Saturday, July 30, 2011

Creativity Challenge

To me, being an artist means more than just doing what I'm good at. It means constantly refining my technique so that I can do what I do just a little better. It also means stepping out of my comfort zone -- pushing myself to try new things. One of the reasons I love jewelry making so much is that it gives me the chance to do just that. There is no shortage of opportunities to learn and grow.

Lately I've been giving myself a series of challenges. Specific tasks I'd like to accomplish. It's gone so well, and been so much fun, I thought I'd share some of these challenges with you, starting with Creativity Challenge One:

Do what you're afraid of!

When it comes to jewelry making, I've done a little bit of everything, from soldering to metal clay to stringing. However, there are still a couple of things that intimidate me. One is something I've struggled with for awhile, and another is something I'd never tried until this year.

1.) Wire weaving was something I found as intimidating as it was beautiful! Looking at intricate woven rings and pendants, my mouth watered at the thought of producing work at that level, but I didn't even know where to start -- so I put it off.

Eventually, my desire to give it a try won over my timidity, and I approached this challenge knowing that a) It was OK if I struggled at first. As I went on, I would discover little tricks to make the process easier, as this has always been the case with any technique I've learned. Also, that b) I would try a project that fit my skill level, i.e., terrified beginner. Weaving ring shanks would allow me to weave in a straight line over a short distance. No tricky curves, and no tiring out.

(Edit: Here's one of my first wire weaving projects! I love this pink ring.)

(Here's a different weave. This ring is another one of my favorites.)

Turns out, this was the perfect approach for me! I've done a few different weaves and made half a dozen rings. I need to hone these skills, that's for sure, and weaving with more than three wires is something I have yet to work up to, but so far I'm doing great. I've opened up a whole world of design possibilities for myself. Which brings me to...

2.) Wrapping stones. My history with wrapping stones is one that has a very distinct pattern. About once a year, I'll make an attempt at wrapping a cabochon, shell, or rough stone. And it will almost work, but not quite, and I'll tell myself I'm just not cut out to do this sort of thing, and away the stones will go in a box or drawer.

Well. Last year, when I bought some beautiful slabs of rough amethyst at American Science and Surplus, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I tried again. I could feel these stones in my studio like they had an almost human presence! Which was, OK, a little eerie. Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore, and just last week, I gave in.

I approached the challenge knowing I would do a few things differently. I would a) create a setting for the stone as opposed to trying to fit the stone into a cage I'd made. This meant tracing the stone's outline on paper, looking at its curves and bumps, and deciding where the wires should go based on what would be the most secure and attractive. I would also b) stop trying to create wraps like the ones in my instructional books and do it my way. This meant using lots of coils, some beads, and even incorporating... wire weaving. The result was better than I could have hoped for, and I definitely want to wrap irregular stones again. I might have to work my way up to round cabochons, though. ;)

(Edit: Here's the wrap!)

And that's about it for this first challenge. Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll play along, whether you're a jewelry artist, a writer, a painter, sculptor, or a trainer of dancing flamingos (what? I've seen them before). Not only is this a chance to kick fear in the pants, but it will help you accomplish some surprising and wonderful things.

Have a sequintastic day!

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