The Peers Family are back from a lovely holiday on the Isle of Wight and back to normality! Before we went away I restocked my shelf at the fabulous Dedham Art and Craft Centre. If you are in the market for unique gifts, look no further. I am situated on the second floor near the clothing section but there are three whole floors of exciting handcrafted and also hand-selected items for sale.
With summer on its way, I’m pleased to say that for the moment at least it feels ok to book a few things and almost look forward to them, having had a recent bout of covid in our house you can never be entirely sure but optimism is daring to creep back. With that in mind I just wanted to tell you about a couple of classes I have coming up.
Sat 18th June – Silver Clay beginners here at CG Crafts. This is a very small class, so you will have plenty of attention and access to lots of tools and resources at the beginning of your silver jewelry journey. If you’ve been before I am happy to extend the techniques you have tried.
Fri 15th to Sun 17th July – Jewellery weekend residential class at the amazing FSC flatford Mill – although you don’t have to stay if you are local. I will be covering both Enamelling and Silver clay and you’ll have plenty of time to work on your own designs and try out new techniques. Food is supplied whether you stay or not. It’s such a beautiful location who can fail to be inspired? Plus you’ll go home with lots of amazing jewellery.
I’m often asked by my students which of the crafts that I teach do I like best? That’s such a hard question. What I do like in constantly discovering new things to try (or add to the list) and that is especially so with Enamelling. The number of different techniques you can try is mind-blowing and then there are all the different design possibilities. Artists such as Sandra McEwen spend a lifetime marrying up their metalsmithing skills with their enamelling ones and specialising in one or two of these techniques in Sandra’s case Cloisonne and champleve. Like everything else the more you do the better you get – everything takes practice. For those interested in Enamelling here is a brief guide to how to enamel using a kiln. I would also like to add here that often artists and enamellers do things in slightly different ways, as with most things, you make it work for you and can only teach from your own experience, so I would never say you can only do things my way and I am always happy to learn – hence my passion for teaching. What is Enamelling? In this case we’re talking about vitreous enamel, which is the fusing of glass to metal using extreme temperatures ((750oC and higher). What is it used for? Pieces of jewellery, or decorative items such as pictures and bowls. You’ll also see signs on the underground and even car badges that have been enamelled – these require specialist equipment. 1 Choose your metal Generally, silver or copper are used although other metals do work. You need to pay particular attention to the metal temperature of your metal to ensure it won’t melt before your glass (enamel) does. 2 Prepare your metal Fine silver needs little preparation but sterling silver needs to be fired and cleaned several times to reduce the amount of copper on the surface layer. Copper reacts in the kiln causing copper oxide or firescale which is a black layer that needs scrubbing off. Copper needs to be cleaned thoroughly prior to firing – usually with a scouring pad and detergent. 3 Prepare your enamels You can buy enamels from several suppliers – WG Ball supplies to Cookson Gold in the UK, Vitrium Signum are also very popular with British enamellers as are Corby Kilns but do an internet search and you’ll find suppliers where you are based. Some enamellers never clean their enamels and others always clean them. If you clean your enamels, it produces a clearer glass and is particularly useful when using transparents. 4 Prepare your surface You’ll need to balance your blank between something (I use two piles of coins) in order to be able to pick it up once you’ve applied enamel powder. You’ll also want to work on a clean sheet for each colour used as this helps to prevent contamination of colours. 5 Counter enamel Counter enamel, or enamelling the back is done for 3 main reasons. 1 To ensure equal tension on the front and back of the piece – or the glass may break off. 2 To reduce the amount of firescale that builds up. 3 To stop the piece that’s next to your skin tarnishing or causing your skin to go green. 5 Once enamel has been sifted on it can be fired on a stilt or a trivet. 6 Clean firescale off your blank 7 Add more layers to the back if necessary 8 The kiln
Although you can torch fire enamel I prefer to use the kiln for more successful results. Firing times vary depending on colour, size of your blank and what else may be applied, hence it is something you can only really pick up with experience. You’ll be amazed how quickly you just react to what has happened to your piece and troubleshoot timings. However, as a quick guide firings are around 30 seconds to a minute from 750oC. 8 Firing the front A layer of enamelled colour can then be added to the front of your piece and fired. 9 Add further decoration or master further techniques by continuing to fire several times.
So those are the basics! There’s a lot to take in to start and I really see Enamelling as something that you keep returning to and experimenting with. One of the reasons that there aren’t lots of people teaching Enamelling (or not that I have come across) is that there are so many variables that can affect a piece. It is our job as Enamelling teachers to explain why things have happened and to try to enable students to resolve those issues, or reduce risks of things happening to help them achieve as close to their design aims as possible, for that reason people can get frustrated by it and for others (I consider myself highly in this camp) that is what makes it so interesting. Making mistakes + troubleshooting = learning Molten glass + Metal + kiln + experiments = Exciting results
If I’ve interested you and you are thinking about taking a class, here are a few that I have coming up:
Well, it’s been a funny old year so far. Sadly my mother-in-law died in February and this week was her funeral – those of you that frequent craft fairs will probably have met Jenny with her ‘Bags to Colour’. Later in the year her sister Sherrie, daughter Lou, nieces and granddaughters will be running a stand at Clare Priory in her memory and raising money for some of the cancer charities which helped her. I’ll post more about that nearer the time but given how time is flying that could be the week before it happens!
We’ve also had a missing cat (fortunately he came back within 24 hours) and my eldest daughter fractured her wrist just before she was to do two guitar performances… she took up left-handed tambourining (is that a word) instead…craziness is the new normality.
Speaking of normality I’m actually of to ExCel London tomorrow for the Creative Craft Show. I’ll be helping run the ‘have a go’ sessions with the Guild of Enamellers, so if you are at the event pop along and have a go. We’re in Halls S7 stand A25. I’ll post some pictures on social media tomorrow.
Don’t forget the usual classes are available to book here. I’m always happy to have a chat about tailoring dates and classes for you, for example this year I’ve run a silver clay class for a group in the host’s lovely home, ran a silver clay class for a group of 10 ladies celebrating a 40th birthday in a cottage hired for the weekend, and I am just planning a felt making session for a family. I now teach a weekly art session for a dementia group which features in some of the pictures below, as well as my more usual classes for adult creatives.
Usually, January and February are times when I get on with planning and sorting out, but for various reasons it’s been a slow start. Who doesn’t like a deadline though? No sooner had I started sorting through all the STUFF in my workshop, I took a booking for this week. Just look at the mess! Still having a sort out is good and now hopefully most things are easier to find (she laughs). I even have a dedicated space for works in progress and believe me I have a lot of those! I also have a few ideas brewing for classes, such as combining soldering and silver clay to make cufflinks and earrings and for myself, I always intend to build on my silversmithing skills. What skills do you want to build on this year?
Summer holidays are now over so I have more time to work through my to do list for CG Crafts Craft business again (or so I hope).
Here’s a link to my You Tube clip about the Enamelling technique: Sgraffito, which means to scratch through. It’s a basic video to give you an idea of how it works. I hope to refine or re-record later but in the meantime it’s good just to get it on the system. Next sgraffito class is at EJart Creative, Woodbridge on Thursday (9th September) do message me for details.
Oh go on then I will do an offer plus something new! I’m offering £10 off the price of full day class vouchers from Friday 27th November to Saturday 5th December 2020. Book now to avoid missing out. New for 2021! I’m now offering Zoom classes for 2021 – 2 hour gift vouchers available now.
Are you feeling Christmas ready? I know I’m not! I am trying to think of where to hide the presents I’ve already bought, whilst stopping my kittens getting into the boxes and destroying the contents – they do believe a box arrives everyday in this house!
What I now need to do is tell you about what my small business can offer you for Christmas!
I teach small classes in Colchester – these are not your bog standard classes but more specialised crafts: Enamelled Jewellery, Silver Clay Jewellery (fine silver), Encaustic art, Felt making and Flamework (making glass beads). My workshop fits 2 people for a class (not including me), comfortably so if you are worried about mixing in big groups you don’t need to. I offer a gift letter for you to purchase a class but detailing how the recipient can book a date to suit them. These classes are intended for adult crafters who have already done the usual things and are looking for something a bit more challenging. You can book class vouchers here, or by emailing me. I have a few handcrafted items on sale here too.
I also make jewellery for sale. My Etsy shop is up and running and you can buy items here – if you are local get in touch as I may be able to offer delivery rather than posting items out.
I also have items for sale at EJart Creative in Woodbridge – the sell online and will also be open for business from 2nd December.
Next week Colcheco will be opening and will have a selection of my work.
This weekend I will be taking part in A Handcrafted Business online fair which will give you details of lots of lovely handcrafted items – I’ll post the link later.
That’s all for now, never have there been more ways to shop from the luxury of your own home!
This year has been a strange one for all of us. We’ve all been hit in different ways and it’s important to acknowledge this rather than simply ignore it and hope it goes away.
However we do need to take our minds off things and that is where I find doing something creative really helps. I’m not going to hark on to much but do remember a craft class does make a great present and something nice to look forward to in 2021! You can book vouchers here.
I’ve also updated my Etsy shop so if you fancy buying some unique jewellery (and greetings cards) do take a look.
Finally, if you are an enameller, I have just uploaded a little video to my Youtube channel showing you how to remove fired enamel (Pam East solution that I have meant to get around to trying for a while).
Having been effectively grounded for a while it feels like I’m speeding into doing everything at once again! Anyone else feel like that? The weekly art class I teach at Bright Lives started up again unexpectedly – if anyone has ideas for art for the visually impaired I’d love to hear from you – it is challenging my brain at the moment – one of the others in the group has ADHD so I need something engaging for her too. I’d really love to give them a opportunities to grow their skills.
I am just printing out notes for the second of 2 part time classes that I am teaching at EJart in Woodbridge – this one is enamelling on silver clay – which I love to teach as it always astounds me what people create in such a short length of time. Plus the range of ideas people have! You can never go wrong with a partnership of silver and glass!
On Sunday I am welcoming in two ladies to have their first go at Encaustic art. The were gifted a voucher for this class as a thank you present for helping their children plan their wedding. I love the joy students get out of this artform – especially when they aren’t entirely sure what they have been signed up for! If you like the sound of Encaustic art – the next group class is at Simply Handmade in Sudbury on 17th October. See pictures below for ideas of what you can paint with molten wax (Encaustic art).
Plus there’s all the planning going on in the background – can you hear my head whirling…or maybe that’s the kittens getting up to no good! Best have a look.
Do get in touch if you’d like to book vouchers for Christmas or birthday gifts, or just want to treat yourself to a bit of creative time. Best wishes, Toni
I just wanted to wish all my fellow crafters a well, safe and creative time during this difficult period.
If you have a class booked and I haven’t already messaged you, please accept my apologies for not getting in touch but obviously given the current lockdown I will be out of action for a couple of months at least. I will postpone anything booked and we’ll reschedule dates as soon as it’s safe to do so. If you are interested in classes, I am happy to pencil in dates but for much later in the year.
I am planning to post a few videos on YouTube – which is a great source of crafting and other info so do check it out if you are looking for creative inspiration (not necessarily from me!)