Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hand-crafted Jewelry: The many ways of learning

  • A select few people are fortunate enough to learn the art and craft of jewelry-making by being enrolled full-time in university art design programs or attending art institutes. Nothing can quite compare with intensive study with master artisans. 
  • Some students enroll in credit classes through local community colleges where they can take one class or many and be instructed by art professors and professionals. 
  • Still others attend workshops at community centers and jewelry/craft stores. These also provide wonderful opportunities to learn fine design and jewelry-making skills.
However, if these don’t fit your schedule, budget, or life-plan at the moment, don't give up. 
There are many opportunities to learn!

1) Your local public library is likely to have many books on jewelry making.   There are books that discuss tools, materials, techniques, jewelry design, and sample ideas.   There are also books on how to start a jewelry business, how to price jewelry, sell and market your items, and tax-related information should starting a business later become an interest.  Most libraries will have a catalog on their website where you can search for items by keyword, subject, title, or author; or you can consult your local librarian for assistance.
Scrolling and flattening are two wire-working techniques  
that can be found described and illustrated in jewelry-making books.

2) The Internet can be helpful in many ways:  
  • You can search or another search engine to find more information on your particular topic of interest.    
  • In addition, many publishers and booksellers also advertise their books online, some even showing excerpts from the books.   ( is a good source for this.)
a) If you find books advertised that seem interesting, you can see if your library has the books for checkout or if they can borrow copies from other libraries for you through their Interlibrary Loan service.  
b) Of course you can also purchase some of your favorite books from a local or online bookstore if you want a copy to keep, knowing it will be a good, long-term investment for your collection.
  • You'll also find "YouTube" on the web—a tremendous free online collection of uploaded videos. Go to then type in the topic of interest, such as:   “wire wrapping crystals,” and you will find short videos demonstrating that technique.   Watch one, watch several!
Wire-wrapped quartz crystal necklace.  
3) Bead Stores are not only a great place to shop, and to take classes, but also to visit with the knowledgeable staff people who work there.   They can answer all sorts of questions about what materials or wire gauge you might want for a project, how to use certain tools, what stones or crystals you are viewing, and when you might want to save on one product and splurge on another.  

These are all inexpensive options for getting started learning to make hand-crafted jewelry and continuing to advance your skills.  In addition to fitting any budget, you can do most of them on your own time schedule.   

If you are truly interested, there are many ways to learn!


My special thanks to:
  • The Johnson County Library, KS, for helping me learn much of what I know about jewelry making, the jewelry business, and related topics by providing me ongoing access to a wonderful collection!  Thank you for transferring books from one branch to another, and purchasing or ordering from outside libraries when necessary, so that I could have what I needed to learn and to start and grow my business!  From my local Shawnee branch to the couriers, from Collections to Interlibrary Loan, you have my thanks!
  • The staff at Heartland Bead Market in Old Town Lenexa, KS, and The Bead Shop, Overland Park, KS.  You have been helpful and taken the time to look up minerals for me, taught me about types of wire and bracelet stringing materials, how to finish a piece of jewelry so that it looks "finished," helped me select the best materials for projects, and--above all--have always been friendly and kind.   It makes going there a special treat!


To see more samples of hand-crafted jewelry, please visit Sharyl's Jewelry at

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Pretty in black"

The "LBD," (little black dress), is a classic fashion staple.   I used to own one...or two... back in the days when I needed to do a bit of dressing up.   But mostly, I've enjoyed the color black in other ways, in my early twenties--long black skirts with black or white shirts (think Victorian or prairie style).   Later, it became a quick work favorite--mix and match anything and everything with a black skirt or pair of slacks, throw on a jacket, and ready to go!   Now that I work from home, it's often a black top or sweater over a pair of jeans.   Very simple.   If I want to "dress up," I put on black shoes or boots and a black belt and figure I'm really good to go!  

Black jewelry also makes a nice accessory and goes with all sorts of colors, from more black, to gray, white, and many bright and bold colors!   It can be "classy" or "sassy and fun!"   So here's to the color black!
Black with a bit of silver.

Black with a bit of color.

Culturally-inspired designs utilizing black. 

I find black can "stir things up" and make a statement or it can be calming and relaxing depending on the piece and how it is designed.   It can be subtle or call attention to itself.   There's a black for every outfit, occasion, and mood! 

Whatever your choice, you can look "pretty in black," look "cool in black," or "make a fashion statement."   Hope you enjoy a bit of black today!  --Sharyl


P.S.  Please take note of the new page on the menu regarding the Fall-Preview Sale.   Even if you are not a retailer, there is a slide show of my newest fall jewelry there if you would like to take a look!   Thanks!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Crystals delight!

In the past, the crystals I worked with were the high quality synthetic or glass variety.  They are created and cut to provide sparkle and a gemstone look to jewelry. 

Recently, however, I received a special request for natural, raw, rough cut,  and pointed crystals.   

My first job to tackle was to locate the crystals themselves.   I shopped around locally, and only found two clear, large ones at first.  They were a bit larger and "rougher" than I had intended (see below), but since I had already shopped around without prior success, I bought them, and decided to keep looking further.   

An additional challenge awaited me, as the kind of wire designs I typically did wasn't going to work with these crystals.   

  • The two I had found did have holes drilled in them, but horizontally (more or less) rather than vertically.  
  • These quartz crystals were certainly rough in texture, not smooth. 
  • They were asymmetrical in form.   

    So I went to work researching how to wrap a natural crystal of this type.   After a couple of practice tries with cheap wire and a rock from my garden, I gave it a try with the crystals I had purchased.

    I blended more traditional crystal wrapping techniques with my own "looser" interpretation 
    in these first two pieces.

    In my continued search, I found a few smaller, smooth-cut rose quartz pieces at local bead shops, and decided to snatch those up.   Not quite what my customer had in mind, I suspected, but I knew I could make something from them.

    I made a small necklace from one of the beads (not shown), and the others were incorporated into these works:

    The rose quartz appears as an accent bead 
    to the larger work in each of these.

    Finally, I ordered several crystals online.   

    I liked the color of this pointed tangerine-colored quartz crystal.

    This large, smooth-cut, pointed rose quartz, 
    had no drilled holes, 
    so the wire wrapping had to be especially close 
    to the crystal.  
    In order to achieve that, 
    I used higher gauge (thinner) wire.

    The last was a small piece of 
    amethyst-colored crystal, 
    which now hangs from a wire design and dainty chain.

    I still have a few crystals left, but have set them aside for a while.   I admit, I still find them challenging to work with so will wait to see what demand there is for them.  I did enjoy incorporating the smaller, more affordable, crystals into pieces with other materials and will be likely to continue doing that in the future. 

    Working with these crystals was a learning experience for me.   If anyone reading has experience working with natural crystals in jewelry design, your comments, experiences, and expertise are always welcome here!   --Sharyl

    P.S.  I have a few of these crystals on the necklace page of my website, Sharyl's Jewelry, and will soon post more.   You can also find examples of wire-wrapped stones there. 

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Inspiration: My garden flowers, Part 2

    Despite a late icy Spring, too much snow and rain, heavy summer thunderstorms with hail in July, followed by weeks of dry, scorching temperatures, these perennials put on a good show again this year!  They can't help but inspire! 


    Daylilies in yellow & orange.

    Earrings:  Glass beads in yellow & orange 
    with scrolled wire.
    Necklace:  Yellow swirled glass 
    with yellow & clear crystal beads.

    Pink-violet Spirea & flowering bush. 

    Necklace: Varying shades of simulated purple pearls 
    with clear glass and crystal beads.



    Several variety of Hosta.  

    Earrings: Shimmering glass beads 
    with rose & green crystals.  
    Necklace: Wavy green stone wrapped in wire.


    Thanks again to my aunts for their generous gifts of plants to my own garden!  

    See more nature-inspired items at Sharyl's Jewelry!

    Store owners--Summer blooms are fading, so I'm having a double-sale!  Please contact Sharyl via website "Business Contact Form" for details about the "Summer Sale" and "Fall Preview Sale!"  Both last until Aug. 31, 2011.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Greetings, Robin!

    I want to introduce and welcome Robin, our newest follower!  Robin has a blog I learned about though another follower, and it's just delightful!   Not limited to jewelry, it's called "The Handmade Revolution."

    It covers everything from the values of handmade items to the goodness of fresh food grown and sold close to home.   I think any of us who make handmade jewelry can be grateful to have someone out there reminding the world of the good reasons to buy handmade products!    If this blog doesn't do the job, I'm not sure what will! 
    Robin, I love the feel-good viewer appreciation statement on your page:   "If you are here, you are awesome."   And the design is so appealing too.    So in addition to thanking you for joining our small gathering, I'd like to thank you for raising awareness for what we do!     Robin also sells jewelry, scarves, and other items at

    As with all our followers and drop-in readers/visitors, I hope you'll feel free to comment on postings, ask questions, and join the conversation!    Welcome to you, and thanks again to all Followers!

     Sharyl's Jewelry

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Inspiration: Glass

    I've been mesmerized by glass for years. The colors. The shapes into which it is formed. The way light reflects from its surface.  Its cool, smooth, shiny texture when touched.

    Several years ago, two colleagues and I sat in a restaurant trying to find a metaphor to pull together a presentation we were planning for a conference.   We had struggled, and brainstormed, were hungry, and near frustration, when one of us leaned back, and looking upward, caught a glimpse of a stained glass window in the ceiling above us.  Suddenly, we had our metaphor and our inspiration--it was glass, wonderful glass, in its many forms!*

    Since then, I've collected glass bottles in various colors, taken photographs of glass, and designed jewelry with glass beads.   What a beautiful, fragile (yet strong) piece of art glass can be!

    Below are just a few of the glass bottles and other items I've collected, paired with glass bead jewelry of similar shades.

    The pale green/blue of ocean water

    The "Pink Stuff"


    Dark Blue--My Favorite



    *A few words from the above-mentioned conference program summary:
    To create glass, you must heat a mixture of raw materials to such an extreme that their molecular bonds break and then quickly cool the newly created substance in order to lock the atoms into a random state before they can form into a perfect crystal arrangement. In other words, glass, the very substance that makes our high-speed digital networks possible through fiber optics, is a type of frozen chaos. The potential for glass, like the potential of digital resources, is limited only by our imaginations....

    --This page dedicated to my friends and former colleagues, E.R. and T.R.

    For more jewelry designed with glass beads, visit Sharyl's Jewelry.

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Inspiration: My garden flowers

    I've always enjoyed taking photographs of nature, whether a formal flower garden, a wild flower or stream, fall leaves, green plants, the ocean, pebbles or mountains.   In addition to enjoying the beauty of nature for itself, and the pleasure of capturing an image for a moment in time, lately I've been reflecting on the connections between those nature images and the jewelry I create.   

    From time to time, among our other topics of discussion, I'd like to share with you some sources of inspiration to me--in this case, some favorite flowers from my home garden and a few pieces of jewelry.  I can't say that in any of these cases, I looked at the flower and immediately went into the house and created the piece of jewelry.   However, I do see connections between the them.  And certainly, when I look at these images now, I realize why I enjoy jewelry-making, gardening, and photographing flowers so much!   Hopefully you will find something pleasing here as well.   

    Peony in bloom. 
     These bushes have been passed down 
    from generation-to-generation on my mother's side of the family.  
    I feel honored to have them in my gardens at home.

    Wire-wrapped smooth rose quartz crystal pendant.


    Purple iris, a gift from a dear aunt's garden to mine.   
    Pendant with 2 layers of rectangular glass beads, 
    one purple, one silver, 
    fastened with wire in zagged pattern.

    We have hydrangeas in several colors, but this blue one is my favorite.

    Glass, crystal, and metal beads, freshwater pearls, 
    with lots and lots of wound wire in various gauges 
    create a lacy blue and silver bangle bracelet 
    that's soft-looking yet 
    shines and sparkles.

    Please visit Sharyl's Jewelry to see more jewelry designs.

    All jewelry and photographs by Sharyl McMillian-Nelson © July 2011.