City Lit Blog

40 years of jewellery making

Story added 5th Mar 2018

Joe Fajerman - enamelled pieces

In early March City Lit held an exhibition celebrating the work of four dedicated jewellery students. Below they share some of the stories behind their work and of their experience at City Lit.

Jenny Parker, Jewellery Co-ordinator at City Lit, tells us more about the exhibition and its jewellery makers:

"The work illustrates the evolution of their creative practice, progressing through different disciplines including fused glass, textiles, printing to present day commitment to Jewellery design and making where the students continue to embrace new techniques and processes.

Last term I had the pleasure of guest teaching a 3-session project on 'Develop Your Jewellery Design and Making' a termly daytime course on the Jewellery program.  It is a very popular course; I quickly learned why. In teaching production techniques for creating multiple pieces, I asked for examples of previous experiences of using lost-wax casting. So inspired to see the examples, which told a story of an enduring relationship with taking courses here at CityLit and ongoing creative practice, I hoped it would be possible to showcase some of our most committed learners.   

The work on display was by Ray Gallet, Yvonne Jeeves, Ronwen Watts and Joe Fajerman all of whom were invited to show a collection of their pieces, that would tell a story of their creative practice over time. The techniques and processes are diverse; from traditional silversmithing, fused glass, printed textiles to experimental stone-setting, casting, and colouring aluminium.

It has been a pleasure to work with these learners, and a privilege to hear their stories collected over their many years at City Lit, a little of which I’ve documented below. I hope it will inspire those who are just beginning, returning or continuing with their creative practice after so many years, and that this display will be the first of many. With thanks also the Elizabeth Bone, their current tutor who has helped make this possible."


Ray Gallet

Ray Gallet first came to City Lit a little over 40 years ago. When I asked him if he had any stories I could use for this piece of writing I received this lovely email:

 "I started at City Lit in order to make something in silver for my brother’s silver wedding anniversary. At the time the course at City Lit was entitled 'Silversmithing and Jewellery'. I had no previous experience in silversmithing, so started at Bolt Court (City Lit Jewellery department's previous location) one evening a week after work.  First I worked in copper until I gained confidence and then began working in silver. The result was two silver goblets.  As I enjoyed it so much I thought it would be a nice time consuming hobby which I could begin then, for when I retired (at the time I was in my mid 40s).

Over the next 20 years, missing a few terms due to circumstances, I continued one evening a week until I retired, learning techniques and making small items, mainly in copper and occasionally commissions for friends and family in silver.

I gradually built up a collection of tools from the profit I made from selling silver chains, pendants, ingots and rings I had made.  I retired from work in 1993 and this gave me the opportunity to attend one day a week at City Lit. At that time I was very interested in raising bowls and other items  in copper.

I also made a number of silver bowls, as presents for family members as well as tableware – toast racks, marmalade jar, ladle, tea caddy, sugar bowl, Harry Potter salt and pepper set, butter dish with lid, christening and serving spoons, cake servers, candle snuffers et cetera et cetera. I also made several silver pictures.

I started with simple Silver bangles but as my skill improved they became etched patterned, with stones... When I learnt Keum Boo I added that. Other Jewellery of all types followed.”

Displayed in the exhibition were a selection of items, one of Ray’s first rings, to jewellery with moving stones, hand-raised and etched ladel and other wonderful examples of silversmithing and casting. 

Ronwen Watts

Ronwen’s work on display shows pieces of work from the Foundation course she took in 1988. The textile piece includes embroidery and photo transfers, and was the final piece she made on the course. She went on to art school, developing a practice with drawing, painting and printmaking, before coming back to CityLit where she started Jewellery design and making. 

Ronwen commented that revisiting the pieces she could see links between then and now: the stitched paper model, a maquette for her current project designing and making a piece for the ‘V&A Inspired by’ competition is displayed by the college from her project of nearly 30 years ago.

The necklace, a silver loop-in-loop chain with integrated ball-clasp was made on one of Ronwen’s first jewellery courses more than a decade ago, where she was taught by Felicity Denby. A remarkable feet of precision jewellery fabrication, particularly for a beginner, these are techniques Felicity still teaches here on the City Lit Fine Jewellery course!

Yvonne Jeeves

At Bolt Court, Yvonne started out working in Glass, over 20 years ago. Two of her pieces were on display; we marveled together at how the colours, shapes and forms have been recurrent in her jewellery design and making since.  When City Lit moved from Bolt Court to its current home on Keeley Street in 2005, the glass department was closed and Yvonne started Jewellery making. 

The display shows from the first ring, to recent pieces made from printed and dyed anodized aluminum. Last term Yvonne took our Electroforming for Jewellery course, and is using the samples to make new pieces of work on Develop Your Jewellery Design and Making. 

‘I’ve always been inspired by Judith Crowe’s stones, I’d like to say thank you to her. When I’ve chosen a beautiful stone, I’ll drop everything to start working on a piece for that stone.’

Joe Fajerman

Joe has been on courses in the Jewellery department for 20 years; last term he was part of the collective of students from the 'Develop Your Jewellery Design and Making' course that put together a pop-up shop for the City Lit Foyer. Joe got into jewellery making by a curious route, this is his story:

"After I retired from teaching science, my wife and I decided to take a trip to Israel. We visited a small craft centre which included two shops selling high quality unique pieces of art metalwork, mainly Judaica. The craftsmen who owned the shops were in a state of perpetual feud with one another, we were told. Suddenly as we stood there, the owners and makers of the pieces on display emerged from their respective doorways shouting at and then trying to batter each other senseless. As they were both elderly gentlemen, they did not cause much damage and other shopkeepers came out, separated them and guided them back into their shops. We carried on looking at the other shops, and my wife, Lina said to me  'You know, I think you could do things like that, referring to the art metal craft.' After giving this a moments thought I said, 'you're right. I will look into it when we get back.'

I first enrolled at the John Cass College, as it was then, to do a course in silversmithing where I learned the basics of the craft - raising, forging, annealing, soldering, design, and carried on for a couple of years, when the college changed its policy making exam taking mandatory, and not permitting anyone who passed the exam to continue if the same course. At that point  I did further research and discovered the City Lit which not only did not insist on exams, but even gave me a discount for being geriatric! I started at Bolt Court, where I met Ray, and have been attending classes ever since.’

 The display of work shows early enamel experiments, the vibrancy of colour provided by lead enamels, now out of use! From these colourful pieces to silver and stone-set jewellery inspired by the forms of micro-organisms and the cufflinks that were for sale in last-terms pop-up.

Some of the work was displayed to show the ‘wrong-side’ and the bespoke designed fittings for the brooches. ‘I was particularly proud of this one’ Joe pointed out: a secure brooch mechanism, twist, pull, push, it is a fantastic example of engineering, and a dedication to developing beautiful and unique pieces of work.


Are you interested in taking a jewellery course either new to the subject or to develop existing skils? Spring courses are now online:

Introduction to jewellery making

Design and make jewellery inspired by museum collections

Colour, print and dye on metal for jewellers

Jewellery: stone setting III