Thursday 29 January 2015

Christmas was saved...

Gifts are not always fun to make. They can be a challenge, trying to match your skills and tastes to that of someone you know well, and, as with any gift, it's always a balance between something you know you like, and something you hope they'll love...

silver curl earrings - silver moss designs

I think I hit the mark with these earrings that I made for a loved one this past Christmas. They were an elaboration of this design, adding a little more of a Celtic twist I thought. It took a few soldering disasters before I eventually created two that resembled each other enough (always an issue with earrings...) or hadn't melted under the torch.

silver curl earrings - silver moss designs

I plan to make some more of these, with the caveat that if they don't match then I'll turn them into pendants or bracelet charms, and if they start to melt too much then I may just stop...

Anything you've made lately where you've only just grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat - and with a looming deadline too?!

Monday 26 January 2015

Jewellery, History, and all that Silver

lois jewellery infographic - silver moss designs

As a bit of a history buff, I've always found the connection between jewellery and the past to be fascinating.

Many of the techniques jewellers use today are the same methods that someone would have used hundreds of years ago to gain the same result.

It intrigues me when I'm using a hammer to add texture to silver, or a saw to pierce out a design, that the tools work on the same principles now as they did in the past. 

And I'm very aware of how much easier it is now to use those tools when I'm soldering with a flame that comes from a simple gas-fed torch, rather than having to control the heat output by using a mouth blowpipe, as shown in some of the images in this article.

Creating jewellery provides a living connection to the past, and it always increases my respect for the makers of ancient pieces of jewellery, dug out of fields (and here) or from underneath car parks.

Browsing through images of jewellery, from all eras of history, provides ideas for things I can (attempt to) create myself. It also means I can easily justify watching costume dramas on film and TV, like Wolf Hall, on the basis they're useful for inspiration and not just self-indulgent escapism for a history-junkie...

So this infographic, create by Lois Jewellery, caught my eye and imagination. It handily summarises the main eras of Western history and the jewellery that was created in them. Hope you enjoy reading it!

Throughout human history, jewellery has existed as a form of expression, wealth and social status. Take a look at this visual and take a trip through the history of Jewellery, starting with the evolution of jewellery in the ancient world, all the way through to modern day jewellery tof today.

Credit to Lois Jewellery for creating this visual.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Interview with Cinnamon Jewellery

cinnamon jewellery photo - silver moss blog Welcome to the latest of my interviews with fellow jewellery makers.

Cinnamon Jewellery has always struck me as aptly named - the jewellery is vibrantly designed, with extra zing being added by enamel and oxidization effects - see the photo (left) of this graduated orange enamel pendant as an example.

Tracy, who is Cinnamon Jewellery, creates wonderful pieces in silver and copper, often oxidised to add character and always beautiful. I hope you enjoy reading her interview and seeing some of her stunning work.

When and how did you start making jewellery?

I started making basic bead jewellery in 2004 after looking at handmade jewellery on ebay and thinking that I could probably do that, so I did! I bought some tools and supplies and researched how to do things like wrapped loops and took it from there. I remember I practiced my first loops using fuse wire! I sold my jewellery on ebay for a few years then started selling sterling silver findings too.

Where do your design ideas come from and what is the process that sees them through to the finished product? Do you doodle on paper or take photos for inspiration? Do your designs then evolve on paper or in your hand as you make them? Do you experiment with the metal you create finished designs in, or do you use a base/cheaper metal for experimentation?

Design ideas come from lots of sources: a shape I like might be the starting point or an idea will pop into my head sometimes or it will be a continuation of an existing design that I have already made and can see the possibilities of developing it further. I will often make a quick sketch so I don't forget it but most of the time the idea is in my head which will then be transferred via my hands and tools to the piece of metal.....hopefully!

Ideas don't always work successfully though and can end up being chucked in the bin. In moments of frustration things have been known to go sailing across the room occasionally too! I use a lot of copper in my jewellery and will always make a copper version of a new design to test it before making it in sterling silver.

Where do you create your jewellery; do you have your own studio or use a kitchen table? Does your physical space affect how you work and what you create?

Earlier this year I moved into my own jewellery "studio" - a garden shed with electricity and insulation which I absolutely love! Before the "shed of wonders" {as my friend calls it} I worked on the dining room table and in the kitchen. I still enamelled and soldered when I worked in the house before the shed but having my own space now means I don't have to keep putting everything away, it's bliss! The shed means I can have everything in it's own place where it can stay and I can work more efficiently and quickly. I can solder and enamel whenever I want instead of having to wait til I can get into the kitchen. I can leave something part-way through and go back to it the next day. It's lovely in the summer with the door open and in the winter I have a heater so I can still work out there. With the radio on and a cup of tea I'm completely happy and absorbed in my world of metal and fire.

cinnamon jewellery photo - silver moss blog

How do you motivate yourself to keep on creating?

I'm still at the stage where I have a lot to learn and new techniques to try so I'm never at a loss at what to do next. I do get days when I just don't feel like doing any jewellery making or the inspiration to make something new has deserted me so I'll have a day off and do chores and maybe catch up with paperwork. I love trying new jewellery mediums {the latest is using epoxy resin in my jewellery} so there's always something that will spark off a new idea.

I find if I have a problem with something I've made where it just hasn't worked that will motivate me to get it right. I get quite annoyed at myself when I do something wrong and cannot rest until I've tried again and got it right. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing but it certainly spurs me on rather than makes me want to give up!

What jewellery making tools could you just not do without, and what tool/item is on your wish list?

I make and sell copper and sterling silver findings so would be lost without my tumbler. It polishes and work hardens the findings saving me a lot of time that I would otherwise have to spend polishing each individual piece.

Another tool I wouldn't want to be without now is my rolling mill. I use it for adding textures to metal, flattening wire, thinning solder strip, rolling out nuggets of melted scrap into sheet and making cups of tea {not really!}

Until recently I looked longingly at pictures of Foredom flexshafts really wanting one but persuading myself that I could manage just fine with my Dremel. As it was my 50th birthday recently I gave in and decided to treat myself to a Foredom and I can honestly say it's worth every penny. I use it several times a day and am so glad I decided to splash out and buy one.

I also recently bought a mitre jig which for such a small piece of metal is a great addition to my tool collection. No more will I have wonky sheet metal and tube edges and if I ever feel like making something that needs a 45 degree angle I'll know what to do!

As for my tool wish list - a kiln would be useful for enamelling but I don't have the space so it's unlikely. A set of Fretz hammers would be very nice too.

cinnamon jewellery photo - silver moss blog

Do you take your own photos, and if so do you have any photography hints?

I do take my own photos and it's probably my least favourite part of the whole making and selling online process!

My main tip would be to read your camera manual and experiment with settings, don't just rely on the Auto setting when you take photos.

Try lots of different backgrounds until you find the one that suits your items. Using white as a background is great and generally seen as the most desirable background but only if it really is white! I can't master a white background and my jewellery just doesn't work against white which is why I use slate. I have however experimented with lots of different background looks over the years and nearly driven myself mad doing it before settling on my current background.

Another tip is to get close to your item using the macro setting and take photos at a low angle to show off colours and detail. And never, ever use the flash!

How much time do you spend online promoting your work and how do you balance making with selling?

Being honest I don't do a lot of promoting. I disabled my Facebook page a long time ago and closed my Twitter account after a week! It hasn't affected my sales at all. Maybe it's my age but I don't really like social media very much for "selling". I personally would never go shopping for anything on Facebook.....If I had lots of time to really interact with other people on Facebook which is what I think you have to do on there for it to be worth it then maybe I would use it again but for now I stick to my blog and Pinterest.

I usually blog once a week with a post about what I've been making - not a hard sell post but more of a record of how I've got on with a new technique and what I've managed to make with a few step by step photos which a lot of people like to look at. I love looking at other peoples' work too and how they've made it.

I do also have a Pinterest business account which I use when I remember {!} The only other form of "promoting" I do is to refresh my listing titles and tags occasionally in my Etsy shop.

I get a lot of made to order sales for findings and bangles which at times keeps me stupidly busy so when I not doing that I like to spend my free time making new jewellery rather than promoting.

I do like to spend time "researching" on Pinterest though :D

cinnamon jewellery photo - silver moss blog

Thank you very much for your interview, Tracy, I really enjoyed reading though it.
All photographs in this post ©Cinnamon Jewellery

If you want to check out more of Tracy's work then click on some (or all) of these links -

Thursday 8 January 2015

Jewelled Web - January 2015 - Link Love

Jewelled Web - January 2015 - silver moss jewellery

How odd it is to write 2015 in the title to this post, a little belatedly too... the last year has dashed by on winged heels... But it's the start of another year and some people are making vague new resolutions, and others are creating detailed plans of how their lives will unfold, and yet others are just winging it, as per usual... I'll leave it to you to figure out which category I'm in and which I'd rather be in sometimes...

I hope your Christmas and New Year celebrations were what you wanted them to be. Mine were that seemingly perpetual combination of quiet and incredibly busy, but I enjoyed them all the same. I'll do a post soon on some of the goodies I received from those I love but, for now, here's what I've been looking at on the net last month (when the online shopping wasn't going so well) and the month to come (when I'm so glad the shopping is done for another year...).

~jewellery links~

Concrete heart necklaces DIY - so sweet and simple. If you have some concrete handy, of course.

A handy visual guide to different types of chain and their names - not sure the names are identical on this side of the Atlantic but this is a good place to start.

Making a simple toggle clasp in silver - lots of photos to make it easier. I love making my variations on this theme.

If you love to collect jewellery as much as you love to make it then one of these ideas for storing your jewels may come in handy: this idea is great for bracelets; this one is for necklaces; and this one is ideal for rings and earrings.

A neat and simple trick for removing bits of fluff from polymer or precious metal clay when it's still soft.

Simple wire gauge chart, listing the gauges and what size the wire is in mm and inches. V handy and always impossible to find when you need to know.

A new year (and new fashion seasons) are always good hunting ground for inspiration and this visual list of trends for the coming year has some beautiful examples.

~non-jewellery links~

I'm not one for 'defacing' books as a rule but these creations are simply works of art, created around the books they're based upon. Beautiful.

Fancy an educational new year's resolution? Try a free course via edx or the OU. Genuine education, included with your internet.

For the first time in over 60 years, a new cloud type has been (nearly) announced...

Some wise words from Zen Habits about fear, overwhelm, and how to get the best out of 2015.

Also about 2015 - if you're trying to plan your life (!) for the next year then this is my favourite free e-guidebook about just that.

Some round-ups of the best book covers of 2014 - yes, I have judged (and bought) a book by its cover and many of these are equally hard to resist.

Some free printable calendars for the next year; this one, this one, and this one are top of my list to print.

Decluttering seems a natural thing to turn to after the excess of Christmas so these articles are on my to-read list - this one, this one, and this one too.


Do hope your January is filled with fun and is a great start to your new year :)