MFL jewellery – pourquois pas?

 

I love combining silver and gold in jewellery-making, but have you checked the cost of gold recently? It’s insane. So for that everyday flash of a goldy accent in my silver pieces, brass will have to do, and once the piece is finished it actually does quite nicely, I find. The only drawback is the real elbow grease required to shape it into submission. As the poet rightly says, working with brass is a pain in the… backside.

For these silver and brass earrings, I wanted a positive/negative design on the two discs. It would have  to be something that would still work when partially obscured on the bigger one. That’s how the idea of using short, antonymic words was born– with a foreign language twist. Gut, ja?

When I stamped the silver discs letter by letter they curved naturally into a slight dome-shape under my hammer strokes, whereas the much thicker brass stayed flat. I decided to leave it like that as I quite like the contrast between the two. Next I might experiment with a large brass disc at the back and a smaller silver one at the front, and maybe a pendant or a bracelet… watch this space!

I wore the proto-types on some recent visits to secondary school Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) departments as part of my PhD fieldwork – where they were instantly spotted by teachers and students alike. So much for my plan of ‘blending into the background’ – whilst the ‘researcher-effect’ has been extensively documented, I’ve never read anything about the ‘researcher’s earrings effect’! Looks like there’s a niche in the market for some MFL jewellery, as I’ve been asked to make some French and Spanish ones too. You never know, if the whole academia thing doesn’t work out for me, that’s definitely a career option I’d consider. Et pourquois pas!

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A thimble-full

From the people who brought you Papa’s Löffel: this year’s seasonal offering is Mama’s Fingerhut (German for mum’s, yes, thimble!) and if it brings just a thimble-full of Christmas cheer to the world I’ll be happy!

Not sure if anyone actually uses a thimble these days, I surreptitiously asked the intended recipient (my mum – I don’t THINK she twigged ;-)) and she says she doesn’t, but hey never mind, I’m not in the business of making anything useful here, anyway. Dangerous slippery slope – next thing you know I’ll be giving away irons and other such symbols of female domestic chorority – no way!

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To start with, you need to make a model out of paper and/or thin copper sheet (looks a bit like a cut-up skirt plus a disk for the lid) and then saw this out of silver sheet. Have a think about your design – you need to do your stamping while everything’s still flat. Then you need to dome it, bend it round, solder the seam and the lid on. Don’t forget to solder on a rim made out of silver wire at the bottom too so the thing can stand up, and then, you know the drill, file and file and file until it’s all smooth and you can’t see the joints. Done! Now drop the needlework and let’s celebrate the ornamental over the functional with a thimble-full or five of some bubbly drink or other, for t’is the season. Cheers!

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A spoonful of… jam?!

 

 

So, Christmas prezzies. What do you give the man who has everything?! Why, a silver jam spoon of course! So I decided to make one for my dad. As you do. It was what he had always wanted (not). Anyway, how do you go about making a silver spoon? Well you start by sawing a rectangle out of a silver sheet, like so:

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Then you file it and file it and file it… Not good for the nails, but needs must.

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Ok silberkinder before you click away while I take you through the next 368 steps I’ll summarise: You dome the oval sheet over a, erm, spoonshaper?! If that’s not what it’s called then it should be. Then you make a handle out of thick silver wire. Embellish as you see fit – here I squeezed the round wire flat, put one end in the vice and turned the other with pliers and brute force (why squeeze the wire flat first?! ‘coz if you don’t you can turn and turn ’till the cows come home: a round wire stays looking round however much you twist! You knew that, of course). Also I hammered the end a bit flat to splay it out and twisted some thinner wire round it the other way. Next step is to solder the two together, again file and file and… you know the drill. Then comes the fun but nerve-wrecking  bit, the whacking of single metal letter stamps into the curvy front of the spoon with a hammer: only one single whacking chance per letter! Don’t mess this bit up or you can start from scratch.  And yes I did mean for it to say Papas Löffel (dad’s spoon in German) as apostrophe-less and umlaut-laden as it is. Then polish with some rouge (that’s jeweller’s rouge, not your best Clinique cheek pop, obvs) using the terrifying buffing machine that snatches things out of your hand and catapults them around the room or in your face if you don’t hold it at an angle, distance and pressure that is JUST RIGHT. Goggles highly recommended. Then, when you’re just about to give up the will to live: tah-dah! One shiny personalised silver spoon! So, did my dad like it? Well, he said he did, but almost on unwrapping made some suggestions for improving the design for optimum finger comfort. That must mean he’s planning to spoon out many a jam jar with it! Success!!

 

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Spinning around

 

Tell me Silberkinder, do you know the definition of a spiral? It’s a “curve which emanates from a central point, getting progressively farther away as it revolves around the point”. Doesn’t this neatly demonstrate the difference between knowledge and experience? Reading about it is dull, whereas to me the spiral is the arguably the most beautiful shape that occurs in nature. Don’t you just brim over with happiness when you dip your hand in the sand just where the sea heats the sand, and pull it out again glistening with the most amazing spiral shells?! Maybe I’m too easily pleased, but I do! So when I saw that you could get some spiral stamps for metal clay I just had to pick them up (from a craft shop, not the seashore – a bit much to hope for that pair of those would get washed up!). The technique for making this set is the same as for other metal clay pieces, so I won’t bore you with this here – see Silver out of clay and A-stars all round, if you really want to know.  After making the basic shapes I just made a clasp out of silver wire, bobble the ends, drill a hole in the pendant, fix to some coloured string, oh yes and solder posts onto the back of the earrings, of course. The stamps come as a pair, because if you look closely, you’ll see that the earrings spin in opposite directions, so as to make a symmetrical pattern on the ears. We wouldn’t want to disturb the disturb the universe with inharmonious shapes now, would we!

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Cheers… and good luck for 2014!

Over the New Year I cycled from the South to the North of Vietnam (with a few transfers in between to get it done in two weeks). Yes it was great! It was amazing! But that’s not what I’m here to tell you. While there I picked up a few empty beer cans, yes, beer cans, which were beautiful (a good excuse to sample the contents if they weren’t empty just yet of course.) The best ones were called Halida (which is actually Carlsberg, would you believe it), which featured this striking Vietnamese character in several incarnations, wishing you good luck for 2014.

I cut out some shapes, trying to find matching patterns for the earrings, and set them in little rimmed receptacles, covered by a glass dome secured with clear-drying crystal glue.

IMG_3634It was quite hard to choose which bits of the can to settle for, and in the end I chose the guy’s imposing-looking face, the sweet little elephant, and of course the ‘2014’. I made a lot more of the pendants  than I’ve used in this set, and they can either become earrings, or dangled off a bracelet later. I made the silver necklace earlier from the very versatile silver plain oval 4 belcher; sounds a horrible mouthful but it’s the prettiest chain and one that I use an awful lot, because it’s strong and distinct enough to be of some substance, yet twinkly and light enough to look good with everything, dressed up or down. Believe me, this is the original goldilocks chain, because it’s just so right! Back to this set though, using oval jump rings I fixed the three jiggly domed circles at different lengths in a cluster pendant, and chose bits of the scroll-holding Vietnamese man’s hands for the earrings. Done! With  its combination of shiny sterling silver with splashes of colour from the beer can magnified under glass droplets, this set reminds me of a of brilliant holiday, with a bit of a good luck charm thrown in for the future. I’ve decided: this one’s a keeper!

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Heart of gold (but mainly silver!)

Why use just one of something when you can have more?! That’s my motto in life (well, one of them, haha !) and goes for jewellery too, of course. I’ve always liked mixed metals and what can be better than silver and gold together? (Well, white gold, yellow gold and rose gold together, of course, but let’s leave that to one side for now!) So when my daughter requested some stud earrings which she’d be allowed to wear for school, but which were a bit more interesting than the plain  silver ones I’d made her earlier (thanks…), I thought I’d use some gold leaf burnished onto plain silver studs. I sawed some heart shapes out of sterling silver sheet and filed the edges (by now you will have gathered that there is A LOT of filing going on in this kind of jewellery making!) Then I cut out some irregular-shaped bits of gold foil and, heating both elements with a blow torch, burnished on the foil so it ended up sticking to the silver as in one unit. The gold foil is real gold of course, not something you can find next to silver foil at Tesco’s! Finally I added some posts, of course, and there you have it, pretty little silver hearts with a bit of gold detail.

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Twisted silver hoops

Silberkinder, as you can imagine I’ve been getting quite a few requests from friends and family since I started making jewellery. However, my daughter asked for a pair of hoop earrings, I wasn’t too sure how these would turn out. If you look closely at shop-bought hoops you’ll find that usually they are hollow, that is the metal ‘ring’ is actually a tube. This is so they aren’t too heavy and drag the hole in your ear further and further south so it’s more a slit than a hole – eek, not attractive! The magic earring-making machine of the jewellery shops must have some kind of way of shaping the tube wire, which is something you can’t do with your hands, pliers and soldering irons as it’ll scrunch up or melt the metal. As you can see from the pics though, I did find a way round this, which was to use square wire which I annealed (heating it up so it’s more malleable), stuck in a vice, and, using a pair of pliers, twisted round and round. Then all there remained to do was to bend it into a wide ring shape (actually easier said than done if you don’t have something just the right size to twist your wire around – I used a prit stick in the end), and solder on the posts. Result!

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Mixed veg

Hi there dear silberkinder, in an update on the miniature veg earrings I made, what do you know, shortly after I took the pics, wore the veg hoops a few times and thus raised many an eyebrow, I lost one of them! This led to the slightly awkward conversation with the lost property people, in the vain of “ok what does it look like, let’s see it’s a silver hoop with vegetables, to be precise there’s a red pepper, a yellow pepper…” I didn’t get much further than this because at this stage they were checking the calendar to see if it was April Fool’s Day, or maybe to call someone to take me away. Needless to say I wasn’t to see my mini-veg again, so in an act of making the most of what I had left I combined the  leftovers (ha!) in one yummy veggie cluster pendant. Ta-dah! Bon appetit!

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A-stars all round

When I left my last school, I had to say goodbye to a lot of lovely people who had grown close to my heart (well, most of them, anyway!… just kidding. I love you all, really). The girls were great and a joy to teach, and I was particularly fond of a certain year 11 class (there were only girls in the class, I wasn’t just ignoring the boys!).  So as a leaving gift, I made them all personalised initial earrings out of art clay – see my post silver out of clay for how this works. You stamp in the letter before firing. It was a bit of a production line, seeing that, annoyingly, most girls had two ears and required an earring for each! Soldering on the posts was very fiddly, but once I started a got on a roll and quite enjoyed being a star maker. Looking at the GCSE results a few months later, they didn’t disappoint! Stars all round!

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Wear your veg!

Hi there silberkinder, now let me ask you, do you remember the Fashion season of spring/summer 2012?! No, neither do I. But looking back it seems that I was bang on trend with vegetable jewellery (yes, really! If Vogue says so, it must be true!). So, having briefly toyed with and then quickly dismissed the idea of making my own vegetables out of fimo, I stumbled across this weirdly intriguing site: mytinyworld.co.uk. They sell almost everything you can think of in miniature! (I said almost. Some things are tiny enough already.) So all that remained for me to do was to drill a hole in the veg ( as you do), make some hooks out of silver wire and thread them onto a holder hoop. Job done! They attracted quite a lot of attention, and it became clear that people generally aren’t very much au fait with fashion trends! I had to explain, time and time again, that these earrings were, believe it or not, actually quite trendy, and not mad as you might have deduced from their reception. Ah well!

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