First of all, when it comes to making jewellery "practice makes perfect" is pure bullshit - but undeniably, practice certainly makes you better!
Have you ever had one of those days where it all goes wrong? You’ve had a million of them? Good… me too! It goes like this… You’ve hit a road block and you feel like it’s just not working, you’ve thrown your coffee at the wall in a hissy fit and have sworn off jewellery making forever. And now, you’re onto your second bottle of wine and it’s only 11am…. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there – don’t worry (although I do try to keep the wine until after 5pm lest I be judged!) Seriously, if making jewellery were that easy, everyone would be doing it, so please don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go right the first time! Unless you’re a superwoman (or a slightly annoying, abnormally gifted person), it’s highly unlikely anyone will get things perfect the first time, if ever – after all, we are our worst critics. It’s simply a matter of fact that to do anything well consistently, you really do need to put in the practice.
But, let me tell you one thing…….. When it comes to making jewellery, how we practice is really bloody important, there is zero point in going around in circles repeating the same mistake over and over and expecting different results.
So, first thing’s first: TRY – like seriously, stop reading and researching, and watching random videos on YouTube, and try. Of course, as with everything metalsmithing related, we need to give the task our best shot. So work mindfully with 100% focus through each step! Then, if it doesn’t work, try again. And if that doesn’t work, try again. But as a metalsmithing student it’s your job, with each try, to consider what it is that might be going wrong. Then make slight changes to the technique as necessary – rather than simply repeating the same steps as before and hoping things will magically work. For instance, one technique I think almost every jewellery student will agree they didn’t get the first time is flush setting.
With flush setting (or gypsy setting as it’s sometimes known), we need to set one stone completely at a time. So don’t drill 5 holes and bur 5 holes and then try to set 5 stones – if you f**ked up the holes to start with and did exactly the same thing on the following 5, then you’re pretty much in for nothing but an emotional meltdown. And when you’re taking an online jewellery making class, I’m sorry but I can’t bring Lola over for a quick pick me up cuddle. But she does send her love, and says don’t worry – you got this!
When trying any stone setting technique for the first time, it’s a good idea follow each step for one stone at a time. By working this way, we can learn what is causing us the problem, and adjust our methods accordingly. So you really do need to pay attention to what is and isn’t working.
At the risk of sounding repetitive (but it’s super important!): If you try flush setting on your first stone and it doesn’t work, try again and then maybe one more time – doing exactly the same as you did the first time. But then, if it’s still not working, we need to start thinking about why the bloody hell not, and then make some small changes (one change at a time) to how we’re working. For instance, if your stone is loose in the seat and you can’t get it to set with the needle burnisher, next time try cutting a little less deep with your bud bur before continuing onto the setting bur, try this a few times and see if this helps. In another case, maybe you need to try drilling your seat a little deeper or shallower – again give it a few tries and see what happens. Only by testing these slight variations will we find what works perfectly, and not run round and round in emotionally draining circles of perpetual frustration.
Make Each Step Count
Whether flush setting, saw piercing or soldering, when it comes to making jewellery, whatever we are working on needs to be broken down into steps. We need to focus on each step, on getting that one process 100% perfect if the next step is to have a chance at success. When you’re drilling, drill a hole like it’s the only thing you have to do. To win all the metalsmithing tools you can dream of, you only have to drill one single perfectly straight hole. When you’re piercing a pendant that has 50 different cells, pierce each like it’s the only one and make it as awesome as you possibly can. Progress may seem slower this way, but believe me, it’s much better in the long run to do it the right way, rather than the fast way.
Learning online can be a frustrating challenge, especially with something practical such as metalsmithing. It’s hard when there’s nobody there to say “hey, this is what you’re doing wrong”. But with a solid can-do attitude, and the willingness to screw up (and see it as a learning experience rather than a failure), I have every faith that you can freekin do this!
So, get off the internet, put on your big girl pants and get back to bloody work!
Sending you the best luck in the world for nailing whatever it is you’re working on today. You got this!
Want to learn more?
Our Metalsmith Academy will be opening up again for membership enrolment in December 2021. We’ll only be taking in a limited number of students this time, so if you would like to get on the waitlist and be notified as soon as we go live – just click the little button below: