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.
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.