3 Mar 2010

Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes . . .

I’ve wanted to make rings for quite some time and do get asked for them a lot at craft fairs, but simply not being appropriately equipped to do so, I’ve resisted the temptation to date.

But it is something I really want to try. I have a head full of ideas waiting to take form and as a favourite library book will have to go back soon, I wanted to try a couple of the design projects from it before I must part with the book. I will however purchase my own copy as it is the one I want to keep to hand.

I had in mind that I’d like to make something simple that I can make quite a lot of to keep in stock in different sizes (the sizing issue is one of the reasons I’ve thus far resisted) to give a good selection at a lower price point for fairs. I fancied silver, copper and bronze and some of ideas would be in mixed metals too.

The book in question – one of my absolute favourites is “Tips and Shortcuts for Jewellery Making” by Stephen O’Keeffe, published by A&C Black. You have no idea how many pennies have dropped looking at his book – just from browsing the excellent photographs – I’ve learned so very much from it – the tools he uses and suggested improvisations have especially struck a chord with me – I never like buying over-priced tools if something can be improvised for free.

One of the ring designs features a folded ripple section in the middle (as shown above) and he suggests that it makes it much easier to size the ring as it’s got some inherent flexibility in the design, so I thought this might have potential for being able to tweak in person at events to get a good fit. Having made it, I suspect that won’t be as easy as I might have hoped (once the metal has been hardened and polished), although it does make it easy to start with a basic blank ring and finish it in different sizes, which is certainly of interest.

So armed with some ideas and Mr O’Keeffe’s project details I decided to try it initially in copper – for 3 reasons – firstly, I didn’t actually have much spare silver of the right gauge to tinker with. Secondly, copper is easier to work and more forgiving, so ideal for ‘prototypes’ of this nature. As it was a learning exercise and I was going to work in slightly heavier wire than the project suggested, copper was ideal. And thirdly, I actually just like working in copper, so tend to reach for it first.

As with many new ideas, I made some errors and decided some stages could be done differently – largely adaptations due to ether not having the same equipment or in one instance, having something I thought worked better. One of my swerves from the true project path gave me some new ideas as to how the design and technique could be deliberately adjusted to give different results. Another moment of design serendipity that leads to something new entirely.

The silver ring shown was also based on ideas in the book – not in this instance a direct working of the design, but an adaptation from one. I made it rather small to fit my pinky finger. Having balled the ends of some heavy silver wire and formed the ring, it was soldered into this fixed position and heavily polished. I contemplated leaving it a little more rustic and antiquing it, but decided on a glossy-ish finish on this occasion.

So, having grabbed the bull by the horns and made my first ever properly forged rings – I made 2 in one day and can hardly wait to try some more – as is often the case, working on something new has only served to open the floodgates to new ideas and my sketchbook has already seen much action today.