Welcome to my blog, random stuff about me and where I live, plus some bits about my jewellery.

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Tuesday 14 December 2010

Musing on where to go next.

It's been a while since my last post, I've been busily making jewellery in anticipation of a Christmas sales bonanza, unfortunately the sales have not materialised. Now this is almost certainly my fault, I'm very disorganised when it comes to the essential business side of craft. Like hundreds of other makers I love making but really don't fully understand business, or at least am afraid of it and dislike it.

 This is a stallI had at a fair in Bristol last christmas. Not great sales but some at least.

I've atttended two fairs recently which resulted in zero sales, this has never happened before and it's a blow to the ego as well as the pocket. I can blame the recession to a certain extent but that can't be the only answer. Either I am making the wrong kind of stuff or I'm looking to sell it in the wrong market.
When it comes to the kind of stuff I make, well there's a reasonable variety, I mostly make the sea glass and beaded jewellery but also wire wrap sea glass, make a small amount with silver clay and create pendants from pebbles making hand made silver mounts for them, I also make a little polymer clay jewellery. Of course it may be that none of it appeals to anyone!

This leaves trying to sell in the wrong market. I had several bits of advice at the first fair in Bath, including 'go to London', 'contact Liberty and sell to them'. Many people have told me that my prices were way to low, however when I had low prices I sold a lot...........of course I wasn't getting any money for my time and therefore could only consider it as a hobby. So now I'm in that difficult transition between hobbyist and business. HELP

The second event with no sales was quite depressing, opposite me was a stall selling manufactured goods designed to look 'crafty' and handmade, I don't suppose they had much influence on my lack of sales except to attract a large crowd, which made it difficult for people to get past to my stall. I think the main problem was price. Having followed the advice I've raised my prices although according to Etsy they should be doubled!

One rather unpleasant side effect of the second event was that, having passed on my disappointment at having a company who buy their goods rather than making them at the event; which advertised itself as supporting local made goods, I was told that as it was a local company that was fine, and was then told that my goods were no longer considered suitable for the site that organised the event, a site I was invited to join mind you! 

I've started contacting outlets that seem to be at the slightly higher end of the market, lets hope they are interested. I'm not giving up yet although at the end of Sunday's event I felt like it.

Merry Yule everyone, and here's to a MUCH better 2011.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

The next bit

Ok, this is where I give away my darkest secret. I don't use pickle to clean firestain off silver! Shock! I use cream of tartar, I expect loads of people know that you can use this to clean metals, silver certainly, copper just goes green! I mix the powder with either water, or water and lemon juice if I'm in a hurry. Just until it's a thick paste, too runny and it won't coat the piece properly. If it get's runny add more powder. It comes in a tub for about 30 or 40 pence in a supermarket baking section.

I don't always clean the wire after I've heated it, sometimes I ike to keep the darkened look. I leave really black stuff in at least over night, rub the cream of tartar paste into the piece the next day and you should see a nice clean piece of silver.
You now need to mark the silver for drilling. You need to measure the holes drilled in the stone so that the holes in the silver match up. You can mark with a fine steel point through the pebble's holes, or if you are very clever or have a suspension unit for your drill, you can drill through the pebble into the silver, I don't recommend it though as the silver can easily slip out from under the pebble and you can end up with a hole where you don't want one. I use a good pair of dividers and a rawhide mallet. Measure the distance between the centres of the two holes as accurately as possible with the dividers, then place the points on the silver in the right place and tap with the rawhide mallet to mark the silver slightly. Make sure you are not too near the end and in the centre of the strip, also remember, you need enough space above the pebble for a chain or leather thong to thread through once the bail is bent in half! In other words don't put the holes too far from the end of the silver strip. Once you have the marks at one end mark the other end, trying to keep the same distance from this end of the bail. Hopfully you have measured your wire properly before you started, to fit on the pebble comfortably with a sensible loop above it when you are finished.
 Now make the rivets, cut short lengths of silver wire, around .6 - .8mm thick, make sure they are longer than the thickness of the pebble. Melt the end of the wire in a torch flame until a small blob forms at the end. Hold the wire at the hottest part of the flame, just beyond the point of the blue section of  flame. When it's in the right place a bright orange flare will appear behind the wire, watch closely and when the wire melts and runs into a small blob remove it from the flame and cool.

At this point either clean the prepared rivet as before, or leave it as it is if you like the oxidised look. The next step is to form it into an actual rivet. To do this properly you need a drawplate, a flat bar of steel with a variety of holes through it. They can be expensive but I got mine from an engineering firm and it was very cheap, I searched the internet for it. Put the prepared wire through the appropriate hole in the plate and hammer the end flat,
melted wire in the drawplate

Here's the rivet head,flattened, in the draw plate, top left corner. Make another.

All that's left is fitting it all together. You'll probably find that the holes need to be juggled a bit until the first rivet is in place. Place the pebble on a flat metal surface with the unfinished end of the rivet uppermost. If necessary trim it until only a short piece sticks out beyond the silver bail. Now carefully hammer this end flat. This is tricky, you need to ensure that the already flattened end of the rivet is firmly against the surface, with a natural pebble this is not easy, but if this isn't happening the rivet will just fall back through when you hammer it. You're aiming for a flat end rather than a bent over one, although as long as the rivet is firmly flat against the bail surface and you like the way it looks then that's ok. Once both rivets are fitted and properly flattened, file any rough or sharp edges smooth and there you are. Thread the pendant onto a chain or a length of thonging to complete it.

Here's one I made earlier.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Pebble Jewellery 2

Here's how I make the silver bail to mount the pebble. First take a short length of silver wire, obviously the length depends on the size of pebble, I had a photo of the wire before working it but for some reason it's corrupted, I'm sure you can all imagine a piece of wire. I use 1mm diameter sterling wire, the stuff I bought is soft, which is ideal as it can be worked straight away. Cookson Gold sells all their silver wire in this condition, I don't always want soft wire  but in this instance that's exactly what is wanted. The wire will get a little longer when worked as you are going to hammer it flat!

Here you can see the small flat faced hammer I use, it's a craft hammer with interchangeable heads but you can use any good small flat hammer. A ball pein hammer produces a different effect, you get ripples along the edge. The second image shows the beginning of the flattening process. It takes practise to get a flat straight length of silver, but I think the slight quirks are part of the style of these pieces; as the pebbles are natural the silver doen't want to be machine perfect. Watch your fingers, and make sure you're not hammering over the edge of the anvil, stay in the middle and work gradually down the wire.

Here's the finished length of silver, as you can see I haven't mastered perfection by a long way, the edge is uneven and the thickness is a bit variable but I like it fine like that. (Hmm gone a bit Scots there that's the influence of music, Wild Mountain Thyme playing on the CD!) You can see the original wire lying on the anvil. I bought this anvil and bench peg from Cookson's (see above) quite small and very cheap! You can use any bit of flat steel to hammer on but make sure that it is flat and smooth or it will mark the silver! I must point out that my silver smithing is very basic and self taught.
You'll need to anneal the silver now as it gets very hard when you hammer it and won't bend properly. To do this heat it with a small gas torch, at a push you can use a domestic gas stove, takes ages though! The silver must glow pale pink for 30 seconds to be softened enough to work it further. Check out this site for really good advice about annealing http://www.silverstall.com/annealing-silver-jewellery.html

Next time I'll talk about drilling the silver and making the rivets.

Monday 4 October 2010

Pebble Jewellery

This is the first of a short series about making a pendant from a natural pebble
First of all you have to find a suitable pebble, of course. I'm lucky enough to live by the sea so I have a good source, I only take one every now and then, this is not something you can do a lot of as beaches need their pebbles.

Here are a couple of pebbles waiting to be turned into pendants. You can also see the multi tool I use to drill holes in the pebbles.

The pebbles have two holes drilled through them using a diamond burr, depending on what kind of stone it is it can take quite a while to drill through. Choose thin flat pebbles so that you don't have to spend too long drilling, I also have  a limitation in that my diamond burr has 'shoulders' so where the drill widens is the limit of the depth I can drill to. I make pilot holes with a hand drill before using the electric one otherwise there can be problems with the bit sliding off the smooth surface.

This picture shows the hand drill with the diamond burr fitted. 

Here's the pebble with the pilot holes drilled.  The holes are quite shallow, just enough to give the motorised drill something to sit in. I use a light oil like 3 in 1 to lubricate the hole, and help keep it a little cooler. You have to stop frequently to remove the waste from the hole and add a little more oil.

Here's the first hole completely drilled through.

Starting the second hole, It's probably quite foolish to hold the stone by hand, More recently I used a lump of plasticine to hold the pebble, unfortunately the stone gets quite warm so the plasticine melts a bit, it's a safer way to hold the stone still, just remould the plasticine occasionally. I cheated this shot a bit, I needed my husband to photograph me so we took the stone to his work where there's a LOT more space. I work under the stairs in our tiny cottage so not much room for photography!

The next bit is making the silver bail. See you then.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

The Highlander

The Highlander, originally uploaded by indri the second.

I love this unusual picture, I used to sell books on quilling, among others, in a gift shop I never saw the appeal 'till now. It's great to see an old craft being brough up to date with a really original twist.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Dads in the 21st century

I've just read an article in the Autumn UK Handmade magazine, have a look, it's about the experiences of a modern Dad, dealing with, ocasionally, badly behaved kids in a positive and sensible way in the face of disapproval and suspicion from 'well meaning' nosy parkers.
I work in a library part time and we see all forms of the family in there, from the tired, frazzled and frankly impatient mother to the slightly bemused grandparent being dragged into the picture book corner by an enthusiastic toddler. Some of the worst parenting I've seen has been from mothers whose uncaring and selfish behaviour towards their kids has frequently appalled me, using the library as somewhere where they can let their kids run riot while they chat.

On the other hand when a Dad comes in alone with his kids he is usually the opposite, really focused on them and making sure they behave while enjoying themselves. Not all mothers are good and not all fathers are useless. I suppose the good fathers I see are the ones who have made a conscious decision to be the carer, wether on a permanent basis or just for a day, whereas the 'bad' mothers have perhaps been lumbered with kids they didn't really want at all.
The article talks about the portrayal of 'modern dad' on TV, I've often thought that the media has a huge responsibility towards the society they operate in, comedy particularly. It's easy, and lazy, to pick on a particular section of society and portray them as useless and bumbling or some other amusing characteristic, but people take that stuff in unconsciously and it becomes an established attitude if we are not careful. Racist comedy is, thankfully, a thing of the past but lazy comedy is still out there picking on other people and making their lives difficult. Librarians for one!

vintage beadery: what I've been doing

vintage beadery: what I've been doing: "Life is a bit full on at the moment. I've been asked to create a range of jewellery based on vintage lace for a new craft gallery. I've got ..."

what I've been doing

Life is a bit full on at the moment. I've been asked to create a range of jewellery based on vintage lace for a new craft gallery. I've got one piece finished already and another almost done. I've got loads of ideas buzzing around my head but no time to get on with them. I should have lots more time soon as from today there is no overtime at all at my part time job. Now if I could guarantee loads of sales of this jewellery then great but............
I don't have any photos yet as I'm keeping it under wraps until the launch. It will be a bit like this piece but without the moon face.

This is a section from a bracelet which is the first finished piece. I had to change it slightly to satisfy the gallery owner but it's looking good now I think.

I've just added some items with an autumnal feel to UK Handmade
check them out if you like I've got to start thinking along Christmas lines I suppose. I have a vague idea about ponytail bands, I've bought some, just have to do something with them now.

Monday 16 August 2010

A new giveaway

I've finally got round to announcing a giveaway on my facebook storefront. I mentioned it back in June but haven't got round to actually officially doing it. When I reach 200 fans I'll give away this little green sea glass pendant  via a draw, including all the fans to date. Pop over and 'like' the page to be in the draw, and send all your friends too! http://www.facebook.com/Vintage.Beadery

Life has been a bit hectic recently with no car, my husband, Jay has been slaving over replacing a head gasket in every available hour, only to find that now it's all back together the fuel pump isn't working and we have no idea why. If anyone knows anything about Renault Scenic electrics please help!

I've polished the sugar tongs bracelet, but forgot to take a picture so I'll post that later. I'm quite pleased with it, but still can't decide whether to put a dangly pendant on it or not.

I've been working on a commission for a lady for a pair of cufflinks

These are the fragments I used but I was in such a rush to get them to her I forgot to photograph the finished article!

and also on a bracelet made with vintage lace and beads for possible inclusion in a new crafts gallery in Barnstaple , it's called Atelier and is really lovely but a bit tucked away.
I never seem to have any energy these days, all that walking I expect.
There are some benefits to having to walk home from the bus, there's a shortcut over The Cairn to my house from the bus stop and I spotted this plant growing down from the trees above in the sunlight the other day, it's either white briony or honeysuckle, not sure which. I also get to pick early blackberries. It's not much fun when it rains though, as the path goes under an old railway bridge just after this and it gets very muddy and slippery.

I'll post some pictures of my recent work another day.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Competition win from Zibbet

I recently entered a competition on the Zibbet site, in return for promoting the site on my facebook page I was entered in a draw and won 3rd prize, which was $25.00 to spend on the site. In fact it was $25.00 paid into my paypal account, so technically I didn't have to spend it on Zibbet. Of course I would have felt terrible if I hadn't, so I had great fun browsing around. I eventually chose some great vintage beads to add to my stash and a hemp and copper bead bracelet.

Check out the shops I bought them from and have a look at the rest of Zibbet while you're there, if you're a craftsperson you can sell there completely for free.

Monday 2 August 2010

Messing about with silver

I was trying to get a bit further with all the projects I have going at the moment.
The first job was a clearing up session to try to get a working area. During this process I found a little cheap St Christopher pendant I aquired when I bought a second hand chain. Well since he isn't officially a saint any more I decided to melt him. It's a fairly nasty little pendant anyway, (sorry if you have one like it)

 Here's the original little pendant, about the size of a 5p and very thin, with an embossed image, which is not much clearer than that close up.

Here's the melted result, I'm quite pleased that I've managed to keep the little hanging loop. I like the colours on the reverse, I doubt if I'll be able to keep those if I want to clean the rest, I'll give it a try though.

I've actually combed some of the fleece, I bought two 'slicker' combs for dogs from Wilkos (wilkinsons for the uninitiated) for about £3.50 each rather than about 10 times that for proper carding combs. I've also started making the body for one of the paper puppets. The paper rabbit has a coat of gesso ready for decorating. I've really got to concentrate on one project at a time.

As a complete side issue how about this jackdaw posing for me in the local churchyard last week.

Oh and here's a slow worm who visited last sunday.

In the background you can see a clutter of moulds and deckles, a bowl of pulp and the paper rabbit, just to prove I'm working hard.

Friday 23 July 2010

Treasure from Trash

I've finally managed to make something that resembles a bracelet from the pair of old sugar tongs bought for £1.00 from my local market. It's not easy, especially as I don't really have any silversmithing tools, the tongs are not actually silver,they are some kind ofalloy, which I guess has brass or copper in it as it goes interesting rainbow colours when you heat it. As it has taken me so long to finish it's not polished yet, although I quite like the patination effect in places, there are some ugly marks I want to get rid of before I call it properly finished. Any way here it is for what it's worth.

Here are the original tongs, about 6" long and the spoon ends are about the size of small tea spoons.

This view shows the flattened spoon bowl.

This view shows some of the interesting colours that have developed on the metal, I need to decide wether to keep them or not, unfortunately some areas have actually turned black and not in a nice even way but in blobs and patches.

The other side.

I have a vague intention to make some kind of pendants from an old Tate & Lyle treacle tin, the sugar connection you know, and drill the bracelet to hang them from it, I'm not sure, or maybe just threaded on the narrow sections on rings so they move, may not do that at all, but I like the slightly steampunk look of the thing and I think that would enhance it. Well it's 20 past 11 on Friday so if I don't post now the deadline will have passed so that's that.

Flower Treasury

Time for another treasury, with stunning imagination I've gone for flowers:


This pretty summery necklace, caught my eye, hand made foxgloves and a little butterfly peeping out at the right hand side.

Really unusual glass chips on this memory wire bracelet, never seen millefiore as chips before, lovely.

It's really nice to see such bold fabric used for a little girl's dress. A lovely change from Bratz (Ugh) and other pink sparkly adverts.

The star of the show! I love this clever bag, so adaptable and well designed and vegan leather! I must investigate this material.

Very clever lady. 

These lovely old fashioned soap roses are a nice bit of nostalgia, this is the kind of thing my aunt used to have in her bathroom. A lovely gift for anyone, real elegance and beautiful packaging too.

Finally this dramatic necklace, a really different design and  very elegant and striking.

Well of course I have to have a piece of my stuff in here too so here's mine

I'm not totally happy with the photo, I got carried away in the garden when the sun finally came out, but it's a pretty necklace anyway.

Hope you like my choices.

Vintage thingies thursday

 This is a link to a lady who has a regular spot about vintage stuff, I've posted something on there, I hope! Link over and have a look.

Sunday 18 July 2010

Paper and sheep

Spent the day making 11 sheets of paper from the pulp, I've added some dried fuschias and some kind of wild cereal into a couple of the pages. I also put in some thin slices of shell which flaked off the inside of what might be an oyster or something like it. Bleaching doesn't seem to have made much difference to the colour so it'll be grey paper, oh well.

Yesterday a friend, who keeps sheep, gave me a fleece. It was fun bringing it home on the bus, I suppose living round here people don't think twice about a feed sack full of smelly wool. I left it outside last night and it's been lurking in the bath most of the day. The first lot of water was totally opaque brown! It's getting cleaner but it will take a while, then I'll have to card it, anyone know where I can get cheap carding combs? I'll probably use a couple of wire dog brushes as a substitute.

This is the fleece after several washes, one with grated soap in the water. I managed to pull a little out and wash it thoroughly, I laid it into a sheet of paper, not totally successful as the lanolin in the wool has repelled the top layer of paper. We'll have to see how it is when it's dry.

I had planned to make the limbs for the puppets from copper mesh with a bit of paper on it, so far I can't get the paper to stick to the mesh. At the moment the wierd Barbie has paper coated arms to see if I can make the limbs entirely out of paper.

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