Q and A with Kath Orsman
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Kath Orsman, author of Wired Jewelry, will be at this year’s Knitting and Stitching show on stand F5. She creates gorgeous jewellery using techniques that include knitting. We took a few minutes to chat with her about her work.
How long have you been knitting for, and when did you learn?
Gosh- ages! My mum was a knitter and I learned from watching her, but I can’t remember her teaching me. I know I taught myself to crochet so I think knitting happened that way too. Funny thing, mum hasn’t knitted for years and now at 84 she’s picked up her needles again. It just proves that you’re never too old!
How did your knitting develop into making jewellery?
Over the years I’d made far too many knits that had languished in the bottom of the wardrobe or been given away, so I looked around for something new to do. I remember seeing a news presenter wearing a necklace that looked as if it was knitted – and the idea blossomed. Trial and error and lots of experimentation led to my first necklace ‘Confetti’. The results were pleasing and I sold a few at craft fairs and to friends. I was asked to make jewellery to match a particular outfit or for bridal events, which was fun. I then tried crocheting and French knitting in wire to explore different effects and styles. Just as a crocheted garment can be quite different from a knitted one, the same is true when working with wire and so my ideas developed.
What is the biggest challenge when it comes to knitting with wire?
I think this is probably the way wire has no ‘give’ like yarn. It takes a few attempts to become familiar with wire. I would always suggest working a few short rows of knitting plus casting on and off to get the tension right.
Also, using the correct gauge, or thickness, of wire is important. If the wire is too thick it is almost impossible to manipulate it and get good results. If it is too thin it breaks easily which is frustrating. Initially it can be quite hard on your hands too. That said, don’t be put off! Wire can produce beautiful and unusual pieces and you’ll quickly get the hang of it. It is remarkably forgiving too. A mistake on a knitted garment is very obvious. In wire, no-one will notice. Honestly!
Where do you find the inspiration to create your jewellery designs?
My ideas have come from experimenting and discovering what is and isn’t possible with wire. I’ve taken ideas from working with yarn like plaiting, twisting, knotting, finger knitting and French knitting, and transferred them to wire. Some worked, others didn’t but often one idea led to another and soon I had several techniques that I was pleased with. Often at my workshops someone will say ‘Have you tried…?’ or ‘Can I make…?’ which gives me another lead to follow.
How would you describe the style of the jewellery you create?
Unique, unusual and affordable. I love the way that each necklace or bracelet is different. Adding beads or changing the colour of the wire can create a completely different piece. I’ve had children as young as six and adults in their 70s come to my workshops and all have been delighted with the results so it has a broad appeal. I don’t think I can say it has a particular style but it is very versatile – day or night, everyday or special occasion, there is a piece that will fit the bill.
Do you make pieces that are in line with your personal style, or do you like to try lots of different trends?
Each of the necklaces in my book can be adapted to suit your own personal style. By using beads that are matt or shiny, large or small, the same colour or many colours, gives very different results. I love this variety and flexibility which has been seen in the workshops – the same necklace done in many different ways. I’m a beadaholic so often a new purchase will inspire redoing a necklace in new beads just to see the effect. I also like to recycle so the beads from a broken necklace can have a new lease of life.
What made you take the step to writing a jewellery making book?
As I developed my ideas I began to jot them down so not to forget how I’d made them. I realised that I had quite a collection. I approached GMC and found they were interested. With guidance, editing and encouragement my book gradually evolved. It took about a year to complete with many emails and photos winging their way to and from Sussex. I’m thinking about the next one at the moment – probably more jewellery but also brooches and fastenings too.
Do you have a favourite piece that you made for Wired Jewelry?
This is a difficult question. It is probably the first one I made called ‘Confetti’ in the book as it works so well as a necklace and a bracelet but I do like a crocheted one called ‘Leaf’ as it can be adapted in so many ways. ‘Filigree’ is a delicate, fragile-looking necklace, which is my favourite for evening and ‘Blossom’ is always a big favourite at the shows.