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.
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.
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.
Jewellery enthusiast embarking on an exciting new adventure to set up my own business.