Monday, December 17, 2012

Metalsmith 101 Trials and Tribulations

So a lot of you may not know but I had finally registered for Metalsmithing at Long Beach City College.  I felt that as someone who likes to teach classes it is so important to constantly be opening myself up to new techniques to make sure I am giving my very best when I hold a class or workshop. First and foremost what I did not realize was I was taking a 4 unit class. I don't know why I thought I could just go to class 2 times a week and finish everything I needed to. My heart sunk when the instructor Kristin Beeler told me we had to commit to 56 hours of lab time? 56 HOURS??? She apparently did not know my reputation as a "speed crafter" able to finish complex projects in a fraction of the time required! Apparently I was unaware at the level of work that goes into a jewelry piece that is entirely handcrafted. No running downtown and buying a bunch of components and whipping something out in an hour. The first project took 6 weeks. 
It was a bracelet composed of 4 individual silhouettes that were cold connected with rivets. I chose an ampersand for my silhouette. I love the way it came out and lucky for me got an A.
Our next project was a tiny Brass Box. Holy Shit! This thing required some serious accuracy and precision. I suck at accuracy and precision. I had no idea how this flat piece of brass was going to get made into a tiny round box that makes as "pop" sound when you open it...if you do it right. 

Here is my box, you may recognize the Prima rose icon.  This project we soldered. Not stained glass soldering which is what many of us in the craft world make (and LOVE by the way!). This was actually constructing an object using solder and a torch. Taking a strip of metal, shearing it off, bending it into an oval, matching up the ends, so you can see NO light, then putting tiny tiny tiny bits of solder and tons tons tons of flux on it and then torching the hell out of it. Then, you beat it into a round shape-file it, and sand it one million times. REPEAT! I agonized over every imperfection I found...but it paid off:

{she was being kind! I did meet all of the requirement though...}

Now onto the project final. The final was like not knowing how to swim and being pushed into the deep end. Well not exactly, Kristin did a great job of teaching all of the techniques to us. But then we had to make a ring- a ring we designed, with no step by step instructions. Just using what she taught us. We also had to write up a recipe-or instructions on how we were going to accomplish this- WITH a timeline/calendar. Has she lost it?? We are not prepared for this...or are we?
I wish I had pictures of some of the other students work. Most of the final projects were amazing, I think some of the others could have been if given more time. Here was my final ring. I tiny version of one of my favorite things to make, a birdcage. I have hand-wired many of these in full size before, but this one would try my patients!

She is made of mostly copper with some nickel. 

Inside is a tiny bit of printed out vintage newspaper. It was Kristin's idea and I hate her for it because it was brilliant...I should have came up with it....I needed to break up the darkness in the bottom of the cage and give some contrast to the wire cage- this worked beautifully

I used a rubber stamp and some permanent ink to make the pattern then etched it with etching solution

The tiny swing was only if I had time. I did have time and made it out of copper wire. It just blended in with the wires so Kristin suggested I make it from sterling silver...I had none so I used nickel. It stood out much better, but sterling would have probably done better. Dame she is GOOD!

Here is the side. The holes are not only for venting during the soldering stage but also decorative. However- I got the top hole filled with solder. I was too lazy to fix I tried to say it was intentional- it didn't look bad at all! However she was not about to let me get away with it- it says clearing in the requirements for the piece- NO decorative solder! LOL, I guess I am not the only student to try to get away with that as a design choice.

I DID want it to say FLY. But see you have to do this thing they call file and sand...and basically I filed away the L. There was no way of fixing it. She told me if I tried to re-punch it, it would be ruined. I defied her and tried anyway, and guess what she was right! It did not work. So I left it.

from the top

hard to believe it looked like this at one point.
So metalsmithing. I learned a TON. Not just about design and construction, but how Kristin taught. I really like her style of lecturing and demonstrating then letting us work on our own. I feel like I learned the "right" way to do things. Have I caught the metalsmithing bug? Maybe just a little! I feel like it opened up a whole new world of how to construct things. I also realize I need a very specific type of studio to do this work in. I just cant accommodate that right now, but maybe in the future. I have so many ideas of how I want to integrate some of what I learned into new projects and workshops. I really want to take another class from Kristin, specifically her production class. But it will have to wait. This class totally overwhelmed me with the time commitment. Working full time, designing for two manufacturers, skating roller derby,  and even taking a break for the Winter Wonderland weekend of fun, totally stressed me out!  And during the few final weeks of class my mother got severely ill and that just took immediate priority! But somehow I squeezed it all I ready for round 2? Yes, but with a break! Now I know what to expect and will clear my calendar!


  1. GREAT JOB on both projects! Yes, precision for sure! I know you learned sooooooo much. As you & I discussed at Wonderland... so many teachers stop learning. I congratulate you in your staying fresh! HUGS!

  2. sounds like it was challenging but I know you look back and loved all that you learned and came out absolutely gorgeous..You Are such an inspiration..there is always something new to learn, alter or tweak by putting in alittle of us...and you do it beautifully.
    Thanks for sharing

  3. Fantastic work. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I think we are soulmates-your potty mouth is worse than mine! I always laugh when people swear in front of my kids and then look all if they don't hear me all day long!