Catching Up

Last week was so wonderful! I didn’t get my Grace for the Good Girl post up on Thursday OR Friday, but I have a great reason – my second metals class was all day Friday, and I spent most of the week preparing for it. (I hope to get caught up with that this week – lots to talk about, including a terrific sermon yesterday that dovetailed so beautifully with what Emily’s book is speaking to me.)

In preparation for Friday’s class, I worked on the soldering skills we learned in the first one, incorporating the fold-forming I’d learning before that. Here’s the pendant and earrings I came up with – it was hard to get a good photo of the pendant because it’s so long and dangly, but you should be able to get the idea.

Francesca Watson Designs, Artisan Handmade Jewelry
Francesca Watson Designs, Artisan Handmade Jewelry
I’m embarrassed to say how long these two pieces took me – but since it’s all about learning and refining new skills, I guess I should just be grateful that I finished them and they don’t look horrible! These were done on my own, in my own studio, with my own tools, so it was a great chance to apply the new skills in my own environment. I’ll get better as I keep practicing.

Then came Friday’s class – and oh my gosh. It was, of course, with the wonderful Gail Stouffer at Wired Designs Studio – and I both loved the class and hated it. It was HARD. Hard. Hard. Hard.

Did I mention it was hard?

My first piece took me nearly five hours (FIVE HOURS!) to complete – and I nearly gave up.

Francesca Watson Designs - Handmade Artisan Jewelry
The metal layers on the backplate soldered perfectly in the middle – but I could not get the edges fastened to save my life. You can see where the brass actually burned away – not what I intended, of course, but I like how it looks. (Connie Fox does some wonderful work with intentional overheating – but it requires a much hotter torch than I have. Would love to take that class with her someday when I’m a bit more advanced.) And the bezel (the silver sheet that goes around the stone) simply would not solder to the backplate – the solder flowed just fine, but no matter what I did that bezel just thumbed its nose at me. By the time I finally wrestled it into submission, the join had separated and the shape had dropped a bit, so the bezel was a good 1/8th inch too wide – thankfully, it’s along the bottom so the crimp I had to put into it to secure the stone it’s terribly obvious. I’m pleased with the design overall, though, and I really like the burned-off brass – one of those happy accidents. I’ll have to figure out how to get more of that look in my pieces intentionally, even though I don’t have a big torch.

Then we moved on to prong setting, which went much more quickly.

Francesca Watson Designs - Handmade Artisan Jewelry
The hardest part was soldering the prongs that were close to one another – I’d get one prong set, and then while I was heating the backplate for its neighbor, the first one would fall over. I learned A LOT about heat control and direction in that exercise – fascinating stuff. And once I got the prongs in place, the stone setting took no time at all.

So this week, the focus will be lots and lots of studio time to make sure I’m reinforcing those new skills, because I have my last metals class of the summer this Thursday – fine silver and Argentium silver fusing. I need to make sure that my hard-won torch and heat control skills – or “almost-skills” – don’t degrade between now and then. Focus, focus, focus!

2 replies
    • Francesca
      Francesca says:

      Clare, how lovely to hear from you! I have been thinking about you a lot lately, since we have been using your lovely Austrian glasses at several dinners recently. I think of you every time I use them! Please drop me a line and let me know how you are!


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