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We went away for a week to the Lake District not long after the Alice Fox workshop. The work I’d done with papers and found objects really whetted my appetite to get back to some found object work of my own as part of the journal I usually make to hold the memories of our time away.

At the end of the first day I wandered along the edges of Langdale Beck while the children splashed about in the already low water levels (and this was in May, before the long hot June and July we’ve had in the UK.) I was delighted to find this crumpled piece of metal with holes already nicely placed for stitches in close shades of green silk.

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It went very well with a thickish piece of beautifully textured hand made paper with inclusions of leaves and stems.

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On a visit to Stott Park Bobbin Mill I was fascinated by the offcuts of wood thrown out by the different machines in the process of turning chunks of wood into bobbins. The initial machines created a basic bobbin shape from the blanks, shaving off pieces a few millimetres thick. So I picked up a few bits and made them into my own bobbins!

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The next process shaved the rough bobbin down to the proper shape, throwing out endless translucent ribbons of wood which piled up around us on the floor. I definitely needed some of that! Different woods behaved differently. The one towards the top split pretty much wherever I tried to fold it, whereas the paler one was more like paper, holding at least some of its bends and folds without splitting. I want to add some more needle weaving to vary the widths of the holding stitches and some ‘chips’ in a needlepoint ribbon to the background.

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Playing with a printed National Trust logo from a paper bag and some scraps of hand made paper.

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Later in the week we visited Honister Slate Mine and I picked up a few slate chips from the car park. I painted some more of the hand made paper with watercolour to echo the colour of the slate and just had a bit of a play.

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I’m really pleased with the way the paper echoes the texture of the rock.

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Free cross stitch in various silk threads to echo the rhododendrons of Stagshaw Gardens. This one just needs finishing.

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And at the end of the holiday, a quick beachcomb on the shores of Coniston Water revealed this lovely fragment of verdigrised copper which I mounted on two pieces of paper left over from my Alice Fox work.

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I really enjoyed finding objects I could stitch into and around and the relatively quick way many of them came together. And of course, the memories they have captured. Slightly different to some of my other holiday journals, but I like to be different!

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The Easter break is over and it’s back to my jewellery making and silver smithing course. Before the holiday I created three elements for a linked pendant – three hammered teardrops of brass, gilding metal and copper.

Linked hammered pendant 1

Last night I finished it.

Linked hammered pendant 2

I used a hacksaw to cut slots between the holes I’d drilled and bent the tips of the two larger teardrops through the holes to link them.

Linked hammered pendant 3

After a great deal of bad language and only after being introduced to a tool I wish I’d been told about in the first place, I successfully soldered a brass bale onto the back of the largest teardrop…

Bale close up

… and polished the whole thing.

Linked hammered pendant 4

I am inordinately proud of it, despite the wonkiness of the slots and therefore the slightly crooked way it hangs, the fact the bale is slightly off centre and the smallest teardrop is not as symmetrical as the others.

But as a design, a technical response to our challenge to create a piece of jewellery utilising a linkage system, I’m very pleased. It came together pretty much as I’d envisaged it and that’s a rare and precious thing!

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This is my third ring.  I wanted to make a punched design which actually worked this time and found a stylised fan shaped punch which impressed beautifully.

Fan punch ring 1

This time I had to cut the rectangle of gilding metal myself and therein lie some lessons. The piece I cut was not quite even, so when I came to bend it round to meet, I had a lot of filing to do, as you can see on the right.

Fan punch ring 2

 Also, the metal itself wasn’t quite as thin as the metal I’d been provided with for the other two rings, so in hindsight I should have rolled it, which might have made it easier to get the ends to join. The soldering was fine, but the join, as you can see, is not!

Fan punch ring 3

But it’s all learning, and these are mistakes I won’t be making again – hopefully!

I’m going to work on my silk stitched reticulated bracelet at home over the Easter break as most of the next part of the process involves drilling lots of holes. Now I have my own bow drill and some more drill bits (I managed to break both the first two I’d bought in one evening…) it’s something I can do outside of the workshop, thereby maximising my chance to use tools and techniques in the workshop that I can’t at home.

So I decided to make an articulated pendant as part of the linkage system idea. Each of the rolled (I’d learned that lesson!), hand cut and hammered shapes is made from a different metal – from left to right – brass, gilding metal and copper.

Hammered linked pendant 1

The two smaller elements have two holes drilled in the top edge.

Hammered linked pendant 2

My next step when we return after Easter is to use a piercing saw to cut a slot between the holes. Then the pointed tip of the previous element will go through the slot and be folded back on itself behind to make a link. The finished pendant will look something like this:

Hammered linked pendant 3

I haven’t given up on the sewing/embroidery and hopefully will have some more rusting stitching to show soon.

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I knew I wanted to turn the patterned oxidised copper piece into a brooch with some sort of fabric/threads/textiles included and over the next few days I turned over all sorts of ideas in my head. The fabric needed to be somehow quite stiff to support the metal and I went through all sorts of options with vilene and folded calico but nothing seemed to click. 

At the weekend I was turning out a shelf in a cupboard where I keep most of my textile stuff and I found a load of silk carrier rods in various colours. I ironed one flat and knew I’d found the perfect medium to back the copper plaque – stiff, yet with that wonderful silk sheen.  

Oxidised copper brooch 1

I chose a carrier rod in faded shades of rose and peach and in trying to manipulate it, accidentally pulled one end away, leaving that lovely fluffy effect which I decided to keep.

Oxidised copper brooch 2

I wanted to stitch the copper to the silk but in a way that wouldn’t need holes in the metal and also wouldn’t obscure the lovely pattern. Initially I thought about the type of stitch used to attach shishas, but obviously the copper wasn’t round and the shisha stitch would hide too much.

So I came up with the idea of curve stitching, which uses straight stitches to create a curve. Decorative but functional and using Gutermann metallic machine thread, just enough to hold the corners of the copper to the silk.

Oxidised copper brooch 3

It looks quite flimsy, but the thread is very stiff and pulled very tight and the little nets it creates hold the copper very securely.

Oxidised copper brooch 4

To finish, a brooch back sewn onto a piece of cream kid leather and then stitched to the silk.

Oxidised copper brooch 5

As well as oxidisation, we also had a go at reticulation, which is heating the surface of a piece of metal (in this case brass) to boiling point so it bubbles and waves and produces a fabulous texture. It was rather easier said than done and by the end of the evening I had only managed this:

Reticulation 1by

You can see the idea I was aiming for on the edges but it melted on one side and some of it stayed unchanged and it really was a disappointment. Until I turned it up the other way…

Reticulation 2

…and it made me think of mountains and rivers and plains. So the next week I carefully took a hacksaw to the line where the ‘mountains’ meet the ‘plain’ and made myself a river.

Reticulation 3

The silk carrier rod gave a good idea of the colour effect I wanted, but I also wanted a fringed bottom so a ‘waterfall’ of threads could come out of the mouth of the river and fall off the bottom of the piece.

So, wonderful shot silk dupion encasing a piece of pelmet vilene for strength.

Reticulation 4

I frayed it into a fringe at the bottom and am using the metallic Gutermann thread again to attach the brass to the silk. The curve stitching only works on perpendicular sides so I’m simply putting threads across on the right to hold it down while I see if I can come up with anything better.

This one is going to be a pendant, with a piece of brass tube enclosing the top edge of the silk/Vilene sandwich. It reminds me of the kingdom of Eregion, just east of the Misty Mountains on Tolkien’s maps of Middle Earth so I’m calling it the Eregion pendant.

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I adore jewellery and just before Christmas I signed up for a jewellery making and silversmithing course at one of the Sheffield colleges. It’s a six month course with no big qualification attached, just a college certificate, but I wanted to do something  unusual, something that would be a challenge and something where I could explore another creative medium. Quite a jump from needle and thread – not that I’m abandoning my textile work, just widening my skill base.

Like many British women, my opportunities for experiences with resistant materials at school were very limited. I’m familiar with a range of tools because I was allowed to poke around in my dad’s workshops/sheds as a child, but metalworking was all very new. And scary. And fascinating.

The first week we were thrown into the world of pickling, hammering, annealing, shaping and soldering and given a piece of gilding metal (copper zinc alloy) to turn into a ring. To my amazement I not only made one, I went home wearing it.

First hammered ring 1

It has a simple hammered texture that I love and that came up like rose gold on the polishing wheel. The join is wonky where I didn’t cut straight because I was concentrating on not snapping the fine blade of the hacksaw and also not cutting  into the opposite side of the ring.

First hammered ring 2

The gap was too wide and the soldering is blotchy and obvious, but as a first attempt, well out of my comfort zone, I was very satisfied.

First hammered ring 3

The next week our first task was to come in and make another ring straight off, remembering the techniques from the first week. I decided to use a punch to texture my metal but it wasn’t a success, giving only a partial shape which I had to go with. I hammered it as well, just to try to salvage the mess. This is how the metal looks before polishing. A much better cut and join this time, so I am improving.

Punched and hammered ring 1

After polishing. I quite like the partial marks from the punch now; almost like hieroglyphs.

Punched and hammered ring 2

And a much better soldered join.

Punched and hammered ring 3

The second week we also looked at other techniques for altering the metal including oxidising copper to get a wonderful range of magentas and purples. It seems a bit hit and miss – well certainly for me as a novice. I just heated the copper, quenched it and had a look at what I’d got. if I didn’t like it I stuck it into the acid bath and tried again, but this I did like.

Oxidised copper 1

I love the colours and the ringed spots remind me of Kaffe Fassett textiles. And yes, I guess even working with metal, for me, it all comes back to textiles at some point.

Oxidised copper 2

At the end of the evening, the tutor told us to start thinking about ways we could take some of our pieces of altered metal and finish them into items of jewellery. It’s a long drive home from Sheffield with plenty of time for thinking and by the time I got home I had ideas…

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