Tuesday 25 May 2010

Ruby Tuesday

Sorry, that title only just occured to me, and I couldn't resist it!

No Tutorial Tuesday today. I've been writing up magazine projects all day and to be honest, my brain has gone on strike. It's not that I don't have lots of ideas and tips that I want to show you, it's that I wasn't organised enough to write up a tutorial in preparation over the weekend as I normally do (I was teaching for half of the weekend, a decent excuse I think!) and I can't face taking more photos and writing up more instructions today, sorry! Prehaps I ought to borrow Nic's idea and do a few videos for you. It would certainly be easier and clearer to demonstrate and film something like a bow line drill than it would to take step by step photos. I think I need to borrow my parents' video camera....

Anyway, I realised that I haven't shown you any students' work recently, so I thought I'd show you this.......

Isn't that stone amazing? And the setting is just perfect for it. Any texture or complication would detract from the beauty of the stone, but believe me when I say that a simple, silky smooth setting is actually often trickier than a textured one - textures can hide quite a few sins!

It is, of course, a ruby, the largest one that I had ever seen in real life. It was made by Brenda a few weeks ago ( I haven't edited the photos from Saturday's tuition session yet, but that was on stone setting too). She has a rather large collection of beautiful stones, both faceted and cabochon, and wanted to learn how to set them. I think she did brilliantly, especially as it was her very first attempt at stone setting. I've actually bought and set a couple of her cabs, as she's starting to sell them (only so that she can go and buy more - it's become something of an addiction for her!), and I'll show them to you later in the week when I've finished my magazine work.

P.S. Nic has actually posted a couple of new pmc videos in the last few days - so we have a Tutorial Tuesday afterall! You cna find them at www.pmctips.blogspot.com

P.P.S. If, like me, you are now tunelessly humming "Ruby Tuesday" you may like this!

Friday 21 May 2010

Bead Soup Party!

Do you remember the Bead Soup Party I took part in at the beginning of the year? It was organised by Lori at Pretty Things and over 80 jewellery designers and bead designers took part - we were paired up, sent each other a focal bead, a really nice clasp and some spacer beads, and then had to make something with what our partner sent us. There were some amazing pieces of jewellery made!

Well, Lori's hosting another party - this time with nearly 100 guests! My partner this time is Malin who lives in Sweden who works with everything from seed beads to polymer clay and is doing a very good job of getting her son and daughter involved in jewellery making!

I posted Malin's parcel out at the beginning of the week - fancy a peek?

Only joking! I'm not showing you everything though - you'll have to wait until Malin gets her parcel!

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Happy St Dunstan's Day!

Today is St Dunstan's Day - the patron saint of, amongst others, silversmiths. He seemed to have a very busy life - he was first Abbot of Glastonbury, then Bishop of Winchester, then London, then Archbishop of Canterbury in the 900s, and worked as a silversmith and jeweller during his time at Glastonbury. I am amazed that so much is known about him still. He's even mentioned in "A Christmas Carol" apparently. If you want to find out more about him visit Wikipedia here

Dunstan still has relevance today - today is the day that the Assay Offices change the date stamp in the hallmarks, the letter that indicates the year an item was marked.

So, Happy St Dunstan's Day!

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Tutorial Tuesday - Art Clay Silver basics

This week's Tutorial Tuesday is from Nicola at Murano Silver. Nic produces amazing silver art clay and enamelled work, writes magazine articles (see her latest in June's Beads and Beyond!) and also keeps her blog stocked with great hints and tips on using silver art clay.

These are her latest tutorials - three videos on the basics of silver art clay. I've seen so many tutorials and videos that either aren't clear, completely miss out the basics, or both, so watching these was great. Here they are:

How to condition silver art clay

Rolling out silver clay

Texturing silver clay

Oh, and while you're at Nic's flickr page, have a look at the pictures of her gorgeous new kitten!

Chains and Stone Setting workshops

I've got two group workshops booked into the diary between now and the start of the school summer holidays, each using sterling silver and semi-precious stones.

Each workshop involves basic silversmithing techniques, including soldering. They are suitable for those with little or no previous experience, although a knowledge of how to turn eye loops is useful. If you haven't learnt how to make these simple wire connectors you can download my free tutorial, found here in the tutorial section of the website. Both workshops will be held at my home in Southampton.

Hammered Chains Workshop - Saturday 12th June 10am-4.30pm - £60This workshop will teach you how to make sterling silver chains that you will then use to create your own unique piece of jewellery. You will also be taught how to make your own findings such as head pins, earwires and clasps, and will use semi-precious and lampwork beads in your designs if you wish.
Refreshments are provided, as are all the materials, but please bring your own lunch. 6 places available.

Stone Setting Workshop - Saturday 3rd July 10am-4.30pm - £70
This workshop has been set up after numerous requests for a class teaching the basics of setting cabochons (flat backed stones). You will make a pendant from sterling silver set with a cabochon of your choice. Topics covered will include measuring and cutting the silver bezel, soldering, filing, sanding, designing and cutting a base plate for your stone, texturing sheet metal, fixing a bail and polishing as well as actually setting the stone.Refreshments are provided, as are all the materials, but please bring your own lunch. 6 places available.

For more information on both workshops and to book places please visit the website here

P.S. The amethyst pendant above is one of the pieces I finished today - I'm slowly working my way through  my shelf of unfinished pieces!

Monday 17 May 2010

Sssh.....don't tell anyone

.....but the sun's out!! Not that it's been raining all weekend, but it's just that everytime I hung some washing out or thought about cutting the grass it rained! Everything's drying out again now, thankfully, so maybe I'll get to cut the jungle we laughingly call a lawn this afternoon. I've given up trying to persaude T that the only job that he needs to do regularly in the garden is cut the grass. I've tried leaving it to grow long to try and shame him into doing it, but he just hasn't noticed!

It was B's preschool funday on Saturday, so Friday morning was spent baking icecream cone cupcakes!

I've been wanting to make these for ages, every since I saw them on Apryl's blog last year, and they were so easy to make! I used a normal sponge mix (4 eggs, 8oz SR flour, 8oz sugar, 8oz butter) rather than Apryl's recipe just because I know it so well, and filled the cones up two thirds. I made 3 dozen and took 30 of them down to school - and was rather chuffed that my first baking offering as a school mum sold out!

Right then, I'm off to set some more stones and take photos before the school run - back with photos later!

Friday 14 May 2010


It has been far too long since I showed you any brand new work. It's not that I haven't been doing any, it's that made-to-order orders, teaching and magazine deadlines have had to come first. Now that my evening classes have finished I am working my way through the half finished pieces that are sitting on the shelf above my workdesk. Most of them only need their stones setting or polishing or oxidising, so expect to see new pieces alot over the next couple of weeks!

This was the first on my list to finish as all I needed to do was finish setting the stone. "Pebbles" have been an idea sketched out for ages. I wanted to make some pendants that used my growing collection of smaller cabochons and had a bit of texture, but not a hammered texture, and also a way of using some of the silver in my scrap pot. So, I cut as many tiny discs as I could out of a couple of pieces of scrap and had a play! I actually made the pendant and stone setting a bit at a time, week by week, as part of teaching my beginners class how to bezel set stones.

Despite my "must finish these projects first" decision, I've now got another couple of pendants and a ring laid out on my desk waiting for their own pebbles! This one is available on the website here.

Note to self - put some make up on next time before modelling jewellery!!

Thursday 13 May 2010

Time to unpack!

I taught my last evening class of the academic year last night. It was a rather strange feeling as up until now I've been teaching two evenings a week - there's a feeling of "what on earth am I going to do with the time?" and a feeling of sadness too, especially about finishing teaching my advanced class as I'd been teaching them for over a year and they've become lovely friends. Hopefully some of them will be able to come to the new classes starting up in October.

Anyway, it's now time to unpack my tool bag properly! I unpack about half of it each week as I obviously need to use most of the tools that I take with me during the rest of the week, but I'm sure that there will be a few surprises lurking at the bottom!

P.S. I'm not really worried about what I'm going to do with the time - for a start I've got to mark the folders before the exam board see them! Then there's all the new designs I've been itching to have a go at, the magazine articles I've got planned, and you know, I might even go out one evening!!

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Tutorial Tuesday - writing magazine projects and articles

A bit of a different Tutorial Tuesday this week - in fact, this is more of a "this is how I did it and what I learnt" guide rather than a step-by-step set of instructions.

One of the questions I get asked a lot, mainly via email but also sometimes in various internet forums, is how I got started in writing magazine projects and articles, so I thought it might be of use to someone out there if I told you how I did it. Please note, this is not meant as a "this is how I did it, do the same and it will work for you"! All I can do is tell you about how I got started, and what, in my experience, magazine editors are looking for.

My latest project in the July issue of Beads and Beyond - out this week!

I had already been teaching jewellery workshops for a couple of years when I first started thinking about magazine articles. In many ways it seemed like a natural progression. I always had so many ideas crammed into my head and various sketch books, and I was confident in writing up instructions for others to follow as that was something I had to do all the time in my "real job" as a teacher. Back then there weren't any UK magazines focusing purely on beads and jewellery (oh those were dark days!), but a couple of magazines, such as Crafts Beautiful, had a jewellery project every now and then. I started by taking some photos of a few projects I had recently designed for my workshops, putting together a letter introducing myself and explaining my background, and sending everything off to the editor of Crafts Beautiful. I never heard back. I was disappointed but not really that surprised. I had already figured out that editors at that time were really only interested in you if you had already had articles published - it was the classic situation of needing some experience first but not being able to get that experience without someone taking a risk on you!

About a year later I saw an ad in Traplet's Practical Crafts and Cardmaking (which stopped running a few years back now) saying that they were looking for new people, especially people who did other things than papercrafts. This was when UK magazines were just picking up on the fact that beading and jewellery making were becoming hugely popular, and when papercrafts still dominated all of the craft magazines. They liked my ideas and I ended up being a regular contributor, having at least one article, usually jewellery but sometimes polymer clay, a month. Once I'd had a few published I wrote to Crafts Beautiful (again!) and Quick & Crafty, including colour photocopies of some of my articles. I didn't hear from Crafts Beautiful (again!) but I did have an article published in Quick & Crafty.

Then Bead started up, and at the same time editors appeared to become far more open to receiving ideas from readers and people with little or no previous publishing experience. I wrote to Jean Power, the editor of Bead, when they started and have had several articles published in there. I also wrote a free article for Beads and Beyond in one of their first issues (the topic was offering advice on teaching jewellery workshops), but didn't do much else as the editor at that time said they didn't have a budget to pay for projects and as much as I like the publicity I couldn't afford to do it for free!

Michelle Powell took over as editor at Beads & Beyond at the beginnig of last year, and she asked her deputy editor, Rebecca Hughes, to contact me to ask if I'd like to take part in the Designer Challenge in their first, new look issue. Michelle had been the editor of Practical Crafts and remembered me from there. Becky then asked if I could also write a couple of projects for them, and since then there has only been one month I can remember that I haven't had some of my jewellery in the magazine, and that was because I didn't send anything in as I was ill. I do plan in the next year to send some more ideas off to a couple of the US magazines such as Step-by-Step Wire, but at the moment B&B are keeping me busy (projects, the Spotlight review pages and a couple of articles on the legal side of a jewellery business coming up later this year), as are my commissions, galleries and websites.

So, to cut a long story short, the most difficult thing is getting started, but once you do you start to build up a reputation with the editors you write for and can also send photocopies of published articles to other magazines to basically prove that you can do the work to the required standard.

If you want to get started I suggest that you come up with some ideas and make them up and take some really good quality photos. Take some step by step photos too to prove that you can do them. Do some research and find a few magazines suitable to your work, and don't rule out the US ones just because they're overseas - or in the case of those of you in the States, don't rule out our magazines over here! For example, my work would definitely not be suitable for a magazine specialising in stringing or bead weaving. Send a short letter introducing yourself, your work, your experience with the photos, but be careful not to send the same project ideas to more than one magazine at a time. You don't want to be in the position of two magazines saying yes to the same project, as much as that might seem great, as you would then have to say no to one of them and would get yourself a very bad reputation! Sending the letter by email is usually just as acceptable as sending it by post - in fact, some magazines prefer that method as it is less clutter in the office!

Make sure that you have a look at the websites of the magazines that you hope to write for as some have very clear submission policies. The submission information for Beads and Beyond is here. Step-by-Step Wire have put together a pdf file that can be downloaded from the front page of their website here. Some magazines even publish the themes they have in mind for each issue and the deadlines for submitting projects, and some run design competitions that offer a published article as one of the prizes. Whatever you do, make sure that you follow the advice that the magazine editors give. Don't send finished projects to magazines unless requested by the editorial team, and don't worry if you don't hear back for what seems like ages. Editors are very busy people!

Expect to get knocked back at least a few times, even when you've got experience. A friend had a project turned down by Bead but Step-by-Step Wire then said yes. I never heard back from Crafts Beautiful but had the projects I showed them accepted by other magazines (after I waited to be certain that Crafts Beautiful didn't want them!). Step-by-Step Wire liked the projects I submitted but said that they were too similar to a different piece they had planned for a future article.

Make sure that you keep following the advice of your editor, as they have the difficult job of making sure that each issue of the magazine is filled with the right balance of projects, with the right photos and the right word count - and all to a very tight deadline. And then to do it all again the next month! Some magazines, including Beads and Beyond, have a template that they ask you to use to write up your instructions, and these are very useful. Ask if they also have guidelines on how to take and present your step-by-step photos (if required) too. Don't be afraid to email for extra advice if you need it as, afterall, it is far easier for your editor if you ask for clarification and get things right the first time than send in something that needs a lot of editing.

Getting your designs out there in the big world has got so much easier with the growth in popularity of blogs, internet forums, flickr etc etc. The chance for some connected with a magazine, whether an editor or another designer, to see your work and how well it would fit with their magazine is now so much greater. I have suggested to a couple of people that they submit their work to magazines, and on one occasion I even emailed Becky to bring a designer to her attention. I definitely have no guarantees that editors I work with will listen to my suggestions or like what I send them links to, but it's always worth a try! I also know of at several designers who took part the Bead Soup Party earlier this year who were contacted by magazines, asking them to write up the instructions for their designs. Although there are no gaurantees, if you don't put your work out there, there's no way anyone can see it!

But above all, enjoy it! My first magazine project was published just over four years ago, but I will never lose the buzz of opening a magazine and seeing one of my creations in print. I have also been lucky enough to have seen people wear their versions of my designs in real life and of seeing letters published in the magazine praising articles that I've written - it always gives me such confidence. When I first started out I was convinced that I would soon run out of ideas and be exposed as a fraud. I have definitely stopped worrying about that as the more articles I write, the more designs I create, the more come spilling out of my head. Writing for magazines, Beads and Beyond in particular, has given me the freedom to experiment with new ideas that do not necessary fit with the ranges of jewellery I have developed for sale, but are still fun to make.

So there you have it, one longer than planned blog post! As I said, this is intended as advice based on my experience rather than a "how to get published" guide, and if those of you who read this who have also been published have any other hints and tips please do add them in the comments - afterall, if the magazines don't find fresh talent people can get bored, so getting new designers on board is to the benefit of all of us!

Monday 10 May 2010

Picture Weekend

Saturday was a very welcome break in my hectic routine - I spent virtually the whole day doing absolutely nothing at all! Bliss! A friend who I met when our boys were tiny babes is getting married at the beginning of next month, and a gang of us got together for a spa day on Saturday - great chat, lunch without interruptions, glass of bubbly, lazing by the pool with a trashy magazine and a facial - absolute bliss! We all had a great time - thank you Catherine! Most of the others went on to a pole dancing lesson in the evening, but T had already booked a night out when the hen party invitations were sent out, so I had to sit that one out. Hearing about all the aches and bruises from friends at the school gate this morning almost made me glad I hadn't been able to go, but the photos looked hilarious! I'm sure you'll understand why I'm not showing you any photos from Saturday though!

Sunday was a family day. T bought me a voucher for half a day's glass blowing lesson at Roman Glass for my Christmas and birthday present. I haven't been able to book it yet as I've been so busy teaching and they've been busy moving into a new workshop, the Project Workshops, near Winchester. When I read in the latest Craft and Design magazine that the craft complex that they're based in was having a weekend event I persuaded T and B to come with me with the promise of a pub lunch on the way. I loved it there, and I must admit that I was wondering round thinking of how much I'd love a studio space there - maybe one day when B's older!

We found woods carpeted with bluebells on our way to the Project Workshops 
so obviously had to stop for a photo!

I could have watched the glass blowing for hours.
If you want to see more of their work visit www.romanglassmakers.co.uk

A couple of the amazing sculptures around the workshops.
Can you imagine how womderful it must be to work in such inspiring surroundings?

If you'd like to find out more about the Project Workshops you can find their site here

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Tutorial Tuesday - polishing jewellery with a tumbler

I've had a few questions about using a tumbler to polish jewellery recently, so I thought that I'd write a blog post so I could refer people to it in the future rather than keeping typing up the same information in emails!

The photo above shows my rotary polishing tumbler - as you can see, it's seen better days but it gets a lot of use both in my workshop and at college when I take it in for my evening classes to use. It's about three years old now, but it still works perfectly. The tumbler consists of the motor unit with rollers on top that the barrel sits on, and a barrel with two with push on lids.

Inside the barrel there are three plastic blades. These help the jewellery and the shot (more about that in a bit) move around in the barrel rather than just keep on the outside as the barrel turns, a bit like the fins inside a washing machine. The shot I mentioned is the collection of metal bits and pieces you can see inside the barrel. I use stainless steel shot as there's no risk of it getting rusty. The shot acts like hundreds of tiny hammers gently hitting your jewellery hundreds of times, harden and polishing.

Here's how I use my tumbler:
  1. Fill the barrel about a third full with clean, stainless steel tumbling shot. Add enough water so that the shot is covered by a good 3cm or so of water, and then add a couple of drops of washing up liquid. The job of the soap is to lubricate the shot and to help hold the dirt that comes off the silver in suspension so that it doesn't go back on the jewellery! When I bought the tumbler I also bought some "tumbling compound" - a substance that is mainly soap and also smells of ammonia. At the time that I ran out, my supplier was out of stock. I had a look on the web for any ideas of what to use instead, and lots of people suggested washing up liquid. I've used it ever since - it does the job well and smells a lot nicer!!
  2. Add the jewellery, head pins, jump rings etc. I don't fill the barrel right up as you want everything to still have plenty of room to move otherwise it won't actually tumble!
  3. While I'm doing the above I also put hot water inside one of the lids (the other lid is obviously on the barrel) to soften it as this makes the next stage much easier. Push the lid on the barrel. You need to make sure that the lid is on tightly so that there aren't any leaks, and the best way to do this is to 'burb' out the excess air by pushing on the centre of the lid with the palm of your hand and lifting up a section of the rim - try this with a cold lid and you will soon see why I warm mine up!
  4. Dry the outside of the barrel so that it doesn't slip on the rollers.
  5. Place on the rollers and switch on! My tumbler doesn't have an on/off switch - I have to plug it in to turn it on, so I make certain that my hands are dry for this!
If I am polishing fairly clean jewellery such as newly made bangles then I only need to tumble for about 20 minutes. On the other hand, I leave head pins and jump rings to tumble for a good couple of hours to make sure that the burrs are taken off the jump rings and the metal is harder and easier to work with. I rinse the freshly tumbled jewellery in clean water and dry it carefully on a tea towel.

Because I use stainless steel shot I can store it in the water until I need to use the tumble again - which for me is the next day at the latest!

A couple of cautionary points:
  • Do not tumble fine chains unless you enjoy spending hours de-tangling them!
  • I open up my barrel inside a large plastic bowl, just in case. You definitely don't want to be chasing tiny bits of shot if they are dropped and go bouncing across the room. Trust me on this one - and if you don't want to take my word for it, go and read what happened to Anne at Contrariwise a couple of years ago! The shot is less likely to bounce out of a plastic bowl than a metal one.
  • I don't tumble jewellery containing stones or beads, especially lampwork beads. I know pople who do. Most of them have not had any problems, a few have had stones crack, and I don't want to take that risk. Stone setting is always the last thing I do after polishing, oxidising etc.

Look, lots of pretty shiny bangles!

To answer a couple of questions in the comments (thank you Gemma and Vicky!), I bought my tumbler from www.silverclay.co.uk.
Make sure that you read the comments as there are some good tips in there!

Picture Weekend

This weekend seemed much longer than a normal three day Bank Holiday weekend! That was partly because T was away on a climbing weekend on Dartmoor, but also because B and I seemed to cram so much in. Most was fun, part was expensive and not expected, but that's life!

We went to visit some friends on Saturday morning to meet the latest additions to their menagerie - four little pigs! They haven't got names but are collectively known as "The Iggles" as they will some days...erm, well....be dinner.

The next visit was lots of fun too. Nicky has been working for Clemetine Toys for a while now (which is why she hadn't had so much time for jewellery lately).
It's the great family run business where I bought B's massive train birthday present.
Saturday lunchtime was the first opening of their new bricks and mortar shop at Bitterne Triangle, just down the road from us, so of course we had to go and say hello. And buy a new piece of train track.

And then go home and make yet another super dooper train track.
Bitterne Triangle has some really useful shops, but it's never had a toy shop before. It's a welcome splash of colour!

The side trip to Kwikfit wasn't so welcome though.
We managed to get a completely flat tire on the way home :(

Sunday and most of Monday were spent at my parents where B was force-fed chocolate cake, poor love. My brother was there too, which meant that I got a by then much needed rest because when Uncle N is about Mummy isn't really needed!!
Thank you, brother dear, for the fact that my son idolises you and you are always so willing to play with him!
I hope that you dried out fairly quickly after giving him a bath!

Don't worry - of course I managed to fit some jewellery making in! Sawing, soldering, filing and other quieter jobs in the evenings while B was in bed, hammering in the kitchen while he was playing with his train set on Saturday afternoon!


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