Studying the Art of Wire Necklaces

Granada is a city many times besieged by pirates under the command of Henry Morgan who sailed small canoes against the current of the Rio San Juan and into Lago Nicaragua to take the city under the cover of night. Here, I decided to attempt to stimulate my creativity and learn how to make treasures from wire and beautiful mementos.

I had seen semi-precious stones decorated with beautiful wire filigree in Masaya’s Mercado Tradicional (aka tourist market) and was struck by their true originality. They were travel-sized and unlike anything else I had seen in Nicaragua, so I carefully chose four for my rock and art loving friends.

When I arrived in Granada, I was surprised to stumble upon a supply store for these artisans. The store, Kaman, sold everything one needed in order to make elaborate stone pendants and jewelry. I was shocked that some of the beautifully polished stones were less than a $1 and others were only a few dollars depending on what they were. I glanced at the display cases and resolved to return and spend $20.

A little over $23 later, I had 11 stones. The lady at the shop told me that, while they didn’t offer classes, I could get an artisan on the street to teach me for $5 an hour.

photo 1
I asked several artisans who all quoted me $10 an hour minimum, but then I got to Luis. He spoke relatively good English and quoted me only $5 an hour. He also agreed to come earlier than he usually does so that I could make my bus. We struck a deal and I bought wire before meeting him the next day.

photo 2
Luis allowed me to use his tools and started by teaching me four “simple” shapes. He made it look easy, but it was quite difficult for me. Thankfully he was patient and friendly.

His (left) and mine (right).

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Luis is a perfectionist with his art. His straight lines are perfectly straight, his curved lines neatly arched, and his wire ends tightly meet the edges of his circles without spaces. His pieces (such as the one below) are unique and very innovative. He says he was not taught, but simply learned by observation. He thinks it is difficult to teach and learn because one always has to think of new designs.

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I am still not sure that I have a creative side, but I think the only way to discover it is through art. I will practiced and continue learning from other artisans during my trip (especially now that I found several incredible crystals in El Lagartillo).

If stone art interests you, you can pick up supplies fairly cheaply at Kaman in Granada or Leon. You do not need a lot of tools and can find plenty of beautiful rocks, coins, seeds, shells, and sea glass pieces during your travels. Some artisans will even teach you for free when you meet in a hostel.

Have fun being creative and make sure to put your tools in your checked baggage!

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