One of the things that I've been playing with over the past couple of weeks is a silverworking course here in Takaka with Duncan MacKay.
Our breif was to design and make a piece of jewellery of our choice, and Duncan would teach us the rudiments of metal smithing techniques practiced through the ages, including cutting, shaping, fusing, embossing, setting and cold fixing silver and or copper.
We could make our own ring, pendant, brooch or pair of earrings.
We were really lucky in that there were only four students, and Elvira, Mary Ann Nadia and I spent four mornings playing with Duncan's toys. And he has some pretty exciting toys to share...
My favourite...no surprises here...was the soldering torch! There's just something about playing with fire that I find irresistible!
But it's not easy - the way that solder jumps around in the flame is very disconcerting! And it runs everywhere!
I've discovered that metals also behave really uniquely in the flame - the copper in sterling silver comes to the surface, that metal anneals quite differently from glass and saw that the brass, copper and silver that Elvira used in her fabulous pendant reacted with one another to give unexpected results - rather like glass, but different.
I worked mostly in pure silver, which before it was worked was beautifully soft and "buttery", and has come up almost white in the finished piece.
One of the most amazing aspects of the course was that four of us, who chatted and looked through numerous books together, came up with such distinctly different designs.
Here is Elvira's pendant. She worked brass, copper and silver into this design and then bezel set an amber cabuchon in the centre. The designing and polishing of this piece was a joy to watch!
And this is Mary Ann's piece - she made a brooch in the letter "U" for her mother, Una. This was also an amazing piece to watch develop from stencils to finished. I just love the copper and silver Forget-Me-Nots.
Now here's Nadia's piece. She intends for this to be a wrist band, mounted on a leather strap, and the photos I took don't really do this lovely piece justice. I just love the way she framed this piece of paua (which she cut from the shell), in it's beautiful wavy frame.
And here's my piece. Its a brooch made in pure silver, and I've mounted glass (surprise, surprise!) droplets in the throat of the flower - with lots of help from Duncan!
So, thank you Duncan - that was such fun!