Gift Certificates, New Class Dates, a Mentorship and More…

It has been a busy time down here at Glenelg South with some very exciting moments on the way. November brought with it some great commissions, a lovely launch party and even a little article in the paper.


2019 CLASS DATES ANNOUNCED

Term 1 classes for 2019 are officially online and ready to go. In addition to day classes where you can make your own earrings or bezel set pendant, I am also pleased to announce that my seven week beginner’s classes are now available. Handmade Jewellery for Beginners will run from 6-9PM on Wednesdays and is a great introduction to the world of jewellery making in a relaxed and social environment.

Handmade Jewellery for Beginners at Claire Brooks Studio Gallery.jpg

Handmade Jewellery for Beginners

Are you interested in making your own jewellery but aren’t sure where to start? Sign up for this seven week night course and learn the basics in a relaxed, social environment. Suitable for absolute beginners to those with more experience, this class is a great introduction or refresher to jewellery making.


AN EXPERIENCE FOR CHRISTMAS?

Do you have a friend or relative who already has everything? Gift certificates for jewellery workshops are now available in store or through the class page of my website and are sure to please. The lucky recipient can choose a date which suits them and vouchers are valid for up to three years, so there is plenty of time to book in.

Material gifts are out, experiences are in! Treat that special someone with one of my beginners jewellery making classes and let them lose themselves in the joy of the handmade.

Material gifts are out, experiences are in! Treat that special someone with one of my beginners jewellery making classes and let them lose themselves in the joy of the handmade.

MENTORSHIP IN THE NEW YEAR

I am super excited to welcome Lilly Buttrose to be mentored at the studio gallery in 2019. Lilly is a textiles and jewellery artist working from JamFactory, Adelaide, and is the proud recipient of a Carclew Fellowship. This fantastic professional development grant will allow Lilly to travel to Japan to learn specialised weaving at the Kawashima Textile School, Kyoto, and upon her return work with me to develop new ways to combine her beautiful textiles with metal. You can read all about Lilly’s grant in the recent article published by Adelaide Now.

Lilly’s stunning woven earrings from her product range. During her mentorship, Lilly will further develop her jewellery making skills to explore new methods of transforming her textiles into wearable forms. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Lilly’s stunning woven earrings from her product range. During her mentorship, Lilly will further develop her jewellery making skills to explore new methods of transforming her textiles into wearable forms. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Lilly also exhibits beautiful hand embroidered wall hangings such as this linen piece, ‘Skyland Mountains.’ Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Lilly also exhibits beautiful hand embroidered wall hangings such as this linen piece, ‘Skyland Mountains.’ Photograph courtesy of the artist.

LAUNCH NIGHT

Thank you to everyone who made it along to my official launch soiree. It was such a wonderful event and great to have the support of my local council, community, friends and family. Thank you also to Emma Fey from Guild House who gave the most amazing opening speech and to everyone who helped to make the night go smoothly.

The launch party is underway at Claire Brooks Studio Gallery. Photograph courtesy of Laurence Coffrant.

The launch party is underway at Claire Brooks Studio Gallery. Photograph courtesy of Laurence Coffrant.

A colourful and delicious spread kindly prepared by Sylvia Nevistic, Courtney Jackson and Vesna Cavic. Photograph courtesy of Laurence Coffrant.

A colourful and delicious spread kindly prepared by Sylvia Nevistic, Courtney Jackson and Vesna Cavic. Photograph courtesy of Laurence Coffrant.

The lovely Emma Fey from Guildhouse giving her opening speech. Photograph courtesy of Laurence Coffrant.

The lovely Emma Fey from Guildhouse giving her opening speech. Photograph courtesy of Laurence Coffrant.

 CHRISTMAS TRADING HOURS

I am extending my trading hours in the lead up to Christmas so that you don’t miss out on getting that last minute Christmas treat. The gallery will be closed then will be having a short break to work on some extra special commissions.

Thursday 13th December:               10am – 5pm Wednesday 19th December:          10am – 5pm

Friday 14th December:                    10am – 5pm Thursday 20th December:               10am – 8pm

Saturday 15th December:               10am – 5pm Friday 21st December:                    10am – 5pm

Sunday 16th December:                  10am – 4pm Saturday 22nd December:               10am – 5pm

Monday 17th December: Closed Sunday 23rd December:                  10am – 4pm

Tuesday 18th December: 10am – 2.30pm Monday 24th December: 10am – 3pm

Tuesday 25th December to Monday 7th January: Closed

… then business as usual

Have a very Merry Christmas and happy New Year and thank you for your continued support!

A Bespoke Necklace for a Very Special Lady

Choosing to be a contemporary jeweller is certainly the road less travelled as far as career paths go. The journey is long, thoroughly rewarding and cannot be travelled alone. I am extremely lucky to have a great group of family and friends who have helped me along the way and if there’s one person who’s always had faith in my ability to turn my passion into a self-sustaining career, it is my lovely Mother.

Given our close relationship and shared passion for jewellery, Mum is usually the lucky recipient of my new prototypes or any pieces that never quite makes it to market for one reason or another. Though she is always very grateful, on the odd occasion I also like to take the time to make her a specially designed bespoke piece, and late last year I did just that.

Poor Mum has spent many hours being dragged along for yet another beach collecting expedition and as a result has become quite the fan of my Plastic Soup jewellery. Over the years she has developed an eagle eye for microplastics and at times gets more exciting than I do when she finds ‘a good one.’ It seemed only fitting that her next piece was to be a Plastic Soup necklace.

When constructing my Plastic Soup or Interlace Adornment, I always begin with a pile of sticks which I cut, file level and sand. I then create the tiny little boxes which will contain a precious collection of microplastics.

It all starts with a pile of silver sticks.

It all starts with a pile of silver sticks.

The box shapes are loosely based on the shapes of phytoplankton: the tiny organisms which sea creatures believe they are eating when in fact, they are ingesting microplastics. For mum’s piece, we decided on circular boxes and so I constructed a variety of sizes to suit the necklace.

To form the tiny windows of the boxes, I have sourced industry offcuts of thin acrylic which I use sparingly to minimise my contribution to the plastic problem. I hand cut the acrylic and then file it until it fits perfectly within the outer ring shape. I then create another, slightly smaller ring which sits within the large ring and forms a ledge for the acrylic to rest on to avoid crushing the tiny plastic fragments within.

Each box is originally made from flat sheet silver which I bend into a ring to form the circular shapes. To be able to solder the inner and outer ring together, one has to fit perfectly within the other.

Each box is originally made from flat sheet silver which I bend into a ring to form the circular shapes. To be able to solder the inner and outer ring together, one has to fit perfectly within the other.

The boxes fit just right and are ready to be soldered together.

The boxes fit just right and are ready to be soldered together.

Once all the components are ready, I bring them to the soldering bench. I first create a seaweed like structure to form the geometric foundation of the piece, then strategically position each box on the structure to give the illusion of the plastics being snagged within a seaweed tangle. As all of the Plastic Soup pieces are handmade and unique, they will sometimes come together perfectly and other times look a little unbalanced. At this point I will cut pieces off and reposition the components until I am satisfied with the composition.

The beginnings of an interlacing seaweed structure (and some earrings on the side).

The beginnings of an interlacing seaweed structure (and some earrings on the side).

Once the seaweed framework is constructed, I begin to play with a very sophisticated tacking substance (blutack) to experiment with the position of the boxes.

Once the seaweed framework is constructed, I begin to play with a very sophisticated tacking substance (blutack) to experiment with the position of the boxes.

Choosing where to hang the seaweed structure from can be a little tricky and it is always important to ensure that the piece hangs well when worn. Once I have decided on a suitable position, I attach the chain, check that all of my joins are well soldered and then construction is complete.

Now that the boxes are soldered in place and the pendant is well balanced on the chain, the piece is ready for filing and sanding.

Now that the boxes are soldered in place and the pendant is well balanced on the chain, the piece is ready for filing and sanding.

From there the most time consuming part of the process begins: clean-up. I file off any excess solder and scratches to the surface of the metal then sand the piece to remove the file marks. Any surface scratches will distract from the overall effect of the whole piece so I really take my time, spending days to ensure that the finish is consistent. This can be rather fiddly given the intricacy of the interlacing structure and so I have developed a range of tiny sanding tools to access those hard to reach places.

Once I am completely satisfied with the finish, I blacken the necklace and begin to choose the precious but deadly plastic collection to sit within the boxes: In this case, turquoise, blues and greens.

A freshly blackened seaweed structure ready for setting.

A freshly blackened seaweed structure ready for setting.

I then dust the piece and set the acrylic on the underside of the boxes. From there I carefully place the tiny collection of microplastics in their new home and close the lid. The protective tape is removed from the acrylic and the final piece is revealed.

The finished necklace all ready to wear. Photograph courtesy of  Bianca Hoffrichter .

The finished necklace all ready to wear. Photograph courtesy of Bianca Hoffrichter.

It was a little while in the making but Mum was thrilled when she received her bespoke Plastic Soup Necklace. The colours and length of the chain suited her perfectly and she ‘feels wonderful wearing the piece.’ It means so much to me to have her support and knowing how proud she feels when wearing my jewellery makes my day. Thanks Mum!

If you would like to commission a Plastic Soup piece of your very own, please contact me to make an appointment.

Single Origin Rose Gold Ring - A Very Special Order

When it comes to custom orders, you never know who might call or what project a customer might have in mind. I was recently thrown one of these exciting jewellery curve balls by a lovely client who had named her son Tanami after the Australian desert. Located on the border of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the vast Tanami desert is known for its iconic red dirt as well as its gold. My client loved the idea of presenting her son with a single origin Tanami gold ring in a rich rose colour to symbolise the landscape he was named after. The whole concept sounded like a wonderful challenge and so I got started.


As a jeweller, I use a variety of suppliers who mainly deal in recycled metals so knowing where to start to find gold from a specific region required a lot of detective work. Through my research, I found a few metal refining companies who source freshly mined gold from the Tanami. Unfortunately, they also purchase their gold from other mines to keep up with demand. During refining, the Tanami gold would probably be mixed with other gold from elsewhere and they couldn’t guarantee that it would be of single origin. 


I needed to take a step back in the supply chain and decided to contact the mines directly. Given that they don’t usually deal with jewellers or the public, they thought I was a little nuts and couldn’t really give me much information. I persevered for days and finally found a company who was willing to help me which was music to my ears. 


The time had come to start the project. I went to make my order at which point the company informed me that the entire mine was closing! Panic ensued but luckily I had a brainwave which saved the day… Gold nuggets! 

A handful of single origin Tanami gold nuggets.

A handful of single origin Tanami gold nuggets.

Now you may think I am crazy for melting down gold nuggets, given that their value as a specimen will often exceed their value in terms of gold content, however, I can assure you that no spectacular gold nuggets were harmed in the process of making this piece. After more research, I managed to find a hidden gem of a supplier, my new friend Wally. Wally had been fossicking for gold back in the 90’s and managed to find himself quite the collection which he released for sale from time to time. The stars must have aligned and at the very moment I was looking for a Tanami gold nugget, he was selling some.


Wally had an array of large gold nuggets for sale but I didn’t want to melt down such a beautiful specimen. I gave him a call and discovered that in his private collection he also had quite a few small nuggets which he would sometimes sell to metal refining companies around Australia. Finally, I had some single origin Tanami gold but what to do with it?

The best kind of certification!

The best kind of certification!


Australian nuggets are some of the most pure in the world but they still need to be refined to ensure that that the metal contains 99.9% fine gold which can then be alloyed. I couldn’t send them to my usual suppliers as they would mix it in with the rest of their gold, defeating the purpose of the whole exercise. I searched far and wide, finding an amazing company who agreed to help me by refining my gold individually. When their work was done, I was left with a lovely fine gold ingot which I then made into an elegant rose gold band.

My freshly melted Tanami gold ingot.

My freshly melted Tanami gold ingot.

The beautiful ring all clean with a matte finish.

The beautiful ring all clean with a matte finish.

My delightful customer received her beautiful ring and presented the keepsake to her son, Tanami. Finding single origin Tanami gold was a tricky but rewarding process. It taught me a lot about the origin of my materials and made me think about part of the jewellery making process that I had always taken for granted. I was so happy that the project came together in the end and was really honoured to be able to produce a custom ring which was so meaningful to my client.

 

Want to have your own bespoke piece of jewellery made? Contact me to make an appointment.

A Bespoke Ring for an Artist - Ellie Kammer

One of the things I love most about working in a studio collective is meeting like-minded creatives who appreciate the handmade just as much as I do. I am really lucky to spend my days with such a talented group of artists and am so grateful to be able to exchange experiences, skills and advice with them.

One of those artists is painter, Ellie Kammer. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Ellie uses her experience of having endometriosis to inspire her paintings and uses them to raise awareness of this painful medical issue faced by many women. I have been a fan of Ellie and her beautiful work ever since meeting her, so when she had a challenge for me, to help her design and make a custom piece of jewellery, I happily accepted.

One of Ellie's amazing paintings, 'Endometriosis (Imponderable),' Oil on Canvas, 76cm x 61cm

One of Ellie's amazing paintings, 'Endometriosis (Imponderable),' Oil on Canvas, 76cm x 61cm

Ellie was looking for a contemporary variation of a traditional men’s silver cygnet ring in a geometric style for her partner’s Birthday and was keen to help make the piece. To add a personal touch to the gift, she wanted the ring face to feature three fine lines which would act as a subtle representation of their family: herself, her partner, and her stepson.

To leave a bit more room to experiment with the shape of the ring, I decided that we would work in wax and cast the piece. I first taught Ellie how to cut the wax blank which would form the initial shape for the ring. She then removed the excess wax from the centre of the blank, ensuring that it was the right size for her partner’s finger. It was Ellie’s first time making jewellery but she got the hang of it quickly.

Ellie testing her jewellery making skill on my unusually tidy workbench.

Ellie testing her jewellery making skill on my unusually tidy workbench.

From there I took over to work with the overall shape of the ring. I strategically removed wax from different areas to form an angular aesthetic. Once the carving was complete, I made the piece lovely and smooth, then sent it off for casting.

From a plain piece of wax to an almost finished wax ring.

From a plain piece of wax to an almost finished wax ring.

After the carved wax piece was cast in silver, I filed back a fine layer from the entire ring to remove any impurities and imperfections from the casting process. I then sanded the ring giving it an even finish.

Before and after casting.

Before and after casting.

Now it was time for the most important detail: the line work. I marked the three lines and sawed each one very carefully. When creating such a precise, geometric shape, any wrong move with the saw frame would almost certainly ruin the design, a fate which I wanted to avoid. Luckily, I managed to saw some good lines and moved onto the final clean-up and polish of the ring. To give the piece a more masculine and slightly grungy feel, I blackened the ring, then sanded it back leaving the patina in the relief areas only.

It was a delight to work with Ellie in creating this beautiful piece. We managed to make her deadline with time to spare and her partner was stoked to receive such a thoughtful gift. 

The final ring complete with crisp line-work all ready to be gifted. Photography courtesy of  Bianca Hoffrichter .

The final ring complete with crisp line-work all ready to be gifted. Photography courtesy of Bianca Hoffrichter.

Feeling inspired? To have your own custom piece of jewellery made, contact me to make an appointment.

Fixing Fast Fashion - A Special Order Silver Necklace

Given the increasing popularity of ‘Fast Fashion,’ a phenomenon where trends are in one day and out (or thrown out) the next, it is no surprise that I regularly have customers coming to me with jewellery that they love but have not lasted the test of time. To keep up with fashion at such a speed, items are made quickly and cheaply to last a season rather than a lifetime. Not only is the throw away mentality terrible for the environment, but the premature death of a beloved piece of jewellery is often upsetting for the client. 


I’ve heard that some jewellers prefer not to go near costume jewellery repairs and remakes as they can often be tedious or not to their particular aesthetic, however, I really enjoy working with these pieces. Not only do I see it as a great opportunity to learn, but I really like the idea that I can either repair something that would otherwise be thrown out or remake the piece so that it will last a lifetime. It is more sustainable approach to fashion and encourages my customers to truly treasure their piece of jewellery.


One particular client came to me with her beloved necklace which was so well worn that the plating was patchy and the chains had fallen off so many times that there were layers of glue from desperate attempts to save the its life. My delightful client had two options. A: Discard the necklace she wore so much it practically became part of her body, or B: Find a good jeweller to remake the piece in silver. Luckily for me, she chose B and so I got started.


I began the process by taking direct silicon moulds from the original necklace as I wanted the silver version to be as closed to the original design as possible. I then melted and poured a special type of jeweller’s casting wax into the mould. The wax cast would form the shape for the final metal discs so I had to be really careful to get all of the bubbles out of the wax before it hardened to prevent any holes in my metal.

My highly sophisticated mould making setup. Aka - kitchen stove and patty pans.

Once the waxes had hardened, I filed the discs back to the exact size and shape I needed and then sent them off to be cast.

The freshly carved wax models. 

Freshly cast silver disks. During the casting process, fine plaster is poured around the wax moulds. Once the plaster sets, it is put into a kiln, melting the wax away and leaving a perfectly formed cavity for molten metal to flow into.

The discs on the original necklace had no backing plate to cover and protect the unsightly solder joins which is something I wanted to improve on in the remake. I used my computer to design a backing plate that would protect and help position the points where the chains were attached. I also made sure that the plates included holes to rivet everything together. These designs were then printed in wax and also cast in silver.  

Preparing the disk shapes with their rivets before cleaning to make sure everything fits snugly.

The original piece had a very specific size and patterned chain which was integral to the design. I wanted to use a high quality chain that would last which was quite a challenge to find. I ended up with a beautifully made Italian chain and soldered it onto the backing plate.

Inner workings of the necklace complete with some luxurious flat sterling silver snake chain.

After casting, there is a lot of clean up to be done to give the pieces a fine finish. I filed, sanded and polished the pieces to a near mirror finish, just like the original. 

The necklace is all ready to be riveted. I decided to give the backing plates a brushed finish for a bit of contrast against the shiny chain and feature disks.

I then riveted the piece together by hand and gave it a final touch up polish.

All riveted together!

And I'm finally done. The original necklace on the left and the new one on the right. I know which one my favorite is!

My lovely customer was very happy with her new and improved necklace and hopes that she will one day hand it down to her daughter.

One very happy customer!