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!
This week I attended the ‘Make Your Mark’ event at the London Assay Office at Goldsmith’s Hall. The main focus of the event was to promote having your work hall marked. This is a legal requirement in the UK for items produced in precious metals over a certain weight. The weight varies depending on the type of metal. The talk was full of interesting facts about the history of hall marking and the London Assay Office itself. The speakers also went through the different parts that the mark is made up of; the maker’s individual sign usually made up of initials inside a shape, the type and quality of the metal, the place where it is stamped and the date. The mark can either be applied via laser or traditional stamp hammered into the metal. I’m looking forward to creating my mark and taking my first piece of jewellery to be stamped.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, I decided to give wax carving a try. I ordered the materials I needed as a kit and waited several weeks for it to arrive. I phoned up a couple of times and was told that the items were out of stock and the date kept moving further and further back which was frustrating, especially as I had been using the time to design some pieces and wanted to create them in real life. In the end I cancelled the order of the kit and reordered the items individually and they turned up the very next day! I’ve already started carving a ring and it’s taking shape nicely. I should be able to finish it off next week and move on to my next design.
I’m very excited as this week I received my first commission! A recommendation through my sister, one of her colleagues has asked me to make Christmas presents for her daughters. So this week I am going to have to get my thinking cap on to get some designs done based on the brief she has given me to get them made in time. Luckily we still have a few weeks to go but it is creeping ever closer. I can’t believe that we are into November already.
Anyway, I’m off to register for a hall mark and then put pen to paper!
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!
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.
Jewellery enthusiast embarking on an exciting new adventure to set up my own business.