About six months ago, I met a friend for coffee. Not that I haven't met anyone for coffee since (!), but this particular meeting was significant because my friend turned up wearing the most beautiful silver necklace. Of course, I commented, and was quite astounded when she said she had made it herself. "But - how on earth?" I gasped. Not that she isn't very clever with her hands and talented at making things, but I thought that making silver jewellery was a really specialised craft which involved years of training and lots of specialised equipment. Then she told me about Emma Mitchell, and silver clay, and my interest was piqued. I made a mental note to look Emma up when I got home, with the full intention of enrolling myself on one of her workshops. When I saw her website, with all the beautiful pictures of gorgeous silver charms, and read about silver clay, I decided to treat my three girls to a day out and endeavoured to book us all on to a workshop.
It proved quite difficult to find a workshop that we could all attend. My daughters are very busy! Emma kindly offered to create an extra workshop for us, as there were four of us, and we booked a date. Finally the day came, and we set off in excited anticipation. I don't have sat nav, so my eldest daughter did the map reading, and it was easy to find Emma's pretty village, nestled in the Cambridgeshire countryside.
We had a very warm welcome, and stepping inside Emma's 18th century cottage felt like stepping into a parallel universe of vintage gorgeousness. We were all immediately entranced by the ambience, the oldy-worldy cottagey feel, the beautifully chosen furniture and inviting simple decor. Everything was unique and individual, but seemed to go together in perfect harmony. Best of all, Emma treated us like long lost friends and we immediately felt at ease. Cups of tea were handed round and introductions made, and then we entered the workshop space to begin our silver clay adventure.
Emma began by explaining in detail the science behind the craft, and then demonstrated how we would make the silver charms ourselves. Not having a scientific brain, I thought I may not grasp the details, but Emma explained it all so clearly that I can still remember it now! I won't spoil the surprise by telling you, in case you decide to go on a workshop yourself, but it really is fascinating and quite amazing how it works. One of the things Emma impressed upon us before we started was the need to plan your work before you unwrap the clay, as it dries out quite quickly once exposed to the air, so we set about making little drawings of the charms we intended to make. There was lots of scope, making imprints with leaves, using moulds, carving, cutting out with sugar cutters and so on, so it was quite difficult to decide what to do. I spent a few minutes staring at a blank piece of paper, before looking around and realising that my daughters were sketching furiously, with some quite ingenious ideas, including a Harry Potter symbol. I confess to being a Harry Potter ignoramus, so the symbolism was lost on me, but thankfully Emma understood and was able to help the girls realise their idea!
Once we had carved, moulded, imprinted, and cut our charms out of the clay, it was time for a coffee break and some homemade cake while they cooked in the oven. Emma is clearly a talented baker as well as a jeweller, and it was very tempting to have a second piece, when invited! We had lots to talk about over coffee - Emma is an avid crocheter, and there were baskets of yarn and crochet bits and pieces around the room. Emma showed a genuine interest in the girls, and they responded, chatting away about themselves and their hobbies. They clearly felt at ease, and whilst in quiet awe of Emma and her beautiful home, were not intimidated in the slightest, but rather quickly became Emma Mitchell fans! I think '18th century cottage' has become top of the wish list for our next home!
The second half of the workshop was even more exciting than the first, as we watched our clay charms transformed into beautiful silver from firing and polishing. WOW! It was incredible! Emma said that one of her workshop participants had been so moved by this process that they had cried. My eyes were dry, but my heart missed a beat as the silver was revealed. We learnt how to finish the pieces, polishing and refining the silver to get the finish we wanted. I think we could have stayed there all afternoon, polishing and admiring and choosing gemstones to go with our charms, but eventually we tore ourselves away from Emma's other-worldly home and from the concentrated and satisfying effort of creating our own little individual masterpieces, and re-entered the world outside. The verdict? We all agreed, it was the best day out we could remember. As we drove home, I reflected on the value of experiences over 'things' and vowed to plan to spend less money on accumulating 'stuff' so we would have more to spend on experiences like this one. The bonus was that not only did we have a lovely experience, we learnt a new skill AND we came home with a collection of beautiful treasures that we had made ourselves and could be proud of, that will stand the test of time, and possibly even be handed down to the next generation perhaps. Its hard to think of a better gift than that.
Emma is also a blogger. Visit her blog for lots of stunning photos, recipes, crafty stuff and more!
The inclusion of muscovado sugar gives these classic cakes a delicious caramel flavour
I'm crazy about yarn, Scotland, food, my husband and my three girls, and I live in a perpetual state of organised chaos. Some just call it creativity.