Friday, 18 August 2017

Jeweller Interview with Becky Pearce Designs




Becky Pearce Designs jewellery photo - SilverMoss blogIt's fair to say that for a long time now I've admired the jewellery of Becky Pearce Designs, mainly for the sweet-shop-hued gems and the artful simplicity of the silver settings that brings out the best of those rich colours.

The clever use of birthstones to make beautiful jewellery and, in particular, the wonderful stacking rings that Becky specialises in creating show both her flair for design and wonderful consistency in finding a very good idea and then sticking with it.

I do hope you enjoy this insightful interview - do check out Becky's Instagram page for more of her photographs and for excellent work-in-progress images and find links for her shop and other online sites at the end of the feature.



How long ago did you begin making jewellery and what prompted you to start? Are you self-taught or have you attended classes?

I started making jewellery back in 2009. I took an hour long earring-making class at a bead shop in Kingston, and immediately caught the bug. The great thing about jewellery making is that you can start with something relatively simple like threading beads and making loops with wire, but there are so many different skills you can learn as you develop. You can never get bored. I've attended a few classes along the way, but I'm mainly self taught.


Where do find ideas for your designs and how do you develop them into the finished piece of jewellery?

I tend to let the materials lead the way. My designs don't tend to be particularly intricate or detailed, and for new designs I pretty much just make it up as I go along. I do have a sketchbook where I note down new ideas, but they are not fixed in my mind, they're usually just a starting point to remind me of an idea, and I'll adapt and adjust as I go. I think I need to see things in front of me to judge whether I like it or not - I haven't got the brain power to do that from a sketch.


What is your workspace like? I've seen images of your studio (and am suitably jealous!) - is it set up exactly the way you want or still a work in progress?

A few years ago we turned our garage into living space, part of which is my studio and I absolutely love it in there. It was great to be able to get a worktop, sink, and extractor fan all built in. It's not perfect, it always feels a bit messy (I'm currently eyeing up tool boards which I'm hoping will help with that!) and it faces North- East so it doesn't get a huge amount of natural light, but it is my happy place. I am so very grateful to have a specific room for my work after years of having to work on the kitchen table.

becky pearce designs jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog



You talk on your site about listening to audiobooks and podcasts while you work - which ones do you recommend and which are your favourites?

Yes I have an audible account, so I get a couple of audiobooks each month - I go for the longest ones I can find to keep me going - it was the only way I was ever going to "read" War and Peace. In between the books I subscribe to loads of podcasts; I have things like TedTalk audio, Stuff You Should Know and In Our Time for when I'm feeling like being educated, Dirty Mother Pukka, My Dad Wrote a Porno and the BBC comedy podcast for when I want a giggle and The Small and Mighty Podcast, and Hashtag Authentic when I want to be business focussed. And then there are all the general interesting things like This American Life, S Town... honestly the list goes on. I'm always looking for new ones to add in too if anyone has any suggestions.


One of your key design themes is birthstone jewellery - when did you decide to focus on this? Which are your favourite gemstones, both to work with and in terms of colour?

Jewellery is such an amazing thing if you think about it. It can be traced back to the very earliest ancient civilisations and throughout it's history it's held a special meaning for the wearer. Even today in our modern world although we're not necessarily wearing carved gemstone amulets, jewellery does tend to be something we buy for a specific reason. We might treat ourselves to celebrate a special birthday, or to finish off an outfit for a particular occasion. We might spend time choosing something for a loved one; it all has that meaning, a story behind it.

For me birthstones just add to that layer of meaning. My birthstone stacking rings are my favourite things to make, as there is always a story behind them, and they are so special to the wearer as they represent their loved ones. It's such an honour to be a part of that.

My favourite gemstone tends to be what I'm working with at the time. I am so fickle! But I love those stones with a flash of colour like labradorite and moonstone.


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

I absolutely could not do without my pendant motor. My wish list isn't that long at the moment, I keep toying with the idea of getting an engraving machine so I can engrave names, dates, or phrases on the insides of the rings instead of hand stamping them on, but my customers seem to quite like the not so perfect, hand stamped look so I haven't gone for it yet.

becky pearce designs jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog becky pearce designs jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog



What is your favourite part of making jewellery?

I love batch making ring charms to go on my ring charm bangles. It's just so satisfying to get lots of things made all in one go. Oh, and that moment when after all the preparation, and careful setting up the solder flows perfectly and joins the piece together. It's like magic.


Your photographs are wonderful and your Instagram feed is quite beautiful - do you take your own jewellery photos and, if so, do you have any photography hints?

Oh thank you! Yes I take all of my own photos. For the jewellery shots I have set up a little corner of a table near the window to be my photography area. It's set up all the time, so I can literally just take a quick snap of a piece of jewellery when it is made which gets me taking more photos. I have both a daylight lamp, and a studio light there to make it a bit brighter on those overcast days.

Sometimes I get a little bored with the way product photos look, but I remind myself how important it is to have a consistent look. And at the end of the day it's the jewellery I want to highlight, not some fancy new background. I would love to get some more pictures of my jewellery being worn, but I'm finding that a real struggle to get looking right.


When did you start your website and blog and how much input have you had in their design? How do you look after them?

I started both my blog and website back in 2010. And I've just been working on a little revamp. The new website will be launched in mid August and I can't wait to share it with the world. I do all of the design and updating myself. It's part of what I like about having my own business... the fact that you get involved in all aspects of it. I even quite enjoy doing my tax return in a strange kind of way.

becky pearce designs jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog



Like many people now you're on several social media platforms; which one is your favourite and how do you use it for your jewellery?

I have two favourite social media places - Instagram and Facebook. Instagram is great as I love the sense of community on there, as well as all the photo inspiration. It's a place where I really feel a part of the handmade/ small business world; I used to get that sense of community from from Facebook too, but that has changed in the last year or so. Facebook to me is now primarily a way for me to connect with my customers, as opposed to other handmade businesses. I pop lots of work in progress pictures on there, so people can see their jewellery being made and my customers seem to really like that.


How do you find the balance between making your jewellery and marketing and selling it?

I do find that hard. It used to be that I would do the making in the daytime and do the marketing/ listing etc.. in the evening when I got a chance. But recently I realised that the marketing and admin is vital, and should be incorporated into my working day rather than being an add on in the evening, when my energy and enthusiasm is not necessarily at it's highest level. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to structure my day - as I feel guilty doing computer based tasks when there are orders waiting, even if they don't need to be made immediately.


How do you see your jewellery evolving over time? Do you feel happy with what you're creating or do you hanker after new styles or materials to experiment with?

I hanker after more time to develop new designs. I have a little sketchbook with ideas in, but orders keep my busy day to day. I am trying to carve out a little time each week just to play, and develop new pieces, but it does feel like less of a priority than keeping up with the current orders so I don't do this as often as I would like.


What is the best tip or advice you've been given, in jewellery making or life in general?

Just to get started. Don't wait for things to be perfect, or the time to be just right. Stop waiting and just go for it.

becky pearce designs jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog


All photographs in this post ©Becky Pearce Designs



Thank you for that wonderful interview, Becky, I really enjoyed reading it and I'm looking forward to exploring some of those podcasts you listen to!


To see more of Becky's jewellery then do take a look through the links below:


Website - Becky Pearce Designs
Shop - On Folksy and Ethical Market
Facebook - Becky Pearce Designs
Twitter - Becky Pearce Designs
Instgram - Becky Pearce Designs

Friday, 11 August 2017

Experiments with Sea Glass and Silver

That magical beach, full of driftwood and carefully sea-polished glass, has so far proved elusive for me, despite some hunting. I've found a few pieces of sea glass over time, some still tucked away and not yet used, other gems have been made up into jewellery by myself, like this piece I made a while ago as a gift.

But recently I happened upon a small organza bag filled with sea glass, on a quiet shelf in a craft shop. I hesitated only briefly and then I bought it, unopened. When I took the glass out I discovered a typically and wonderfully muted set of colours and textures. Although I was a little disappointed at how large some of the glass pieces were, I was able to do a few 'swaps' with a family member who'd previously bought a similar bag of sea glass from the same shop.

Here's my, refined, stash of treasure...

sea-glass-silvermoss

Both the pieces of sea glass I used were quite small and I really fancied the idea of a sea glass ring so I embarked on that project first. I made myself a small band of silver using rectangular wire which I'd bought a while back and never used (and found it wonderful to work with) alongside using silver wire to create a cross-like structure to hold the glass in.

sea-glass-silver-ring-silvermoss

I used a similar basket-principle with the pendant I made next, adding another row of silver as the glass was (roughly) rectangular in shape.

sea-glass-silver-pendant-silvermoss

Despite some concerns that the wire I'd chosen was too fine (it wasn't) and that the structures wouldn't hold the glass securely (they both do), I was pleased with the end results and am extra pleased with thought of how each piece is unique, not just by way of being hand made but by way of the nature of sea glass, each piece formed slowly in the sea. That's kind of a nice feeling.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Designing your own Blog Graphics with Canva


designing for your blog with canva by silvermoss

Designing and creating your own graphics, banners, and buttons online is nothing new and is, in many ways, easier than ever. On this blog I've previously created my own banner heading as well as the side buttons for quick links to collections of blog posts - see them on the right hand side.

I also created the main image, above, for this blog post using Canva, after playing around with some of their templates and changing colours and font.

I've dabbled with using both PicMonkey (the free version) and an old copy of Photoshop Elements, plus recently I've also been looking further afield and that has included Canva. Yes, you do have to sign up to use it, but you also have to do that for PicMonkey now as well - PicMonkey used to be handy for 'quick' edits when I didn't want the hassle of either signing up or signing in, trying to remember my password, failing, having to reset it, etc... Now, however, both PicMonkey and Canva both require an account, even for their free versions.

While Canva is, obviously, different from PicMonkey, many of the tools and techniques they use work in a similar enough way that means it's easy enough to pick things up quite quickly if you've used the other, and if you've not utilised online image editing before (and even if you have!) then a brief web search on a specific problem can provide answers.

It's often better to learn as you try to create something (this applies to jewellery too!) than to try and gain a working knowledge without using it practically, so to teach myself a bit about Canva I decided to spend some time experimenting. I began by trying to create a new side button for my blog, and then ended up creating a whole set of them.

Here's what I made first:


first jeweller interview canva blog button by silvermoss

And here's what I made when I'd worked out what I was doing and decided to be a little more ambitious and create something more specific to my overall blog design:


jeweller interviews canva blog button by silvermoss jewellery book review canva blog button by silvermoss


I created a custom-sized template and used one of Canva's own backgrounds, before adding text and choosing font, size, and colour. I may well re-do the buttons with an image of my own, to make it more personalised to my blog.

At the end of this flurry of time on Canva I very quickly chose a template for this post (see the first image, above) and adapted that to use some of my own blog colours, taking just a few minutes to complete.

I created all my images using used free components on Canva although they do have a paid version as well, with more options. I prefer the free version of such applications and tend, in general, to avoid paid versions as they often involve subscription models (as Canva does) and they just don't suit me - I'd rather pay up front and own something than hire it. Also, I don't create enough images to justify paying a fee and so it is helpful that places like Canva have a good and usable free version.

Canva allows you to upload your own images to incorporate into design elements, and although you can also upload your own fonts this is unfortunately only available on the paid version. One very handy part of Canva is that is has the facility for you to copy an image you're working on and adapt it or alter it slightly, without having to start over again - you can also chart your own progression as you do this, and change your mind and use an earlier version without having to undo changes you've made.

If you've never used this kind of graphic design and image editing software before then, when you first start out, it will take a little while to create anything you're happy with, but using a web application like Canva will, with a little practise, allow you to make banners and buttons and pretty much any graphic you care to without much fuss at all. If you are more adept in using such software then you should adapt to this quite fast and may well enjoy having some different options for new designs.

PS. I designed this alternative post banner as well, a few days after I'd created the above graphics, just to see how much I remembered. It was still very easy and also a lot of fun.


designing for your blog with canva by silvermoss

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Please note - I was contacted by a representative of Canva about creating this post. However all the content has been designed and created by me and I have received no payment of any kind and am not connected with the company in any way. Nor are any of the links in the post affiliate links. The opinions in the post are, as always, my own, and have been given honestly.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Jewelled Web - August 2017 - Link Love



wildflowers in summer - jewelled web august 2017 by silverMoss jewellery


Oh crikey, it's August already. August is often a wonderful month, a real summer month, if you know what I mean, when the warmth of the last few months seems to have built up and spread out and the lushness of greenery is overtaken a little by how sun-parched it often begins to appear...

But August, the very look of the word, also makes me think of Autumn, and it feels like, unless I really focus on when I am, I'll miss the summer that is here (even if it's raining!) by looking out for the autumn to come...

So here's to some mindfulness and living in the now and enjoying the fact it is still summer and will be until about, oh, let's say November!

Enjoy the links below - I'll try keep them summer-y!



~jewellery links~

A brief but useful tutorial on making feathers in copper clay (pdf)

These copper and silver earrings are simply stunning in their careful detail.

I saw jewellery made from pencils in a craft shop recently and thought it was a great way to symbolically say school is out! Well, for a little longer at least...

This jewellery made from pencil shavings is also pretty amazing.

Pretty waterfall earrings in a simple tutorial.

Such a beautiful ring made by Beth Legg.

Grow your own crystal pendant - I've not tried this but it looks fascinating!

Precious metal clay has been around fpr quite a while now but I've only just learned about silver metal clay paper... 




~non-jewellery links~

Not quite jewellery, but beautiful soaps that look like gemstones and an excellent detailed tutorial to make them.

A wonderful way to grow small plants in dark rooms.

Excellent collection of furniture hacks to make what you own a little bit more fun/useful/attractive.

A good few of these small space living ideas for camper vans translate into small space living ideas for any home (that is also small...)

An illuminating cheat sheet on growing vegetables on a patio or a veggie plot, when to sow and plant, and harvest and hints on companion planting.

Reusing old jeans and making handy box bags via a detailed tutorial.

A guide to cutting down on digital clutter.




~latest reads~

After a trip to the Lake District a couple of years ago (has it really been so long...?) I vowed to read Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransom as I had never done so. Despite my inability to understand most of the boating references, overall the book has been a delight and a wonderful reminder of both a recent holiday and a (slightly!) more distant childhood.

Resin jewellery always fascinates me and this book, The Art of Resin Jewelry by Sherri Haab, is an excellent, and encouraging, read with good photos and helpful instructions.


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I hope your August is warm and sunny and a great month whatever the weather.

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Wildflower photo taken by me on a day when the weather changed from gloom to sun and I was surrounded by so much flora.

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Fancy some more links for the long summer days? Then check out my Jewelled Web from March 2016.


(this post includes a few affiliate links (in the latest reads section) - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 21 July 2017

Book Review - Handbook of Jewellery Techniques

Handbook of Jewellery Techniques
by Carles Codina
Published by A&C Black, 2002
160 pages



Book Review by SilverMoss - Handbook Jewellery Techniques


When I used to go to silversmithing classes my excellent tutor, every lesson, would bring in all his tools and anything else that he thought would help his students, including a stack of jewellery books (and sometimes the photo albums of the beautiful work he himself had created when he worked for a goldsmiths in London) for us to look through and gain ideas and inspiration.

This book was one of those and so when I saw the cover, and recognised it, I was rather excited to have the opportunity to look through it all over again.


One line review

A sophisticated introduction to more advanced silversmithing skills and jewellery as a form of art.


First Impressions

The cover of the edition I'm reviewing gives a good indication that this is a ‘serious’ jewellery book, covering topics such as stone setting, hinges, granulation, soldering and enamelling.

On flicking through the pages again I was reminded how detailed both the images and text looked inside.


At The Start

The Contents page contains images of some of the items it covers but mainly shows how the book is broken down into five parts –
Metallurgy
Basic Techniques
Surfaces
Related Techniques
Step By Step

The Introduction is very interesting as it discusses the concept of jewellery and jewellery making; it also includes a brief biography of the author. The beginning section then discusses the history of jewellery, by way of a piece on The Origins of Human Ornamentation and then a section on Contemporary Jewelry, both well illustrated and useful.


In the Middle

The main part of the book begins with a chapter on Metallurgy. This covers gold, silver, and alloys, annealing and pickling, and the care of metal in the workshop environment. This is both a technical and informative chapter, well worth reading.

The next chapter covers Basic Techniques and deals with creating shapes from metal using rolling and drawing, creating tubes, filing and sanding metal. It moves onto piercing and sawing, drilling and grinding, and then soldering. Making domes, cylinders and clasps, forging and creating hinges as well as clasps comes next, and the chapter ends with a section on jump rings. Lots of photos mean the information imparted isn’t too wordy, but is extremely useful and full of good advice, and small projects are included to explain some of the techniques.

Textures are dealt with next, covering etching, combining different metals, twisting, granulation, embossing, and reticulation. The chapter concludes with different finishes such as mirror shines, patination, and oxidisation. Again the photos and text are well combined and the idea of mini-projects is well used.

The Related Techniques chapter covers chasing and repousse, urushi (Japanese lacquer), and enamelling in all its many forms including cloisonné and plique-a-jour. It goes on to deal with stone setting and ends with wax carving and casting.

The last chapter focuses on projects, with the making of seven Step By Step pieces of jewellery laid out in great detail, with clear photos and text explaining each part of the process.


At the End

The book finishes with a Glossary, and Index, and a Bibliography & Acknowledgements page.


In Summary

This isn’t a merely a project book, with simple instructions on how to make each item based on the techniques included in the book. Rather, it is a guide to some of the more complicated smithing skills and how to approach them, along with examples of various designs for the reader to understand how those techniques may be incorporated into their own work and creations. The projects that are included are complex and elaborate, but the step by step instructions seek to make them as simple to create as possible.

If you're keen to start learning smithing techniques then this book may perhaps be one to purchase after you've learned the basics, or perhaps to utilise in conjunction with another book. For example, learning to form metal sheets or wire using a rolling mill or draw plates are useful skills, but instructions for these appear at the start of the first chapter, Basic Techniques. A beginner might find themselves daunted by being shown so soon how to not only form their metal but also to invest in expensive equipment to do so, rather than skills relating to jewellery made from pre-bought sheet and wire.

Whilst the information contained is wide-ranging and very useful, I don't think it's suitable for a beginner, but more for someone with experience of working with metal and the techniques involved, wishing to improve their skills and refine them. For that type of jeweller, this book is an excellent investment that provides sound advice and careful instruction by a skilled craftsman, and should only help both skills and confidence grow.


Handbook of Jewellery Techniques by Carles Codina


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Click on the link if you'd like to read my review of the Compendium of Jewellery Making Techniques by Xuella Arnold and Sara Withers

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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, 14 July 2017

A Gem of a Find - Aquamarine Treasure

I have too many 'jewellery items'; tools, materials, beads and metal, small pots that will come in handy one day to put even smaller things in, and pieces of paper and plastic that have intriguing textures and patterns on that are inpsiring and interesting and, again, will come in handy one day.


Aquamarine gemstones closeup on SilverMoss Blog

Consequently I have a drawer or two (or more, well, okay, definitely more) or slightly random 'items' stored in an extremely ad hoc manner. This makes it hard to find a particular 'item' when I want it, something I know I have but have only a vague idea of where it is. But it also means that when I go searching sometimes I find some real gems. Literally.


Aquamarine gemstones and sterling silver wire on SilverMoss Blog

I went searching for a couple of underused tools and not only found them (yay) but also found, stored away with them, a small quantity of delicate silver wire (either 0.3 or 0.4 mm - I will need to measure it to be sure) and a tiny bag of beautifully cut aquamarine gemstones.


Aquamarine Faceted Gemstones on SilverMoss Blog

I'd forgotten just how inspiring gems can sometimes be, especially when they're cut to bounce and reflect light in the most delightful way. Spending some time just looking at these got me thinking of things to make from them and aware that as soon as I did so the simple magnificance of them would be lost a little - not only would they be 'finished' (for now anyway - repurposing gems in jewellery making has been going on since prehistory) but any setting, even plain silver wire, would detract from their beauty...

Does this mean they won't get utilised? I doubt it. But I also know I'll take my time doing so and spend a little more of it at present just looking at them...


Friday, 7 July 2017

Mini Tools - Worth Plying and Buying?

Some silversmithing tools need to be hefty, to have some weight to them, to allow them to do the job they need to do. Others are able to combine some strength with deceptive delicacy.

I have a lot of pliers, all around 10 or 11 centimetres (4 or 5 inches) long, all collected piecemeal and utilised with varying degrees of success - many are used regularly but some languish in a "spare toolbox" and are tools of last resort.

A while ago I treated myself to a set of mini pliers, wrapped up tidily in their own case. I was intrigued to find out what quality they were and if they served any real purpose other than, well, being small and so more convenient to store.



Mini Pliers Set on SilverMoss Blog


The pliers are indeed mini, measuring around 8 cm (3 inches) each, and this decrease in size is felt in the handle more than elsewhere. But the heads of the pliers (round-, needle-, and flat-nosed and one side cutter) are all as well-formed as any other plier in a comparable (budget, in this case) price range and, while obviously a little smaller than a typical version, are still usable and effective.

The handles are well-shaped but their smaller length makes it harder to use them as comfortably as typically-sized pliers - I find with the latter much of my hand works the tool, whereas with the smaller version that action is more confined to the first two fingers.


Mini Pliers and Typical Pliers on SilverMoss Blog


However, for quick fixes and repairs, for times when you've packed everything away but really need a tool that's easy to lay your hands on, then this set is neat and ideal. The pliers also well-sized for working with very small items. For prolonged work I would find them a little tiring and fiddly and probably wouldn't choose them over larger sized tools, if they were easily available.

If you're just starting out or if you fancy smaller tools for more delicate work, then mini pliers may well be worth trying. Buying a set of pliers is a handy way to get the most used tools for simple jewellery making and these are usable, portable, and useful. I've made earrings and necklaces with this set and found the pliers and cutter excellent with very delicate sterling silver wire and tiny gemstones.

I'm not one to have superfluous tools ("spare toolbox" aside) but useful tools, even if they're near copies of other tools, will find a place in my main toolbox every time.

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Please note: this post contains no affiliate links and I have no connection with any manufacturer or retailer of jewellery tools.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Jewelled Web - July 2017 - Link Love


Avenue of Lime Trees - Jewelled Web July 2017 SilverMoss Jewellery


It's really summer now, whatever the weather. The days are longer and, when the sun comes out, it's wonderful to feel its warmth. And even when it rains, well, it's still summer and that's what matters.

When the weather hasn't been so kind (or the wifi has stretched to outdoors) here's what I've been reading and bookmarking. Hope you enjoy.



~jewellery links~

So many jewellery making techniques have been around for centuries, including granulation.

More textured effects, this time created using a rolling mill - something still on my tool wish-list.

And yet more texture with a video on reticulation.

I adore these earrings, simple shapes and beautiful textures and colours.

Metal clay shell necklace tutorial - beautiful.

Simple and quick DIY makes, including a beaded lace cuff, a jewellery box, and how to make a plaster hand from a washing up glove to hold your jewellery.

What to do with leftover copper pipe after you've had a new bathroom fitted? Etch it.

The Pink Star diamond has sold in Hong Kong and set a new world record.



~non-jewellery links~

Fascinating article about a decades-long study on what makes us heathier - it's not just relationships but the quality of them...

A super-bloom of wildflowers that can be seen from space.

I love Cheryl Strayed (a film about her, Wild, is well worth watching and it's based on her book of the same title) and this piece by her about what writing (and reading) does for us is quite special.

Such a beautiful garden print, created by artist Fiona Willis

A publishing house in Iceland that produces books once a month and then burns the unsold books the next day...

Cinnamon can keep ants away and other amazing things it can do outside.

Online camera simulators for when you have to learn just what an f-stop really is.



~latest reads~

I've been binging on a lot of jewellery books of all kind the last month or so, but have really enjoyed re-reading Carles Codina's Handbook of Jewellery Techniques and Nicola Hurst's Start Making Jewellery in particular. Reviews to follow.

Non-fiction has been winning out over fiction lately for me, something I'm keen to overturn soon and find something wonderful to spend the warmer months with. But one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long while is The Brain's Ways of Healing by Norman Doidge. If even half of this book is true then our brains are more fascinating and far more adaptable than we could ever have imagined and have the ability to transform our bodies. Totally recommended.


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Here's hoping July is gentle and beautiful, in all ways. Enjoy your month.

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Photo of the lime avenue taken during a wonderful walk in the park.

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If you need more links then check out my Jewelled Web from July 2015.


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

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...

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.

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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.

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


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