Filigree Fantasy, Pt Two

This is blog part two on my new hobby: making fantasy jewelry from Victorian-styled and other vintage-style components.

Thank you for your supportive feedback on my first post about this. I feel encouraged to keep trying.

I was gonna make this stuff for me and a few friends only, but after your feedback, I might sell some eventually. Thanks muchly!

Today, I’m posting more of my initial designs—my beginner’s attempts—and sharing my creative process.

This is not a how-to. My designs are copyrighted.

Sharing my process may be more useful for you, to help you plan your own designs. You’ll love working with vintage-style components.

I’m sharing lots of my experiences today because I think, when we speak about our creative process, we help each other.

The piece in the first two pics is called Faerie Queen. The most recent I have a photo of, it’s also the first I feel is structurally sound, so I’m getting closer to making pieces to sell. (More below about needing to finesse some structural problems before I will sell this sort of jewelry.)

FaerieQueen2Unless noted otherwise, all the amazing metal components in these pics were purchased from Susan Street at Design your own pieces, with Susan’s great supplies.

Willie, note the vintage glass Japanese rose in the necklace. It is the one I’d said I would send you some of. It has a little hole in which I set a Swarovski rhinestone.

Willie, you sent me the green glass square!

(Willie Zuniga, bless her heart, surprised me with a gift of glass “gems,” gorgeous vintage buttons, and more. I’ve been busy coming up with ideas for this bounty.)

Constructing jewelry from metal components does not come naturally to me, the way fine-art freeform beadweaving does.

My learning disability makes this sort of work hard (but does not impact beadweaving), so it’s been a struggle making these pieces, technically speaking. You can imagine, therefore, that any praise thrilled me.

Most of the feedback is not here, since much of it happened in social media, so here is one example: Susan Street, a master at this sort of jewelry making, posted on her Facebook page, “Francesca tells me that she is a beginner. I would say that she was born for this. … beautiful work.”

Nope, not born for it, far from it, LOL. But soooo thrilled you think my work looks that way.

Bead weaving develops very different skills than needed for this work. (If I become adept at using metal components, I might combine the two approaches.)

VictorianCabHere’s an example of my beadweaving designs for comparison.

Creating new designs and figuring out technically how to implement them is taking lots of trial and error—I have to keep rethinking the construction. It’s been time-intensive.

But getting experience through experimenting suits me. As a hands-on learner, I figure out more about achieving the looks I want every time I attempt making a piece.

Do not let my challenges discourage you from trying your hand at using components—it would’ve been easy if I’d started by making simple items. I dived in at the deep end of the pool, wanting to wear elaborate pieces.

Start with simple stuff!

If you want a tutorial with simple earrings you can make, let me know.

The next piece, called Green Soul, gave me trouble. For one thing, it swings around to show its back. I do not mind, but don’t want that for my customers. (Yay, since then, I figured out how to create pieces that do not swing around.)


Since my personal learning style is hands-on and figuring things out as I go, I’d make a small purchase, to see how things went once I got my hands on the items. That would show me the right items to order next, to finish pieces I was working on.

Plus, experimenting helped me get clear enough to ask the right questions, about what supplies would suit the designs I was developing. Susan very kindly responds to technical questions, with detailed answers.

Sometimes simple stuff waylays me, eg not knowing what type jump ring would not be pulled apart by the heavy weight cabochon I wanted to use. (I’d never used jump rings with a cabochon. Instead, I’d weave the cabochon’s setting and bail out of seed beads, like in the above beadweaving. In fact, the cab in question is just like the one in the above beadweaving: quite heavy.) Susan promptly addressed my question about jump rings.

Though I’ve been copyrighting the designs, I didn’t initially envision myself selling this sort of jewelry. I was clearly fooling myself, LOL.

But thus far, each piece except Faerie Queen has a structural problem that I don’t mind for myself but would never foist off on a customer.

Nothing wrong with a high standard for what I sell.

I have to keep reminding myself that I’m a beginner with this stuff. I started making this style jewelry less than three months ago. To some extent, I’m developing my own way of structurally putting these pieces together but, if my experience with fine art bead-weaving is an example, I’ll eventually design sound structures, then I can sell items.


The above piece is called Woven Safely with God, and kind of a started this whole journey. I love fluorite beads for metaphysical reasons, but wanted something fancier than the fluorite necklaces I’d been wearing. I also had a 40 x 30 fluorite cabachon that is not attractive. So I tucked it inside a filigree I’d folded, where it peeks out nicely.

A few structural problems I am learning to fix:

1) My initial pieces do not always hang right when worn. For example, the fleur-de-lis on Grande Dame (see it in the first blog) flips behind the pink glass sometimes. I do not mind fussing with it when I wear it, but a customer shouldn’t have to do that. And one of the other pieces twists in a way I can easily untwist but someone not as crafty would have trouble.

2) I am new to using glue the ways needed in this sort of jewelry making. And I just do not understand glue! I do not trust it!

The glue I have is used by artisans who sell high end jewelry, but my learning disability makes glue a mystery! I am going to wear some pieces I made a long time before I trust the way I use the glue will hold fast.

WovnSaflyWGod2Time and experiments will make a big diff, but it is frustrating. Eg, I spent a good many hours on what I thought was finally a salable structure. It did not work. Aargh.

Do not be deterred when frustrated. Share my new addiction for Susan’s ornate components.

I’ve spent hours exploring her inventory, to find more and more pieces to implement my fey visions.

I’ve also spent hours reading her free technical lessons as I play with supplies I ordered.

The lessons are filled with technical gems. Repeated reading helps me catch things I’d originally missed—I can be slow to understand mechanical and spacial stuff.

It was on her instructional site I got the idea to kinda hide the not-so-great fluorite cabochon. (I am committed to attributing source!)

The next piece is called “Ssshhh, Faerie Queen,” as in “Do not tell anyone its wearer is Queen of Faerie.”

The above bail is made from a piece Susan suggests folding in half as a bail. I did it a bit differently: After folding it in half, I rolled the back half into a tube, for a more secure bail.

I made the bail big so it could be used as a pendant or on a stick pin. The stick pin in the picture is not from Susan’s shop, but everything attached to the little bead hanging off the end of the stick pin is purchased from her.

I wrapped filigree around the green “gem.” I love how it glistens, peeking through the filigree. I learned how to filigree wrap from Susan’s lessons and from trial and error.

I had to solve many technical hurdles myself—such is the way of creating new designs and learning a craft. But Willie generously answered tech questions too.

SshhhFeyQueen2Willie even suggested a few filigrees that would wrap the way I needed for some of my designs. Willie, all these designs were made before your filigree wrapping tips in our recent conversations, so I should only improve from here.

2019 update: my friend Willy passed on recently. She will be sorely missed. Her innovative jewelry and kind spirit brought joy to many people. Willie’s daughter, Melania, carries on her mom’s legacy, so folks can continue to wear Willie’s innovative designs:

Thanks for sharing my creative journey. Let me know which of my experiences help you. Big hugs.



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2 Responses to Filigree Fantasy, Pt Two

  1. I think I have to agree with Susan … “you were born for this!” Your designs are far beyond what I would expect from a beginner! I love them all, but my favorite here is “Woven Safely with God.” Absolutely beautiful!

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