Fold Forming for Jewelry Workshop with John Cogswell

Posted: October 16, 2010 in contemporary art, jewelry making, metalsmithing
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From September 9-12, 2010, I attended a fold forming workshop at the Peters Valley Craft Center in Layton, NJ. Peters Valley property has been poorly maintained since it opened  4o years ago because the U.S. Park Service maintains it. Some of the pictures I took include the mansion I stayed at which had 7 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, an old deteriorating barn house which was located on the bottom of thunder mountain and the blacksmith studio which was next to the mansion. Our workshops were located on thunder mountain which was a 1.5 mile drive up an unpaved road. My car was so dirty!

My roommates and I fondly called Peters Valley “spooky town” because it was pitch dark at night with no lights in sight. We also found finger prints on the side of my car window which had been covered in dirt. SPOOKY!

I attended the workshop because I had received a scholarship from Peters Valley. In exchange for the scholarship I worked in their kitchen during meal times. Honestly, I hated working in the kitchen and I am not sure if I would want to scholarship again. Next time I will take out the checkbook.  Also, I was staying at the Valley Brook Farm Mansion which was 150 years old and lots of bugs. I hate bugs.

Other than those issues, I enjoyed the time spent with my fellow workshop roommates and with silversmith, John Cogswell. One of my roommates drove 12 hours to attend John’s workshop! Unknown to me, John is well-known in his field of jewelry and metalsmith. He is also the author of Creative Stone Setting, professor at SUNY New Paltz, teaches the most workshops in his field and a 2006 inductee into the National Artist of the Year.  Whew! Oh and he is also my professor’s colleague.

John was a wonderful instructor who taught us tricks of the trade as he told humorous stories about his life. We asked him so many questions about fold forming, supplies, best equipment to buy and he happily gave us answers to all our questions! I am so looking forward to future workshops.

With fold forming you need to purchase a forging hammer. John recommended buying the hammer from Allcraft Tools in NYC, which is fully dressed and polished (basically this means these are ready to use hammers). He also  recommended to purchase the medium-weight hammer with the 1000 gram/2.2lb head because the heavier the hammer, the less hammering you need to physically do.  Oh and earplugs are a must. Forging was also done on 24 gauge copper sheets. Creating a 3D form with metal is possible without the need to solder with fold forming.

Fold forming requires annealing so that the metal can be soft enough to bend. Annealing with the torch is another skill to master but, it’s a necessary skill to have because metal hardens if repeatedly hammered, bent or even put into the roller. Once you have mastered annealing, you are ready to use the heat patina technique. On copper the heat patina creates different colors depending on how long you heat it. As you apply heat the copper will turn in the following order: gold, orange, pink, purple, dark blue, light blue and, finally, black. Usually I push the heating a little bit more past black until I get a bright reddish or orange color before quenching it in water, which creates a beautiful red color.

The following video demonstrates annealing on copper. However, the copper is not quenched in the video. If you are trying to created the color red,  it is necessary to quench as soon as it turns bright orange.

Fold forming was invented by Charles Lewton-Brain who had recieved his inital training in Germany. Oh and a colleague of John too. His highly rated book is available now. I am waiting for mine!


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