Archive for September 2012

How is it clay if it’s silver?

Silver clay was something I’d never heard of until I started looking at what new crafts I could learn. I found a book on silver clay in my local bookshop and was intrigued.

It is a relatively new invention, taking incredibly finely powdered recycled silver and mixing it with water and a clay binder. It means you can treat it like a clay and then, when dried it loses the water and when fired it loses the binder, leaving behind pure silver. It is purer than normal stirling silver, which has to be ‘cut’ with other metals to make it workable.

It is a very tricky and delicate product to work with though, partly because you are making small intricate things and partly because it’s so brittle until you fire it. A piece needs shaping, sanding, neatening, joining, polishing and some connector added like a bale or ring before it is fired. After firing, it is brushed, polished through seven grades of papers and burnished until it has a suitable shine and finish.

But the things you can do with it! From the simplest project where you mark some clay with a pattern and cut it out, through to lockets, boxes and moving jewellery… all turn out this very pleasing mixture of a familiar silver shine yet more intricacy than we are used to from silver.

Silver seed pod pendant

As a crafter, I find it hard to beat the sense of achievement I get seeing something inherently precious emerge from my work. And as someone still getting used to the medium, it’s hard to match the stress of working delicately and consistently enough to meet the demands of the delicate clay!

My plans have slowed a bit because prices of silver are rising. But I still want to continue exploring natural forms, refining my designs by gathering lots of inspirational objects whenever I’m out: sea shells, seed pods, acorns, twigs, flowers and leaves. I then experiment with them in polymer clay to see how they could be used. The ones that get made in silver look like they should always have been jewellery. I can’t explain it better, they look right.

At the Saltaire Festival

All this weekend I’ll be at the Saltaire Festival.

I love this festival, it’s huge, great fun, there’s food… so it was one of my must-haves to be involved when I set up Use or Ornament. Did I mention food? Mmm. I may be coming home with several stinky French cheeses if this year is anything like previous years.

I’ll be part of the craft fair on the main street just up from Victoria Hall. I’m making plenty of Shipley clock tower t-shirts (in men’s and women’s sizes). They’re causing a small stir on the Etsy shop stats thanks to some kind local blogging and facebook sharing – thanks all! There’ll also be some other goodies using the clock tower design and many more of the delicious new range of coat collars.

PS… Helpful crafters tip this week: the label isn’t kidding when it says that you need a well ventilated area for spray mount, I had to have a little lie down this arvo just because I forgot the open the windows. Let’s only make that mistake once or I won’t have enough brain cells to think up the next range! The pitfalls of hand printing  :-)

Why Shipley clock tower?

My town, Shipley, in West Yorkshire, is a market town pretty near the cities of Bradford and Leeds, but it still manages to hold its own with a market square and some independent businesses to boot.

The clock tower is, its fair to say, a pretty dominant feature. It’s unashamedly 1960s modernist, from the concrete frame to the blue, grey and brown colouring. It looks like the future of the past, blasting forwards yet oddly old fashioned.

When I was looking at designs I wanted to explore in my business I kept coming back to the clock tower, it’s visually interesting and it creates such a range of emotional responses from Shipleyites, from defensive pride, to ironic fondness, to growls of disdain.

Mentioning the design to my neighbour, I was surprised that she thought it was a great idea!

It was actually the first thing I sold to anyone, before I’d set up properly, too. So now, it’s a reminder of the beginnings of my business, a symbol of my local town and it reflects one of the aims of my business: to reveal the hidden beauty in things we forget to appreciate.

Shipley clock tower may be the odd one out on my horizon, it may have been nicer if it hadn’t been designed that way, but it is iconic, ironic and it grows on me every time I look.


HEART and Crafts Craft Fair

Packing up for a craft fair is a lot like packing for a holiday, ‘But I might need duck tape…’ you think and, before you know it, you need a truck to get all your stuff to the venue.
It’s made me really happy to see how many people get what I’m trying to do, today. The new collars were definitely star of the show, I think they’re going to prove popular this autumn.
I’ve met some great new crafters, found out about some printing workshops next month and goggled at how many different skills you can fit in one room.
However, talking to people all day on very little sleep (what me, keep working up to the line?), plus waking up at 4am when I realised I hadn’t appliquéd the wings on my bees, is not good for the complexion. I now look somewhat zombie.
New photos shortly, thank goodness, there was a photographer at the fair who can help out. Hurrah!
PS I did need duck tape, after all…

The stand at HEART and Craft

The stand at HEART and Craft

The business cards arrive

Just a shortie today, I am officially grown up because I have… business cards!

It’s better than new stationery at the start of term: they’re shiny, they’re tiny and they’re all mine.

(They’re sitting on the fabric I painted to make my floaty bees from)

And the new range is…

The new range to cheer up your existing wardrobe is nearly here. I’m calling it “Rock what you got”

Below are the first shots of making in progress…

SO if you’re tempted to buy a winter coat, save a few pounds and make a coat you already own really and truly fabulous. Buy one of my glamorous collars, maybe a set of handmade buttons and even a matching corsage to update your winter coat. As far as I can tell, I’m the only person offering a matching coat set.

I’m also working on ‘decals’: a set of iron-on updates for your clothing. The first offer will have the slogan ‘Rock what you got’ on them. Others will have a choice of designs. They can be used on any item of clothing that can be ironed: t-shirts, jackets, cardies, dresses, shirts…

The full range should be up in a week or so, in the meantime, if there’s anything you’d like to see or any thoughts, do share them in the comments below.

Here’s the first photos (sorry, taken with my phone): a delicate leaf green herringbone collar, a classic black velvet collar and I’m part way through a bright felt collar with an oyster satin lining. I’ve created a new design that is a different shape than some separate collars so that it covers a coat collar well.

Living with the truth

Everyone knows this, but it comes as a bit of a shock sometimes: there’s nothing new in design.

I had an idea about silver birch trees, so I had a look around and boy, birch trees are everywhere. I blame Monet.

They have this monochrome thing going on, and they’re sort of in negative with such white bark, also the black branches have a triangular shape that looks like calligraphy. Suddenly I felt like a song writer who woke up humming only to realise it was a Beatles tune.

And yet.

Nothing is new, silver birch have been there, enchanting us all for ever.

But I think I may leave those silver birch for a while, until I come up with the entirely different view that I need to stand out from the other trees.

Embrace your iron

In the BSE days (Before Self Employment) I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that I hated my iron. From being made to iron my shirts at school, it represented forced chores, the regret of a weekend ending and wearing a uniform. Boo hiss.

But now, I’m a fully reformed woman and I want to share the revelation with you all because Bondaweb made all the difference.

Today, my iron is changing boring things into fabulous things – t-shirts become great appliqué outfits, clothes gain trims and shoes get corsages. There is possibly no end to its wonders [except fabrics that melt].

So, if you ever have one of those Sundays where it’s either Columbo or a walk in the rain, why not get some Bondaweb out instead.

Just seek out those t-shirts lurking at the back of the drawer and cut up a colourful one to decorate the others. You could have a peep on Google Images for strong shapes to cut out if you’re stuck for ideas, and if you fancy something more complex I’ll have my cheer-up-your-clothing kits ready soon! I seriously need a snappier name though – any thoughts? The best gets a kit for free.

I should probably have one of those legal statements here about not nabbing other people’s clothes and cutting them up without asking, but… showing all that enterprise and thrift, who could be cross, eh?*

 *Some people may react crossly.