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Discover November creator-in-residence Sondra Barrington, jewelry maker

Posted on October 23, 2018 at 6:00 am

By Erin Dodge

This November, we are lucky to have jewelry maker Sondra Barrington as our Creator in Residence at The Lab at North Spokane Library.

While in residence, Sondra will be creating a series of mixed-media statement necklaces. As you can see from just the few examples pictured, the pieces she creates are beautiful. During her residency, Sondra welcomes questions and interactions from observers and will be able to demonstrate techniques.

Sondra is also leading two workshops, each taught twice for a total of four opportunities to try your hand at jewelry making techniques.

I was able to ask Sondra some questions about jewelry making, including where she draws her inspiration and her creative method. She also shares great advice and recommendations for those just beginning to create jewelry in the interview below.

You’ll find more information about Sondra’s days in residence, her workshops including registration links, and her recommended reading list after the interview. There’s a lot to explore and discover in November!


Erin Dodge: What drew you to jewelry making? How and where did you learn to make jewelry?

Sondra Barrington: My first introduction to jewelry making was when my good friend Karla taught me basic wire working. It was great fun, assembling beautiful beads onto sterling silver wire and creating something you could wear!

I have now been making jewelry for 10+ years as part of my job at Rings & Things. I have been fortunate to travel throughout the U.S., taking classes from incredibly talented jewelry instructors.

Erin: What materials do you work with to make jewelry? What’s your favorite material for making jewelry? Where do you source your materials?

Sondra: I use primarily metal and gemstones in my jewelry. I enjoy all types of metal, preferring sterling silver, rose gold fill, steel, and copper. I love gemstones, from teeny tiny faceted beads to giant rough nuggets.

I like resin, clay, and enamel. I enjoy embellishing with images and fibers. A current favorite technique is etching metal. It is very addictive and more user-friendly than you’d expect. I am teaching a book making class, featuring an etched book cover in January.

As the Showroom Manager at Rings & Things, I source most of my materials from work. I patronize local bead shops when I travel. I also order from Rio Grande Jewelry Supply.

Erin: Where—or how—do you find your inspiration for the pieces you create?

Sondra: Texture and color are infinitely inspiring. I often collect ideas while meandering on road trips, perusing museums, and wandering in nature. A delicate or interesting charm, strand of gemstone beads, or lustrous pearls also compel me to create. I often post pictures that are inspiring on Instagram.

Erin: What’s your creative process? How long does it take you to make a piece of jewelry?

Sondra: A favorite jewelry design called Pixie Dust is a juxtaposition of sparkle and darkness, heavy and light, glass and steel. Tiny clear glass bottles were filled with glass glitter, corked, and soldered to include tiny wire handles. The necklace frame was made of annealed steel wire (most commonly used in industrial and agricultural applications). The wire was cleaned, formed, and textured. Long thick wire spikes were created and nestled in with the glass vials. It is easy to wear, eye-catching, and was featured in the magazine Jewelry Affaire.

For me, design time outweighs construction time by a huge margin. Making a single pair of earrings can take anywhere from 15 minutes, assuming I have all the materials and a very clear vision for the design, to an hour or more if I am perusing my collection of supplies, seeking inspiration.

I am prone to tangents and often work with one technique or style at a time. This allows me incredible creative freedom, as the processes and base materials are ready at-hand, and I can play!

Currently, I am delving into my stash of gemstones and making simple beaded necklaces. I pair the necklace with a book from my collection and photograph the pieces together.

It is most enjoyable when I can create whatever is inspiring to me based on the materials at hand, rather than working under a timeline, budget, or with strong boundaries guiding the finished piece.

Erin: Where can someone who is interested in making jewelry go to learn the craft?

Sondra: If you are interested in learning more about making jewelry, I recommend taking classes, reading books and blogs, and watching videos and live streamed events from reputable suppliers. Local classes can be found at Spokane Art School, Rings & Things, Beyond Beads, and Spokane Parks & Recreation.

Erin: What advice would you give to beginners?

Sondra: Your finished jewelry design will only be as good as the basic ingredients and your skill at assembly. In other words, artfully stringing expensive gemstones together into a necklace only works as jewelry if the stones lay properly and the stringing cable doesn’t come apart when worn the first time.

Learn construction basics. Your creations are designed to be worn, so make them properly. Take classes. An experienced teacher will inspire you and help you to understand the mechanics of jewelry. A few basic techniques will take you far. Good design partners creativity with proper construction.

Use quality findings and components. Invest in quality when acquiring the materials that will form the foundation of your design—whether wire, beading cable, sheet metal, chain, leather, or another material. These components are generally not as exciting as the other items you will be working with, but they are the structure upon which everything is built. Don’t scrimp in this area. Invest in the highest quality findings and components that you can.

Once you have basic materials and skills, the possibilities are endless! You can repurpose and upcycle all kinds of materials into interesting and thought-provoking jewelry.

A final tip: Take photos of your work! This is something I wish I would have been more diligent about. It’s great to share your creativity and to wistfully look back upon your earlier designs.


Tuesday, Nov 6 & 27, 4–8pm
Tuesday, Nov 13 & 20, 3–5pm & 7–9pm


Micro Mosaic Pendant
Create a small, custom mosaic pendant inside a round metal bezel, using Swarovski Ceralun™ jewelry clay and an assortment of beads, charms, and other components. You will need strong hand-eye coordination for this workshop. If you wear glasses for close-up work, please bring them. At the end of the workshop, you’ll leave with a finished necklace. Registration is required. Ages 16+

Tuesday, Nov 13, 5–6pm & 6–7pm | REGISTER

Metal Stamping
Learn the basics of metal stamping and how to create a wire-wrapped beaded charm in this hands-on workshop. You will need strong hand-eye coordination for this workshop. If you wear glasses for close-up work, please bring them. You will create a personalized monogram necklace to take home. Registration is required. Ages 16+

Tuesday, Nov 20, 5–6pm & 6–7pm | REGISTER

See all events with Sondra Barrington on our calendar.


Sondra recommends the following titles on jewelry making from the Library District’s catalog.

The Workbench Guide to Jewelry Techniques by Anastasia Young

The Jewelry Architect: Techniques + Projects for Mixed-Media Jewelry by Kate McKinnon

Stamped Metal Jewelry: Creative Techniques & Designs for Making Custom Jewelry by Lisa Niven Kelly

New Stamped Metal Jewelry: Innovative Techniques for 23 Custom Jewelry Designs by Lisa Niven Kelly and Taryn McCabe

The New Encyclopedia of Jewelry-Making Techniques by Jinks McGrath

The Complete Photo Guide to Making Metal Jewelry by John Sartin

Cool Copper Cuffs: 25 Metal and Wire Projects by Eva M. Sherman

Simple Soldered Jewelry & Accessories: 40+ Creative Projects by Lisa Bluhm

Soldering Beyond the Basics: Techniques to Build Confidence and Control by Joe Silvera

Soldering Made Simple: Easy Techniques for the Kitchen-Table Jeweler by Joe Silvera

Erin Dodge

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