I was very excited last Saturday to host my first ever open house! I have been making jewellery for a couple of years now and have built up quite a good collection of pieces so I thought I would take the opportunity to showcase them to my family and friends so they could see what I have been up to.
It was quite a nerve-wracking experience to open up my home, especially as I encouraged guests to invite their own family and friends along as well. Once we got into the swing of it though the afternoon was a massive success! Almost 50 people attended to view my work and join me for champagne and canapés (prepared by my lovely friend Jane, who is just in the process of setting up her own catering business). I opened up my workshop so that the guests could view where the jewellery is made, although it was far cleaner than usual!
I think the most exciting thing was the orders I received for custom pieces. It was great to have people view my work and my style and request either different colours for existing pieces or completely new designs, which I can then incorporate into my main collection. I also loved hearing about the people my jewellery would be going to, whether it was a treat for themselves or a gift for a loved one, it really brought the jewellery to life for me. The knowledge that real people would be wearing something I made and had put time and energy and love into made me really happy!
The beautiful weather was on my side as well and I thoroughly enjoyed the sunny, busy afternoon. I hope all the guests did too. And of course, we didn’t let anyone leave without a goody bag!
I can’t wait for the next one…
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!
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 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!
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.
Second week down and here we are on Sunday night ready for week three!
Week two has been all about silver. Three days of metal clay learning more techniques; stone setting, beads and rings. The stone setting day definitely required the most concentration. The first project was creating a setting for a glass cabochon. This had to be done early as the glass cannot be heated too quickly or cooled too quickly otherwise it can be damaged. We set a cubic zirconia gemstone into dry clay by drilling a hole with a specially shaped drill into the dry clay and then placing the stone in before firing the piece. The hardest project of the day was setting a fine silver bezel into the clay to hold a natural gemstone. This was difficult because there was a risk of melting the silver bezel when firing the rest of the clay. However I managed it without any disasters and was really pleased with the result.
On Thursday we had a day of fashion jewellery. This really broke up the week and made me think about the design process and where trends come from, how far in advance they are set and designers’ start working on their collections before they actually start to appear in the shops. We made mood boards based on trends we found in popular magazines and from this had a think about who our customer would be and began to sketch some designs based around this. In the afternoon we then produced a piece of jewellery and I made a ring using leather, a material I never thought I would use! I’m not sure it is a material I would choose to work with on a regular basis, but it was great to get to try it out.
Friday was my first taste of working with sheet silver. It’s a lot more of a physical process than the metal clay. We added designs using a roller to press patterned brass sheets into the silver to leave an impression and used a mallet and stamps to add symbols and letters. We also used various hammers to add textures. Once we had the design we wanted we cut out the shape of the piece with a piercing saw and then filed, sanded and polished it to create a smooth finish. Once we had made the first project, a pendant, we moved on to a ring and added soldering to the list of new techniques. Soldering was tricky but I managed it and am so proud of the result. I can’t wait to have another go!
More silver work, but also back to wirework and a day of polymer clay coming up this week.
I can’t believe week one is over already! It’s been such a busy week and I already feel like I’ve learnt so much. The main thing I’ve learnt is that I’m definitely out of practice using my brain, I’m exhausted!
The first two days were beading and wirework. Although I have mainly worked in this way previously it was good to go over the basics again as this is the foundation of jewellery construction. It’s a really fast way of working and it felt like we made so many pieces; earrings, bracelets, necklaces and even rings all out of beads and wire.
Day three was jewellery design. We started by looking at jewellery and thinking about the look and feel of it and how we would describe the pieces. Doing this we began to build up a vocabulary of words to do with form, style, materials, technique and theme and get a good idea of what we liked and what we didn’t. We then began to think about our own designs and were taken step by step through the process of designing. We created mood boards to give a feel for the colours, patterns and textures we were drawn to and then went out into the street with our sketchbooks to find inspiration in the world around us and to enable us to start work designing our own collections. I really enjoyed going through this process as it helped me think clearly about what I want to make and what my natural style might be.
On days four and five we made a start on metal clay. Such a fun material! It is clay infused with silver particles so when you fire it the clay burns away to leave a pure silver piece. It means you can be so creative with the way you work because you can sculpt the clay into any shape you like. We learned several techniques including stone setting into wet clay, mould making and adding gold.
With six weeks to go I feel like we are only at the tip of the iceberg, even though my head feels crammed full of new knowledge already! The week coming up is three more days of metal clay followed by fashion jewellery and then we will be beginning silver, something that I know everyone in the class is keen to start.
The other students in my class are lovely and come from really diverse backgrounds. I think that by doing the intensive course rather than the one spanning a year I have met people who are very likeminded to me, who are focused and serious about starting their own businesses and are interested and excited by the making process. This shared mind-set will help to drive the class and push us to achieve as much as we can in the time we have.
Roll on week two…
Jewellery enthusiast embarking on an exciting new adventure to set up my own business.