This month I took a lovely full day of indulgent, creativity to take part in a wire-wrapping jewellery masterclass. I have a long obsession with wrapping pieces of wire around other pieces of wire ! I've taken that love of wire-wrapping into the jewellery making classes and workshops that we teach in our North Dublin studio, teaching beginners wire-wrapping techniques for making earrings, necklaces and bracelets. While the Lulu + Belle jewellery collection has a focus on keepsake and personalised jewellery and could even be described as minimal, there are some wire-wrapped elements in our pieces too.
When the last orders have shipped for the day or when there's a quiet moment in the studio, I'll often be working away on a wire-wrapped jewellery project - sometimes as a gift for someone or just as a way to keep my hands busy and my mind calm. Wire-wrapping is a lovely way to calm the mind, particularly if you're working on a piece with repetition and is my form of mental yoga on stressful days!
The wire-wrapped masterclass was hosted by Rachel from the Wire Guild who has been teaching wire-wrapping for over twenty years and who showcases her intricate work at craft shows across the UK and Ireland.
First up was rings, one of the reasons I'd signed up for the masterclass, as I hadn't made a wire-wrapped ring before. We each had our own ring mandrel and simple clamp and worked with a single piece of copper wire to make a simple, swirly, wrapped copper ring.
The ends of the rings were finished off with a wrap on either side of the double wire-band. Somehow my 'rose' ended up a lot more oval than round, but of course the wrapping was free-form and I like the chunkiness of the finished ring.
Our next rings all used gemstone beads for design detail and we made a number of rings using one focal stone and then adding two accent stones. The wire is taken around the beads to form a type of wire 'bezel' to keep the beads snug and the rings are finished off with simple wire wrap on either side of the double wire 'band'.
The progression was clear and the finished rings got neater as we got more practice. We then finished with a ring in sterling silver and I picked a blue gemstone bead that I thought would go well with jeans for wearing everyday. I ended with a stash of rings for every finger, my favourite was the copper and turquoise wrapped ring.
The project I enjoyed the most was the wire woven pendant we made with a large cabachon. There was the option of a beautiful labradorite or moonstone focal stone and I choose a big oval moonstone with lots of gorgeous blue flash. We started by curving the wire into a seat at the back of the stone before tapering it in to create the base wire for the pendant bail. The bail was then woven with a figure-of-eight weave with a lighter wire to create a zig-zagging form across the double wires.
Rachel of the Wire Guild demonstrates the figure-of-eight weave
This was then wrapped around a mandrel to form the bail and the remaining wire was shaped around the stone and secured by coiling the base wires and securing these by weaving the front wires to the back. This gave the pendant the look of a 'fish-face' at the bottom of the stone, like a sparkly copper carp about to take a leap!
My pendant needed an extra layer of weaving between the front and back frame wires as there was a bit of wobble in the stone. I couldn't believe how secure the stone eventually felt in the frame and how structured and sturdy the bail was with the finished weave !
No doubt my wire-weaving could do with a little finessing but I love the finished look of the pendant and this wire-wrapped technique to set a stone !
I love making my own clasps to finish off a bracelet or wire-wrapped necklace and I think they give a lovely artisan finish to a hand-made chain. Rachel shared with us a really clever but secure wire-wrapped bracelet clasp which is similar to one that I sometimes make but has a great double wire catch that makes it really effective ... I'll be borrowing this design to finish off hand-made bracelets in the future !
Rachel's masterclass was fun, relaxed and super productive and she is generous with her knowledge, skills and time as well as being super organised. I look forward to the next masterclass with the wire-guild and have my eye on her 'magnificent ring' workshop this September in Galway !
Find more information about upcoming beginners jewellery making classes here.
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