There are few more creative surroundings in which to immerse yourself than wild and beautiful St Agnes on a sunny cold day, with the sea at Trevaunance Cove whipping up and the light constantly changing. I was drinking in this scene through panoramic windows from a workshop in the Driftwood Spars as silversmith Caroline Snellgrove introduced our small group to the wonders of silver jewellery making.
Caroline began by showing us Precious Metal Clay (PMC), the material we would be working with. This tactile, mouldable clay contains small particles of metal. When fired in a kiln or oven, the binding agent burns away leaving just the metal behind.
It felt malleable and full of possibility. We examined the range of tools on offer, from moulds to imprints, all designed to help us to achieve our goal.
Caroline urged us to flick through her magazines to fire our imaginations and help us to decide what to make.
Sipping a coffee and chatting, I decided to make a pair of simple, square earrings for a friend. I began by sketching an outline, before making a rough design using modelling clay, and finally we set to work with the clay, some making brooches and others crafting earrings. The room fell into silence as we concentrated hard on our small creations.
I worked on a piece of laminated graph paper, rolling out the small piece of PMC to the same consistency before using a plastic knife to make two tiny squares. I imprinted an initial on to each one with a letter stamp and tried to make the leap of imagination that
would see the grey clay transformed into a sparkling piece of jewellery.
After a buffet lunch watching the waves crash nearby, Caroline showed us some examples of beautifully delicate silver leaf pendants, made by painting layers of silver paste on to a leaf.
It is then fired and the leaf simply burns off in the kiln. We wrapped up and joined the coastal path just outside the window, hunting for suitable leaves – the bigger the veins, the better.
After briefly wondering at our surroundings (St Agnes is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a World Heritage Site), we returned with a leaf each and began painting a layer of silver paste on to its underside, being sure not to layer it too thickly in order to maximise definition.
It was precise work, applying a layer before placing it in a dehumidifier for two minutes to dry, and repeating the process. Each leaf needed at least eight layers of clay paste.
As the sun began to sink into the sea, we finished our work, filing the edges of our now dry silver clay creations to correct any imperfections and placing them on a tray with our silver leaves.
Caroline put them carefully in the tiny kiln – not unlike a microwave – and an hour later they were ready.
She helped us to complete our pieces, cleaning them, soldering backs on to my earrings and drilling a fine hole in my leaf pendant. Soon our glistening handiwork was complete. It really was magic.
HOW TO GET THERE
Take the A30 towards Truro/Redruth. At the Chiverton Cross Roundabout take the exit to St Agnes.
FIND OUT MORE
Aggie Arts craft workshops
01872 553 722
Embrace your inner crafter on a range of courses, from ring making to watercolour painting.
A traditional pub and micro brewery (ales include Alfie’s Revenge, the Champion
Winter Ale of Great Britain 2012) with 4* AA rated guest accommodation, the Driftwood Spars is a hugely romantic hideaway, sat at the bottom of the valley with sea views.
Trevaunance Cove Workshops
Gain inspiration by watching artists and crafts people at work, from contemporary painting to graphic design.