Metalsmithing Recess: Improve Your Jewelry Designs and Technique with a Playdate

Tammy Jones - Halstead supplies

Tammy Jones - Jewelry Making Daily


By Guest Blogger: Tammy Jones, Editor of Jewelry Making Daily


I was honored when the folks at Halstead asked me if I’d like to try out some of their new product offerings–and super excited when they told me they had pearl products in mind for me, because they knew I loved them. I couldn’t wait for the package to arrive.

When it did arrive, after several minutes of “ohhhs” and ahhhs” at all of the beauties I would get to work with, I ended up at “hmmm.”

As much as I love pearls–I collect them and wear them in some form every day–I rarely make jewelry with them, because . . . well, another word for “collect” is “hoard,” right? So I was pretty stumped for a week or two on what to do with them.

Ideas would come to me and I’d make sketches, but they felt too much like traditional pearl jewelry, and I wanted to create pieces that were more wearable, more modern and fashionable. I want everyone to wear pearls, not just old-fashioned girls like me, and I knew it was just a matter of getting them in the right designs to appeal to fashion-forward gals. In other words, I had to get out of my comfort zone for this particular material. So I arranged and rearranged, assembled and disassembled, until I had a few pieces I was comfortable with. Then I took my own oft-offered advice and asked a friend to walk through the designs with me.

Tammy Jones - Raindrop Necklace

 Two Heads Are Better Than One

This particular friend is an artist, a creative soul, and a friend of more than a decade. We know each other inside out, and when we talk about creative stuff, sparks fly! She’s the best sounding board I’ve ever had. As we talked about the designs, my creativity literally blossomed in my hands. Ideas were coming from everywhere, and before we knew it, hours had passed. We had tweaked some designs, started a few new ones, and achieved world peace.

Okay, so that last one isn’t true–but I always feel so energized and accomplished when I talk through projects with a friend. Ideas just click into place, and I feel more confident in my resulting designs. I sometimes have playdates with other jewelry makers, and those hours of “metalsmithing recess” always lead to design dilemmas being solved, structural and fabrication obstacles being figured out, and great pieces being created.

No matter how many times you practice a new technique or how skillful your teacher is, sometimes you just never know you’ve really got it until you’re able to run it by (or pass it on) to someone else. And since Jewelry Making Daily covers so many techniques, I do a lot of some, a little of others, and haven’t attempted others, yet. That leaves a lot of room for learning, sharing and growth. My favorite way to do all of those things is in a metalsmithing playdate.

Tammy Jones - Pearl Dangle Necklace

How to Have a Metalsmithing Playdate

A few years ago, a friend came to me for help soldering together two pieces of a cuff bracelet. I knew she knew how to solder and had already tried to figure out why the pieces just wouldn’t join–so I had to get creative about trying to figure out what the issue was. That kind of troubleshooting caused me to dig deeper than I usually do into what I know about soldering. The solution was to use a binding wire, which I knew about but had never had a reason to use before then. We both learned from the experience, and we had fun too!

If you want to jumpstart your own creative processes or refresh your memory on jewelry-making techniques, invite a friend (or a few) over for a metalsmithing playdate. You know the saying about joys doubling and troubles halving when you share them? It’s true. Here are some thoughts to get you started on your own metalsmithing playdates.

Tammy Jones - Pearl Tassle Necklace

  •  Offer to teach a friend how to make jewelry or how to do a technique they’ve wanted to learn. In addition to all the fun you’ll have, you’ll be reminded of what you know and maybe improve your own technique.
  •  Swap techniques: Ask a friend to teach you a technique they excel at, or collaborate by combing your personal skills into a piece of jewelry. For example, fabricate a ring or pendant to show off a lampworker friend’s glass creation, or one of you fabricate a metal design and the other can enamel it. Make pieces in pairs and each of you will have a sweet memento from the day.
  •  Clear your workspace of as many extra tools and supplies as you can, for safety purposes as well as convenience. You might be comfortable working in a small clearing among every tool you own (who, me?), but your friend might not be. If your friend is bringing their own tools and supplies, try to clean off a small table just for them. You might also want to label your own tools with your name or a piece of colored electrical tape for easy identification later.
  •  If you don’t have much table space, try this: Determine which sturdy table you’ll do the heavy-duty work on, such as hammering, soldering, etc. Grab a small table from another room, cover it well with newspaper, and move some of your supplies to that table, freeing up surface area on your worktable for everyone to work more comfortably. Keeping the supplies on the extra table won’t hurt it like hammering on it might.
  •  Remember safety practices and make sure there are enough pairs of safety glasses, face masks, hair ties, aprons, etc. for everyone who is playing.
  •  I can’t recall a gathering of my friends that didn’t involve snacks or at least beverages, but the jewelry studio isn’t the place for open containers of food or drink. Use closed beverage bottles if you must, and save the snacks for after recess in another room. Here’s a fun idea we use in the South for keeping bugs out of our drinks outside–it can work for keeping studio dust and debris out of your drink, too. Cut a small (1/4″) X in the bottom center of a cute cupcake wrapper. Fill a Mason jar with your beverage, invert the cupcake wrapper over the opening, and screw on only the ring portion of the lid. Pop a bendable straw through the hole in the wrapper with the top bent downward, and voila–nearly enclosed beverage! You can use plastic wrap instead of cupcake wrappers, too.

Naturally, your own studio, friends, and techniques will warrant their own special circumstances so that everyone has a great time. And you will have a great time enjoying your hobby with friends in a metalsmithing playdate!

Happy Jewelry Making!


P.S. I almost forgot–I made five necklaces using the Halstead Bead pearls, chain, and components I received. I’d love to know what you think!



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