Brooklyn Navy Yard sits coldly on the East River and is full of industrial buildings and small businesses. It is now the the manufacturing pride of America – being one of the only areas where American manufacturing rose in recent years (3% if your interested). The buildings are not friendly ones but the people are, and are even quick to show you their museum or craft. The best way to get a glimpse into these tightly locked studio is to take a class.
On Saturday I studied the metal arts with cuff making via Sidetour (now owned by Groupon).
I love a good bracelet and the idea of making my own immediately won me over – worth the serious price tag. The class was 4 hours long, and you need all of that to transform a four inch long strip of copper or brass into a cutout cuff.
Even with a history in jewelry making I had no idea what went into making these creations.
Step one – make your design. This is always the hardest, especially given the time restraint and beginner level. At first I wanted a dozen stars or maybe just four for my own stab at the Wild pendant I have been coveting, but then I realized I’d have to move in with the artist to ever finish it so I went with a fire and ice theme. My strip would loose its straight edge in favor of a wavy bottom and then is add flame lick cutouts into the metal. That was the inspiration, the finished product is abstract at best. After drawing and taping my design into the metal I grabbed a jewelry saw and began cutting away the wavy bottom this only took about an eternity. Then I pierced holes in the middle of the metal so I could thread the saw through the hole and make a donut hole. Then I sawed and sawed and broke three saws and two drill bits and sawed some more. Finally my image had emerged and I could sand it down for comfort and to get rid of hesitation marks (Dexter anyone?$. Then I got to play with a blow torch a bit – all under the watchful gaze of my tutor – and get the metal hot enough to bend. Then it went into water and then an acidic mixture hen back to water before I was able to touch a strip of metal that looked the same, albeit pinker, but was flexible! Then I wrapped it around a wrist form and hammered the sides and edges to fit. A quick polish and I could wear it home!
As a fan of jewelry both DIY and store bought this tour was fantastic. The tutor was Carrie Bilbo, etsy shop owner and professional jewelry artisan first and foremost. Her pieces are amazing and come from both metal working and cast moldings. I can’t imagine how long her branch cuff must have taken.