In 2016 endjin redesigned the Benchpeg website that had previously been hosted on a decade-old content platform which was beginning to creak and groan. One of our primary aims was to halve the day-to-day workload for generating content, and streamline the process of producing a weekly newsletter that supports the Jewellery trade.
By migrating it to our own CMS system - Vellum – the team at Benchpeg gained greater control over their content management. We also added an Amazon book store, updated the jobs section and application process so that it was more intuitive (which improved the conversion rate); revised the revenue generation model and processes around advertising, while hosting the entire site in an Azure subscription and enabling Benchpeg to have full control over their content and direction without 3rd party vendor lock-in for every update.
Tuesday was topped and tailed with some horrendous travel delays due to points failures on the Vicky line, and at the other end of my journey. That said this was overshadowed by a day full of all things creative and festive. My friend Rebecca van Rooijen, founder of Benchpeg, had invited me to their Christmas Do held in a workshop in the country somewhere. When I arrived at the closest station to the venue I was met by Bec – who was her usually bubbly self – who then transported us out to a secret location. When we arrived, we were greeted by an equally happy and smiley Olivia Lowe, Silversmith extraordinaire.
After intros and the all-important health and safety briefing we were ready to play about with copper plates and begin to get a feel for the materials and tools. I'd gone there with an idea of what I wanted to achieve in the time available. This was x2 Christmas decorations and a pair of earrings. Once we felt we had a feel for the materials it was time to crack on with the ideas, and print templates. In my case, I wanted to give my pieces a texture, so before I started cutting I selected some leaf textures, applied them to both sides and rolled it through a rolling mill. This exerts about a ton of pressure that will deboss the surface and apply a texture. Now it was ready to apply a template.
I had started to draw out my idea but given the time available I chose a template that I can print out and apply to the surface as a guide for cutting. This was an intricate part of the process that required a fair bit of concentration. One momentary lapse of reason and you could fudge the piece and starting again wasn't an option. So, head down for about an hour, not uttering a word while I focused on this new skill: trying to cut the straightest of lines, getting the tightest of corners and only snapping 2 blades to cut out my first snowflake sliver graphic shape the inside the circle. I choose to work from the centre out so that the fine work was done whilst there was more strength in the plate.
Next up, cutting a circle. This must be one of the hardest things I have done in my design career. They say drawing a perfect circle is hard enough: well, try doing that in sterling silver whilst holding the plate and keeping the saw vertical. I had laboured under the misapprehension that this would be easier however, this required about as much if not more concentration than the snowflake. After a very quiet 30 mins from me I had my second piece and I was beginning to feel quite chuffed with my efforts thus far.
Throughout this process Olivia, our mentor for the day, had been checking up and making sure we weren't getting into any difficulty and passing on her wealth of knowledge. Now that I had the unfinished decorations I wanted to start the earrings. Keeping things simple I wanted to make some circular studs from the corners of textured metal I had left over. My dread thoughts of cutting two small circles with a pin saw were put to rest when Olivia produced a hole punch. Phew!
Lining up the leftovers, a couple of taps, a bit of a struggle when the hole punch wouldn't release the punch, and bingo! I had two perfectly circular textured pieces of silver ready for the next stage: soldering studs to the backs. This was also high up the list of fiddly tasks for the day as you had to apply flux to prevent the metal from tarnishing from the heat, heat silver solder, hold the stud with a pair tweezers, dab the stud on the hot solder, heat the circular base so that it was glowing hot then quickly dab and hold the stud in place on the base and heat them both until the solder solidified. This had to happen in quick succession followed by a dip in water to cool the earrings off and 5 mins in prickly vinegar to remove any soldering residues.
At this point I was pleased with the results and with a bit of cleaning and finishing I had 2 Christmas tree decorations for my sons, and a pair of earrings for my wife Angie, just in time to catch a cab to the station to get train back homeward bound to do the kids' pick-up.
Thank you Benchpeg for the invite, a day of fun and creativity. Merry Christmas.