Saturday, 20 October 2012

Autumn Leaves

It's been an age since I last posted, only really because I've been so busy, learning new things, making new things, and doing my best to keep up with the Folksy Daily Listing Club...oh and making quite a few sales! Yayyy!

I absolutely adore leaves, especially in the autumn months. Even at my age, I find it difficult to resist wading through and kicking up those lovely brown crunchy leaves when I find myself ankle deep in them along the footpath. They do give me a childlike kind of joy.

I suppose my love of leaves, and indeed trees, come from the happiest times of my childhood spent at my grandparent's bungalow in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire. Their garden was surrounded by trees, beeches, maple, sycamore and great big horse chestnuts, and an old Elm that eventually succumbed to Dutch Elm disease and fell on a corner of the bungalow in a gale. In secret corners of the garden I would find leaf skeletons, which always fascinated me.

So, this means that leaves often feature in my jewellery, and now I have mastered many techniques in polymer clay, I'm like a kid in a sweetshop. I have a small patch of woodland a few yards down the road, and my front window view is happily blocked by two big lime trees and three birch trees, so I have the pick of dozens of leaves. I found this wonderful technique of making polymer clay leaves right here and it really works well.

The first leaf I made using this method was a sycamore leaf. When I pulled that leaf off the clay...WOW! The incredible detail was amazing. Sadly I messed up the stalk, and it was far too big to use in jewellery, but that gave me the encouragement to do more. I made a couple of beech leaves for earrings, then dripped some gloss on the front while glossing the back, so they stuck to the table, so they went in the bin..but now, I have beech leaves, birch leaves and sycamore (what a job it was to find sycamore leaves small enough and within reach).

So here are some of the items I have made from them.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Busy Busy Busy!

It's been a really busy month, hence my blog being abandoned recently. I rejoined the daily listing club on Folksy and it has been a challenge to have something to list every day. I nearly made it to the end of the month, in fact, I would have made it if my camera batteries hadn't died on me.

I've also made a few sales through Folksy, two of them commissions. First was an opportunistic one for a glasses chain. You know what they say, the early bird catches the worm. The lady who bought it asked on the forum, I jumped in and got the commission. (Sorry to anyone who already had some made up). The second was the sale of my Ivy Leaf Necklace.

The lady concerned, who lives in North Carolina, asked about a matching bracelet and earrings. I had the clay, so I set to and made them, and she bought them all, the whole set, and is so thrilled, even if she hasn't yet got them to date. Apparently, it's difficult to find Ivy jewellery in the USA!

I've also been helping my partner set up his facebook page and Etsy shop for his own jewellery. Since he had a leg amputated he's been concentrating on various aspects of jewellery making, and is currently working with resin, but up to now he has made a vast collection of necklaces and bracelets. We didn't realise just how much he had made until we pulled out the boxes from under the sofa.

So, much photography and editing has been going on in the last few days, which is why the batteries ran out..just when I was ready to take photos of some more of my items ready to finish the month.

I still haven't completed the Amazonite bead embroidery collar mentioned in previous posts, but bit by bit I am working on it, and it should be ready for September listing, along with 'Iceni' which is being brought home from the exhibit here in Norwich. I've now filled in the leaves, outlined the shape of the whole necklace, and begun filling in between the leaves. Only the backing to glue and bead around after that and we're done! Unfortunately no further photos of progress at this stage.

Meanwhile, our Norfolk Jewellery Makers Group have been having meets at Hobbycraft every week. We've missed a few as my partner hasn't been well with several weeks of nasty effects of what we now know to be dairy intolerance, something which the doctor confirmed today as 'pretty conclusive', since we just cut out milk and the symptoms stopped. This has also kept me busy for the last few weeks, but now we can see light at the end of that particular tunnel.

I've got so many ideas for polymer clay and bead embroidery, I'm going to need a new notebook soon. I did however, learn to make butterfly canes, and here are the first canes, and a necklace made with beads using that same cane. I now have to order more (lots more) translucent clay to make more, as it's far better to pack the cane with translucent clay, which cures clear, than with black or white clay.

Oh and I forgot to mention. I found a technique for making bangles using a tin can, as that is about the right size for a bangle. I made two, which almost turned out ok, but I made a few mistakes around the edges so they are not as smooth and straight as they should be. Otherwise I'm pleased with the result. I think next time I won't make them as wide, these are 1 1/2 inches. I won't be listing these, as they are prototypes, but if anyone wants to make me an offer, please leave a comment below so I can get back to you. First come first served...

Friday, 10 August 2012

The Importance of Feedback, and What I've Been Doing.

 Any of you selling out there will know how much of a buzz you get when someone actually buys something YOU’VE made. That buzz continues if that buyer then takes the time to leave you some feedback.

It’s not just the buzz though. It validates what you do, it shows others that what you make is good enough, it shows that the posted item arrived safely and most importantly, that the customer is happy with their purchase.

I got twice the buzz this morning, when someone bought some of my polymer clay buttons last week, they left me lovely feedback in my Folksy shop, then gave me more feedback in her blog. It is a lovely thing to do and made me feel really proud. The blog post is here if you want to see for yourself. It’s a fantastic blog and the owner has already included quite a few of my pieces in her write-ups, but never as a buyer before.

I’ve been very busy over the last couple of weeks, hence the blog being slightly abandoned. I haven’t done much with my Amazonite necklace, that’s in the plans for this week, as I really need to catch up, but here’s what I’ve done so far.

The stones and rivolis have all been attached and beaded securely in place, and the leaves have been outlined in gold lined jonquil seed beads. I've also added freshwater pearls to the leaf points, outlined the entire necklace shape, cut round to make it easier to handle and begun filling the leaves with colour,

So what distracted me from that? Polymer clay again. I’ve learned new techniques including mica-shift.

‘What’s that?’ I hear you say. Well dear reader, it is when the clay, which contains fine mica particles is embossed, then the raised parts shaved off (talk about patience!) and the ghost of the pattern remains. The mica particles shift to the sides of the impressions when the clay is stamped or embossed, so it is these that form the ghost texture.

There are a few pieces I’ve done. My first I’ve kept for myself, and the rest will appear in Etsy and Folksy over the next week or so. But for you, here’s a sneak preview.

My First, and a keeper, but shows the mica shift perfectly.
A pendant using two colours as well as mica shift.

Folded lace. I think that works quite well. 
Lastly, yet another tile bracelet. I love making these, and with the mica shift, it's especially effective.

Oh and I forgot to mention, I was on another blog this week too, one of the latest in a series of mini-interviews with Folksy sellers. Here it is

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Etsy Treasuries

I’ve had a shop on Etsy since January, when I have to admit I was so demoralised by the number of things no longer working on Folksy since the changes in November, some of which are still not put right, and I’ve done ok on there. Lots more views of items, many many more favourites, therefore a better interest and two good sales of my bead embroidered cuffs, something for which there was very little interest on Folksy.

Promotion tools are far better too, with many options by which you can put yourself ‘out there’, within the site, and use to promote outside the site too. Take treasuries for instance.

I love making treasuries. These are basically a selection of up to 16 items usually within a theme, which could be colour, material, styles or whatever you want.  This treasury then appears in the activity feed of all in your circle, they in turn favourite it and it appears then in the feed of all in their circles, and so on.

Combine this with any teams you may be in and you’ve got a wonderful cross-promoting system going. I’m in the Etsy Craftyfolk team, and each week they have a little treasury competition, where the treasuries made in a given week have to feature the winner of the previous week.  There could be 20-25 treasuries at least in this competition, some of which may feature one of your items if they fit a theme, along with an item from the featured shop. Everybody favourites each other’s treasuries, and it effectively goes viral pretty quickly, alongside Facebook and Twitter promotions to bring in more views.

It’s even better when someone else has made a treasury and featured one of my items. My stats will tell me that one particular item has had a lot of views that day, and on checking further I find it’s in a new treasury. It brings visitors to the shop, creates interest, and on a good day…SALES!!

I don’t know if my sales on Etsy are directly as a result of appearances in treasuries or not, but as a promotion tool they really do work. Of course, you need a big circle to get the full benefit, and I have only 172 in my circle to date, but some of those have many more, so it spreads anyway.

Here’s my latest, featuring another member of the Craftyfolk team, MoreStashPlease, the winner of last weeks treasury competition, and this time every item in it is from a member of the team, and not just items across Etsy.

Friday, 20 July 2012

A New Project.

A few weeks ago, my partner gave me this gorgeous Amazonite pedant along with some amazonite beads. I made a necklace out of the beads, but this pendant, in spite of having a hole in it, is flat-backed, perfect as a cabochon on a bead embroidered necklace.

Now, I’ve only done one whole collar before, but a basic design was aready singing to me, and it kept me awake until the early hours when I gave up, fetched my notebook from the kitchen and sat up as the birds began to sing, drawing my design ideas. (Creative people will tell you this happens from time to time, and it’s always a good idea to have a notebook on hand in every room just in case).

Six pages of drawings later and I had a choice of possibilities, so I put the notepad away and slept like a baby.

The following day, with matches holding my eyes open, I sat at the table with my now drawn out ideas, but none felt quite right, so I drew the basic shape again, placed the pendant in the middle and drew round it, and created this… 

Now I’m in the process of transforming that design into a fully beaded collar. I’ve so far glued and beaded around the pendant and a few oval amazonite cabochons, and I’m in the process of attaching some Swarovsky rivolis. The overall colour scheme is white with some mint greens, sea-foam blues and pale greys, with a gorgeous outline of jonquil-lined gold seed beads.

I still have to cover the hole in the pendant. There is a choice of different ways to do this, and for now I'll keep it to myself, but I am sure it'll work well with the whole necklace.

When I find a beautiful slab of gemstone like this amazonite, I get excited as the whole piece starts to come together, transforming a vaque picture in my head of what I want it to be, into a real piece. It'll take a while to finish yet, especially as at the moment I'm not working on it every day due to working with polymer clay, which takes time and my table space, but it'll be worth waiting for.

Monday, 16 July 2012

More Adventures with Polymer Clay

Well it’s been more than a week since I last blogged, mainly because the weather here was so bad (and still is) with constant rain, it has affected my internet badly. Whenever I tried to call BT to get it fixed, I got a repeated message that due to adverse weather conditions there have been severe problems with broadband in my area. Finally it came back to stay yesterday.

So, while I’ve been lacking internet, bar the times I was constantly reconfiguring my broadband to get about 15 minutes of slow internet until it all went off again, therefore lacking in communication with the outside world unless I sat on the bus and waited for the obligatory nutter to sit next to me and start chatting, I’ve been playing with my polymer clay.

Not much is ready to sell yet, I don’t feel it’s good enough, but I have to say the prototypes do look pretty darn good.

One thing has arrived in my Etsy shop though, this gorgeous leafy necklace in Autumn colours, with a cluster of purple and gold firepolish crystals to look like grapes. Needless to say, anyone that knows me would know the first name that sprung to mind was ‘Merlot’ after my favourite wine! Can’t think why…

My canes are coming along well too, and with my nearly successful leaf cane, which I still managed to distort a bit in the process of reducing, I made some earrings which are also in my Etsy shop, and a pod pendant which will be available in August in the Folksy shop.

I then spotted some tile bracelets while looking around so I decided to give those a go. I got the technique a bit wrong, so they tiles came out a bit…errr….rustic, but the right idea was there, and I’m very pleased with the result. However it looked better in real life than in the photos which showed up every single wobble and fault and seemed to exaggerate it, so that’s another piece that won’t be going on sale. Lots of research later, and I’ve found the right method, so that’s what I’ll be working on today hopefully.

Lots of buttons have appeared too, some with leftover clay, and some deliberately made using methods I’ve picked up from various places across the internet. I especially like the ones I made from a rose cane, which I really enjoyed making. I haven’t got any photos of those yet, as yet again the clouds rushed over and everything just got to dark.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Featured Crafter, Diane Ward.

Along with blogging about me me me, I want to feature some of the other crafters who are on Folksy or Etsy from time to time, hopefully to get the point across that ‘handmade’ doesn’t mean cheap and cheerful, but quality and finesse.

So to begin with, I’d like to add a short feature about a fellow beader and crafter and include some of her work.

Didy Ward describes herself as a bit of a magpie. Well we all do to a certain extent, that’s half the attraction of crafting, the excuse to stock up on pretty things… and make more pretty things from them!. Didy lives in Suffolk, and has always crafted in one way or another, crochet, embroidery etc since she was a little girl, but her move to Suffolk prompted her to look at gemstones and jewellery-making.

This was largely because she couldn’t find a necklace to go with a particular outfit so decided to make one herself, after all, how hard can it be? At that moment she immersed herself in a strange new world of ‘findings’, ‘crimps’ and ‘jumprings’. Like most jewellery-makers, she soon had a boxful, and another, then another, slowly taking over the house.

It was when someone suggested she try selling them, that she took it all much more seriously and upped her game. Taking up semi-precious gemstones, and beadwork with tiny seed beads, she grew and grew. Now she has her own website, didihandmadejewllery and a shop to feature her beadwork on Folksy.

Didy has a particular fascination for gemstones. She says, ‘My first love is semiprecious gemstones.  I adore those little beauties!  I particularly like them at their most natural, in rough cut and only lightly polished states.  I really like mixing rough things with smooth and a few of my designs incorporate rough cut stones, or little chip stones, with smoother rounds or ovals.’

‘But I have crazes for other things.  I used to sew a lot when I was younger and have always liked fabrics.  There is a wonderful fabric shop, a mecca for quiltmakers, near where I live and, having invested in a badge making machine recently, I now have the perfect excuse to browse all those delicious fat quarters and am churning out fabric covered handbag mirrors at a rate of knots.’

Didy also attends a lot of craft fairs, mainly in Southwold. Here are some examples of Didy’s work.

Blue Lace Agate Necklace 'Bohemia'.
Aventurine and Hemimorphite necklace.
Topaz Russian Spiral Necklace

Fabric Covered Handbag Mirror

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Polymer Clay

While I have been waiting for more supplies for the bead embroidery, especially the thread (I use Fireline and refuse to buy the Beadsmith branded version, which only gives me 50 yards, when I can get 125 yards from a fishing supplier for only a little more. Checks were made with Berkeley the makers by beaders on another forum and were assured it is exactly the same stuff).

I digress, I've been messing about with polymer clay this week. I've been wanting to give it a go since I started jewellery-making, but the collection of equipment needed made it rather expensive, especially the pasta roller. However, a bit of canny shopping and a great starter kit from the Jewellery Maker channel on satellite TV, which my partner bought me, and I was away!

I do find it funny though, that if you go into a kitchen shop and buy a set of leaf cutters for icing, they are cheaper than the exact same thing with 'polymer clay' instead of 'icing' on the pack. Am I being cynical here? The only thing that is cheaper because it is specifically for polymer clay, is the pasta roller, simply because it doesn't have the attachments for spaghetti etc. (hmmm clay spaghetti beads...that would be interesting...NO! stop right there Teresa!)

Anyway, I'm the sort of person who likes to go right in at the deep end, so I made a flower cane. Not bad for a first attempt, though reduction distorted it a bit,and from that I made a cuff on the last of my 1 inch blanks.      

I think I had a little too much white, and while smoothing the surface I distored the flowers a bit more, but it showed me that it works, so this is something I will be working on in the future. It had a good reception on Facebook anyway.

Next I made another cane and messed that up completely. So it was made into swirly beads, while some leftover bits of clay were rolled and blended to make a new colour, a kind of dusty pink/purple which I love, so two bracelets were born.

I also have a lot of swirly beads made from leftover bits and mistakes, all rather interesting and unique.

Things did go wrong while I'm learning, but I know why they went wrong now, and a little practise has got me doing it right. Now if I could slice a cane without squashing it, that would be nice.

None of these will go on sale in my shops, though if anyone wants to make an offer they can have them.  They do have a certain amount of rustic charm though don't they?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


While catching you up a little on what I've done so far, I've been working on my first ever bead embroidered collar, and boy was there some work in it! It's finished now, but it won't be going up on Etsy or Folksy just yet, as I have been invited to share a little shelf space in a brand new shop here in Norwich.

Anya Designs is run by Hannah Oxberry, who some will know from the Jewellery Makers channel on satellite TV, as she has made a few guest appearaces there as a designer, and has been featured in the morning programmes this weekend. Hannah is a jewellery designer and tutor, as well as a qualified silversmith, and while she has been teaching many aspects of jewellery-making has now gone full time in her new venture. Having met Hannah at a local meet a few weeks back, I took some of my bead embroidery pieces to show, and this resulted in Hannah offering me some shelf space in her new shop, with mine being the ONLY bead embroidery in there.

I had been planning this necklace for a long time, and had just plucked up the courage to actually start making it. I've had the central Unakite cabochon for more than a year, and have built my design around it. Finally I bit the bullet, after spending months collecting the right beads to fit in with the design, and made it. Now, because of Hannah's offer, I've decided to make it exclusive to her for as long as I have the space, or until it sells.

To see Anya Design's website, click here, and be sure to look in the news section..

Meanwhile, here is the necklace. Centred by a large unakite cab, it has Swarovsky rivolis, leaves  and freshwater pearls, bead woven Russian leaves and fringes with glass daggers and unakite beads. The side arms are joined to the front with more unakite beads, and feature three more unakite cabochons and freshwater pearls. The back is a double closure, with two large bronze tone leaf toggles, with a swarovsky rivoli in the centre.

I wanted to achieve an ancient British feel with this necklace, and I think I may have done it. I've called it 'Iceni'.

Monday, 25 June 2012

More of my Work

Just to complete the background to this blog, so we can begin to move forward, I'm just going to show you a few more pieces, some using different techniques and materials, some more familiar with those I've shown you so far. I'm learning all the time, and there's lots more to learn yet, but I'm loving my bead embroidery, it not only gives me freedom of creativity, as many of them are pretty much freeform, but it keeps me sane. I realise that I'm fortunate in one way to be able to spend as much time as I do working on these, simply because I'm not working at the moment, but being full time carer to Chris, my partner, who had a leg amputated six months ago due to diabetes.

So first of all, a few more cuffs...

Then I began with the necklaces. First these pendant necklaces, with beaded lace around the central cabochons..

Then, with one of the Picasso Jasper Cabochons I purchased from Singapore (postal, I hadn't been there sadly), Bronzed Earth was born.

Finally, I decided to make some earrings too. The blue ones went well, but when I tried to make a pair with some purple rivolis, they turned out far bigger than expected, so I made them into a necklace instead. What a happy accident!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Let's Talk About Colour.

Celtic Knotwork Cuff

How do we decide which colours to use in our crafting? What's the inspiration? Well for me much of my inspiration comes from nature and history. It's as simple as that really.

Southern Marsh Orchid
How do we decide which colours to use in our crafting? What's the inspiration? Well for me much of my inspiration comes from nature and history. It's as simple as that really.I hear a saying 'Pink and Green should never be seen' or another version, 'Blue and Green should never be seen'. Good thing Nature didn't listen to that, what a dull world we'd live in. No leafy green treetops against a clear blue sky, no beautiful wild orchids standing among the thick blades of green grass, no blue butterflies fluttering around my laurel hedge, no bluebells in the woods in spring.

Snettisham Gold, courtesy of
My other inspiration is history, mainly ancient bronze age tribal history. Little is recorded of this time, except from the Roman point of view, which describes our ancient tribes as brutal and barbaric. Stories of Boudica, the Iceni Queen and Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes who made her Kingdom a client Kingdom to accommodate the Romans, finds of gold jewellery in and around Norfolk, archaeological finds, all give us clues to the real identity of these ancient peoples, and inspire me in my work.

What happens when I still can't find inspiration from these? I browse through a book I bought a couple of years ago, The Beader's Colour Palette by Margie Deeb. What a treasure this book is, and need not apply to beaders alone, I'm certain that this can also be used for other crafts too. In it Margie Deeb shows us how to build a colour palette from various sources of inspiration, and how to apply those palettes to various styles of jewellery, but it is a must for anyone who uses colour.

If I'm ever lacking in inspiration, and we all get days where nothing quite springs to mind, this book has never failed to bring it back again.

What inspires your colour choices?

Thursday, 21 June 2012


This bracelet, named after another Ancient Celtic Goddess, is the second of my bead embroidery pieces, and one I'm particularly proud of. Here I have recorded progress as I went along. Now I've made much more since, I realise that designing on paper and sticking exactly to that design is just not going to happen. I have a rough idea of what I want, draw it out on paper but while making it up, it takes on a will of it's own, and never turns out quite how I originally intended.

That's not a bad thing though, as the results turn out better than I first envisaged! Here's what I mean. First the rough design, drawn in my notebook, along with the finished cuff.

As you can see, similar, but not quite the original design. So here's how the progress was made.

From the design, the pattern was marked out on the base, and the blue lace agate cabochon glued on, and once dry, I began beading aroud it.

Once the cabochon was fully bezelled with beads, I then began adding more elements, like these dyed rivershell peardrop beads, which were just the job for this project.

Now this is where the design began to go it's own way and ignore my paper draft. There wasn't room for the pearls above and below the cabochon, so these were left out, and blue firepolish crystals added instead. Also the original design had a rivoli at each end, but again, I'd miscalculated the measurements, so I added the pearls there instead.

One end complete, now to do the other end to match.

Progress being made at the other end...

Finally, to fix the backing felt, trim as close as I dare to the beads, being careful not to snip the threads, and bead the edges together to make a neat finish. Add a toggle closure and...

                                                  And here it is....tadahhh!