Friday 25 August 2017

Photos & Photobucket & Unwelcome Changes

A few years ago I made a decision for my blog which now turns out to have been an almighty error and will take me many hours to fix. Of course, I didn't know it was an error at the time and thought it was the right thing to do. I'd read it on a blog, you see, on more than one blog, so obviously it was a good decision. What could possibly go wrong?

Quite a lot, I now discover.

What did I do?

I decided to move the hosting for images on my blog to another platform, which would then relay the images to my blog. I'm sure part of my reasoning for doing this was the battles I often seemed to have with Blogger (my blogging platform) and a feeling that a different way of managing visual content on my blog might be a fix.

And it was until now. I developed a system of editing my photos, shrinking the size, and then uploading them to the web and linking them to the blog post in question. Sorted and relatively simple.

The platform I chose to host my images was/is Photobucket, one that was often mentioned and recommended by those helpful blogs I read. Photobucket have recently, and abruptly, changed their terms and conditions, and the service of hosting images on other sites has gone up from free to $399.99 per year. Pretty much overnight. And retrospectively, meaning that all the images I've previously uploaded using their service will most likely disappear at some point to be replaced by an image like one of these.

In fact, you may well have seen this image on other blog, auction sites, craft sites, and chat forums, as I was not alone in using Photobucket for image hosting and am also not alone in finding the new cost prohibitive and the rapid introduction of it, with no warning, a little lacking in courtesy.

I'm going to slowly move my images away from Photobucket and have decided to let Blogger handle them again and see whether a few years break has given me a bit more experience and/or allowed Blogger to iron out any of those glithes I used to experience.

So if you visit one of my older posts (all posts after this one should be fine and dandy) and discover the images are looking a little typographical, shall we say, then the reason will be that I've not got around to fixing those ones yet. But I will.

A lot of people have been very angry at Photobucket for both the introduction of the change with no warning or preamble, and the price of it - from what I've read this seems to be quite a high price for this type of service. I'm frustrated and disappointed but some of the reading I've done on the topic has been interesting - a frequently held view is that we've come to expect the web to be free (I'm talking about the content here - I'm well aware  that line rental, broadband access, and the devices used to actually get online are all rather expensive and a long way from free and get slightly annoyed when some people don't appreciate those costs are not insignificant - but I digress) and yet much of it isn't and that much of it is used to generate income, jobs and wages. The theory is that advertising, which was meant to help keep things online free, isn't covering the costs companies and business need it to and that other avenues are being explored.

I can't really argue with someone wanting to be paid for a service, and if I find the cost too high, as I do here, then I can choose to walk away, which is what I'm doing. Yes, it's annoying. The rules have been changed, and fast. And yes, it is going to take me a lot of time and effort to ensure my images will display correctly. But it seems the web is perhaps a more fickle place than I previously thought and so I will bear that in mind in my future interactions with it...

This also shows how important it is for all of us who use images online to back them up and remember that they're our responsibility to look after. This also goes the same for blog posts and probably nearly anything at all you put online - it's wiser not to trust that it will always be accessible to you, with terms and conditions that don't alter and systems that don't change. If it matters to you then keep a copy (or ideally two).

If you've also been directly affected by this, then you have my sincere sympathy. Unfortunately I know of only two options - either pay the subscription or do what I'm doing and slowly and painfully move your images. After a little searching I have found a detailed post from blogger Lauren Wayne about how she's trying to deal with the problems created, which is worth a read.

In the meantime, thanks for reading this and please bear with me while I update those photos.

Friday 18 August 2017

Jeweller Interview with Becky Pearce Designs

Becky Pearce Designs jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog
It'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...


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.


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


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 silvermossjewellery book reviews 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


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.