A look behind-the-scenes at the creative process that goes into making Indigo Berry handcrafted silver jewellery.
Each of my handcrafted silver pieces begins with inspiration.... The silver earrings above, were inspired by one of the Isle of Skye's most famous landscape features- the Old Man of Storr.
Of course, here in the Isle of Skye I am literally surrounded by amazing landscape! I might simply glance out the window and note the play of light on the hills, or the sunshine on the loch. I am always looking for ideas and making notes. I keep a book of ideas – snippets of things that have caught my eye, patterns and textures. I also take a LOT of photographs. Even a walk up the road will reveal something to me:- a wildflower, patterns in the sand when the tide recedes, or the texture of stones.
Working with Silver Clay
Each of my handcrafted silver pieces begins life as a lump of silver clay. Grey and, well, clay like. Certainly nothing like silver! The silver clay has a relatively short working time, so I like to at least have gathered my ideas into an initial sketch before starting.
I will roll the clay, cut or shape it, adding texture, depending on the design I am creating. Some of my pieces are made of several seperate components, and each one has to be rolled cut and shaped separately.
In case you are wondering - the playing cards make it easier to move the clay off my work space and onto the drying rack!
Inbetween each stage of the process, the clay needs to dry. I have a 'sophisticated' bit of kit for this:- a baking rack! Each piece can take a few days to dry, depending on the temperature. Once the clay is dry, I can sand it and start building pieces together into the design. The seperate components are ‘stuck’ together using clay paste and then the joints are filled, smoothed and left to dry again, before they can be refined and sanded some more.
Rings are rolled and made on a mandrel - the difficult part is getting the 'join' to look seamless. I sometimes decorate the dried and sanded rings with a wet clay that is applied with a syringe whilst I turn the mandrel - it pays to be a little ambidextrous!
If the design needs a hole, I sometimes do that at the initial wet stage, but I also sometimes drill when the clay is dry - and pray it doesn't break! Oh yeah, things go wrong – clay is pretty fragile! Even when its dry and ready to fire, it can still go horribly wrong. Of course, if it does break, I can usually save the pieces - and sometimes I have been able to incorporate them into another design at a later date!
I believe in happy accidents! Design for me is always an organic process and definitely NOT an exact science!
And because I never stop learning - I am indebted to the lovely Emma at Silver Clay School whose advice and support has been invaluable!
Once I am happy with the finish, the edges are smooth, and the texture just right:- the silver clay is then fired. This is where the magic happens – in the kiln the binder in the clay is burned away revealing the sterling silver. Its white when it comes out the kiln and it needs a buff and a tumble to shine it.
Then the fired pieces are sent to Edinburgh Assay for hallmarking. I am immensely proud to have my own makers mark! You can read more about Hallmarking in my blog post On the Mark
Once the hallmarked silver pieces are returned, I can finish them. I will often give them a patina using Liver of Sulphur - this brings out the textures and 'ages' the silver so its not quite so shiny. I like my pieces to have a bit of a rustic look! Very often I will add gemstones or wire work to the design and I always use sterling silver components with my handcrafted silver.
This is a Flower Pendant from start to finish:-
This Flower pendant is sold. But you can discover more of my 'one of a kind' handcrafted silver pieces here