Thursday, 7 December 2017

Behind the scenes at Making Jewellery magazine - writing a silver clay jewellery tutorial

I'm really excited that the silver clay tutorial I wrote for Making Jewellery magazine had been published. I was even more excited that my work was chosen for the front cover!

I was commissioned to write the tutorial by Sian Hamilton, the editor of Making Jewellery magazine.
Each issue has a theme and the theme for issue 114, January 2018 was fire and ice. I was asked to make six different pieces, write the step by step instructions and take photos as well. It's a lot to do and I didn't have a long time to get it done.

I started off thinking about designs. I actually started making a totally different piece but I woke up one morning and decided it wasn't complex enough for a tutorial. It was two days of work and I had to start from scratch but some elements of the idea did stick.

I decided to make lentil beads. These are round beads that are domed. It's an interesting project that works well in silver clay with lots of possibilities for beginners and more advanced learners so I decided that it would be good for the magazine.
I had to make 6 different pieces so I decided to do three styles - ice (pictured above), fire (pictured below right) and both (below left)!
I used a lot of gemstones - cubic zirconias from Metal Clay Ltd and beads for stringing the pieces onto from Shangrila gems. I also used Vintaj patina and XLgel liver of sulphur from Metal Clay Ltd.

Making jewellery on the train!
My husband helped me with the photos as I often needed to have my hands in the shot to show what I was doing. I used white A4 paper in the background of these shots. I found that part difficult. With silver clay you are often working fast to get things done and stopping to photograph, especially when you have bright lights heating everything up, was tough. I actually made some of the pieces on a train journey! I travel between Edinburgh and London a lot and the journey is 4 hours and 20 minutes so there's time for some making!

I actually wrote the tutorial after everything was made rather than at the time. As an experienced teacher I am used to writing handouts and step by step instructions and I enjoyed doing that part.

The jewellery needed to be sent to the magazine office for professional photography (I have it back now!)
It is a lot of work but it was a great challenge and is fantastic seeing my work in print. I hope to do at least one more in 2018!

Monday, 4 December 2017

My creative week - moving day!

Monday 27th November 2017
Edinburgh entrepreneurs group
I'm really lucky to have found a great group of creatives. We meet once a month to discuss our progress over the past month and to set goals for the coming month. It is so helpful to have them cheering me on and also to be able to benefit from their local knowledge and support. We meet for a coffee (tea for me!) and a chat. We were meant to be setting goals for 2018 and I had a few but I do think I'd like to think about that some more. I've had a lot of change in 2017 and it's been great so it's time to think about how to enjoy being in Edinburgh now.

Tuesday 28th November 2017
As part of my work for the London Jewellery School I have been working on their prospectus. I have been doing this for months! It is now finally finished! I'm looking forward to seeing how it looks in print!

Friday 1st December 2017
Moving day!
I'm so excited to be moving into studio 3 at Hill Street Design House! It's such a great location right in the middle of things in Edinburgh but also close to where I live. Many of the other studio spaces I've seen are in Leith or are to the south of Edinburgh which are a bit of a trek for me. For a while in London I was sharing a studio space at Craft Central near Farringdon (sadly not there anymore) but it didn't work out for me because it was at least an hours commute each way, not to mention the cost of travel. In the end I found I didn't want to be travelling into London on the days I wasn't there for work. This is why I'm so excited about getting into a routine of working at Hill Street Design House. It is convenient and I can walk there. It also has a lovely space that I can teach from so I'll be looking to plan some classes in the new year.
Today I went along to collect my keys and learn where the bins are and all that important stuff! The person who is leaving still had some of her stuff in the space but it didn't matter for today as I just wanted to get my keys!

Saturday 2nd December 2017
Silver clay workshop at the Art Club Edinburgh
Today I had my first full day workshop at the Art Club. I've taught the class many times and it is my favourite to teach because for most people it's the first go at working with silver clay and people get really excited! Today was no exception! I had a lovely group who all made some great pieces. We did manage to get the smoke alarm off which is a first for me but I got it switched off pretty quickly!
Here are some of the things the students made

Sunday 3rd December 2017
Since my last holiday I have learnt that I really need to take time away from working and not work all the time without getting some proper rest. So today I spent reading a crime novel by Louise Penny. I definitely recommend her series of books if you haven't read them. If was just lovely to lie on the sofa with a blanket and do nothing except read!

Sunday, 26 November 2017

My creative week - the tale of two hot tubs!

This week my husband and I had the week off! Which may make you think that I didn't do anything creative but that's not the case! In fact I found it really helpful to take a step back from being busy and have some time to relax. And, as you can see, I did still work a bit - the trials of being self-employed!

Monday 20th November 2017
My husband Gary and I drove to Loch Fyne in the Highlands of Scotland. I say we drove, I can't drive so I was in charge of the music. And snacks.

Loch in the Highlands. Photo by Gary Ullah

The drive takes about 3 hours from home in good traffic and we made good time. It was foggy but we stopped off on the way for some photos (Gary is a photographer). We were visiting our favourite spot, a place called Portavadie. Gary found Portavadie last year as it's near where we got married and we stayed there the night before we went to our lovely wedding cottage. We were impressed then and this trip is our third visit (and there will be more!)

This is by far our most favourite hot tub! The views of Loch Fyne are stunning and the infinity pool (at the back of the photo) is also really warm and inviting, especially on a cold November in Scotland when it's raining!

Portavadie photo from Trip Advisor
Work wise - despite poor phone reception I had a phone interview with the Daily Mail. Not sure how that's going to pan out so we'll see, I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday 21st November 2017
As it is out of peak season we had a studio apartment this time rather than a lodge room and it's definitely our favourite type of room now. We had our own kitchen but the biggest revelation is that we had further spa access to an upstairs area we didn't know existed! It has lovely loungers with a view over the loch and we spent some time here reading. It also has an additional sauna, steam room and hydropool.
I didn't take my phone or ipad with me as I wanted to relax and not get caught up with checking the internet all the time but I did keep checking my email when we got back to the apartment to see if I'd heard anything about the desk I want to rent. Still nothing. Sigh.

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
Our last day at Portavadie but we managed to sneak in some more hot tub action! It is cold and rainy but the sauna is nice and warm.

Snow in the Highlands photo by Gary Ullah
A few more stops for photos on the way home. There's snow on the peaks now.
We got caught in traffic which kind of ruins the chilled out hot tub vibe unfortunately!

Friday 24th November 2017
Still no word on the desk space. It's been more than a week and I had had such high hopes. Oh well.
It's Black Friday which doesn't really mean too much in the UK but it seems to be something that retailers have taken to! I did notice some great offers for metal clay artists and so I wrote a blog post about them called Five fantastic Black Friday offers for metal clay artists and I shared it on some facebook forums and it's gone wild! Over 660 views at the moment and it's still rising! Obviously I hit a popular topic today!

We decided to try out the One Spa in Edinburgh. So this is hot tub number two for the week! Well, it's more of a hydrapool but it has bubbles!

The spa has lots of different facilities including saunas and steam areas. We did enjoy it but it is quite expensive so more of a treat than an everyday place!

Saturday 25th November 2017
And then this morning I got the message that the desk space is mine! Fantastic. I had continued to hope that this would be the case and I think having to wait a while meant that I won't take it for granted (although I move in next week and then spend 10 days in London so not sure I'm going to be able to get my money's worth in December! Oh well!).

I had other things to do today too, I was demonstrating silver clay jewellery making at The Art Club, Edinburgh

Set up to demonstrate making silver clay jewellery at The Art Club, Edinburgh
It was good fun and I have some of my jewellery available for sale there now until christmas.

Sunday 26th November 2017
The last day of our holiday and we had already booked to visit the Botanic Gardens Christmas at the Botanics light trail it's a cold day so wrapping up warm was very necessary! Our ticket was for 4.40pm and it was already dark! I really enjoyed the singing trees and the lights cast by the disco balls. It's definitely worth seeing and I hope to take my parents when they visit.

So, what a busy holiday week! More to come next week!

Friday, 24 November 2017

Five fantastic Black Friday deals for metal clay artists

Black Friday has arrived and along with it an astounding amount of offers in my inbox and on facebook. For an American tradition it really has found some traction here in the UK! Don't get me wrong, I will be looking at whether I can get some christmas present shopping done but I noticed that there are some great offers out there for metal clay artists to invest in their own training or to stock up on supplies. So, with that in mind, here are the deals I've seen that are worth a second look

1. 20% off day and evening classes at the London Jewellery School
As you probably know, I work for the London Jewellery School. If you'd like to take a class with me there you can see my teaching calendar for 2018 here (it is possible that there will be some changes but right now I am the one due to teach the classes listed above).
For me, learning face to face with an expert tutor is the quickest way to develop your skills. It allows you to ask questions and practice with feedback. For metal clay artists there are advanced classes including paper clay, soldering metal clay and stone setting in metal clay.
You can book any day or evening class with 20% off with voucher code 06111701 online or call 0203 176 0546.
This offer runs until 30th November 2018

2. 50% off classes with Jewellery School Online
I filmed stone setting in metal clay, torch fired techniques which teaches you how to set lab created stones, glass and bezel cups using a butane torch (no kiln required). This course features videos you can watch as many times as you like as well as notes you can download. There are lots of other great video courses filmed by my colleagues at the London Jewellery School including a beginners course by Julia Rai Make silver clay charms
Use code BLACKJEWEL at checkout for a massive 50% discount. There's only a limited number of discounted courses and the offer ends at midnight on Tuesday 28th November 2018 so don't delay!
(Just a note, this offer does not include the Business Bootcamp. I am a proud affiliate for these courses)

3. 15% off Art Clay
Of course if you do all these courses you'll need some clay to work with! Metal Clay Ltd have a generous 15% off all Art Clay silver including clay, paste, syringe and paper until 1pm on Monday 27th November 2018 at 1pm
Click here to check out the bargains!

4. 10% off PMC
If you prefer PMC or would love to try out PMC flex, PMC studio are offering 10% off their most popular products while stocks last.

5. 35% off Craftcast classes
Alison Lee of Craftcast is offering a huge 35% off her video classes. Learn with some of the best metal clay artists in the world so you should definitely take a look and see if there are any classes you want to take. I have purchased many and can recommend them.
Use the coupon code thanks35 at checkout.
Offer ends 27th November 2018.

I'm sure there are more great offers for metal clay artists out there so please do share any you see with us in the comments below!

Edit: Thanks to Jackie Moore for pointing out deals at Cookson Gold including 25% off Prometheus kilns. You can find the full list of metal clay deals at Cooksons here

Sunday, 19 November 2017

My creative week - hopes are sky high!

I've decided to blog about my creative week as I know I find an insight into creative people's processes and activities really interesting!

Monday 13th November 2017
(I travelled down to London on 8th November. As part of my work for the London Jewellery School I need to spend two days a month in the office there and when I go I usually do some teaching too.)

Stone setting in metal clay samples from class at the London Jewellery School

Today I taught Stone setting in metal clay to one of the Diploma in Creative Jewellery groups at the London Jewellery School. It was good fun, we set glass, bezel set a stone and dry set a fireable stone.
Then I was off on the train back home! The train from London to Edinburgh takes around 4 hours 20 minutes and when there's an offer on I travel first class! I went first class today and had a lovely veggie risotto on board!

Tuesday 14th November 2017
I needed a bit of a rest day but in the evening I was working on a webinar for Jewellery School Online. It was a free webinar on preparing your jewellery business for christmas run by my boss Jessica Rose. I was doing support on the chat, dealing with any technical problems (thankfully not many!) and questions that arise so Jess can get on with her talk. It went very well.

Wednesday 15th November 2017
I am a member of a Creative Entrepreneurs group which has been so fantastic for me. We meet once a month and talk about our achievements for the month and then set goals for the coming month. Through this group I have started working with the Arienas Collective and will be teaching sessions for them in the coming weeks.
This evening there was a meeting of the group at the Arienas Collective and it was so great. One of the things that can be difficult as an artist, or anyone self-employed, is that it can be very isolating. It was really inspiring to meet more artists based in Edinburgh who all had a similar mindset, it felt great.

Thursday 16th November 2017
Today I saw in an email that there was a desk space available at 3 Hill Street Design House in Edinburgh! This has been my ideal place to get a desk/studio space since I visited for a Creative Edinburgh event a couple of months ago as it's a lovely location, close to home and also in the centre of Edinburgh so excellent for teaching. BUT there were no spaces available and one would only become available if someone left. So I was really excited that I might get the chance to get this much-coveted space. I messaged and was able to visit the space on Thursday.

Friday 17th November 2017
I went along to visit 3 Hill Street Design House and loved it (as I knew I would) and with a small amount of anxiety I asked the price! I'd had a price in my mind that I could go up to and thankfully (it was Thanksgiving yesterday after all!) the price was under that! Phew! So I told Hazel, who deals with managing the space, that I was definitely 100% interested, please please please! But tried to be a bit more cool about it. I may not have succeeded! And then I waited. I decided not to bombard her with annoying emails, who wants to share a space with someone needy? But I kept waiting to hear from her. I knew the desk space would be popular so I just had to hope that I'd made a good first impression.

Monday, 23 October 2017

New to metal clay? Here's the clay you should try first and why

Samples from my taster class in silver clay, suitable for beginners
I regularly see questions in the facebook metal clay groups about which metal clay to try as a newbie. Firstly, if you are a newbie to metal clay - welcome! Metal clay is a fantastic material to use to make jewellery. It is flexible and easier on the hands than sheet metal and can be used at home with minimal tools. Of course there are lots of tools you COULD buy - but that's for another post! BUT if you start out with the wrong clay you can quickly become disheartened and decide it's not for you and that would be a shame.
Choosing the right metal clay to start with may feel a little daunting as there are a few different brands and many different metals available including fine silver, sterling silver, bronze, copper, gold, brass and steel. As a newcomer to metal clay you might look at the prices of these clays and think, well copper and bronze are cheapest so I'll start with them. I think this is a mistake and would urge you always to start with fine silver clay - whether Art Clay Fine Silver or PMC3
There are two main reasons:

1. Ability to fire at home
One of the main benefits of the fine silver clays is that you can torch fire pieces at home with a butane torch or gas hob. There are a few caveats to this. Your piece should not be larger than a 50 pence piece (this is quite a big coin for any of you that haven't visited the UK!). I would also not suggest firing rings with a torch, I prefer to use a kiln.
There are some copper clays that say you can torch fire them. I am sure this is correct but I have found that the fine silver is the easiest to fire with a torch and so I would urge you to start with them first.

2. Consistency
At the moment I find the silver clays the most consistent to work with. By this I mean they tend to do the same things every time. For someone who is new to using metal clay this is reassuring!

Why start with fine silver and not sterling silver?
Fine silver is also known as 999. This is because for every 1000 particles, 999 are silver and 1 is copper. This means it is a purer silver than sterling silver, also known as 925 (925 particles per 1000 are silver and 75 are copper). Sterling silver clay is relatively new to the market and you may be tempted to try that HOWEVER at the time of writing the sterling silver formulas all need to be kiln fired. I wouldn't suggest buying a kiln until you have some experience of using metal clay as it is a large investment. So start with fine silver and use an inexpensive butane torch!

Art Clay or PMC? The first two brands to the market with metal clay were Art Clay, manufactured by Aida and Precious Metal Clay (PMC) manufactured by Mitsubishi. There are now more silver clays on the market but these two are the most widely available in the UK so for the purposes of accessibility I will talk about these.
I have certifications from both of the manufacturers and have used both and I can honestly say that you use them in the same way. Do look at the individual instructions for torch firing and follow these guidelines but generally if you use one you can use the other! Historically in the UK Art Clay is usually the cheapest of the two gram for gram. You have to do some calculations to make a direct comparison as they are sold in different packet sizes and I would suggest you do a search when you want to buy some to see who is the cheapest supplier at the time. I normally buy my Art Clay from Metal Clay Ltd so it is worth checking their prices when doing your search.

What questions do you have about using metal clay? Please do let me know in the comments below

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Teaching at the Big Bead Show 2017

October is a very busy month for me! After teaching my first residential course last week I was teaching at The Big Bead Show in Sandown Park, Esher this week for the London Jewellery School! For some reason I've never been before.
It is a bit of a walk from the station with all my kit but soon I was there and jumping the queue that had already formed outside, waiting to get in! My workshop space was at the other end of the large exhibition area so I was able to see everyone setting up their stalls with all their sparkly wares!
I went up to the workshop space to set up. It had a very expansive view of the racecourse.

I was able to set up quickly, chat with Alison Tarry, the tutor teaching the workshop next door to me and even managed to get a cup of tea before we got started! These were Alison's gorgeous class samples and I was jealous not to get a chance to pop in and see her teaching!

The super talented Alison Tarry's work (not mine!)
I had 12 students in the group and we got started quickly. I was teaching a two-hour workshop in wax carving a ring. The process of lost wax casting is an ancient one and continues today. You make your piece in wax by cutting, filing, whittling etc the wax away to leave the shape you want. This can then be refined and sanded down and is cast by a professional caster in any metal you want. I enjoy the process and it is the way I made our wedding rings.

I started by showing some sample pieces as it is useful to get an idea of the types of things that work well if you haven't tried the technique before. We discussed design ideas and I showed everyone how to make it to a ring size. People then started to shave wax off their ring blanks and I was glad I remembered the dustpan and brush as it's a messy process!

Once everyone had sized their wax blank and done some sketched designs I demonstrated different ways to shape the wax and they were all off and working on their rings! It was just a two-hour session but it was good to see how the designs took shape and I think everyone was pleased with what they managed to achieve. I know some people were going to send their pieces to a caster and I hope they will share a photo of the finished piece with me when they do!

After my workshop I had a chance to have a look around the Show before I was at the 'Meet The Tutors' session with Jessica Rose, my manager and the founder of the London Jewellery School. We were lucky to chat to some lovely people and were able to answer questions. And then I had to get back to London to get my train back up to Scotland! Via the London Jewellery School because I had to drop off the equipment that I'd used.
It's been a busy month but I had a great time at The Big Bead Show.

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