The School of Hard Knocks

The flexibility of fibre is one of the things I enjoy about sewing and weaving. While you do have to get it right, there is a degree of forgiveness in fibre-based craft, with the possibility of blocking, wet-finishing, steaming, pressing and so on, to iron out minor imperfections. Metal and wood are less forgiving. I know that from a short time spent learning the techniques of fine jewellery under the tutelage of a professional jeweller.

I learned a great deal in the couple of years I studied jewellery techniques. I learned to appreciate the mastery required to work on a tiny scale and I learned to distinguish between rubbish and well-made pieces. Mostly I learned how much practice and effort are required to achieve a professional standard.

When working with metal, two pieces fit together or they don’t. There’s no concept of bias to allow you to fit a curved edge to a straight one. Maybe it’s down to laziness, but my inclination is to stay with fibre and move away from metal. Besides, wood and metal are more my beloved’s domain.

However when I read glowing reviews in Trip Advisor about Royal Selangor’s School of Hard Knocks I immediately looked into how I could make a booking to participate. The idea of being able to bash at some pewter and bring home a hand-made souvenir was so appealing.

Molds and mallets at the Singapore School of Hard Knocks

Ready to make our pewter bowls

We both loved the experience. We were very surprised that the instruction was given by one of the delightful shop assistants rather than a metal-worker but the School of Hard Knocks is so well set up that all you do is get to work. They give you a circular pewter blank to work with, you stamp it with your name and date and then you use two different molds and a mallet to fashion your own bowl. The process gives the metal a beautiful worked finish.


Royal Selangor Visitor Centre
3A River Valley Rd #01-01
Clarke Quay

You can book for the School of Hard Knocks in advance via email. There’s no hard sell and no requirement to do a tour or watch a video or anything like that. You pay your money (S$40 per person if I remember rightly) and you make your bowl. It’s excellent fun.


2 responses to “The School of Hard Knocks

  1. I’ve worked in both fibers and metals, too, and can really relate to your observations! But I’ve never had a chance to use pewter–your experience sounds wonderful!

    • The blank we were given was quite thin and super easy to work. My newly made bowl got a dent in it on the trip home, even though it was in a hard shell suitcase. I was able to push the dent back out with my hands. And yes, it was a wonderful experience.

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