I was scheduled to have dental surgery this last Friday – something I’d been waiting to have done since February and had had the appointment for since early May – and for reasons I won’t bore you with, I’ve had to postpone it, much to my significant annoyance.
But having expected to be out of action for a few days, or at least a bit below par, I’d been working towards the date for a couple of weeks, trying to get ahead of myself with both work commitments and household chores – and had done a pretty good job of organising myself.
Consequently when it was cancelled for this week, I found myself with some time available that hadn’t been planned and was reluctant to just squander it by just getting on with my usual routine. So I decided to use the opportunity to make something totally new – not just replacing the stock I’d sold, or on customer orders, which had taken up most of my recent ‘making’ time – but something completely from scratch from the massive pile of as yet unmade sketches in my book.
So as I finished my breakfast on Thursday I perused my sketchbook to see what leapt out at me first and took my fancy. I pondered the shapes and tallied this in my mind with materials I had available and as I progressed to washing the breakfast pots – a task I’ve often posted that I consider to be quality and valued thinking time – my mind went off on its own, taking some of the shapes I’d reviewed and developing them further. As it does.
I considered mobius rings and the idea of twists and by the time I was pulling the plug out of the sink, one particular shape was already settled as the one I wanted to try. As with many metalwork designs, you have to consider the methodology carefully – working out in which order to form the shapes – when to hammer which bit and where to place any soldered joins, so at this point I almost always work a prototype in copper first – especially as this was a design that I thought lent itself to highly polished silver and I wasn’t even sure it would work, or what size to start with.
For example, I made these earrings in this session too, as they were long overdue to match the larger pendant I made a little while ago. I found out the hard way – as we often do – that it’s vital to work in a particular order – and in this case, the curved curly cut ends must be polished and pretty much finished at the very first stage, as once you make up the heart, you can’t get to the ends in order to finish them to the same standard as the rest. This particular shape, like many, needs hammering in a particular order too as you form the shape.
And this is where my design journal earns its keep – I initially make rough notes as I work in my sketch book – often changing it as I work it through – when satisfied, I write this up in my proper final design journal and this acts as a recipe book for my designs. If you find something out the hard way, there’s no value in repeating the lesson next time you make the design – that just wastes time and materials.
I’ve always had a passion for very simple designs with clean lines – but you can only pull this off if you do it well – your workmanship has nowhere to hide, so you have to do a damn good job with it. I still haven’t reached the stage where I can produce results of this nature to the level of perfection I’d like, but only practice will improve me.
I wanted to make a teardrop pendant from a single loop where it was twisted at the top to form an integral bail – one closed enough to prevent it slipping off the chain and turning upside down, but clearly visually all one sinuous shape.
I grabbed an already soldered copper loop, that I’d stretched to an oval, to work out the details and was incredibly happy that it worked just as I hoped – I learnt enough through the process to know what order I needed to work in and made the appropriate pencil scribbles in my sketchbook. Then grabbed a length of silver. I wanted it slightly larger than the copper with more of a teardrop and less of the ellipse the copper had become.
With the first one, I hammered an area that I decided would work better if left round and hammered later, so on the third version, I felt I got exactly what my mind had visualised – exactly the shape I hoped for and I was delighted with the result.
I now want to work on the method a little more to see if I can make it with less tool marks – it doesn’t matter sometimes how well you dress your tools or the care with which you work, when you apply considerable force to metal, it’s sometimes inevitable and unavoidable.
I’ve now part-worked a third version in Sterling silver by a method my subconscious has worked out in the meantime and it’s already looking better.
I suspect that this was considerably more fun than I was scheduled to have on Friday and I feel that it was a suitable outcome from finding myself with a creative opportunity that I didn’t want to squander.