Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Swiss Adventures - Part 1

I'm back from a wonderful trip to the Art Clay Festival near Zurich, Switzerland. I have so much to tell you and I don't know where to start, so I'll go back to the very beginning with how this adventure all began... 

Inspiration Needed Here!

Sometimes you just need to take a few steps back from what you're doing and take a look around at what else is going on in the world. I've been feeling very much like that about my jewellery making. I make nice stuff, I teach classes that people tell me they like, but I just want to be 'better' in every way. The trouble is I don't know what 'better' looks like and I don't know how to be 'better'. So when Erna Pietchna, the co-owner of Creative Glass told me she was having an Art Clay Festival in Switzerland, where people from all over Europe would be coming along to teach and learn, I jumped at the chance to go. Best of all, Erna thought people would like to hear about my experience of publishing books and DVDs, so not only would I have the opportunity to learn but I could also give something back. Perfect!

Switzerland Here I Come
With my flights booked and my bags packed, I set off on my swiss adventures with great anticipation and excitement. I'm lucky to have a really supportive mother who bundled me out of the door as she moved into my house to look at my daughter and my cat. Any of you reading this who have kids, pets and run your own businesses will know that if you want to go off and do anything for yourself, it requires military precision. The relief when you're jetting off (tinged with a little worry...will they be okay without me? Of course they will!) is amazing. Why didn't I appreciate all those business trips before I had my child, oh how easy life was then!

For me the two hour wait at the airport was like sheer bliss, it's very rare that I have time to do nothing but window shop and read magazines so I can tell you, I soaked up every minute of it.

When I finally arrived in Zurich it was blue skies and sunshine. Taking the taxi to my hotel I was amazed at just how much Switzerland looked like the chocolate box pictures you see. Yes, the houses have shutters and window boxes with flowers and you can see the Swiss Alps on the horizon.There's something so lovely about a place being exactly or even better than you imagined.

Day 1 - Textures & Ring Making Class with Christina Kamm
The beautiful Christina Kamm
The Art Clay Festival consisted of two days of workshops followed by a conference. I couldn't wait to get started on my first workshop day, with the wonderful Swiss jewellery artist Christina Kamm. 

Christina's work in the brochure appealed to me because she makes very big scale, eye catching pieces and this is exactly the kind of jewellery I love to make and wear myself. I didn't realise what I treat I was in for until I saw her work in real life, it is quite simply stunning! Here are a couple of her rings below:

Sea Urchin Ring by Christina Kamm


Despite the workshop being run almost entirely in German, I managed to pick up most of what Christina covered, that was largely due to all the wonderful ladies on the course translating for me in English, French and Spanish (I never learned a word of German at school). It was amazing just how much my dormant school girl languages came in handy! 

Christina is the queen of texures She takes her inspiration mostly from nature and it was great to see the results of her experiments. She set us the challenge of creating our own textures using some solicone moulding putty and various objects she'd brought to the class. 

I have great.plans for this piece of Swiss foliage
Taking an impression of the berries & stalks
Mould by Natalia Colman...Texture by Mother Nature we make a great team!
Here's the ring that I made using this texture. I approached it in a completely different way than I would have done normally after watching Christina and I'm very happy with the results.

My Swiss foliage ring!
I also watched, enthralled at Christina's methods of setting stones. How she has come up with these ideas goodness only knows but she is a true genius. She showed us a fool proof way of wrapping big (fireable) gem stones with clay. Then how to add stones using a healthy dollop of syringe and then pushing the stone into the wet syringe clay. If you add enough syringe clay, the stone is safely contained and the clay oozes up around it to create a perfect looking bezel. I loved to see Christina working with the syringe. She does it in a way that is fearless and she removes the tip and works with the syringe alone. It was also fascinating to see how she finishes silver clay rings. She wraps the clay around the ring mandrel, cuts off the excess clay leaving a gap which she then fills with a thick line of syringe. This goes completely against everything I was originally taught - but it works. My ring making classes will never be the same again. I have have been completely and utterly inspired. Watch out if you're booked on one of my upcoming classes, I'm rearing to go and all these new techniques will be getting their first test drive!

My ring making efforts using lots of clay & bigger gem stones


  1. Natalia...I love these rings you made and you are such a talented, inspirational lady in your own right. I have recently purchased all your wonderful DVD tutorials,book, texture sheets etc as I've been anxious to venture into silver art clay ever since I first saw you on JM a year ago. I've finally got all my tools and more and can't wait to get started :-) You're a brilliant teacher and I wouldn't have had the confidence to use this medium for jewellery making without you giving me the confidence...thank you so much Natalia, and I'm looking forward to your next book and hopefully more DVD's :-) love and bright blessings...Lorraine aka heckigtonwitch (Heckington Witch Crafts) xx

  2. Dear Natalia... Would you mind telling me where i can purchase the "art clay work at board template" that you use in Further Adventures in Silver Clay DVD please. Also the silicone putty you used ...I have been able to get another brand but the one you were using are much larger...the one I have already purchased will be ideal for me to keep in my handbag for capturing our beautiful granddaughters' fingerprint and numerous aspects of mother nature. I would really appreciate any hints, tips & suggestions you may have for me. When I can afford it I will contact the Assay office for my personal hallmark punch set. Thank you again for truly inspiring me to do something I never dreamt I would venture into. Bright blessings...heckingtonwitch xx

  3. Hello Lorraine, thank you for your lovely comments. It is my pleasure and thank you for your kind wishes, I'm delighted that I've inspired you to take up silver clay. Working with it has changed my life, it is a joy to work with and I truly adore it! The moulding putty you asked about is availbale from Creative Glass here is the link http://www.creativeglassshop.co.uk/product/34265/2-part-sillicone-moulding-compound-200g.html I'm not sure what the other product is that you are referring to 'the art clay work at board template' can you explain further . Best wishes, Natalia x

  4. Hi Natalia...thank you so much for reply and link for the putty. The art clay board you were rolling out clay on for making a ring on Further Adventures... The board was black I think and had lines and measurements on it. I've only been able to purchase a laminated one but would like the one you have as it's solid. Bright blessings...Lorraine

  5. Hi Lorraine, ah now I know what you mean. It's the self healing cutting mat. I bought mine from The Range. If you don't have one of these stores near you , you an order on-line here's the link http://www.therange.co.uk/xcut-a5-self-healing-cutting-mat/cutting-mats/the-range/fcp-product/92508 they don't have a black one unfortunately, but you can maybe find one elsewhere x

  6. Hi Natalia... Once again thank you for brilliant info and replying so promptly when I know what a busy lady you are. Sleep well... Lorraine f2f

  7. Hi Natalia. Hope you had a nice weekend. Well I've received the moulding putty and self healing cutting board thanks to your info. Would you mind me picking your brain as I value your expertise. I'm wanting to order my personal hallmark from Sheffield Assay Office this week. I realize I need the "swan neck" punches for rings but wondered if you could suggest what size would be best for the mark sizes in height in mm...0.8, 1.01 or 1.26 mm? I can only afford the one set so I thought it best to choose the best size for rings although my mind is running riot on a number of other pieces due to your inspiration. I'm so excited at my new found venture and cannot wait to start. I know by law in the UK that pieces weighing under 7.5g do not have to be hallmarked but I think it looks more professional and and reassuring to customers to hallmark all pieces as I'm sure you'll agree so I want to make sure I order the correct height size. I really can't thank you enough Natalia, for inspiring me and giving me the confidence to work with silver art clay as I've had M.S for 24 yrs and multiple joint arthritis in the latter years so am very limited with mobility and can be housebound for weeks/months' at a time but use to be hyperactive mentally and physically... I finally feel that I can do something that will be very enjoyable and rewarding after watching your DVDs... You're a brilliant tutor. Thank you again. Bright blessings x