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.

Friday, 13 June 2008

The Ripple Suite: Complete

Double ripple earrings and bracelet

Ripple band ring with liver of sulphur (sulfur) patina. It is 5 mm wide.

Double ripple earrings (again)

And the inspirational photo.

The work in progress posts: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11,
The design posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Thursday, 12 June 2008

What do *you* see?

There's a little stick figure man in there (his head is where the two small ripples overlap) - see him? There's also a hint of two pregnant ladies, with tiny heads ...

Saturday, 7 June 2008

First adventures with liver of sulphur

I am amazed at my success with applying a liver of sulphur/sulfur patina to one of my fold formed earrings. I would have been happy with black, but getting lovely colours was quite a bonus! Whether I shall be able to repeat this is, of course, quite another thing.

I started with the ripple band ring. I scrubbed it with soap and water, then applied pumice powder using a glass brush.

I used liquid liver of sulphur, sold by an art clay supplier who supplied it in the little bottle shown here. I added the liquid to hot tap water in the tub on the right. The red liquid came out of the bottle in a little glug rather than drops, but there were probably 10 drops or so. The ring was suspended from a thread and submerged for about 30 seconds.

This is how the ring looked after rinsing. I sanded the surface of the ripples with 600 grit wet and dry paper, but thought that the oxidation wasn't dark enough, so dipped the ring for a further half minute.

Here's the ring after its second dunk, and after sanding the ripples and the edges to remove the oxidation there. I'm pretty pleased with it.

Then I found my fold-formed earrings. I decided just to try the nicer one, which has more regular surface indentations. This time I didn't use any pumice powder, but just scrubbed the earring with soap and water, then rinsed and dried it. It took much longer for a colour change to take place this time, perhaps because the solution had cooled down, or because there was soap or grease left on the surface. The inside of the shape (which hadn't been scrubbed) turned black first.

When the silver had turned a copper-like colour, I removed it from the liver of sulphur, rinsed it and used wet and dry paper on the surface. Then I returned it to the solution for a couple of minutes, before rinsing and sanding again.

And this was the result.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Progress with Ripple pieces

The bracelet has been tumble polished and is now completed. The main section is 16 cm (6.25") long

The double ripple earrings (in silver, based on this copper test piece) need more tumbling, and perhaps a little shape tweaking. The two shapes are arranged slightly differently from the prototype, as they look better that way in this case!

The band ring is coming along. I have shaped the flat strip (seen in this post) into a ring. I've done some filing and sanding, but it still needs to be tidied up considerably. I think that this ring may become my first experiment with liver of sulphur.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Ripple band ring started

The ripple band ring, which will be part of my Ripple suite (with earrings and bracelet), will be made from 1 mm thick silver sheet, decorated with little ripples made from 0.6 mm wire. I've made a start on this.

Each mini-ripple was made from a 6 mm diameter ring of wire. These differ a little from my other ripples as there is no loop, and I cut off a little bit of wire after shaping each.

I spent a lot of time on fixing the ripples to the silver sheet, because it took a long time to work out how best to do it. I started out trying to solder all six ripples at once. None of them joined to the sheet, and the end of the wire balled on a couple of the ripples.

My next attempt was to fuse the ripples, as they heated up very quickly. I tried just one ripple, and although the wire looked very hot and liquid, it didn't attach. I decided this was not the time to do my first fusing project after all.

The next change was to hammer the ripples flat, and solder just one at a time. I finally had some success here, but success was strongly related to how I was supporting the sheet. I had to give up on a couple of runs as I was heating the sheet, my tweezers and the soldering block, and just couldn't raise the temperature high enough with my little butane torch. Holding the sheet above the block with the tweezers covering just a tiny bit of metal in a distant corner was the best approach. I suspect if I had been at the class with access to a bigger torch, this would have simply changed, rather than solved, my problems. I would have had melting crises instead!

Before taking the piece to the class to finish, I have cut the silver the right width and length. The surface finish is going to need some work.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Steel block

In the course of my non-jewellery making life, I was given this steel block. It was one of several being used in a project, but they had some left over so I asked if I could have one. It measures 5 cm x 5 cm x 1.9 cm (2" x 2" x 0.75"). I think it will be very useful for hammering, but I'll need to polish the surface first.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Pissenlit: a dandelion close-up

Dandelion, Leeds, 29 May 2008

This link will take you to an article that appeared recently (and once before, in 2002) in the Independent newspaper. Enjoy!
Miles Kington Remembered: Consider the lilies ... and the dandelions and nettles

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Puffin pendant design

Although I have been concentrating on the suite of items on the Ripple theme, I do still want to try and make one piece based on the shape of the puffin's beak. I have previously shown some preliminary sketches. These sketches are my latest thoughts.

The shape still has a slight feel of the Starship Enterprise, but I think it is also puffin-like. Ideal for the sci-fi birdwatcher!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

From ripple necklace to ripple bracelet in one easy step

The next step in assembling my ripple necklace was to solder the loops on the links closed, leaving the main part of the link open so the links could be joined together.

The soldering went well. After pickling, I was able to lay out the links to check the length of the finished piece.

Making the second set of solder joins (to close the links) turned out to be harder than I'd expected, and this was one part of the construction that I hadn't practised in advance using copper. In several cases, I managed to re-melt the hard solder in the loop, and the loop then got fixed to the next link. In fact, by the time I'd finished I had just enough undamaged links left to construct a bracelet instead of a necklace.

This is the bracelet shown before the ripple links have been forged.

And this is the bracelet after the ripple links have been forged. The ripples have also been slightly bent to suit the curve of the wrist. The bracelet is still to be tumbled polished.

I hope to be able to salvage some of the wire from the wrongly joined links to make other items. But I need to re-think the whole design of the links before attempting another necklace.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Coast ring from Hannah Louise Lamb

I came across a wonderful piece of jewellery featured in Coast magazine. The Coast ring by Hannah Louise Lamb has two interlocking parts, one part is polished and the other textured. The two parts represents the land and the sea, and the join is a wiggly line that represents a stretch of coastline. Purchasers can even specify which bit of coastline should be used.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Ripple necklace started

I've started to construct my ripple necklace in silver. Here are some of the links at three different stages in the shaping process. So that they can be joined together neatly, the loop for these links is perpendicular to the plane of the ripple. Each piece of wire is initially 6.25 cm long.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Double ripple test piece

These earrings, made from copper with the earwires in silver, are made using two ripples links with the relative sizes mentioned in this earlier post. The total drop is about 5 cm. I am happy with the way the two links hang together and will proceed to make a pair in silver.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Call for submissions for Lark jewellery books

The publisher Lark Books often asks for submissions of work to be included in forthcoming art and craft books. Currently there are three calls for jewellery submissions, closing 16 June 2008, 1 July 2008 and 7 July 2008. The first is for projects for a book called Beading with Metal Beads. The second is for studio jewellery that prominently features plastic for the book 500 Plastic Jewelry. The third is for recycled plastic items for a book entitled Fantastic Plastic

500 Plastic Jewelry will be one of the 500 series books. I hope the title is just a working title, as it doesn't sound quite right!

There is a lovely feature on the Lark books about page. It is called "One of Us ..."; take a look.