Daily Wire Tip May 11: Wire Jewelry Inspiration

By on May 10, 2011
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
May 11, 2011


Thanks a million for all of your wonderful tips, solutions and educational material. I’ve been wire wrapping with Dale for over three years now and loving it!! Dale, you’ve truly taught me to “think outside the box” and my jewelry never fails to elicit “ooh”s and “aah”s and constant comments of “never seen anything like it.” My problem is this – I’ve reached sort of a wall, and was hoping you could suggest some things to re-ignite the creative juices. Thanks for all of your wonderful work & help for wire jewelry makers!!

-Lee Ann in Royal Oak, Michigan


Thanks so much Lee Ann! I am always happy to hear that I have been helping people like you make wire jewelry, all around our beautiful world.

With regards to your current situation, unfortunately I know exactly what you mean! You have fallen into a rut and are currently experiencing “artist’s block.” This does happen to all of us at one time or another. Although I am not exactly sure what will work for you, I am going to talk a bit about how I personally overcome this frustrating state-of-mind, and offer some possible solutions for you to try.

When I have been working with the same materials for long periods of time (making what I deem “stock” pieces for a store or a show), I often draw a total blank when I want to break what has become routine. What works best for me is to completely change gears! If I have the time, I take a ride around some of the historic neighborhoods in our area (deep south) and really look at the vintage homes and churches, taking photos of interesting features like a gabled roof, gingerbread trimmings, gardens, stained glass windows, etc. Other times I search the Internet for photographs of something similar to wire jewelry, like Wrought Iron works. Here I find interesting shapes that I then challenge myself to recreate, making components that can become link or clasp designs.

I have also trained myself to take photos of wrought iron wherever I am traveling, as seen in this photo of an iron balcony railing in Moscow.

A Balcony in Moscow

I need to share with you, that after seeing all of the iron work in Russia, I no longer wonder why Faculty member Albina Manning creates such interesting round wire jewelry designs!

After I have successfully recreated and formulated these “new-to-me” components, I then have to find a way to incorporate them into those designs I routinely do, thus fresh designs are born. (I share several of these components during the 2011 Designing with Involved Components Class in my Wire-Sculpture Workshops!)

Artist’s Block is a really good reason for designers to keep up with their Designer Notebook! This handy book is totally yours! Using a loose-leaf notebook, add photos cut from magazines, newspapers, flyers, brochures, as well as pictures you take yourself. My favorite way to use my notebook is to sit in a rocking chair on my studio porch and flip through the pages, upside-down! This often gives me a totally different perspective on what would otherwise be a normal design idea. Last November, we had a great discussion with fellow wire jewelry artists about their notebook versions and uses that you may find interesting, Why Use a Designer’s Notebook?.

For example, the photo below is a shot I took of a plaster wall piece in a hotel room in Utah. Check out all of those cool spirals – now you can see the inspiration behind my Rosette Ring design!

Picture of Spirals in Utah

Of course, still another way would be to look through all of the Free Email Patterns you have received from Wire-Sculpture (or from other books, magazines, etc) and try to make a different version of a pattern that draws your interest.

I hope you are able to overcome your personal Artist’s Block really soon, Lee Ann. Maybe some of our fellow wire artists can help too! So folks, can you help Lee Ann? I would really like to hear how YOU overcome the dreaded artist’s block. What do YOU do to kick your brain back into gear? Leave a comment below – thanks!!

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar

    Robin Burns

    May 11, 2011 at 6:55 am

    Wonderful ideas, Dale! I have a growing collection of Chinese knot patterns, quilling books and the like that I hope to translate to wire designs eventually. Each time I see something that looks promising I print out the photo, acquire a booklet, etc so when artist’s block hits it only takes a look through the pile to get the inspiration to keep going in a fresh direction.

  2. avatar


    May 11, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Lee Ann~
    Oh I can so relate to this question. Personally, I sometimes believe my “muse” takes off to Florida to lay on the beach and sip fruity drinks under a beach umbrella. I sit at my work desk and I draw a complete blank when I pick up my pliers.

    As Dale will tell you, I am always doodling away in a sketch book, whether it is ideas for scrimshaw or jewelry ideas, or even combining the two together, taking shapes and turning them into earrings, or a necklace idea and then making notes on stones and colors.
    I am terrible for doodling during meetings and while on the telephone talking. But, I save those doodles and they have proven to be great sources later on when I need them. I tear things out of magazines, tape them to paper and keep in a binder. It might be, like Dale stated, some really cool looking ironwork, or a scroll that has been carved from wood, or even something out of a museum gift shop booklet.

    Thinking out of the box is a good reason why we are creative. So, here’s a hint for you…take a good look at vintage buttons and see where that path leads you…lol. I’d say more but I haven’t shown this pattern to Dale yet.

  3. avatar


    May 11, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Oh Robin – wired knots, what a cool idea!

  4. avatar


    May 11, 2011 at 10:07 am

    So you’ve been holding out on me Mary – take a picture and email it to me!

  5. avatar

    Lorraine Brooks

    May 11, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Pick up a Crochet pattern book for doilies at a department or craft store. Looking thru one, ideas will pop right into your head. Some of the designs are very intricate. Tatting books are a great inspiration also.

  6. avatar

    Heidi Rousseau

    May 11, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Good Morning, When I get “blocked” and can’t get the energy to create something,I go into my little studio and just read jewelry or pottery magazines (I am a potter as much as a jewelry maker). Sometimes just sitting quietly and reading a magazine or book to get new ideas or just to learn some new techniques is a way to get over the “blocks”. Also drawing new ideas will help to give you new creative energy but for me reading is the best cure for unblocking your talents also getting new ideas from the internet like Artfulhome.com helps and also gives you a lot of info on various aspects of your jewelry making. Of course this site is full of good ideas also.

  7. avatar


    May 11, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Those are all good ideas, but another source of inspiration for me is nature. Wire can be used to make ‘branches’ and such. Also look for unusual components to add to your work. I have one necklace that has a beautifully twisted crepe myrtle branch in it. A trip to an independent hardware store can yield items that will allow you to tap into the steampunk look. Yarn and even fabric can be added to designs to make something different.

    One of my plans for today is a trip to the thrift store to look for silk blouses that can be taken apart and the fabric used in necklaces.

    Something else that often seems to help me, is make something for YOURSELF, for a change.

  8. avatar


    May 11, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Dale,

    I want to thank both Lee Ann and you for the inspiration I needed. I’m always looking at different ways to manipulate wire, but I never even thought about wrought iron fences and after reading your reply, I can’t wait to start. It’s no wonder you are so fantastic at what you do.

  9. avatar

    Gail McLain

    May 11, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks for such great ideas for overcomming that old artists’ block. I make jewelry from horse tail hair and have come up with ways to incorperate my wire wrapped cabs with Horse hair braided bracelets. Best of both worlds and a new approach for to my work!

  10. avatar


    May 11, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    A student of mine recently told me about “zendoodles”. She and her two kids do them individually and together. They come up with some really cool designs. I haven’t used them with wire yet, but love the idea for my Precious Metal Clay pieces. Just a thought!

  11. avatar

    Jeanne Lyons

    May 11, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Wow! Awsome Ideas! When I’m bored or uninspired I browse assorted internet sites and keep a sketch pad handy because I’ve had some great ideas spawn and develop from something I see there. I also use the upside-down or sideways look method to change things up. Then on the sketch page I list the various materials I might use: wire, stones, beads etc. as I see it in my mind’s eye. I then put it in my IDEAS binder that’s categorized: necklaces, bracelets, rings, pendants, miscellaneous. Frequently when I return looking for inspiration I see even more possibilities.

  12. avatar

    Anne Duffy, Austalia

    May 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you Dale and all of the other contributors. Like Lee Ann I try to ‘think outside the box’ but your suggestions have totally blown me away. Now I am planning a weekend, armed with a camera and sketch pad, touring through one of our local historic towns to get my creative juices flowing again. Keep up with the wonderful work Dale. Your tips of the day are always the first email I open each morning.

  13. avatar

    Lee Ann

    May 11, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Thank you, Dale & everyone!!! I’m inspired already just reading these comments and suggestions. I will most definitely dust off my design notebook (shame on me) and hop in the car this weekend. I have lots of new sources for ideas and I’m sure my hands will be busy again soon. Thanks a million!!!!!

    • avatar


      May 12, 2011 at 10:31 am

      LOL – have fun Lee Ann! It seems a lot of folks will be taking slow, springtime inspirational drives this weekend. Glad I could help!