Fold Forming!

One of the things I promised myself when I quit my job was that I would spend some time in actual classes with good teachers to learn some new techniques and perhaps unlearn some bad habits I may have picked up teaching myself new things on YouTube and other internet locations. While online tutorials and experimentation can be very valuable in the learning process, there’s nothing to beat basic hands-on instruction from someone who really knows his or her stuff and can help you troubleshoot the inevitable glitches that come up whenever you’re learning a new technique. (There’s also no substitute for learning about good safety practices from a pro – jewelry making involves using materials that can be hazardous, so learning how to use them and dispose of them safely really should be a priority.)

So right after I gave my notice, I called Gail Stouffer, owner and designer at Wired Designs Studio here in San Antonio, and signed up for four classes I’d been dying to take. (My employer, who learned that I’d done this, contacted Gail and paid for the first three classes as a going-away gift – I was floored!) I took the first one – Fold Forming – this past Thursday and oh my gosh, I am completely inspired! The essentials of the technique are not hard, and with practice the results can be quite stunning. (Check out this page for the work of Charles Lewton-Brain, who pioneered fold forming, or do a Google search for images – and prepare to be amazed.)

First, the metal is heated (annealed) so it’s nice and soft. I started with a circle of copper about an inch and a half across, and folded it in half. I pounded it flat between a bench block and an anvil, then used a hammer to texture and stretch the fold line.

Francesca Watson Designs
Doesn’t look like much, does it? But then I annealed it again, opened it up along the fold, and textured the edges. Two simple circles of copper turned into this:

Francesca Watson Designs
And a three inch piece of copper cut into a square shield shape turned into this:

Francesca Watson Designs
I made two – it’s impossible to make them identical, but these are very close in size and shape. They’d make striking earrings, but Gail suggested they might make for a very interesting necklace if used on either side of a focal drop. I’ve got them out on my workbench as inspiration while I wait to see what they want to be.

Francesca Watson Designs
Everything needs to be polished and finished before I can use them as components, which I’ll work on this week. I also started a folded panel that is already very interesting – while I could just string it make a simple strung pendant, I’d like to try some out-of-the-box (for me) approaches, like maybe shaping it and then wire wrapping it like a cabochon, or cold connecting some contrasting metals to it, or maybe even some kind of a silver stock bezel. Gail had some work out on her bench that included some really beautiful tube bails – something like that might work.

Francesca Watson Designs
I can’t even decide which side I like best! Gail posted a few photos on her blog, too, including some of the awesome things she made during the workshop – you can see them here. She was so incredibly generous with her time, and I’m very excited for my next class, which is coming up in a few weeks – in the meantime, I’ll be practicing my fold forming!

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