MetalSmithing 101

Have you ever experienced a piece of art only to become so inspired you want to create your own version? Well, it happened to me. It all started with a gift from a friend, a hand crafted ring made from a fork and a piece of agate.  I knew then I wanted to learn more about metalsmithing and found the perfect venue for my curiosity, Metalsmithing 101 in Lafayette, CO.  Metalsmithing is one of the world’s oldest occupations; making useful and decorative items from various metals.  Today’s metalsmith’s are steeped in the ancient traditions of crafting items of function and beauty.

With a fundamental and enlightening approach, Metalsmith Instructor and lifetime artist, Karen Edgerly of Finer Edge Studio, brings a spirited passion to the art form.  The class was  held at the pARTiculars Gallery/Studio  ( #LafayetteCO ) and nicely equipped with the tools to accommodate the workshop.  The class consisted of four eager students, all with different levels of experience with metals. Each participant had the opportunity to design and craft two jewelry projects under Karen’s direction; a pendant and a cuff.

Project Pendant.  As a first assignment, we were tasked to design a pendant with a stone.  We were each given a piece of copper, a blank canvas if you will, and told to draw out our vision for a pendant to include: a bezel, a stone, and a jump ring.  For me, all this was new and unfamiliar, but I quickly became absorbed into the project.  With jeweler saws in hand, the studio was humming with the sounds of copper being shaped into one-of-a-kind creations.  Once the shape was cut out, then came the sanding, and more sanding….did I mention there was a lot of sanding.  Using a buffing and polishing wheel to remove scratches and imperfections, the smooth copper base was ready for the bezel and stone.  The bezel (the metal circle that holds the stone in place) is cut and shaped to the stone.  Then came the really cool part, soldering the bezel using a small butane torch, another first for me.  With the bezel in place, more sanding was necessary to accommodate the stone, which was later secured using a bezel tool.  Of course, there was more sanding.  As a final step, the pendant was buffed/polished to perfection.  The end result was a beautiful and notable art piece.


Project Copper Cuff. A little more comfortable around the tools of the trade, the next project was a welcomed challenge.   Using three types of metal, rivets, stamping tools, a hammer, a saw, and a little ingenuity, our mission was to create a cuff bracelet.  The first step: create a blueprint of the cuff design. Gosh, sometimes the hardest part is coming up with an organic design to call your own. For me, I turned to my inspirational standby, Pinterest for ideas.   After the design part, the project got noisy, but in a therapeutic kind of way!  Between pounding rivets to secure metal layers and stamping designs and textures into the components, a hammer was the tool of choice, creating a cadence-like drum beat of our own little metalsmithing tribe.  As work progressed on the cuff, of course there was more sanding, buffing, and polishing and then even more sanding, buffing and polishing.   The final stage was manipulating the metal into a cuff using a wooden mandrel.  It was amazing to see each student’s masterpiece unfold, each one as unique as it’s creator.

With a history dating back to Fifth Century BC, metalsmithing principles have remained unchanged, maybe a bit safer than days of old, but still embodies the primitive fervor that compels you to get your hands dirty and connect with these natural materials. My special thanks to Karen Edgerly for her expertise, patience and fabulous flair for the craft.  And to my classmates, Mary Coffin of Rock2Gems, Kathleen Doughty, and Janis Schulter of Colorado Creations, your original ideas and clever designs energize my inner artist to explore beyond my comfort zone.  If you’ve never had a hands-on experience with metalsmithing, add it to your bucket list or visit your local metalsmithing association for an empowering experience in metal.

Giving ‘heavy metal’ new meaning,