Saturday, February 28, 2015

Forging Ahead: Working with Wire

 Students working at the Worcester Center for Crafts

I am honored to be the recipient of a Mass Cultural Council, 
 Worcester Arts Council fellowship grant for 2015! 

 One of the goals of this intensive workshop was to expose students to a new and affordable way to be creative and work with metals. Steel wire is very inexpensive and can be found at any local hardware store. Copper can often be purchased for little money from salvage or as scrap sourced from a friendly neighborhood electrician. 

And as you will see, beautiful work 
can emerge from these humble materials.

Fortunately, I had very creative and persistent students who were willing to try something new and make a few mistakes along the way. None of the them had ever worked with metals or any of the tools and techniques for working with wire.

 On day one we talked about the properties of steel, copper and brass wires and molecular structures vs. crystalline structures. They learned when to use a steel hammer vs. a rawhide mallet and tried their hand at forging and forming their work on a mandrel. 
Rings were very popular on day one.

One of many forged steel wire rings!

On day two my students arrived with a new sense of confidence. It was awesome! Making bangles and learning to wrap and cut jump rings were the major focus for day two.

Steel & copper bangles and more steel rings!

Students also had the opportunity to work with the flexshaft and learned how to safely and efficiently finish their work. As you can see, they took safety very seriously and wore a face mask and goggles while working in the polishing room.

 Working in the polishing room with protective gear!

On our last day which was our longest day together, the push was on to take what they had learned and make it their own. They learned how to use a disk cutter and letter punches to make brass charms and tags.

 Caged marbles, bangles & rings oh, my!

Most of the students worked on a variety of projects and were quite prolific, even making jewelry for family and friends...

A collection of some of the amazing pieces created

...but one of my students spent much of his time working on a single project and not just any project, but a statement piece.

 Diligently working to finish his neck piece.

He made jump rings large and small, coiled wire springs which were slipped over multiple double sided eye pins, a coiled connector and a caged marble which hung from an extended length of chain.

This is such a cool neck piece!

I knew the class was a success not only by all of the beautifully made jewelry, but because by the last day of class they weren't bothered that their hands got dirty. They worked really well together and offered their assistance if asked and they knew they could help.

 Copper slide bangle and copper coiled over steel.

Tools, unlike wire, present more of an obstacle for new students because they can be more costly to obtain. Fortunately for these students, I've been a metalsmith for a very long time and if you know any metalsmiths you'll understand that most of us are tool hoarders. We just can't help ourselves. We are compelled to collect when we find a tool at a yard sale, or a thrift store, in the trash or wherever! I put together a basic wire working kit that the students can use at the Worcester Youth Center so they can continue to Forge Ahead.

A sampling of tools & supplies donated to the Worcester Youth Center

I could not be more proud of all that these students accomplished in such a short amount of time. It was a pleasure getting to know them and helping them to learn something new.

Many thanks to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Worcester Arts Council, Worcester Center for Crafts and Worcester Youth Center for helping to make these workshops possible.

This program is administered by the Worcester Arts Council, for the Local Cultural Council ~ an agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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