Last week was marking week. It was also the last time we went into the studio every day. We had two days at the beginning of the week to finish off projects and then on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we each had an hour time slot to sit down with the person who did the marking and present the work we have done over the last six weeks.
It was a fairly strange experience being graded on things we had produced, especially as some of the pieces were the first time we had tried some of the techniques or worked with those materials. It was also quite disheartening to be told if something wasn’t up to scratch. On the other hand it was good to be able to discuss the pieces and give an explanation for some of the design choices I made as I felt that some of the marking was down to personal preference, so being able to justify a choice I had made and talk it through did help.
We have received our marks already and I am really pleased with what I have got so far, however we still have our exhibition to complete which is worth 20% of the final grade, so I won’t be having any celebrations until that is over and I know my final score.
As a group we discussed our ideas for the exhibition quite a lot last week, which was really helpful to get some feedback from the other girls and hear what they have planned and how they are thinking of making their collection.
We received a brief for the exhibition and we will not only be marked on the jewellery we produce (although that will be a major factor), but also on how the collection is displayed. Showing the design process will also help a lot; so producing a sketchbook is a good idea. The exhibition is in October so I have a lot of planning and making to do over the next few weeks!
I am planning to set up my own studio to work in down the bottom of my garden in what was once a summerhouse that I have now commandeered! We have had some work done on it to make it flood proof (hopefully) and now the builders are laying the floor and fitting a sink. Once they have finished I will be able to start moving some furniture in and ordering some equipment to get everything set up and I can start making! Exciting times ahead!
Lessons are now officially over! These last six weeks have absolutely whizzed by, but they have been so much fun. I feel exhausted and before we started several people told us that we would be tired, it is after all an intensive diploma. I, however, was very blasé about it and thought I would be fine, as did the other girls on the course. We were proved wrong, but I suppose that kind of attitude is what drives us to dive headlong into a project like this and be determined to see it through to the end and be successful, and eventually set up our own businesses.
We started the week with Perspex. After such a heavy week the week before it was great to start with something a bit more playful. The bright colours of the Perspex lend themselves to fun statement pieces, which really pop out. I went down the current trend route of tropical fruit and made a watermelon slice necklace that I was so pleased with. I will definitely be wearing it even in the winter to remind me of hot summer days...not that we have had many of those this year so far!
On Tuesday and Wednesday we had our advanced silver days where we made our final silver project. As I have mentioned previously silver is not my strongest suit (although I am glad I have learnt all the techniques as I think they will come in useful), however these two days were a really great opportunity to think about the project as a whole and plan the order in which I completed different parts and constructed them. It really encouraged me to think about organising my day and preparing for each part of the process. I made an Art Deco style brooch and I feel proud when I look at it of the work I put into it. I even bought a cabochon gemstone especially for it.
The last two days of the diploma were not making days, but classes to give us the skills we need to start our own business. Thursday was all about business from marketing to hallmarking. It was a lot of information to take in, but all of it was helpful and relevant and I will definitely be using what I have learnt over the next few weeks as I branch out on my own. Friday was photography. I have dabbled in photography before but the teacher we had was really thorough and explained the various features of the camera so well. We played around with aperture size and shutter speed to see the effects of letting more or less light into the camera. She also showed us how we could set up a table top studio at home so we can take great pictures to put on our websites or social media. The picture above was taken using a miniature light box designed to be used with camera phones. The pendant is from our fused glass day and I'm impressed with how clearly the picture came out.
Doing this diploma has been brilliant. It has allowed me to try out new techniques and materials that I have never used before and refresh some that I have. I feel much more confident about the direction I would like to take my jewellery in now and the classes like jewellery design and fashion jewellery have given me a lot of guidance on how to plan my work and follow current trends. I'm really looking forward to setting up my own studio over the next few weeks and start developing my very first collection, which will of course be for the diploma exhibition and will contribute to 20% of my overall mark.
I am back at the school this week for bench days to finish off any pieces I didn't complete in the lessons and start work on my collection and also for our marking days...scary!
I can't believe there is only one more week of lessons and then it's marking week! This diploma is just flying by! I've had a really mixed week; a great start with fused glass and enamel and then a few difficult days with stone setting in silver and intermediate wax carving.
Fused glass was so much fun! Cutting the glass was really easy, although we only did straight lines so that might not be true if curves were involved! It's all about building up layers of glass and thinking about the textures you want to achieve and varying the order of the layers. The great thing about it is that it's totally unpredictable. No matter how carefully you stack your glass you just can't tell how it's going to come out in the end. I made some pieces that I really liked and would seriously consider using glass in future jewellery projects.
Onto a different way of using glass: enamel. This is essentially powdered glass that can be used to add colour to metal. This was the class I had most been looking forward to as I really love the effect of enamelling on jewellery. I had done quite a bit of reading around it and was under the impression that it's a really difficult and lengthy process but that's just not the case! It was really quick to apply and only took one minute in the kiln for each layer. I was really impressed with the results and will definitely be incorporating it into my jewellery and am even thinking of using it in my final collection for the diploma exhibition that will make up 20% of our marks.
We had two days of stone setting in silver this week. Silversmithing is not really my forte but day one went pretty well. I really like the results, particularly the stone in a bezel setting. We learnt three different kinds of setting; bezel, tube and flush. Bezel and tube are my favourites and my first attempts went well, however on the afternoon of day two we had an opportunity to practice whichever technique we liked. I decided to try the bezel setting again as I found it the most difficult, but it was disastrous! No matter what I tried I could not for the life of me get the solder to run properly to create a join between the bezel and the base. In the end I gave up and will have to come back to it another time, sometimes you just need to put some space between yourself and a project. I often find I can get too close to what I’m working on, which isn’t very helpful if for some reason I am having a bit of a bad day. But my design for my final silver project which we will be doing next week includes a stone in a bezel setting, so fingers crossed I have more luck with it next time around!
Lastly we did intermediate wax carving and received the silver version of the rings we carved last week. I love mine! I’m so happy with how it turned out. I have started polishing it up and it's looking good so far. I need to work through all the sandpaper grades and then pop it in the tumbler to get a really high shine. We spent the rest of the day experimenting with different types of wax and how to join them together and using heat on the tools to create various textures in the wax.
Next week we have Perspex jewellery, two days to create our final silversmithing project, a brooch for me, and then a day of business and a day of photography. I really can't believe we are so close to the end now. I’m going to miss the other diploma girls, I’ve got so used to seeing them every day.
Week four has been full of variety including a lot of new techniques I have never tried before.
Monday was our school trip to the jewellery gallery at the Victoria & Albert museum in London. The jewellery in there is absolutely stunning and from a huge range of eras. Firstly I spent time having a look at all the displays and then focussed on pieces I was drawn to which I sketched as case studies. I was particularly drawn to the Art Deco and Art Nouveau eras. I really like the shapes and lines they use and the blocks of colour. After we had spent time in the gallery we went for coffee and cake to discuss what we had seen. It was really interesting how all of us had picked out completely different things to look at. I found it really helpful to talk about my ideas and influences and to start thinking about my collection for the final exhibition.
Next we did technical drawing... I have to say I haven't used a protractor since school! It was good to get an idea of how to map out a design, especially if you are going to be following it closely like we did the following day in wax carving, however I did feel like I had a bit of a clash of creativity and mathematics!
Wax carving was really great. After we designed our pieces (and did a bit more technical drawing) we started to work on the wax model. It was really easy to whittle and file away to create the desired shape and then we had to sand and polish it to achieve a smooth finish. Once we had finished it was taken away to the casters where it will be melted away and replaced with silver. I'm really looking forward to getting the finished ring back and seeing what it looks like. Hopefully I will have done enough work on the wax version that I won't have to do too much to the silver one.
The last two days of the week have been all about resin. It comes in two parts, the resin itself and the hardener which you have to mix together in precise ratios otherwise it won't set properly. You can then pour it into different shape molds and once it is set it becomes like plastic. The first day we did lots of experimenting with different colours and metallic powders, setting things into it like buttons, glitter, sequins, patterned paper...anything you can think of really! A little goes a long way as well, once I had mixed up a colour I found myself making so many bits with it. Day two was all about finishing. Once the resin has set it's really easy to pop them out of the molds. They then needed any rough bits filing off and sanding down. We used the polishing machines to give them a great shine and finally attached rings, brooch backs, chains and fastenings to turn them into wearable pieces of jewellery.
I feel like I learned a lot this week and it was nice to try loads of different techniques, rather than focussing on just one. I also feel like I made lots of progress with my designs for the final exhibition and have already put some ideas down on paper.
Next week we are returning to wax carving and also to silver with two days of stone setting, but we are going to try out fused glass and enameling, which I think will add some variety and colour to the week.
Jewellery enthusiast embarking on an exciting new adventure to set up my own business.