Thursday, 30 August 2012

Workshop Review: Silver Jewellery for Improvers at Amy Surman

I attended the ‘Silver Jewellery for Improvers’ workshop at Amy Surman a couple of months ago, with great results, so, here’s my review for anyone else interested in attending. It was overall a pleasantly different experience to the one I had on the Stone Setting course at Holts’ Academy (you can read my review of that here).

The basics
Workshop name: Silver Jewellery for Improvers
Cost: £70 + materials
Timings: 6 hours (incl. lunch) on a Saturday (Amy also does a weekly class version)
Location: Amy Surman Oxford Bead Shop, Cowley, Oxfordshire
Skill level: Intermediate, but suitable for most levels except complete beginner (other workshops are available with more guided tuition for complete beginners)

The Oxford Bead Shop is an independent retailer owned by Amy Surman, who offers a great selection of workshops across a number of different jewellery topics and disciplines, from silversmithing and metal clay to beading and lampwork. She also offers one-to-one private tuition at a reasonable price.

The Silver Jewellery for Improvers workshop is designed for those that have tried some form of silversmithing before and want to explore new techniques and designs, without being restricted to one particular technique. I found this was a great opportunity to try new things that I had wanted to try, with the support of a more experience tutor overseeing and advising.

In Amy's words: "The idea of the class is to give people who can't make our very popular weekly class the opportunity to come along for a whole day to explore and make their own projects with my support and gain ideas from the other three people in the class."

Pendant by workshop attendee (Photo Amy Surman)
Pendant by another attendee

The workshop is limited to only 4 spaces (there were only 3 including myself when I attended) which meant we got a vast amount of one-to-one teaching and advise over the course of the 6 hours. Attendees are encouraged to make something to their own design, so it’s a good idea to bring a design along – if not, students have time at the start to come up with a design with help from the tutor and her wealth of books for inspiration. The small group also allows attendees to get insight into others’ designs and the techniques they are learning, which is really nice.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Design of the Week: Treasure Chest pendant

Sterling silver treasure chest pendant necklace

I'm rather proud of my efforts in this week's design - this tiny little treasure chest pendant made from silver. It's only a dinky 15mm across!

Inspiration for the design

I've always been fascinated by jewellery which opens up or has the potential to keep something secret hidden within it - lockets, poison rings, perfume bottle necklaces - all these things have held my interest for a number of years.

About two years ago, I remember searching all over Etsy for a sterling silver treasure chest locket, because it just seemed like a really sweet idea. I didn't find many, and actually never bought one in the end, but I remembered this idea recently.

I've been toying with the idea of trying to make a hinge: a more slightly advanced technique which looked doable to me. I've also not really had a go at making a box yet by scoring and folding metal, so thought this chest might be a good design to try out both techniques. Perhaps a little ambitious, but I try not to do things by halves.

I didn't meticulously design all the details beforehand - it was a little made-up-as-I-went-along in this case. If I made it again in the future I would probably try and do a few scale drawings first... but I think it turned out ok in the end!

Sterling silver treasure chest pendant necklace
The little clasp on the front keeps the lid shut and conceals all the treasures
Silver treasure chest pendant necklace with golden coin
Full of gold treasure!

Making the design

The whole pendant was constructed from 0.5mm sterling silver sheet, 0.4mm sheet in 2mm strips, 1.2mm sterling silver tube, 0.6mm and 0.8 silver wire.

More on how I made this design & image after the jump >>>

Friday, 17 August 2012

Design of the Week: ‘Susie’ silver ring

I recently decided that I’d like to make this blog become well-rounded, providing not only some insight into my discovery of new silversmithing techniques and designs, but also some general tips, reviews and inspiration (with my personal take on things) to provide anyone else with an interest in designing and making jewellery with something interesting to read.

So, I’m going to try and post a ‘Design of the Week’ feature here each week to talk about one of my latest jewellery designs, alongside my posts on a wide range of jewellery-related topics. This is also going to help me keep on track with trying out new skills and techniques!

DotW: ‘Susie’ silver ring 

This week’s design is a delicate ring made in sterling silver, with a green tourmaline cabochon. I designed this for one of my best friends as it was her birthday this week, and so this ring is named ‘Susie’ after her.

Inspiration for the design

I based my design on two things: firstly, my knowledge of Susie’s taste in jewellery, and secondly, Susie’s favourite colour – light ‘sea’ green.

I have lived with Susie for several years at University, so I’m familiar with her style and existing (abundant!) jewellery collection. Typically, she wears delicate pieces, long necklaces, minimal and tiny bracelets (like this one I bought for her last Christmas) and rings. She loves the quirky jewellery brand ‘Les Nereides’ and has a penchant for pearls.

I therefore wanted my design to be delicate, pretty and quite girly but also quite simple and clean. I decided a ring would be a good choice as she loves wearing rings, and I saw this tourmaline which reminded me of the lovely sea colour which Susie is so fond of.

Making the design

This is the design I ended up with: a simple bezel-set tourmaline cabochon, with a hammered, wavey band. I thought the imagery of waves suited the sea green stone. I made the band out of two pieces of 1mm silver wire, bent with half-round pliers, hammered flat and then soldered together at the crossover points. I textured the wire with the end of the hammer, to give a subtle ‘random lines’ pattern.

I’m giving this to her tonight at a friend's dinner party, so I hope she likes it!

Silver sea-green tourmaline wave ring

Silver sea-green tourmaline wave ring on finger

More images after the jump>>>

Monday, 13 August 2012

Business cards have arrived!

I got some exciting post - my first business cards have arrived! I decided that as I'm planning to launch Spring Jewellery later this year, I should go all official. I designed the card using a few of my jewellery images, plus the photo-editing software on my computer, and ordered from Moo - simple!

Spring Jewellery business cards
Neither website address is up and running yet but hopefully will be soon. My email works though!
Spring Jewellery business cards
Spring Jewellery logo stickers from
I also got these cute stickers to put on packaging
I've gone for a mint green colour for my brand, which I quite like (looks a bit blue in the photos) - what do you think?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Tips and sources for jewellery design inspiration and creativity

Creativity and inspiration - brainstorming and sketches
As design is such a huge aspect of silversmithing and making jewellery, I’m constantly on the look out for new sources of inspiration and ways to get my creative juices flowing. There are those that say creativity cannot be taught – which I agree with, but you can consciously spend time working on a few techniques to allow for more creativity, and you can build up your own sources of inspiration.

Creative techniques

There are quite a lot of techniques out there for generating good ideas for a new design. Firstly – I recently learned that it’s not all about generating immediate ideas: the concept of ‘incubation’ is pretty new to me but is about thinking about a concept for a new idea, then mentally ‘parking’ the idea and not consciously processing it, which gives the sub-conscious time to process. If you’ve ever had the best ideas for a new design pop up at a random time, this is what incubation tries to encourage more of.
Bed, Bath, Bus. It’s a recognised concept that these are often the places where we come up with the best ideas, because our brains are not consciously working on anything too difficult. So definitely make use of these sorts of moments and flashes of inspiration – I now always carry around a notebook to capture them.


Brainstorming is a well-used technique of mine to start thinking through different beginnings of ideas. I’ve also started using SCAMPER as a good technique for generating lots of ideas (they don’t all have to work – the point is to put every idea down to build upon, then afterwards you can choose from them):
Shawish jewellery company produced an all-diamond ring as a substitute for a metal band
S – Substitute 
Try substituting a part of your design, or a material, for something else. What would it look like with plastic, concrete, wood, stones, instead of silver? What about substituting the colour? Just look at what Swiss Jewellery company, Shawish did when they substituted the metal in the ring for pure diamond! 
C – Combine 
 Combine concepts or ideas which wouldn’t normally go together, like a bottle opener with a bracelet, for example. What about combining different materials?

A – Adapt
Adapt something you notice in nature, or in a design somewhere completely different, into your design. Say you wanted earrings with lots of movement – could you adapt a windmill design to give you that?

M – Modify, Minimise, Maximise
 Can you modify your design in some way – or take something normally very small and maximise it to become the key feature of your design – for example making that rivet that holds two bits of metal together oversized and the main focus of the design. It works the other way around too – what about taking something large and making it tiny or, for example, modifying something you would wear on your head so you wear it on your finger instead?

P – Put to another use
Bracelet created from safety pins
 How can you take one idea or part of your design and put it to another use? I’ve seen really clever things done with turning safety pins into the links for bracelets, for example. Can you give your items dual functionality, like a ring which can also be worn as earrings?

E – Eliminate
How can you remove bits of your design for dramatic effect? Instead of adding metal, what about taking it away? Remove the unnecessary parts.

R - Reverse, Rearrange
Try switching the norms around, either in materials, designs, ideas. What about reversing the way you set stones and have it upside-down instead? Challenge all your assumptions and try something completely different.

Sources of inspiration

I find my most-used sources of inspiration fit into either: online or offline.


  • Going for walks – especially in the countryside I find there is a wealth of inspiration in nature and natural designs, plus animals and plants are ideas in themselves to be turned into a metal form.
  • Going to art galleries – sometimes even just the form of a line or the blend of colours can be inspirational. I also find that being around different types of art puts me in the right mindset and can really stimulate me to think in terms of jewellery design 
  • Visiting impressive architecture – again, I find that the visual stimulation is often enough to put me in the right mindset and think particularly about lines, form, structure.
  • Books and magazines – I like reading fashion magazines for jewellery inspiration, and similarly there are plenty of books out there that showcase other designers’ work and prompt inspiration in terms of techniques and style.


  • Pinterest – my newest source for both finding and tracking inspiration, I find the idea of having a visual online moodboard great. It’s really handy for searching for design ideas, and you can repin things onto your own boards. Check out my Jewellery Inspiration pin board.
  • Etsy – the home of all things handmade. Although it’s definitely not cool ripping off other designers’ ideas, there’s plenty of inspiration that can be triggered by viewing the work of others.
  • Flickr - so many beautiful pictures to inspire, plus there are groups on nearly everything, including handmade and jewellery.
  • Since we’re here – Blogs! There are so many blogs with beautiful imagery that I want to just absorb and soak up.
What gets your creative juices flowing and where do you find inspiration?

Friday, 3 August 2012

Guide to really essential silversmithing tools - Part 1: Basic

When I first decided I wanted to start silversmithing after attending - and loving - my first lesson, it was a natural progression to look at what tools I should buy so I could continue doing it as a hobby at home. When I looked into the tools that were available, I was immediately lost in a sea of hundreds of unfamiliar names and types, with very little help to navigate which ones were ‘must-haves’ and which were only ‘nice-to-haves’. At the time I had one book – this one by Jinks McGrath which has EIGHT pages of ‘essential’ tools – and did a bit of browsing forums and blogs, before dipping my toe in that sea.

I made a string of purchases and naturally found that some tools are amazing and are constantly used, and some I found I really didn’t need that much. I had to wait for probably my third order from Cooksons (after about 2 months) before I felt I was really able to complete a piece of simple jewellery. Obviously, it depends what exactly you want to do and make, because each new technique invariably needs a (or several) new tool.

By no means do I have the fullest workbench or the most tools, but I think I’m at a stage where I’m fairly comfortable with the tools I do have… and this has prompted me to write a simple guide to the really, really essential tools for a silversmith.

Basic – what to buy in your very first order:

The following will give you all the tools needed to make simple items to start with, like pendants, charms, etc. Roughly, the below will cost around £160-175, including VAT.

Essential basic silversmithing tools1. Workbench – unfortunately, without this one thing, there’s not a lot you can do at home. I use a £30 pine desk table from Ikea, which lives in my spare room and works great (better pictures in my workbench post here)
2. Bench peg (preferable one with anvil) – your staple surface for cutting metal (not pictured)

For cutting / shaping:
3. Piercing saw - probably your most useful tool, allowing you to cut metal
4. Saw blades 2/0 - good all-round blade, I have had no problems using these for a variety of thicknesses, but the rule is 'at least 3 saw teeth to the thickness of the metal'
5. Nylon (or rawhide) hammer / mallet – for hammering and shaping metal without marking the surface like a metal hammer will.

Read more after the jump...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...