Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A few of my favourite things

Lisa Hannigan - Lille from ATO Records on Vimeo.

Please excuse me while I use my design journal as a general collecting area for all things fabulous.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, especially the surprise ending.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Time for reflection

And so I finished the third leaf ring - here is the final one, its' hematite 'eye' reflecting its' fraternal twin.

In the time between the last design journal entry and this one much has happened.  A time of reflection and remembrance.  A time of searching through an archive of family photographs to find the one, salient image that could attempt to recreate the spirit of a loved one departed.  My Grandmother and I are fraternal twins of a kind - we were born on the same day, two generations apart.  As it turned out, finding the photograph was an easy task. It is a casual snapshot but stood out from all the other hundreds of images because my Grandmother's eyes look straight out into the lens held by my Grandfather.  And she is smiling.  It is not posed or formal.  It is full of life and movement, a fleeting moment in time captured in a far far distant foreign land over fifty years ago.  
I miss her.

"May the roads rise to meet you,May the wind be always at your back,May the sun shine warm upon your face,The rain fall soft upon your fieldsAnd, until we meet again,May God hold you in the hollow of his hand."
Celtic Blessing, Anon

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fearlessly Feminine - dedicated to Annie, my grandmother

This is a big ring.  Worn, it feels like armour.  It is tough. The design though, with its lightly lifting leaves definitely has a softness to it, a swoosh of femininity.  And so this ring would be worn by a woman who is indeed all these things - she is soft, she is gentle, she has grace but beneath all this, the foundation to all this, is her strength, her endurance, her toughness.  She is Fearlessly Feminine.

I love expanding the landscape of jewellery.  Sometimes the idea is just too big to be confined to a narrow band.  I need a bigger canvas!  This could be attributed to my inner architect but mostly sometimes I just want these pieces to shout a message, be bold, be seen.

Today, Friday 18th June, is Etsy's 5th birthday.  I've been planning the opening of my Etsy shop for almost as long!  Today was the day I earmarked for this new beginning.  But today was also the day I felt knocked back and knocked down, humiliated by my lack of understanding and frustrated by a lack of working knowledge of the wonderful French language (lest you think I tarry, ah mais non mes amis, I listen and learn French as I work away in my workshop, many many hours.  And still many more to go until I can chat casually and easily engage in elegant conversation). With the mistakes of the day weighing heavily upon me, I thought I would postpone the shop opening.

Then I finished this ring.

I put on the armour, and listed three items.  My shop is open.  I have many more things to list and tweek but if I waited till conditions were perfect, if I waited till I had all my fancy mailing envelopes, if I waited till I had finished cooking the perfect dinner (it got burnt, I was too busy taking pictures before I lost the light) - well, I would have missed the 5th birthday.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Leaf ring - work in progress

Working on three pieces at the same time means there is a lack of beauty in my workshop.  I need the beauty, it is a weakness, I know, but I love the soft silvery sheen of a freshly finished wire wooled pendant, ring, cuff link, I don't care, just as long as it is finished and looking beautiful.  To this end, at least the etching process has kept me going.  I needed to etch all the base plates for the two rings and the pendant at the outset.  The etching has indeed brought a little beauty to the workbench which is otherwise strewn with tools and sandpaper.

This is third piece etched - no kimonos this time - just a lovely art nouveau lady in a magnificent draped gown and cloak proceeding at haste through a forest, looking beautiful.  

Ever since I learnt how to use a hydraulic press to puff silver out into the wonderful third dimension I have be obsessed with disrupting the level flatness of the sheets of silver I work with.  Then today I stopped to look at ring number 1, now complete with its' ring band but still very much incomplete as it is without its' leaves and hematite.  I was surprised that actually the simplicity of the flat silver was indeed very beautiful and perhaps therein may be the seeds of some new ideas.   

Monday, June 14, 2010

Enough blue to make a sailor's shirt

Today started out with enough blue in the sky to make a sailor's shirt. Today I felt far away from those who are normally near and dear to me.  Whilst their net is cast wide and long, mine feels a little smaller.  But I stopped, and looked in my net and look what I found.

The lavender just outside my house has started to bloom making my return home smudged in a purple blue haze, vibrating in the breeze and covered in bees.

I am watching as the sunflowers grow, each day changing my horizon of vision and wondering if I will still be able to see the wind turbines which tell me if the weather I see is coming or going.

I found more blue, in unexpected spaces and the blue in the sky grew till it looked like you could make an entire sailor's suit.

I found some green, and then some more blue.

And I watched a small boy in blue fight against the advancing tide.

He lost, but he knows this is how it is and was happy to retreat, home, to rest and to sleep.

My net may be small but I caught some beautiful things today.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Something different Sunday

In between, caring for my little boys, Fir Green, Mid Ultramarine, dunking in the paddling pool, Indigo, Gunmetal, I found some time to draw, Spruce Green, Green Grey, I think I might have had Letha Colleen's collage still in my mind when I began this.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Catching that creative thought by its tail

This is a great video and Elizabeth Gilbert is a great speaker.  She wrote the acclaimed and popular book 'Eat, Pray, Love'. Yesterday I wrote about how an idea came to me and I had to rush to draw it before it evaporated from my mind.  The experience reminded me of this TED talk.  There is a wonderful story that Elizabeth tells in this talk about the poet Ruth Stone.  She describes how Stone has to literally catch the poems that come to her and write them down before they fly off somewhere else.  I particularly like the bit where Stone has to catch the poem by its tail - but I will leave the storytelling to Elizabeth as she expresses it so eloquently.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Adventures in La Poste and other stories

I began the time in my workshop today at a bit of a loose end.  This always happens when a fairly big piece has occupied me over a few days.  I am left wondering 'ok, what next?'.  It is an awkward time when my hands are idle, there is only so much tidying a person can do.  But then, as I made some tea with bags sent to me from a dear friend in Australia...I had an idea!  And before it had a chance to disappear I caught it and scribbled it down.  I am now happily occupied on 2 rings and 1 pendant.  The backs of two of the pieces have been etched with drawings of kimonos.  They are extraordinarily beautiful.  Don't take my word for it though, look, just come and look at my etchings!

The first kimono design features the sea, shells and some hardy coastal blooms.

The second kimono drawing depicts a garden through which a strong mountain stream flows.  There are exotic flowers reaching high into the sky and a hint of bamboo here and there.

So, today, I braved my local La Poste for the second time.  Figuring out accurate postage rates for my jewellery to be sent on adventures around the globe is the only thing standing between me and the grand opening of my Etsy shop.  I took reinforcements this time in the shape of my neighbour who has the distinct advantage of having French as her mother tongue (and she is friendly with the post mistress which is an added bonus).  

I have so many questions and queries about international postage, insurance and customs forms, so I wanted to pick a quiet time.  We arrived.  There was only one person there, perfect!  An elderly gentleman came in with one arm, we let him go before us.  And then we began our interrogation.  But wouldn't you know, within three nano seconds of beginning our onslaught a queue of six people magically formed behind us. Complete with an obligatory grumbling new born baby!  It was the baby that actually alerted me to fact that we were no longer alone.  We left after managing to secure some customs forms, I still had more questions but I didn't want to hold up the queue anymore.  

However, as we left, another elderly gentleman (this time, equipped with both his arms) grumbled at us and demanded to know why were just chatting about life with the post mistress.  I'm not sure that a conversation regarding customs declaration forms could be considered idle chit chat and so my neighbour assured him 'Non, Monsieur que nous travaillons!' (no, Sir, we are working!).  

The interesting thing was that afterwards she was fuming with indignation and was clearly most vexed - where as I, with my limited but ever expanding french, glided out with my armful of packages feeling positive and optimistic about another little step being completed.  It is the most wonderful thing about living in a foreign country - you accept things as you see them, without prejudice, without judgement.  Sometimes, this acceptance is just a function of ignorance, but I am enjoying the freedom until I become bi-lingual like my children with their amazing 'sponge-heads'.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Two ways to wear a double sided pendant

And here is how it looks close up.

The inside surface has been patinated which essentially means that the surface of the silver turns an amazing inky black colour.  I explored this form in an earlier ring which I made as part of my 'Six Memos for the Next Millennium' series.  The series takes the chapter headings (from Italo Calvino's book of the same name) and uses them as a starting point for the design concept for each piece.  The first chapter is on 'Lightness', the second on 'Quickness' and the third (on which this design is based) is on 'Exactitude'.

The handmade chain is one long, beautiful exactly segmented line (in fourteen parts since you ask).  When it is not worn it can be dangled like a pendulum.  It is a curious thing that just by placing the fastening at the front of the piece (rather than at the back against the nape of the neck) the whole geography of the necklace shifts entirely.   

I have continued the idea of the hidden texture that only the wearer sees (that began in the petits caillioux series) and expanded it here.  This texture can be hidden or exposed for the world to see depending on the owners whim.  What could be better than two necklaces in one?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A few of my favourite things

taken from The Ampersand blog

Yes, this is one of them.  The ampersand.  I love the non-minimal ones that swirl and curl and almost get lost inside themselves like a dog chasing it's own tail.  In a world full of Sans-Serif and Arial, this little symbol is welcome oasis of flamboyance.  The post today on Scoutie Girl inspired me to write on this, albeit that my response is somewhat off topic!

I love coloured pencils.  I have a stack of Cumberland pencils with wonderful names like Phthalo Blue and Geranium Lake.  Often before a big trip to somewhere new, I will be found, perusing new colours and wondering if these new hues will feature in any of the sketches made on these travels.  

My final favourite thing for today is finding a new TOAST catalogue in my letter box.  The styling is gorgeous and raw with a simple Jane Cumberbatch kind of feel to it.  Perhaps best of all, the recycled matte paper that they print it on has the most amazing smell!  

Monday, June 7, 2010

A demanding piece

The new epic piece is not behaving.  I now know better than to keep struggling on with a piece when I can see it is not going the way I want. Today, what I saw my hands making fell short of the image in my head.  I the past I used to keep going, against all odds, I would not give up.  But this determination, whilst admirable, made me miserable.  So now, I put it down, I walk away, I don't give it any attention (this works with a child having a tantrum!) and I start on something else.  

This is it so far.  I love texture on silver.  It is a continual source of joy to me when a texture turns out well.  This is an acid etch.  I almost left it too long (the solution gets stronger the more etches you do, to the point that if you forget about it, it will etch all the silver away, and that is not good).

This is the front, work in progress.  I worked on a ring similar to this as part of my 'Six Memos for the Next Millennium' (based on the book by Italo Calvino) and always wanted to see how the idea would look on a larger scale.  Turns out, it is a demanding piece.  It is demanding a handmade chain to go with it.  However, I don't mind, when it looks as pretty as this, I am happy to oblige.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

friday mémoire (or, here is one I made earlier)

Still on the subject of earrings.  Whilst yesterday's pair were an exercise in restrained minimalism, 'less is more' as the influential architect Mies van der Rohe would say. Today I would assert that 'less is a bore' (after all it is a woman's prerogative to change her mind).
 Back in 2007, my jewellery teacher, Barbara Christie, set an interesting project.  We had to choose a person featured in the National Portrait Gallery, London and create a pair of earrings inspired by them.  I chose Amy Johnson (1903 - 1941).

She was a pioneering aviator and was the first woman to fly solo from the UK to Australia in 1930.  This photograph of her shows her strength, beauty and a steely determination.  Her gaze if fixed on the horizon and beyond.  The sky is reflected in one of her goggles.  Up, up and away!

I was faced with the question - what kind of earrings would Amy Johnson wear?  I was pretty sure they would be unconventional, like her.  I also wanted them to 'fly', not to dangle downwards, bound by gravity.  After many experiments I settled on this design.  A singular earring (because two would just be too much) for a singular lady.

I brought some 1930's architectural influences into this piece.  In particular, I had in mind the Penguin Pool in London Zoo by Berthold Lubetkin. It was completed in 1934 and had this similar pioneering spirit, a streamlined design of a seemingly weightless flying concrete ribbon.  It is suspended, spring like, looking like it may actually launch itself airborne at any moment.

Photograph: Chris Gascoigne

I wear this earring on high days and holidays and I like to think that Amy would have approved and had one in her jewellery box had I been around to create one for her.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'm an inventor!

Well, I feel like one today.  I believe I may have invented the perfect pair of earrings.  As with many major discoveries, it happened when I was actually working on something else (something epic may I add).  And so, may I present (drum roll please....) "Perfectly Pretty and Pure" earrings!

Ingredients: sterling silver and rock crystal
To accompany: everything

Now, see, I am not a big earring person.  They get in the way when you are dashing around and small people have a tendency to grab them (oww!).  So, I generally avoid them.  But not anymore.  These are light, crystal clear and simply elegant.  They pick up the colour of whatever they lie against, but with a little bit of sparkle just to let you know they are there.  The ones I made today are just the same length as my hair and did not get in any ones way as I dashed around today.  I have plans for a variation to this design where the back wire curves as long as the front.  This adjustment may just make them even more perfect (if that is possible).  

Simple simple things, are always the best, don't you agree?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

new sketchbook

I started a new sketchbook last night.  Number 10.  I started numbering them during my post-graduate architecture course and have just kept going.  I can not just open the new book and start where I left off on the last page of the preceding sketchbook.  Oh but no!  A new sketchbook has to be eased into.  It is  akin to that childhood experience of wearing new shoes, trying not to crease or scuff them as you walk home for the first time.  For me, my new sketchbook has this almost untouchable air about it.  The corners are crisp, unbent or worn from being transported in rucksacks and handbags.  The cover is pristine and unmarked by workbench detritus.  The spine is completely unruffled to the point that the first page arches and refuses to lie flat.  I knew this moment was coming, sketchbook 10 was ready to go, but I continued to pack some last minute ideas into number 9.  The last few pages are congested with quickly snatched sketches in pencil of potential projects.  None of these drawings are executed with any care.  They are as the book suggests, just sketches, aide memoirs. 

So here is how sketchbook number 8 began.  And as if by magic the pristine spell of 'untouchablenes' is broken and the real work of actually using the book for its intended purpose can begin.

Number 9 started in much the same way.  This did not really break the spell as it was stuck on the inside cover.  The first page remained blank until...

I cut a hole in it to reveal a tiny fragment of a photograph on the next page.

Number ten demanded something a bit more and so the initiation took place over three pages.  Above, is page number two.  A hole is cut to allow some favourite lyrics to peek through from the next page.  A beautiful Christmas card frames one side of the lyrics, all halos and gold.  The other side, a simply styled room of re purposed items.  I may add more.  There is still some uncovered space.  Either way I am confident, come tomorrow morning, I will be able to open it on page four and begin to draw.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I'm starting today's post with a bit of process, a photographic insight into a portion of the various stages a piece goes through before it emerges sparkling into the sunlight.

So, here is today's offering all bundled up like a little parcel with binding wire.  This keeps the two halves in place when they get soldered together. Just before I solder I often find myself here, on the threshold of my workshop, swirling the little cone of borax round and round to make the flux which allows the solder to run.  I am listening to 'Alanis Morissette - unpluged' since you ask.  Then the painstaking process begins of applying the little solder pallions around the circumference of the joint.  Then a bit of filing, sanding more filing and a brush with fine wire wool until...

This is a minimal pendant with a hidden complexity.  It has a concealed fixing which allows a tiny hematite sphere to rotate on it's axis.  When worn it has a faint musicality about it as the hematite bead can move and spin.  And of course, the back is a whole other story.

This is definitely one of my more demure pieces, discrete and delicate.

Before I go to begin on something new and challenging, here are some more pairs.  Two I made much earlier.  They are the reason I began on this new path.


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