Jewellery and silversmithing photography

Wato wato all,

A lesson learned far too long to realise, presentation is sooooo important if you wish to appeal to the people who will allow your work to be presented to the purchasing public.

do not underestimate the value of professional images of your work. They will pay you back the cost many times over. It’s my experience,

an image taken on a phone just will not cut it next to studio images, such as these.

 

Until next time. Very best wishes.

Stuart G.

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What a dramatic result. Energy and movement with a juxtaposition of the pebbles on a stream theme

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Water and silver, smashing movement in this image. Attractive and interesting.

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Wonderful example of a clean group shot. Websites love this sort of image.

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Opal ring commission

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Dark, still detailed. You try it!

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What a dramatic result. Energy and movement with a juxtaposition of the pebbles on a stream theme

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Royston turquoise 

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Another Royston Turquoise, not many left.

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Experimenting with textures on this Amethyst dome ring.

Circle or disc cutter for making blanks for hand raising or sinking silver, copper, tinsmithing bowls.

http://youtu.be/WtyAoITMHFA

Wato wato all. Very long time no communication eh!

Lots of water has passed under my bridge, as for sure yours also, since the last posting on silversmithblog. My new job at the Jewellery workshop in Porthleven has been a mixed and varied bag of delights, horrors, failures and victories that will no doubt continue to crop up in the coming posts. Looking forward to sharing the experiences that will help you to realise its only you in the way of making what you envisage in your head. Remember, all I know is technique that can be learned with ease if the application of the craft is exercised in the correct manor.

Its appropriate for me to now state that, at this time, looking to the types of work needed to service commissions. Also items bought in for repairs and adjustments has rendered me a bona fide Goldsmith. Never in my earlier wildest fantasies did this enter into my mind. The challenges have been both frustrating and rewarding to say the least. Enough of that for now, lets get on with the real passion, silversmithing. Well copper for now anyway.

A long while ago a promise was made to video the circle cutter that I am very fortunate enough to be the custodian of. The link at the start of this post will take you, (with luck I have done all the right things for this to happen) to YouTube to see said video. Had no idea you couldn’t upload a video here, you live and learn eh.

For those who watched the clip, sincerely hope it was enlightening, perhaps even entertaining. Please do give some feedback as if you wish, more clips can be added if you so wish. I know YouTube is awash with really great content, though bound to say haven’t trawled through it for some time myself. I will not add to the numbers if it’s not relevant, up to you. Better still, encourage me to post something you may wish to have better explained that will help with more visual content.

I showed the model that has been an experiment, now it will go further with the four copper bowls that are, finally, on the way.

Reen makes wonderful quilts, probably mentioned this before. Pictured here are two of her creations that led to the idea of the designs to follow.

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As you see, they convey wonderful movement, along with wonderful patterns. The model in the video, if you look closer, uses these lay out patterns, or at least like them, to start. I wondered how the raising process would effect the geometric, straight lined patterns. The distortions are very pleasing to my eye, wishing you may agree. They lend themselves very well to chasing and repousse decorative techniques, don’t you think.

Missing the larger scale work, working on small scale jewellery at this time, most of the time. Bound to say, I have been pining for more hammer work and less soldering/constructional work. Looking forward to seeing where this goes. As those of you know who have followed this blog from the start, major influences remain Hiroshi Suzuki and his hammer chased vessels. At least one of the bowls will employ hammer chasing, if you return to looking at his exquisite creations, the patterns I will use will be of a similar flavour to his signature natural forms. Not forgetting the awesome and wonderful human being that is David Huang, have I mentioned him before 🙂 I intent to give these bowls a rim, with my own ‘twist’ as a nod to his massive, incalculably huge continuing influence on my approach. This blog was in large part influenced by his generosity, for those of you who have not, please do look him up, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

I do not want to go on too much as I know this is a continuing personal failing. Suffice to say, its good to be back on the blogasphere. Please do get in touch.

I will be telling you more of my adventures as a jobbing jeweller in a busy shop, as well as my wonderful times as a tutor for the workshop. In two weeks I was fortunate enough to enable 60 people, including my now weekly 8 week beginners course that is rolling out continuously for the foreseeable future.

Until then, all my very best wishes.

Stu

Engineering workshop

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As you see, not a lot of room in here. Compact and bijou my friends, compact and bijou 🙂 Finally had a new door fitted, lathe on the left. Next to the toolbox on the right the milling machine. Next to that opposite from the lathe the shaping machine.

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A swivel headed milling machine. The milling cutter can be seen centre of picture approximately between the two hand wheels. If you wish to be bored, explanation following.

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The shaping machine, compare the next picture showing the drive side. You will see the difference in the stroke of the ram. This is the control side. The levers to the rear are the clutch and two speed gearbox.

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The electors motor lives under the cabinet that supports the machine, the drive belt can be seen. The little hatch contains the eccentric adjustment to alter the length of stroke.

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This is a tool holder that fits into the clapper box. Don’t laugh, thats what its called. As the tool cuts into the workpiece on the forward stroke, on the return the tool can swing out of the way.

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This is the tailstock end of my beautiful South Bend 9 1/2 inch bench lathe. I mounted it on an old worktop on top of a stainless steel table that was scrapped from a commercial kitchen.

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To the left is the chuck that holds the spinning workpiece that is presented to the tool resting on the X Y carriage in the centre. You can imagine the tailstock holding a drill, thats not all it can do. You can see lead screw midway between the hand wheel under the tailstock, above the lever pointing down, see next picture.

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Behind this cover exposes the change wheels. These can be changed to allow the carriage to advance at a pre determined rate to facilitate the cutting of threads. You can also set the carriage to go very fast, for roughing out work needing large amounts of material to be removed. Alternately you can set it very slowly to give a beautiful even finish that is near impossible to achieve by hand alone. The next model on from this, as well as more modern and advanced lathes have a gearbox that means you can adjust more quickly using leavers only, rather than removing and swapping gear wheels over.

Wato wato all

Hope alls tickety boo with you and yours, Christmas round the corner and all that, nice to have a celebration eh 🙂

I have promised this set of pictures for a long time. This is the ‘dirty’ workshop. Used surprisingly a lot for silversmithing work. Well, not for the work itself necessarily, more likely to make jigs, special tools and fabrication bits and bobbs. I will give examples in upcoming posts, providing you feel this is a distraction from purely silversmithing and jewellery that you may wish to experience.

This post is a bit of a fishing expedition for me, being as I know, through experience, many of you have little, in some cases no knowledge, about engineering tools and processes. I feel sure it may appear upon first acquaintance irrelevant, boring even, nothing to do with making jewelery or silversmithing work in general. You may be surprised.

I will not dwell on each machine too much here so as to give a gentle introduction. Too much too soon is probably not the way to go as these machines are limited only by your imagination. The salty bit though is you do need a basic grounding in the dos and do nots to save on wasted time, ruined projects, not forgetting personal safety. All these machines are capable of inflicting severe damage on our bodies, even a simple thing as not wearing safety glasses/goggles can lead to catastrophic damage to your eyes from hot, sometimes razor sharp shards of metal flying away from the surface being machined. I leave it to you to research the safety, a great place to start is from a fantastic resource here in the U/K

http://www.lathes.co.uk/

This is a place to learn about all the various machines, old and new. Go on, try it, you may like it.

Of the three machines I highlight in my garage workshop the broad brush differences are as follows; A lathe presents a sharpened tool to the spinning workpiece, a milling machine has the work stationary, held down whilst a spinning tool cuts into it. The shaper has more in common with the milling machine inasmuch as the work is secured in a vice or clamped to the table. The difference being the tool is pushed linearly backwards and forward, effectively scraping the sharpened tool over the workpiece.

I have chosen to give a little more detail of the shaper for two reasons; firstly, I feel it is the least known about of the machine tools, being largely superseded by the milling machine and has some real benefits to a small scale metalworker. It is also available as a hand operated mini machine that would be of real practical benefit to jewellery and silversmithing, also copper smithing and other sheet metal disciplines.

Studying the pictures of the shaper, imagine if you will a box scraper. This is a hand tool that cuts grooves into marked out channels to facilitate bending flat sheet into box type shapes. For instance a square box would require a 45 degree angle, cut almost through before bending up the sides into shape, then soldering. No matter how good, or practiced you are. You will have a natural bias, or slight wobble with a hand tool. The machine can do nothing else than cut perfectly strait lines, the only room for error is by marking out incorrectly, or allowing the tool to go too deep, through to the other side.

The picture with my hand in it shows one of many different types of tool holder. Using a grinder you can make a tool to the desired profile and angle on a grinder, transfer it to a holder, if a large enough piece of tool steel is used then directly into the machine itself. This is in effect the, for those of you who know about them, scraper that silversmiths traditionally made from an old file, bent to shape, filed and then sharpened.

I hope you’re not glazing over, to reiterate, I will continue to explain some of the uses for this, and the other machines, in a future posts if you feel it is something you may like me to share with you. The shaper is probably the most under appreciated machine of the modern times. Can you picture old woodworking moulding planes? You know, the ones that make patterns in wood strips, the sort of shapes that are used around windows, better still, decorative picture frames. A shaping machine can be set up to produce your own unique shapes in wire with inexpensive pieces of tool steel, a dremel/flex shaft, grinding wheels, files and the like. Wonderful stuff eh.

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On a more personal note. Thank you so very much to Lottie. Pictured above is the wonderful guinea pig, lovingly hand crafted in felt I purchased for Reen for Christmas. I can highly recommend her wonderful work. For those of you who are sensitive to letters such as I shared with you all. Bear in mind, if the beautiful, unique and one off creations, such as this don’t make the NOTHS cut. Fair to say we are in good company. Please don’t give up, onwards and upwards. What business people say and mean are not necessarily anywhere near the advertising hype. If this work does not meet the criteria, fair to say its probably too fickle to explain anyway.

http://www.lottiescottage.co.uk/

Lottie is one of the people kind enough to comment on the NOTHS rejection letter. It really has been the most commented upon post I have written. I want to try to explain a little more my reasons for it.

http://en.gravatar.com/happyhavenforge#pic-1

Vince from the happy forge makes a fantastic point, please go back and read it. My reply I will not repeat here, also the lessons from Vince are for all to take something away from as he kindly shares.

An argument I have made in the past to be illustrative of a point is as follows and I hope you understand the link I attempt to make.

If you or I were to cut an animal in half and pickle it, pre Damien Hurst, in all probability we would be branded lunatics, perhaps even sick. Damien Hurst does it and he’s a visionary.

My attempts in that post, also the point I try to explore as a metalsmith attempting to be represented in outlets. I feel my work, and in all likelihood yours also, is not the challenge. If the work of Mr Hurst is valued, fair to assume most anything will sell in the right setting don’t you think? My question is always, what is it that separates the ‘visionaries’ from the also rans.

http://www.camalidesign.com/

Another fantastic contributor to the debate, awesome work with a website to swoon over. I absolutely get why this wonderfully creative maker is represented. Thank you for your contribution, I feel sure others will have learned something from your thoughts.

Nina Parker at;

http://www.workingglassjewellery.co.uk/

Rejected, why? Again fantastic site, great presentation. On the face of it, ticks all the apparent boxes. Thank you Nina for sharing. This is the sort of, to my eye, disparity of the selection process.

Perhaps I have answered my own questions. On a given day, with a given selector, perhaps its all in the lap of the gods, nothing to learn, just experience.

I’m very keen to give voice to stories and opinions such as these. Fair to say rejection smarts for all of us. I have just been rejected by another gallery that would have given me an enormous boost if it had all gone to script. I was asked by the manager to show the co-owner, that person gave me huge encouragement. I was sent away and asked to present a body of work. Spent more than I had on supplies, spent over two weeks making a body of work to present only to fail by the other person having the casting vote. No feedback “we have enough jewellery at this time thank you”

Again this is not about how good, two out of three ain’t all bad, I take that much from the experience. What I find myself perplexed by, and unable to let go, is the inability to understand the criteria many of us need to be attractive to the gatekeepers.

Ending on a good note. I had a huge success at a jewellery party thrown by Reens sewing group. I now also have five commissions from a person I work with at the hospital, so not all bad by any stretch of the imagination. So I have no problem in believing my work will sell, it does sell. I just wish I had a better understanding of the when, where and how to of approaching the right places.

Keep on door knocking my friends. Well those of you who, like me, have a challenge in that department. For those of you more savvy to the ways, please do continue to share.

If I don’t post before. A very happy Christmas to you all, heres to being better represented in the new year for all of us eh. Thank you all for your continued input and support.

All my very best wishes.

Stu 😉

Studio photograph session with Paul Mounsey for my chased and repousse´ jewellery, art metal and silversmithing

http://www.paulmounsey.co.uk/

http://www.paulmounsey.blogspot.co.uk/

I came back from a session with Paul yesterday, I am blown away with the results and could not wait to share it with you all. Especially for people who have struggled to be heard with their work alone. I feel certain that with Pauls’ input my opportunities for being better represented have just taken a seismic shift into the unlimited possibilities zone.

I am so excited to see my work looking this great in print. As I have said before I have been slow to appreciate the importance of quality images, mistakenly assuming that buyers and gallery owners would see past the groggy images, being only interested in the finished article; don’t you new makers make the same mistake. A string of rejections and soul searching could have beed lessoned if I had images such as these to start with, as feedback from the people and places you approach is not common. The inevitable result, you are left floundering as to why people don’t bother to follow up on your enquiry. The reason, you are not seen as a professional, someone who has not paid attention to detail, and will continue not to do so, not the best trading partner.

I felt, as I’m sure most of you do, I was capable of taking a photograph, how hard can it be eh!

When I entered Pauls studio I was amazed at all the specialist equipment and his attention to detail. The computer alone looked as though it could handle much of the NASSA space programme. His lighting and the props he uses to tease out the smallest detail was truly astinishing. Without thinking and with the intuitiveness most of have for driving a car, he continually made minor adjustments to the lighting. Flash and reflective surfaces being altered for every shot, his intimate understanding of his subject made this an outing rather than a chore. I love to see people who are doers rather than talkers effortlessly practicing their hard fought for, practiced craft, making it appear effortless and seamless, the way that time served people can. This was a true treat and a fantastic experience that, as soon as I make more work that needs it, I will return, no hesitation.

The chased and repousse´ surfaces now come aline, punch textures become more defined and the reflective planished surfaces are simply stunning. He managed to capture the aged patina I wanted for the copper art metal bowl. Oxidisation looks more pronounced and less fuzzy helping to clearly define the raised texture left behind after polishing. Silversmithing items like the highly reflective surface of the Britannia silver bowl are notoriously hard to photograph, check out these beauties above!

Always a good start and the sign of a thoroughly good egg, good strong tea was provided and made the proper way. Paul has a very calm manor and is totally accommodating, listening to and responding to every request and offering suggestions, treating work with respect and careful handling. I could not be more happy, and wholeheartedly recommend him to anyone.

Well, just look at the images for yourself, I had to be a little selective as I felt like uploading all of them! A good example if the pendant from the previous post I asked for an opinion as to the best finish. You cannot deny this now looks like a completely different piece. It is unchanged from when I photographed it with my trusty point and shoot.

I went will Paul Pennington from the jewellery workshop in Porthleven, also attending the same course as me. Sandra Austin used images made by Paul Mounsey in her final presentation. This is what blew us away and led us to seek his services. This is another example of his flexibility and his accommodating nature. This is a last minute thing to get my promotional stuff ready tomorrow for the next day. Paul excelled himself and delivered, returning my images the same day, yesterday. Can’t get better than that can you. Just wish I was nearly as organised though.

I would like to thank Julia Rai from the Cornwall school of art craft and jewellery as she respond to a FB quote I made about photographing work, introducing Paul Mounsey. Well worth a visit, Julia has been a supporter of me since I attended a forging class. Sign up and be amazed at her PMC skills, Not my thing, no hammers required see 🙂 nonetheless awesome.

https://www.facebook.com/JuliaRai

https://www.facebook.com/CornwallSchoolOfArtCraftAndJewellery

Silver repousse cuff bracelet ready at last!

Wato wato

At last this cuff is finished! After completely messing up the first one and having more than a few challenges with this version I am happy to see it go to its new owner. I call this piece ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’. If you are in the area it is on show at the White Out exhibition in Truro until Friday.

It now belongs to Paul Pennington. You may recall his wife runs the Jewellery Workshop in Porthleven. He wanted this design to compliment the pebbles bangle I made for Clair that is shown in a previous posting. For those interested in the name it came about as a result of a College brief.

I thought that hearts abound in fashion, design and jewellery, as a child I was always fascinated by the very small. Typically beastly boy always muddy, grubbing about in the soil and ponds looking at amphibians and insects. When I discovered microscopic images I was blown away by the complexity and beauty of the hidden world right in front of us that we are not able to see with the naked eye. As an adult I was fortunate enough to be given a microscope for a birthday present, I wish I had more time to look at it, ah well the time constraints and pressures eh!

I went on-line and looked up microscopic images of heart muscle. At relatively low magnifications the heart muscle is like interconnected worms, well thats how it looks to me anyway. I took this set of images and interconnected them to make it more visually interesting and came up with the design you see here. As a bit of fun and a total fluke, the theme allows me to use the old saying of wearing your heart on your sleeve, I find I’m as chuffed about that as anything else about it. I love the fact that whoever wears it will be able to play guess the theme with whoever is looking at it.

Being a very highly raised design it stands out very well, not one for shrinking violets 😉 Being a chap I had given no thought to the gross factor that some of my lady peers expressed at the thought of wearing a representation of heart muscle, is it me?

The good news is that most people who view it for the first time associate it with interconnected vines or tree roots, good oh eh, far less embarrassing for me and another fantastic fluke.

Going on like this, I hope to give you some idea that beautiful accidents do happen. Think design opportunities, not mistakes. Again this is another creation of mine that has not universally won all popularity contests.The way I see it is that if you try to please everyone, not only is this not realistic, it is also timid.

When I bump up against a creative wall as it were, my long suffering supporter, best friend and brutally honest wife Reen has taken to telling me; ‘Just @*ing hit it” This has served me well on more than one occasion.

I respectively pass on her words of ‘encouragement’ to you as I am easily paralysed by indecision, as I’m sure many of you are. Know this however if you make a mess, at least you made something and a lesson was learned by you empirically in a world seemingly paralysed by academia, theory and the fear of getting it wrong. In a world of armchair experts it’s your opportunity to plough your own furrow and enter a wonderful, thrilling and ultimately sometimes scary world of the unknown that holds the promise of great adventures yet to be discovered. Until next time, JUST *@ING HIT IT 🙂 All my very best wishes. Stu Art.

Repousse and Chased cuff bracelet, a journey from copper to silver

Wato one and all

The year is going at a gallop as my course is up in June so time to get my finger out and settle upon a design I will be using for my final projects and the precious metal bursary that I was fortunate enough to receive from Goldsmiths Hall London. I have, to this point, just keep things pretty much technical in this blog, I find this relatively easy but will stretch myself in future to share some of the roller coaster  journey that this course has presented to me. As you can imaging this will be largely subjective and in no way verifiable or necessarily relevant. Perhaps even unrecognisable to others who have walked a similar path. One of the attractions of this blog, for me, was the opportunity for others to be candid and open with differing views that will inevitably lead to other perspectives; perspectives that I may not relate to. However all comments will bury themselves somewhere in the unconscious. This will only serve to make me more aware and rounded as an individual, difficult as I appreciate it sometimes is to be open face to face, the relative anonymity of this vehicle allows me to be open. I hope you will find it similarly conducive to getting your candid opinion accross safe in the knowledge that we will likely never share the same physical space. I very much look forward to being pushed and challenged, after all nothing can be forged without heat, come on, turn up the burner 🙂

This cuff bracelet was made for very dear friends as a birthday present for Clair. In another post I will introduce the extraordinary force of nature that is Paul and Clair Pennington of the Jewellery Workshop in Porthleven Cornwall.

http://porthlevenjewelleryworkshop.co.uk/

It would take too long to tell the story, suffice to say that in less than a year has seen them become such a successful team that it can be called nothing less than an inspirational tale of guts and determination.

Paul is enrolled on the same course as me and was taken by my, wear your heart on your sleeve, bracelet design. He commented that the inside looked like pebbles on a beach and the forming process left a pleasing sand like look on the inside. As Clair is a lover of such subjects Paul asked me to look at ‘just doing a reverse heart on your sleeve’!!!

The exclamation marks are to warn the unwary of being complacent, on the face of it nothing could be simpler, right? I show the original copper model of this piece to show you what Paul saw in the original design, I will now explain the journey.

The copper model was one of many, actually this is one of two rounded models, the other being a lesson :/ (hideous). Along with this were many flat copper experiments to test punched that I made to try to replicate the effects. I have mentioned this before but it pays to repeat. Working in thin gage copper, approximately 0.6-0.7mm thick is very different and far easier than the 0.9mm Stirling Silver sheet used here. The silver is very much harder to move and requires more annealing stages to obtain similar results, don’t go too far too soon, give yourself more time than you would in copper.

Not shown her is the initial lining as I wanted the stones to look placed on the surface the lines on the outside would spoil the effect. I lined the outlines when the silver was flat on a bench block before bending it to shape with a bracelet mandrel and soldering it together.

Here lies another challenge with a closed form, if you recall it is best to keep the chasing and repousse punches near vertical for them to work at their best. Now you will have to work from either opening of the bracelet. Shown here on my plaster scene, I try to use this as much as possible as the pitch stage is time consuming to set up and messy to clean up.

I chose to anneal often and not go too fast as the unequal stretching that working from either side made overstitching and miss shaping a real danger, so slow and steady. The challenge with this is to keep concentrating on the future as each annealing stage can be a little soul destroying when completed as it appears you have not achieved that much as the rounds count up.

Now as the shapes are coming along nicely the problem presents how best to separate the pebbles from the background. Working from the inside using push tools and planishers define the surroundings of individual elements.

After you have gone as far as you can from the inside consideration turns to the front. I did not want to mark the pebbles as I wanted to keep the finish more subtle, now comes the fiddly part that you have to work out as you go. Using bits of wood and plastic or delron nylon extruded bar shaped with saws and filed to fit a the recesses, carefully knock back the background. As you see from the pictures this still will not define the shapes as separate, for this you will need to undercut each stone from the surrounding.

As one of the last stages it is also a very nerve wracking process. As you can imagine as all these elements were raised from the surrounding sheet. As a result they have streatched and thinned, any careless blows will likely be met with a break through, tearing the silver and necessitating a time consuming repair, worse a piece of scrap, nasty lesson learned.

You see the ‘moats’ or ‘troughs’ surrounding the pebbles. With the undercutting punches I used surrounding material and pushed it towards each element. My reasoning was that as it was moved from untreated areas it would pool up against the edges. This was to ensure that sufficient material was present at the edges of each stone, reinforcing it if you will and making the undercutting process less hazardous, less likely to result in breakthrough. Good luck or practice, I know not what, I had no issues and all went well.

The cutting and finishing of the wavy pattern was done with a jewellers fret saw, files and sanded to acceptable standards before returning to the pitch for final texturing. After putting on the pitch it was left to cool so as to create a hard stake like effect that would support the shape, preventing distortion whilst the texture was applied with liners and planishing punches.

The deliberate break in the pattern was made to ensure that I had enough material to be able to make the piece smaller as I was concerned that with the extreme shaping would result in a possible modification. I feel bound to say that when Clair found it was indeed too big I was glad I did. Fair to say the sawing of it in half and removing a section before soldering back together was another lesson learned. If you find yourself in a similar situation may I suggest that you anneal the piece before you saw it in half. All the forces that had built up whilst final forming and texturing made it distort when I cut through it. I kid you not it took an age to straighten it up and re join it, this would not have happened if I had annealed it first as it would have equalised the forces and made it far easier to modify.

I hope you like it, better, I hope it inspires you to try something for yourself. The next time I will start to show examples of hand raising and making bowls, until then.

All my very best wishes.

Stu Art

Chasing and Repousse work; examples of work created with punches previously shown

Wato wato

I’m now bright eyed and bushy tailed back from my holiday to Dorset. Walking in the woods I saw three deer, two one day and one another. Such a treat, I’m truly amazed they were not spooked by the dogs, probably had more than a clue that they would not catch them if they tried. I am originally from Sussex and moved to Cornwall when I was fifteen. Cornwall is a fantastic and varied county, Sussex has some great ancient woodland that I very much wish Cornwall had more of. To be sure in the future I will be looking at ways to incorporate woodland elements into my own designs.

I live near Truro, the museum occasionally has exhibitions, sometimes very high profile. I went to see side by side edge to edge, a silversmiths exhibition; in fact I will mention this another time and introduce you to some of the silversmiths that were represented there who I really admired.

Back to the wood theme;

http://www.seamusmoran.com/

This fascinating and thoroughly nice chap had an exhibition of his work, I attended a lecture he kindly gave there and was blown away by his vision and technical expertise. Please look him up, I know some of his work is a little dark, gothic even, but you need grit to make a pearl right? To give you a brief introduction to his work he combs woodland looking for the last thing to rot when trees decay, the knots. He cleans them up, makes moulds and casts them, selecting the ones that best go together to make sculptures. Do yourself a favour and look him up. I can vouch for the fact he is someone who is looking to connect with others and will, I feel certain, not hesitate to answer any questions you may have. A quick disclaimer, I do not know him personally, mores the pity, I just like to think of more people getting to see his creations.

Well, I guess I better explain some of the images eh, I will try not to be too dry, here goes. The first image is of a test piece in copper I made into a brooch. The valleys are deep and abruptly up and down, as you can imagine a full bodied planishing punch will damage the opposite side as you work on the piece. If you look back to the first round punch you will, I hope perhaps better see what I was trying to communicate in the previous post.

The next picture shows an early experiment that led to the stirling silver cuff bracelet in the last pictures. I show it here to also show the added challenges present as you introduce curves into your designs. Imagine trying to planish all of this with a single tool, too big and you would damage the curved section, too small and it would be difficult not to make the finish more irregular. The next image is to show you that repousse work can be incorporated into rings by wrapping the work around a normally made ring shank.

The Celtic design here was used by me to help to create tool profiles that would work for most of the jewellery work I may wish to make in future. This is a bit of wishful thinking as the requirements for future jewelery designs can never be known, new challenges will always require a rethink regarding type of tool or different approaches to using existing ones. See, fantastic this game, you can never be bored you know. All the profiles were used here, look up close and you will see where the teardrop, rectangular and the rest will be used. The quality of this was not a concern, being as it was only a metal sketch to enable me to create tool profiles, hence I was not very precious about it, a little like the following.

This seed pod like design was arrived at through a College brief to design a piece of jewellery using seed pods as an inspiration. At this time we were trying our hand for the first time at hand raising a vessel, so what I hear you say. Well, when you raise (I will cover this in detail in future posts) you start with a square sheet, mark a circle and cut it out. What you are left with is four curved triangles. Most of my classmates were throwing these off cuts into the scrap pile. I thought they looked like a pod and forged a few to come up with this design. Some of you may have noticed that the work I have presented so far has very little by the way of soldering included in its fabrication. It was a concept that has crept up on me, in no small part by the process of chasing and repousse, inasmuch as I aim for most of my work to ‘grow’ if you will. This design was fashioned on an ancient technique of forging a fibula brooch, all from a single piece of metal. The pin and retainer were all forged and fashioned into the shapes you see here with the help of a rolling mill and hammers. The raised repousse vine that is both the pin and retainer means it has no beginning and no end, shame it broke then eh! I will make this again in silver as I liked the concept and realised where I went wrong. It is put here to show the combination of planishing and undercutting to raise the vine with liners and pushers, working from the front, before planishing with most all of the shapes I have introduced previously.

Last but not least and a bit of an unconscious theme here the circle of life cuff bracelet shown here. To this point I try not to use much by the way of abrasives to finish. I made this cuff, trying to give a flavour of moving water. I used large pushing and planishing punches to create the form I was looking to achieve, high into low and visa versa. When happy I used differing sizes of round and other shaped planishing punches to create a feel of ripples on water. Not everyone who has seen it is impressed with its finish, I mention it here so you take courage in your own work. Others think it is beautiful, you can’t please all the people, whatever you do someone will love it. Please don’t let critics steer you away from what you wish to create, if you do you will spent the rest of your journey never settled jumping from one foot to another trying to be accepted by people who don’t care if you succeed or fail.

I will show some other work next time with more examples of tools used. Again please do let me know if I am hitting a chord or perhaps there is something you think you would like me to mention.

Until next time, all my very best wishes.

Stu Art ; )

Repousse and chasing planishing, texturing punches for silversmithing and art metalwork

Wato to one and all.

On my holidays next week, off to sunny Dorset, well Dorset anyway. A great place to go for the Jurassic coast and all the fascinating fossils just laying around on the beach. A good place also to look for some inspiration for repousse and chasing work. Some of the fossil forms, I feel, lend themselves well, replicating the textures and surface undulations to create interesting silver or copper jewelery. The copper may be best when combined with some patination to give an old world look that would compliment well with the subject matter.

As I said previously I will now introduce some basic planishing shapes, this is not exhaustive as I will explain later. To begin with lets look at the round planishers If you look to the left you will see the disc is paper thin. Try to imagine a tight valley that meets with another, a little live a V shape if you will. This it the only way to planish each side without interfering with the other. I will give examples next time of my work that uses the different planishers. The next one is polished on the sides and slightly rounded. This allows you to go up to a ridge and planish up to it without damaging the raised part as you flatten the surrounding material. This is why I polish all of the punches that come into contact with the metal to as near a mirror shine as I can, preventing unintended tooling marks. The next two  are degrees of concavity that allows me to planish into curved, bowl like, depressions. I waist the end of the punch to make it easier to see where I’m going and where I’ve been as I planish the depressions in a design. Notice I did not polish the sides of these, no need as they will never contact the work. Lastly the very small tool is used for tight corners and texturing. Please keep this in mind as if you are after a smooth finish the larger the tool the better. The fact you can create interesting textures with this tool over larger surfaces will help you to understand; for smooth surfaces at least, the larger the overlap of the tool the smoother the overall finish will be.

Next the oblong or square planishers. All the tools shown here will have the sharp edges rounded of to prevent digging in and scratching. This is especially important to address for these shapes and the following as they all have degrees of straight lines and points. Your style as well as the piece you are working on will determine the degree of both flatness and rounding of the corners. When you explore the working surfaces of these punches with your fingers you should kind of glide around the tool rather than meet with obvious and sharp directions. It should feel like the elements blend together. All of my planishers have a very slight rocker profile to minimise the danger of striking the tool edge on and creating a whelp in the piece of jewellery of hollowware I’m working on. This should not be so pronounced as to make the tool more like a push tool, shown in a previous post.

The tear drop and triangular planishers are made and used in a similar way as the square, oblong types, up to and defining raised elements from flat surrounding areas.

I put the texture punches last as they, to my mind anyway, are filed under the beautiful accident category. The three you see here were the result of my early attempts at making the first type of round planisher at the start of this post. Hardening and annealing, essential tool making skills for the silversmithing fraternity, need to be understood. I will cover this topic in a future post if anyone is interested, please let me know if you are.

When tool steel is hardened it becomes very brittle. If not properly annealed then it will shatter or just snap off at the weakest part. As I put the pronounced waist into these punches the forces concentrate themselves to this weakest part of the punch, look who didn’t anneal his punches properly. But wait, before you get disheartened because all your hard work has resulted in a broken tool, useless now right, just throw it away and be more attentive when annealing next time right. Well, no not really, look at my moon series and most of these punch textures are created with these ‘useless’ tools. The gnarly one was reduced down on a bench grinder to facilitate better access up to the domes on the smaller earrings. Now I deliberately ‘do it wrong’ to create more texture punches as I need them.

The fresh snapped off portion of these punches will eventually dull. The metal has a very coarse christaline looking rough texture that lends itself well to texturing, it will pull at your skin when fresh and become softer over time. I will show examples of these subtle changes of finish another time.

Sorry to prattle on a lot with this post, it is difficult to convey what is needed to be understood without delving a little deeper into language to hammer home the point, no pun intended 😉

The next time I will give examples of work I have created using these tools so you can cross reference the images and writing here with completed works to enable you to go forward and make your own marks, pun most definitely intended.

Until next time all my very best wishes.

Stu Art

Chasing and Repousse push punches

Hello again, in this post I will try to give a little more information for people wanting to start chasing and repousse in their jewellery or silversmithing work.

Pictured is a selection of the push tools I use. These tools are not exclusively used on the reverse, repousse stage, many are used to define the design from the front, chasing I’m sure you remember. I will not highlight the distinction again as I’m sure all will now be aware of the differences between chasing and repousse.

On the left you see the inclusion of a doming or dapping punch. I was advised that these make good starting out tools. I would advise caution if you choose to use different sizes to get you going as pitfalls await, fine if you want to achieve the results that they give, they remain a part of my tool kit, I will include pictures of items of jewelery I make using them to give examples.

I have marked in pencil the ‘sharpness’ of a doming punch. Obviously this is a relative term. To illustrate the point have a scrap piece of thin gage copper, silver if you are flash enough, and gently tap the punch into the piece whilst supported on pitch or felt, plaster scene. Use anything that will give a little, old telephone directories of thick leather will work also. As you try to control a straight line you will notice it wandering as the point of contact is small and being round it cannot find any purchase from previous blows, it being more likely to be deflected by the previous depression.

Another challenge this presents is the thinning of the metal at this, relatively, sharp point. This can cause problems later on if, like me, you are a little heavy handed it becomes more likely that successive blows it’ll perhaps lead to the punch breaking through. Also imagine the shape from the front. If you want to achieve a mountain like profile, then this is a good choice. Put your finger in the middle of some fabric and you may get what I’m trying to communicate.

The other tools all have gentler slopes that work more of the metal at each blow. Overlapping blows are easier to place as the tool is easier to guide by using part of the previous blows new shape as a guide for the next strike of the tool. Also straighter sides are easier to attain and thinning of the metal is kept to a minimum, the material being more moved than stretched to the centre of the high spot.

The tools on the right are used, by me, pretty much evenly on both sides. I think it fair to say that this process is very much a feel experience. With the help of having some test pieces of scrap you can envisage the shapes you wish to achieve. If my opinion was sought I would suggest that the newcomer spent much time experimenting with profiles on scrap pieces of metal to obtain their own ‘alphabet’ of shapes that can be combined to work towards making patterns that are in that persons head.

I found the learning curve very steep and demoralising. Being a stubborn old git I persisted, however I would like to stress that I have gone through a lot of blind alleys in my endeavours to communicate in this medium. Please notice I didn’t say mistakes as every one of these blind alleys helped me to create a better map for overcoming later obstacles.

For me the true beauty of this timeless way of working is the way you are forced to learn and discover all the time as your confidence grows and your ambitions for ever more effective ways to communicate overtake your current skill set.

Unlike many things today that we can tick off of our lists as been there got the T shirt and the certificate. Chasing and repousse, along with silversmithing and jewellery making are true lifelong journeys, never destinations.

Until next time then when I will show examples of work created with doming punches, this is to show that I am really a fan of them, not as it may be interoperated in this piece.

Very best wishes.

Stu Art

Hammer chased beaker example of air chasing with modified hammers

Hello, I had a thought that perhaps I could show an example of a lesser known chasing technique, hammer, or as it’s sometimes known as air chasing. If this style excites you as it does me then please check out the following master craftsman Hiroshi Suzuki.

http://www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/exhibitions-promotions/who’s-who-in-gold-silver/designer-makers/hiroshi-suzuki/

Mr Suzuki appears not to have his own website, the Goldsmiths link above should give you a flavour, a Google search will keep you enthralled for hours. No, oh well just me then : )

I approach all of my work by first making models, in copper mainly. I have found that recycling copper domestic hot water tanks is very cost effective and the material is plentiful making me more care free, spontaneous and less conscious of the cost implication of mistakes, oops sorry design opportunities. I will go into more depth as to the pros and cons of this approach in another post. As I have stated drawing is not a skill I possess sufficiently enough to communicate the three dimensional ideas I visualise so I make models and, for want of a better way of putting it, sculpt the design as I go along. I was self conscious about this until I discovered that Hiroshi Suzuki uses a similar approach. I would highly recommend you search out any literature that goes into depth about him as he has a very different and, to me, refreshing spontaneous approach that is remarkable when compared to the design design check and re check before you make approach that many of us take.

The hammers you see in the pictures were all modified from second hand ball peen and cross peen hammers, bought from a local market trader that specialises is house clearance. It is easy to be seduced by the artisans tools that, I’m sure you like me drool over in the tool catalogues. However perfectly serviceable and effective versions can be made with a little elbow grease and some imagination.

The results from this process are very effective and take far less time to achieve. The technique lends itself to more abstract designs giving a good opportunity to imply movement. I have not added texture to this piece as it is only a model and best left to use as a visual reference for me to return to. I will show others later with hammer and punch textures applied to show more.

To help give a personal, visual explanation of this approach I ask you to pinch the skin on the back of your hand with your thumb and forefinger. If you compare what you see with the raised sections of the design then you will have an idea of how it is achieved. First the broader faced hammers are used to create the valleys on either side of the lines drawn. Careful to alternate a little each side of the line to work towards the line. Then using the smaller, less broad hammer profiles you can refine the peaks to create the ridges. I have deliberately left these somewhat ‘soft’ if you will. If you look to some of the Suzuki examples you can see that it is possible to create a very accurate and defined sharp line if your design requires this. The danger with this technique, as I see it anyway, is that it is easy to get carried away with the rapid progress that the hammers make and annealing is neglected leading to a real danger of cracks and tears appearing in the overworked material. Keep this in mind, anneal often as you feel and hear the material, be it silver copper or whatever to keep this risk to a minimum.

Repairs are time consuming and a pain to do. I will show a repair in another post to show that all is not lost, even with the biggest mistakes, time and application of learned techniques can dig you out of most holes.

Silversmithing being a very expensive discipline to learn as the cost of the material becomes ever more expensive, makes silver-plating a direction that you may wish to consider. This would be a very attractive option for larger vessels of sculptural approaches using copper of gilding metal to create your work, sending it off for plating.

Cost in terms of tooling can also be off set by learning some toolmaking skills and make or modify your own. Of course if cost is not a consideration you will save a lot of time by buying off the shelf models. However the satisfaction and learning you gain by modifying or making to your own specifications and needs is priceless in my opinion, also it is a nod to how the greats that precede us have made their masterpieces in a time when tool catalogues did not exist.

Please let me know if there is anything you would like me to cover in other posts. Until next time keep on making. Very best wishes.

Stu Art