Friday, 21 October 2016

It's a total fix


I've not made many brooches and the ones I have, have been in copper. I don't even wear brooches that often, although I do find them rather beautiful - and it's a rare type of jewellery that sits on clothing rather than the body.

The brooch that I do wear with any regularity is a gift I received several years ago, an amethyst set in silver. I've worn it on a hat for years now, and it's stayed firm, never coming loose. This summer, when I decided to wash the hat, I naturally removed the brooch. That was fine. When my hat was dry and I went to reattach the brooch... it broke.

Breaking jewellery is not a nice feeling. The pin at the back came away from the main part of the brooch and as I looked down at the two pieces I immediately assumed something had disastrously snapped, delicate and difficult soldering would be needed, I wouldn't be able to protect the amethyst and, essentially, it was game over for my brooch.

When I looked a little closer I saw that the pin, which I'd never thought to examine before, had simply pulled free from the pressure setting it was normally enclosed within. Five minutes with a pair of pliers and the brooch was fixed and I was suitably pleased.

Photographic proof above. Including wonderfully-aged tarnish on the back of the brooch...

Friday, 14 October 2016

An amber & silver pendant, plus a theory of gifts

The amber cabochon, set in silver, held up to the light

It's easy to be so caught up in the minutia of life that birthdays sneak up on us and the best gift we can find at hideously short notice is whatever comes to hand in the right price range at (gulp) the supermarket. It's not good, is it.

I'm very aware that, since I've been making jewellery, I've made a lot of it as gifts. And, as the years have passed, I've wondered how many recipients are smiling through gritted teeth rather than really liking what I've made for them. Most women will appreciate jewellery as a gift but jewellery is also very personal and, even if you know someone well, what you think their style is may not be what they really like. I think I would be suspicious that they were trying too hard if someone wore what I'd made them every time we met, but when I never see them wear anything I've made it does lead me to wonder if they ever do...

So, a combination of this apprehension and trying not to overwhelm with sheer quantity of jewellery has led me to be circumspect when I decide to make a friend or relative a piece of jewellery for their special day. But another combination of a special birthday, a hankering to set a stone (something I've not done in ages), and a bit of a tip-off came together to prompt me to make this pendant for a relative. And I planned it long enough in advance that, barring major soldering disasters, I could avoid any fear of a last minute supermarket dash.


I've not set amber before but I have used amber beads and so knew it was quite a soft substance - just 2 - 2.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, which is extraordinary for something that has survived for many millions of year. In deference to this, I bought myself more than one gemstone, just in case... plus, as I was buying online I figured I should then have at least one good-looking piece to set if I had a few to chose from.

The whole project was quite a process of remembering how to do things, and finding ways to make techniques fit the finished-item-image that I had in my mind (and doodled on a piece of paper). My favourite part was when I, finally, set the amber into the setting. Whether that was pleasure at being near the end, or just the sheer satisfaction of carefully pushing the silver round the stone, I'm not entirely sure. Despite giving myself enough time to finish the pendant, I was always aware that something could go wrong as any moment and I'd have to start over - not that I'm always a pessimist but working with small pieces of silver with a soldering torch and hammer carries obvious risks.

While I made a host of notes of things to do differently, and better, when I next set a stone, the amber survived unscratched and, perhaps even better, the finished necklace was liked and - wait for it - worn...

Friday, 7 October 2016

Book Review - Learn to Make Bead Jewellery

Learn to Make Bead Jewellery - by Lynn Davy
Published by Search Press 2016

Learn to Make Bead Jewellery - book review by Silvermoss Learn to Make Bead Jewellery - book review by Silvermoss

I think silver jewellery will always be my first love. The cool colour, the texture, the workability of it, and the fact it was how I began making jewellery, all seal my ardour for it. But even silver, beautiful as it is, can sometimes really fizz if its mixed with other materials, and in this case the materials in question are beads.

The paperback edition of Learn to Make Bead Jewellery has a bold front cover, mostly white with blue writing and a mass of blues in the necklace in the main photo. Four smaller photos show a variation of blues and this attention to detail in the colour indicates one of the features of the book - its projects are colour coordinated by way of descriptions of the natural world. So the project categories cover Ocean (blues and aquamarines), Beach (browns and creams), Meadow (bright shades of many hues, like a wild flower meadow), Woodland (browns and greens), Forest (reds, purples and deep greens), Mountain (greys) and Volcano (oranges and reds).

I'll return to these sections and projects shortly but here I'll detail the first few pages of the book. Like many others of this type it has an introduction and then sections on materials, tools and techniques. Lots of clear, colour and vibrant photographs are included and six pages cover the topic of beads themselves, including a section on how to chose beads to buy. A page each on stringing materials and findings is followed by two pages on tools and four pages on techniques, covering the basics with a series of step-by-step photographs.

 Complete Jewellery Maker - book review by Silvermoss Complete Jewellery Maker - book review by Silvermoss

The book is finished by an index and a credit page but the majority of the book consists of the 35 projects it contains. Each project covers two pages (occasionally four) and has a list of beads, findings and tools required to complete the design. Every stage of the project is numbered and has photos and brief instructions, along with handy tips and extra techniques (as is often the case with jewellery books, developing skills and adapting projects is encouraged). The instructions are concise but useful and clear, and the photographs are bright and helpful.

Whilst this isn't a book for a single-minded silversmith, it's still interesting if you'd like to extend your skills. And if you're already a bead aficionado then, at the very least, the beautiful use of colour combinations in the projects should provide something new to learn and experiment with. The techniques are, I think, simple enough for a novice to understand and such a jeweller would find the book a helpful guide - it has detail enough to assist the growth of new skills, and also to inspire the creation of original designs, which is always the sign of a good jewellery book.

Find more of my jewellery book reviews here (the latest will be right at the top, so do scroll down!)

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.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Jewelled Web - October 2016 - Link Love

Scotney Castle in Kent, glowing in the early Autumn light.

October is here and this year it feels gentle, with soft skies, sunshine, and only a light dusting of leaves although they are now falling daily. But it's still October after all, and I know I'll have to dig out my wet-weather boots and a jacket soon. Still, the abundance of leaves always provides wonderful jewellery and design inspiration in terms of colour, shape and texture. I'm thinking of making some more silver leaves...

This is what I've been doing online this last month, and what I will be catching up with in October.

~jewellery links~

Such a sweet idea and done really well - Jewellery made from children's artwork.

Jewellery (okay, headdresses) for mermaids.

A simple tutorial for creating simple but pretty marbled polymer clay earrings.

The perils of a friend or colleague asking you to repair an item of jewellery...

These shell earrings by Tanith Rouse are just so beautiful.

An Iron Age brooch has been recreated using a 3D printer.

A handy tutorial for wire-wrapping briolette beads.

A slightly less conventional tutorial - how to make denim earrings. Fabric earrings can look so good, and can be large without being heavy.

~non-jewellery links~

I love this idea for using natural fragrances in a home in a pretty and practical way.

These beautiful examples of needle felting, along with handy tips to get started, make it seem like a wonderful craft to do while the leaves fall outside.

Living in the Antarctic, but in style.

It's the time of year when certain types of plants just appear - yes, I'm talking fungi. Here are some amazing examples.

Dinosaur planters - with Christmas coming, such oddities suddenly start making sense...

More plants, at the most dangerous garden in the world.

One of my favourite videos, a deer bouncing along the beach. And then I saw this, a young rhino playing with dogs and responding to his name. Oh, okay, a panda has a bubble bath. That's it now. No more.

Flying with swans.

~My Own Personal Book Club ~

I have been reading...

My first John Le Carre novel - Our Kind of Traitor. I totally missed this at the cinema but found myself with a copy of it on my Kindle; it's a simple story really, about betrayal and trust, with a strong humanity at its core.

We Were Liars by E Lockhart - another Kindle find, and a very readable book, although with a devastating and affecting plot twist.

Learn to Make Bead Jewellery by Lynn Davy (reviewed by me here) - wonderful photos and beautiful beads make some imaginative designs.

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


It's been such a mild end to the summer but the signs of change are to be found at the turn of October - the leaves are slowly growing golden and falling copper and bronze, and the nights and mornings are closer together now. But, as I write this, the sun is shining and bright, and the air warm. I hope your Autumn is wholly mellow.

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