Book Review: Creating Wooden Jewelry by Sarah King
I received an advance copy of this book--Creating Wooden Jewelry by Sarah King--from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I've only just joined the service, and I love that they will share digital ARCs on topics relevant to this blog! I've been an advance reviewer on several textbook publishers' lists for several years, but i'm super excited to be able to add some commercial titles as well.
I took a look at this book for my first review because we're starting to use wood more frequently in costume craftwork due to its aesthetic flexibility with respect to laser etched/cut motifs. (Longtime followers will recall wood and acrylic lasercut projects from my digital technologies class two years ago.) These can get incorporated into armor, jewelry, hat decor, and so forth. While i did grow up in a home with a basement wood shop and a woodworker father who was always happy to help me figure out how to make something for a science fair or a physics project, I wouldn't consider myself anything like adept at woodworking.
So, let me begin by saying that if you have absolutely NO experience with woodworking, this book is going to feel intimidating. The author presumes that the reader has a passing familiarity with tools like routers, saws/rasps/files, drills, etc, and that you understand how jewelry goes together. If you don't know your jump rings from your split rings, this book is too advanced for you.
That said, even a novice jeweler and/or woodworker can pick up the threads here and follow along with the project instructions. All of the projects are easily adaptable/customizable too, so you can exercise your own creativity in their execution.
One project in particular stood out as an easy one for getting your feet wet without a huge investment in wood shop equipment: the necklace of carved cork beads using repurposed wine/champagne corks. All you need is a Dremel/drill and an Xacto/scalpel! In fact, it's so simple and straightforward that I wondered why it wasn't placed first in the book. Only when i got to the end did i realize that the author and editor have arranged the book's projects into groups utilizing similar techniques and equipment.
King has some great tips on surface finishing and decoration of wood surfaces--from inlays and leafing to paints and stains, I found a lot of inspiration in those sections. I also appreciated the sporadic profiles on contemporary jewelry artists working in the medium of wood.
In general, I found myself often thinking through how I might easily adapt (and more efficiently actualize) some of the projects in here by using the laser cutter--several of the ones that call for hand-sawing thin ply wood elements could benefit from digitization. I realize that the book is written with a primary audience of jewelers and craftspeople seeking handcraft hobbies and the slower pace of doing the projects by hand, but theatrically speaking, we are always thinking of ways to do things faster.
There's a great section at the end about the tools and equipment you'll need for various projects, but organization-wise this might have been better off at the beginning. I also had a quibble with the section listing off projects by ease or difficulty--I felt like some of the "easy" ones were quite difficult and some of the mid-rage/"hard" ones were not very challenging. Perhaps this is my own particular sensibilities as someone who works with my hands in other crafts/trades, or perhaps we have different understandings of what makes something a challenge.
All in all, I recommend this text as a guidebook for exploring small-scale woodworking/-shaping. The enphasis is on craftsmanship by hand, and it's not effective as a reference text since it's structured around specific projects, but I'm an atypical reader of books of this sort. Those with an interest in jewerymaking--partuclarly on the artisanship level--will appreciate its projects and insights into the medium of wood.