Saturday, 31 December 2011

Christmas Commissions and a Tiny Gold Bee

I've rather got into the habit of making my boss a little gold charm for her charm bracelet each Christmas - hopefully she'll let me know when she's got quite enough on there and would rather have a pair of earrings!

I was torn this year between making a tiny raincloud and a tiny gold bee charm, but my room mates at work unanimously voted for the bee. It actually looked great cast in gold - I rarely wear gold but am tempted to make a gold mini bee necklace for myself!

I didn't have time to drag all my studio lights down from the mezzanine, so I just took a couple of shots with my 18-55 kit lens and pop up flash. I see now why jewellery photographers never use flash - the pictures are horrid! But anyway, they give an idea of what the bee looks like in gold, so here they are:

I also had a commission from another lady at work to make a silver spike bracelet, similar to one on my website, but with amethyst stones instead of sapphire. Here's the original:

And the version with amethyst:

Again, rubbish photography I'm afraid, but I was rather pleased with the way the bracelet turned out.

I've had a few days rest from jewellery now (even put some false nails on - never again! How do people with long nails cope with life...?) so ready to get back to the bench and work on some new stuff.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Festive Baking

I'm feeling pretty smug about my festive baking, especially given that I baked not so much as a single cupcake last Christmas.

I wanted to take some treats into work instead of giving out cards, so I thought mini Christmas cakes and mince pies would be easiest.

I needed a simple but cute way of decorating them, as I've done fully iced mini cakes before and they took FOREVER! So, I decided to take inspiration from childhood memories of Mum's eternal battle with Christmas cake icing. Royal icing was mixed, pallet knives dunked in hot water, but the icing always remained resolutely not flat. It would invariably end up being whipped into peaks with a teaspoon, with mum cheerfully proclaiming it snow, before adding ceramic santas, sleighs and snowmen.

I decided on snow with a little piped icing Christmas tree and some little sugar snowflakes.

So, here is my tiny icing forest. I made them with a piping bag, open star tip and royal icing, then added tiny silver sugar balls. My flat is bloody freezing, so they took about 2 days to harden!

I used a normal Christmas cake recipe, which called for cooking in the oven at 120 degrees for 3 hours, and after some experimentation (and charring...) worked out that 120 degrees for about 20-25 minutes was about right.

So, here are my tiny Christmas cakes, marzipanned and decorated with Mum's snow icing :)

And on to the mince pies!

Thanks again to Mum for the recipe, which makes the best mince pie pastry ever, with lemon rind and cream cheese. Here it is, if you're interested:

175g (6oz) butter
175g cream cheese (I used Sainsbury's marscapone)
rind of 1 lemon
250g (9oz) plain flour
2 tsp icing sugar (I accidentally added 2 tbsp and it was still fine!)
pinch of salt

Beat together butter (softened works best) and cream cheese.
Grate in lemon rind.
Add flour, icing sugar and salt
Mix till it forms a soft dough (I used the dough hooks on my hand mixer, which worked great)
Chill in fridge for 30 minutes

I find the dough is a little bit of a nightmare to work with - I have a silicone rolling mat and a silicone rolling pin and still need to add flour when rolling out. But yes, just roll it out to an acceptable pastry thickness (1-2mm ish?), cut out bases, and put in greased shallow bun trays. Add a teaspoon of mincemeat to each (the boy persuaded me to add more and, foolishly, I gave in, but the little pies overflowed a bit), then cut out tops in whatever shapes you fancy. Mum does stars, but I couldn't find my star cutter so mine ended up with snowflakes.

Give them a glaze with some beaten egg, then put in the oven at 190 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Mum says 15, but my oven is mental so they only took 10.

Remove from oven, admire, attempt to stop boy from eating them whilst still molten, and you're done. If you want to be fancy, dust them with a sprinkling of icing sugar before serving.

Here they are before they went into the oven, but I totally forgot to take a picture when they came out all golden and bubbly!

And that was my festive baking. Thanks Mum for the recipes and inspiration!

My shopping is mainly done, my jewellery orders are up to date, so all that's left is to wish you all a lovely Christmas.


Sunday, 11 December 2011

Oh Hi There December

December last year was so much chaos, I put in place much earlier cut off times for Christmas orders this year and have been way more organised.

I've even put up some decorations, which was quite exciting. Last year's festive decor involved half heartedly hanging some sparkly penguins in the window and that was about it! This year we have a very small tree. It's a compromise because I wanted a fake tree, as I think it's really sad every January when you see the piles of dying trees lying on the street waiting for the recycling, but the boy wanted a real one. So, we have a tiny 2 foot high tree, in a pot, which we will give to a friend after Christmas to look after, as I am rubbish with plants at the best of times and the likelihood of me keeping an outdoor tree alive in the flat is nil.

So, here's my little tree with some tiny lights:

And with some sparkly, and slightly bonkers, baubles:

I've even had time to do some festive baking, more of which later...

Friday, 18 November 2011

Queen Bee Necklace

It would appear that I may have become a little obsessed with shiny silver bees. Having made my mini-bees into things, I also decided what my big bee needed was a tiny crown. Thus making her into a Queen Bee, see?

Check her out!

That’s pretty cute, right? Look at her little face!

So, I’ve now got my silver bumble bees available in baby bee, large bee and queen bee necklaces, bracelets and earrings, hurrah! They’re all now buzzing about on my website here, just waiting for you to admire them (especially the queen, she’s a bit of a show-off that one...)

Am Still Baking Genius By the Way...

So, for all of you that said about my marvellous bread maker "Oh, you'll never use it/it'll just sit in the cupboard/you'll get bored/blah blah blah", all I can say is....

.... behold my loaf!

It's an apple and cider loaf, hence the arty placement of some apples and cider bottle in shot (yes, I've been playing with my camera...). The recipe came from a really cool book called the Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook by Jennie Shapter. I've made a few from there now, but my favourites so far have been an ale and grain mustard one, and a rye and seed loaf.

So go, buy it. Bake bread. It's great!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Silver Baby Bees!

Having got far too excited about my little silver bumblebee necklace, I decided it needed a little baby bee companion so I could make earrings too. I mean, I could have made earrings out of the first bee but she is, to be honest, a little bit of a fatty (but shhhhhh, don’t tell her I said that...) and thus too heavy for ear dangling.

So, back to the wax carving, hurrah! The carving bit is actually kind of therapeutic and I again managed to lose a whole weekend happily pottering about with my pointy dental tools and bits of wax.

I didn’t take any work in progress pictures this time, as I followed basically the same process as last time, only smaller. Trying to get the detail on the wings of this one made my eyes go a bit squiffy though.

So without further ado, here is my mini bee in silver.

And a small herd of bees...

Some earrings...

And a bracelet.

I think my silver bees may be my new favourite thing that I’ve made - the big bee necklace has even taken over from my shiny skate as the piece of jewellery I wear most days.

My bees are now up for sale on my website, so I hope you guys think they’re as cute as I do!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

I Am Now Official

After using third party services and borrowing other people's hallmarks for the past couple of years, I have finally taken the plunge and registered my own maker's mark with Goldsmiths Hall in London.

It's actually all very exciting (no really, it is...) and I can now have all my jewellery hallmarked and stamped with my very own and completely unique initial/shieldy type thing.


In other goings on, I have been halted in my quest to finish new shiny things, as the oxygen tank on my blow torch ran out of puff. Just waiting for a new one to turn up and then I can Get Stuff Done.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Sparkly Things!


So, I've not updated this in a while, as I keep forgetting to take pictures of stuff. I shall now, however, tell you what I've been up to.

Firstly, I have mainly been making skate necklaces. I had so many orders I ended up with an actual waiting list. Check me out with my exclusive jewellery pieces! I have to say they are rather a pain in the bum to make, and I could quite cheerfully never look at one again.

I've also been making new stuff though, which is quite exciting. I sent off my little pieces to a new mould maker I'm trying out, and I now have a little pile of vintage wallpaper inspired swirly things.

I also managed to spend a quite alarming amount of money at the IJL show at Earls Court at the beginning of this month. I've been there every year since college and I think this is the first time I've ever turned up with purpose and actually knowing what I wanted. Managed to come back with a lovely haul of sparkly things.

Also bumped into my old college tutor, Brian, which was really nice. Am always amazed at the ability of tutors to remember their students, even years later!

So, that's what I've been up to. My plan for the next few weeks is to finalise my new stuff, make a tiny crown for my bumble bee (which is going to be very cute), take more photographs and update the website. Oh, and make more skate necklaces...

Saturday, 6 August 2011

I Made a Bee!

So, I’ve been meaning to have a go at wax carving for ages, but have instead been doing that procrastination thing that I do, as my one experience of wax carving at college forever ago did not go terribly well. I made a squiggle. It wasn’t even a very good squiggle.

Anyway, the UKJC forum that I belong to were having another charm swap so I figured that was the perfect excuse to try out a new technique. The theme of the swap was summer, which always makes me think of hanging out in my grandmother’s garden by the sea as a child, the smell of lavender and big fluffy bumble bees buzzing around. I figured a bee is a lot like a little fluffy ball and therefore a fairly simple shape to carve for my first project. Also, bees are awesome.


And is this not the cutest bee ever? It looks all asleep, bless (original photograph here).

I wanted my little bee to be obviously bee-like, but also kind of cartoony and cute rather than anatomically correct. Not entirely sure anatomically is the right word to use for bugs... Whatever.

Anyway, one of my favourite fabrics, Chloe's Imagination by Tina Givens, has lovely bees on it, so I wanted my bee to look kind of like this:

I actually made a little hat out of this fabric ages ago:

I also like the bee that lives on Patron Tequilla bottles, so wanted to make a silver version inspired by these:

So, I got me a block of wax and excavated the set of wax carving tools that I optimistically purchased a year or so ago from the depths of my toolbox. Then drew a bee. Then stared at the little wax block for a while. Unfortunately, my brain does not work well in 3D. I see the picture of the bee, I see the bee in my head as a little fluffy ball, but I have no idea how to make one become the other.

Eventually I gave myself a good talking to and just got on with it.

I started off by hacking off bits of wax until it was vaguely bee shaped:

I left the bee drawing on the wax and started removing wax from the underside. When deciding that the bee was simply a fluffy ball and therefore easy to carve, I somehow neglected to take into account the wings. Oops.

I got a bit absorbed in the carving (and developed several blisters on my fingers from the carving tools) so forgot to take any pictures of the inbetween stages, but here I've started work on the top of the bee, shaping the body more and trying to make my poor little brain deal with the wing element.

Starting to add the stripes and wing detail here:

Then adding texture to the body to try and make it appear a bit fluffy:

The wings were the last thing to finish, as they were the most delicate bit - was so scared I was going to snap them and ruin a whole weekend's work...

And we're done!

Off to the caster to have the wax turned into silver, and here's my little bee:

I love her little face and big googly eyes :)

Didn't have time to take many pictures, as it was late and I failed to notice I had my ISO level set to, like, 6400 or something ridiculous, so the pictures weren't coming out well. I'll take some more when I get more little bees cast from my mould.