Touareg silver smithing techniques

workshop zilversmeden

So this is what I did in the Easter holiday…instead of studying for college! Mais je ne regrette rien. I still have plenty of time to panic for the exams. 😉

As a part of a late Christmas/Birthday present Mom gave me this course from Iron & fire: 5 days of traditional techniques by Sidi Hamed, Touareg silversmith from Niger (but living in Belgium). It was awesome.

workshop zilversmeden

It was an introductory course in which we’d see basic techniques, but at the end we had seen and practised forging, stamping and engraving and Sidi demonstrated the lost wax process.

So…Here are a few impressions.

workshop zilversmeden
The set-up:
our sandbox 😀  coal, bellows, some bricks as worktables,
little clay cups for melting silver, a long “gutter” to pour the molten silver in

We started the first day with this ring exercise:

workshop zilversmeden
bottom: the silver bit we started out with
middle: along the process of hammering, hammering, hammering…
top: Sidi’s model of a stamped an polished ring

I don’t have many photos of my own projects -the bracelet and the pendant- because I was mainly working myself! But here is a series of photos of Sidi’s lost wax casting demonstration of a Touareg cross:

workshop zilversmeden
each tribe of the nomadic Touareg has their own cross
-from this inspiring book: Fastueuse Afrique by A. Fisher-

workshop zilversmeden
wax model

workshop zilversmeden
the wax model encapsuled in a clay mould

workshop zilversmeden
when the clay mould had dried it was fired…

workshop zilversmeden
…and the melting wax dripped away!

workshop zilversmeden
pouring molten silver into the mould…

workshop zilversmeden
…there. All done!

workshop zilversmeden
after the mould had cooled and was removed, this was the result in silver;
a base form that with lots of hammering, filing, stamping and engraving
would look as intricate as one of the crosses from the book!

I’m so glad I’ve been able to do this course -Sidi was a patient teacher (with 7 women to coach, no small feat! 😀 ) and I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve tried engraving for the first time, and different forging techniques. It was complementary to the jeweler’s training I’ve received at Syntra and it taught me a lot of respect for artists like Sidi who creates such fine jewelry with just a very basic setup. Now I want a sand box to continue playing! 😉

workshop zilversmeden
I added the chain of “sticks” afterwards in the studio.
So much work has gone in this pendant, forming it by hammering
-lots of it-
filing, polishing
and then engraving…
I love the result. A wonderful memory!

a delicate balance: new earrings

a delicate balance: earrings
pea green, dark green & white
a delicate balance: earrings
dark orange, red & white
a delicate balance: earrings
blue, green & white

a delicate balance: earrings
white, red and dark yellow

I changed the design a little bit, leaving out the ring on top (as you can see on the first pairs) because the weight of the glass bubbles keeps the balance really well, just like the pendants:

a delcate balance: pendant2
pendant 2
a delcate balance: pendant3
pendant 3

I love how the transparent spheres catch the light!

You can find them on Etsy.

If you like to see more of this series, the photos are bundled in a set on flickr and you can track down other posts and the work in progress on the blog by clicking the tag “a delicate balance” (under this post or in the left menu on my blog)!

And this is the 6th blog post of the year! That’s already half of the number of last year’s posts… 😮

There’s still more to come, I want to tell you about a little project that I just started. Something that’s funny as it is icky… 😀 icky sticky glass. What could it be? More soon, I promise!

sunsets & summer trees…

During the week of holidays after my college exams I was able to retreat to the studio for a couple of days, for the first time since September. I guess it’s a good thing the studio is in Ronse and not in Ghent, or I would be there all the time instead of working for school! 😉

As usual, I had many ideas, but I didn’t have all that much time. So instead of rushing to try to realize those ideas, I worked on a couple of pieces that I had started in Feb. 2010, from a batch of glass cabs I had made in the summer of 2009. It was nice to finally get around finishing these! Or at least these three, as I didn’t get to finish  the whole pile…

In other news, you can find them on Etsy!

I called this series essence (on flickr & etsy), because the organic shapes and colors remind me of moments of quietude… Which in these dreary & cold February days mostly means the warmth of summer to me, so here I am again with sunlight and green leaves! 😀 And one starry night too.

sunny green trees brooch
starry night pendant

 
sunset earrings

glass cabs!

summer pendants & autumn plans

Well, I’m home again after spending some time in the studio in August-September. It was much needed, and awesome. And as always, way too short. I could easily do with a month or so more studio time, just to finish what I’ve started…

But time’s up and I have to keep my creative self in check… School is starting again next week and there will be no time for doodling. I can’t believe I’m going back to college! (yes, again…) The time is finally here, and I’m giddy. 😀

And to celebrate, I’m doing a workshop in October with the talented Lotte De Mey on stone setting! Check out her unique pieces on Penelope’s Verbs and her paintings (this is her portfolio). I adore her work and I’m really looking forward to the workshop!

And now for some pictures: this is what happened in the studio this summer!

A green goddess talisman:

green goddess

Pebbles:

3 pendants

A delicate balance in pendants  & earrings:

a delicate balance

a delicate balance

a delicate balance

…Do you remember this ring?

growing ring

It has been sprouting crystals lately:

tube ring

…and something else all together, can you guess what this is?!

can you guess? :-D

tube ring

a delicate balance // pebbles

How would you balance an egg? And several tiny glass spheres?

a delicate balance: WiP

I allowed myself some play time in the studio last weekend and this came out of it. Of course I didn’t have quite enough time to finish it yet but I couldn’t wait to give you this first glimpse!

a delicate balance: WiP

The glass spheres balance on 1mm mandrels…just like that necklace with the sprouts I designed in class and I used the last bit of that same silver wire I had molten & pulled. They were fun to make! Juggling with molten glass… 😀

The colors are equally playful: white/black and yellow/orange/red/blue/green in both pastels and transparents, all mixed.

They’re going to be pendants & earrings.

The Pebbles now have a different personality: subtle and serene.

pebbles

Preferably with a little ball chain…

I collected all the neutral colors I could find in my studio, all the variations of white glass:

pebbles in all the neutrals I could find:

1 -Vetrofond odd Belgian lace
2 -Vetrofond odd Seashell
3 -Effetre light ivory
4 -Effetre pearl grey
5 -Vetrofond Odd Pink Swirl
6 -Effetre Uranium yellow pastel
7 -Effetre avocado
8 -Effetre sage
9 -Reichenbach CoE94 Sahara
10 -Lauscha Milky Way
11 -Effetre Tongue pink
12 -Vetrofond Odd Ivory
13 -Effetre silver pink
14 -CiM Ginger
15 -Effetre pastel pink
16 -CiM Butter Pecan
17 -Reichenbach CoE 94 Champagne
18 -Effetre white (with stringer to the left) CoE 104
19 -Reichenbach CoE 94 Florence Opaque

In the end I didn’t use no.7 and no.9, as their color was a little too pronounced. So I made a bunch of tiny beads…

pebbles

They will be pendants and brooches.

a delicate balance: WiP

earth & moon

 
This weekend I finished the moon spirit, a sister to the earthy one I created this summer. I’m pleased with with the way she turned out: a silver halo with starry sprinkles (7 of them, not unlike Rossetti’s Blessed Damozel…hehe). 
 
 

The TalentDevelop newsletter just had a piece on muses and creativity, and referred to a page on the history of daimons, genii and muses which fits right in here, with my little girls! 😉

More on Flickr, also some work in progress photos.

Back to business: meet the new projects!

Thanks for letting me share that personal stuff of my previous post with you. I went back and forth about writing and publishing it to the world, putting myself out there, but whether I want it or not, it is part of who I am/who I’ve become. I don’t need to talk about it all the time, but I’m glad I got it out. 🙂

And the future looks bright: these are some little things coming to life on the workbench:

  • Fossilized coral (I just lovelovelove it! Look at them! They’re practically paleontological murrine! 😀 ) pendants and brooches with glass coral branches…
  • Opal glass cabochons with fused murrine, waiting to become pendants, rings, brooches, … (not sure how to name them yet -I can’t call everything microcosmos, can I? :-p )
  • … and a broad, solid silver ring set with a single murrini. I must give you a better view when it’s finished. Right now it’s on my finger, as a good luck charm for my upcoming tests at library school. You know, new jewelry needs test driving. It’s a very hard and tedious job… 😉
  • and this little goddess is getting a sister! Now what head to choose…? hehe

I’m also working on a bigger project (relatively speaking) involving torchpulled murrine, fusing and copper and am already dreaming up the next one. So stay tuned…

a goddess pendant & designing spiritual jewelry


As you probably know by now, I love designing after certain themes or concepts. One that I hold dearly is the talisvrouw series that led me to explore a feminine spirituality in bead, necklace and pendant design.

My interest in pagan and folk religion taught me how meaningful jewelry can be and how popular and widespread talismans and amulets are, whatever religion or age. Jewelry that goes beyond aesthetics and fashion and becomes magical: it protects and gives strength to the wearer (if you believe in it, that is!).

Of course the believing is optional. Aesthetic appreciation wil do just fine! 😉 I just wanted to explore the concept of spiritual jewelry with things that were meaningful to me.

The elements I wanted to use were clear from the beginning:

A fine chain made from the tiniest gemstone beads and handmade silver beads from Thailand and Bali. I start out with a set of colors/stones and a certain fluid rhythm in which the links are arranged. Just a cluster of colors & shapes.

A chain is a symbol in itself, made up of individual links. It’s being part of a greater entity, of having roots that go way back, way deep. It reminds me of a dream my favorite author and storyteller C.P. Estés had, in which she stood on the shoulders of a very old woman -she apologized and wanted to get off her and told her it should be the other way around because she was strong, but the older woman replied that it was perfect the way it was, because she was standing on the shoulders of her ancestor, and that line went all the way back to the center of the earth. Or something like that. I forgot where I’ve read it, but love the image.

-I choose the gems mostly for their color and form, not particularly for their symbolic properties. I’m not so sure what to think of that, although I am crazy about certain stones and less crazy about others. Some of my favorites you can find here. The Balinese and Hill Tribe Thai beads are handmade and especially the Thai beads are incredibly detailed for their very small size (1mm diameter!). They just seemed perfect for this project.

The neolithic spiral designs were my inspiration for the glass beads that would become amulets (I also use the spiral in my logo). The spiral stands for evolution, the way it expands from the center but if you travel the other way around it could mean a journey to the self, getting to the point (literally), unraveling the truth -whatever that may be. A psychological healing process can be described as peeling layers of an onion -you seem to be confronted with the same *shit* over and over, but each time you get a little closer to the core of the issue. And it does get a bit easier each time, a little less layer to peel off.
The spiral is also a Great Goddess symbol of the neolithic (check out the tombstone at Newgrange, Ireland) and finally, it’s a great design to translate on a lampworked glass bead.

The first necklace was still beaded instead of linked. Then with the Dryads (right) I made the chains a lot longer and attached the spiral bead pendant to it so you could wear it long or double. I loved the beads but wasn’t entirely happy with the pendants, so the idea of creating a seperate pendant with integrated goldsmithing and lampworking techniques grew on me, and that’s how the goddess pendant came to life.
A black-and-white reproduction of Minoan pottery showing the descent of the goddess became my model, and this summer the pendant became fact. I wanted to create a human figure, even as stylized as she is with a flower as her face and a curved, organic bead as her body because these “little people”, dolls, saints, house gods, teddy bears are rich in symbolism as well.
They are the little helpers we can trust with our deepest secrets and fears and they tend to talk to us in dreams.

She’s the first, but you can bet there are more to follow…

work in progress & results:

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