Last weekend I travelled up to Ripon to Alma House for a WI workshop on making jewelry from anodised aluminium. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but as the tutor was Rachel Poole I knew it would be a good day. Rachel teaches workshops in all sorts of subjects from stained glass to basketry.
We could each have two or three small squares of aluminium, this marks easily if you so much as get a fingerprint on it, so we wore vinyl gloves most of the time. Our first job was to decorate the sheets with patterns using Sharpie felt tips, squiggles, lines, circles, any design we wanted. The sheet of aluminium was then soaked for about 20 minutes in a dye bath, there was a choice of six colours and how long it was left in depended on how deep a colour we wanted. I soaked my squiggles on in purple, though it dodn’t get anywhere near as dark as I anticipated. I also did a splodgy one, just dropping dye straight onto the metal, adding spots in different colours. All our creations were then steamed for 20 minutes to set the dye. All this creativity took most of the morning!
All we had to do now was make the jewelry! Rachel anticipated we would all make at least a brooch, a pair of stud earrings and a pair of dangly earrings…that seemed a tall order at lunchtime, but we all made that and more!
I tackled the brooch first, in fact I made two! I traced the outline of a sheep from silhouettes that Rachel had provided, stuck it onto the metal with a glue stick. Using a very fine hacksaw we then had to saw all the way round, moving the brooch and keeping the saw straight. It wasn’t actually as hard as I anticipated, he’s not perfect but he looks like a sheep (this is a bonus if anyone remembers the willow sheep I made, nic-named Pig!!) I cut him out of my swirly sheet, however I decided I preferred the back view as the purple dye had taken up the marks from the base of the steamer, making a rather nice dappled pattern, so I stuck the brooch back on the twirly side instead.
Once I had the confidence that I actually could saw round a shape reasonably neatly I decided to make a running hare brooch. This is from my splodgy sheet so it nice and subtly coloured.
The earrings were made using a stamp to cut the circles. The stamps were in a heavy metal block, we just had to choose the size, set it up and hammer them through. Another block gave them a concave shape if that’s what we wanted. Rachel kindly offered to drill the holes in the earrings, I don’t think anyone fancied that job.
I made one set of studs from the squiggly metal, a set of simply danglies and a more complex one with three circles of differing sizes.
For a one day workshop I was surprised just how much we managed to make, I wasn’t sure at all about how my colouring came out but when you only see snippets it does work, or you just use the back!! Either way I came away with some nice individual jewelry.