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Making Metal Bookmarks at the DTL

By Audrey Anderson

Hometown Weekly Reporter

Heather Beck held a Metalsmith Bookmark Workshop at the Dover Town Library (DTL) at the end of last month. Beck has a BFA in metalworking and her own workshop in Massachusetts. She offers classes in several libraries throughout the state. The workshop at the DTL was attended by twelve people, some of whom were first timers and others who were “regulars” who had been to previous workshops given by Beck at other libraries.

In the library’s Community Room, Beck set up several stations for the participants, including a table to hold the hammers and dies for use in making bookmarks, two tables for working, a patina station, and a finishing station. Each metal worker secured a copper rectangle to a metal block with tape, conceived a design idea, chose a hammer and dies to use in making lettering or designs, and got to work on his or her bookmark.

There was an industrious atmosphere at both working tabled as people tapped and banged, producing a variety of musical pitches, and discussed their projects. Beck worked on her own bookmark, and she walked around to offer help to people with tool choices and techniques. She showed a participant how to stand for leverage and “give it your all” with a strong hammer swing to make a good impression with a star die. The bookmarks that people created included messages such as “Life Is Good” and “Hope,” their names, and chevron, bison, and star designs.

Once everyone had finished their designs, Beck donned a mask and protective gloves and demonstrated how to mix Liver of Sulphur and water, one of several patina agents that can be used with copper to darken the engraved areas and bring out the designs. Beck dropped each bookmark into the patina solution and let it sit long enough to darken as desired. Then she rinsed each bookmark in water, so it would not continue to darken.

Each participant brushed his or her bookmark with steel wool to remove the patina from the areas that weren’t engraved. Beck suggested creating a spiral design by rubbing the back of the bookmarks in circles, creating a folk-art type of finish.

After rubbing the bookmarks with steel wool, the participants brought their bookmarks to a sink and washed them with dish soap and a wire brush to bring out a beautiful shine. Then each person finished his or her bookmark by tying a piece of string or ribbon through the hole at the top. They placed them together on a paper towel to share their work.

Read more about Heather Beck Designs at Her web site includes photos of her own projects, including rings, ornaments, figures, and legacy jewelry in new settings. There is also information about her studio classes and library workshops. She offers library workshops on making ornaments, bookmarks, and keychains and private classes to help people design and create their own projects, including personal wedding rings.

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