Friday, 23 June 2017

Countryside Inspiration for Jewellery Designs - June 2017

Spring has begun its gentle slide into summer and whenever I'm out and about I've tried to snap photos as much as I can. All the photos in this post were taken on my camera phone as I've been trusting it far more lately to capture a good image for me. I've also been increasingly aware that the shapes and features that attract my eye in the landscape also feed into my approach to the jewellery I design and create.

Countryside Jewellery Inspiration Wheatfield by Silvermoss

The photo above of a green wheat field, backed with a wall, then a further field, and then the sky beyond made me consider the importance of both pattern and uniformity in jewellery design as well as aspects that break one or both of those qualities. Yes, the lines of the features in the photo run parallel to each other, but the spaces between those lines are all different - wide, narrow, narrow, wide and so they add interest and break expectations of a uniform pattern.

Creating differences through contrast in design is often pleasing - we naturally recognise rhythm and anything that alters or interupts it. The texture of the wheat itself, being pushed by the breeze, within the overall stripe it forms, shows how effective angles can be when set against horizonal patterns and shapes. And the clouds in the skyscape provide a rounded texture in contrast with all the lines in the photo, serving as a reminder how texture can be used as a subtle contrast.

Countryside Inspiration Bluebell Wood by SilverMoss

This photo was taken late into bluebell time, when I nearly missed the best of the blooms through a rather weighty migraine that kept me hidden away instead of experiencing the flowers at their most blue. But even here in this image, the carpet effect is still in evidence and the trees, as ever, provide a protective canopy against the harshness of direct sunshine and beautiful spots of light falling on the flowers.

If you imagine the scene without the blue hues then it becomes a little drab, something a little plain - the bluebells add interest and texture and show how detail can lift a design which, while still attractive, may also be a little flat without it.

Countryside Inspiration Gateway to the Wood by SilverMoss

The contrast between the sunlight falling on the wooden gate and fence and the gentler dappled shade in the woodland prompted me to take this photograph. Contrast adds interest in jewellery design, as do angles, like the one that the gate and fence are on which helps draw the eye through the image, and prevent a one-dimensional quality by adding depth. In jewellery, the fact it is three-dimensional and tactile is one of its great strengths and allows freedom in design to create that sense of movement within each piece.

I'm really enjoying examining the photos I take a little more closely, choosing a few of my favourites and thinking about why I took them and like them so much and how certain elements of design manifests in my jewellery designs as well.

Do share anything you've noted in these images, or in any others you yourself may have taken, and leave a comment below. And if you fancy seeing my earlier posts on photographic inspiration they are here (on the seaside) and here (on flowers).

Friday, 16 June 2017

Book Review - Practical Jewellery-Making Techniques

Practical Jewellery-Making Techniques: Problem Solving
by Stephen O'Keeffe
Published by A&C Black, 2011
144 pages

Book Review by SilverMoss - Practical Jewellery Making Techniques

I have a well-worn copy of an earlier book by Stephen O'Keeffe, namely Tips and Shortcuts for Jewellery Making. One of the reasons I used it so much was because it is different from nearly all of the other jewellery books I have, which tend to be a combination of explaining techniques that are then used with specific projects. This book though, and the one I'm reviewing here, look at jewellery as a series of problems to be solved and the author helps come up with solutions through experience and ingenuity.

One line review

An unorthodox, excellent book on how to avert 'disaster' in jewellery making and silversmithing by creating clever tools and using innovative thinking.

First Impressions

I had to look twice at this book when I saw the cover. I recognised the author's name and style of jewellery and it made me wonder if it was a re-issue of the original book (I couldn't remember the title well enough to be sure!) or a repackaged version. Flicking through the pages showed me that this wasn't the case. the book was different and that it was worth looking at more closely, with lots of colour images set among the detailed text.

At The Start

The Contents page is text-based and simple, listing the chapters of the book and what each contains.

The two-page Introduction explains the thinking behind the book; trying to prevent 'disaster' and fix issues before they become problems, partly by using traditional techniques and clever, self-created tools. It's a great intro to the different thinking and style that this book follows.

In the Middle

The ten chapters this book contains make up almost all of the contents. The first three chapters deal with some basic ideas, like tools, techniques and making simple tools; these chapters are full of useful information and hints.

Chapter 4 discusses using a punch and die, and chapter 5 goes into detail on soldering. Chapter 6 deals with wire scrolls and chapter 7 covers doming blocks. Chapters 8 and 9 look at using a homemade swaging tool, forming oval nails into punches and instructions for creating a forming tool - examples of what can be made with these items are included and explained. The last chapter is about findings, including jump rings, catches, and ear wires.

Describing the chapters like this can make them seem a little disjointed, but the skills being taught are cumulative and the author's 'normal' job as a teacher is clear.

In terms of projects, these are interspersed throughout the chapters and are not listed individually in the contents page; instead they appear organically as part of the natural flow of the text and in context of what the author is writing about. This makes them a little harder to find at first glance but perhaps easier to follow if you read the book much like you would read a study course.

At the End

Ring sizing and wire sizing tables are at the end of the book, along with a glossary and index.

In Summary

An excellent book for anyone who uses smithing skills to make jewellery and wants to not only learn more but to think outside the box. If you are just starting out then a simpler guide may be useful to begin with, but do consider investing in this book as you progress. For jewellers at any other stage, I'd be very surprised if this book didn't provide at least food for thought and most likely useful guidance and a good few handy hints along the way.


For another of my jewellery book reviews, then check out The Complete Jewellery Maker by Jinks McGrath.

Please note, this post contains affiliate links, which cost you nothing if you click through but may make me a few coppers if the stars are right that day... For more info check out my about page.

Friday, 9 June 2017

First Steps with Resin Enamel by Efcolor - Celestial Sheep

My very first moves into enamelling, and resin enamel specifically, have been tentative and slow, have involved experimentation and a few errors, and have seen a (mostly) enjoyable learning curve. I'll write more in a future post about the process of working with this particular type of enamel and the equipment that I've been using, but for now here's some photos of how it works.

enamel-efcolor-work-in-progress-silvermoss enamel-efcolor-two-toned-copper-sheep-silvermoss

Resin enamel, or Efcolor, only needs a low heat to harden (it uses tea lights for this!) and, after I was recommended it, it seemed a good place to start to add a little more colour and variety into my jewellery.

So far my favourite piece is also my first, a copper blank in the rather surprising shape of a sheep - it came in a variety pack of copper pieces which I'm using to experiment with.


To my eyes at least, it has ended up looking rather like the night sky can in a good summer, with shades of blue and bright splashes of star light that are only really visible in a Dark Skies zone or on Nasa's website... The phrase that came to mind when I'd finished was celestial sheep. I do appreciate that might have been quite a flight of fancy on my part however, and that different eyes may well see a white sheep that has had a close encounter with a recently painted fence panel...

More, much more, experimentation will follow...

Friday, 2 June 2017

Jewelled Web - June 2017 - Link Love

Wooden Slipway on Shingle Beach - Jewelled Web June 2017 Silvermoss

June is when summer really should be making itself felt. It's half-way through the year, yet if to-do lists from six months ago are not being attended to then it kind of doesn't matter because, in theory, the sun is shining and the evenings are long and bright... May has seen rain, hail and thunder, as well as baking days under a bright sun, so I can hope that June will see sunshine and perhaps a little rain too, ideally falling gently while I'm asleep, always the best time for rain to fall in Summer...

Here are some of links to what I've been reading (and saving to read later) that may float your boat (tenuous photo-related pun intended).

~jewellery links~

A comprehensive introduction to torch fired enamelling - first published in 2008 and still getting views.

Tiny flowers made from silver and carefully pieced together into a necklace.

Strawberries and jewellery has to be the perfect combination.

A detailed tutorial on how to cut and shape sea glass.

Earrings or sculpture... either way, these are works of art.

Another highly detailed tutorial on how to etch designs onto metal.

Such a pretty ring - I love to deconstruct jewellery I see on the web, and try and work out if I've the tools and skills to make it myself!

Jewellery made from tagua seeds instead of ivory may help save elephants.

And yet another beautiful ring...

~non-jewellery links~

How to be organised. If only it was as simple as reading a blog post...but it's somewhere to start.

Dreams delivered to you, by hand (and cycle), while you sleep...

Will we all live in forest cities one day? One already exists in Singapore.

Steampunk sculptures made from rubbish. How to make your own armour. Creatures that (probably) don't exist. How to improve by practising. Yes, I went to Bored Panda.

170 years of photography.

More images, this time by a photographer who places animals where they used to be.

Wonderful stained glass cloud and raindrops.

~latest reads~

A mix of fact and fiction this month, both courtesy of the excellent facility my local library has of allowing eBook lending via the Overdrive app - and I believe this is nationwide in the UK so if you've been looking for a reason to join/rejoin your local library, this is a great one.

An absorbing book about illness and health and everything in between, I found Teach Us to Sit Still by Tim Park enlightening on the topic of what health can be and what it is and what to do when conventional medicine doesn't quite fit.

The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor is a murder mystery set in the midst of the Great Fire of 1666, full of intrigue and duplicity and post-Restoration dark-doings...


I hope June is a wonderful and sunny month for us all - enjoy the sun, and the links.


Photo of pieces of a wooden slipway taken by me on an impromptu trip to the seaside.


If you'd like a blast from the past Jewelled Web then take a look at this one from April 2014.

(this post includes affiliate links - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 26 May 2017

Phone Camera Photography Hints - and a Clever Little Gadget

Taking photos on a phone camera has moved from a last-option to becoming a first choice for some people. And having a camera to hand all the time, as part of the phone you take everywhere with you anyway, means we often tend to take more photos than before. The camera on my phone isn't a top quality one but it can still take a good snap if the conditions are right - and it has a few simple settings that allow me the opportunity to get a decent image if those conditions are a bit wrong.

I've not taken many jewellery photographs with my phone camera as it's not that well-suited to such shots - yes, it has a surprisingly decent close-up if the lighting conditions are good enough, and it also has enough pixels to provide reasonable detail. However it lacks some colour range and subtlety and the closeness of the close-up is limited, so I can't get those extra-detailed images on smaller pieces of jewellery, like rings and earrings.


The photo of the ring above was taken for this blog post on my phone camera - I've edited it very slightly for colour and clarity. I also increased the brightness a little, but perhaps not enough as it still looks a little gloomy...

I still find myself using my phone camera more and more for general photography, when I'm out and about and prefer the convenience of something quick and simple. At times like that a phone camera comes into its own and means I've more photos than ever sitting on another memory card. And that's where they tend to stay...


This photo was taken a few months back when I was fortunate enough to be by the sea on a clear evening as the sun was setting. The quality isn't fantastic but having my phone with me meant I was able to snap this, enjoy the fun of clicking away as the sun sank lower and lower, and have the photographic reminder of the experience afterwards. I found this image hidden in the depths of the memory on my phone...

A few years back digital photo frames were nearly everywhere. I never owned one myself but have sat in other peoples' house, watching the photos images flick past, some good and well-composed, intermingled with many that should have been deleted immediately (and how many of us get around to that as often as we should) and lots that were out of focus or too dark or too light or just plain embarrassing...

So I was intrigued by a new digital photo frame, this one a smart one. The Aura Frame displays photos directly from a mobile phone, so it has no storage limits other than those of the phone itself. It manages to not only pick the best quality images for display but also groups pictures of the same people together. The frame itself has no controls on it; everything is dealt with via an app - although it also allows you to wave an image away by hand if you don't like it, which sounds quite fun.

And the Aura Frame company created this guide to taking a good photo on your phone camera - It was interesting as I believe it's hard to have enough advice and hints for such a topic as taking good photos.


A few pointers of my own that I've learned through taking my own images are -

* Don't assume auto is best - most camera phones will have several modes for taking photos and while auto is good, others can sometimes be better. I've had good results with using the 'night' mode (for taking photos of low light scenes without a flash) but in the daylight when things are just a little bit gloomy and in need of more brightness. 'sports' mode is also handy for any kind of action shot.

* Touch the image on your phone where you want the focus to be - this is one of the joys of phone cameras and touch screens, being able to quickly and easily move the point of focus in the image you're composing.

* Keep your lens clean - it's easy to overlook this but tiny specs of dust and dirt can easily build up on your camera lens and will make your photo look smudged and blurry. A quick clean before taking a photo can sometimes make a world of difference to your final image.

* Alter the angle you hold your phone to alter the light - if your viewfinder shows your photograph will be pretty dark then tilt the phone up or down very slightly. You can often get very nearly the exact same view but by allowing more light in, via an altered angle, you can add detail that is otherwise lost in gloom. This works in reverse too for images that look to be too bright.

* Explore the settings - we all tend to just point and click but if you take some time to explore the modes your camera has to offer, perhaps by taking pictures of the same view but with different  settings, then you can quickly find how some alterations can create an improvement (or not!) to the quality of your images.

Hope some of these hints are useful and help your own phone camera photography - do leave any tips of your own in the comments, I'd love to read them.


And if you'd like to see more of my posts on photography, including my photographing jewellery blog series, then do check this link out and explore.


Please note - The infographic featured in this post was supplied by Aura Frames themselves, but I am otherwise not connected with the company and the links in my post are
 not affiliate links. As always, my views are my own and have been given honestly.