Brenda Schweder is the author of the newly released Steel Wire Jewelry, a book of 30 fun, inspiring jewelry designs that riffs on jewelry made of steel. Want to get a sampling of the book? Click here for a PDF of the book’s instructions for the Butter(Really?)Fly Ring, and click here for a PDF of the instructions for the Zulu in Teal Necklace. Want to get a sampling of Brenda? Read the interview below, and then visit her website to see more of this teacher, author, and designer’s work at www.brendaschweder.com.
How do you describe your jewelry, Brenda? In what ways has it evolved over the course of your career, and where are you headed with it now?
Oh, boy! I’m interested in designing with objects that are unexpected, and I choose to highlight the mundane or overlooked. I enjoy creating jewelry scenarios that illustrate irony or whimsy or works that tell a story.
That’s really been the underlying current of my work, and it’s evident when you view my published work over the past few years—especially my three books together. You can see how I’ve evolved in (three) nutshells.
My next direction is considering narrative works, exploring the pairing of recognizable found objects and weaving contemporary fables.
Then again, I’ve applied for graduate study in jewelry and metalsmithing, so all bets are off when I start to explore my jewelry making on an even deeper level.
Steel Wire Jewelry by Brenda Schweder
Steel Wire Jewelry is your third book, after Junk to Jewelry and Vintage Redux. What are you trying to accomplish with this new book? What would you like readers to take from it?
Steel Wire Jewelry may seem like a bit of a departure from my first two books, but when you know me and see the direction of the book’s projects, it makes perfect sense.
Working with a lot of found objects—and only cold connections—means you have to get creative with how your components are captured and physically relate to each other. While Junk to Jewelry and Vintage Redux both showcase up-cycling, Steel Wire Jewelry takes the leap to the next level of art jewelry.
The works utilize no manufactured components or findings—actually, I believe there is one (hee!), so here’s a call-out to those who may be interested in a Steel Wire Jewelry scavenger hunt—other than the found pieces and wire. The finished wire, then, both advances and recedes depending on what I need to communicate with the piece.
I’m also more interested in the beauty of a thing for its history and origin than its intrinsic value, so along with loving steel for its many user-friendly characteristics and its economy, it’s also more befitting my style and the style of my work.
Brenda Schweder's Butter(Really?)Fly Ring from Steel Wire Jewelry
How has the high cost of metals impacted jewelers? What about the state of the economy vis a vis jewelers selling their pieces? And, speaking in the broadest terms, do you think together that’s having an effect on the kind of jewelry being made today and even the aesthetic of that jewelry?
I read somewhere—and I completely agree—that the inflation of metal prices will force designers to amp up their problem solving around this dilemma and therefore produce more creative works.
The economy has and will continue to shake things up. Some designers won’t know how to manage working around it, but others will benefit and flourish. The problem solvers—those who “push through”—will prevail. I plan to be part of the latter group!
Regarding the kind of jewelry being made as a result of the economy (and the choices made due to it), I believe common metals and materials are indeed now more heartily embraced and used more frequently.
For me, it goes back to that intrinsic value thing. I appreciate designers whose work is valued for its creativity and inventiveness, not for the monetary value attached to its elements. That’s not to say that the finest gems aren’t used in the most creative settings, but in my mind, there’s more of a challenge in designing with the humblest of things.