Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Making a start on a new embroidered neckpiece

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. We did – despite my having a horrid cold. My niece started having the first irregular contractions yesterday evening so should hear some happy news soon – the baby is now 11 days late and looks like he might just be in time to see in the new year.

Because of my cold I cooked a lot of spicy things over the holiday as things were tasting bland otherwise. Grinding up spices in my pestle and mortar really got me in the mood for my latest bead embroidered piece. Indeed, gathering the materials felt more like putting together a recipe and my desk is now covered with beads and threads in all the colours of a spice seller in the souk! I’ve started off with the central cabochon and I’ve made a wired armature, covered with thread in which the cabochon nestles. This armature will be encrusted with beads so the cabochon will be held very securely. The technique is the same one I used on my ‘Atlantis’ necklace but this one is is more freeform in shape and style. The photo below shows 'Spice Trail' in the very early stages, laid out with some of the beads I'm thinking of putting into it. I'll be including some hints of peacock in amongst the hot orange, to make the colour scheme 'pop' and pick up the colours of the cab.

So a happy afternoon of stitching ahead, with the wind blowing a gale and the rain lashing outside. Never mind – plenty of lovely nibbles in and some wine ready and waiting to welcome in 2014.
Happy new year!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Spice Trail necklace – a journey with beads

A few lovely hot sunny days in Tenerife was a nice escape from all the Christmas madness. Sun and sangria filled days and four hours on a plane is enough for me though and it has taken a few days before I have felt properly ‘grounded’ again and back in my routine.

Tidying my food cupboards helped to get me back in the here and now. Funny how the ordinary little jobs can do that.  It has rekindled an idea I’ve had in my head for a while based on hot spicy colours. Cayenne, paprika, cardamom, mustard, peppercorn, turmeric and saffron….. I will have some fun looking through my bead boxes finding all the right ingredients over the next day or two. The centrepiece is this beautiful cabochon with spicy coloured stripes and I have a very rough design which I will develop into a finished watercolour worksheet. The very start of an interesting beady journey I think.
The stripes on the cab are suggesting that I echo those somehow within the beading. I’m intending to photograph the entire design from start to finish and think it will make an interesting Youtube slideshow.
Family wise it is quite exciting at the moment as my niece is expecting her fourth baby – a little boy. He is now one day overdue and I am wondering if he will be a Christmas baby!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Earrings in sterling silver, copper and pearls

The last silversmithing class was busy as I wanted to finish my earrings. I love pearls against copper and using sterling wire for the wraps and the ear hooks mean that they will be comfortable. I did enjoy making tiny balls on the end of the silver wires. This is done by holding the wire in the soldering tweezers, then pointing the gas torch flame upwards and letting a drip of molten silver form.  In my preliminary sketch there were 2 pearls on the end of dangles but as I progressed I decided that a single pearl would look lovely in the little cup made by shaping, hammering and folding the pierced copper.

I have booked myself on for another term at Wensum Lodge, and I’ve ‘double booked’ which means I do my usual session, have a quick sandwich and then carry on through the next class. Several of the diehard jewellery makers seem to do this. Loads of projects on my ‘to do’ list so having twice as long will be great. It’s a nice crowd, hard working and friendy with a great tutor and a well equipped workshop, so I can see myself doing it for at least the next year.

The last gift has arrived through the post courtesy of some wonderful makers on the ‘Folksy’ website  and the tree is up and looking pretty with all its jewel colour fairy lights. I’m having to be extra organised this early as we are off for a bit of much needed winter sun.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Several projects in progress

My desk is covered with work in progress at the moment. Printed heart shaped charms and wired bead dangles wait to be incorporated into jewellery.

Two newly sawn pieces of copper sheet are ready to be filed smooth and transformed into earrings tomorrow in silversmith class. I will anneal and texture them and then shape them into organic forms. At this stage they look most unpromising, but a session with the torch, hammer and pliers will work some magic on them. Having a sketch and a rough version in scrap metal helps a lot. I've become fascinated by playing with the way you can fold metal once it's been annealed. With this design the wire wraps round then comes through the hole left in the middle. freshwater pearls strung on thinner wire create stamens. Once I've made a version in copper and become confident with the techniques I will be brave and get myself some sterling silver to do the final version.
Here is a sketch of the piece I am intending to make next term, a leafy shape with leather threaded through it. I’m intending to etch the metal with acid to make the leaves textured.  Using pliers to bring part of the metal shape to the front will make it quite dimensional and curling the stem will create a channel through which I will feed the leather cord. Always good to have a plan!
I did manage to finish one piece this week. Lovely and chunky on a 4mm leather thong. After making loads of jump rings I shaped each one in my half round pliers then applied the liver of sulphur patina. When they are threaded on the cord the bends in them makes a great squiggly texture and I have echoed this in the choice of chunky toggle clasp.
Must say the flexshaft makes the subsequent polishing sooo much easier as it does so many little jobs. Can’t imagine life without it now. It does give my workspace the appearance of a dentists though. In fact I am using dental burrs quite often in it as I love them for detailed shaping of metal and rounding off wire ends with little cup shaped ones.

Friday, 15 November 2013

'Freya' - my new Viking neck ring and pendant

It’s completed at last! Several sessions in my silversmithing class at Wensum Lodge have been happily spent on this copper piece and I’ve loved every moment of its creation.

The pendant section has been sawn out of a 0.7mm piece of copper sheet. Then it has been hammered on an anvil before being heated in a flame to anneal it (soften the metal to allow it to be worked). More hammering over a curved form made a lovely flowing shape. Then I drilled holes and attached the paddle shapes with the vintage green glass drops. The drops are wired with tiny copper discs at the base which I created with my new disc cutter and my lovely new Proxxon drill. Then I created the neck circle by using a technique called ‘Viking Weave’.  This is done by weaving a mesh of fine wire around a mandrel. Then it is drawn down a succession of holes in a drawplate, each one smaller than the last until it is the desired length and thickness. I threaded this chain over a thicker piece of wire and hammered a clasp with a hook that echoes the swirl that I had pierced in the pendant. Finally I created wire wrapped detailing and attached the pendant. Phew! No wonder I didn’t find time to blog for a bit!
Must say my poor husband is putting up with the hammering and drilling with great fortitude. It's surprising where the bits of trimmed off wire can end up. The poor man has had years of finding tiny seed beads stuck to him and now he has metal shards to contend with. There has been talk of a little den for me in the garden, where I can get up to all sorts of jewellery making mischief, which is something to look forward to.
Other than that, ‘Atlantis’  the latest bead embroidered piece went off to a new home, here are photos of it all finished.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Tooled up

I have 2 projects on the go at the moment, both very different to anything I’ve done before. My ‘Atlantis’ bead embroidery is coming to completion as I am working the chain section. Bead embroidery over an armature means that I can achieve a much more 3 dimensional look. Traditional bead embroidery means that the edging is done last, when a leather or ultrasuede backing is added. My ‘armature technique’ is different, as the boundaries between front, sides and back are much less defined. I love the back of my pieces to be neat and tidy and this one looks well finished on the reverse. I will do a hand stitched clasp to blend in with the beadwork.

Part of the enjoyment of going to silversmithing classes is chatting to the other students and swapping hints and tips about various tools and gadgets.  It’s amazing how many new tools I’m learning how to use and I especially enjoy sawing and filing. I have set up my area at home so that I can use a bench pin for sawing and filing. This is just as well as there is plenty of that to do in my copper necklace. I’ve cut all the bits and now I have to shape and hammer a texture into them. The green beads will be given a coil of wire and hang from the 3 ‘paddles’ with jump rings. I will make a curved bail on the pendant and it will have a Viking weave chain and hand forged clasp.

Yet more exciting additions to my working area! A Proxxon drill, complete with stand, footpedal and… joy of joys a flexshaft. YAY! Also some dapping tools and a disc cutter so that I can make my own hammered metal bead caps.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Getting to grips with Viking Knit

I love learning new techniques and I’ve been meaning to try Viking Knit for some time. Ages ago I got this lovely handmade set of mandrels and drawplate and I’m finally giving it a go. I’m intending to use it to suspend the copper pendant I’m making in class. The next stage after forming the weave over the mandrel is to draw it down through progressively smaller holes which will tighten the weave. I’m doing some practice pieces first until I am happy with my technique. I'm learning to use a jewellers saw tomorrow, another useful skill to have. I always head for a café after class and have so far managed to resist the delicious looking chocolate or carrot cake. I may not resist tomorrow!

Yesterday afternoon was spent working on my ‘Atlantis’ neckpiece. I made lots of changes and added an extra section to the centre to make it look more balanced. In the end I decided to make it look formal and symmetrical in design and I’m now adding the beads to the frame. I’m really pleased with the changes I made to the initial plan, it works so much better this way.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Something rich and strange

It had it all. Lovely costumes, fabulous jewellery, great setting….. and a terrifying and lumbering creature. No I’m not talking about 'Strictly', I’m on about ‘Atlantis’-  a new serial that will see me glued to the TV on a Saturday. Myth and magic have often been the inspiration for my beaded pieces – Ariadne, Persephone, Minerva…. All have put in an appearance on my beading desk over the years.
So I’m inspired to make something in deep jewel-like colours with gold highlights over the next few days. In the photo below my beads are going through an 'auditioning' process as I decide where they will ultimately be stitched on. The gentler occupation of applying beads using embroidery techniques to make a rich tapestry will contrast nicely with all the sawing and metalwork I’ll also be doing in silversmithing class this week.
Talking of metalwork, I’ve been reorganising my workspace. The desk has now been raised by an inch and an overhang created so I can attach my benchpin. I’ve had my first order of sheet through from Cooksons together with various other sundries such as files, tin snips, saw, rawhide mallet etc. The fact that Cooksons were offering freepost until end of month did little to curb my enthusiasm! It’s a slippery slope and I find myself hankering after a flexshaft drill! Oh well, when the boat comes in and all that.
In amongst all of that I found the time to make another YouTube video. This is my eighth! You can watch it below if you like.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

My precious!

Yes I know it’s small and plain but it’s the first thing I’ve made in silversmithing class at Wensum Lodge and I shall treasure it forever!

Spent a very happy morning in class learning how to file, sand and polish. There's something very exciting about wearing a full face mask and using some power tools! After a final buff on a wheel with jewellers rouge it was done and gleaming.

We were asked to take in some sketches of what we would like to make next and I had done 3 sketches of proposed pieces. Val the tutor said all were achievable but after a chat we decided on my idea for a copper pendant on a Viking weave chain.

I will be learning how to make the chain at home over the next few days and then next Tuesday I am going to learn how to use a jewellers piercing saw. Watch this space to see if my fingers survive unscathed!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Breaking out of the comfort zone

I must admit I was a bit nervous about my first session at the silversmithing class. Luckily there were 3 other new students who were also unfamiliar with all the tools and equipment in the workroom. Most of the others seem quite experienced. Our first project was a sterling silver ring. This involved using a piercing saw, soldering the join and filing off the lumps and bumps (of which I had plenty). Then we used a rawhide mallet to reshape the ring over an iron mandrel.

I enjoyed how physical it all was – so different to anything I’ve done before. Next week we will complete our rings and we have been asked to come up with some thoughts about what we would like to make. I’ll take my sketchbook along with me next week. I’m keen to learn to do some cold joins by using a drill and rivets as I’m thinking this is something I can do at home. I will save the soldering and chemicals for the safety of the classroom for the time being. Husband much relieved by this arrangement!
Back at home I spent a very happy afternoon making myself a pair of earrings inspired by elderberries, I love the elder tree in it's Autumn guise, with the red stems against the black glossy berries making such a pleasing contrast. I found some wire that was just the right colour, which I made into tiny coils. I’m wearing them as I write and I think they will go with lots of outfits.


Monday, 16 September 2013

Why I make art

Isn’t it funny how one train of thought can lead to another. I was making lunch the other day, using some cheese triangles. You know the round lidded box they come in? Well it took me right back to when I was a little girl and I always used to get the empty box and create tiny gardens inside them. A little miniature world of flowers and shells. I liked to try to create a perfect small something in a big crazy scary world. I must still be that child in part, because when I think about it, that really is why I make art now.  It helps me to respond to the world and organise what I see and feel. I feel a (all too brief) sense of completeness just as I finish a piece. Just like the feeling I got with my tiny cheesebox worlds! Then it all starts up again and I have to make something else to satisfy my soul.

My latest piece is done and will be going off to a new home next week. The Mookite and Jasper semi precious beads are encrusted onto a wired needlewoven base. I’m pleased with the warm neutral colours and I think it will go with loads of outfits. I looked up Mookite in my ‘Crystal  Bible’ and it says it helps improve organisational skills and increases versatility. The perfect stone for the lady who will be wearing it!

I’ve been experimenting with Photoshop in order to try out some repeat patterns and colour schemes. When I was working as a graphic designer I used Photoshop a lot, but haven’t used it for jewellery ideas so this has been an interesting exercise. Below is a tiny stitched sample and my experiment from it in Photoshop. A good starting point for a collar style neckpiece I think.

My silversmithing course starts tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Ideas for colour schemes

We’ve an eclectic selection of things in our kitchen and I’ve always loved the vintage glass bottles on the windowsill. They reflect the light differently according to what the weather conditions are like and I was looking at them this morning  daydreaming over my toast about how nice it would be to find some handmade glass with those colours in.

We popped into our local charity shop on the way to the supermarket and I happened to glance inside the glass case where the jewellery is displayed. My eye was drawn to a strand of gorgeous glass beads – 34 of them in all – in just the colours I wanted. Brand new and with the shop label still attached! I will think of something interesting to do with them once my Rocky Shore necklace is done.
Here are some pictures of progress so far. I wanted it to be richly encrusted, organic, and have the appearance of small pebbles laying on top of a larger rock in amongst strands of seaweed. I’ve used a wire armature (a technique I’ve been experimenting with a lot recently).
Goodness, ‘Strictly’ starts this evening. My poor husband watches under duress whilst I ogle the costumes and jewellery.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Inspirations from a rocky shore

We have just about recovered from the week of partying and wedding celebrations in Conwy. The weather was lovely on the big day and the church shook to the rafters with some truly magnificent Welsh voices! Whenever we visit North Wales I am struck by how different the landscape is there compared to here in Norfolk. Our hotel room looked out over the Great Orme. We just don’t have anything like that mountainous piece of rock in this part of the world, although the landscape is just as beautiful. Here it is fairly flat apart from a few hilly bits in North Norfolk. We boast wide skies and unbroken vistas with marshland, reed beds, windmills and the Norfolk Broads. What both places do have in common are stony beaches and I love to stroll along the shore poking about amongst the pebbles and seaweed.

I just can’t rest until I’ve made a piece that reminds me of pebbles on the shore, so I’ve started to gather my sketches and materials together – a process that is in itself a bit like beachcombing. I’m thinking I will include a sweet little black pebble that I picked up on the shore and gave a bit of a polish. I think it best to keep to an earthy palette of colours, with slate, terracotta and marble greys still giving me plenty of scope to play with juxtapositions of colour and texture.

Some of my beach finds, with a watercolour sketch and some jasper cabochons

I’ve also got some updates to do for my website over the next couple of days, as I’ve yet to list the last couple of pieces I made. September already and my silversmithing course starts on 17th. Can’t wait - I’m really excited!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Jewellery making plans for Autumn

I’ve finally taken the plunge and signed up for a Silversmithing and Jewellery Making course. I’m up for some new challenges and it will be nice to go off one day a week to learn new techniques and meet some new people. The adult education centre where the course is held is lovely, right next to the river Wensum. I’m really looking forward to trying my hand at all sorts of new things. First though I need a holiday. Sometimes you don’t realise how tired you are until you actually stop.

I finished my ‘Tropical Flower’ jewellery over the weekend. I made earrings to match using the cherry quartz drops and Lucite flowers. I am pleased with the way the wire wraps at the top of the drops adds texture. Tiny woven seed bead picots at the top help them to match the necklace. A few months ago I would never have thought about using Lucite flowers or wire wrapping, but here it all is in one piece. Using wire in a garland style necklace really does help it to keep a lovely curved shape when worn.

The changing colours of Autumn always have me reaching for beads in berry shades. After my wireworking over the last few days I’ve a vision in my head for something completely different, a stack of bangles, possibly a set of three based on hedgerow plants. Needle felted and encrusted with pretty bijouterie which will include beaded beads, bead embroidery and just maybe some little resin charms that I will create myself. I’ve not done any resin casting before and it’s time to give it a whirl. No holding me back is there!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Totally tropical

Aloha! My beading desk looks very tropical this weekend. I’m surrounded by cherry quartz, fluorite, aventurine,  tiny seed pearls, red coral and some pretty Lucite flowers and acrylic leaves. I’ve always used glass beads before now, but in this instance I want a really lush garland of bigger blooms and it needs to be light and airy.

I’ve made three braided wired strands with the quartz, fluorite and aventurine and I’m playing about with the placement of the flowers and leaves. I need the back of the necklace to be slimmer, so I’m planning to make that with a woven tube of seed beads embellished with a few larger beads. Mixing techniques and materials has been wonderfully liberating!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

New ways with jasper donuts

A very hectic week. The big family get-together on Saturday was lovely and the weather was kind to us. I must admit I prefer the cooler summer days, it means I can concentrate on my jewellery making better. I had to take some time out to search for my wedding guest finery and have hair done – all sorted top to toe including new shoes, bag and a fascinator. If I lean over a stream I swear it could catch a trout! Just hope I can transport it to North Wales in one piece.

Despite limited time for jewellery making I’ve a new piece in progress. I love finding new ways to showcase semi precious donuts. This is a fusion of wire wrapping, micro macramé and bead weaving. I’m adding the smaller seed beads to complement the reddish pink in the jasper donut and add some shine to contrast with the matt linen threads. The dove coloured colour scheme is lovely to work with after the Mardi Gras colour scheme of the necklace I finished last week.


Using the copper wire in pieces meant I had to find a way to seal the surface. After some online research I discovered Renaissance Wax.  Fabulous PH neutral waxy stuff used by the British Museum to protect precious artifacts – including suits of armour. You can apply several coats to build up a lovely protective surface and it helps to preserve colour and finish.



Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Getting ready for some celebrations

I just can’t believe that it’s nearly August already can you? The year is speeding by. August is always a busy month for me, not to mention a spendy one, as we have lots of birthdays in the family this coming weekend. It means a fabulous big rowdy get-together and delicious food cooked by my lovely sister. We’ve a wedding at the end of the month in North Wales too, so that will involve a trip into town to search for a new outfit. I’ve hardly bought a thing since I finished work two years ago – being at home all day means being casually attired, but a church wedding gives me an excuse to splurge and another excuse for sporting a feathery nonsense on my head!

Thinking about celebrations seems to have translated into my beadwork this week. My ‘Mardi Gras’ necklace is a wild explosion of fringe in a riot of colours. I used a finger weaving technique for this, something I’ve not tried before. The clear button that I’ve used as a fastening allows the colours to show through so that it blends in nicely.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A big bowl of bead soup

Already the hedgerow is showing subtle changes from flowers to berries. We noticed that the blackberries are starting to form and the pretty pink dog roses have dropped their petals, to be replaced - oh so soon - by bright rosehips.

Even I have had to admit defeat for a couple of days due to the heat and humidity. Even lifting a needle to stitch a bead has been too much of an effort, let alone the physicality of wirework. However, it's a tiny bit more comfortable this morning so I've been mixing up some batches of 'bead soup, inspired by berries.

These will be going into a lush braided rope, with berry shaded CLon threads. The picture shows the necklace in the very early stages. I've made the loop through which the button fastening will go and I'm just starting to incorporate the beads from the piles of bead soup.


I'm trying to ignore the vast heap of ironing that has built up over the week. Far too hot is my feeble excuse for skiving off housework!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Shimmering Sunflowers

Sitting in the garden and completing my sunflower necklace has made the week fly by in a happy, hot haze. I have used such a pretty toggle clasp on it in the shape of a leaf. It really suits it I think.

To view it in detail and to purchase online visit: http://www.beadizzy.com/

Some new bits of equipment arrived this week, a steel mandrel for making earrings and an oval one for making cuffs. I’ve decided I need to diversify a bit. The mandrels are very heavy and made of steel. I can hammer and bend to my hearts content on them and they will last a lifetime. Actually they look quite sculptural sitting on my beading desk, but I make a mental note never to drop one on my toes!

Watching the minibeasts in the garden has been interesting. We’ve several frogs in varying sizes in residence. I built ‘Frog Nirvana’ early in the year, with loads of wood, rocks and shallow bowls to put water in. It doesn’t look tidy, but there is always some sort of tiny creature to see there.
On the other side of the seat, under the kitchen window the sweet peas have run riot. Will have to try keeping some seed from them.
Talking of seeds I love these little seed heads on the pansies. Inspiration for beadwork at every turn this year.