I’m a keen crafter, but my crafting tends to err on the side of ‘practical and fun’ rather than ‘artisan’. Give me a box full of recycling and I can turn it into flowers, gardens, sieves, bowls and any number of useful things. However, it’s a long way from fine art.
Hannah Silversmith, on the other hand, is an artist. She’s a qualified silversmith and jeweller, who makes gorgeous science and nature-themed jewellery. She also offers silversmithing courses at a much lower price than other classes I’ve seen.
I’ve long been a fan of heritage crafts, and was disturbed to learn how many are in danger of dying out. In a bid to add more artistry to my work, I’m currently investigating learning more heritage skills and, as Hannah’s classes were both local to me, and affordable, silversmithing seemed the obvious place to start.
Of course, Hannah doesn’t promise to teach you how to understand the whole of silversmithing in an afternoon. However, her two hour ring making class teaches you all you need to know about making a silver ring from scratch – and the £30 fee includes the ring, as well as the lesson. The classes take place at specially-designed studios, about ten minutes from Loughborough train station.
There were six other people in the class with me, which felt like a comfortable amount. Everyone got some on one attention from Hannah, but the more experienced silver jewellery makers in the class were also really helpful.
First, we were introduced to the tools of the trade (or at least, the ones we’d be using). We threaded fresh blades onto our saws (perhaps the trickiest part of the process, as the blades are incredibly thin and you need to get the tension ‘just right’), calculated and measured out our pieces of silver (after choosing from round, square or hexagonal wire – I opted for round to keep it classic), then cut them to size.
While silver isn’t the hardest of metals, and the first few cuts glide through easily, cutting all the way through the wire took longer than expected. It felt as if it was ‘almost there’ for several minutes but, wary of snapping the saw’s fine blade, I kept up my ‘slow and steady’ motions – and eventually, my wire was ready to become a ring.
Hannah describes the next stage as, ‘fire and bashing’ – and that’s a pretty accurate description. First, I bashed my piece of metal around a metal pole (that no doubt has an official name but I didn’t note it down).
As silver gets bashed, it gets harder so, as it became less malleable, it was time to fire up the blow torch and soften the metal, then cool it before resuming bashing.
After about 20 minutes, I had a ‘more or less” round shape with ends almost meeting. Now, it was time to add the solder.
First of all, I had to put a drop of flux on to the gap. Then, I had to drop on a piece of solder and fire up the blow torch again, watching as the solder magically hid the join.
A few minutes of filing later and I had my ring. I was pretty proud of it, mainly because it was round, even if the join is still slightly visible (I didn’t say I had high standards for my silversmithing). It felt like magic, creating a ring in two hours. I now want to learn more about silversmithing to create something a little more ambitious…