Thursday, 1 December 2016

Jewelled Web - December 2016 - Link Love

Cafe with mirrors on wall - Jewelled Web December 2016 Silver Moss

It's the coldest month of the year. Okay, that can actually be January or February, chilled as they are without the lights of Christmas to look forward to. But it's so cold this year, icy cold at times, with a harsh wind and an increasingly odd-looking world whichever way you look at it.

So this month I will trying to mostly keep warm but stay cool, to remember to relax and not be stressed, to try and enjoy the people I love who are in my life, and the good things they bring to me, and that I try and bring to them. I'll also try not to get too sentimental...

Some links I've enjoyed over the past month an that I hope to read more carefully before the end of this month. I hope you enjoy perusing them too.



~jewellery links~

Jewellery made from coins isn't hard to find now but this is the first time I've seen such a delicate adaptation as this design - that's some mean piercing...

A few years back I made some brooches from copper wire and loved doing so - stumbling across this simple (but helpful) tutorial has reminded me that I must make some more...

A tutorial for a wire and thread bracelet.

I'm falling in love with the possibilities of bronze clay - this work is amazing and this bracelet tutorial is fascinating...

Wonderful resources from Kernowcraft on setting stones.

I have a decent amount of copper pipe offcuts collecting in a large cardboard box - these examples of etching on copper are very enticing...

A tutorial for making an ivy copper clay bracelet (pdf).



~non-jewellery links~

Utterly beautiful photograph of a white rainbow in Scotland.

If you're looking for an excuse to take lot of photographs this month then this may be worth checking out - a wonderful way to take, and share, images and ideas for this last year.

Non-jewellery ideas for polymer clay...

I don't know about you but I subscribe to things I'm even just half-interested in and I need to stop, and I need to unsubscribe more.

Gift wrap for the dedicated cat lover in your life - we all know at least one, surely...

And these photos will be adored by anyone who loves dogs. In fact, even if you don't love dogs (really? Is that possible?) you'll love them.

Giving a compliment is always nice.

A reminder, if we need one, of the frightening impact of litter on wildlife, everywhere.



~My Own Personal Book Club ~

This month I've started reading Great North Road by Peter F Hamilton - I've got it as an eBook which helps disguise the fact that it's over a 1000 pages long... I'm not expecting to be finishing it this side of, well, next year... but I am enjoying the 14% I've read so far...

Speaking of embarking upon long books, I've also made a start on Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, after realising I've not read anything by him for a few years now, and also realising that if I don't start reading his novels soon then I won't get to read them all... (this is over 800 pages so I must find something a little shorter to read to get me through those spells when a long book just feels too long...suggestions please!)

I've also been leafing through and getting distracted by a Mollie Makes book, this one being Woodland Friends - it just makes you want to create tiny and gorgeous little creatures for no reason other than the fun of doing so.

(affiliate links included for the books listed here - please check details here for more info.)

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I hope your December, your Christmas and New Year are all special and warm.


PS. If you need more links (and sometimes we all need more) then check out this post full of link love.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Six Things I've Learned Without a To-Do List

I've just done battle with some online Christmas shopping and forgotten passwords. I still have a scribbled list of gifts to buy and anxieties over getting it wrong. So I've come here for a change of scenery and some respite.

View down a long flight of stairs - 6 Things I've Learned Without a To-Do List

It's nearly the end of November which means its nearly December which means a mass of busyness and 'hecticness' and worrying about if you've bought/made the right gifts for the right people and if they'll like or appreciate them or even remember who're they're from by the end of Christmas day.

It also means 2017 is painfully, frighteningly close.

And it also means it's a time to carefully review the detailed To-Do list you made for 2016 in your very neat virtual/real notebooks, make insightful comments about what worked well, and then dream up ideas for the coming year.

Or, perhaps more likely, it's a time to wonder where the year went and how come you never actually got around to writing down any plans for this year. And so the possibility that you could have achieved anything must be equally remote.

If you haven't already guessed, the latter is a fair description of me. My life sometimes feels like a avalanche of chaos, tempered by mere minutes of clarity and resolve, which crumble so fast under the weight of overwhelm and lack of focus.

Obviously next year will be different... But then I tell myself that every year.


I didn't make a To-Do list, or even any notes, although I meant to do so. I had plans and ideas and hopes and dreams and then, as always, the reality of living got in the way. But I've become a little fed up at berating myself yet again and so instead am trying to look at not what I didn't do, but what I did.

I've come to realise that it's the little changes that make a difference. Like, for example, if you want to improve your diet then every time you don't buy a chocolate bar it's a win, even if it only happens once a week. It's still a step down the better road.

So here a few notes I'm making now about what I've improved on and learned this year. Don't worry, they're not long...

1) Make a decision, focus on what you're doing, & finish what you start


Okay, that might be three things technically but combined they can make a plan of any kind happen. When it comes to jewellery in particular, every time I begin to make something and then finish it, it's a win. I have endless small plastic grip seal bags of even smaller works-in-progress that, mostly, stay that way. So when I take an idea, focus on it, develop it step by step (see number 4, below), make it work by overcoming any and all obstacles (again, step by step), and then finish it, that's my win. It's even a win if I get one of those works-in-progress completed too.


2) Pay attention and take a break


The Pomodoro Technique has helped me with focussing and progressing no end. It basically carves time up into 25 minute portions. You set a timer for 25 minutes, and work on whatever you're doing for that period of time. Then you have a five minute break. And then you go back for another 25 minute section of time. It seems easier to turn distractions off when you're working against the clock and the five minute refresher clears your head; apparently if we focus on something for too long we start to lose brain power, even if we don't realise it. I sometimes decrease the times involved, but the principal seems to still work as well, the idea of balancing concentration with a little distraction.

This is a handy timer that I use online, but any timer at all will do.


3) Nothing is perfect


My jewellery is hand-crafted. I don't have that many tools. And I like the little signs of 'work' that remain on it, even when it goes into the 'Finished Work' box (yes, I do have a box labelled that, something I labelled this year to help with getting things finishing). Everything I make is individual and that's the joy of handmade; if all the tiny marks of uniqueness are removed from it, then it might as well have been made by machine.

And it's better to finish something than have a pile of 'not-quite-perfects' that are never completed...


4) Small steps make a path


Every tweak I make on improving the look of my blog is another win, even if no one ever notices it (I altered the font of my main text earlier this year, which pleased my eye no end but doubtless went unnoticed (as it should) by anyone who reads my blog).

Every minute I can spend on making jewellery can be productive. I often don't have the time to make a piece of jewellery from start to finish. Sometimes I don't have time to do pomodoros. But if I take a few minutes when I can and follow the simple steps I know I have to take, then I get to the end product, eventually. I find having a plan for more complex pieces, as well as a few simple ideas, means that I'm never at a loss for something to do, even if I don't have time to set up for soldering or polishing.


5) The web is a tool, not just somewhere to waste time.


I will probably nearly always have to remind myself of correct HTML or CSS formatting when working on my blog, and I think that's okay because that's one of the things the web is for - learning (even re-learning and re-learning again).


6) Try something new but not too often.


I always want to try something new; sewing, felting, model-making, watercolour painting, silver-clay... Then I have to remind myself to focus on what I am meant to be doing. But, sometimes, if what you're meant to be doing isn't quite working, then something new can provide a different and, perhaps, better focus... well, that's my theory.

I've used this idea over the last few months, relaxing more with my jewellery making, letting myself play with creating and using more beads (and colour) and less solder, and I've enjoyed taking the (self-imposed) pressure off. Sometimes a new space, whether physical or mental, is a good thing. As long as I remember to focus and not turn to another new thing...


How about you? What have you learned this year and how has it helped you? Do share in the comments as I'm the first to admit I need all the help I can get...

Okay, back to Christmas shopping for me.

PS. if you're looking for more distractions from Christmas shopping and/or working out what you did right/wrong this last year then check out my link love post from a couple of Christmases ago.

Friday, 18 November 2016

One Amber Bracelet equals One Amber Bracelet and One Amber Pendant

I get a little nervous when someone asks me to adjust an item of their jewellery. Perhaps not quite as nervous as I get if some asks me to mend some jewellery, but still nervous. You only seem to get asked for help with items that mean a lot to the owner and non-jewellery makers, understandably, don't know any of the potential horrors that came come with trying to turn one size of jewellery into another...

Amber bracelet

I was asked to adjust a bracelet that was so large that the owner, despite loving the piece, was just unable to wear it without fearing she'd lose it. I said I'd look at it but made it clear that if I didn't think I could do the adjustment safely then I wouldn't do it at all. Given the bracelet in question was set with stones, and amber ones at that (an incredibly soft stone as I mentioned in this post), I felt justified in my apprehension.

On being given the bracelet and sitting down with it, doing some thinking and doodling some ideas, I came to the conclusion that I was able to do what I was asked, and that was not only make the bracelet smaller but also make a pendant out of the stone-set link that I would be removing.
Despite my anxieties when I actually picked up my pliers and piercing saw I was surprised, and pleased, at how easy (relatively speaking) adjusting the bracelet and making the pendant turned out to be.

Audible sigh of relief.

Amber bracelet and jewellery illustration

My initial plan had been to cut through two of the connecting links, as shown in my illustration in the photo above, but on looking more closely I realised the clasp hadn't been soldered on and so I was able to prise it apart from the bracelet. I then cut through a connecting link and removed that and the stone-set link next to it. The clasp was then reattached to the bracelet which was now one silver connecting link and one amber stone-set link smaller.

When it came to making the pendant I decided against attempting to resolder the connecting link that had been cut through. A little research showed me it would probably be an error to trust to heat protecting compounds to protect amber from a soldering torch, and the general advice was that the best option in this situation is to remove the stone from its setting, perform the soldering, and then reset the stone. As I hadn't set the stone in the first place I did not want to do this, especially as, like I said earlier, amber is such a soft stone and could easily be damaged both in removing it from the setting and when putting it back in. The connecting link is made from thick, work-hardened silver and I felt confident that it would securely hold the pendant on the necklace.

Amber pendant

I also decided against removing the extra 'loop' of silver that had connected the stone-set link when it when it was within the bracelet. This was mainly so that if the new size bracelet didn't fit (which was a concern as the stone-set links were quite large so the adjustment was kind of all or nothing) then it could be put back together again and a different option sought.

Despite my initial concerns at the request, I was pleased with how the adjustment went. And the owner of the jewellery? Well, the bracelet now fits perfectly and they have a matching pendant to boot.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Denim Lapis Lazuli - Casual Class


Denim Lapis Lazuli beads
Denim Lapis Lazuli beads

A few years back I bought myself a few strands of small, round gemstone beads. You might have some yourself, stretches of thread or nylon strung with gems of wonderful colours. I bought some and used some and put the rest away for later. 'Later' having arrived at last, I delved into my work-box of beads and gems and found I fell back in love, and fast, with denim lapis lazuli.

Denim Lapis Lazuli beads in close up
Like tiny planets of sea & sky...

The beads are just stunning, aren't they. Each one is so unique, and so perfect. Denim seems such a casual word for such a beautiful stone. It's interesting to discover that this particular type of lapis lazuli is essentially a marketing success story. The white (which is calcite, a relation to humble chalk) component in the stone was originally considered to make it inferior to the deep blue shades, with touches of gold-coloured pyrite, that were preferred and sought after. Turning the supposed 'flaw' into an attribute was a clever idea.

Denim Lapis Lazuli beads on silver earrings
Silver and denim lapis earrings, made by myself


Whilst wondering why I haven't used my bead stash more, and secretly being glad I haven't so I could discover it all over again, I've been adding beads to silver like a cook who has recently discovered Muscovado after only ever using white caster sugar before...

Friday, 4 November 2016

Book Review - Metal Clay Jewellery by Natalia Colman

Metal Clay Jewellery by Natalia Colman
Published by Search Press 2015 - 144 pages (pb)

Metal Clay Jewellery - book review by Silvermoss Metal Clay Jewellery - book review by Silvermoss

I still have both my small stash of silver clay pendants created at a day class, and my slightly larger stash of metal clay in its sealed pouch. The reason the latter is still unopened is partly due to the complexity of working well with metal clay, at least as far as I’m concerned. A big part of this is the kiln or soldering torch to fire issue, which for me revolves around the fact that I don't have a kiln. I suspect if I had originally begun making jewellery using metal clay, rather than metal itself, then my attitude would be reversed and I’d find all the paraphernalia of silver-smithing as dense a prospect as I do the list of tools needed to make items from metal clay.

The (slight) block I have about working with metal clay (and my aforementioned stash) is probably what leads me to feast on metal clay books as if they’re Wispa bars and I’ve been on a health kick for a not inconsiderable amount of time. Metal Clay Jewellery by Natalia Colman is no exception to this. The cover is bright and colourful with clear and bold text in different colours that, I soon found out, indicate that this book covers silver, copper and bronze metal clay.

Inside the book, the clays are introduced individually and techniques for working with them are shown, all clearly and comprehensively photographed. And this is one of this book’s great strengths, the quality and amount of photographs used to illustrate each step and idea. Some books can be a little limited when it comes to showing rather than telling how a topic works or is created, but here the visual side of things is very much to the fore and this is only to the book’s credit.

The book next goes into detail about how to actually turn the clay into jewellery by using beads, findings and stringing techniques, and the tools that are needed.

As is normally the case with jewellery books, the main section consists of projects that show how to use the previously introduced techniques. Here the subjects of texture creation, bas reliefs, connections after firing, working with coils, adding colour, setting stones, and using hot connections, as well as finishing touches, are covered. The projects each include a list of materials, written instructions and those clear and copious photos I mentioned earlier. Many of the projects I found to be inspiring and exciting, showing me techniques and ideas that I’d not come across before and bringing me closer (I do so hope!) to tearing open those metal clay pouches.

At the back of the book is a handy chart which provides firing times for each project as well as different options of firing it - on a gas stove, by torch or in a kiln. Charts giving information about firing natural gemstones and cubic zirconias are also included, detailing the author’s own experiences about which gemstones are safe to fire and how firing can affect their colour. As an aside, much of the information here relates to firing in a kiln, at a variety of temperatures, rather than using a torch.

The book finishes with a page of templates for use with some of the projects and a short glossary, as well as an index.

In terms of comprehensiveness - dealing with three different metal clays - this book is a fascinating read, full of ideas and imagination. The flip side of this is that it cannot go into great detail on any one clay or technique it shows, but this does not detract from the broad base of information it does cover. As an introduction to metal clay it’s a good read, and as a way of stimulating ideas for those jewellers who are a little more experienced I think it is also worth a detailed peruse.

A nice find.


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