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.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Build a website in a weekend - workshop in London next weekend

I will be back in London next week and there are still a few places left on my Build your website in a weekend course on Saturday 30th September and Sunday 1st October 2017

Who is this course for?

Would you like to build a website for your business or project? This intensive course has been designed to help you build your website in a weekend with guidance from me!

This course is suitable for
  • small business owners
  • artists/photographers/musicians etc who would like to create a portfolio website
  • coaches, counsellors etc

What does this course cover?

During this intensive course you will learn how to build a website using weebly

By the end of the course students will be able to
  • Build their own website
  • Make changes and updates to the website
  • Buy and add their own web domain
  • Edit and add images to the site
  • Link your social media to your site

You will learn both the theory and the practical 'how to' as this class will be taught in a computer room

Have a look at my website, which I built using weebly

If you're thinking of enrolling and have any questions do get in touch!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Saul Bell Awards 2017 - metal clay winner made with bronze clay!

I love the Saul Bell Design Award, an annual prize for jewellery design. All of the finalist's work is jaw-dropping so it's well worth a look.
As part of the the awards there are nine categories including metal clay. The winner this year in the metal clay category is Cindy Miller for her necklace called Cultivated Woodland. It is made from bronze clay and pearls. You can find an interview of her here where she talks more about how she made the piece and what inspired her.

Cindy Miller - Cultivated woodland necklace
In second place was this gorgeous piece by Liz Sabol. Liz has shared some of her process in this interview with Creative Fire.

Liz Sabol - Cheshire Cat
The runners up were

Iwona Tamborska
Helen Sang

Wendy Wallin Mallnow

The big news for 2018 is that they are no longer going to have a specific metal clay category. I think this is a shame as I have always looked forward to seeing the fantastic work on show. However, the organisers of the award have said that metal clay entries can still be made in their new categories and that this signals that metal clay is no longer something different but accepted as a material in jewellery making rather than something separate which I think is a positive step.

Which is your favourite piece?

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Social media and blogging masterclasses in July 2017

I'm teaching a couple of business workshops this month at the Mary Ward Centre, London during their summer school and I hope you can join me. I've been teaching pr, social media and blogging for a few years and I am currently working as the Marketing Coordinator (part time) for the London Jewellery School where my role is to promote courses online, create effective facebook adverts, work with magazines and plan and manage internal and external events. 

Blogging masterclass
26th July 2017 10-5pm
Course code: 50SS
Photo credit: ImpactBND
I love blogging and have had my own blog since 2010, been a paid blogger since 2014 and I am a blogger for the Huffington Post.

Would you like to promote your business through your blog? Get paid to write blog posts for others?
Learn how to monetise your blog with advertising?

Who is this course for?
Would you like to promote your business through your blog? Get paid to write blog posts for others?
Learn how to monetise your blog with advertising?
What does this course cover
On this one day masterclass you'll:
  • Learn what to write that will attract readers
  • Create your own blog content planner
  • Learn how to attract advertisers
  • Learn the secrets of how to pitch successfully to blog for the Huffington Post
  • Learn how to get your blog on the Google Play newsstand
And more!

By the end of the course you'll have your own personal action plan
(Note: this course is about blogging rather than a technical how to use Wordpress etc)

Social media marketing for business
27th July 2017,10-5pm
Course code: 54SS
Photo credit: Ackermann PR
Who is this course for?
Do you want to use social media to promote your business? Or are you applying for jobs where you need knowledge of social media? This intensive course has been designed to help get you up to scratch with your social media knowledge and give you the tricks of the trade

What does this course cover?
During this intensive course you will learn how to utilise social media to promote your business or
the business/company you work for
By the end of the course students will be able to
  • Consider how to use facebook, twitter and instagram effectively and strategically
  • Automate your business social media so it automatically posts
  • Build a mailing list and send out newsletters using mailchimp
  • Plan your social media strategy

You will learn both the theory and the practical 'how to' as this class will be taught in a computer room

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Summer school classes in London - silver clay rings one day workshop

Flat band silver ring
Despite now living in Edinburgh I am still teaching some classes in London! I will be teaching this one day workshop in silver clay ring making at the Mary Ward Centre. It is a subsidised course so is really inexpensive, £48 full fee, £24 concession fee (this includes 10g of clay. You may need to purchase extra clay depending on your ring size. This will be available from your tutor on the day and will be charged at cost price)

Tuesday 25th July, 10-5pm
Course code: 42SS

Who is this course for?
This course is designed for those with some experience of using silver clay, either a beginners course or your own practice at home.

Flat band embellished silver rings

What does this course cover?
Silver clay is a relatively new product to the market. It can be worked like clay and is made of fine silver particles, a binder and water. When it is fired (which can be done with an inexpensive butane torch at home) the result is a 99.9% fine silver piece which is of hallmark quality. (Note, it is recommended that rings are kiln fired)

D-profile silver rings
This is a new course that has not been taught at the Mary Ward Centre before.
On this course you will make two different types of silver clay ring.
A flat band ring and D profile ring (flat band on the inside, curved on the outside, see photo to the left)
Both rings will be shaped and dried around the mandrel

You will learn how to
- calculate the correct size to allow for shrinkage
- add embellishments and decoration to your ring/s
- programme a jewellery kiln for firing rings

Note: In order to make the most of the day it is likely that your rings will need to be fired overnight. If that is the case you will be given information about when they can be collected or alternatively can have them posted to you by recorded delivery (you will need to pay extra for this).

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Selling jewellery at Kings Cross St Pancras station

Firstly, sorry for my extended absence on the blog. It's been a really busy few months as we have packed up everything and moved from London to Edinburgh! More on that in future blog posts!

Last week I delivered my silver jewellery bee range to the Things British store in Kings Cross St Pancras station, London. Things British sell handcrafted items made in the UK. They work on a rent a shelf basis, are open 7 days a week and the artist gets 100% of the sale price (excluding card fees). I previously sold my jewellery in their other shop in Greenwich, London a couple of years ago and I thought I would give this store a try to see how it goes.

Preparing the stock takes time! I decided to focus on my bestselling range which is the bee range and so I have only taken that design. I made the range in different shapes, sizes and jewellery type including cufflinks. Soldering the cufflinks and stud backs, getting and adding the chain to the necklaces, writing out the price labels - there's a lot to get done when preparing stock for sale!
I was glad to be able to go in and deliver the stock in person and set up my own display. That way, if I need to post stock down from Scotland I know the staff will just add my pieces in.

If you are in the area or are travelling from the station do pop in and have a look! There are loads of beautiful handcrafted items for sale there. Just the place to buy a unique souvenir of the UK!
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