Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Recent work in progress, now completed

I apologise for not making a very meaningful post, but as I'm going to be out of action for a few days, I thought that I'd bring you up to date on some of the work I showed previously in progress. I'm always interested to read other jeweller's methodology when coming to a design, so thought I'd add some background on my own pieces.

Unfortunately some of the pieces I'd like to show you, that are responsible for quite a bit of my time recently, are custom items intended for gifts, so I need to keep them under wraps for the time being, I obviously don't want to spoil any surprises.

I've been doing some work with copper sheet and showed two pendants in their finished but raw metal state. I've now oxidised them and decided upon a final finish.

The pendant and earring set shown below was cut from copper sheet and given a hand finished texture. Then shaped and polished and the smaller pieces drilled for the earwires and a tube bail soldered to the back of the pendant - I wanted to keep the front of it plain without interruption from a jump ring or other bail structure.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

I gave the upper surfaces a high degree of hand polished shine so that once oxidised, it would take on a nice gunmetal style sheen. I polished the oxidisation back a little from the surface to reveal the texture.

I'd originally intended soldering solid earwire hooks to the back of the earring pieces, but decided at their size, they might hang a little low and without articulation. Coming up to winter when ladies are more likely to wear coats and scarves, it might cause them to get pushed upwards during wear, so I went for a long stright drop earwire through a drilled hole instead.

Seeing them finished this way I know it was the right choice, as they move nicely and the sheen on the surface gives rise to more interest as they jiggle in wear. But I think next time, I'd split the difference and solder a loop to the back of them and then attach that to an earire, to keep the front surface plain, as I'd originally intended - that didn't occur to me until after I'd drilled the holes.

I posted earlier that this particular pendant had proved troublesome - sometimes the plainest looking designs need to the most work to keep them that way. I didn't feel that the resulting finish was up to the standards I am happy with, so this one will be mine. I had given the front surface of the copper a brushed satin finish and wasn't sure whether to oxidise, antique or leave raw. I do love the gunmetal sheen of highly polished copper when fully oxidised, so went with that option, tumbling it extensively to burnish the flat surface. I hand polished the Sterling silver nuggets to contrast against the darker background.

This pendant too has a tube bail soldered on the back and I think I'll probably wear it on my Sterling silver snake chain. I like the simple contemporary lines of it and hope to apply what I learnt in making this one to something similar to sell.

These earrings aren't a new concept for me by any means, I have made several pieces featuring these wrapped copper buds, but a customer wanted something long and dramatic, so these deep teardrop shapes were born - and I made an extra pair for the shop.

I've oxidised the earrings and then polished back just the wrapped areas to accent the texture there. The hammered teardrop loops have been left dark and smooth to contrast the textured details at the bottom. The buds were left a rosy copper and whilst these aren't as red as some I've done, they still have a pink glow to them. I've hung them from wrapped earwires to mirror the texture.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Lovely customers make it all worthwhile

I've had one of those tiresome weeks where far too much time has been wasted . . . er, spent on things you'd just prefer not to - like trying to get an elderly and cranky computer to work efficiently. I bought the part that I thought it needed and we spent a chunk of time fitting it, to find that the one I'd bought wasn't up to spec and will need to be returned and re-ordered. So until that arrives, I'm nursing it along, being kind and making encouraging noises, to coax it along.

Then my favourite magnifier lamp for working on small details (which doubles up for my jewellery photo taking) failed - I just switched it on and it was dead. I finally sourced a replacement tube and made a special trip to pick one up, but that didn't cure it, so I've had to buy another lamp. So that's wasted time and prevented me working on things too.

But over the last few days I have received lovely feedback on Etsy and by e-mail for other items sold. And as soon as you read kind words about your work, from people who are going to enjoy wearing it, it reminds you of exactly why you do what you do and lifts your spirits immeasurably.

"Everything is top quality, from the exquisite packaging to the gorgeous beads and incredible metalwork"

"Another little treasure."

"Fabulous item and service."

". . . my friend absolutely LOVED the jewellery"

" . . . how beautiful your jewellery is!!! I love it and the quality.
Great stuff!!!"

Most of my work is spontaneous. I have an idea, grab some materials and set to work. The fact that someone subsequently likes it too and will enjoy wearing it, is a joy that I've just never tired of. It's still rather odd and wonderful to me that something that starts out as a scratch in my sketchbook or an idea that pops into my head in the shower, ends up being worn to a party, or wedding, or going on holiday to wear in exotic places. This week I've sent pieces to Australia, Sweden and various points in the US, as well as the UK. I feel very cosmopolitan. It's within my own lifetime that this idea would almost have been incomprehensible.

This piece will be for me as I'm not happy with the standard of the finish (the photograph flatters it) and I learnt a great deal whilst working on it. It's brushed satin copper with Sterling silver nuggets and hanging from a tube bail soldered on the back. I haven't decided yet what colour finish to give it, I might oxidise it and tumble it extensively to give the copper a gunmetal finish and polish the silver back to bright.

But sometimes, like the piece above that I'm working on just now (which will now be for myself), through either the wrong tools or not having the right ones, or just plain lack of skill or experience, they don't come out how you plan or envisage. Or you encounter problems you hadn't anticipated - sometimes something that feels like it should be easy, just isn't and simply doesn't work how you want.

I've been experimenting with putting my own textures into copper sheet. I'll antique this one to highlight the pattern and match the chain. I have smaller pieces prepared for matching earrings too. I'm also getting set up to do some etching too - I want to combine my photography with jewellery and put some images, in somewhat stylised form, onto copper pendants and brooches.

Thankfully, those pieces are pretty rare, but they do still have considerable value as a learning process - and without them I'd never stretch myself and progress. Whilst my results aren't yet quite what I hoped (they will be, but will have taken more time than I'd expected), I've learnt so much along the way, that it will serve as a permanent reminder of that journey to me.

Long teardrop shaped hoops wrapped with rosy copper buds. I'll oxidise them and leave the teardrop frame shape dark and polish the wrapping only, to highlight those areas.

This week I have started working with several ideas I'd sketched some time ago, for working with sheet materials and tube - my sketchbook is full of ideas and apart from the one troublesome piece, I have been excited with the new direction and the mass of things I've learnt this week.

My triple hammered Sterling silver leaf shaped spiral earrings have sold well recently, so I've made some smaller earrings with one spiral for those, like myself, that prefer shorter earrings.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Etsy UK sellers collaborate on the 'UK Silly Sale'

I've been selling on the US based sales venue Etsy for some time and UK sellers there have teamed up to run a special one day pre-Christmas sale called the 'UK Silly Sale' - the idea being to 'clear the decks before decking the halls'.

It is officially scheduled as a single day sale and promotional event on Friday 8th October, but many sellers are extending their discounts for a longer period, as am I. If you visit Etsy and search for 'UK silly sale', it will turn up all manner of bargains from the talented artisans (and vintage and supplies sellers too) in the UK who have shops there - everything from hand spun yarns, delicious baked goods, handmade soaps, handbags, hats, bee hotels, paper goods and original art.

It is very much a team effort, individual sellers set the details of their own personal sale, but we are communally promoting the Silly Sale and helping each other. One of the features is that we each create an Etsy treasury of items in the sale or from sellers participating - a collection of individual items on a theme. I've done one already, but there are so many gorgeous things to choose from that I will need to do at least another one.

My own Silly Sale will run for a full week and across my two main on-line selling venues - my own web site and my shop on Etsy. I'm offering 15% discount off everything in both shops for one full week from midnight on Tuesday 5th October - so it's already running now. Nothing else has been compromised whatsoever, the same high standard of workmanship and service - just lower prices for a few days.

This is a perfect opportunity to get a head start on your Christmas shopping, or just treat yourself to something you've had your eye on and save yourself some pennies too - we all need a little extra help in these difficult times.

Christmas gift service:

If you would like Christmas gift items (or gifts for any occasion for that matter) sending directly to the recipient, I am always happy to do this for you at no extra charge (although there's a modest postage supplement if sending overseas, as with all orders) - I will gift wrap items, as shown, as I do anyway on all items, and include a Christmas card with a personal message from you.

If you want to order now to take advantage of the discounted prices, I can schedule the item to be posted to the recipient nearer the festivities on a date to be agreed with you.

If you're buying items intended to be given as gifts in person, at any time, please let me know when you place the order so that I can ensure that you have gift-wrapping materials included, but the item is left un-sealed to allow you to inspect it when it arrives, ready to re-wrap to give.

Some of my new fabric keepsake pouches - a little touch of luxury for storing your jewellery pieces or can be used as a travel case.

I have made some fabric keepsake pouches, as shown in the photographs, which are ideal for gift giving as they can be re-used for storing the jewellery piece, or as a travelling jewellery case - I use one myself for just that. For the duration of the Silly Sale, one hand made fabric keepsake pouch will be included with all orders.

Monday, 4 October 2010

It was a fungi sort of a day

As I posted about in my previous photograph-based blog, I love to walk in woodland and feel that trees are vitally important to my emotional and physical well-being.

We spend a lot of time in the English Lake District and have just spent some assorted days there over 2 weekends. This particular walk, Revelin Moss at Whinlatter, north west of Keswick, is another favourite and a more gentle walk than some we do and is consequently one we often do when we've either done something else earlier in the day, so have limited time, as was the case this last Saturday, or by its location, we often do late in the day, also the case this last weekend - so light levels were an issue for the photographs.

Please click on the photographs to see a larger copy, they're rather dark here on the page.

The previous woodland blogged was well established and largely deciduous and in places mixed, where this one is more plantation style coniferous woodland and is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission. I have always felt that it has a slightly Alpine feel to it, it's a little higher than other walks and the smells and atmosphere often transport me across Europe. It's a looped walk designed for disabled access and pushchairs, so the paths are wide and well-maintained, so easy walking, albeit quite undulating. It also has a newly installed mountain bike route which crosses the path in places.

When you stop to look closely at the steep banks of moss and heather adjacent to the path in places where it carves through the hillside, you can see a massive variety of species growing shoulder to shoulder.

The last week has been both much cooler and some days have been incredibly wet - autumn arrived in no uncertain terms. Walks often have a theme to them - particular things are in season, or the weather highlights particular features. On Saturday the stand-out theme was fungi. The damp weather and changing season had caused all manner of woodland fungi to fruit and there were some fabulous specimens.

I had to take this from some distance and through foliage, and with a long focal length, as they were the other side of a stream from me and growing from the top of a dead tree stump.

I love to see them growing and think they're fascinating things of great and diverse beauty, but I can't claim to know much about them - I just like to see them, take photos and largely keep my distance. I would never know what might make good eating - it seems to me that the difference between and good meal and certain death (or at least an extremely unpleasant experience) is often a very subtle one, requiring serious expertise.

This was the largest patch of fly agarics I think I've ever seen, just nestled at the roots of some well established conifers. But the larger specimens of the group, off to the left and the size of dinner plates, were all kicked over and broken.

These large brown specimens seem to start very small and button shape, growing and opening until they curl upwards with undulated edges.

One thing that always saddens though is that I see so many kicked over and damaged. I've never known if this is people who are concerned by them for some reason, or just for sport, dogs routing around near them, or even wild animals like deer or badgers kicking at them to see if they're edible. But it seems a common sight when walking in woodland, that whilst there are many lovely specimens - and some walks are especially good for the variety of species seen growing - there are always many that are broken up and damaged - and clearly not in a manner that suggests natural wear and tear or weather damage.

The dramatic looking red and white spotted fly agaric mushrooms shown earlier and above are perhaps one of the most recognised species and that is as many as I've ever seen on one day. Further along the walk I spotted three very new mushrooms just emerging from the ground at the base of a tree. One was barely breaking the ground and the other two were still tightly closed and only just above ground.

I had always thought that their redness was an indicator of their toxicity, but apparently they're unpleasant, rather than deadly - you'd need to consume quite a lot of whole fresh mushrooms to actually be in real danger. But they are thought to have hallucinogenic properties when the flesh is properly prepared (and some of the techniques to do so are quite unsavoury) and the 'fly' of the name is less to do with insects and more to do with the likely resulting hallucination involving yourself flying.

There is even some speculation that their red and white livery is responsible for the traditional red and white attire of our modern Father Christmas / Santa Claus - thought to have arisen from the combination of many factors over time, from the fondness of reindeer to eat fly agarics (I wonder if they hallucinate about flying?), old stories of Siberian shamen spirits who visited yurts down the smoke hole bearing little leather bags of dried agaric pieces to tempt those below and their traditional appearance in fairy tales and folklore as a token visual and easily recognised mushroom - and often used as a decorative element around the festive period.

I think I prefer to see them nestled at the foot of a tree, just doing what nature intended.


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