One woman's adventures in the land of hand made jewellery

Sunday, 27 October 2013

October Fest

Autumn is apparently well under way in Northern Europe but here in Morocco the weather is warm and sunny for the most part with little sign of change. The trees are mostly palms or citrus fruit so no leave turning brown either. Life on a boat means that for the most part we stay almost continually in summer but I do miss the changing seasons, the bright new greens of Spring and the rich hues of Autumn. So coming across pictures themed around October in Jewel School Friends latest blog hop inspired me to get a bit more in step with the season.

The colours in one particular photo reminded me of beads in my stash. It took a while to locate them, living on a boat means my bead boxes (all two of them) are tucked away on a bunk usually behind lots of other more useful stuff like charts and life jackets. The beads in question are large and have survived so long because I was not entirely certain how to string them or whether I could even wear them. I fell in love with their glittery shape like a magpie on a visit to a South African bead shop and they've been tucked away for several years, retrieved from time to time to wonder over but until now ideas which would set them off have failed to materialise.

Hand made clasp in brass wire
They are polished resin ovals containing stripes of sharp colour alternated with gold glitter so are not exactly subdued. Like bright colours of a Virginia Creeper these beads shout loudly for attention and deserved to have their season - the acid green, oranges, gold and brown entirely suit Autumn. A length of chestnut coloured leather thong, some gold coloured tiger wire together with a brass wire hook clasp made several months ago and a few other beads complete the ensemble. All that's need now is an occasion to wear it before the season draws to a close.

Autumn Jewels

Close up of the beads
Hope you enjoy Autumn too why not hop over to some of these other season October Fest 13 blog posts, I'm sure you'll be made welcome and find a feast of season goodies:

Andrea Glick-Zenith
Dolores Raml          
Karla Morgan          
Mischelle Andrade  
Kay Thomerson       
Jean Yates                
Kelly Hosford Patterson
Kathy Lindemer       
Liz E                         
Jasvanti Patel           
Christie Murrow      
Jodie Marshall         
Andrea Trank          
Dini Bruinsma         
Elsie Deliz  Fonseca
Karla Morgan          
Vera Lynn                
Rana Wilson            
Catherine King        
Lily Vincent             
Janice Hidey (Janimar)
Cory Tompkins        
Candida Castleberry
Cynthia Kent Machata
Alicia Marinache     
Linda Anderson       
Leah Curtis              
Jennifer Reno (JenRen)
Robin Reed              
Tanty Sri Hartanti    
Lisa Lodge              
Ingrid A.                  
Judy Turner             
Gina Hockett           
Nelly May               
Tanya McGuire       
Sonya Stille             
Carol D.                  
Asri Wahyuningsih 
Ginger Bishop        
Shaiha Williams     
Toltec Jewels         


Monday, 21 October 2013

Been Awhile

So it has been over six months since I posted anything here... and almost that long since I actually made anything beady. Been busy sailing and exploring but having ended up in Morocco for a few weeks I am determined to get my stash out and make something. Watch this space!!

I fully intend to attempt a few challenges to get the creative juices flowing again. I found this list of interesting challenges most of which are now over but still it gave me a few ideas: Jewel School Friends

Saturday, 20 April 2013

UnBirthday Party Day!

It seems so long ago that I was sitting on my boat making a very special piece of jewellery for a complete stranger... well only a month ago and not such a complete stranger, we'd been introduced and swapped emails so I knew her name, where she lives and most importantly what her birthday month is.

Jana lives in the Canaries, a place I hope to sail my boat to later this year and she was born in February which makes her birth stone the gorgeous Amethyst. There is a lovely legend about how this gorgeous stone got its name - see my previous post which also explains why we are making celebratory jewellery for each other.

Purple, violet and all shades in between are my favourite colours so it made making a special gift even more pleasurable. But what to make from my onboard mini-stash? Would it challenge my resources? Would I have to go on a hunt for a bead shop (the one in the city of Portsmouth, UK sadly closed a few years ago)?

Over the years I have collected lots and lots of second hand beads and costume jewellery and amongst my crafting stash on the boat is a large bag of unsorted beads and trinkets. I spread the contents on the saloon table, trying not to loose any on the floor as the boat rocked and swayed in the winter winds howling round outside (it was snowing and a gale was blowing, which seems weird as I write this now in the heat of Dubai).

This is what I picked out, adding a few things from my findings box, some Czech glass pearls and the violet coloured glass beads you can see in the top left:

I'd sketched out a few ideas and decided to make a necklace with a large focal piece that would catch the light and glitter, something for everyday wear over a plain top but that could equally be worn to an UnBirthday Party. I love constructing tassels in shapes and forms.

The whole necklace was laid out several times whilst I decided what to put with what and where. I have finally learnt it, seems to figure out the whole construction before I begin so avoiding the how on earth do I attach xxxxx dilemma later on, where xxxxx could be the clasp, the focal or even simply ending a string of beads. Eventually satisfied I started assembling beginning with the focal piece.

The observant amongst you will have noticed from my first picture that the dark amethyst coloured beads were already wired with bead caps. They came to me that way and I've no idea how they were originally strung, one of the fun things I love about using recycled jewellery and beads. I simply made connecting links threaded through the long faux bone tubes to join these together.

Isn't it amazing how one material glass can look so different - the beads in the picture above look much more robust with their strong colour than the delicate translucent violet ones in the picture to the left.

Some tiger tail enabled the stringing of the last section of pale violet glass beads and pearls up to the sunburst clasp on either side.

And finally the focal piece could be joined into the necklace using a length of silver wire.

All that was left was to wrap it in a swathe of tissue and ribbon, place if in a padded bag and send it on its way....

The finished piece
And that is the story of my HBBH3.5 piece.

I'll leave Jana to tell the tale of her present to me but I will say that as yet my crazy globe trotting life has prevented me in seeing it in real life though I have viewed it via a Skype conversation with my in-laws in the UK! Roll on May 17 when we land at Heathrow and can settle at home on our boat for the foreseeable future.

PS: If you want to know more about my expat and sailing adventures you can find them here

PPS: It is a PARTY and here is a list of everyone who is celebrating - do go and meet them:

Alicia Marinache -
Chris Eisenberg -
Joana Perez Stribel -

Shelley Graham Turner -

Sunday, 10 March 2013

HBBH 3 ½ - Surprise Party!

Ok I haven't gone mad, there is a bit of unbirthday fun happening over at Marlene & Shelley's Swaps Blog. A sort of a bead swap party based on birth stones midway through another swap event they are organising! Marlene & Shelley paired up everyone who joined in. We firstly let each other know our birthday month and then in secret create some jewellery, based on the colour of the birth stone, for each other. My birth stone is Ruby red for July and my partner Jana has gorgeous Amethyst for February, so I've now got until March 25 to design, make and post something to the Canary Islands!

Once made, photographed and in the post we all sit back and wait with baited breath for the HBBH 3.5 Reveal Day - April 20th when everyone will blog about their you'll have to wait for more till then :-)

Amethyst is a purple quartz, named when Dionysus (deity of wine and mischief) was so annoyed by Artemis (the huntress) that he set his sacred tigers upon a maiden attending her shrine. To preserve the maiden, whose name was Amethyst, Artemis petrified her in sparkling quartz. Lamenting this virgin's demise, Dionysus poured the contents of his cup over the statue, which immediately became infused with the purple of the grape.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Turmi - A Beading Challenge

I love an inspiring challenge and when it results in something a little different from my usual jewellery choices it is doubly satisfying. The most recent Bead Soup Cafe challenge on Facebook really got the brain cells going as well as the creative juices. The colours in the photo taken in Turmi, Ethopia that Dini Bruinsma set for this one are amazing - lots of browns and orange tones with silver.

Sometime ago I'd organised my bead stash by colour with a transparent shoebox each for red, green, blue, white and metallic beads and the smaller quantities of other colours vaguely organised but in one large box. It was to the latter I went. Somewhere there was a bag of acrylic beads in mock tortoiseshell, if only I could find them! They were laid out on my workbench together with a copy of Dini's wonderful photo whilst I considered them slowly. There were hearts without any holes, various faceted shapes and lots of flatter disc shaped beads plus a selection of spheres in various shades and sizes. A chunky necklace perhaps?

I gradually added to the mix a few other components. I was impatient to get going but first I had to go shopping for some thin cord robust enough to support the chunky beads but thin enough to go twice through their relatively small holes. Eventually everything was in place and I could actually start putting things together, wire wrapping an acrylic heart so it could hang as the focal piece of the necklace. Then how to attach the heart's new wire loop to the metal circle? A beaded tassel was constructed using brown citrine beads in various shades ranging from yellowy umber to almost black and a dark chocolate colour polyester thread. A few macrame knots to secure a dozen or so metre lengths of the chord to the ring and form the tassel head then the rather fiddly beading & knotting before trimming everything to a similar length.

For either side of the main necklace a length of same polyester thread was folded in half through the circle then tied in an overhand knot. This was threaded through the flat beads from either side then both ends went together through the metal spacer beads. The latter were brought back from a trip to South Africa so I though they'd be appropriate for this Africa inspired piece. Further up more overhand knots separated the smaller round beads used for the back of the necklace.

Once again I was about to relearn the lesson that you should think through the engineering right from the beginning to the end before starting work... This time my lack of foresight and planning almost brought this project to an abrupt end, oops! The polyester chord being used for stringing is quite fine, finer than any of the coiled necklace ends I had but too fat to fit both threads through a clam shell hole.  A bit of a hiatus whilst I looked for a solution. Eventually I settled on making my own very narrow diameter coil using 0.8mm silver plated wire and the wire coiling gizmo I'd acquired over the summer. Two minutes work and I had a couple of spring ends, so easy I should do this more often!  Finally a simple lobster clasp secures the piece round the wearers neck.

All that remained was to take some photo's so my work could be published in the challenge album and to wear the necklace itself! Check out the album on Facebook to see some fabulous pieces of jewellery from everyone taking part.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Silver Hamsa

Brass bonbon dish

It all started with a bonbon plate. A lovely brass hamsa shaped one with lots of detail that I found in a local craft shop O'de Rose. It's not just the engraved five fingered outline (hamsa means five in Arabic) but also the gentle cupped curve that I love. This plate begs to be picked up and held, despite the inevitable fingerprints the shiny metal finish acquires. The hamsa has long been used through out the Middle East as a symbol of protection representing blessings, power, and strength.

Ideas board

I was inspired to try making something this shape myself; a spoon or a tiny bowl perhaps? Eventually after trawling the web for inspiration I settled on a pendant. Pictures of Omani and other regional jewellery gave me the idea of hanging it so it would swing. This was to be without a doubt an ambitious project for a novice silversmith like me. I needed cut a silver hand shape, hammer it into a curved bowl-like shape, make and attach a tube and finally create a "hinge" with a loop at each end from which to suspend it.

The project was started before the summer at evening classes, and resumed in January when I joined Don Sankey's morning workshops at the Tashkeel Centre, Nad Al Sheba. He has good humouredly encouraged this novice through each step, demonstrating techniques and proffering much needed advice on how to do the trickier bits like soldering the final loop on the hinge which had to be done with the hand in place.

The result could have been used as a spoon but it was a pendant I was after. A heavy Italian made silver chain was acquired in Dubai's Gold Souk to complement the piece. It was a bit nerve racking to be cutting a relatively expensive chain but I'm pleased with the unique end result. I have learnt a huge amount through this process especially that a huge part of silver smithing is about filing and polishing! Despite the time it takes it is extremely satisfying to gradually bring a flat piece of metal to life and I can't wait to complete my next project(s).

The pictures below show the finished piece, though I had difficulty actually taking these shots as the convex side has a highly polished surface (and I suspect high maintenance). The reverse has a satin finish so it can be worn either way round to suit my mood. One thing I'm sure is that it will not spend much time hiding away in my jewellery box but has already become a favourite to be worn often.
Shiny side up
Satin reverse

Monday, 11 February 2013

Feather with Love

I found this fascinating challenge on the Bead Soup Cafe's (BSC) face book page. The hostess posts an inspirational picture on BSC's main page, along with a short blurb to get everyone inspired to create something. This is the fourth in a round robin event for the Non-Blogger group, though bloggers can take part :-)  Then on Feb 10th, Posting Day, everyone who has signed up posts a picture of each item they have made. This time round the challenge was a as you can see to make something inspired by the bright colours of a red macaw - a bit of a challenge as these primary colours are difficult to wear all together at once!

I decided to keep it small, simple and picked up on the "love" part of the challenge with a pair of heart shaped earrings made from silver wire. Once the wire shapes had been made - a marker pen made an excellent mandrel for the outer curve - I wired on some red glass bicones from Dubai's amazing Chinese emporium Dragon Mart to suggest the body of the parrot and made a pair of dangles using similar blue bicones and a little hint of yellow via a couple of seed beads. Et voila:

 Now I've cracked the shape I think I'll make a few more in other colours for your truely using sterling silver wire! About 8-10 cm of 0.8mm wire is required for each earring plus a headpin for each dangle and another couple of similar lengths of thinner (0.5mm) wire to attach the red beads. The latter depends on the size of the beads used. If you are doing this yourself don't forget to file the wire ends so they don't tear your ears when inserting.