I had a chance to study with a masterful, experienced silversmith of 30 years over the weekend, and once again entered my discomfort zone. Husband and wife Jerry and Fran Harr do a lot of the same local shows that I do, and we've struck up a friendship over the years. Their jewelry is exquisite - fine craftsmanship and materials combine to make unforgettable and unique pieces. I was thrilled when Jerry said he'd be willing to teach me what he knows about silversmithing, and jumped at the chance to grab an introductory one day session with he and Fran in their Northern California studio.
Jerry solders prongs on "his" half of the pendant.
Humbled, excited, afraid, and energized, are a few of the emotions I'm feeling after our day together. I went from feeling very accomplished about a new bead design I've just created to feeling like a fish out of water, gasping for air. But I know that there's some wonderful things I can create if I spend the time to perfect my new skills.
In the same day I was told I was too tentative, too shy with the tools, but on some things I was too aggressive. With swift moves he firmly formed metal around a mandrel, and with a few well placed blasts of the flame he fused pieces together with solder. He made everything look so easy, and when I took my turn in the chair to try it, I was humbled. I figured I'd have an advantage with my few metalsmithing skills, my knowledge of the flame and all, but it didn't get me very far. Sure, I could light the little propane/O2 super hot micro torch, and I did avoid burning things up, but soldering and using the Foredom tool seemed clumsy to me and I think I almost soldered my pick to my piece of silver.
But Jerry and Fran were generous with their knowledge and time and I learned a lot. There are a few key things I need to add to my modest metalsmithing bench, but they'll take me far. So, with much flourish, I present the finished project that we completed:
It's just a simple half round wire frame onto which we soldered some prongs, and inside floats one of my straight sided lentil beads. A generously sized simple bale lets this pendant slide on any chain, and the bead spins freely inside the cage. You can't even see the bead hole.
It was one long day, but we blasted through soldering, bezels, sawing, hinges, earring posts, polishing and buffing. Jerry and Fran were wonderful teachers, and I hope to schedule another class sometime after I can practice all of these things first. But first, I have to unwrap my new Rio Grande catalog...