Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Christmas in November!

It's that time of year - the Christmas craft shows are nearly here and I'm busy creating new pieces to go on  my stalls. I've got two more stalls this year, one in Southampton in just over a couple of week's time and one in Winchester the next day - and then I think I'll give myself at least the morning off the next day!! I'm really excited about both events, but for different reasons.

The first show is the first one that I've ever had a hand in organising. At the beginning of the year I suggest to a couple of friends who also have their own small businesses in the area that it would be great if we could get together for a shopping evening before this Christmas, either at one of our homes or in one of the local church halls. We've finally put our plans into action - introducing our first every Christmas Shopping Evening on Friday 12th November, 7.30pm-9.30pm!

The venue is the Old Chemist, a beautiful old shop in Bitterne Park that's now a church office for the local evangelical church and a small community centre, and we've got seven different stalls, from gorgeous handbags, great traditional wooden toys, Pampered Chef, Vie at Home cosmetics, Phoenix cards, and, of course, my jewellery! The evening is also raising money for the Wessex Cancer Trust, who do a amazing amount of work helping cancer patients and their families in the South of England - more information about the evening can be found here! We're selling tickets in advance, with money going to the Wessex Cancer Trust, and the tickets include a glass of wine, mince pies and a raffle ticket. There will also be tickets available on the door.

The event the next day is the Christmas Winchester Handm@de show at the Winchester Guildhall on Saturday 13th November from 11am - 5pm. This is the third Winchester Handm@de show, and the first Christmas one that we've had. The first two shows were a great success, with beautifully unique handcrafted goods - some of which you can see here!

Monday, 25 October 2010


Pregnancy + catching the horrible cold that's been doing the rounds for the last couple of weeks = not being able to take any medication + sleeping even less well than usual

all of the above = very grouchy Jo (sorry family!)

thankfully fantastic family = Mum and Dad helping out with B for a couple of days while T has to work and I can try and fight the bug off!

Normal service should be resumed soon!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


Another waffly post from me today, I'm afraid, as I can't seem to settle my mind on any one thing at the moment! I think it's partly because it's a Wednesday morning and on Tuesday evenings I teach two college classes and don't get home until about 10.30pm - I tend to run on adrenalin while I'm teaching and flop as soon as I get home! It's also definitely partly baby brain though. I seem to have reached that stage of breaking off half way through a sentence as I've completely forgotten what I'm saying and of going up stairs and forgetting why. I set the washing machine going four times last week without putting the washing liquid in. Four times! Once I can understand but really! My bump is growing pretty big now, and I'm starting to feel as though I've been pregnant for a year. I think that this baby is going to be a kick boxer :)

The craft show at the Winchester Discovery Centre went really well. It was a bit of a slow start but I had lots of lovely customers. Most of the lemonade earrings I made last week were sold, together with lots of bangles and pendants and a couple of bigger pieces, some of which I hadn't had a chance to put on the website, such as the Blue Velvet necklace above. I love the stone in this piece - it's Russian Blue Pietersite, and it's so unusual to get it in such a rich blue without hints of other colours streaking across it. It's got such velvety depths to it! The bezel setting is quite plain but I made the chain and the clasp is the flower on the front. The clasp hooks onto any of the chain links, so the new owner can change it slightly - either a long chain with the clasp right next to the stone or a shorter chain with a longer chain drop leading down to the pendant. The flower was cut out from the back of the stone setting, so even if the pendant flips over it still looks beautiful from the other side!

The other pendant that you can see here is still available, and I'll be putting it on the website this evening along with a couple of other pieces. The stone is fossilised crinoids, not something that I've been tempted to use before, but I loved the colours and the smooth shape. The setting is similar to the Blue Velvet one, but this time the clasp is a toggle in the shape of an oak leaf - I really enjoyed making this clasp, so expect to see more in this style! Both of the stones, by the way, are from my friend Brenda's etsy shop Iced Hot Rocks.

Now there was something else I had to tell you..............oh yes! The latest Beads and Beyond magazine is out!

I've got a stone set pendant in there this month, so if you'd like to learn how to make your own bezel settings like the ones I've used on these necklaces then that would be a very good starting point. I've also got the last of the "Staying Legal" series of articles in the magazine this month, this time on accounting and taxes - a subject that sounds quite horrible but really needn't be scarey, honest! I think my favourite project in there this month is Rebecca Anderson's Retro Romance set - red and turquoise are such a yummy combination!

I hope you all have lovely days today - I know I'm going to enjoy this afternoon as the sun has started to shine and I'm off to Brenda's to see her latest batch of gorgeous stones. I expect I'll be buying one or six!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Tutorial Tuesday - Sheep in the City scarf pattern

Picture from Sheep in the City blog
I have most definitely reached the stage when my bump is too big for coats to do up, and it's got pretty cold here in the mornings when I'm taking Ben to school, so I've decided to knit myself a new scarf. I've been getting organised and knitting lots of Christmas presents, so it seems like ages since I knitted myself anything! I think I've found the perfect pattern - great for showing off variegated colour yarns and an easy pattern to memorise for when I'm sitting in front of the television in the evening. I'm hoping to be able to wear it by the end of the week!

The pattern (and the photo of the scarf above) come from Sheep in the City. I'll let you know how I get on with it!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Making Lemonade out of Lemons

That's been my task this afternoon! So many little pieces of sheet left over from bigger projects but too big for the scrap pot have been building up in my silver drawer, and I've also had so many part done examples collecting on my desk, pieces that I've started as examples of sawing or piercing or texturing that I've done for my college classes. With the price of silver as sky high as it is at the moment I knew I had to get to work and use them, and this is what I've come up with! I've got a stall at Winchester Discovery Centre (we're not allowed to call it the library any more!) tomorrow, so I'm waiting until after that to put those that are left on the website.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Tutorial Tuesday - soldering tips 2

The plan had been to add a few photos to this and post it when I got back from college last night, but ended up making packed lunches for school instead - what an exciting life I lead! Anyway, it's here now!

A couple of weeks ago I posted some soldering tips with photos showing work being soldered and pickled. This time I thought I'd show you the basic tools needed to solder silver, and also talk about the different types of solder available  - and why you can get different types of solder!

This is my soldering area - a little messy, I know, but soldering isn't exactly the cleanest part of making jewellery. You don't actually need a lot of equipment to start soldering. Each tool is quite cheap, although the price can obviously add up, but if you look after the tools well they will last you for years.

Going through the labels we have:
  1. Old slate tiles - left over from a DIY project, these protect the table below from the heat. You can buy soldering sheets that do the same job, but tiles are cheaper!
  2. Soldering block - extra protection from the heat. These also absorb some of the heat from the flame and pass it back into the silver, so if you have several pieces on the block waiting to be soldered (for example if you are soldering lots of links for a chain), they will start to heat up before the flame even touches them. I have a couple of blocks, and if I am soldering a big piece I will prop a couple up behind the block I'm working on to radiate the heat back to the metal.
  3. Charcoal block - used to melt small balls of silver such as in this tutorial
  4. Reverse action tweezers - these take a bit of getting used to as they open when you push the handles, opposite to how most pliers work. This is useful, though, as I often use them to hold, for example, an earwire in place on the back of the earring during soldering and I don't have to remember to hold them tightly closed, they do the job for me. They are insulated.
  5. Solder probe - not essential put useful for pushing solder back to where you want it to be if it moves during the process.
  6. Third hand with tweezers - not essential but useful for holding small pieces during soldering.
  7. Torches - I've got two hand torches, and also a propane torch that feeds of a gas bottle under my desk, out of sight. It is the heat of the piece of work that melts the solder, not the heat of the flame, and so if I am soldering a big piece such as a bangle I need to use a bigger torch to heat the silver up enough. The smaller torch is ideal for chains, clasps, earwires etc. The small torch came from Cookson Gold, as did most of my soldering equipment, and the big one is a plumber's torch from B&Q!
  8. Quench pot - such a sophistcated expensive piece of kit! Never put hot metal in the pickle, always quench it to cool it down first.
  9. Goggles - you've only got one pair of eyes!
  10. Binding wire - useful for holding together larger pieces during soldering.
  11. Pennies! - useful for propping up small pieces while you solder them.
  12. Snips/shears - use these to cut solder strips into smaller pieces (pallions) ready to use for soldering.

 A few more bits and pieces for you:

  1. Pickle pot - another expensive piece of equipment! You can buy expensive pickling units, but I use an old slow cooker that cost £2 at a carboot sale. Remember that pickle cleans the silver quicker if it is warm. As you can see in this post, the pickle sits in a pyrex dish that sits in water inside the cooker. I can't put the pickle straight into the cooker as I haven't got a ceramic insert in mine, it's just steel. If you put steel or iron (eg reverse action tweezers, binding wire) into the pickle, all of the copper the pickle has collected off the silver as it's cleaned the oxidisation off will go back on the silver! Which leads me to....
  2. Brass tweezers - use these to take work out of the pickle instead of steel tweezers. You can also buy plastic tweezers.
This picture shows my soldering materials - flux and solder in various forms.

  1. Borax cone and dish - a cheap and easy to use form of solder. Put a very little amount of water in the bottom of the dish and grind the cone in it to form a milky paste which is then painted onto the silver. Remember solder will only flow, rather than ball up, if flux is present.
  2. Auflux - an artificial form of  flux, again relatively cheap but doesn't last as long as a cone. Again, just paint it on where it is needed.
  3. Solder strips - the traditional form of solder. Cut into smaller pieces (pallions) ready to use for soldering. I have a little pot for each solder - Hard, Medium and Easy - I'll explain those terms in a bit!
  4. Solder paste syringes - a modern form of solder - some people love it, some people hate it saying it's cheating! I say it's got it's place and can be useful, but it doesn't replace solder strips. Solder paste is basically ground up solid solder mixed with a flux so that it's ready to use. I only really use it for chain work as I find it more convenient - just work along the row of links waiting to be soldered, squeezing a little bit out at a time! It is much more expensive that solder strips though. Again, I've got Hard, Medium and Easy solder.
So why the different names for solders? Hard, Medium and Easy solders have different melting temperatures - hard has a higher melting temperature than medium (ie. it is harder to melt), medium has a higher melting temperature than easy. You can also sometimes buy extra-easy solder which has an even lower melting temperature.

Why do you need different melting temperatures? Because you often need to solder more than one join on a piece of work, and when you solder the second join, you don't want the first to remelt or it is likely to weakend. Take the chain in this post as an example - my Ebony necklace from this month's Beads and Beyond. The large links were soldered closed with medium solder and then hammered. If I hadn't soldered them closed first hammering would have mis-shapened them. They were then linked together with smaller round links that were closed with easy solder - the temperature needed to melt the easy solder wasn't high enough to remelt and weaken the medium solder. The small links were far enough apart that soldering one closed didn't affect the ones I'd already done. If I had needed to solder three times on the piece of work I would have started with hard, then medium and finally easy solder. On the other hand, if I only need to solder one join, for example on a bangle, then I just use easy solder as it's easier to melt.

I hope all of that makes sense - quite a technical Tutorial Tuesday this week! Do let me know in the comments if you have any questions and please do leave a comment if you have a tip of your own to share!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Order out of chaos!

This was the state of my desk this morning. In fact, this was the state of my desk from Friday lunch time, when my in-laws arrived, all over the weekend until this morning when I managed to get back in there! I always try to tidy my desk, or at least put things in orderly piles and clear a space, at the end of the day, so it made me feel a bit disorganised this morning! Thankfully my first job was to set the stones in the pendant below, so once I'd got started I felt better and I've actually got a lot done today. I've even taken photos of the pendant (obviously!) as soon as it was finished rather than put it to one side to do later - the joys of being able to have my photo studio permanently set up in my lovely new shed!

Dainty - sterling silver flower with smoky quartz and peridot - now sold, thank you!

Right then, next on my list is a late lunch/early tea (yes, strange time, I know, but I leave to teach my college classes at 5pm and don't get home until gone 10pm, so Tuesday meal times are always a bit mixed up), and then pack for college - Keum Boo for my advanced class tonight and chain making for the beginners! I'm hoping to finish another Tutorial Tuesday with more information on soldering too, but that may have to wait until I get back from college tonight!

P.S. If the pendant has caught your fancy you can find it on the website here!

Monday, 11 October 2010

I'm in a competition!

And I didn't even realised it until last weekend! This year as part of Beads and Beyond's Jewellery Maker of the Year competition readers were asked to nominate their favourite bead shop, bead website and B&B jewellery designer as well as to submit their work. I saw the final pieces at Artisan, and there are some really beautiful pieces, such an amazing amount of work and original designs. You can see them, and vote for your favourites here, and if you scroll down to the bottom you'll see a familiar name!

Thank you for any of you who read this who nominated me - I was really surprised when Becky and Michelle told me, and really touched!

A sunny weekend in October?!

We've had such a beautifully sunny few days! At this time of year if we have any sunny days they're usually fairly chilly, but it has been absolutely gorgeous, so gorgeous, infact, that we had a barbeque on Saturday and picnic on the coast yesterday! T's mum and step-dad were visiting for the weekend so we swap the usual household chores, DIY, trips to the park and the swimming pool for trips out, including a trip to take B for his first climbing session. Yes, B's comments about the beads that I bought at Artisan made T realise that he'd better start his son's official outdoor education as soon as possible! It was great seeing him listening so carefully to his Daddy's instructions and taking his first holds on the wall. He's far more trusting than I was when T taught me to climb. And of course, proud Mummy took lots of photos, but don't worry, I'm only going to inflict a few on you!

Checking the harness

Getting started

Going up!

Up high!

Friday, 8 October 2010

My spoils from Artisan

I didn't buy quite as much from Artisan as I thought I might, mainly as I was demoing more than shopping - but that is what I was really there for! I did get some lovely goodies though.

 This lovely pile of sparkling stones is from Precious Sparkle Beads - rough cut nuggets of iolite and amethyst. The photo definintely doesn't do them justice, especially the iolite as that appears to be different colours depending on the direction you look at it from, which makes it rather difficult to photograph.
I bought the iolite specifically for a project for Beads and Beyond. Sometimes the beads will dictate the project, but this time I'd already made the silver components for the pieces of jewellery and wanted some good sized nuggets to go with them. 
The amethyst is for a project in the New Year.

 I haven't got a specific plan for these beads yet, but I expect the ideas will come soon! 
I just had to buy them as I hadn't seen anything like them before. The lighter beads are picasso jasper, which isn't that unusual, but I hadn't come across beads with a soft matt finish before. 
I bought the onyz beads for their matt finish too - so different from the usual high gloss!

These beads are plastic. I hardly use plastic in my work at all, and never in the work I sell, 
but the colour and sparkle of these really caught my eye. 
I try to use beads across a wide price range in my magazine projects, so these will be used with some antique gold coloured chain and findings for a project in the New Year.
B liked these ones in particular - he kept saying how gorgeous they were! T started muttering about how he must take him climbing and canoeing very soon before I corrupt our son completely. 
I think it might be too late!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

What a week!

This has turned out to be one very busy week! I came back from Artisan (which was brilliant, but more of that later) to find lots of notonthehighstreet orders and an urgent request from one of the galleries that stocks my jewellery, so what with the general running around after the family and household chores (oh the glamour!), my college classes on Tuesday night and a couple of magazine articles I feel as though I've spent the days rushing around! The non-teaching evenings have been a lot quieter, but only really because almost as soon as B has been put to bed I've just run out of energy and flopped. I keep forgetting that I am nearly 6 months pregnant and I need to pace myself!

Anyway, Artisan!

I had a brilliant time there, and all of the visitors seemed to be enjoying themselves! I certainly saw lots of smiling faces with full carrier bags! I arrived later than I planned on Friday afternoon as the traffic and the weather were awful - what should have been a 2 hour journey took more than double that. I think it would have been easier for Radio 2 (yes, I have reached the age when my preferred radio station is BBC Radio 2 - my parents and I now listen to the same station!) to have listed the motorways that didn't have problems rather than those that did. I still managed to arrive in time for the last hour of the first day, to say hi to Becky and Michelle (deputy editor and editor of Beads and Beyond), to have a look round and (much to Becky's amusement) to buy some beads. I think it was that fact that I hadn't been inside for more than 20 minutes before I bought something that made her giggle, but what can I say? I'm an addict! Friday evening was spent settling into the hotel, going out for a great evening with lots of chat and lovely Italian food with Becky and Michelle, and then searching for somewhere that sold butane gas for the small blowtorch I had brought to use for the demos. I suppose I could have forgotten something more serious, like the torch itself, and we did get to see some nice parts of Leamington Spa!

Saturday was great, although we were all so busy that it seemed to go very quickly! I started my demonstration, showing people how to make a hammered soldered chain like the one in my Ebony project, at about 10.15am, and I was answering so many questions and enjoying myself so much that it was gone midday before I realised. Kerry arrived not long after that, and it was in some ways rather strange seeing her walk in the door - strange because she looked and sounded so familiar, like an old friend, but we'd never met or even talked on the phone before. It was so good to meet her properly, and great to see her demos. She showed us two bracelets from Totally Twisted, complete with her own beautifully coloured lampwork beads, and I was amazed at how quick the projects were - instant gratification! Kerry also demonstrated some lampwork, which I would have loved to have seen, but by then it was time for me to get back to hammering and soldering. Anyway, I could waffle on for ages about my girlie weekend away serious working weekend, but I think some photos would be much more interesting for the rest of you, so here you are.....

Kerry demonstrating the first bracelet


Kerry signing books and my turn to wrap wire!

Signing more books!

Group photo - Michelle, Kerry, me & bump, and Becky

Friday, 1 October 2010

Off to Artisan!

Just a quick post as I'm leaving to travel up to Artisan in about an hour - all the tools and materials I need to demonstrate my ebony necklace project that you can see on this post are safely packed - I hope! At least if it does turn out that I've forgotten something then I'll be able to buy it when I get there. All those lovely semiprecious and lampwork beads in one place! I know I'm going up there to work but it really feels as though I'm going away on a girly weekend! I doubt I'll have time to blog while I'm there but I'll take lots of photos and fill you in when I get back.

My plans yesterday involved going to visit a family friend who's just moved to Southampton in the morning and editing photos and uploading new designs until the school run in the afternoon. My car, however, had different plans! I decided to call in at the local garden centre to buy a plant for my friend, and the car wouldn't start when I got back out again. We've been away that the battery would need changing at some point in the next 6 months or so as the car is 8 years old and it's the original battery, and as it was misty and cold yesterday morning I assumed that that was the problem. So I had an hour's wait until the recovery man came out and charged the battery and I then went up to Halfords for a new one. I don't want to risk it happening again, especially on the way up to Leamington Spa today, when I'm pregnant. Mind you, I could have broken down in a much worse place - Hobbycraft is right next door to the garden centre and somehow I ended up buying some more yarn for another Christmas present! Don't know how that happened!

I managed to edit my photos but haven't had time to upload the new pieces to the website yet, so I'll show those to you as soon as I get back!

If you make it to Artisan do come and say hello! I'll be the one wearing the extra large Beads and Beyond apron to go over the bump, hammering and soldering at the stand on Saturday!


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