I just got back from another great year at the Bead & Button jewelry making class bonanza in Milwaukee. I took five courses this year from an amazing line-up of nationally renowned metal educators. It is hard to choose what to take out of a catalog of hundreds of classes offered during the week. I registered back in January so I was sure to get in the classes I wanted. I looked forward to it all year and was not disappointed. Here are the highlights.
All of my classes were excellent but I was especially enamored of metal etching. The course was taught by the incomparable duo of Gail Lannum and Cristina Leonard. It may have been one of my favorite classes of all time. Etching is a magical process where you can take your own sketches and etch them onto metal surfaces using an acid bath. I was blown away by the creative possibilities of the process. Lannum and Leonard did a great job rounding out the etching portion with instruction on some of their own metal fabricating special touches. We learned techniques for riveting and edging that I will take with me to my own studio.
My designs below were inspired by the Henna Mehndi line drawing book the instructors offered in class. Other inspirational materials included African, American Indian, Celtic and abstract line art. Students had allocated time in class to draw etching designs based on these materials or their own ideas. It was fun to see the incredible breadth of results in the same course. Etches ranged from calligraphy to Zen Tangle geometrics with everything in between.
Richard Salley taught a Fire & Ice Pendant course that was a highlight because of the range of techniques covered in a single day. First we sawed out a front plate design. Then we enameled it with overlapping opaque and translucent enamels. Then we created a custom bezel mounting with a fancy back plate to hold the enamel piece. We then added a fabricated tube bezel setting to hold the accent CZ. We then mounted the stone and the enamel piece into the custom bezel. Richard is a fantastic teacher who managed the pace of the class to cover an incredible amount of material with ease. His assistant, Jessica Papke of Rosy Revolver jewelry studio, added many insights and technique options to round out the curriculum.
I took two classes from Kieu Gray of Urban Beader jewelry tools & supplies. The first course was making stacking rings out of pattern wire and the second course was adding simple settings to pattern wire using a flex shaft and burs. Both classes were half a day and Kieu did a great job moving a large group of people through the projects in just a few hours. She offers a beautiful studio set-up on site and she is full of knowledge on techniques and materials.
Kaska Firor offered a Winged Pendant wirework weaving class at the show. Kaska is one of my favorite wire artists and it was a pleasure to finally meet her and soak in some of her talent first-hand. Her work is frequently featured in jewelry magazines and it is easy to see why when you browse her displays of finished jewelry masterpieces. She and her daughter Kat taught a course on creating beautiful flowing wire work designs using fine silver wire. We learned about using frame wires and weaving wires along with a simple basket weave stitch to create the pendant project in one day.
The expo was full of bead vendors and demos for all kinds of products. One of the most notable trends at the show was leather, which seemed to be everywhere. Leather projects were featured prominently on the class list and many vendors were offering leather cords, cuffs and straps for jewelry making. There is still a lot of enthusiasm about cold connection techniques and multi-media projects.
It is wonderful to see so many friends from the trade at Bead & Button each year. And it is just as exciting to meet new friends in our creative community. I always come back from the show feeling connected and inspired. Now if I could just get away from my desk and into the studio more!