Thursday 25 June 2015

Book Review - Compendium of Jewellery Making Techniques by Xuella Arnold and Sara Withers

Compendium of Jewellery Making Techniques - 350 tips, techniques and trade secrets
by Xuella Arnold and Sara Withers

Search Press 2013

I found this book in the library. Jewellery-making books seem quite copious in quantity at the moment (yay), but given the breadth of the topic and the myriad of techniques within it at its widest compass, not all books with ‘jewellery’ in the title are suitable for every kind of jewellery maker. I’ve found it pretty handy to be able to check books out before committing to buying them and, as great as flicking through a few pages on Amazon is (via their Look Inside feature), sometimes you just need a little more information, and time, to work out if a book fits what you need.

Search Press are reliable when it comes to jewellery books, so I was attracted to this edition on the shelves, hidden away in the crafting section, down one of the back aisles in the library. Not that I’m complaining at the placement; an excuse to browse amongst hundreds of books, any of which you can borrow, is quite a treat in anyone’s book. Get the pun…?

As shown in the photo here, the cover itself is enticing, showcasing a variety of different styles of jewellery – including images of metal-work -  and the sub-heading of “tips” and “trade secrets” really spoke to me – I have another book promising tips and I think these are really handy if you know a little bit about the subject in question and want to find ways to expand your skills and further your knowledge.

The book is ideal for leafing through, and would work well as a reference guide, meaning it's a good one to have on your book shelf for helping you along in certain projects, if you get stuck or need some inspiration. But it's also good to just read, taking you through projects and techniques, with hints and explanations, and those wonderful tips dotted liberally around, courtesy of two jewellers who really know their stuff, and who share the writing of the book by covering different chapters dependent on their own fields of expertise.

In terms of contents, this book covers everything from working with beads and wire, to metalwork basics and techniques, how to design, and even has a chapter covering less traditional forms of jewellery such as polymer clay, resin, plastics, and found items. Each different idea is numbered, so you know the book fills its quota as shown in the title, of 350 pieces of information.

The focus displayed is interesting – that the book covered both simply stringing beads, and then later the complexity of setting up a workshop for working with metals (and rather handily, included details about permanent workshops for those with the space, and temporary ones for those who have to fit their jewellery making, however complex, into the limitations of their home without recourse to a spare room). Sometimes books about jewellery try and cover too wide a field – the basics of creating a simple loop in wire are a long way from casting silver, after all. But I think this book manages to pull it off, to make it seem either like potentially a natural progression for the jeweller, or to make it feel that whatever your interest in jewellery making, this book has enough detail to make it worth your while reading, even if you have little or no interest in other areas.

The book is perhaps most successful as a detailed and helpful introduction to various ways of making jewellery, without dumbing down, and with enough information that you can expand on the basics, using it as your guide. So if you have worked only with beads and wire before and fancy a move into metal working, then this book should see you through that, with ample information on both subjects. And if you wish to go the other way, from working with metal to learning how to crochet with wire, then the book covers that also.

Although this book is a library book, and so must be returned, it's one that may well appear on my (mostly) annual Christmas jewellery book wish list a little later this year, as it's a book I could see myself happily using as one of my favoured reference books for jewellery, the ones you just go back to time and time again. I think it's that good.

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