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.

Setting & equipment

I was really surprised at the amount of equipment and size of the workshop given that the beadshop appears quite small from the outside – it’s a bit like the Tardis in the sense that it seems much bigger on the inside.

With the small number of people in the workshop, there are benches and plenty of tools for everyone to use, so no wasted time waiting to use something (which was a nice contrast to Holts Academy). With the exception of a grinder, I found all the machines and equipment I would hope to find – including a rolling mill, barrelling machine and magnetic polisher (the latter is definitely on my tool wishlist). Amy gave a lot of helpful advice over the course of the workshop in how to use these tools to our needs.


Amy is very friendly and approachable and has a great tuition style – I was able to really learn a great deal, even though the structure to the workshop was very flexible and open. During the workshop, she floated between the attendees to give everyone dedicated time, very clear instructions and direction.

Filigree silver pendant made during Amy Surman workshop
Filigree pendant before stone was set


During the workshop, I attempted to make a pendant which included a claw setting and filigree – my first attempt at both. I was really pleased with the results – you can see further photos of the finished pendant in my post here.

Overall, I had a really great time at the workshop and learnt how two new fairly complex techniques. It was really good value for money, given the length of the workshop and the amount of dedicated tuition you get with the small group, plus it was in a relaxing, informal environment which made it very enjoyable.


  • Bring a design with you to the workshop
  • Have in mind a technique or tool that you’d like to learn and get out of the workshop
  • Browse Amy’s great selection of jewellery books and magazines for inspiration
  • Bring your own unusual stones etc that you’d like to incorporate into your design (Amy supplies silver materials at the going rate)
  •  Make the most of the shop during your lunch break for reasonably priced tools and beads

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