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

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.