Wednesday 21 May 2014

Oresome Gallery: Taster Day ~ How to Make a Silver Ring

I introduced Oresome Gallery to Curling Stones as part of my role as one of the official Bloggers for Hull Fashion Week (HFW); but I'd actually met Victoria (one of the partners) by chance late last year and had expressed an interest in working with Oresome Gallery to showcase them here.

Today marks the first of these opportunities, as I had the pleasure of spending the day with Victoria and Nicola at their workshop with a group of their students for one of their monthly taster days in Silver Ring Making.

Oresome Gallery at 1 Humber Place in Hull's Fruit Market Quarter (opposite Thieving Harry's)

The Gallery and Workshop are situated next to Hull Marina, making it a great place to come and visit if you find yourself in Hull; they are also opposite Thieving Harry's Cafe who I've mentioned before - so you can visit Victoria & Nicola, take a nice walk around the Marina, and then settle in to Thieving Harry's for a bite to eat and a drink when you're ready.

Hull's Marina - looks good even on a grey Sunday morning!

Now you've had a small slice of my tourist advert for Hull, let's focus on the jewellery... or let's not for just one more Mars indulgence.

On arriving at the Gallery, Victoria greeted me as I was the first to arrive, I'd wanted to get settled before the students turned up so I could get set up - setting up for this blogger means making sure I had a cup of tea on the go before we started.  Nicola showed me around the kitchen and told me to help myself... need I say any more?!

Slowly the students started to arrive and were greeted with the same warmth and welcome and this nicely set the tone for the day.  Nicola and Victoria are great hosts and quickly put people at their ease, they have a natural teaching style and work very well together, which is perhaps unsurprising given their history.  Nicola and Victoria actually met and worked together teaching at Hull College in the School of Art and Design before becoming business partners at the Gallery.

We started naturally with an introduction to the day, and a run through of the Health and Safety aspects, not only of the day, but of the environment we were in, which is a workshop after all filled with sharp pointy things, chemicals and things that can go bang, whizz and result in an ouch (or worse)!

After running through all the potential dangers, how to avoid and minimise your risks and what to do if something does happen, Nicola has a lovely reassuring manner in which she explains that it can sometimes be initially a bit overwhelming if you're not used to being in a workshop, especially later when things get busy, but just to relax, take your time, be mindful of what's going on around you and that her and Victoria are around to help and will keep an eye on everyone.

My two penneth is it's the nicest workshop I've ever seen, nice and light and windows all around, and if you fancy a breath of fresh air it's only takes 2 seconds to step outside and chill alongside the Marina, it's actually a very relaxing environment to be in!

Oresome Gallery Workshop is light and airy

Oresome Gallery... just step outside and you're on Hull Marina

So with aprons on, hair tied back and any very dangly jewellery removed for safety reasons, everyone got stuck in to the first lesson...  The Guillotine!

The Guillotine

Students were shown how to cut copper into pieces on the Guillotine so they could later practice with these before working on their silver in the afternoon.


Everyone took a supervised turn and was helped by Nicola to make sure they got what they needed for the next stage.  Annealing!

Annealing is the use of heat to make the metal ductile or malleable so that it can then be worked.  When you "work" the metal this hardens it, so annealing is an essential process that needs to be repeated on a regular basis to keep it soft enough for you to work on.

Nicola demonstrating how to anneal the metal pieces

Many moons ago when I was at school I chose to do wood and metal work up to O Level, I enjoyed these classes a lot and spending time at Oresome was a bit like going back in time for me personally but WAY cooler... I really wish we'd been able to make jewellery rather than coat hooks and torch holders!

After the metal has been heated up with the torch it's time to cool it down, this is called Quenching and it is what it sounds like, you are running the metal under cold water so that it's cool enough for the next process.

Nicola quenching and teaching at the same time

After you've quenched your metal, you then move on to Pickling (okay it's got to be said - is anyone else feeling peckish with a strange craving for a Ploughman's Lunch and some ice cold Lemonade?) 

Getting ready to pickle!

Pickle - Oresome use a safety pickle of sulphuric acid and this cleans the oxidation off the metal.  You place your metal pieces into a basket which you lower into the acid, Nicola pointed out that you should be careful not to forget what it is and some of our aprons bore the marks of less, a'hem, careful students!

Showing us how to identify previous pickling splashes!

Once your pieces are pickled (no peppers or pipers here) you move onto the next P, P is also for Pumice

(Excuse me whilst I have an A to Z Challenge flashback here)

Pumice powder is used which is an abrasive powder to clean any residue of dirt off the surface of the metal. 

Your metal is *almost* ready to be worked... although this is where Nicola and Victoria turn into very strict teachers to talk about drying your piece of material off completely before you start to do exciting things with the now softened and clean metal.

The reason for the seriousness at this stage is that Oresome Gallery is a working jewellers, although the students are in having a taster session today, the workshop is used by many jewellers, not just Nicola and Victoria. 

If your metal isn't completely dried off this can contaminate the steel equipment... which in turn could wreck someone's work when they go to use the machinery.  

Suitably instructed it was time to move onto the really fun part... experimental working - getting to design, decorate and play with the metal.

First up is the Rolling Mill, or the Mangle as I like to call it.  This is essentially two heavy set rollers that your now soft metal can be passed through. 

Nicola demonstrated a range of patterns that you can put onto the metal using wallpaper, mesh, paper shapes & even your old lingerie lace!

Before Victoria moved onto the next technique, it was time for the group to practice what they'd been shown so far and get their metal pieces ready - these were the ones they'd cut themselves earlier on the Guillotine.  

Nicola and Victoria were very hands on guiding and advising their students on each step of the process.  In teaching it and indeed in writing about it, the process seems very drawn out, but in reality it's something jewellers do time and time again when making pieces and actually doesn't take very long to do.

Whilst I was stood taking these photos, I tucked myself out of the way of the students so they could concentrate on their work without having a nosy blogger putting them off when they were brandishing torches and working with the pickle, I didn't want to be responsible for causing any accidents!

Being a blogger I'm naturally curious (or perhaps I'm a blogger because I'm naturally curious) and I couldn't help but notice the tools and materials of my beloved glass beads... yes Oresome Gallery also do lampworking too!  Look what I found...

Anyhow before I go completely off the point... 

Once the students had finished with working their pieces to make them soft, Victoria started to teach the next set of techniques, hammered finishes.

Hammers get called such fun things!

I love the look of hammered silver, it's a favourite finish of mine and having seen a demonstration of it, I can appreciate even more how much physical effort goes into making even the smallest of pieces.

As we travelled on our jewellery making journey throughout the day this was a theme that students kept returning to, just how much work goes into handmade jewellery.

Time for the students to explore patterns and designs on their copper pieces themselves, but first I must show you Oresome's stash of copper off cuts and example pieces.  I love this photo; when my plumber visited this week I was seriously eyeing up all the copper pipes!!

Oresome Gallery's copper off cuts & spare pieces

The Rolling Mill seemed to be the most popular choice on the day, the patterns that were being produced were really really cool, and from some of the most innocuous objects.  This wasn't necessarily the easy option either, it took quite some welly to get the tightly packed rollers going by the looks of it!

Some of the items students used to create patterns

I love this finish

Students hard at work!

Rolling Mill in action

Old lace; it's true!

The final session before lunch was the ring making demonstration by Nicola.  

Showing students for the first time the silver they would be able to work with, Nicola explained that they would have the opportunity to put all the skills they had learnt so far to make a pattern on the silver, which Nicola and Victoria had already cut to a workable size to make things easier... silver being a lot more expensive than copper so no chance of any costly mistakes.

Nicola demonstrating how to size a ring

First of all everyone had to decide which finger the ring would be worn on and learn how to size the ring.

This would involve a bit of maths (the sizing, the students know how to count their own fingers) or twisted wire and a bit less maths!  It's all very clever, and the process sheets clearly explain how to account for the thickness of the metal you're using so that when you cut your silver to your own size, the ring doesn't end up too small.

Nicola quickly showed how to bend the metal into a circle with jewellers half round pliers.  At this point what is important is that the 2 ends match up, tightly together, as tight as you can get them, and totally in line along what will be the join in your ring.

At this stage it isn't important for the ring to be round in shape as you will deal with that after you've soldered the ring together.  

For the demo itself Nicola whizzed ahead so she could show everyone the the soldering stage, but when working on their own silver the students would be filing the inside and outside edges of the silver, but not the ends as these would be part of the ring itself and need to remain flat.

For the Soldering Stage, you first you prepare the flux, this is the liquid that coats the join and where the solder will go when it's heated.

You use a thin needle like tool to coat the liquid flux along the join and then you pick up little bits of the solder and place it along the join like so.  This was the one Nicola prepared and it looked really neat, then the delicate stage of heating this up so the solder melts and joins the two ends together.

Copper coated with flux and laid with solder ready to be heated & soldered together to form a ring

Or that's the theory, I have to say Nicola made it look so easy!  

Once you've done this, you quench, pickle and pumice and you file off any excess solder on the inside and outside of the ring, then you start to hammer your ring into a round shape.

I really couldn't believe how much the group had covered in just 2 hours and it was now time for lunch!

The day is organised to give you an hour's lunch break, this is great as it gave everyone the opportunity to have a proper meal locally if they wanted to, or have a look around, or to go shopping... or in my case time to move my car into one of the main car parks in the city!

The break also allowed Nicola and Victoria a chance to grab a bite to eat, clean up and prep the next session for after lunch, and more importantly it gave the students the space to think over what they would like to make in the afternoon and time to absorb all that information from the morning session.

By the way I can recommend Thieving Harry's - I popped in for a quick toastie and a coffee after I moved my car and it was lovely!  I would have taken some pics but I got chatting to one of the Oresome Students over lunch and didn't get a chance to take photos before we both returned a bit early to get cracking with the afternoon session.

My choice for lunch!

For this session, Oresome provided some easy to follow process sheets for the ring making so you have your instructions to hand at each step to recap, as well as expert help from Victoria and Nicola who were readily available to provide reminders, demonstrations, and literally a helping hand if things got tricky.

It was interesting to observe the day, as I noticed a real difference in the afternoon.

In the morning, everyone was a new student to some extent and a couple of the photos I took showed not only total concentration but you could almost visibly see people processing all this information.  

I am sure my face was a mirror image by the way!

But there was something about the process of when people started to work on their own projects, the ring they were going to design, make and take home as a finished piece of jewellery, that changed the atmosphere and in the afternoon an air of quiet bustle settled over the workshop. 

Here are some of the photos I took of the students and their work as the afternoon, and they, progressed.

Victoria lending a helping hand at that tricky stage
of getting the ring ends to line up perfectly!

Tools of the Trade

Getting rid of the excess solder off the edge of a ring

As the afternoon advanced and I later retreated to the kitchen to charge my phone (i.e. my camera) and make some notes; I listened to the chatter drifting through the workshop, the (surprisingly) very melodic sounds of the hammers as people shaped their rings or added a finish, and as the sun finally broke through the clouds over the Marina and filtered into the kitchen; I could have happily curled up on the seats for a nap... very soothing indeed.  

However there was more work to be done by this blogger, and with notes scribbled, muffins nibbled, tea drunk and a freshly charged phone, back to work I went!

Rings were now beginning to look like rings, soldered, shaped and filed - there was one final stage to be completed before they were ready to wear.

P is also for Polishing!  Here is where the machinery did all the hard work as up until now the group had done everything by hand, rings were put into a polishing machine that contained a suspension of grit, and on it was switched!

That gave everyone a chance to tidy up, have another cup of tea and another muffin.  I declined the last muffin... whilst everyone had been busy working earlier I'd already indulged... again!

Suitably refreshed, and with the workshop looking a wee bit tidier, a mere 20 minutes later and the rings were ready for the final inspection.

Everyone was keen to see the final article, not only their own but what others had made too, it was time for my "ooh shiny" mentality to be given full rein, and also to be thankful I'd charged up the phone as there were just a few more pics to be taken.

Last part of the class was the group shot for Oresome (hence why everyone is looking to the left), I think some of the grins on this photo will give you a hint of just how pleased everyone was with their own ring...

Students on the Ring Making Taster Day - April 2014

All the rings!

Time to go home, for me the work was just about to start, for the students they could most certainly congratulate themselves on a job well done!

I felt really honoured to be able to spend the day with Nicola and Victoria and their amazing group of students, I *loved* the rings they created and it's a fantastic way to spend a Sunday.

Oresome Gallery Jewellery Courses

Taster DaysThe ring making workshops are usually held on the 3rd Sunday of every month, they cost £50 for the day and the silver will cost £20.  Next one is on 15th June 2014.

Taster Evenings - The pendant making workshops in the evenings on the 3rd Wednesday of each month £50 for the session plus £20 for silver.  Next one is actually tonight, but as that might be a bit short notice, how about the one on the 18th June 2014?

Make Your Own Wedding Ring 2 day bespoke course for couples. £500 per couple - dates can be arranged to mutually suit everyone.

Jewellery Summer School is a week long course taking place from Monday 18th August to Friday 22nd August 2014, 10am-3pm and is suitable for any level of experience, from complete beginner upwards to more experienced practitioners.  £180 per person.

You can contact Oresome Gallery for more details at:
1 Humber Street
The Fruit Market
East Yorkshire

Tel: 01482 213881

Email: oresomegallery (at) gmail (dot) com

Finally they are celebrating their 3rd Birthday Party on 
Sunday 20th July 1pm-4pm
and they invite you to come along
and help them celebrate! 


  1. Oh my, that looks like entirely too much fun! I wish that I lived over there and could try it out one time. I'm not even sure how I'd go about finding out if there was anything similar to that near me.

    I love how each ring is so unique - I never would have thought that something like lace could make a pattern on metal :D

    Great job capturing the day!

    1. Thanks Tracy! I hope I've managed to convey just how nice the whole experience was and how fun it was to see this unfold, am totally tempted to have a go myself!

      I too was fascinated by the patterns you could make on metal, as I said I actually did metalwork at school but I although I enjoyed those classes I don't remember having half as much fun! (I think they're a lot more inventive in classrooms these days).

      As it's the way my brain works I've been thinking about patterns on metal quite a lot ever since and looking at things in a new light, but it's one of the joys of blogging/life in general, finding out & learning about new things and having new experiences.

      If anyone is thinking of giving this a go, it's a definite thumbs up from me! Do let me know if you find out about anything where you live, would love to know what's out there :)

      Mars xx

  2. Thanks for covering this. This is awesome! Wish I could go for that class. Alas, I live too far away (in the US). Absolutely cool to be able to make a wearable ring in just one day. :)

    1. Hi Enaktra

      It was way cool; the patterns and finishes were really impressive considering a lot of the students had no experience of jewellery making at all. I would have been happy to have produced any one of those rings.

      I love silver rings, and to be able to make your own, to your own design and take it home in the same day is just mind blowing, it was a very well thought out class - good mix of practical teaching and letting people have fun with the process.

      Nicola and Victoria took a lot of care to make sure everyone got the most out of the day.

      Yep it might be a bit of a long way for you and Tracy to make it ;)

      Mars xx


I love saying hi to people who've read my blog, or are just passing through via the A to Z, or anyone not a spam bot!

P.s. If you use an iPad/iPhone and are having trouble leaving a comment on Blogger, you might have better luck using a browser that's not the default iPad one... Then from the "Comment as" drop down menu choose Name/Url (you can leave URL field blank or add your web address) or Anonymous and (hopefully) away you go! Mars xx