15 Jan 2015

I really am going to try harder

I love this particular walk, where there's  a patch of sweet chestnut trees.
I love this particular walk, where there’s a patch of sweet chestnut trees.  I enjoy taking this kind of photo too – a wide angle macro from a low position, showing the scene behind and therefore context – I call them macro landscapes.

It can’t have escaped your notice that my blogging has been sporadic of late, despite the fact that I usually love doing it.

I don’t think my tardiness is entirely my own fault – I think I must lay some of the blame at the door of Blogger, my previous home.  I don’t want to rubbish it too much as it has served me well over several years, but I’ve found it increasingly difficult and problematic to post.

I’ve abandoned several recent posts because I either just couldn’t get a photo to appear on the page, or because it repeatedly appeared in the wrong place on the page.  It got old pretty fast, so ended up totally sucking the joy out of the process.  Hence I never posted some earlier photos from my holiday in September, so I’ll pepper some through my ramblings here.  Just because I now can!

We had some fabulous glorious weather in the Lakes in September.  We rarely see the Langdales this clearly.
We had some fabulous glorious weather in the Lakes in September. We rarely see the Langdales this clearly.

I’ve had reason recently to install a WordPress blog into some hosting for a client and having not tinkered with it for many years, suddenly found it significantly easier to use – possibly because it was loaded directly into the web host server and the same location as the image files etc.

Because I have the same hosting for my own site and found a plugin to import my entire Blogger content, I’ve decided to move it here onto my own site.  I’ve had to iron out a few wrinkles and edit a lot of links, but it’s now in a reasonably complete state.

Once within posts, any links to other recent blogs, are still likely to take you back to the Blogger version of the site, but I’ll gradually try to correct these as I find them, so apologies if it appears a little disjointed at the moment.

I love this tree lined walk, especially in autumn and even better when the sunlight filters through.
I love this tree lined walk, especially in autumn and even better when the sunlight filters through.

If you want to find an earlier post and have some idea of the title, I’ve added a site page called Index of Posts that lists all of the posts I’ve made, linked to their new copies here on the site – it’s also listed at the top of each page and in the side widget.


Blea Tarn in the English Lake District
Blea Tarn in the English Lake District on a gorgeous clear, still autumn day.

So, what else have I been up to:

I don’t think that I have that much new to show you, the run up to Christmas involved making a lot of the good sellers for seasonal sales and re-stocking the shop – not much pure design or tinkering time unfortunately.  I’m itching to get on with some new pieces, my sketchbook is overflowing and my head bursting with ideas.

Leaf-set pendant featuring my own faux jade polymer clay cabochon.
Leaf-set pendant featuring my own faux jade polymer clay cabochon.

I did manage to fire and finish a new cabochon pendant, which thankfully went out as a Christmas present.  This features a cabochon I made myself in translucent polymer clay as a faux green jade stone – with lots of sanding, polishing and layers of varnish to give it a deep gloss.

The cab has been leaf-set to a thick copper base, each leaf being individually cut and textured and carefully added to the base, interspersed with tiny copper balls.

The back has an appliqued design featuring several gently curling tendrils accompanied by lots of tiny hand cut leaves and more of the tiny copper balls I find myself rather obsessed with making.

Back of the cabochon pendant, decorated with slender sinuous tendrils and tiny leaves.
Back of the cabochon pendant, decorated with slender sinuous tendrils and tiny leaves.
Side view of the pendant showing the leaf prongs and back decoration.
Side view of the pendant showing the leaf prongs and back decoration.

I do have two new techniques I’ve been tinkering with – when time allows – and which will work well together.  Low temperature enamelling and my family gave me a Silhouette cutting machine for my recent birthday.  I’ve been interested in using enamels for adding colour to copper and although I have a kiln, the high temperatures required do give me the willies.  I have the option to kiln fire, torch fire, or work with low temperature powders.

Enamel designs on stainless steel sliding lid pill boxes.
Enamel designs on stainless steel sliding lid pill boxes. I made these as stocking filler Christmas gifts.

I decided that due to the low cost and ease of use of the efcolor powders that I’d at least start with these to see if I like the results, as I had some ideas in mind to try.  If I do find I want to pursue it, I can then perhaps step up to something more robust.

Although having said that, I’ve found the results to be pretty substantial – I had one piece that I didn’t like and wanted to remove the colour, so that I could do something new with and I actually found it very hard to remove – so I’m hoping that they might withstand a decent amount of wear.

Sliding lid pill box tins with enamelled decoration.
Sliding lid pill box tins with enamelled decoration.

These ideas tie in nicely with the Silhouette cutting machine.  I had in mind several ideas where this would allow me to make things I couldn’t achieve any other way – one of which was making my own stencils and texture plates as well as the possibility of cutting thinly rolled clay too.

I’ve only had it just over a week and already have a hard drive full of files, lots of saved design elements and a desk covered in tiny bits of cutting shrapnel, that no matter how much care you take removing it, ends up everywhere.

It’s been a while since I did any vector drawing (and it was only ever small amounts), but it has been enormous fun getting to know it again.  I haven’t even started on importing designs to make cutting files, or scanning any of my own sketches, everything so far has been drawn from scratch in the supplied Silhouette Studio software – they describe it as having basic drawing tools, but I’m already finding it pretty powerful.  I love taking a simple shape and manipulating it into something entirely different – then merging shapes into complex geometrical designs, welding them with lettering etc.  You have to think differently of course, shapes overlapping don’t necessarily work and shapes stranded in open space don’t either, so you have to start and think in . . . guess what . . . silhouettes!

I've been creating vector drawings for stencils and making photo polymer texture plates.
I’ve been creating vector drawings for stencils and making photo polymer texture plates.

I’ve already decided after one post that this WordPress blog is going to work better for me, it addresses all of the things that frustrated me with recent changes to Blogger, so I hopefully will feel inclined to post more often.  I still have several tutorial ideas I wanted to post, so maybe now that will be possible.  I’m also thinking that little and often might be better. 😉

1 Aug 2011

A leisurely approach proved very productive

I think the aspect of being an on-line sole trader jewellery maker that troubles me most, is finding the time to do everything that’s necessary, properly. I never come close to doing everything I plan for any given week.

When you do everything yourself from designing, making, managing web sites and selling venues, marketing, photographing, packing orders and speaking directly to customers – there are just never enough hours in the day and the luxury of time to just tinker with design ideas and new pieces is somewhat limited. Yet I’m also mindful that constantly developing my skills is essential too, so pushing myself with new ideas is actually a necessity.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.
One of my favourite spots at Beacon Fell. I’ve photographed this scene many times and have never quite yet captured the shot the way I want to. You walk through a very dark corridor of trees and on sunny days, the clearing at the end of the path positively glows as a beacon through the darkness.

Last weekend, we decided to just turn our backs on the long list of chores and took ourselves out for the day, got some fresh air, had a walk and a picnic and thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so, that we planned the same for this weekend, but on Saturday we felt it was a little too hot for the walk we’d panned (and we couldn’t go too far as he was on-call) and decided instead to just potter in the garden. We got our planned walk when it was a little cooler on Sunday.

Some dramatic lighting when the clouds broke after a dark dull spell during our evening walk earlier in the week.

We don’t seem to have been able to enjoy eating in the garden as often in recent years, the weather has never seemingly been suitable on days we’re about and we’ve really missed the luxury of a leisurely breakfast al fresco, something we both really enjoy and value. So we started the weekend as we meant to go on. We did have to laugh however, our quiet slow-paced peaceful breakfast outside was accompanied by the most enormous cacophony of sounds – lots of coming and going and car doors slamming, someone had a chainsaw going, some workmen were up ladders and shouting to each other, an alarm had been set off, even the weekend steam train passing blew it’s whistle several times. So whilst it was enjoyable, it wasn’t that peaceful.

Chunky molten Sterling silver drops. I decided for security (due to the weight of the pebble) to spiral the earwire at the back and make a decorative feature of it too.

So having decided to stay at home and just potter, once the essential chores had been done, he set about finishing his book and I wanted to work on some ideas I’d had for myself – much of which I could plan and work on in the garden.

I had intended to polish the molten pebbles of silver very smooth, but once pickled, it was clear that they had the beginnings of a reticulated surface and I rather liked the tiny ripples, so only polished for shine, not to smooth them too far.

As I have long and messy (dragged through a hedge backwards my mother calls it) hair, wear glasses and often walk wearing ear buds with my MP3 player, adding dangly fiddly earrings to the mix does have the potential for painful entanglement. So for a while I’d been planning on making myself some plain studs from molten nuggets of Sterling silver. As I’d used the best of my stash of molten nuggets on recent pieces, I was due to make some more for stock anyway.

I made the largest of the nuggets into plain studs, also leaving the slightly reticulated surface in place. These pebbles are 9mm (0.35″) in diameter, so a decent weight and size.

But as is often the case, my mind took on a journey of its own and I ended up working rather differently than my initial thoughts and I think the results are all the better for it. I made myself a pair of molten nugget drops in the end, I decided that they suited me better slightly dropped below my earlobe and then made another slightly larger pair to sell, as well as a large pair of plain studs.

The fruits of my leisurely afternoon in the garden – the smaller back pair are for me and the other two pairs to sell.

I also had an idea for a customer order who wanted big chunky wraps above the faceted labradorite beads she’d chosen, which called for me to abandon my leaning towards really tightly controlled work and wrap them somewhat more loosely than my usual style. I liked the results and made another pair to sell too.

Faceted Labradorite with chunky triple wrapped tops in Sterling silver.

So having set out to spend the time leisurely in the garden, I actually had a very productive (and most enjoyable) afternoon – much more so than if I’d sat down with work I had to get done. And I’ve always felt that when you enjoy making something, it shows in the work; pieces made under pressure or sufferance are rarely your best work. Perhaps I need to decide not to do anything more often.

I also got on a roll in the evening with photographing recent pieces and made a nice big dent in my backlog, including the rosebud knot earrings to match recently blogged pendants, a finished bracelet that I’d totally overlooked and a darkly oxidised variant of a stock bracelet I usually sell in a slightly lighter ‘antiqued’ finish. Now I need to sit down and write descriptive text for 11 new items to list for sale! Wish me luck.

For some reason, I’d made this bracelet some time ago, but it had been overlooked in my ‘backlog waiting to be photographed’ box. This is a finer more delicate version of the ones I’ve previously shown. 

Two different designs of rosebud knot teardrop earrings to match my earlier pendant design – I wasn’t sure which approach I preferred, so finished both pairs.
Whilst re-making this design that I usually aim to keep in stock, I oxidised one version darker than the antiqued finish I normally offer it in, so will add this as an alternative finish.