In the spirit of doing something different, my boyfriend and I booked ourselves onto a course on metal jewellery for beginners over a couple of weekends. It was a strictly for the love course - although there's a certificate for completing it, it doesn't form any sort of formal qualification.
The first session was entirely devoted to learning about the techniques and tools. We each had a toolbox, and the tutor, Roland George
, took us through the tools and explained what they were all for. Because the kits were used by students in other classes each one had a pretty random selection, and swapping items around proved to be a great ice-breaker.
There were five of us on the course, me, my boyfriend (the only man), and three ladies with varying levels of experience: two had been on on a course before but not done any metalwork outside this and the other hadn't done any jewellery work at all.
After the introduction, Roland had us all grab some of the scrap metal from the tool kits - there was plenty of pre-loved copper and brass sheet knocking around - and had us practice cutting out shapes with the piercing saw.
After lunch we learned about how to shape rings, about annealing (heating to soften the metal for working), and soldering. The project was to make a basic copper ring from scratch: select the metal; cut a strip with the saw; shape a ring (annealing when necessary); solder the joint closed; pickle it to clean; and file to remove the excess solder and neaten the edges.
I learned a lot from this, including that I hate soldering. Solder seems to have a mind of its own. When heated it forms a ball which sits there for ages not doing anything. then all of a sudden it flows, and usually not in the direction you want it to. This was not my only encounter with soldering over the course, and I have to say it hadn't grown on my by the end.
My ring came out wonky as I didn't manage to cut a straight piece of copper to start, but that didn't really matter since it was the shaping and soldering that was important at this stage. It photographs well, anyway.
After this it was time to go, and we were given our homework for the next day's session: if we didn't already have a project in mind to think of one. I was already pretty sure I didn't want to make a ring, but beyond that I had no idea. Inspiration wouldn't strike until breakfast the following day.