Progress Not Perfection: Clayathon 2022

Clayathon 2022, which took place online from February 19 through 21, was a smashing success. I’ll write more about Clayathon in the coming weeks, but if there’s one take away, it came from our guest artist Loretta Lam who presented six hours of content, guiding us through her creative process: Inspiration, Process and Intention on Saturday, Color, Pattern and Form on Sunday and Veneers, Finishing, and Assessment on Monday.

Learning design principles and consciously integrating them into my work has never been easy for me, which brings me to something Lam mentioned during her workshop, and I paraphrase, if you are having a hard time grasping a concept, acknowledge the possibility that you might be fighting it.

Part of the on line chat discussion during the workshops dealt with the question of how long you have to work at something in order to learn it. We are all familiar with the claim that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery. But during the discussion, Artsy-Sciency recommended a Ted Talk by Josh Kaufman, that gives a different point of view. I’m not going to repeat what Kaufman says when you can learn more by watching the video here.

One thing that struck me was that Kaufman repeated something that Lam touched on during her presentations at Clayathon, and which I firmly believe is true.

The major barrier to learning anything new is not intellectual, it’s emotional.

Designing Earrings

I’m still experimenting with dark annealed steel and bronze. i decided to make some earrings. Normally, I draw out my designs first. This time, I went straight to the metal.

I made some leaf shapes in 16 gauge wire that I planned to wrap with 28 gauge wire.


That didn’t go very well. Steel wire is stiff and hard to control. i will have to work with it more before I get the hang of it. On to plan B.

I wanted to add interest and contrast to the earrings with bronze. i tried some washers and jump rings to see how they hung. i didn’t like this result.

This looked better, but I didn’t think I could find a good solution for the other end for a post or an ear wire.

Better, but didn’t want to tackle soldering brass to steel. And the washer started to look clunky to me. I decided to solder some steel rings onto the leaves for added interest.

Trying different places for the jump rings.

This is how I ended up soldering the rings to the leaf shapes. Still don’t like the look of the washer. Too thick and clunky next to the steel wire.

i found some square wire bronze jump rings in this short chain I madw that I thought would be more compatible with the steel wire.

And here’s how they ended up. The ear wires are not visible when you wear them. Soldered posts might be a better solution. I think I will try that on my next pair.

Bronze and Steel Bracelets

I’ve been fooling around with annealed steel wire. I love the look of oxidized silver paired with gold, but it’s too expensive. So I’ve been experimenting with dark annealed steel wire and bronze for the same look. Aside from  Brenda Schweder’s book Steel Wire Jewelry Techniques and Inspiration, there’s not a lot of guidance on working with dark annealed steel wire.

16 gauge ferrous wire is much thicker than 16 gauge copper wire

One thing I learned the hard way: your basic AWG wire gauge, the kind we typically buy when we start to work with wire, measures non-ferrous wire only. Metal gauges are different for ferrous and non-ferrous wire. That means the gauge you use to measure silver and copper won’t give you an accurate reading for dark annealed steel wire which will mean trouble if you order online. You can buy a ferrous metal gauge here.

I’ve been fooling around with bronze metal clay for a while. It looks good incorporated with dark annealed steel wire ( I’ve used 16 gauge here, which is as thick as 14 gauge copper wire and very stiff.) I’ve experimented with chains, but bracelets are fun to make because they are limited projects and a good way to try out a technique before you attempt something more elaborate. I learned that you can solder the wire, thanks to Brenda Schweder’s great video on Facebook. I don’t try to soften or anneal the wire, but I’m learning how to move and shape it without damaging my tools or hands. I’m learning as I go along. Here are some pictures.