What can you learn in just one day?
Quite a lot, it turns out, if you enrol, like I did on a silver clay jewellery making corse at the WI college, Denman in Oxfordshire.
The course was a 'one day beginners guide to silver clay jewellery making' with tutor Melanie Blakie, though by the end of the day the pieces that had been made by the 10 participants didn't look as though they'd been made by amateurs.
Silver clay jewellery uses powdered silver that's a by-product from the photographic industry to create real silver jewellery that is 99.9% pure, so it was a nice surprise that it ticked sustainable & recyclable boxes
I have to admit, that when we were told at the start that we'd be making small charms in the morning and a pendant in the afternoon I wondered what I'd do with the 4 spare hours I'd surely have. I mean, how hard would it be to roll out a bit of clay and stamp shapes in it?
How wrong I was. We learned that silver clay dries very quickly so needs to be worked on super fast. To help, we practiced our techniques and designs on Play Doh which has a similar consistency to silver clay.
Each packet of silver clay contained enough to make 3 small charm-bracelet sized charms, or in my case a charm and a pair of earrings.
By the end of the morning we'd perfected our designs, unwrapped the precious silver clay and recreated the design in the real thing, had them fired in the kiln, buffed up a shine with a wire brush and left them turning in a rock tumbler while we headed off for lunch.
The afternoon's task was to create a single pendant imprinted with a design. Melanie was keen to show us that silver clay making could be done at home without the need for expensive equipment, so I took that ideal to heart and used sandpaper to create an impression on mine, using inspiration from Melanie's newly published book Getting Started in Silver Clay Jewellery
The end result? A unique and beautiful pure silver pendant to go with my morning's work of a pair of earrings and two small charms.
Melanie runs both day and weekend courses throughout the year at Denman which are open to everyone (WI members receive a discount).
But as silver clay jewellery making is so easy to do at home, armed with a copy of Melanie's book and a piece of metal mesh for gas-ring firing, I'm spending happy evenings planning the kind of silver ring I've long coveted but never been able to afford.