Thursday, 31 December 2015

Planning a necklace inspired by honeysuckle

The spirits of nature are fickle this year. We've just come back from a walk in the glorious sunshine. We have a hedge that runs alongside our house and there is always something interesting to see in it. Sloes in the autumn, as well as hawthorn berries, not to mention all the varied birds and smaller creatures - we even had a hedgehog make it's way through a tiny gap in our fence in the summer - and they are rarer these days.
Todays surprise was honeysuckle, flowering away quite happily thanks to the mild weather here. Many times over the last few days we have counted our blessings, not to have endured the misery of a flooded out home. It must have been the most horrible Christmas ever for some.
I love the delicate cream and yellow flowers in the honeysuckle plant, and the shapes in the curling flowers, and I can't help wondering how I could make a piece of jewellery inspired by it. Actually I'm quite excited by the idea, as I haven't made many things with yellow shades. Those little stamens could be made by enamelling some headpins. An exciting parcel arrived yesterday with some new enamelling equipment so I now have all I need to give it a go. I also bought a lovely little nugget of lemon coloured jasper that could be wire wrapped and used as a feature in the necklace.
So it will be out with my sketchbook after lunch - I do like a challenge.
Happy new Year!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Woodland inspired wirewrapped necklaces

It's been a frantically busy couple of months. Decorating the house, assorted repairs and decluttering has left little time for jewellery related activities. With the start of Autumn came an urge to tackle all the jobs that I had been putting off for far too long. With the aim of transforming our humble abode into a calm and tidy pale blue haven in time for Christmas I set to work with the wallpaper stripper. Oh how good it felt to see all the shabby old paper go! Seven big boxes of books and CDs were packed up and sent off to Ziffit, which involved several trips with a shopping trolley down to the nearest collection point.

The upside of these trips was that we got to walk through the woods on the way home. We are very lucky to have some lovely open spaces to wander around our area. One of these is a huge open area that was once the country park attached to a Catton Hall. It was set out by Humphrey Repton and many of the original trees remain. Scuffling through the fallen Autumn leaves in the woodland that borders the park is a wonderful antidote to all the household tasks. I love all the different personalities the trees seem to have- especially the old ivy-clad ones. How easy it is to imagine faces within the foliage - often my daydreams find their way into my sketchbook.

A fantasy page from my sketchbook
Being close to nature always lifts my mood and inspires me to create something when I get back home. I like to fill a wooden bowl with treasures from my collection, a leather cord here, a gemstone there, adding whatever takes my fancy and transports me back to the woodland with its many colours and textures.

One ivy inspired and one bramble inspired with a rose quartz centre
I allow my fingers to wander where they please to place the beads and wrap the wire, keeping in mind my sketch and the memory of the walk through the wood with it's fleeting magical glimpses.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Exploring polymer clay and mixed media

I first came across polymer clay many years ago when I first started making jewellery. At the time my skills were limited, as I was just starting out. Revisiting it after all this time has been quite exciting, and I was keen to find some ways to combine it with other mixed media elements. My 'Paprika Pendant' incorporates polymer clay using what is called a 'Mokume Gane' technique.

This results in a pleasing mottled surface, just right for the faux ivory look I was aiming at. I also made some beads using the same technique to visually link the leather cord to the pendant design. I have added a layer of resin to the pendant and beads and then sanded and polished them to a soft sheen.

The 'Purple Swirl' necklace uses polymer clay and copper. The central piece is cut from a flat sheet of copper and then heated in a flame to soften the metal. This makes it possible to achieve the bends to the metal and a hammered texture. I gave  the copper a patina with liver of sulfur before buffing out the highlights. I did not use resin on the polymer this time, but buffed the surfaces with a cotton mop on my flexshaft with some Rennaisance Wax to give them a bit of a sheen.

I was aiming for a bohemian look, so included the dangles and swirls to give it lots of tactile qualities and movement. All in all some interesting experiments and as usual my head is now full of 'what ifs'!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Soldering a bezel for polymer clay

I have finished soldering and I now have my sterling silver bezel done. Just needs to be whizzed round in my barrel tumbler to remove any last bits of firescale that the picklean didn't get off. Then a final once over with the flexshaft to polish it and it will be ready to be filled with my faux ivory inlays. The central hole involved some fiddly sawing, but I'm pleased with the neat and tidy finish I got. In the end I decided to go for a solid backplate to make the pendant really substantial. I've just weighed the piece and it's 12.5 grams of silver so far. Exactly 2 inches high, so just the chunky look I wanted to achieve. Having the barrel polisher is just brilliant. I can chop garlic and herbs and prepare crispy roasties to go with the lovely piece of lamb we've got for tea whilst it swishes round and gets magically cleaned. Might have a glass or two of something after all the hard work!


This afternoon I'll be looking on the internet at ancient artifacts to get some ideas of the sort of surfaces I want to include in the 3 sections on the pendant. I'll print some pictures out and add them to my sketchbook to refer to as I roll out my clay.  I'll decide what colour of leather to put it on later, brown might look good, and I may want to make some discs from the clay, with large holes in, to string on the cord and link it in with the pendant surface. Decisions, decisions!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Finding your 'Flow'

Anybody who paints, sews, throws pots, makes jewellery - or does anything creative will know what 'flow' feels like. It's that happy state when time is irrelevant, you are happily immersed in what you are doing and you are feeling challenged and yet in control. It's a lovely feeling and a total escape from the stresses and strains of life. Wirework always does it for me. Weaving with several strands at once and concentrating on the twists and turns of each one, trying to achieve a balance in colour and form and just the satisfaction of turning a pile of raw materials into an object from your own imagination is the best way to spend a few hours. The time just races by!

I like having more than one piece of jewellery on the go at a time. So this neckpiece is being made in between sessions of work on my faux ivory piece. It's based around a big chunk of chrysoprase, one of my favourite stones at the moment.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Faux Ivory Experiments

It's amazing what you can fit into a Monday if you really 'go for it'. After an early breakfast of bread hot from the oven and some boiled eggs we headed out to do battle with unruly hedges and a patio studded with dandelions. A few hours later and it looked tidy enough to sit outside eating lunch and feeling rather smug. Weeding is, I find a perfect time for daydreaming about new designs for jewellery. A tiny striped snail got me thinking about something cream and black with different patterns in silver and polymer clay, so as soon as we got in and cleaned ourselves up a bit I got the sketchbook out.

The first stage is cutting the sections from the silver sheet, this will make the container for the clay. I'll need to decide what to do with the back. As these pieces are over 8grams already I may not go for a totally silver backplate. I'll mull it over. Now to the soldering torch to get the shapes joined up. Busy busy busy!

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Persephone's alter ego

I've had this necklace brewing in my mind's eye for a while. Some time ago I made a beadwork neckpiece inspired by the Greek myth of Persephone. The story goes that Persephone was abducted by Hades and taken to live in the underworld. Later, Persephone was allowed to return to the upper realms, but because she had eaten some pomegranate seeds, she had to return to live in the underworld for some of the year, so it is said, we have our summer and winter seasons.

My original piece was covered in flowers and foliage in summery shades. At the time I wondered if perhaps Persephone ever tired of skipping around in flowers and drifty dresses and was actually pleased to have a change! I imagined her reunited with her darker wardrobe. I imagined too, what a piece of jewellery might look like - all twisty root shapes and quite gothic. This is the result of my musings, it has taken me a while to get round to creating it, but sometimes ideas take root and grow in the dark, then emerge when we are least expecting them.

I used a large piece of natural rhodonite which I wrapped and curled round with copper wire. Then I created a double strand chain with more coiled elements and lots of beaded links. Finally, I dipped the whole thing in liver of sulphur to give it a dark patina, and then polished it to reveal some shinier areas.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Twists and turns

Things have been busy over the last few days. I sent my first ever package of jewellery off to the Assay Office in London to have hallmarks put on. They should be back in a few days time and then I will photograph them and put them on the website. The website is undergoing a bit of a makeover and that too should be going live in mid August. In between all that, I've been working with gemstone nuggets and copper wire to make some very organic looking pieces. We have a lovely gem shop in Norwich, situated in the old guildhall, and I love to go poking around the many containers of goodies - it's a bit like beachcombing - you never know quite what will inspire you to pick it up and start daydreaming of what it could become.

This picture jasper stone reminded me of an old map, so I encased it in paths of copper with some of those spiral motifs you often see on ancient stones.

The turquoise blue one is made of magnesite, very rugged and needed a loose flowing approach. I chose a soft blue/grey leather thong to suspend it from.

After such ruggedness I fancied making something elfin, so took a piece of rhodonite and encased it with wire and glass beads. Tomorrow I will work on the chain, which I think will be made of glass beads made into little links with coils at each end. Delicate and rather pretty I think. I love working in berry shades.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Three new pieces

I finished my silversmithing class a couple of weeks ago. The two years have sped by and have been enormously enjoyable. I took my most recent pieces in to be looked at by the tutor and she seemed really pleased with my grasp of soldering techniques. When I first started classes I would try to avoid soldering, but I quickly realised that there were things I wanted to create that could only be made with a flaming torch, so I gritted my teeth and got to grips with it. The piece below is the culmination of all those efforts, the tutor said it was a 'masterly demonstration of soldering' and I felt chuffed to bits!

The forget-me-not piece is done, a nice way to incorporate some soldered leaves and some melted silver nuggets. I have a new toy to play with over the summer, a sand casting kit, so that I can make other shapes from melted silver. This involves lots of heat and a crucible. Scary but fun - I'll let you know how it goes.

I love wire wrapping, it's so absorbing and meditative, the sweet little butterfly has some Swarovski crystals in it and is suspended from a special necklet that holds a nice curve. It's called an Omega Chain and comes from Cooksons. Anything more complicated would not be appropriate for such a delicate piece.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Sea treasures and seed pods

I love the challenge of making something from an idea in my sketchbook. Sometimes the finished piece changes during the making, as happened with the green pendant - named 'Octopus Garden'

The blue pendant kept pretty much to the original drawing. This one really stretched me in terms of working out in which order to solder everything, I used all the different grades of solder - hard, medium, easy and finally extra easy.

I can't believe how far I've come since my first tentative steps in silversmithing 2 years ago, and I finally feel that I can I can make pretty much anything I can imagine or sketch. For the pendant below, based on sketches of seed pods I even managed to beat my old Nemisis - the dreaded sweat soldering. Sweat soldering means melting the solder on one piece of metal then placing it on top of another piece of metal and heating it from underneath until the two pieces fuse together. The leaf on the bail uses this technique. This piece is now ready to have all kinds of pretty things put into it.

Thank goodness I have a tumbling machine to do the polishing, it would take ages to get into all the little crevices. I just put my pieces in the tumbler then let the steel shot and barrelbrite do all the hard work while I sit outside the back door and get soothed by the machine gently swishing away.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Forget-me-not necklace

I have such a pretty piece of jewellery on my desk this weekend - a sterling silver necklace adorned with tiny forget-me-not flowers.

 I have made the frame and the flowers, referring to a photo for the colour and design of them and I am just playing about with the positioning. I made my own teeny tiny headpins by balling up silver wire with my torch, then I filed and sanded them so they perfectly sit within the delicate yellow beads I used for the centres of the flowers. Making my own fixtures and fittings gives me a satisfying level of finish and finesse to the piece. After all a forget-me-not is a dainty little flower.

I will construct the necklace including the clasp before I finally complete the wire wrapping that will secure them in place. I decided that I wanted a different link on each side of the necklace before the silver chain that will complete the back. I have hand forged these, one is a tiny heart and the other is the symbol for infinity. What a romantic piece this is and actually it occurs to me that it could be the perfect 'something blue' for a bride!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Silver nuggets

Any jewellery maker who works with silver inevitably collects lots of little scraps and trimmings. I'm talking about the 'scrim' between pressings of disks, jump rings that haven't quite worked and so on. I collect all mine in an old baccy tin and every so often I have a session of weighing, melting and polishing to make them into the silver nuggets I like to include in my work.

I weigh them on a tiny jewellers scale.....
I place them on a charcoal block and melt them with my torch.....

and then I put them in some jewellery pickle to take off the firescale.

Ok, I know they don't look very promising when they are fresh from the torch, but when cleaned they look great, very organic and nicely textured. If a shinier finish is called for a bit of sanding does the job nicely. I'm using some at the moment in a pair of earrings, here they are in the early stages, soldering done and now about to sand and refine the finish before the resin goes in.


Sunday, 15 March 2015

Clementine - a necklace under construction

Things are a bit noisy in the Jones' household this weekend. I've been cutting the sterling disks that make up the little bead caps in the chain for my ' Clementine' necklace.

The device I use for stamping out the circular shapes requires some hefty bashing with a large hammer. I tried doing it at my bench but it makes the whole house reverberate, so I make them sitting cross legged on the kitchen floor. Feels very primitive! I wanted the links to echo the design I used for the centrepiece, here is a picture of a single link section.

I had to use 3 different grades of silver solder in their construction - easy, hard and also medium in paste form to solder the jump rings.

Will spend the rest of the afternoon working on the rest of the chain, but with all that hammering I can eat a big slice of cake with afternoon tea guilt free!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Shapes and textures in silver

The Larch tree which I pass underneath on my almost daily walk to the Post Office often has cones on the ground underneath it. These are long and tightly scaled, quite unlike fir cones, and I love the shape of them. I often look up and spy magpies in the topmost branches, and the irony is not lost on me, as the Larch is supposed to be a protector against thieves according to folklore. The branches in the hedgerow near this majestic old tree are covered in lichen, making them look very interesting and gnarly. So I set out to make a piece of jewellery inspired by all this wonderful imagery and did a quick sketch first. I often like to imagine what kind of  ‘Dryad’ or tree deity might be associated with a tree or I imagine the mystical beings that protect the hedgerow plants. This it helps me to decide what form the jewellery will take. The being that inhabits this particular stretch of hedge is male to my mind's eye, so a strong design was called for. Hammering the bark texture on an anvil with a hammer was oh so therapeutic!


My latest area for experimentation in my silversmithing class has involved making slots in which to suspend a pendant and the main section on this necklace hangs from such a slot. I decided to make it asymmetrical, with a squiggle on one side and a ball soldered on the other. The final step was the chain inspired by those lichen covered branches. Tiny crystals are woven in and all my jump rings are neatly soldered, making the necklace very sturdy. I’ll need to send this off to be hallmarked at the Assay Office, as there is a fair bit of silver there. I now have my own maker’s mark which is kept in London, at Goldsmiths Hall, ready to be added together with the little leopards head and the year and silver grade mark.

The necklace below is inspired by a bowl of pot pourri, the larger chain links have been hand forged by me. I like making links – it’s a real challenge finding innovative ways to suspend pendants.


Saturday, 17 January 2015

In the frame - two new necklaces

Lots going on at the workbench this weekend. Spent yesterday constructing the frames and various other elements for two new pieces. The rectangular one involved some very fiddly soldering to get the wire that dissects the ovals to sit nicely in place. But I'm pleased with the way it's looking so far, even with just an initial clean up of the firescale.


I'm planning to get some intense colours into it - and I've been playing with colour options in photoshop, to see how it could look.

These experiments are very rough, but they do allow me to explore colour options very quickly, just by using the sliders on the colour edit part of the program.

This piece will be going off to Goldsmiths Hall in London to have my unique hallmark applied to it. This imposes on me an even stronger urge to get it right!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Plans for 2015

I've been busy at the workdesk over the last few days, hammering, soldering, stringing and mixing resin to finish 2 of the necklaces I started last year. These 2 pieces are very different - one chunky and rustic, inspired by gathering seeds in the Autumn, and the other one glittering with fiery greens and ambers - hence her name - 'Aurora'.

Both of them have found new homes and I'm starting some new pieces this week, I'm itching to do some more wire-wrapping and have an idea for a piece inspired by a coral reef. It will give me an excuse to use some lovely vibrant colours.

I'm planning some larger pieces this Spring - so I have registered with the Assay Office in London, so that I can have my bigger pieces hallmarked. I'm very excited, as I am having my own makers punch created with my unique mark on and this will be applied together with the other statutory marks that make up a hallmark.