Friday, 23 June 2017

Countryside Inspiration for Jewellery Designs - June 2017

Spring has begun its gentle slide into summer and whenever I'm out and about I've tried to snap photos as much as I can. All the photos in this post were taken on my camera phone as I've been trusting it far more lately to capture a good image for me. I've also been increasingly aware that the shapes and features that attract my eye in the landscape also feed into my approach to the jewellery I design and create.

Countryside Jewellery Inspiration Wheatfield by Silvermoss

The photo above of a green wheat field, backed with a wall, then a further field, and then the sky beyond made me consider the importance of both pattern and uniformity in jewellery design as well as aspects that break one or both of those qualities. Yes, the lines of the features in the photo run parallel to each other, but the spaces between those lines are all different - wide, narrow, narrow, wide and so they add interest and break expectations of a uniform pattern.

Creating differences through contrast in design is often pleasing - we naturally recognise rhythm and anything that alters or interupts it. The texture of the wheat itself, being pushed by the breeze, within the overall stripe it forms, shows how effective angles can be when set against horizonal patterns and shapes. And the clouds in the skyscape provide a rounded texture in contrast with all the lines in the photo, serving as a reminder how texture can be used as a subtle contrast.

Countryside Inspiration Bluebell Wood by SilverMoss

This photo was taken late into bluebell time, when I nearly missed the best of the blooms through a rather weighty migraine that kept me hidden away instead of experiencing the flowers at their most blue. But even here in this image, the carpet effect is still in evidence and the trees, as ever, provide a protective canopy against the harshness of direct sunshine and beautiful spots of light falling on the flowers.

If you imagine the scene without the blue hues then it becomes a little drab, something a little plain - the bluebells add interest and texture and show how detail can lift a design which, while still attractive, may also be a little flat without it.

Countryside Inspiration Gateway to the Wood by SilverMoss

The contrast between the sunlight falling on the wooden gate and fence and the gentler dappled shade in the woodland prompted me to take this photograph. Contrast adds interest in jewellery design, as do angles, like the one that the gate and fence are on which helps draw the eye through the image, and prevent a one-dimensional quality by adding depth. In jewellery, the fact it is three-dimensional and tactile is one of its great strengths and allows freedom in design to create that sense of movement within each piece.

I'm really enjoying examining the photos I take a little more closely, choosing a few of my favourites and thinking about why I took them and like them so much and how certain elements of design manifests in my jewellery designs as well.

Do share anything you've noted in these images, or in any others you yourself may have taken, and leave a comment below. And if you fancy seeing my earlier posts on photographic inspiration they are here (on the seaside) and here (on flowers).

Friday, 16 June 2017

Book Review - Practical Jewellery-Making Techniques

Practical Jewellery-Making Techniques: Problem Solving
by Stephen O'Keeffe
Published by A&C Black, 2011
144 pages


Book Review by SilverMoss - Practical Jewellery Making Techniques


I have a well-worn copy of an earlier book by Stephen O'Keeffe, namely Tips and Shortcuts for Jewellery Making. One of the reasons I used it so much was because it is different from nearly all of the other jewellery books I have, which tend to be a combination of explaining techniques that are then used with specific projects. This book though, and the one I'm reviewing here, look at jewellery as a series of problems to be solved and the author helps come up with solutions through experience and ingenuity.


One line review

An unorthodox, excellent book on how to avert 'disaster' in jewellery making and silversmithing by creating clever tools and using innovative thinking.


First Impressions

I had to look twice at this book when I saw the cover. I recognised the author's name and style of jewellery and it made me wonder if it was a re-issue of the original book (I couldn't remember the title well enough to be sure!) or a repackaged version. Flicking through the pages showed me that this wasn't the case. the book was different and that it was worth looking at more closely, with lots of colour images set among the detailed text.


At The Start

The Contents page is text-based and simple, listing the chapters of the book and what each contains.

The two-page Introduction explains the thinking behind the book; trying to prevent 'disaster' and fix issues before they become problems, partly by using traditional techniques and clever, self-created tools. It's a great intro to the different thinking and style that this book follows.


In the Middle

The ten chapters this book contains make up almost all of the contents. The first three chapters deal with some basic ideas, like tools, techniques and making simple tools; these chapters are full of useful information and hints.

Chapter 4 discusses using a punch and die, and chapter 5 goes into detail on soldering. Chapter 6 deals with wire scrolls and chapter 7 covers doming blocks. Chapters 8 and 9 look at using a homemade swaging tool, forming oval nails into punches and instructions for creating a forming tool - examples of what can be made with these items are included and explained. The last chapter is about findings, including jump rings, catches, and ear wires.

Describing the chapters like this can make them seem a little disjointed, but the skills being taught are cumulative and the author's 'normal' job as a teacher is clear.

In terms of projects, these are interspersed throughout the chapters and are not listed individually in the contents page; instead they appear organically as part of the natural flow of the text and in context of what the author is writing about. This makes them a little harder to find at first glance but perhaps easier to follow if you read the book much like you would read a study course.


At the End

Ring sizing and wire sizing tables are at the end of the book, along with a glossary and index.


In Summary

An excellent book for anyone who uses smithing skills to make jewellery and wants to not only learn more but to think outside the box. If you are just starting out then a simpler guide may be useful to begin with, but do consider investing in this book as you progress. For jewellers at any other stage, I'd be very surprised if this book didn't provide at least food for thought and most likely useful guidance and a good few handy hints along the way.


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For another of my jewellery book reviews, then check out The Complete Jewellery Maker by Jinks McGrath.


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Please note, this post contains affiliate links, which cost you nothing if you click through but may make me a few coppers if the stars are right that day... For more info check out my about page.

Friday, 9 June 2017

First Steps with Resin Enamel by Efcolor - Celestial Sheep

My very first moves into enamelling, and resin enamel specifically, have been tentative and slow, have involved experimentation and a few errors, and have seen a (mostly) enjoyable learning curve. I'll write more in a future post about the process of working with this particular type of enamel and the equipment that I've been using, but for now here's some photos of how it works.

enamel-efcolor-work-in-progress-silvermoss enamel-efcolor-two-toned-copper-sheep-silvermoss

Resin enamel, or Efcolor, only needs a low heat to harden (it uses tea lights for this!) and, after I was recommended it, it seemed a good place to start to add a little more colour and variety into my jewellery.

So far my favourite piece is also my first, a copper blank in the rather surprising shape of a sheep - it came in a variety pack of copper pieces which I'm using to experiment with.

efcolor-celestial-blue-white-sheep-silvermoss

To my eyes at least, it has ended up looking rather like the night sky can in a good summer, with shades of blue and bright splashes of star light that are only really visible in a Dark Skies zone or on Nasa's website... The phrase that came to mind when I'd finished was celestial sheep. I do appreciate that might have been quite a flight of fancy on my part however, and that different eyes may well see a white sheep that has had a close encounter with a recently painted fence panel...

More, much more, experimentation will follow...

Friday, 2 June 2017

Jewelled Web - June 2017 - Link Love


Wooden Slipway on Shingle Beach - Jewelled Web June 2017 Silvermoss


June is when summer really should be making itself felt. It's half-way through the year, yet if to-do lists from six months ago are not being attended to then it kind of doesn't matter because, in theory, the sun is shining and the evenings are long and bright... May has seen rain, hail and thunder, as well as baking days under a bright sun, so I can hope that June will see sunshine and perhaps a little rain too, ideally falling gently while I'm asleep, always the best time for rain to fall in Summer...

Here are some of links to what I've been reading (and saving to read later) that may float your boat (tenuous photo-related pun intended).



~jewellery links~

A comprehensive introduction to torch fired enamelling - first published in 2008 and still getting views.

Tiny flowers made from silver and carefully pieced together into a necklace.

Strawberries and jewellery has to be the perfect combination.

A detailed tutorial on how to cut and shape sea glass.

Earrings or sculpture... either way, these are works of art.

Another highly detailed tutorial on how to etch designs onto metal.

Such a pretty ring - I love to deconstruct jewellery I see on the web, and try and work out if I've the tools and skills to make it myself!

Jewellery made from tagua seeds instead of ivory may help save elephants.

And yet another beautiful ring...



~non-jewellery links~


How to be organised. If only it was as simple as reading a blog post...but it's somewhere to start.

Dreams delivered to you, by hand (and cycle), while you sleep...

Will we all live in forest cities one day? One already exists in Singapore.

Steampunk sculptures made from rubbish. How to make your own armour. Creatures that (probably) don't exist. How to improve by practising. Yes, I went to Bored Panda.

170 years of photography.

More images, this time by a photographer who places animals where they used to be.

Wonderful stained glass cloud and raindrops.



~latest reads~

A mix of fact and fiction this month, both courtesy of the excellent facility my local library has of allowing eBook lending via the Overdrive app - and I believe this is nationwide in the UK so if you've been looking for a reason to join/rejoin your local library, this is a great one.

An absorbing book about illness and health and everything in between, I found Teach Us to Sit Still by Tim Park enlightening on the topic of what health can be and what it is and what to do when conventional medicine doesn't quite fit.

The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor is a murder mystery set in the midst of the Great Fire of 1666, full of intrigue and duplicity and post-Restoration dark-doings...



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I hope June is a wonderful and sunny month for us all - enjoy the sun, and the links.

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Photo of pieces of a wooden slipway taken by me on an impromptu trip to the seaside.

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If you'd like a blast from the past Jewelled Web then take a look at this one from April 2014.


(this post includes affiliate links - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 26 May 2017

Phone Camera Photography Hints - and a Clever Little Gadget

Taking photos on a phone camera has moved from a last-option to becoming a first choice for some people. And having a camera to hand all the time, as part of the phone you take everywhere with you anyway, means we often tend to take more photos than before. The camera on my phone isn't a top quality one but it can still take a good snap if the conditions are right - and it has a few simple settings that allow me the opportunity to get a decent image if those conditions are a bit wrong.

I've not taken many jewellery photographs with my phone camera as it's not that well-suited to such shots - yes, it has a surprisingly decent close-up if the lighting conditions are good enough, and it also has enough pixels to provide reasonable detail. However it lacks some colour range and subtlety and the closeness of the close-up is limited, so I can't get those extra-detailed images on smaller pieces of jewellery, like rings and earrings.

phone-camera-photo-hints-silver-ring-jewellery-silvermoss

The photo of the ring above was taken for this blog post on my phone camera - I've edited it very slightly for colour and clarity. I also increased the brightness a little, but perhaps not enough as it still looks a little gloomy...

I still find myself using my phone camera more and more for general photography, when I'm out and about and prefer the convenience of something quick and simple. At times like that a phone camera comes into its own and means I've more photos than ever sitting on another memory card. And that's where they tend to stay...

phone-camera-photo-hints-sunset-silvermoss

This photo was taken a few months back when I was fortunate enough to be by the sea on a clear evening as the sun was setting. The quality isn't fantastic but having my phone with me meant I was able to snap this, enjoy the fun of clicking away as the sun sank lower and lower, and have the photographic reminder of the experience afterwards. I found this image hidden in the depths of the memory on my phone...

A few years back digital photo frames were nearly everywhere. I never owned one myself but have sat in other peoples' house, watching the photos images flick past, some good and well-composed, intermingled with many that should have been deleted immediately (and how many of us get around to that as often as we should) and lots that were out of focus or too dark or too light or just plain embarrassing...

So I was intrigued by a new digital photo frame, this one a smart one. The Aura Frame displays photos directly from a mobile phone, so it has no storage limits other than those of the phone itself. It manages to not only pick the best quality images for display but also groups pictures of the same people together. The frame itself has no controls on it; everything is dealt with via an app - although it also allows you to wave an image away by hand if you don't like it, which sounds quite fun.

And the Aura Frame company created this guide to taking a good photo on your phone camera - It was interesting as I believe it's hard to have enough advice and hints for such a topic as taking good photos.

phone-camera-photo-tips-aura-frames-silvermoss

A few pointers of my own that I've learned through taking my own images are -

* Don't assume auto is best - most camera phones will have several modes for taking photos and while auto is good, others can sometimes be better. I've had good results with using the 'night' mode (for taking photos of low light scenes without a flash) but in the daylight when things are just a little bit gloomy and in need of more brightness. 'sports' mode is also handy for any kind of action shot.

* Touch the image on your phone where you want the focus to be - this is one of the joys of phone cameras and touch screens, being able to quickly and easily move the point of focus in the image you're composing.

* Keep your lens clean - it's easy to overlook this but tiny specs of dust and dirt can easily build up on your camera lens and will make your photo look smudged and blurry. A quick clean before taking a photo can sometimes make a world of difference to your final image.

* Alter the angle you hold your phone to alter the light - if your viewfinder shows your photograph will be pretty dark then tilt the phone up or down very slightly. You can often get very nearly the exact same view but by allowing more light in, via an altered angle, you can add detail that is otherwise lost in gloom. This works in reverse too for images that look to be too bright.

* Explore the settings - we all tend to just point and click but if you take some time to explore the modes your camera has to offer, perhaps by taking pictures of the same view but with different  settings, then you can quickly find how some alterations can create an improvement (or not!) to the quality of your images.


Hope some of these hints are useful and help your own phone camera photography - do leave any tips of your own in the comments, I'd love to read them.

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And if you'd like to see more of my posts on photography, including my photographing jewellery blog series, then do check this link out and explore.

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Please note - The infographic featured in this post was supplied by Aura Frames themselves, but I am otherwise not connected with the company and the links in my post are
 not affiliate links. As always, my views are my own and have been given honestly.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Seaside Inspiration for Jewellery Designs - May 2017


Earlier last month the sun was shining in its hazy early-spring way and I went down to the sea. The water was calm and gentle, the beach mostly empty except for a few fishermen. We sat on some rocks exposed by the low tide, and I took some photos of the colours and shapes we saw.

seaside-inspiration-beach-may-2017-silvermoss

The curl of the beach, where the sea was slowly moving the shingle, was a nice reminder of the curves I like to put in silver wire. The rhythm of the water moving along the shoreline was hypnotic and quite beautiful.


seaside-inspiration-limpets-may-2017-silvermoss

The rocks we sat on to bask in the sunshine were, on closer examination, half covered with tiny limpets, waiting for the sea to return. The texture, and strength, of these tiny creatures was easily felt under my careful fingers. I'm pretty sure I didn't squash any although I only discovered them after we sat down...


seaside-inspiration-green-rock-limpets-may-2017-silvermoss


Simple shapes in jewellery often work the best, as in nature. The cone-shape of the limpets is both strong and elegant. The colours of the shells blended in with the rocks and seemed almost a part of them until we looked closer.

Simplicity equals strength seemed to be the design message from the seaside. Gentle curves and natural movements. Jewellery, like nature, doesn't need to shout to be noticed.

Do you find inspiration in simple shapes or do more complex ones challenge you? Do leave a comment if you like, I'd love to hear what you think.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Garnet Gems and Hammered Silver Circles Earrings


hammered-silver-circles-earrings-garnet-silvermoss

I do enjoy making jewellery gifts for people I know. Matching colours and styles and preferences to the individual are some of the best joys of hand-crafting and when the choices you make as a designer work out well then that's a fantastic feeling.

These earrings were made for someone who only wears drop styles and whilst I looked at a few different colours of gemstone, I came back again and again to garnet. These small faceted ones are a deep but bright red and very rich in tone. When I saw them being worn I knew I'd made the right decision. The garnets were set with Wraptite settings, like I used on this necklace recently also.

The hammered circles were from a patch of time a while back when I made a lot of shapes and played around with textures and finishes on them. They looked just right in these earrings and the tiny silver beads, set on wire, finished things off nicely. The recipient seemed genuinely pleased with these - she's worn them nearly constantly since receiving them - so I feel content in feeling content...


Friday, 5 May 2017

Book Review - Stringing and Linking Jewelry Workshop by Sian Hamilton

Stringing and Linking Jewelry Workshop
by Sian Hamilton
Published by GMC Publications 2015
144 pages

book-review-jewellery-stringing-linking-jewelry-workshop-sian-hamilton-silvermossA lot of my older jewellery books are the work of one jeweller in particular, with the vast majority (if not all) the projects included designed by the author, and perhaps a few other jewellers being referenced in a 'Gallery' for extra inspiration. However I've notice a trend in some more recently published books to opt for a wider base of jewellers and their designs, as if the book were a kind of modern jewellery or craft magazine.

It's perhaps no surprise, then, to find that the Stringing and Linking Jewelry Workshop has been put together by the editor of Making Jewellery magazine, and that she has included several different jewellers, including herself, across the 30 projects that the book features. (A little disappointingly the book doesn't included a mini-biography of each of the jewellers, as I always find sections like that informative and fascinating.)

First Impressions

The book I'm reviewing is a large paperback edition, not dissimilar in look from a magazine. The front cover has a white background with different items of jewellery featured on it. The jewellery is all beaded and quite colourful and gives a good indication of the type of pieces you'll find in the projects themselves.

At The Start

The contents pages have a very handy visual guide to the projects, with each one pictured and numbered so anything that catches your eye can be found quickly by referencing the number against the written list and the corresponding page numbers. It's very handy to re-find a project using this, rather than flick through pages until you find what you're after on the last one you look at...

Next comes an introduction with a recommendation or two on how to adapt
designs and on how best to approach the book, which is perhaps more suited to beginners than more advanced beaders.

Two pages on tools and equipment follow, mainly devoted to different types of pliers and cutters and beading tools and sundries. This is followed by four pages about materials, ranging from different types of beads, stringing materials, and findings. All these pages are illustrated with good, clear photographs as are the next six pages covering techniques.


In the Middle

The projects cover the main part of the book and each has four pages devoted to it. The first page has a photo of the finished item and the second has a list of components needed and photos of ideas for adapting the project to make other pieces using similar materials. Instructions for all the pieces of jewellery shown are over the next two pages.

Most of the projects include three matching pieces, normally necklace, earrings and bracelet, and it's a nice touch that allows flexibility in how the reader can use the book. It's also useful in showing the beginner how easy it can be to adapt a design and make something different on a similar theme.


At the End

After the last of the projects the book concludes with a mainly UK-based page of suppliers and an index.


In Summary

As a silversmith primarily I found the book a little limiting in terms of projects.  But I always find some inspiration in every book on making jewellery, whether it's a way of combining materials that I've not thought of before, or a nudge in the direction of using more beads and more colour in my work.

If you're looking to begin beading then this book could be a good place to start. And if you've read the magazine Making Jewellery then that will give you an idea of the kinds of projects included and how they are laid out, and how well the instructions and photographs are done. If you're a more advanced beader then this book will probably work more as a source of inspiration and new ideas.


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If you fancy another jewellery book about beads then check my review out of Learn to Make Bead Jewellery.

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Please note, this post contains affiliate links, which cost you nothing if you click through but may make me a few coppers if the stars are right that day... For more info check out my about page.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Jewelled Web - May 2017 - Link Love


Mayflower blossom - Jewelled Web May 2017 Silvermoss


April is nearly done, taking with it a quixotic mix of weather... I've seen snow, hail, sleet and sunshine in the last week alone.

For a few years now May has often seemed a little like an early summer, with sunshine-filled days and flower-filled vistas. I'm learning not to take this for granted, as we've also had some summers filled with rain and cool winds after a warmer spring. This year I'm hoping both spring and summer will be sunny and bright...

(By the way, only on publishing this post have I spotted I've used 'April' instead of 'May' on the graphics in my photo... Oh dear...)

Here's what I've been reading and bookmarking for later reading. I hope you enjoy.



~jewellery links~

Amazing what you can do with some old coins, some copper and a large hammer.

A very handy tip about how to protect gemstones when soldering.

You can never know enough about annealing silver - a useful and succinct page.

If you fancy doing some forging then these earrings look a good place to start.

More forging here, along with other ways to move metal and some great ideas for bangles.

A wonderful guide to making a wire and gemstone pendant - no soldering required!

Tools for texturing metal, including household objects and a clever use for a wooden clothes peg... also has great images of the effects of each tool on the metal.

How to do you identify your different solders? I use a marker pen in a strategic spot (ie, in the middle of the strip) but this article contains an interesting idea if your solder comes in sheets.



~non-jewellery links~

Monsters dreamt up by children and interpreted by artists... (video)

An amazing artist who (legally) copies work by the masters.

Sweet illustrations of creatures from the natural world who also really enjoy a good cocktail. (More from the artist here.) And more wonderful illustrations here, this time from someone who also helps create The Simpsons.

Are you a fan of Instagram? Then you may have heard about the artist who used it as a platform for an elaborate project.

The effects of smog in Beijing via time-lapse footage...

and a fire rainbow cloud in Singapore.

An artist who paints on extraordinary canvases to wonderful effect.



~latest reads~

I've had a quiet time fiction-wise this last month and have been looking to factual books generally, and jewellery books particularly, more.

Wing Mun Devenny's The Complete Guide to Making Wire Jewellery has been reminding me of what I love about working with wire and inspiring me to try new things.

Stringing and Linking Jewelry Workshop by Sian Hamilton is full of projects by a wide variety of jewellers, always good ground for fascinating ideas, and lots of examples of great use of colour.

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Let's hope this May is sun-filled and gentle. Do enjoy your month

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Photo taken by me on the Saxon Shore Way, a surprise walk on a beautiful spring day.

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If you like more links to while some time away then check out my collection in the Jewelled Web from June 2014.


(this post includes affiliate links - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 21 April 2017

Circles in Square Wire Pendant


circles-necklace-aquamarine-silvermoss

Made for a March birthday, this pendant also served to remind me how square wire is so effective, and also exceedingly nice to work with. Round wire is used more often in jewellery making, probably partly because it's easily available in so many thicknesses. It's easy to forget about square wire but I find it delivers a certain satisfaction during the making process, and also looks sleek and subtle in the finished piece.

circles-necklace-aquamarine-silvermoss

I set the tiny aquamarine gemstone using a sterling silver Wraptite setting. This wasn't quite as easy to work with as the video I watched had led me to believe (mainly due to the 'fiddliness' of such a small gem (4mm) and a nearly equally small setting), but looked good in the end, and also provided what feels like a strong and secure setting for a faceted gemstone.

Aquamarine is one of the most popular gemstones for March and the stone I bought was really quite beautiful, full of vibrancy that bounced light around. It reminded me how well colour works with sterling silver.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Floral Inspiration for Jewellery Designs - April 2017

Whilst I don't make 'flower jewellery' as such (in other words, direct silver representations of flowers) at present I do find the shapes, textures and colours of flowers in particular inspiring in terms of design. I also find leaves and even bark equally fascinating in these terms but less noticeable, something you have to look past the more obvious flowers for. And flowers are extra obvious at this time of year, as nature throws off dull winter clothing and plants regrow with vigour and vibrancy.

floral-inspiration-chiondoxa-april-2017-silvermoss

Pictured above is Glory of the Snow (or Chiondoxa), flowering a little late for its name really (I'm kind of hoping we're not getting snowfall this April...) but it is glorious, especially up close. The petals are vivid blue - yes, you can imagine how even more vibrant they'd be against snow - and the stamens are rich daffodil-yellow. The blue makes me think of porcelain, China-blue hues on delicate pottery, perhaps something that could be recreated with polymer clay or enamel colours. The frills and subtle twists of the petals would be a challenge to represent in metal, but if done well would look organic and natural.

floral-inspiration-april-2017-silvermoss

After some extensive searching online - and much scratching of head in frustration - I managed to find the name of the flower in the photo above - it's Brunnera Macrophylla Starry Eyes. The plant is small and the leaves fairly unimpressive, but the tiny flowers shine brightly white and, up close, the outer edges look hand-painted in blue. Again, I think of porcelain and delicacy, and yet also strength in the robustness of the flower shape and structure itself - they are found on the floor after they fall, nearly as sturdy as when they are in place on the plant.

Looking closely at these images and considering why they inspire me has allowed me think more about how to translate that inspiration into designs of all kinds. My earlier Vantage Point blog post was part of this current train of thought and I'm hoping it will continue to be valuable and helpful.

Do share in the comments below any floral (or generally botanic) inspirations you've found lately.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Book Review - Metal Clay Animal Jewellery by Natalia Colman


Metal Clay Animal Jewellery 20 Striking Projects in Silver, Copper and Bronze 
by Natalia Colman
Published by Search Press 2015
176 pages

book-review-metal-clay-animal-jewellery-natalia-colman-silvermoss


First Impressions 

This book deals with, as the title says, animal jewellery. Now, I can;t deny, this did make me hesitate. Animal jewellery isn't really my thing either to wear or to make; I tend towards hearts and leaves and geometric shapes. And the cover didn't inspire me in that respect either, as I wasn't taken by the main image of the coloured parrot (although the smaller image of the silver urchin ring did intrigue). But the fact the book covered silver, copper and bronze clay interested me and when I flicked through the book I was far more intrigued, not just by the wide range of types of animal and styles of jewellery, but at the depth of the techniques covered and the realisation that animal jewellery may not be so corny after all.

As I've also read (and reviewed) another book by the same author and was impressed by that, it made sense to give this one a try as well.



At the Start

After an introduction, the first section of the deals extensively with the properties of the different clays themselves and covers four pages; two on silver, and two on copper and bronze. This is followed by six pages on basic equipment and a great couple of pages entitled 'Turning your clay into jewellery'. The Techniques section is extensive and as comprehensive as it really needs to be for dealing with three different types of metal clay



In the Middle

The categories of jewellery range from the usual rings, earrings, pendants and bracelets. Interspersed amongst the individual project instructions are yet more techniques particular to specific designs; these include setting stones and using crystals, applying gold leaf, making moulds and, my favourite, combining different metal clays in one piece.

The animal subjects range from cats and dogs to elephants and swans, sea life and butterflies, with a unicorn and dragon for good measure. My particular favourite was the swallow ring, detailed in the way that metal clay can be, and very effective.

The number of pages devoted to each project varies depending on how simple or complex it is, and I liked this approach of providing what it needed rather than a set amount of pages regardless of the difficulty of the particular piece.



At the End

At the back of the book several pages are devoted to a glossary, an index and some template patterns. Also included is information on firing times for each project (which also disappointed me a little by highlighting the fact that most of the items in the book need a kiln rather than a torch to be fired).

Also included is the results of experiments into which natural gemstones and what colours in cubic zirconia survived being kiln or torch fired. Similar information also features at the back of the other Natalia Colman book that I've reviewed, Metal Clay Jewellery.



In Summary

If you're interested in ideas about making animal jewellery in metal clay then this book is a must have. The project instructions are helpful and the photos that accompany them are clear and detailed. And if, like me, you're open to being persuaded by animal jewellery then this book has a lot to offer.

It might be worth finding a copy to leaf through before buying however, if you're not sure, like I was, that this is your thing - it really is just animals. Whilst that is undeniably a niche part of jewellery making, it certainly doesn't negate the excellent instructions and ideas the book contains and if you work in metal clays and are looking to expand your repertoire then you may well find some inspiration here.



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(this post includes affiliate links  - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 31 March 2017

Jewelled Web - April 2017 - Link Love


Spring sunshine at a shingle beach - Jewelled Web April 2017 Silvermoss


As April dawns it really feels like spring now, and such a reminder of how we all appear to hibernate to some degree over the winter - so many more people are out and about so suddenly it seems. And so many buds bursting into growth on plants and flowers everywhere; yellow daffodils, pink and white blossom, and any-colour-you-can-think-of tulips. Not to mention the most beautiful little group of purple hellebores I've seen in a long while.

And some days the weather is so mild (even warm) that it's hard to reconcile with how cold it was just over a month ago. Plus, the evenings are light again, and I can just about forgive being woken early on a Sunday when it's by sunlight finding its way through the gaps in the curtains...

You may have guessed that I love spring, and I think I love it a little more each year too. When I haven't been outside feeling the sunlight on my face, here's what I've been reading online...



~jewellery links~

An awful lot of information about bezel wire.

How cocktail rings got their name.

If only all jewellers got to live in apartments with aquamarine-filled coffee tables...

Making a DIY jewellery tumbler - an interesting idea although I'm not sure anyone could tumble by hand long enough for it to really work...

Creating moulds (especially for precious metal or polymer clay) seems like an interesting idea; I found this fascinating tutorial on how to use silicone sealant as a DIY alternative to shop-bought mould-making compounds.

Cleaning up copper clay pieces after firing, hints and tips and useful info.

Such beautiful and skilled work on gold jewellery that's over 2,500 years old.

Resizing rings reversibly.



~non-jewellery links~

Only really for serious walkers (and generally hardy souls) but staying overnight in a bothy in the most beautiful scenery in Scotland must be a treat well worth experiencing.

Sometimes it seems that if the internet was created for nothing else but for showing video clips of animals (and birds) becoming unlikely friends - here's a snowy owl and a husky puppy.

I also found some beautiful photos of a different owl and dog friendship. Unfortunately I made the error of going onto Bored Panda (perhaps the most addictive site ever) and also found some amazingly intricate birds created from fabric, beads, lace and sequins, and animals that melt (well, they look that way) before I managed to escape again...

Speaking of pandas, if you've not seen the clingy baby panda video then do check it out.

I was involved in the Vantage Point project last month and I do recommend you check out some of the other blog features (and stunning photos) featured on their Pinterest page. A few of my favourites are here, here and here.

If it's spring then spring cleaning and reorganising the mess that things naturally all into must follow - these drawer dividers look wonderfully simple to make and endlessly handy...

The Northern Lights in Iceland can be so stunning they comes with a safety warning. Plus, still in Iceland, time-lapse snowfall.



~latest reads~

A fascinating crime novel by Marcus Sedgwick, Mister Memory was a great find in my local library's 'New Books' shelf. Twists and turns around an intriguing central premise of a man who can forget nothing. 

A extremely readable and evocative tale of the period after the First Word War, Spare Brides by Adele Sparks cares about what people are wearing but also how they're feeling and how they're dealing with the aftermath of the nightmare that was the war to end all wars...


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Hope you enjoy some (or all!) of the links and have a wonderful (and sunny!) April.

~~~

Photo taken by me at the seaside, late afternoon when the sea was like a millpond. Companions were my other half, a takeaway Cappuccino, and a bar of chocolate.

~~~

Not enough links? Then take a look at my Jewelled Web from June 2015 for more.


(this post includes affiliate links - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 24 March 2017

Broken tools...


Broken wire cutters - Silvermoss

The collection of tools that I use for jewellery making has been built up over years on a need-to-have basis. It's also been built up quite cheaply. But I've grown used to my mismatched pliers and wire cutters and have my favourites and others that are consigned to a box for emergency use only. Or when someone wants to borrow one of my tools for a non-jewellery task (this does happen, although thankfully not frequently - I keep my tools carefully to make sure they do their best for the silver).

It's proved quite handy that most of them have different coloured handles (I know which pair I'm reaching for by colour) rather than having a matching set and while I've wondered at times what the difference really is between a £5 pair of pliers and a £50 pair, I've not worried too much because the tools I have work and I'm (mostly) happy with them.

So it was with some consternation that I discovered my trusty wire cutters (yellow, bought circa 2005 in Sheffield, I believe, for around £4) were broken. A quick survey of the damage led me to the conclusion that they should still work for the time being, albeit with a slightly different style of action, and so I wasn't made to either explore my stash of emergency-only tools or dash to the local hardware shop for a rushed replacement.

But it did make me wonder what those jewellers with expensive tools would say the advantages are over cheaper ones. Are they worth the extra expensive? What is the difference? Should I indulge in a branded set of wire cutters when I do replace mine?

Please do leave a comment if you've any advice or even if you just know how it feels when a trusty tool, of whatever monetary value, passes its sell-by date...

Friday, 17 March 2017

Jeweller Interview with Nanuk Jewellery




Nanuk jewellery photo - SilverMoss blogLouise from Nanuk Jewellery is one of those clever jewellers who are as happy working with precious metals and semi-precious gems as they are working with polymer clay.

The proliferation of dragons in her work also marks her out as a craftswoman skilled enough to transfer creations of myth and fantasy into works of silver and clay art.

And if you've ever fancied carrying your very own dragon with you, in a locket around your neck then you've found the right jeweller for you. Enjoy the interview.



When and how did you start making jewellery?

I have always enjoyed making things and trying different crafts, and eventually I came across beadwork and jewellery making. I was amazed to discover you could even study jewellery making at university, so that’s what I eventually did!


How did you think of your shop name and does it have a story behind it?

I knew I wanted a logo, so when I had trouble coming up with a name for my business I started working on a logo instead and came up with my bear. After some reading into bears, I discovered Nanuk is an Inuit name for a polar bear, which seemed to fit with my little bear and so I became Nanuk Jewellery.


Nanuk jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog


Where do your design ideas come from and what is the process that sees them through to the finished product?

I like trying new techniques and materials, so quite often I will start by trying out some basic ideas in a new technique before starting to experiment and see where I can go with it. Quite often my ideas develop around a stone, or the beads or metal I have to hand and what I can do with them.

I read a lot and love illustrated books, and sometimes this or something I have seen on a walk will give me an idea which I will sketch for trying out in the future. I don’t often sketch ideas out before making them, at least not in full, unless I am working on a commission and have to show some suggestions; sometimes I sketch out the vaguest intention of what I have in mind and the final form comes into place once I start thinking about what materials and techniques I want to use to create the piece.


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 can create?

I do have my own little studio space, but it is in an outside shed so it can get quite cold! It has a jeweller’s bench and my larger equipment, so it’s not really suitable for design work or metal clay (which I work with quite a lot) anyway. The rest of the time I work from the kitchen table, often with headphones on and something on my ipad in the background.


Nanuk jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog


How do you motivate yourself to keep on creating?

I am usually always making something, jewellery or otherwise, so not much motivation required! I really enjoy making things and trying out new crafts. My problem is trying to narrow down my project list so I don’t have too much on the go all at once.


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

Probably my many pairs of pliers are my most useful tools, and the ones I use just about every day, and my tumble polisher has become indispensable! My wishlist would include some enamelling equipment, as that’s the next technique I would like to try as another way to add colour to my work.


Nanuk jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog Nanuk jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog


What is your favourite part of making and selling jewellery?

I enjoy being able to see an idea in my head made into something tangible, and being able to share it and hear what other people think of it, which is why I enjoy doing craft fairs and being able to meet the people looking at my work in person.


Which social media platform do you find the most enjoyable and helpful, and how do you use it?

Surprisingly, considering I wasn’t attracted to the site when I first decided to join it for my business, I have found Twitter to be probably my most successful social media outlet. I don’t always post very regularly, I have trouble thinking of things to say and have considered stopping it to concentrate on my Facebook and Instagram pages, but I have had some great conversations on there and found some of my most faithful fans through Twitter!


How do you hope your jewellery making will evolve over time? How do you see your shop changing?

I have so many different ideas I want to work on that I sometimes worry my shop is becoming a bit too eclectic; I already have two shops, Nanuk Jewellery and Nanuk Designs, to separate out my range of steampunk and fantasy-inspired polymer clay jewellery from my silver and stone jewellery. I would hope in the future to find a niche I can really focus on, and create a more cohesive, distinctive Nanuk style.


Nanuk jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog



Thanks so much for such a great interview, Louise, I hope others have enjoyed your words and the photos of your beautiful jewellery. 
All photographs in this post ©Nanuk Jewellery


If you would like to see more of Louise's work then do check out the links below - and I can definitely recommend taking a look at Nanuk Designs on Etsy for those whimsical locket dragons.


Website - Nanuk Jewellery
Shop - On Etsy and Folksy
Facebook - Nanuk Jewellery
Twitter - Nanuk Jewellery
Instgram - Nanuk Jewellery

Friday, 10 March 2017

A Vantage Point of Light and Flowers


Vantage Point of White Azalea Flower - SilverMoss blog


At this time of year light is increasingly present in the lengthening days; it feels like a balm after the long nights of winter. A sunny morning, the lighter evenings both send more natural light into our lives. And light always matters to a jeweller, whether it's finding enough to see those tiny jump rings, keeping it dull enough to be able to solder in (I had to shut a gloriously sun-drenched morning out recently as I couldn't see the flame from my torch in the light), or having bright but diffused light in which to photograph the finished creation.

Light is also the name of an internet startup whom I've been in contact with. It's also the name of their camera, which is of course so logical (since cameras are all about light) that I'm surprised no one has thought of it before now.

Along with other bloggers, from a variety of fields and interests, I've been asked to share a Vantage Point that matters to me, somewhere I find inspiring and beautiful. I've chosen gardens, mine specifically. But, in general, any one that has a profusion of plants is enough to prompt me to reach for my camera.

The photograph I've shown here is of a flower from an azalea plant that was given as a gift. When I looked through my archives I realised that so many of the photos of plants are actually images of flowers, ways of getting up close to them so the colour, texture, and the very structure of them is the subject of the photo and nothing else. I guess this fascination with the form of the small is reflected in much of my jewellery too. My creations tend to be petite and delicate-looking rather than big and bold. In both plants and jewellery, it's the detail of the tiny that interests me.

I don't have a particularly advanced camera and tend to use very little equipment so natural light matters a lot to my outside photography. Whether it's sunlight filtered through leaves or a cloudy day, natural light isn't always easy to use but it is an endlessly interesting challenge. The azalea image was taken on a cloudy day which had bursts of bright winter sunshine; some of the other images I took are a little more muted than the one I eventually chose.

When I'm next able to indulge in a new camera I will look at the Light model. It's price is pretty high-end and it is, at present, only available to those who've already pre-ordered them, although you can sign up for more information. But with the amount of features, including the ability to work well in low light and a feature that lets you change your area of focus after the photograph has been taken , fitted into a device around the size of a smart phone it is closer to a DSLR than a point-and-shoot style of camera.

So, today, my Vantage Point is my garden. Tomorrow it could be the seaside or a woodland. Quite often it's my mini jewellery photography studio. And at others times it's a snap taken from a car window that just happens, when I look at it later, to have captured entirely the mood I was hoping it would, with colours, textures, atmosphere and, of course, light, all just perfect.

Do you have a Vantage Point, somewhere you return to either to challenge your photography or to allow you just to enjoy how it photographs for you? If so, then feel free to share.

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NB. Whilst I was contacted by Light and asked to take part in their Vantage Point project I am otherwise not connected with them and the links in my post are not affiliate links.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Jewelled Web - March 2017 - Link Love


Spring sunshine, shadows and trees - Jewelled Web March 2017 Silvermoss


February was another cold month. I know it warmed up a little towards the end but mostly it was chill, grey and sometimes white with snow. That said, I have seen brave flowers rearing their heads; snowdrops, hellebores, crocuses and miniature irises are all promising brighter days.



~jewellery links~

Beautiful copper clay bracelet and a detailed tutorial to make it.

I've only once or twice combined metals but work by some artists using silver, copper and brass makes me think I must do it again - take a look at this and this.

Speaking of brass, I love this simple tutorial on making a brass triangle necklace.

And this is an interesting post about soldering brass - it's not jewellery-based but is still worth a read if you're thinking of working in brass.

Pretty and practical jewellery display stands - or make your own terrarium-style.

A detailed tutorial, with great photos, on adding patina to a copper or brass bangle.

Amazing lightbulb/bumble bee jewellery.

Can you make a living making jewellery? A brief but positive article.

It's spring (well, nearly) and so this tutorial for making a bird's nest brooch is very timely. Also, it's very charming.



~non-jewellery links~

Breathtakingly beautiful and award-winning photographs of gardens, from around the world.

A tutorial for a tiny house made from polymer clay and a lot of care and time...

Found underneath the floorboards of an old house, a four hundred year old shopping list.

An old thread but full of tips and advice on how to make the best-ever scrambled eggs.

February brought a wonderful display in the sky (which was entirely hidden by clouds for me) of a Snow Moon, lunar eclipse and a comet streaking by... if you missed it too then photos worth seeing are here.

And if you're a little fed up of only hearing about comets and the like after they've gone by, then this site called Comet Watch looks very handy.

Since I've never even been to Australia, I can't blame the weather for missing 'Melbhenge' however.

I can't resist this video of a seal taking a ride on a kayak in the Firth of Forth...



~latest reads~

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman - I didn't realise this was a YA (young adult) novel when I bought it and I did find the writing a little more simplistic than previous books by Alice Hoffman that I've read, but the themes were as universal and as touching as ever.

So many books seem to carry their amount of pages as a badge of honour or worth, so it's nice to find a shorter book (just over 200 pages) that has as much beautifully written and insightful content The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt, as many books twice the length.

I do have quite a love of history and have indulged it a little in this true story, The Inheritor's Powder by Sandra Hempel. If you enjoyed the book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (by Kate Summerscale) then chances are you'll love this too. A fascinating tale of family dysfunction and gruesome poisoning in 1833, I finished the last few chapters of this one night when I couldn't sleep and it really didn't help...

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Enjoy browsing the links and have a wonderful month of March.

~~~

If you fancy seeing some more links then take a look at my Jewelled Web from March 2015 to see what I was looking at and reading then.


(this post includes affiliate links - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 24 February 2017

New Silver (and Bronze)




At any given time I normally need new findings (making jump rings by hand is NOT my favourite task) and often need new wire. And I really, really wanted precious metal clay, just a little bit, both in silver and bronze (I already have a small packet of copper tucked away), to persuade me and remind me that, this year, at last, I will open those sealed pouches and I will use the contents...

Friday, 17 February 2017

Jeweller Interview with The Owl and the Pussycat


Owl and the Pussycat pewter jewellery photo - SilverMoss blogLast year I bought a gift of a pewter brooch, on the basis that I rarely make brooches and I've never worked in pewter, so the intended recipient wouldn't wonder why I hadn't made it myself.

When I received the brooch I had to persuade myself to still give it away as a present, and I immediately wanted to ask its creator, Christine from The Owl and the Pussycat, to do an interview (with lots of wonderful photos) to feature here. I'm pleased to say that she said yes and I hope you find her work as beautiful and inspiring as I do.



When and how did you start working with pewter and using it to make jewellery?

It was more than 20 years ago, when I spotted a crafts magazine that featured on the cover a rose wine bottle decorated with embossed metal sunflowers. I thought "Wow! I'd like to do that!". There were kits that you could send away for from a lady called Susannah Lucy. When I'd completed and polished up my basic floral brooch, I was amazed at the result, and all without needing any special equipment. I'd always produced drawings and paintings but was attracted to making 3-dimensional things that could be useful and decorative.



How did you think of your shop name and does it have a story behind it?

I really didn't think for long about the name of my shop. When I was a child I had a book with an illustration of The Owl and the Pussycat which I thought was the most magical thing I'd ever seen. I'd already made an Owl and Pussycat brooch and faced with entering a shop name (I set up shop quite impulsively), the name "The Owl and the Pussycat" just sprang into my mind.


Owl and the Pussycat pewter jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog




Where do your design ideas come from and what is the process that sees them through to the finished product?

I get ideas from all over the place. If get an idea for an image in my head, I will doodle it actual size in a layout pad until I'm happy with it. Then I will trace it onto tracing paper. From there it is simple to transfer it to the metal. I don't do any experimentation- I've been doing this for so long I know what will work.



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 can create?

I work on a table in the bedroom. One of the reasons I love this craft is that you don't need a large space or special equipment.



What is your favourite part of working with pewter?

My favourite part is when I've finished! I still get a thrill when I look at something that's turned out well and think "I made that!"

Owl and the Pussycat pewter jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog



Do you use your drawing skills in your pewter work?

I've always had a very linear style of drawing, which suits pewter work quite well. I trained as an illustrator and most of my work is tiny illustrations.



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

I've always found photographing my work quite difficult as it is quite reflective and in shallow relief. With a lot of trial and error over the years, I think they are now quite a reasonable standard. I always need to make sure there is something coloured reflecting in the metal, otherwise the design doesn't show up.



How do you hope your work with pewter will evolve over time?

I have some plans to update my shop with some light-hearted and humorous designs, perhaps spending less time on making them and selling them at a lower price than my more intricate work. My designs haven't changed much over the last several years so perhaps it's time for a bit of a rethink to bring my shop up to date.

Owl and the Pussycat pewter jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog







Many thanks for the interview, Christine, and for sharing the photographs of your wonderful work.
All photographs in this post ©The Owl and the Pussycat 


If you want to see more of Christine's stunning pewter creations then do click through on these links -


Shop - The Owl and the Pussycat on Folksy and Etsy
Facebook - The Owl and the Pussycat
Pinterest - The Owl and the Pussycat

Friday, 10 February 2017

Book Review - Making Jewellery with Gemstone Beads by Barbara Case


Making Jewellery with Gemstone Beads
by Barbara Case
Published by David & Charles in 2007
128 pages

book-review-jewellery-gemstone-beads-barbara-case-silvermoss


First Impressions

The dramatic black cover of this book, adorned with gemstones of many shades (although with a strong bias towards green) caught my eye immediately, and on opening its pages many more beautiful photos are to be found inside. I’ve read this as a large but slim paperback, running to around 128 glossy pages, nearly all of them with colour photos.


At the Start

The book begins with an introduction into both gemstones and the projects that are included. After that comes a couple of pages on materials, and then a handy two-page chart on different gemstones, their shapes, their cost bracket (low, medium or high), and which star sign they are birthstones for, as well as attributes connected with the particular gem. A basic guide to 'Tools and Equipment' and 'Basic Techniques' cover a few more pages before the next section of the book starts.


In the Middle

The main content of the book is devoted to four pages on each gemstone it lists, and it lists a lot. From Agate to Turquoise, stopping off at Emerald, Jasper and Ruby in between, 28 different gemstones are included. Each gem has a write-up about its individual characteristics and history, a buyer’s guide and details such as where the gem originates. Then three different pieces of hand-made jewellery are shown, each featuring that particular gemstone, and some directions given on how to make them.


At the End

A glossary follows the main section on the beads themselves, and this is followed by a list of suppliers, a bibliography and some information about the author.


In Summary

The projects do not have extremely detailed instructions so a beginner might perhaps find them hard to follow for the beginner, but a more experienced beader should find the excellent photos easily sufficient as guides. Overall this is an excellent source of inspiration, giving ideas about colours and shapes, and providing a very good leaping off point for creating original pieces of jewellery.


(NB. It looks like this book is unfortunately out of print now, in the UK at least, but it's still worth keeping an eye out for in second hand bookshops and the like - I've found some of my best jewellery books that way! The book is available as a Kindle edition and if you have a colour reading device it might be worth buying - if you're reading in greyscale then you'll miss out of the wonderful colours and photography, both of which are a strong attraction in this book.)

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If you fancy another jewellery book review then do take a look at this one on The Complete Jewellery Maker.

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(this post includes affiliate links - please check details here for more info.) 

Friday, 3 February 2017

Jewelled Web - February 2017 - Link Love


Frosted spider web - Jewelled Web February 2017 Silvermoss

Oh, but January has been cold. This last month I've seen a blizzard in the dark, defrosted the bird bath countless times, and woken to a hoar frost that reached the tops of the trees and sounded like tiny bells when it eventually began to melt and fell to the ground around me. Magical, but cold, so I can't help hoping February will be warmer and show some early signs of Spring...

To keep me warm and indoors until then, here's what I'm recommending or reading this month.



~jewellery links~

Fancy trying enamelling but not sure where to start? This tutorial looks a good place to begin.

Changing the colour of copper.

Simple tutorial for a bracelet made from rope and embroidery threads.

A Roman pendant made of silver and carnelian was discovered by a metal detectorist.

If you can't get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London then this is a substitute, with wonderful photographs; a brief history of beautiful jewellery.

Interested in metal clay projects? I plan on checking out this list of PDF tutorials.



~non-jewellery links~

How tiny hummingbirds survive winter.

Wonderful photos of snow-clad Scotland.

Playing with colour online - Pictaculous lets you upload any photograph and get a custom colour scheme from the image. Colors on the Web lets you build a whole palette around one colour (knowledge of what hexadecimal colour codes mean is handy though - if you're not sure what I'm talking about, have a read of this). And if you're just looking for wonderful colours to inspire, then Design Seeds is always worth browsing.

Beautiful botanical art.

The web is full of 'handy hints', many of which aren't that handy. This list of things to do with an old mascara wand is pure gold though.

Crafting, creative and just downright fun-loving commuters, and how they fill their travel time.

Fantastic art, featuring zombies... and available on Folksy.



~latest reads~

Winter is wonderful for curling up and reading, reading, reading... I've just finished two great fiction books -

A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan (I read her earlier novel The Gracekeepers last year), which is a series of short stories tied up in a sweet plot  about waiting for a baby to arrive.

Phil Rickman's The Wine of Angels is suitably spooky and about wassailing, amongst other things. This in book one in the Merrily Watkins series, which has been recommended to me by more than one person. I inadvertently read book 2 first but I decided not to let that stop me starting where I should have started...

I'm also reading The Snow Child again, a beautiful book by Eowyn Ivey, and perfect when the ground is frozen outside and you're warm indoors with a mug of tea...

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Hope you enjoy the links and hope your February is a good, if short, month.

~~~

If you want to pretend it's summer already then take a look at my Jewelled Web from June 2015.


(this post includes affiliate links - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 27 January 2017

Gifts for a Jeweller...




I always feel a little naughty asking for jewellery gifts for Christmas. It's as if it's a secret indulgence that I'm asking others to provide for me, the equivalent of simply saying "Chocolate will do this year. Any kind you like..."

And I did try to be good this year. I tried not to ask for jewellery books (I failed twice). And I tried not to ask for any tools or devices or materials or anything jewellery connected. Of course, I failed here too and ended up with a (requested) heap of low-temperature enamelling goodies under the tree on Christmas morning.

Since then, life has done its things and thrown up its normal wondrous obstacles to keep me away from much jewellery related. But it's way over midway through January now (how does time go so soon?) and I'm battling back, making time and space to start my post-festive jewellery immersion. Until that battle is a little further underway, and the results noted and photographed, here are some images of my Christmas stash.

At the top of the page is a photo of the aforementioned jewellery books (see January's Jewelled Web under latest Reads), and the picture below here is of some Efcolor low temperature enamel colours, a parcel of copper blanks, and a few of the tools I hope to make some metal magic with.




In non-jewellery-related gifts (I know, it does happen) I'm happy to say I also received a rather large (and exceedingly nice) slab of chocolate fudge, a record player (with records), a pair of slippers (a Christmas classic, and deliciously soft), and a very large and incredibly useful (given the weather we're having so far this year) log basket.

I hope your jewellery-related Christmas gifts were equally inspiring.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Jeweller Interview with Sycamoon

Sycamoon Jewellery photo - SilverMoss blogName changes can sometimes cause confusion but can also be quite illuminating. 

I've been an admirer of Nanfan for a while but only recently discovered she's turned into Sycamoon, which fits her work even better - do check out her explanation of the new name on her blog here.

And after you do that, or beforehand if you fancy, have a read through of this interview with Nana and enjoy her wonderful words and pictures while you learn more about her craft.




When and how did you start making jewellery?

I started making pendants in 2010. To begin with they were really just a new way to sell my art. I made tiny drawings and put them in bezels and on domino pieces. But of course then I had to make chains and bails, hooks and clasps and from there the metal just took over – I became fascinated with wire wrapping and gorgeous copper. It took over completely.

I never had much luck selling my prints and paintings, but the jewellery started selling, compelling me to learn more and get better. I loved the world that just opened up in a new craft and then I discovered metal clay and was completely hooked.

Today most of my items are made from metal clay. That’s tiny particles of metal – bronze, copper or silver – mixed with an organic binder, which makes metalworking feel like playing with play dough. You shape your pieces in wet clay – much smaller quantities than a pottery artist of course, this stuff is expensive! Once dry and refined the clay is fired in a kiln at very high temperatures and the binder burns away leaving pure metal.



Where do your design ideas come from and what is the process that sees them through to the finished product?

Inspiration for new designs come from all over the place. I take macro photos of nature and bring home pods, leaves and feathers. I doodle a lot trying to get a swirly Art Nouveau style that also reminds me of fantasy creatures and Elves. Other designs just come from finding a gorgeous bead and needing to frame it somehow – or learning a new technique like electroforming and just trying out what it can do. As a result I get a lot of disparate pieces and not really a coherent collection.

I used to agonize over how I could tighten my style – We’re always told to have a strong visual identity and to get that coherent look. But which part should I get rid of? Wire wrapping or metal clay? Nature inspiration or Fantasy and legends? In the end I decided to just allow myself to create anything that I find beautiful and if the shop looks a little messy because of it, well that’s a small price to pay for having fun.


Sycamoon Jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog



How do you motivate yourself to keep on creating?

In the beginning I was very much driven by the ambition to be my own boss and having my own business. But that part wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t found it so much fun to keep learning and experimenting. These days it’s actually much more straight-forward – orders come in and have to be filled. There are people waiting for their jewellery, so I have to do the work.

I’m so lucky that I now sell enough on Folksy, Etsy and my own site to fill my days. And when there’s a slump which inevitably happens it just means I get to play with new designs until more orders come in. I have many half-finished projects that got moved to one side when other things were more pressing. But enough new ones get finished to make me happy and feel like I still have room to play.



What is your favourite part of making and selling jewellery?

One of the very best parts is getting feedback from an excited customer who has just got their parcel and is ecstatic about their new jewellery. I make a good number of wedding rings now and occasionally I manage to get a ring or a necklace just right and the resulting gratitude just melts my heart. It is wonderful to make a tiny thing with my own hands that speaks so loudly to another human being.

Another favourite of mine is happy accidents. If you experiment enough then they do happen and then I look at the piece and think – “Wow that looks quite good. How did you do that?”


Sycamoon Jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog



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

I take all my own photos, but it would be nice to have someone else model the items! As for advice I’d say keep practising – you can always get better and nothing is more important in getting sales than good photographs when you sell online. I know everyone advises to photograph in natural light, but that just never suited me. The light changes from day to day making your photos look different. If I can’t have a coherent collection at least I can have coherent photos, and for that I needed the same light every time and to not depend on weather and time of day. If you’re the same then here’s what I do: I have 3 lamps in various sizes fitted with daylight bulbs. I then learned how to set the custom white balance on my camera – you photograph a sheet of white paper and tell the camera: “This is white” and it then corrects all the colours for you. This gives me if not identical results every time, close enough to make the photos look like they belong in the same shop.



How did you decide on the way you style your jewellery photos?

This is an ongoing process. I still change it from time to time. I did a lot of experimenting and really tried getting the classic white background to work that everyone recommends. Lots of people get really good results with white (including SilverMoss!) but it never really worked for me, so I went for something slightly different. Like I said I needed the photos to be coherent at least so I came up with a recognisable combination. I have a printout of a blotchy blue colour – like a faded piece of wallpaper, on top of that a skeleton leaf in a tan colour and on top a piece of glass.

The paper to me says rustic/handmade, the leaf says natural and the glass says clean; 3 things that I’d like to say about my jewellery from the get go. I know the advice is to not have reflective surfaces when shooting jewellery, but I like the hint of a mirror pool I get this way, so just decided to keep it.


Sycamoon Jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog






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

I’ll admit straight away I am lousy at maintaining any social media, but I do keep trying in a half-hearted sort of way :oD

I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and have several blogs and they all suffer terribly of neglect. When I am busy social media drops to the bottom of my to-do list

I do think they are a very good way of building a connection with your customers and like-minded people who also craft. There’s a fantastic community out there and it’s wonderful reaching out and getting support and feedback. I see it as more of a social thing rather than strictly promoting and that idea I am much more comfortable with.

I think the most important thing in terms of promotions goes is to have good customer service. I go out of my way to make my customers happy and to give them exactly what they want. It makes me feel better when everyone is happy with the transaction and it pays off in the long term as word of mouth gets me a lot of sales. It warms my heart when a customer says that a friend recommended my shop.


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Thanks so much for the interview, Nana, and for sharing such fascinating information about your work.
All photographs in this post ©Sycamoon



If you want to see more of Nana's beautiful metal clay work then do click through on these links below -

Sycamoon's shop on Folksy
Sycamoon's inspiring blog including excellent photos and explanations of making rings from metal clay here and here.