In February, Mile End welcomed a new craft studio for making rings and metal jewelry. Originally based in Toronto, Le Den is a DIY jewelry making hub where you can try your hand… pun intended… at making your own metal ring, tie clip, money clip, chain, or other piece. There are opportunities to learn gold-smithing and jewelry-making skills, develop them, or even rent the workspace.
Thanks to a Living Social coupon and a shared desire to do something artsy-n-craftsy, my friend Angelique and I purchased a coupon to the make your own ring “playing with fire” workshop. The workshop stated that in a 3 1/2 to 4 hour workshop (ours actually ran close to 5 hours), participants create a silver ring, with options to upgrade to larger sized rings, create a second one, or even work in different metals.
After a bit of a sign-up mix-up, Angelique and I were registered in the Le Den system and our workshop date set. The website is focused on the Toronto studio and the teachers are only in Montreal part-time, so it can be a bit tricky to organize. Once things were in motion, though, Le Den sent an informative pdf about making metal jewelry, describing the tools and some of the basic science behind metal-smithing. I read through it, admired its illustrations, and promptly forgot just about everything it said. I re-read it the day of the workshop and try to retain a few points. Fortunately, Kristin, head of Le Den and my teacher-extrodinaire, explained everything necessary while making the ring.
On the day of the workshop, I headed to the residential street on the second floor of a house in the Mile End area. Inside, five workspaces were set up to accommodate everyone with a bright light, a low-set chair, and tools. It’s a cozy and functional space, but there is room enough to check out everyone’s progress. It’s a nice location and a good set up, but even before we started, I wondered if the studio effects the people who reside around the space (this will be relevant shortly).
There were five ring makers in my workshop. One man had been working on a ring that can best be described as a signature art piece over several sessions. He was not a newbie and worked independently from the rest of us. The rest of us consisted of my friend, a couple celebrating Valentine’s Day in May, and myself.
Studio owner, educator, and chief artisan Kristin was joined by her co-worker Elly and they explained the silver options the basic workshop included as well as available upgrades. Our finger measurements were taken and recorded. This very useful piece of information allows for the ring to fit perfectly!
The basic choices of ring widths and styles were perfect for me, and the option to make a second ring too tantalizing to skip. My co-learners opted for rings of greater thickness. Kristin prepared the metal for each of us from a small sheet and then sets us up to practice hammering with punches in case we wanted to write something inside our rings.
Before I knew it, Kristin led me through the steps of ring making. The best part, easily, was using a blow torch like item to soter over a gap, as well as polishing the metal with something similar to a dentist drill. The ever-patient Kristin was there as my jewelry fairy godmother to rescue me each and every time my piece went awry or didn’t go at all. While working, she answered every question, explaining things such as the quality of silver and gold as well as some of the ways that she got started with Le Den.
It was in the final 20 minutes that two neighbours arrived to complain about the noise. Kristin and Elly were diplomatic and the incident was addressed quickly. We were nearly done anyway. I was not that surprised, given my first thoughts upon arrival.
In the end, I made two rings. They look pretty awesome!
I proudly flash my two rings to everyone and brag that I made them myself (with help from Kristin). They fit perfectly, which is not easy when your fingers are pretty close to child size in diameter. I would go back and make something in gold, given the chance. The workshop is ideal for people who want to make their own wedding rings and no surprise that they have gotten many customers via booths at bridal shows. The piece is carries one’s own energy.
The workshop is very easy to participate. You don’t need to be crafty or artistic to make a ring. Kristin and Elly are welcoming, warm, and friendly. They know how to teach and never allowed anyone to feel left out or incompetent. The best way to explain the ambiance is to share Kristin’s answer to a fellow co-learner who asked why she doesn’t sell her rings. She answered that she offers an “experience,” making ti clear that her commitment is to teaching. Le Den is a place to expand.
I highly recommend the ring making workshops at Le Den and as the initial kinks of starting up in Montreal are settled, their studio is bound to grow and flourish.