In 2012, I returned to the Design Centre Enmore - TAFE NSW Sydney Institute to complete the final year of my Advanced Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design. For my subject Traditional Processes, I chose to focus on the technique of forging, the oldest metalworking technique used by humankind.
Keep reading for more background information about forging and how I used it for my "Tribal Derivations" project.
Forging is the manipulation of metal rod or sheet using a hammer to hit the metal against a hard surface. Forging may be done either hot (as with iron), or cold (as with softer metals such as silver or gold). The main tools required include a heat source (either a forge or a gas torch), an anvil and stump, hammer, and tongs (if hot forging). Basic techniques include drawing down, flattening, bending, upsetting, punching, and welding[i].
Cultures all around the world have utilised the techniques of forging over the last 3500 years[ii] to make a wide variety of practical and decorative items.
The first metalsmiths used forging mainly for making practical items such as weapons (eg, arrowheads, knives and hammers), before the invention of more sophisticated tools & implements (eg, swords, sickles, tongs, fire dogs, ploughs, nails, cutlery, horse shoes, door hinges, etc), and wearable items (eg, brooches, armour).
Over time, items used purely for personal adornment became more popular (eg, rings, bracelets, neck rings, hair pins), bringing with them both a spiritual or magical purpose along with the concept of portable wealth and public display of status within the community.
ABOVE LEFT: Neckring and counterweight, believed to “lock” the wearer’s soul into the body during ritual ceremonies[iii].
ABOVE RIGHT: Viking silver jewellery and hacksilver (broken down pieces of jewellery, ingots and scrap silver) at the National Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by Susannah Dwyer 2011.
My interest in forging has been inspired further by research into Bronze Age and Viking Period jewellery, as well as tribal artefacts from other cultures such as Africa and South-East Asia.
I am particularly drawn to the pure solid power of neck rings and bangles – items worn purely for adornment – and the obvious display of wealth or status connected with these objects. In some cases, these chunky silver objects were used as portable bullion or dowry objects[iv], while in other cultures, a neck ring might have had magical properties to protect the wearer during ritual ceremonies[v].
"One of my favourite aspects of metalsmithing is the simple physical act of hitting a piece of metal with a hammer to bend, stretch, or texture it. There is something primal about this process which reminds me that we are all descendents of a long line of makers stretching back to pre-historic times".
In contemporary society we are seeing an increasing number of people wanting to “get back to their roots” – in other words, to feel more connected to the ancient ways and rhythms of human culture. For my Traditional Processes subject in 2012 this year, I chose to focus on the concept of “Neo-Tribal Adornment”.
ABOVE: Tribal style hair ornaments, made from deconstructed Turkish jewellery, shells, cloth and other found objects [vi] + [vii].
Aside from my work as a jeweller, another way that I connect to my ancestral heritage is through my practice of Tribal Style Bellydance twice a week.
At Onyx Tribal, I am surrounded by a group of empowered, beautiful, and supportive women, who love to dress up, wear epic amounts of jewellery, to dance and have fun. Our dance steps, music and costume is influenced by cultures from as far afield as India, Africa, the Middle East, Spain, and Eastern Europe. Each group of dancers is called a “tribe”, and shows its personality in performance through its unique costumes and dances.
By combining ancient forging techniques with modern materials, I have created a collection of items that a Neo-Tribal Goddess might wear to both display her social status and to provide spiritual protection during the ritual of dance.
The bold colours were drawn from Indian silk sari fabrics (such as royal blue, teal, green, red and magenta) to represent the vibrancy of tribal cultures and express the creative passion of the dance, and I made use of the sinuous curves possible with forging to suggest the undulating movement of the dance.
In order to unite ancient techniques with contemporary style, I combined precious and non-precious metals, using highly polished sterling silver alongside the bright colour palette of anodised aluminium.
These two neckpieces were exhibited at the exhibition Mine, held at the Danks Street Depot Gallery in Sydney's thriving Waterloo design precinct from 27th November - 1st December 2012.
ABOVE LEFT: Susannah Dwyer. Tribal Derivations I, Neckpiece, 2012. Anodised aluminium, 925 silver. Photograph by Susannah Dwyer.
ABOVE RIGHT: Susannah Dwyer. Tribal Derivations II, Neckpiece, 2012. Anodised aluminium, 925 silver, rubber. Photograph by Susannah Dwyer.
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GOLDBERG, Joanna. The Art & Craft of Making Jewellery: A Complete Guide to Essential Techniques. Lark Books, New York, 2006.
HARRIES, David and Bernhard HEER. Basic Blacksmithing. Intermediate Technology Publications, London, 1993.
LE VAN, Marthe. The Penland Book of Jewelry: Master Classes In Jewelry Techniques. Lark Books, New York, 2005.
McCREIGHT, Tim. The Complete Metalsmith. Brynmorgen Press, USA, 2004.
McGrath, Jinks. The Jeweler’s Directory of Decorative Finishes. Krause Publications, USA, 2005.
Nomadic Gypsy Photoblog. http://nomadicgypsy.tumblr.com/ 29-2-2012.
NOREN, Karl-Gunner and Lars ENANDER. Swedish Blacksmithing. Nielsen & Noren, Stockholm, Sweden, 2009.
OLVER, Elizabeth. Jewellery Making Techniques Book. New Burlington Press, London, 2004.
Pyrate Pirate Photoblog. http://carigana.tumblr.com/post/11808545619/rachel-brice-3 29-2-2012.
TAIT, Hugh (ed.). 7000 Years of Jewellery. British Museum Press, London, 2006.
UNTRACHT, Oppi. Jewelry Concepts And Technology. Doubleday & Company, USA, 1982.
Wikipedia. “Blacksmith”. http://en.wikipedia.org.wiki/Blacksmith, 24-2-2012.
Wikipedia. “Forge”. http://en.wikipedia.org.wiki/Forge, 24-2-2012.
[i] HARRIES, David and Bernhard HEER. Basic Blacksmithing. Intermediate Technology Publications, London, 1993. pp. 8-10
[iii] BOREL, France. The Splendour of Ethnic Jewelry. Thames & Hudson, London, 1994. p.45
[iv] BOREL, France. The Splendour of Ethnic Jewelry. Thames & Hudson, London, 1994. p.38
[v] BOREL, France. The Splendour of Ethnic Jewelry. Thames & Hudson, London, 1994. p.45
[vii] Pyrate Pirate Photoblog. http://carigana.tumblr.com/post/11808545619/rachel-brice-3 29-2-2012.