Category Archives: Events

Making a better mouse

I’m going to be at a craft fair on 5th September 2013 (, which is also a book launch for the next installment of Tales from Beauty Bank.  They are stories about a wonderful family of mice and their exciting adventures in and around the English county of Cheshire.

Well, when I heard that there was to be a new book, I so wanted to make a jewellery version of one of the little mice.  I contacted the author, Michael R. Beddard for his permission, and after checking with the artist, Rebecca Yoxall, I got the go ahead and this is what happened.

I was sent an image of Carlos, a mouse not yet seen in the books, for reference.  He looked so sweet and I decided that he’d make a wonderful brooch.  There had been clues about gems being of some importance in the new story, so I decided to make him holding a sparkling gem in his little paws.

I decided to draw his outline on paper and looked to see if there would be any weaknesses in the design.  To help strengthen the finished piece, I gave him a curl to his tail and took it up and over his body.  To give an extra dimension to the mouse, his tail would be added on in round wire, but to give strength, I would also cut out it’s shape in the silver sheet.

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Above, you can see the silver sheet pierced (using a Knew Concepts hand saw, which is an amazing piece of kit) and with it’s protective film still on.  I’ve left the area for the gem quite large for the moment, just in case I change my mind about the gem or the exact placement.Image

This is Carlos with his tail and bezel soldered on.  He’s had a first filing to smooth any rough edges and to check all the surfaces are joined well. He’ll go in the pickle after I solder the brooch pin on the back.  His tail was slightly flattened at one end and the tip was filed to taper down to a blunt point.  As I was using round wire (1mm diameter), I filed the base down slightly to give a flat edge which would connect well with the main body and give a good connection when soldered.

Just a note on the brooch pin itself.  If it gets heated then it will loose it’s hardness and become annealed (soft for working with).  Also, air-cooling rather than quenching in water will help too.  I work-harden it back to usability by hitting it with my rawhide hammer until it becomes strong enough not to bend easily.

The bezel is made from fancy bezel wire (it just means shaped and not plain strip) which has been soldered into a circle (5mm inside diameter) and a jump ring has been slightly flattened and soldered inside as the bezel shelf.  I checked the gem in the mount, and as the gem was faceted, I filed the seat of the bezel to fit.

On the main body of the piece, I worked out where exactly the bezel would sit, and took out a circle of about 3mm across for both reasons of weight and ease of keeping the stone clean.  The bezel was then sweat-soldered (solder was melted onto one surface only and then gently re-melted with the bezel sitting on top) to the piece.

After pickling, filing and polishing, It was time to give this little boy some colour.  I decided to use Liver of Sulphur with a brush and try to re-create the feel of the original watercolour.  I layered on the liquid LoS and then washed it off in cold water (it stops the chemical reaction, but unfortunately not the rotten egg smell).  I did this quite a few times, as the colours changed from gold to brown to blue and then purple.  I used a fine silicon polishing stick in my Dremel to rub away the patina to give lovely highlights and show off his lovely white tummy.  And here he is …Image

The gem is real garnet and I think he looks splendid with it!

Well, I thought I was finished but I sat thinking about how to protect the finish. Normally, I would use Renaissance Wax but I was really worried about the patina scratching, even through the wax,  This time I decided to seal the colour with a glossy doming resin that is cured by UV rays.  I use a toothpick to drop the resin onto the piece, starting round the edges and curing that before going on to fill in the center (this is because the resin has a tendency to pull in, leaving the edges exposed).

Here is little Carlos with his new protective coat:

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UPDATE:

The author liked my version of Carlos so much, he commissioned me to make a similar one for his mum.  She loves opals and so I sourced a special translucent opal (solid, not a doublet or triplet) with beautiful flashes of colour.  I decided that this mouse would be Rachel, who is in the books!

The differences are the eyelashes and her more finely shaped head. She has a pink nose and pink cheeks, which were done using watercolour & gouache paint after the LoS patina was applied.  The first photo below is before the resin top coat and the second one, after the top coat was applied.ImageT

I can’t wait to see how these two little mice are received at their own little coming out party to celebrate the book launch.  I hope Michael’s mum and whoever has Carlos, will love them as much as I do.Image

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A Day at the Fair

Last weekend I did my first big event. A Mind, Body, Spirit & Gift Fair in the Memorial Hall, Northwich.

Firstly, can I say that you never have too much stuff. I had less than two weeks to prepare for this event and it gave me a real kick to make some new designs (almost a proper “collection”!) and finish others which had been laying about on my bench for what seems like forever.

When I had finally got them all together in one place, I really thought I had made too much; but I can tell you that it’s really impossible to make too much jewellery for a show/event.

When you get your table together on the day, you’ll find that there is a space where something special needs to go, or you’ll want to make a statement display (maybe one colour or type of jewellery) in one area. If you don’t have enough stuff then it makes this sort of thing very hard to do. It also is a good idea to swap pieces over or to a different place place, at least once in the day. People go around these events in a circle, and more than once. Some even go away and come back, later in the day.  Changing your pieces over makes it look fresh and may just give the right piece a time to shine and attract more customers. One piece of mine just sparkled so much that it enticed people over from the other side of the venue!

I had made a sketch of what I wanted my table to look like. I wanted my display to look unique but also in keeping with my designs. I didn’t want many mass-produced display items on there (they don’t seem to show off the jewellery very well), so I had to think of display items that I could make or customise. I will do a separate post about this later on! My assistant (husband, Chris) and I got to the venue about 8am to set up. I had been up till 2am the night before, doing the final pricing and sorting out, and up at 6am so I could wash my hair and look my best for the day (I am so grateful for make-up!). We didn’t have a large enough tablecloth but made the best of it, with my beautiful purple velvet throw over the top. Having the sketch made it easy to set up.

One thing I had done, was to put photographs together in a book of all my main pieces.  This meant that as well as having something for people to look through, I could show people pieces that I had already sold.  It helped to say, “look, you could have something like this” and have a picture for them to see.

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Oh, I had added jewellery to my larger display pieces the night before and wrapped in cloth (to protect the delicate items), which made things even easier. I like things to be grouped in a way that makes sense and it took a while the night before to decide on where each of my best/most expensive items would be. If I had to have done that on the day, it would have been a nightmare!

I made sure that there were different levels on my table and also a mirror (very important!). I have got a little device that people can put an earring on and then put up to their ear (so they can see how an earring looks), which is very hygienic  and it means that I actively encourage people to touch the jewellery. I think it’s most important to let people connect with the jewellery by touching and trying on.

It’s always a good idea to go round the front of your table and see it from the customer’s side. What I do too, is to go further away (when setting up), even the other side of the venue if it’s not too big, and see how my table looks from there. This time one of my pieces just sparkled and stood out, even from a long way away. It showed my lighting was okay (I used battery-operated, clip-on LED lights, but I still think I need better next time) and I was pleased that my table stood out.

All the detritus was stored away under the table and all the boxes (with new shiny labels on). I had pre-prepared some bags with tissue paper and labels, and these too were under the table. When I got a sale, I didn’t want to be fussing about with boxes and packaging; I wanted it all ready and to hand. I don’t like taking my eyes off my
table for too long – some things can walk off the table if you’re unlucky (not a problem at this event), or I might miss that important cue from someone who wants to buy or ask a question. Its the same reason why I don’t really sit down at events (I’ve done them for other people before this one) – I find it easier to talk to people and it keeps me on my toes (not literally!)

I was very lucky that my mum came and stood at the table now and again (in between going around the event herself as a customer). It gave me a chance to nip off to the loo or go get a drink. I don’t like asking the people either side of me, it’s unprofessional and they have their own tables to look after. Having mum (and now both my in-laws and mum’s friend) there also helped because I think that people saw a busy table and came over to see what was interesting all these other people. They didn’t stay long but it was a nice boost to the day.

I like talking to those who come see my table. Not too much, as it can either put some people off, or mean that you end up in a long conversation rather than selling. I like to ask people what their favourite piece (of their own jewellery) is. It is a bit of an ice-breaker, but it also gives me an insight into what they might be looking for. I made lots of new contacts – wonderful, even if they didn’t buy something. Someone who likes your stuff may not buy then and there but may either buy later, or tell friends/family about your stuff, or even both. Word of mouth is my best advertising, and I thank everyone who came to say hello at the event.

A good rule is to not forget to thank the organiser. Sarah Buckley, thank you! Sarah made me feel welcome and part of things. She provided all the information and helped in any way she could. I can’t thank her enough.

As well as making some profit on the day (hooray!), I had four new commissions to make. I couldn’t wish for a better outcome to the day.

Here’s to the next one!