Having thoroughly enjoyed a previous DIY for girls workshop http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/blogs/showblog.php?post=1992 I was eager to try out an affordable (prices from £45 which includes materials) class to see if I had some creative skills that produced something a bit more decorative than some well hammered nails in a loose skirting board.
So last night I took one of my jewellery expert friends along to join founders Sangeeta Bhaskar and Laura Wilson (both former TV producers who started a company to channel their creative energies into a family friendly business) for the “Vintage Jewellery” lesson led by the delightfully helpful and encouraging tutor Jess.
Tucked away down a tiny road next to Toni & Guy’s and Bodyshop in Chiswick we found The Hayloft workshops and passed the excited young girls in their ballet class in the front hall. As we were early, we waited in a spacious, light wood room with some of the remaining day light filtering through interesting tiny atriums. Sangeeta and Laura chatted away and we quickly identified some friends in common – what a small world.
We watched as Jess laid the table with sweetly scented candles in antique cups (made at another session) and bowls containing all manner of interesting, sparkly bits and pieces from deconstructed vintage and contemporary jewellery. Now this is the sort of recycling I can get into! We couldn’t wait to start rummaging. Cups of tea and coffee and homemade biscuits were provided while we watched.
We were soon joined by a lovely Japanese lady and a young woman who worked in a West End club who had come equipped with an assortment of treasured but broken jewellery items from home – she had been to some of the other classes and had come with the intention of making something beautiful and unique from her memories.
Usually there are between 5 - 10 or so folk at a class and when larger groups are involved – and we heard lots of stories of hen parties starting with some creative activity (making fascinators for the big day) – a larger hall (appropriately over a pub) down the road is used.
Jess started by demonstrating how to use the various sets of tiny pliers we had in front of us (for cutting, round nose for beading and flat nose for all sorts of other things), how to thread onto nylon or wire and how to apply crimp beads.
Within five minutes we were all having a go and rather quickly we had produced a perfectly serviceable bead and charm thingy that wouldn’t look out of place as a key ring. Success!
We were then encouraged to choose chains, bits of brooches, ear rings, beads, charms and other shiny and pretty things from those set out on the table to design our own unique piece of jewellery. I had come with an idea to make some ear rings (based on a pair where I had sadly lost one) – and despite the fact that this was Vintage Jewellery rather than Ear Ring workshop, Jess patiently showed me the techniques I needed to use and supplied some hooks and jump rings on which I could hang my crystal and pearl cluster effort.
While we worked, drank tea and admired each other’s handiwork (and occasionally sang along to the softly playing Motown hits) we chatted in a comfortable and sisterly fashion. We also swapped details of good suppliers (I mentioned a bead shop I had seen in Portobello Road recently and recalled another shop in St Margaret’s near Twickenham – we were also urged to look online).
It was surprisingly soothing and incredibly rewarding to survey our little creations at the end of the two hours – each of us with distinctly different styles. However, I think we were all agreed that the chain, pearl and charm creation – complete with a little drop that hung from the clasp at the back - from the club owner was the most stunning and original piece of jewellery we had seen for ages – and thought it would have cost a fortune to buy as a piece of commercial couture jewellery. We tucked the cheat sheet of tips and suppliers into our handbags and went home to show our loved ones our efforts.
Other workshops currently on offer include: natural soap making, jubilee biscuit icing, candle making, ear ring making, fascinator making and cup cake decorating. Although I’m now sorely tempted to clear out my jewellery boxes and return to make a chain as lovely as the one we saw being made by our fellow delegate – I may even take my teenage daughter next time.
Workshop details and future dates: http://imadeitmyself.co.uk/
Jess the tutor’s site is http://www.etsy.com/shop/pinksunshinelondon