Phase One: Checking out the workshop, hammering, and annealing.
The workshop isn’t just for making bronze bangles, which explains the variously sized hammers and anvils, pliers and jars, and curious objects that could easily be imagined either in a kunstkammer or a dungeon.
We were each given a piece of flat bronze and showed a basic hammering technique to start out so we could try out different ones and come upon various patterns. After, each person was taught to anneal the metal with a blowtorch to relieve the internal stresses. Once it gives off an orange reverse flare from the blue fire of the blowtorch, it’s ready to be dunked in water with a satisfying hiss and steeped for a few minutes in “pickle.” This is a mild acid, but you can guess what a common substitute was in the past.
Phase Two: Phase two involves more hammering, but this time more for shaping. We use a mallet to get it to conform to the shape of the model. This might involve a few more goes at annealing, depending on the degree of hammering and if it’s started to resist the force. Once we were happy with what we had, we filed the edges to make sure they were smooth. Only then were we able to witness the alchemical bliss of polishing. And voilà! I now have a Wonder Woman cuff! One bracelet of submission in the collection.
This workshop was organized by the Bard Graduate Center and held at Jewelry Arts Inc. The instructor was master goldsmith Jeanette K. Caines, whose humor is as lovely as her historical research into process is interesting.