Friday, 17 November 2017

Jeweller Interview with Gemma Atwell of The Silver Shed

Fairy tales in all their forms are such an important part of childhood. We think we grow out of them but, really, those years are so formative that we can never really leave their magic behind, and I felt a reminder when I first saw Gemma Atwell's beautiful jewellery.

Silver Wolf and Moon Silhouette Pendant by The Silver Shed

The Silver Shed, Gemma's online shop, is full of jewellery inspired by fairy tales and childhood stories, as well as images from folklore and nature. It's a wonderful place to visit to escape from the modern world and go back to simpler times...

Read on to learn more about how Gemma comes up with such wonderful ideas, how she is developing her work, and  where her beautiful pieces is created.

When and how did you start making jewellery?

I kind of fell into it really, around 15 years ago I was looking for a creative short course to do and found a 10 week silversmithing one. That was it, I was hooked. The interest had always been there though, I was given a silver charm bracelet as a child and was so fascinated at how the little charms were made. After the short course I signed onto a City & Guilds design for jewellery NVQ, the love for metal-smithing grew from there.

I love your shop name - how did you think of it and does it have a story behind it?

It is quite simply because I am a shed dweller! My studio is a garden shed/summerhouse. I originally thought to use my own name as my business name but I wanted something a little more memorable.

Silversmith's Workshop by The Silver Shed

Where do your design ideas come from and what is the process that sees them through to the finished product?

An idea for a collection can begin anywhere, I have many snippets of inspiration waiting to be worked on. I tend to make mood boards, Pinterest is good for this, and doodle in sketchbooks until an idea forms into something more concrete. Sometimes I make maquettes from paper or copper, but more often than not I move straight into working in silver. If something doesn't quite work I will smelt that silver down to cast other pieces. If I am working on a gold piece of jewellery I will usually make a model or two first to make sure the design works.

Your designs have a wonderfully whimsical style - where do your ideas come from?

The majority of my work is based in folklore and fairytales, I am a firm believer that we can all do with a little bit of magic in our lives. Nostalgia and whimsy definitely play a part, I love when someone says a piece stirs a long forgotten memory, or when they get misty eyed thinking of the books they have read to their children.

Silver Pendant set against a Spool of Thread by The Silver Shed

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

I do take my own photos yes, although I am never completely happy with them. I'm no great photographer but it is something that needs to be done. I would certainly say good, sharp photos are one of your best tools when selling your own work, naturally lit and styled to reflect you and your business.

How did you decide on the way you style your jewellery photos?

The photos I take need to represent my brand so I like them to reflect the way I style my stands at shows/markets. I always want my staging to evoke the idea of a professor's study or an alchemist's desk, with books, inkwells and bell jars filled with archaeological or natural history finds. I use a lot of text and ancient/folk imagery in my work so I want my lifestyle photographs to enhance that.

Two Silver Rings with Stamped Quotes from Alice in Wonderland by The Silver Shed

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

Instagram is definitely my go to for social media, I like how visual it is and that it is one of the only platforms where independent businesses still have the upper-hand. It's great for networking too, I've made lots of Insta buddies and love how much support you can find from other creatives all over the globe. I also still use Facebook and actually manage to sell through both, they are a great way to gauge how a new design will be received before launching it properly.

How do you hope your jewellery making will evolve over time? How do you see your shop changing?

I actually made a conscious decision this year to concentrate on making some larger, more intricate jewellery, pieces I want to make rather than what I think I should be. I was really nervous about this move but thankfully so far my new work has been really well received. I understand they are more considered purchases but I also know that when somebody buys one it is because they truly love it.

Silver Cloud Pendant set against a White and Gold Feather by The Silver Shed

What is the best tip or advice you've been given?

Be inspired by others but don't copy them and do not constantly compare yourself to your contemporaries, do your thing and the right people will find you. Those you follow and admire have the same insecurities as you too.

All photographs in this post ©Gemma Atwell (The Silver Shed)

Thanks so much for the interview, Gemma, I loved learning more about the inspiration behind your work - and that you really do have a silver shed!

To see more of Gemma's work and inspiration then head to the links below:

Folksy Shop ~ The Silver Shed
Etsy Shop - The Silver Shed
Facebook ~ The Silver Shed
Twitter ~ @silvershedgirl
Instagram ~ @silvershedgirl


If you'd like to read some other of my jeweller interviews then do click here to find more

Friday, 10 November 2017

A Ring of Two Stones - Sky Blue Topaz and Labradorite

Sky blue topaz and Labradorite faceted gemstone sterling silver ring - silvermoss

This is a birthday ring, for this month, and I liked the idea of using a birthstone. Of all the shades topaz comes in, the sky blue variation is, for me, the most beautiful. It does seem to look like a little piece of sky, captured in stone, perhaps even the sky on a November day when the sun is as bright as it can bear at this time of year and the blue around it has that slightly chilled look, as if the heat from our star can't quite warm it to the deeper hues of summer.

The other most usual birthstone for November, according to information on the web, is citrine. And although I've used topaz and citrine together before (see the stones I bought and what I made from them), it just didn't seem to work right for this birthday or the ring I wanted to make.

Sky blue topaz and Labradorite sterling silver ring on a wooden stand - silvermoss

So when I bought the rose cut cabochons I wrote about in this post, as well as the sky blue topaz which I'd purposely chosen, I bought gems in colours I hoped would match nicely with it. The lapis lazuli was too opaque and the iolite too small (fool that I was not to order it in a larger size) but the labradorite sat perfectly with the topaz. Against the sky blue topaz, the labradorite looks, to me, like stormy skies, with a hint of rainbow, the opposite to clear blue heavens but with a beauty of its own.

I made a simple ring in rectangular wire, with the design left open to be a little adjustable so I didn't have to reveal too much by casually enquiring after someone's ring size - let's face it, when isn't that a giveaway?

When I make this again, I may use a slightly heavier wire as I had to hammer this ring to give it a bit more strength - I didn't want it to be too adjustable... But I'm happy with the colours and cut of the gems against the silver and I hope the recipient is too. I also rather love the way the gems, especially the labradorite, look different in varying lights and I've tried to show that in the photos I've included here.

Sky blue topaz and Labradorite sterling silver ring set against a white pebble - silvermoss

Friday, 3 November 2017

Jewelled Web - November 2017 - Link Love

Reflections in Water - Jewelled Web November 2017 by SilverMoss Jewellery

Despite the surprising warmth that hit parts of the UK in the middle of last month, and the high winds that came along with it in some places, the weather is resolutely autumnal now November is here. Some days the leaves fall like gold snow, they come down so fast...

Now Hallowe'en is past and Bonfire Night is over and the headlong rush to Christmas feels as though it's starting to get underway and, obviously, I'm still not prepared this year, despite having, as always, had months and months to be so.

But I am still going to try to get myself a little more organised, and so this month (and next month too) I'm devoting my Jewelled Web to discoveries I've made while creating my Jeweller Interviews series and to finds I've made on Folksy while looking for gifts and inspiration - hope you enjoy!

~jewellery links~

When it comes to looking for gifts and finding things you'd actually like to keep for yourself, then this bronze clay oak leaf bracelet by the very talented Sycamoon jewellery (interview with her here) pulls me in both directions.

I bought a wonderful pewter brooch from The Owl and the Pussycat (and then interviewed Chrissie here) and wouldn't hesitate to recommend her creations, like this Mackintosh brooch set with lapis lazuli.

One of the most beautiful feather pendants I've seen, made by Heather of MoonRiver Jewellery, who gave me one of my earlier interviews here.

The colour of the aquamarine in these earrings is so vibrant and I love the simplicity of the design and yet how striking and unusual it looks - interview with the extremely talented creator, Becky Pearce, is here.

My very first interview was with Kristin from KS Jewellery Designs and she survived the experience and is still making amazing work, like this citrine and silver ring.

~non-jewellery links~

These plant markers by Charlotte Hupfield Ceramics are simple and beautiful and I don't have pots nice enough for them!

Although these stylish pots, by Kerry Day, at Botanical Prints and Textiles, are very, very tempting...

Teodora at Teodora Paintings creates wonderful art, like this beautiful autumnal image of a deer.

I have recently pulled my embroidery threads from their hiding places and long to make something as seasonal and stunning as this winter landscape scene, created by Nicola at ndm handmade.

However given I've never done any felting at all, I suspect I'm even further away from creating a puffin as adorable as this felted version by Feltmeupdesigns.

~latest reads~

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern really is a magical read and I've enjoyed every word in it. I've had it on my bookshelf for a long time and I'm so pleased I decided to take it down and read it. It's not often you find something that really does seem worth the hype.

Another modern classic that I've had a while is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. And it's another one I'm glad I read, despite how horrendously sad it is. Thankfully it's also quite beautiful and both brutal and gentle in how it depicts war and the way if affects people.


I hope your November is full of golden leaves and magic.


If you fancy a few more links then do check out my Jewelled Web for November 2016.

(this post includes a few affiliate links (in the 'latest reads' section)  - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 27 October 2017

The Slow Making of a Fluorite and Silver Ring

fluorite gemstone cabochon

This fluorite gemstone has been in my jewellery-making stash for a long, long time. I bought it years ago and I loved it straight away, the colours in it, the richness of them and yet also its wonderful transparency, the way the light rushed through it and altered the depth of those purples. And I think I always knew that I'd end up making it into a ring just for myself, it was merely a matter of time and opportunity and all those little things coming together...

purple fluorite gemstone cabochon next to a handcrafted sterling silver ring setting

Last year I set a gemstone of the same size into a necklace for a loved one, and as I did so I experimented a little with settings. I made up a few, and one of them just wasn't quite right, certainly not good enough to use for a piece of jewellery that wouldn't be mine - I don't know whether other makers are like this, but I'm happy enough to wear my own 'seconds', pieces that I would cringe if someone else wore for but, on me, I'm more than happy with.

And so, when a little serendipity brought both the fluorite gem and the setting onto my work bench at the same time, I knew I could find a home for both of them with each other, and with me.

handcrafted sterling silver ring set with a purple fluorite gemstone

I did a little more experimenting as I went, adding some tiny silver balls onto the edge of the bezel setting and, while I know the ring is a long way from shop-perfect, it's perfect enough for me. In fact, I rather like the look of it, and I enjoyed making it up, knowing I only had myself to please. With hindsight, I'd have set the silver balls at an angle, rather than at top (or bottom) of the setting as they are now, but, that aside, I'm more than happy to be able to wear that beautiful fluorite at last.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Jeweller Interview with Leisa Howes Jewellery

One of the things I love about Folksy is that it can be easier to find new gems than on some of the bigger online craft platforms.This was how I discovered Leisa Howes' wonderful work; just as I browsed around Folksy one day, it was waiting for me to find...

Silver Mermaid Pendant by Leisa Howes Jewellery

Scattered with natural and mythological imagery, all created in sterling silver, the work is both detailed and simple, striking and yet subtle - it has an artisan feel to it, the jewellery is well crafted and yet also hand-crafted, individual and special.

I do hope you enjoy this interview with Leisa, learning more about her inspiration and techniques and her plans for the future.

How long ago did you begin making jewellery and what prompted you to start? Are you self-taught or have you attended classes?

I started a jewellery making evening class at Hull College in 2007. My youngest was only a few months old at the time and I was still on maternity leave. I have always loved art and wanted to find something creative to do. I became hooked very quickly and as the course progressed I had the chance to study for a degree in 3D Metal Craft. I was really pleased to graduate with a first class honours.

Where do find ideas for your designs and how do you develop them into the finished piece of jewellery?

I try to research my designs but with time constraints I'm not always very good at doing this! I am drawn to nature, British wildlife and looking deep into our past. I'm really drawn to the mystery that surrounds our ancestors especially around the neolithic period and I love ancient landscapes and standing stones. I am also drawn to medieval art which inspire some of the animals which feature in my work. I try to draw my designs but they also develop as I make them too. I love to work in silver for jewellery although I will use copper and brass in brooches and other objects such as boxes.

Three Silver Hare Rings by Leisa Howes Jewellery

What is your workspace like? Is it set up exactly the way you want, a work in progress or a kitchen table?

My workspace is a converted 10 x 8 foot shed. My husband insulated it for me and I have electricity which is essential. If I had to improve it I would have a sink but as it is, it works fine, even in winter I am warm and cozy. It's my space and I love it.

One of your key design themes is nature (especially hares!) and the sea - when did you decide to focus on this?

I have always loved hares and worked on them as a theme at college. They are beautiful creatures and I love all the mythology that surrounds them - I never tire of incorporating them in my work. My love of the sea comes from holidays in Cornwall and days spent on the North Yorkshire coast. I love tales of mermaids, the beautiful blues and greens of the water and whenever I'm on a beach I'm always on the lookout for little pieces of treasure, sea glass, driftwood and other found objects. At college I studied the work of Barbara Hepworth and looked at patinas on metal, I find the way the sea weathers objects and metal over time quite beautiful.

Silver Hares Gemstone Pendant by Leisa Howes Jewellery

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

I love working with my hand engravers and use them in most of my work and so I would have to say I couldn't do without them. I'm lucky in that I have built up my tools over time but I would probably like to get back into etching metal and maybe experimenting with sand casting.

On Folksy you talk about your degree in 3D metal craft (congratulations!) - how has studying for this affected your approach to making jewellery, both in terms of the design and the physical construction of your pieces?

As part of my degree I had to research my pieces in-depth and create thorough designs as part of my work book thinking not only about if a piece would be aesthetically pleasing but also how it would work. My studies really helped me to find and develop my style of work. At college I made the engraving tools I still use now and the course allowed me to experiment with etching metals, creating patinas and working with mixed media such as incorporating found objects from beaches.

Silver Badger Pendant by Leisa Howes Jewellery

What is your favourite part of making jewellery?

My favourite part of making jewellery is working with my engravers to breathe life into the metal, be it a hare or a tree!

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

I have a decent camera and I have recently bought a simple light box but I still find my best photo's are taken in the garden in natural daylight using the camera on my phone! I tend to photograph against pieces of driftwood and sometimes pick some flowers and pop those in too.

Do you use any social media sites to help promote your work? If so which one is your favourite?

I use facebook and have recently set up on Instagram after being told I should be my daughter! I don't really have a favourite but I wish I had set up on Instagram ages ago.

Silver Hares Pendant by Leisa Howes Jewellery

How do you find the balance between making your jewellery and marketing and selling it?

I really enjoy the making process and don't spend nearly enough time marketing my pieces. I think in time this will change but for now I am always so busy I just do what I can.

How do you see your jewellery evolving over time? Do you feel happy with what you're creating or do you hanker after new styles or materials to experiment with?

I want to incorporate etching, patina's and more mixed media into my work. I have lots of ideas! I think my work will naturally develop over time but my style will not change too much.

What is the best tip or advice you've been given, in jewellery making or life in general?!

The best tip I've been given was during my studies when I interviewed a lady who has enjoyed a successful career in jewellery and sculpture. She told me to be true to myself and not to follow fashion. With family commitments and a day job, I have also learned that patience is essential and things will grow and develop naturally in time, the main thing is that I enjoy creating what I do.

All photographs in this post ©Leisa Howes Jewellery

Many thanks to you, Leisa, for this interview - and for answering all the questions I asked! It makes for a really interesting read and I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I did.

Do check out more of Leisa's jewellery at the links below:


You might also like to read some more jeweller interviews - click here for more