Sunday, 30 December 2007

Brief number 2: Bringing techniques together

We were given our latest brief at the last evening class before the break. The brief title is Combining materials and advanced techniques. This is the second brief at Level 3.

Here's an extract: ... Think about designing a piece of jewellery that uses at least two of the following techniques: repousse, forming, casting, enamelling, working with mixed media, a variety of metals or stone setting ...

This is the eighth brief since I started the evening classes in 2005, so it is probably a good time to start to consolidate techniques and try and get beyond the obvious learner pieces that I usually create.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Frosty leaves, tree rings and felt sausages

These photos were taken about 10 days ago at another of my favourite haunts, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, West Yorkshire. There had been a heavy overnight frost, but it was melting a little by the afternoon. I very much like the shapes of the leaves, and the way they are arranged on the plants (especially the red ones). However, I suspect the picture that will lead to the first item of jewellery is the one showing where a branch has been cut from a tree.

The mixture of textures is very appealing, and I was also struck by the similarity of the tree rings to some wool felt beads I made recently at a felt making workshop. In the picture you can see some simple earrings made from the beads, together with the sausage of wool from which the beads are cut.

The beads are made by the wet felting technique: layers of different colours are rolled up like a swiss roll, and then wet felted for a considerable time until the wool sausage is really hard. The beads are sliced from the sausage. This tutorial with pictures shows the principles. And there are some great tips from the Funky Felter about felt beads here.

My preliminary thoughts involve setting the felt in a wide wire frame, and then surrounding that with something with concentric crinkles.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Hammered silver ring - WIP

The basis for this ring is 3 mm round wire. I wasn't too keen on the plain round profile, so decided to hammer the surface with a ball hammer. The result is quite pleasing. It is in wearable condition at present, but I will finish off the inside more neatly.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Christmas jewellery gift boxes

These little boxes are made from old Christmas cards. The middle-sized one is about 55 mm x 55 mm x 25 mm. There are many online tutorials for making boxes like these. The one I used is here.

I made a few minor adjustments:
  • I used old cards instead of paper. These are thicker than paper and you need a folding tool to help you make reasonably sharp creases. I used the case of an old pen.

  • For the box base, I found that a square with a side length 1 cm less than the square used for the box top worked well (except for very, very high quality card)

  • To avoid having folds across the top of the box, I ensured that my card was square by measuring instead of folding.

  • For the same reason, I also marked the centre of the square on the back in pencil, instead of the folding done in steps 3, 4 and 5. This means that one of the folds expected at step 12 is missing, but I found that it formed naturally at that point, so this wasn't a problem.

  • I used a little bit of sticky tape to hold the edges of the card together inside the box. This should help make it less likely that the recipient will unfold the box to discover who sent you the card! A felt, cotton wool or similar lining also neatens up the inside.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Silver fold formed earrings - completed

These are the earrings that appeared in two previous posts (1, 2). They have now been completed by soldering the wire hoop inside the fold formed shape, which wasn't too difficult. The easy solder melted very quickly and the main hazard was melting the wire hoop or the fold-formed piece itself.

The earring at the front of the photo turned out very well and I am pleased with it. The one carefully hidden away and out of focus at the back isn't so neat. It has the appearance of crumpled silver paper! If I want to wear these I think I'll need to make another one.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

The verdict

Here's the follow up to my post about putting a patterned surface inside a concave shape. Method A is my preference. The sample attached to the ring on the right of these photos is the Method A result. Each sample is about 25 mm long.

Method A involved hammering with a ball hammer inside the shape. This has given a stronger pattern than the inside-out planishing from Method B.

The planished back side on piece A is slightly less shiny than it was before hammering, but it still looks quite interesting. The plain back side of piece B is, I think, just a little too plain.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Patterned surface inside a concave shape

These are the pieces of silver that I recycled from an old bracelet. I sought advice about how to get an attractive planished surface on the inside of the form and tried two different approaches. The results are shown here, but as they haven't been polished yet, it isn't clear which one is the winner.

Method A. Protect the planished outside of the piece with masking tape. Place convex side down in largest indentation in doming block (i.e. so the curves fit), and hammer inside the form with a ball hammer.

Method B. Protect both sides of the piece with masking tape. Place convex side up in the largest indentation in doming block (i.e. so the curves don't fit, this is not shown in the picture), and use a wooden punch to dome it (turn it inside out).

The verdict on the results will appear in a future post.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Harlow Carr in December

I took these inspirational photos today at the Royal Horticultural Society Garden Harlow Carr, in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Cunning plan, Part 3

Here is the silver fold-formed shape previously seen in planning and during forming. I had some rather unambitious ideas about hanging it as a pendant from a cord of some sort, but my tutor has persuaded me that it deserves to be hung from a bespoke silver wire. It is the last class before the Christmas break next week, so I'll need to plan ahead to get it neatly finished.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Cunning plan, Part 2

It seems to be working! In a previous post I described my plan to fold-form a, very slightly, different shape. Each of the pictures above was taken after a hammering stint, before annealing. Click on the image to enlarge. I've done all the hammering now. Next step will be to open the shape up a bit.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Thrifting silver

Until recently I had thought that the only way to reuse the silver in this old bracelet (at the back of the picture) would be to melt it down and use it for casting. However, with my recent experience in forming, it occurred to me that the components could be recycled by forming techniques, which would also wipe out the surface pattern. The two shiny bits of silver in the front of the picture were each generated by annealing a link from the bracelet, and planishing it on a steel stake.

The process has made the links grow from 22 mm long to 25 mm long. They were each annealed twice and the pattern, which is now on the side not shown in the picture, has gone completely.

Altogether I have six links to work with. I'm going to planish the concave side of one to mount on a ring. I need to think about what to do with the rest, and would welcome any suggestions.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Cunning plan

This (you can click on the image for a larger view) is my idea for converting the fold formed earring project into a pendant. Instead of cutting two separate tapered pieces, I'll keep them joined together. I am planning to try option (a) rather than (b), as the wider part of the fold is then available for drilling holes for hanging the pendant. My main concern is that the curve will form quite differently than it did for two separate pieces. We'll see!

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Fold formed jewellery: three websites

John S Brana's Sea Cliff collection includes several dramatic and beautiful fold formed items. Use the menu link to the shop to see more. (

Charles Lewton-Brain is the pioneer of fold-forming. This page shows the incredible range of shapes that can be achieved. (

An image of a stunning fold-formed ring from Nick Grant Barnes. (

Friday, 23 November 2007

Silver fold formed earrings - WIP

These silver earrings are being made in exactly the same way as the first copper pair (I followed the project on p60 of Elizabeth Olver's Jewellery Making Techniques Book).

In this picture they have just been opened out a little, after annealing and pickling. Next step will be polishing. It is more difficult working with silver than with copper, but I'm still finding this technique appealing.

In spite of taking extra care to fold and cut the two bits of metal in the same way, I have again produced two pieces of different sizes. And I also discovered that it is important to concentrate the hammering on the folded part, or the curve disappears!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Finished solder bowl

This shallow copper bowl was previously seen as a work in progress (in this post and in this post). I have now completed it by soldering a copper ring on the base so that it stands up properly. The bowl is about 6 cm long and stands about 1 cm high.

The idea is to use it to hold pallions of solder so that they are easy to pick up when soldering.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Oooooooh! I won a prize!

My entry was one of the winners in the Whiplash Challenge! Thank you! I'm really excited about this. Do go and see all the entries, via this link.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Fold forming: the process

In my last post I mentioned the thrill of seeing my first attempts at fold forming taking shape. This set of photos was taken at various points along the way. I had my mind on the hammering and annealing and not the photography, so my apologies for the deficiencies in exposure and the inconsistencies in layout and scale. Click on the image for a larger version.

1. Just starting to hammer the folded pieces

2. After the first round of hammering, before annealing again

3. After the second round of hammering, before annealing again

4. After the third round of hammering, before annealing again

The back of each piece (not seen in these photos) is flat. Note how the slight difference in size between the two pieces, which arose from my lack of precision in folding, was retained throughout.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Fold forming delight

These earrings are my very first attempt at fold forming and I am thrilled with the result. I followed the project on p60 of Elizabeth Olver's Jewellery Making Techniques Book. It was very satisfying when the tapered, folded metal began to form the promised curve! I shall include photos taken at different stages of the process in a later post. I used 0.5 mm copper sheet (instead of 0.4 mm) and changed the hoops to posts, but otherwise followed the instructions. The outer diameter of each semi-circle measures about 35 mm.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Seed heads

I found these seed heads by the roadside in East Lothian at the weekend. Of course they don't look quite like this in real life, as I had some fun tinting the picture to go with the blog! I think these would be good for casting. They are open at the top and I love the little crown around the edge.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

How not to chase

A quote from the Ganoskin article on repoussé:
"If [the tool] tilts too much it will hop along leaving spaces between points of contact and making a dotted line."
In this image (click for a larger view) you can see that I have managed to make not just one but several dotted lines that overlap! Ah, the learning process ...

Friday, 9 November 2007

From little acorns: a necklace for Whiplash

The idea for this necklace had its origins earlier this year. At my jewellery making evening class we were given the opportunity to have an object cast in silver. The object had to be one that would be burned away in the lost wax casting method, and I took along a cluster of three empty acorn cups.

The resulting silver piece was attractive, and I toyed with the idea of adding felt balls to the cups, but in the end decided the silver was just a little heavy for jewellery.

When autumn arrived I started to make a selection of felt balls in autumnal colours, some with patterns. I wanted to make something a little different from the plain bead strings I'd made before, and it was when I picked up some more acorn cups that I realised what to do. I would put felt balls into real acorn cups. These would require cold connections, so this would also give me more practice with tube riveting, with which I haven't had much success to date. The main part of the necklace (there's a photo right at the end of this post) is made up of felt balls strung on 0.46 mm 7 strand beading wire. The balls are made from merino tops. The basic shape of each one was made by needle felting. A few of the balls have patterns (spots and stripes) that were added by needle felting. All the balls were finished off by wet felting. The necklace has a wet-felted string, and fastens with a felted ball and loop. There are silver jumps rings included in various places to balance the appearance of the shiny rivets.

It is the pendant that involved the most work. It is made up of two acorn cups, complete with stalks, and bound together with 0.6 mm sterling silver wire. Each cup has a felt ball attached to it by a tube rivet. Here's how I did the riveting.

Step 1. Wash the acorn cups thoroughly. I collected mine in an area grazed by sheep so was very conscious of the need for this!

Step 2. Make the first hole in the side of the cup. I used a 1.2 mm bit in a small hand drill, and then enlarged the hole with a 1.5 mm drill (I am going to be using 1.6 mm outer diameter tubing for the riveting). I found that trying to bevel the outside of the hole to get a countersunk rivet led to me breaking the acorn cups. This is an option better left for riveting in metal.

Step 3. Start the second hole by first putting the drill through the first hole, so that the two holes will be well aligned. Make the second hole.

Step 4. Before cutting the tubing, push it through both holes. This will enlarge the hole to just the right size and you can mark the tube to show where to cut. Have only about 1 mm sticking out at each end. If the tube is too long it will bend when you try to form the rivet - I know, mine did!

Step 5. Cut the tube to length using a piercing saw, neaten the ends with a needle file.

Step 6. Place a felt ball in the cup. Run a large needle through the holes and through the ball. Repeat in the other direction. Then place the needle back in the channel you have just created and pull the needle back and forth, keeping it in the ball, so that you can remove the cup.

Step 7. Replace the needle with a round needle file or an awl and leave it in place. This will enlarge the channel ready to take the tubing, but it needs to stay in place as holes in felt balls are self healing, and the hole will have disappeared by the time you've picked up your tubing for the next step!

Step 8. Push the cut-to-length tube through the hole in the ball instead of the file/awl.

Step 9. Insert the ball and tube into the cup, pushing the ends of the tube through the holes in the cup.

Step 10. Fix the tube in place using standard tube riveting techniques, which I won't cover here. Tube riveting is described in most Jewellery Techniques books, and there's an online tutorial available here. You need to register to get access to the tutorial, but registration is free.

Step 11. Throw away your broken acorn cup, choose a new one and return to step 2! It was difficult to rivet the delicate acorn cups, and I broke five cups along the way to successfully riveting two for the pendant.

And here's the finished necklace:

It has both fibre and found objects and fits the Whiplash theme for October/November 2007, which is fibre & mixed media inspired jewellery.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Shiny but not quite square

These are the planished earrings previously posted in their unpolished state. Now, after tumble polishing, they are nice and shiny. It has been pointed out that they are not quite square, so I'll need to take a file to them. The side length is about 15 mm.
The planishing effect is subtle - I probably appreciate the appearance of these more now than I would have done before I knew about the technique!

Monday, 5 November 2007

New tools and a challenge

This repoussé hammer was on special offer, and I couldn't resist it. I think it will be suitable for planishing too. There is a shortage of undamaged tools at the class, so it will be great to have my own.

And the challenge? I've decided to enter the latest whiplash from whip up. The theme is fibre and mixed media inspired jewellery. You enter by posting a photo and a story or tutorial on your own blog. The closing date is 15 November - so my entry will be appearing here before then.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

More planishing

Carried on planishing the shallow copper bowl at the class this week. It is looking OK, but there are a few dents from the edge of the hammer. The two smaller pieces in the photo are also planished, from 0.5 mm copper sheet, but they'll need a stint in the tumble polisher to bring the finish back up again after pickling.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Ring changes

These are the silver rings previously seen as work in progress. The plain one came up nicely after tumble polishing, and I'm now motivated to make one or two more to wear with it. The cross hatched texture on the other was done by hammering, and I'm delighted to have rescued something from the horrible mess I'd made with earlier melting disasters!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Crafting Beauty in Modern Japan

I visited the Crafting Beauty in Modern Japan exhibition at the British Museum about ten days ago. There was no jewellery, but there were some large metalworked items incorporating inlay and hammered finishes. The item that inspired me most however was one of the kimonos. From a distance the pattern looked a bit like an array of CDs catching the light. Close up though, you could see that these patterns were made of radial strips of deepening tone.

My interpretation of the pattern, generated using Paint Shop Pro, is shown here. Click on it for a larger image.

Details of the kimono: Melody (Senritsu) 1968, Matsubara Yoshichi (born 1937), Indigo stencil dyeing on silk. There are pictures of it here and here (At the second link, use the Next button 5 times to reach the correct picture).

The shapes reminded me a little of fold formed items I've seen when looking into 3D forming. I now wonder if one could achieve an effect similar to the shading by hammering and oxidation.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Moo card holder

I love all the tutorials that are available in blogs! I followed this one, from designverb to make these neat little holders for Moo mini-cards. The one at the back of the picture, like those in the tutorial, is made from a couple of the cardboard colour swatches you can get in the DIY superstore to help you decide on paint colours. The other one is an original breezily watercolour swatch. It will be rather less robust, but I think it looks good! The swatch patterns remind me a little of some of the designs for resin and silver jewellery at the sites I listed in a previous post.

There are two templates provided in the instructions, one for standard business cards and a custom template. I used the custom template, and scaled it to 75% to make the holder suitable for moo cards.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Resin and silver jewellery: three websites

Lulu Smith ( Beautiful, simple shapes and strong colour. Gorgeous!

Anne Schilk's
Swirl range features dramatic concentric circles, and fine colour combinations. (

Miriam Arentz Stunning, striking pieces with coloured resin behind graphic flower-shaped windows in silver.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Re: Planishing

I'm already quite taken with planishing - it doesn't involve as much cleaning as chasing and repoussé and you get to a pleasing surface quite quickly.

This is my copper learning piece, it is going to be a little bowl. We started with a wooden bossing mallet, and hammered against wood to get the concave shape. The shape was refined on a sand bag. The surface is a bit bumpy at this point.

Then, after annealing, we started to smooth the surface using a planishing hammer on a steel stake. Will be returning to this in two weeks time (there is no class next week).