Thursday, 27 October 2011

Clever Boxing

Wow, that time again? Some how the monthly Aspiring Metalsmiths Blog roll comes around so quickly! I am a little late this month but so happy to share with you how I package my jewellery. It has taken me a little while to get to this point though. When I first started selling my jewellery I used some prettly little corrugated boxes from a generic store, but pretty soon I felt that was not enough and had to look around for a better idea. I love branded packaging and although it is slightly more expensive that was the direction I knew I wanted to take.

It started off with me finding out about The Tiny Box Company from the BBC TV show Dragon's Den. They specialise in recycled boxes and although I am aware I am not as eco friendly as I would ultimately like to be, this was too good an option to miss. I bought different styles of boxes from them until I found one I really liked and then I had to get my logo together. I wanted to keep with the Brigtstar109 theme so I concentrated on the part with the star and got my logo together. It wasn't any hassle to get it all set up and put in my first order and as you can see from the photos they look spectacular!

I always finish my boxes off with ribbons and now also offer an as yet unbranded pillow box for smaller items of jewellery which still offer good protection when being shipped long distances but are lighter and more versatile. Now that I have a copy of Photoshop I will re do my logo and get some lovely Moo stickers for the pillow boxes so that they can be branded to and of course I will share the pictures with you :)

Please take some time to visit my Aspiring Metalsmith colleagues and see what they have to offer:

Friday, 23 September 2011

Catalyst to a Muse

Wow, when I saw this month's topic for blogging from the Aspiring Metalsmiths I thought, yep, that one is easy. I can answer it in a moment! But having thought about it for a few hours, now I am not so sure. I find my muse in so many different places, and sometimes she hides from me until I begin to think I will never find her again.
My first inspiration has to come from the materials I use. Sometimes I work in copper or in silver or very occasionally gold. The colour and temper of the metal makes a difference to what I make and how. Copper is very soft, even when I use a thick piece of the metal I need to make sure that there is enough hardening in the fabrication to be sure it will hold its shape in the end. Mostly when I work with copper I melt silver onto the surface which gives it a little more strength, but it also imparts a rustic and dare I say, organic texture, something like twigs or branches that pushes the final creation in a certain direction. Sometimes creating a new design in copper will lead me to trying it then in silver, like my birdsnest ring, which was a result of simply playing with copper wire and some left over sterling bezel wire, but making the ring in sterling was so satisfying and the end result so appealing it has become a favourite in a short while, I have even made a set of wedding rings like it for a special customer. One day I would like to make it in gold too!

I am also very inspired by the stones I use, the designs are created to echo the patterns in the rare agates and jaspers I choose, so that everything becomes complimentary. Recently I have been using small faceted stones not only as accents to bigger pieces but also as the main stone in their own right. Their sparkle fascinates me as i work and I am sure they are very hard to resist, who can resist a pretty sparkly on their finger or twinkling in their ears?

Of course I have been inspired by past designs, I have made jewellery with a medieval flavour or with a nod to the vikings, or aztecs. These ideas come from tv programmes, films, books or simply making random searches on Google until something grabs me. Sometimes I will draw the designs out in my little sketch book or sometimes I will just sit down with my materials in front of me and simply set to work. The end result might be the the finish of the idea or lead on to a string of related pieces, but often I am off on another tangent before I get to do all I could in the one style. If that happens then I may sit down weeks later and spend an evening sketching and looking back on my pieces and my book and using up some of the ideas that were left behind a while ago. In this way I think my work becomes cyclical, and I suppose it is what gives me my own style.

My current ideas are inspired by a ring I dearly wanted to buy for myself before I started metalsmithing. It had a green amethyst cushion cut stone. It is such a pretty shape that I think it has so many possibilities, to team it with rare cabochons and to use it on its own. I am going to look at a few examples from my gem supplier and then decide what exactly I am going to do with them. I hope my muse is being kind that day!

Don't forget to check out my new website Brightstar109 and enter my free give-away by leaving your details and a comment on my Contact Me page, there is still time before it ends on September 30th. You could win a sterling silver Mountains pendant worth £45!

This post is part of the Aspiring Metalsmiths Team September Project Blogroll - Finding Your Muse
Each month the Aspiring Metalsmiths team chooses a topic and each write about that topic on their blog. This month we want to know what inspires you, and where do you look for inspiration?

See what we have to say by visiting the blogs below:

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Creating a Winner

This is going to be a long post, because I have a lot to say ( people who know me well may say that is not unusual!)

I am very excited. It is September.

This is good because September is my favourite month

of the year, not just because it is my birth month, well maybe a lot because it is my birth month. I remember when I was a little girl, being sad that my birthday always fell within the school term, but being just after the Summer holidays, the weather was invariably good. This, I think is to do with the law of sod that decrees that school holiday weather has to be rubbish, too hot, too cold or rainy and grey and then as soon as you go back to school, the sun comes out! Worked for me! Made up for the misery of sitting through lessons before I could go home for my party and fun and the sheer thrill of it being my birthday.

September is also the beginning of Autumn, which is my favourite season. I love the sun (when it shines in summer) and I love the new spring green of dead trees coming back to life, but, all this, in my mind is pale in comparison to the last glorious burst of brilliant life, the last gasp, going out with a bang of living things before the quiet of winter. Al
ways reminds me how to live my life.

This is not what my post is about though. Lovely though it is to philosophise, I have been struggling with more tangible things.

Back in January I got myself a website. I am ashamed to say it was not my first, I seem to be a little careless with them and lose them, one minute they are holding my hand and behaving nicely, the next I look down and 'poof!' gone! Well, something like that anyway. So, I got a new website, it was free, and it could run e-commerce of sorts. Bonus! I threw myself into it with abandon. Over-coming problem after problem, which for a non-techy person wasn't easy. Many times I felt like throwing my laptop along with my web site fr
om a first floor window ( mainly because it was just too much bother to go looking for a higher window). The final straw came after wrangling with it for months and listing most of my stock, I couldn't find a way to make everything line up and every time I opened the site it all went wonky again.

Then a miracle! A friend from Ethical Marketing Solutions said 'We do a website that will do that for you'. I must admit I ummed and ahhed for a bit. the thought of another 8 months of using some quite exotic swear words and getting nowhere fast didn't appeal to me. He persuaded me and, this is the miracle bit, in two days I had a brand, spanking new, working site that even looked quite pretty. It took me a while to upload my jewellery and I do still have a few bits and bobs to do but it is 8 months ahead of schedule and I truly love it.

So, here it is, my very new, just launched website; , I am immensley proud of it so please forgive me if I gloat a little. I had the option of a coloured background but I preferred the muted colours to go with the banner and contrast with the jewellery. I love the slide show and the scrolling feedback comments, but most of all, I love that adding a new piece is as simple as it can be, that I can add lots of extra pictures and options and.. and.. well,

This is the next bit! To celebrate the launch of my new site, I am having a whole month of launch offers. What I would like very much to do for you is to give you something special. So I am doing two things from today.

1. Any and every item, bought this month will be free shipping. As many items as you want, including items that require Airsure or Special delivery, in the UK or be

2. I am offering a 'Giveaway'. If you go to my website and have a look at all the lovely things there, I would like you to chose one thing you like. Let me know what it is, either by contacting me through the contact form on my website, or by commenting here, on this blog. I will put your name into a hat and draw out a winner who will receive a 'Mountains' pendant. If I get more than 100 entries I will have two winners, more than 200 entries, three winners and so on... better odds than winning the Lottery for sure. You can enter once on the website and once through this blog, and you can also be entered by 'liking' my facebook page. 3 ways to win, 1 in 100 chances of being a winner. Not bad eh?

Keep an eye on Facebook over the month too, I will be running short 24 hour offers throughout the month of September. You just have to love September!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Creating a stir!

Wow, this month seems to be rushing by in a blur! Summer is definitely upon us, even if the weather doesn't quite concur. I have spent most of my time recently on working out production pieces and although that is generally quite fun to do, I do miss creating the one of a kind pieces that make use of some of my mouth watering collection of handcut stones. So, I have also been attempting to get some one of a kind work done s well, and all the time dreaming of my next project. Happily I have been making sales too and that meant that I could indulge in some new tools. New tools usually means some very useful but boring piece of equipment (to the layman) that I have had my eye on for a while, but this month, new tools meant making a purchase on a happy whim that has led to me playing with something entirely different, albeit still silver.

A couple of weeks ago I was called by the local newspaper who were updating their directory, the man I spoke to was very chatty and after checking his information asked "Just what do you actually make?" I simply told him I was a silversmith. After I hung up the phone I suddenly thought, am I really? That is not to say I doubt what I do or that I think I am a master at my craft but I wondered what the definition of silversmith was, against say, that of a goldsmith. After much research I found that the difference was probably more of semantics and possibly about materials and that both did indeed craft jewellery, but a lot of the entries also talked about the forging of boxes and vessels and such like.

... And so this lead to my purchase of new tools. A little idea I have had germinating for a while now, linked to my birthstone jewellery and maybe even wedding and christening gifts, the idea of making spoons. I have seen silver spoons made into jewellery but what of actually making silver spoons, as keepsakes, as jewellery themselves? My purchase was a set of spoon stakes, special shiny steel stakes that you fix to a clamp and hammer the metal over to shape. Sadly I haven't been home enough to play yet, but I will and my order of special silver for my first spoons will be arriving next week, and then I hope the neighbours will forgive my joyful hammering, and I promise to share with you the results.

This post was part of the Aspiring Metalsmiths' Blogroll. I hope you have enjoyed it and if you have, please read about what some of my colleagues have been up to this month.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Counting the days...or not!

Woo, logged in to see where I was up to and was so shocked to see I haven't blogged for ...well, since February! Eeep.. those few months just snuck quietly by, didn't they?

So much has been going on. For one, I got my first batch of hallmarking back from the Birmingham Assay Office. This has been a long time coming. In the UK we have to hallmark all silver jewellery over 7g in weight. This ensures to the customer that they are buying real sterling silver and it also carries a unique maker's mark which makes the jewellery identifiable and who knows, it may even turn up on the Antiques Roadshow
in a hundred years time or so? This is my mark:

I have also started this year's Prom Art shows in Grange over Sands in Cumbria. These are always such a joy to do, the surroundings and the people are so wonderful and the many quality crafts available just make you mouth water. This year I have a new set up and am displaying my work over three tables in a gazebo. It certainly keeps the worst and the best of the wether at bay, so hopefully no soggy windswept hair and
no more burned shoulders. I also happen to think it looks quite swanky, especially with my new banner, made for me by a very good friend. What do you think?

This was a very windy day, I will try to get one next time when it is all sunny..fingers crossed X

Last of all I am very happy to announce that my personal website is all brand new shiny and up and running. I am still happily using Etsy but I love that on this site I can list all the options available and expand my collections as they grow. I am loving it already, please take a moment to visit and let me know what you think.

Really going to try and come back here a lot more often, you are all so nice :)

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Candy of the rock variety

Oooh, I really enjoy blogging as part of the team of Aspiring metalsmiths, there are lots of interesting titles, but this has to be the best and most self-indulgent! Stones! I don't think I would be making too much of a leap to suggest that most jewellery makers are also shameless stone hussies, once you start along the road of handling precious stones it is a downhill journey. I myself sit upon a growing pile of pretties like a brooding dragon, every now and then one rolls out from under the pile and I set it in silver then go back to admiring the rest!

I have a lot of favourites, mostly they are inspired by colour, but some I love for being what they are. Fossil cabochons are the most exciting to me in this way. That something I only ever saw in museums can be made into gorgeous cabochons makes my jaw drop open and they are just so beautiful too!

A stone I became infatuated with quite early on was chrysocolla. I just love the turquoise blues in the stone, and then there is parrot's wing chrysocolla with splashes of red and yellows, pure heaven! I could not believe before my first chrysocolla arrived in my sweaty little palms that something so bright and beautiful could not be man made. The fact that all of these stones are natural is to me, what helps to make them extra special!

Another stone I love is opal, I am finding new varieties all the time, so many sparkly pretties, the first ring I made for myself was set with a stunning boulder opal, I wear it as much as I can, and when it is safe to do so because I am always distracted by watching how the little rivers of sparkly coloour run all over the stone's surface. I also love fire agate, it looks like lumps of caramel with shining lights of greens, yellows and reds inside almost good enough to eat..yummy!

Of course I couldn't leave purple out of this. Purple is my favourite colour and there are so many wonderful purple stones to choose from. Of course there is amethyst, my favourite being moss amethyst, then there is cacoxenite in amethyst, like little strands of gold running all the way through the cloudy purpleness! Charoite that looks like silk in a stone or tiffany stone which has wonderful patterns and hues. There are loads more, but I just haven't discovered them yet, I am sure!

Last of all are the stones I cannot part with. Some were cut especially for me, some are very rare as well as beautiful and I know I would kick myself for parting with them and some just fascinate me. There aren't very many, not yet, but these I would never let roll out from my hoard.. or maybe I just haven't met the right knight yet! hee hee!
This month the Aspiring metalsmiths are bringing out their stones. For many, collecting stones has become an addiction. Come take a look at their favourites and what makes them so special.

Autumn Bradley
Chrissi Lyn Designs
Jessica @ Abella Blue
Contemporary Jewelry by Beatriz Fortez
Silver pearl jewelry and metalworks

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Coping with Code!

Woo, been so busy ( but busy is good right?) sorting out my new website. Done it all by myself, no techy man or woman to help out and no web designer on call, just lil ol' luddite me and a few choice and well used swear words!

But it has been worth it and (I think) I have a nice little website up and going now. I am still adding inventory and plan to eventually show all the options available in my made to order ranges and eventually it will be the only online home of my wire wrapped designs as I am letting the Etsy wire wrapped listings expire so that there is only smithed jewellery available there. Etsy has been good to me and I have no intention of leaving it but there is definitely something nice about having an online home that is just about the things I do.

I am going to have a little free competition starting on Feb 14th and will let you know all bout it here as well as through other venues. Make sure you sign up for my newsletter through the website too, there will be more exclusive offers for those on the newsletter list in the not too distant future! Go on... click it, you know you want to :)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Casting a Backward Glance

Once a month as part of the Aspiring Metalsmiths team we take up the challenge to blog on a pre-ordained subject. It's fun and rakes around in things we sometimes forget. This week it is 'How we began' our metalsmithing journey.

My story can go back quite a long time to my teens, when a little, local craft store started selling sterling findings and unusual beads to make earrings with. It was a place I could take my pocket money (or left over lunch money) and create earrings I could actually wear, being allergic to the nickel in most costume (careful not to use the 'Junk' word) jewellery.

Sadly, all too soon I got serious about growing up and having a job and a family and no time to myself until two major life moves later I found myself wandering in the market town of Ulverston and chanced upon another stall selling sterling findings and beads. Unfortunately, although I proudly took many bad photographs of my achievements with these slim pickings, none have survived the multiple computer swaps, I do seem to be extremely hard on 'hardware'. I attempted to sell these pieces on Ebay to no avail. But while browsing there I discovered faceted gemstone beads! Oh, wonder of wonders, what a treasure trove to dangle before the eyes of a latent, button hoarding dragon! Of course I could not resist their lure and before long had built up a tidy hoard of sterling and fine silver wire and gemstone beads. I made jewellery for friends and family before advice from my favourite beads seller brought me at last to a place called Flickr and then to Etsy. I met so many wonderful (and patient) freinds both in the UK and further abroad who broadened my horizons, my knowledge and my skills. I watched as some of these most talented designers began to move from wire wrapping, on to smithed jewellery. By now I was creating some very intricate and delicate work and I swore I would never give up wire wrapping to go to the devil of smithed jewellery, no matter the lure!

To keep the devil at bay and find a more secure way of fastening some pieces I attempted to teach myself to solder jump rings ( only jump rings I told myself, hardly selling my soul!) but alas I could not get the knack and when the solder flowed by some miracle that must have been good wire wrapping vibes in disguise, I could never replicate the happy moment!

I bought copper wire and experimented with making some fused jewellery, never forgetting my roots, of course, I wrapped the copper in melted silver to make bangles, rings and earrings but never got the hang of soldering.

Finally in a fit of pique I enrolled in a local smithing class, just to learn to solder...and perhaps make rings, you can't properly make rings by wire wrapping (oh the lies I told myself).

Dear friends, I was hooked. I rushed home from my first class, impatient to wait until the following week and made my first stone set ring, a little rough around the edges but still wearable (and I do wear it very often). The rest, as they say, is history, and as if to prove a point that my soul is well and truly sold, lock stock and barrel, my latest piece uses ages old ammonite as its centre piece, making history, literally!

My Fellow Metalsmiths:

Monday, 17 January 2011

Coral and Keeping Up

Well, it certainly hasn't been a quiet start to the new year! I began by stumbling on an offer of a new website that was just too good to turn down despite the time it sucks away from creating. I am sooo close to being able to unveil it that I can taste it, but I want to make sure it is just right and these things should not be rushed. I am slowly adding piece by piece of my jewellery to it, when it opens new pieces will be added daily until the whole intinerary is up there. Won't be long now!

I have also signed up the Thing-a-Week (THAW). On Etsy I am very happy to be a member of the Aspiring Metasmiths Team. I try to take part in the monthly challenges set but have definitely been slacking of late, so to try and remedy this I have signed up to THAW. This means I have to create something new every week of the year. This is quite a big ask. I do tend to be busy on custom items and made to order jewellery a lot of the time but I have also been quite a bad girl on the stone front and have quite a collection that need something doing to them. Hopefully THAW will help to reduce that stone pile just a little. First to be used was a gorgeous fossil coral cabochon. I have been thinking about it for ages but it takes me a while to get going and panicking over the THAW deadline last week was just what I needed. What came about is a pendant with an open back to show off as much of this gorgeous stone as possible and a lovely caramelly carnelian to complement the autumnal shades (even though it is nearly spring).

Next week I am working on an ammonite that has been whispering to me for far too long. Wish me luck!