Friday, December 21, 2012

To wear or not to wear...

I frequently get comments on the jewellery I wear, but lately the conversation has changed with people who know that I am making jewellery. They usually go something like this:

Them: is that one of yours?

Me: (putting hands up to check which earrings or necklace I put on this morning) no, I didn't make those. Actually I'm not wearing any if my pieces today.

Them: why not??

It's logical that I would advertise my wares by wearing them. But at the moment, every piece I make and keep is one less piece of stock I have in my store.

Plus, I've been a jewellery wearer/collector much longer than I've been making. I actually have an entire display cabinet for my personal jewellery (plus pretty photo frames and other trinkets).

So, besides becoming a good judge of jewellery design, I've also learned some great places to shop. I'm working on a series of posts about some of my favourite shops on and offline.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A desk and a vision

I cannot believe my last post was in July! I have been busy making though, and just this week have finally got a dedicated work space.

Earlier this week I went to a Visualisation in Action workshop. It was a great way to creatively explore my vision for 2013.

I realised I have been downplaying my ambition and telling myself this is "just something on the side". But then I remember the vision that started all of this almost 3 years ago: "I want to love my work".

And I love making jewellery; the act of creation, playing with designs, bringing fresh beauty into being. 

I tell people I love it, that I would happily do it all day. So why on earth wouldn't I do everything in my power to make that my reality?

So 2013 is going to be big, because I will make it so. I think it is auspicious that at 12:12 on 12/12/12 I was here:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Losing time

I lost a day to jewellery on the weekend (or gained a day, as my sister commented).  I sat down with my boxes of beads and wire and played and created without any awareness of the passing of time.  I got a crick in my neck and forgot to eat lunch, but I was happy.

memory wire bracelet
What the Water Gave Me 
memory wire bracelet
Anatomy of Rain
sterling silver earrings
Basically Royal
fashion earrings 
Lolita's Fancy
fashion earrings
silver-filled earrings
Esmerelda's Tears 
sterling silver earrings

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Show me your rings (part 1)

Inspired by a series of posts called 'Show Me Your Rings' over at Gem Gossip, I remembered a photo I took a while ago of my own collection.

I crammed as many rings as I could manage one hand, only to discover I have so many I couldn't even fit them all on.  And these are only the 'small' ones... so stay tuned for part 2 (and possibly 3).

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Church of Adornment online store goes live

It's alive! Finally! My very own jewellery store, that is. 

Two years ago I enrolled in a night course to make silver jewellery, purely with the intention of making myself one piece. From that moment, hunched over a jeweller's peg in a high school classroom, something changed. I discovered that not only do I love making jewellery, but apparently I have some talent for it. 

This is just a small beginning, but it's something. And I hope it will lead to bigger things, more opportunities to bring beauty into the world.  Because that's what creating is about, ultimately.  So here it is: the Church of Adornment store on MadeIt.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Jewellery renovation: the Renata necklace

I recently purchased 2 bracelets on sale with the intention of pulling them apart and turning them into a necklace.  The beads look like they're just a synthetic resin over a shell-look background, but in lovely bright pink and purple tones.

The bracelets were not making the best use of the beads.  I found the teardrop shapes unflattering with the points alternating, and the design made them look cheap.  They were threaded on elastic strings and closed with a basic knot, so they were easy to dismantle.

The first thing I did was to organise the beads in order of colour and size, as some were slightly thicker than others and some had more intense colours, or more of one colour than the other.  I arranged them in a graduated curve ready for assembly into a necklace.

I then spent what was probably a couple of hours pairing them with different coloured spacer beads, trying different layouts, and trying to come up with a pleasing, balanced design.  I strung the beads on tiger tail wire and placed crimping beads in a couple of different places to ensure strength.

I'm quite pleased with the end result, and I think it's a vast improvement on the original bracelets.  I call it the Renata necklace.  Renata is a name with Latin origins and means 'reborn'.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

All in a day's work

These are the results of the jewellery course I went to last weekend at Ku-ring-gai Art Centre.

Coral-textured pendant with dichroic glass cabochon
This one turned out more 'handmade' looking than I'd hoped.  I didn't allow quite enough for the clay to shrink in the kiln, so it split at one of the joins.  But the dichroic glass is beautiful and it looks great on (much better than it does when I inspect it up close with my critical maker's eye).

Silver leaf imprint

These are made by painting layers of precious metal paste onto a real leaf.  Each layer must be completely dry before the next is applied.  Then they are fired in a kiln.  The leaf and the binding clay burn away, leaving pure silver.

I finished this by tracing the major vein lines with a burnishing tool, then burnishing a few raised parts of the leaf randomly.  I haven't made this into a piece of jewellery yet.  I think I might try to solder a pin to the back to make a brooch.

Open ring - textured PMC. 

Earrings for an autumn saunter
These were hand formed using precious metal clay and hand tools, sterling silver wire for the hooks.  I love the texture of these and the way the burnishing highlighted the raised parts of the pattern, leaving the rest a softer silver.

I'm still undecided about using PMC as a medium on a regular basis.  It's certainly much quicker to work with than sterling silver sheet and wire, but the nature of a clay-based medium means it's also harder to be precise.  

But the workshop was great, worth every penny. Just as it did the last time I made silver jewellery, I was barely aware of time passing.  I was happy, well and truly 'in the zone'.  It was a good reminder of why I want to find a way to make jewellery all the time.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Discovering PMC (precious metal clay)

I decided it's time for another fix.  A jewellery fix, that is.  Making silver jewellery, to be precise.  This time next weekend I'll be happily pottering away in a class, making some new pieces using silver PMC (precious metal clay).

I haven't worked with this medium before so I'm looking forward to learning some new techniques, and using some of the fabulous beads and cabochons I've been collecting.  The great thing about PMC is you can use it a bit like Playdoh, shaping it however you want.  It's then finished in a kiln, which burns away the binding material leaving you with solid metal.

In the meantime I've been sating my craving and getting inspiration with some PMC pieces other people have made.
ACS Ring by N Hasegawa, via
Bronze Pebbles necklace by Pam Annesley
Brooch/Small Dish by Jeanette Landenwitch
Art Clay Hummingbird necklace by Xuella Arnold
Untitled ring by Ayako Kaku
Bronze clay bracelet by Vickie Hallmark

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Church of Adornment shop: coming soon.

I am very excited to be launching an online shop on Etsy later this month.  Besides creating some gorgeous pieces to sell, I'm working on registering my business name, setting up ways to track my expenses and all the things that it takes to organise a new venture.

My original vision was to only do sterling silver jewellery with gemstones, glass beads and other vintage components.  However to make sterling silver jewellery safely and successfully takes more equipment than I have at the moment. To begin with I'm working on costume or fashion pieces using glass beads, beading wire, and sometimes upcycled components like earring frames and vintage beads.

This afternoon I've spent some time having a little photo shoot outside in the lovely sunshine.  So here's a sneak peek at some of the jewellery that will be available.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jewellery in the Year of the Dragon

I tend not to follow trends in jewellery: I just know what I like when I see it.  However I do enjoy getting to see the variety of ways that people can interpret a theme.  This year, being the Chinese Year of the Dragon, lots of dragon-themed jewellery is appearing all over the place.  Here are a few of my favourites from recent browsing.

Resin pendant from Night Sky Jewellery
Superb detail and other-worldly colouring

Carved dragon amethyst bead bracelet by Isabel Feng

Bronze dragon choker from Celtic Attic
Stunning piece that would look right at home in a Gothic castle

Couture Year of the Dragon Necklace by Lunch at the Ritz
Gorgeous, fun piece with lots of colour.
London Manori dragon bracelet
Superb. Enough said.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The jewellery of Moulin Rouge

As a fan of jewellery and of the film Moulin Rouge, it's pretty hard to not notice the jewellery in the movie. It's everywhere; most noticeably on Nicole Kidman's character Satine, but I spot a new piece every time I watch it.

Layers and layers of necklaces, filigree headpieces, dazzling jewels and of course, the spectacular Satine necklace, created by Australian designer Stephano Canturi.  It features 1308 diamonds and is valued at AU$4 million.

Ah beautiful, shiny things.  *Happy sigh* :o)

Monday, February 27, 2012


Is there anything not fabulous about Bollywood jewellery?  It has everything you could possibly want: colour, glitz, dangles, layers, matching sets, enamel... jewels as far as the eye can see.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Let us not be too particular. It is better to have old second-hand diamonds than none at all.  
Mark Twain 
Antique diamond necklace circa 1880, from the Blanche Thebom collection.  Via Alain Truong.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jewellery renovation: 'stained glass' look earrings

I have had a fresh surge of drive this year to get started on making jewellery.  One of the things I've found myself doing is looking at my own collection of jewellery with fresh eyes.  I think part of it is seeking to understand what it is about the design of a particular piece that draws me to it, or how might I do things differently if I designed that piece myself.
This particular pair of earrings have troubled me for some time.  I bought them for something like $5 from one of those big costume jewellery chain stores that have sprung up in Australian shopping centres (like Diva and Equip).  I loved them on sight.  I love green yet have very little of it in my wardrobe. Most of my jewellery is silver rather than gold toned.  They were curly and ornate and big.  They appeared to be perfect for me.

Yet every time I tried them on, I invariably discarded them in favour of other pieces.  I didn't want to get rid of them because they were oh so scrolly and green and gold and fabulous, but I just didn't wear them.  Eventually I concluded that they weren't for me and put them in a bag of things to ship out.  They languished in that bag for a few months, then in January I tried to sell them in a lot of earrings on eBay: no nibbles.

Then it struck me - I'm a jeweller.  I can do whatever I want with any piece of jewellery in my possession.  So why not see how I can improve them?

The first thing I noticed was that the paler green panels were not really my colour.  As I inspected them more closely, I discovered that the enamel or stained glass effect was really just plastic, which popped out of the frame fairly easily when pushed with a centre punch tool. So I proceeded to spend 15 minutes or so popping out little pieces of plastic, holding up the earrings to the light to check that the new design was balanced and pleasing to the eye.

When I was done, all that was left were some of the darker, more intense green pieces. The filigree of the frame was much more evident.  I concluded my renovations by bending the whole frame slightly from the centre outwards, giving them a more leaf-like structure. 

I wore them out the very next day.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The beginning of a love affair

I'm not entirely sure how I decided to become a jeweller, only that it happened sometime in the last 2 years.  There wasn't a single moment that I can remember. No lightbulb flashing into luminescence over my overworked head.  The clouds didn't part and halo me in a beam of light.

I saw bloggers writing lists of things to do before their next birthday (matching the numbers in the list to the numbers of their years), and 'make a piece of jewellery' was one of the first items onto mine.  Still, I hesitated.

In the midst of a leadership course, digging myself deeper still into my work in the human services and community sector, I had a handful of sessions with a career coach.  I tried to find something else to talk about, use it to 'work on my work', but inevitably it became about how I keep coming back to this feeling, of heaviness, of burnout, of not being able to carry on, of having no room left in me for other people's stories.  In the past I've alleviated it by changing jobs, by starting again.  But the gap between the new and the nosedive is shrinking.  Now I start feeling the itch after a few months.  It's so hard to stay.

I came out of the session with a list.  My goal was no longer 'stop feeling burned out', but 'I want to love my work'.  Thankfully, the coach recognised that trying to make my existing work more love-able (the usual solution proffered) would only be a temporary answer at best.

Later that month I enrolled in a silver jewellery night course at my local community college.  I trekked into the CBD to buy my supplies.  Soldering wire, sterling silver sheet, pliers with different shapes, saw blades so fine they could snap in my bag.

I remember chattering - somewhat shyly - to a salesman over a bench of pliers and solder picks and other tools I couldn't yet name, saying that I was doing this course and if it worked out, I was going to pursue a career as a jeweller.  He asked if I could boil an egg.  Confused, I said 'yes'.  He smiled and said, 'well then, you can make jewellery'.

I'm surprised I didn't figure it out sooner.  It's been there all along.  As a child I swooned over the bejewelled slippers my grandmother brought me from her international travels.  At 4 or 5 I swanned around the house in my long pink frilled nightgown, imagining I was a princess festooned with royal jewels.  I've always been fascinated by the idea of overflowing treasure chests, spilling ropes of pearls and gemstones.  At 8 and 9 I spent hours painstakingly cutting gemstones out of generic jewellery catalogues, super excited when there was a closeup of a ring so the paper gemstone would be big.

Now I have permission (my own, though I didn't know I needed it) to buy books of vintage art nouveau jewellery and huddle over them on the couch for happy hours.  To meander in bead stores gathering up tiny treasures to add to my tidy collection (better still, to use them).  To sigh lustily over stumbled-across websites of artisans specialising in jewellery techniques, like Russian filigree or mokume gane.

This will be a catalogue of my discoveries and hopes, eventually my creations, and above all a love affair with jewellery.

Edward Oakes vintage floral brooch
Victoria Landsford's 'Curves in the Right Places II'
Steve Midgett's 'Shell Form Brooch'