I must admit I was a little bit apprehensive before Yasemin Sweet's jewellery workshop. I'd had a good look at some of her Filigree pieces and not only are they majorly beautiful, they're incredibly intricate. I'm usually 'Little Miss Fairly Positive' when trying something for the first time, but making jewellery like this? In just a few hours? Surely I'd be all fingers and thumbs and would never be able to make anything I'd want to wear out in public!! :)
I couldn't have been more wrong, so here's the plot spoiler... I made a necklace I wear pretty much every day and most of that was down to the natural, gentle way Yasemin teaches. She has authentic patience by the bucketload and is really passionate about what you (as a student) want to design, make and genuinely love by the end of the workshop. I've been to quite a few classes for the Somerset cool blog, but the way Yasemin helps and guides you to learn a new skill is seriously second to none.
As a jewellery making technique, Filigree uses thin threads of gold or silver wire that you twist to make an effect a bit like fine lace. It's an ancient art form too... dating back to 3,000 BC, with a rich history traceable to the Greeks and Phoenicians, through to the more contemporary designs of today.
We started off getting to grips with it by making a small 'practice' Filigree circle - each of us taking a piece of paper-thin silver wire, flattening it with our tools and then attempting to twist it until the circle was made. I’ll be honest. It really was hard to start with - hard to get the technique right to even begin to coax the wire in the direction it needed to go! Yasemin (with the help of jewellery designer and maker Linda Sandeman - who she shares a studio with at the Black Swan Arts Centre) put us at ease though.
They happily helped each of us adapt the original technique, to find our own way of making the Filigree circle - weaving the thread round and round and pulling it tight! (I should also mention that lots of tea and chocolate biscuits in the gorgeous space at the Black Swan Arts Round Tower helped a lot too! :)) After some giggling, a bit of wondering 'will we ever make this work' and a lot of encouragement from Yasemin and Linda, we all finished our circles! Whoop!
We then practiced making a teardrop Filigree shape, had a little go at soldering (I *might’ve* set fire to a piece of tissue with a blowtorch ;)) and basically had some quality time, explanation and help from Yasemin, so that we were confident to make our own piece of Filigree jewellery in the afternoon.
One of the best things about the workshop for me was that whilst Yasemin had some examples of ready-made designs we could make if we wanted to ( several necklaces and earrings), she really encouraged us to sketch out our own designs. Love love LOVE that! The warm way in which advice was offered, and support was given, really helped everyone in the group to try something different and make our own unique designs.
From my first little doodle, to bending the metal frame to shape, to twisting the Filigree patterns and securing each piece together, I created something that felt really special to me… a unique design that I’m proud to wear. Of course I had patient, expert help every step of the way too!
Here's mine and some of the other designs we made in class, along with a happy group shot :)
I'm not sure what the ancient Greeks would've made of my effort, (hopefully they would've approved) but when I met Graeme afterwards he said "oh you've bought a new necklace", so it must've looked professional! When I told him I'd made it at the workshop, he said "I'm really proud of you for making that"- which, you know, was nice! :)
All that’s left really is to sincerely thank Yasemin and Linda and for being such cool teachers. They really encouraged us to go for it with Filigree! It was an absolutely brilliant way to spend a Sunday.
If you fancy trying Filigree for yourself, Yasemin is running a number of workshops in the New Year… as well as one before Christmas - they'd make a cool Christmas present for someone special if you ask me! To find out more, you can contact Yasemin here, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, or pop along to her jewellery studio in Frome - it’s number 2 on the ground floor of the Black Swan Arts Centre.