Meeting The Makers – Jewellery Crafting Masterclass with The Goldsmithy

This weekend I did something I never thought I’d have the chance to do. I attended a masterclass in jewellery making with a group of MK Bloggers at The Goldsmithy in Stony Stratford.

I love jewellery and though I don’t always wear a heap of it, I do wear quite a few rings on my fingers every day.  But (shame on me) I’d never really considered how they go from molten metal to something pretty and shiny. Despite a good friend being in this business, I’d never thought long and hard about it and had no idea what all the tools and such on her instagram bench photos meant. But today I was going to find out!

The Chapman family of Stony Stratford really opened my eyes to the art and passion of those doing it right. We arrived at their workshop bright and early, and after being introduced to Paul and Glenn, Paul started telling us about the history of their business.

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Glenn started his training in 1972, with Cartier, and down the line went into business himself, creating intricate bespoke pieces for people – their main focus being to create long-lasting, great quality, unique jewellery that people will want to wear every day. Paul, his son, is 3 years into his 5 year apprenticeship and you can tell he shares the same passion as his Father. You know each piece is a labour of love, just by hearing them talk.

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We started the class with Paul melting some silver down and telling us we’d be creating a ring from this. The raw metal seemed so dull and not like anything you’d want to put on your finger!

Being VERY accident prone, I was intrigued as to how I could possibly have a go at this, but hearing that ‘slow and steady’ is the general rule of thumb set my mind at ease a little!

At each stage, the whole group had a change to give creating this ring a go. From shaping, to filing, smoothing, to polishing.

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After the molten metal was moulded into a stick shape, it was stretched out using this mangle-like contraption. Paul stretched it to the point where it broke, just to show us how NOT to treat metal. These guys really take care, and using science and maths are able to create a piece of jewellery that really lasts – and the only way to do this is by knowing what mistakes can be made and how to avoid them!

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Filing, shaping, smoothing. So many tools, all with a purpose!

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I even had a go myself!

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This is tough work – slow and strong pressure filed down the tiniest amount of metal from this ring. My hand hurt very quickly and I barely scraped the surface!

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Within the space of an hour or so we’d created a rough ring. A little more shaping and filing and it was time to polish.

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And there it was! Nice and shiny! You can see the bottom edge has been left raw, to show the difference between the side we filed and how it started.

The most important thing I took away from this class is the passion Paul and Glenn have for gold smithing. They do this properly. They want you to bring in your heirlooms or your bespoke ideas and together create something unique and sentimental. They’ll work with you to ensure that family piece you keep in the drawer is created into something that still holds a huge place in your heart. And with 60% of their customers having a go at the bench, they’re allowing the wearer to have an amazing bond with the finished article.

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Using their extensive knowledge of gold smithing, they’ve even created a solution for arthritis sufferers, by adapting your ring to have a hidden hinge and clasp so you can pop it on your finger comfortably and securely and avoid any pain you might ordinarily get from putting your ring on or taking it off. Amazing! As well as offering cleaning and polishing services, these guys have such skill, if you have an idea for a piece you want, they’re the guys to go and speak to.

During the class we had the opportunity to sample some brunch foods from the fantastic Cameron’s Kitchen in Stony Stratford.

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We also went away with an amazing goody box with bits and pieces from local companies, including The Goldsmithy, Whitespace Studio, Popaball, Beeswax Wraps, Giraffe, Peel Juice Bar, Hello Stationery, Pasha Turkish Bar & Grill, Beauty Box By Alyson, Revolucion De Cuba, Rocky Road Treats and Maaya!

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It was a truly awesome experience, and meeting Paul and Glenn from The Goldsmithy was such a treat. These guys know their stuff, and instead of picking up something from a chain jewellers that isn’t made as well and could be found on anyone’s finger, why not visit your local gold smiths? They will work with you to create something unique and meaningful – and if you visit The Goldsmithy there’s a good chance they’ll let you have a go at making it yourself!

 

Thanks to The Goldsmithy, MK Bloggers and Brand Mission for this amazing opportunity!

 

Learning Modern Calligraphy – One Month In!

For those who read Musings regularly, you might remember me mentioning I was going to start a modern calligraphy course, as part of my Learn New Skills 2018 challenge? You’ll have no doubt seen my food challenge posts dotted throughout the past month, however I haven’t really mentioned my calligraphy progress.

We’ll, here goes! I’ve been taking The Happy Ever Crafter’s basics course over the 4 weeks of January, and I’ve really really enjoyed it.

Her new semester of modules actually starts in March, so I’ll be starting along with everyone else when that begins, but I really wanted to give myself a head start, so I’ve completed the first module (which is free) already, and I’ll then have a couple of months to practice and work on the areas I’m still struggling with.

The basics course gets you working on the strokes that make up all major parts of forming letters, and allows you to work on holding the pen, getting the correct pressure to form the strokes and what kind of brush nib you prefer.

Each day you work on a different type of stroke, and over the weeks you move from tracing every stroke, to totally freehand by the end.

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I set up a dedicated instagram account, so I could follow my progress and the progress of others during the modules, and I’ve really enjoyed connecting with people who have been doing the same! You can follow me on instagram at @letterbygroggits if you’d like to see my progress along the way.

So, now the 4 weeks is done, let’s see how I did!

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Monday was upstrokes and downstrokes. Simple lines, downstrokes with heavy pressure, and then a combination of the two. I struggled with the downstrokes for the whole 4 weeks, but think I started to get the hang of it by the end. They were looking less like S by the end too!

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Overturn strokes on Tuesday, and these started off too pointy at the top, but by the end of the month I’d managed to maintain the correct pressure and size and found these fairly easy to create.

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Similarly, Wednesday’s underturn curve became easier as the weeks went on, and I was able to create uniform shapes. But it took some practice!

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Compound curves on a Thursday became my favourite day. These are such fun to draw – not easy but I became more confident as the weeks went on, and really enjoy working on them!

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On the flip side of that, Friday was my least favourite day. Ovals I just cannot do yet and I’ll be continuing to practice these for a while I feel. I just can’t seem to get the pressure correct no matter how I hold my pen. These are going to be integral to lots of letter shapes, so I know I need to get them down!

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Saturday brought ascending loops, and again these are tricky little blighters. I’ll need to practice these too, but I think when I concentrate and take it really slow I can almost draw these!

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And then Sunday was descending loops, which were just as hard, if not harder. Again, it’s hard to work out the pressure when starting from the top and get my wrist in the correct place!

I’ve got a few months to practice these before the next module starts, so I need to make sure I do actually practice so I get a head start on the next work book.

I’ve really enjoyed working through this work book. I found my confidence increased week by week, which is something I really love about learning brand-new skills. I didn’t expect it to be so therapeutic, and I’ve actually learned to slow down and concentrate on forming each and every shape carefully – not something I’m used to. But completing this module has actually taught me something about myself – I need to stop rushing. Things will end up better if I actually take the time over them and slow down. I think this course is going to be good for me!

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

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It’s been a while since we had a little catch up, hasn’t it?

So in the past few weeks we’ve had Christmas and New Year! I hope your’s was good.

Mine was low-key and I didn’t do a huge amount, but it was just what I wanted.

I’m lucky enough to get the time between Christmas and New Year off from work, so if Gary’s off work we’ll take little day trips and such. But this year, he was very busy with work, so nothing was really planned.

Christmas Day was lovely and I got to see both sides of the family. From that point on my mind went into a little relapse and I didn’t want to do anything but curl into a ball and not see anyone. So that’s pretty much what I did. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I got up to because it’s all of a blur. That was until my bff (sister from another mister) got me over to see her lovely newly renovated house, and with her and another of my best friends we had a lovely normal morning chatting. It was lovely to get out of the house and be in a safe space with people I trust and can talk about these things with. And they don’t make a big deal over how I’m feeling – they just let me feel that way, make sure I’m okay and if I want to talk about it I can. And they know me well enough to be able to suss out whether I want to talk or not.

On New Year’s Eve Eve I attended a singing workshop with my Mum, where we learned two songs as a choir and then in the evening had a party and Bandaoke. My Mum and I had both signed up to sing with the band (scary) so we were both fairly nervous, but when each of our turns came up we were fine. I sang Young Hearts Run Free and people said I did well after I came off stage, which was a relief!

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New Year’s Eve was a quiet one spent at home with Gary. I normally spend my New Year this way, and it’s the way I prefer it! I can be in bed by half past midnight!

On New Year’s Day I began working on the first of my 2018 challenges – learning calligraphy. After seeing a friend taking part in this course throughout 2017, and seeing the progress she’s made, I decided I would give it a try myself. I’m already finding I’m learning things about myself as a person as well as my penmanship during this challenge – who knew?!

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Then it was back to work, and by the time we returned to the office I was very much looking forward to it and wanted to get back into a routine!

I didn’t find it hard to get back into the swing of things, and it was nice to see my colleagues again  – it’s great when you enjoy being around the people you work with!

During the first week of January I also had to kick off my second 2018 challenge – a new recipe every week for the entire year! I’ve already posted about my first recipe here, so take a look. I’m enjoying looking at recipes in a new way, this year. I’ll happily trawl through tons of books and Pinterest recipes, marking the ones I like the look of to make one day, but this time around I need something I’m ACTUALLY going to make! So I’m thinking more practically about them!

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I’ve also been reading a lot of blogs related to New Year and resolutions (well, more those that gear towards self-improvement, since that’s what I relate too) and I’ve been very inspired by the positivity and how practical people are being. There’s less fad and more mind involved in what people are aiming for this year. It’s fantastic.

I’ve made a pledge to myself to be more active on social media – and by that I don’t mean posting more (although I feel like I will be posting more blogs this year just by default!) – I mean commenting on other people’s posts, sharing their stuff etc. Not just scrolling through instagram and double tapping then moving on – I’d like to comment on all of the photos that have meant something to me. Because it’s what we’d want for our own feeds, right?

I’m enjoying feeling the fresh positivity that’s come along with this year. In a time of uncertainty and bafflement, coming from a couple of years that were very trying for many people, we appear to be collectively coming together and finding our feet again. The ground seems a little more solid, and I’m personally enjoying how it feels.