Recently I was thumbing through a tool catalog looking for a new pair of flat nose pliers when I realized just how many different tools there are out there. I couldn’t believe that I was faced with a ton of questions just to purchase a tool. All I wanted was a pair of flat nose pliers that had a thin tip. Now I had to figure out how long I wanted them, how thin the tips should be, what type of handle would be best, how much money was I willing to part with, etc, etc, etc. I’m sure that many of you have been faced with the same dilemma. Here are a few things I like to keep in mind when purchasing tools.
This is usually my first concern. With the economy as it is today loosening up the extra cash to purchase new tools has become an interesting trick using smoke and mirrors. So you might want to consider how much of your budget you can sacrifice for a good quality tool. Then, start searching for the best tool that will fit your budget.
Wouldn’t it be horrible to purchase a new tool only to find out that it was too big to fit properly in your hand? Or maybe it didn’t have enough padding in the handle to make using it on a regular basis virtually impossible. So it’s good to think about these things before you make a purchase. Determine what comforts are important to you. Once you have figured out what you are looking for in a tool be sure to read the description carefully. Most catalog descriptions will give measurements of the tool, you might want to pull out a ruler and see if that length or width will work for you.
Last Week of our Summer Sale
Be sure to stop by and take advantage of our Summer Sale before it's too late. Just visit - http://www.macjewels.com/tutorials.html
We'll See You There!
Before you purchase any new tools be sure it’s the right one for the job. For example, if you are doing really fine, intricate work you would want to purchase pliers that may have a thin tip. So again, it’s a good idea to read the tool description carefully. How often you would be using the tools is also something to keep in mind. If I was only using that tool occasionally I might not spend as much money on it. A decision like that could have a big effect on your budget.
All of us want to get the best quality product that we can for the money. Many feel that the more expensive the tool the higher the quality. That isn’t always the case. I have know many artists who have purchased high dollar tools thinking that it must be the best only to have them break in a short period of time. Granted, most of those high dollar tools come with a guarantee, but the hassle can really drive you nuts. So how can you measure quality? I think that the best thing to look at is reputation. There’s a lot of buzz on the internet, in magazines, and at jewelry supply shops on different tool makers. So that means that you may need to do a bit of research before you buy. As you do your research you’ll quickly come to realize what tools are good and which ones to avoid.
One Last Thing
Something else that you might want to do is ask around. Since money is so tight these days it might be a good idea to ask others what they use and why. There are a lot of jewelry groups on the internet where you can post questions and get great answers. Artists are usually willing to tell you what they think about certain tools that are available. So don’t hesitate to ask around.
These are only a few things to keep in mind when purchasing tools. I’m sure that each one of you has certain criteria when it comes to choosing your tools. These are only the things that I look for when I’m spending my hard earned dollars.
‘til next week!
Mackintosh Jewelry Studio
As artists we’re always looking for new ways to create and design. However, at times our inspiration wells dry up and we need to find a new muse to pump life into our work. In last weeks blog I pointed to the designs that surround us in our everyday lives – nature, architecture, non-jewelry designs, etc. – that can help jumpstart new work. This week I want to take that idea a step further.
Consider this idea – Imagine creating new work by looking old work. (Think about it for a moment before you pass judgment…I haven’t lost my mind…yet) What does that mean? Sometimes we can find new inspiration by looking at what others did in the past. I love to visit my local library and spend a bit of time thumbing through books on antique jewelry. I look at the shape of the pieces, the stones used, the detail in the metal, and then translate that into something new. I’ll draw various design elements in my sketchbook then use this to come up with a new piece of jewelry.
As you study jewelry from the past think of ways that you can use certain design elements in your work. Think about putting your spin on a piece from the art deco era or modernizing a piece from ancient
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not advocating copying someone else’s work. That’s a huge “no-no” with me. What I am saying is use these old designs as your muse to create something fresh and unique. Find a way to creatively blend various looks to your work.
As wire artist though, using elements from traditionally made jewelry can be rather difficult, if not, impossible. So what can we do? Develop new ways to use wire to mimic a traditional design element. That’s exactly how I came up with the idea of Wiresmithing. I was thumbing through a book on the history of Native American Jewelry and was inspired to design a cuff bracelet using silver and turquoise. I wanted it to have elements of a Native American cuff. Using traditional Wirewrapping techniques, however, wouldn’t give me the look that I wanted. I had to find a new way to mimic traditional metalsmithing using wirewrap techniques. In a short period of time I designed a whole new way to create jewelry made from wire without the use of solder. All of this came about from looking at old designs.
Native American Inspired Cuff Bracelet
So never underestimate the value of looking at the past. By studying what others have done your well of inspiration will never run dry.
‘til next time,
The September 2010 issue of Jewelry Artist magazine had a wonderful article on Cartier. I love learning about other designers and how they found success. The article focused not only on the history of Cartier, it also gave a glimpse into their design theory. The article told of an incident between Jacques Cartier and a young designer by the name of James Gardener. As Gardener was designing a piece for Mr. Cartier, Cartier showed him a picture of a table leg taken from a book on Chinese furniture. Mr. Cartier pointed out some of the design aspects of the table leg to inspire Gardener to create jewelry using similar forms.
Mr. Gardener’s experience really struck a chord with me. Over the years I had used a similar technique to create some of my own work. I’ve spent many hours pouring over books on antique jewelry to get a better idea of design. Looking at what others did in the past helped me better understand how a piece should flow. After reading this article however, I realize that I was limiting my design inspirations.
If you think about it we’re surrounded by design. Take nature for instance. Walking through your backyard garden or a local park you’re inundated with design ideas. Something as simple as a flower can provide you with endless design possibilities. Look at the shape of the petals, the curve of the stem, the color variations, all of these elements can be used to design jewelry. Am I saying make jewelry that looks like flowers? That’s up to you. If looking at flowers inspires you to design a line of flower jewelry, then by all means do it. However, my point is far more abstract then that. The various design elements found within nature can give birth to new and exciting work.
Here’s an example of a design inspired by nature. This Feather Brooch has many elements that are based on a literal feather; the center rib, stem, and basic shape. But that’s where the similarities end. The overall piece lacks some of the fine detail that would make it look like a literal feather. There are just enough details to give the viewer the illusion of a feather. By using some of the feathers elements I was able to create something that was familiar but different at the same time. This design intrigued the person who eventually purchased it. They loved the overall shape and familiarity of the design.
Feather Brooch Tutorial Available at -