Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Jewellery Workshop with Nicola

This week I tried my hand at jewellery making, with Nicola as my teacher and in the spirit of Re-worked, it was quick, intense and all about responding honestly to the methods and materials we were working with in the moment. I very much enjoyed the day; the benefit of being friends and able to chit chat through the tougher tasks certainly took the edge off my nerves and frustrations at not getting something right straight away! Nicola was a very patient teacher and I was excited by the ambitious task she'd set me for the day. I had initially been rather intimidated by her post (previous) detailing the proposed necklace design as I couldn't conceive of making an entire piece in one day. I personally find it quite difficult to work with new and small fiddly things and with this necklace being in Nicola's typical beautiful and delicate style, I was concerned that I'd be clumsy and make mistakes. I was pleasantly surprised to find that (with a lot of help and guidance) I was slowly able to piece together the necklace (below).
Nicola stated in her previous post that she would welcome my input in adapting the design but I must say, the fear of getting it wrong got to me and in the spirit of 'baby steps' I thought it best to follow her instruction; perhaps in the future I can be more adventurous, armed with my new understanding of what's achievable! I definitely got more caught up in understanding the practical skills and the technicalities of the making process and working with metal which I think will prove extremely valuable in the next stage of the process where we will collaborate to design our final pieces. I did however get a bit more involved in the problem solving process - offering (often silly!) solutions in putting the various materials together to build the necklace.

It was really wonderful to make again, as I often don't have the opportunity in my current work and I found that my (rather neglected) crafting skills weren't entirely lost, just a little nervous as I turned my hand to something new and indeed, something that my friend does so very well!

I noted down the various steps in my sketch book (which has been great in allowing me to reflect on the day's achievements) and we also took photographs to document the activity.

Nicola's workbench

She set me loose with a blowtorch soldering the pearl wire into a circle.

We then marked the silver that was to become the backing for the pendant to fit the pearl wire circle before sawing it to shape (below). I found the sawing a particular low point as I found the technique difficult to master and was afraid of making a mistake. Nicola was great though, and rescued me as and when I got into trouble.

The pieces were then soldered together and filed to make the pendant. This was also a rather frustrating episode - I was painfully slow at catching the solder squares and getting them in place onto the silver backing. But we got there. And it was definitely worth it to see the pendant slowly coming together.

More pearl wire was added and soldered to the pendant at this stage to form the loops that would attach it to the necklace chain.

The whole pendant was then put into the pickle to clean up.

Whilst the pendant was in the pickle, Nicola taught me about beading and oxidising - I worked with wire to form the sections of the necklace to be beaded and cut the chain to size, fitted the chain loops etc before painting it with the oxidising solution. This part was pretty magical - I haven't worked with such an accelerant before! I felt a little more at home with this technique as it fits within the ideas I worked with in my degree show project of speeding up the ageing process of a material. 

Brushing up the chain post oxidising:

It's coming together now...

And ta, da! The final article. I love that the little felt circles that I laser cut all those moons ago are still being incorporated into the project now, and indeed in Nicola's own work with her Salvaged Bijoux collection. Very much in the Re-worked spirit.

I found the day to be a great learning curve - the process of making together and sharing skills is a great way to broaden creativity and to channel conversation and learning; indeed, upon reflection, I learned a great deal more that I had been conscious of at the time. The methods and technical making skills that Nicola shared with me were not only specific to her discipline but to her own personal brand of jewellery making, which I very much appreciated - there was a breadth of inspiration to be had and I am extremely excited to, a) plan a workshop/skill swap for Nicola here in Dundee and, b) marry the skills we have shared to create some amazing Re-worked final pieces! 

1 comment:

  1. The day was actually great fun and it's been lovely to read your experience and reflect on it! I think that, not in an arrogant way, but I forget that I actually possess a skill sometimes and think "Oh anyone can do this." so it was easy to forget that some of the jewellery skills will come easily / naturally to me but are completely alien to someone who hasn't done it before! I'd forgotten how long it did take to master sawing myself so upon seeing your slight difficulty mastering it - it made me wish we'd had a bit more time to practise it in simpler terms. There was an interesting learning curve for me with the oxidising - we'd used glue to secure the chain ends on, as well as flattening them, and some glue must have gotten onto the chain further up meaning they didn't oxidise - showing that a new piece is always a challenge that you will learn something from. All in all I think Sara did brilliantly - really up for a challenge and willing to get her hands dirty! I also annoyingly realised afterwards that we had forgotten to brand the felt but it was quite a challenge fitting all the work in on one day so maybe a future task is in there!! Also I love Sara's illustrations of the day - documenting the steps and think I really should do this in my personal work more often!