Make your own jewellery and unwind in the Blue Mountains
"It's alchemy!" Sondi yells with delight, as we peer over her shoulder and watch the silver earrings turn black.
I am participating in a weekend jewellery-making workshop at Sondi's Studios in the Blue Mountains. My two classmates and I delight in cutting, chiselling, shaping and hammering out our own unique rings. In a short space of time we have turned square, flat pieces of sterling silver into gorgeous rings, perfectly sized. Although I am there primarily to make my own piece of jewellery, Sondi, a renowned jewellery artist, is teaching us to be jewellers.
Saturday's hands-on demonstration is peppered with facts and information. I learn with interest how to cut the right size of silver for a ring and at what temperature it melts. I now know what 24 carat gold is and why 9 carat is hardly gold at all. Before the day is done, I have mastered the art of annealing and know to look for the red-black colour change that tells me my metal is ready to be worked on again. In short, I now have skills I didn't have when I woke up that morning. At the end of day one I leave with a beautiful (if I may say so myself), but more importantly, completely unique ring, handmade by me. And we are only half way through.
On Sunday, it's playtime and everyone is given free reign at the workshop to put their skills and their imagination to the test. Blackened earrings are now scratched with a bow saw blade to make a compelling texture. Old gold jewellery has been melted down to create a nugget of gold, which is then rolled out with sandpaper and attached to an old ring that has been recycled into earrings. I cut out an angel-wing pendant and shape it so it looks ready to soar. By the end of the weekend, there is an air of smugness amongst us all as we admire each other's creations. "Look what I did," we grin at each other.
Sondi runs these weekend workshops in her studio. It is a gorgeous place for a weekend retreat, nestled right amongst the soaring Eucalypt Gums of the Blue Mountains. The studio is built onto the ridge and looks out over a panoramic, unobstructed vista of bushland. In the distance, the sheer cliff face glows red as the afternoon sun hits it. Other than our own chatter, the sound of metal being wrought into shape and the occasional call of local birds, it is peaceful and quiet.
We are served up a delicious vegetarian lunch on both days and tea and coffee is freshly made. There seems to be a never-ending supply of cake and biscuits, which does nothing good for my waistline. The conversation is entertaining and the view breath-taking, and despite working quite hard, I feel rested and revitalised after my self-improvement weekend in the mountains.
In addition to these workshops Sondi also runs wedding ring workshops, where you and your beloved can design and make your own wedding rings. Not only do you get an important piece of jewellery that means so much more for having been made by yourselves, you get a wedding ring of your own choice and it serves as a talking point for years to come.