Friday, 25 January 2013

Creative Craft Skills- Jewellery Week 3

Despite the appalling weather most of the ladies managed to get to class last night and let's hope next week is better!
We made a start on using the tools and materials last night and everyone demonstrated safe use of the pliers, cutters etc. This is one of the criteria to be met for this accredited course and gives me the chance to identify the various skill levels between students too, as some learners are used to using jewellery making tools but for others this is an introduction. Anyone wanting to make their own designs really needs to have a good idea of the basic tools they will need and how to use them effectively. There are some techniques that are a staple in this type of jewellery making and learning how to create perfect loops, opening and shutting jump rings/links correctly, cutting and filing and how to crimp beads will enable the maker to make informed choices for their work. There is a dizzying array of tools and resources available for the modern accessory maker and for a  beginner it must be quite overwhelming deciding what to buy and what exactly is needed to carry out the task in hand.

At the end of last night's session the ladies had all used each tool to produce examples of work. These can form part of their evidence to meet another criteria, experimenting with techniques. They were provided with a  basic earring kit and asked to come up with designs and ideas that would incorporate all of the techniques mentioned above. This is a practise exercise before embarking on the main design and allows for mistakes to be made as well as exploration of ideas.


View details

A student showing frustration while doing homework

As we approach week 4 of this course the question of the benefits of attending an accredited course as apposed to a workshop is, I think, worth addressing. What are the differences and benefits? Is it right for me? What extras are involved? Well the simple answer to whether someone should opt for joining an accredited course's up to you! Identifying what level you want to achieve is probably the main question to ask yourself and if you decide that you are willing to commit to 8 possibly even 20 weeks working towards a qualification then YES!, it's for you. Signing up to this type of course though, will mean a little extra will be required from both the learners and tutor and as with any exam, there is a requirement to provide evidence of learning having taken place and means there is inevitably a necessity for some written work, even for a  practical subject like jewellery making. This is of course not most peoples favourite aspect and I should see what the tutor has to do! But there is purpose to it all and everything we cover in these first few weeks form a permanent record for the learner to refer back to at any time and as someone who has attended many accredited courses as an adult, something to take pride in... 
YOU did that, YOU achieved that, all on your own. Well done YOU!  
My role in this process is to guide the learners by introducing the tools, demonstrate the skills, check they understand the techniques, gain the skills and have learnt enough to complete the task independently. 

So, back to my question, workshop or accreditation? In my opinion...both. A longer course will give you the chance to learn from the bottom, up including design and allowing time to master techniques. Workshops will then extend your skill set and help identify your own strong points and favoured area of jewellery design. If you've invested in a tool kit (you are required to provide all your own resources for accredited courses but not necessarily for workshops) then make the most of them, buy some materials and make, make, make. Practise will indeed make perfect so go and have some fun trying :). 

There are so many places to buy equipment and materials from today and (yes, as a sometimes contributor, I am biased!) I highly recommend checking out Making Jewellery Magazine for inspiration and help with all aspects of jewellery making and information on suppliers. If you are on Facebook,  Click here and 'like' their page for regular updates of the latest news.

So far this class has shown excellent application of their new skills by demonstrating an understanding for the need to gather resource info, plan a design, tool recognition, and carrying out basic techniques. It's only week 3 so the ladies should give themselves a pat on the back! Next week will involve getting everyone to the same stage in their workbooks. Hopefully those able to attend last night, will have examples of their earrings ready to be photographed and they will be asked to complete another criteria that asks for their own responses to the design/processes etc. This is where the workbooks will start to show individuality as each person approaches their own designs and interpret the results independently
This really is the aim, you have to prove you can carry out the work yourself from start to finish and everything the learners are doing now will help them to do this.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Creative Craft Skills - Jewellery Week 2

Luckily week 2 of the jewellery course at Bedwas was able to go ahead before the snow arrived and all the ladies turned up so I must have done something right in week 1!
We are settled at 10 learners now and I was very pleased to see everyone had worked hard on the home  task and the fun project turned out better than I could have hoped.
Everyone was asked to start recording ideas in their sketch books and collect examples for the 'mixed media' task. The 'mood boards' they created were spot on and from these everyone produced unique ideas for their tags/brooches. This task also covered some of the required criteria and can be drawn on later for the main project if needed.

These are the lovely ladies joining me for the duration of the course and I must say, a nicer group I couldn't ask for!

Learners were introduced to the basic tools we will be using during the course and a list provided to ensure everyone has their own pliers and equipment. Flat nosed, narrow/snipe nosed, round nosed pliers, top or side cutters and if possible a flat needle file are main tools needed and we will also be using crimping pliers.
A beading mat or non slip mat and an ice cube tray to hold beads are useful too.

For the home task this week everyone was provided with an earring kit I put together that incorporates the findings and beads they will use for the main design. Learners are asked to sketch some ideas for designs only at this stage, demonstrating alternative styles, noting accurate length measurements and state possible limitations of the design. The raw materials include tigertail which is a fine, coated wire that can be crimped to secure beads in place, eye pins to create a beaded link, head pins to hold beads (these can be left long, cut shorter or make a wrapped loop), chain,  bead caps to add detail and a  selection of metal beads to incorporate as required.
 A range of basic techniques will be used for making the earrings including crimping, looping, opening & shutting links and wire wrapping. These ideas should be included at the design stage then we will work towards showing examples of each. The knowledge gained during these tasks will all help learners grow in confidence with their work and be ready to put all their new skills to good use to complete the main task.

Learners are encouraged to do some research of jewellery making websites to get ideas of how to use the materials in various ways and if they find any good examples, make a note of the links and we can access them during the course to demonstrate ICT applications.

Week 3 will see more criteria met as learners will be asked to recognize the different tools & their uses and while making their earrings, demonstrate safe use of these while carrying out basic techniques. 
Looking forward to it. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Workshop at Y Galeri

Well, what a  busy week! Last Saturday saw another pendant workshop completed at Y Galeri in Caerphilly and another 6 (& a half!) ladies spent 2 busy hours learning skills to complete some lovely glass and wire wrapped pendants. Considering almost all had no previous experience of jewellery making I am once again blown away with the quality of their finished designs. A young lady joined us too and made a  gorgeous purple heart pendant that just shows what can be achieved when you pick up some tools and have a  go.

The ladies were introduced to several tools and their purpose before learning basic techniques such as creating loops and wire wrapping. They reluctantly agreed to having their pictures taken but after all their hard work they shouldn't be so shy!

The workshops at Y Galeri have proved popular and we will be arranging further dates for the coming weeks. Anyone who is interested in putting their name down can contact Jan at Y Galeri on 02920861433

Y Galeri currently has a fantastic open art exhibition on as well as stocking some gorgeous handmade gifts in the shop, visit their Facebook page for further details and look out for the new website, available soon.

Friday, 11 January 2013

A Learning Adventure

Last night was the first session of an 8 week Creative Craft Skills - Jewellery course at Bedwas Adult Education Centre. Nine lovely ladies joined me (3 more to follow) to work towards a Level 1 certificate worth 3 credits. Over the next few weeks I plan to post updates on our progress and give the learners a chance to check on tasks, ask questions and hopefully get to know one another better.
As three ladies were unable to make the first session, I'm going to mention some of the things we did so they can catch up a little before next week.

The first night is always slow with lots (and lots!) of paperwork to get through. Workshops don't require this level of formality but as I delve ever further into the tutor's role, it is without doubt the most intense aspect and one we have to adhere to. In order for me to prove each learner's progress through the course, we must ensure every area of criteria is met, recorded and dated. Each learner has a workbook covering the areas and will be required to complete these as well as producing evidence of work and a  final design piece.

The learners have varying degrees of skills in jewellery making ranging from zero knowledge to confident and experienced. It will be my job now to ensure everyone is comfortable and competent using the tools and are familiar with the materials before we embark on the main design.

Last night we discussed how jewellery is not just an object but can be something that invokes strong feelings. Learners were asked to close their eyes and picture a specific item of jewellery, this could be a piece they own, have bought for someone, would like to own, used to own, anything), they were then asked to open their eyes and give one word to describe how the item looks. Some great words were given describing style, shape and material. They were then asked to close their eyes again and picture the same item. Upon opening their eyes this time they were asked to give one word that described how they felt about this item. 'Love' was a popular one and it was interesting watching many of them automatically smiling while they thought of their word. Jewellery just an object? I don't think so! This exercise was to show that as well as jewellery having a visual impact, it will generally have some meaning behind it and hold memories. Learners are asked to recall this when planning a design and use it to incorporate personal elements into their jewellery.

Sketch books are an essential tool for any designer and all learners are asked to keep an on going record of their ideas and the task as it progresses. By keeping notes and drawing ideas, you can come back to it again and again, altering as ideas flow and boundaries are met - if something didn't work write down why and sketch an alternative. These are important points as you will be expected to show these processes in your workbook as well as submitting the sketch book as evidence. There are no rules as such with a design book, if you see a pattern or colour you like in a magazine, cut it out and stick it in, found a pretty flower? take a  picture and put it in or dry it out/laminate it and place in the book for inspiration. Get used to noting down measurements too, I usually have a  dressmaker's tape measure draped around my neck for checking sizes. This is also important as all accredited courses must include embedding skills - maths and English etc

I showed how to create a 'mood' board by collating a selection of images that promote a particular 'style' or 'look'. For example if you wanted to create a 'Vintage' effect, the ladies were quick to volunteer 'brown's, 'creams' and 'antique metals' as examples of how to achieve this look. Gathering SOURCE MATERIAL like this is a great way to spark ideas and can include original images/magazine cuttings or rubbings of patterns even. Start looking at buildings and nature to see shapes/beautiful patterns and think about how they could be used in designs


 I've asked the learners to do a little bit of homework for next week and taking what they have learned about design to create at least  a  page of ideas for a name tag/brooch. It's a fun project and just to start everyone off with getting used to using the sketch books as well as working towards the required criteria. Using a range of mixed media (EG paper, feathers, ribbon, cord) leaners are to design a tag that doubles as a brooch and shows their names clearly. Large safety pins are supplied and the overall size is to be no more than 3"x 2". I must observe the learner cutting and laminating so preparation can be done before next week and we will be laminating them at the start of the session.
Laminated Paper Jewellery
Next week we will be introduced to the various tools and materials we will use over the duration of the course and we may even start making some jewellery!

If anyone attending is unsure of what they may need please email me at and I can answer any questions. If you have access to Facebook, look up Chilichic Jewellery and 'Like' it to get updates.

See y'all next week!