Tuesday, 7 September 2010

An educational weekend

As my last employer recently decided they could live without me and gave me a little cash to soften our parting of company, I decided to use some of that cash to learn some new jewellery making skills.  I've always enjoyed technical things so I signed up for Beginners Silver Jewellery Techniques and Comprehensive introduction to Precious Metal Clay workshops, both of which took place over the weekend.

The silver techniques workshop on Saturday lasted two hours.  That sounded like a reasonable length of time but when we actually got down to it, a little longer would have been good.  We were given a tiny piece of silver sheet, and a load of tools including saws, texturing hammers, files, drills, etc.  First we drew around our piece of silver on a sheet of paper a few times.  Then we had a go at drawing shapes to use as templates inside the little rectangles.  That was the easy bit.  Next we had to cut out our templates and draw around them on the silver sheet.  Here's mine:

Then it was time to do the scary part and actually cut out the pattern from the silver sheet using a very fine saw.  That got harder as I went along because my big clumsy fingers wre rubbing off the pencil marks as I tried to hold the piece of silver steady.  I got slower with each shape instead of quicker.

With all of the pieces cut out, the next step was to carefully file the ragged edges around each shape.  Remarkably, I had managed to make all four pieces more or less the same.  Result!  I decided to use a texturing hammer on my pieces so for the next couple of minutes there was a bit of therapeutic hammering until all of my shapes had a similiar covering of aesthetically pleasing dents.  The next challenge was to pierce all four in the same place with a hole for a jump ring and give the whole lot a polish.  Someone has suggested my finished creations look like fishing lures.  I'm inclined to agree but they are PRETTY fishing lures that will be transformed into earrings or a necklace:

The precious metal clay workshop on Sunday was an all day event with several projects to complete throughout the day.  First up was the silver leaf.  The tutor had very kindly collected some suitable leaves off a bush and we all chose one.  For this we needed a pot of art clay silver paste and a paint brush.

We started off by carefully painting the  back of the leaf with paste then setting it aside to dry.  As the day went on we built up the layers of paste until it was about 1mm thick and let it dry before putting it in the kiln to fire.

For the next project we were given a 10 gram pack of silver clay, which doesn't look nearly big enough to do anything useful with.  There were lots of pieces of jewellery in the middle of the table so we all had a look through them and decided what we wanted to make.  There were tiny cookie cutters & texture mats as well to help us make our pieces unique.  I decided to make an end cone.  I know, that doesn't sound very exciting but there were some gorgeous pieces of jewellery on the table made with very pretty end cones.  So we massaged our clay to condition it then rolled it out, textured it, cut it and, in most cases, balled it up and started again.  It took me 4 attempts to get my end cone right.  I had a little piece of clay left so I used it to make a couple of tiny textured hearts.  If I had remembered to punch the holes on opposite sides I could have used them to make earrings.  :)  Never mind, I can use them as charms on a bracelet or something.

The last project of the day was a ring.  Remarkably, a 10 gram pack of clay was enough to make a fairly chunky ring.  This time we had to tackle ring mandrels.  First we had to use a ring guage to size our chosen finger, then roll the clay, texture it, cut it and hope it fitted around the ring mandrel at the appropriate part for the size of ring we wanted.  It did. Phew!  The joining of the two ends was slightly tricky.  Despite having bigger fingers than most of the other participants I had enough clay left over to make a ring topper, so I did.  I carefully added the topper then left the ring to dry before firing.  We were running over our allotted time by then but we were all enjoying ourselves and noone was desperate to leave so we stayed until our creations were fired.  Look at the pretty things I made.  I'm particularly pleased with the end cone so I will take care making it into a pendant:

I still need to drill a hole for a jump ring in my leaf.  The ring is very slightly off-centre but I'll work on that and see if I can straighten it up a little without cracking the silver.  It's perfectly wearable though and very comfortable.  I will have to save up my pennies to buy some art clay and have a go at home.


  1. sounds like a great way to spend a weekend, lovely pieces,
    joy xx

  2. looks great for a first go! the silver clay looks like alot of fun :)

  3. I definately think I could get into silver clay, given the chance.

  4. I've just ordered a couple of books off Amazon in the hope that they will carry on where the workshop left off. It's just the price of the actual clay that I need to find now.