Antidote to Jeweller’s Block!

Half the fun of making jewellery is thinking of the design.  It is amazing what can become of a gemstone and a reel of wire.  You’ve heard of writer’s block…well have some sympathy for us jewellery maker’s too as we have jeweller’s block!!

I have said before that most of my designs are freestyle and I think organic is a good word to use.  Let me explain; I have my materials, but no pre-planned design.  If I am using a cabochon (flat backed stone) for example, I will wrap the stone to secure it, but the main design will flow where the wire takes me.  The problem lies when ‘jeweller’s block’ sets in – where does the design go from here, or that’s not going to work, or what do I do now?

This Red Stripe Agate is a typical organic design which was created without the design being planned.
This Red Stripe Agate is a typical organic design which was created without the design being planned.

I often find that when I do reach jeweller’s block I simply place my piece down and return to it the following day.  A fresh mind can work wonders.  Am I my own worst enemy for not pre-planning my designs?

Work in progress - Green Onyx with gold coloured copper wire. Another organic design.
Work in progress – Green Onyx with gold coloured copper wire. Another organic design.

I previously received an order to make a tiara for a wedding and in that instant, I had to draw the design I had in mind to receive the Bride’s approval before I commenced the actual design (you can read more on this here).  I have also recently received an enquiry for an order – 6 bespoke pendants, each one to feature a heart.  Well, I thought, there’s no getting out of this one…planning is definitely  required.  So I have put pen to paper (well, pencil actually), and have designed 6 variations of a heart.

one of the 6 heart variations for a custom order.
one of the 6 heart variations for a custom order.

Then something dawned on me;  I am actually building up a portfolio of designs.   When I think about it, I can compare organic designs and pre-planned designs to e-readers and books…you don’t have to have just one as you can enjoy both, each having merits of their own.  In other words, I don’t want to stop creating organic designs as it’s very much a part of what I do, however, it has also dawned on me that pre-designing could  be the antidote to jewellers block!

Is there any part of your lifestyle that’s organic or freeform, or does planning help you?

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Hannah Spannah Coco Banana
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Review of Jewellery Maker’s Beaded Bangle Kit

 

I have been approached by TV’s Jewellery Maker to write a review for one of their products – a beaded bangle jewellery making project kit.

Here is the kit in its packaging.

Beaded Bangle kit

There are four colours available on Jewellery Maker’s website; silver plated copper, gold plated copper, rose gold plated copper and black plated copper.  I was presented with black in a generous sized sturdy box.

The kit comprised of :

50 x 8mm metal beads,

2 x 7.5″ black bangles and

5m of 0.6mm black coated wire.

Beaded Bangle 2

The beads are a good weight and the shiny coating on the beads, wire and bangles clearly shows this product will not tarnish.

There is also a set of instructions which concertina out.  These consist of 5 easy steps to complete the bangle.  It also advises on the tools required i.e. flat nose pliers and wire cutters.  There is also a jewellery making tip on the back.

Beaded Bangle 4

In summary, you attach the wire on one of the bangles…

Beaded Bangle 5

thread a bead and wrap the wire around the second bangle..

Beaded Bangle 6

and you continue to thread and wrap until the end.

Beaded Bangle

I fell into the rhythm of weaving the wire in an under/over motion.  I found this quite therapeutic, however, if you’re not used to threading ‘hollow’ metal beads, be prepared for some fiddly wriggly fun!  My advice would be to keep the end of your wire as straight as you can.

The completion of the bangle took less than an hour and the result was an attractive looking quality sturdy bangle.

Beaded Bangle 10Beaded Bangle 9

Beaded Bangle

After completing the bangle, there was a generous amount of leftovers!

Beaded Bangle 11

If I could make a suggestion to Jewellery Maker, it would be to have a removable sticker on the box (perhaps the brand could be placed inside the lid), as the box would make a lovely gift box.

Beaded Bangle 12

If you’re thinking of starting jewellery making, want to try working with wire, or simply want to make a lovely design where all the components are ready to work with, then this kit is for you.  You can find the Jewellery Maker Project Kit here.

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All Wired Up

wire reels

As my jewellery making medium is wire, I thought I would write a little about it.  Although it is no definitive guide, it will give you a glimpse into my world of wire.

Lets start with the shape of the wire.  If you thought all wire was round,  then you’d be mistaken.  Of course, wireworker’s use round wire, but sometimes we have to think about the design and how the wire would work with that design.  Other options are square wire and half-round wire.  I have never disagreed with the fact that wirework can be fiddly, especially when it comes to wrapping the wires together.  Wrapping square wire together with its straight edges has a much even fit compared to two round edges which ‘roll’ round together.  Half-round wire is shaped like a semi-circle, so you have the flat edge which fits snuggly round the wire, especially square wire, whilst the rounded edge leaves a smooth finish.  In addition to shaped wire, you may decide to use patterned or fancy wire; not all wire is smooth.

The next important thing to consider is the size of your wire.  Different designs use varying sizes of wire.  For example, wire that binds or wraps the wire together would be thinner than wire used as a frame.   This is where you need to keep your wire collection organised, but help is at hand as all wire sizes are categorised.  Here in the UK, we tend to refer to the actual size of the wire i.e. 1mm, 0.8mm or 0.6mm.  The USA tend to use a gauge system based on numbers; the higher the number, the thinner the wire.  I must admit, I prefer the gauge system, but have found that after using wire for a while, you refer to both of them hand in hand.  I use between 14g (gauge) which is very thick wire and use it for frames, to 30g which is very thin and used for crocheting, for example.  You can experiment with wire weaves and which wires work best for your design i.e. 18g as the frame and 26g to weave.

copper heart wirework pendant
This pendant was made with 3 different sizes of wires.

Finally, when you know the shape and the size, you need to decide what type of wire you want to use.  When I first started, I used silver plate wire but as I’ve progressed, copper wire appears to be my predominant choice.  It comes down to how comfortable you are working with the wire.  Options include plated wire, craft wire, copper wire, coloured copper wire, silver wire, and Argentium silver wire, to name some.  Each have their own qualities.  If you choose copper and silver wire, for example, you can patina/oxidise the finished design to give it an “aged” look.  Copper wire is relatively cheap as well, and if you’re lucky, you can source copper wire from  used cables!  Copper wire is considered good to practice with due to its costs and it’s forgiving wire temper.  Silver can be costly as it’s no secret that the cost of silver has increased considerably over the recent years, so ideally some practice would be recommended before purchasing silver wire.  Argentium Silver wire is very popular with wirework too due to its high quality, tarnish resistance and durability.  Don’t rule out other metals though like brass, aluminium and stainless steel.  Bear in mind though not all wires are as malleable as others and consideration should be given to which wire would be best to hammer, heat or oxidise, should you decide to do this.

I hope this has given you a little insight to what goes into the art of wirework.  If you enjoyed reading this, perhaps you could share it for me.  I would also welcome you to sign up for my newsletter.

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Unearthing Gemstones

Leopard Skin Agate

Mookite

I have mentioned before my growing fascination of gemstones.  As you browse through Karen J Jewellery, you may notice the majority of my designs use gemstones. Gemstones  are part of this precious earth and each gemstone, formed over 1000’s of years, would have a story to tell if they could speak.

Gemstones are formed either of mineral crystals, organically like Amber (tree sap) or Jet (decomposed wood) or as rocks like Lapis Lazuli.

Gemstones are classed as either precious or semi-precious.  Precious gemstones are Diamonds, Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald.  All others are semi-precious.

Before learning to make jewellery, I had never heard of  the “Mohs scale”.   This is a  classification process, which contributes to a gemstones identification process.  Named after the German geologist/mineralogist, Friedrich Mohs,  the Mohs scale measures relative hardness and resistance to scratching between minerals.  For example, Talc is the softest mineral and sits at the bottom of the scale, whereas Diamond is the hardest natural mineral and sits at the top.   The scale helps to determine how the stone is prepared ie for jewellery or carving.

Part of the gemstone journey is preparing that gemstone for sale.  This is where a Lapidarist comes in.  This word dates back to middle ages – lapiderie – which means stone cutter.   Lapidarists  prepare the gemstones by cutting, polishing, drilling and engraving them.  This is a fantastic skill – look at your jewellery – the shape and size of your stone has been created by a Lapidarist.

One skill they perform is creating facets in the gemstone.   Faceting is usually done to transparent stones to show inside the stone and to maximise reflected light which gives the stone its sparkle.  Faceting is a process of grinding and polishing, although cutting maybe involved with diamonds.  You can see an example of faceting on this Red Stripe Agate.

Red Stripe Agate

Another shape the lapidarist is responsible for are cabochons – a wireworker’s favourite type of stone.  Cabochons are flat backed and domed shaped.  They are usually created with opaque or semi-opaque stones to emphasise the stone’s colour or surface properties.  The reason cabochons are popular with wire wrappers are that they have no holes, unlike a typical bead, hence wire is wrapped around the stone to secure its setting.

Leopard Skin AgateSo what gives a gemstone its value?  In my opinion, there are several reasons.

  • they are naturally sourced from earth and are not synthetically produced
  • a lot of work goes into the preparation of a gemstone from mining the stones to preparing the stones for use
  • some stones are rarer than others
  • their natural beauty

Next time you’re wishing to purchase a gemstone, wearing a gemstone or are simply just admiring one, have a think about its story, from being part of this earth to being part of your style.

If you liked this, please share.  Please also visit Karen J Jewellery to see my collection of wirework using natural gemstones.

Is Your Jewellery Making a Statement?

Statement Jewellery

When I was younger, I always heard the phrase “statement jewellery” and wondered exactly what it was.

The word “statement” is quite  formal and not a exactly a pretty word, whereas “jewellery” exudes beauty and style.  So why is this phrase so popular in the jewellery industry?

Statement jewellery goes back as far as Egyptian and Roman times, so its not exactly a new concept.  However, statement jewellery has endured over the years and is big now as it’s ever been.

Look at your favourite piece of jewellery.  What do you like about it?  The colour, its shape, the size, the design?  Now ask yourself this.  What does it do for you?  Does it lift your outfit?  Does it make you feel confident?  Does it make you feel chic or stylish?

This is what statement jewellery is about…it makes a statement…about you!

Statement jewellery doesn’t have to be big or bold.

This is one of my smallest pieces.

Copper wire weave pendant with Grey Agate 2

The intricate wirework pattern flows around the Agate stone.  If you wore this, what would it say to you?  It may not be large or colourful, but it is unique, has character and would look gorgeous on a simple black dress.  It would simply make a statement.

In contrast, this sliced Agate is large, colourful, bold; a classic piece of statement jewellery.

Agate Slice Copper PendantHow would this piece make you feel?  What would it do for you?  What would it do for your outfit?

Karen J Jewellery’s tag line is “Embellish Your Inner Beauty” as it’s my desire for you to express your personality with my jewellery.

Statement jewellery isn’t always about standing out in the crowd.   It is about expression – expression of your style, expression of your character, expression of you.

Do you have a favourite statement jewellery piece?  Please tell me about it and how it makes you feel.

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How Not to Promote Wedding Jewellery

The wedding industry is a big business as there are so many areas within it; dresses, flowers, cakes, cars, photography to name a few.  We also have wedding/bridal jewellery – the icing on the cake to every wedding dress.

To receive requests from brides to create and make jewellery for their big day is very flattering.

One request I received was to create a pendant and earring set for a bride’s  3 bridesmaids.  This resulted after showcasing my (non-bridal) pendants on Twitter.

Jewellery sets arrived safely and they are even more beautiful than the picture you sent.
“Jewellery sets arrived safely and they are even more beautiful than the picture you sent.”

A further request came as a result of this pendant.

Howlite wire pendant

Not very bridal, I hear you say.  This Howlite pendant was purchased as a gift after I did a local presentation talking about Wirework Jewellery.  The gift recipient wore it and her daughter saw it, looked on my website and asked if I could make a tiara for her wedding.  How fantastic and how could I refuse!!

It's so beautiful, I can't wait to wear it. Thank you so much, it really is a work of art.
“It’s so beautiful, I can’t wait to wear it. Thank you so much, it really is a work of art.”

I am so pleased my customers were delighted with their bespoke make.  The key was that I listened to what they wanted; it was their big day after all, and the jewellery had to be right for them.

I know I haven’t exactly got  a large bridal showcase but the truth is I have never advertised myself as part of the wedding market.   The fact is  my jewellery is starting to attract brides and I feel very blessed to be part of the brides very special day.

So if not promoting wedding jewellery has resulted in two happy brides, maybe I should consider promoting as part of my wirework collection.

If you know anyone who may benefit from this post, please share it with them.

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Perils of Making Jewellery with Wire!

warning!

I cannot tell you how much I love creating wirework jewellery however, it can come with a health warning!

So I have compiled a list which resonates with myself.  If you work with wire, you may have your own.

  • Working with wire can hurt!  Yes, it can really hurt – stab or prick yourself with the end of a wire can draw blood, but poke yourself in the eye with it, then you know about it.
  • Working with wire requires patience.  Don’t expect to create a piece like this in an hour.

aventurine brooch

  • Wirework can  be frustrating.  That prefect piece requires planning and preparation;  imagine you’re near the end of that time consuming piece you’re making…and snip…you’ve cut the wrong wire.  Say no more.
  • Be warned…wire flies!  Cover the piece you are cutting with your hand to prevent it from either pinging across to the other side of the room, or even worse, in your eyes!
  • Wirework can seriously expand your knowledge.  Not a bad thing, but considering wires, gemstones and tools (to name a few) are subjects in themselves, it can be quite overwhelming.
  • There are so many various types of wires; shapes, sizes, colours.  There is nothing worse than running out of that specific wire you need.

Wire_gauge_(PSF)

  • Wirework can be expensive when you take into account the tools required, the numerous types of wire, and of course, the beautiful gemstones you choose to use.
  • Finally, a big warning – it can be very addictive.  Take my word for it!

Don’t let my perils put you off though, as I’m sure everything comes with a peril of some kind.

What peril’s do you endure with what you do?

If you want to see the results of my peril’s, please visit my website below.

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How to change your jewellery designs in two throws of a stone

I write this post during my summer holidays, and I’d like to share how the summer fun can bring inspiration for designing in wire wrapping.

It is lovely to unwind, relax and have fun on holiday, but I don’t completely switch off from jewellery making mode…I’m always looking for inspiration, and for me, you can’t go wrong at a pebble beach.

A couple of years ago, we visited Northumberland, an area of the country I’d never been to before.  At the time, I was a keen bead weaver who had just discovered wirework.  I brought a couple of pebbles (well, a sand bucketful to be precise!) home from the beach and wire wrapped them.  I received some lovely comments from my pebble pendant so decided to explore more into wirework…and that is how, they say, my wirework journey began.

pebbles

So this is my treasure trove from the shores of South Devon and there really are some beauties hidden here. I look for shape  (suitable for wrapping), size (suitable for wearing) and colour.  I love how the slate has a metallic hue and I love that no two stones are the same.

Devon stones

pebblesAt Christmas, I received a bespoke request from a friend who asked if I could wrap some stones she had brought back from a Californian beach, as a present for her friend.  The lady’s friend was delighted with her pendant and earring set and I  was delighted with a handful of Californian pebbles she left me.

I think  to make jewellery out of natural materials from a place where you have happy memories is very special.

So next time you are out and about, take a look around and see what you can find to help with your jewellery design.

Watch this space also to see what I have made with the stones.

If you have enjoyed this post or know someone who may benefit from this, please share.

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Simple Lines for your Wirework Designs

Jewellery designs can take considerable planning, but that needn’t be the case with wirework designs.  Shapes and patterns can be created from something a simple as a straight line.

Let me explain…

aboutmeTake a simple wire weave technique, whether you decide to use 2, 3 or more wires.  Weave until you  have a decent length.  There are no rules here, so no need to measure.

When you have the desired length, this is where your freestyle sills come in.  You may already have a design or shape in mind.  Be creative!  I find copper wire is more forgiving, so you can give more adjustment if required.  Don’t forget to include the bail and make sure there is enough room for the clasp to fit through (not just the chain!).

When you have finished, decide whether you need to complete the design i.e. you may want to oxidise the piece if you use copper, or you may want to add beads or gemstones.  If you are adding stones, make sure they fit in with your design; if they don’t sit right or hang right, don’t add them – your design will still be special.  Have confidence!

wirewreathcross 1

figureofeightPicture Frame Pendant

So next time you’re short of inspiration, or you  haven’t got the time to do your next big project, you have no excuse not to create a unique wirework design.

Do you have a plan B when it comes to jewellery making?

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