Monday, October 17, 2011

My Amateur Silverwork

Rosebed St Gallery  ran a silver earring workshop on Saturday morning so I decided to sign up.  I don't know what I expected, but thoroughly enjoyed the morning AND came home with some handmade earrings as well.  Mind you, they are VERY rough, but I learned a lot.

Cathy McCarthy (be patient, her site is being updated) makes delighful sterling silver jewellery with designs and imprinted patterns inspired by nature.

We arrived to find instructions and tools all set out neatly and Cathy explained their various uses.

Before long this 'order' became 'disorder' as we each got stuck into our own personal project.

We had the choice of tiny discs or squares, with hooks or posts.

I chose squares, and posts, and began the first job of 'annealing' them. This means heating the metal to relax or soften it so that it can be worked. For this process Cathy uses a micro- torch similar to those used for making creme brulee (yummy).

After each annealing the metal has to be 'pickled' in a weak acid solution to remove the discolouration.  It is then ready to shape, stamp, or work in any other way. Working hardens the metal again so after each 'working' the process of annealing and pickling is repeated.

Those who chose discs used this fabulous doming block to curve them. The pieces are placed in the correct size recess and hammered with the corresponding size ball.

There was a (very expensive) toy available for us to use also... a rolling mill.  This is used to roll your piece together with some texturing (paper, wire, whatever).  I was amazed at how a paper leaf skeleton could imprint on the soft silver.

I stamped letters (very badly) into mine, and then textured them with a ball hammer.

Because the pieces were so tiny I was restricted to four letters... obviously not enough for me.  I had great diffculty hitting just hard enough, and not so hard the edge of the stamp imprinted.

The stamps were very tiny and hard to line up, but I guess practice makes perfect... and these were my very first.

I then had to solder the posts onto the backs... easy peasy when solder and flux are together in one syringe.

The solder is melted with the micro-torch and then the piece goes into the pickling solution again. Once clean, and rinsed in water, the pieces are then put into a jewellery tumbler filled with water, a dash of detergent, and stainless steel shot.  This polishes them to their final glory.

Finding the silver among the shot
There was not sufficient time for the required amount of tumbling, so will have to handpolish my finished pieces.

Rough, but they're mine...  and perhaps I should wear them the other way around?...mmmmmm.


  1. now thats a wonderful way to spend a day, I would love to try something such as this, well Icouldn't now my sight has gone kabloo ee but I have always wanted to do this.Lots of work isn't it.One never apreciates the labor involved in making art until we try first hand do we.I think you did a beautiful job, they are lovely.

  2. What a great way to spend a day.
    I love the textures.

  3. Oh what a fabulous day and the chance to play with so many wonderful tools and bibs and bobs! Great outcome as well - wear them with pride!

  4. What a very inspiring workshop Jo, and nice to see behind the scenes into the makings too.

  5. These are beautiful! and what an interesting process. I agree with Fiona: wear them with pride!

  6. Love the process and the finished pieces!
    And of course, I can't miss the Canadiens shirt someone had Hockey eye was drawn immediately!
    Can't get over all the equipment to make the work; just amazing.


  7. How exciting! The photo-spread was almost like being there.

  8. Are you kidding? I like these! I love the texture. And what a great word to choose. HA! This reminds me of my soldered charms class. I am not much of a 'tools' person, but I love the process of jewelry making. Thanks for all these photos. Really interesting.

  9. Great post Jo. It was lovely having you on the course. I was really impressed with the earrings you made, truly unique and I hope you enjoy wearing them.
    Well done!

  10. look what I've missed in just a few days of laying low here

    Mr Magpie and I have dabbled with altered cutlery...he's a good pounder and stamps the letters too

    that said I am VERY impressed with your do it all and so well too Jo!