Some of us like to learn from books or solitary experimentation, and other prefer a classroom or formal workshop. If you’ve never taken a jewelry-making class and have some concerns, here are some great tips!
I recently mustered up the courage to attend my first jewelry making class. As a new jewelry artist and completely self-taught from magazines, internet tutorials, and books, I was pretty nervous about it. What if everyone is so much better than I am? What if they laugh at my amateurish technique and hodgepodge variety of tools? What if someone discovers that I am (gasp!) a complete and utter fraud pretending to be a jewelry designer? Ok, so I have some self-esteem issues. Maybe you can relate to being a little insecure about your art.
Overall, it was a worthwhile if not an entirely enjoyable experience. I did learn a lot, and left with a beautiful piece of jewelry. It was, however, a frustrating experience. I felt like I was behind the whole time. I struggled to keep up with the instructor. I had to stop being a perfectionist with each…
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I love it when other artists share free information and tutorials for jewelry design!
How would you like to make this fun little ring? It’s really not that hard. You just need a few basic wire wrapping supplies, and a little bit of patience. The picture above was a custom order that has sold. So the tutorial pictures will have a different center bead.
1. A set of basic jewelry pliers – flat or needle nose (blue handles), round nose (purple handles), and side cutters (pink handles)
2. 24 gauge round jewelry or craft wire any color
3. 20 gauge round jewelry or craft wire any color
4. 1 or more beads of your choice with a minimum of a 24 gauge opening
5. a ring mandrel
Tips Before We Get Started
1. Know your ring size. You can find out by taking a ring that already fits you and sliding it on the mandrel to find its size. Or wrap a piece of…
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I’ve spent a lot of time in Africa. I’ve come face to face (mere inches away), with wild lions. I could spend my life in the Serengeti watching them. Instead, I make jewelry that reminds me of the magical land I left behind, but hope to see again.
Click here to view this piece on Etsy.
Maybe you’re the kind of person that enjoys crafting. Or maybe you’ve seen jewelry someone else made and wondered if you could do the same. Or maybe you’re a Do-It-Yourself type that likes to save money. Or maybe you’re thinking you could earn money by making beautiful things and selling them. If any of these apply to you, here’s a list of what you’ll need to enter the wonderful world of jewelry-making, and a few pointers to start you on your way.
The following list of items contains everything you will need for your first beginner projects. There are many more tools than the ones I’ve listed below, but this will get you started without making you go return to the craft store every 5 minutes. I recommend buying these items locally at a Michaels, JoAnn, or other craft/bead store, so that you can return/exchange any problem items. Once you’ve become very familiar with beading, you can order supplies online, but keep in mind that small items ordered online may be even more expensive than in a local store because of shipping charges.
Beginner Beading Tools/Supplies
- Plier set – If you’re starting from scratch, you might as well buy a set of pliers instead of getting them individually, since you’ll need several and it will save a little money. A set with 1) chain nose pliers, 2) flat nose pliers, 3) round nose pliers, 4) side cutter. Some kits come with useful extras like tweezers, bead scoops, or bead reamers. Cost is about $10-15.
- Tweezers, bead reamer, and bead scoop, if they didn’t come with your kit.
- Caliper – A bead-measuring tool. Cost is about $2-5.
- Bead mat – A soft mat made from velvety material. Absolutely essential for keeping your beads from rolling off your table and onto you floor. Cost is about $3-5.
- Bead design board – A tray with indentations/grooves in which you can place your beads and get an idea of what your finished jewelry will look like. Cost is about $7.
- Crimping pliers – You’ll need this for crimping crimp beads onto nylon-coated beading wire. Cost is $12-15
- Nylon coated wire – Used for stringing beads and making illusion necklaces. Cost is about $8.
- Crimps – Tiny metal beads that grip nylon-coated wire when you squeeze them with crimping pliers. They keep your beads from falling off the wire. A package of 4 colors (gold, silver, copper, gunmetal) is about $9.
- Toggle claps or magnetic clasps – Used for keeping your jewelry on your neck or wrist. You can also use lobster clasps or screw clasps which are cheaper, but they are somewhat inconvenient and much harder to operate one-handed, which is especially important for bracelets. Cost is about $6 for a pack of 5-8 clasps.
- Jump rings – These little rings connect wire to clasps, making it very easy to lengthen your necklace or bracelet without having to re-string your beads onto new wire. Cost is about $4 for a pack of 80-100 rings.
- Head pins – These are used to hang one or more beads from a chain, or perpendicular to your wire. Cost is about $4 for a pack of 50-100.
- Ear wires – These are used for making earrings and come in several colors (gold, silver, copper). The least expensive ear wires are made from brass, nickel and copper. You can also buy them in gold and silver for people who are allergic to base metals. Cost is about $5 for a pack of 50.
- Seed bead kit – Required for bead weaving projects, otherwise optional. Contains an assortment of basic colors and will save money over buying seed beads individually. Cost is about $10-25
- Bead loom – Required for bead weaving projects, otherwise optional. Used to weave beads in certain patterns. Cost is about $10.
- Strings of beads – This is the single item that you will constantly be buying, but you can start your first projects with 2-5 strings of beads. Buy more when you run out. The cost of a few strands is $20-50.
- Beading reference book – A good, printed (non-digital) book is best, so you can easily flip through the pages. I recommend The Beader’s Bible or Beading Basics. Cost is $20-30.
Total cost = $140-200
As you can see, the initial cost is significant. You’ll need to make several pieces of jewelry before you begin “saving” on the cost of jewelry you might have purchased from a store or another craftsman. And if you’re planning to make items to sell, you’ll probably need to sell a few dozen before you recover the cost of your investment and your time (remember to account for the time you work on your jewelry when pricing it).
Many people just bead for fun and the love of crafting. They might sell a piece here and there, but most never recoup their costs. The reason for this is simple… Beading is addictive. The beads come in every color and texture under the sun, so you’ll always want more. It’s a bit like crack, except you won’t die from it. Once you’re hooked, your life will never be the same. Fortunately, it will at least be full of color and beauty.
Best of luck in your endeavors!
(This is a reprint of a travel story I wrote a few years ago)
Two weeks ago at Cinequest (San Jose Film Festival), I saw a cute guy standing on the street. He called out to me as I drank my latte. “Hi, I noticed you looking at my chest.” And I was indeed looking at his chest, but only because he had little dangly things on it, and I love jewlery… especially dangly chains and earrings. At this distance I realized that what dangled from his neck were many little bottles with something white inside them, and though I’d never seen any in person, I would have to say the little bottles looked like Crack!
The cute guy was handing out little fliers so I took one. “Our film is being screened at 2 O’clock. It’s called Cocaine”, he said to me. Duh! The little bottles were a marketing ploy, and I’d been suckered by it. “They’re just TicTacs”, he added. Well… shows you how innocent I am… can’t tell the difference between Crack and TicTacs! The good part of it is that I can eat them, and I won’t explode or go to jail. It’s a win-win situation really.
Funny thing is, the Crack that comes in little bottles isn’t the only kind that can land you in jail, at least depending on the country… why just 2 weeks before I’d been in Egypt, where I saved two stupid tourists from prison and public ridicule. I was touring the Citadel, an old fortress built 400-500 years ago. My mind kept spinning with imagery of eras gone by, and more than once I had to laugh when I was reminded that the largest mosque inside the Citadel was built by Mohammed Ali (can you imagine it… a boxer building a mosque?!!). OK, Mohammed Ali and Mohammed Ali are two different people, but my brain is weird and I can’t help make the connection.
Taking a walk down the road from Mohammed Ali’s mosque, you will come to… another mosque! This one is mostly in ruins, the roof is missing, but the Muslims still like to honor it. For this I give them credit. We took off our shoes and I covered my head, as is the custom of respect inside all mosques. Then I walked around and snapped a few pictures. Walking back towards the exit, my heart nearly stopped. Sitting on the steps inside the mosque were a man and a teenage girl. In a country where women are covered neck-to-wrist-to-ankle, and even men don’t show their arms, were two people in t-shirts way too small for them. And why was this so shocking? Well guess what happens when your t-shirt is two small, your pants are too loose, and you sit down while bending forward… bingo! Your shirt rides up, your pants ride down, and you expose the world to something that comes in little bottles…. YOUR CRACK!!!
Hashish will get you many years in Turkish prison (seen Midnight Express?), but showing crack in a mosque would most likely get you stoned on the spot… and not the kind of stoning you’d enjoy either. I crept up to them quietly, trying not to attract the guard’s attention, and whispered the words I hoped they’d understand. “Be careful when you sit. Your backsides are showing”, I said. The man’s face turned red and his teenager looked blankly. “Thank you”, he said, pulling down his shirt.
There would be no stoning in Egypt that day. No public protest of outrage besides the ones about the Danish cartoons of the Prophet. An international incident had been averted. All because of me!
The moral of our story? It is to take care to keep the innocent, well, innocent. Do not expose your Crack to young children or mosque-goers in Egypt. And if you must carry a little bottle around your neck… fill it with TicTacs.
A public service announcement by,