Creative instinct...and babies

I have been taking a bit of a break from jewellery making to have my first child, Jesse. Before he was born and feeling pretty exhausted in my pregnancy, I felt I needed quite a bit of time off from making to focus on him and motherhood. In the run up to Jesse's birth, I had not felt up to doing some of the more heavy duty silversmithing activities like hammering and sawing, particularly with a big bump in the way! Aside from that and with my mind elsewhere, my creativity had also done a runner.  I wondered when my mojo would come back... 

Jesse was born in April and a few weeks in, I am pleased to say I was hankering to get back in the studio to have a potter about, particularly when Jesse was sleeping and I was at a loose end. The trouble was, I was in desperate need of sleep after being up most of the night (it seemed) so any free time was being used to snooze or catch up on chores (or endless washing!).

A few months in and I am pleased to say it is a different story. I am managing to get some time in the studio as Jesse has longer sleeps in the evenings. I think having a bit of a break before he was born (and after) has rejuvenated my creativity. I purchased many gemstones before Jesse was born and I have been excited to start setting them in various pieces.  You will see that I have been very enthused about making lots of rings (tap on the photo below for slideshow). So... watch this space for additions to the website shop over the coming months. This, of course, will depend on Jesse!

Jewellery Making Techniques: Water Casting

My foray into experimental jewellery making techniques took a wonderful turn this February at a water casting class with Deba McDonald at the Redbridge Institute.

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Armed with lots of scrap silver I had acquired over the years whilst silversmithing, a steel mixing bowl and my apron, I entered the classroom very excited... and with a little trepidation. Read on.

You'd think nothing would faze a bunch of experienced jewellery makers when it came to heating stuff up and certainly melting metal (we had done it enough unintentionally). But when we saw the heating of the silver into molten liquid using a crucible and the way it needed to be thrown into a bowl of water, with all its fizzing and drama, we were a little scared. Like anything, though, once we got going, many 'oooh's' and 'aaah's' followed and soon we were in experimental mode throwing the molten silver into old food tins filled with a plethora of bizarre dried objects to create different shapes; chick peas, mung beans, spaghetti. All brought amazingly different outcomes, swirls, waves, loops and coral-like shapes (or just became blobs or fragmented silver like my first attempts).

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See the photographs of my efforts - there are some fairly ugly and twisted lumps of silver, which require polishing and turning into beautiful wearable pieces. Do you think I have a  bit of a task ahead of me? Mine were nothing compared to some of the other makers' work which were amazing organic silver structures brought to life by this process. Please look up water casting and you will see some of the fantastic surprises people have made into lovely jewellery. If anyone ever asks you how mung beans and jewellery go together, you now know!

Check out the very interesting and rewarding jewellery making classes available with Deba McDonald at Redbridge Institute by clicking here

Jewellery Making Techniques: Silver Clay Shenanigans

My final delve into learning a new skill last year ended with precious metal clay and a class taken with Emma Mitchell (Silver Pebble) in the glorious surroundings of rural Reach in Cambridge.

Driving to Cambridge, bathed in brilliant sunshine both there and back, I could not have had a better day of crafting; this time using Art Silver Clay and silicon moulds of natural objects  (you can probably tell I still wasn't quite satisfied with nature-inspired jewellery making after my electroforming class earlier last year!).

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As I did with the electroforming class, I took along a box of 'beasties' I had collected (thinking something would make the perfect piece of jewellery!) and again, I was overwhelmed by what the instructor, Emma, had prepared for us. She had laid out a mountain of moulds she had already taken of natural objects, herbs and plants for us to have a look at. There was also a plate of silver pendants and charms which had been made using these moulds. Bedazzled by the possibilities, I set about making a mould using a sycamore key. It set very quickly and was ready to be used in a matter of ten minutes or so.

I then chose a couple of moulds I wanted to use to make a few pendants; one of a fennel sprig, an elongated poppy seed pod and a little pine cone (I think). Emma's knowledge of the natural elements she had used was impressive to say the least. One of the other students used Victorian/vintage button moulds and the other had brought a yarrow spray from which she made her own mould. We then proceeded to roll out/press our clay onto/into the moulds.  These were dried (burning off the water element of Art Silver Clay) and then fired (burning off the binding material used in the clay) and -boom- see the photo for the results! Lovely, unique 99% fine silver adornments.

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After my little poppy seed pod didn't quite turn out right at the electroforming class, I was overjoyed by the silver clay version which I gifted to my sister in law who gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in November (she had nicknamed her baby Poppy before he was born).

Check out Emma's classes (and other brilliant) nature-inspired things on her website.  I would sincerely recommend a class with her; her enthusiasm on how crafting can help you relax and keep your mind at ease, amongst other things, was truly inspiring. Get crafting people!


 

Jewellery Making Techniques: Adventures in Keum-Boo

As you may have seen from one of my recent blogs, I spent the summer and autumn last year learning some new skills.

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As a jewellery maker, I am always intrigued by other jewellery making techniques  (there are so many!) and even other crafts which can be incorporated into jewellery. 

In November last year, I found myself on a lovely day out at Gearies in Gants Hill doing a keum-boo class run by my inspiring and ever-patient jewellery tutor, Deba Mcdonald.  If you are not familiar with keum-boo (and why would you be?), I shall tell you what it is!

This process is fusing gold foil (often 24 ct) onto silver (usually fine silver or reticulated sterling silver) and is a very old, traditional Korean gilding technique.  The foil is shaped and adhered to the piece of silver and then, using heat and pressure, is fused onto it. Much fun was had with hotplates and protective gloves... (safety first!) 

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See the photos of a couple of pieces I played around with, texturing the fine silver, layering up the gold foil and then oxidizing the silver to make the gold just pop.

I have used some of these hunks of silver to make into simple textured stud earrings..but I have some more up my sleeve... watch this space!  

Click here for a browse of amazing courses run by the Redbridge Institute and, in particular, the jewellery classes taught by Deba McDonald. 

Jewellery Making Techniques: Dabbling with Electroforming

I have been rather quiet since the end of summer 2017 by way of blogging but I have been a little busy! I thought I would use the seeing in of the New Year to write a little bit about what I have been up to in the world of handmade jewellery and craft.  

I have been attending a few different jewellery making classes (always a student!), temporarily side stepping the traditional silversmithing techniques I usually use. As I discussed with a(nother creative) friend recently, when you have a creative streak, sometimes it is hard to stick to just one craft or technique! I think you get bitten by the "making and doing" bug.

Electroforming with Penny Akester

So my first stop (and what this blog is about) is electroforming, which is a bit of an erratic (exciting?!) process essentially connecting an object to metal and then transferring that metal onto the object using electrical current. We were using copper as our base metal.

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I was excited to take along lots of natural objects I had picked up over the years. I also had a few I had picked up over the summer on my holidays last year to Parga in Greece and Suffolk and some I had gathered with the onset of autumn.  This included an array of shells, seaglass and a poppy seed pod. I thought my bounty was good until I saw what Penny had! Sea urchins, huge acorns, starfish. It was hard to select just a few items!

See the outcome of the weekend in the photograph collage. It was an interesting experience and one I am still wondering about. Some of the copper didn't quite transfer to the items, especially those which were heavily porous, despite many coats of sealant and conductive paint, and the long timings involved meant my patience was tested. But still, what a wonder to discover the results when the objects were removed from their wires and out of the chemical baths they were sloshed in! Transformed, even if a little rough around the edges! Some were then given a silver plating using more chemical processes and some were only coated partially in copper (see the shell) so that the natural beauty of the object remained visible.

It was a thought-provoking weekend and one I would highly recommend.  See more details by visiting Penny's website.

COMING SOON: see how I got on with the inspiring ancient Korean gilding technique of keum-boo and a nature-inspired silver clay class!