15 April 2012

Touareg silver smithing techniques

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So this is what I did in the Easter holiday...instead of studying for college! Mais je ne regrette rien. I still have plenty of time to panic for the exams. ;-)

As a part of a late Christmas/Birthday present Mom gave me this course from Iron & fire: 5 days of traditional techniques by Sidi Hamed, Touareg silversmith from Niger (but living in Belgium). It was awesome.

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It was an introductory course in which we'd see basic techniques, but at the end we had seen and practised forging, stamping and engraving and Sidi demonstrated the lost wax process.

So...Here are a few impressions.
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The set-up:
our sandbox :-D  coal, bellows, some bricks as worktables,
little clay cups for melting silver, a long "gutter" to pour the molten silver in

We started the first day with this ring exercise:
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bottom: the silver bit we started out with
middle: along the process of hammering, hammering, hammering...
top: Sidi's model of a stamped an polished ring

I don't have many photos of my own projects -the bracelet and the pendant- because I was mainly working myself! But here is a series of photos of Sidi's lost wax casting demonstration of a Touareg cross:
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each tribe of the nomadic Touareg has their own cross
-from this inspiring book: Fastueuse Afrique by A. Fisher-

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wax model

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the wax model encapsuled in a clay mould

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when the clay mould had dried it was fired...

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...and the melting wax dripped away!

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pouring molten silver into the mould...

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...there. All done!

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after the mould had cooled and was removed, this was the result in silver;
a base form that with lots of hammering, filing, stamping and engraving
would look as intricate as one of the crosses from the book!
I'm so glad I've been able to do this course -Sidi was a patient teacher (with 7 women to coach, no small feat! :-D ) and I've learned a lot from him. I've tried engraving for the first time, and different forging techniques. It was complementary to the jeweler's training I've received at Syntra and it taught me a lot of respect for artists like Sidi who creates such fine jewelry with just a very basic setup. Now I want a sand box to continue playing! ;-)
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I added the chain of "sticks" afterwards in the studio.
So much work has gone in this pendant, forming it by hammering
-lots of it-
filing, polishing
and then engraving...
I love the result. A wonderful memory!