Metalsmithing 101

posted in: Art New Wave | 8


After waiting 5 years of battling my calendar, I finally took an introduction to metalsmithing class – WOOT!  Yes, I can say without a doubt that this was a life changing experience for this artist and well worth the wait…  Over the years I’d actually been in two different intro classes but because I knew the instructors (and I was there for free LOL) on both occasions I ended up being the teacher’s assistant and helping out other students with no “hands on” time myself to master things.

Since there is no longer a Summer CHA Show, my schedule finally opened up for me to attend the Beginning Jewelry and Metals Intensive class at The Pratt.  The Pratt is here in Seattle and I highly recommend taking a class there if you ever have the chance, it was definitely more than worth the time and expense!  Because this was the intensive class, 8 weeks was crammed into 4 mind filling days of working with metal.  Julia Heineccius was the instructor for the class and I can say hands down one of the best instructors I have ever encountered!  What impressed me the most about her was that she tailored each metal lesson, and in reality the entire class, to each individual student and their goals and projects for the class.   Tia Kramer was the TA for the class and she was a wealth of information of working with wire and cold connections.

I wanted to share with you a few pieces that I made in class, including the two above.  We worked mostly with copper and brass in class and I have to tell you, now I know why people get addicted to fire and using a torch!  After mastering the art of annealing metal and how it makes your life so much easier when making forms, I tackled soldering…. I’ll begin this by saying that my idea of what soldering was and what it actually is are two different things LOL  Coming from the craft world, my idea of soldering was sticking something between two pieces of glass, throwing on the copper tape and then using that clunky soldering gun from the hardware store.  I soon discover that REAL soldering uses a torch, two hands, and alot of patience to get things just right so you don’t end up with a hot mess!  Since I’m not the most coordinated person in the world, it took me at least a couple of hours just to get comfortable firing with one hand while working with the other.


Here’s a close up of one of the completed pieces… I think I scared everyone on the third day of class because I had a lightbulb moment at 2am and realized that I could bring my Grand Calibur, dies and embossing plates to class and hopefully get them to work – and did it ever save me some time!  I have now become addicted to coloring metal – pickling, super pickling and using sulfur or as I renamed them pickle, relish and cajun!  I could have spent four days just coloring and polishing metal and been happy!


I told Julia on my first day of class that my goal of the class was to finally make a bracelet that the links were soldered together so there were no seams – and this was my end result, a copper (yes it’s copper!) bracelet that I can say I made by myself!  I cut and shaped each individual ring (square), and then hammered each down to give them a more organic look before soldering each connection.  Then it was pickle and cajun with a little polish at the end – and I couldn’t be more proud of myself!

My message to you is this – DON’T wait to take that class that you’ve been holding back on doing for years and years!  Yes they can be expensive, take time away from your family and work but I will tell you that nothing will recharge your creative spirit and give you so many endless ideas for projects than to dive into the deep end of the pool, sink or swim, and give it all you’ve got.  Believe me, I will not wait this long again to take a class that is calling my name!

8 Responses

  1. barbara macaskill

    WOW! These pieces are gorgeous!! So happy for you that you were able to take the time to FINALLY attend the class! looking forward to seeing more of your pieces!

  2. Fabulous work and the bracelet is just awesome!

  3. WOW!! John, the pieces you created are Fantastic! I would love to take a Metalsmithing class someday. So happy for you that you had a chance to take the class. Can’t wait to seem more!

  4. Yay you for doing something for yourself. We get so caught up in doing for others, we forget about numero uno!
    All your pieces look really nice, but I am in LOVE with the bracelet. Can anyone say GORGEOUS ?!?

  5. Beautiful work, John! Adding metalsmithing to the list!

  6. That’s awesome! Are those Art Mechanique bokts I spy?

  7. Your pieces are beautiful and that bracelet is gorgeous! My 19-yr old son has been blacksmithing for a few years now and has also gotten into making chainmaille and a variety of chains. I need to find a class for him that will teach him how to solder. He just made me a beautiful bracelet for my birthday. I posted it on my fb page, would love for you to take a look. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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