Jewelry Class – Let Me Tell You More

As you know, I’ve been taking a jewelry class at a local art center. Yesterday was the last class of this session. I’ll show you and tell you what happened.

I have small box of bits and pieces I’ve collected over the weeks. Surely something could be done with some of them, I thought.

And, we had our back door replaced this last week, making its keys useless. It turned out we had quite a few keys for this one door. I decided take them into class, too.

By this time, I feel more at home in the jewelry studio. While having very little skill, if any, at most processes, I have an idea of how things work. It’s important to remember this fact when you start a new topic in life: it takes time to become familiar with the landscape, what’s in it, what’s not, and how the parts interact. You can’t get down to details until you have a map of what’s out there.

All right. I got out my keys and the instructor and I talked things over. One idea (quite practical, if not jewelry making exactly) is that you can use the punch machine (sorry, but I don’t know its name!) to punch out a hole in your key, so that you can find it by feel in the dark. Yes, I agree, I can think of times that would have been helpful.

Punching out holes is right up my alley. I got to work on one key, punched holes, and then sent it through the rolling mill for good measure:

Holey key 7-24-193

I set it aside. It will tell me what to do next when it is ready.

We took another key, twisted it in a vise. The shaft did a nice turn but part of the head snapped off. All right. I then took a hammered copper wire spiral and one of the punchouts from the first key and after some soldering, polishing, and filing, here is this uncategorized object:

Semi-key 7-24-192

Once again, I don’t quite know what will come next. But there is a lot I like about it now. The twist in the shaft, for instance. And the brass dot at the bottom. I think as far as the spiral, I would not wrap it as tightly the next time and let more “air” into it.  But…if nothing else, this item is pleasantly heavy and smooth to hold in your hand.

Next, I moved on to something I’d been thinking about ever since I made this guy at the beginning of the sessions:

Jewelry 1 6-25-191

It’s a piece of brass and I sawed out the nose and mouth. Remember my feelings about the saw? I can see, now that I have more experience, that it is useful to know how to saw, and I would profit by trying it again. I do like the shapes it made.

All right. Here’s what I did. I cut off the bottom section. I took some spirals I had made from copper wire and soldered them on to make eyes. Yes, I used the torch. I’m feeling less afraid of it. Familiarity is not breeding contempt, no, I will always be respectful of it, but maybe I can lose my fear of it.

Anyway, here is the result.

Face 7-24-191


Funny-looking guy, right? But I’m thrilled. We polished him up and I like the brass/copper finish he has now. I am not happy with the eye on the left (as you look at him). I now see that I should have chosen spirals with a similar opening in the middle of the spiral. The center needed to be darker, I thought.

So, the instructor mixed up some liver of sulfur, a substance that oxidizes metals and darkens them. You dunk the item in and when it is dark enough for you, you wash it off. I carefully painted in the middle of the eye to darken just that section.

I liked it better. But I am thinking it needs more. Possibly a dark small bead-like object (think the tiny brass button at the end of the key thing I showed you earlier, only dark). Eyes don’t have to match but they need to go together.

Plus, how about some hair or something for this guy? No, he’s not finished yet.

Well, that was enough for this one day. I have accumulated more wire bent into shapes and hammered:

As I’ve said over and over, I could hammer all day. I love the effect of flattening wire and I love creating textures in metal. And I just like hammering.

Let me show you one more thing, this small piece of copper that got liver of sulfured by me in one of those “let’s see what happens” moments. Here’s the back with some L of S seeping over:

Liver sulfur back 7-24-194

Here is the other side, given the full treatment:

Liver sulfur front 7-24-195

and a close up:

Liver sulfur closeup 7-24-196

The subtlety and array of colors really appeals to me.

The sessions are over and I reflect on what the experience has brought me. I now have a picture in my mind of how jewelry gets made. I have worked with tools, raw materials, and equipment to put together some items and in doing so I’ve begun to understand the properties and behaviors of all these things.

I feel now that I have an idea of what interests me in this line of art-making. It’s not making jewelry as such, which I guess is kind of strange when what I’ve been doing is taking a jewelry class! But to me, it’s the making of small objects out of metal that is attractive – whether a person could wear them or not. I am fortunate that the instructor was open to this way of thinking and encouraged exploration.

I also like the small scale of the metalworking we did – the tiny details of the stamps, the gradations of color in the metals – the idea of making small artworks that you could hold in your hand and examine is intriguing.

Last but not least, it was fun. Thank you to the instructor and my fellow students who made this possible.

All right. I have a feeling my adventures in metal work are not over. We’ll see what happens!


11 thoughts on “Jewelry Class – Let Me Tell You More

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I think it’s a matter of learning the materials and tools, and then the “muse” takes over and says its piece! I am interested in how metals work differently from any other medium I have tried and I also like it that each piece takes steps and resting periods. It’s not just quick and done. Gives time to think. In this it reminds me of clay. I like moving at the slower pace and getting all the processes to align.

      1. agnesashe

        Yes, waiting for work to cool/dry/set is something lots of people who aren’t makers are unaware of. It definitely does change the experience doesn’t it.

        1. Claudia McGill Post author

          Yes. I see it for me in the difference in painting and in clay work. Painting is immediate and what you see is what you get. Clay, so many steps, so much patience and waiting, and then the results are still unpredictable, though with experience more controllable. I find I am liking the more patient medium more these days – painting makes me anxious and hurried feeling. Funny how this works.

  1. Laura (PA Pict)

    I absolutely concur with the above observation: I too can see your distinctive style in your metalworking creations. It’s the broader geometric shapes and the mark making translated from 2D into 3D but it is also the experimentation and pushing the tools to explore new things.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I enjoyed figuring out how things worked, in this class, more than making something in particular. I find myself just enjoying the pieces of metal with the marks made in them or whatever. I feel like what I’d like to make is small metal collages. All of this off the track! I am glad the teacher was amenable to my explorations.

  2. memadtwo

    It’s great to try new things, and one thing always leads to another. I look forward to seeing how you incorporate what you learned into your other processes. (K)

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I’m not sure where, if anywhere, I want to go with this. It will need to settle in my mind. I do like stamping and hammering so much.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Yes. And…I signed up for the fall session so there will be more exploration. I feel I have an idea of how things work and now I am ready to experiment a little more widely…wildly?

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