COUPLES can add the personal touch to their wedding designing them themselves.

Benchspace is a new silversmith studio in Brightlingsea which includes a jewellery workshop.

Karen Cooke, an award-winning silversmith who runs the studio, is offering tuition, taster sessions and courses to people of all abilities who wish to learn the ancient craft.

She has been in the business for more than 20 years.

She said: “I began my career in 1992 working in retail jewellery and qualified as a gemmologist and retail jeweller whilst working at the Co-op jewellery store in Long Wyre Street, Colchester.

“I then gained a degree in Silversmithing and Jewellery at the Sir John Cass School of Art in London.

“I then worked as a silversmith in a busy London workshop, making bespoke large-scale commemorative and decorative silver artworks.”

Karen went on to become a fully qualified teacher working with secondary pupils teaching metalwork, woodwork and plastics.

After relocating back to Essex she gained a Master’s degree in Contemporary Art and Professional Practice from Essex University.

She founded BENCHspace to combine her two passions of making and teaching.

She said: “I want to be able to offer people the opportunity to make in metal.

“To be able to learn the ancient handskills of craftsmen passed down through the ages and see the delight this brings when you have made your own jewellery is quite empowering.

“It’s science combined with art, technical magic that is a joy to make and a joy to wear.

“You learn so much more than just technical skills, making is mindfulness in action and extremely good for your wellbeing.

“It’s such a friendly and supportive workshop environment packed with every type of tool and machine you could possibly want.”

The new studio is large enough to accommodate eight students.

She has launched a Silver Saturdays taster session where guests can make silver rings and bangles.

Couples are also given the opportunity to make their own wedding rings.

Karen said: “After booking an initial consultation in the workshop to talk through ideas and choices,we will look at different materials and quality of gold to order.

“When they have decided on the size, carat and style, we will order the gold and book in a wedding ring workshop to make the rings.

“Couples will have exclusive private hire of the workshop to themselves for the day.”

Weekly jewellery making courses are also available for those wanting to build up their skills.

The beginner course, which is eight weeks, is designed for people with no previous experience and explains the foundation skills needed to accurately cut, file, drill, and solder.

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