How To Make Wire Jewelry: Weave and Roll Wire Jewelry and Metalsmithing Workshop

I just taught the first wire jewelry making workshop that I’ve held in several years. I’ve joined forces with the Whaley Studios here in San Diego to start teaching again by holding a series of weekend workshops on various wire jewelry techniques. The plan at the moment is to hold a new workshop maybe once a month until I’ve got my old and new followings up and running again. There are so many, varied wire techniques that I’ve created over the years in between teaching that I’m quite excited about getting involved in teaching these sessions again. There are just a whole lot of things about learning how to make wire jewelry that I’d like to pass on to folks. Unexpected tricks and twists about making that wire take all manner of new shape and form.

So, the first of three intended wire jewelry making workshops was held just a few weeks ago, November 12, 2011 and it was called, Weave and Roll, and both Jay and I were instructing. The day did start out a bit oddly as I was awakened at around 4:00 am with one of our strong and sudden southern California rain storms. Actually, it was poring and blowing all over the place. It was still raining when I loaded up the car and headed out to the workshop in the great Hillcrest area. While I really didn’t mind the rain, I was considerably worried about students being able to get through all that and not be deterred from attending the workshop.

In any event, everyone made it safely although we were all a bit damp from coming in from the storm. Nevertheless, spirits were high as everyone was aware that this was the first time we’d taught this unusual workshop and that they’d be getting the results from many long hours of experimentation with this new, hybrid jewelry making technique. The students seemed even more excited than Jay and I!

After settling in a bit and handing out the information instructional pak we’d put together, I started the workshop introduction and Jay chimed in to add additional facts. We’d essentially explained that Jay and I had discovered the Weave and Roll technique several years ago when I was studying metalsmithing privately with Jay at UCSD (where I also taught).  We really thought that this technique would make for some terrific jewelry making instructions.

 I’d been focusing on a new round braiding technique that I’d discovered from a book on wheat weaving and I’d just discovered a pretty neat way of altering the technique to produce some rather interesting results. After I’d woven a long strand (super fast), Jay suggested that we try putting it through the rolling mill to see what would happen. Jay’s good at experimenting and always has something new and/or different to add. Anyway, we were thrilled to discover that running the weave through the mill created what looked a lot like rigid chains…..only it took a fraction of the time it would take to make a hand woven chain, wow! The fact that this rigid chain was indeed rigid or stationery enhanced the appeal greatly because there was no end to what could be made from this “stock” strand weaving.


Getting back on track, I started the workshop with a simple, four strand round braid that everyone picked up pretty quickly. I was amazed (as I usually am) to hear the “hush” in the room as all the students concentrated hard on making their first weave as evenly as possible. Once they got the hang of it, the questions started and pretty much proceeded like that throughout the entire day. “What if you changed this?” “What if you moved the strands in this direction instead?” “What if you used more strands in your lead wires?”

It was a real pleasure for us to watch the weave catch on so easily that the students could immediately see all the potential. And also start trying to clarify how this new learning could fit into their own work. Doesn’t get much better than that for a workshop instructor.

We were also pleased to see the students diligently taking notes on their workshop handout packets. That packet had all the formulas along with pictures for several of the pieces and samples that we’d made for the workshop. It was eight pages or so and also gave students the formula for determining how much wire they would need for any given project they choose to do on their own. We felt that it was an important reference document for them to have on hand after the workshop was done as well as some excellent jewelry making instructions.


Because the students picked up the basic technique so quickly, we were able to move rapidly into the altering the technique phase of the workshop. I was truly pleased to see how easy (and apparently, gratifying) it was for some metalsmiths in the group to learn how to make wire jewelry and also to see how much they related to it. They all quickly got into making their weaves as evenly as they could. They all worked hard on training their hands to be consistent when moving the wire which really is the essential part of weaving with wire for wire jewelry making.

We spent close to three hours (longer than I’d thought) on weaving different types of strands before breaking for lunch. Right after that, we got into using the rolling mill on the strands and experimenting with some of the different weaves. This was really the exciting part and what I loved most about this workshop was the open attitude that pervaded, with everyone contributing and sharing their ideas for making variations.

 We really did advance the basic Weave and Roll technique itself and the students contributed some truly amazing and wonderful and new jewelry making ideas. We were charting new ground together and while I just said that it doesn’t get better for a wire jewelry instructor than to have students so enthralled with the new technique, it does. I mean, what’s better than to be in an open, exciting, experimental educational environment where students don’t need to feel like someone will steal their ideas? What’s better than having several people all working together creatively in an open and easy fashion? Seriously, to be able to foster that kind of free interaction and contributing is something I always want to be able to generate in the workshops I teach.