Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Peeling paint and steel rods

I am one of those people that goes on holiday or out for a walk and takes photos of tree bark, manhole covers and door handles. I may look a bit odd whilst I am doing it but I now have thousands of inspiration images to inspire designs or that just look good printed out and put on the wall.

My Grandad was a keen photographer, winning prizes and always taking photos of my brother and I when we were small. My parents both love to take a camera out on walks and my dads photography was even featured in the local heritage society calender.

My first camera took 110 film cartridges and it was my pride and joy. We spent every summer holiday in Orkney so it was always a treat to get some new film for my camera and take lots of photos of this beautiful place.

I soon moved up the technology ladder and eventually for my 25th birthday my parents bought me my SLR which I still use to this day.

I may be that person who has her back to the 'real' attraction but I have some lovely photos that no-one else has!

Metal rods in Antigua

Turquoise paint in the south of France

Tree bark in the South of France
A stone wall in Kenilworth Castle

Fox gloves in my mums garden

An old horse box in Leicestershire

Graffiti in Bath

Felled trees in the South of France

The seats at Lords

Beautiful sign in Nice

Steps at Lords

Beer barrels in Leicestershire

A wall in Barcelona

I do also have some beautiful photos of 'regular' attractions which I will be blogging about very soon.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Reviewing the situation

Looking at my work as a whole has been great for me. I am separating some of the pieces that don't quite 'fit' or 'work' with my jewellery collection and working on the designs more. Being a designer is all about development, there is no time to stand still. Many of my designs will be staying in my range for years to come, whereas others will be redeveloped and launched as slightly different works.

In the past I have often had an idea for a design but not fully thought about the practicalities of the design and rushed to make the piece. For example I have made brooches that are too heavy or bangles that are too big. Over the nine years I have been in business I have learnt a lot about using the right materials for the job in the right way. I have learnt to be more creative with the materials I have in stock but I have also learnt when it is time to order more raw materials instead of making do with what I have. 

I am definitely going to streamline my ranges. It will benefit my pieces, my business and me. With all the colourful elements and different finishes I use in my pieces, I can make lots of varied pieces without stretching my designs too far and running the risk of compromising the design integrity. I need to be focussing more on quality, not quantity. This way, hopefully I won't be in the workshop at 10pm finishing off pieces.

There needs to be a balance between broadness of design range and design variation. I feel that by concentrating on a smaller range of designs and varying those in colour and finish, I am not limiting my customers or my creativity but focussing effectively. I will be better at making those pieces, quicker and more productive.

The only question is - why did it take me nine years to work this out?

Designers are funny creatures!

Have a look at my original blog posts about earrings, brooches, necklaces, wristwear and rings to see photos of my work, stories behind the inspiration and some sketchbook work.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013



I am drawing to a close with my re-evaluation of my range of pieces. In this blog post I will be looking at rings. 

My cluster rings are firm favourites with clients, galleries and myself! I started designing them during a Design History lecture. I wanted to make a fun, playful and colourful ring that would move with the wearer. The cluster rings are made by attaching silver domes filled with cold enamel to a ring shank. They make a fabulous jangly noise and are hard not to play with when wearing.

I also make rings with static cold enamel domes. These are great for adding a bit of colour to an outfit. I tend to make these rings with two different coloured domes but I have several with three domes, two different sized domes and a couple with one big dome!

I have developed a limited edition range of pieces using some anodised aluminium sheet I bought in New York, which includes a collection of anodised aluminium and cold enamel rings - they are really vibrant.
As my cluster rings have proven so popular I decided to make a small collection of semi-precious bead cluster rings. These are fun and great for people who like a bit of bling. The semi-precious stones give the rings an element of preciousness too.

My nylon rings have been very well received. I have two main designs, a ring with a coloured nylon loop and a ring with a frame (either square or round) and a nylon loop inside the frame.

I have also made several round 'box' rings with nylon detail. These are great as, when you are wearing the ring all the ends are concealed. They are also very striking and are great for customers who don't want lots of colour in their jewellery.
As well as these main designs I have also made a few variations on them, such as multiple colours of nylon in the rings or different looping methods. 

One ring I've been working on recently is a double loop ring. The ring shank is not soldered together but has tube on the ends, which then have loops of nylon secured through them.

All of my rings can have polished, matt, oxidised or hammered finishes making each piece very different.

My range of rings is still quite small, with variations like colour and the finishes I have mentioned available making it a little bit larger.

When I next blog about my ranges I will be doing a 'round-up' and discussing what I have learnt from this process as I have gone through it.

To be continued.......

Friday, 15 February 2013

Craft Finder

Last week saw Ruth Gordon Jewellery joining Craft Finder, a website promoting British craft in the UK.

The website makes it easy for consumers to discover beautiful and contemporary craft across the UK by searching for artists, galleries, exhibitions and fairs.

I had seen a lot of people I am connected with on Twitter talking about Craft Finder and I always meant to join but it got put on the to do list and not done! I was recently reminded of it when I read an article from the Birmingham Mail about jeweller Miranda Sharpe whose work I have always admired. I really enjoy reading about other people in the same profession as myself, all crafts really, and seeing their workspaces.

Craft Finder allows the user to upload photos of their work, an artist's statement, exhibitions and events listings and contact details including website, selling site, facebook and twitter links.

I have had a wee look around the Craft Finder website and have found some lovely work, some by crafters and designers I was already aware of and some completely new.

I love the work of fellow jeweller Clare Hillerby. I first saw Clare's work at the 1997 Edinburgh Degree Show and I still have her postcard. I love how she uses text and things like old postage stamps and incorporates these into her jewellery.

With love to all from all brooch by Clare Hillerby
Oxidised silver, gold tube rivets, old cabinet photograph + postcard + stamp, perspex.
Photo: © Shannon Tofts

French bill brooch by Clare Hillerby
Silver, old postcards, gold tube rivets, gold leaf, perspex.
Photo: © Shannon Tofts

I also found the work of Samantha Bryan, which I had previously seen in Crafts magazine several years ago. I love how playful her mixed media work is.

Brain's Crash Helmet for fairies (detail) by Samantha Bryan
Detail of fairy sculpture on wooden base. Features Crash Helmet. Hand stitched leather, wire skeleton and clay face.
Photo: © 2010

Brain's Aerodynamic Flight Helmet for fairies (detail) by Samantha Bryan
Detail of fairy sculpture. Hand stitched leather and clay figure.
Photo: © 2010 Timothy Atkinson

Anna Krystyna Casey is another artist working in mixed media to make work that is innovative and beautiful. I love Anna's wall hangings and her crocheted fabric fused glass tiles.  

Small Ring Dish (series) by Anna Krystyna Casey
A collection of unique and distinctive home ware, including ring dishes, coasters and side plates. Crochet patterns are fused in glass, creating one off pieces which will provide a talking point in any home.

Cellular (#1-Blue) by Anna Krystyna Casey
A 50cm x 50cm wall mounted sculpture. Based on the microscopic world around us, I find inspiration from many sources. A proccess led work, crocheted fabric is entrapped in paper and wax to transform the usually soft fabric.
Photo: © 2012

Ruth Singer is a textile artist based in Leicester. Ruth's work is inspired by 'historical textiles, museum objects, personal heritage, memory and stories' and has work in the collections of several museums. 

Sewn Up (detail) by Ruth Singer
Sewn Up is a large wall hanging piece made from 665 folded squares cut from the proof pages of my book Sew It Up, machine stitched together. 70x130cm
Photo: © 2011 Nine Photos

Julia Bate by Ruth Singer
Part of Criminal Quilts, a commission for Shire Hall Gallery. I was fascinated by their Victorian photographs of criminals with their hands on their chests and used this motif in a collection exploring women's lives associated with this building.
Photo: © 2012 Ruth Singer

I also stumbled upon the work of Carly Dodsley, a ceramic designer from Stoke-on-Trent. Carly's work is inspired by 1950's and 60's surface pattern design as well as hand-drawn motifs and it's beautiful!
Bird jug by Carly Dodsley
Creamware jug
Photo: © 2012 Carly Dodsley

Kissing Birds by Carly Dodsley
Creamware square 21cm plate.
Photo: © 2012 Carly Dodsley