Progress report: goldsmithing classes

Two years ago, I enrolled myself for evening classes of goldsmithing and jewelry design here in Antwerp. The course take place every Tuesday night, from 19:00 until 22:15. It is a four-year programme, and currently, I’m in my third year. I’m quite the fanatic when it comes to jewelry.

Since classes started again a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about what we’ve already achieved in the past two years, and what still has to come. And we have a very, very interesting year ahead of us. We will be making a couple of rings this year! Complete with settings for precious gemstones! Woop woop!

Maybe you are considering taking goldsmithing classes yourself? Well, I thought it would be interesting to show you exactly what we did during the first and the second year. Keep in mind that it is a very technical craft, and that the first assignments are not going to be as romantic or fabulous as you might expect 🙂 The most important thing is to master all of the technical stuff first.

Year 1

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I remember that, during the very first class of the first year, we started of as a nervous group, sitting at our working tables, waiting for the teacher to give instructions. We were quite a big group: we had to be spread out over two classrooms. Today, there are only 7 left of us and we are proud to be the die-hard core!

We were given a little bar of brass, and our first task was to file both sides of the bar completely flat. The purpose was to learn how to file properly: the bar had to stand on its own on the flat side without falling.

During the next few months, we were given two other bars; and the assignment was to file different shapes into the brass: perfect triangles, perfect arches etc. As you can see on the pictures, there are variations: some are fully shaped, others have one flat side and so on.

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The second project was to make a bracelet in brass, with handmade and soldered links, with a handmade locket. We made our own wire out of brass, bent it into the shape of the links, and soldered everything together. As you can see, we made two types of links: large and flat oval-shaped, and smaller round links. Next, we sawed a flower shape out of a brass plate for the locket, and soldered everything together. The entire bracelet was sandpapered and polished.

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For our third project, we were given a few brass plates, in which we had to saw straight lines and circles. I don’t have any pictures of this project, but it basically serves as a way to practice sawing in metal.

Finally, for our fourth project, at the end of the year, we were making a pendant in silver for a necklace. This was our first project in silver. I got some inspiration from Pinterest for an Art Deco inspired pattern. We sawed the design into the metal and filed and sandpapered everything. As you can see on the top of the pendant, there is already some oxidation from my fingers having touched the metal. You can sandpaper this away easily, but it is still something I need to get under control.

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So all in all, the first year was very interesting, stressing the basic skills of goldsmithing: sawing, filing, soldering, sandpapering, polishing. During the theoretical classes, we were taught about the characteristics of metal (melting points, how to use acids, safety measures and so on), and we were asked to write a paper on a jewelry designer of our choice, which was also a lot of fun.

Year 2

The second year was a bit tougher and we didn’t make as many projects as we were supposed to. We collectively had a hard time with one of the projects, the key chain, which delayed our work and in the end we didn’t have too much to show for.

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So here you have it. Our first task was to saw a design of our choice (I chose a ‘house-key’) in brass, to solder on top of the larger, oval plate. As you can see, the colors of the metal are completely off on my key chain. This is the result of a difficult soldering process: it didn’t go very smoothly and basically the powder we use for soldering burned into the oval metal plate. You can’t get rid of that – lesson learned for the next time! Here too, we had to make wire from brass and make our own links. Next, we soldered the links onto the metal plate and sandpapered/polished everything.

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I still thing it’s pretty though. The lock was an absolute nightmare to make, but hey, at the end of the journey, I’m really proud that we did it.

The second project involved making a piece with lots of little wires in silver. We made wire out of silver, bend it into the desired shape, filled it with smaller pieces of wire and soldered everything together. I made a necklace in the shape of a leaf and matching earrings. I filed a little piece of silver into round shapes to solder to the lock at the end of the necklace.

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You can see that there is already quite a big difference in quality between what we made the first year, and what we made the second year.

And finally, this is a project of my own, I made it at home. I filed some rings in wax and I had it casted in silver. I’ve been experimenting with geometrical shapes and shells to make a ring with texture. I used my rings to practice my filing, sawing and sandpapering.

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So: here you go! I hope you have a clearer idea of what jewelry classes might look like. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave comments in the section below. If you are interested in reading about some jewelry designers I admire, you can click here and here.

Happiness. Do it yourself!

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Back to school: Crispy chocolate granola cookies

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Fall is upon us, the weather grows colder, kids are going back to school… It is time for some healthy, home-made granola cookies!

During the summer of 2014, Tall Man and I travelled to the United States for a three-week road trip. We booked the trip 6 months in advance, and as a result I was anxious for half a year and I couldn’t wait to get on the plane!… So to calm my nerves, I bought a cookbook about New York’s cult recipes, and that is how I discovered granola. I’ve been hooked ever since my first try. I adjusted the recipe a little bit from the one in the cookbook (no mango) and I made some cookies with the ‘fresh-out-of-the-oven’ granola.

If these cookies don’t fix your chocolate cravings, go check out my recipe for Rocky Road. OMG it was delicious. Allright, I’ll admit I’ve also made some pink cupcakes. Plenty of sugar for you!

Ingredients for these homemade, chocolate granola cookies:

  • 100g of Fair Trade dark chocolate (to cover the cookies)
  • 200g of organic Oat Meal flakes
  • 70g of nuts, chopped
  • 40g of sesame seeds
  • 75g of pumpkin seeds or whatever you like
  • 150g of liquid honey
  • 7 cl of sunflower oil
  • 1/4th teaspoon of salt
  • 20g of white sugar
  • 35g of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar

Step 1: measure all of the ingredients.

Organic chocolate Organic Oatmeal

Step 2: chop the nuts into fine pieces. Keep in mind that the nuts will be roasted when they get out of the oven, you want the pieces to be about 1/4th of the original size of the nut for a nice crunch without breaking your teeth!

Step 3: mix all of the dry ingredients first: the oatmeal, the seeds, the sugar,  the nuts, the flour and the salt.

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Step 4: add the wet ingredients. YUMMIE

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Mix all of the ingredients well, and spread it out onto a baking tray (covered with baking paper). Spread the mixture thin enough: it should be about 1cm thick. Now put the tray into a preheated oven at 140°C and let it bake for 45 minutes. Halfway through the cooking process, take the tray out and stir everything over, so both sides can bake. Keep an eye on the granola, because it burns easily.

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After baking for 45 minutes, it should look like this:

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Step 5: Now! The next trick involves not to let the granola cool down and harden before you can make cookies out of them!

Take a cupcake tray and push some granola into the moulds. Make a layer of about 2 cm.

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Add a cube of dark chocolate onto this layer of granola.

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Now, your oven should still be hot. So put the tray into the hot oven (no need to put the oven back on) and let the chocolate melt. It took me about 5 to 10 minutes.

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Finally, take the tray out of the oven. I smoothened the surface of the chocolate with the back of a spoon and then I put it in the fridge for some time.

And voilà! Some delicious, organic, chocolate and granola cookies!

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Happiness. Do it Yourself!

Kisses from Lena.

Favorite jewelry designer: Mia & Moi

mia-et-moi-2This blog post starts of as a very romantic story. If you’ve been reading my blog a little bit, you’ll know I’m kind of a romantic soul and that I have the best boyfriend in the world.

During the first year of our relationship, we took a little trip to the Belgian coast. We were walking along the shore and we sat down on a bench. He then proceeded to take a little box out of his pocket and gave it to me. I opened it and saw some beautiful earrings with semi-precious gemstones… What a lovely surprise! The earrings were made by the goldsmith who runs the belgian jewelry brand Mia & Moi, Eva Crauwels. Her shop is located in Antwerp.

So I discovered this jewelry artist through my boyfriend :).

First of all, let me introduce her by saying she owns the most exquisite little shop. She picked out an old wooden door with stained glass for her shop, adding a little bit of an Art Deco vibe to the store. When entering the shop, you’ll find a beautiful vintage counter, also in wood. The door with stained glass leads to the workshop, at the back of the store.

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Source of the image: this link.

The designs of Mia & Moi are very organic: she uses a lot of flower- and leaf motives in all of her pieces. She combines this with beautiful, semi-precious stones or pearls.

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Source of the image:http://www.mia-moi.be/category/collectie/

The earrings on the very first picture of this are the ones I was given on that bench at the beach. Here are a few other very beautiful pieces:

miaetmoi9miaetmoi10miamoi08Eva Crauwels also designed a very fun, art deco inspired collection:

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I think her designs are really precious and detailed, she puts a lot of effort into creating shapes that she can combine with precious gemstones.

Eva Crauwels studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, and has been working as a goldsmith for ten years, as is stated on the homepage of her website. Her jewelry is timeless and conceived in a romantic retro-vibe. She uses precious metals such as gold and silver, and uses onyx, Lapis Lazuli, pearls and other materials.

If you are looking for wedding rings, she’s also the way to go!miaetmoi13

Her beautifully, handmade jewelry can be purchased online through this link. She also has a facebook-page , where you can stay updated about the brand. All of the pictures used in this blog post came directly from het website http://www.mia-moi.be.

Well. Have a lovely day, beautiful you!

 If you’d like to read another article about a fabulous jewelry designer, here’s another post.

 

It’s Piñata-time!! Cloud-shaped, reusable Piñata!

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A cloud-shaped piñata raining confetti and candy? WHAT?

Why yes, thank you for asking, I did make this myself  😉

This project is AWESOME – especially if you have kids, or if you want to throw a gender reveal party. It is quite time-consuming, so brace yourself, but it costs next to nothing to make it! The most expensive bit was the confetti.

This piñata has an extra fabulous feature: it is reusable! There is a ‘pull-system’ that allows you to open different, secret compartments. You can make it rain from the different sections of the cloud, and you don’t have to smash the object.

Supplies:

  • Big cardboard boxes (I got mine at the recycling bin in our building)
  • Scissors, pencil, a sharp knife, solid duct tape and glue
  • Yarn and crepe paper in different colors
  • Confetti + candy

Step 1: Cut out two big cloud shapes. Start by drawing one big cloud shape onto cardboard. Cut it out with your scissors and use it as a template to draw the exact same shape onto another piece of cardboard. You will need two cloud shapes for the front and the back of your piñata.

The lines drawn on the clouds represent the line where the different partitions will go.

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Step 2: secret compartments! The spectacular thing about this piñata, are the secret compartments. With a pull-system, you can open each compartment, one at a time. To make these compartments, you need to make several partitions. Draw with your marker where you want the partition to be. Next, cut out different strips of 10 cm wide + some extra cardboard to glue it down. You want your pieces to look like the cardboard on the left, in the picture below.

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Put the pieces of cardboard in transverse to the clouds. Secure everything with solid tape.

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Once you have secured all of the partitions to one side of the cloud, tape the second cloud to the partitions as well. Like this:

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Step 3: cut long strips of cardboard. My strips were 10cm wide and I used them for the contours of the cloud shapes.

Step 4: start wrapping the strips of cardboard around the clouds and secure it with solid tape. I manipulated the cardboard with my hands by crunching it a little bit, so that the cardboard would fit around the curves easily. Don’t forget to tie a ribbon to the top of your shape so you can hang it on the wall.

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As you can see, I wrote down the word ‘UP’, so I’d know which side of the cloud was the top. With a marker, I then marked the spot where the ribbon would come. I secured a ribbon to the cloud, allowing me to be able to hang the piñata from the wall.

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Step 5: cut little flaps of cardboard. On the top of your shape, you will make two openings that you can use to pour the confetti and candy in.

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On the bottom: make ONE FLAP per compartment. If you push the flap back, it should be able to stay closed so the confetti doesn’t fall out.

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Start by puncturing a hole in the cardboard flap. Tie a knot in the yarn and put it on the inside of the cloud-shape, lead the extremity of the yarn outward through the small hole. As you can see, I made two cuts with my scissors, and I wrapped the yarn a few times around the cardboard flap by using these incisions. If you push the flap back, it will remain closed.

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Step 6: Now that your object has taken shape, we move on to a layer of papier-mâché. I used some left-over magazines I had lying around. The purpose of this extra layer is to create some solidity.

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Step 7: it’s time to decorate! Cut a large amount of crepe paper into ribbons and start from the bottom; work your way up to the top.

A. cut a long strip of crepe paper and fold it over. As you can see in the picture, one edge is smaller than the other; keep it that way.

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B. Roll the crepe paper inwards.

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C. Make cuts in the paper.

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D. Unfold: you now have piñata-ribbon! This should come on the bottom, and you can superpose crepe paper over it as you go.

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Step 8: Final step!! Draw raindrop-shapes onto cardboard and cut those out. Wrap them in a layer of dark blue crepe paper and attach them to the yarn.

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Pour confetti and candy into your cloud (through the flap at the top) and make it rain some goodness! The eyelids are optional 😉

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