Friday, August 10, 2007
Adventures in Silver Jewelry Making
I recently realized that I'd not yet posted about my foray into silver jewelry making. It was simultaneously a successful and painful foray, as you'll learn below.
From 2002-2004, while I was living in the Bay Area, I bought class and studio time at a Precious Metal Clay studio in Berkeley. (Actually, if you click on that link you'll see my sister's picture, she was visiting me and happy about something I'd made for her.) I'd never heard of PMC before I started, but it is basically a clay that bakes down (in a kiln) to 99.9% pure silver, or to 14K gold. I worked in silver (since it was a lot cheaper than gold) and wound up making lots of jewelry, and I even made 2 small incense burners. PMC is an interesting medium to work with because you can add texture to it. The silver bead on the necklace above is an example of a textured piece. I haven't heard about many people working with it as a hobby, but I have seen many PMC pieces at craft shows and in boutique jewelry settings.
Perhaps one of the reasons it's not a commonplace hobby is because PMC requires equipment and a longer-term commitment than some other forms of jewelry making like beading. You have to create the piece, let it dry out, put it in a kiln for several hours, buff and refine it, polish it and then [as in the case of this necklace] use it in a jewelry piece.
I learned the hard way that PMC can also be dangerous if you've got long hair. I was working on buffing a ring one day when a lock of my hair slipped out of my pony tail and got caught in my Dremel tool. A hunk of hair (big enough to be noticeable but small enough to be able to cover up!) actually got pulled out at the roots. I basically scalped myself. The next day when I showed up to work, my co-worker Julie (who is an ultra-observant person) said, "Oh, wow, you put a barrette in your hair today! It looks nice!" A little while later she said, "So what made you decide to change your hairstyle?" I kind of flubbed a non-answer, and a while later she asked again. I finally admitted to her that I'd pulled out a chunk of hair and showed her the damage. It grew back in slowly but I did modify my hairstyle (such as it is) for several months. My husband loved the little buzz cut, and I grew to love the physical reminder of my PMC mistake as well.
After I moved away from California, I haven't had enough free time (or money, as a grad student) to work with PMC anymore. I'm sure my scalp is grateful.