Jewelry-Making Day 2: Soot and a Smile

At the torch with tiny wire and my nemesis the copper earring.

At the torch with tiny wire and my nemesis the copper earring.

I was back at the torch bright and early determined to leave the class with a pair of leaf earrings. I cut new patterns, sent them through the rolling machine, grinded, sanded, annealed (that’s metal-talk for heated with a torch), bended, annealed, bended again and welded the rod on.

Annealed copper leaves.

Annealed copper leaves.

Leaf cut outs and the earring goofs from Saturday.

Leaf cut outs and the earring goofs from Saturday.

Sending the leaf cutouts through the roller to get the shape.

Sending the leaf cutouts through the roller to get the shape.

That was the easy part.

See where I have that tiny little rod in my hand? I had to heat and bend that without melting it in half.

My pièce de ré·sis·tance for the weekend: the leaf copper earrings.

My pièce de résistance for the weekend: the leaf copper earrings. I liked the unpolished look, even though one has purple bands. The purple will eventually fade.

Doug Salmon, the instructor, was very up front with us on the first day: “I’m going to show you the hardest way to do things, so that from now on any other skill will be much easier to do.” He wasn’t kidding. This was hard.

Instructor Doug Salmon helps another student.

Instructor Doug Salmon helps a student.

An hour and 2 goofed earrings later, I had a fairly close match to my first earring. (Not to worry, the goofed earrings will be pendants.)

The thing about this, I realize, is that sheer determination will not yield results with this kind of work. Determination will get you to try again and mess up another 26 earrings, but only skill and learning to do it right will get you to create with this medium.

Doug is offering the next level class at his studio at Spruce Forest next month and I highly recommend his classes. He has a sense of humor, he isn’t afraid to let you burn up a bit of brass and he tells you there are more ways than his to metalsmith.

I am definitely not a stellar welder, but after this weekend I left with a some jangly jewelry, dirt under my fingernails, a bit of soot on my face and great big smile.

Jewelry-Making Day 1

The beginnings of copper earrings.

The beginnings of copper earrings.

Yesterday I played with copper and brass, hammers and grinders, acid and fire. And look what I made!

Finished cuff bracelets.

Finished cuff bracelets.

I had such a blast at my metalsmithing class and I can’t believe I get to do it again today!

I’m so impressed that I made this jewelry.

I can’t wait to work on these copper leaf earrings again today. The curlicue on top takes a lot of coaxing of the metal with the torch so you bend it without severing the rod. Ooops! That’s what happened to the other piece. But, I’ll bend the hook and make it into a pendant. I meant to do that, right?

Necklace pieces before hammering.

Necklace pieces before hammering.

The torch had me a little leery, but after a few tries I’m fairly confident with it, and I have all my hair intact (although I did come close to melting someone’s sunglasses).

The two cuffs were the first half of the day. Lots of filing, welding, buffing and bending. I also had a lot of grinding to do because, although I get along with the torch, I’m not adept at it, so I get huge blobs of brass instead of smooth joins.

Necklace to be assembled today.

Necklace to be assembled today.

We moved on to the necklace in the afternoon and today I’ll assemble it. I wanted to add different beads so after class I ran over to The Bead Works in Lancaster. The 18 gauge wire limited my choices, so I settled on these darker red stones and some gold beads.

I loved hammering out these shapes. More than just banging with a hammer, shaping the copper is what I imagine bonsai tree trimming must be like…you just know where to apply the tool next. I could have hammered out shapes all day.

Cooper and brass cuff ready to be welded.

Cooper and brass cuff ready to be welded.

My hands are a little stiff from all the bending and hammering and cutting with sheet metal shears, but I’m read to head off to class again today. The instructor is awesome; he doesn’t take himself too seriously and he loves letting us fix our mistakes.

Wish me luck that I can make a matching to that earring.

Off to Class

Fireman's name engraved on the back.

Fireman's name engraved on the back.

I sent this custom horse hair bracelet off a week or so ago.

Oscar's name engraved on the front.

Oscar's name engraved on the front.

Hopefully by now the owner of Fireman and Oscar has it in her hands or on her arm. Her friend had this bracelet made after she lost both of these horses in one short month. Her friend wanted a memorial of the two and asked me to make the bracelet with the stainless steel nameplated engraved front and back with the horses’ names. Both horses’ tails are woven into this bracelet.

The barn where she kept the horses also creates memorial stones for lost horses. The stones and bracelet arrived within days of each other so both could be presented at the same time to the owner. They were presented together so we’ll “only have her cry once,” her friend said.

Here’s to Oscar and Fireman.

On a lighter note, I’m off to class this weekend to learn metalsmithing with Doug Salmon. The class is through the Pennsylvania Guild of Crafters, and I’m hoping to come away with not only $175 worth of handmade jewelry (that’s the promise from the class literature), but also some new applications for my horse hair jewelry. I already have ideas brewing and hopefully we’ll cover ringmaking because I’m anxious to develop a horse hair ring using silver to protect the horse hair.

Someone suggested I could encase the horse hair in resin to prevent wear and tear of the horse tail. Obviously this was not a horse person, for he didn’t understand that horse people would actually want to touch the horse hair.

I realized this is only the second art/crafting class I’ve ever taken. Sure I had art class in school and learned a variety of crafts in Girl Scouts and from my mom. But last year’s Precious Metal Clay class was the first time I ever paid an expert to teach me something.

Interesting, considering how many different classes I’ve taught. I taught basic jewelry making at Michaels craft store, horse hair work at local stores and porcupine quillwork at the Indian Museum. All these crafts (and many others I’ve tried) were self taught, requiring lots of trial and error to get it right.

That was back in the day when I had seemingly endless amounts of time. Now, it’s great to have an expert show me in 2 days what I could take years trying to learn on my own. So off I go to burn up some silver (they’re not letting us near gold…too expensive these days!) and brass and copper. I’ll let you know how it goes.