{January 11, 2013}   Something Sparkly? Sign Me Up!

As a young girl, I was fascinated with all things sparkly, jewelry in particular. I haven’t changed much in that respect. So my mom knew I couldn’t resist when she invited me to join her for a jewelry making class at Midwest Beads in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

This class, Earrings Galore, was taught by Alice Lauber, the store’s owner. Of the eight women in our session, I was the only newbie. Most had taken several previous classes and had a better idea of what they were doing. I didn’t know a headpin from a bobby pin.

If you don’t know either, a headpin is pretty much what it sounds like: a pin with a small, flat head on it. Beads are threaded on the headpin and the head keeps them from falling off. The end without the head is cut and bent to form a loop, which can be attached to an ear wire or earring post.

Headpins are considered “findings,” the collective term that describes the metal parts used to make jewelry. Other examples of findings are eye pins, jump rings, links, spacers, clasps, bead caps, bead frames, ear wires and earring posts.

Tools at each of our work areas included: round-nose pliers for forming loops, chain-nose pliers for bending wire and closing jump rings, wire cutters for cutting headpins and wire, and crimpers for closing clasps.

The beads and findings for each pair of earrings were ready in individual plastic bags. Pair by pair, Alice skillfully demonstrated each step of assembling the earrings, offering one-on-one guidance to those who needed it (mostly me.)

She moved quickly, so we could complete five pairs in two hours. There were no pauses for me to catch up or take many photos while we worked. Along the way, Alice introduced new items available at her store, showed different ways to use some the findings we had in hand, and offered variations on the earring designs. It was a great blend of jewelry making basics and creative inspiration. (Our class was one of many paid classes the store offers, but there also are free beginner classes that include materials.)

The most impressive part of my experience occurred after the class. I wanted earrings to go with a dress I planned to wear to my husband’s Christmas party. When I mentioned it to Alice, she took a look at the purple velvet dress I’d brought along and said, “Follow me.”

We walked to one of the store’s many tables of beads and she pointed out different ones until I chose a few I loved. She asked a question or two, suggested cool matte silver findings, added extra beads where I asked and put together a modern-looking drop earring in about three minutes. She asked if I wanted to make the matching one. With the new, but rudimentary, skills I’d acquired in class, I surely could do it. But it would be time-consuming. Alice, on the other hand, had the second earring complete in less than two minutes, and I had a custom jewelry to match my dress for about $8. Amazing!

My mom and I spent another half hour browsing the huge inventory at Midwest Beads, and I imagine it would be easy to lose a whole day there. There is so much to drool over: millions of beads made of all types of materials in styles from old-fashioned to modern to classic, plus crystals, cabochons, kits and completed jewelry for inspiration. While I lingered over displays of gorgeous fused glass beads, my mom found the items she needed to create earrings to match a necklace her mother handed down to her.

I left with five pretty pairs of earrings I’d made myself, cool earrings for the party, and the enthusiasm to try my hand at a few more pairs when I got home. It was a fun learning experience and a great way to share my love of all things sparkly with Mom!

Want to know more about my 47 and fearless project? Read my first post.


Melinda Gillespie says:

NIce Julie!

Thanks, Melinda! Hope you are doing well!

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