Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Design inspiration: Lace theme

Time for some more design inspiration – this time I'm addicted to lace. There are so many different styles and lace patterns to choose from, and when translated into silver or gold, the delicate filigree always looks so beautiful and feminine.

I've picked a few examples of some lovely lace-inspired jewellery designs to spark some thoughts…

Lace inspired jewellery designs by various jewellery designers

Which one is your favourite? I personally love number 3 the best, such a whimsical lace filigree design.

If you’re struggling for inspiration, find your nearest fabric store and get a couple of small samples of different lace they have in stock. Vintage clothes shops are another great source. If you don’t have access to a fabric store, there are lots of great lace patterns to be found online, like this one below...

Lace patterns for jewellery design inspiration
Beautiful lace patterns like this one are easy to find online
Don’t forget to try out some of the creativity techniques in this post to expand on your possible design ideas and create something original.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Five reasons to start silversmithing

Five reasons to start silversmithing

1. You will be able to make yourself all those jewellery pieces you’ve coveted.

If you’re anything like me, you love buying and receiving jewellery and have an Etsy (or otherwise) wishlist containing hundreds of rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and other shiny things you have coveted for ages. You might also, like me, occasionally treat yourself to the odd thing on your wishlist, but mostly feel a little bit guilty for splurging on jewellery for yourself (it’s not like you actually need more jewellery). The great thing about learning to silversmith is that you can make everything you want for yourself! Simple things are obviously easier to start with, but when you learn a more tricky technique to make a more complicated piece, it really feels like you’ve earned it!

2. It’s extremely satisfying wearing something you have made from scratch.

“Oh, I LOVE that ring you’re wearing! Where did you get it?”
“Thanks – actually, I made it myself”
Those of you who make jewellery will recognise the above conversation. It’s really satisfying seeing some plain old silver sheet and wire turn into something beautiful, delicate, three dimensional, functional, modern…

3. There are always new techniques to learn.

There are lots of other good creative hobbies around. I tried making stained glass panels a couple of years ago, which was a lot of fun too, with similar practical elements (cutting glass, soldering, etc)… but I did feel it was quite straightforward after learning the basics. The difference with silversmithing is that there are so many techniques to learn and master that the hobby never gets old – and new techniques seem to be evolving all the time – just look at the invention of precious metal clay (clay which can be moulded like dough into a shape, then fired to burn off the clay and leave pure silver).

4. You will be able to give the best, meaningful gifts to your family, friends and loved ones.

It’s always nice to be able to give someone special a handmade gift. I think that’s especially true when it’s silver or gold jewellery that it something they would love to receive anyway, and you can design and make it just for them and their tastes. Personalisation is a great touch.

5. It’s not hard to learn.

It might seem difficult to start silversmithing – with all the mountains of tools needed and lots of unfamiliar names and techniques – but actually, in reality it’s not that hard to make simple things. I’m pretty confident that most people could do it. There are also a lot of short taster courses out there for complete beginners and books – so I thoroughly recommend giving it a stab and seeing how you get on!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Design of the Week: Silver wildflower 'Natalie' pendant

This week's design is a silver wildflower pendant, designed for my friend Natalie's birthday. I wanted to make her something pretty and nature-inspired, delicate enough to wear to work or casually. She doesn't wear many necklaces, but the ones I've noticed are quite simple and classic. I wanted to give her something a bit different to this: nothing that could be shop-bought - but also not a chunky or statement piece that wouldn't fit with her style.

I love the variety in different wildflowers (like the one below) and the petal shapes - couldn't help but try and replicate something similar in silver. This wildflower pendant was the resulting design and is really versatile to wear.
Wildflower photo inspiration for a silver pendant
Wildflower photo by Steve Berardi

I made it from three layers of 0.5mm sterling silver sheet, pierced, lightly textured, formed then sweat-soldered together. I finally added some granulated silver balls to the middle for stamen, and a jump ring bail.

I actually made this week's design about three months ago, but it has taken me this long to finally finish the piece as I've been missing a crucial piece of equipment. I found it very difficult to polish between the layers of petals with a radial brush, and didn't want to risk the barrelling machine.

New toy: Magnetic Polisher

I have been saving for a magnetic polisher for ages, ever since using one in a workshop to polish my filigree pendant. I fell in love with how quick it was (just 15 minutes) at polishing and how perfectly tiny and compact the whole machine was (approximately 15cm x 15 x 25).

For such a tiny machine, however, it's quite pricey - looking at around £270 to import one from China, although I did find a cheaper one for just over £100. I ended up finding mine on ebay, the model I wanted from China but sold second-hand by a British seller instead, for a bargain £150.

The machine works by polishing light / delicate pieces with its tiny steel pins, which are moved around by the magnetics inside. It does a slightly different job to the barrelling machine in that it will only polish - any scratches and edges will be left the same, not softened in any way.

I'm very happy with the results from the polisher - the tiny pins managed to get right into the smallest gaps and the result was a beautifully polished piece. Natalie received her present this weekend, and I'm happy to report that she loved it and wore it straight away. I love being able to give my friends / family something I've made as a present!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

A slightly different creative attempt...

Panda 50th birthday cake
Cake decorating - a potential new hobby?!
I'm going to diverge from the silversmithing posts for just one minute to wish my Mum a very happy 50th birthday!

I made her this cake to celebrate: lemon drizzle sponge, with regal and fondant icing giant panda and bamboo. I thought a Chinese theme would be quite fitting for my Chinese mum! Excuse the rubbish camera-phone picture - it doesn't do much justice to the awesome edible gold sparkly dust on the 50.

It''s my first ever attempt at baking an iced cake, so took me a few hours - modelling with fondant icing is much harder than I first imagined. I also had a bit of a time trying to take it 200 miles to my Mum's house, but luckily the little guy survived. Looking online through some of the amazing cake creations some people have made, I'm actually quite tempted to learn cake decorating properly. Looks like another fun hobby!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Printed Jewellery Boxes have arrived!

Last night I received a surprise package – rather bulky and heavy. I couldn’t remember ordering anything online to fit with the parcel, so I was pretty intrigued when I opened it. There was a lot of foam and some more boxes inside. Each of these boxes contained more boxes… Spring Jewellery boxes!

The results:
You might remember my post from awhile back, where I was searching for the right jewellery boxes and packaging. 

So, I’m rather excited to show off my first batch of jewellery boxes with my logo…

Spring Jewellery printed boxes from Talbots
Spring Jewellery printed boxes from TalbotsJewellery box interior
I love the feel of the black leather interiors. I'd love it even more if the supplier could do these with contrasting white interiors (they do have some, but not with ahinged box, unfortunately). Ideally, I like a mint green exterior too, but I couldn’t find anything off-the-shelf which fit.

Ring and Pendant printed Spring Jewellery boxes
Ring box and Pendant / bracelet box

Choosing a jewellery box / packaging supplier:

I ended up going to Talbots – a supplier I hadn’t heard much about – to order these boxes. I struggled to find a decent supplier of pretty boxes for very small amounts; it wasn’t really worth it to order the 1000 minimum from China to get the exact boxes I wanted. Some of the other suppliers I looked at were:
  • Potters: good customer service, a fairly good range, although nothing that totally inspired me, but when I received samples they turned out to be a bit disappointing in quality. They also couldn’t / wouldn’t print on the outside lid for the boxes I wanted, which was a complete deal-breaker.
  • Finer Packaging: has some very nice products I was interested in, but they were more expensive and had a 100 box minimum order for each size, which I found a little prohibitive
  • Tiny Box Company: I really wanted to use them, but they were out of stock in the one cufflink box I wanted, and they didn’t really have many others in the luxury range. Also were a bit on the pricey side.
Lots of boxes packed in boxes - taking up space on my dining table!

General thoughts on using Talbots as a box supplier:

So, I have mixed feelings about Talbots right now. I’m undecided on whether I’d recommend them or not.
On the plus side:
  • Really impressed with the quality of both the boxes and the printing (the detail is fantastic)
  • They had a really great range of boxes, more in the unusual / luxury category than other suppliers, and they were really reasonably priced
  • They were quite accommodating – I wanted a green foil ink and although not originally offered in their standard colours, they did manage to find it for me
On the down side, however:
  • The sales / ordering process was excruciatingly slow – I first emailed them on August 7th, so it’s taken over 2 months to complete the order. I found the Sales representative quite unresponsive – sometimes not replying for 2 weeks – and had to chase quite a lot
  • The Sales Rep was also not great at answering my questions and would often ignore questions
  • I specifically asked (more than twice) for a full breakdown of the costs and totals for each product I was ordering before she put it through… and she said she would, but I didn’t hear anything after that. Then suddenly, boxes arrive at my house that I’ve been billed for, and I hadn’t received a word – no dispatch comms, no total price I would be charged, nothing!
  • I had emailed a list of products I wanted to order and the quantities – the Sales Rep then rang me back a few weeks / emails after to confirm the products. I repeated my order (some of the names of the product had changed since) and again, I’d asked her for an emailed breakdown (so I could check she’d got it right). Of course, when I received the order, I found she’d left off a whole product that I specifically remember her looking up the product code for, and missed another product that was in my email. Sigh.
  • They weren’t able to print on the cufflink boxes at all. I was insistent on the phone that I’d like them printed, she said she’d find out… but I heard nothing until they just arrived, completely unprinted. To add an extra kick, it looks like I was charged for printing on those items (not a huge amount, but still…)

So, what do you think? Have you found a good box / packaging supplier?

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Design of the Week: Modern square cufflinks

Modern square sterling silver cufflinks
Modern squares
Not a technically difficult one this week, but I'm really pleased with the outcome. I designed a slightly more modern and clean cufflink with a dual texture - shiny and brushed matte. Still slightly on the geometric design theme...

These are 15mm square and 1.5mm thick, soldered to the standard solid silver cufflink fittings. I pierced the cut-out areas and paid a lot of attention to filing these evenly and straight - and because the silver is nice and thick, it retains it's shape well. Polished in a barrelling machine and used a wire brush attachment to create the matte area (using tape to mask the crisp line). Just re-polished all edges afterwards, as I wanted them to be shiny.

I think I'll make a few more of these!

Modern square sterling silver cufflinks on shirt sleeve
Look pretty good with a crisp white shirt

Modern square sterling silver cufflinks

Modern square sterling silver cufflinks

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Jewellery Model Photoshoot

Two weeks ago I scheduled a photoshoot with a model to take some test shots of my jewellery. I took the photos myself as I've been interested in photography for the past few years, but I haven't had many opportunities to shoot models.

I arranged to do an outside location shoot just around West London and luckily, the weather was really nice on the day. Invested some time beforehand in getting lunch and selecting a couple of outfits (bright colours, chic and classic). I didn't use any additional lighting equipment besides a reflector, but armed with my trusty old Canon 400d (I need to upgrade..!) and a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens, I got 350ish photos in about 1.5 hours.
Using a model to bring the jewellery and brand to life
If I was better at photoshop I would get rid of that stray strand of hair.

Overall, I was pleased with the shoot - I got some good shots and, importantly, more experience. The model knew how to pose from her experience and was very easy to shoot, but at times the jewellery did get lost as that wasn't her core modelling experience. I also think I might get better results, particularly around showing off the jewellery, from a studio shoot.

More photos and tips after the jump >>>

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