Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Andean Sling Braids
Rodrick Owen and Terry Newhouse Flynn
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd

This truly a beautiful book.  It is very well conceived and presented. The Table of Contents enumerates everything one needs to travel the pathway of Andean Sling Braids. It begins by listing all of the braiding equipment, continues on to the various yarns, instructs the braider on all of the machinations of preparing the warp, setting up the braiding and basic working methods. Braider is then introduced to an amazing array of colorful braids which range anywhere from four to twenty four strand braid designs.

There are some choices of equipment one can utilize on which to arrange the threaded bobbins.  I have constructed many braided forms with both the marudai and the foam disk cards. In this elegant book we are presented with the “core frame.”  The braiding technique on this frame involves braiding around a “core” of passive thread that are concentrated in the center of each braid. The exchange between the passive and the active braiding threads create a myriad of intriguing designs.

BraidersHand is an excellent source for the “core braid” frame. The marudai mirror has the various thread bobbins located in strategic positions. Alongside this structure there is an upright upside down L shape form from which additional bobbins are suspended. There are great photographs of the “core frame” and luscious braids throughout this book.

Nothing is left to chance.  As stated above, everything one needs to create these braids are presented in depth. I am certainly looking forward to exploring many of these captivating new core based designs.

Razine Wenneker

Friday, March 11, 2016

Wire and Fused Jewelry
Techniques from the Sandkuhler Studio
Schiffer Books

Wire fusing is fun right from the beginning.  I was initially a little apprehensive about messing up and completely melting my fine silver links and match sticks into little globs.  As I practiced the proper placement of the torch and succeeded, it became a magical moment.

The contents of this comprehensive book by Iris Sandkuhler begins with a list of tools. The major one in every fusing vocabulary is a butane torch. Many of the additional tools mentioned are a staple of every work bench.

Projects are varied ranging from rather simplistic to more complex. All have a list of tools and materials that are posted on a check list. One doesn’t have to go on a mad dash scavenger hunt or wait for the necessary material to arrive from the suppliers. Each and every photograph of the creative process is extremely well defined.

Page 38 illustrates a wonderful example of wrapping a briolette and found object. Very easy to follow.

There is in depth instruction regarding the bead drawing method, pointing out the hottest spot of the torch flame. The text points the correct way and the illustrations show the way.

Over the years I have constructed my own fine silver chain link necklaces. They were somewhat intricate and used to enhance a particular fabricated or beaded pendant.  After coiling my fine silver wire around a mandrel and cutting off each link, I was ready to begin. It was amazing how each and every link fused together when applying my butane torch. Instead of an instructor standing at the soldering station and lecturing the students, the illustrations and text in this book says it all. This book introduces the art of fusing perfectly in all respects.

Razine Wenneker

The Art of Jewelry Design
Maurice P. Galli, Dominique Riviere and Fanfan Li
Schiffer Books

This book presents the principle of design.  The beautiful illustrations introduce the reader to rendering techniques of both metal and stone. I was exposed to several drawing classes during my formative years in college and this book would have been a wonderful source of reference. The authors truly know their “craft.”

A comprehensive list of rendering tools is presented. We are then visually introduced to the basic shapes and elementary principles of composition: squares, rectangles, triangles, circles and trapezoid. Variations in size and overlapping of these geometric elements is demonstrated to produce visual interests.

Plate 3 has a beautiful analysis of a broach. The various elements are dissected down to their basic form of design.  Plate 4 continues to explore values and contrasts ranging from light to dark and white to black.  An example of this progression is visibly illustrated along with the studies of asymmetry, positive and negative space, incidental and reflected light and perspective.

The authors give the designer an opportunity to explore these concepts with the documentary study of a flower. The conclusion of this section culminates in instructing one how to apply this to jewelry. We are taken on an interesting adventure through natural forms in our universe and their application also to jewelry design.

Textural techniques are boldly presented with the introduction of gauche and water color. There are also wonderful examples of rendering the multitude of diamond shapes, cuts and faceting.

As I stated at the beginning of this revue “The Art of Jewelry Design” would have been a wonderful resource for me as I pursued my artistic career.

Razine Wenneker
Off Loom Woven Bead Necklaces
Deb Dimarco
Schiffer Books

The photographic journey in this book is first rate. What you see is what you get. Square stitch is the name of the game.  The reader is taken from an excellent square stitch tutorial from row 1 and increasing, decreasing, and lengthening rows. There are also many additional instructions to help the novice or experienced beader achieve success.

The supplies are listed together with the appropriate time for completion. Takes the guess work out of weaving the jewelry.

The section on adding thread for accent or focal beads is very explicit.  Photographs illustrating adding the clasps are also presented in very large step by step photographs. I didn’t have to find a special light source or magnifying glass.

I agree with the author that her Autumn Harvest Necklace was “an example of simplicity at its finest.”  The section on joining panels was a new lesson to savor.

I consider this book “Off Loom Woven Bead Necklaces” the definitive text on the square stitch. Nothing is left to chance. The gallery pages show beautiful examples featuring this very interesting bead weaving stitch.

Razine Wenneker

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Theresa D. Abelew
Kambach Books

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” 

This little ditty was running through my head as I examined this book.  I was familiar with some of the designs, while others were brand new to me, such as those constructed with the striking blue scales and links pictured on the front cover.

The author takes the reader on playful exploration of the four major chain mail weaves producing 20+ interesting designs.  We are introduced to the basics of completing these projects; proper tools, materials, aluminum scales, and findings. These techniques are illustrated step by step with colored links.  All sizes of links are properly designated for the projects as pictured and are easy to follow.

Even though the weaves are rather elementary, all of the jewelry becomes new and exciting as presented in this book, “Play with Chain Mail.”

Razine Wenneker

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Schiffer Publishing
Helga Becker

Schiffer Publishing recently sent me the book “from thread and wire” to review.  Over 60 jewelry projects using knitting and crocheting are explored. My interest as a jewelry designer has been textile techniques and metals, so this book was certainly right up my alley.

First of all, the publication is beautifully laid out; materials, tools and techniques are fully explained in an easy to follow format. The reader is introduced to the crocheting and knitting skills necessary to complete the various projects. They range from utilization of the standard crochet hook and knitting spools of both wooden and metal.  As a young child I use to wrap colorful yarn around the upright prongs of a “french dolly” and watch in amazement as a colorful snake emerged from the opening.

The wooden and metal spools which the author describes to make the assortment of jewelry pictured in this book are somewhat different from my little spool and the end product is quite different from my slithering woolen snake.

Each project in the book is classified according to its difficulty.  In many instances she incorporates beads and gemstones into the structures.  Many types of wire are knitted or crocheted and the finished structure can then be sized with a wooden drawplate.  This is an invaluable tool which metalsmiths use to draw down their round wire.

The netted necklace on pg. 74 had a lovely open quality. It encased pieces of fimo clay giving the jewelry an interesting addition. The closure was a decorative feat of engineering.

The Maiden jewelry projects appeared light and airy. The wide array of glass beads added a playful young look to the ensemble. Silver wire was crocheted to make the individual delicate strands.

I love the Tunnel necklace on p. 135. The 30 gauge silver wire is as thin as the strands of a spider web. Two attractive squared hinges were affixed as a pendant.

There were some fabricated structures added to the jewelry featured in this book. They could be used as a frame of reference for the creative innovative additions.

Even though there was not a resource section, all of the materials mentioned in “from thread and wire” are readily available. I’m looking forward to once again experimenting with my french dolly and recreating some of these snake-like gossamer jewelry creations.

Razine Wenneker

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Rebecca Ann Cohen
Kambach Books

Several months ago, I was asked to design some Kumihimo jewelry for a group of women. They had graciously agreed to support and donate funds to a local charitable organization. 

Needless to say, this was a labor of love in many respects. I have been creating Kumihimo jewelry for many years incorporating beads and various kinds of threads for the structures. All of the jewelry was completed utilizing the round Kumihimo foam disk.

How easy this would have been if I had this book. The author defines Kumihimo for the reader and instructs one how to best use her book. There are five different braid structures with comprehensive instructions on warping the foam disk and proceeding with the proper movements and exchange of thread in order to achieve these specific patterns.

All necessary tools and materials are pictured. Rebecca starts out with a wonderful visual example of the basket weave pattern which consists of an eight warp braid. One can then proceed to weave a myriad of lovely bracelets and necklaces with the addition of sparkling beads and interesting closures.

Nothing is left to chance. Photographs and instructions for all of the braids presented are outstanding. If one doesn’t already have the skills but the desire to learn the art of Kumihimo I would highly recommend this book. The foam disk is a wonderful alternative to the expensive and rather stationary Marudai loom.  The disk is lightweight and very portable and with the proper tension, one can achieve the same results.

Monday, January 25, 2016




I recently received a copy of “Jewel Loom Inspirations,” authored by Julianna Avelar and published by FW Media.  The front cover features a couple of interesting pieces of jewelry along with the small compact loom which is an integral part of this creative process.  The author states that she initially gathers all of her items together which in turn inspires her as she contemplates all of the wonderful jewelry possibilities they present. She goes on to advise the beadier about the myriad assortment of crystals, gemstones and beads available.  Stringing material is also discussed in the book, plus tools, adhesives, clasps, and additional sundry items. 

I own the Jewel Loom and it has been a wonderful portable and easy to dress loom.  It is quite flexible and its possibilities as a simple but effective loom are limitless.  Setting up is very simple and no guess work is involved.  The author’s step-by-step pictures of the process make the task go very quickly.

Julianna also introduces the reader to several finishing techniques, all of which make one’s beaded work look very professional.  I loved the charming projects presented in this book.  She chose a variety of beads from her stash and displayed many appealing adornments for all occasions.  We are further advised which materials and tools to use in each and every bead warping and weaving adventure.  Cuffs, beaded bands, headbands, a ring, a choker, and many other items are featured.

This small “Jewel Loom” is waiting for the bead artist’s nimble fingers and creative ideas.  This book “Jewel Loom Inspirations will help lead the way.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

ZAHAV-A World of Israeli Cooking

Authors: Michael Solomononov and Steven Cook

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


If you haven't had the fantastic opportunity to dine at Zahav in Philadelphia, you are missing a gastronomical wonderland. The dishes are beautifully presented and laden with ingredients to enhance each and every culinary experience.

The author with his book, “Zahav,” takes us on our own extraordinary tour of discovery inside this fabled restaurant’s recipes. The book also presents the authors own path to self-discovery, both past and present. He was born in Israel, but his family moved to the United States when he was quite young. At the age of 15, his family moved back with him to Israel, but for Michael, the US was his designated home. And so, his journey began.

First of all, he awakened all of our senses with the beautiful photographs in his book. I felt I was out in a heavenly garden surrounded by fields of grains, seeds, and vegetables. The fish and fowl are presented in all their glory and many are enhanced with “tehina,” a sesame paste, which he blends with garlic, lemon, water and salt.

All ingredients are listed so the “cook” in your kitchen will find the format easy to follow. None of this “a pinch of this and a pinch of that” lingo. As I perused the book my salivary glands were working overtime.

Chapter after chapter convinced me that “Zahav” was a cooking book to treasure. It is the next best thing to embarking on a journey to their fabled restaurant in Philadelphia.