Sunday, 22 May 2016

Aunts, eau de Cologne and art nouveau

You end up going down some interesting alleyways when you wander down memory lane. Thinking about my childhood led me to remember my Aunts. Several and varied, they played an important part in my early life. Some of them are recalled clearly, as they lived nearby, others visited occasionally, bringing birthday and Christmas gifts. One occasional visitor was Aunt Blanche. Black clad, with a built up shoe and sporting a chignon, she was a one woman neighbourhood watch of a lady, she would brandish a poker at would-be vandals, and once painted (illegally of course) her own double yellow lines on the pavement outside her house. I thought she was wonderful, and for several years running she would bring me a volume from the ‘Observers books of wildlife’ series. I had Wildflowers, Birds, Fish…. and several others. It started a love of wildlife that has stayed with me all my life.

Then there was Aunt Frances, who lived in Reedham, a windswept marshy village on the Norfolk Broads. I remember her kitchen, with it’s rag rugs and table covered with a tablecloth long enough to make a perfect hiding place for a little girl. Best of all though was the egg timer she kept on a shelf. Made in the shape of a horseshoe, it fascinated me and I would sit in my hidey hole under the table and turn it over and over. Then Uncle Alfred would tempt me out, put me up on his shoulders and walk round his garden. I was terrified and thrilled in equal measures as he was very tall and I’m scared of heights to this day!
Then there were Millie and Lilly, the aunts from Newcastle. Millie had a handbag full of lovely objects it seemed to me. A powder compact that clicked shut with a snap, Yardley lipstick in a gold case, 4711 eau de Cologne, mint imperials and a little round box of wet circular wipes called ‘Quickies’  I remember  being thrilled at having my face wiped with one of these, instead of the usual aunties standby of hanky corner and spit!
So what has all this rambling got to do with jewellery making? Shapes and impressions find their way into what you create. Wire can be bent into the shape of a powder puff handle on a half forgotten dressing table set. Beads can remind you of the blue-green of a perfume bottle.  It’s a lovely way to recycle memories and daydreams and is why handcrafted jewellery is so …. well, magical I guess.

Just getting started on my ‘Millie’ necklace, with art nouveau influenced shapes soldered together and now to have glass, shell or other pretties added.


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Maid Marian Necklace in Copper and Silver

There have been many versions of the Robin Hood stories on TV and film over the years. I’m going to show my age here – I remember the one on TV when I was a small child starred Richard Greene as Robin Hood and Patricia Driscoll as Maid Marian. This was in black and white of course, and it had the catchiest theme tune ever. Those of you of a certain age will be able to hum it no doubt. Maid Marian had the most wonderful dresses, all velvety and flowing, but she could also be one of the lads, shooting bow and arrows and sporting tunic and tights. I so wanted to be her!
Fast forward many years into the future, I am a blushing bride, standing outside the wedding room of the registry office on the arm of my brother. I have asked them to play a piece of music by Handel as I walk down the aisle. The door opens and we enter…… to the strains of Bryan Adams singing ‘Everything I do I do it for you’ A mix up I assume, but luckily we like the Kevin Costner version of the Robin Hood tale and that song has now become ‘our tune’ in the way Mr Handel never could have.

My Maid Marian necklace has leaf and arrow shapes, as well as crisscross binding in sterling silver. The colour of the beads really had to be green, to match Robin’s tights!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Texturing jewellery components with hammers

Mr J has been full of bright ideas recently. It all came about when I said that I would like to spend more time working outside this year. Hammering, sawing, sanding…. These are all jobs that a jewellery maker could do outside – with the right equipment. I have a super space upstairs to work in, custom built by Mr J. But I needed a work surface that was foldable for outside. He suggested one of those workmates that carpenters use and we set of to the DIY store to take a look. We decided on the deluxe version and Mr J treated me to it! When I set it up it quickly became obvious that I would be using it a lot over the summer – it’s just the right height to clamp the bench pin onto and sit and do sawing and filing. I made a length of Viking weave chain and clamped the drawplate in the jaws – perfect. Then I put a sandbag and a steel block on top and got to work with the texture hammers. After that I was hot so Mr J (more brownie points for him) got to work modifying the patio to include special bricks that hold an enormous green umbrella. So I now have a perfect outside space for my creations! Here’s what I produced.

2 pendant components ready to have some more pieces soldered onto them, and a length of Viking weave, which one of the pendants will hang from. Goodness I slept well – fresh air and exercise to blame. Pity it’s set to rain for the next few days.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Hotting up!

Note to self.... be more adventurous. I really let rip with my imagination and construction techniques in this piece. I must admit, it's a bit scary working with molten silver and red hot copper but it does make for a lovely organic look and makes an exciting base for wirework.

The craters left in the molten silver dictate where the gemstones sit. I decided to keep the cord relatively simple - so ordered some lovely red leather thong from Cooksons hoping and praying the red agate ovals had holes big enough to slide on. They did... Yay!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Fanning the flames

Every so often it happens. You start a piece and it just doesn't get you excited. It's hard sometimes to put your finger on exactly why. My husband came through and looked at the white shapes that I'd intended to represent ice. 'They look like teeth' was his comment. Heck - he was spot on and into the bin they went!

Most times you can work through the initial creative block by making some modifications to the design. Other times it's more productive to walk away for a while and do something else rather than sit at the bench staring at a pile of components. So that's exactly what I did. Spent the afternoon with the torch melting silver into nuggets and interesting shapes.

When I got them cleaned and took them upstairs I laid them on top of the copper shape I'd already cut and hammered. Immediately the creative juices were flowing. I cut the top off the copper shape and soldered and fused silver onto it. Then I made a silver bail and soldered that to the top. After that I soldered on 3 small rings and I filled these with clear red 'efcolor' enamel. The piece was heated so that the enamel powder melted. I didn't procrastinate at all - I just got on with it, the piece almost seemed to be telling me what it wanted to be!

I wanted a red and black colour scheme to tie in with the pyroclastic flow of the silver so I chose red agate, coral shapes and some dark coal colour jasper beads to include in my wire wrap. Now to design a chain for it. More red and black I think.