Discovering Silver

Being a crafter for more years than I care to recall, and a magpie to boot, it was only a matter of time before I turned my hand to making jewellery. I just never really got round to starting, except for a day’s silversmithing that I did with some close friends in lieu of a hen night three years ago. We learned a little about wirework, making balls and some simple soldering, and I made a pretty ring and a slightly less elegant pair of earrings!

I was adopted as a young baby, and recently got in touch with my bio-mum, Pauline.  Turns out all my crafty tendencies were inherited (who knew there was a gene for that???), as well as most of my other traits, and we’ve been getting on like a house on fire.  We thought it would be nice to go away for a mother-daughter weekend, to get to know each other a bit better, and booked a course in precious metal clay at Zantium Crafts in Derbyshire for February this year.  Precious metal clay (pmc) is basically very fine silver particles mixed with water and an organic binder which you mould and shape like any other clay, than fire it at very high temperatures to burn away the binder giving you solid silver.

It seemed like a great idea to do a course in a craft neither of us had tried before, but neither of us could wait until the February and we were both kitted out and producing silver by Christmas! Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all…  Still, lots of the rellies had handmade silver jewellery for Christmas, so it all worked out.

The course itself was great, taught by the lovely Xuella Arnold.  We both learned a lot, drank a lot and laughed a lot.  Mum showed a real talent for making leaves and birds, while I had fun making bugs.  We met some very interesting people and bounced lots of ideas around the studio.

I actually found it quite hard working in a big open studio with other people watching me and coming to see what I was doing.  Quite a few of my projects broke apart after firing in the kiln, which was so frustrating, convinced it wasn’t firing hot enough, I repaired them and refired using a blowtorch.  That seemed to do the trick, and has really put me off using a kiln.  I definitely work better without trying to have a conversation at the same time.  Luckily Mum and me can work in virtual silence together.  My studio until recently has been the breakfast bar in my kitchen, and my firing and soldering was done with a blowtorch on the cooker!  My husband got a bit fed up with scorch marks on the worktop and swarf in his coffee, so now I work in a shed.  Maybe I’ll get a kitchen revamp now I’ve ruined this one ;-)

Since the tsunami in Japan in the spring, prices of pmc have doubled, so I’m spending more and more of my time working with traditional silversmithing techniques, with both silver and copper.  I love using a wide range of stones, from locally found sea glass to stunning black opals, via big sparkly CZs and semi precious amethysts, labradorites and moonstones. Mum and me, with our friend Sally formed Spiny Sharkly Things as a collective to showcase and sell our designs.  There is a link to our eBay shop at the top right of the page if you’d like one of our shinies for your own.  The gallery post below this one shows some of my earlier work, and there’s a lot more to come!

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