| Featured Designer | Michelle Mach
Michelle Mach is the author of Unexpected Findings: 50+ Clever Jewelry Designs Featuring Everyday Components. More than 100 of her original designs have appeared in publications including Jewelry Stringing, BeadStyle, and Beadwork. She's also worked as an editor on several jewelry titles, including Bohemian-Inspired Jewelry, Mastering Herringbone Stitch, and Bead Metamorphosis. Her use of unusual materials in her work has caused her friends and family to always ask, "Do you want to use this for a jewelry project or is it okay to throw it away?". When she's not making jewelry or writing about it, she enjoys reading mysteries, searching for the perfect banana bread recipe, and figuring out if the plants in her yard are flowers or weeds. You can find her blog and current projects on her website at www.michellemach.com.
How did you get started in jewelry design?
I've always made things whether it was tie-dye t-shirts or dresses for my dolls. It never occurred to me that regular people could make jewelry until I found the first issue of Stringing magazine at a bookstore. I didn't make anything from that issue, but it did start me on the hunt for beads.
Do you have a method, source, or tool you look to use for inspiring your designs? I find inspiration everywhere. Seriously, every time I visit this noodle shop near my house, I remember that I want to make a pair of earrings based on the silver spiral light fixtures! I do keep a sketchbook with design ideas, so if I ever get stuck, I can flip through it.
How often do you work on your jewelry designs? I usually design every evening for a couple of hours. When I worked a traditional 9-5 job that was my only free time and now it's become a habit. If I'm too tired to make anything, I still may pull out my sketchbook and doodle some ideas.
How would you describe your design style or technique? I'd describe it as romantic whimsical. I'm especially fond of using flowers in my jewelry, as you can tell if you look through my book Unexpected Findings. At the same time, I love using unusual items like dollhouse parts or old coins or using a traditional item in an unusual way. For example, in my Last Blooms necklace, I used a pendant bail as part of the clasp.
Do you work in any other mediums beside jewelry design?
Last year I exhibited my work in an art gallery for the first time. I created two wall art pieces using bottle caps, wire, and copper and brass for a beer-themed exhibit (my home town is know for its craft breweries). At about six inches across, they were some the biggest pieces I'd ever made (way bigger than any pendant!), but were some of the smallest pieces in the gallery. It was fun to use some of the techniques I've learned for jewelry in a completely new way.
What are your favorite stones to work with and why? I naturally gravitate towards blues, purples, and greens. My gemstone collection tends to be heavy on turquoise, lapis, amethyst, amazonite, and peridot. Sometimes when I'm at a bead show, I'll deliberately buy stones out of my color comfort zone to challenge myself. That's how I ended up with the pink crazy lace agate from Dakota Stones that ended up in the Gypsy Girl bracelet project in my book.
What are your favorite shapes and sizes to work with and why? The faceted rondelle in a small size (4-8mm) is my go-to shape for jewelry designs. It fits into any design and the facets add texture and interest. I also like shapes that are somewhat unusual, such as a diamond shape with holes running from corner to corner. I do still buy a lot of rounds, especially in the 3-4mm size, since those make great spacers.
What's your favorite jewelry trend right now?
I love the increased use of leather, ribbons, and cords in jewelry. It's a fun way of adding color and texture to designs. Plus, I find knotting very meditative. It's very relaxing to sit with a spool of cord and a pile of beads and end up with a finished necklace in an hour or two.
If you could pick one person living or not to wear your jewelry, who would it be and why? I read a lot and I always study author photos on books. I've noticed that mystery writer Sue Grafton always has colorful handmade earrings on in her photos. Her personal look is fun, which is a contrast to the sometimes dark themes in her books. Contrasts fascinate me.
What's next? What are you working on now?
The holiday season tends to be busy for me. This week I'm working on finishing up some new steampunk jewelry designs for Allegory Gallery in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. After the holidays, I'd like to experiment with a few ideas for a new jewelry line. I'd love to branch out and do more work for shops and galleries next year.
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