This week was very focussed on silver and the various techniques used in construction and finishing silver jewellery, however we did have a bit of light relief mid-week with some wire wrapping and polymer clay.
Polymer clay is really fun and I have worked with it a lot before. It’s really great for bringing colour, pattern and texture to your work, and it’s very versatile. It can even be made to look like natural stone and wood. It’s also quite therapeutic working the clay to make it as malleable as possible before shaping it.
There were two days this week that were like master class workshops. The first one was all to do with piercing, polishing and finishing silver (although we did all our samples on copper as sheet silver is a bit expensive for practising on!) which included cutting out a shape and sanding and polishing both by hand and with various machinery. It was pretty fun to have a go on all the machinery, although I think some of it would be fairly impractical to have in a home workshop! We also had a go at something called reticulation. This creates a natural textured surface by repeatedly melting and cooling the metal. It’s really unpredictable and there is very little control over how it will turn out, I might have pushed mine a bit far and there may have been a bit too much melting going on!
The second master class was all to do with soldering. We started with sweat soldering, which is joining two flat surfaces together and moved on to attaching smaller parts like wire, making a chain and lastly creating a 3D shape. It was hot work using the blowtorch and required a lot of concentration ensuring the pieces were held in the correct place and that the solder didn’t jump around once the metal started to heat up and it flowed in the right direction once it melted so that the join was strong and the two parts were held together securely. I liked soldering and can definitely see myself using it in my future work. I particularly liked the idea of making chains because I won’t then be constrained by standard chain links, I can make them any shape I like and they can become part of the design.
The last day this week was intermediate silver. There was no structure for this day, we just had to use the techniques we had learnt earlier in the week, plus what we did in beginner’s silver to design and make a piece on our own. There were some criteria we had to fulfil for the course, which was piercing, soldering and shaping. I managed to include all of these in my design, but I’m not sure it’s something I would necessarily have designed without that criteria.
Several of our teachers so far have said that silver jewellers seem to sit in two camps, silversmithing or metal clay. There is some cross over but people mainly work in one or the other and there is some snobbery involved as metal clay is a very new product. From my experience so far I think I am far more in the metal clay camp, however I am pleased I have had the opportunity to try out all the silver work as I think they are important skills to have whatever material you work in as, along with the wire wrapping we did in the first week, they are the basics of jewellery construction.
There is no silver next week! We have a really varied week coming up including technical drawing, resin and a school trip! We are off to the V&A museum to get some inspiration and look at the history of jewellery.
Jewellery enthusiast embarking on an exciting new adventure to set up my own business.