Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Silversmithing and PMC at La Vidalerie Part 1

Last year, I went on a short break with my Mum to learn some wire-work and chainmaille.  We went to a little place in the Aveyron in France called La Vidalerie.   Run by a couple, Karen & Tim, it's a very friendly, beautiful place to go, very relaxing as you're looked after well, but also seriously educational!  Karen is the teacher, and Tim cooks, and is re-building the rest of the 300(ish) year old farmhouse.  Well, the thing is, I enjoyed my holiday last year so much, that I decided that this year, I would go back!  This year though, I went on my own, for a week instead of a few days.  

Right, enough of how beautiful the place is, and on with the jewellery making... I decided that it would be fun to learn something I had never done before in the field of jewellery making, so I thought - silversmithing, that sounds like fun, and while I'm playing with precious metals, why not try precious metal clay, too!

I arrived on Sunday afternoon, Tim picked me up from the airport, and in the evening, I had dinner with Karen & Tim - Tim is a very good cook!  On Monday it all started in earnest with a croissant and coffee, and straight on with the PMC.

I was a complete PMC novice, I knew nothing, but with Karen's tuition, and her tips on seriously planning what you intend to do with the clay before you take it out of the packet, I managed to make some really pretty things.

PMC is done in several stages, first, rolling, then cutting, texturising and adding embellishments.  The next part is leaving the clay to dry to make the 'biscuit' stage, this is when you can file off any rough parts, and if you're feeling brave, drill it.

At this stage, it just looks like pale grey clay, but the magic happens when you fire it.  There are two ways to do this, with a kiln, or with a blowtorch (which is a LOT more fun!).  After firing, it still doesn't look too special, but it's nothing a good brushing with a brass brush and some burnishing or tumbling doesn't sort out.


These were my finished results.  The hearts had fine silver wire added in the clay stage, but after firing, they become 'part' of the whole and fuse together.  After they had been fired and polished up, I drilled holes and added jump-rings and ear wires.  The ear wires were hand made... a design I came up with to complement the shapes of the silver diamonds.  I just love the colour of the orange CZs, they're so pretty and sparkly.  They did get slightly darker during the firing process, and they're held in by the silver clay - it contracts about 10 % when it's fired , so as long as they're well pushed in, they stay in place.

I have to admit - this didn't all take place on the Monday... they clay needed to dry out over-night, and I only fired a couple of pieces at a time - keeping something red hot with a blow torch for 2 minutes (whilst concentrating on not melting it) is quite hot and hard work, you don't want to do too much at once!

Monday afternoon was a bit wire work... the other lady who was on holiday with me didn't arrive until just after lunch on Monday (she booked her flight for the wrong day!), so we started off with something simple.


These are elegant little earrings - silver and flourite, and copper with chrysocolla.  Cute and fun, and best of all, easy to make!

We also did a bit of wire-wrapping... this was really fun to do, and I will certainly do this again. 

I have plans for this piece of turquoise, it's going to turn into the focal for a longer-length necklace, with a load of rich, sparkly dangles hanging from the bottom of it.

And that was it for day one... I retired to my (gorgeous) attic room for a fabulous nights sleep, safe in the knowledge that there was more learning and creating the next day!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Melding with the Mavens

Well, after several weeks of planning and around 30 hours of beading, I have finished my piece for the Maven Meld challenge.
And to show it off, I've finally got around to buying some proper jewellery display equipment!    Purchased from ebay, I bought a display bust in white leatherette, and a matching bracelet display rack.
So, here is my new bust, with the finished challenge piece for the Meld:

Showing the detail of the necklace:

Please do have a look at the other entries for the Bead Maven Challenge - on their blog, or their facebook page.

I'm very excited about the bangle rack though - as I love making bracelets, being able to show them off properly at last is great!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Confessions of a craft widow!

My wonderful boyfriend has written a piece for my blog... this is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me, so please read it, and Tim and I would love to hear your feedback, whether you are a crafter like me, or a craft widow like Tim!

Confessions of a Craft Widow!
I thought I would write a quick blog message for all you creative types from the perspective of your partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, other halves, bits on the side, significant others or whatever else we are known as! Or as I would call us: “Craft Widows!”
I am a typical bloke who works hard and likes his sleep, his food and his sport (not necessarily in that order)! I like to watch rugby, football, Formula 1 and can even stretch to watch golf or occasionally tennis!
Now when I first met Rebecca she said she liked to crochet, bead, create wire work and make a bit of jewellery. She said she even had her own website. I thought this was very “cool” and very impressive. I thought my colleagues at work and my friends and family would equally think this was very good!
When we started “dating”, Rebecca had told me she had done the occasion fair or party event to sell her jewellery. This too I thought was very “cool”! Since we have now been together for coming up to ten months Rebecca has done miraculous things. She has sold bits of her creations in a shop she has taken over for a day, sold things in a small art centre, held a jewellery party at her old flat, bought a table and a gazebo to sell things outside… and she has! She has created load more necklaces, bracelets, rings, ear rings, cuddly toys and much more besides.
Rebecca has set up her own Twitter account; she has re-branded her website, advertised on Facebook and Twitter. She has launched discount days and weeks, even made her own blog page and one of her designs has appeared in a magazine! Rebecca has done far much more than I can ever write here and I am sure I have missed so much but it is truly incredible.
Now I have tried to crochet and slowly trying to bead but the more I do, the more I realise how amazing Rebecca is at fitting in all that she has achieved in the last (coming up for) ten months! This and she fits in a full time job (as do myself)! I tell my colleagues, friends and family about all that Rebecca is doing and they ask me how she fits it all in.
I started off this blog to moan about how much it takes up of Rebecca’s time and she has no time for me. However when I have come to writing it all down I am utterly amazed that she does seem to have loads of time for me still. I love going to her house on Friday nights after work and seeing what creations she has made that week. Rebecca even fits in coming to see me one evening a week!
My colleges, friends and family ask me what it is like being a “Craft Widow” and as much as I think it would be “cool” to moan about how she never has time for me … Rebecca always does! Plus with the amount of wirework she does and has done makes her hands very strong. This is ideal for a strong massage after a stressful week. People ask me what it is like and I have to say: “I wouldn’t have it any other way!” Rebecca is amazing and incredible and I would be honoured if she would put this on her blog!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Melding more beads

A few weeks ago I started beading a piece for a challenge for Bead Mavens... the challenge was to 'meld' two or more tutorials written by the Mavens.  
I started off with Heather Collin's satellite beads, making them from black, teal and grey beads with sterling silver accents.

I beaded up three of these beautiful beads, the third (not shown) has silver bi-cones instead of rounds.  My plan was to then incorporate these beaded beads into Nancy Dale's Trellis Necklace.  This was where I got stuck - it was nothing to do with the tutorial (which is very well written and beautifully illustrated), and was entirely to do with getting my head around how I was going to get these two components to fit together!

This evening, I sat down in my studio with the determination to get a bit further on with my meld... thankfully, I managed it!!  After linking the first two of my satellite beads with a length of trellis rope, I took a picture...

The beaded bead on the left is going to be the focal point of the necklace, with its silver bi-cones and extra flashes of teal, it is bracketed by two slightly smoky looking faceted rondelles, the beaded bead on the right has smaller, haematite-coloured faceted rondelles on either side.  Encouraged by my progress, I carried on beading sections of trellis rope, and added the final beaded bead, and more faceted rondelles.

It doesn't show too well in these photos, but inside of the light grey AB trellis is a RAW rope made from matt black and teal 11/0 Tohos.  The trellis is made from 15/0 Miyuki seeds.  

I carried on beading as the sun went down (hence the shadows in the photo above) and added some further trellis sections.  

I'm actually really enjoying the way this is turning out... it is definitely a challenge though. Part way through beading this evening, I came up with an idea to make this into a long necklace (instead of a standard 18" one), which was going to be tremendously assymetric, with the beaded beads on one side, and bezelled agate rectangles on the other... it may still turn out that way, but as I only have two weeks to finish this before I head off to LaVidalerie for my holiday, time is of the essence!
Is anyone else out there Melding?  I'd love to hear about your progress if you are!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Every cloud has a silver lining

Yesterday, I bought a beading kit.  It's not something I've done for years, but it caught my eye when I was wandering around Hobbycraft.  I really don't normally buy kits, they're usually over-priced, but the design of this one was something quite special.  This is what it looks like:
The Beadery, Designer Style Selections Pendant Necklace Kit
The kit contained a cab, beads, findings, needle and thread and instructions.  The cab isn't in the picture below.
For the sake of fairness, I'm going to discuss this kit in two parts... the instructions, and the beads/kit.
First off, the instructions:  These were excellent, the design is pretty, the instructions were clear, well presented and well explained.  I didn't agree with their suggestions to put glue on knots instead of weaving in the ends, but for an inexperienced beader, that is OK.
Unfortunately, that's about all the good things I have to say about the kit.
The beads were of a shockingly poor quality, totally irregular in size and shape... and I'm sure I'm not just saying this because I've become accustomed to the high quality of Japanese seed beads.  Also, the large, pale-blue lined beads were just a horrible colour - not at all similar to the photo on the front of the kit.  The needle supplied with the kit was totally inappropriate for the type of beading too... it was one of those 'big-eye' needles, which are only really good for stringing, and not for bead work like this.  Also, I've no idea why there were ear-wires in the bag of findings... there were no earring instructions!  Another problem I had was with the thread - it was a spun thread, not woven, so it tangled and twisted up really quickly... so quickly in fact, I quickly gave up and used my own Nymo.
By far and away my biggest problem with the kit was the cab.  For the design, the cab was not of the correct dimensions.  
Although I beaded with my usual crazy tension, the netting was just too baggy/large for the cab.  The pattern started off at the back, and ended up having to cover quite a large part of the curved front, just to keep it from falling out.  I can't even bring myself to photograph it to post on here, because it looks like one of the most terrible pieces of beading I've ever done!
I am really on the verge of taking the entire kit back and asking for a refund... Has anyone ever taken a kit back to a shop because of this sort of problem?
It is possible to make beautiful things with the pattern though...
This picture is of a stone cab (can anyone tell me what stone? Please?), and the bezel is made with a mixture of Toho and Miyuki seed beads in sizes 11/0 and 15/0.
With the help of some of my beading friends, I've decided that it needs a beaded rope to go with it, and that rope is going to be a 7 drop beaded netting rope... once I've beaded it, I'll add a photo!