Friday, 18 July 2008

Holiday snaps: including puffins!

Some photos from my recent holiday on the Isle of Mull. The puffins were on Lunga, one of the Treshnish Isles.

The photo mosaic was made here.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Woolfest 2008

An alpaca at Woolfest 2008

Two weeks ago I went to Woolfest 2008, held in Cockermouth in Cumbria. "Woolfest is an annual festival celebrating all aspects of natural fibres - their sources, uses and products." It was first run in 2005 and is organised by The Wool Clip, which is a co-operative of farming and craft workers. This was the second time I have attended. Last year I purchased the fibre used for my From Little Acorns necklace. It is a very enjoyable event to attend, with a wealth of fibre, yarn and associated tools to admire or buy, live animals, demonstrations, exhibitions, activities and workshops ....

This year I went to a beginners workshop (from Carol and Pete Leonard, Carol's blog is here) to learn how to use a drop spindle to transform fibre into yarn. This is the result of my first efforts! It was very useful to have this technique demonstrated, very much better than trying to follow written instructions. The key now is practice, practice, practice. I liked having the pre-booked workshop to build my day around, and will try always to book up an event in future.

This picture shows two of my purchases. The yarn is from Fyberspates, and the wooden nostepinne from Kevin Rhodes. A nostepinne is a tool used to wind yarn into a ball. I found these instructions useful when using mine for the first time. There's another good resource here. Now, you may be thinking that I'm straying somewhat from the jewellery-making focus of this blog. Well, yes. But there is inspiration everywhere. I chose this particular nostepinne because I liked the pattern in the wood (spalted beech). This kind of pattern might be fun to emulate in a piece of jewellery, possibly using etching.

It was a great day out, and if there's a similar event near you, I'd recommend going!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Mull and Iona jewellery makers: three websites

Eleanor Macdougall's work includes forming metals by raising, and enamelling to capture the colours of nature. (

Jewellery from Aosdana is cast from the original pieces made by Iona's Alex Ritchie and then hand finished. (

The Isle of Mull Silver and Goldsmiths makes a range of celtic jewellery including gold rings. (

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Review - Brief number 3: Design and make

Image created using Picasa and the Hockneyizer.

The third brief at Level 3 of my course was introduced in this post, with a follow up in this one.

We were asked to produce a learning journal based on a theme, to design a suite of jewellery based on the materials in the journal and finally to make the jewellery we had designed. I chose "Coast" as my theme, and settled on the shape of a ripple in the sand as the basis for my designs.

I produced a set of three pieces (a bracelet, earrings and a ring) that all included the ripple motif. As with the previous brief I am very happy to have followed a documented design process, and feel I am getting closer to working like a real designer. I like the finished pieces too, which hasn't always been the case!

The Coast learning journal contains a lot more material that I didn't exploit this time around, especially concerning colour, so I shall return to it in the future.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Liver of sulphur follow up

I was really excited by the results of my first experiments with liver of sulphur (sulfur). Here's an update.

The ring had a good thick layer on it. I rubbed it away in places when trying to make the non-black parts shinier, but I was happy with the effect. I sprayed the ring with acrylic spray coating (mine is made by Humbrol), applying a total of about 5 thin coats. The ring is shown post-coating in this post.

Unfortunately the thin layer on the fold-formed piece, which had the lovely colours, was not very robust. It soon began to fade, and lost more of its allure when I used Silvo to clean off the ear wire. My plan now is to clean the whole earring and try using the liver of sulphur again. This time if I get a nice effect I shall spray with the acrylic coating at once!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The beginning of the middle

In my last post I explained how my three years of evening classes have now come to an end: the end of the beginning. Now I have to start a new phase, one that can perhaps be called the beginning of the middle! I've had a few thoughts about how to provide some structure to my jewellery making activity in the absence of a weekly class:

* Prepare a list of techniques to try, and then select perhaps two or three to attempt in a year

* Write my own briefs. These will lack the assessment criteria that were included in the real ones, but will include well defined targets so that it is clear I've done what I set out to do. The aim would be to prepare a brief long before following it, to avoid writing a brief to fit with something I've already thought about too much!

* Prepare mood boards, colour collages and other design aids, ideally as part of an Internet workalong, where others are engaged in the same task. Is anyone aware of anything like this going on?

* Enter competitions and challenges

* Prepare online tutorials for the blog and investigate the feasibility of submitting a project tutorial to a magazine.

* Attend the odd workshop

Can anyone offer any more suggestions or experiences?

Saturday, 21 June 2008

The end of the beginning

Display cases at end of year exhibition for OCN jewellery classes

My contribution to the display.

I have now attended the last class of the three year OCN (Open College Network) course. The time has gone very quickly. I have learned a great deal, and my approach to jewellery making has certainly matured - I shall be reflecting on this in a future post.

The college I attended has had to respond over the years to changes in the way in which government funding is made available for adult education. Such funding reduces the cost to the student. The OCN class I attended involved quite a lot of assessment because it was a requirement for continued funding. The assessment suited me rather well, as I like to document my progress (hence this blog!), but for many people the emphasis on assessment meant that there was less time for the practice that is essential when learning. More changes mean that this year was the last one that the OCN course was run, so I feel very lucky to have completed my three years just in time. In future, the college will be running more expensive, but less assessed, courses instead.

I called this post "The end of the beginning" because for me the classes represented the foundations of what will be a longer period of activity. I intend to keep designing and making jewellery, but recognise that I will need to set myself tasks and targets, as it would be very easy to stop without the structure provided by weekly classes.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Ripple earrings v2.0

I love my double ripple earrings, but they are just a bit big and dangly for me to consider them for everyday wear. This latest pair is slightly less flamboyant, with only one, smaller ripple on each earring. The total drop is 4.5 cm (1.75"), and the ripples themselves measure about 25 mm by 12 mm ( 1" x 0.5"). The ripples are made from 1.3 mm diameter silver wire. Because this wire is thicker than the 1 mm wire I was using before, it was possible to replace the hanging loop with a drilled hole. The wire was hammered flat and the hole drilled using a 1 mm drill bit.

One of my classmates gave me a really good tip for using such a fine drill. He shortens the shaft by holding the bit in two pairs of pliers and twisting so that it breaks. The bit can then be put in the chuck with only a short (e.g. 1 cm) length sticking out. It is much easier to control and doesn't go all wobbly in use!

There was only one solder join to make on each ripple, and I managed to make the joins quite neatly. The ripples were forged, and finished using 600 grit wet and dry paper, followed by a 20 minute tumble polish.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Ripple poll: vote for your favourite Ripple

I've set up a new online poll - you can see it in the sidebar on the right of this blog, just below the introductory bit. Please vote in the poll to let me know which of the three Ripple pieces you like the best! There are full size pictures of each of the pieces in this post. The poll will be open until 11 August 2008, but please cast your vote soon. I take great delight in seeing the votes come in!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Stone set ripple

This scrap of silver sheet carries echoes of previous work. The jigsaw bump (promontory? tab?) came from a very unsuccessful brooch. The silver from inside that polygon went on to be the back of my penannular bottle glass brooch. I've now used some of the remaining sheet for two bezel settings. The smaller one is for my puffin pendant. The other one is for a stone set ripple pendant.

I soldered the finished bezel setting to the very first ripple I made.

Then set the stone, which is 8 mm in diameter. The ripple is 45 mm long. This photo was taken after the first few pushes of the pusher.

I had taken more care to ensure that the top of the bezel was flat this time, and I think the setting is neater than my earlier efforts. This is a pleasing result, and I may try again with thicker wire. I think that it fits in well with the rest of the Ripple Suite.