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Metalsmithing

April 3, 2012

The summer of 2000 I had my first office job. Just out of my freshman year of college I thought I needed to join the real workforce. And upon enlisting I immediately regretted it. All I took away from that summer were hours in the copy room, data entry and the fear of making blind calls. The only good that came with the job were the people.

Near the end of the summer, when my unease sitting at a desk all day had become apparent, the accountant came back from a lunch with one of the organization’s board members and said, “Claire. I think I’ve found a place you would love. It’s a stained glass studio and it’s a mess.” And it was a mess. A beautiful mess. The board member owned the stained glass studio and kindly hired me the following year. The next summer I spent each day snipping lead, cutting glass and soldering everything together. And when the summer ended I returned to business school.

Even though stained glass wasn’t my calling, working with those tools each day was something I loved. Since then I’ve dreamed of making jewelry in the same fashion, but have never really pursued it.  And then a  few weeks ago I grabbed some metal and my motley assortment of tools, and then tried to make some jewelry. For some reason I think I should just know how to do everything right away with no background,  no education, no experience. Ten minutes later, with a messy pile of metal scrap next to me, I was grumbling to Regan about how horrible I am at everything (failure tends to escalate rapidly in my world). My dream of making jewelry would have ended right there, in tears, if I hadn’t married such a smart man. While I was grumbling, he was looking up jewelry making and metalsmithing classes for me.

Today was my first day at Introduction to Metalsmithing at the Indianapolis Arts Center. Over the next four weeks I’ll learn to cut, heat, solder, pound and have patience as our teacher navigates us through each important step of metalsmithing. And I think I’m going to like it. In three short hours I had a tour of the studio, orientation on how to use torches, and how to join and solder jewelry. I even managed to come out with two sterling silver rings.

These two rings are made from gauge 14 and 16 silver wire that is joined, soldered and then hammered on a ring mandrel to size 5.5. They are hammered so that the surface is faceted, not smooth. I’m a big fan of the texture and am enjoying wearing them stacked on either side of my wedding band.

Even though our teacher has promised we’ll walk out wearing something new next week, I’m just trying to focus on what else I can learn, not what more I can create. At least not yet. When I get ahead of myself it always ends badly.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2012 12:22 am

    I LOVE IT!! I can’t wait to hear about all that you learn and see the fun professional pieces that you’re going to make! Hope after this session you will still have eyebrows!

    • Claire permalink
      April 4, 2012 8:25 am

      Thanks, Patti! Here’s hoping my success doesn’t stop with this project 🙂

  2. Amber permalink
    April 4, 2012 8:49 am

    Love this! Just another thing to add to your etsy shop when you get it going! 🙂

  3. Grace permalink
    April 4, 2012 11:22 am

    I love that you are doing things that make you happy.

    • Claire permalink
      April 4, 2012 2:35 pm

      Thanks, Grace! Me too. Word on the street is that you are doing things that make you happy too (and doing them really well!) 🙂

  4. Julia permalink
    April 5, 2012 4:08 pm

    Yay! I took a jewelry class in high school, and I’ve always thought it was really fun. In fact, I still wear a ring I made every day 🙂 Hope to see you soon!

    • Claire permalink
      April 7, 2012 7:23 am

      I love that you had metalsmithing in High School! It is so fun, isn’t it?

  5. armando areyan permalink
    April 9, 2012 10:13 pm

    I just saw something on youtube one day and wanted to make one for myself.It’s been a year and slowly i have gotten better at doing somethings but still a trial and error kind of thing.Would love to take classes but just nothing close to my home.

    • Claire permalink
      April 10, 2012 8:31 am

      Hi Armando, I admire that you’ve been learning through trial and error. It takes so much patience — patience I don’t always have 🙂

      You may already know about this book, but I’ve fallen in love with the book, Hot Connections Jewelry: The Complete Sourcebook of Soldering Techniques by Jennifer Chin. It has some really good information, step-by-step instructions and photos, as well as some really great projects.

      Good luck with your projects! I hope there’s a class that is available in your area soon.

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  1. » Metalsmithing: Part 2 The Cottage Revolution
  2. » Metalsmithing: Part 3 The Cottage Revolution

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