Friday, 23 September 2016

Jeweller Interview with Moon River Jewellery

Moon River jewellery photo - silver moss blog
Here is another instalment in my slightly sporadic series of interviews with jewellery makers. Please welcome Heather from Moon River Jewellery.

Heather makes wonderful jewellery in silver wire and silver clay, including fingerprint work. She also uses gemstones and is inspired by nature and the natural world.

How did you decide on your shop name and does it have a story behind it?

My shop name comes from the song Moon River in my favourite film, Breakfast at Tiffany's. I wanted something that reflected natural inspiration of my designs so it worked perfectly. Family later told me that it was the song that my Great Uncle was always singing so they were really pleased with it which made it extra special.

Where do your design ideas come from and what is the process that sees them through to the finished product? (Do you doodle on paper or take photos for inspiration? Do your designs then evolve on paper or in your hand as you make them? Do you experiment with the metal you create finished designs in, or do you use a base/cheaper metal for experimentation?)

Most of my designs are inspired by nature – what better influence is there! I am fascinated with trees and leaves and love the patterns and textures created by their branches and roots. How I design pieces varies depending on how it will be made. I usually start out with rough sketch and then either go straight into production letting it come together as I work or sometimes I do several more detailed drawings before I start.

My wire work Tree of Life pieces tend to evolve in my hand and find their own way to go, which I think best suits the depiction of a tree. I use mainly silver clay so I usually experiment with the real thing as it behaves in its own unique way but when I'm developing new wire work ideas I sometimes use copper or silver coloured wire first to make sure I don't waste the good stuff!

Where do you create your jewellery; do you have your own studio or use a kitchen table? Does your physical space affect how you work and what you create?

I work from my home in Gloucestershire – technically I have the end of the dining room to use as my work space, but in reality that means I take over the whole thing. It is certainly a challenge sharing my workspace with a study, a piano, guitars, a violin, and that's before we get to the basic function of using it to eat in! As a result, my space is very untidy where I keep moving things around to make space for other activities. I'm hoping to be able to transform our old garden shed into a dedicated workspace next year – it might be chilly in the winter but at least it will be mine!

Moon River jewellery - silver moss blog

How do you motivate yourself to keep on creating?

I don't find it too difficult to come up with ideas – it's finding the time and money to put them into practice that slows me down! Like everyone else out there, I get stuck in a rut every so often but I find that being asked for more stock by a shop focusses my attention and soon gets me back to work. Although they can be exhausting, I don't think anything beats a really good craft event to get you feeling inspired – it's fabulous to have the opportunity to talk about your work with so many generally interested people.

What jewellery making tools could you just not do without, and what tool/item is on your wish list?

My favourite tools and ones that I wouldn't be without are my kiln and my tumbler. They are my most expensive and my cheapest pieces of kit respectively. My kiln has revolutionised how I work – previously I had been firing all my work by hand using a butane torch which limited the size I could work too but also was incredibly time consuming and terribly tedious. Now I can concentrate my efforts on all the lovely making and then put lots of pieces in the kiln in one go while I carry on with something else. This has really helped me increase my production which has meant that I can better stock my online shop, my stalls and the shops I sell though. My tumbler was free - I won it in an online competition (which goes to show it IS worth entering)!

What is your favourite part of making and selling jewellery?

My favourite part is that someone goes away with something that has come from my imagination and that in some ways has a little life of its own. I hope that they will enjoy wearing it for many years.

Moon River jewellery - silver moss blog

Do you take your own photos, and if so do you have any photography hints?

Yes I do – and it can be hard. Silver is shiny which presents issues to the camera. Lighting is the key thing – everyone says that outside in natural light is best but I have had no success whatsoever with that technique. Up until now I have been using my bath – yes, don't laugh! It's white and I have three spotlights in the ceiling so don't have issues with shadow. I have been fairly pleased with the results and have had many compliments on my photos but there are issues with the method (such as when people want to use the bath!) so I have just invested in a table top portable studio to help me. I've been really pleased with it so far.

As for hints – be prepared to take and retake your photos until you are happy with them. Also – the best thing I've found is to use a tripod (or to rest the camera on the side of the bath!) and to use the macro mode on the camera and turn the flash off too. Also – if you can try and use the timer function so pressing the button doesn't vibrate the camera and cause blurring. It's always important to edit the photos too, crop them, resize them and alter the brightness/ balances if needed before you publish them.

When did you start your blog and how much input have you had in its design? How do you maintain and update it?

I started my blog in January 2013. It was originally using Wordpress but in February this year I moved to Blogger as I found I preferred the format there. I've designed it all myself and have chosen to keep it fairly clean and simple – I'm no tech expert so I had some fun and games installing the Folksy and Instagram feed widgets but I got there in the end.

I also designed and maintain my own website – being a one woman business means that there isn't always the money available for fancy web design services. It's not perfect but I'm really pleased with the result. I have a few changes planned for the future but I think they will have to wait for the new year as I get fairly busy in the run up to Christmas.

Which social media platform do you find the most enjoyable and helpful, and how do you use it?

I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I probably prefer Facebook but I find Twitter really useful. I love the simplicity of Instagram too. What's really interesting is how people behave differently on different platforms – I find people chat more on Facebook but that I get more people clicking on my links on Twitter. I need to be better with social media – I'll add it to my to do list.

Moon River jewellery - silver moss blog

How much time do you spend online promoting your work and how do you balance making with selling?

Not enough time! That's the thing – promotion is key to getting views and sales but you have to balance that up with the time it takes you away from designing and creating. I've taken the 'a bit here and a bit there' approach which isn't always great but something is better than nothing. I've just recruited my husband to help me out with Twitter, he's much better at it than I am.

Heather, thank you so much for the interview and the insight into your work, it makes great reading and I especially love your bath-based photography hints!

If you want to find more of Heather's beautiful work then click through on these links -

All photographs in this post ©Moon River Jewellery

Friday, 16 September 2016

Celtic-style Curve earrings

Celtic scroll earrings-Silvermoss Blog

Earlier in the year I was playing with curves in silver wire, mixed with some solder, and I ended up with these earrings. They were created as a gift, and I've now made three pairs as presents. I also have another pair in my shop.

I find them satisfying to make, especially the challenge of matching the curves as I'm forming them, and the finished loops as well as possible into pairs. The wire is pretty fine but a good amount of hardening the silver through planishing and polishing imparts a lot of strength; that and a fair bit of solder holding the curves together - each earring is soldered in six separate places.
The tiny pearls, used with even tinier silver beads, added a little weight and swing. Pearls can sometimes seem a little old-fashioned (or perhaps that's just me) but these ones are so sweet, and gently irregular in their shape which I love. I've used the same pearls before, when I made this necklace, and I'm pleased that I still have quite a few remaining.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Jewelled Web - September 2016 - Link Love

Late Summer sun-bleached grass, wildflowers and heather

September is here and while the weather is still pretty warm down here in the southern part of the UK, I've noticed that the nights are definitely starting a little sooner, and the days beginning a little later. A fair few trees seem to be shedding leaves already, but it's been very dry and I think that is playing its part - trees can drop their leaves when they lack water as part of a self-preservation trick. I'll keep telling myself that even when Autumn kicks in for real perhaps...

My blog has been a little quiet recently but I've been making a few things in the background and am planning some posts about those soon. Here's some of what I've been reading, and bookmarking to read later, when I've not been otherwise occupied this Summer...

~jewellery links~

As I said above, lots of bees around at the moment. Here are a couple of tutorials on making a bee pendant in silver clay, and a bee bangle with enamel.

If you need some more bee inspiration take a look at this silver pendant, this gold one, and this fantastic wooden honeycomb necklace.

A detailed article on work hardening jewellery made from wire.

If you are willing to deal with Autumn being just around the corner then do look at these exquisite lampwork acorns.

Little tutorials for thread earrings, crochet and knotted earrings, and paper earrings.

Fantastic flower stud earrings. Fabulous flower ring. Floriferous flower necklace. From Folksy.

~non-jewellery links~

Magical photos with old cameras and film, taking in woodland around an ancient castle in Wales. I love how the mass move to digital photography has created a new appreciation of film photographs.

Beautiful books made from fabric.

Weird and wonderful houses from around the world.

Preparing a handmade business for... Christmas... (gulp)

To Anyone Who Thinks They're Falling Behind in Life (caution - contains some strong language).

Wonderful photos show the story of a wolf and a bear in Finland, living wild and living as friends.

Self compassion instead of self esteem?

If you're trying to improve your English, written or spoken, and are looking for a word to replace 'very',  then this is a handy and pretty comprehensive list of 128 alternatives.

~My Own Personal Book Club ~

I have been reading...

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan - set in a strange future world of water and tiny islands, this book is about how to find love and how to accept who you are. Beautiful, in lots of ways.

A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman - evocative and imaginative prose, delicate and sad stories, but with hope shining through. I can understand why this book was so successful. I've yet to read When God was a Rabbit, by the same author, but it's on my (hideously long) to-read list.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers - I've not read much science fiction before but I loved this. So much imagination in one book, different characters, species, worlds. I'm looking forward to the sequel (and was very pleased when I found out the author was writing one).

I've been reading a good few jewellery books too; reviews to follow (hopefully) soon...

(affiliate links included in the books listed - please check details here for more info.)

It is still Summer. It's still warm, flowers still bloom, bees and butterflies still abound (kind of). I hope the rest of your Summer, as long as it lasts this September, is good.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

A Tale of Two Soldering Blocks

I have a new soldering block.

My old soldering block, pictured below on the left, has seen me through a lot. In fact, it's as good as the only block I've ever used when I've soldered away from the class environment. And it had got to the stage where to find a small patch of level surface involved balancing the block on its side and really wasn't ideal, to put it mildly.


I've always used powder flux and when this is heated it becomes molten. Then it hardens to an almost glass-like quality, as you might be able to see in the photograph. It also becomes sticky and hardens rapidly as soon as the heat is removed, and can quite easily hold the work being soldered onto the soldering block. This is, to put it mildly, far from ideal when you've finished the soldering part.

Eventually I was given the handy hint of reheating the area very slightly, just enough to make the flux molten again, and then lift the work off without any resistance. But until then I used to pull until the silver came free, and it normally came free with a small piece of the soldering block.

So my old block is a mixture of miniature valleys of missing block and mountains of glass-like flux. It's still usable and will be used, but for delicate, more precise work, having a smooth soldering surface feels like the most extravagant indulgence and I'm still enjoying the clean and smooth expanses, and doing my best not to create any more landforms than I'm sure I inevitably will, however careful I am.

Do leave a comment or get in touch if you've any hints to share about dealing with soldering blocks - I've love to read them.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Jeweller Interview with Little Cherry Hill

little cherry hill jewellery photo - silver moss blog
Last year I started doing interviews with fellow jewellery makers and here's another one now, this time with Little Cherry Hill Artisan Jewellery.

Emma, who is Little Cherry Hill, creates wonderful work, carefully detailed and intricately finished, often set with gemstones and always made with great skill.

When I first discovered Little Cherry Hill I fell in love with the silver and the gemstones, and the sheer imagination and variety Emma shows when crafting her designs.

I hope you enjoy looking through Emma's jewellery and reading about how she makes her art.

When and how did you start making jewellery?
I started metal smithing in Oct 2009 – my first child was a year old and I was making some stamped disc pendants with her name and birthdate etc on them. It was when it came to hanging them on a chain that I realised a simple closed jump ring wasn’t going to secure the pendant very well – at least not well enough for long term wear (which is kind of the purpose of such jewellery, no?) So I started researching how to solder a jump ring and, well, the rest is history!

How did you think of your shop name and does it have a story behind it?
My brand name began when I started teaching myself to sew. It’s personal to me and it’s a part of my last name, so it was easy for me to remember – it has stuck with me throughout all my ventures.

Where do your design ideas come from and what is the process that sees them through to the finished product?
My design ideas are purely from the top of my head. Sometimes I work around a stone, sometimes it just pops into my head and I go from there. It doesn’t always work out – but that’s part of the process.

Where do you create your jewellery; do you have your own studio or use a kitchen table? Does your physical space affect how you work and what you create?
I create my jewellery in the garage of our home. It’s a great place for metal smithing as I don’t have to worry about dropping things or making a mess as the floor is concrete. But it’s not an insulated space – which does affect my work at times as it gets way too hot to be soldering or enamelling. So during the Summer I can tend not to venture to my bench for weeks at a time.

little cherry hill jewellery - silver moss blog

How do you motivate yourself to keep on creating?
Motivation or my ‘creative mojo’ as I like to call it, comes and goes as it pleases. This of course makes it difficult to build my little business and even harder to build my skill set. I am extremely critical of myself and my work, which makes it even harder to get the motivation to work at my bench.

What is your favourite piece of jewellery to make?
My favourite jewellery to make would be pendants – probably because you can go larger when making them, say compared to the size of earrings or rings. And I absolutely love large statement pieces.

What jewellery making tools could you just not do without, and what tool/item is on your wish list?
The tool I could not do without the most would be my Flex-shaft. So many little drill bits and finishing/sanding tools can be equipped into this wonderful contraption that mean less wear and tear on our precious hands – always a good thing! One tool on my wishlist that I hope to get early 2015, would be a Delft Clay sandcasting kit. This is something I really want to teach myself to do.

What is your favourite part of making and selling jewellery?
My favourite part of making a piece of jewellery is the finished product. Seeing it all come together and work out from imagination to reality is really fun. The part I love about selling would be somebody choosing to spend their hard earned savings on a piece that I made with my two hands from scratch – especially given there is so much to choose from on Etsy, so many beautiful pieces. When someone chooses to wear something I’ve made it’s a little thumbs up to the work that I do and I thrive on that.

little cherry hill jewellery - silver moss blog

Do you take your own photos, and if so do you have any photography hints?
Yes, I have always taken my own photos. Photography is something I enjoy as a hobby alongside metal smithing. I would recommend using natural light always, flash is awful and I never, ever use it, ever. Not for anything. Take your photographs in a neutral setting with minimal distraction and near a window out of direct sunlight.

When did you start your blog and how much input have you had in its design? How do you maintain and update it?
I started my jewellery blog when I began learning to make jewellery. I wanted to connect with others in the same field and also document what I was learning/doing. I try to design everything myself when and where I can. If I need help to see a vision through I try to go to other Etsians. At the moment I don’t update it much – I haven’t the time right now. But I do check in as much as I can.

Which social media platform do you find the most enjoyable and helpful, and how do you use it?
At the moment my favourite social media is Instagram. I love photography and looking others pictures. I use Instagram to connect with others and to share my favourite things and a little from my life and mostly my work process.

How do you hope your jewellery making will evolve over time? How do you see your shop changing?
I hope my jewellery will evolve as I teach myself new skills. At this point in my life my children take up much of my time, so new skills and making new jewellery as quite stretched out over time. I do hope one day to build my little business up to something more than a hobby, but right now I just enjoy what time I can get at my bench.

little cherry hill jewellery - silver moss blog

Thanks so very much for the interview, Emma, it was fascinating finding out more about your work.
All photographs in this post ©Little Cherry Hill Artisan Jewellery

If you want to find more of Emma's beautiful work then click through on these links -