Saturday 30 April 2011

Smoky Quartz goodies! (and giveaway and special offer!)

I love smoky quartz. It's one of those stones that goes beautifully with anything, from rich reds like garnet to cool blues such as turquoise, and looks just as good on it's own with silver. The pieces below are ones that I made before Christmas, but it's taken me until now to put on the website as, well, I have been just a little bit busy! Anyway, here they are. I hope you like them as much as I enjoyed making them - although I can't decide whether the sweetness of the Dainty pendant is my favourite or the elegance of the long earwires on the Smoky Leaf earrings wins! What do you think?

Smoky Leaf pendant and earrings

Dainty Pendant - smoky quartx and garnet

Sorry this is such a short post but the boys and I have been out almost all day, first of all to our local park to feed the ducks, have a picnic and play in one of the three playgrounds (have I mentioned before how lucky we are to have such a great, large and beautiful park within easy walking distance? I really must take some more photos to show you), and then at a brilliant birthday party in the garden complete with magician and bbq - yes, the fantastic weather continues! I'm still getting very tired in the evenings, which is as much due to being a new mum as to recovering from surgery.

I'll finish by reminding you that these earrings:

can be won by one of the lovely people leaving a comment on this post, and that you still have until midnight on Monday 2nd May to use the code "Easter11" to get 10% off jewellery on my website!

Friday 29 April 2011

Quick! Look!

My shed is tidy! Take a good look, as it won't last for long!

T looked after the boys for most of today (apart from when Jamie needed feeding obviously!) while I started a couple of work projects that I've been planning and wanting to get started for months, but before I could get started I really had to get myself organised, otherwise I'd have too many distractions on the desk in front of me.

I finally tidied up the table I have my photo studio on so that there's space for my lovely new laptop to make life easier for photo editing - just in time for watching some of the Royal Wedding!

And while we're on the subject (because it's impossible to blog today without mentioning it, isn't it?) wasn't she beautiful? And weren't the weather and the crowds and the atmosphere and absolutely everything about the day fantastic?

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Tutorial Tuesday - Hammered drop earrings

A tutorial from me this week! It's been a while since I wrote a tutorial for the blog - I'm always busy designing projects but most of them end up being sent off to magazines! This tutorial is for an earring design that I used to make a lot of for craft fairs. I'd almost forgotten it until a friend asked me to make a couple of pairs for her to give as presents as she liked the ones I'd made her a couple of years ago so much. I thought I may as well take photos as I made them, and also made a few more pairs too - one pair for me, a couple of pairs for a coffee morning at my Mum's on Thursday, and anothercouple of pairs for a giveaway. Details of how to enter are at the end!

You will need:
18cm 0.8mm wire
6 beads with holes not much larger than 0.8mm
bench block
round nosed pliers
wire cutters
nylon jaw pliers
flat needle file

To start, cut two 9cm lengths of 0.8mm wire. This will make you earrings approximately 4.5cm long. If you'd like them to be a different length then cut your wire accordingly! If necessary use the nylon jaw pliers to straighten the wire.

Lightly hammer the last 5mm of one end of each piece of wire. You are basically turning the wire into head pins so that beads will not fall off the end.

File the hammered ends so that they are nice and rounded. Give them a quick sand if necessary. I tried and failed to take a photo of me filing the wire, so instead here's a photo of one piece of wire filed and one before filing so that you can hopefully see the difference between them.

Thread on your beads. The bottom bead should fit snuggly on to the hammered part of the wire so that it doesn't fall off. Now is a good time to compare your pieces of wire. Make sure that they are the same length and the hammered section below the bottom bead is the same on each earring. Trim and file the wire if necessary.

Use a mandrel such as a pen barrel to bend the wire into a U shape with each leg of the U the same length.

Use nylon jaw pliers to flick out the last 5mm or so of wire - I find this makes the earrings easier to put on and also gives them a more professional look. File the end of the wire so that  it is comfortable to pass through your ear.

Lightly hammer the front of the earrings to strengthen them. This photo shows how I hold the earrings on the bench block so that the beads do not get damaged by the hammering.

And that's it! Of course you can use as many or as few beads as you like, assuming that they will fit on the wire, but I think that odd numbers of beads usually look best. I've used purple jade beads that are actually a bit more plumy purple than the photos here show. I love the translucent appearance of jade - it makes lovely dreamy soft coloured beads.

Anyway, I mentioned a giveaway!  It's been far too long since I had one, so I thought that as we've got two Bank Holiday weekends in a row (and both four day weekends at that thanks to the Royal Wedding!) that I'd have two giveaways, both for a pair of the purple jade earrings that I've just shown you how to make.

The first giveaway is for people on my mailing list - so if you're already on my newsletter mailing list then you're in the draw already, and if you're not just use the link on the left to sign up and get entered! To enter the second giveaway all you have to do is leave me a comment on this post and let me know the last thing you created, be it a cake, jewellery, beads or a mess in the kitchen, cos I'm in a nosey mood and anyway, I show you what I make!

You can enter both giveaways, but I'll make sure that there are two winners to be fair, and the giveaways are open to any country. You have until midnight next Monday 2nd May to enter - good luck!

Monday 25 April 2011

Picture Weekend

It has been a glorious Easter weekend! We've spent as much of it as possible outside, partly in the garden, partly in the local park and partly at a craft and garden show I dragged all three of my boys to in the grounds of Somerley House near Ringwood.

Counting his loot from the Easter egg hunt in the garden!

Ben spent ages lining them up for a photo call!

How about this for a wendy house?!
This was my favourite - it's got a BBQ in the middle but to me it looks as though it should house a Hobbit!

It's back to school for Ben tomorrow though. his packed lunch is waiting in the fridge, his new shoes are polished and his name inside all his new uniform (he's had a bit of a growth spurt!), his book bag and PE kit are packed and ready by the front door - just don't expect me to be this organised every school night! It's been a fantastic school holiday, partly because of the weather, but also because T now has the school holidays off work so we've been able to spend time relaxing together.

Saturday 23 April 2011

More pendants - and an Easter offer!

Daintier pendants this time, but each one lovingly made with semi-precious stones and sterling silver, and each one unique - so if you see one you like, don't hang about! Especially as to celebrate two four day weekends in a row (it'll probably never happen again so make the most of it!) and gorgeous sunshine, if you enter "Easter11" at checkout you'll get 10% off all jewellery orders until midnight on Monday 2nd May.

The Russian Circles pendant is my favourite of the three, although the two turquoise pendants would go with more of my wardrobe! The stone in the Russian Circles is a Russian Blue Pietersite - it has beautiful velvety colours that you really have to see in real life to appreciate properly. I can see this being worn with a crisp white shirt and a pair of jeans - and getting lots of compliments as you wear it!

Now that I've shown these off T and I are going to sit in front of the television with our dinner and watch the new Doctor Who. We had to record it while we put the boys to bed, so if any of you have already watched it be warned - nasty things will happen to anyone who lets us know any spoilers! Altogether now.... da dalanar da dalanar da dalanar da dalanar da dalanar da dalanar da dalanar da dalanar ooo-eee-ooo oooo oooo.......... (my singing is no better in real life, sorry!)

Friday 22 April 2011

I've been busy!

Today was a day of playing in the sunshine with the boys and taking photos of new products. This evening was spent editing the photos and uploading pendants and necklaces to the website - and realising again just how much I love my new laptop! I edited ten photos in the time I would have edited one on the old laptop - and of course I told T this several times to justify to him the money I spent on it!

Anyway, the first piece I have to show you is Pacific, the pendant I showed you as a work in progress last week. I am so pleased with this! The Apatite stone is just gorgeous, such rich shades of turquoise and blue with an "island" of earthy brown.

I decided to make a chain for it in the end (thanks Fiona and friends on Facebook for your input!), but instead of a traditional style chain with circular links I designed one with long links that have been hammered and then twisted. The twists add both stength and a bit of sparkle to the necklace, and this style of chain uses less silver, which helps to keep the costs down for both you and me. The price of silver really is horrible at the moment, which has meant that I've unfortunately had to put the prices up on some of my made-to-order designs. It's the first price increase for a long time and I've been able to put it off for a while as I had a stock of silver I'd bought at a lower price, but I can't avoid it now.

I take the photos of me modelling jewellery by standing in front of the mirror in our hallway. That way I can see the reflection of the screen on my camera in the mirror and make sure that I've got everything I need in shot. It was taking me longer than usual to take the photos, and it took me a while to realise why - I was trying not to show the scars that my recent surgery have left on my neck. When I first came out of hospital my neck was still very swollen, and most of that swelling has gone now. The rest will apparently take a few months. The scars will apparently fade a lot. I don't hide the scars when I'm out, partly because I've never liked wearing tight scarves or roll-neck jumpers, so I don't know why I was trying ot hide them from this is me.... proudly showing off some of my battle scars. There are others but my neck is the most immediately obvious. They could have been a lot worse, and they remind me of just how much I've overcome with the help of a great team of surgeons, my wonderful family and equally wonderful friends - and I include all of you who sent me messages and good wishes in that.

Wednesday 20 April 2011


Look what the postie brought me today! Not the best photo I'm afraid as the lovely sunlight had gone by the time I was able to get the camera out. Mindy (moogin beads) very kindly said that she'd make me a set of these after Rebecca Anderson beat me to the original set by a matter of minutes. Rebecca and I may share our birthday (ok, so I am a few years older!) but our styles and the materials that we use are very different so it'll be interesting to see what we make with them.

You can also see the chain that I've made for the pendant I showed you last week in the background. My plan is to finish it tomorrow and hopefully take the photos for a magazine article, but we'll see how long Jamie naps for!

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Save our Hallmarks!

I've posted about this on facebook already, as have many others, but it's such an urgent and important issue that I wanted to ask for help with it here!

I've written about Hallmarking before - here for example. Everything that I make that has a silver content of 7.78g or more, and often the pieces with less silver than that as well, gets sent off to Goldsmiths' Hall in London, the London Assay Office, for assaying and then marking. The assaying is carried out to determine the silver content of the jewellery, making certain that my bullion suppliers have been honest with me and that I am being honest with my customers. The jewellery is then stamped with the marks you can see in the picture above. The first is my maker's mark - the combination of my initials and the shape of the shield make it unique to me. The next is the modern symbol for sterling silver followed by the traditional symbol for sterling silver - the modern version is the legal one now to bring all of the EU into line, but I like having the traditional one too. The Leopard's head is the mark for the London Assay Office, and the other assay offices have their own marks too. Last is the letter stamp indicating the year - again this one isn't a legal requirement now that Europe insisted on some changes, but I like having it. I'm a bit of an old romantic and I like the thought that years from now someone will be able to look at a piece of my work and see exactly who made it and when it was Hallmarked!

So, why am I telling you all this again? Well, the Government have set up a website asking people to give their opinions as to whether certain pieces of legislation should be kept - the Red Tape Challenge - and this time round the Hallmarking legislation is being looked at. Thankfully all the comments that I've read have been positive, trying to make clear how important hallmarking is - not that I've had time to read all of the several thousand comments! Comments have been left by designers like me, larger jewellery businesses, jewellery sellers etc etc - anyone in the UK who has business with precious metals.

Please please could you visit the site too and leave a comment supporting Hallmarking? The UK was the first country to introduce Hallmarking over 700 years ago (you can read more about it's history here if you like) and it is the oldest form of consumer protection, part of our heritage and I'm proud of it! Without it there is no way you can be certain that the sterling silver or gold you are buying is what the seller says it is - it protects all of us.

You can find the website here - Thank you!

A birthday present for me

Note to self - when I schedule a blog post I really must double check the date I schedule it for! I thought I'd been really organised over the weekend, scheduling a post to be published on Saturday. No....I logged back on to blogger yesterday evening to find that I'd scheduled it for 16th May! An easy mistake to make, you'd think, except that 16th April is my birthday, so you'd think that I'd know that date off by heart!

Anyway, I've had a lovely birthday weekend. I don't usually celebrate my birthday much, but I did this year. Afterall, I feel that I've got a lot to celebrate and be thankful for this year! I invited some girl friends out on Friday night for drinks and tapas at the Trago Lounge, a coffee bar that I've been to on a couple of Friday mornings for a craft group. Lots of laughs and gossip and "I can't believe it's been so long since I went out in the evening" from several friends with young children! Saturday was a lazy day - my boys let me have a lie in and even some time in the workshop - and Sunday was a BBQ at my parents where we celebrated my Mum and brother's birthdays too as their birthdays were back in February when I was in hospital. All in all a great weekend, and the house is now decorated with beautiful flowers and the cupboard stocked with enough chocolate to keep me going for at least a couple of months!

 I spent my workshop time working on a birthday present to myself. Sometimes new stones will sit on my desk for a month or even more before I make a final decision on how to use it, but the beautiful purple goldstone that arrived in the post on Thursday wasn't one of those. I started the bezel setting and made the chain for it on Thursday evening! It's a very long chain, long enough to wrap round twice if I want to wear it shorter, and it's all mine! Yep, I'm keeping this one! I managed to finish the stone setting that I showed you last week too, so hopefully I'll be able to take some photos of that today in between Jamie's feeds to show you tomorrow.

And Happy Birthday Rebecca!I hope you had a lovely day on Saturday too!

Thursday 14 April 2011

Look what the postie brought me today!

The other day, while playing on personalising the settings and transferring the files over to my new laptop, my fingers accidentally typed in the web address of Designer Cabochons. Then my eyes, ignoring my orders to them, spied a beautiful picture jasper cab.....and then another one......and then a goldstone cab...... and then conspired with my fingers to add them all to the shopping cart and pay for them. I know! The traitors :)

I know I should have resisted. I have a box full of beautiful stones just waiting for me to make them the perfect setting, some with the bezel collar already made, but I knew if I let these slip through my fingers I'd regret it as I usually only see cabochons on this website after someone else has bought them and the "sold" sign has gone up! And you have to agree they are beautiful - the photos definitely do not do them justice as they were just quick snaps taken on my workdesk, and the jaspers have such a high polish that it was difficult not to get the reflection of the windows and the camera in shot!

I was only going to get one jasper but I liked the shape of the lozenge one and the pattern on the oval. And the purple goldstone is such a gorgeous colour and an unusual shape - I've got quite a simple setting with an unusual handcrafted chain in mind for that one. Now I just need to find time to create it!

Wednesday 13 April 2011


I've only been able to spend about an hour in the workshed over the last couple of days, partly due to the fact that the school Easter holidays thankfully have started. I say thankfully as Ben was getting really tired the last week or so of term. He's taken to school so well that I sometimes forget that he's only done two terms of full time school, and everyone gets tired towards the end of term - I know I always did! He was telling me that he didn't like school last week, but still running in the classroom door with a big smile on his face. He's not really old enough to understand that he wasn't as enthusiastic about school as normal because he was tired and needed a break, not because he didn't like school any more. Anyway, he's having a break now - he and T have gone to see T's dad in Spain for a couple of days. Jamie and I have stayed here as it takes up to 6 weeks to get a new passport for a baby and 6 weeks ago we were rather busy with other things! We dropped them off at Bournemouth airport yesterday, which was the main reason I didn't make it out into the shed yesterday. Monday's reason was a mammouth shopping trip - new summer clothes, school trousers and school shoes for a rapidly growing five year old.

Anyway, I finally made it out there (with Jamie in his red bouncy chair) for an hour this afternoon and started setting the stone in this pendant. He sits and bounces and giggles as I explain to him exactly what I'm doing and why - I've started his training already! I actually did the silver work before Christmas but haven't had the chance to finish it off until now. My first jobs were to file out a couple of stubborn pieces of solder inside the bezel and I still need to give the bezel a final checking over and burnish. Then it'll be time to take several dozen photos before choosing just three or four to put on the website! My lovely new laptop will make editing the photos sooo much quicker than my old dinosaur :)

The stone, by the way, is far more beautiful that the photo shows. I hope that the photos I take of the finished piece do it justice  - blues and purples are so much harder to capture accurately for some reason. It's just over 75cts of blue apatite, and has a hint more of soft turquoise than my monitor shows the photo. It's a substantial 48mm by 32mm, but it's not the most dense of stones and I've cut away as much of the silver behind the setting as I could without affecting the strength of the piece so while it'll be a beautifully big pendant it'll be surprising light for it's size. The only thing I can't decide at the moment is whether to leave it as a pendant on a nice medium weight bought chain or to handcraft a chain for it and turn it into a necklace rather than a pendant. What do you think?

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Tutorial Tuesday - Pulling Stringer

I'm yet to have a go at making lampwork beads, mainly because I've used some of the best lampwork in the UK the world and I know I'd get very impatient with myself as my feeble efforts would be nothing like the beauties that Laura Sparling and Mindy MacGregor make! That doesn't mean, though, that I'm not fascinated by how the beads are made. I've mentioned Laura's tutorials and videos before now, and she posted a new one at the weekend. This one is on making stringer, the very fine threads of glass used to decorate the beads. Laura's stringer work is amazingly precise.

Laura has also posted the out-takes of the video on youtube. Go visit her blog at to see them - they're hilarious!!

Monday 11 April 2011

A Perfect Picnic Weekend

We've just had a wonderful weekend - great friends and great weather, two picnics and a BBQ! Well, in this country you really have to make the most of the good weather as it never lasts long! Our visitors, Hellie, Jamie and baby Eliza are moving to New Zealand in a few weeks time, so this was the last time we're going to see them for a while. Hellie and I were at university together - same course, same hall of residence in the first year, same house in the final year and then we shared a house again a couple of years after graduation, and we graduated 15 years ago  - although in some ways it really doesn't seem that long ago. Hellie, I'm going to miss you so much, but I'm determind we'll get out there to see you some how!
BIke Racer Ben

T set up a rope slide between two trees at our local park yesterday!

My favourite photo of Jamie so far

Mummies and children!
The perfect April blue sky!


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