June 2 to 3 I attended a short course in filigree, filigrana in Portuguese, in the wonderful city of Lisbon.
Portugal is famous for excellent filigrana so this was very exciting for me. As the information about the course was in English it was a big surprise to find out that it was held in Portuguese and I was the only foreigner! But, with some translation from the teacher André and a lot of help from fellow students I got the most of it, I think at least.
Filigrana has a very long tradition in Portugal with work both in gold and silver. André had learnt his skills from a master in the town of Gondomar in the north of Portugal, the hottest district in filigrana. It takes several years to really master filigrana, so of course this was just a short introduction.
It was very nice to be surrounded by Portuguese and we had an enjoyable time, laughing a lot when the very tiny filigrana wires popped out all over the place. Filigrana is not easy and it takes A LOT of patience! We got a frame structure already soldered and done and our task was to fill it with filler wires. We were taught three different shapes commonly used in traditional Portugese filigrana: s-shape, escana aberta and cartäo. When we had (hopefully) secured a section of shapes, the piece was dipped in water to make the solder stick, then sprinkled thinly with powder solder, last step was heating with a torch a few seconds until the solder flowed . No pickling until the piece was finished.
As I have a workshop I didn´t stress to make my piece finished as i can continue back home. This was as far as I got:
I took more time studying my fellow students work. Many of them were incredibly good, Look at this work, made by a young girl who had never tried filigrana before. She sawed her piece in two and made those beautiful ear pendants:
The finishing process was: first put the piece in hot pickle to remove any oxidation. Instead of polishing this magic took place: heat with yellow flame to provide a soot layer, than heat with blue flame and it will turn white and beautiful. Finally clean with water and soap with a brass brush. Done!
Before leaving I bought some filigree wire and powdered solder (almost non-existing on the market) a black workboard and a special tweezers. The latter sadly got seized by the security control at the airport as it was considered too dangerous to take on an airplane. It felt a bit sad to say good bye to those nice people I met on the course.
I had a few days in Lisbon to explore this gorgeous city. You have to wear shoes with a good grip and be quite fit to walk the numerous steep hills though. But the beauty! Here is a jakaranda tree in bloom:
Good bye Lisbon until next time! Hopefully there will be a continuation course in filigrana.