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 cafĂ© 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!