Friday 14 October 2016

Changing seasons, changing colours - experiments with bronze

Up until now, I've always worked only in silver clay but for a long time I've had a hankering after the beautiful golden tones of other metals. I started experimenting about a year ago with bronze and copper clays but couldn't get them to fire properly in the kiln. This can be a bit tricky and I'm not the only one who has trouble getting the firing schedule right at the beginning. Luckily, I was only firing test strips and hadn't spent hours working on pieces only to see them break before my very eyes!

This was just some of the failures along the way! Some were more metallic than others - some looked good until you tried to bend them and then they just snapped. I know I don't intent for my jewellery to be bent but it's important to know that a piece is fully sintered.

After reading just about every article and blog on the internet and much messing about with kiln temperatures and ramp times I finally found a schedule that works for me! It's only taken over a year (although to be fair I have done a lot of other things in between trials!)

Wooo Hoooo! My first successful firing tests - strips that can be bent in half with pliers and rods that can be bent when hammered in a vice without braking, splitting or tearing! Now...on to actually try a design - where better to start with than my favourite leaves whose autumn colours inspired this detour into bronze in the first place.

Here are the first leaves - they all look different because I've now been experimenting with how best to finish them. Some have been polished up to a shine and others have been left with a more satin finish. I like them both and the contrast between the two. Now I'm going to leave them sitting around for a while a see how the appearance changes over time as natural patinas occur in the air.

And now I've got it to work - it must be time to make some more! I'm looking forward to combining colours in my work in the future. 

N.B. The clays I was experimenting with were Prometheus Bronze and Goldie Bronze - I think the leaves were all from Prometheus because that's what I had the most of. It will be interesting to see the colour difference (and shrinkage rates)  when I do some with the Goldie Bronze. I noticed that my test strips were quite different colour straight out of the kiln.

Metal-clayers out there - did you have as much trouble getting base metals to fire initially and do you notice colour differences between brands?

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Virtual Meetings

It's been a while since I've updated this blog - somehow there's always something else that has to be done by yesterday. But this week I've been inspired to pick up my virtual pen again by Mossy from Silver Moss Jewellery. A while ago she asked me to take part in a interview about my work for her blog and it's now gone live, so if you care to have a read then please pop over and have a look HERE.

What I love about taking part in things like this is that you get to 'meet' people from all over the place that you wouldn't otherwise get to talk to and to have a look at how other artists work. Somehow it seems to make the world seem a little bit smaller, in the best way - it can be quite solitary in the workshop by yourself!

So do go over and have a look, and while you're there have a look at some of Mossy's work too!

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Has it Really Been That Long?

Has it REALLY been THAT long since I last blogged?!?

Well, what can I say? I've been rather busy since last, er, March.

What HAVE I been doing? Well, making, making and more making of course, keeping my stock up in my Folksy Shop and in Gloucestershire Arts and Crafts Centre and Taurus Crafts in Lydney. I attended some fabulous Christmas markets at Nature in Art and Gloucester Cathedral and I ran several classes at the Arts and Crafts Centre (including one using silver clay)! I also started experimenting with new techniques, which I am still refining and getting really excited about - including wax mould carving, photopolymer stamps and using copper and bronze clays - all things I fully intend to blog about over the coming months. In between all that Little Miss MoonRiver grew up a bit more and went off to secondary school (sob) and I studied a bit of theology (as you do)! SO all in all it has been a busy and crazy 2015.

And so, new year 2016 was a time to reassess and take stock. I have decided that from the end of January, I will no longer sell my jewellery at Gloucestershire Arts and Crafts Centre. I'm rather sad about this as I have loved my time there and made some fabulous friends, but I am simply not getting enough time in the workshop to develop all the new ideas I'm so excited about. I still have classes booked there each month though (for full details see attached poster) so I'm not disappearing entirely!

Right now, I'm itching to jump into all the half finished projects and ideas I have lying around but I really must be disciplined and attend to some less glamorous tasks like tidying up websites, shops and, yes, blogs. On that note, I hope it won't be so long until I post again!


Thursday 5 March 2015

Tree of Life Pendant Workshops

Last month saw the start of a new venture for me - I started booking the classroom at Gloucestershire Arts and Crafts Centre to hold workshops.

In February two lovely ladies spent the afternoon with me making their own tree of life pendants. One lady chose to use mother of pearl beads and the other gorgeously earthy mookaite.

Due to popular demand I have arranged another workshop for later this month, so if you couldn't make it last time (or found out too late!) then now's your chance. I will be arranging more in the near future too.

If you'd like to come along and have a go then just drop me a line!

Tuesday 20 January 2015

A cold and frosty morning in January......two years ago!

Well, it certainly was a chilly start this morning wasn't it! And what a cold night - I had to de-ice my car before going out to an evening meeting and then again when I came to go home a couple of hours later. Despite the inconvenience of having' on-time mornings' turn into 'late for school mornings' I have to say that I do like a nice frosty morning. Perhaps because it's January (and I always get a bit nostalgic at this time of the year) I suddenly remembered taking a photo across a local field on just such a cold morning a while ago and blogged about it. So I set off to find the post and was sooooo surprised to find that it was two years ago! Almost to the day! It was the photo from my very first blog post ever over on my old blog:

You can't see it in the photo but I remember there being the most brilliant male pheasant in the field showing up against the frost. If you followed my old blog, you might remember that I said there was a housing estate being built next to this field at the time. Well the houses are up and people are moving in - I wonder what this field looks like now? I've made a mental note to take my camera out with me and see next time I'm passing that way.

Thursday 15 January 2015

The Round the World Blog Hop

Recently Mossy from Silver Moss Jewellery contacted me and asked if I'd like to take part in an around the world blog hop. I'd not heard of it before but the idea behind the Blog Hop is for creative bloggers to write a post based around a few questions. Their answers offer an insight into their creative thoughts and processes. The blog 'baton' is then passed on to another creative and so on...
You can read Mossy's post here. I have to admit to a rather tardy publication of this post - Christmas and New Year rather got in the way......but as I'm now back to (almost) full speed here it is!

So here are the questions - and my answers:

1) What am I working on?

All the custom orders on my bench at the moment are for silver fingerprint pieces. My customers have sent me the fingerprints they want to include and I transfer them to their jewellery. The work needs to be done in stages, so I tend to get all pieces to one stage before moving on to the next. 
I'm also busy building up stock in my Folksy shop again after Christmas - I'm working on a lot of tree of life pieces at the moment.

2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

No two pieces I make are ever the same! I don't really work in bulk designs - if I'm using gemstones they are often unique shapes which means that I can only ever recreate a similar design. With my wirework trees, the nature of the work means that every piece is different - the stone affects the ways the wires lie and as I twist everything by hand the tension varies which produces differences in the branches. And of course, no two fingerprints are ever the same. Nor are leaves for that matter!

This way of working can make things hard work! I list every item separately in my Folksy Shop so that the picture a customer sees is the piece they are buying (except for fingerprint jewellery or course, which is made to order).

3) Why do I write/create what I do?

I started out making only silver fingerprint jewellery - but of course silver clay is very addictive! I began to experiment with new designs and continue to do so all the time. Most of what I make is inspired by the natural world around me - what better inspiration is there?

Oak Twig Rings

4) How does my writing/creating process work?

I start most new pieces with a sketch of how I want the finished piece to look. Sometimes I create a quite detailed plan but sometimes I just experiment as I go. I can't afford to experiment as much as I'd like though as silver clay is quite expensive! I'm always collecting things when I'm out and about that have interesting shapes and textures that I might use later - I embarrass my children by carrying a collection bag with me everywhere! 

And now I'll pass the baton on to John from The World Outside The Window to answer the same questions. He's a writer rather than an artisan so it should be a bit of a change! In the interest of full disclosure, he also happens to be my husband! So you can imagine us sitting opposite each other working if that helps :)
You can find his blog here: The World Outside the Window

Friday 14 November 2014

What you can do with just 1 leaf

Making my jewellery I use natural, found materials in a variety of ways. These three pendants are all made using the very same oak leaf in three different ways.

This piece was made by rolling out a slab of silver clay and then pressing the leaf into the surface to leave an impression. I then cut carefully around the outline to give the leaf shape. When the clay was dry, I sanded and smoothed the edges until I was happy with them and added a handmade bail to the back for the chain. When it was all ready I fired it in the kiln before giving it only a slight polish which has left it with a fairly matt finish. I've added patina to enhance the leaf texture.

Next came this piece. Again this was made by rolling out a slab of clay and impressing the leaf into its surface. This time, instead of cutting around the outline of the leaf I cut a free-form shape around the leaf. When the clay was dry I refined the edges as before and drilled the hole to take the jump ring. After firing, I polished around the leaf using a fine point on my polishing tool to give a shiny contrast to the texture of the leaf. Again I added patina to enhance the leaf veins.

This leaf was made entirely differently. I used silver clay paste to build up layers on the surface of the leaf itself. When it was thick enough and completely dry I fired it in my kiln which burnt away the leaf and left a 999 fine silver leaf in its place. I then drilled the hole and added the jump ring before tumbling to give a really great shine, again adding patina to enhance the natural texture.

As you can imagine - if you want to use the same leaf more than once, you have to make sure to work in this order! Once you've used a leaf with the paste method, it's all burnt to ash and you have a totally unique silver leaf that can't be re-created.

All these leaves are currently listed in my Folksy Shop.