Thursday 11 November 2010

What a week!

It's been a mixed week so far. Monday was very productive - I spent most of the day catching up with boring but necessary admin jobs but managed to set the stones in the part-made examples I'd put together for last Saturday's stone setting workshop. However, I tossed and turned all Monday night, and woke up on Tuesday morning looking like a cross between a chipmunk and a relative of the Mitchellin man - and a throbbing abscess on a tooth. If I hadn't already written and scheduled the tutorial this week it would have been very quiet here this week!

Thankfully, one emergency dentist appointment and strong (pregnancy friendly!) antibiotics later and I look and feel a lot more human. I even got some sleep last night!! Whether I sleep next Tuesday night, though, is another matter as I'm having the abscess drained on Wednesday! I had to cancel my classes on Tuesday night, which I hated having to do, but I wouldn't have got much teaching done without being able to talk.

Anyway, today has been alot better. Anna has been round for a day's silversmithing tuition to build on the stone setting skills that she learnt during Saturday's class. You can see the pendant she made on Saturday here, and she's popping back round to finish setting the stone tomorrow morning - I promise to take some photos when she's done as it's going to be a gorgeous pendant!

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day - it's the Christmas Shopping Evening! I've still got a few pieces I'd like to finish to take along with me (I always want to make more, just in case!), and I've also got to buy the wine for the drinks included in the ticket price and finish collecting the raffle prizes. Local shops have been very generous with prizes - we've got everything from vouchers for the local butcher to a gift basket from the hairdressers and a voucher from a great local photographer who I'm hoping will take some photos of our newly enlarged family in the New Year. If you're in the area tomorrow evening do come along - ticket sales have gone even better than we hoped they would, but there will still be some tickets on the door!

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Tutorial Tuesday - bezel setting tips

I've had a few bezel stone setting projects in Beads and Beyond over the last few months, and there are more to come! I have a very strict word and photo limit to work to when writing the projects, which is good because it makes sure that the instructions are concise, but sometimes it would be nice to show an extra photo or two. Sometimes Becky can accomodate this by having two smaller photos for one of the steps, but it's not always possible. So, I decided to take a whole load of photos when I was setting stones in a pair of earrings last week so that I could show you a couple more details. Mind you, if you have back copies of Beads and Beyond with my stone setting masterclass and with the stone setting projects that I've already had published then it's worth reading through those one after the other if you're learning how to bezel set stones as I've tried to teach something new and show a new detail in each project.

So here goes! As always, if you've got any questions or any tips of your own, please do leave a comment! I know that not everyone sets stones in exactly the same way, but as I keep saying to my students, there's quite often more than one way of getting the job done, but if you get the same end result, are working safely and efficiently and in a way that makes sense for you, it doesn't matter which method you use in the end!

The stones waiting to be set on my desk at the start of the morning! I like to make quite a few settings and then set them all at the same time.

These are the earrings with the stones in place ready to be set. All the soldering, filing etc and most of the polishing has been done. They've been through the tumbler to start to harden the ear wires but I'll need to do a bit more polishing at the end as the earrings will be handled so much while the stones are set. The bezel setting has been bevelled slightly at the top to reduce the thickness of silver (never by more than a third though otherwise the setting becomes weakened) that needs to be pushed over the stone, and it has also been filed slightly lower at the tips of the stones to make it easier to get a neater finish there. If you're just learning how to set stones I suggest that you start with oval or round ones first, and ones that aren't too small and fiddly at that!

I use a bezel pusher to do most of the setting. This is a short piece of square steel rod in a wooden handle. It's always worth checking new stone setting tools when they arrive in case they have rough edges etc. I've filed and sanded the edges of the end square so that they don't leave so many (or hopefully any!) marks on the silver as I'm setting the stone.

To start setting the stone, hold the pusher flat against the setting, pushing slowly and firmly. You may be surprised at how much pressure you need to put on the setting, but if you move slowly you will still control the movements and are very unlikely to slip.

Then push the pusher up and over the top of the stone, again moving slowly and firmly.
I'd usually be holding the stoneand setting firmly with my left hand when using the pusher, but I needed it to take the photos! Just imagine it's there!!

To set the stone evenly you need to push once on one side of the setting and then travel across the stone in a North-South-East-West pattern. If you start pushing at, say, the southern most end of the stone and then continue to work your way around the stone rather than moving across it then you will end up with the silver bunched up when you get round to the finishing point.

It gets a little more complicated when setting a teardrop shaped stone like this one, but hopefully you can see that I've pushed the setting once at the botttom and once on each side.

In this picture I've continued to push between the original pushed areas.

In this picture both stones have been set, the bezel has been pushed or rubbed over the stone evenly all the way round, but I'm not quite finished yet! If your stone still feels a little loose you probably need to continue pushing or rubbing over the setting - you may not have been firm enough the first time round!

This is a burnisher. I've also got straight burnishers and even one made by filing and sanding down an old screw driver! Burnishers are used to rub around the setting, removing the marks left by the bezel pushers. Make sure that you regularly check your burnishers for marks and sand them out, otherwise those marks will be transferred onto your silver, causing more work.

This setting still needs a bit more burnishing on the area that appears duller, towards the top of the teardrop.

And in this picture the marks have magically gone!


All that was left for these earrings was to turn the earwires, hammer them (carefully!) for extra strength and to give them a final polish - and you can now find them on the website here

Monday 8 November 2010

Our school run

We are lucky to live in such a lovely area of Southampton. I have to admit that before B came along Bitterne Park was just somewhere that we happened to have our house, somewhere that was convienent for work and travelling to parents etc, but having a child really does change how you feel about a place. I'd still ideally like to live somewhere more rural (but somewhere with good public transport for when B and Bump are older - I know what it's like to be a teenager in a tiny village with one bus a week!!) but as Southampton goes, this is definitely one of the nicest places.

We're not far from the River Itchen and Riverside Park runs through most of Bitterne Park - lots of ducks and swans to feed, an outdoor activity centre, three play parks, a minature railway in the summer, a pitch and putt, lots of room to run about in - and at this time of year, absolutely gorgeous colours. I finally remembered to take the camera with me so that I could capture them, as I'm sure they'll only be with us for another few days. B and I currently drive halfway to school, purely because I'm finding it rather painful walking back up the steep hills after dropping him off - the downside of leaving on the side of a river valley! We then walk through the park the rest of the way. Well, I walk, he speeds off on his balance bike, doing about three times the distance I do by the time he's had races with his friends! The park is always busy with dog walkers, football matches in the winter, cricket and picnics in the summer, community events.

P.S. B's very pleased with the new hat and scarf I've knitted him, and I'm pleased with the way the yarn has striped. He had one request - a large fluffy pompom on the top of the hat!

Saturday 6 November 2010

Stone setting workshop

Today the conservatory/kitchen was filled with the sound of people oohing and aahing over beautiful stones, sketching out ideas, sawing, hammering, soldering and filing - yes, it was my last group workshop at home before going on maternity leave!

The majority of the group hadn't set cabochons before, but they all produced beautiful work - just take a look! I always love how one basic technique can have so many different uses and end results. I'm off to tidy all the tools away while you admire their work!

Syd's purple charoisite pendant - the beautiful stone works brilliantly in a simple organic setting
Anna's pietersite pendant - her clever use of the square of silver I gave each person reminds me of origami!
Carol's carnelian pendant - I love the texture she used!
Helen's jade pendant - the simple setting shows off the stone really well
Jenny's labradorite pendant - I really like the way she's used such different shapes. They've made a stunning pendant.
Sara's hematite pendant - the perfect "go with anything" piece of jewellery!

P.S. Syd, Anna and Jenny used stones from my friend Brenda's etsy shop - she let me have a box of stones for them to pick from if they wanted something a bit more special than my basic cabs!

P.P.S. I have only three dates left for private tuition before I go on maternity leave so if you'd like to come and have a great day learning new skills in my workshed you'd better get in there quickly - this time yesterday I had five dates left! You can find the dates and more details here. I'm also teaching a beginners jewellery taster day for Eastleigh college on Saturday 20th November - details can be found here.

Friday 5 November 2010

Catching up

Thank you for you good wishes - my cold has virtually gone now thankfully! Colds don't usually knock me for six like this, so I don't know if it was something worse or if I was just really run down but I hadn't felt that bad since getting the flu last year. Oh, and one bit of maths I forgot -
heartburn that I've had all pregnancy + lots of coughing due to cold = acid reflux  
Not Nice. I now actually like the taste of gaviscon. This is also the reason why I am posting at such an un-Godly hour - I gave up and got up as it's more comfortable to sit upright at the moment! Ten weeks to go, ten weeks to go......!

The very expensive beach huts!
Anyway, I'm just glad that I was feeling well enough to travel up to Suffolk last Thursday. We always spend part of October halfterm holiday in Suffolk as my Grandma's birthday is on 31st October. The older she gets, the more important it is to me, although I'm pretty certain that she'll be with us well into her hundreds! This year the family have spread their birthday visits out, as Grandma finds it a bit too much to have all of us with her at the same time - too much noise! My aunt and cousins and their families live in Suffolk too and did her a special tea yesterday, B and I took her out on Friday, my parents are travelling up to take her out this weekend and my brother is going up later in the month. (By the way, T spent the weekend climbing Snowdon - yes, he is mad!) None of her trips out seem amazingly exciting (B and I took her out for a special afternoon tea for example) but they are what she enjoys.

An ice cream at the seaside is compulsory, even in the winter!

We stayed with friends rather than family this time. Mum and Dad moved away from Suffolk a few weeks after they got married but we moved back up for a while when I was a teenager and I went to college in Suffolk, and I've still got friends in the area. We stayed with my friend Kate (we've been friends for two decades now - where has the time gone?!?) and her children - her husband was also away for the weekend so we spent the days exploring the beautiful Suffolk coast with the children and the evenings eating too much chocolate and setting the world to rights! We spent Saturday at Southwold. I love how different the coast is at each time of year, and that even when it's cold, it's still beautiful! I don't know whether it's the quality of the light along the coast or just the fact that I'm in a place that I love, but everything looks beautiful - I haven't inflicted all the photos I took on you, but I hope you like this selection!

First go on tuppenny slot machines on the pier
Two train mad boys!

This week has been back on track work-wise - lots of orders with people getting organised for Christmas. I've been making lots of lovebird pendants! Also lots of preparation for a couple of shows at the end of next week (more details tomorrow - erm..later today!) and preparation for my fully-booked stone setting workshop on Saturday. I was teaching today too - Debbie came and made a beautiful cuff bracelet, learning how to use the rolling mill and how to oxidise her work - hello Debbie! I forgot to take a photo, so you'll just have to trust me when I say it was lovely!

Time to try sleep again I think!


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