The Art of Living by Making Art

Jewellery inspired by nature and made by hand.
How I make it, why I make it, the challenges I face and the successes that come my way.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


When I first set up my studio jewellery business I found it really helpful to set some goals and to actually write them down. It was a way of crystallizing my ideas of what I wanted from the business.

The way I wrote them down was as follows:
First I wrote down about three or four goals such as being featured in a magazine or having an exhibition or creating a new body of work or winning a grant that year. These were just larger ideas that I thought would be good things.

Second, I took each goal and broke it down into smaller pieces. For example making a list of magazines I might possibly be featured in, what kind of article; or where were possible galleries that might show a jewellery exhibition; or if I applied for a grant what would be some proposal ideas. I called these my objectives.

Third, I took each objective and broke it down into a mini action plan complete with a to do list. For example I would compile a mailing list and a press package for the magazine objective and then do a mail out. Once I did this for each goal it really made it all seem far more do-able, albeit a lot of work.

I did this goal setting exercise for at least five or six years while my studio business was growing and I learned a lot from it. For the past few years I think I have been running on automatic as I am immersed in production work and custom pieces and I have a pretty solid routine to follow each work day. But lately I have been thinking that I need to set some new goals and see if I can change the path my jewellery is taking. Time to shake things up...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Party Anyone?

Do any of the jewellers out there do parties to sell their work? You know the kind of thing - you invite a group of friends and acquaintances around and each of them brings a friend too, the jewellery is displayed and tried on and hopefully some pieces are sold. Is this way of selling still happening? Or do people prefer the open studio events?

There is no reason the party idea would only work for jewellery artists, it could work for ceramic artists, felters, textile artists, any artist in theory, but I wonder if it has a 'cheap' kind of feel to it, maybe because we associate it with cheaper mass produced products - think Tupperware!

The reason I'm pondering this is because the other night a friend invited me to a dinner party with other people I knew well, and I took some pieces of jewellery along. I had intended to just show them to her as I knew she had not seen any of my new enamel work. Everyone at the dinner was interested and I sold two pieces. This is great of course, but I felt a bit uncomfortable, as if I was doing the hard sell on my friends. I wondered if a selling party would feel like that too.

Any thoughts anyone?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tool Tutorial

My class went really well last week, I got a lot of enjoyment with my small group of four lovely women who were all super keen and worked incredibly hard considering it was their summer holiday!

One thing that surprised me was their interest in making textures with stamping tools, no other students that I've taught have shown so much interest. I gave them a handout on making your own tools though I didn't have time to demonstrate. I thought I would share these instructions because making your own tools means you are not limited by what a commercial maker is offering.

Tool Tutorial

Tool steel: the cheapest way is to buy tool steel from a steel supplier, get 1/8" or 3/16" stock, medium or high carbon, not mild steel. Large masonry nails can also be used. But the easiest and quickest way is to buy a pack of nail punches in various sizes, from a hardware store and modify them.

Annealing: heat the tip (last 1/2") of the tool until cherry red, let air cool.

Shaping: using fairly coarse files, #0 cut, old ones if you have them as steel will dull your jewellery files quickly, shape the tip into the motif you want. Switch to #2 cut file to refine the shape. Bear in mind that the smaller the shape the easier it will be to stamp it into the metal, curved sides help the stamping process too. Use silicon carbide (wet/dry) sandpaper to sand, finish with 600 grit.

If using tool stock not ready made nail punches, also bevel the the edge of the hammering end of the tool to prevent it mushrooming.

Hardening: heat the tip (last 1/2") rapidly to cherry red, quench in lukewarm water, swirl as you quench, remove quickly. To test for hardness run a file lightly over the hardned portion, it should skip over and not cut.

Clean: sand with wet/dry paper to clean edges of tool so as to see tempering colours clearly.

Tempering: heat slowly, work flame towards tip, watch colours appear on the metal. When straw or golden yellow is right at the tip pull heat away and quench in water. If you miss the colour, go back through hardening stage and then temper again.

Polishing: you can polish the tip with chrome polish.

Here's a pic of a hand stamped piece of silver overlaid with transparent enamel.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Home Again & Back to Work

Well my best laid plans about keeping up with my blog while I was away came to nothing. Apart from having too much fun I found that I wasn't really up to the technical challenge - a weak kind of answer to many I'm sure! Being a very visual person and assuming that you all are too I didn't want to write posts without adding any photos! Just couldn't get it together to add photos directly from my camera and got a bit stumped adding them directly from the internet.

I'm keen to get going again in my studio and with general jewellery business, a month off really does work in terms of making everything fresh again. First of all I am teaching a beginner jewellery class at Selkirk College in Nelson BC next week. I did this last summmer and loved it. If any of you are toying with the idea of teaching I would definitely recommend trying it, there is nothing like it for tweaking the way you do things and for learning from others.

What I mean by this is that when you are explaining a method to beginners, whether in jewellery or anything, you have to really know why you are doing it that way, because someone is sure to ask. This really helps you with self-knowledge and gives you a sense of strength in your way of working. Connected to this same thought is the possibility of learning from everyone even someone who has never done jewellery before. As all the students in the class are adults they bring ideas and thoughts about many things with them and it is always interesting to hear what they have to contribute, you just never know what someone will say!
Blue Quadrangle Earrings

So go and teach and keep an open mind with you on what you the teacher will learn!