Jewelry Class Update 7/17/19

Well, this class was the next-to-the-last session. By now our group has learned a lot of new skills and we are feeling more confident about things. I think it’s taken me up to this point to absorb the very basic level of how the processes work: sawing, soldering, stamping, annealing, etc. – and to get some orientation on how to consider a simple jewelry project. I think that’s great for this introduction class.

Plus, we have handled many tools and materials and learned some of their properties, again, enough to have some ideas about making items.

In this class, then, each of us started to work on small projects. My classmates were all making earrings. I had the idea of doing that, too, but I went about it in this way:

I hammered a piece of nickel silver with various stamps in random patterns. My original piece looked like this one (from an earlier session, I didn’t take photos in progress):


Then I took copper wire and brass wire and using pliers, bent them into squiggles and then hammered them flat, like this (once again, this is not from the project, but one I did later in class):

Jewelry 4 7-17-195

My idea was to take my bottom sheet of metal and layer two squiggles on it, then cut strips after the squiggles had been soldered on.

So, with much help from the instructor,  I set to work on this task. I flattened the pieces as much as possible – they need to be in as much contact as possible. Then came soldering.

Here’s what things looked like, before soldering (another stand-in photo!) and you can see how if the pieces are not flattened well they would not be able to adhere. (This picture shows copper with brass wire).

Jewelry 1 7-17-191

The teacher created tiny balls of solder, pinhead size, out of wire solder. We put flux (a substance that helps solder adhere to the metal) on the squiggles, and the it was my job to grab the infinitesimal solder bits with a pick and, keeping them warm with the torch, transport them to the squiggle and stick them on.

Remember, I am afraid of the torch. But, if I don’t learn to use it, well, I’m locked out of a lot of jewelry making processes. So I took hold of it and guess what. I am pretty good (for a beginner) at picking up solder and setting it on the metal. And the torch did not bite me and I did not burn down the building or hurt anyone. The feeling of accomplishment when I had my array of tiny solder balls on the squiggles was great.

OK. Next, we got the nickel silver backing into position (it sits on a tripod so the torch can go under and over it) and set the squiggles down on it. Then I heated it until the solder ran (you can see each ball suddenly break and flow, following the line of the squiggle) and I kept up until the whole wire piece was firmly adhered to the back. Took some testing and returning but it got done.

Then, the piece goes into the pickle (a substance that cleans the piece of flux and oxidation). I brushed it with a wire brush and dishwashing liquid. Here it is – the real thing this time:

Jewelry 8 7-17-1910

You can see that colors of metals changed in the process – they interact with each other in various ways with the heat and the pickle. The silvery area is where solder came around to the front – I had too much in that one location. It can be polished off, but I didn’t care.

As I said, my idea was to cut it into strips and make earrings. But, once I saw this, I didn’t want to disturb it. Ideas in the class were that I could make it into a pendant or pin. We’ll see. I kind of like it just to hold in my hand! I felt thrilled that I could manage a project like this with some help.

I have a lot of bits and pieces that I hope I can make a couple more things out of next week:

I have found all my materials in the scrap bin – it’s perfect for my purposes and I don’t feel pressure about the value of the materials, since it’s copper, nickel silver, and brass.

Here’s a possibility:

Jewelry 2 7-17-192

I have gained an appreciation for all jewelry work and I’ve identified some activities I enjoy: I like hammering, embossing, stamping; and I also like twisting wire to use as part of a design.

I also really like how the class operates – I’ve found the other students supportive and I’ve learned a lot from watching their work. The teacher is very knowledgeable and willing to share and help us in any way he can, and he’s showed us a lot of techniques in demos. I am sorry we have only one more class!

12 thoughts on “Jewelry Class Update 7/17/19

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. It’s fun learning something new and different from other things I’ve done. I could see making all kinds of tiny metal sculptures with these techniques, too.

        1. Claudia McGill Post author

          I’m trying to figure out what will be my next step. I know I don’t want to set up a jewelry practice and buy tools and equipment. I would like to continue in some way, though, I’ll have to see.

        2. Sharon Mann

          Can you combine clay with the metal somehow? Maybe some interesting masks for your figures, that can be removed and worn as a pendant or necklace.

        3. Claudia McGill Post author

          Yes, I’ve been thinking this as well. I’m going to need to research different materials and techniques to see how they could fit it. It is possible to make all kinds of objects, not just earrings and so on, with the sheet metals and wire. I’ve made some figures in the past using wire, wood and knitting them outfits, so my mind has also gone this way. It’s funny, the other students only see the class as jewelry making, I see it as tiny metalworking.

  1. petrujviljoen

    Well done Claudia! I was kind of sorry to see the lovely marks being turned upside down though, not that the squiggles didn’t work well. Are they supposed to be going beyond the brass bit you adhered them to? .

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      For the moment I left them hanging off. When I was going to do earrings and cut the construction into rectangles I would have removed them and nothing would be hanging off. Who knows I still might do something more to this. I’m sort of flying along impulsively, not having much vision to understand possibilities, so I decided to enjoy not burning up my hair or whatever and let the piece rest. No telling what will happen next and I’m not averse to any outcomes that arrive…!! A nice freeing feeling.

  2. Laura (PA Pict)

    You’ve learned so much from this one class. I am very impressed. I rather like the idea of it just being a decorative object rather than being transformed into a specific item of jewellery. I am also wondering if you might at some point incorporate your metalworking skills into your sculpting.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I do feel I’ve got a new perspective on metalworking . Sharon Mann suggested the same thing about incorporating metal into my other work. I have been thinking about it myself. We have learned techniques (such as making tubes and so on) that I could not visualize jewelry topics but they reminded me of other items such as arms or fingers. So I definitely think this is a possibility.

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