Silver metal clay has intrigued me since I did silversmithing classes a few years ago, simply because it promises so much: all the gleam and precious feel of silver and… well… about a quarter of the work to achieve it. What’s not to intrigue? But my then teacher scared me off with stories of how difficult it is to work with, and its purported inferior quality.
Well, now I’ve worked with the stuff and I’m a convert. It’s a very different material to manipulate than sterling silver, which requires large amounts of heating and hammering. Working with silver metal clay is more like working with ceramic clay, in that you have to work fast or it dries out. It is also a lot like working with a polymer clay such as Fimo – you push it around with your fingers to achieve the effects you want.
At my London Jewellery School class we were taught by silver clay enthusiast and expert Sima Vaziry, whose upbringing has clearly influenced her love of all things Persian and Afghan. A trained graphic designer, she’s been silver smithing for years, etching her own calligraphy onto jewellery and increasingly struggling to achieve her desired finish. That is until she discovered silver metal clay – and this beguiling material is now used to create her bestselling collection, which is available to buy at the British Museum. Describing why she decided to make the move from graphic design to jewellery design she made the very good point that in the former you rarely get pure praise: no one ever says ‘wow, that’s beautiful’ which they do when they fall in love with a stunning piece of jewellery. The perfect advocate for the London Jewellery School, Sima turned her love of jewellery into a serious career by taking a number of short courses over two years. And there’s me dreaming of another career…
Our class was small, which was perfect since it turned out to be quite intensive – there’s a lot to fit in if you want to create a fully formed piece of jewellery in just two and a half hours. But it turns out that it is possible! And whilst I had some moments of frustration (damn, that stuff dries fast, you need to have your design ready planned and all the materials close at hand) by the end I was happy as a pig in muck. There’s nothing like holding that weighty bit of silver in your hand, and thinking – blimey, just a few moments ago that was no more than a slab of white clay. Whilst I might not have achieved a final design that was fully to my liking, for a quick process with eminently satisfying results you really can’t beat this medium – and I’d love to give it another go, only next time with better design preparation and planning.
Sima Vaziry‘s Bloom necklace made out of silver metal clay. She was wearing one at the class and I can testify that it was beautiful. I’d like to have these kind of skills, but I guess they take time (you can see my first efforts at the top of the blog)!
The London Jewellery School offers all sorts of interesting courses so their website is well worth checking out: how about a taster class for just £35 as a unique and thoughtful present? If you fancy learning more about how to work with silver metal clay then you can still join the second pre-christmas offering next week, listed here. You can find jewellery by Sima Vaziry at the Grenville Shop in the British Museum or online. She will be giving a talk about her designs to friends of the British Museum on March 19th, at 18.30 & 20.00 in the Lecture Theatre, titled ‘A journey into jewellery – Hajj range designer Sima Vaziry talks about her life and her story-telling pieces‘.
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