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Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chain Making

Lesson 6 of 22

Finding Your Aesthetic


Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chain Making

Lesson 6 of 22

Finding Your Aesthetic


Lesson Info

Finding Your Aesthetic

So before we actually dive into the process of chain making, I also want to talk a little bit about finding your aesthetic, because chain making is really a visual language that employs line and shape. So this is what I love about chain making is you can take the same process and you can do something that's delicate and airy, or you can do something that's bold and powerful, just by playing with these variables, so you actually get to start to have a voice in your chain making, which I really, really love. And so, while this class is really about exploration, right, we're gonna learn these 10 variables, I want you guys to take that 10x chain airing challenge, I want you to play around, I also want to help you start to develop your own visual voice as a jewelry maker. So, I wanted to kinda walk you guys through a little exercise to help you think about finding your aesthetic. And so what I did is I came up with these pairs and you can think about each of these as, sort of a continuum an...

d where you personally fall on this continuum, and you may be really strong on one side or another, or you may kinda gravitate more towards the middle. So, for instance, are you more geometric, or more organic, right? Do you like really precise shapes, or are you more drawn towards natural forms? Are you more modern or are you more rustic? Do you like, and of course, now Modern Rustic is a home trend, so you're like, "Megan, you can be both", and you potentially can be, but do you gravitate more towards sleek clean lines or do you like things that are kinda rough and worn? Are you more delicate or are you more bold? Do you like the little tiny fine things? I'm definitely a bold girl, like, tiny little, not so much my thing, but you may like that really delicate feel. And then, are you more minimal or more maximal? Do you like to keep things simple or do you wanna go over the top? And then, are you more graphic or realistic? And by that I mean, do you like your shapes to be abstracted or simplified, or if you're like Megan, I want it to look like a cat, right? So kinda thinking about which way you fall on those. And so even if you've never started to think about what your personal aesthetic is, you probably are already naturally drawn towards things. So one of the best ways to know, if you're like, "I don't really know where I fall on some of these", is to start to look at where you're already accumulating visual information, right? So look at things like your Pinterest board, or even the things you Like on Instagram. Somewhere on Instagram there's a magic place where you can find all the stuff you've Liked. I always lose it, but it's in there somewhere, right? So, what are you liking, what are you seeing? If you're not totally sure on your aesthetic, start to look at those things and then go back to this list and think, "Okay, oh, I kinda thought I was an organic girl, but now I see that I really seem to like geometric stuff, it's comin' up over and over again". So start to think about that. So if I were to kind of categorize myself here, I definitely aim more towards organic than geometric. I kinda throw like a little bit of geometry into my organic forms, but definitely more on the organic side. Much more modern than rustic. For me, probably the strongest one is bold over delicate. I always go for the bold over something delicate. I would consider myself more towards the maximal side, which I know some people, if you've seen my jewelry line, would maybe surprise you because I can also design more minimally, and that's sorta just part of my range as a designer. And than I'm definitely much more graphic than realistic. Like everything in my jewelry line, I call a "leaf shape" but it's sort of, just barely a leaf shape. So that's how I would sorta categorize my aesthetic. So let's talk about how this might translate into chain making, because that's part of the thing, right? Once we've established our aesthetic, we wanna think about how it's going to apply to our chains. So first, if you're kinda geometric or organic; if you gravitate more towards geometric, you're probably gonna focus on more hard-cornered shapes, like squares, triangles, things that really have that geometric vibe. You can actually do a lot just even with circles, I think in the geometric vibe, but you're probably more that way. You might also think about using things like square or triangle-shaped wire, that's gonna give you a more geometric feel, regardless of the shape that you're using. Whereas, if you're on the more organic side, you might think about using more natural shapes, like maybe you're inspired by leaves or pebbles, or things like that. And you might use more round wire or start to use more hammer texture, things that kinda give you that soft, organic look. If you gravitate more towards the modern side, you're probably gonna go more towards sleek metals, like silver or brass with a really high finish. And you're probably going to be more inclined to use a high polish, or something that feels really clean in your finish, and the same thing, kinda clean lines. If you go more towards rustic you're probably looking for more earthy metals, like copper or even oxidized silver, things that feel a little more earthy. You might oxidize, use sulfur, or start to make your metals more dark or deep, and then probably hammer texture, I think if you have that rustic aesthetic you're gonna be all about our hammer texture in segment four. Now, if you tend to be on the more delicate side, you're definitely going to think about using thinner gauge metals, so thinner gauge wire, and a lot of times lighter colored metals. So when we look at delicate jewelry we see silver or even brass in there, and oftentimes, delicate usually means a more open chain, so anytime you start to pack a chain really dense it loses that delicate feel. And we'll look at lots and lots of examples of what this looks like. Whereas, if you're on the bold side you're probably gonna gravitate towards thicker gauge metals. I am constantly buying thicker and thicker metal. I'm like, "Oooh, can I work with this? Let's try the next one up", right? I always want the biggest, chunkiest metal I can find. You might gravitate more towards darker or oxidized metals, things that are really gonna be bold and strong and show up, and often probably denser chain, right? As we pack that chain denser it's gonna look more bold. If you tend to be on the minimal side, you're probably gonna focus on more simple shapes, things that are really the basic geometry, and probably more of the basic chain structure, right? No one thinks of really complex chains as being very minimal. Then, if you're more maximal, you might use more complex shapes or a lot of multiple links, complex chain structures. If you were to look at my product line, you'll see that I have a lot of necklaces that are like, lots and lots and lots and lots of chain, and that's definitely my maximal side coming out. And then if you're thinking about graphic versus realistic, so someone who works more graphically, you're gonna stick to those kinda simple or abstracted shapes with more minimal detail. And if you're more realistic, you're probably gonna think about shapes referencing real life, so when we get to how to make different shapes by joining, you might think, "This is me, I'm gonna make a really realistic leaf form", or "I'm gonna, it's gonna look like my cat". You know? Whatever that really realistic is. And you're probably gonna have more detail. This one is a little bit harder to play up in chain, there's definitely other areas where you're probably gonna gear more towards that, but I think it's still an important aesthetic distinction. So, I want you guys to think about the aesthetic you naturally gravitate towards as you work through the 10 Variables of Chain Making. So, when you're thinking about buying wire, you may not need to buy every gauge of wire if you know, "You know what, I'm a bold girl so I'm gonna stick to these thick gauges". I actually had to go buy some thinner gauges to make some samples because I never tend to buy them. So think about that, but at the same time don't be afraid to experiment, right? Don't be afraid to play around. "Okay, I think I'm kinda into the bold thing, but what happens if I make a more delicate chain? Can I use that as one of my earring samples and see what happens?" So I want you to start to refine your aesthetic, but I also want you to be comfortable playing around a little bit.

Class Description

Go beyond the basics of handmade chain making and discover your own creative voice.

There’s no need to buy boring, store-bought chain. In Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chainmaking, you’ll learn the basics of creating your own handmade chain (including how to get comfortable soldering with a torch) and how to take the basics of chain making and add endless variations to create designs that are uniquely yours.

Designer and metalsmith Megan Auman has built her own jewelry line by discovering her signature style in chain making, and now she wants to help you do the same!

In this class, you will learn how to:

  • Make and solder jump rings into a basic link-in link-chain.
  • Create variation in your chain making through wire gauge, link size, shape, and more.
  • Hone in on your aesthetic to find a style that’s uniquely you.
  • Finish your chains so they’re sturdy and stunning.
  • Turn your chain making explorations into amazing earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.

Whether you’re just getting started in metalsmithing, or you’re looking to inject some creativity into your jewelry designs, you’ll leave this class with the skills and ideas necessary to create your own unique chain. Plus, you’ll explore your ideas by creating a series of chain-link statement earrings - perfect to wear, share, or sell!



Megan' an excellent instructor and lays things out very clearly, with a lot of good tips based on her extensive experience. I've experience making wire wrapped chain and have taken a beginning metalsmithing class before, and this class had some good refresher information. I particularly appreciated seeing her techniques and process for streamlining production.

a Creativelive Student

Megan is an awesome teacher! She is genuinely enthusiastic about sharing her metalsmithing skills with us. I am really looking forward to trying my hand at designing and making a chained necklace on my own soon.

Vernell Bevelander

Another excellent class! Thank you Megan!