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.



~~~

(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...


~~~

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

~~~

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

~~~

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


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

Friday, 24 March 2017

Broken tools...


Broken wire cutters - Silvermoss

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 17 March 2017

Jeweller Interview with Nanuk Jewellery




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

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

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



When and how did you start making jewellery?

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


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

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


Nanuk jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog


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

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

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


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

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


Nanuk jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog


How do you motivate yourself to keep on creating?

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


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

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


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


What is your favourite part of making and selling jewellery?

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


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

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


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

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


Nanuk jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog



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


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


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

Friday, 10 March 2017

A Vantage Point of Light and Flowers


Vantage Point of White Azalea Flower - SilverMoss blog


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~

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

Friday, 3 March 2017

Jewelled Web - March 2017 - Link Love


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


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



~jewellery links~

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazing lightbulb/bumble bee jewellery.

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

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



~non-jewellery links~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



~latest reads~

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

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

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

~~~

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

~~~

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


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

Friday, 24 February 2017

New Silver (and Bronze)




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

Friday, 17 February 2017

Jeweller Interview with The Owl and the Pussycat


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

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



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

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



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

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


Owl and the Pussycat pewter jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog




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

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



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

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



What is your favourite part of working with pewter?

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

Owl and the Pussycat pewter jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog



Do you use your drawing skills in your pewter work?

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



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

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



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

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

Owl and the Pussycat pewter jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog







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


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


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

Friday, 10 February 2017

Book Review - Making Jewellery with Gemstone Beads by Barbara Case


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

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


First Impressions

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


At the Start

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


In the Middle

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


At the End

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


In Summary

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


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

~~~

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

~~~

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

Friday, 3 February 2017

Jewelled Web - February 2017 - Link Love


Frosted spider web - Jewelled Web February 2017 Silvermoss

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

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



~jewellery links~

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

Changing the colour of copper.

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

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

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

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



~non-jewellery links~

How tiny hummingbirds survive winter.

Wonderful photos of snow-clad Scotland.

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

Beautiful botanical art.

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

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

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



~latest reads~

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, 27 January 2017

Gifts for a Jeweller...




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

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

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

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




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

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

Friday, 20 January 2017

Jeweller Interview with Sycamoon

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

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

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




When and how did you start making jewellery?

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

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

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



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

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

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


Sycamoon Jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog



How do you motivate yourself to keep on creating?

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

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



What is your favourite part of making and selling jewellery?

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

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


Sycamoon Jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog



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

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



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

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

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


Sycamoon Jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog






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

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

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

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

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


***


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



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

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

Friday, 13 January 2017

Book Review - Leather & Bead Jewellery to Make by Cat Horn

Leather and Bead Jewellery to Make: 30 Cool Projects for Bracelets, Pendants and More
By Cat Horn
Published by Search Press 2016
128 pages

book-review-leather-and-bead-jewellery-cat-horn-silvermoss


First Impressions


Perhaps the first thing to comment on with this book is the title - and to state that you don't have to use leather to make the jewellery projects it contains. I can't deny I was slightly put off at first; I'm not vegetarian or vegan but I do appreciate many people either are or prefer not to use animal products if they can find an alternative. When it comes to leather cord it is easy to use a synthetic substitute that will look as good as leather, and this itself is stated right at the start of this book.


An Overview


I'm glad the title didn't stop me from picking this book up. I found this to be a fascinating collection of projects, well explained and with lots of helpful photographs. It's a nicely designed edition, a square book, (which seems to be a popular shape for jewellery/craft/project books) and clearly set out. It even has photos of all the materials each project needs, which is something I'm particularly partial to - a good image of all the components that a project needs can save many words and is very practical when it comes to planning and making a project.


At the Start


After the introduction and near-obligatory notes about materials and tools (9 pages), a detailed section on techniques is included (10 pages), as well as a nice few pages about designing jewellery (4 pages). This latter is something that is often overlooking in jewellery books, but as a topic it has a lot to offer in inspiring people to develop their own designs.


In the Middle


The second part of the book is broken down into sections for the different styles of the projects; 'The Basics', 'Braiding and Weaving', 'Macramé' and 'Mixed Techniques'. Of these 'Macramé' has the most designs but I found all the sections to contain something of interest and I'm looking forward to trying some of the projects and adapting them to utilise materials I already have, whilst learning new techniques and perhaps expanding the materials I work with.

Each project shows a photograph of the finished piece along with a list of materials and tools needed. Also included is a handy indicator of difficulty level (ranging from one to three) and the size of the finished item.


At the End


An index finishes the book along with a brief list of suppliers, many of which are based in the US (although the book itself has UK publishers).


In Summary


If you're new to cord and beads then this book should be a great introduction, with enough simple instructions to get you started without dumbing things down. And if you're a little more experienced, or just looking for inspiration, then this is a pretty good option. Out of the thirty projects I'd like to make well over half myself and I think that's a good indicator for the quality of this book.

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By the way, if you're looking for more jewellery books then check out my review of Compendium of Jewellery Making Techniques - 350 tips, techniques and trade secrets

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

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Jewelled Web - January 2017 - Link Love


Winter tree and soaring bird - Jewelled Web January 2017 Silvermoss


A new year and a (slightly) different style to my Jewelled Web jewellery round-up and general link love posts. My photos have got a little bit larger (well, longer really) and I'm going to cast my craft-based web wider and include more links worth perusing from crafts further afield from jewellery.

I'm also interested in including any links you may have found, or ones you've created yourself, either on your blog or elsewhere on the web, so do contact me if you've something you'd like to share - twitter is good (and pretty reliable) or drop me a message via email at silvermoss1 (at) gmail (dot) com

After that let's get back into old traditions, despite the new year rushing in bracing and very, very cold.

I hope you had a good Christmas. Mine was deliciously quiet, so much so that I didn't even have Christmas dinner until Boxing day. My New Year's Eve (in the 'eve' part anyway) was also peaceful, involving a log fire and subdued lighting - no bad thing at all. The weather over this period was either grey or foggy (or both) and when the sun came back out (on the 2nd of January) it was astonishing to see the colour rush back into the world. Of course, it's grey again as I type this but it was sunny earlier and, despite the frost underfoot, the birds were singing already...


Here are some of the  links I've mainly been saving up to read (more on how I do that later in the post) over the last month. I hope you find some gems here, no pun intended.



~jewellery links~

One of my Christmas gifts was a starter set for Efcolor Enamels, which is low heat enamelling (no kiln needed!) and includes masses of colours. I've yet to find the time and space to explore this area as much as I'd like but I do so hope to very soon - I've loved enamel work for so long but haven't been able to justify getting a kiln, so this looks like a wonderful alternative.

In more mainstream enamelling, I was rather taken by the idea of using pennies to enamel on - however, this tutorial is from the USA (and points out that only US pennies from before 1982 will work) and I have no idea whether UK pennies would cope with the heat involved. Fascinating stuff though, all the same.

Combining soldering and enamelling at Cinnamon Jewellery.

These exquisite polymer clay feathers caught my eye. The tutorial isn't in English but the photos are so clear that, if you're not a complete beginner, you should be able to work through it just on images alone.

Flame patina on copper - beautiful.

I've heard of Mokume Gane but have never seen the idea used in polymer clay before.

A simple tutorial for a simple Zen pendant.

A detailed tutorial on etching copper and making a wonderful bracelet in the process. Also check out these etched earrings.



~non-jewellery links~

I think this year may be when I return to cross stitch (and perhaps embroidery too). I've never thought of cross stitching onto crochet though - this fox cushion (with video tutorial) is so pretty.

And if I do venture into embroidery then I may well return to this mini-tutorial for these beautiful dragonflies. Although I do love this embroidered octopus...

I'm forever looking (so it seems) for ways to make the web easier and hope to share some of the tools I have found on my blog this year. In terms of saving links for these lists I use both Pocket and Evernote. I tend to save links to Evernote but save articles to read later (and offline) to Pocket. They're both great web tools and both have good free versions - although Evernote does restrict your use to two devices unless you pay.

One of the links saved into Evernote for the Jewelled Web is this feature from the BBC site, showing some stunning drone photographs from around the world.

This might be one of the best videos of all time - a giant panda playing with a snowman; if you've seen it before then do make sure you've seen the longer version that this links to.

Travel posters from the past make great wall art and are a nostalgic reminder of days gone by. These travel posters of the future are free to download and print - and are really worth doing so. I'm going to start with... Venus, I think, and then Kepler 16-b (not the best name for a planet perhaps, but a great poster).

And speaking of the skies, these starscapes are a delight - although slightly more dramatic than my glimpses of the fingernail Moon and Venus earlier this week.



~latest reads~

I am still reading both Great North Road and Little Dorrit - this sentence might be a recurring theme this year. For more information on my trek through these long books, check out last month's Jewelled Web.

At last I've got around to reading The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge, which I found engrossing. It's based in a hostile setting, with a macabre plant taking centre stage and a wonderfully quirky and at times slightly unlikeable (but all the more real for it) heroine.

I got two jewellery books for Christmas, one from my Jewellery Book Wish List, and the other a surprise, and rather a good one. Reviews will follow after I've fully indulged and digested but I can reveal that I am now the proud owner of How to Create Your Own Jewelry Line by Emilie Shapiro and How to make Silver Charms from Metal Clay by Sue Heaser.


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

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I hope your January and the start of the New Year are good to you. Keep warm!


~~~
By the way, if you're after yet more links/inspiration/ways to waste time on the web then check out my randomly picked Jewelled Web from November 2014(this post includes affiliate links - please check details here for more info.)