Hi everyone, for the first of a new set of blog posts I would love to introduce you to Clare who first got in touch with me over the summer to find out about the courses that we offer. Clare uses silver art clay to make silver keepsake jewellery and wanted to increase her skill set to include techniques such as soldering. Clare enrolled on our 10 week Beginners Silver Jewellery Making course and at the time of starting this blog she is 3 weeks in.
Clare has been documenting her journey and the pieces she has been making so I thought it would be great to share it with you! Firstly lets get to know a bit more about Clare-
Week 1 was AMAZING. That’s no exaggeration either. I made my very first sterling silver ring. We learnt how to measure the silver, with hints and tips on measuring if we were texturing (hammering) the piece. We learnt how to manipulate the silver into a perfect circle. One of my most favourite parts was learning to solder with actual sterling silver. I normally use the paste and you get a much more dramatic liquefying stage with the metal solder, that magical moment it runs and joins the piece together, a real sense of alchemy. I also learnt Laura’s School is a little bit like a time machine. You step in and 2 hours passes in 5 minutes. True story, it happened in week 2 as well.
Week 2, a bit like bake off without the cakes, was SAW WEEK! Well, that’s what I called it. This week we learnt to saw our way through metal. From using a dremel to create our starting point, we learnt how to RELAX our shoulders and saw copper and silver. I am attempting to create my business logo with the two hearts entwined. I was happy with my sawing and filing of the pieces and we attempted to solder together. Time machine caught me out again and we ran out of time. So we left the piece in the pickle to clean up and try again at Week 3.
Week 3 started with another attempt at soldering my copper and silver heart together. I snipped up a few more tiny pieces of easy solder and used the poky thing (also known as a soldering probe) and it did the job just fine. Laura also explained the use of easy, medium and hard solder. Yet another ‘Ahhh that’s why!’ moment. This is another reason why I am enjoying the course so much, as well as learning the techniques, random questions get answered along the way. I decided to leave my hearts to be polished in the tumbler, to move on to DOME WEEK!
Here we learnt to manipulate and dome the silver (or copper) into a doming block using doming punches. What great fun, another chance to hammer stuff! I’ve decided to make a bead, so have domed 2 circles and filed them down ready for soldering together next week. I’m aiming to make a silver clasp and some small silver hearts or flowers to solder to the front. Watch this space!
Week 3- Doming Week!
Week 4 saw lot of time on the soldering block. I soldered my two pieces together, but had some gaps. So lots of practising with little bits of solder and the probe to get them joined. Arms like an octopus and patience is needed with this technique, I’m hoping the week break for half term means I go back fresh to the challenge. Laura also showed us how to create silver balls using a charcoal block, what fun! It never fails to amaze me how you can turn metal into such fun and creative shapes, once you’ve been taught how. We also had a little look at texture and how to create it on the metal. I’ll be having a go at that in week 5, swapping between the soldering, just so my frustrations don’t get the better of me.
Week 4- Bead Making!
This week I swapped my Tuesday class to the Wednesday as my little people wanted to go out trick or treating which meant an extra day to wait before my date with the blowtorch. I arrived and there was my bead, staring out at me from it’s little plastic bag, the joins winking at me. Challenging me, the blowtorch and my solder probe to a duel. I was ready for the challenge.
Firstly, I think it really helped to step away from the piece. I’m learning so much on this course, not just techniques but how to plan and approach a project too. That said winging it on the texturing was fun too.. more of that in a minute. Back to THE bead.
The Bead had been cleaned up in the pickle (pickle is an acidic solution that cleans up your silver pieces, removing fire scale left by soldering and heat) and my first reaction was it didn’t look as bad as I remembered. Phew. With this new found confidence I had a chat with Laura on how to best approach the joins and then it was me and the bead, head to head.
I snipped up my solder, applied my borax and set the blowtorch to work. First bit ran in completely the wrong direction. So I attempted again, this time adjusting technique slightly. AND THE SOLDER RAN IN THE JOIN! Completely where it was meant to go. I still love this part of soldering, watching the solder change state and become liquid shiny loveliness before it changes back fastening, securing your piece.
A victory for me and I gave a little cheer in the classroom, I ‘think’ my fellow students understood what this meant to me!
So, 3 more pieces of solder and they all ran where and how they should. I was so happy. I now have a completely sealed bead. Which I lovingly filed and sanded, all ready to be tumbled (tumbling or barreling is a way of polishing silver, it’s a machine which tumbles the silver with shot and barreling compound) and made shiny for it’s next stage.
In between my soldering wins, Laura showed me how to texture a piece of metal. WHAT FUN! Heating the silver sheet until it’s almost white hot, cooling, re-heating. On each heating you can see the metal start texturing and making shapes. Seriously, what’s not to love about that!
I’m thinking of continuing texturing a few more times and maybe makes something moon or planet shaped, maybe using the bead too. SO many ideas. Once again the Hampshire School Of Jewellery time warp was in full effect and it was time to leave. My Bead and textured piece are to be tumbled so next week I’ll be ready to align the planets to achieve yet another jewellery making win!
Week 5- Bead Soldering
Week 6 began with many minutes admiration of THE Bead in all it’s glory after a session in the polisher. I am very pleased with it and with perseverance and guidance from Laura the results are just fab.
This week felt really relaxed, so I decided to start of by texturing my piece of silver a few more times. This has resulted in a lovely crater like texture so I set to sawing out some moons. I found sawing the textured piece much trickier as it kept snagging, so Laura suggested some cut lube which helped massively and I was off again. I also made a start on the bail for the bead. This is going to be textured too. I’m still waiting for inspiration on how to assemble and solder all my moons, so in the meantime I’m planning my next project.
The next project is a series of interlinking rings, I think for a bracelet. I am going to hammer these for texture, who doesn’t love a bit of hammering. So I’ll switch between the two projects for the remaining weeks. I’ve been keeping an eye on Laura’s posts of other students pieces and will most definitely be writing to Father Christmas for a gift voucher, with SO may courses to choice from the hardest decision will be ‘what next?’.
Week 6 – Shiny Bead!
This week I began my last project which will see me through to the end of the course. Time has flown by so quickly! I decided not to work on The bead, but started to measure and cut my silver wire ready to assemble them as a necklace. I’m always on the look out for a longish silver necklace, as a nice ‘going out’ piece, so with the skills obtained over the last few weeks decided to make my own! SKILLZ! as my children would say..
I originally cut 7 links, but decided to add in 2 more medium sized for more balance. On the outside of the wire I textured it with a hammer. Albeit a noisy task, it’s great therapy!
With my 9 links all cut and hammered it was time to start bending into shape. With all that hammering the silver had gone quite stiff, so on occasion needed to re-heat it to soften it again. Once again time ran out and it was time to leave. With only 3 weeks left it really is time to start booking a new course!
Week 7 – Link Making
Week 8 –
I decided to finish The Bead. Having cut my moons I’ve decided less is more and just to attach a bail. I’ll keep the moons in case I have some moon inspired ideas another day.
With my bail pieces ready, Laura guided me in soldering the wire onto the bail piece. I then drilled another hole through the bead. I then ‘poked’ (sure there’s a better technical term!) the wire through the hole and soldered the other end of the wire to the bail. Leaving the bead and bail to have movement. I’m so proud! Laura really is the best teacher, so patient and always has a solution even to the trickiest of problems. With a little bit of time left I started soldering my circles ready to shape them next week, which I sure will be around in a flash!
Week 8 – Finishing the bead!
Week 9 was a lovely therapeutic week. After my angst with the bail it was nice to have a week of perfecting techniques learnt earlier on in the course.
I had all my pieces of silver measured and cut, so this week was a case of soldering and shaping. I still love that moment the solder takes and flows to make a join. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of soldering, it’s such fun.
Onto the shaping, which meant hammering into perfect circles, all 9. So, that was my time complete in what seemed super speed and my silver circles all ready to be polished for the big assemble next week!
Week 9 – Soldering and shaping the links
Final week. WOW! So I left my grubby, grey silver circles last week and came back to shiny, sparkly circles! Laura had popped them in the polisher and they looked FAB! I was SO pleased I had textured the rim of the circle facing out, it made such a difference to catching the light.
A few attempts of getting the circles into a sequence I was happy with (one in particular looked a bit like Mickey Mouse face and ears, due to the way it was hanging. Another lesson learnt about the design is just as important as the make!) and my beautiful necklace was complete.
I thoroughly enjoyed this course, Laura is such a great teacher, incredibly patient but always has great encouragement and inspiration when you get a little overwhelmed. I would HIGHLY recommend the course, to learn new techniques but to meet some lovely people too.
The finished necklace!