I recently had the absolute joy of attending a one day silversmith course run by Angela Ruth Kennedy at The Potters' Barn in Sandbach. My beloved bought me the day as a present, possibly the best gift I've ever had. I've wanted to learn some silver making skills for as long as I can remember, but never had the opportunity before.
The course was held in a workshop based in a pretty little summer house by the side of the main building. There were five of us in attendance, making it very relaxed and allowing all of us to have as much time as we needed with Angela. This was excellent for me, as I was a little nervous. Some of the others had been on courses before and had experience, so I had a lot of catching up to do. I was way out of my comfort zone and had no idea if I'd be any good at it at all. Scary stuff!
We made two silver rings each. The first one was done after a brilliant step by step demonstration by Angela, in which I have to say she made it look terribly easy. I found it tricky learning to work with metal and panicked a few times when it looked like it was going horribly wrong, but she was very reassuring and taught me that pretty much anything can be fixed.
We learned to bend, solder, shape, and size our rings correctly, then turned them into something that looked like a real piece of jewellery. Astonishing! I'm used to delicate painstaking work, so I enjoyed it thoroughly. The use of hammers and saws was completely new to me though, so I had to get over my delicacy and not be afraid of treating the silver like the metal it is, rather than tickling it like it was paper and paints.
We had a complimentary buffet lunch which was quite a lovely little touch. There was also a constant stream of hot drinks brought in to us, along with biscuits and chocolate. What more could one ask for?
In the afternoon, once we'd grasped the basics, we were let loose to make another ring of our own design. I hadn't gone along with any pre-made plans, as I had absolutely no idea what I'd be capable of or what would be involved. On the hop, I decided to just go with the first thing in my head, which was inspired by my paintings. Seemed the sensible thing to do. I drew a very quick little sketch, using the idea of a hole drilled in the centre, lines cut out from it and little blobs all around. In my head this was a dandelion shaped thing, but some people have called it a starburst pattern, which is also probably a good description.
The making of the little silver balls was possibly my favourite part. I never grew tired of watching them form under the torch and could have made them all day. As it was, I made exactly the right amount of them for the ring and didn't leave behind a gazillion spares, which could have been slightly embarrassing.
So, without further ado, here are some photos of me in action.
Check out the custom made work stations and all the tools supplied for me to use. I didn't expect anything quite so thoughtful or organised as this. It's not often that things exceed my expectations, but this most definitely did.
And here are those exciting little silver blobs. I was terrified that they would all fall off once I'd tried to solder them into place, but they stuck well. I actually couldn't watch as Angela tested each one - it was like watching a dentist wobbling teeth!
This is me learning to hammer a ring into the correct shape and size. It took a while to get round to giving it enough welly. I think you can see how tentative I was being at this point.
Here I am starting off a hole ready for drilling.
Soldering the two ends of my ring together. I should also add that it's stayed in one piece ever since, despite my reluctance to believe it would!
And here are the finished pieces. I am totally thrilled with them and have worn them every day since. Several people have asked me to make them one and I have to explain that I am actually pretty clueless so therefore unable to! If I win the lottery I will be hot footing it off to buy myself a workshop and every tool needed, but until then, I'll just admire these and smile every time.
I can't recommend this course highly enough to anyone who wants to learn how to work with silver. It was a truly remarkable day and one that I would repeat in a heartbeat. I have seen Angela since and discussed doing a one to one workshop at her house, where she has a fully equipped studio for teaching. This will be my next project, as I want to learn how to do cabachon setting. It means so much more to actually make a piece of jewellery than to go and buy it off the shelf. Admittedly, I am a huge lover of silver and an avid collector of unique rings, so I'm probably quite biased in my opinion. I have spent more on a piece from a shop than it cost me to do this course, and I didn't have the huge sense of satisfaction that I felt from actually creating it myself. I am a total convert to this skill and I hope to do lots more in the future.
Thank you Angela!