Casting a Recycled Gold Ring

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

I was recently asked to convert a selection of a customers old and inherited gold into a new piece for her to wear and enjoy. We planned a sculptural ring that would be a bold, statement piece. I began by carving the ring in wax, translating my drawings into 3D to get a feel for the ring that I wanted to make.

 

As we particularly wanted to recycle the clients own gold into the new ring I chose to cast the ring myself, so that I could guarantee that her gold was used for the final ring. Melting the gold is a fairly simple process, however the casting itself was a learning curve for me.

I initially chose the sand casting method as it’s noted for the accuracy of the impressions that it gives. I used a Delft sand casting kit where an oily, red, almost clay-like sand is used to form a single use mold for the piece that you wish to cast. The process of loading the mold is simple, if a little time consuming, and allows you a lot of control over how to pour the metal into the form.

After a few attempts it became clear that the process wasn’t quite as simple as I was hoping. Melting and pouring the gold was relatively easy but the high temperature required to keep the gold molten made it difficult to ensure that the metal flowed properly around the mold. Several castings came out only partially filled:

The cold sand sucked heat out of the metal and prevented it from filling the mold. I tried variations on the layout of air holes, the entry position of the metal and even the angle at which I poured the metal. The most complete casting that I managed to yield was pitted and too imperfect to work with.

I read through a lot of troubleshooting information online but couldn’t find a concrete answer to the problem.

In the end I decided to go simple and try cuttlefish casting the ring instead. It’s a method that I haven’t used since college and wasn’t my first choice because the cuttlefish bones can transfer their distinctive markings onto the final casting. However, the sand casting wasn’t working out so I figured that it was worth a shot.

I pushed the silver master pattern into the cuttlefish which yielded a surprisingly smooth mold, though it did require quite a bit of force to make a complete impression. I carved extra air escape points into the cuttlefish and a funnel, to pour the liquid gold into. This method worked first time, I think because it was easier to keep the temperature of the metal high once it entered the mould.

A cuttlefish mould can only be used once, pouring molten metal into it destroys areas that it touches, burning away the cuttlebone.

Cleaning up my final casting was easy and I was delighted with how neatly the mould had filled. I cut away the large sprue, which indicates the point at which the gold was poured into the cuttlefish and refined the shape of the ring to bring out that crisp, knife edge.

Once sanded and polished the final casting is a beautiful copy of the silver original that I made. The ring carries a 9ct hallmark but mixing up the clients old 9ct & 18ct gold actually resulted in a 12ct ring. The unpredictability of alloying family gold in the workshop is always fun and this ring has a wonderfully warm, red overtone:

 

Morganite & Yellow Gold Ring

On the left is a costume jewellery ring and, on the right, a 9ct yellow gold, morganite and white sapphire ‘copy’ made to order for a client who loved the feel of this ring but not the materials!

An aspiring jewellery designer herself the client had an existing mold, made a few years ago, which she had never used to produce a ring. I was able to use that mold to produce wax copies and then modify them to suit the styles of stone setting that we had chosen.

I filled in the top of the ring with extra wax and carved new setting faces onto the inner slopes. This provided a better surface to set the beautiful, cushion cut, Morganite that we’d chosen.

Once cast the ring looked quite rough so I set about cleaning it up at the bench, taking off harsh marks left from adding wax and removing the fine, matt texture that had been left by the lost wax casting process. After fully sanding the ring I polished it, bringing the whole surface up to a uniform finish. With the central stone selected I matched up nearly 30 small, white, sapphires to form a glittering band around the top edge of the ring.

After setting the ring with the cushion cut Morganite, and a band of white sapphires, I plated the top face with bright, white rhodiumm. This pale canvas really brings out the colour of the Morganite and makes the peachy tones of it pop:

 

Silver Tea Infuser

posted in: Silversmithing | 0

As a serious tea drinker I’ve always liked the idea of making some small pieces of silverware for use with tea. This year I’ve challenged myself to work on a larger scale and have begun by designing a tea infuser:

It’s evolved a little from the original biro sketch, which I doodled at the end of last year. Most notably I’ve changed the ‘handle’ to make it a better match for my Riverside collection.

The bowl of the teaball is spun from silver sheet before returning to the workshop for me to make and fit the internal mechanism. I opted with a handmade screw thread fitting here but will probably modify that on future infusers to use a lighter method of closure!

One of the most challenging aspects was drilling the holes in the bowl. Marking out an exact pattern is difficult around a curved surface and I was very aware of the risk of breaking a drill bit in the silver. I marked the holes from the center point outwards, placing them in concentric circles and spacing them as evenly as possible:

Once that was all arranged I finished the lid with a leafy handle and polished the infuser to a glossy shine:

 

Tanzanite & Silver Constellation Bangle

This lovely little commission was designed to celebrate a 45th Birthday. It’s patterned with a scattering of 45 tiny blue tanzanites and a myriad of small drill holes:

 

Bracelet Sketch Silver
Bangle Sketch

 

It began as a simple, oval wire bangle which I polished and then matt finished with a heavy, stippled texture. After that I marked out the pattern of the constellation before drilling it and marking the bangle up for setting. A mixture of 1mm, 1.5mm and 2mm tanzanites are set around it, flush with the surface of the silver.

The final piece is a subtle collection of silvery blue shades. The blue of the tanzanites matches beautifully with the soft gleam of the silver:

Silver and tanzanite bangle

 

 

New Jewellery: Riverside

posted in: Jewellery | 0

Those who follow me on Instagram will know that I’ve been working on some brand new pieces lately, using the leaf motifs from my Riverside series and building them into larger, more complex pieces.

I’ve also sought out an unusual collection of semi-precious stones to work with and had lots of fun incorporating them into some show pieces for the winter season:

Silver and Ryolite Necklace
Seedling Silver and Ryolite Necklace

Commission: Aluminium Fire Lillies

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

 

Becca Williams Aluminium Metal Fire lillies

 

I recently finished this interesting commission, made entirely in aluminium, nickel and brass. Aluminium is an especially interesting material to work with as it’s so much softer and more malleable than silver. It moves about easily and allows you to achieve some really soft, organic shapes.

Fire Lillies (Gloriosa) are the national flower of Zimbabwe which is the home country of the chap who ordered this. The flowers were part of his wife’s wedding bouquet ten years ago, hence his choice for the sculpture.

Here’s how the flowers came together in the workshop:

The sculpture was made to celebrate a 10th Wedding Anniversary it’s designed to be used as a jewellery stand with hanging space on the stamen of the flowers:

Metal, aluminium Fire Lilly Jewellery Stand

Project: The Contemporary Jewellery Exchange

posted in: Commissions | 0

Last summer I got involved in the international Contemporary Jewellery Exchange, a project created and managed brilliantly by Olga Raben, a Norwegian Jewellery Designer and Maker. Contemporary Jewellers from around the world are paired up by Olga, based upon the style of their work. They then get in touch and swap a few messages, gathering a sense of each other before secretly making a piece to exchange.

I’m a big fan of the postal service and letter writing so this project was really exciting – plus I got to meet another jeweller and work to commission for them. I was paired with Lynne Glazzard, a jeweller and enameller based in Yorkshire who has a wonderful eye for texture and the landscape. She uses etching in her work too and has a back catalogue of pieces which features some beautiful little silver buildings:

After we exchanged some long and detailed facebook messages we decided that I would make a ring for Lynne and she would make a necklace for me. She liked the use of pearls in my work and I told her how wonderful I thought her little houses and buildings were. That settled we then had to keep our work a secret, get it ready for a postage deadline and send them to each other as a surprise.

I had a lot of fun working on the ring, it felt incredibly open ended, while many commissions can be resistrited by a lot of perfectly logical specifics. I toyed with ideas for etching, playing about with the patterns that I wanted to use and eventually settled on working on something evocative of sea spray (Lynne was living by the coast at that point) with a bubbly, watery feel to it.

I used pearls, because Lynne had mentioned them, and set them securely in cup settings (like my tidal rings LINK) sitting at jaunty, wave rocked angles. I also mixed a little 18ct yellow gold in there, to really bring out the colour of the dark pearl:

Lynne’s piece to me was a gorgeous little bundle of textures, in the form of a slanted dwelling on a square link chain. Clearly my love of birds had come across too because there’s an enamelled charm hanging from the necklace too!

Lynne Glazzard for Becca Williams 2
Lynne Glazzard’s Pendant for me

 

It sits really well on me and is such a great piece for days when I want to make my jewellery a real statement. You can see the rest of the matches online at the Exchanges Facebook Page and it’ll soon be available in a book, from the website.

 

Commission: Antique Silver Coin Bracelet

posted in: Commissions | 0

Every now and again I get asked to make something really traditional. It’s almost always a lot of fun, if a bit of a puzzle sometimes! This customer contacted me regarding her selection of silver threepence pieces, which she wanted made into a bracelet. It needed to be in the traditional, scaled,style, linked together using over 200 tiny silver jump rings.

I’ve never worked with antique silver before but these coins are sterling (they’re all dated between 1911 and 1919) they behaved just as any other sterling would. They soldered easily and neatly using standard silver solders.

I added two rings to each coin before stringing them together into the finished pattern. I then soldered closed each ring along the chain (for added security when it’s worn). Finally I made a little bridge of chain to connect the catch to the bracelet.

The finished piece moves beautifully through your hands, fully articulated by all of the little links. It’s a great little tactile piece of wearable history.

Commission: Recycled Diamond Earrings

posted in: Commissions | 0

Sometimes I get asked to recycle old family jewellery into something new and these earrings are a great example of this:.25 carat diamond studs

They’re simple, classic diamond studs but they’re made from one new diamond and one old one, taken from a client’s unworn engagement ring. It seemed a shame to leave this sentimental stone in a box so I matched another diamond to it and now she has a great pair of wearable earrings with a personal story.

 

Original Engagement Ring shank with the brand new Diamond Earrings
Original Engagement Ring shank with the brand new diamond earrings

Commission: Palladium and Ruby Engagement Ring

posted in: Commissions | 0

Ruby Palladium Engagement Ring

This palladium engagement ring is designed to sit as a pair with the diamond one that I made last year, for a couple of ladies who are getting married this summer. I was a joy to make the ‘other half’ of their engagement rings so that they have a set with such similar characters.

This ring needed to be very practical and include a favourite gem of the bride to be: rubies. With that in mind it seemed that using small, flush set stones would be best as she’ll be able to leave it on all day at work without worry.

Palladium and Ruby Engagement Ring Sketches

The original ring had a twisted, raised ‘edge’ which ran all the way around it, highlighted by a bright polish against the matt finish on the body of the ring. I’ve accentuated this twist at the front of the new ring, widening it to give me space to add a little thread of rubies that sit within the curve and ‘flow’ around the ring.

We’ve kept the same, durable matt finish on this ring which really shows off the polished edge of the wave and the sparkle of the subtle sparkle of the stones:Ruby Palladium Engagement Ring by Becca Williams Jewellery Designer

 

Exhibition: Made with Love in Leeds

posted in: Events, exhibition | 0

Each spring the Craft and Design Centre Gallery in Leeds holds a show celebrating the romance of British Craft – this year there’s a distinctly birdie theme to the show, with work featuring our feathers friends from jewellers, ceramists and glassmakers alike.

My Riverside collection will form part of the exhibition alongside these other makers (plus a few more):

See the full line-up here

Small Business Saturday: shop small this weekend

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

This Saturday, the first in December, is Small Business Saturday. Born out in the USA Small Business Saturday is sponsored over here by American Express and is a grassroots campaign designed to promote indie retailers throughout the country. Unlike the usual holiday campaigns this one has a bit of heart in it, designed as it to promote small businesses, bringing great things to the market.

So, to celebrate, I’m getting involved by offering 20% off this weekend to help with the Christmas shopping. Just type the code ‘shopsmall15’ into the coupon box on my website’s checkout for a cheeky festive discount.

 

Small Business Saturday Facebook sq2 copy

New Stockist: John Lewis Birmingham

posted in: Events | 0

This week sees the opening of the new John Lewis store in central Birmingham, right above the remodeled New Street Station and Grand Central shopping centre.

It’s not normally the kind of thing that I’d blog about (despite the architectural interest of the building) but John Lewis have done something pretty special with this store. Working in conjunction with local business groups they’ve set aside space in the Jewellery Department for a Jewellery Quarter concession of sorts, featuring the work of six Jewellery Quarter makers.

I was selected to take part earlier in the year and have had to keep pretty quiet about it until now but, with the store finished and opening tomorrow here are a few images from last night’s preview:

They’ll be selling my Flotsam and Estuary ranges, from now until after Christmas.

Looking back: workbenches

posted in: Workshop | 0

Sorting through a pile of her old, film photographs my little sister just dug out this black and white image. It’s my first workbench, in a cold lean-to attached to my parents house, that we built when I finished university.

I had barely any machinery, just my university hand tools really, but it’s where my Flotsam range began and where I first made the choice to stick at being a jeweller. I’ve had two other works-paces since then, a small square one that I sublet from some other makers and my current home, all on Hylton Street in the Jewellery Quarter.

Sometimes it dazzles me, just how far I’ve come in seven years:

First and current workshop sm
The workshop then [2008/9] vs the workshop now [2014/15]

Exploring: Perrott’s Folly

posted in: Exploring | 0

Last week, as part of the Hidden Spaces project (in conjunction with Two Towers Brewery), I got to go along to explore the inside of one of the city’s seldom seen historic buildings: Perrott’s Folly.

Originally built in 1758 it once stood in a country hunting park but now overlooks a mixture of Victorian and 20th century housing, within sight of Edgbaston reservoir. It’s a slightly strange sight, huddled on a suburban street but the crumbling interior still manages to evoke a sense of past grandeur.

Here’s what I saw:

Commission: River Ring in Silver & Topaz

Last week I finished off this Eternity Ring, a commission inspired by the Braided River ring that I made a couple of months ago. It’s a silver wedding anniversary gift and is designed to sit alongside an existing topaz engagement ring.

It needed to have a slightly simpler feel to it than the original ring so I did a few sketches and we eventually settled on just the two ‘waves’ but added a more obvious line of stones – to evoke the feel of a traditional Eternity Ring.

Topaz and Silver Ring Sketches

Putting it together required some tricky soldering to line up and fix the settings (which sit in a wave, not easy to mark out):

Making  Topaz and Silver Eternity Ring by Becca Williams

and then to add the wires which made up the wave outlines:Making  Topaz and Silver Eternity Ring by Becca Williams 2

Topaz and Silver Eternity Ring by Becca Williams

After a couple of tense moments under the flame I polished it up to a glossy shine and set it with a single sky blue topaz and four clear, white topaz.

The final result looks pretty special:

Eternity Ring Blue & White Topaz by Becca WilliamsEternity Ring Blue & White Topaz by Becca Williams 2

Commission: Palladium & Diamond Engagement Ring

posted in: Commissions | 3

At the start of the year I made this diamond and palladium engagement ring, for some friends who will be getting married next year. Now that the proposal has happened (and she said ‘yes’) I’m safe to post the photographs without ruining the surprise!

Palladium Diamond Wave Engagement Ring

This ring was designed to be really wearable, but still have a substantial bit of sparkle about it, with a prominent central diamond that’s set quote low – so as not to scratch and catch.

It has a really subtle, curved knife section band, with a comfortable rounded side which sits on your finger and a soft point that faces outwards, forming that bright, polished line which runs around the band and draws your eye right along to the diamond.

The diamond itself is Canadian, a beautiful Princess Cut which is securely set in a bezel.

Here’s how it was made, from drawings to ring:

 

Commission: ‘Braided River’ Silver & Topaz Ring

posted in: Commissions | 0

I love an original commission and the brief for this one was sent to me by a hydrologist (who studies water and is especially fond of rivers). She wanted to replace her engagement ring and use the blue topaz that had originally been in it in something new.

She sent me some images of braided rivers, to see what I could come up with and I couldn’t have been happier! I find aerial landscape photography particularly fascinating plus, way back in sixth form I did one of my first ever jewellery design projects focusing on rivers!

A while spent playing around with the idea of interwoven tributaries eventually formed into this:

Silver Topaz Ring Design drawings

A wire wrapped silver band where the strands of silver flow around and under the setting like a river ’round an island.

Here’s how this tricky bit of soldering came together:

making the silver and topaz braided river ring Making Silver and Topaz Braided River Ring Collage 2sm Becca Williams Jewellery

And finished up in a band that made a really personal new ring that my customer loved:

silver and topaz braided river engagement ring

New Work: Birds

The late winter/early spring is always a quiet time for me. In a good way.

This year my first selling show will be in May so I’ve had the luxury of a lot of time to work out some of the ideas that I’ve been carrying around for a while. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen a few of these but, now that I feel like all the elements that I’ve been making are coming together I wanted to post everything in one place:

There are birds and leaves and little tapered silver twigs for them all to sit on … they’ll be evolving into final pieces over the next few weeks so keep a weather eye on instagram to see how things are going.

Inspiration: Richard Long & Pamela Rawnsley

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

Last week I attended the first of what will, hopefully, be many lectures in the memory of Pamela Rawnsley, an inspirational jeweller and silversmith who died last year.

pamela-pots-752536410
Vessels by Pamela Rawnsley

 

She was very much driven by her love of the landscape, something that comes through very clearly in her work and for that reason when the Contemporary British SIlversmiths association organised the lecture they asked a favourite influence of hers, artist Richard Long, to speak.

The first piece of his work that I ever saw was probably his most iconic:

Richard Long, A Line Made by Walking, 1967
Richard Long, A Line Made by Walking, 1967

A Line Made by Walking. Simple, utterly effective and a distinctly human thing on the landscape.

It seems to be the thing that’s gone on to influence many of his other pieces, over and over, through the years. He said at the talk that ‘replicating his walking and his line making [over time] has formed a point of view‘. His endless walking and making and leaving of lines has come to define him, to build the work of his life. Apparently it didn’t seem like much at the time, just a sculpture that was made, like so many others, while he was out walking, but returning to the essence of it so many times over the years has given it deep significance.

Richard Long, A Line in Bolivia, 1981
Richard Long, A Line in Bolivia, 1981
Richard Long Road Stone Line, China, 2010
Richard Long Road Stone Line, China, 2010

Alongside lines he builds circles:

Richard Long A Circle in Antarctica
Richard Long A Circle in Antarctica

both starkly (like this white one in Antarctica) and in beautifully subtle ways like these circles in South America:

Richard Long ACONCAGUA CIRCLE Argentina, 2012
Richard Long ACONCAGUA CIRCLE Argentina, 2012
Richard Long, A Circle in the Andes, 1972
Richard Long, A Circle in the Andes, 1972

These are probably the ones that I like best, because they dare you to believe that they occurred naturally and make you re-evaluate the landscape that you’re seeing and your place in it.

To find out more about the Memorial Fund, or to donate to it. click here.

Exploring: The Mineral Galleries

posted in: Exploring | 0

Yesterday I went down to London, mainly to go to a lecture but also, as I was in the neighbourhood, to spend the day at the Natural History Museum, somewhere that I’ve never really lingered very much.

Mineral Galleries, Natural History Museum

I’m so glad that I did. It’s treasure trove of fascinating exhibits and, though I didn’t find as many fossils as I’d hoped for on display I did discover the Mineral Galleries, up in the roof, which yielded an astounding array of colourful textures and surfaces:

mineral Samples, Natural History Museum sm

Some of these macro shots are almost reminiscent of a coral reef, with the minerals forming either beautifully organic structures or some really rather mathematical constructs, all effortlessly intersecting angles and sharp lines.

Plus, tucked away up there, I found two whole cases of silver mineral samples, some of which reminded me very much of those that I saw in Edinburgh, in January, all long, coiling wires that occurred naturally as the silver formed:

Silver Mineral Samples, Natural History Museum, London 2015

The two samples on the plinth are particularly large examples of these natural wires and are still attached to the rocks upon which they grew. They were found in Norway in 1834 and 1886 respectively, they hail from the Kongsberg Silver mines and are now housed in the Museum’s Vault exhibition space.

Craft & Design Magazine: Diary Writer 2015

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

I’m incredibly pleased and proud to be this year’s Craft and Design Magazine Diary Writer.

Becca Jewellery Diary Writer Craft Design Magazine

Each year the magazine chooses someone working in the contemporary crafts and gives them a chance to write an article for each issue, forming a diary of what’s going on in and around their practice.

This year they picked me! The first issue landed in the workshop today and I’m super excited! So, what are you waiting for? Go buy one or, better still, get a subscription – it’s a wonderful source of information and inspiration.

Exploring: What I learned in the National Museum of Scotland

posted in: Exploring | 1

The National Museum of Scotland, set in the heart of Edinburgh, is a veritable treasure trove of interesting objects and specimens from around the world.

Naional Museum of Scotland 2 copyHere’s what I learned when I visited last week:

– Silver, as a naturally occurring mineral, can grow into beautiful leafy dendritic crystal structures and coiling, wiry masses like this:

silver wire– In 1843 it was acceptable to ask Whalers to bring you back bone samples for your collections. But you had to remember to tell them not to carve things on them during the long voyage home:

Whale Jaw Bone with Scrimshaw, National Museum of Scotland– Birmingham was home to one of the country’s only specialists in lighthouse light construction: glassmakers Chance & Co

– The Museum houses a large collection of the internal workings from Lighthouses, and companies like Chance and Co made their construction into an art form:

ImageGen– The Flapjack Octopus is incredibly cute.

Tidal Pearl Rings

Becca Williams Tidal Pearl Ring 300dpi

 

Looking back at the blog, as I tend to do at this time of year, it’s become pretty obvious that I’ve made a fair few rings recently and, on balance, I’m pretty happy about that.

For a while I’ve been asked at shows and fairs if ‘I do that as a ring’ and whether I ‘make rings to commission’ (answer: yes, I’ll make anything to commission …) and I’ve spent some time during 2014 designing rings to sit alongside my existing work (like these stacking Flotsam ones) and to inspire new collections for the coming year. Here’s the final new addition to the online store in 2014:

Estuary Rings

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

Back in September, at the Malvern Autumn Show, I got asked to make some smaller earrings for my Estuary range and, when I did, it became pretty obvious that they’d look really cute on rings too!

So here they are:

Becca WIlliams Mini Estuary Earrings Etched Silver Ring 72dpi

 

… and here’s how they came together:

Handmade Britain: Chelsea Nov 14

posted in: Events | 0

 

Handmade Britain is just over a week away and, with some wonderful exhibitors on show here’s who I’m particularly looking forward to seeing:

beautifully layered colours from Linda Barletta/Sheen Pottery

Dish by Sheen Pottery
Dish by Sheen Pottery

 


raw edged silver vessels from Edward Mahony at  CreatStudio

Hand Raised silver vessels by CreatStudio
Hand Raised silver vessels by CreatStudio

richly coloured leather bags from Jane Hopkinson

Jane Hopkinson Leather Bags
Jane Hopkinson Leather Bags

delightfully textured metal from Jenny Balson Jewellery

Jenny Balson Jewellery
Jenny Balson Jewellery

looping, sculptural rings from Ellen Monaghan

Ring by Ellen Monaghan
Ring by Ellen Monaghan

and soft, subtle glazes from Sian Patterson

Sian Patterson Studio Ceramics
Cylinders by Sian Patterson Studio Ceramics

see the full exhibitor listing here

Commission: Penstemon Pendant

I just recently sent this freshly finished commission out to a customer, who requested it as a 40th Wedding Anniversary gift.

Penstemon Pendant Commission 10 Becca Williams Jewellery

His wife is particularly fond of penstemons – a tall distinctive plant with these bright, trumpet shaped flowers, a little like a fox glove. I started looking at the shape of the plant and flowers, then drew up a selection of designs to chose from, going for a bold, graphic interpretation of the plant:

Penstemon Pendant 1 Becca Williams Jewellery

My customer settled on the full silhouette of the plant – which was a lot of fun to delicately saw out and polish! The interior is gold plated, like my Estuary series, which adds a lovely contrast to it and the back is subtly engraved, above the hallmark, with the customers wedding and anniversary date:

I am assured that it was very well received and, now that their anniversary has passed, I can share the pictures without risk of spoiling the surprise!

Etched Estuary Rings

posted in: Jewellery | 0

Estuary Etched Silver Rings 7The stripey, coastal etching on my Estuary collection has long been a favourite of mine and, for the first time, I’ve gotten around to putting it onto some rings. I went with a plain, simple band to really make the most of the etching and I’m really happy with the bold, distinctive way that they’ve turned out.

They’ll be on my stand at fairs all winter and at the Craft Centre and Design Gallery in Leeds too.

Commission: Screw Post Tidal Earrings

posted in: Commissions | 0

Every now and again I get asked to alter one of my existing designs, or make something new, for someone with un-pierced ears. Finding earrings without the standard, pierced ear fittings can be especially tricky so I’m always happy to help when I can. There are a couple of good options available for people without pierced ears – either a hinged, clip style earring (which, I find, can sometimes lose it’s grip a little after wear) or, my personal preference: screw backed earrings.

These are made with neat, screw fittings which can be looped around the earlobe and then gently screwed onto the ear, to grip but not pinch – meaning that each person can chose the perfect pressure setting for them. Of course, these fittings take up more room than the standard, pierced earring post so clip on earrings are generally larger, to hide the fitting. I made this screw backed version of my Tidal studs earlier this month and just managed to tuck the fittings behind the earring – keeping the crisp silhouette that I like so much.

Here’s how they were put together:

Making Gold Screw Fitting Tidal Earrings Becca Williams 1Making Gold Screw Fitting Tidal Earrings Becca Williams 2Gold Screw Fitting Tidal Earrings Becca Williams 10

 

Workshop: Extraction for Jewellery Polishers

posted in: Workshop | 4

For many years I have got by in my workshop without a proper, large scale polisher. Oh, sure, I have a little barrel one (which is just brilliant) but not the full on, rotary kind. If things have needed a good, glossy polish I have either made do with a tiny polishing mop, mounted onto my pendant motor, or borrowed a friends larger polishing machine.

Well, no more! Back in the spring I found a local, third-hand polishing motor on eBay for a song and have finally had it re-wired, got it installed and ready to go. Of course, you don’t have to do much polishing to realise the value of extraction, while opening the windows is a fine start it is by no means enough when you’re using something that kicks out as much dust as a large polishing motor. Getting covered in polishing rouge is annoying but the real danger is combustible dust hanging around the workshop and getting stuck in your lungs.

Now, I’ll admit that I know very little about woodwork/carpentry and while I’ve seen some fine home-made extraction systems constructed entirely from cardboard boxes and gaffer tape, I really did want to get something a little more official – that I didn’t have to build. Most jewellery supply companies only stock ridiculously expensive, all in one extraction solutions which I’m sure are brilliant – but which would be like a sledgehammer to a walnut in my little workshop.

Moleroda Jewellery Polishing

Thankfully, there’s eBay. I found a nice, friendly little outfit in Salisbury, called Moleroda who have an eBay store here and a comprehensive website here. They specialise in polishing stuff and do a nifty little fold-up plastic polishing hood that can be cut to fit your machine, and a vacuum to use as an extractor, all in one listing. Having looked about a fair bit it’s easily the most cost-effective solution that I’ve come across and it solved all of my problems in one go.

So I bought one of these.

The dust hood does a surprisingly credible Transformer impression:

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood

in it’s flat pack state but it folds up very quickly (and simply) and is held together by yellow electrical tape, which is included in the parcel:

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood, folding

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood, fitting

I did have to cut the triangular, side ‘wing’ sections off (mainly to avoid them extending over the edge of my very skinny polishing table) but the sturdy, corrugated plastic didn’t seem to mind this and holds together very well without them. I’ve secured the whole thing down with a few tiny panel pins and it is, so far, very stable.

The dust hood has a pre-cut hole in the centre of the back, for inserting the hose of a vacuum but, as you can see, I don’t really have an abundance of space to work with behind my polisher – so I’ve opted to fit the extractor on the side – cutting a new hole in the plastic (again, not too tricky a maneuver):

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood - side fitting

and have used the angled head (that comes with the vacuum) to get the whole thing positioned correctly. That seems to have worked a treat and, now that the hoses are all connected up, I have a fully functional dust catching and extracting system to keep my lungs safe and my workshop tidy.

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood with extractor fitted

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood and extractor, fitted

Commission: Bird Bracelet

A few weeks ago I made this cute little silver bird bracelet, as a wedding gift:

 

Becca Williams silver chain bird silhouette bracelet 3smsq


With one catch but two chains the layout makes the little birds look like they’re just swooping past each other in the air as they hang on your wrist.

Here are a few work in progress images:

… do get in touch if you’d like a commission of your own

Lake District Lithographs – Alan Stones

posted in: Exploring | 0

While in the Lake District last month I stumbled across the Mere Gallery, just above Lake Windermere. In their window and across their walls were a series of stark, black and white lithographs by local artist Alan Stones. I was very much taken in by their simple sense of space where swathes of blank, white paper are offset by comparatively tiny, delightfully detailed prints of birds and people, landscapes and activities, almost lost in the white space but, thankfully, not quite.

Here are a few favourites to enjoy:

Arc Alan StonesArc

Take Wing, Alan Stones Take WingSkein (vi) Alan Stones Skein (vi)Climb (ii)  Alan StonesClimb (ii)

Craft at the Three Choirs Festival, Worcester 2014

posted in: Events, exhibition | 0

This year the annual Three Choirs Festival returns to the city of Worcester for a glorious week of music in the historic Cathedral.

The Worcestershire Guild of Designer Craftsmen will, once again, be celebrating the event by hosting a contemporary craft fair in the Cathedral grounds, presenting a selection of work from local designer makers.

 

Worcestershire Guild Craft Three Choirs Poster 2014

Alongside the Worcestershire Guild will be members of the Cotswold and Herefordshire Craft Guilds, both of whose home cities also play host to the Three Choirs Festival, on alternate years.

The show opens on Saturday 26th July and runs until Saturday 2nd August, opening from 10am to 8pm each day.

The Standard Works – Jewellery Quarter

13 Standard Works Jewellery Quarter 2014 Becca Williams sm

Built in 1879 the old Standard Works building dominates a large stretch of Vittoria Street, on the far edge of the Quarter, and has long been one of my favourite buildings in the area. Disappointingly derelict for the best part of two decades it has thus far avoided all attempts to turn it into residential property, or to resurrect it for industrial use – until it was finally sold, just a few weeks ago, to the Ruskin Mill Trust, a further education organisation for young people with learning and emotional difficulties.

With plans to build specialist teaching rooms, a theatrical space and even it’s own artisan bakery the team behind the conversion of the space are ambitious – with an eye to fit the project into the community and recall some of the buildings’ past with the inclusion of jewellery education workshops in the scheme.

So, last weekend, the people behind the project allowed a bunch of curious locals with cameras into the building to get a sense of what the project is about and have a tour of this remarkable building.

 

Here’s what I saw:

Workshop Renovations, pt 2

posted in: Workshop | 0

Workshop renovations are coming on apace, with the last coat of paint due to go on the walls tomorrow I’ve roped in some wonderful helpers to build benches, put up an awful lot of scavenged worktop and generally aid in making the place ship shape. And all I had to do was feed them.

Seriously though, I couldn’t have done this without the generous help that I’ve received along the way so far – and can’t wait to move in to the finished space.

Fotor0501191753Fotor0501191548

Workshop Renovations – pt1

posted in: Workshop | 0

It’s been clear for a while now that I’ve needed a bigger workshop, I’ve got to a point where I need to invest in larger machinery, where I’d like to be able to stretch out, make bigger work and be able to have more space to plan designs as well as ‘just’ making things. I’ve got ideas of teach a little too and for that I will definitely require more space.

So, after a few dreary January afternoons combing the ‘to let’ adverts in and around the Jewellery Quarter I finally found somewhere that just felt right the instant that I walked through the door.

sm20140413_112929
Typically, it was last on a long list of properties to see, it was cold, dreary and may even have been raining outside. But, inside, there was light, and space and okay, it’s in the attic of a rickety old building but hey, I’ve always thought that it’s the haphazard structures that give the Jewellery Quarter a lot of its charm. 

And now, after quite a lot of official procedures (and filling in reams of forms) I have the keys and am starting to strip things back, ready to paint and to build:

 

Stacks of Flotsam Rings …

Becca Williams stacking rings in progress

I spent some time this week working on an idea for a new design of stacking rings, to compliment my Flotsam range, with hammered textures and a couple of different shades of freshwater pearls:

They’ll be winging there way out to my galleries soon …

Etched Estuary Napkin Rings

posted in: Silversmithing | 0

Becca Williams Etched Silver Estuary Napkin Rings

These are my lovely new etched napkin rings, just back from the photographers. They’re the first round pair of napkin rings that I’ve done and, while the etch was a little challenging (especially on the inside of one!) I think that they’ve come out wonderfully.

Have a look at the making images here:

Ideas for new work …

posted in: Silversmithing | 0

A secluded January in the studio has given me time to think about some new ideas and where I want to start taking my work in 2014. I’ve been busy already, starting to etch on a larger scale (more of that later) and beginning to work on some new pieces of silverware for my exhibition stand.

Here’s a sneaky peak at some rocking Tidal napkin rings, works in progress:

Tidal Napkin Rings

which have just gone off for hallmarking …

 

Centrepiece 20th Nov – 23rd Dec 2013

posted in: Jewellery | 0

Centrepiece 2013 opens at Symphony Hall this Thursday with 28 local designer makers  selling their work in the run up to Christmas.

Centrepiece Logo

The show will be open from 10am – 10pm everyday and is always staffed by the designers themselves, here’s a selection of what will be available (to help you out with your Christmas gift buying … )

Commission – Engraved Bangle

This lovely little commission went through the workshop over the summer, the engraved detail comes from a drawing the recipient did on her 21st Birthday.

Edward Smith Bangle 2013 A

The engraving stretches around the front face of the bangle and I was really pleased to get such an interesting design to work into a piece. The main body of the bangle is a reversed D section, with the comfortable curve next to the wrist and the larger, flat surface area facing out to take the engraving.

If you’d like something special commissioned  yourself then do get in touch.

Cornwall

posted in: Exploring | 0

This summer I took my first trip to the Cornish seaside, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit but have never managed to – now that I have I think that it could now become a firm favourite of mine.

I spent a few days wandering around the local beaches, exploring the South Coast Path where it meandered by the campsite and generally soaking in the sound of the waves and the blue, blue sea. The landscape is certainly inspiring, at turns gentle then wild and I was so sad to come home!

Polly Joke Beach, Cornwall
Polly Joke Beach, Cornwall

Of course I didn’t spend the whole week wandering along the coastline (though that wouldn’t have been a challenge) I did venture down to St Ives to take in the light and explore the twisting streets of the town. It offers up a whole host of independent galleries filled with the work of local and international makers and artists, many of whom have been influenced by the beautiful local landscape.

Spread across two floors in the centre of St Ives is the New Craftsman Gallery which is currently hosting work by, among others, Neil Davis and Cornelius Jakob Van Dop.

Neil Davies, Indigo Skies over Sennen
Neil Davies, Indigo Skies over Sennen

Davies paints landscapes, with big, heavy brush strokes and expressive sweeps of colour that all build up on top of each other into some seriously captivating textures. Some of them are stormy, some a little serene as he reacts to the changes in the seasons around his home near St Ives.

Neil Davies, Reflections on the North Coast
Neil Davies, Reflections on the North Coast
Neil Davies, Watching the Crashing Waves at Boat Cove
Neil Davies, Watching the Crashing Waves at Boat Cove

Tucked away in a cabinet downstairs was the work of Cornelius Jakob Van Dop, a jeweller and metalsmith with a clear love for texture, line and the natural world. His small, palm sized boxes are decorated with beautiful illustrations of the coastal landscape and wildlife. There was something in them that reminded me of sailors scimshaw carvings, filled with the details that had been keenly observed during a life looking at the sea.

Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Box
Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Box

They were beautifully made, with neat hinges and simple dimple locking mechanisms that functioned neatly and really let the quality of the illustrations come across. Alongside these were a collection of animal and insect brooches, I particularly liked the whale, simply made in plain silver with more of that glorious fine detailing:

Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Box
Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Box
Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Brooch
Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Brooch

The Gallery is open all year round and details can be found here.

Desire – Kensington [March 2013]

posted in: Events, exhibition | 0

I recently spent the weekend at Desire in London surrounded by a wonderful collection of jewellery and silverware from some of the finest makers in the country.  In the heart of Kensington the event has just moved into, hopefully, a new permanent home where it can grow and build up quite a following.

Natalie Harris:

Natalie Jane Harris

Besides the jewellery on show it was encouraging and inspiring to see so much silverware represented – British Silverweek brought a considerable amount of new talent with it to sit alongside more established makers like Andrew MacGowan and Esther Lord.

Collete Bishop:

Colette-Bishop

Showed a sumptuous little selection of her neat, smoothly curving vessels, off set by their jagged tops and beautifully tactile in form.

Fiona McAlear:

Fiona MacAlear

Brought this little vessel along – just look at the beautiful, intricate detailing on the lid:

Fiona MacAlear Lid

it makes what could be quite a heavy piece feel delicate – and makes a lovely feature of the hinge.

Kathryn Hinton:

Kathryn Hinton

 

and I had a quick chat with Kathrine Hinton who makes use of some wonderful new technologies (computer modelling, digital hammer blows and some very fine rapid prototyping) to produce tiny, detailed vessels and jewellery with surfaces that you just want to hold and explore:

Kathryn Hinton

New ellipses …

posted in: Uncategorized | 1

Silver Castings - necklace and jump rings

I collected some new castings in the week and finally got them onto my bench today. I made the original copper models of these, looking at pictures I took of the shapes of little fishing boats moored out in a harbour.

There’s a very definite stripe that runs through the centre, on a curve, which I think I’ll put a bright, burnished edge onto once it’s all cleaned up and joined together.

18ct Yellow gold & silver stacking rings

I made these rather lovely 18ct yellow gold and silver stacking rings this autumn and have just realised that the images never made it onto my blog … Working in yellow gold made a nice change from my more usual red gold and the soft sandy texture looked great in yellow metal:

 

Centrepiece 2012

posted in: Events, exhibition | 1

Today I set my work up at Birmingham’s annual selling exhibition of contemporary jewellery and silverware. Centrepiece, now in it’s 15th year is a showcase for some of the best makers in the Jewellery Quarter and well worth a visit (though I say so myself …)

This year some new and guest designers have joined the show bringing in ideas about ethical gold, recycled work and some inventive use of new technologies. Here are a few of the highlights:

and a sneaky peak at what’s in my cabinet:

The show is open from Thursday 15th November until Sunday 23rd December from 10.30am – 8.30pm (or later) everyday and is staffed by the designers – so you just might be buying work straight from the hands that made it!

 

Goldsmiths Fair 2012 [Week Two]

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

The end of Septmeber/beginning of October is marked indelibly in the industry calendar as ‘Goldsmiths Fair‘. Now in it’s 30th year the two week event sees some of the nations finest makers of jewellery and silverware gather in London to present new work to visitors in the splendid surroundings of Goldsmiths Hall.

Here’s who I loved this year:

Petya Kapralova :

maker of  sculptural pieces, tableware and desk accessories Kapralova is a new graduate with an eye for balance and beautiful simplicity. Some of her most striking pieces, made from silver and silver inlaid iron (I have no idea how you’d even start to inlay silver in iron, but hats off to her as she makes it sound effortless) play with your expectations and amuse themselves with their inlaid silver ‘reflections’.

Alex Ramsey:

I’ve admired Ramsey’s work for years but haven’t seen much of it in person before. This year, fresh from a trip to Iceland, she was presenting some new pieces that use her trademark saw pierced technique but employ smatterings of enamel too, creating some wonderful textures and sprays of colour over her silverware.

Sarah Pulvertaft:

Forms jewellery from many tiny components, aiming to capture the complexity of nature in her work. In delicate mixes of silver and gold the many tiny forms build up into a larger whole with a subtle, shimmering motion to them which does indeed make them feel like they have a life of their own.

DIY: Vice Installation

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

Now, I’m fairly confident playing with precious metals but yesterday I had to do some proper DIY.

I’ve treated myself to a new workshop vice (I know, I could have bought shoes …) which has been sitting around for a fortnight while I worked up the courage to get the really big drill out. Normally I would just look pitiful until Mr W came to my rescue but he insists that I must learn and, therefore, I did DIY:

It wasn’t particularly fun (the lock nuts were particularly tricky with only a spanner and a pair of pliers) but I am proud of having managed it:

Plus I’ve tested it and it didn’t fall off the worktop onto my foot *hurrah*

Sapphire Earrings: Part one

posted in: Commissions | 1

Today I spent some time working on a something for a family friend, making sapphire earrings to match a piece that she’s going to wear on her wedding day.

It was something of a rush job so instead of making a wax carving to cast or getting them put into CAD/CAM production I opted to go all old fashioned and make them totally by hand:

It was actually really nice to get engrossed in something a little different from my usual work, and to have a bit of a challenge too.

So now they’re ready to polish and, after that, the stones will go in (probably sometime next week):

Caddy Spoon

I make some long handled tea spoons that have been part of my stand for a while now and, at a recent show, I took a commission for a caddy spoon version.

A Caddy Spoon is not an item that I’ve made before but is somehing that I’ve wanted to try for a while. I had a little drawing of the customer’s tea caddy and a fair idea of what would suit – knowing that they already liked my tea spoons. So I set about cutting the bowl of the spoon and raising it up then trimming it to back to a shape that I liked.

I had a few issues with the size of the handle – my long handled tea spoons have 4mm round handles but that just looked way too light weight once it was cut to the right length for this short handled caddy spoon. So I took the dimensions up to around 5mm round and think that it balances much better now. It certainly feels nicer in your hand and I’m a lot happier with the design knowing that I changed the weight of the handle.

Here’s a few images of the work in progress …

and the finished spoon, ready to go for hallmarking:

Standing on the shore, staring at the sea …

During the summer Angela Learoyd will be hosting a show in her beautiful Scottish gallery, filled with work that evokes the coast.

I was really excited to be asked to get involved – as the theme of the show matches the spirit of my work perfectly. There’s a wonderful selection of makers involved too:

Kathryn Williamson

Lindsay Kirkpatrick

Angela O’Keefe

The show runs from the 6th of July to the 1st of September in Angela’s Gallery in Doune, Scotland.

Fit for Purpose – Contemporary British Silversmiths at the V&A

When I was in London for Jewellery Week I made some time to sneak down to one of my favourite parts of the city – the Victoria and Albert Museum. Over the summer it’s hosting a show for the Contemporary British Silversmith‘s Society entitled ‘Fit for Purpose‘.

At the back of the silver galleries is a delicious little case filled with contemporary silverware:

The show has an interesting concept given that, in the last century or so, the market for silver has changed so radically and the ‘purpose’ for which most silverware is now made has shifted. Gone are the days of large firms making household, utilitarian silverware and the market is now much more dominated by studio makers exploring the craft for private clients and small retailers.

The work on display is varied, from that clearly designed for a more traditional purpose – like Louise Mary‘s salad servers (utilitarian, but no less elegant for being so) to the intentionally conceptual pieces of Rajesh Gogna.

There’s also a beautiful piece of Kevin Grey‘s laser welded work, a stunning set of angular beakers from Mary Ann Simmons and a wonderful sculptural tray from Alex Ramsey, which bears her distinctive and delicate cut patterning spread across a form I’ve not seen before.

For a small case it’s a wonderful collection of work that’s well worth a visit – the show continues in the V&A silver galleries until the 16th of September 2012.

Commissions: Stacking Rings

A little commission for a set of stacking rings went through the workshop last week  (they’re a larger sizer of a design that the customer liked on my stand at a show)

On the peg, before polishing:

Ready to go – the set consists of 2x plain and 2x decorated stacking, reticulated silver rings:

Key Hill’s new gates …

My workshop windows look out over Key Hill cemetery and it’s a hidden part of the Jewellery Quarter that I’m really rather fond of.

When  I moved into the area many years ago the sandstone gates were in seriously bad repair but, over the past few years a lot of restoration (mainly funded by the fine efforts of FKWC) has gone on throughout the Quarters two Victorian cemeteries. A week or so ago the scaffolding came down from the Key Hill gate posts on Key Hill Drive after what looks like a final round of restoration.

And they’re pretty darn stunning once again:

Reticulated texture

While my workshop was open over the weekend I used the opportunity to make a batch of my new seaside pieces for a couple of galleries. I find, when I have multiples of one thing to make, that I easily get into a good working rhythm and gain some good working momentum.

I’m fairly new to reticulation though and I have to watch these pieces like a hawk to avoid melting them! Lately I’m getting a better feel for how the surface textures of the silver changes, and how to spot the warning signs of over heating – but when  started out it was all rather trial and error.

So, you start off with your nice, shiny wire:

and get heating, with a nice, gentle, feathery flame. I use charcoal bricks to support work that I’m reticulating – it tends not to stick to the charcoal and the heat reflects really nicely (which helps to keep the temperature even through the metal). There’s a brilliant tutorial on Ganoskin which takes you through the process and a quick video of me reticulating the wire here. With this being the end result:

Going back over the piece with a slightly more intense flame, right at the end, seems to even out the surface really well too. Once it’s all pickled clean for the final time it’ll look something like this:

these polish up beautifully into a texture that proves to be  wearing ever so well:

All set for Open Studios:

posted in: Events | 0

I set the workshop up today for the Centrepiece Open Studios:

It was nice to have a bit of a spring clean, blow the dust off the lamps and lay out my wares in the workshop again. I had a few visitors this afternoon (we trialed an evening opening this year which I think worked quite well) and hopefully there’ll be some more tomorrow. Drop by if you’re in Birmingham to see me – and the 30 other Centrepiece members and guests who’ll be opening their workshops:

Centrepiece Jewellery Quarter Open Studios Map
Centrepiece Open Studios map – Click to enlarge

 

British Craft Trade Fair 2012 – Jewellery Newcomers

posted in: exhibition | 2

The newcomers section at this year’s British Craft Trade Fair was an especially vibrant and lovely place, filled with exciting ideas and makers keen to talk about their work and how their businesses are developing.

Emily Knight:

Emily Knight's Stand

Emily Knight trained up in Glasgow and her work has a beautiful emphemeral quality about it. She displayed her distinctive silver and enamel pieces against hand drawn sketches – which looked so wondefully natural that you can’t help feeling that the walls were an extention of her sketchbook.

Emily Knight, Brooches

She’s got a wondeful eye for setting colours together without the enamels looking harsh and the fun, quirky details (like the little silver bicycles) makes them wonderful and light.

Emily Knight, bangles

Maneggi:

Then, just down the aisle from me was this lovely stand:

Maneggi - Ribbon Jewellery

featuring work from Maneggi, who, well – has a thing for ribbons … and wonderfully sculptural things she does with them too. With a really sensitive eye for colour she combines ribbons and pearls into little wearable structures:

Maneggi, Aqua and Pearl

 

They have quite a soft, vintage feel which is given a classic edge by her use of the pearls and other beads that give form to her pieces.

Karen Fox:

Karen Fox Jewellery Stand

And just one aisle over was the work of Karen Fox, another recent graduate with a passion for neat, structured pieces built up out of layers of texture. Her larger scale ruffle pieces (like the collar that you can just see on the left) wouldn’t look out of place at the ballet and have a defnite theatrical, Elizabethan flavour that makes you want to layer them up into giant sculptures.

Karen Fox, Ruffle Series

The whole show catalogue is online here for you to get a flavour of just how much craft work was on show.

It was a truly stunning collection of work from new and established makers alike which gives me a lot of hope for the future of the creative industries in the UK – it’s really wonderful to be working in so vibrant a marketplace.

Beautiful Seaside basics …

posted in: Jewellery | 0

I’ve been feeling the need for things to be a little simpler lately. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my new Beachcomber pieces but I also like wearing neat, simple everyday jewellery that can handle a tough week in the workshop and doesn’t need to be taken off when you get in the shower, still half asleep, in the morning.

And, for that matter, it’s nice to have jewellery that you can sleep in.

So a couple of months ago I made myself these:

and I haven’t really taken them out since. Sure, I’ve changed them for more special or dressy occasions but they’ve always gone right back in again after.

They’re silver and lightly reticulated, meaning that they’ve been heated to the point where the silver just begins to turn liquid – then cooled off to preserve the wonderful, slightly rough texture that that leaves behind:

It burnishes up to a lovely, warm glow that looks soft and natural.

I’ve put a small range together:

Simple pendants in silver (with a red gold accent):

Stacks of bangles, also silver with a red gold accent:

and rings (silver and red gold):

which I’m testing myself – they wear beautifully and feel really summery!

You can find the whole range right here

British Craft Trade Fair 2012

posted in: Events, exhibition | 4

I spent the weekend at the British Craft Trade Fair introducing some of my work to trade buyers and getting the first real public reaction to the new beachcomber pieces. I’ve never independantly taken my work to a trade show before but the whole expereince was overwhelmingly positive.

The show had over 400 stands filled with handmade, british contemporary craft and the high standard of the work on show was inspiring. It was wonderful to be in such creative company and everyone was so nice. Working on your own it’s easy to forget how many other people are working and learning about handmaking all the time too – and I swapped a few good stories and bits of advice with the other exhibitors.

Anyway, it wasn’t all about us jewellers talking shop – here’s how my stand looked for the show:

I’m really quite pleased with how much I got into a 1m x 2m space and the clean minimal look that the white walls gave it all. I generally have more space at retail shows but I think I’ll keep using this set up, only with a bigger table top …

Ferns …

posted in: Exploring | 0

I took a little Good Friday drive out yesterday with my parents which, naturally, ended at a Garden Centre.

Now, I like plants and all but I’m no expert. When I buy them I really just go for things that I think are pretty. This was a specialist fern nursery with a quite stunning collection of fern colours and textures on show:

I was so inspired by it all that I bought this little one home – I’ll get him comfortably settled into a shady bit of the workshop next week:

Serendipity #3: Getting close to finished …

I ventured into the Jewellery Quarter on a Sunday today for the first time in aaages to get these pieces all ready to go off to Assay on Monday. There’s a couple of new pendant designs (and some more studs):

Plus, I got the pieces of that big new necklace sanded:

Satined:

and almost ready to string together:

Serendipity #2: making …

I set to work bright and way too early this morning on the piece with those coral stones from yesterday:

Cutting forms (carefully numbered so that I get one of each half … )

Then soldering, filing and sanding to shape.

and it’s looking most promising.

I’ll put the final finish on soon …

Serendipity #1

I’ve been struggling for a week or so to come up with a larger, eye catching piece for the middle of my stand at the BCTF in a couple of weeks. I’ve thrown a lot of ideas around the workshop but the right one has been eluding me … I knew that I wanted to work at a slightly larger scale (and maybe use some stones) but nothing I tried was working.

Then Marcia Lanyon came to town:

A London based stone dealer Marcia and her team make a trip up to the Quarter a few times a year to sell to students in the university (where I first encountered her) and, more recently, to the general public in Cookson‘s foyer. The nicest thing about her visits is that you get time and space to fully inspect the stock, sorting through the jumble of lovely things that she and her team bring with her.

I was idling through the selection when I came by this:

A kind of fossilised coral. Isn’t it beautiful?

Each piece is different, with faint coral textures and an abstract shape all it’s own. It’s going to be just perfect for a big, new press formed piece!

I planned it all out and made the dies today so tomorrow I’ll set to work on it …

Pressform Practice #7: Finished Work

posted in: Jewellery | 0

So, here they are – the first images of final, finished press fomed pieces!

I’ve learned so much making these, it’s given me lots of ideas for where to take the work next, with etchings and finshes and new shapes – it’s very exciting.

So, back to the workshop …

Press Form Practice #7:

I got the acid out today and etched some little studs to test the textures.

I matted them afterwards for nice, washed-up-on-the-coast feel and had a play with finishes:

These are patinated black and left matte:

I like it on the earrings but I think it might be a bit too much when you get up to the brooch scale …

The form in these pieces is really important and in a way I think that having such a strong etch might have taken away from that.

I’ll take some pictures over the weekend of the plain frosted ones and the etched ones together and see how they compare …

Texture and the frosting wheel …

posted in: Uncategorized | 5

Obviously I do a lot of etching but, sometimes, I think simple forms look great just with simple textures. I really love a good higgh polished finish but, now that I’m working with Britannia silver I worry that the hard, high polish won’t last when the piece is worn and anyway, there’s nothing like shiny silver for showing fingerprints.

So, in an experimental mood, I popped out of the workshop to Walshes and bought one of these babies:

A frosting wheel.

Honestly, it looks utterly terrifying mounted on my pendant motor – the spines are very fine steel wire and when they’re spinning they look pretty vicious – but I’m assured that it’s fine so long as you’re careful.

I got one of my spare copper samples out and set to it, initially it looks like you’re ruining the surface that you just spent ages sanding but, once you build up the texture, it’s quite lovely:

It grows into a nice, soft sheen that has a soft sparkle and is ever so slightly rough to touch.

Now, hand me a silver one to test it on …

Press Form Practice #5 – Britannia Silver

I bought my first piece of Britannia silver yesterday:

Britannia Silver

– it’s a lot like Sterling silver but while the Sterling stuff is 925 parts per thousand pure silver (the rest being an alloy of copper etc) Britannia is 958 parts per thousand pure silver.

This means that Britannia is a little softer than Sterling and much more suggestable. It stretches where Sterling might have cracked and is more cooperative for things like ambitious silversmithing and spinning.

So Britannia seemed just the thing when I was struggling to move my pressforming from beautiful, stretchy copper into unyielding sterling silver …

In terms of cutting, annealing and polishing I really can’t tell the difference between the two alloys but for overall stretchiness Britannia wins hands down.

Here’s how I got on with it:

It’s my first silver piece on the new press forms and I’m really pleased with how well it’s come out, now I just need to make some etching/finish decisions and I might have a range ready for the spring!

(blogged at Brewsmiths)

Craft Makers Market – Avoncroft Arts Centre

posted in: Events | 0

The Craft Makers Market re-opened for 2012 today with a splendid little selection of contemporary craft work on show at Avoncroft Arts Centre, just outside Bromsgrove.

I packed up my things and headed on over to join in with a great selection of craft work from around the region:

with a mix of textiles, glass, jewellery and woodwork.

Among the lovelies on show was the work of Murgatroyd and Bean, makers of seriously cute textiles:

who produce some rather fine applique/embroideries like these (click to visit their Folksy store) in a most adorable fashion.

The Market takes place every 1st Sunday of the month with a changing pogramme of makers – for more details on who’ll be there and how to get there visit the site here.

Two scarred fingers, walking the Quarter

posted in: Exploring | 2

The Jewellery Quarter has two historic Pavement Trails, put in as kind of DIY walking tours around the time of the millennium. I see parts of them pretty much everyday but this is one of my favourite markers:

It’s a homage to the humble benchpeg, an incredibly simple thing that takes a lot of punishment. The faithful benchpeg soldiers on until (in my case) you’ve drilled so many holes in it that it disintegrates. I rarely give mine much credit but I’d hate to try making anything without its support.

If you fancy heading out to soak up a little history then you can download a PDF of the pavement Trail right here:

Facebook Finds #2: Colour me bright …

posted in: Exploring | 0

It’s a little dreary and grey today so here are a few of my brighter Facebook finds to cheer things up:

Thea Clark goes to town exploring mixed media and modern technology to produce pieces that are at once soft and structural, they’re a neat play of very organic surfaces against harsher prints:

Thea Clark. Cyan Chain, mixed media brooch, paper, plastic, nickel , pearls, wood, tinted plastic, 2010
Thea Clark. Cyan Square, mixed media brooch with cyanotype on silk, wood, plexiglass, tinted plastic, nickel, 2010.

Jacqueline Ryan is much more traditional in her approach to getting colour onto metal  – she uses enameling – but the way she makes up her pieces, from tiny units inspired by the natural world is just breathtaking:

Jacqueline Ryan
Jacqueline Ryan
Jacqueline Ryan - Sketchbook Image

And then there’s Stephanie Tomczak who combines enamel and natural materials to superb effect, bringing out the wonderful qualities of each:

Stephanie Tomczak, Oceanic Gems Collection
Stephanie Tomczak, Oceanic Gems Collection

Press Form Practice #4

So, where was I with my press forming?

Ah, yes – earrings:

I’ve played around with the balance and hang of the larger piece a little more and I think I’m finally settled. I much prefer slightly asymmetric shapes to the precise structure of symmetrical ones – these look a little more like the fish/boats and sea of the coast that inspired them. I’ve got some new etching patterns in mind to decorate them too.

So far the range is shaping up like this:

though there’s at least another large brooch form already cut and waiting to be sampled on my bench …

Made in the Middle – MAC, Birmingham

posted in: exhibition, Exploring | 3

I wandered down to the MAC in the wintery sunshine today and paid a visit to Craftspace’s new Made in the Middle exhibition which moved in a couple of weeks ago. Featuring work from 35 makers in the middle of the UK (and, bizarrely, at least one from Wales…) the show covers the broad sprectrum of contemporary craft from ceramics to textiles via silversmithing and glass.

Made in the Middle at the MAC

It’s great to see so much diversity in a show like this – there’s a lot to connect with no matter what your taste and, while obviously I was drawn like a magpie to the metalwork, I was also fascinated by this:

Made in the Middle - detail of Charlotte Clark's glass

It’s a close up of Charlotte Clark‘s cast glass sculptures which are just stunning. She cuts through blocks of glass that are filled with voids and swirls of colour to expose the rough textures within – this one contained a hole host of beautiful tones and bubbles that evoked a storm at sea.

Made in the Middle - Charlotte Clark

There’s a posied sense of balance about her work, while the shapes of the sculptures are all geometric their harsh, mathematical lines are broken as the internal bubbles and ‘flaws’ in the glass touch the surface. Working with a substance like this must make for a constantly suprising results …

Just next to Charlotte’s work is case full of Kevin Grey‘s silversmithing. He’s something of a rising star at the moment with his distinctive, layered pieces that are gently organic and show off a dedicated attention to detail:

Made in the Middle - Kevin Grey

One of the nice things about this show is that it’s set out to discover how people made their way into working in contemporary craft, whether they’re straight out of uni or have come into it as a second career. Kevin is one of the latter, with years of experience in the luxury automative industry impacting his work. This background, blended with traditional skills means that he’s pretty free to bend the age old ‘rules’ of silversmithing to good effect. On the Made in the Middle website there’s a super photo diary of how Kevin made one of these gorgeous pieces which is well worth a look, here.

Made in the Middle - Kevin Grey

And, as I was heading out I spotted these:

Made in the Middle - Marcus Steel

With industrial overtones these base metal and silver sculptures are part giant chess pieces and part art deco factory buildings. They’re suberbly constructed with neat, smooth lines and clever details that are understated yet elegant. The base metals that make up most of the pieces have been chemically treated to patinate the surfaces – leaving rich, deep colours that highlight the silver details.

Made in the Middle - deatil of Marcus Steel's work

I really would recommend a visit if you’e got an hour or so to spare. Made in the Middle is open at the MAC until the 15th of April then it heads off on tour around the middle of the UK, finally closing in July 2013.

Made in the Middle - feedback board

Earrings today #2 …

posted in: Uncategorized | 2

I soldered up that test earring press form today and I’m really encouraged by how nicely it turned out.

Fitting the ring to the top was a little fiddly (luckily I have a lot of fragments of firebrick lying around) but I got it balanced in the end:

here it is, all sanded down and in my ear (just to give you an idea of scale)

I think the form works well, but I’m a little concerned that the asymmetry of the shape is causing it to hang ever so slightly off centre. I’m going to make up a couple more and adjust the positioning of the ring – just to see if that helps it to hang more evenly.

Of course, I might be the only one who notices it …

Press form practice …

posted in: Uncategorized | 1

I got some time today to have a play with the fly press and work out some ideas for a new range that I want to take to the British Craft Trade Fair in April.

It’s nice to have development time but I’m also aware of my self imposed, end of March deadline to get all the work done! Here’s what I was thinking on today:

… more tomorrow, as well as an interesting Arts Trail meeting in Worcester …

The Heart Cutter from Wisconsin

posted in: Uncategorized | 10

A very exciting parcel arrived at the workshop last Friday:

Last year I invested in a Swanstrom disc cutter from Rio Grande and, without doubt, it’s one of the best tools that I own. This year those clever folks at Swanstrom have designed shaped cutters and my latest acquisition is this little heart shaped beauty:

Naturally I had it out on my bench and cutting things in under 3 minutes – and the little hearts come out just perfectly:

So I grabbed some spare silver and made a heart shaped version of my larger Flotsam pendants:

I’m really pleased with how well it came out, it’s neat, lovely and slightly more floral my usual. I think it’ll be just perfect for valentines.

I polished it up and the final piece is here:

To celebrate the new cutter (I know, I’m a little crazy about tools …) I’m going to run a Valentines Giveaway so, if you’d like to win the first product of the new cutter, then check out the details here.

(… and here’s a quick final shot of my disc cutter, Albie, and Winnie (of Wisconsin) nestled safely together on the bench. Aw!)

Organising my bench …

posted in: Uncategorized | 2

I lose things on my bench all the time and, just before Christmas, I went a little way towards solving that problem when I bought these lovely, lovely bowls at a fair in Leamington:

They’re made by Nicola Crocker, a ceramicist from Northern Devon who shares my love of the seaside – and her work really does look like it just washed up on the beach. I bought three little bowls, around 2″ across, in blue, green and pink shades, it was a difficult choice given the beautiful selection of colours that I was presented with:

her work comes in larger, sculptural variations too – though all with that gorgeous seaside focus.

Check out her website here.

Silverware for 2012 #3

posted in: Silversmithing | 0

so, back at the bench today and fitting the base on this little beast proved rather a tricky manoeuvre. What works in card and sticky tape does not always work in metal and it needed a lot of shifting, filing and re-measuring to eventually get a neat fit.

With all the pieces lined up:

I bound it altogether, though I’m running out of the good, thick binding wire that I bought in uni so this is rather a Heath Robinson affair:

and the nice recessed base looks super:

I think I’m getting there with this piece, it’s a really cute size, so I’ll let it hang around the workshop for a day or so while I think about it, tweak it and draw etching patterns on it in sharpie!

Visit: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

posted in: Exploring | 0

I had a spare moment last week and snuck off to have a look at the silver collection at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  The collection covers many centuries and each time I visit I seem to spot something that I hadn’t seen before.

How did I miss this?

Jewel Box by Alex Telford in silver 1974-5, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

I love the pebble shapes on the lid (it isn’t exactly clear how it opens …) which are beautifully, asymmetrically smooth and quite inspirational for the fly pressing I’m planning to do later this week. I would love to know exactly how it was made.

Detail of Jewel Box by Alex Telford in silver 1974-5 at Birmingham Museum and Art Galler

The only other example of Alex Telford work I’ve been able to find is in the V&A:

Coffee Pot, Sugar Bowl and Milk Jug, 1974 by Alex Telford at V&A

the gorgeous mix of silver and flawless enamel is here again – plus the bulbous, pebble-esque shapes in the handles of the vessels. I really like how clean and modern the enameled body is, it sits really well alongside those polished handles.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for his pieces in museums in the future …

Silverware for 2012 #2

… remember those silversmithing thoughts from the other day?

Well – I went from paper model to copper model this week:

which is always interesting. There’s less than 1mm of difference between the thickness of the card for the model and the thinkness of the copper sheet but my, does it make a difference! Seeing something in metal gives it a whole new dimension and really made me realise quite quickly that this piece was just way too big.

So, a quick trip down the road to the photocopier at Delta Pi and voila! A new, smaller piece:

I made a few alterations to the basic shape, just to change the outline of the curves and the next copper sample is now ready for soldering:

more pictures soon …

Facebook Finds #1

posted in: Exploring, Jewellery | 0

Facebook steals hours of your life. Snooping through old acquaintances photographs at 3am is something everyone does but no one talks about. Right?

Recently though, I’ve started using my Facebook time a little more constructively by exploring Facebook pages. Pages allow businesses and organisations to have a kind of Facebook profile and stay in touch with people interested in what they do. Folksy has done some super articles on how to use them to promote your handmade business (like this one here) and I’m really starting to love mine.

This recent exploration has turned up some lovely, lovely things that I thought I’d share:

1.

Bekki Churcher here is from Glasgow and her gorgeous, almost fragile looking work is inspired by urban decay – she uses some beautiful textures to evoke the broken buildings that inspire her and her ‘geomatric granulation’ is especially wonderful. It reminds me of Ruth Tomlinson somehow crossed with Elaine Cox

2.

Hannah Livingston is based in Edinburgh and her fascination with hidden secrets and quirky little containers makes her work beautifully intricate and utterly tempting. Many of her neat little lockets contain folded paper – forming a story of your own just that’s just waiting to unfold.

3.

Rebecca Little is another Glasgow resident whose work is both deceptively simple and fiendishly clever – as the best things often are. Delicate twists in precious metals are all lined up neatly to form textile like structures that would, I imagine, flow through your hands rather nicely and defy the solid, mathematical look of them.

I’ll keep hunting through Facebook in the small hours – though if you’ve got a suggestion for a page you love do leave me a comment!

The Centrepiece Christmas Decoration

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

This year Centrepiece decided to celebrate our Christmas exhibition by getting everyone to make a Christmas decoration in their own special style. I’m really excited to see what so many talented makers have come up with – it’s going to be a really diverse bunch!

I spent today making mine, inspired by the holly tree in my garden which we always take clippings from at Christmas. This one is silver and pearl and really in keeping with my Flotsam range, here’s how it took shape:

Gorgeous 2011

posted in: exhibition | 0

I’m off to Ironbridge this weekend for Gorgeous, the Shropshire Guild of Contemporary Craft’s aptly named Autumn Fair. It showcases some of the best local craft (including the wonderful Emily Richard on the flyer) alongside some pretty scrumptious local food producers too.

I’ll be doing a little talk about etching on silver and they’ll be demonstrations and presentations from other makers through the day too.

Have a peak at what’s coming up here on lilac sky’s blog

Goldsmiths Fair 2011

posted in: Events, exhibition | 0

Goldsmiths Fair 2011

I find it hard to describe Goldsmiths Fair to my non-silversmithing friends. The closest I’ve come so far is saying that it’s like New York Fashion Week. There are hot new designers, old favourites stunning you with their new collections, new heights of genius and always some starring talent that you somehow missed on a previous visit who’s ready and waiting to astound you now.

I suppose, in reality it’s just a fair, like any other, but somehow it manages to eclipse all those others and shine as the countries finest annual gathering of silver and jewellery talent.

I love it. The thought of aspiring to it terrifies me, but I love it all the same.

It inspires me and makes me realise again just how passionate I am about this industry.

Some of the things I saw which made an impression on me this year are:

Samantha Moore makes small silverware, she’s a lovely person and was happy to spend some time showing me her wonderful little tea infusers. The two halves of these snick together so easily, look so neat and are so beautifully funstional that I was awed.

I first saw William Lee‘s work at Collect a couple of years ago, the photographs of it totally don’t do it justice. All those little stripes on the surface are tiny verticle rows of hammer marks and vase itself is almost the size of a beachball. You know, one of those giant stripey ones you had as a kid?

Looking into it is marvellous, it’s hard to image how the thing was raised – just turning the weight alone must be a challenge, but clearly one that’s worth it.

Then, way down on the other end of the scale, is Vicki Amberley Smith. Her work is exquiste, all precise detail and clever use of materials. All her work is wearable, which is an unusual touch in something inspired by something so three dimensional.

So that was Week One at the Fair. I can’t make next week, sadly, which means I’ll miss seeing work like this:

but then there’s always next year …

Photographing Jewellery (playing with the light tent)

Photographing my work is something that I really struggle with. When you work in such a visual medium it’s very easy to be let down by poor photographs – and I’m always paranoid that mine don’t do the details my work justice.

In the past I’ve taken my own (which I can never get a perfect white background on) and paid for photography (some of which I love, others of which I was horribly disappointed with). So, it’s a very tricky thing – made more difficult by the highly reflective nature of silver.

Then I spotted this blog by the lovely Eileen Moylan  , an Irish Silversmith, who’s been using a light tent to photograph her work  . It looked like the ideal solution so I headed on over to eBay sharpish and bought myself one for the princely sum of nine pounds ninety-nine.

It looks like this:

 

Cute no?

Images of it in use on Amazon seemed to suggest that you needed high power photographers light too – but I just shone my daylight lamp through the top of it and the effect seems remarkably similar:

 

It came with lining sheets – presumably to provide a nice smooth white background but I struggled to iron the creases out of them and instead opted for lying a good old fashioned sheet of card inside the tent: