For the best part of a year I have been designing, experimenting, testing and going back to the drawing board in order to produce a collection I love and am excited to present to the outside world. A lot of my friends and family have been asking me when it will be ready but I’m glad that I have taken my time over this phase of launching my own collection. Designs that I thought looked great on paper turned out to be harder to create in real life, or didn’t hang correctly or were too heavy, but now I have spent time practising and experimenting I have a good feeling for what will work and I’m really proud of the jewellery I have in my very first collection.
So then, to launch it! Having completed my collection I then had to take on some jobs that I am a lot less familiar with… photography, website design, the inner workings of e-commerce to name a few. For the last couple of weeks I have been working on this admin, which I have to admit I have found very confusing and quite daunting at times. But I eventually muddled through it and have now achieved a website showcasing my collection. I’m pretty pleased with my website and glad I persevered with it. I’m sure I will find things I want to change and update as I go along, but as with everything, knowledge will come with experience.
One of my tutors on my diploma told the class that it’s far better to put yourself out there and adjust and adapt as you go along instead of putting it off until you achieve perfection, otherwise you will be waiting forever and never achieve your dream. My dream is to design and make jewellery and share it with others, so hopefully I’m close to that now. Jewellery is such a joyful thing! It’s wonderful to receive as a present, but also nice to buy as a present for yourself! It adds a bit of glitz and glamour to any outfit and can also hold a lot of sentimental value and feelings, more so than most other clothes and accessories you wear. I really enjoy wearing the jewellery I have created and I hope other people will enjoy it too.
My first collection is themed around autumn. The inspiration comes from nature and a strong leaf motif is present throughout. The colours I have chosen to work with are autumnal too; ochre, brown and red violet. These colours remind me of falling leaves. I have also included a rain cloud and a lightning cloud necklace. These are my favourite pieces in the collection. They are fun and, as we know, thunderstorms are a part of autumn just as much as soft sunlight through beautiful coloured leaves.
Now, I’d better get working on collection number two!
This week I attended Flourish, the Craft Council’s first business development conference offering business support for creatives no matter what stage of their career they are at. It was a great opportunity to hear from industry experts and other peers to discuss the issues that can arise when setting up and running a craft based business.
On day one I found the ‘Branding identity’ breakout session particularly helpful as it is something I have been looking into recently. It gave me a lot to think about such as the core values for my business and how I present those to the world. I think that getting hung up on things like choosing a name or a logo can really stall a lot of people from launching their business and putting themselves out there. It’s a good way of procrastinating and a good excuse to hide behind because the thought of sharing yourself and your products with the world is a scary thing to do. You are inviting people to critique your work and when it is something you have hand made and laboured over for a long time it can seem very personal. I know that I have done a lot of procrastinating over the last few months, however in the last few weeks I have really knuckled down and am starting to pull together a collection I am happy with and plan to launch in the next couple of months. Listening to the speakers during the branding talk reassured me that the best thing to do is put yourself out there because you can make changes and improvements as you go along. I am a small craft business and it’s unrealistic to achieve perfection from the beginning.
The subject matter on day two was quite heavy covering intellectual property and copyright, international sales, and requirements for shipping your products abroad. I didn't find day two quite as relevant to me as day one, but I think it was geared more at people who are further along their business journey, however there were a few gems of information that I picked up and I did feel it was a successful day for networking. Networking is something I’m not very confident about so I set myself a goal to do some over the course of the conference. I’m quite a shy person and I find it very difficult walking up to people and just introducing myself, but that is one of the reasons that everybody was there and knowing that made me a bit braver. I spoke to a good range of people in several different disciplines, made some good contacts and gathered some business cards…helped along with a glass of champagne!
Happy new year everyone! I had quite a big break over Christmas as we were entertaining a lot of people during the festive period. Something about moving into a new house seems to make people want to visit…
Before I got consumed by cleaning and cooking and general hosting I was absorbed in a couple of commissions people asked me to make for Christmas gifts. As I mentioned in a previous post one of my sister’s colleagues asked me to make identical necklaces for her daughters. I came up with three designs and luckily she liked all of them! She picked one and I got to work. I really thought it wasn’t going to take me long, but I had so many set backs throughout the process, not least when I was carefully getting the metal clay out of the dehydrator and managed to drop one of the pieces on the floor… of course it smashed and wasn’t worth fixing. I could have cried! However I finished them in the end and even got them hallmarked, my first things to go to the assay office. I was so excited to get them back and felt really proud of myself when I saw that official mark on my work.
The second commission I had was from my husband who asked me to make something for his supervisor. My only brief was that “she always wears dangly earrings”… thanks dear! I came up with several designs and he picked one out immediately. Thankfully I didn’t have any breakages this time and have heard that she loved them.
The last thing I made before Christmas was a bit of a self set commission and quite a big project. My mother-in-law had mentioned that she would like a fox brooch and I was keen to practise wax carving. I had an idea in my head and got started the next day. It took me a long time to complete the carving, but I wanted to make it is perfect as possible. The more work you do on the wax version, the less you need to do to clean it back up once it has been cast in silver. I am so pleased with my fox and my mother-in-law was thrilled with it. I would say it is the best thing I have made so far and it enabled me to design my first collection. I was feeling a bit uninspired, but after I had experimented with the wax and saw how it could be manipulated I felt much more creative.
Now it's the new year and it’s time to start work again. I have the designs for my collection all drawn out so all that’s left is for me to get back down the workshop and start carving!
This week I attended the ‘Make Your Mark’ event at the London Assay Office at Goldsmith’s Hall. The main focus of the event was to promote having your work hall marked. This is a legal requirement in the UK for items produced in precious metals over a certain weight. The weight varies depending on the type of metal. The talk was full of interesting facts about the history of hall marking and the London Assay Office itself. The speakers also went through the different parts that the mark is made up of; the maker’s individual sign usually made up of initials inside a shape, the type and quality of the metal, the place where it is stamped and the date. The mark can either be applied via laser or traditional stamp hammered into the metal. I’m looking forward to creating my mark and taking my first piece of jewellery to be stamped.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, I decided to give wax carving a try. I ordered the materials I needed as a kit and waited several weeks for it to arrive. I phoned up a couple of times and was told that the items were out of stock and the date kept moving further and further back which was frustrating, especially as I had been using the time to design some pieces and wanted to create them in real life. In the end I cancelled the order of the kit and reordered the items individually and they turned up the very next day! I’ve already started carving a ring and it’s taking shape nicely. I should be able to finish it off next week and move on to my next design.
I’m very excited as this week I received my first commission! A recommendation through my sister, one of her colleagues has asked me to make Christmas presents for her daughters. So this week I am going to have to get my thinking cap on to get some designs done based on the brief she has given me to get them made in time. Luckily we still have a few weeks to go but it is creeping ever closer. I can’t believe that we are into November already.
Anyway, I’m off to register for a hall mark and then put pen to paper!
The last few weeks have been a bit all over the place but I’m excited that my studio is now finished! I have benches and storage all in place and have slowly been acquiring equipment. Now just to unpack all those boxes…
I’ve also been working on the final collection for the diploma. I continued with my Art Deco/Nouveau peacock theme but I changed my designs several times before I settled on the final one. I decided to go quite simple and stick to the geometric shapes and straight lines and then introduce curves using wire which I used to create chain links for the necklace and bracelet. I added colour to the collection using cubic zirconia and epoxy enamel. I really liked the colour pops and am pleased I added them. I find when I’m designing I usually start with a colour scheme and go from there so it’s quite important to me to include this in my work.
Last night was the exhibition where several of the diploma students showed their final collections and the certificates were presented. We all passed! Our family and friends were also invited and it was great for them to come and see what we have been working on. I really enjoyed seeing what the other students had made, especially the ones in the other group. Everybody had totally different themes and all the work was really individual. Even the way they were displayed really varied from person to person.
I made my diploma collection with metal clay but I found it quite limiting for what shapes I could produce. I attempted to create my own templates to cut round but found the clay dragged when I tried to cut it so it was pulled out of shape. The other problem was that you have to work fast as it dries out really quickly and then you have to contend with cracks as well. This meant that sticking to more simple shapes which I already had cutters for seemed like my only option. I am considering experimenting with wax carving again. I found the class interesting and wax lends itself to creating quite organic, free-flowing shapes. Because it doesn’t dry out in the same way you have a lot longer to work on it and sculpt the shape you want.
I really enjoyed doing the diploma and it has given me a wide range of skills. I’m looking forward to branching out on my own now and developing designs which don’t have to conform to a brief!
Last weekend I moved house so a lot of this week has been spent unpacking, however I did manage to find some time for a few jewellery related things.
The builders came at the beginning of the week and finished laying the plywood for the floor in my soon-to-be studio, but they haven't found a suitable sink yet, so that hasn’t been fitted and the vinyl flooring can’t go down until the sink is in. We are expecting them to come tomorrow to finish it all off, so hopefully by the end of this week I will be able to move my desk and other equipment down there. I think once I have my space and I have a place to go to every day to work I will feel much more motivated and really start to kick off setting up my own business.
I also started thinking about branding for my company. I have been doing quite a bit of research into packaging and trying to decide what would work best for me. I also started designing a business card for myself. On the business day during my diploma we talked about the importance of making it easy for people to contact you and have clear information available. I’ve really enjoyed designing it and I know that I shouldn’t get too caught up in the ‘fluffy’ stuff and neglect more important tasks, but it’s quite a fun activity, especially on a rainy afternoon!
Lastly I have made a start on a mood board for my final exhibition collection. I had loads of old magazines lying around and so I have been scouring those for images that reflect my ideas and the kind of feeling I want to portray. The idea for my collection has been developed over the course of my diploma and has mainly been influenced by the Art Deco and Art Nouveau pieces we saw in the Victoria and Albert museum along with architecture in a similar style that I have seen around London. I used similar motifs throughout my designs during the diploma and have been researching patterns and textures and images associated with those eras of design. One of the images I noticed is used quite regularly, particularly in Art Nouveau designs is a peacock. I love the colours you see in the plumage and the shape and flow of the feathers is really beautiful. I’d really like to incorporate these elements into my final project so I'm going to start sketching ideas inspired by this.
Fingers crossed that next week I will be writing this in my new studio!
Last week was marking week. It was also the last time we went into the studio every day. We had two days at the beginning of the week to finish off projects and then on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we each had an hour time slot to sit down with the person who did the marking and present the work we have done over the last six weeks.
It was a fairly strange experience being graded on things we had produced, especially as some of the pieces were the first time we had tried some of the techniques or worked with those materials. It was also quite disheartening to be told if something wasn’t up to scratch. On the other hand it was good to be able to discuss the pieces and give an explanation for some of the design choices I made as I felt that some of the marking was down to personal preference, so being able to justify a choice I had made and talk it through did help.
We have received our marks already and I am really pleased with what I have got so far, however we still have our exhibition to complete which is worth 20% of the final grade, so I won’t be having any celebrations until that is over and I know my final score.
As a group we discussed our ideas for the exhibition quite a lot last week, which was really helpful to get some feedback from the other girls and hear what they have planned and how they are thinking of making their collection.
We received a brief for the exhibition and we will not only be marked on the jewellery we produce (although that will be a major factor), but also on how the collection is displayed. Showing the design process will also help a lot; so producing a sketchbook is a good idea. The exhibition is in October so I have a lot of planning and making to do over the next few weeks!
I am planning to set up my own studio to work in down the bottom of my garden in what was once a summerhouse that I have now commandeered! We have had some work done on it to make it flood proof (hopefully) and now the builders are laying the floor and fitting a sink. Once they have finished I will be able to start moving some furniture in and ordering some equipment to get everything set up and I can start making! Exciting times ahead!
Lessons are now officially over! These last six weeks have absolutely whizzed by, but they have been so much fun. I feel exhausted and before we started several people told us that we would be tired, it is after all an intensive diploma. I, however, was very blasé about it and thought I would be fine, as did the other girls on the course. We were proved wrong, but I suppose that kind of attitude is what drives us to dive headlong into a project like this and be determined to see it through to the end and be successful, and eventually set up our own businesses.
We started the week with Perspex. After such a heavy week the week before it was great to start with something a bit more playful. The bright colours of the Perspex lend themselves to fun statement pieces, which really pop out. I went down the current trend route of tropical fruit and made a watermelon slice necklace that I was so pleased with. I will definitely be wearing it even in the winter to remind me of hot summer days...not that we have had many of those this year so far!
On Tuesday and Wednesday we had our advanced silver days where we made our final silver project. As I have mentioned previously silver is not my strongest suit (although I am glad I have learnt all the techniques as I think they will come in useful), however these two days were a really great opportunity to think about the project as a whole and plan the order in which I completed different parts and constructed them. It really encouraged me to think about organising my day and preparing for each part of the process. I made an Art Deco style brooch and I feel proud when I look at it of the work I put into it. I even bought a cabochon gemstone especially for it.
The last two days of the diploma were not making days, but classes to give us the skills we need to start our own business. Thursday was all about business from marketing to hallmarking. It was a lot of information to take in, but all of it was helpful and relevant and I will definitely be using what I have learnt over the next few weeks as I branch out on my own. Friday was photography. I have dabbled in photography before but the teacher we had was really thorough and explained the various features of the camera so well. We played around with aperture size and shutter speed to see the effects of letting more or less light into the camera. She also showed us how we could set up a table top studio at home so we can take great pictures to put on our websites or social media. The picture above was taken using a miniature light box designed to be used with camera phones. The pendant is from our fused glass day and I'm impressed with how clearly the picture came out.
Doing this diploma has been brilliant. It has allowed me to try out new techniques and materials that I have never used before and refresh some that I have. I feel much more confident about the direction I would like to take my jewellery in now and the classes like jewellery design and fashion jewellery have given me a lot of guidance on how to plan my work and follow current trends. I'm really looking forward to setting up my own studio over the next few weeks and start developing my very first collection, which will of course be for the diploma exhibition and will contribute to 20% of my overall mark.
I am back at the school this week for bench days to finish off any pieces I didn't complete in the lessons and start work on my collection and also for our marking days...scary!
I can't believe there is only one more week of lessons and then it's marking week! This diploma is just flying by! I've had a really mixed week; a great start with fused glass and enamel and then a few difficult days with stone setting in silver and intermediate wax carving.
Fused glass was so much fun! Cutting the glass was really easy, although we only did straight lines so that might not be true if curves were involved! It's all about building up layers of glass and thinking about the textures you want to achieve and varying the order of the layers. The great thing about it is that it's totally unpredictable. No matter how carefully you stack your glass you just can't tell how it's going to come out in the end. I made some pieces that I really liked and would seriously consider using glass in future jewellery projects.
Onto a different way of using glass: enamel. This is essentially powdered glass that can be used to add colour to metal. This was the class I had most been looking forward to as I really love the effect of enamelling on jewellery. I had done quite a bit of reading around it and was under the impression that it's a really difficult and lengthy process but that's just not the case! It was really quick to apply and only took one minute in the kiln for each layer. I was really impressed with the results and will definitely be incorporating it into my jewellery and am even thinking of using it in my final collection for the diploma exhibition that will make up 20% of our marks.
We had two days of stone setting in silver this week. Silversmithing is not really my forte but day one went pretty well. I really like the results, particularly the stone in a bezel setting. We learnt three different kinds of setting; bezel, tube and flush. Bezel and tube are my favourites and my first attempts went well, however on the afternoon of day two we had an opportunity to practice whichever technique we liked. I decided to try the bezel setting again as I found it the most difficult, but it was disastrous! No matter what I tried I could not for the life of me get the solder to run properly to create a join between the bezel and the base. In the end I gave up and will have to come back to it another time, sometimes you just need to put some space between yourself and a project. I often find I can get too close to what I’m working on, which isn’t very helpful if for some reason I am having a bit of a bad day. But my design for my final silver project which we will be doing next week includes a stone in a bezel setting, so fingers crossed I have more luck with it next time around!
Lastly we did intermediate wax carving and received the silver version of the rings we carved last week. I love mine! I’m so happy with how it turned out. I have started polishing it up and it's looking good so far. I need to work through all the sandpaper grades and then pop it in the tumbler to get a really high shine. We spent the rest of the day experimenting with different types of wax and how to join them together and using heat on the tools to create various textures in the wax.
Next week we have Perspex jewellery, two days to create our final silversmithing project, a brooch for me, and then a day of business and a day of photography. I really can't believe we are so close to the end now. I’m going to miss the other diploma girls, I’ve got so used to seeing them every day.
Week four has been full of variety including a lot of new techniques I have never tried before.
Monday was our school trip to the jewellery gallery at the Victoria & Albert museum in London. The jewellery in there is absolutely stunning and from a huge range of eras. Firstly I spent time having a look at all the displays and then focussed on pieces I was drawn to which I sketched as case studies. I was particularly drawn to the Art Deco and Art Nouveau eras. I really like the shapes and lines they use and the blocks of colour. After we had spent time in the gallery we went for coffee and cake to discuss what we had seen. It was really interesting how all of us had picked out completely different things to look at. I found it really helpful to talk about my ideas and influences and to start thinking about my collection for the final exhibition.
Next we did technical drawing... I have to say I haven't used a protractor since school! It was good to get an idea of how to map out a design, especially if you are going to be following it closely like we did the following day in wax carving, however I did feel like I had a bit of a clash of creativity and mathematics!
Wax carving was really great. After we designed our pieces (and did a bit more technical drawing) we started to work on the wax model. It was really easy to whittle and file away to create the desired shape and then we had to sand and polish it to achieve a smooth finish. Once we had finished it was taken away to the casters where it will be melted away and replaced with silver. I'm really looking forward to getting the finished ring back and seeing what it looks like. Hopefully I will have done enough work on the wax version that I won't have to do too much to the silver one.
The last two days of the week have been all about resin. It comes in two parts, the resin itself and the hardener which you have to mix together in precise ratios otherwise it won't set properly. You can then pour it into different shape molds and once it is set it becomes like plastic. The first day we did lots of experimenting with different colours and metallic powders, setting things into it like buttons, glitter, sequins, patterned paper...anything you can think of really! A little goes a long way as well, once I had mixed up a colour I found myself making so many bits with it. Day two was all about finishing. Once the resin has set it's really easy to pop them out of the molds. They then needed any rough bits filing off and sanding down. We used the polishing machines to give them a great shine and finally attached rings, brooch backs, chains and fastenings to turn them into wearable pieces of jewellery.
I feel like I learned a lot this week and it was nice to try loads of different techniques, rather than focussing on just one. I also feel like I made lots of progress with my designs for the final exhibition and have already put some ideas down on paper.
Next week we are returning to wax carving and also to silver with two days of stone setting, but we are going to try out fused glass and enameling, which I think will add some variety and colour to the week.
Jewellery enthusiast embarking on an exciting new adventure to set up my own business.