Giving with grace: Kirsten's necklaces

When reader Kirsten mentioned, in a comment, that she had made a coral and pearl necklace (two of my favourite gems), I asked if we could see it. She kindly sent several pieces for the Passage's window:

Madonna! I'd wear every one of those, and wondered, How does she do it? Here are some of Kirsten's tips about the hobby she picked up in the 1970s when, as she says, "I realized I could make jewelry for very little money and have items which were unique."

Kirsten's first steps:
"I went to a bead store and a helpful saleslady told me what I needed to buy and how to finish off a piece with crimps and a clasp. That was the only formal instruction I had. I learned everything by trial and error, observation of jewelry pieces, and reading. Today, there is endless information online, including tutorials through large suppliers such as Fire Mountain Gems."

Building technical skills:
"Since crimping the ends and adding clasps are the only essential skills you need before making anything, practice these before beginning, to give yourself confidence. Even cheap plastic "kiddie beads" will work as you master skills. When you feel confident, plan a better-quality project."

(Note: Many supplier sites show step-by-step videos for creating pieces, such as Nina Designs' video on how to knot pearls onto leather, a beginner project that delivers advanced style.)

The tools:
"The minimum tools include: flat-nosed pliers without "teeth", round-nosed pliers, and a side-cutter. (A little kit with these three tools is quite inexpensive.) You may also add a crimping tool and a bead board for laying out your designs."

Kirsten in Maui
"I love beautiful beads and collect them when and where I can, often in my travels, and then work them into designs. (Kirsten found her coral stick beads in Maui.) I also buy necklaces and other items at thrift shops or on sale at stores. Sometimes, people share things they no longer want, or I remake seldom-used pieces of my own. All are cut up and stored by colour and design."

"After making hundreds of pieces over the years, I believe it's very important to make pieces which enhance your own style, coordinate with your clothes, and fit your body proportions. For myself, I don't make pieces that have cluttered designs, jump rings galore, too many chains, or ones made from tiny seed beads, woven into patterns."

"Make others happy with your work and give them a gift of yourself as well as something unique, in their style and colours. If they have given you beads, why not use a few in the gift?"

The Inner Game:
"Because ideas don't always work out as you planned, be patient and unafraid to redo something until you have it right. Have fun and don't let the setbacks prevent you from creating with joy."

Kirsten's creative journey:
"My plans for the future include using fabrics and making fabric/paper beads."

Two more of Kirsten's pieces: Left, olive baroque pearls given by a friend, to which she added crystal spacers for length and interest; right, blue (dyed) freshwater pearls with white faux pearls and sparkling beads:

I feel a tug to return to jewelry-making, despite my initial flopped project. As Kirsten said, "(The bead store) did not start you in on the essentials, or on the design process. Nothing works out well without these essential parts."

Even if you don't long to wield pliers, each of us can admire Kirsten's verve and vision. I thank her warmly for sharing examples of her work and her insightful advice.  

To see more of her work (and those of others whom Kirsten admires), follow her Pinterest board or search "Pinners" by entering Kirsten Giving. 


une femme said…
Those are some truly lovely pieces. Kirsten has a very good eye for design!
LauraH said…
It's clear to see that Kirsten has been developing her skills over a long period. Such simplicity and beauty don't come overnight, at least not to me. Thank you both for sharing...I'm off to Pinterest to see more.
Sisty said…
How fortuitous! One of my favorite necklaces, with wooden and cord-wrapped wooden beads strung on leather, just broke. I was fretting over how I was going to get it fixed, and now I think I'll take a shot at it myself.

Very lovely jewelry you show here.
SusanG said…
Very nice work. I made jewellery some twenty years ago (as well as the beads, from polymer clay), and did the craft show circuit for a little while. After a couple of years, my enthusiasm fizzled and i stopped. I donated almost all my finished work two years ago. But ... I still have all my tools in a box in the basement. Posts like this make me wonder if I'll get back to it one day?
Kirsten Giving said…
Dear Duchesse,
Thank you for this opportunity to be a guest on your fascinating and informative blog. I love to read the posts and the responses of those around the world; the responses regarding my words thrilll me deeply. I was happy to have an opportunity to share a few of my ideas and pictures of pieces that I have created. A special day indeed!
And to my friends on this blog--
@une femme: Thank you for your lovely compliments! I appreciate the "very good eye for design" so very much.
@Laura: Yes, it has been about 40 years that I have been making (and remaking/upcycling) jewelry. Always, design has been of great importance in my work. I really appreciate that special note about simplicity and beauty and I hope to connect soon with you on Pinterest!
@Sisty: I hope you have great success with your remake. The beauty of knowing a few skills is that you can "fix" or redo pieces, making them both more personal and in sync with your own style. Thank you for the nice comment.
@Susan: Oh, I do hope you get out those tools and create some fab pieces once again. It is true that ideas about jewelry design have changed in the last 20 years and the internet is such a source of inspiration. Thank you for the compliment!
see you there! said…
Kirsten has a great eye for color and design, something that didn't come from the bead store with the nifty tool kit. Thank you both for sharing pictures o her work.

Kirsten Giving said…
Thank you kindly, Darla, for those lovely words. I do appreciate them so much. I see from your blog you are a very creative person and do many different crafts with great enthusiasm! Kirsten

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