Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Silversmithing and PMC at La Vidalerie Part 1

Last year, I went on a short break with my Mum to learn some wire-work and chainmaille.  We went to a little place in the Aveyron in France called La Vidalerie.   Run by a couple, Karen & Tim, it's a very friendly, beautiful place to go, very relaxing as you're looked after well, but also seriously educational!  Karen is the teacher, and Tim cooks, and is re-building the rest of the 300(ish) year old farmhouse.  Well, the thing is, I enjoyed my holiday last year so much, that I decided that this year, I would go back!  This year though, I went on my own, for a week instead of a few days.  

Right, enough of how beautiful the place is, and on with the jewellery making... I decided that it would be fun to learn something I had never done before in the field of jewellery making, so I thought - silversmithing, that sounds like fun, and while I'm playing with precious metals, why not try precious metal clay, too!

I arrived on Sunday afternoon, Tim picked me up from the airport, and in the evening, I had dinner with Karen & Tim - Tim is a very good cook!  On Monday it all started in earnest with a croissant and coffee, and straight on with the PMC.

I was a complete PMC novice, I knew nothing, but with Karen's tuition, and her tips on seriously planning what you intend to do with the clay before you take it out of the packet, I managed to make some really pretty things.

PMC is done in several stages, first, rolling, then cutting, texturising and adding embellishments.  The next part is leaving the clay to dry to make the 'biscuit' stage, this is when you can file off any rough parts, and if you're feeling brave, drill it.

At this stage, it just looks like pale grey clay, but the magic happens when you fire it.  There are two ways to do this, with a kiln, or with a blowtorch (which is a LOT more fun!).  After firing, it still doesn't look too special, but it's nothing a good brushing with a brass brush and some burnishing or tumbling doesn't sort out.


These were my finished results.  The hearts had fine silver wire added in the clay stage, but after firing, they become 'part' of the whole and fuse together.  After they had been fired and polished up, I drilled holes and added jump-rings and ear wires.  The ear wires were hand made... a design I came up with to complement the shapes of the silver diamonds.  I just love the colour of the orange CZs, they're so pretty and sparkly.  They did get slightly darker during the firing process, and they're held in by the silver clay - it contracts about 10 % when it's fired , so as long as they're well pushed in, they stay in place.

I have to admit - this didn't all take place on the Monday... they clay needed to dry out over-night, and I only fired a couple of pieces at a time - keeping something red hot with a blow torch for 2 minutes (whilst concentrating on not melting it) is quite hot and hard work, you don't want to do too much at once!

Monday afternoon was a bit wire work... the other lady who was on holiday with me didn't arrive until just after lunch on Monday (she booked her flight for the wrong day!), so we started off with something simple.


These are elegant little earrings - silver and flourite, and copper with chrysocolla.  Cute and fun, and best of all, easy to make!

We also did a bit of wire-wrapping... this was really fun to do, and I will certainly do this again. 

I have plans for this piece of turquoise, it's going to turn into the focal for a longer-length necklace, with a load of rich, sparkly dangles hanging from the bottom of it.

And that was it for day one... I retired to my (gorgeous) attic room for a fabulous nights sleep, safe in the knowledge that there was more learning and creating the next day!

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