REVIEW: Jewellery Week Free Workshops

22 Jun

As an Arts and Crafts enthusiast on a limited budget, I always keep a beady eye out for free workshops in London that will allow me to try my hand at new skills. Jewellery Week is one of my favourite events in the annual calendar because aside from showcasing the amazing work of up-and-coming young designers, the organisers always ensure a mixture of workshops and tutorials are offered as part of the schedule.

This year, I was able to partake in no less than three workshops – at no cost. Previously, I’ve had to travel to Islington or further inwards but the action finally came to the heart of North London as part of Open Studios and Art Trail events which were incorporated into this year’s Jewellery Week.

Over a single weekend (June 8th & 9th), the trail led me on a wonderful journey through the multicultural areas of Palmers Green and Southgate, hopping from coffee shops to high street retailers showcasing local jewellery designs and handmade wares. Space Gallery, on Southgate High Street became my second home for the weekend and was where I tried out three new experiences.

Workshop #1 – One of the things on my Bucket List happens to be Glass Forming so you can imagine my excitement when I saw this listed as part of the program. I signed up immediately and counted down until the day. Unfortunately, due to a difficulty with insurance (it was unobtainable!), the workshop ended up being a demonstration rather than an interactive class. That said, watching Ruth Berenbaum of Fyrbox turn tubes of Pyrex into marbled ornaments using coloured crushed glass and a fearsome looking bunson burner was spectacular.

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Workshop #2 – A Ceramics workshop hosted by Doodle Designs offered the chance to make both ornaments and brooches from porcelain, which looked and felt very similar to slabs of clay. Feeling like a kid with a new Play-Dough kit, I had my own area to roll, shape and stamp this putty into a range of pretty designs which I eventually handed to tutor Christina Stavrinides to be fired for free. There’s even the option to paint my creations before a second firing next weekend (for a £5 fee) which I will, of course, partake in.

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Workshop #3 – I’ve tried my hand at making metal jewellery before but the Silversmithing masterclass by Steve Wager FIPG of S.E.W Ltd was one of the most interesting and exciting workshops I have ever attended. Listening to him explain the history of the trade and the reasons behind its decline in the United Kingdom was genuinely fascinating. Plus, I got to try my hand at making a spoon which involved a wonderfully cathartic session with a hammer! Of course, I managed to whack my thumb, but that was all part of the fun! It was amazing to see a tiny, thin piece of silver repeatedly bashed, heated and cooled (a process known as ‘annealing’) to transform it into a spoon. I’ve already resolved to try more Silversmithing classes and can’t wait to have another try. Steve is one of the UK’s last remaining fully-fledged silversmiths/goldsmiths/jewellers. He was made a Freeman of the City of London and of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths upon completion of a five year apprenticeship served under his ‘master’, Algernon Asprey. Yes, Asprey, as in the Crown jewellers on Bond Street! Take a look at some of his mesmerising work:

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A tiny piece of silver turns into a spoon in three stages

The benefits of funded Arts and Crafts initiatives are multiple; community driven, they bring people from all demographics together in creative environments to learn, socialise and discover.

I feel passionately that more free workshops for both adults and kids will have a positive effect on society. Learning to create something is calming and stress-busting as well as keeping your brain and limbs active, helping with coordination and concentration. And let’s not forget the satisfaction generated by producing something original by hand – it’s confidence boosting and creates a sense of self-worth. Furthermore, the social barriers that are broken during a class where everyone is embarking on the same creative endeavour can only be a good thing. My experience is that you end up conversing with, and helping, all kinds of like-minded people who wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to socialise together elsewhere. It’s not often that you see strangers in every age group – from child to pensioner – laughing together outside of a family circle.

I hope that Local Authorities will invest more into the Community and Arts sectors but I fear government cuts will render this difficult. Still, it’s not impossible and it’s time Council representatives had a look at how best to create more opportunities for families and adults to develop new skills. I hope to get back on the Open Studios and Arts Trail next year, with lots of family and friends who have enjoyed hearing of my recent experiences, so let’s hope Enfield Council and Jewellery Week both have the vision to support it and keep up the good work.

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