Brogan-Arts Blog

January 21, 2010

Which wire is which?

Filed under: Wire Jewelry — Diane @ 9:55 am

Wire comes in different tempers, shapes and sizes.

Wire size.
Wire is sized using gauge references with a higher number being a thinner piece of wire.  For instance, 30 gauge and above is good for crocheting wire. 16 gauge is a good size to use for making a bail on a necklace.  The gauge you use is dependent on what you plan to do with it.  I use many different gauges, but today we will talk about 22 gauge. It is the most versatile size for wrapping cameos and many semi precious stones.

Wire Shapes
Wire can be purchased in many forms:  round, square, half round, twisted, triangular, low domed, bezel, gallery, patterned and sheet.  If you are on a budget, it is good to know how you will use the wire before you buy it.

Wire temper.
The most common wire comes in Dead Soft and ½ hard tempers.  ¼ hard, Full Hard is also available at some companies.

Top Choice
If I could have only one type of wire it would be 22 gauge, Dead Soft, round. Dead Soft can be annealed to make it hard or stiff.  Unless you have special tools and use special procedures, you cannot make hard wire soft.

Dead Soft, 22 gauge, round wire can be used for sculpting.  You can also use a piece of the same wire as binding wire.  I discovered the agility of this wire when I was requested to wrap a piece of sea glass.  I have a piece of dark green sea glass wrapped with 22 gauge copper wire.  I get compliments every time I wear it. The top photo is the front view and this photo is the back.

Best Advice
The best advice I can give someone starting out is to use practice wire.  The second best advice I can give you is to buy a pair of nylon jaw pliers. Slightly bent wire can be straightened out with nylon jaw pliers.  You can save a ton of wire by using wire jaw pliers.  I wish someone had told me about them when I started wire wrapping.

Good luck and happy wire bending.

January 18, 2010

The Secret of Wire Wrap is Practice

Filed under: Wire Jewelry — Diane @ 9:36 am

Wire and what it can do is limited only by one’s imagination.  The secret to wire wrap is practice. Practice until you think it is perfect.  Try the same piece again later to reinforce the learning.  Practice the same piece a week from now.  Of course all that practice wire costs money.

The case in the picture has five drawers – one drawer for each type of wire I use.  There is 14KT filled, silver, copper, brass, and bronze.  Companies, such as www.RioGrande.com, that sell wire, often buy scrap wire.  If you don’t choose to recycle, it is a neat place to put scrap wire which can have sharp edges.

The secret to wire affordability is in the type of wire.  When I started wire sculpture, I bought a kit.  In the kit was a package of brass “practice wire.”  I soon learned that brass wire was about a tenth of the price of silver or 14KT gold filled wire.  I bought lots of brass wire.  The secret of using practice wire is to use it in the same gauge and temper as the gold or silver wire you intend to use for the final product.

Brass wire is just slightly stiffer than silver or gold.  In a way that is cool.  After mastering brass wire, silver and gold has a smoother feel.  Gold and silver is more pliable and the curves and swirls almost dance into place.
Now I use mostly copper as practice wire.  Copper has the same feel as silver and gold. The most common wire I use is 22 gauge round and square so I have a spool of both gauges in copper ready to use.  If I haven’t done a particular wrap in a while, I like to do a practice run using copper.  After making so many pieces of jewelry from basically the same pattern, one would think that practice is unnecessary.  I am more comfortable doing a practice piece than pressuring myself to make a perfect piece using the more expensive silver or gold wire.
Bronze wire has recently joined my wire choices.  It is similar in color to rose gold.  It has the same feel as silver and gold.  The only problem is that it tarnishes like copper and brass.

The secret to wearing tarnish free brass, bronze or copper is having an easy to use cleaner.  For my personal jewelry, I use Bar Keepers Friend cleanser and polish.  Just place your jewelry in a dish, sprinkle some Bar Keepers Friend on top, cover with water and let sit while your shower.  When you are ready to wear your jewelry, rinse well, dry, and enjoy.  Check availability in your area at www.barkeepersfriend.com.  I buy mine at Market Basket for less than $3.00.  I have seen it in catalogs for $19.95 so it pays to shop around a little.

Use brass, copper and bronze for practice or for fashion.  They all have special qualities.

What types of wire do you use?

January 14, 2010

Starting out

Filed under: Articles — Diane @ 9:34 am

Blue Lady

I am a wire artist.  I started my journey in January 2006, a year for new adventures.  Our first adventure was to go diamond mining at the Herkimer Diamond Mines in New York.  Herkimer Diamonds are double terminated quartz crystals.  The most popular are the elongated crystals that can be wrapped in wire and made into a necklace.  I went on line to search for instructions on how to wrap wire around a crystal and make it into a necklace.

Preston Reuther became my mentor.  Fortunately for me, I had a good job at the time and was able to buy all of the instructional DVDs he produced and all of his written material.  The man is a true master wire sculptor.   On more than one occasion, he said, “I’ll teach you the basics, but you will develop your own style.”  At first I could not comprehend what he meant, but the more I work with wire the more I develop my own style that is just a little different or more advanced that what I did before.

The first video was how to wrap cameos, like the one pictured with this post. I practiced and practiced. After a while, I had some that looked quite nice. I wore the cameos to see how they felt, how they hang, and how many compliments I would get from my fellow workers.  To me the compliments were important.  I didn’t want to produce a product that would not be well received by the public.
As it turned out, personal test marketing was a blessing.  Based on personal experience from designing my own jewelry since 1996, I know that the size of bail is important.  Many times, my jeweler would bring back a finished piece and the chain would not fit through the bail.  By making my own jewelry, that would hopefully never be the case.

Brogan cameos have a long bail that can accommodate a one inch velvet ribbon, or an omega chain, a lace ribbon chain or a plain chain.  One of the first cameos I wore came undone in the middle of the day.  I was horrified!  What if that happened to a customer?  It was then and there I knew I would need to craft the bail in such a way that my customer’s would never have the same experience.
The public’s reaction to cameos is interesting.  Brogan cameos receive high praise for their beauty, their uniqueness, their reasonable price, and their quality guarantee.  I am not a pushy sales person, but on occasion I have asked a potential customer if they would like me to package the cameo they fell in love with.  They hesitate, with longing clearly showing in their face and decline, saying something about big beads as the in thing right now.

If I never sell another cameo, I will still create sculpted cameos to provide an art exhibit for my customers.

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