publication which positions itself as an industry leader allowing bad technique to be showcased without making the slightest effort to ensure a reasonable quality of workmanship.  It makes me want to bang my head in utter frustration.

I happened to pass by a local newsstand yesterday, and decided to stop in to see if any of the magazines I regularly peruse  were in.  I flipped through the latest issue of Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry.  SbSWJ is the only magazine since the demise of The Wire Artist Jeweller to devote itself exclusively to wirework.  In all honesty, it can only be regarded as the poor cousin of the latter.  Certainly, the projects are more simplistic – most are geared towards beginners – but to some extent I can understand that.  There is a limit to the number of steps that can be included to make each project when you’re showcasing 10+ designs an issue.

One of the projects was a neckpiece, attractive enough and easy to make.  It used square wire, also not a problem.  Here’s what made my jaw drop:  the right half of the necklace was riddled with components where the wire had gone “off square“.  What that means is that the artist did not have control of her wire.

Square wire bent around something curved like round nose pliers or a ring mandrel has a tendency to want to turn on its edge.  As a result, what you see is the corner of the wire rather than the smooth surface.  Maintaining control of the wire is vital for ensuring that the finished product looks nice, otherwise you’ve wasted your effort.  Any artist that cannot control their wire has no business trying to teach others.  It’s a waste of the students’ time.

There are a bunch of issues I see here:

First, by allowing the photo of this project with its poor workmanship to be published, SbSWJ is telling the wire community that not paying attention to the details is okay.  IT’S NOT OKAY.  Historically, it’s the lack of attention to detail that has caused the greater metalsmithing community to dismiss wirework.  Publishing crappy workmanship undermines the efforts of all of the people trying to educate the public and raise the profile of the craft.  This is a huge deal to the people who do wirework professionally.

Some might argue that they’re not interested in doing it professionally, that they are only interested in making it for themselves or as gifts for friends and family.  Okay fine.  Learning to make a piece well makes it that much more special and treasured.  It’s worth the effort.  The magazine still has a responsibility to provide the best visuals and instructions for accomplishing that goal.

Some might argue that the magazine can only work with what they’re sent.

To this I say:  BULLSH*T

I’m the editor of a magazine that publishes three issues a year.  Yes, it is difficult to deal with images that are poor quality.  But here’s the thing:  when SbSWJ published my Ladder Pendant project in March 2005, they asked me to reshoot some of the images, because the quality wasn’t good enough for print.  It is up to the magazine to set the bar and that includes setting the bar for the editorial content.  A magazine that purports to teach should at the very least START with insisting on proper technique.  Anything less does not service the readership, and people will stop buying the magazine.  Wire control is one of the fundamental techniques and SbSWJ is failing in their mandate.  Subscribers should be writing to the magazine and DEMANDING better.

As an artist, it’s a huge deal to be published.  It’s a fabulous achievement.  I still remember the high I felt being published in a major magazine for the first time.  Your work is out there, getting attention, filed in the Library of Congress, available for people to read about 5, 10, 25, 50 years from now.  So.. why would you submit something that is less than absolutely perfect? Is this really how you want posterity to see you?

As an instructor, if you can show that your workmanship is of the highest quality, being published is a stellar marketing tool.  Your tutorials will be in demand.  You’ll have repeat customers.  You’ll make more money. It’s not just about making money though, it’s about mentoring.  People just starting out want the best information available.  They want to do well, and it is the instructor’s responsibility to help them take the baby steps that builds their confidence in their abilities.  Not everyone will be able to make a virtuoso piece, but if the instructor’s work is not much better than the beginner’s first efforts, there is no chance at all for the student to develop the necessary skills to even make the attempt.

Step by Step Wire Jewelry, in its writers guidelines, states that their readers are “active amateurs and practicing professionals”.  By publishing workmanship that is blatantly unprofessional, they are not doing themselves, their contributing artists or their readers any favours; in fact, they are actively damaging the larger wire jewellery community.  They have an opportunity to take a leadership role in fostering best practices for quality.  There is no excuse for not taking it.

* Disclosure:  I am currently a member of the MAGC Board of Directors, but I do not participate in choosing who gets featured on the front page of the website.

Tutorial – Clip-on Earrings

For people who don’t have pierced ears, finding handmade earrings they can wear is a real challenge.  Back when I did shows, I’d occasionally get requests for clip-on findings, and lost sales because I didn’t have them.  Commercial findings were not an option for the types of shows I was doing.

So when, about a year ago, someone posted a message to one of the forums I’m on asking if there was a pattern for clip-ons, I thought “What a great idea!”.  I got out an old pair of my mom’s clip-ons and studied them to figure out a way to make a pair in wire.   And today I’m very pleased to announce the release of a new tutorial – Clip-on Earrings!

Clip-OnEarrings-Main

The Clip-on Earrings tutorial includes two variations:  Variation 1 makes a basic spiral, with a loop for adding a dangle.  Variation 2 forms a base on which you can add your own embellishment, so if you have a favourite bead, or button, you can add it.  Variation 2 also has a loop for adding a dangle.

13 pages, 45 photos and 40 steps
USD $8.00

Level of Difficulty:  Easy

Tools and Materials You’ll need:

Tools:
3-Step Pliers
Flat Nose Pliers
Round Nose Pliers
Flush Cutting Wire Nippers
Permanent Marker
Measuring Tape/Ruler
Jeweller’s File
Rouge Cloth
10 mm Dowel/Knitting Needle (for Variation 2)

Materials:
15″ (38 cm) 20 ga. Hard Round Sterling Silver wire

Substitutions:
20 ga Half Hard Silver wire can be substituted.

Available from my tutorials page and my Etsy Shop.

Tutorial – Art Nouveau Bangle

I’m pleased to announce that my newest tutorial, Art Nouveau Bangle, is now available!

This bangle features lovely flowing curves and Celtic elements that were common in the Art Nouveau period.

The project was a big hit with my students at the Haliburton School of the Arts! Once you have the basic technique down, you can easily adapt the design and let your creativity flow to create your own variations!

16 pages, 103 photos, 110 steps, plus design notes
USD $15.00

Level of Difficulty: Advanced

Tools and Materials you’ll need:

Tools:
Flat Nose Pliers
Round Nose Pliers
Flush Cutting Wire Nippers
Permanent Marker
Measuring Tape/Ruler
Bracelet Mandrel
Penknife
1/4″ dia. Masking Tape
Rouge Cloth

Materials:
96″ (240 cm) 20 ga Soft Square Silver wire
69″ (175 cm) 22 ga Half Round Silver wire
22 x 30 mm cabochon

Substitutions:
22 ga Soft Square Silver wire can be substituted for the 20 ga. wire.

Available from my tutorials page and my Etsy Shop.

YOJ09-37 Paua Shell Bangle

YOJ09-37 Paua Shell Bangle (2009) YOJ09-37 Paua Shell Bangle (2009); Constructed, cold joined; Sterling silver, fine silver, paua shell; L 19 cm x W 1.5 cmPaua Shell Bangle (2009)
Constructed, cold joined
Sterling silver, fine silver, paua shell
L 19 cm x W 1.5 cm

I have lots of supplies left over from my classes at Haliburton, which I’ve decided I will not be using next year.  The cabs I ordered were a huge disappointment, with widely variant thicknesses.  In particular, the green paua shell cabs were paper thin, making them virtually useless for wrapping.  Basically, they can be pressed into something else, like maybe polymer clay, glued into a pre-manufactured setting or as part of some other craft item.  Unfortunately, by the time I got them, it was too late to send them back to the supplier and order something different:  the supplier wouldn’t have been able to give me anything else in any case, because I had already cleaned out the stock she had.  The students who had to work with these cabs did admirably, but we had to change the project to make it work.  Oh well, lesson learned.  I’ll use a different supplier next year and put the remainder up for sale as a destash on Etsy to see if I can recoup any money that way.

The blue pauas were meant to be used for rings, but again, the thickness (while much better than the green) was an issue.  They are actually quite pretty, so I may try to make something out of some them.

The first go is this variation on my Art Nouveau Bangle, which uses four wires instead of eight.  It ends up being a very dainty looking piece.

More views:

YOJ09-37 Paua Shell Bangle (2009) YOJ09-37 Paua Shell Bangle (2009); Constructed, cold joined; Sterling silver, fine silver, paua shell; L 19 cm x W 1.5 cm YOJ09-37 Paua Shell Bangle (2009) YOJ09-37 Paua Shell Bangle (2009); Constructed, cold joined; Sterling silver, fine silver, paua shell; L 19 cm x W 1.5 cm

YOJ09-30 Copper Art Nouveau Cab Bangle

YOJ09-30 Copper Art Nouveau Bangle (2009) YOJ09-30 Copper Art Nouveau Cab Bangle (2009); Copper, dyed paua shell; Constructed, cold joined; L 8 1/2" x W 1"Copper Art Nouveau Cab Bangle (2009)
Copper, dyed paua shell
Constructed, cold joined
L 8 1/2 inches x W 1 inch

Over the next couple of days I’ll be posting the work produced by my students in Wire Jewellery 1 and 2, but for this week’s YOJ entry, I’m posting my teaching sample of the AN Cab Bangle.  This project ended up being quite challenging for the students and took an entire day for the class to complete.  That was something I hadn’t anticipated, so there’s going to be a scheduling adjustment for next year’s class.  What really impressed me was that everyone showed a lot of persistence in doing the project, which had a few tricky steps in it.  One lady, Janice, was so determined to do it – despite how much it was frustrating her – that she refused any suggestion by me to modify it to something simpler.  That caused me to joke that she was channeling her inner German:  “I VILL complete zis bracelet!”  The class cracked up laughing.

The next day, Janice came to class proudly showing off the bracelet, which she had attempted again on her own at home.  She said that she’d found the instructions very clear and easy to follow.  She had every right to be proud:  her bracelet had turned out beautifully!

YOJ09-27 Art Nouveau Cab Bangle

YOJ09-27 Art Nouveau Cab Bangle (2009) YOJ09-27 Art Nouveau Cab Bangle (2009); Sterling silver, bloodstone; L 21.5 cm x W 2.5 cm; Constructed, cold joinedArt Nouveau Cab Bangle (2009)
Sterling silver, bloodstone
L 21.5 cm x W 2.5 cm
Constructed, cold joined

Although it’s supposed to be a calming stone, I’ve always found bloodstone to have a kind of overpowering “in-your-face” energy that’s difficult to deal with.  For the last few weeks, though, I’ve been wearing it while working on my tutorials, and it’s been helpful for keeping my energy levels up and focused.  I love the red spotting on this cab, and the slight yellow cloud overlaying the green.  This was part of a group of cabs I bought when The Nautilus closed 10 years ago.  The Nautilus was *the* place in Toronto to buy rockhounding and lapidary supplies.  Located in the far, far east of the city, I remember it taking an obscenely long time to get there on city transit from where I lived in Little India.  But what a treasure trove!  The owner, Roy MacLeod, was a passionate rockhound and filled his store with all the bits and bobs needed to work with and admire rocks.  Sadly, Roy didn’t live to see the millennium, and the closing of his store left a void that still hasn’t been filled.

In designing the Level II course for Haliburton, I was thinking about what skills would be most useful for the students to learn.  In Level I, they learn the basics:  working with single wires, developing dexterity with tools, etc.  There are very few multi-wire projects.  In Level II all but two of the projects are multi-wire pieces, and the students have to deal with doing steps early on that don’t actually come into full use until much later in the construction. Wire control becomes very important.

One of the things Level II focuses on is settings:  half of the projects deal with some form of stone setting.

I think this is by far the most complex of the projects I’ll be teaching.  Hopefully by the time we get to this point in the course, the students will have enough confidence to tackle it.  If not, it’s easily adapted to something simpler.  I’ll let them decide how energetic they want to be.

This tutorial will be available for purchase and download off my website after I get back from Haliburton.  I’ll post the link when it’s up, along with more photos.

YOJ09-26 Prong Set Pendant

YOJ09-26 Prong Set Pendant (2009) YOJ09-26 Prong Set Pendant (2009); Sterling silver, labradorite; Constructed, cold joined; L 4.0 cm x W 2.0 cmProng Set Pendant (2009)
Sterling silver, labradorite
Constructed, cold joined
Private Collection

I found this labradorite in my stash again recently while working on the prong set pendant tutorial.

I’m rediscovering my love of stones, and am fantasizing about going to Bancroft to *shop*!  Having put myself on a buying moratorium for the last few years, I normally go to the gemboree just to have a look around.

When I floated the idea of going this year, my DH surprised me by suggesting I go by myself!  It’s a long drive to take the boys on, and since they don’t show much interest in rocks (other than the ones they can throw into water), the show is wasted on them.

Hmmm…. the possibilities…

More photos:

YOJ09-26 Prong Set Pendant (2009) YOJ09-26 Prong Set Pendant (2009); Sterling silver, labradorite; Constructed, cold joined; L 4.0 cm x W 2.0 cm YOJ09-26 Prong Set Pendant (2009) YOJ09-26 Prong Set Pendant (2009); Sterling silver, labradorite; Constructed, cold joined; L 4.0 cm x W 2.0 cm YOJ09-26 Prong Set Pendant (2009) YOJ09-26 Prong Set Pendant (2009); Sterling silver, labradorite; Constructed, cold joined; L 4.0 cm x W 2.0 cm

YOJ09-25 Netted Pendant

YOJ09-25 Netted Pendant  (2009) YOJ09-25 Netted Pendant (2009); Fine silver, sterling silver; L 4.0 cm x W 2.5 cmNetted Pendant (2009)
Fine silver, sterling silver
L 6.0 cm x W 2.5 cm

I’m running a bit behind with my YOJ postings, but I have been keeping up with doing the pieces.  My focus has been on preparing for my class, which starts 9 days from today!  This netted pendant is one of the projects for the class.

The good news is that I will get all of the tutorials done.  The bad news is that I have no idea if my wire is going to arrive in time!

Getting the supplies for these classes has really tested my patience. Back when I worked in the mining industry, the gentleman I worked for always reminded me to prepare for Murphy’s Law.  I’ve been reminded of that over and over in the last few weeks…

I do my best to support Canadian companies, partly because I believe in buying locally, but also because that way I don’t have to deal with the extra hassle of shipping, customs, duties and fluctuating exchange rates.

But some suppliers really make it a pain in the ass to deal with them.

Case in point:  John Bead, a trade-only wholesaler and beader’s heaven.  They would be an ideal Canadian supplier if they actually had the things I needed IN STOCK!!!  Three weeks ago I went to JB – my first visit in years – and I was reminded why I don’t bother to shop there unless I absolutely have to.  The warehouse is a frustrating jumble of aisles and bins.  Just finding things is the first challenge.  Then the flat nose pliers I wanted were out of stock.  I had to settle for a cheaper, lighter weight version.  The round nose pliers – every style – were out of stock.  The only pliers they did have in stock were their own house brand – at $20 a pop.  They didn’t have enough spools of 26 gauge copper wire, so I had to buy half of them in brass.  No 1.5 mm antique copper chain in stock.  Barely any 2 mm copper beads in stock.  This is a wholesaler, remember, with several thousand sq. feet of showroom space…

*If* they had had the pliers, I would have been well over their minimum purchase requirement.  As it was, I ended up having to visit their Swarovski room and buy a bunch of Swarovski crystals I didn’t really want or need to make up the difference.  And even there, the stock on some of the common colours was patheticly low!

So, if you’re in Canada, looking for wholesale Miyuki, Swarovski or Preciosa, John Bead is a go-to supplier if you can meet their minimum.  As for me, I think next year I’ll deal with the shipping costs, and customs charges, and just order from Rio Grande…

And increase the cost of the kit…I’m dealing with a very tight budget here, so that makes sourcing reasonably priced supplies problematic.

Thankfully, I found another supplier for the round nose pliers – Habsons Jeweller Supplies in Vancouver.  They had the quantity I needed in stock, and they had them packed and shipped the day after I ordered them.  This is the second time they’ve come through for me on a hard-to-find item.  Last year I bought a half dozen wooden ring mandrels from them – impossible to find elsewhere in Canada, but they had them.  I love these guys.  Great customer service.  Actually, maybe I’ll order from them first next year…

Next was the still-ongoing misadventure with the copper wire.

There are NO suppliers of shaped copper wire in Canada.  So, ordering from the US is required.

I placed my order in mid-June, with expected delivery in 10 business days.  The time came and went, and when I followed up this last week, I found out the supplier missed something on the paperwork.  The package had been returned and had sat in their warehouse for a week before being sent out again.  So now I’m sitting here hoping the package will arrive in the next few days.  If it’s not here by Tuesday, I have to re-order the whole lot (US$900+), and have it sent up here by express overnight courier.  Cost of the courier:  US$102.  *gloom*  And I have to re-source the cabochons because I cleaned them out of their 22×30 mm with my last order.   And then I’ll have two complete sets of the wire I need for the classes once the other order finally does arrive.  The owner is doing her best to be helpful, even taking time out of her vacation to deal with this for me.

In the meantime, I’m beavering away, working on tutorials, putting together what I can of the kits, and trying not to stress out…