Sunday, April 27, 2014

If I Had a Hammer (and a saw, and a bench pin)

Almost spur of the moment, my friend Marisa and I decided to take a silversmithing class at Danaca Design. We’d taken a precious metal class [embed] last December, and although it was a lot of fun, it wasn’t something I felt like I could use on a regular basis.

Silversmithing though, I’ve had some minor experience with—way back in the day in high school. The art department at Chantilly High was pretty impressive and had a great jewelry unit that fired my brain. I’ve puttered with jewelry making since then, mostly wirework and beading, but I always wondered what it would be like to do some real sawing, shaping, and soldering on an ongoing basis.

So since we both had the weekend free we jumped on the class. It was Saturday and Sunday, 10 am-5 pm, and although it sounds like a lot of time the hours just melted away. We were left scrambling both days to get our projects done, and on the second day some of the students ended up having a pendant partially finished and planning to come back during some free studio time to finish up.

The first day we made a pin out of copper. This project had us working with a single piece of metal, picking a design, sawing it out, using tools to create texture, and by the end of the day, making a pin and soldering it on. I really enjoyed the sawing out of the shape, and was kinda gratified that I was still decent at it, given that it’d been almost 30 years since my last attempt.

The second day we worked in sterling silver and each made a pendant, set with a stone and textured as we saw fit. There was a bezel to set the stone, soldered on a prepared background, then additional trim if we wanted it (mine had a wire border), also soldered on. Then the final shape was sawed out, filed, and the edges sanded smooth. A loop was soldered on the back, and finally, the stone was set.

The class was great. Very technique heavy—which is inevitable in a skill-oriented class. There wasn’t enough time to do a lot of deliberating on design—I tried to choose an approach rather quickly so I could focus more attention on getting to all the steps to complete the pieces.

That class stuck with me, and I started to think, not only about the skills I’d practiced in class, but some of the designs by other students and studio members that were in the gallery.

So I bought a few tools to supplement the jewelry ones I had already, and banged out a couple pieces:

I’m gonna see what else I’m able to do in the weeks ahead. The last thing I really need is another hobby—but then, this isn’t a new one. It’s one of the oldest hobbies I have, and the fact that it’s been nagging at me since the class ended means I’d better pay attention to it. Sooo…we’ll see how it goes.


  1. I love those leaf motifs, Rachel! They are organic/natural yet elegant...I particularly love the way the copper and silver colored necklaces look worn together. Keep it up--beautiful work!

    1. Thanks so much, aren-Kay! I'm being pulled into the vortex--it's a lot of fun. Organic forms are where I'm going at the moment--have suggestions of movement, even when they're still.