Friday, 27 January 2017

Gifts for a Jeweller...

I always feel a little naughty asking for jewellery gifts for Christmas. It's as if it's a secret indulgence that I'm asking others to provide for me, the equivalent of simply saying "Chocolate will do this year. Any kind you like..."

And I did try to be good this year. I tried not to ask for jewellery books (I failed twice). And I tried not to ask for any tools or devices or materials or anything jewellery connected. Of course, I failed here too and ended up with a (requested) heap of low-temperature enamelling goodies under the tree on Christmas morning.

Since then, life has done its things and thrown up its normal wondrous obstacles to keep me away from much jewellery related. But it's way over midway through January now (how does time go so soon?) and I'm battling back, making time and space to start my post-festive jewellery immersion. Until that battle is a little further underway, and the results noted and photographed, here are some images of my Christmas stash.

At the top of the page is a photo of the aforementioned jewellery books (see January's Jewelled Web under latest Reads), and the picture below here is of some Efcolor low temperature enamel colours, a parcel of copper blanks, and a few of the tools I hope to make some metal magic with.

In non-jewellery-related gifts (I know, it does happen) I'm happy to say I also received a rather large (and exceedingly nice) slab of chocolate fudge, a record player (with records), a pair of slippers (a Christmas classic, and deliciously soft), and a very large and incredibly useful (given the weather we're having so far this year) log basket.

I hope your jewellery-related Christmas gifts were equally inspiring.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Jeweller Interview with Sycamoon

Sycamoon Jewellery photo - SilverMoss blogName changes can sometimes cause confusion but can also be quite illuminating. 

I've been an admirer of Nanfan for a while but only recently discovered she's turned into Sycamoon, which fits her work even better - do check out her explanation of the new name on her blog here.

And after you do that, or beforehand if you fancy, have a read through of this interview with Nana and enjoy her wonderful words and pictures while you learn more about her craft.

When and how did you start making jewellery?

I started making pendants in 2010. To begin with they were really just a new way to sell my art. I made tiny drawings and put them in bezels and on domino pieces. But of course then I had to make chains and bails, hooks and clasps and from there the metal just took over – I became fascinated with wire wrapping and gorgeous copper. It took over completely.

I never had much luck selling my prints and paintings, but the jewellery started selling, compelling me to learn more and get better. I loved the world that just opened up in a new craft and then I discovered metal clay and was completely hooked.

Today most of my items are made from metal clay. That’s tiny particles of metal – bronze, copper or silver – mixed with an organic binder, which makes metalworking feel like playing with play dough. You shape your pieces in wet clay – much smaller quantities than a pottery artist of course, this stuff is expensive! Once dry and refined the clay is fired in a kiln at very high temperatures and the binder burns away leaving pure metal.

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

Inspiration for new designs come from all over the place. I take macro photos of nature and bring home pods, leaves and feathers. I doodle a lot trying to get a swirly Art Nouveau style that also reminds me of fantasy creatures and Elves. Other designs just come from finding a gorgeous bead and needing to frame it somehow – or learning a new technique like electroforming and just trying out what it can do. As a result I get a lot of disparate pieces and not really a coherent collection.

I used to agonize over how I could tighten my style – We’re always told to have a strong visual identity and to get that coherent look. But which part should I get rid of? Wire wrapping or metal clay? Nature inspiration or Fantasy and legends? In the end I decided to just allow myself to create anything that I find beautiful and if the shop looks a little messy because of it, well that’s a small price to pay for having fun.

Sycamoon Jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog

How do you motivate yourself to keep on creating?

In the beginning I was very much driven by the ambition to be my own boss and having my own business. But that part wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t found it so much fun to keep learning and experimenting. These days it’s actually much more straight-forward – orders come in and have to be filled. There are people waiting for their jewellery, so I have to do the work.

I’m so lucky that I now sell enough on Folksy, Etsy and my own site to fill my days. And when there’s a slump which inevitably happens it just means I get to play with new designs until more orders come in. I have many half-finished projects that got moved to one side when other things were more pressing. But enough new ones get finished to make me happy and feel like I still have room to play.

What is your favourite part of making and selling jewellery?

One of the very best parts is getting feedback from an excited customer who has just got their parcel and is ecstatic about their new jewellery. I make a good number of wedding rings now and occasionally I manage to get a ring or a necklace just right and the resulting gratitude just melts my heart. It is wonderful to make a tiny thing with my own hands that speaks so loudly to another human being.

Another favourite of mine is happy accidents. If you experiment enough then they do happen and then I look at the piece and think – “Wow that looks quite good. How did you do that?”

Sycamoon Jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog

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

I take all my own photos, but it would be nice to have someone else model the items! As for advice I’d say keep practising – you can always get better and nothing is more important in getting sales than good photographs when you sell online. I know everyone advises to photograph in natural light, but that just never suited me. The light changes from day to day making your photos look different. If I can’t have a coherent collection at least I can have coherent photos, and for that I needed the same light every time and to not depend on weather and time of day. If you’re the same then here’s what I do: I have 3 lamps in various sizes fitted with daylight bulbs. I then learned how to set the custom white balance on my camera – you photograph a sheet of white paper and tell the camera: “This is white” and it then corrects all the colours for you. This gives me if not identical results every time, close enough to make the photos look like they belong in the same shop.

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

This is an ongoing process. I still change it from time to time. I did a lot of experimenting and really tried getting the classic white background to work that everyone recommends. Lots of people get really good results with white (including SilverMoss!) but it never really worked for me, so I went for something slightly different. Like I said I needed the photos to be coherent at least so I came up with a recognisable combination. I have a printout of a blotchy blue colour – like a faded piece of wallpaper, on top of that a skeleton leaf in a tan colour and on top a piece of glass.

The paper to me says rustic/handmade, the leaf says natural and the glass says clean; 3 things that I’d like to say about my jewellery from the get go. I know the advice is to not have reflective surfaces when shooting jewellery, but I like the hint of a mirror pool I get this way, so just decided to keep it.

Sycamoon Jewellery photo - SilverMoss blog

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

I’ll admit straight away I am lousy at maintaining any social media, but I do keep trying in a half-hearted sort of way :oD

I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and have several blogs and they all suffer terribly of neglect. When I am busy social media drops to the bottom of my to-do list

I do think they are a very good way of building a connection with your customers and like-minded people who also craft. There’s a fantastic community out there and it’s wonderful reaching out and getting support and feedback. I see it as more of a social thing rather than strictly promoting and that idea I am much more comfortable with.

I think the most important thing in terms of promotions goes is to have good customer service. I go out of my way to make my customers happy and to give them exactly what they want. It makes me feel better when everyone is happy with the transaction and it pays off in the long term as word of mouth gets me a lot of sales. It warms my heart when a customer says that a friend recommended my shop.


Thanks so much for the interview, Nana, and for sharing such fascinating information about your work.
All photographs in this post ©Sycamoon

If you want to see more of Nana's beautiful metal clay work then do click through on these links below -

Sycamoon's shop on Folksy
Sycamoon's inspiring blog including excellent photos and explanations of making rings from metal clay here and here.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Book Review - Leather & Bead Jewellery to Make by Cat Horn

Leather and Bead Jewellery to Make: 30 Cool Projects for Bracelets, Pendants and More
By Cat Horn
Published by Search Press 2016
128 pages


First Impressions

Perhaps the first thing to comment on with this book is the title - and to state that you don't have to use leather to make the jewellery projects it contains. I can't deny I was slightly put off at first; I'm not vegetarian or vegan but I do appreciate many people either are or prefer not to use animal products if they can find an alternative. When it comes to leather cord it is easy to use a synthetic substitute that will look as good as leather, and this itself is stated right at the start of this book.

An Overview

I'm glad the title didn't stop me from picking this book up. I found this to be a fascinating collection of projects, well explained and with lots of helpful photographs. It's a nicely designed edition, a square book, (which seems to be a popular shape for jewellery/craft/project books) and clearly set out. It even has photos of all the materials each project needs, which is something I'm particularly partial to - a good image of all the components that a project needs can save many words and is very practical when it comes to planning and making a project.

At the Start

After the introduction and near-obligatory notes about materials and tools (9 pages), a detailed section on techniques is included (10 pages), as well as a nice few pages about designing jewellery (4 pages). This latter is something that is often overlooking in jewellery books, but as a topic it has a lot to offer in inspiring people to develop their own designs.

In the Middle

The second part of the book is broken down into sections for the different styles of the projects; 'The Basics', 'Braiding and Weaving', 'Macramé' and 'Mixed Techniques'. Of these 'Macramé' has the most designs but I found all the sections to contain something of interest and I'm looking forward to trying some of the projects and adapting them to utilise materials I already have, whilst learning new techniques and perhaps expanding the materials I work with.

Each project shows a photograph of the finished piece along with a list of materials and tools needed. Also included is a handy indicator of difficulty level (ranging from one to three) and the size of the finished item.

At the End

An index finishes the book along with a brief list of suppliers, many of which are based in the US (although the book itself has UK publishers).

In Summary

If you're new to cord and beads then this book should be a great introduction, with enough simple instructions to get you started without dumbing things down. And if you're a little more experienced, or just looking for inspiration, then this is a pretty good option. Out of the thirty projects I'd like to make well over half myself and I think that's a good indicator for the quality of this book.


By the way, if you're looking for more jewellery books then check out my review of Compendium of Jewellery Making Techniques - 350 tips, techniques and trade secrets


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

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Jewelled Web - January 2017 - Link Love

Winter tree and soaring bird - Jewelled Web January 2017 Silvermoss

A new year and a (slightly) different style to my Jewelled Web jewellery round-up and general link love posts. My photos have got a little bit larger (well, longer really) and I'm going to cast my craft-based web wider and include more links worth perusing from crafts further afield from jewellery.

I'm also interested in including any links you may have found, or ones you've created yourself, either on your blog or elsewhere on the web, so do contact me if you've something you'd like to share - twitter is good (and pretty reliable) or drop me a message via email at silvermoss1 (at) gmail (dot) com

After that let's get back into old traditions, despite the new year rushing in bracing and very, very cold.

I hope you had a good Christmas. Mine was deliciously quiet, so much so that I didn't even have Christmas dinner until Boxing day. My New Year's Eve (in the 'eve' part anyway) was also peaceful, involving a log fire and subdued lighting - no bad thing at all. The weather over this period was either grey or foggy (or both) and when the sun came back out (on the 2nd of January) it was astonishing to see the colour rush back into the world. Of course, it's grey again as I type this but it was sunny earlier and, despite the frost underfoot, the birds were singing already...

Here are some of the  links I've mainly been saving up to read (more on how I do that later in the post) over the last month. I hope you find some gems here, no pun intended.

~jewellery links~

One of my Christmas gifts was a starter set for Efcolor Enamels, which is low heat enamelling (no kiln needed!) and includes masses of colours. I've yet to find the time and space to explore this area as much as I'd like but I do so hope to very soon - I've loved enamel work for so long but haven't been able to justify getting a kiln, so this looks like a wonderful alternative.

In more mainstream enamelling, I was rather taken by the idea of using pennies to enamel on - however, this tutorial is from the USA (and points out that only US pennies from before 1982 will work) and I have no idea whether UK pennies would cope with the heat involved. Fascinating stuff though, all the same.

Combining soldering and enamelling at Cinnamon Jewellery.

These exquisite polymer clay feathers caught my eye. The tutorial isn't in English but the photos are so clear that, if you're not a complete beginner, you should be able to work through it just on images alone.

Flame patina on copper - beautiful.

I've heard of Mokume Gane but have never seen the idea used in polymer clay before.

A simple tutorial for a simple Zen pendant.

A detailed tutorial on etching copper and making a wonderful bracelet in the process. Also check out these etched earrings.

~non-jewellery links~

I think this year may be when I return to cross stitch (and perhaps embroidery too). I've never thought of cross stitching onto crochet though - this fox cushion (with video tutorial) is so pretty.

And if I do venture into embroidery then I may well return to this mini-tutorial for these beautiful dragonflies. Although I do love this embroidered octopus...

I'm forever looking (so it seems) for ways to make the web easier and hope to share some of the tools I have found on my blog this year. In terms of saving links for these lists I use both Pocket and Evernote. I tend to save links to Evernote but save articles to read later (and offline) to Pocket. They're both great web tools and both have good free versions - although Evernote does restrict your use to two devices unless you pay.

One of the links saved into Evernote for the Jewelled Web is this feature from the BBC site, showing some stunning drone photographs from around the world.

This might be one of the best videos of all time - a giant panda playing with a snowman; if you've seen it before then do make sure you've seen the longer version that this links to.

Travel posters from the past make great wall art and are a nostalgic reminder of days gone by. These travel posters of the future are free to download and print - and are really worth doing so. I'm going to start with... Venus, I think, and then Kepler 16-b (not the best name for a planet perhaps, but a great poster).

And speaking of the skies, these starscapes are a delight - although slightly more dramatic than my glimpses of the fingernail Moon and Venus earlier this week.

~latest reads~

I am still reading both Great North Road and Little Dorrit - this sentence might be a recurring theme this year. For more information on my trek through these long books, check out last month's Jewelled Web.

At last I've got around to reading The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge, which I found engrossing. It's based in a hostile setting, with a macabre plant taking centre stage and a wonderfully quirky and at times slightly unlikeable (but all the more real for it) heroine.

I got two jewellery books for Christmas, one from my Jewellery Book Wish List, and the other a surprise, and rather a good one. Reviews will follow after I've fully indulged and digested but I can reveal that I am now the proud owner of How to Create Your Own Jewelry Line by Emilie Shapiro and How to make Silver Charms from Metal Clay by Sue Heaser.

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

I hope your January and the start of the New Year are good to you. Keep warm!

By the way, if you're after yet more links/inspiration/ways to waste time on the web then check out my randomly picked Jewelled Web from November 2014(this post includes affiliate links - please check details here for more info.)