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Jewelry Design Process


Step 1: Sketch

Sketches are the first step to creating a new piece. I begin with a general concept of a figure and then do a more detailed drawing with dimensions. I like to make the math "pretty", so I usually pick a small number (3 for example) and work it out so that everything comes out to factors of that number.

Step 2: Organize Wire

Next, I organize my wire. Working with dead soft wire in gauges ranging from 20 to 28, I cut each wire to the desired length and align them so that they are as close together as possible. This helps make sure that the beginning part of the weave is just as tight as the end part, a very important step if I plan to solder each wire to itself to form a bangle. The wires are then clamped into a special vise which has jaws that will not mar the wire. If the wires are very long, I tape them into coils to avoid work-hardening the lengths of wire. At this point, the piece usually looks like a rat's nest, but sorting the mess out is part of the fun!

Step 3: Weave I weave back and forth, row by row, according to patterns that I have developed over time. Very slowly, the weave emerges out of the bottom of the vise. The math involved in figuring out how much wire is needed for each piece can be quite complicated, often with guess work involved if I am working on something new. I like to leave myself a bit of extra wire, but sometimes I have to use every last bit to get the length I need. The entire weaving process can take as much as two weeks, or as little as a few hours, depending on the size of the piece.

Step 4: SolderFor bangles and rings, the woven strip is soldered into a circle. Each wire is soldered to itself so that the bracelet appears continuous. I make sure the solder does not travel onto the weave, as this closes up the airy gaps and would be visible when the piece was held up to the light. If the piece requires a frame or some other solid component, I fabricate it at this point and solder the weave in place.

If the piece requires Forming, I do that next with a plastic mallet, a wooden mandrel, a Delrin forming stake, or a pair of soft pliers. The challenge of forming woven metal is to create the shape you need without marring the wire. No metal tools are used in this step -- wooden and plastic tools only.

Step 5: FinishingThe last step is Finishing, which is a combination of mini buffs and tumbling. If there are solid components to a piece, I try to finish them as much as possible prior to attaching the weave to reduce the risk of marring the wire during finishing. If the piece is exclusively woven wire, I tumble it for a minimum of 5 hours, polish it with a very fine polishing compound (so as not to remove any roundness from the wire), clean it with a soft brush and suspend it in an ultrasonic cleaner.

Step 6: Photograph WorkWhen the piece is finished I take a quick picture so I can show it to people if they ask what I've been working on. I also love sharing my new work on Facebook and Instagram. The feedback I get is a huge part of my interaction with the goldsmithing community and the people who collect my work.



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