And finally: first silver listings!

So, with some trepidation, I’m embarking on getting my silver pieces up and available in the Etsy shop. I’m tempted to expand on the extent (and the many aspects) of my trepidation, but I’ll spare you.  Let’s just say, it’s significant. I’m not sure how many things to add at a time – the listings are all ready and drafted – but I thought I’d start with this clutch of ‘circle’ designs. I’ve been scratching my head, trying to think of a name for this design/series but I’m drawing a blank so far. In my last post I shared a ring with a fab pinky peach fossil coral, which was the first piece I made along these lines. That ring and all of the following are now available.


Into The Dusk-Charged Air


We’re Incandescent And It Doesn’t Seem Fair


Yes I Said Yes


Sharpening The Object’s Edge


A Mind That Moves In A Straight Line


Word From The Red Planet (Reserved)

I am very happy to set up payment plans so that items can be paid for in instalments. Just send me a message through Etsy. I’ll be back tomorrow with the next batch of new things. Ciao for now…

Finally… Something of Substance on the Silver…

For some time now I’ve been mentioning my silversmithing but failing to share any images or discussion here. It’s been such a thing, and it’s been going on for large parts of the last year. There’s so much that I feel I want to record about the process, I don’t know where to begin. I did, however, make something of a start on doing this when I was still writing for the Art Bead Scene blog. I wrote several posts on my early metalworking progress and I also wrote about setting up the tiny metal workshop that I’ve created in my airing cupboard. As these posts cover quite a lot of what I’d wish to cover on this blog, I thought it would be easiest to include them here in one long post: a kind of Me and the Metal: The Very Early Days, if you like. (Apologies if you happened to read them at the time; I’m just a bit lazy!)  Inevitably, reading these posts back now, there are things I want to correct; matters that I’ve since learnt about, of which I was ignorant at the time. So, I’ll chip in between the posts. I should say, first of all, that I’m less than impressed with my sawing skills on the first pair of studs in this post from last November, but hey – it was still the very early days….
Sometimes I find that, when my Inside the Studio post comes around, I risk going over the same things: I’ve been making beads; I’ve been making jewellery. And, since my last post, I’ve done plenty of both. But, I actually have other things to report on!  For a long time now, I’ve wanted to get to grips with metalwork. Ages ago, when I first got into making jewellery, I bought a load of kit for silver-smithing, but for various reasons, I’ve never set to and used it all.  I bought books and read things online, but I find taking in instructions from reading things quite difficult. Finally, during the summer, I got my act together and booked a place on a silversmithing course.  It’s not that I really wanted to start making silver jewellery. I’m planning to use other, more affordable metals, in the main, I think. I just needed opportunity to get comfortable with the various tools and processes. However, I have got a little seduced with working with sterling.

This crop of earrings – all kinda minimal (and not without some flaws!) – have all been made during the six weeks of the course. The term finished this week but I’ll be booking on to go back in the new year.  I am now far happier with the logistics of soldering, and I really want to do it some more, preferably sooner than next year! One of the things that has held me back from trying soldering, etc., at home is the lack of space. I’ve moaned about this here before, numerous times, in relation to one thing or another. Speaking to Christina, the jeweller running the course, I’ve come to see that the table area I was planning to use wouldn’t necessarily be the safest place. Then, about a fortnight ago, I had a brainwave. In the corner of my flat there is what I – and certain close friends – would describe as ‘a naughty hole’. To flesh the term out, I guess I’d describe a ‘naughty hole’ as any cupboard or hidden space where undesirable junk and clutter or ‘just stuff’ is stored/dumped, usually in a careless, haphazard manner. You open the naughty hole door, you take the thing you’re struggling to house, you sling it in the naughty hole, you shut the door, you forget about it.

Now, my naughty hole isn’t just a cupboard. It’s a walk-in naughty hole. Can you guess what my brainwave might have been? I really can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner!!  If I clear out the naughty hole I can set up a jeweller’s bench in there!! And possibly have space for other things! Like good, orderly storage! And places to keep all of the many, many things!  But… oh… oh no, that means…. I have to clear out the naughty hole!

That will be quite a tall order. Towards the back of the hole there is stuff that I stacked up in there when I moved in. Heaven knows what half of it is. Dozens of VHS tapes that I can’t play, that no charity shop will take, that can’t be recycled easily…. but that belonged to my grandma?  Mountains of bank statements and suchlike that need shredding before disposal. About 8-10 years worth of the Times Literary Supplement and The London Review of Books. If I chuck them out, am I abandoning academia forever? Oh, naughty hole!!

BTW, am I the only person preserving one of these?

Because: design classic? Thought so…

The mouth of the hole poses another problem. At some point, I did attempt to set up some sort of storage nearer the door; there are some old shoe racks on which I had piled my unused metal tools, my polymer stuff, and various other supplies and kit. This started in an orderly fashion but has since descended into chaos. I messed it up even more the other week, trying to find my neglected metal tools under the other stuff. Now it looks like some kind of craft-based dirty bomb went off in there.

Just writing about the task in hand is making my head spin. I’m telling myself that, now we have this lovely expanded ABS team, and now I only write an Inside the Studio post every other month, I might have it sorted by the next time I join you. I so hope I can do it. Wish me luck!

One of the many, many things that I’ve learnt along the way – but this is a big one – is that, in most cases, it’s really worth using silver over copper, especially for making elaborate, time-consuming things. Sure, silver is expensive. but it’s not that expensive. The other cost that really racks up when making a substantial piece, is that of your time. I soon came to the conclusion that if I’m going to spend hours slaving over something, I want to be able to charge a decent price for it, and – as a quick scan of Etsy will show – you simply can’t command anywhere near the same price for a piece made in copper that you can for a piece made in silver. Moreover, there’s every chance that you’ll spend even more time working at the copper because you’ll need to remove all signs of the silver solder (assuming you’re using silver solder), which is far more visible on copper, obvs (although I have learnt a trick to help with this problem). I think this is particularly the case with bezel-set rings, as the connection points are more conspicuous. Also, rings receive more scrutiny when they’re worn – at least, I think that’s the case. It’s less of an issue with bangles, say, or earring hoops or pendants. So, I may have thought then that I’d largely be working with copper but I’ve ended up working primarily with sterling, and I love the stuff. I used not to be so bothered; now I get anxious if I feel I’m getting low on my favourite gauges of wire and sheet.

On to the next post, which I wrote in January this year. This is an extract from a longer post covering various things.

Is it a little late to be wishing you all a happy new year? I hope you’re all contending with the potential gloominess of January. I last shared an Inside the Studio post with you back in early November. Perhaps you’ll remember: I have recently taken up metalwork and I had plans of converting my under-the-stairs cupboard – aka the naughty hole – into a little work space.  There was a problem, however. Five years of accumulated junk and mess.
Well, it certainly seemed like a mammoth task. I was shocked just now, revisiting these pictures. A chance turn of events lead to me actually taking it on. I was telling a friend about my plans, a friend who actively likes sorting and tidying (I know?!), and she said, ‘Right, we’re going to do it’. I can’t thank her enough. It took two long afternoons-into-evenings-into-the-small-hours to sort it all, and it was pretty tough going and stressful at points: so many things to have to decide to throw away; so many, sometimes painful, memories unearthed. (Some of the stuff at the back had been dumped in there when I moved into the flat and that wasn’t the best time of my life.) But we did it! Can you see the little pixie door? Where the metal working pixies live?
Open wide and what’s inside….
I hope you’ll agree, it’s a pretty remarkable transformation! This is going to be the tidiest it will ever look, I reckon!  I’m so chuffed; I’ve only just got to the point where I’ve stopped going in and turning on the light and just thinking, ‘Eeeeeeeeeee!’ One thing I hadn’t remembered was that the naughty hole was actually an airing cupboard.
My first thought on seeing this beast (which actually serves all the flats in the damn building) was: ‘Oh, thank goodness! That’s several square foot of stuff I’m not going to have to drag out of here and and re-locate!’ Once this relief had worn off I was a bit disappointed that it was lurking in there taking up precious space. Still, I reckon I’ll live with it well enough.
So, it’s now time to pick up the torch/saw/file/hammer, etc.  My classes started again last night. I’m making bezels for stones. I was working on my first one again this morning. I got to the stage where I had it looking all neatly trimmed and thought, ‘Oooo, look, that looks like what it should look like! Will the stone fit nicely? Yes, it fits very nicely!’ Hot on the heels of that thought came, ‘Oooooo, look, is it? Yes, look, it is… it’s…. stuck…’. I’ve tried finding something thin enough to lever it out, but nothing is thin enough. I’ve tried running water into it. I’ve tried tapping it on the back. I’ve tried tapping it on the back with a hammer. I’ve tried holding it in a pair of tweezers and hitting it on the back with a hammer. I’ve tried holding it in a pair of tweezers and hitting it on the back even harder with a heavier hammer. No joy. It’s only a small, inexpensive, piece of moss agate but if anyone has any suggestions, do share!
I think the only thing to say here is that, despite a wealth of helpful suggestions, I never did get that wretched moss agate cab out of the bezel. I still have it somewhere – an object lesson in the importance of dental floss when seeing if your stone fits its setting!
Finally, this is an extract from the last post I wrote for Art Bead Scene in February 2016:
In the last couple of weeks. I’ve primarily been focused on the metalwork that I wrote about in my last Inside the Studio post.  I’ve been happily settling into my new workspace, filling it with tools and pleasing things – the utilitarian things; the lovely, visual things. It’s the closest I’ve ever got to a dedicated studio. (Well, my living room is as much studio as it is living room.) So, it’s still kinda exciting – and I rather love its diminutive proportions.
(Apologies for the blur – it’s hard to photograph this space through the aperture of its mini door.)
I really must thank all of you who expressed concerns about the lack of ventilation. (I even had one lovely reader message me. You know who you are – thanks again!) Of course, you were all right and I was… optimistic? After a few short bursts of soldering in there, even my raddled lungs were questioning the wisdom of it. Fortunately, I located another area of my flat that is also sorely underused and all set up for tolerating heat!
I know – I just boss health and safety! I must be making some progress because I’ve been happily soldering away in my pyjamas, which is not something I’d ever imagined. (NB. Never solder in your night clothes.) I had hoped to include some images of finished pieces with you. One thing I’m still getting my head round is the amount of time that metalwork takes (for instance, the filing, the endless, endless filing…. ) – especially when you’re still learning. I just have to keep telling myself that there are things that were boggling a few weeks ago, that I’m now doing with some ease. I have a stack of things in the works, including a number of bezelled rings which now need setting. I had my first go at setting in my class last night. Like a fool, I’d imagined it would be a relatively quick job. Will I never learn? For the first time ever, I’m wishing I had muscles in my arms. Why can’t I order them from Cookson’s like everything else?
I’m sure people who read this must have wondered what the hell my problem was. Why was I struggling so much with the setting? Well, I was making my bezels from 0.7mm sterling sheet. I’ve since learned that it’s best to use fine silver so I’ve swapped to 0.5mm fine silver strip. I did try the 0.3mm fine silver strip but I really can’t get on with it; it’s like working with tin foil. I think my early use of thick sterling has lead my to favouring a thicker bezel – something with a bit of resistance and the scope for shaping and sculpting.
By this stage in the proceedings (i.e. February 2016) I was fairly close to the point where I felt fairly comfortable doing simple bezel settings. All of these still get a good amount of wear.
And I was moving on to developing more involved and distinctive designs.
The last two rings are amongst a large crop of metal pieces, primarily silver, that I have ready to put into the shop. They’re all ready to go! The listings are drafted, they’ve all been hallmarked, I just need to take some more photos and edit them. I’ll come back in the next day or so to share some pics of more recent designs.

AUTUMN SALE – 25% off all jewellery – Coupon Code: AUTUMN25

Well, the title tells you most of what you need to know. This weekend you can get 25% off any jewellery currently in the Etsy shop. Just enter the coupon code AUTUMN25 when you check out. It’s months and months since I last did a promotion like this and I won’t be doing another before Christmas. In truth, I’m unsure when I’ll do another sale in the future because once I get the silver items listed, offering discounts will be less easy. So, head over now to take advantage!

Here are a few of the pieces currently available…a-murmuring-progress

Shedding Treasure 2




the dancers

I meant for you to have it 1



works and days 1



The sale will run over this weekend and will most likely finish on Sunday (16th October) night. Here’s another link to the shop!

Finally – some new jewellery…

It’s been some time since I last got some jewellery made and out there in the world. What with the bead-making, the silvering, a rare trip away, and some other things I can’t actually recall right now (and wouldn’t interest anyone terribly), life has been rather full – for me, at least. But, after I’d got all the beads from the last update sent out, I rewarded myself with a few days of non-stressy, non-torchy, jewellery making. Heaven… It seems I’m still struggling to make anything other than earrings. Whilst I say that this jewellery making spell was supposed to be un-stressy, I did have a little catalogue of other ‘things to do’ nagging away at me. It seems that I couldn’t set my head to settling down and designing a whole necklace, and I failed to make any bracelets either… That’s now a ‘thing to do’ in itself. I did manage one necklace…



(I’m still torn over which of these different displays works best, and which I should use as my main photo on Etsy….)

Now, on to the earrings….

wide-as-nights-and-days-1 vestiges the-storm-chasers-4 baited-1

breakers-yard-1 calling-her-doll-face-4

(There is a real and present danger that the pair above are going to be whisked out of my shop and into my ears.)


fated-orientations-1 last-of-the-light-1 the-low-hanging-fruit-1 no-prisoners-1 razed-one-morning-1 some-kindness-can-1 the-doughty-ones-1the-quiet-ordinances-1

(Hate that blue-ness! Stooopid seasonal light!)

the-nymphs-have-departed-1That’s the lot! What’s more, they are all listed here on Etsy!

Bead Shop Update: Wednesday, 14th September, 6.30pm BST

So, I’m back with the details of the bead shop update and some images of the other new beads I’ll be listing, aside from the sawdust fired beads I shared in the last post. The update will be happening this Wednesday, 14th September, 6.30pm BST. There are lots of new designs, including some new sets. I love the interaction of the glazes on these:






And this, above, is one of my current favourite glaze combinations.



There are a lot of new earring charms.











And that is just a few – believe me! I’ve also done some autumn. I don’t tend to do seasonal beads but, while I prefer summer, there’s something irresistible about the colours and forms of autumn.




But if that’s not for you there are some more colourful things.


There’s a scattering of head pins –


And the sets of earring pairs are making a return –


along with more tubby cones…



I think that’s most of the categories covered. Here’s a link to the bead shop. This lot will be up in the shop tomorrow at 6.30pm BST. I’ll leave you with a few more pics of more new things…






Sawdust Firing Love

Several weeks ago I went to do a sawdust firing with Jenny Barton (Enigma Pottery), whose classes I attended a couple of years ago to refresh my ceramics knowledge.  It was the first time I’ve tried sawdust firing and a one-off session, so, in the weeks prior to doing it, I spent a good amount of time reading up on the process. Sawdust firing, if you don’t know, is a low-fire technique similar to pit-firing, but done in a brick built kiln or some kind of metal container (which is what I used), rather than a hole in the ground. The kiln is packed with sawdust and other combustibles, which surround whatever it is you’re firing. Amongst this, other materials can be included to create different fumes which produce different effects and colours on your work. This might include salt (and anything salty!), oxides, dried plant matter, different woods, different metals, etc… Once you’ve got everything in, you set light to the top of the sawdust and let it burn away slowly.  There’s no glaze involved: the look of the finished ware is entirely dependant on the chancy business of how the materials in the kiln burn. So, for some time, I was walking around looking at everything, thinking, ‘Will that burn?’ and ‘What will it bring if it does burn?’ I got a bit fixated..


I’m mad about the results. I feel I can enthuse more because there’s so much chance involved, so I can’t claim that much credit. I had been pretty apprehensive about what would happen in the firing. I feared that everything would just get oxidised and turn black because there’s so little surface area on a bead. Don’t get me wrong, there are amazing studio ceramicists whose work is largely focused on using and adapting the blackened surface that can be achieved on sawdust fired ware (and, the wholly black beads I got are lovely); I just wanted to try all the things at once and, hopefully, get lots of variety.  So I was pretty thrilled to discover all these rich colours and subtle details as I cleaned the ash away from the beads. Thrilled to the point of thinking, ‘Oh my goodness! I just want to do nothing but sawdust firing all the time for the forever now!’


One thing I did contribute was a hell of a lot of burnishing. I feel a little giddy when I reflect on the hours which I spent rubbing away at these pieces. And then, once they were out of the firing, there was a whole heap of polishing and waxing. It’s crazy time consuming, but the finished surface is so nice.


(Just perfect for Autumn, hey?)


In my reading around the subject, I discovered a way in which I can actually carry on doing sawdust firing on a smaller scale – which pleases me very much!  I had been in two minds about it, but now it seems I’ll be able to make more, I’m ready to part with some of these. I’m still havering on pricing, given how long it took me to burnish and polish some of them. There are also some more kinda matt sawdust fired beads which I didn’t burnish and they will be cheaper.


Which means it’s update time! And I’ve just finished a large load of my regular fired, glazed beads too. I’ll share some pictures of those here in the next day or so, once I’ve got some taken, and I’ll confirm details of the update. It will be next week some time. In the meantime, here’s some more sawdust fired lovelies…









Oh, I haven’t included a link to the bead shop! Here’s one now!

Keeping Up With All The Things… new jewellery

So, for the last couple of weeks I have primarily been sat in my airing cupboard/metal studio, making tons of rings (and the odd earring). I know, I still haven’t managed to share any of this much mentioned metalwork. It’s been such a thing, and I feel I have this whole great epic tale to tell about it all. I shared a few pieces on Facebook a month or so ago, but I have made much more subsequently. All this means I’ve found little time to make my ‘regular’ beaded jewellery, and there’s been no bead making either! I’ll have to pull my ceramics finger out shortly because I’ve booked to do a one-off sawdust firing class later on in August and I need to get stuff prepared for that. As for making the regular jewellery, well, I’ve been fitting in a bit off it here and there. I’ve finally collected all these stray makes together and got them listed on Etsy today. Here they are…

bedouins 4 border crossing 1 entanglements 1 fallen nest 1 flight across the desert 1 for your sake 1 keeper of secrets 1 I meant for you to have it 1 leaf litter 1 market day 1 storm rolling in 1 the dancers what other body 1

Here’s another link to Etsy.

Right, time to get back in my metal hole….

Smitten Charity Jewellery Auction, in aid of Mind

For the last couple of years I’ve participated in a fabulous fundraising event, donating jewellery to be auctioned to raise funds for different charities. It is organised by Claire Braunbarth of Smitten Beads, with able support from Lindsay Phillipson and Kate Floate, and goes by the name, So Good I’m Smitten. And, all the jewellery that is made and donated is created by Smitten customers using some of the lovely beads that Claire sells. In 2014 we raised over £1200 for the The Alzheimer’s Society, and last year over £1800 was raised for Macmillan Cancer Support. This year’s charity is Mind, the mental health charity. As you may or may not know, it’s a cause that means a great deal to me; and, with NHS mental health services being ever more stretched, underfunded, and cut back, alternative sources of support are particularly vital right now. The auction takes place online, on a dedicated Facebook page. It’s really easy to participate; you don’t have to sign up or join anything. You just need a Paypal account to make your payment/donation – and a desire to own some lovely jewellery. You can see an album of all the jewellery that is available here. As you’ll see, the reserve prices are set at a very affordable rate. The auction starts today (15th July) at 5pm and runs until 8pm on Sunday evening (17th July). Here are the pieces I’ve donated. I’ve mixed in some of my ceramic pieces with the Smitten supplies.

SGIS bracelet lagoon feathers circles SGIS pendant necklace pendant on bust moorish

Here’s another link to the event page. And, again, a link to the auction album where you can place your bids. I do hope you’ll hop over and take a look!