Friday, 28 March 2014

Making some connections

A very busy Friday at the workbench. I have two necklaces on the go at the moment and I am hand forging every piece of them. No shop bought elements at all, as I want to set myself the challenge of making even the clasps from metal. Each necklace needs a different approach and I am thinking carefully about the shapes I use and how the chain links are formed.

The necklace on the right is going to have some wires soldered to the shapes and then the resulting areas will be filled with enamels. This should give it the look of cloisonne as I am intending to use several colours. I am using a cooler melt enamel so that I can fire it at home. I have a special little enamelling stove to use for that. The necklace on the left has been etched in a tank with ferric chloride and then enamels added.  This afternoon I will anneal and shape the two shapes that will link it to a chain. I have been cutting my jump rings using a saw - so much neater than cutting with flush cutters, although the technique takes some mastering. Just as well I enjoy sawing as I have done a lot this morning.
Once these two pieces are done I am planning a new bead embroidered neckpiece called 'Bird of Paradise. Very rich and colourful with shapes resembling a lyrebird making the centrepiece. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

My adventure with enamels

I’ve had a really busy and interesting week, not to mention varied, in terms of jewellery making. I put the finishing touches to ‘Marina’ yesterday. The centrepiece has turned out well with the pale shell behind the abalone circle combined with micro macramé and wirework. Working out the perfect way to attach everything presented a hugely enjoyable challenge.

In class I’ve been trying out the brand new enamelling kiln. Luckily I had some really patient coaching from my tutor, who is encouraging me to try all the things I’ve always wanted to have a go at. I’ve never used glass powder enamels before and the process is quite complex, but interesting and rewarding. After piercing, annealing and shaping my piece I had to clean the areas where the enamel was going with a little fibreglass tipped brush. Then follows a process that reminds me of panning for gold! Fine glass powder is swirled with water in a tiny container and every so often the milky liquid on top poured off until larger sediment is left in the cup. This is then applied to the jewellery with a tiny dental spatula and the excess water wicked off with a tiny corner of tissue. Then it has to dry on top of the kiln which is heating up in readiness to perform its magic. It has to be at 800 degrees and then the piece is popped carefully in. After a minute or two (you keep checking) it is done. It doesn’t look at all pretty at this stage, rough, black, and firescaled. I’ve learned over the short time I’ve been silversmithing that this is nothing to worry about, polishing, buffing and adding patina will transform it into something lovely – you hope! Here it is in the process of it’s transformation with some chain links I’ve been experimenting with to suspend it. I will need to think about the way I will construct the bail to hang it.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Nifty Knotting

It really doesn't feel like a year ago that I was sorting out the 'wildlife zone' in the garden. I thought I had better get it done this morning as the frogs, and for that matter all the other garden visitors seem to be about early this year due to the lovely weather. So I've been hefting huge flints, tiles, bits of wood and pots about to make a haven for the froggies. The garden seat will be taken out of the shed this afternoon, after which there are chocolate muffins and a nice pot of tea in the sunshine.

I decided I wanted a really creative way to attach the pretty shell pieces to my beaded rope necklace. In order to blend in nicely with the marine theme in the braid I want some knotting and some groups of beads in the space under the smaller disk. This meant drilling holes with my trusty flexshaft drill. I've taped the pieces to hold them in my vice so I have both hands free to knot and weave.

Tomorrow I'm planning to spend the day playing with my rolling mill, I want to make some textured metal pieces to take to class on Tuesday which I plan to enamel using the kiln in the workshop.

Friday, 14 March 2014

I love layers

Building up a richly textured surface with beads is a wonderfully relaxing and meditative process. In a piece like this intuition plays an important part in getting the combination of bead finishes just right. After all there is so much to choose from, from the sparkle of crystal to the soft sheen of pearl and shell. The knotting in this piece plays a very important role for me, as it represents the aqua coloured ropes I love looking at when I visit the seaside. I had some fun sorting through my box of shell pendants and in the end I have decided to layer an abalone disk on top of a larger silvery/cream/smoke coloured piece.

Another new toy arrived last week. All the powders, gadgets and gizmos I need to begin some experiments with enamelling. More about that when I've had the chance to have a bit of a play.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Marina - a new knotted necklace

Whenever we go away we seem to be drawn towards marinas. Sitting on a harbour wall watching the world go by is a lovely way to relax on holiday. I could happily sit for hours watching well camouflaged crabs on rocks and spotting the odd shimmer of a silvery fish. It all fascinates me, I love the faded greens and blues of the piles of rope on the quayside and all things marine have inspired my latest piece.

 I have photos pinned up whilst I work and I have suspended the braid from my fly fisherman’s vice. This makes the knotting process flow as I can use both hands to knot and place the beads. It will be quite richly encrusted when done, so this is just the first stage. I have yet to pick out the abalone shell piece that will adorn the centre. I have made tiny wire coils and placed them at intervals and plan to thread strands of beads through them. I got the idea from the wires on a fishing rod through which the line passes.

A lovely way to spend Sunday afternoon – but time to go down now and start the roast beef whilst Mr J watches the rugby!

Friday, 7 March 2014


The tidy up didn't last long did it! Here is my desk today with a new piece in the very first stages. It will be a thick embellished knotted rope style necklace encrusted with pretty shell and all kinds of things reminiscent of the sea and with an abalone disk centrepiece. More pics over the weekend as it progresses.


Here is the new rolling mill, you can just see my little soldering torch beside it and the drill and flexshaft above. Actually I quite like the clutter as long as it's organised chaos.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

New pieces completed at last

My workbench looks like a bomb has hit it  with piles of little beads everywhere and I really need a good old tidy up this afternoon whilst I mull over what I would like to make next. I need to get some new things done to put on my website as my welcome page hasn’t changed in a while. Spice Trail is done at last. I’m really pleased with how it has turned out and it is one of my favourite pieces ever. It feels substantial and yet is light and supple – which is just what I want to achieve in a bead embroidered piece. It will go off to a new home within the next few days.

My experiments with spirals in silversmithing class have been interesting, if a little stressful. I now know why they call this technique ‘sweat soldering’. It reduced me to a perspiring anxious heap! I made a disk which I had hammered and textured and wanted to solder on the seven hammered spirals that I had made out of thin tubing. I melted spots of solder on the front of the disk then placed the spirals on the solder spots. The tutor told me how to heat from the reverse using firing bricks and a piece of wire screen to raise it up so I could get the torch flame underneath. I thought I had fused the spirals in place and dropped the pendant in the pickle bath to clean the firescale off. Imagine my horror to see all the pieces come off! It took several attempts before I eventually ‘got it’. But I felt so good when I came out of class to have mastered something new that was so completely out of my comfort zone. Here is the finished piece.