Thursday, 21 April 2016

YouTube channel and making videos

This week I've created a YouTube channel (thanks to encouragement form my previously mentioned wonderwoman friend!), so just a very short blog to tell you about it. So far I've uploaded videos of how I make a name necklace, which is the one piece that I get most questions about! This link should take you to Part I should you want to have a little look.

From this...

to this!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The making of a new idea - 'Love' necklace

I've set myself a task. Apart form blogging every week (so far so good) I'm also coming up with a new idea every week. I'm not completely crazy - the new idea doesn't have to become a finished piece, but I thought it might be good for me. So last week I made a fresh set of wire cards, from idea on Monday, to sent off to printers on Thursday! Not too shabby. Available in my etsy shop.

So this week I had an idea to do a new 'Love' necklace in a slightly different style of handlettering to my usual. This is how I started, with some sketching in front of the telly (couldn't find a black pen for love nor money!)

The next morning I redrew my favourite a few times, and then inked it in on tracing paper.

This morning I unwrapped my new toy (a phone tripod - ridiculously excited with my £6.39 spend) and started filming the process.


Before I start, I have made the silver matt by using a scratcher on the surface. Then the tracing paper is stuck in place, and I drill holes into the little internal areas that need cutting away, like the inside of the 'o' and 'v'. This means that I can thread the saw blade into the hole and cut away these little bits. Once that's done I go around the whole edge, and then, ta-dah!

Now I will file the edges, solder on the chain and polish it. Then there's the dull part...Photographing, writing blurb and uploading the whole thing! Can you tell I prefer the first part of the whole new idea thing?!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Making cards, or trying to make more from what I've already got!

Alongside my jewellery business, I started making wire 'drawings' last summer. These have developed into a full blown passion, and I've made far more than I've sold (oops!). Here are some recent ones...

This last one is a commission which was really nice to do.
I've also turned them into 'bouquets' in vintage glass bottles.

All this is great fun, and if it could be a hobby then that would be fine, but I want to make too many of them. To actually cost them with any kind of accuracy means that I'm essentially paying myself the minimum wage! So recently I made a set of cards, and realised that they are selling well in my etsy shop and my real bricks and mortar shop in Bristol. 

So over the last few days I've made another set. I start with rough pencil sketches of ideas, which I then make in wire. 

Once I've decided on the objects, I make the colour, which is freehand machine embroidery on to soluble fabric. This is how they look when I've washed away the fabric. 

Then I stick the 'colour' to the wire, and cut away the excess. Having tried all manner of glues, I've come down to good old fashioned Uhu! It sticks fairly quickly, but not too fast, doesn't stick your fingers to everything in sight, and dries completely clear.

Once they are ready I position them and photograph them. This takes ages - so tricky to get the light right! Now that they are photographed I'm going to mount them and I'm hoping they will become two or even three framed pictures, so at least I'm making a few more pence out of them, once they've sold!

So there you go - all sent off, and now waiting for Monday when they arrive and I'll photograph them again and get them in the shop. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Photographing Silver Jewellery (by an amateur!)

For years I have had all my jewellery photographed by my friend and marvellous photographer Clare, but for several reasons I've had to learn to do it myself. One reason is speed - the big advantage to doing it myself is that I can have an idea in the morning, make it by lunchtime, photograph it in the afternoon and get it online in the evening. In theory at least!

I'm lucky that my husband, a furniture maker, has much of the photography equipment that would cost me rather a lot to have to invest in, and all I've had to buy myself is a macro lens. And that was a small fortune even secondhand, but boy, has it made a difference!

So here's my list of what I use to photograph my work.

Position - A corner of our bedroom, that has lots of light, but no direct sunlight - very important as you don't want glare from direct light. It's also nice to work at a decent height, rather than having to crouch down!

Tripod(s) - I have two tripods, though sometimes I don't use one for the camera, but the light was fading this afternoon, so I did set up the camera tripod.

Flash - On the light tripod, you'll see I don't have an actual light! This was a tip my husband discovered before buying a big light. Instead he bought a remote control - one part is situated on the tripod, and the flash is fitted on top, and the other part on top of the camera. This means you can control the direction and strength of the flash, not have it directly in front of the object you are photographing, and infill with light where you want - perhaps behind the object so that the background isn't too dark.

Umbrella - for directing the flashlight back more softly.

Camera - it's a digital SLR. Again, second hand, bought separately from the lenses. I know people swear by their phone cameras, but really nothing beats a decent SLR.

I know next to nothing on the technical side, but my husband distilled it for me - roughly the 'natural look' is 1/125 shutter speed, 5.6 aperture, and film speed 100 or 200. From there I move up and down (mainly the shutter speed) depending on the amount of light. I find that if I can get it looking as clean and bright as possible, I don't need to play around in photoshop with the image. The first shot, and the one below has had no digital tinkering. Both have been cropped a little, but no other manipulation at all.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

'Where do you get your ideas from?'

I'm occasionally asked this question, and sometimes I've no idea, but now and then it's an easy question to answer. One of my resolutions this month (and beyond!) is to blog more frequently, and another is to create a new item at least once a week. Hopefully these things will be good enough, or lead to something good enough, to make more to sell.

So yesterday I got out my sketch book and then started looking at my instagram feed. And first up was a new print by Eloise Renouf, whose work I love. And from that starting point, I started sketching a few ideas using some of the shapes and combinations that she has used in the print.

This morning, once I'd finished off some orders, I started making a couple of rough versions of two of the sketches. The idea is that they will eventually be made from gold and silver, but naturally I'm starting with all silver versions.

This is the top part of the earrings with the post and a tiny jump ring attached to the reverse, and the lower parts before I cut them out.

Then I popped a ring through the hole at the top of the shapes and threaded this through the other ring, and soldered it closed. Finally I polish the top part to a mirror finish and the dangling shapes are matt.


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The magic of soluble fabric and freemotion embroidery

An actual finished item. A single bed crochet
blanket (only took one whole year to make)
I love hobbies - I've got lots, but I've got even more UFO's (unfinished objects for all the people who when they start something actually finish them too). Looking around me now there's a big basket which I know contains an unfinished quilt, a bit of old fashioned patchwork (suppose to be a cushion cover) and a failed attempt at knitting a cushion (I really can't knit). There's a smaller basket with several crochet projects on the go, and next to me is a square of Tunisian crochet which I'm currently trying to teach myself. With limited success.

Strangely when something goes well, I tend to make loads of it and then get bored, so I'm hoping that my enjoyment of freehand machine embroidery doesn't wane just yet. I've made flowers, both framed and in vases using iron wire, and you can see some in an old post and my instagram page, but the last few weeks I've been making beetles... quite solid ones, like patches you'd sew on your jeans when I was a kid in the 70's. I start by tracing my drawing on to soluble fabric (amazing, magical stuff!), and then I make an outline on the machine using a 'bouncing foot'.

Then I start 'colouring in ' with all the different thread colours, until it's really quite solid. 

Once the fabric is washed away under hot water, and left to dry, I mount the beetle on tiny pins, and pop it in a frame - ta-dah!


Friday, 11 March 2016

Musings of a 'full-time' craftsperson

This week was supposed to be a 'good' week - in that there weren't to be too many other things going on. In the last few weeks I have taught a 1:1 workshop, been to parents evening (in the afternoon), gone to solicitors meeting, taken kids to dentist/rehearsals/work, volunteered and worked shifts at my shop Fig on the Gloucester Road. Phew. So I'd been looking forward to a heads down, proper working week.

Well so much for that idea. Anyway, in the middle of various family 'jobs' (over and above all the standard ones) I had a power-brunch with a dear friend and fellow full-time working-from-homer (AND she's finishing off a degree) and general all round wonder-woman. We meet infrequently but we are good at motivating each other to do something, something we 'need' to do for work or a more personal need. I have promised to blog more often (yes, more than once a year!) and schedule it into my week (her idea!). So this got me thinking about scheduling and squeezing a ridiculous amount of stuff into my week.

So although I haven't had as much quality work time this week as I would have liked, I looked back at my instagram feed and realised that I have achieved and finished a few things this week that were on the mental tick list.

I finally noticed that all but one of my wire flower bouquets had sold in fig so I found time to make four new ones.
These tiny little earrings are one of three new designs that have been roaming around my head for a month or two. Available to buy on Etsy.


And these two pictures were finally mounted and framed in the middle of the week, and even photographed in the smattering of sunshine that we've had in Bristol. I did also get all my orders out, but the to-do list is still there, just a little shorter. But now I can tell Ms Power Brunch, that I've actually blogged! Hurray!