Most assemblage these days comes under the Mixed Media Jewelry genre/title. Some folks call it collage as well. Typically in collage jewelry, glue, rivets and tabs are used to secure the ornaments used in the design.
Cagework assemblage, Haskell or Hagler style---requires extra thought and engineering as it requires little or none of those things.
You will want to use 28 ga plated wire. (I use gold plated but there are some brass plated colors that will work nicely, too----or use silver if you are using silver findings, etc) For me, it seems the size 11 type seed beads work best for "tapestry beading" where you are covering an area of filigree, or a leaf. You need small ones to make a smooth fit without funky gaps.
You can see proper technique in this lovely Miriam Haskell brooch that I own:
The beading done on the leaves and flower petals is tapestry beading. The beads used here are very small faceted baroque glass pearls probably 2.5-3mm. They are on the larger side for this sort of work. You probably would never use something larger.
I've found that the smaller the finding you cover, the more fiddly it becomes.
Petals and leaves are important pieces in this type of assemblage. You will develop patterns and layers with them in your piece. Some leaves in the pattern will be beaded, others might be bare or possibly colorized with your own choice of technique. That is for you to decide.
The best leaf stampings for tapestry beading are rather 'serrated' down the sides.....like this one:
It is found on our website, here:
If using this piece I would drill or punch a pilot hole middle top of the leaf as it helps to go through there, up and around the stem to anchor, and start wrapping beads. At the finish you bring the wire straight up to the tail from your starting point, and do the twist off (you will see some pix of the twist off on some old pieces, the farther you read along).
Finally, you will bury the ends of the wire among the other wires.
It is very hard, however, to cover up the wires on the back of a tiny leaf but I have seen where a smaller lacy leaf was taken and applied over the back for a nicer finish.
You could also use a leaf that has holes down its side, like this one:
We have these going right and left at the website under Brass Leaves
This one works very nicely, too:
Some cut a long length of wire from the spool and begin wrapping at the top and go down to the base of a leaf....others recommend that you work from the end of the spool and don't cut the wire off.
If you are attaching a focal it's recommended that you cut 3-4 inch lengths FROM the spool and attach the piece through two holes in the filigree or drilled piece (some also use screen findings, the very early Haskell pieces used screen findings).
At the back you will TWIST the ends together tightly, being careful that they do not snap. This very old unsigned Haskell pin from the collection of Cathy Gordon, one of the writers of MIRIAM HASKELL JEWELRY, will show you the twist-off:
Here is another example of the back of a very early Haskell piece, where several filigree circlets are soldered onto a barpin grid. We actually carry very similar circlets at B'sue Boutiques
Again this picture comes from Cathy Gordon's archives:
As time went on and the work became refined, most pieces were 'faced' with an opposing or complimentary filigree:
And, as you can see, they were signed.
The brass findings were of better quality and more plentiful than in the earlier pieces, which were composed mostly of beads. Some of the findings were French but most were made right here in the United States. Many still are, and I am always adding them to our inventory at the website.
The plating on the findings was called Russian Gold Plating, and it was a mustardy-brown antiquing over a fine gold plated primary finish. In this photo you'll see an older piece with RGP finish, and a raw brass, unplated new piece:
The one on the left is vintage, probably from the late 50's til late 60's. The large one on the right is raw brass and still made, in fact, it just arrived here yesterday.
Sometimes in the old vintage cagework, regular stampings were also used as focal pieces. In order to incorporated with beads, they had to be punched, or drilled. This is a vintage silver plated Haskell finding with tiny drill holes made for wiring, from my small collection of unused findings:
This could easily be accomplished with a small hole punch. Another example in the old RGP finish. Again, this piece is still made.
I found that my usual methods of approaching assemblage don't really work when doing a piece in this style. There is MUCH more planning required. I'll need not only to decide what type of leaves I will use, but also if I will need to drill or punch 'pilot holes' for the wire.
I'll need to check and be sure I have enough seed beads! It takes more than you think, sometimes!
WOW....I wonder how many were in this parure set of three pieces that match?
Again, this photo is courtesy of Cathy Gordon.
As the Haskell and Hagler styles progressed up into the 50's, you saw more and more brass stampings being used in the layers.
For me, this is where it really gets interesting, as I love the play of beaded and unbeaded pieces, manipulating and layering!
This very rare piece from Cathy Gordon's files features an amazing crystal head as a focal! A Haskell lady head brooch!
Since I am a huge fan of this type of jewelry both vintage and handmade, I am always looking for vintage style pieces of filigree and components to bring in to the B'sue Boutiques website
Today I made a collage of some of the pieces that came in yesterday that could be handily used in this type of assemblage:
I would probably not bead those filigree leaves. I might colorize them, though, as they are raw brass. The curved filigree leaves are awesome for adding dimension to be piece. They are very pretty, though, if you go up through the spine, or the middle with rose montees or tiny baroque pearls.
You're the designer....it's your call!
This piece in the collage is really handy for wrapping around a stone or focal so that you can build the design around it:
I love beading this brass fan.....if you go to its listing on the site and click to see the secondary photo, you will see a fun piece I made long ago with it and a sleek hand finding, such as you see in the collage:
We also just got some vintage hinged cuffs that are perfect for doing tapestry beading, all around:
Find it here:
I only touched the tip of the iceberg on this subject....it's been something that's mesmerized me for years. If you are interested in this sort of work, making a deep study of how the pieces were really made, will help you to understand the soul of the work and to develop great texture and dimension in your pieces.
I'll be back with more photos and reports the more I study along and get my techniques worked out!