Monday, February 25, 2013

Making your own jewellery!

A very lovely lady purchased some beads from me last week and asked my advice about how to make your own jewellery. What do I need to start ? What basic tools do I need ? Should I put something in between each bead? Well, this post is just for you!
The photographs above and below show you some examples of the kind of jewellery that I make using floral beads.  I usually like to place a sterling silver saucer bead either side of the floral bead to bring out the sparkle within the glass.  I also use smaller plain beads to bring out one of the colours used in the flower petals.  But, equally a contrasting colour can enhance the colours used within the bead to produce a very striking piece of jewellery.  In these examples though, I have used turquoise swarovski crystals to being out the subtle blue petals and combined this with sterling silver saucer beads.
Now, you can make jewellery without using any tools by careful threading and knotting but I will save that for another blog post because if you want to take up jewellery making as a hobby then it is worth purchasing some tools.  You will use them! Sometimes, you can pick up the tools fairly cheap as a free givaway on a craft magazine but it is worth investing in a good set of tools, reading reviews and having a good google.

Side Cutters - very useful for cutting all your threads.  These are great (much better than scissors) because you can get very close to the edge of whatever you are cutting and achieve a good clean cut.

These are the tools, I use all the time.  Round nose pliers - these are very useful for any wire work, making earrings, creating loops in wire etc. .. Snipe/Chain nose pliers - I use mostly for closing crimp beads, chain work and grabbing hold of tricky threads.  I use my bent nose pliers again for chain work and grabbing wire and threads.  The bent nose can be very useful.   I should also mention that all of my tools have spring handles which save your hands a lot of work and helps to avoid hand fatigue.

There are lots of different threads out there from suede, velvet, ribbon, elastic .... the list is endless.  To make the Periwinkle bracelet, I used Tigertail beading wire.  It is very strong and comes in lots of very pretty colours.  I shop around on the internet for my materials to ensure a good price so it definitely worth a google.
I was making a necklace earlier and decided to photograph a few of the steps.  This is not a proper tutorial but will give you an idea how to use the tools and put the beads together to make an item of jewellery.  The steps can be applied to making a bracelet as well.  I will write another post about making earrings later.
Ok, so before I start working on any piece of jewellery, I lay all the materials out in front of me.  I then re-arrange all the beads, add/take beads away, add charms .... until I have a layout that I am happy with.  You can purchase a bead mat to lay all the beads on whilst you choose your design.  They are good, stop your beads rolling off the table and are not too expensive.  I don't use one myself but I wouldn't say no to one either ...
When I am happy with my design I start threading my beads onto my tigertail.  I keep one end of the tigertail attached to the coil to prevent all my beads rolling away .... shouldn't admit it but I learnt the hard way .....  I am using tiny green seed beads to separate the larger pink beads and to add a contrast in colour.  I particularly like this colour combination especially for the spring.  Light, bright colours, lovely! Keep threading the beads onto the tigertail until you have the necklace at the length you require. 
Ok, we are now ready to finish the necklace.  We will need some 2mm soft crimp beads and some 5mm open jump rings.  Sometimes you may need to use larger jump rings depending on the clasp you are using and you can also purchase closed jump rings.  For this necklace, I am using open jump rings and you can see from the photograph that one of the jump rings is already open.  I will talk more about this in a moment.
Add a crimp bead and an open jump ring onto the end of your tigertail.  Then bend the tigertail around the jump ring back into the crimp bead (as shown in the photograph below).
Pull the tigertail through the crimp bead until you have a fairly small loop around the jump ring.  Then take your chain nose pliers and squeeze the crimp bead until it is completely flat.
It should look something like this .......
Repeat the above steps with the other end of the necklace.  So you should have a jump ring on each end.  There are lots of different clasp available and it really comes down to personal preference.  There are a range of beautiful toggle clasp out there that enchance a jewellery design or you can use simple blot rings or trigger clasps.  I am using a trigger clasp for this example and I am going to show you how to attach it to your jump ring.
There is a knack for opening jump rings.  I have tried to show it in the photgraph below ... but probably not very well ... You don't want to pull them open because you will distort the ring and it won't close properly after.  What you need to do using your pliers is to slide the ring open (one plier moving forward and one plier moving backwards).  I hope this makes sense?
Once the jump ring is open, you can slide the loop of the trigger clasp onto the ring and then slide the jump ring closed.  The ends of your necklace should now look like this ....
..... and you have finished!  There is a lot more to making jewellery than I shown here in my blog but what I am trying to show is a simple method of how to get started.  There are lots of jewellery making books out there and it is probably better to read all the reviews on Amazon to find the most suitable book for your level.  I have always found Beading Magazines to be very useful sources of information about jewellery making.  I have written for Beads and Beyond Magazine and Bead Magazine so naturally I am going to promote these ... Very lovely people!
I have written another tutorial on my blog - A Completed Necklace! This tutorial shows another method of finishing a necklace using flat leather crimps.  These are used for thicker material like suede.
I thought I had written more tutorials than this and probably have the photos lurking somewhere on my computer.  But the questions did make me think that as a bead maker I should really be providing tutorials on how to string my beads and whether this should be a regular feature of my blog?
Sarah xx

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I need more time ....

I didn't have time for a Monday Glass Challenge this week which is a shame because I didn't get any studio time to melt some glass.  The pages in my sketch book are bursting full of ideas and new techniques I want to try and old ones I want to develop further. But, I am not complaining because I do have a very busy couple of weeks.

I have also been looking through all my un-finished polymer clay work and have vowed not to make any more until I have finished everything!  It is quite daunting because during the Summer months I had a polymer frenzy and there is so much to catch up with.  I am hoping to squeeze this in between my work over the next couple of weeks and will hopefully have some pretty finished clay pieces to show you.  I thought I would share a selection of the beads that need to be finished!
I  made these beads as part of the 52 earrings in a year challenge.  I like creating this shape and thought rather than make them in one colour I would see what they looked like with a pattern.  I was going to cluster these and turn them into a pendant or a large flower on a bracelet.  I haven't decided yet!

These pendants are part of my experiments with Stroppel Cane.  They need sanding and polishing and if I make some black round beads could make a very striking necklace.....

Cara Jane showed me how to make these hearts and ever since she showed me I haven't stopped making them.  Whilst I have made quite a few of these, they still all need to be sanded and polished.  They will eventually be turned into pretty peices of jewellery .... sometime .... when I get around to finishing them ....

Finally (this is only a selection of the beads I have to finish) I thought I would show you my pink swirly tabs.  I want to create a lovely summery bracelet with these.  Although I do regret no having made a few more so I could make a necklace and earrings to match. 

Do you have an un-finished work?  Does it help to re-ignite any lost creativity?  Sometimes when I have one of those moments I do take a look through my beads and sometimes it creates a spark and them off I go on the rollorcoaster ride of ideas.
Sarah xx

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Blue Challenge Results!

Watercolour Implosion Bead - My Signature Beads.
Here are some of the beads I made as part of my Monday Glass Challenge.  I might let it run on for another week because I have really enjoyed making the implosion beads and whilst I am in the mood I really want to make some more.
Hope you enjoy having a look at my work this week.  None of the beads have been listed on etsy yet but if you keep an eye on facebook and twitter, I will notify you when they are! 

Lots of bright blue lentil beads.

Front view of a Watercolour Implosion Bead.

One of my blue lampwork implosion hearts.
Dark Blue Implosion Flower with a couple of ribbon beads.

Blue Blossom Lentils

Sarah xx

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Coastal Dreams!


I thought I would feature a blue set of beads this week as the theme and inspiration for the Monday Challenge was the colour blue.  So what can I tell you about these beads .... well .... the actual theme behind this set of beads was my love affair with the coast.  We spend a great deal of our time together as a family walking along the coastal paths and enjoying the fresh sea air.  There are times when the experience can be challenging! For instance, when it is absolutely freezing with the wind and rain stinging your face but despite this, it is so invigorating!  You come home feeling full of renewed energy.  I love it! It is also when I make some really good beads.
My favourite moments are searching through rock pools with the kids, clambering over very sharp rocks to find secret treasures waiting for us to find them in the little pools left by the tide.  We have found a few nice little picnic spots like this as well .....

This set of beads was made using ivory, silvered stringer, transparent blue, cornflower blue, transparent aqua and a couple of transparent greens.  As you can see from the phtotograph a lot of my designs are raised above the surface of the bead.  I wanted to make them very tactile and a little rugged like the coastline.  The green colours represent the different greens of the seaweed.  I should of added some dark browns and red as well .... The blue dots represent the bubbles of water and the silvered stringer are my interpretation of barnicles clinging to the sides of the rockpools or to limpet shells.  I have some lovely examples of these in shed/studio/shed.

They are amazing aren't they?  Such inspiration to build upon .... although I am going to have to find a home for all the shells in my studio.  They are beginning to take over!
I have included lots of spacer beads in this set to give you lots of options when you are designing your jewellery.  These beads also look lovely strung very simply onto a sterling silver chain!
Sarah xx

Sunday, February 10, 2013

......something blue.....

The inspiration for this week is the colour blue.  To help me with some inspiration for this challenge I decided to make a treasury list on Etsy and also use this as an opportunity to share some amazing work made by my fellow artisans.  I hope these items will help to stimulate your creativity and get you making some fabulous treats this week!
My Monday Glass Challenge: To make a very pretty blue implosion bead and anything BLUE! 
You don't have to be a lampwork artist to join me on this challenge or to share my inspiration of the week.  All you have to do is make sure your challenge features the colour blue.  If you do want to join me, that would be fantastic! We could also use the opportunity to share each other's work either here on my blog or on facebook.

Sarah xx