Jewelry Making Poll

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Tammy Powley About.com Jewelry MakingTammy Powley is a writer and designer. She is the author of several jewelry books, including Making Designer Bead and Wire Jewelry. Besides print publications, Tammy is the Internet Guide for About.com’s Jewelry Making website and operates two jewelry-related weblogs: Jewelry and Beading Blog and The Jewelry Weblog. In addition to studying a large variety of jewelry techniques, from beading to metalsmithing, she has worked extensively with glass, fibers, and paper art. After spending eight years on the art show circuit, she eventually turned to writing about art, though she continues to sell her work through special commissions. Tammy currently resides in Port St. Lucie, Florida with her husband, Michael, and a house full of dogs and cats.

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• I think some folks may already know your background, but for those who don’t… how did you first get involved with jewelry making in general?

Not to date myself, but I used to be very into macramé back in the day, and there was a small craft store in my local mall. My sisters and I used to go there and get beads and findings and make jewelry for ourselves. Remember those mother-of-pearl bird beads? However, I got seriously involved many years later when I went to a rock and gem show (always been a bit of a rock-hound). I saw all the beautiful jewelry there and decided to buy some beads and findings and make jewelry as Christmas presents. I showed a few people at work, and the next thing I knew, I had sold all my presents! I was instantly in business and permanently hooked.

• I saw that you actually worked as a technical writer for the aerospace industry for many years before switching to freelance writing and becoming interested in creating jewelry. I guess this isn’t as large a switch in your case, but have you found that a lot of jewelry makers that you know came to the craft from completely unrelated careers?

Yes, actually, many turn to jewelry as a hobby in order to get away from highly technical and/or stressful careers. Through jewelry making they find a creative outlet that they crave. I know, for me, this was true to a certain extent because I worked in such a high-tech environment, which was totally different than what I expected when I graduated with my M.A. in literature.

Honestly, I had no clue about what I was going to do for a living. I sort of stumbled into technical writing. It was a good living, but so boring. I lost all the creative energy I had while in college. All of a sudden I found myself writing software manuals or books explaining how to clean the space shuttle. It just sucked every ounce of creativity out of me. When I rediscovered jewelry making, I knew right away it would fill my creative void.

• I think a lot of people get discouraged when they first start out because of the overwhelming amount of choices involved in what jewelry they can make. When you were first starting out, did you experiment with different styles and techniques or did you stick with just a few things at first?

Making Designer Seed Bead, Stone, and Crystal JewelryI tended to be all over the road, and I still am! Though, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest anyone go that route, but that’s me. I am a major multi-tasker. When I got serious about jewelry, I was very lucky and found a class at my local adult education center. It covered everything from beading to metalsmithing, though for the most part, we concentrated on fabrication and soldering, but the instructor gave us at least a taste of every kind of technique she could.

While taking the class, I did a lot of bead stringing on my own because it was selling for me. It was really primitive stuff – We (my husband, Michael, and I) jokingly now call it “rocks on a stick” because I really just strung up chips on head pins and monofilament, but it sold like hot cakes.

• What do you feel is the easiest type of jewelry making for beginners to take a shot at?

I would have to say that basic bead stringing is probably the best place for a beginner to start. You don’t need a huge amount of tools (I originally “borrowed” mine from Michael’s tackle box), and you only need to learn a few techniques to get (almost) instant results.


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