Let’s try new stuff – jewellery making

Oooh, purdy.

Last week I spent my days at the City Lit on their Introduction to Jewellery Making course, attempting to turn bits of metal into pieces of jewellery.

The course was spread over five days and covered a range of basic metal working techniques that were used to make various items. Each day we were shown a few different techniques and then set about experimenting with them. We were introduced to various skills such as annealing, which is basically heating metals to make them more malleable, soldering, drilling, cutting outlines and internal shapes, polishing, texturing, wire work and chain making, and etching. Those who were more advanced also worked on stone setting.

There were about 15 people on the course, with varying levels of experience. Some, like me, had had absolutely no experience of jewellery making before and others had been doing it for several years. It seemed like most people had done one of two other introductory courses and were looking to polish and expand their skills. The course was rather free, allowing each student to follow their own path and go at their pace, with the tutor always on hand to offer advice, instruction and guidance.

The course also included a trip to Hatton Gardens to purchase materials for those that were interested working with silver. It was a novel experience and I thoroughly enjoyed window shopping as I walked through London’s diamond district.

I was well and truly out of my comfort zone on this course, but that was rather the point for me. I relished the chance to learn how to work a blow torch and hit metal with a variety of sharp and blunt instruments. However, I didn’t do so well with soldering or cutting. I think the soldering would probably come with time if I worked on it, but using a hacksaw to cut metal was a frustrating experience, as the blade kept breaking and needed to be replaced. Fortunately, I found wire working and chain making strangely therapeutic and I would definitely like to explore those areas further.

The course was, I feel, a little expensive, but it provides a solid foundation and is good value when compared to some of the courses run by professional jewellery colleges. (Most of the cost probably went towards the hacksaw blades that I kept breaking.) The facilities are also excellent with sufficient machines/stations that there was never really a queue for any of them.

Our tutor for the week was the extremely knowledgeable Melissa Hunt, who was wonderfully adept at explaining the various techniques and had the patience of a saint. We were lucky enough to get a sneaky peek at a few of the gorgeous pieces that she has prepared for her joint exhibition with Ekta Kaul at Craft Central in November. Head along and check it out if you can!

I consider that it was a week well spent and would recommend the course to anyone who is interested in the art and craft of jewellery making. The City Lit will be repeating the course at various times with details of dates and times available on their website.

Soldering - harder than it looks! Photo K. Pennicot

Examples of riveting - Photo K. Pennicot

Working with wire. Photo K. Pennicot

Various finished pieces. Photo K. Pennicot

Examples of various chains.

Two rings I made. If you look closely, you can see the texture on the copper one.

On the left, a not so great example of inlay. On the right, my attempt at etching.

First photo courtesy Gnilenkov Aleksey.

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