It's our 6th anniversary as I write this and we've just implemented a custom kit concept that I've dreamed of for as long as we've been making kits. I'm delighted with it and I want to take a moment to explain why it's such an important change and what it means for you.
As much as I love teaching through kits, I've never felt comfortable with the 'learn to make a bracelet', project based way of teaching. Almost all jewelry making lessons are project based, meaning you learn to make a particular thing, say a tennis bracelet, for example. Although the techniques used to make the tennis bracelet can be applied to any number of other types of projects, some of which are nothing like tennis bracelets, many people have trouble separating the design from the technique and see them as one and the same. Hence the 'tennis bracelet technique' becomes nothing more than a way to make tennis bracelets.
My goal has never been to simply teach people to make this bracelet or that necklace. My goal has always been to teach techniques that you can use to make fabulous things of your own design, things I've never thought of. That's the true joy in any creative endeavor; conceiving an idea and using your skills to make it real.
Imagine that I'm teaching you to make rope. I wouldn't need to tell you what to do with your rope, now would I? You know what ropes are good for and if you made one, I'm sure you could think of something nice to do with it. Making a chain for jewelry isn't much different. Weave this much chain and you have a bracelet, weave twice that length and it's a necklace, weave a single unit or three and it's an earring. When I'm teaching a chain weave, my job is to teach the weave (which is the technique), not tell you what to make with it (which is the design).
I believe it's vitally important to clearly define and distinguish technique from design when teaching. A weave is a technique. What you make with that technique is your design. The most common designs -- bracelets and necklaces made of straight lengths of chain -- are beautiful with a fluid look and feel, like pouring precious metal. And those are the simplest uses of the weave. While you're weaving that simple chain, you'll always think of ever more unique and complex ways to use it.
Obviously, in order to learn a technique, you must have something to make as you follow along with the instructions. My goal has always been to thoroughly teach a technique while keeping to the shadows with regard to design; to make a kit project as much a blank canvas as possible so your burgeoning ideas show up more brightly against it in your mind. Originally, I did this by keeping all our project pieces simple and elegant; simple designs, plain clasps, as little other componentry as possible, offered only in the ring size or combination of sizes that results in the most perfect example of the weave at its best. However unobtrusive, though, simple and elegant is still a style, an element of design. What I really want to do is leave a vacuum where design belongs so that the design, even for the learning project, is yours rather than mine. I always knew how to do it... but it's taken six years to build up the teaching experience and the manufacturing muscle to pull it off.
And that's where we are now. Our new KitWorks is not a product, it's a tool that you use to design your own learning project. You choose every component of your kit: instructions, ringpack, clasp, everything. There is no design except your own. The instructions teach the technique, the weave itself; you decide what to make with it. You choose the metal(s) and ring size(s) from among the matching ringpacks, each of which will make 10" of beautiful chain. If you want an Argentium necklace, choose two Argentium ringpacks in the same gauge. If you want to make graduated sterling necklaces, choose sterling ringpacks in the range of sizes you want to graduate and combine them for the look you have in mind. Each item is sold separately and you choose as many or as few of anything as you want for the project you have in mind.
KitWorks is all about freedom and it isn't a foolproof concept. I'll always include recommendations (and the whys of them), such as why it isn't a good idea to try to learn a weave with 22g rings... but you are free to disregard those recommendations and do it anyway. In designing your own learning project, you get to thoroughly exercise your freedom of choice, cater to your own your tastes and push your creative boundaries. You also have the freedom to get in over your head with big rings that are uncomfortably stiff or small rings that are hard to see... but true freedom always includes the freedom to make mistakes and to learn from them.
I hope you love our KitWorks as much as I do. Now go make something you love. *s*