Kitchen-Table Silversmithing with Brandy Boyd
We sat down with Brandy Boyd of BMB Designs to learn all about her background in metals and her upcoming classes!
Dorothy: Tell everyone about yourself and your artwork.
Brandy: I’m Brandy Boyd. I have been making jewelry since I was probably 12 but I’ve been running BMB Designs studio here in Bartlett since about 2012. We moved in September and opened our doors in December for our first Christmas show. We are taking advantage of the pandemic to do a little bit of renovation and reorganization so we are very glad that Ikea opened back up recently. We got some shelves so when it’s safe to come back to the studio, we’ll have new goodies. In the meantime, I’m traveling to teach. I’ve got stuff with you guys coming up that I’m very excited about. I have been missing students so much. We do all sorts of metalsmithing here; silversmithing, coppersmithing, we make mostly jewelry but sometimes home decor items like bowls. Raising a copper bowl is a lot of fun especially when you get to the end of a class and you look at it and go, “this started out as a square sheet of copper and now it’s this 3-dimensional object” which is really fulfilling.
Dorothy: Yeah and we sell some of those here in the Arrow gift shop here too. They are gorgeous trinket dishes that are about 3 inches or so.
Brandy: Yeah, like ring dishes. Something pretty to put your ring in while you’re washing dishes or something like that.
Dorothy: Walk us through how you started this creative journey.
Brandy: My grandparents were awesome. I spent a lot of time with them growing up. My grandfather was an engineer for GE and a consummate tinkerer. He learned how to make lamps, and jewelry out of scrap metal. He would make his own tools out of things. I was the first grandchild so of course I was the experiment. He would take me out to the shop and would make things. He would teach me how to use tools which I’m sure if my mom knew at the time she would have freaked out and my grandmother sewed and did flower arrangements. If we ever saw something on a PBS show they would be like ‘hey let’s try that!’. I spent a lot of time beading because my grandfather was really into Native American culture. His grandmother was Native American and had the full beaded regalia. That was his favorite thing to pull out and touch. We would make things like moccasins and put beads on them. It just kind of grew from there. I got to the point where I needed something more than just beads. I started getting into things like 3-dimensional beadwork. Then Precious Metal Clay came around and oh my gosh it was just the late 90s it came to the US from Japan. I knew I needed to get into it. You can sculpt it like a porcelain clay but once it’s fired in the kiln, it’s real metal like silver, copper, bronze, depending on which one you use. That opened so many doors. Then I took a fabrication class through continuing education at the University of Memphis when they still had those. I couldn’t stop. Enameling is my other passion. I love finding ways to combine it all. My grandfather was a big nature person. We would go out to the woods and identify edible plants or ways to catch a fish with a piece of twine. Nature is something I bring into my work a lot.
Dorothy: Yeah that’s very apparent.
Brandy: Yeah you’ll see a lot of that in my work like castings of succulents, shells, and fossils. My grandfather and I would go on fossil hunts just looking on the side of the road. Nothing fancy but we would find little ones and I would string them up and have a great little fossil necklace. That has definitely influenced where I’ve gone with my work. Both my grandmother and grandfather have passed and this is how I keep them alive.
Dorothy: I love that! Can you show us some pieces?
Brandy: I have been working on some leaves. I paint the PMC on a real leaf and then fire it. This was a wild violet out of my yard. I love rocks so this is a piece of larvikite in a nice statement ring. I need to do a little bit of buffing on it, but this is actually one of the projects that I’ll be teaching once we have the classes set back up. This is called a bezel, so they’re bezel set stones and that’ll be upcoming at Arrow.
Dorothy: So you’re teaching Chunky Chains in October at Arrow. What do we need to know going into it? What are you going to teach us? What are we going to walk away with?
Brandy: So Chunky Chains is perfect for someone who has no metal working experience. We are going to start with the basics. You will learn how to bend your wire, how to use the torch, how to look for when the solder is ready to flow on the metal. We will also get into shaping the links. I have a bunch of fun shaped mandrels that I love so you can shape your links and combine it all together. It’s a necklace class but you could make two bracelets if you’re not a necklace person. You’ll also probably walk away with a few stacking rings too. I’ve got a variety of wires like patterned wire and bead wire and half round wire. People will learn not only the skills of how to work with them but they’ll know what they’re looking at. Online can be really confusing when you’re starting to look at stuff like catalogs on where to buy wire. I make sure that people know a lot of things to start out with. They know what it looks like in their hand so that they don’t get a package with something they didn’t expect. We will also talk about finishing and how to make it look professional.
Dorothy: So this is good for someone who wants to be a hobbyist and make something fun with their friends on one Saturday and if they want something more this is a great 101.
Brandy: Yeah! For people who are more advanced but maybe they have been taking a break during quarantine, they’re welcome as well. I’ll make sure they’re not bored.
Dorothy: Great! So you’ll tailor to each student's needs. So give us a studio tour!
Brandy: So you can see my mess behind me. I’ve been working my mainstream job from here during quarantine. This is my bench. It’s got all of my pliers and tools including my flexshaft and my favorite saw ever, the Green Lion Saw Frame. This is my classroom area over here. We’ve got a TV, student bench, a bunch of kilns over there. That silver over there is the soldering station with ventilation. So when we are doing torched enamels or casting in sand, you don’t breathe in all that mess. You can see the tables covered with mess. I’ve got a nice library with every book you can imagine...Not just jewelry, every artistic endeavor you can ever imagine. We also have a tool station and a shear, rolling mill, and a ring stretcher. Over on the other side is my shop. I’ve got lots of jewelry and also tools on the tool wall and all different supplies. I have a ton of hammers and torches and everything. Anything you could need to do metal smithing, I have it here. I make sure I have a good selection of everything so people don’t have to wait for online shipments, they can keep moving. I also have a section of swarovski crystals and beads. I have some friends that come to teach here as well so I have supplies for encaustic and that sort of stuff too.
Dorothy: So everyone will get a kit for the class?
Brandy: Yep, I’ll include everything you need. I’ll bring torches, tools and all of that. If you’re brand new you don’t need to worry about investing. We’ll have everything you need to get started and leave class with a finished product. If you do want to keep making, then it’s something that you can set up for under $50, which is huge. When I first got started taking metalsmithing classes and wanted to set up a home studio it was so expensive. The beginner kits were about $1000 and I was a broke college kid. I started looking for ways to make metalsmithing more accessible. We need more metalsmiths. We are losing so much knowledge. I want to make it so that anybody can do it. That’s why I call it kitchen table metalsmithing. You don’t need to have lots of equipment or a special place to do it.
Dorothy: Everyone can sign up here for the class in October. It will be of limited capacity to give everyone individual attention but also everyone can be at a safe distance.
Brandy: Yes, when you know what goes into making something you can appreciate it more!
Learn more about Brandy's upcoming classes at https://www.arrowcreative.org/creativeclasses