Finding Your Way in Wire For those just beginning the wire wrapping journey, the questions are endless. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what you need to know, since the world of wire is vast. In the following article, I hope to provide you some direction in seeking direction. Yes, the how-to of the how-to. Everyone learns a little differently, but let’s see if we can get going down the right path.
The first question is where to go for help. When I began delving into wire work, it was very accidental. I didn’t intend to become so deeply embroiled, I was only looking for a hobby. I stumbled upon some jewelry pieces on Pinterest that absolutely fascinated me, and I was compelled to find out more. However, at the time I didn’t even know what I was looking at. It took a bit of research to even uncover the fact that what I was seeing was wire. From there, I used Google to find more of it, and then took the common denominator of “wire wrapping” or “wire wrapped jewelry” and searched further. What I quickly realized was that there were plenty of photos and plenty of people creating this art. So I decided to see if I could find them. To this day, I’m quite certain that if it had not been for Facebook groups, I wouldn’t have pursued wire to the extent that I did. Nevertheless, I found several groups, which led to several more, and suddenly I was surrounded by wire. Sorting out groups is a job in itself, because there are more being added daily. Some are specifically for sales, some for learning, and some for general discussion. I would submit that all of these types of groups are quite valuable for educational purposes. While it may seem intuitive to say, “I’m learning so I need a learning group,” how will you know what you want to learn without seeing what is possible and what’s already being done? So, spend some time where you’re just seeing finished pieces go by. Observe, and keep your mind open. When you find a group where people are friendly and sharing ideas, hang around. Read the questions others have and watch the answers. If you’re in a group where work is being showcased, reading the comments of more experienced wrappers will help you learn what parts are what, and what things are called, so that you’ll be prepared when it’s time to ask your own questions. You will find a place that becomes your “home” as it were, and then you can start to make inquiries. In order to do that, you will want to take a long look at all the styles of wire wrapping there are to be had. I suggest you spend some time on Pinterest, Google, Instagram, Deviant Art, anywhere you’re able to see and study finished work. Learn what draws you in. See which artists most appeal to you. Find similar elements in the pieces you love. Make a list, take notes. Many artists who are prolific in the wire world are well-known to the rest of us wrappers, so if you say that you’d like to learn the style of Nolan McClellan or Nicole Hanna, we’re going to know exactly what you mean and where to send you for resources. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’re anywhere near ready to define your personal style, it just means that at this point in time, you’re interested in a certain aspect. That will change over and over again as you grow, and that’s really the joy in wire is that it’s endless. A note on style: Other than saying that you’re into “heady” wraps (which means totally different things to different people anyway) there are no clear style categories for types of wrapping. You might be able to list characteristics, such as organic or industrial, but even at that, it will be a matter of opinion. This is why I suggest looking at different artists’ work. Once you’ve determined what you’d like to focus on, I would recommend finding out if your favorite artists offer tutorials. Each style of wrapping has some foundation skills, and most of those are interchangeable, but you need a starting point. The internet is an all access pass for anyone to create content, and while this is an amazing and powerful resource, the downside is that anyone can create content, and there is no wire gatekeeper to say whether that content is good or bad. The wire world is being inundated right now by new artists making tutorial videos, some of which are questionable in their technique, so caution is recommended. In a public forum, it’s very difficult to hold up one tutorial maker and ask if that person is good or bad. The better option is to ask for recommendations. I will include a few of mine at the end of this article. Another way to glean information is to simply use Google, or Bing, or whatever search engine makes you happy. Just like I accidentally found wire wrapping, you will accidentally find all kinds of things that will inspire you. You might not get your desired result on the first try, and that’s actually fantastic! The more you see, the more you are exposed to, the wider and deeper your knowledge bank becomes. I can’t tell you how many times I have answered one question by seeking information about something entirely different. It’s all growth, and that should be your goal when you are learning. It happens regularly, even now, that I discover new artists who are bursting with talent and new ways of doing things, so occasionally I will very intentionally go “down the rabbit hole” to see what I can see. When you come to specific questions and you haven’t had success with Google, by all means return to your learning groups and ask for help. It is often the case that you simply need to change the terminology you’re using to get the results you seek. Groups will help you with that, but you will increase your chances of success by using good etiquette and framing your questions effectively. Let’s talk about that! In wire learning groups, you’ll find that there are people of all skill levels who specialize in all styles. Some will be brand new, and some are seasoned veterans who have helped to build, and hold together, this amazing community. Some people are there as beginners who are just learning, and others are there because we feel a certain call to give back to the community that helped us get to where we are. Make no mistake, however, even the veterans are learning daily from others with new perspectives. This is a never ending journey, and even those at the top are students. One rule of thumb I have set for myself is this: Always be learning, always be growing, always be reaching outside the comfort zone. Everyone who participates will get something out of groups and discussion. With that being said, I would make some recommendations about getting around in your groups. Files. Most learning groups have them. You will find resources, free and paid, and usually there will be a list of tutorials and so on. I cannot stress how valuable these things are. Take the time to educate yourself on what is in the files section. You will find answers to questions you haven’t thought to ask yet, along with a lot of basic information. You may find information on where to get supplies, books, classes, tutorials, stones and beads, and anything else you might need. You might find links to articles such as this one, and others, on a variety of topics. You could happen upon websites where artists sell their work, or other helpful things such as articles on pricing. There are a few questions that are commonly asked, and eventually someone will put the answers to them into the files, but you’ll never know if you don’t investigate. Do some leg work on your own before you make the post asking where everyone gets wire. ( We mostly get our wire from Rio Grande and Monsterslayer, for those of us in the US!) If you haven’t found your answer in the files, try using the search feature in the group. Need help with how to make a bail? Well, chances are good someone has discussed it already. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask your question, it simply means that you’ll learn a lot about bails by reading the questions and answers of others. You may find enough information to solve your problem and then some. Take the time to look over these things, even if you don’t find what you seek I would wager you’ll learn something every time. Here, I’d like to include some perspective on asking questions in groups. Firstly, anyone who is assisting in a group setting is doing so on a volunteer basis. We do not get paid for our time, and answering questions is a courtesy. That is not to say we aren’t happy to help. However, our time is valuable, and it is much easier for us to help those who have clear questions and have done some research on their own. *Above, I referenced the question about where to get wire because it comes up ad nauseum in groups. We all understand that it’s a common thing for a new wrapper to want to ask, but a good many will skip that question entirely because a) we’re human and we’re tired of answering the same question over and over and, b) our limited time might be better spent helping someone solve a problem that can’t be searched easily. Please know that moreover, we’re not being rude or indifferent, we’re asking you to do some searching on your own. Above all, please understand that no one in any group owes anyone an answer. As with anything, courtesy goes a long way. Please do not come into a group setting and expect to be hand delivered tutorials and instructions that solve your issue. What you should be hoping for is to be pointed in the right direction, where you can go forward and continue your own research. If you get a link for a tutorial or a resource, be grateful! If you get a suggestion to try a certain artist’s page, please go there and have a look for yourself. Many times in groups we see posts to the effect of “I need help making a bail” and no context at all. How many different types of bails do you think there are in wire? Yes, more than a few. Do you need step by step instructions on where to get the wires to form your bail? Are you looking for a free swinging bail? Are you using one type of bail and you’re not happy with it? Do you want to know how to finish your bail? We don’t know. In order to help you, and you would be surprised how many of us are willing to help, we need information. Wherever possible, provide pictures that illustrate what you’re asking about. If you don’t have pictures of the piece you’re working on, include pictures of the kind of thing you want to accomplish. From there, we will understand the question better without asking for clarification, and you’re far more likely to get the information you need. Another way to ask for help is to request feedback on your pieces. Because of the climate of the internet lately, you’ll see that someone posts work asking “what do you think?” and you will see a handful of responses that say “great” and “stunning” and “good job”. Sometimes, that’s just the kind of support a person is needing, and in that case it’s fantastic to get it. However, if you want honest, critical feedback, be direct about it. Post your photos and be clear what you’re seeking. “Please tell me what I could do better or what areas need improvement” or “I’ve just finished this and I don’t know what’s wrong, please advise”. Those kind of queries will get you the critical feedback you can use to improve your technique and design. It is always daunting to put your work on display and ask for criticism, but it’s so important to the learning process. Everyone starts at the beginning, and I often recognize in others the issues I struggled with when I was new. However, I’m not going to tell you unless you ask. No one wants to make anyone feel less than, and we are all careful to give support. If you want critique, ask for it in a way that makes others feel like you’re wanting to grow. A word of caution when it comes to asking about construction of pieces. I see often times when someone posts finished work, one or more of the comments will be “let’s see the back” or something similar. Without sounding harsh, no one is beholden to disclosing the way their pieces are constructed. Any piece made from a tutorial should not ever show the back side. Why? Because this often gives too much insight into the construction of the piece. Some of us make our living by selling tutorials, and work really hard to come up with unique designs. As it’s our income, we don’t want to have it freely given away. So for that reason, tutorial pieces should never be displayed from the back. Additionally, as an artist, if I’m working up a new design I might not show the back because it could eventually become a tutorial. There is a specific group for backside shots called Backs or GTFO. If you’re seeking photos that show backs, this is the place to go. Lastly, please don’t ask us to price your work. This is a very personal thing that must take into account several factors that we cannot possibly have knowledge of. What I do for $100 may be far more, or far less, than another artist will do. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. I have to consider what my customer base and local market will bear. That is different for everyone. There are pricing formulas and calculators. If you come into a group asking if your prices are too high or too low, you will likely get few answers. Is this worth $100? Again, it depends on who you ask. It’s subjective and there is simply too much involved for a concise answer. I would encourage you to research that independently and come up with a formula that works for you. Hopefully this information will be a help to you navigating groups and seeking assistance. Again, the wrappers who continue to contribute to this community are willing and able to help you. We all want it to be an atmosphere of positive vibes, mutual support, and learning. Respect is the number one rule in navigating the seas of wire wrapping, and we are happy to have you aboard! Wrappers I recommend: The Tao of Wire - Diane Karg Baron Nicole Hanna - Go Art Yourself on YouTube
Nolan McClellan - Raftark Jewelry Miles McDonald Perri Jackson James Ferris - Lonely Soldier Design CSL Designs (on YouTube, for a comprehensive index of wire weaves done WELL) This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and I will likely add others as they come to mind.