Sunday, 23 October 2011

Trip reports - Sri Lanka and Tamworth...

Aaaah, time flies when you are enjoying yourself, and I have been enjoying myself. In Sri Lanka and the Maldives. It's a good job they are so relentless at selling gems in Sri Lanka, otherwise I would have come home with a bucketful (and a second mortgage). But as it was the high pressure sales and high (negotiable) prices largely kept me out of the gem shops. Sadly I can get better prices on stones in the UK.I wish I could have browsed more though, the variety and quality of the gems on offer were just stunning and I don't often get the chance to see such an array. But it was too difficult to get away without buying anything!

I did buy one little tiny pink sapphire, but I paid too much. It's a lovely colour but quite badly cut with a visibly off-centre culet. Nice though, and a reminder of Sri Lanka.

Before I went on holiday I meant to write up a trip report about the Staffordshire Hoard which I went to see mid September. For those who don't know, the Staffordshire Hoard is the largest Anglo-Saxon gold find in history. It was discovered by a metal detectorist in 2009 and was sold to the British Museum for a cool £3.3 million. Not a bad day’s metal detecting that!

The hoard doesn't include much jewellery, it is mostly decorated weapon parts, sword hilts and such like. It looks like it has been deliberately mangled and then buried and there's a lot of speculation about why. The find includes over 3,500 pieces in total (!). Most pieces are still being cleaned up and studied - a major operation for which funds are still being collected through donations.

We saw around 40 pieces when we visited the hoard in its recent three-part tour of the Midlands. First there was an interesting guided tour around the medieval Tamworth castle before our 30 minute allotted time with the hoard pieces.

The pieces were stunning. The metalwork is so intricate with tiny, tiny filigree designs and pain-staking garnet cloisonné work.

The filigree wire was less than 1mm thick twisted, flattened and soldered onto a gold base, making the wire look like tiny beads. No wonder they give out magnifying glasses so that you can examine the pieces more closely!

The garnet stones were smooth, but sparkled a lot. Apparently they put gold foil underneath to increase the flash. The metalwork was so inspiring given the limited tools of the time.

Unfortunately photos were not permitted, but there are a few here:

If you are in the States and near Washington DC - lucky you - over 100 items from the hoard are at the National Geographic Museum from 29th October 2011 until March 6 2012.

I can't wait until they have more pieces available to see!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Waiter, there's sand in my soup

Well, didn't that come around quickly! I'm really looking forward to having a swim around in all the other soups over the next few days, but in the meantime...

For those not 'in the know' - the bead soup party is a global affair organised by the fabulous Lori Anderson. Its organisation is no mean feat with almost 400 participants this time. Basically we are partnered up, swap beads, make our creations and reveal. It's a great social, a creative challenge and much more!

You may recall that the lovely Saskia sent me these beauties all the way from Germany:

They include a shaped shell pendant, rectangular shell beads, shells, a fancy silver toggle clasp, wooden beads, sodalite chips, a heart charm, a fish charm, the cutest little wire sea-horse, a wire fishy and more! And here's the here's what I cooked up:

I used the shell pendant and beads and the wooden beads and wire dangly that Saskia sent along with some shell and bronzite beads from my stash. I have used wire to join them. I also added a couple of silver tube beads and some chain and a few wee garnet danglies on the pendant.

I think this has a real sand-y beach-y feel.

I learned a lot doing this. I learned that I tend to prefer to work with a limited range of colours in each piece. Mixing the blue and pinks and brown seemed a step too far out of my comfort zone. Although I know others could have done a fab job with those colours. I'm happier mixing metals. I think this is my usual style, maybe a bit more elaborate. Also it is slightly assymetric because of the different wooden beads either side of the pendant. I am a bit of a control freak so ANY assymetry is a major deviation! I'm really pleased with that though, I think it adds character.

I had also intended to use the lovely blue lampwork beads and charms that Saskia sent (including that soooo cute little wire sea-horse) to make a blue sea-themed charm bracelet, but it just hasn't happened yet. I'll post a photo on the blog when it's done though.

I hope Saskia likes what I did with her soup ingredients. I hope you do too !

A few more pics:

Now, why not visit the other bead soup partiers and view their creations, it's truly inspiring - you can find the full list at:

Monday, 12 September 2011

More crafty-fairy-ness

Here's a pic of my stall at the Uppermill Craft Fair yesterday. Over 200 people through the door and the event raised over £450 for Oldham Cancer Support Centre. The highlight for me was meeting loads of lovely local crafters and I hope to see them again soon at future events. My only regret was that I was doing the stall on my own this time and so I didn't get a chance to go right round the fair to see everyone. Next time. Cherry events (Vicky and Melissa) did such a fab job organising the fair and were fabulous hostesses too, well done!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Uppermill charity craft fair - this Sunday

I am really looking forward to the craft fair at Uppermill Civic Hall this Sunday. Not only is it supporting a fantastic charity, it is featuring some really great local crafts. As well as jewellery, there's knitwear, clothing, cupcakes, soaps, bags, accessories, facepainting and more... I've been following one of the organisers, Sewabee's, blog this week which features some of the crafters. I know already I will be bringing some of their goodies home with me (except maybe the cupcakes, I doubt they'll last that long!). Come along!!

Friday, 2 September 2011


I have been so busy making for craft fairs recently that I have not been making much for me. Well, that stops here. Haha. I am going to be a bit indulgent now for a while and make myself some holiday jewellery. (But still ask me if you see anything you want, I do commissions you know ;-) Or you can very easily make this one yourself. OMG, is this my first tutorial?...

This opal chip and pearl memory wire cuff is lovely and easy to make. You need - about 4 coils of bracelet size memory wire, round nosed pliers, memory wire cutters, opal (or other) chips and pearls (or other beads).

Make a loop at one end of the memory wire using your round nosed pliers (orient it sideways so it will sit flat on the wrist). Thread on some chips and then a pearl, some chips and then a pearl and then, when you have as many coils as you want (or run out of chips!) cut the memory wire and make another loop at the end. Remember to use special heavy duty memory wire cutters so you don't ruin your regular wire cutters.

There, that was my first tutorial. Not great, next time I will do it properly and include pics... going to do some basic metalsmith tutorials soon, just getting in gear.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

What I sent

I just realised I didn't post the bead soup I sent out to the lovely Saskia.

Here it is, autumn-y, forest-y mix. Red and Green - many of these were the Red and Green beads that I bought back at the Rock and Gem show last year that inspired my Etsy Shop name - RedGreenQueen. The Glass lampwork bead is from Dizzy Di and the clasp is Vintaj Bronze. Can't wait to see what Saskia does with it.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Craft-y fair-y tips

Had a really good time last week at my first proper craft fair. It went ok, I felt quite well prepared but I thought I'd document a few pointers here, to remind me and assist others!

I don't know if this craft fair was representative of ALL craft fairs but I noted the following:

- When you are putting your float together think about your prices. I had quite a lot of items at £12 and £18 and this meant I needed quite a few 1 and 2 pound coins. And my 50p bargain basket took a few 50ps too!

- the 50p basket was really popular and good at attracting people to the stall. Maybe a £1 basket next time though.

- Set up your packaging for easy access. I had intended to wrap things in tissue paper but it was a bit of a faff with limited space. Packaging will get really important for gifts near Christmas though.

- If you can take anything to custom make while you are there, do so! I could have sold many more wire-wrapped rings if I took my mandrel, some wire and some stones.

- Offer discounts on more than one item.

- Have business cards with your web address if you have one. Vistaprint do free business cards.

- if someone is not sure about a piece, ask them what they are not sure about and offer to custom-make exactly what they want and post it. Take a deposit that covers materials and list the finished item on Etsy or take payment in advance.

- I had everything on one level, but in future I will take some boxes to raise some items. It adds interest, draws people in and stops people having to stoop to see things.

- I found that people loved to talk about gemstones, origins, variations, folklore, etc. Show off what you know!

- Next time I hope I'm not next to the pro-salesman who was very good at attracting nearby people!! ;-)

And finally, HAVE FUN! I loved talking about jewellery and gemstones all day, and people were lovely, both other stallholders and attendees. I'm really looking forward to the next one!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Sea Soup

My bead soup partner is the lovely Saskia from Germany and look at the lovely sea soup she sent me. How sweet is the teeny sea-horse! I love the wrappings the beads came in too, all swirly gothic German text. Love it. I can read a few words, but my German is not up to a full translation.

Inspired by Saskia's lovely photos and creations on her blog I am going to try to be a bit different with these and do something very organic. I love blues and taking inspiration from water but I have never actually used natural shells and little sea animals before, so this should be fun!

Sunday, 14 August 2011


I have been desperate to see some old medieval metalwork lately. I think it has been fuelled by some recent TV series I have been watching. Camelot in particular, probably Game of Thrones too. We planned to go and see the Staffordshire hoard last weekend, the biggest anglo-saxon gold find ever, found in a field in Staffordshire by a lucky chappie with a metal detector in 2009. It is currently on a bit of a mini-tour of the Midlands. I hoped to catch it last week at Lichfield Cathedral, but I didn't realise that you had to book a 20 minute(!) slot in advance. And when I tried, it was fully booked every single day whilst it is in Lichfield. It moves to Tamworth Castle at the end of August, but the only weekend slot available was in September. Rather popular! It is free though, but quite a long drive from here. Anyways, that's to look forward to and I've ordered a book to drool at photos in the meantime!

So as consolation, yesterday we had a day out to the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Metalwork heaven. I got all kinds of inspiration. I didn't see much early medieval / celtic metalwork, but metalwork on the armour from 16th / 17th century Europe was amazing. Wow. I wish I could have an apprenticeship in an armoury!

So elaborate, in this chainmail, every single link is rivetted!

The oriental section was fab too, very different. Some of the turkish arms were so elaborately decorated.

My favourite 'piece' of the whole day though was the elephant armour (large and close ups pictured). Just wow! I have some ideas for this...

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Making my mark

Oooh how exciting. Just got my first items back from the assay office and now I can (almost) see my makers mark on jewellery. Sorry, it's not a very good photo, the mark is teeny tiny, even viewed through my 10x eye loupe. That made me laugh because I made a point of choosing the London assay office because of their panther mark. It looks like a blob at this size though, or maybe a panda / teddy bear if you squint! The marks shown are - the sponsor's mark (my initials in triangles), the lion (traditional sterling silver symbol), 925 for sterling silver, the London panther head and the letter M which denotes the year 2011.

I don't think I chose the most economical way to do this, sending 4 items cost £31 including postage both ways (postage was about half of the cost), yikes. As if silver isn't expensive enough. I really wanted to test the process though (it was really fast 4 days all-in) and now I can display/sell these items as silver as opposed to precious white metal. But I think I may need to do chunky pieces in copper or silver plate and take commissions for silver versions in future!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Craft Fair

Really looking forward to the craft fair at Stockport Town Hall on Saturday 20th August. Just off to get some new table covers today. If you're passing by...

Friday, 5 August 2011

Photo fun

Well, not really fun. I am one of those jewellery makers who hates taking photos. I just find it so time consuming when I'd rather be playing with shiny things. And my photos are never as good as the real thing.

Over time I've been picking up tips. I read an article a while back with some really useful tips on camera setup and got some useful info on the macro and AWB settings and getting a tripod. So far I have resisted buying light tents and special lighting. I don't have much storage space and I just felt that they would take ages to setup.

But on reading The Beading Gem's fab articles on the Modahaus tabletop backdrop recently, I felt the need to try it. It arrived today and I am really pleased with it. I can finally stop blue-tacking bits of white paper everywhere. Well, I will be able to when I figure out the angles. This is one of my first photos.

I can't say I enjoy photographing my pieces yet, but it's getting slowly easier to get better results I think...

(BTW if you are interested there's 10% discount code for the Modahaus thingy on The Beading Gem's blog).

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Taking the plunge...

...into the bead soup. I've watched this now for a year or so and been really impressed by all the creativity. Just hope I'm a match for it. Registrations are 1-3 August. Jump in.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Oh, errr, umm...

... has it been that long, really??

Hmmm, I could make excuses, but I'll just promise to try a little harder in future.

Here's a few pics of what I have been up to...

Labradorite and amazonite bezel set necklace.

My first foray into forging chandaliers, turquoise, amazonite, hematite and jet.

Black spinel and baroque pearl set.

Carved pyrite bead ring.

More soon!