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What would you do? Using inexpensive materials

Next up in our What Would You Do? series. There's a temptation when we first start a new art or craft form to buy the most inexpensive materials possible so that we can practice without breaking the bank. In theory, I think this is an excellent idea. For example, if I wanted to practice doing a really tricky wire wrap technique, I might want to think about using inexpensive craft wire before shelling out for sterling silver.

But there is a real world problem with this: sterling silver doesn't feel and work quite the same as inexpensive craft wire. There comes a point when you actually have to use the real thing...take a deep breath and start bending. My friend Cindy Lietz pointed this out in relation to polymer clay. Sometimes the inexpensive alternative can have quality issues that make it unsuitable even for practice.

And as far as using inexpensive materials in our finished work...well, let me just say that I put way too much time into my pieces to trust them to inferior clasps, findings, unannealed glass beads, etc. What do you think? Are there times in your experience when you felt very strongly one way or the other about using inexpensive materials? Does inexpensive always mean inferior?

Sound off below! What would you do?

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Michele said…
I often use a hybrid method. I practice a technique using scrap, thrift store or other lower-cost materials and then use the higher quality materials to create the actual piece.

For example, crocheting with wire can be very tricky and frustrating. Much better to figure out how to hold the needle and manipulate the wire using some cheap stuff you don't care if it gets wasted. Or worse yet, I'd hate to try crocheting wire onto a piece that I've already spent hours and risk ruining the work already done experimenting with how to attach the crochet to the piece.
Cyndi L said…
That's pretty much what I do, Michele, except in the cases where the cheap stuff just doesn't feel enough like the real thing.
Charlene said…
I will practice on less expensive materials, although I have worked with wire enough to understand how it will be different when I transition from copper to silver, for example.

I don't like to waste, but years ago I came to the realization that consuming materials in order to learn how to do something was not waste. Changing my mindset there has helped me.
Cyndi L said…
Charlene, I know what you mean. Back in the beginning, I *hated* to throw out (or even to recycle) seemed like I had failed. What I did was to set myself a budget for "disposable materials" in order to learn each new skill. I felt much better about it when I viewed it as the cost of education!
Wendy said…
I always use solid copper to practice a new design before I move on to the more expensive silver. Over time, I've discovered that my copper "practice" pieces sell just as quickly as the silver ones. Now I do a couple of them before moving to the silver.

I haven't worked much with craftwire in the past, but I'm starting to experiment with it. I feel that as long as you create something that is pleasing to the eye, the materials don't always come into play.