Book Review: 30-Minute Earrings by Marthe Le Van
Book Review: 30-Minute Earrings by Marthe Le Van
Published by Lark Books, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. 2010
Pros: Great photos, inspiring projects, easy-to-follow directions, inexpensive book
Cons: Requires moderately advanced skill level and/or tools
I am a big fan of Lark books. They are usually laid out nicely and have the most exquisite photos and this book is no exception.
There’s a short introduction, then two lists of items needed to complete the projects in the book. One list is the “Bench Tool Kit” with 31 listed items. The other is a “Soldering Kit” with 18 items listed. Seriously, I found these lists to be a little daunting.
This got me to wondering what kind of jewelry maker would get the most out of this book. But in truth, it’s probably someone like me… a person with a fairly decent-sized collection of jewelry-making tools, but someone who’s still new enough to the game that they would have fun trying out other people’s projects.
The 60 projects are by 46 different artists, which is good. It means you see a variety of not only designs, but skill levels and techniques.
At the start of the book is a visual index showing thumbnail photos of each pair of earrings. Great idea!
At the back of the book are a couple of pages with information about each of the contributing artists. Nice touch.
The projects are in order based on what appears to be the skill level, complexity of the project, and number of tools required. Each open book situation (a left page and a right page) is one complete project, with fabulous and large photos of the
finished product, a mention of the techniques needed for that project, a list of the tools needed, the finished size measurements, and step by step text instructions (no photos of the “how to” part). There are also occasionally short designers’ notes.
I went through the book cover to cover just ogling and getting an idea of how this book could most benefit me. Truthfully, as the designs progressed, I started feeling a little out of my comfort zone, particularly without any of those “how to” photos along the way. There seem to be a lot of techniques and skill levels that are over my head, but I decided to start at the beginning and do a few to see how easy or time-consuming they are.
One thing I learned about recipes (as in food) is that the time they say it takes to make a dish is NEVER the same amount of time it takes ME to make that same dish. If you watch those cooking shows, you’ll see the chef say, “Now just add 1 cup of minced onions, 3 tablespoons of grated ginger, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, and ½ cup of olive oil.” Okay, that’s 5 seconds for her because someone already chopped her onions, peeled and grated her ginger, found and measured her turmeric, and poured out her olive oil. For me to do all that is more like 10-15 minutes. So just as I know that the “time to make this meal” in any given recipe is a fallacy, I am going on the same premise here.
Techniques: wirework, filing
Materials: 40” of 16g wire, earwires
Tools: flush cutters, small file, round-nose pliers, dowel, two pair flat-nose pliers
Okay, here we go!
That’s the finished product.
Took me 40 minutes. I daresay that if I went into production mode, I could get it down to 30 minutes no problem. I like this design and see potential for even adding a few bead embellishments.
The directions were clear and easy, but it helped massively to have a large photo of the finished product that I could refer to for comparison.
I skipped Project 2 because the design doesn’t appeal to me. That’s okay. I should hope that in a book of 60 different pair of earrings, there’ll be some I like and some I don’t like. ‘Cause if they were all earring designs I
liked, the book might not appeal to someone with taste different from mine. I think there’s something for everyone here.
On to Project 3
Techniques: cutting, wirework, patina (optional)
Materials: chain, headpins, earwires, dangles, stone rondelles
Tools: It is merely stated “bench tool kit”, fine steel wool, liver of sulfur (optional)
Straight off the bat, I see a problem with this one. The actual material for the “dangles” listed above is: vintage brass dangles 4.5×1.4 cm. And in the photo, they are a graduating paddle shape with a loop at the top. Okay, this isn’t something I just happen to have laying around. I will, however, see what I can fashion that’s similar by using fat brass wire and a hammer.
So using 14g brass wire (the thickest I have), I cut, file, hammer, and hole punch something that looks as close to the project photo as possible.
Here are the earrings.
And they are a good example of how you can use this book without being EXACT in everything. Not only did I not happen to have the same vintage findings as the original designer (who would?!), but the only ball headpins I had were 20 gauge, way too fat to fit through my Ruby rondelles (as in the project)… so I used Garnet instead.
When using this book, I think it’s good to have a balance between trying to follow the directions as closely as possible (so you can learn new skills), while staying open-minded enough about substituting creatively when necessary.
Time to make these earrings, including patinizing the silver and creating the brass dangles: 24 minutes. The “bench tool kit” for this project was merely my standard three tools (round nose pliers, flat nose pliers, cutters), but since I had to make my own dangles I also used my hammer, bench block, and hole punch.
Techniques: wirework, bead stringing
Materials: wire, beads, earwires
Tools: “bench tool kit”
There earrings took 28 minutes from start to finish. The “bench tool kit” consisted of my same three standard tools listed Project 3.
The next few project designs, although relatively simple in skill level, required items I didn’t have on hand.
I will probably eventually do most of the projects in the book (the ones that appeal to me, anyway), but there will be some shopping trips for things like: wooden cubes, half-drilled pearls, wood stain, resin, acrylic paint, rubber tubing, silver foil, etc.
By Project 10, we’re up to sawing, drilling, and riveting.
I was so intrigued by Project 11 that I had to try it. I didn’t have sterling silver sheet in 18 gauge, though, so I substituted copper. These earrings took me 2 hours to make from start to finish.
And truthfully, as I peruse the majority of projects after Project 10, I can tell I’m looking at well more than 30 minutes. We’re talking drilling, sawing, soldering, using a rolling mill, annealing, filing, forming, and on and on.
The subtitle of the book is: 60 Quick & Creative Projects for Jewelers.
I suppose there may be a lot riding on the word “jewelers” here.
In a perfect world, where all those tools are set up and never have to be taken out and put away and where I can saw or file in a few minutes rather than half an hour, then yeah maybe most of these earrings could be made in 30 minutes or less, particularly once you already know what you’re doing and get into some sort of production mode.
If, however, you’re not using metalsmithing tools on a daily basis, these projects may not be so “quick” for you.
But I see this book as less of a way to make fast earrings and more of a way to be inspired by varying designs and techniques and a good way to push yourself to try new things.
This book is absolutely NOT about bead stringing designs or crafty types of designs. I would say it’s about metal-working designs. If you have no interest in soldering, filing, sawing, annealing or drilling, you will most likely not do the majority of projects in this book.
With some of the projects, I could have used gold or silver, but instead opted for copper and bronze because I didn’t want to “experiment” on the spendy stuff. As my skill and confidence progresses, I can switch to the more expensive components for these same designs.
Although I have listed and will sell the designs I created from the projects in this book, as with any good learning experience (tutorials, classes, books, etc), my advice is: do the project once or twice, learn from it, alter it, change things, take bits from it… and move on. Don’t go into production mode on someone else’s designs.
This book is perfect for igniting my passion, my creativity, and my skill set. I will learn a lot of new techniques that I can incorporate into my jewelry-making repertoire.
With my above-listed caveats, the bottom line as I review this book is: Would I buy it for myself? Do I consider it a worthy purchase?
I can easily say yes on both counts. It’s a good book to have in my collection and I look forward to continuing with the projects.
Who is it best suited for? In my opinion, someone who wants to stretch their jewelry-making talents into the world of metalwork. You won’t find information on the basic use of tools and techniques, but you will find inspiration.