Happy new year everyone! I had quite a big break over Christmas as we were entertaining a lot of people during the festive period. Something about moving into a new house seems to make people want to visit…
Before I got consumed by cleaning and cooking and general hosting I was absorbed in a couple of commissions people asked me to make for Christmas gifts. As I mentioned in a previous post one of my sister’s colleagues asked me to make identical necklaces for her daughters. I came up with three designs and luckily she liked all of them! She picked one and I got to work. I really thought it wasn’t going to take me long, but I had so many set backs throughout the process, not least when I was carefully getting the metal clay out of the dehydrator and managed to drop one of the pieces on the floor… of course it smashed and wasn’t worth fixing. I could have cried! However I finished them in the end and even got them hallmarked, my first things to go to the assay office. I was so excited to get them back and felt really proud of myself when I saw that official mark on my work.
The second commission I had was from my husband who asked me to make something for his supervisor. My only brief was that “she always wears dangly earrings”… thanks dear! I came up with several designs and he picked one out immediately. Thankfully I didn’t have any breakages this time and have heard that she loved them.
The last thing I made before Christmas was a bit of a self set commission and quite a big project. My mother-in-law had mentioned that she would like a fox brooch and I was keen to practise wax carving. I had an idea in my head and got started the next day. It took me a long time to complete the carving, but I wanted to make it is perfect as possible. The more work you do on the wax version, the less you need to do to clean it back up once it has been cast in silver. I am so pleased with my fox and my mother-in-law was thrilled with it. I would say it is the best thing I have made so far and it enabled me to design my first collection. I was feeling a bit uninspired, but after I had experimented with the wax and saw how it could be manipulated I felt much more creative.
Now it's the new year and it’s time to start work again. I have the designs for my collection all drawn out so all that’s left is for me to get back down the workshop and start carving!
The last few weeks have been a bit all over the place but I’m excited that my studio is now finished! I have benches and storage all in place and have slowly been acquiring equipment. Now just to unpack all those boxes…
I’ve also been working on the final collection for the diploma. I continued with my Art Deco/Nouveau peacock theme but I changed my designs several times before I settled on the final one. I decided to go quite simple and stick to the geometric shapes and straight lines and then introduce curves using wire which I used to create chain links for the necklace and bracelet. I added colour to the collection using cubic zirconia and epoxy enamel. I really liked the colour pops and am pleased I added them. I find when I’m designing I usually start with a colour scheme and go from there so it’s quite important to me to include this in my work.
Last night was the exhibition where several of the diploma students showed their final collections and the certificates were presented. We all passed! Our family and friends were also invited and it was great for them to come and see what we have been working on. I really enjoyed seeing what the other students had made, especially the ones in the other group. Everybody had totally different themes and all the work was really individual. Even the way they were displayed really varied from person to person.
I made my diploma collection with metal clay but I found it quite limiting for what shapes I could produce. I attempted to create my own templates to cut round but found the clay dragged when I tried to cut it so it was pulled out of shape. The other problem was that you have to work fast as it dries out really quickly and then you have to contend with cracks as well. This meant that sticking to more simple shapes which I already had cutters for seemed like my only option. I am considering experimenting with wax carving again. I found the class interesting and wax lends itself to creating quite organic, free-flowing shapes. Because it doesn’t dry out in the same way you have a lot longer to work on it and sculpt the shape you want.
I really enjoyed doing the diploma and it has given me a wide range of skills. I’m looking forward to branching out on my own now and developing designs which don’t have to conform to a brief!
Second week down and here we are on Sunday night ready for week three!
Week two has been all about silver. Three days of metal clay learning more techniques; stone setting, beads and rings. The stone setting day definitely required the most concentration. The first project was creating a setting for a glass cabochon. This had to be done early as the glass cannot be heated too quickly or cooled too quickly otherwise it can be damaged. We set a cubic zirconia gemstone into dry clay by drilling a hole with a specially shaped drill into the dry clay and then placing the stone in before firing the piece. The hardest project of the day was setting a fine silver bezel into the clay to hold a natural gemstone. This was difficult because there was a risk of melting the silver bezel when firing the rest of the clay. However I managed it without any disasters and was really pleased with the result.
On Thursday we had a day of fashion jewellery. This really broke up the week and made me think about the design process and where trends come from, how far in advance they are set and designers’ start working on their collections before they actually start to appear in the shops. We made mood boards based on trends we found in popular magazines and from this had a think about who our customer would be and began to sketch some designs based around this. In the afternoon we then produced a piece of jewellery and I made a ring using leather, a material I never thought I would use! I’m not sure it is a material I would choose to work with on a regular basis, but it was great to get to try it out.
Friday was my first taste of working with sheet silver. It’s a lot more of a physical process than the metal clay. We added designs using a roller to press patterned brass sheets into the silver to leave an impression and used a mallet and stamps to add symbols and letters. We also used various hammers to add textures. Once we had the design we wanted we cut out the shape of the piece with a piercing saw and then filed, sanded and polished it to create a smooth finish. Once we had made the first project, a pendant, we moved on to a ring and added soldering to the list of new techniques. Soldering was tricky but I managed it and am so proud of the result. I can’t wait to have another go!
More silver work, but also back to wirework and a day of polymer clay coming up this week.
I can’t believe week one is over already! It’s been such a busy week and I already feel like I’ve learnt so much. The main thing I’ve learnt is that I’m definitely out of practice using my brain, I’m exhausted!
The first two days were beading and wirework. Although I have mainly worked in this way previously it was good to go over the basics again as this is the foundation of jewellery construction. It’s a really fast way of working and it felt like we made so many pieces; earrings, bracelets, necklaces and even rings all out of beads and wire.
Day three was jewellery design. We started by looking at jewellery and thinking about the look and feel of it and how we would describe the pieces. Doing this we began to build up a vocabulary of words to do with form, style, materials, technique and theme and get a good idea of what we liked and what we didn’t. We then began to think about our own designs and were taken step by step through the process of designing. We created mood boards to give a feel for the colours, patterns and textures we were drawn to and then went out into the street with our sketchbooks to find inspiration in the world around us and to enable us to start work designing our own collections. I really enjoyed going through this process as it helped me think clearly about what I want to make and what my natural style might be.
On days four and five we made a start on metal clay. Such a fun material! It is clay infused with silver particles so when you fire it the clay burns away to leave a pure silver piece. It means you can be so creative with the way you work because you can sculpt the clay into any shape you like. We learned several techniques including stone setting into wet clay, mould making and adding gold.
With six weeks to go I feel like we are only at the tip of the iceberg, even though my head feels crammed full of new knowledge already! The week coming up is three more days of metal clay followed by fashion jewellery and then we will be beginning silver, something that I know everyone in the class is keen to start.
The other students in my class are lovely and come from really diverse backgrounds. I think that by doing the intensive course rather than the one spanning a year I have met people who are very likeminded to me, who are focused and serious about starting their own businesses and are interested and excited by the making process. This shared mind-set will help to drive the class and push us to achieve as much as we can in the time we have.
Roll on week two…
Jewellery enthusiast embarking on an exciting new adventure to set up my own business.