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Honour Your Inner Magpie

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Ritual Jeweling
elf hill
Well, this is for kristenj and marykaykare, who requested that I tell about this.

I'm not sure when it started. Possibly it was when my friend LauraLee moved away. A bunch of us wanted to have a going-away festive gathering where we wished her good wishes, and we wanted to give her a token of our esteem. Since I had been teaching her a little bit about wireworking jewelry-making, a necklace seemed to be the right thing. We had a necklace-making ritual, and it was very very good.

Since then, I have done almost half a dozen more, and it seems to be happening more frequently. The usual set-up is that someone tells me of an event for which they would like to commission a necklace of this sort. Some people ask for one for themselves, other people do it as gifts for friends on various occasions: retirement, birthdays, beginning chemotherapy, and so on - a wide variety, indeed.

Usually we plan an event where the people who are doing the well-wishing come together and help put the necklace together. For some of them, people have each brought a bead or charm (and I always bring extras in case someone forgot or didn't get the word in time); for others, I bring all materials and they select from what I have laid out. In the upcoming one, the form of the necklace is carefully designed in advance, and people participating will hand pieces to me in the order they go onto the necklace. (This one is a very special design, and wants that.)

There seem to be two main styles of necklace developing: the charm necklace and the link necklace. The latter is built link by link, each link bearing a bead or charm, usually one brought by the participants. The former is made by measuring out a length of (usually) sterling silver chain to fit the recipient, attaching a clasp, and then attaching the items people give me in some pleasing pattern, usually balanced by color and length and weight. There have been more charm necklaces than link necklaces, but tomorrow's will be a link necklace. I'm really excited about it, too. After the ritual, I will see if I can put up a description of it.

One thing that has developed is a sense of pacing that grows out of making the necklace. At first, people talked about the symbolism of their bead or charm, and when they were done talking, they handed it to me to work with. Lately we have realized that it makes sense to give me the piece at the outset of their remarks, because their talking and my working often take just the same amount of time, and it feels good to do it that way. (Besides, then I'm not working for an hour after the ritual breaks up into snacks and chat.)

I'm learning a lot about design and balance, and it's particularly interesting doing this work as someone who rarely takes commissions. I usually tell people that I will do what I call "first refusal" rather than commissions: if I take on the task, they get first dibs on the piece, but if they don't want it, they are not obligated to buy it. If they don't take it, I can go ahead and sell it as I normally would. I wouldn't do that with a ritual piece, though, obviously -- it has a specific recipient and carries specific meaning. (And OK, I have done one or two commission pieces, like jenett's wedding jewelry present. And I don't mind if people ask, as long as they're cool if I say no.) Anyhow, the ritual jeweling is a different thing altogether, is how it feels to me: it's those things, that person, those friends, and that specific time, all connected together in a wish and a memory and a circle of affection.

Sometimes when I do it I make my labor a present; other times I accept a token payment of between fifty and two hundred dollars. It varies with what the organizers want and what their situation is and how my exchequery is doing just then, but generally I do whatever it takes to make sure the right thing can happen. If that means making a present of a lot of my work, sometimes that's the right thing to do. I've been totally satisfied, so far, and people seem to really love the necklaces and the event around creating them. I am always happy to see them being worn. They're tangible things representing good feelings from a lot of people that came together around the wearer, and I like that. I like helping there be more of that in the world.

So that's what ritual jeweling is, when I do it.

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Setting is probably the wrong word, really. I'm not sure what the right word is.

It's a sphere, which is the difficulty -- it's a moderately large sphere. (Much larger than the sort that gets put in claw pendants.)

It wants to be in something that I can wear or keep on me easily. (As it is it lives in my coat pocket so it's wherever I am when I go out.) I am just plumb out of ideas for how to put it into something that will hold it (as spheres are kinda slippery) and what to do with it if I did.

(Ritual jewelry reminded me because it belongs to Someone.)

I do a lot of stone wrapping, with some odd shapes and I like to experiment with wire. If you like, I'd be happy to look at it and either set it or try to give advice on how to do it yourself. Spheres are tricky, but just talking about it has created some images of the final product in my head :)

And you are exactly the person I was hoping would respond!

lilairen, meet lexiphanic, who (among many other talents) packs and ships the pieces I sell; lexiphanic, this is lilairen, who is the person I said ought to get those lapis-lookalike (or maybe even lapis - did we think they looked plausible?) pieces I got in that big bin o' fun a while back.

There you go; talk amongst yourselves and have fun.

Advice would probably be best, as we are not, I see from your userinfo, in nearest proximity.

Hrm, here's an idea. *scurries around for equipment*

This is the stone, photographed next to a quarter so's to give the sense of size:

I would probably recommend making some kind of cage, of at least 6 wires (3, doubled) of a fairly heavy gauge (20 would probably work).

I would take 3 wires, fold them in half and create a loop at the bend, secured by twisting the wires together or wrapping them together. Then open the loose ends into a star, shape them around the sphere and secure the ends on the other side by wrapping them together and creating sprials or small loops or something to keep them from sliding back through the wrap.

The loop at the top will give you a place for ribbon, chain, etc if you want to carry it with you, and if you put loops at the bottom you can embellish it with dangles. Spirals at the bottom will secure the wires and be decorative without adding other components.

Here is one that I did in similar fashion, though a different shape:

Hopefully that makes somes sense :)

Yes, that does make sense. Thank you tremendously.

Do you have recommendations for tools for shaping the wire? I have fingers and needle-nose pliers that I know where are.

For wire that heavy, you will need to use the pliers. I suggest a round-nose for making any loops, and the needle-nose are good for wrapping. You may need both at once, as the wire will probably be too stiff for your fingers as soon as you start to bend it.

When Emily Hackbarth did beadwork at about.com she posted this pattern on how to wrap marbles (slippery glass spheres) with beads to put them in a bracelet.

That's awfully cool. Thanks for the link.

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