Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Making Jewelry With Terri Brush

As you all know by now I am thoroughly enjoying my affaire with jewelry. Feeling it, wearing it, and writing on the subject is one thing, but to really know, understand, and love an art form you have to study it. When you learn how to make something you are taking part in a tradition. You become intimately acquainted with your subject matter. It was time I got to know jewelry on this level.

I'm so grateful to have attended one of Terri Brush's workshops (http://www.terribrushdesigns.com/). I cant tell you how many people have spoken so highly of Terri and so positively of her classes. So on Friday I jetted down to one of my favorite spots, Solana Beach, for an all day workshop on soldering basics.

I have to tell you, although this was a beginning class, I was very nervous. I had heard words like "heat," "flame," and "burn." I didnt want to injure myself. Also, many of the women in the class had taken it before, so they actually did know how to solder, which was kind of intimidating.
But the cool thing about getting a group of women together to make art is that somewhere along the line those insecurities melt away. You become part of a community. You are all united in your common goal to learn to make something from nothing, to beautify the once mundane. The class was small, and everyone was made to feel so welcome. The place settings were adorable. Some familiar faces were in the crowd too. Deb Hodge (http://www.breathingbesideus.com/) sat next to me and Julie Haymaker Thompson (http://www.juliehaymaker.com/) sat across from me. Julie drew the houses pictured above and the dress I'm wearing is actually one of Deb's creations.

As the Beatles played on we chose scrapbook paper and began collaging. I of course was drawn to the brightest colors, sparkles, and the houndstooth print. At first, the collaging didnt make sense, but it sure was fun. Julie explained shading techniques with a Stabilo and we began using Stickles and pencils to add dimension to our collages. After they baked in the oven we adhered rhinestones and vintage ribbons. Then it was time to lay our glass over our papers and cut. That's when the magic happened.
The minute you place your glass over the collage is when pendants take shape. You begin to see the majesty in little inky crevices that you did not see before. Words begin to pop out and you find yourself wanting to capture phrases beneath your glass, like catching fireflies in a jar.
After cutting to size you sandwich the papers and the glass and begin wrapping them in copper tape. While I am a pretty good gift wrapper this step was hard due to the thickness of my collages (of course I went rhinestone crazy - those suckers add a lot of volume, making it harder to encase the collage).
After wrapping you get to bring the heat. It is so much fun to actually flux a piece and then go over it with the soldering iron. It is magic. All the copper turns to liquidy silver. The hardest part for me was smoothing the perimeter. My metal came out kind of lumpy, but Terri is a pro at delicately smoothing a side. Its almost soothing to watch the process.
The last step is the hardest, and that is attaching the jump ring. You basically have to hold it with pliers, while holding your pendant with a sponge and sandwich the jump ring between two soldered blobs. I know this isnt technical jargon, but really thats what its like. I lost one jump ring in the process - all in all, not too bad.
My completed pendants show off some things I would expect from me: the female form, bling,
pastel colors, and French iconography; and there are some things shown that I would not expect from me: the unexpected phrase from a torn text, blue and green mixed together, black and white. Since these pendants have two sides it's like showing off different sides of you. While the jewelry maker in me came out for a day, I realized that I cannot completely shut out the editor side of me. While cleaning my pendants off I realized that these were items I would certainly wear, but I dont know that I'd feature them in the magazine. But what I do know (and perhaps what is most important) is that I would solder again, and next time I would bring some of my own papers to collage now that I know what the process is like. Bottom line: you never know until you try. I could definitely see myself being addicted to soldering. And the best part: I didnt burn myself at all! Impressive considering those irons are set at 700 degrees.
Everyone's jewelry turned out amazing. Deb pulled a genius move and used the cover and sping from an old book in her piece. And Terri is the master at adding soldered dots to her pieces for added texture that are oh so elegant. Terri's baubles are immaculate. When I look over her jewelry I am in awe, knowing what it took to get to that finished point. I have even more appreciation for jewelry artists and soldering, and perhaps this is the beginning of a new kind of love affaire for me. I'm actually not completely done with the necklaces as I have some ideas. Stay tuned for the finished project.
My immense thanks to Terri Brush for having me, being patient, and teaching me with such ease, such confidence, such grace. I totally get why women go on these workshops and retreats, because the camaraderie, the laughter, the warmth in the air is welcoming and comforting. Thanks to my fellow classmates for sitting with me, talking to me, having a willingness to learn, and loving jewelry. Thanks to Deb for inviting me, and Dottie for those absolutely insanely delicious brownies. And thanks to everyone who studies the sacred art of making jewelry so that we can all behold the beauty of something made from nothing, the otherwise mundane. And a special thanks to those who believe in teaching the secrets of their trade, in passing down knowledge, so as not to keep it to themselves but to give us all the opportunity to love and learn through art.


  1. Learning something new is always exciting. Sounds like an awesome class with even awesome-r people!
    Enjoy the day, Beth!

  2. this looks like such fun although I have to admit... heat and burn are words that have always scared me off soldering! but I am working on a new jewelry line all stitched of course!

  3. thanks for coming to Terri's class Beth! I was working at the MM, but I felt as though I got to experience the process through your post.
    It was wonderful to see you as always!

  4. Soldering is one of my very favorite things to do! I'm so glad you enjoyed it; and I warn you...it is definitely addictive! You'll be soldering everything before you are finished. Have fun with your new hobby! Sheila