Silk Creek Metalworks

On Life and Craft

Beautiful Disasters; An Experiment in Fold Forming


fold-formed-copper-necklace-header     A few of you may already know that I sometimes like to play mad scientist in the studio and experiment with different metal working techniques. What you may not know is that I have always had somewhat odd looking furniture and a strange collection of screws and wing nuts because I am just that terrible at following instructions.

     Not too long ago I decided that I absolutely loved the look of fold formed copper and was going to learn how to do it. Now, there are all kinds of wonderful online tutorials out there that are meant specifically to teach fold forming to aspiring little metalsmiths like me. They include pictures, step by step instructions, and even videos where you can watch how the technique is done by somebody who actually knows what they are doing. For good measure, I went ahead and found one of these great online videos and clicked “play.”  But then my cat started being really cute and needed some belly rubs. Also my coffee was getting a little cold so I went to get another cup and noticed some funny squirrels doing acrobatics out the window, and well… Let’s just say that I didn’t retain much of the fold forming video I set out to watch.

     But that wasn’t going to stop me from trying it…

torch-annealing-copper-fold-forming-series     I started by annealing the copper to make it all bendy so I could fold it. The best way that I can think of to describe how this works is that all of the little molecules in hard metal are sitting side by side in rigid classroom rows and the heat sends them all out to recess. They jump and dance and play around and of course need a lot of extra room to do this. When you quench the metal in cold water they all stop like in a game of freeze tag, and still have all of that extra space around them. It’s all of that extra space that makes the metal flexible.

     Once my copper was nicely annealed I set out to make some folds while happily imagining all of the wonderful things I was going to create…

…and I mangled it all up and made it look like garbage.

messing-up-copper-fold-formingThen I got frustrated and beat it up with a hammer…

hammering-copper-fold-forming-series…and ended up with more garbage.

Ugly, ugly garbage.

ugly-copper-fold-forming-seriesIt was definitely time for a coffee break.


     Because coffee is magic.

     So I took some time to sit back with my magical cup of happiness and let my mind wander (I’m very good at that.)  After some time passed I realized that I actually adore a lot of things that most people might consider ugly. I can always find something wonderful about old rusty cars, broken farm fences tangled up in vines, and even this poor little guy…

ugly dog

     Given my profound love for things that, in one way or another, aren’t quite perfect, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could find myself a little bit of beauty in all of those gnarled up scraps of metal I left abandoned in my studio.  So with my new found positive outlook and an excellent caffeine high, I went out to cut, file, sand, and do all that I could to find some treasures in the mess…

And eventually I found things like these…


     They kind of reminded me of the textures you might find in fabric, and so I began to think about all of the other textures that I tend to find interesting. A simple piece of tree bark seen in the right kind of light can stop me in my tracks on a stroll in the woods. Looking at the world up close and from different angles can reveal some unique compositions in everyday objects, and there is beauty in those details that I think could possibly be felt in a glance, if not inherently seen.  Well, the next thing I knew, my compulsion to create had taken hold and wouldn’t let go until I had turned all of those thoughts about wonderful textures into some kind of a reality…

Fold Formed Copper Necklace

fold-formed-copper-bracelet-rusticfold-formed-copper-bracelet-tree-bark     Since then, I haven’t stopped playing with this technique and I’m not going to either. I even went back and watched that online fold forming video and discovered all kinds of tools and tricks I can use for creating different shapes and textures in copper. Maybe I should have watched the video before I started but I’m pretty content with what I’ve managed to come up with after breaking that little creative barrier. It’s not the first, and probably won’t be the last time I decide to try something entirely new despite being completely unprepared for it. Honestly, I find it a pretty fun way to learn and it seems to make life a little more interesting!

     (Just please don’t ask me about what happens when I try new things like this in the kitchen!  All of us here agreed to no longer speak of the mysterious dough balls from Mars and their amazing launch capabilities!)



Author: Jill E. Herbert

I am an aspiring metal smith inspired by nature, art, and life. I use various textures and patinas to create designs that reflect my love for the colors and compositions we see in nature and all around us. I hope you enjoy my unique creations!

6 thoughts on “Beautiful Disasters; An Experiment in Fold Forming

  1. Great information and inspiration, Jill. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks very much, I’m in love with the last bangle!

    • That’s so great to hear! That bracelet is one of my favorites too! How serendipitous that I just listed it in my online shop right before I saw this! (If you’re interested, there’s a link to the shop right at the top of the page.)
      Thanks so much for stopping in and reading! Enjoy your day!

  3. Love the new designs…

    • Thanks so much, Debb! I’ve been doing so much more of this in the past week or so and I can’t wait to debut my new fold formed series! There are a lot of nature elements wrapped up in whimsical art styles!

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