My Silversmithing Origin Story

We all gotta start somewhere, and ultimately practice makes you better at something. This little story is about how I got into silversmithing.

            I graduated with a bachelor’s in environmental studies in December 2016. My partner (now husband) Pat and I moved from Syracuse, NY to Denver, CO in January 2017. We didn’t have jobs, but just picked Denver at random (I did actually google the sunniest places in the country, Denver being one) and got jobs in the serving industry once we moved. The ultimate goal was to get jobs in our respective fields. We did wind up putting our degrees to good use, Pat worked in solar/energy efficiency and I worked in [naturalist] interpretation at Denver Botanic Gardens.

  • View of snowy Mt Evans from the balcony of our first apartment in Denver, CO.

            Once we got settled in Denver, I had so much extra free time from not having to study anymore & I was ready to take on something new & at my own leisure. I remember being exposed to what metalsmithing even was via social media. I thought it looked like a fun time & I’ve always enjoyed crafting with my hands, and so I decided to look into how I might be able to try it. As a broke gal in a new city, tools were/are expensive and classes were a bit out of reach financially. I decided to go it [mostly] alone & teach myself with cheaper resources. I just purchased the tools as I could afford them.

  • Snapshot of my first order placed through Rio Grande. A weird mix of random tools as I figured out what I actually needed. I still use all of these tools regularly, six years later.

Ultimately, I learned by observing & getting my hands on any resources I could. Youtube videos, books, some particularly helpful websites. I go into more detail about what resources I find helpful for the curious silversmith in this blog post. Before they retired & closed, there was a sweet little local metalsmithing supply shop in Denver (shoutout Naja Tools) that I would visit to buy materials while also asking the employees for answers to the questions I had about all the tools & processes. Super helpful to have that in-person/last-resort resource, as well.

Eventually it came time to put some fire to metal. I grew up very afraid of fire, as my mom was paranoid the house would go up in flames if a candle was lit. Totally fine, but it took some time to get over that basic fear. I think I tried for a full month to get used to the torch & actually get solder at right temperature for flowing. I burnt my arm really good in the process, reaching over the extinguished but still hot torch tip. That was a massive lesson & the reminder still scars my forearm. In our tiny one-bedroom apartment, at my green desk, I did a happy dance when I finally got solder to flow.

  • My original workspace set-up, in our one bedroom apartment.

For my first attempt at silversmithing, I pretty much jumped straight into making a ring with a bezel-set labradorite stone. I followed along with a project in this book calledSoldering Made Simple: Easy Techniques for the Kitchen Table Jewelerby Joe Silvera (pictured). Alas my first piece of handcrafted, silversmith-ed jewelry was this ring. Such a simple looking ring, but it was such a feat to get to that finished product. From the time I bought my first tool to the time I finished that ring it had been about six months (Apr-Sept 2017).

            When I catch a glance at that ring in my jewelry box, I’m reminded how much grit I’ve applied to keep going & growing with this craft. After five years of silversmithing, I feel I’m in a really good place with it. It makes me happy, keeps me challenged, and I enjoy it so much that I aspire to grow it into a sustainable business.

            I think there is a lot of power you bestow to yourself when you teach yourself something. Sure, it’s difficult and it may take you one month to figure something out that an experienced teacher could show you in one afternoon, but I think that struggle makes it all the more rewarding. The struggle itself builds some character needed to keep going when shit gets hairy; makes it worth it.

            I’ve thought about deconstructing the labradorite ring, to reuse the beautiful stone in something that doesn’t have a crappy bezel setting, with a better polished finish, but I’ll continue to decide against it. This ring is a symbol of my growth as a silversmith. A symbol of my dedication to this craft as a life-long venture. The symbol of my struggle, and resilience in the pursuit of learning. And if I’m being pompous, I’m quite proud of how it turned out for it being my very first, self-taught project.

            Whatever it is you’re into, it’s worth taking a look at something you achieved in the early days for gratitude & perspective’s sake. How did you feel at the time & how does it make you feel now? How far have you come & what do you foresee in the future?

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.