Silversmithing – vessels and sculptural jewellery with Abigail Brown

Ref: SSS31575

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About this course

Suitable for jewellers and silversmiths, learn methods for creating three-dimensional forms from sheets of metal using the exciting techniques of fold forming, raising, planishing and soldering.

Course Description

On this exciting, ideas-led course, express your creativity by working on individual projects, ranging from a small bowl or vase to large, experimental jewellery. If you are a beginner, learn basic techniques. For the more experienced, develop your skills, creating and finishing forms in sheet metal, using techniques such as raising, planishing, soldering and press forming.

Learn methods for creating three-dimensional forms from sheets of metal using fold forming, raising, planishing, soldering and press forming. Beginners will be introduced to basic techniques, including forming, soldering, annealing and texturing, and more complex techniques such as raising. The more experienced can continue to develop their skills according to their needs.

Your design ideas are discussed on a one-to-one basis, and demonstrations and individual practical assistance will enable your projects to progress successfully. The level of experience and complexity of ideas will affect what you can achieve in the time, but you can make a small bowl or vase, a simple box, or you can experiment with the techniques to create large jewellery items, depending on your preference. The course approach is strongly ideas-led and you are encouraged to make simple drawings or paper models of your ideas to communicate what you wish to make.

You can explore your ideas and a range of silversmithing techniques on this course, and you will receive instruction and support in a friendly and creative atmosphere. The techniques are taught through practical demonstrations, with the emphasis on encouraging you to have a go and to develop your own ideas.

Please note: The tutor likes to have a chat with students personally 3 – 4 weeks before the course starts. This gives her the opportunity to discuss your project and advise about buying materials. This conversation on the phone is an essential part of the course and preparation. Your email and phone number will be passed to the tutor.

Summer School highlights:

The Summer School week is an immersive learning experience with more time to develop your creativity and embrace opportunities for creative development beyond your chosen course. A detailed timetable for your Summer School week will be given to you on arrival. This will include:

• Short inspirational talks by tutors and displays of their work

• A short creative experience session in another discipline/media or course

• An optional evening at the Chichester Festival Theatre (if pre-booked)

• An optional lunchtime tour of West Dean Gardens, the historic rooms at West Dean College, or West Dean Tapestry Studio

• A celebration dinner on the last evening themed on Impressionism, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first Impressionist exhibition held in Paris in 1874. Feel free to respond to the theme if you wish.

• Informal end-of-course group reviews and displays of students' work in studios

As evening events are planned as part of the Summer School week, dinner is included in the course fee to enable all students, including non-residents, to participate fully.

Course Materials

What students need to bring

  • You will need to purchase silver or copper to complete your project. This can be purchased from the College Shop, or in advance from a supplier.
  • Sketchbook and/or technical notebook
  • A digital camera (if you have one)
  • Inspirational books, images and source materials, for your design ideas
  • Texturing materials for roll printing (lace, feathers, dry leaves, fabric)
  • Practical clothing/apron/footwear for use in the workshop at all times. For example: no long loose sleeves or dangly jewellery, and long hair must be tied back; sensible footwear (leather and covering the full foot, and shoes should not have high heels or open toes.)
  • If you have any tools of your own, please bring them with you (and ensure they are marked with your name). There are basic tool kits provided.
  • You may wish to bring 1mm sheet silver depending on your design idea.
  • Suggested sizes are:
  • Napkin ring – 40 x 150 x 1mm sterling silver
  • Bangle – 40 x 240 x 1mm sterling silver
  • Bowl - 150mm diameter circle x1.0mm Britannia silver
  • Bowl – 130mm diameter circle x 1.0mm Britannia silver
  • Small bowl – 100mm diameter circle x 0.9mm Britannia silver
  • Please note: If you wish to purchase silver before the course, these suppliers are recommended:
  • Argex Precious Metals, Birmingham
  • Cookson Precious Metals, London
  • As mentioned, the tutor likes to have a chat with students personally 3 – 4 weeks before the course starts as it gives her the opportunity to discuss your project and advise about buying materials.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Pens, pencils and drawing materials
  • Silver can be purchased from the College Shop, which stocks a range of sheet, wire, rod, tube and findings. These will be available in set sizes and lengths, suitable for a wide range of projects.
  • The College Shop also stocks a range of tools and consumables, such as saw blades, drills and abrasive materials.

Additional information

You might like to read some of these texts suggested by the tutor: Technical: ‘The Complete Metalsmith: Illustrated Handbook’ Tim McCreight ‘The Jeweller's Directory of Decorative Finishes’ Jinks McGrath ‘Silversmithing’ Rupert Finegold & William Seitz ‘The Workbench Guide to Jewelry Techniques’ Anastasia Young ‘Silversmithing’ Rupert Finegold & William Seitz ‘The Thames & Hudson Manual of Silversmithing’ Frances Loyen ‘Form Emphasis for Metalsmiths’ Heikki Seppa ‘Metalsmithing for the Artist Craftsman’ Richard Thomas ‘Boxes & Lockets: Metalsmithing Techniques’ Tim McCreight Design ideas: ‘Unclasped: Contemporary British Jewellery’ Derren Gilhooley & Simon Costin ‘The Art of Jewellery Design: From Idea to Reality’ Elizabeth Olver ‘New Directions in Jewellery’ Jivan Astfalck ‘1000 Rings: Inspiring Adornments for the Hand’ Marthe le Van ‘500 Brooches: Inspiring Adornments for the Body’ Marthe le Van USEFUL WEB ADDRESSES – Information & opportunities within British craft – The Goldsmiths’ Company selected jewellers & silversmiths list – American jewellery website including techniques Silver supplier: Argex Limited Birmingham Tools, Precious Metal: Cookson Precious Metals London


Timetable for Summer Schools

Several evening events are planned throughout the week, a detailed timetable for the summer schools will be given to you on arrival.

Arrival Day

Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students should vacate their rooms by 10am please.

General Information


Abigail Brown, Tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Abigail Brown

Abigail Brown has been producing contemporary designs in silverware since graduating from Loughborough University School of Art & Design in 2001. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is widely collected.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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