Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Video Review: The Jewelry Architect by Kate McKinnon

Let me begin by saying that, generally speaking, I joyfully advocate the high quality of information that Kate McKinnon presents. Selfishly, I felt that it was vindication for all of the technical information that I force my students to endure so that their pieces are strong, durable, and beautiful. If you want to know how to create connections in your jewelry that are strong, durable, and beautiful, the book and video set is well worth the investment. The target audience is the inquisitive beginner and intermediate jewelry artist. As an advanced jewelry artist (versus, say, super expert), I didn't find anything super new to me in here, but some of the tips alone made the purchase worthwhile. So, I think this set would be a good investment to jewelry artists of many levels. Since there's a lot to cover for both the book and the video, i'll start with the video here.

The video was the first thing that I looked at. It started with an overview of her goal in jewelry which is to ensure that connections are strong and beautiful, without physical stress on the connection points - that you need to aproach jewelry making like a structural engineer. While that is a seductive statement to me, some may find that thought indimidating, but they shouldn't. As is made clear in the sections that follow, she uses clear language and concrete techniques to help you achieve amazingly strong and durable (and beautiful) jewelry.

The first technique-specific section of the video is about stringing. Some of what she covers in the section include the materials and tools she prefers and why, the core techniques, and important information that you need to know to create a beautiful and durable piece of jewelry. The next video section is about beadwork and she gives her number on rule, and several other suggestions, for making durable beadwork. Next is a section about fiber and some of her innovative thoughts about how to create secure connections between fiber and chain. Metal clay follows and here she explains that her focus in the medium has been to explore what metal clay and only metal clay could accomplish and goes on to give examples. She explains that being able to embed a post into metal clay is one of the moat helpful advantages of metal clay and does a brief, but very informative, demo. Wire is the next section and she starts off by giving a demo of how to make a double wrapped connection, and then a second demo about how to wire wrap pearls so that you don't damage the surface of the pearl. The last demo she gives is how to use wire wrapped pearls to make a really neat "pearl explosion" pendant.

Most of what bothered me about the video did so because I'm an anally retentive nit picker. If you're not, I doubt any of the following will bother you other than, perhaps, reading through it so I won't distress you by presenting my issues in great detail. The few things there were that bothered me were more about technique and/or a stated or implied argument that her way was the best and only way. As an artist who has strong feelings about right ways and wrong ways to do something, like Ms. McKinnon, I may have been hearing what she was saying in a more critical manner than I should have allowed. But, what I want to make clear to less experienced jewelry artists is that, like Ms. McKinnon asks in the video: think about what you're doing and why, there is more than one way to solve a problem in an aesthetic and structurally sound way. So, some of the things I would discuss with my students in conjunction with an examination of this book would be:

  • The use of crimp covers versus the method presented in the video

  • Why tucking the end of the wire has two legitimate (structural and non-structural) purposes

  • Why you don't need to bend the wire 90-degrees to get the perfect circle on a wrapped loop and

  • Why, when using sterling silver, it is a legitimate concern not to want to waste wire and how to cut the precise amount you need

  • Again, so far I overwhelmingly advocate the utility of this set. I think she presents a wide range of useful and exciting information. Since I've already had quite a bit to say about the video, I'll continue my review of the accompanying book in my next post.

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