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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.


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!


Do you know how a top jewellery designer spends their day? Well, I don’t know either, but here’s what I get up to on my typical jewellery making day (this being a Friday) … 7:30am – woken up by Siamese … Continue reading

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 29: CZ’s Are This Girl’s Best Friend

Wow, still a day behind in my posts, but not in actually getting the jewellery made.  My headache finally disappeared but the time has flown today with all the extra care that my Frodo has needed, as well as all the ‘normal’ day-to-day mum-things I get to do.  Although, saying that – am I the only one who plays modelling dough with her daughter and ends up designing jewellery with it?

For a good many years now I have had this one lonely earring, mooching about in my personal jewellery stash, lost without it’s twin.  I really loved it (although when I wore the pair they made my ears itch) and have wanted to do something with it for a long time.  With the help of some Siligum silicon moulding paste, PMC3 pure silver and three CZ’s – I think today’s the day I make it finally useful.

Siligum moulding paste is great stuff.  It comes in two parts, white and blue.  Equal amounts of both colours are kneaded together until all the white disappears and it is uniformly blue.  Then you have a few minutes to press your items into the paste and wait for it to cure into a flexible mould.

I made a ball of the mixed moulding paste and slightly flattened it with a flat piece of perspex.  Then the earring was pushed into the paste and left while the mould cured (when it’s ready, it will resist you pushing your fingernail into it and will bounce back).  As I’m not very good at judging exactly how much paste I’m going to need (no pun intended), I always make a little more than I expect to use and have some extra things handy to make moulds of.

The mould was then filled with PMC3 and left for the PMC3 to dry enough that it could be removed from the mould without cracking or breaking.  A hole was cut in the centre so that the pear-shaped CZ would have light going all the way through.  The CZ was put in place and a ‘snake’ of PMC3 was coiled around it, with slip pasted over any joins or gaps to seal the pieces together.  20 minutes in the small electric oven and it was ready to sand smooth.  Any details were added or defined with a metal scribe, and then the piece was torch-fired for a couple of minutes to burn off the binder and sinter the piece back into pure silver (a process based on atomic diffusion that creates objects from powders. Sounds more like alchemy than jewellery! ).

After sintering, the pin was soldered to the back with medium solder and then a round claw setting was soldered in place at the top with easy solder.  (I have a soldering mat with holes in which is really useful when a piece has an earring stud pin or a tie-tack pin and I need to solder something to the front as well.  The post/pin goes into one of the holes and keeps the piece flat without having to be held with tweezers which can cause problems as heat sinks.)  A quick dip in the pickle, then a steel brush and silicon wheels were used to bring the silver to a shine – with an agate burnisher being used for the final mirror-shine polish.

The round CZ was added to the claw setting and another cz, this time a marquise cut, was added as a dangle.  Just to say that I re-used the mount for the marquise-cut CZ – I had to cut it to size and solder the ends shut then re-mould it round the stone so that it held it tightly in place (the original stone that it held was much larger and pear-shaped).

Just to say that of the following photos, only the first is the real deal.  It’s quite obvious, but I just wanted to be clear – the second image has been photo-edited to show how the middle gem should look.  It looks beautiful in real-life, but I don’t think I took the right angle photo and it looks like all it’s sparkle is gone.


“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 27: Birthday Present

Wow, Day 27 already?  Where has the time gone?

Talking of time – apologies for the lateness of this post (it’s already half past midnight) but it’s been a busy day with both creating jewellery and going with my little girl to a birthday party at the local play-barn.

Today I wondered that when I talk or write about making things from scrap or recycled materials (even if they are precious metals), do those phrases bring to mind rubbish or even that the end product is sub-standard in some way?  It’s so hard to get beyond those concepts when recycling is part of the discussion; as if something that is reused or recycled has to be flawed in some way or that it’s previous life has to be hidden to value the new item in any way.

I suppose this came to mind more today because I was making a birthday present for a little girl and I wanted to include it in this challenge.  I didn’t need to – I could have made her something from new silver sheet or wire, but I really believe in not wasting precious resources and all my silver is the same (well, either pure or sterling, anyway), even if it has been made into something else before.

The elements that I wanted to re-use were some pure silver PMC3* pieces, which were either testers or were reclaimed from other jewellery I had previously made (and then taken apart again – artist’s prerogative).  Luckily, I had made a tester of the right initial for the little girl’s name and it was sitting, waiting, in my box of misc. fired PMC pieces.  Looking through the box, I also found some stars of different sizes and took two – one big and one small.

I really dislike the phrase “on-trend” – it’s overused everywhere these days.  Well, something that seems on-trend (*winces*) in jewellery at the moment is chain necklaces with a drop of chain at the front with charms hanging from it – very bohemian, but with a chic style that could go well with a little black dress or a smart work suit.  It also seemed a fun and light necklace for a little girl’s jewellery box – something special but not too grown up (children should be children, in my book) that she could grow into.

Checking my box of chains (wow, that doesn’t sound *quite* as it should!), by now you’ll have realised that I keep all my materials grouped by colour or type in compartmented boxes , I found a small section of good quality silver belcher chain and some jump-rings of different sizes (although I don’t know why they were in there, my putting away must have been off that day!).  Looking at all the pieces, a design was sketched out and then off to the bench to put it all together.

I added all the pieces together with the jump-rings, which were then soldered closed carefully so as not to solder the jump-ring to anything else except itself – easier said than done!  A pair of locking tweezers, holding the jump-ring about mid-way, were very helpful in acting as a heat sink and stopping the solder travelling past the join and onto anything else.  A larger jump-ring (in a wider gauge wire) was attached to the top of the chain to act as a bail, and was also soldered closed.

As chain is notoriously hard (and dangerous) to polish with a rotary motor – the chain went into the tumbler, alongside the head-pin which I would use for the last dangle off the chain.  This would work-harden the silver, making it more hard-wearing, as well as giving it a mirror-shine.

After tumbling, I added the last dangle – a single freshwater pearl.  I believe that the pearl is the oldest known gem and was originally seen as the most valuable.  The story I like best about pearls, is that they are formed by angels travelling through the clouds of heaven.  A perfect gem for a little girl, I think.

(Sorry for how the pearl looks in the photo – I don’t seem to be able to take a good photo of pearls – it’s another thing for me still to learn)

Oh, see how time flies when posting?  It’s now 1:20 am and I think I’d better show you the necklace now before I go and collapse after this tiring day.  Well, here it is – and don’t tell me that it doesn’t look perfectly beautiful, even more so because I re-used and recycled.





*Precious Metal Clay is pure silver, which has itself been recycled, in an organic clay binder which can be moulded or worked like clay but when fired at the right temperature, will turn back into pure silver with the binder burning away totally

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 26: A Girlfriend for Pete

Remember Pete, my little bat from Day 16?  Well, today he got a girlfriend.

I’m down to really tiny pieces of silver sheet and odd pieces of wire in my main scrap box – so I wasn’t going to be making something big today.  I had made myself a replacement engagement ring a little while ago (the original had worn too thin and was uncomfortable to wear) out of two circles of wire soldered together, with the front part opened up enough so that I could set a rainbow moonstone with a heart shape either side.  I wanted to try this technique out again and I thought that a little bat would look great in the frame of silver wire.

The silver wire I would be using is the Reflections silver wire, which would make life easier with less pickling because of resisting fire-scale.

As you can see, the bat had to be cut in sections from lots of little pieces of scrap silver sheet.  It was quite difficult to use a hand saw with such small pieces but, apart from one broken saw blade, everything turned out how I wanted it.  Then, I soldered it all together with hard solder, making sure that all the seams were tight.

To make the ring, I decided to take two lengths of round 0.8mm silver wire and shape the middle of each to be a half-oval.  Putting the two wires together as a mirror-image of each other, both ends (where the wires lay parallel to each other) were soldered to make the ring shank.

When the bat was placed in the oval, even though it looked fine, I decided to shape the wire around the bat rather than leave it the oval shape.  This was easier said than done because the wires had already been soldered together and that left me with only so much wire that would still move.  Oh well, hindsight is always 20:20, yes?

Once the “oval” was roughly the right bat-shape, the little bat was soldered in place with hard solder.  Any previous solder joints that melted would re-harden again without moving due to the fact that all the pieces were still flat.  If this had been shaped or already formed into a ring, this technique would not have worked and a lower temperature solder would have been used to avoid melting the original joins.

The ring was then formed on a metal ring mandrel (looks like a thin cone which is marked out in graded ring sizes) with a raw-hide hammer, so as not to mark or distort the silver.  The ring shank cut to size and the joint soldered with medium solder (after having been taken off the mandrel!).  I took this opportunity to check the back of the ring and solder again any part that had not been done to my satisfaction.

The ring was put back on the mandrel to check that it was still round and to make sure the ring shank was level (heating the ring for soldering can distort the piece so it is always best to re-check your work afterwards).  Looking at the little bat, it occurred to me that she was missing any definition (except for her eyes, which were round indents punched with a sharpened nail and a hammer).  Leaving the ring on the mandrel for support, the lines on her wings where her bones would be and the fur-like texture on the main body were created with a motorised engraver.  I don’t use the engraver much as it buzzes extremely loudly – even a few minutes of using it is enough for me!

Another check and then into the tumbler for about an hour.  It comes out looking really shiny, but after taking photos, I decide that it could do with a final polish by hand to make sure any fine scratches (which show up on the photos but you can’t see by the naked eye) are removed.  I am in two minds about adding black (by either Liver of Sulphur or by Gilder’s wax) into the details; on one hand – the patina may not stay in the engraved lines and just polish off, but on the other hand – it may make it easier to see the details and this little bat is really pretty.  If I decide to add the black, I will do an update post with new photos.

Anyway, here is the little ring (it’s size is about halfway between “O” and “P” on the ring mandrel):

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 25: Problems with Pumpkins

How I hate having ideas but not being able to bring them to life (How apt – I feel a bit like Dr Frankenstein today; although my monster didn’t even make it off the slab).

I wanted to make a copper pumpkin, built up in layers with the top layer having the face cut out and so I could then give the whole thing a patina but polish it away in the cut-outs so that they would glow with the polished ‘raw’ copper.  I thought  it would look good that way, and so went about designing it.

Well, it turns out that soldering two pieces of copper together (in the freezing cold – I could see my breath as I was working!) wasn’t too bad; but then trying to solder that to another piece was nigh on impossible!  I don’t think my blow-torch could get the metal hot enough for the solder to flow smoothly.  The cold probably didn’t help either.  After a few tries and some time in the pickle in-between (to take any old flux and fire-scale off before trying again), I was ready to throw the piece out the window (without opening the window first!).

The model of restraint that I am (*cough*), I decided instead to sit down and rethink the design.  I liked the shape and the copper, but how to get the face of the pumpkin right?  Well, it turned out to be as simple as cutting the shapes out of silver and soldering them on the basic shape of the pumpkin (single layer of copper).  The silver solder leaked out slightly around the pieces of silver sheet and instead of sanding it away, I decided to keep it as it gave the pumpkin a sort of silvery glow around it’s features – very spooky!

To get the 3D feel without the layers, which proved so tricky in my first attempt, I used a hammer with a small flat-head screwdriver and did a very (deliberately) rough repoussé  technique where the pumpkin’s curves would be.

The pumpkin polished up well with the silicon wheels and then I heated the whole thing very gently to give the bright copper a more orange patina.  In fact, the colours were a very beautiful pink and orange but after the Renaissance Wax was applied, the colours dulled to a more all-over pumpkin orange.

So here is my pretty pumpkin, all ready to be a pendant or a fob on a key chain. He’s so light-weight – just don’t tell him how simple he is too.

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 24: Back to the Beginning Dragonfly

The “back to the beginning” in the title is a reference to where I started with jewellery.  A pair of round-nosed pliers, a pair of snipe-nosed pliers and some wire-cutters rattled around in my first tool-box and I worked with silver-plated wire and crystal beads from a well-known hobby store (in the UK).

That was about five years ago and my first pieces were wire-wrapped earrings.  I soon progressed to sterling silver wire and semi-precious stones, but it wasn’t until I got my blow-torch  that I really started to broaden both my skills and designs.  (I had learned to solder and arc-weld at college w-a-a-a-y back in my youth as an art student.)

The reason I’m in the reminiscing mood is because I’ve had to put down my torch for today.  My little girl is a bit under the weather and we’ve had a lovely day doing nothing-much but watching films and playing Lego Rock-band.  Not wanting to disappear to my bench, I decided to make something while we sat watching another Scooby Doo film.

That meant that I could only use enough stuff that I could sit on a tray on my lap and only cold-connections.  I’ve got some lengths of gold-filled (better than gold-plated as it’s got thicker layers of gold and is more resistant to polishing and general wear & tear) round wire that I’ve not really found much use for (it can be really hard to solder without the gold fading by being absorbed into the core metal).  Well, I’ve had an idea for a dragonfly brooch for a while and so today seemed a great day to try it out.

I found a picture of a dragonfly that I liked:

I sketched it out on paper and decided on how the wire would have to be wrapped together to make the shape.  Then I got my first piece of wire and made the first loop (for right at the top, so it could be a pendant as well as a brooch if needed).

All the crystals used were either Swarovski® or Czech crystal beads.  I used two black ones for eyes and Light Sapphire for the body with the “tail”  in Metallic Crystal Blue ABx2 (twice coated in the Aurora Borealis finish, which gives the crystals a multi-coloured sheen), and the wings in a mix of AB crystal in different sizes/shapes.

The main outline, including the wings and legs, was made first out of 0.8mm gold-filled round wire.  Then the eyes, body and “tail” were beaded.  I added a brooch fitting (sadly in a base metal, as I didn’t have any other and wasn’t going to make a brooch pin as I wasn’t soldering today) and wound the wire round to secure it.

I didn’t totally fill the wings with beads – I liked the lacy look came with having spaces in-between the beads.

This piece turned out bigger than I actually had expected.  It measures approximately 7.5cm across the wings and 7cm from head to tail.

It reminded me of how difficult I found this type of jewellery – I find it really hard to make the wire-wrapping neat, and tight against the wire.  I’ve always had respect for those who can make beautiful things without being able to solder or rivet; but today has reminded me that I shouldn’t neglect to refine all my learned jewellery techniques and still strive to learn more – as they are all facets of this craft that I love.

Update:  I’m so sorry that this didn’t make it onto the blog yesterday (when I wrote it), I thought I had posted it but only noticed that I hadn’t when I came to write today’s post.