Expat Life, Hobby

Hot Metal: Starting Jewellery School

How does an expat wife fill her time with a ‘not permitted to work’ clause attached to their visa?  One way is to pick a shiny new hobby that you wouldn’t have the time or opportunity to take up in your home country.  It gets you out of the house, you meet new people and adds much needed structure to your week. My shiny new hobby is making jewellery, (made with blow torches and silver, rather than fish wire and beads).

One of Mr Incredible’s colleagues had been going to Jewellery School in the evenings and sent us a flyer for the annual student show.  Thinking this sounded interesting I quietly contacted the school and signed myself up to start the following Monday.

When we went to aforementioned Student show, (two days before my first lesson), I was deeply impressed and enormously intimidated at the quality of the pieces up for sale.  They were clearly the result of huge effort and great skill.

Mr Incredible quickly warmed to the idea of the classes.  His initial reaction had been sceptical and tepid when I told him I’d signed up, (presumably he’d been thinking it was along the bored housewife strings a few beads on a bit of fish-wire routine and was pleased that I might actually end up with a useful portable skill).

Carried away by the thought of me becoming a high end international jewellery designer (ahem), the desire to laud his colleague’s efforts and enjoy the delights of the refreshment table,  it also turned out to be an expensive morning for him.

I couldn’t quite believe that on day one I was let loose with a blowtorch (with flashbacks of a university housemate melting her thumb tip with a soldering iron serving as a helpful reminder not to touch the hot bits).   I learned how to string a saw and was trusted unsupervised with a drill.

Having annealed my copper plate (that means heating it, then cooling it – it becomes malleable enough to manipulate) so that I could use the heavy duty rolling machine to thin it down.  The rolling machine came with a warning from one of the other girls not to wind it too tight as she recently put her back out.  There was an enormous mallet to for flattening out my rolled copper (very therapeutic, especially when the teacher says, “no, REALLY hit it hard.  No even HARDER”).

For now I’m practising on copper, but the plan is to move onto silver very soon.  My classmates are far more advanced and look thoroughly competent in a range of techniques while I am busily sawing my copper into wonky pieces.

So will it be hot metal or mangled mess?  I’ll keep you posted.


South Africa is actually a great place to take up a new hobby, of all the places I’ve lived this is the country where you can try almost anything.  You can choose to learn one of the 11 official languages, there are lots of active running and cycling club to join.  If you prefer something crafty, go along to the annual Hobby X fairs held in Jo’burg, Cape Town and Durban.  They have displays, supplies and workshops on everything from scrapbooking to wood working, quilting to model railways.  Visit the Hobby X website here for more information.

Jewellery school starter kit, copper, saw blades, lighter
Jewellery Starter Kit

6 thoughts on “Hot Metal: Starting Jewellery School”

    1. Thanks Tanya. I’ve started working with silver now, so I’m getting a feel for it. I’ll write another post about that in the near future and you’ll be able to see what I’ve been making.


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