A few weeks ago I started a metalsmithing class one night a week, taught by Jen from Jen Moss Jewelry. She’s set up the class in a unique way that works great for me. She doesn’t give you specific assignments, because then you end up learning techniques that you might never use, and making a bunch of pieces that may not be your style (and thus never worn). Instead, she lets you choose what you want to make, and then she teaches you how to build that piece from start to finish. It was exactly what I needed.
My first project was a ring for myself:
I should remember the name of the stone, but I don’t…..gotta write that stuff down…..
Here’s a few photos of the process of making it:
A pendant for Lizzy
Our son Miles has been dating his terrific girlfriend Lizzy for a year and a half now, and I wanted to make her something as a little token of affection from the family. I also wanted to learn how to cut and polish stone, so I combined the two.
First, I picked out a piece of rhodonite, and Jen taught me how to cut and polish it. Cutting it involved putting your hand right up against the rock and this giant saw, which I had mixed emotions about. Part of me was like, “OOoOOOOOO!! We’re gonna CUT ROCKS! This is AWESOME!!” Another part of me was making this mental list of all my hobbies that emphasize the having of fingers: knitting, sewing, American Sign Language, playing ukulele, holding books up in bed at 2am, the list goes on. I almost leaned over and asked Jen, “You have insurance, right?”
In practice, the stone cutting portion of the evening required more care and concentration than the excited part of me thought, but way less fear of lost digits than the nervous part of me thought. It was pretty fun, although very loud.
And then I got to use this thing to sand and polish the pieces I’d cut, and that part was the most fun:
After a couple hours I had these. The triangle on the left is a raw piece of rhodonite
I started with.
At this point I had the great idea to make something for Lizzy, and I decided on a pendant.
First rule of metalsmithing: nothing ever looks that spectacular at the beginning.
It was fun to stamp the back. Miles ❤ Lizzy.
Here’s the finished pendant, all oxidized and lovely!
My next project is a ring. I read Contact by Carl Sagan when I was a kid, and have loved it ever since. I also loved the movie with Jodie Foster (oh, the ham radio stuff was so great!), and I really loved how she wears her Dad’s ring after he passes away. I’m trying to make a rough facsimile of that lapis ring. I found a good stone at the Eugene Gem Faire, so all I have to do is make the ring. Easy. Maybe. We’ll see.
This class is fun, but it wrecks me every time. The night I polished stones, I went home and slept and was barely functional the next day. I had gone into this thinking I might want to set up my own studio someday, and I was buoyed by the realization that I seem to be pretty good at it. With practice, I could probably get really good at it, and wouldn’t that be fun? But the toll on my bod is pretty high. All the small, tight movements and the constant bracing of oneself against tables to saw or polish a piece is incredibly exhausting.
When the class is over I’ll probably take a break before I take another round, if I take another round (a lot of people take the class over and over, she’s had folks who have been there for years). I’m frustrated that this is so hard on my body, because it’s a blast. How often do you get to make something that you could drop in the mud, and a thousand years from now, someone could pull out, shine up, and pop on their finger/neck/wherever-they-wear-jewelry-in-a-thousand-years?