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 -

Friday, 1 April 2016

Jewelled Web - April 2016 - Link Love

The sea in the spring...

Easter was very early this year and perhaps that's why the weather seemed a little colder than normal. Okay, Good Friday was sunny and bright and quite beautiful, but the following days had a sting of cold in the air, rain and strong winds. The occasional blast of sunlight was noticed and enjoyed though.

This Jewelled Web comes closer than normal on the heels of my previous one but I still hope you find something of interest - after all, the web turns up gems pretty much every day of the year...

~jewellery links~

Much of the jewellery I make - and that I own - is pretty small and delicate so I loved the finds in this post about tiny necklaces.

I've never added a patina to my silver but I must try to do so, and sooner than later. I've bookmarked this, this and this in preparation. Next is to invest in some chemicals (or eggs). Any hints welcome in the comments!

Aluminium as an alternative to silver? I love this and this.

Fusing rather than soldering is a fascinating topic (video) ... as is soldering with an iron rather than a torch.

Bored Panda is as addictive as ever and it does jewellery! Carved silver bookmarks that tell a story and tiny scenes set in resin rings.

~non-jewellery links~

How to build a minimal wardrobe - lots of links.

A fascinating library to explore online.

More Bored Panda ... Norway in the winter and a Nap Bar in Dubai (hands up who needs one of those lounge-chairs at home?).

Decorating in black and white.

How to have a holiday in an owl.

I'm not on Instagram. I do think about going on Instagram. Then it seems that lots of people want to leave Instagram 'cos of an algorithm. This might explain it a little. I hope.

Such a beautiful quilt. If I only I could sew...

A steampunk elephant, from start to finish.

My Own Personal Book Club ~ I've been reading...

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman - sad and beautiful all at once. A writer always worth reading. If you loved the film Practical Magic, based on one of her novels, then you'll love this.

The Watchers by Neil Spring - spooky and eerie and a little bit odd... The same writer wrote the book that Harry Price - Ghost Hunter (on UK TV over Christmas) was based on.

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

The clocks have just gone forward and the evenings are lighter, so spring must be on its way now, surely. Hope you have a good April.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Jewelled Web - March 2016 - Link Love


As if to confirm my own suspicion that I'd do better just hibernating, my blog posts over the last few months have been less than prolific. Ahem. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has the sensation that life, in one form or another, just melts away during the colder months and is replaced by an odd state that seems to consist of mainly listening to weather forecasts and hunting for signs of spring whilst gazing listlessly out of the window.

To ease myself back into the blogging world I'm starting with a new Jewelled Web, a little round up of what has had me clicking 'share' recently and what I've bookmarked to read later. I've also been having major issues with web access however, and out of the last couple of months I've only had a few days when I've had more than the ability to download a few emails. So if the list is a little short, or out-dated, then that might just be why.

Oh, and the wonderful hare in the photograph comes courtesy of West Green Pottery - the beautiful mug the hare lives on was bought for me for Christmas.

~jewellery links~

Such a wonderful brooch!

A tiny copper dancer that makes me smile...

I love this tutorial - very few words, none of them English and yet I think it's clear enough to follow (and the page does have a translate button).

Two beautiful rings found on Folksy - a spinning ring (I'm yet to make one of those) and a silver and gold antler ring.

How to etch copper.

A beautiful necklace made from copper wire.

More wire, another amazing necklace.

I've been experimenting with polymer clay again, but am not quite(!) up to the standards shown in the final photo of this post about combining stamps, clay and copper.

~non-jewellery links~

Bored Panda is dangerous - a little boy who flies through photos (and hopefully through his whole life); lonely robots paintings; body painting as art; wouldn't life be more fun if we all dressed as if we were from 18th century France?; beautiful libraries; embroidered paper; and the sky is just beautiful...

How I'd love to see firefall in Yosemite park...

In England last year we had to start paying for plastic carrier bags (except for in certain circumstances designed to complicate matters). Even if this is frustrating, it's also worth it if it stops this happening. And plastic in general may perhaps have to soon be thought of as a valuable resource - it is made from oil after all, of which we only have a finite supply.

To add to my paltry collection of non-plastic shoppers, I was given this beautiful bag for Christmas.

I think I would like to live here.

We've had some crazy weather this winter in the UK, resulting in things like waterfalls flowing upwards and centuries old bridges being washed away.

In the UK, poverty can mean a distinct lack of sanitary products.

Simple crafty makes to indulge in.

My Own Personal Book Club ~ the last few months, among other books, I've been reading...

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters - Kind of sinister, then romantic, then really sinister, then surprisingly hopeful. Always recommended.

Polymer Clay Jewellery Workshop by Sian Hamilton -  A great collection of designs, some I recognise from Making Jewellery magazine. I even did some experimentation with my own neglected stash of polymer clay, so photos and a book review will follow...

Cinema Lumiere by Hattie Holden Edmonds - French cinema in London, loss, romance and love, a very good read.

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

Hope the sunshine that is out today continues for the rest of the month and spring really does feel like it's on its way...

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Jewelled Web - October 2015 - Link Love


September has left us with sunshine (and moonlit nights), despite the feeling that this summer has been the wettest I can remember for a good while. I am prepared to forgive that at the present, however, when moving into October the sun is still earth quite nicely and I've got blackberries, raspberries, and even some very confused strawberries fruiting in my garden.

Here's some links, although I do recommend reading them whilst basking in the autumn rays...

~jewellery links~

Ever find yourself with an 'essential' jewellery tool that used to be something else entirely...? At one point my entire collection of mandrels were 're-purposed'...

I've been making some jewellery with cord lately so this tutorial may save me some calculating headaches about how much cord I actually need.

If you do shows then this tutorial for a ring display stand could be very useful.

The 100 top selling jewellery makers on Etsy for 2014 - unless I missed it, not one from the UK.

How to make perfectly round loops in metal (you need to register (for free) on this site to access the tutorials).

These earrings are so, so pretty, beautifully detailed, and perfect for the autumn.

I'm rereading this tutorial on how to drill glass, after being requested to make a necklace in the same material - although I suspect I'll make a bezel instead...

~non-jewellery links~

I'm still giddy with the fact I was lucky enough to see the lunar eclipse - no clouds whatsoever for much of the event. I saw the start of it, missed a little bit, then watched from totality to totally normal again. It was a little like this, but without the sea, the island, or, thankfully, the lightning storm in the distance.

Also in the sky, the Northern Lights from space, and winning photographs of the skies...

Why is everyone succeeding except me? I've not read this yet but I must...

It's good to think outside the box, in every part of life, including home furnishing - so I like this idea of using outdoor light fixtures inside your house.

Fancy sleeping in the sea?

'Self-care' sounds a bit of a twee principle but it also kind of makes perfect sense...

Surprisingly sweet - a DIY pom pom wall hanging. Seriously.

My Own Personal Book Club ~ this month I've been reading...

Michel Faber's The Book of Strange New Things - science fiction but unlike any I've read before, no detailed explanation of space travel or space craft, just the minutia of human, and non-human, life. Makes you think and may make you cry.

Metal Clay Jewellery by Natalia Colman, full of good, clear images and inventive ideas (review to follow).

Half of the Human Race by Anthony Quinn, a book loaned to me and nearly finished now. Sweeping and dramatic, taking in women's suffrage, the First Word War and, yes, cricket, but also focused on the small details that make up a life. I'm still enjoying this and am glad it's a long one...

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

Hope the start of your October is as sunny as mine is - and long may it continue!