Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Flickr UK Etsy Challenge

The flickr group UK Etsy Challenge pretty much does what it says on the tin - challenges UK based Etsy sellers to create an item based on a theme. Just for the heck of it, really - and what better reason than that? It is always interesting to see the variety of different objects that are made.

The theme for this quarter (which closes this Sunday, 4 July - so get your skates on!) is Fairgrounds. This is my Helterskelter necklace, made from silver and copper wire, hanging on a leather cord. I love slides, and I am pleased with the way the bands of copper, and the little bit that flicks out at the bottom, really brings to mind (my mind, anyway!) the feeling of whizzing down the slide and whooshing off the end!

These are a couple of examples of other lovely objects that people have made - there are more on the site itself too. I'm not sure why the pictures are so tiny (I am a bit technically incompentent with blogger at the moment, being still a newby), but please follow the links to see them in all their colourful glory!

This is a brilliant crocheted mat by Six Skeins

And this is a gorgeous silver, glass and porcelain pendant by c-urchin

There will be a new theme for the next quarter soon, so if this Sunday is a bit too close a deadline, why not think about joining in the next challenge? The more the merrier!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

"Tile" Series - Inspiration and Results

I have just finished the third pendant in my "Tile" series, and as they have all turned out quite differently, despite the same origin, it started me thinking about 'inspiration'. What things inspire you? These pendants were inspired by a couple of things.

First was the exhortation of my first jewellery tutor to think very carefully about what shapes to make my jewellery, and where in the silver to draw the design - because silver is expensive and you want to waste as little as possible!

Second was the beauty of some of the Islamic tiles in the Jameel Gallery at the V&A - and the clever way they fitted together different shapes. The photo above here is from a beautiful house in Fez, Morocco, which shows the intricacy of the tiling and also the shapes that inspired the pendants below:

This is silver and blue enamel, the latest pendant completed and my first attempt at enamelling. I am pleased with how the blue reflects some of the colours in the original tiles I looked at.

This pendant is silver set with an amethyst - the amethyst is a lovely purple colour that really catches the light.

This was my first pendant completed, and the simplest of the three - nonetheless, the sawn out design I think is very effective. It kind of reminds me of a flower, despite being very linear.
What kind of things inspire you?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Freshwater Pearl Colours

These are some freshwater pearls I bought recently - aren't the colours lovely? I have some ideas of how to use them, but it made me wonder - how do they get to be such different colours? So I did some internet research!

says that
"Freshwater pearls are noted for their wide range of color, they can be found in white, silvery white, pink, salmon, red, copper, bronze, brown, lavender, purple, green, blue, cream, and yellow... The different colors are a function of the mussel species, genetics, water quality, and the position of the pearl in the shell. Generally, pearls assume the color of the shell in which they form."

says that
"Pearls come in a wide variety of colors, ranging from white all the way to black. Here again (as with many of the characteristics of pearls), the fact that the pearl is an organic gemstone, formed within a living creature, contributes to the myriad unique ways in which its coloration can develop. The bodycolor is determined by the type of oyster or mollusk that produces the pearl (certain types of oysters generally produce pearls of certain colors), as well as the conditions of the water, and sometimes the type of nucleus which is implanted to stimulate the pearl's creation."

So, a combination of natural and man-made factors is implied here, which leads to another question - what different nuclei are used to make pearls?

says that
"The materials for cultured pearls sound simple; they consist of an oyster or other mollusk, the shell nucleus that is to be implanted, a tiny bit of live tissue (from the mantle or lip) from another oyster, and water. Producers claim freshwater pearls are more natural because nuclei are not used; instead only a piece of mantle is implanted to culture these pearls. All the materials are natural, although human intervention is required.'
Other sites also agree that it is a bit of 'mantle' used, so that is that question answered. But back to the issue of colour.

http://www.pearl-guide.com/pearl-colors.shtml also says that
"It is important to note that many pearls are artificially colored. This is widely practiced with freshwater, akoya, and at times Tahitian pearls. The colors are artificially infused by a treatment known as dyeing, or by subjecting the pearls to irradiation. These treated colors are typically easy to spot by a trained observer who may peer down the drill hole looking for concentrations of color, which indicates the presence of dye, or a darkened pearl nucleus, which indicates radiation treatment."

But how do non-trained observers tell? The drill holes of my pearls are far too small for me to be able to see down, and would I know what to look for? Does it matter, when creating jewellery, to be able to say? In my use of pearls I have always described them with their size, approximate colour (grey, or grey-purple, for example) and that they are freshwater - is that enough information for buyers? I'd be interested to know what you think!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Lovely Moo Minicards!

These are some of my lovely new minicards that arrived this morning from Moo (www.moo.com)! This is the first lot of minicards I have tried, after receiving a few from other people in etsy purchases, and I am really quite pleased with them - they are very cute. Now I just need to be brave enough to give them out to people (this is where I struggle most - with the marketing).

Moo also offer a 15% discount to anyone who hasn't used them before - the code is 2RB2CK - and they do full size business cards, postcards, and stickers among other things.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Work in Progress - The Blanket of Doom #1

My brother and his girlfriend are moving to Cornwall in August. I found this pattern for a blanket in a Debbie Bliss magazine - her Nautical Throw. It looks lovely, and also a bit like a cricket jumper (with the cable pattern and the stripes) so I thought it would be a perfect housewarming present for them. There is a bit more information about it on ravelry www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/nautical-throw

This is it as I was casting on at the beginning of May (it's a lot of yarn, I know) -

This is it, about 6 weeks later.... I don't think it's going to be ready for August.

It turns out I am not very fast at knitting. I can only do about 3 or 4 rows a night before my hands start to seize up - but it is already looking like it will be lovely and cosy when it's done. Maybe I should aim for a Christmas present, instead!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Architects Build Small Spaces Exhibition

A quick disclaimer - I used to work at the V&A, and still do occasionally in the Learning and Interpretation department. I am doing some research on this exhibition, but was not involved in its creation in any way.

I was at the V&A today, going round the 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces exhibition. I thought it was awesome. Further and proper information is available here

Essentially, though, it is 7 structures that have been built around the museum, that you get to go in and explore - for free!

Here are some photos of two of them for you to see a little bit of the variety. They are made from all kinds of material - plaster in the case of this first one from the Cast Courts, wood in the case of the second one from the Medieval and Renaissance Gallery, as well as plexiglass, metal, and tree trunks. There is one full of books, which is very lovely but hard to photograph effectively.

I always like to visit the V&A, but I think this is really something special. It's on until the end of August too - perfect holiday fare if you can't quite face the thought of the dinosaurs across the road again!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Photography - the bane of my life.

Oh! I am so frustrated with myself. These are the earrings I finished yesterday evening, and I am so pleased with them - but can I take a photo (or 5) that look good for etsy? No, no, and no again. I tried on a black background, but they just shine too much. The white background shows the silver so much better, but in titchy thumbnail form who would bother to click on them? They look really bland. Does anyone have any advice? Please?

http://www.etsy.com/listing/49499246/strike-silver-earrings if you want to see them in all their etsy non-glory.

Work in Progress - Alice's Silver Box

So, I am trying to make my first silver box at the moment. It's quite a big project (by which I mean, it uses quite a lot of silver - the box itself is titchy), so I thought I would aim to have it done by Alice's first birthday. August is, however, approaching faster than I thought!

This is a picture of the lid, so far. I roll pressed a curve into the lid for a branch, and tried to fill the indentation with gold solder but once it was done, and filed and sanded down, you really couldn't see the curve. I could have kept going, I suppose, but I have instead decided to use gold wire. It isn't a solution that fills me with joy - I really wanted the branch to be flush with the main lid, and just the leaves to be soldered on top. But it will still look ok, I hope.

Last night I finished filing the leaves, and soldered them onto the lid. These I have roll pressed a design into, and hope to bring the pattern out with platinol once it is done. Soldering them on has also sent the gold solder a bit haywire, so much sanding needs to be done. I am waiting for my gold wire to be delivered, and then we will see. I am pleased with the leaves, and the overall design. It's just my first foray into using gold that hasn't gone so well!

This is the main body of the box, with Alice's name stamped on the inside. It is going to hinge with a pin, so the lid will slide round and not lift off. I need to try and think of a way to stop it going round and round and round the whole way, or undoubtedly someone will try and do that and the lid will fly off and damage something, or someone. I hadn't thought of that possibility when I started making it!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall

I went to see the English National Ballet's Swan Lake in the round at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday - it was amazing. Actually, I don't think I know adequately expressive words to convey how beautiful it was - the costumes, the dancing, the choreography. It was all exquisite.

We were sitting 5 rows from the front, got covered in dry ice and got to be almost next to some of the dancers as they walked down to the central stage.

If you can go and see it, I recommend you do.