Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Serendiptitous jewellery making

I'm currently working like something possessed, in order to prepare for a large art and craft market I'm doing this coming weekend. I have much more space than a normal craft fair table, so am spending a lot of time putting together display materials and trying to get more organised. I spent so long at my last craft fair taking pieces out of ziplock bags to put on display that I swore I wanted to do it better next time.

I'm not convinced - at all - that I'm achieving that. Yet.

But in the process of finishing various part made pieces - and components like pendants - to display, I ordered some more antiqued copper chain and decided to try some ball chain at the same time. When it came, it was rather chunkier than I'd envisioned - despite being fully aware the size. It's funny how often components you buy are a completely different size when they arrive, despite knowing their size and checking against a ruler, your mind just forms a picture at completely the wrong scale.

The ball chain was going to be the wrong weight for the pieces I had in mind, but on my work mat was a polymer clay pendant that I'd put ready to finish with one of the chains and this looked pretty good with the chunkier ball chain. So I dug around in my box of polymer clay pieces to see what else I had that might work.

You know how it is - and I don't suppose I'm unique in this regard - you make some pieces that are too good to discard, but you somehow can't make quite work. So you put them aside for another day. I found two other pendants that fell into that category, so made some double wrapped loop bails with co-ordinating bead details and antiqued the copper to match the ball chain and made three brand new pieces from pendants I hadn't previously known quite what to do with.

Sometimes serendipity gives rise to the most pleasing results. So don't panic, those part made pieces you put aside until inspiration strikes, may someday take on a new life. When the time is just right.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Shaggy Loops has been my bag baby!

My jewellery making often goes in phases - many times just through the practicalities of getting set up for one kind of working and wanting to maximise on your time by utilising the materials to hand and equipment prepared. You also get into a flow of thought and movement and once working well at something, feel reluctant to move to something new until you feel that particular vein of creativity has been exhausted for the moment. Other times, it doesn't go that well and moving to something entirely different is completely necessary.

Some techniques need more time and undivided attention and some are easier to pick up and work on in short bursts. That's just how it has been lately. I've had so many commitments on my time - work will insist on interrupting the serious task of creating - that I've not been able to get a good run on things that need more attention, despite having a head full of ideas, bursting to take form on my workbench. I always tend to keep some projects on the go that I can work easily on my lap - I often take a work bag with me when out and about and if I find myself with time to kill, can get on with something. I tend to do most of my wrapped loop bracelets at these times.

I recently got a commission for a custom coloured Shaggy Loops beaded chainmaille bracelet. It's a technique that is simple enough to do - certainly much easier than most chainmaille weaves - but is perhaps fiddly and time-consuming more than technically hard.

As I've been busy, it has been an ideal technique to satisfy my daily need to grapple with pliers and metals and make something new as it's easy to work with in a small area without the need for much equipment and can be picked up and worked a few minutes at a time while waiting for a pot to boil or someone to answer the phone. It has also been true this session, that whilst working on one thing, this is what personal callers have seen in process or recently added to my shops and it has generated further interest and I have two extra orders on the strength of what has been on my work mat at home. Last month I did several beaded heavy weight and oxidised copper Byzantine bracelets in succession.

I very quickly get seduced by the colours of the larger seed beads I use with this technique and sourcing them, putting colours together and planning the weave for the most pleasing colour effect is a very enjoyable part. It's also a very therapeutic thing to do - I find myself so mesmerised by the counting of beads and rhythm of placing the colours in sequence and opening and closing rings - that I suddenly find myself totally absorbed with the beeds and loops and totally lost in the repetition of the work. It's very good for just emptying your mind.

Some days you feel the need to hammer, or twist wire, or string beads. Some days, the absorbing technique of a bit of chainmaille, is what hits the spot. So for the last few days, Shaggy Loops has been my bag baby.

Craft fairs and markets I will attend:

I aim to do quite a few fairs, markets and shows in the run up to Christmas 2008. You can therefore see my jewellery pieces in person and discuss and custom modifications of commissions you'd like me to undertake.

My prices are just the same, regardless of where you buy my work and if you see a piece at a fair or market and want to purchase it later, it might already be in one of my on-line shops (see top right for others), but if not, please feel free to contact me and I'll be happy to add it.

If you're unable to buy on the day of a fair, you could always ask me to put it aside for you to purchase later on-line.

All of these events are in the north west of England - several dates have been removed or changed after a series of markets was cancelled:

Sunday 28th September - Fresh on the Market - Preston in Lancashire - all day

Saturday 18th October - October Craft Fayre - Castle Park Arts Centre, Frodsham in Cheshire - 1pm - 4pm.

Saturday 13th December - Christmas Fresh on the Market - Preston in Lancashire - all day

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Exposure of items on dark backgrounds:

Further to my earlier comments about how cameras underexpose product shots on light backgrounds, the converse is also true about items on dark backgrounds - the camera tends to over-expose - so you need to compensate for that in some way. Exposure is calculated by the camera based on the expected average tonality of most general photographs.

If your background is especially dark or lighter than average, you need to tell the camera that it is and you'd like it staying that way please. This is what the Exposure Compensation setting is for, sometimes called Exposure Value - EC or EV. Compensating for the extra dark or lightness in your subject. You use negative/minus EC/EV - usually to the left/bottom of the scale in your camera settings - and positive/plus EC - the top of the scale for light images.

'Stops' are your units of measure:

The unit of measure for photographic exposure is a stop - a detailed explanation of that term is perhaps beyond the scope of this piece, but I will use the term periodically and your camera manual no doubt refers to it too. Your scale usually allows for something like two stops adjustment in each direction - 2 through 0 to +2. The very quick and dirty explanation is that if you halve or double the light reaching the camera sensor or film plane, you've adjusted it by a stop. So a stop is half as much or twice as much light. If your shutter speed was 1/100 second for example and you changed it to 1/200 - that would be an adjustment of a stop - your shutter is now going to be open for half as long, letting in half as much light - a stop less.

Dark backgrounds:

I happened to take some with dark backgrounds today - in an attempt to best show off some especially shiny silver plated items and it reminded me to post something about it here while I had a working example.

In these shots, I took several in sequence trying to prevent the silver highlights from blowing out (disappearing completely to white, with no data and therefore no detail recorded) and was surprised at just how far I had to underexpose to keep the black black and the silver with details in.

I personally tend to use a manual exposure mode and just watch the meter - but for most people, working in an auto or semi-auto camera mode and using exposure compensation might make life easier - and not all cameras have a full manual mode.

These are the results and by which time, the meter was showing them as well over a stop underexposed. I still wanted to retain some of the linen texture of the card background I was using, so didn't allow it to go fully black. The second shot below is rather darker, with almost 2 stops of underexposure. Had I taken the photograph and allowed the camera to set its own exposure, the black card would have been a mid-grey colour - not what I wanted. A further explanation of why this exposure compensation is necessary is on my photography tutorial site. I'll add those tutorials here shortly.

If you like the jewellery pieces, they are for sale (and can be made in other colours) either on Etsy (US Dollars), Folksy (UK/ Sterling) or my own web site. I think the site here darkens the images a little when it resizes, so please do click them to see the larger originals.


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