The drive down from my Hampshire home to the jewellery school in Dorset for my first experiment in the art of jewellery making was a delight in itself. It was an early December morning and Jack Frost had been out and about overnight, leaving a covering of sparkling white over hedgerows and trees, and with the dawn mist still lingering in the valleys, you could almost imagine that the world had been adorned in silver dust!
Flux ‘n’ Flame is located in a very rural part of Dorset and is housed in a stunning barn conversion, beautifully fitted out as a workshop for a maximum of 8 students, and with 2 tutors per session, you really do get lots of help and guidance throughout the course. The most wonderful thing about this jewellery school (unusually I believe), is there is no set structure to the “course”.
You get to decide what you want to make and the tutors will help you achieve it, demonstrating, advising and encouraging you every step of the way. It really gives you the freedom from the start to explore your own ideas and come up with a truly unique design. No worries either if you just can’t manage this bit on your own – they have a library full of wonderful books from which you can’t fail to find something to inspire your creative side.
On arrival I was welcomed by Jesa and Fran who made me feel instantly at home by offering me a steaming mug of tea. As others on the course gradually arrived, we all started to feel more relaxed and excited at the prospect of what was to come.
Fran gave us all a quick tour of the workshop, explaining along the way what some of the different tools and equipment were and what they could be used for. Some of my fellow students had dabbled in jewellery making before and were thus able to get stuck in almost immediately. For the rest of us newbies it took a little while to decide what piece we thought we might be able to manage at our first attempt. One or two chose to make bangles, another a brooch, but I took the simplest option and started with a ring.
My ring was to be a simple but wide plain band of silver, to give me the chance to practice a few of the fundamental techniques essential to the craft. To make it a little more interesting, I was going to employ the technique of reticulation in order to give texture and interest to the surface of the silver before shaping the ring. When the surface of a sheet of metal is melted, a rippled texture is formed and, since this technique’s effects are completely random, the design created will be unique to the piece.
Well, I thought it was going to be simple …