17 Jul 2011

A postponement and an opportunity

I was scheduled to have dental surgery this last Friday – something I’d been waiting to have done since February and had had the appointment for since early May – and for reasons I won’t bore you with, I’ve had to postpone it, much to my significant annoyance.

But having expected to be out of action for a few days, or at least a bit below par, I’d been working towards the date for a couple of weeks, trying to get ahead of myself with both work commitments and household chores – and had done a pretty good job of organising myself.

Please click on any of the photographs to see a larger view.

I haven’t been very far this week, so my only photographic opportunities have been local. In this case, I was trying out different film simulation modes on my camera. This one is Astia – a little rich for my taste, but with saturation reduced too, it might give very nice results.

Consequently when it was cancelled for this week, I found myself with some time available that hadn’t been planned and was reluctant to just squander it by just getting on with my usual routine. So I decided to use the opportunity to make something totally new – not just replacing the stock I’d sold, or on customer orders, which had taken up most of my recent ‘making’ time – but something completely from scratch from the massive pile of as yet unmade sketches in my book.

I’ve always had a thing for daisies – they’re just perfectly beautiful and I always have them in my garden. Whilst messing with the close up filters when the sun was low, I noticed how gorgeous this was underneath when backlit. It pays us to occasionally just look at things we take for granted, beauty – and I do love the gorgeous abstract nature manages – is right there under our noses.

So as I finished my breakfast on Thursday I perused my sketchbook to see what leapt out at me first and took my fancy. I pondered the shapes and tallied this in my mind with materials I had available and as I progressed to washing the breakfast pots – a task I’ve often posted that I consider to be quality and valued thinking time – my mind went off on its own, taking some of the shapes I’d reviewed and developing them further. As it does.

Mr Boo had one of his ‘brainwaves’ whist walking the other evening – he thought a slightly different route home would be nice – although it was rather further than he’d remembered and we were fighting off invisible ninjas all the way through long grasses. But we were rewarded by the odd gorgeous scene as the evening sun filtered through the trees.

I considered mobius rings and the idea of twists and by the time I was pulling the plug out of the sink, one particular shape was already settled as the one I wanted to try. As with many metalwork designs, you have to consider the methodology carefully – working out in which order to form the shapes – when to hammer which bit and where to place any soldered joins, so at this point I almost always work a prototype in copper first – especially as this was a design that I thought lent itself to highly polished silver and I wasn’t even sure it would work, or what size to start with.

For example, I made these earrings in this session too, as they were long overdue to match the larger pendant I made a little while ago. I found out the hard way – as we often do – that it’s vital to work in a particular order – and in this case, the curved curly cut ends must be polished and pretty much finished at the very first stage, as once you make up the heart, you can’t get to the ends in order to finish them to the same standard as the rest. This particular shape, like many, needs hammering in a particular order too as you form the shape.

And this is where my design journal earns its keep – I initially make rough notes as I work in my sketch book – often changing it as I work it through – when satisfied, I write this up in my proper final design journal and this acts as a recipe book for my designs. If you find something out the hard way, there’s no value in repeating the lesson next time you make the design – that just wastes time and materials.

I’ve always had a passion for very simple designs with clean lines – but you can only pull this off if you do it well – your workmanship has nowhere to hide, so you have to do a damn good job with it. I still haven’t reached the stage where I can produce results of this nature to the level of perfection I’d like, but only practice will improve me.

I wanted to make a teardrop pendant from a single loop where it was twisted at the top to form an integral bail – one closed enough to prevent it slipping off the chain and turning upside down, but clearly visually all one sinuous shape.

I grabbed an already soldered copper loop, that I’d stretched to an oval, to work out the details and was incredibly happy that it worked just as I hoped – I learnt enough through the process to know what order I needed to work in and made the appropriate pencil scribbles in my sketchbook. Then grabbed a length of silver. I wanted it slightly larger than the copper with more of a teardrop and less of the ellipse the copper had become.

With the first one, I hammered an area that I decided would work better if left round and hammered later, so on the third version, I felt I got exactly what my mind had visualised – exactly the shape I hoped for and I was delighted with the result.

I now want to work on the method a little more to see if I can make it with less tool marks – it doesn’t matter sometimes how well you dress your tools or the care with which you work, when you apply considerable force to metal, it’s sometimes inevitable and unavoidable.

I’ve now part-worked a third version in Sterling silver by a method my subconscious has worked out in the meantime and it’s already looking better.

I suspect that this was considerably more fun than I was scheduled to have on Friday and I feel that it was a suitable outcome from finding myself with a creative opportunity that I didn’t want to squander.

22 Oct 2010

Lovely customers make it all worthwhile

I’ve had one of those tiresome weeks where far too much time has been wasted . . . er, spent on things you’d just prefer not to – like trying to get an elderly and cranky computer to work efficiently. I bought the part that I thought it needed and we spent a chunk of time fitting it, to find that the one I’d bought wasn’t up to spec and will need to be returned and re-ordered. So until that arrives, I’m nursing it along, being kind and making encouraging noises, to coax it along.

Then my favourite magnifier lamp for working on small details (which doubles up for my jewellery photo taking) failed – I just switched it on and it was dead. I finally sourced a replacement tube and made a special trip to pick one up, but that didn’t cure it, so I’ve had to buy another lamp. So that’s wasted time and prevented me working on things too.

But over the last few days I have received lovely feedback on Etsy and by e-mail for other items sold. And as soon as you read kind words about your work, from people who are going to enjoy wearing it, it reminds you of exactly why you do what you do and lifts your spirits immeasurably.

“Everything is top quality, from the exquisite packaging to the gorgeous beads and incredible metalwork”

“Another little treasure.”

“Fabulous item and service.”

“. . . my friend absolutely LOVED the jewellery”

” . . . how beautiful your jewellery is!!! I love it and the quality.
Great stuff!!!”

Most of my work is spontaneous. I have an idea, grab some materials and set to work. The fact that someone subsequently likes it too and will enjoy wearing it, is a joy that I’ve just never tired of. It’s still rather odd and wonderful to me that something that starts out as a scratch in my sketchbook or an idea that pops into my head in the shower, ends up being worn to a party, or wedding, or going on holiday to wear in exotic places. This week I’ve sent pieces to Australia, Sweden and various points in the US, as well as the UK. I feel very cosmopolitan. It’s within my own lifetime that this idea would almost have been incomprehensible.

This piece will be for me as I’m not happy with the standard of the finish (the photograph flatters it) and I learnt a great deal whilst working on it. It’s brushed satin copper with Sterling silver nuggets and hanging from a tube bail soldered on the back. I haven’t decided yet what colour finish to give it, I might oxidise it and tumble it extensively to give the copper a gunmetal finish and polish the silver back to bright.

But sometimes, like the piece above that I’m working on just now (which will now be for myself), through either the wrong tools or not having the right ones, or just plain lack of skill or experience, they don’t come out how you plan or envisage. Or you encounter problems you hadn’t anticipated – sometimes something that feels like it should be easy, just isn’t and simply doesn’t work how you want.

I’ve been experimenting with putting my own textures into copper sheet. I’ll antique this one to highlight the pattern and match the chain. I have smaller pieces prepared for matching earrings too. I’m also getting set up to do some etching too – I want to combine my photography with jewellery and put some images, in somewhat stylised form, onto copper pendants and brooches.

Thankfully, those pieces are pretty rare, but they do still have considerable value as a learning process – and without them I’d never stretch myself and progress. Whilst my results aren’t yet quite what I hoped (they will be, but will have taken more time than I’d expected), I’ve learnt so much along the way, that it will serve as a permanent reminder of that journey to me.

Long teardrop shaped hoops wrapped with rosy copper buds. I’ll oxidise them and leave the teardrop frame shape dark and polish the wrapping only, to highlight those areas.

This week I have started working with several ideas I’d sketched some time ago, for working with sheet materials and tube – my sketchbook is full of ideas and apart from the one troublesome piece, I have been excited with the new direction and the mass of things I’ve learnt this week.

My triple hammered Sterling silver leaf shaped spiral earrings have sold well recently, so I’ve made some smaller earrings with one spiral for those, like myself, that prefer shorter earrings.