Thursday, 31 January 2013

Valentines at Wistow

Valentines Day is fast approaching and Ruth Gordon Jewellery has just delivered some work to the fabulous Wistow Gallery for their Made with Love exhibition which runs from 1st until 20th February 2013.

Several new designs were made alongside several classic pieces all using the traditional valentines theme of red (with a sneaky bit of pink in there too!).

Ruth Gordon Jewellery will be exhibiting alongside other local makers from Leicestershire and Rutland. Cards, love tokens, wood, ceramics, glass, prints, photographs, textiles and jewellery will be on sale.

Coral and Carnelian Cluster Ring

Silver Frame Necklace with Red Nylon Loops and Red Swarovski Crystals

Silver Bangle with Frame and Red Nylon

Hammered Silver Ring with Frame and Red Nylon

 Silver Bangle with Silver Rings, Red Nylon and Red Swarovski Crystals

White Acrylic Brooch with Red Heart

The Wistow Gallery is open Tuesday - Saturday 10am-4.30pm and Sunday 11am-4.30pm

The Gallery is situated in the lovely Wistow Rural Centre so you could make a day off it visiting the garden centre, deli, bistro and the gift shops.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Sketch for an Acrylic, Cold Enamel and Silver Neckpiece

Some necklaces are showpieces whilst others are just one understated detail within an overall ensemble. My range includes necklaces that fulfil each of these roles.

My acrylic and cold enamel neckpieces are very clearly statement pieces. I wanted to create some big pieces, every element of which I had made by hand. I saw-pierced, heat-formed and drilled each individual element of the neckpieces. For the 'Acrylic, Cold Enamel and Silver Neckpiece', I made some cold-enamel-filled domes and cut out lots of little silver discs. The domes and discs were alternated so each piece had a dome and a disc showing (as you can see in the photo below). Each element was then joined together with sterling silver jump rings.

Detail of Acrylic, Cold Enamel and Silver Neckpiece
For the 'Acrylic, Cold Enamel and Nylon Neckpiece' I half-drilled lots of 'holes' in the acrylic elements and filled them with cold enamel then joined the elements will looped nylon thread.

Detail of Acrylic, Cold Enamel and Silver Neckpiece
I really love these pieces (Both come with matching bracelets shown below. The bracelets are mini versions of the neckpieces) but they are very time consuming and the neckpieces do not sell as well as the bracelets, so I am going to retire these humble statement neckpieces in their current form. I think they are a bit too much of a statement for most people but they look great on!

Photography: Kelly Dearsley

Acrylic, Cold Enamel, Silver and Nylon Bracelets

I am also 'retiring' these wee corrugated and cold enamel dome necklaces, in their current incarnation anyway. I could definitely improve on the neck wires that I used for these, they bend too easily and the kinks are hard to get out of them. I think they might look better on a coloured wire. Something to think about.

Sketch for Corrugated Silver and Cold Enamel Necklaces

Corrugated Silver and Cold Enamel Necklaces

Talking of coloured neck wires, my nylon framed neckpieces are a firm favourite with my customers and with me! They are fun to design and make and the result is a quirky, colourful and simple necklace that has been very well-received.

Nylon Framed Necklace
Nylon Framed Necklace

Nylon Framed Necklace

My only problem with these was that the company who made the coloured neck wires stopped making them and I have had to find a new source. I think I have found some good ones now, so these necklaces will be in my collection a while longer!

Other nylon necklaces I will be keeping in my range include these two looped nylon pieces.  I think they show off the qualities of the nylon really well and they work in different colour-ways too.  

Nylon Looped Necklace

Nylon Loops and Silver Rings Necklace

These fun, simple pieces have proven popular with people looking to add a bit of colour to their outfits but not make a huge statement. 

Enamelled Framed Necklaces
Enamelled Framed Necklace

My enamel work is on hold at the moment while I focus on my other ranges but as soon as I get my kiln firing again I will be working on updating these necklaces, which have attracted a lot of attention. I love using my kiln but I need to increase my skill level before embarking on big projects again. I plan to do an enamelling course at some point.

Enamel and Silver Necklaces

I made a couple of these acrylic and silver necklaces and they both sold. They are fun, light, colourful and simple to make. I have lots of acrylic in my workshop and I really want to make some more of these in different colour-ways, so look out for more pictures of these in the future. 
Acrylic and Silver Necklace
Acrylic and Textured Silver Necklace

I made these next two framed necklaces and a few different versions of them a few years ago and they were very popular. I feel I need to work on the sizing and construction of them but I will continue to make these (they have matching earrings which also proved very popular), as they are colourful and appeal to a wide range of customers.

Plastic Bead Framed Necklace

Anodised Aluminium Framed Necklace

 An early Valentine's Day special! These necklaces and the matching earrings and bracelets are very popular around St. Valentine's Day.  Again, when my kiln is back on I will make some more of these.
Enamelled Hearts Framed Necklace

I have saved the newest pieces until last in this post. I have some beautiful semi-precious stones and have made lots of necklaces from these, incorporating silver 'boxes' and sometimes nylon thread with the stones, to create simple yet striking and often colourful pieces.  They're something a bit different for my range but contain just as much, if not more, of the bright colour you'll find in my other collections.

These new pieces conclude my musings (for now) and my review of necklaces/neckpieces. I couldn't mention every necklace I have made but these were the main contenders and I think that by refining a few of them it will result in a more cohesive range across the board.

Feel free to let me know what you think about any of my pieces.

In the next few weeks I will be reviewing my Wristwear and Ring ranges, so look out for that along with some other posts discussing, among other topics, sentimentality for jewellery and working practice.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Wedding Jewellery

Wedding jewellery means different things to different people. The meaning or purpose behind each piece of jewellery might be different to the Bride, to the Groom, to the Bridesmaids, to the shop assistant, to the designer and so on.

I started to write this blog post when I was getting ready to get married last year. The writing of it fell by the wayside as the wedding drew nearer and I have only just picked up writing it again. I am quite glad of this however because I can now tell you all about my wedding jewellery experience and what I have learnt from it - the differences between what the designer thinks and what the bride thinks.

Brides. For some wedding jewellery is the chance to add a bit of/bit more bling to their outfit, for others it's an opportunity to add a splash of colour, some brides prefer to have some meaning to their baubles and maybe for some it's a chance to do all three! But that isn't where their options/meaning/opportunities etc. end. Wedding jewellery means something different to each and every bride.

Jewellery designers. This is a designer's chance to design something really special, something that the bride/groom/bridesmaids/best man/ushers etc. will cherish, admire and keep forever.

In my research I have found that most brides want plain wedding bands and simple, elegant bridal jewellery. Most brides don't want the jewellery to be the star of the show because, of course, it is the bride who is the star of the show. Wedding jewellery for men tends to be anything they would normally wear such as a chain, a watch and perhaps cufflinks (shirt allowing) and of course the wedding band.

I have been to about 10 weddings and I can honestly say (no offence intended to those in the bridal parties) that I cannot remember anything about the jewellery the bride/groom/bridesmaids/best man/ushers wore. That's not to say that the jewellery they were wearing wasn't beautiful or even that I didn't comment on it because I probably did! Maybe it's because I am a jeweller that I focus on other things at weddings like the cake, I love a beautiful cake! Maybe it's because these brides and grooms have all chosen their jewellery so well that it became part of their overall outfit/look instead of being a separate item.

Dundee based jeweller Genna Delaney makes beautifully elegant wedding jewellery with pearls. Genna's main range of jewellery is very different from her wedding jewellery, a lot of it includes chunky stones, coloured acrylic and textured metal. Genna has captured the wedding jewellery market perfectly with these floaty, classic pieces.

Genna Delaney. 3 Strand Pearl Necklace.
Genna Delaney. Single Chain Pearl Drop Earrings.

For my own wedding I travelled up to Scotland with nothing made and horrified everyone by making a necklace at aisle minus 2 hours. I was fortunate enough to have an antique charm bracelet that my grandad bought me that I knew I was going to wear so I only had a necklace and earrings to make. The earrings problem was solved by my bridesmaid Zoe and her fiance, Chris, giving me a belated birthday present of some beautiful red glass earrings. I then designed and made a simple pearl and crystal necklace incorporating parts taken out of a bracelet (that was too big) that my gran had given me for my 21st Birthday.

My wedding jewellery.
My antique charm bracelet.

I made my maid of honour and my two bridesmaids little personalised charm bracelets with different coloured semi precious stones and silver charms with their names letter stamped on.

I had wanted to wear a signature Ruth Gordon Jewellery bright red coral necklace to match my petticoat, sash and shoes. I decided against this thinking that less was probably more in this case. 

Bright red coral - perfect for weddings?

I realised after my wedding that every piece of jewellery I wore had meaning and sentimental value to it. The necklace and bracelet had reminders of my grandparents, my earrings were given to me by my dear friends and my ring was made by my husband.

My new husband had on the ring I made him and my mum was even sporting some Ruth Gordon Jewellery earrings. We were all wearing jewellery that we enjoyed wearing, that meant something to us and that looked good.

I won't get into the theory suggesting that many jewellers prefer only to wear jewellery for sentimental value at the moment as that is another blog post in the pipeline!

I should probably mention the most important and special part of the wedding jewellery - the rings. Doug and I decided to make our own rings. I would make his and I would guide him through making mine. It was great fun and I would recommend doing this to other engaged couples. It made the ring giving and receiving that little bit more special. I also found out that Doug has a natural talent with metal. We made the rings in palladium to match my engagement ring, a material which I hadn't used before and therefore I had a bit of a struggle to get to terms with how the solder reacts to heat. I really enjoyed working with the palladium once I got the hang of it, it is quite a forgiving metal and it has the benefit of being cheaper the plantinum and gold. I hope to work with it again and would encourage other couples to investigate it as a great alternative to the traditional metals.

Doug putting flux onto my palladium wedding band
Ruth Gordon Jewellery soldering Doug's palladium wedding band

Several jewellers are now offering a 'Make your own wedding ring' service and I would really encourage this as a lovely way to do something together that makes the wedding day even more special. In Edinburgh Donna Barry and Hannah Louise Lamb have set up a company called Make Your Own Wedding Rings where they invite couples to come into their workshop and are taken through the making process, step-by-step. During the day the jewellers will also take photos and the couple get a CD of images. Not only do you get your handmade wedding bands you get a lovely keepsake of the documented making process.

In Leicestershire, Kate Bajic is offering a Make Your Own Wedding Rings workshop. Along with the personal tuition of a professional jeweller, couples receive photographs as a memento of the day.

Both workshops are priced at under £300 for the tuition and use of all tools plus the expertise and advice of the jewellers. The cost of raw materials and hallmarking is additional. I think these are brilliantly priced for such a wonderful experience. After all you are exchanging rings as a symbol of your love and you will wear them forever! 

Men's jewellery is always hard especially as I don't currently make male jewellery and my husband doesn't wear any jewellery apart from his wedding band. I had previously made some cufflinks as a wedding commission (see the blog post here and photo below) and would like to make more. They are a lovely thank you present for the best man and ushers and, of course, for the groom. 

Barker/Kirby cufflink commission

As a jewellery designer I can appreciate beautiful jewellery not only for its aesthetic appeal but also because I know what has gone into making it. I feel with the rise of craft and design in Britain today more and more people are understanding this, which is great. More people want something really special when they buy a piece of jewellery, whether it be for their wedding or an everyday occasion.

I am currently very drawn towards the work of Hannah Louise Lamb. I love her Coast- and Skyline ranges and I think they fit into this post about wedding jewellery perfectly. Last year I saw in one of Hannah's Facebook posts that she had made a pair of wedding bands for a couple who were from two very different cities and wanted this incorporated into their rings. The groom had the skyline of his wife's home city of Prague on his band and the bride had the skyline of her husband's home city of Edinburgh on hers. I think this is a beautiful idea.

Hannah Louise Lamb. Skyline Wedding Bands
Hannah also makes Coastline jewellery which is utterly gorgeous and a perfect way to incorporate that special place into a piece of jewellery. Again going back to my personal experience, coastlines are quite special to me. I got engaged on a beach in Wales, married on the banks on a Scottish loch and spent every summer of my childhood on the beach on the Mainland of the Orkney Isles. I could think of many stretches of coast that I'd love to have on a ring or a brooch or have put on some cufflinks for Doug.

Hannah Louise Lamb. Coastline Rings.
I think Hannah's work lends itself beautifully to wedding jewellery and her Coast- and Skyline rings make unique wedding bands that are meaningful and stylish.

The happy couple. Not a red necklace in sight.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

New Years Resolutions - an update

So after my post from last week I though I had better re-evaluate the situation to see how well it's going and what I need to work on.

1. More structure to my day. 

I am now using Gantt planners to plan my day, week, month and year. I read about them in Angie Boothroyd's book Setting Up a Successful Jewellery Business.

Angie's book is really helpful and I would recommend it to all jewellery business owners, whether you have set up already or not. I started my business in 2004 and I found this book helpful and interesting to read.

The planners are simple to make and follow. I have only had two scheduling issues, one was because I was writing an epic blog post which took a long time to write and the other was because of the snow.

I will write about Angie's book, Gantt planners and how to I plan my days etc in an upcoming post.

 2. More, better sleep. 

I am still working on this one.

3. Read more. 

And this one!

4. Watch more films. 

We watched two films last week, Africa United and Robin Hood. I enjoyed both of them. Africa United is about a group of children that walk 3000 miles from Rwanda to South Africa so they can attend the opening ceremony of the world cup. I thought it was a lovely film and I thought the actors in it were amazing. It was funny, friendship filled film with a few more serious twists. Robin Hood was approach cautiously as we had heard some not very flattering reviews of the film and especially the accents. The film definitely has flaws, the plot is messy, there isn't enough action and, yes, the accents are pretty much all terrible and I still enjoyed the film. It is beautifully made as you would expect from Ridley Scott.

5. Try new things. 

 Gantt planning is new....I am struggling on this one a bit.

6. Cook. 

I cooked salmon in the oven with chilli, ginger and lime, baked potatoes and vegetables last week. Tonight I am making a chicken and leek pie.

7. Re-learn French and Spanish. 

I haven't made time for this yet.

8. Run.

The six inches of snow we had are hampering my running slightly! The 10 mile race is looming!


So all in all, the planning and film watching is going well but everything else is slow to start. We'll see how it's going again next week.

Look out for a wedding jewellery blog post coming soon (that's the epic one I was writing!).

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

8 things I will do aka My New Years Resolutions

I don't usually 'do' New Years Resolutions because I know I won't keep them but maybe if I make them public there is more pressure to keep to them!

I have identified the areas in my life where I feel a change is needed and have come up with some resolutions based on these. This is wordy - be warned!

1. More structure to my day. Working from home means that if you are not disciplined you can waste several hours just by not having a plan. I am currently creating a plan for how my days/weeks/months will look and everything will have its time and place.

2. More, better sleep. This really goes hand in hand with the first point. I have always been a terrible insomniac but having a structured day, when I have risen early and been productive often helps. Getting a run in always helps too.

3. Read more. I have always loved to read but I am a painfully slow reader. I used to work for Borders books and I have so many books from that period of my life that I haven't read yet. Last year I read about 20 books which doesn't sound too bad until you learn that 14 of them were Famous Five books!

4. Watch more films. I don't really watch TV and I don't mind this at all. I would, however, like to watch more films. We have 100's of DVDs and we have decided to watch all the ones that each other haven't seen. That way I will watch movies I might not have put on. I like Jackie Chan as much as the next person unless the next person is my hubby. Should be fun!

5. Try new things. Anything as long as that thing is new! Food, radio stations, authors, music....

6. Cook. My husband is the cook in our house. I always complain about this as my job is simply to chop the veg and do the prep. No more! I am going to insist on cooking once a week!

7. Re-learn French and Spanish. I did French for 6 years at Primary and High School and Spanish for 2 years and I was pretty good at them but now there is no other word but rusty.

8. Run. And keep running. I have enjoyed running for years now and have completed several half marathons and numerous 10 and 5k races. This year will be no different with a 10 mile race already lined up. However, I want to keep running rather than have long periods of 'rest' like last year.

I would love to say I want to travel and do lot's of exotic things but that's not going to happen due to work and family commitments.

Lets see how this works out then....

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Creative Thinking Mindset - a Pete Mosley talk

The Creative Thinking Mindset  - Fresh Thinking for Creative People

Pete Mosley, editor of craft&design Magazine and author of Make Your Creativity Pay gave a talk at the Leicester Print Workshop at the end of November which Doug and myself went to.

We had never been to the Print Workshop so it was great to see what it was like and be surrounded by creative people.

Pete is a very interesting and motivating man who provides coaching and training for creative thinkers and businesses.

I first heard of Pete years ago when I was at college and I was aware he had written a book but I hadn't read it or learnt much about him or his processes. I hadn't even realised he was Scottish!

Pete gave us a bit of background into his career, working in a pottery in Govan then moving to go to University in Loughborough, joining a band, becoming a town artist, learning magic and then getting a post graduate certificate in Business and Personal Coaching. 

Handouts were passed around for us to create notes on. 

Pete talked about surrounding ourselves with the right people. People can be radiators or drains and to stay creative we need lots of radiators!

Main points I took away from the evening were - 

Be open to change - don't always make what you like, think about your customers and what they want

Be consistent - in everything from business cards and paperwork to your products and how you present yourself to your customers

Buyers love a story and they love a friendly seller - make friends with your customers and be yourself

Don't be afraid to ask for quotes and testimonials - people love to give feedback

Make a dream list of clients - nothing bad can happen from aspiring to something great!

Befriend your competitors - use the shoe shop theory, you aren't going to only look in one shoe shop when buying a pair of shoes, you will shop around and buy the pair you really want. It's the same for buyers of craft and design.

After this inspiring talk Pete welcomed questions from the audience. Discussions were had about galleries expectations, PR and editorial usefulness amongst other things.

It left the print workshop ready to go straight home and start making lists of things I must do to help my business and my mindset. I am slowly working through these lists!

Thanks to Pete Mosley and the Leicester Print Workshop for a great evening.

I will finish with a statement which I think is very true and worth reminding all creative people of -
'As an artist or designer you occupy the position of being one of the most interesting, absorbing and fascinating people on the planet'