Friday 27 October 2017

The Slow Making of a Fluorite and Silver Ring

fluorite gemstone cabochon

This fluorite gemstone has been in my jewellery-making stash for a long, long time. I bought it years ago and I loved it straight away, the colours in it, the richness of them and yet also its wonderful transparency, the way the light rushed through it and altered the depth of those purples. And I think I always knew that I'd end up making it into a ring just for myself, it was merely a matter of time and opportunity and all those little things coming together...

purple fluorite gemstone cabochon next to a handcrafted sterling silver ring setting

Last year I set a gemstone of the same size into a necklace for a loved one, and as I did so I experimented a little with settings. I made up a few, and one of them just wasn't quite right, certainly not good enough to use for a piece of jewellery that wouldn't be mine - I don't know whether other makers are like this, but I'm happy enough to wear my own 'seconds', pieces that I would cringe if someone else wore for but, on me, I'm more than happy with.

And so, when a little serendipity brought both the fluorite gem and the setting onto my work bench at the same time, I knew I could find a home for both of them with each other, and with me.

handcrafted sterling silver ring set with a purple fluorite gemstone

I did a little more experimenting as I went, adding some tiny silver balls onto the edge of the bezel setting and, while I know the ring is a long way from shop-perfect, it's perfect enough for me. In fact, I rather like the look of it, and I enjoyed making it up, knowing I only had myself to please. With hindsight, I'd have set the silver balls at an angle, rather than at top (or bottom) of the setting as they are now, but, that aside, I'm more than happy to be able to wear that beautiful fluorite at last.

Friday 20 October 2017

Jeweller Interview with Leisa Howes Jewellery

One of the things I love about Folksy is that it can be easier to find new gems than on some of the bigger online craft platforms.This was how I discovered Leisa Howes' wonderful work; just as I browsed around Folksy one day, it was waiting for me to find...

Silver Mermaid Pendant by Leisa Howes Jewellery

Scattered with natural and mythological imagery, all created in sterling silver, the work is both detailed and simple, striking and yet subtle - it has an artisan feel to it, the jewellery is well crafted and yet also hand-crafted, individual and special.

I do hope you enjoy this interview with Leisa, learning more about her inspiration and techniques and her plans for the future.

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 a jewellery making evening class at Hull College in 2007. My youngest was only a few months old at the time and I was still on maternity leave. I have always loved art and wanted to find something creative to do. I became hooked very quickly and as the course progressed I had the chance to study for a degree in 3D Metal Craft. I was really pleased to graduate with a first class honours.

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

I try to research my designs but with time constraints I'm not always very good at doing this! I am drawn to nature, British wildlife and looking deep into our past. I'm really drawn to the mystery that surrounds our ancestors especially around the neolithic period and I love ancient landscapes and standing stones. I am also drawn to medieval art which inspire some of the animals which feature in my work. I try to draw my designs but they also develop as I make them too. I love to work in silver for jewellery although I will use copper and brass in brooches and other objects such as boxes.

Three Silver Hare Rings by Leisa Howes Jewellery

What is your workspace like? Is it set up exactly the way you want, a work in progress or a kitchen table?

My workspace is a converted 10 x 8 foot shed. My husband insulated it for me and I have electricity which is essential. If I had to improve it I would have a sink but as it is, it works fine, even in winter I am warm and cozy. It's my space and I love it.

One of your key design themes is nature (especially hares!) and the sea - when did you decide to focus on this?

I have always loved hares and worked on them as a theme at college. They are beautiful creatures and I love all the mythology that surrounds them - I never tire of incorporating them in my work. My love of the sea comes from holidays in Cornwall and days spent on the North Yorkshire coast. I love tales of mermaids, the beautiful blues and greens of the water and whenever I'm on a beach I'm always on the lookout for little pieces of treasure, sea glass, driftwood and other found objects. At college I studied the work of Barbara Hepworth and looked at patinas on metal, I find the way the sea weathers objects and metal over time quite beautiful.

Silver Hares Gemstone Pendant by Leisa Howes Jewellery

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

I love working with my hand engravers and use them in most of my work and so I would have to say I couldn't do without them. I'm lucky in that I have built up my tools over time but I would probably like to get back into etching metal and maybe experimenting with sand casting.

On Folksy you talk about your degree in 3D metal craft (congratulations!) - how has studying for this affected your approach to making jewellery, both in terms of the design and the physical construction of your pieces?

As part of my degree I had to research my pieces in-depth and create thorough designs as part of my work book thinking not only about if a piece would be aesthetically pleasing but also how it would work. My studies really helped me to find and develop my style of work. At college I made the engraving tools I still use now and the course allowed me to experiment with etching metals, creating patinas and working with mixed media such as incorporating found objects from beaches.

Silver Badger Pendant by Leisa Howes Jewellery

What is your favourite part of making jewellery?

My favourite part of making jewellery is working with my engravers to breathe life into the metal, be it a hare or a tree!

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

I have a decent camera and I have recently bought a simple light box but I still find my best photo's are taken in the garden in natural daylight using the camera on my phone! I tend to photograph against pieces of driftwood and sometimes pick some flowers and pop those in too.

Do you use any social media sites to help promote your work? If so which one is your favourite?

I use facebook and have recently set up on Instagram after being told I should be my daughter! I don't really have a favourite but I wish I had set up on Instagram ages ago.

Silver Hares Pendant by Leisa Howes Jewellery

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

I really enjoy the making process and don't spend nearly enough time marketing my pieces. I think in time this will change but for now I am always so busy I just do what I can.

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 want to incorporate etching, patina's and more mixed media into my work. I have lots of ideas! I think my work will naturally develop over time but my style will not change too much.

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

The best tip I've been given was during my studies when I interviewed a lady who has enjoyed a successful career in jewellery and sculpture. She told me to be true to myself and not to follow fashion. With family commitments and a day job, I have also learned that patience is essential and things will grow and develop naturally in time, the main thing is that I enjoy creating what I do.

All photographs in this post ©Leisa Howes Jewellery

Many thanks to you, Leisa, for this interview - and for answering all the questions I asked! It makes for a really interesting read and I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I did.

Do check out more of Leisa's jewellery at the links below:


You might also like to read some more jeweller interviews - click here for more

Friday 13 October 2017

Book Review - Start Making Jewellery by Nicola Hurst

Start Making Jewellery
by Nicola Hurst
Published by Apple Press 2008
128 pages

Book Review of Start Making Jewellery Workshop by Nicola Hurst

One Line Review

An excellent silver jewellery book, suited for those starting out and those looking to develop their techniques and skills.

First Impressions

In common with a lot of jewellery making books, the title is a little vague about the particular type of jewellery it means, but the cover photographs make it clear that it involves metal, heat, and tools. A brief look through the book shows a lot of photos and a lot of instructions, broken down into convenient steps.

At The Start

The Contents page is followed by a Foreword by the author, and then a couple of pages about the book itself, explaining its layout and commenting on health and safety issues.

Chapter 1 is called Getting Started and has details on Tools, covering pliers, hammers and files, and a small section on Materials, detailing that those used on projects in the book are brass, copper, and silver. It then includes information about creating an ideal work space.

The chapter also includes a very useful section on Inspiration and Design, as well as one on Planning and Design. This topics of ideas and how to develop them is often touched upon far too briefly in jewellery books, so it's good to see them covered in a little more detail here over 8 pages. This section also details methods of copying designs onto the metal itself, which is a very handy skill to have.

(Just as a side note; in the Contents page of the edition of the book I was reading, these two latter sections are both shown as being part of Chapter 2. In fact, they are here included in Chapter 1. This causes no problem at all in terms of using the book and I may not have even noticed if I hadn't been looking closely to write this review.)


In the Middle

Chapter 2 deals with Techniques and Projects and takes up much of the book, at 90 pages. It includes eighteen techniques, ranging from piercing, filing, and soldering, to texturing, doming, and riveting, as well as thirteen projects. The projects are mainly focussed on using metal, with a couple of beadwork ones included near the end.

The techniques are dealt with one at a time and are covered in detail, with handy hints included. They are clear and well illustrated with quality photographs and text instructions.

The projects are interspersed throughout the techniques, and include a list of tools and materials needed for each one, as well as an easy to follow sequence of steps to make each piece and excellent photos that also include extra close-up images to increase clarity at certain crucial points. These close-up photos also appear within the techniques as well and are a really helpful way to ensure particular details are well understood.

At the End

The last chapter deals with Resources. It includes a section on ideas for shapes for ring, earrings, necklaces and pendants, as well as brooches, bangles and bracelets, and cufflinks. A section on the most commonly used gemstones follows, along with some guidance on buying them. Next comes a few charts on topics such as ring sizes and melting temperatures of metals, and some notes on metal properties.

After this is a Glossary, then a page on further reading, detailing magazines and books, and only a few websites (this edition of the book was published in 2008). The book finishes with an Index and some photo credits.


In Summary

This is a very useful book, both for beginners to the topic and anyone with more experience who wishes to refine their skills and perhaps learn a few things via the hints and knowledge of an excellent jeweller. The photographs are excellent, both in clarity and composition, and the close-up photos are particularly valuable. A very good resource book that is worth having on your shelf if you work with metal and solder, or wish to do so.


If you'd like to read another of my book reviews, then check out this one of Stephen O'Keeffe's Practical Jewellery Making Techniques.

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 6 October 2017

Green Marble Gems from Scotland

Even when you're buying gemstones for other people it still feels like a treat for yourself. Perhaps that's just me. But I always feel a thrill of excitement when a package arrives in the post and I get to unwrap it and see the gems for the first time... Oddly enough, it's not quite as exciting in a shop - maybe because it isn't until you get them home that you can really indulge in really looking at and feeling the texture (so important - or again, perhaps that's just me...) of your new gems.

Green Marble Gemstones

The new gems in question here are rather special as they're from the UK. The UK doesn't seem to have masses of gemstones, perhaps partly due to the relatively small size of the country. And the colours of those we most often see from here tend to be more muted rather than some of the brighter hues gathered from overseas. I know part of the glory of gems is that they can be from anywhere all around the world, and that in itself can feel special, to be able to hold a tiny piece of rock from thousands of miles away. But it's also nice, when you're from a small place, to feel that connection to something a little closer.

Sourced from the Highlands of Scotland the islands on the west coast, the stones I bought were a small collection of green marble. The greens are subtle and hint at their origins, from the plants they once were. The veining is as beautiful as you would expect from marble, and the marble itself is in gentle off-white shades, nothing stark at all.

The smallest stone is around 17 mm and the largest 40 mm and I've not yet decided what to do with any of them, although I have started working on settings for a couple of the gems. But they're so wonderful to look at that I want to try and do my best by them, to make sure the silver around them doesn't detract from the stones, and only enhances them.

Green Marble Gemstones

I found the stones on Etsy, from a shop called Two Skies Rocks. They collect and shape stone from around the world but with an emphasis on that which comes from Scotland, which is where they're based. Their shop is well worth a look and, if you do buy from them, you'll find your parcel carefully packaged (with a lot of tartan!) and the gems thoughtfully chosen.

Now I'm away to ponder over the stones some more and figure out which one I can find a good enough reason for to keep for myself...