WILDERNESS/ HOPE part two; the making of a pendant


Hi! So this is part two of making a very meaningful pendant for a customer, scroll on down to pat one if you haven't seen it already :)

Normally when I’m making a piece of jewellery I like to go straight to working with materials and do very quick sketches, but commissions need more love in the design stages. The customer needs to approve my ideas and my take on what will be their jewellery in the end. If the piece is made out of precious metals or unusual materials and it’s a design I’ve never made before, I need to know how I’m going to put it together!

To begin with I re-worked Jim’s design with scale drawings by hand. This gave us a good idea of how the silver ‘maze, mountains and roads’ and the gold bar of ‘faith and hope’ would run through the centre of the piece as well as the initial costs of materials. 

Once Jim was happy with the design and scale, I took the scale drawing and made it into a 3D model using Rhino 3D, a 3D modelling software. I made the decision to make a 3D model and get it cast rather than all by hand because there needed to be a precise recess in the back of the silver, with mm measurements of wall thickness; this would save a huge amount of time therefore cost for Jim (and swearing from me). However after casting I planned to solder the gold into the silver recess and create a loop which the pendant chain would run through. A mixture of using design tech and making by hand, right up my street!

The file of the 3D model was sent of to Vipa Designs for 3D printing in wax and then casting in silver. For more information on how these stages are done to make a piece of jewellery take a look at their website here:


I received back a perfect little cast in silver which just need a bit of a clean up; cutting off the sprues (bits left over from the channels that were made to fill up the mold with liquid silver) sand and polish. The 18ct gold square shaped wire was soldered into the back of the cast, in the recess I created on CAD with 18ct gold solder wire. 

After more cleaning up I made a small wire square with the rest of the gold and soldered this on to the back of the pendant. It’s discreet but also matches the rest of the piece. A lot more sanding and a lot more polishing later, I finally attached the silver snake chain onto the pendant and tried it on to make sure that it was a good length, comfortable and sat well around my neck. 

I am so so pleased with how this piece turned out; commissions are always challenging but I find the most rewarding projects I can take on because it pushes me to create something I’ve never made before. I can practice my current skills and learn new ones, but most importantly I can collaborate with a customer to make something meaningful for them or for a loved one and use my artistic abilities to bring it to life. I would like to thank Jim for choosing and trusting me to take on this project, I feel very humbled, it was an absolute joy to make. 

“In my view it elegantly and beautifully tells a story which reflects my own deep-felt gratitude to God and my experience of the hope Jesus brings. Though I have still to come back to my BTS  autobiographical self portrait this pendant has its own symbolic “autobiographical” tale to tell. I have already discovered that it’s meaning and beauty has deeply impacted numbers of people.” 

                        3D printed prototype

                        3D printed prototype

IMG_5436 2.jpg

WILDERNESS HOPE Part 1: The story behind the pendant.

Preparing paper for printmaking. Visit the 'Prints' section on my website to see the finished pieces.

Preparing paper for printmaking. Visit the 'Prints' section on my website to see the finished pieces.

I've been making and designing jewellery for the past 6 years and recently taken up printmaking, I love working with my hands and digital tools. If I was asked ‘What’s one of the things that excites you the most about making?’ It’s definitely learning new skills and using them to create meaningful pieces.

I’ve been a freelance tutor in 3D Printing at the DCA Print Studio for three (!) years. Sometimes I meet visitors and members of the studio who become my business clients and that’s where I met Jim; he had booked a one-to-one session to learn how to use the in-house 3D Printers and I would be teaching him. The majority of the time individuals book sessions out of interest in the technology and want to learn more about it; rarely for a specific project. However Jim had brought along a model, sketches and photographs of a symbol he had been working on the design and creation of for a long time, five years and more in fact!

We discussed his intentions of coming in for a one-to-one and the design he had been working on. Ultimately he wanted to finish the design he’d been working on for so long into a finished pendant, but he wasn’t sure how to go about it.

What a stroke of luck that he also happened to be speaking to a jeweller!

Jim talked me through his design process after which we agreed upon a commission for me to create his pendant. I asked if he would be willing to write his own account of his personal creative journey, I was so taken with it I felt it needed to be shared:


1989 in Glasgow brought the chance to do a higher art at the age of 40. I had applied for an evening art class at nearby Mearns Castle High School but was then invited by the head of the Art Department to join the Higher art class. I had a couple of hours a week, accepted the challenge and was a awarded a C pass.   
                      'From Dust to Dust'

                      'From Dust to Dust'

Though I had begun on the 6th year studies course, which began with self portrait studies,  I found that work pressure stopped me continuing. However I did manage to produce one finished work.  “From Dust to Dust”, is based on a “grand” pose photo.  It is a collage created from from household rubbish (wallpaper, carrier bag, biscuit wrapper, foam from back of carpet, cereal packet, corrugated cardboard, poster paint, PVA water based glue).  I framed it in a tongue-in-cheek “grand” style.  At the end of the school year it was one of a Renfrew schools selection which was exhibited in Paisley town hall.  


                             BTS Strips

                             BTS Strips

 At this point  I began collecting blood testing strips (BTS) in the hope of producing another future “autobiographical” portrait using the BTS as the foundational medium. I have been a type1, insulin dependent diabetic for 54 years. The blood in each strip is processed to show the blood sugar level for that sample.  1,825 BTS represent a year my life. 


While working at my H art and 6th studies I also produced some other portraits friend Margret McCaig, Dad, Father-in-Law.
2014, aged 65, I retired.  This offered me the opportunity to pick up on my art interest after a break of 25 years.  I explored how BTS could be used and discovered that their size, regular shape, resistance to cutting and a range of only five black to white colours all added up to a sizeable challenge. I found it  simple to produce a patterned composition. Expressing the frightening experience of a hypo-glycemic coma in December 2016 proved possible by cutting the BTS and adding in acrylic colour.
 However lack of satisfaction with the medium led me to postpone completing my BTS self portrait.  Attempts using BTS, glass, photo, the 53 software and acrylic paint are featured here: 


At the same time I discovered an autobiographical  image which I decided to investigate. It symbolises the journey of a life which has to navigate desert wilderness landscapes.  The story  behind the symbol combines harsh realism and an unstoppable hope. The first of the  images below dates from 2013.  As my thoughts developed the symbol was expressed in media that ranged from A5 pen & paper to  BTS to A4 pencil & paper to grass lawn (17’x19’) printed A4  53 software to cement (9”x6”) to pigmented epoxy resin (7”x5”) to plaster of paris to Fymo (3x4) to 3D printing in plastic ( 5x2cms)
The symbolic image is derived from  the prophetic vision of a desert wilderness found in Isaiah 40:1-3 and echoed in Mark 1:  and Luke 3: 4-6 with reference to Jesus and the mission journey he pioneered.
Luke 3:4-6
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.’ 
 In Isaiah’s wilderness landscape are valleys, mountains, twisted paths / mazes and rough places.  This is symbolic of a hostile, predatory environment for anyone journeying through. Historically it was one that took a lethal toll on the people of ancient Israel. Many of us also experience having to navigate hazardous landscapes on our  own life journeys. The challenges and dangers we face may all too easily lead even the best of us to give up when we go down (valleys), block us moving on (mountains),  loose direction (mazes) or fall apart (rough places). The message is that in and through the worst of circumstances  Jesus’ death and resurrection  demonstrate that the saving power of God’s glory is unstoppable. So the Isaiah 40 image is packed with tough realism and Jesus-driven hope. Dundee Contemporary Art (DCA) print workshop run an introductory  3D printer class.  As a result of going to one I was eventually able to produce a plastic version my  Isaiah 40 image. At this stage I was thinking of positioning it to hang vertically as a pendant. I had drawn it in silver and gold, imagining the possibility of the image being cast in actual silver and gold.”


This is difficult to follow on from, even as a person never mind an artist! So I’ll let that piece of writing just sink in for you all and go on to explain how I made Jim’s beautifully relatable and meaningful pendant in the next blog post. Thanks for reading :) - LA

Jen and Mike Smith's Wedding Rings

After a wonderful weekend in North Berwick celebrating two friends getting married; I can finally share these images of the time they spent in my studio space creating their beautiful wedding rings for each other. What an experience and I'm so glad they asked me to show them how to make their rings- lovely to be a part of it!

Jen has three silver skinny stack rings, all slightly different which sit comfortably next to each other. Mike has one oxidised silver band.

Jewellery by Lizzie Armour, Jen Smith and Mike Smith.

Photography by Jen Smith

DCA Print Studio: 3D Print Drop-In Day


     Images by Claire McVinnie

     Images by Claire McVinnie

From 12-4pm in the Print Studio on the 11th of April, 49 people attended the 3D Printing drop-in day. With great interest in all of the available technology, we gained very positive feedback.

The 3D Printer, 3D Scanner, 3D Pens and 3D Print- Printmaking hybrids all proved popular with visitors. Everyone enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the drop-in day, which was mostly seen in the queue for the 3D pens (almost all adults!) Whereas kids loved swapping around the 3D Printed ‘Mr.Potatohead’ style fruit and veg body parts/gadgets and using the 3D scanner to produce digital portraits.


The attendees covered all age ranges and abilities; mostly beginners, a few hobbyists already learning about 3D Printing (one who is currently building his own printer), interested groups and individuals.

Print Studio Members and artists/makers were particularly curious about the Printmaking area; combining 3D Print with traditional Printing. One of our members even started creating Collograph textures with the 3D Pen to add to her next Collograph plate! It was really pleasing to see that people were being inspired and creating at the drop-in day, plus thinking about how they could use these techniques for future projects.

What kind of class involving 3D Printing would interest you?

“Mixing 3D Printing with other printing methods.”

“Intro course possibly combined with Printmaking”

“Creating collograph, etching boards and embossing with 3D prints”

The drop-in day provided a taster session for all. After looking around the various stations for themselves, some of the more popular questions included ‘How do I get from a drawing/an idea to the 3D Print?’ For this we would need to have gone through the process of ‘Initial design, create on 3D software and 3D Print’. At the Drop-in, demonstrating design software would have proven difficult as it turned out to be so busy, however if this was incorporated into a workshop, members would get the chance to learn the whole process.

What kind of class involving 3D Printing would interest you?


“Understanding the basic; from set-up, 3D capture; 3D design etc.”

“Sculpture proto-typing, 3D scanning and cleaning up the model. Using design programmes.”

As well as learning the 3D design/print process, quite a few people were asking how much materials cost for one print, what design software is available and if there are any intro sessions coming up. I think it’s important for future workshops to provide at least a little information about open source websites (Thingiverse) and service bureaus for material options (Shapeways, i.materialise) so they know the different services that can be tapped into online and the 3D Printing options currently available.

In the studio at the moment in terms of design software, we have ‘Cubify Sculpt’ which I think is the most user-friendly for complete CAD beginners available in here. We also have Cubify Invent, Blender and Rhino 3D. These three are more specialised and take a while to learn the commands by going through tutorials. I’m recommending sticking to Cubify Sculpt for intro workshops or classes (and Cloud 9 haptic software for a more hands on experience!)

The 3D Pens were extremely popular, with several people asking me if these were bookable to use, when could they do this and how much would it be. They  add an extra element to the drawing and design process and can be used in Printmaking methods (collograph, relief) so perhaps these should be available to book out themselves and also as an option to use in Printmaking courses as an additional process. 

Workshop ideas from the most popular suggestions:

·         Intro course and Printmaking

·         Design->Make->Print

·         Design and 3D Print your own letterpress/relief blocks

Bookable resources:

·         3Doodler

·         3D Printer (after one-to-one)

·         3D Scanner/Computer with 3D software.