Thursday, 28 October 2010

Haribo Jelly Sweet Engagement Ring Keepsake

I have had several custom jewellery requests recently that have involved preserving customers wedding keepsakes within resin jewellery. There have been the preserved wedding flowers that I set within pendants for a 1st wedding anniversary gift, a brides wedding dress cufflinks for her fiancé to wear on their wedding day.

But last week I had a very unusual request to preserve a Haribo jelly sweet engagement ring in resin. The lady said that the Haribo sweet ring (sometimes called friendship rings) was used by her fiancĂ© to propose when they got engaged and obviously because it was very special to her she wanted it preserved as a keepsake. She didn’t want the jelly sweet ring making into jewellery but just wanted it so she could keep it and have it on display.
Haribo Jelly Sweet Ring
Initially she wanted it embedding into a block of resin, however I suggested it might be best to coat the ring with resin and therefore not only preserve the integrity of the ring but also keep it looking the same. She then informed me that she had initially been looking for someone who could do just that (i.e. coat it in resin), had trawled the net but was unable to find anyone that could do that for her.

The Haribo jelly sweet ring was obviously given the respect that is deserved, being such an important memento of the couple’s engagement. Firstly it was posted to my house by special delivery. I then gave it a coat of Acrylic spray to prevent any oils or colours from leeching out from the sweet over time. When this had dried I gave the Haribo sweet several coats of coating resin over a period of a week. The sweet was then finished with a good polishing of Carnauba wax and I then mounted the Haribo jelly sweet ring within a very nice clear lidded display box.

So there you have it, one Haribo jelly sweet ring preserved as a keepsake to their special day. If you get time please take a look at my wedding keepsakes website page.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Another Interview with Shpangle Jewellery

You may remember a little while ago that I was interviewed by Abi of Angel Eden. This was my 1st and only interview to date, however a couple of weeks ago I was approached by Karen who is currently studying for an FdA in Applied Arts at Cleveland College of Art and Design. For one of her assignments this semester she needs to carry out a small presentation related to a designer maker of her choice.

Karen explained that the brief was quite open for this; there were no set criteria for choosing the designer maker, and so it was a bit of an issue as to where to start! She had a spare ten minutes immediately after the session when we given the brief, and so she spent those minutes on the Crafts Council directory, simply opening up random websites, and mine immediately caught my eye!

Karen had a few additional questions that couldn’t be answered from my website and blog, and here they are, complete with my answers which I thought I would share with you.

“In the article, you give some advice to new crafters about finding your niche, and making something unique. I've never seen anything such as your work before, but you must be constantly checking out the competition. Is there any major competition out there for you?”

The arts and crafts market has grown enormously over the last few years. With craft tutorials and supplies etc being so readily available online and online selling sites such as Etsy and Folksy making it so easy to setup an online shop, so many people have turned to trying to make money from the arts and crafts.

As a jewellery designer/maker it would be easy to follow the latest trends and styles. Whether it is beaded jewellery, the use of metal clay, steampunk etc but you will soon find that you will be competing for space with thousands of others, all doing the same thing.

So, the major competition out there is anybody who wants to make money out of selling jewellery, and there are thousands and thousands of them. Unfortunately not all of these ‘crafters’ and artists are perhaps as creative as they should be. I hate to say it, but there are elements of copying amongst crafters, and there is very little protection from this.

When trying to promote your work online you need to show off your designs a wide and varied audience as possible. Unfortunately this means that any new designs you announce are open to be copied. This has regularly happened to me and I know happens to other creative people. I have even had in the past sales enquiries from potential customers whom I have since traced as being fellow crafters trying to find out information; it can sometimes be a cruel world in the world of arts and crafts.

Keepsake Jewellery
It has got to a point now where I will be moving away from the use of resin in my jewellery, and I will be adopting other techniques, some of these I might announce to the world, and some I will just keep to myself, and my family. I hope that I don’t come across too bitter, but the satisfaction of knowing that I have made something unique means a lot to me. I suppose it is weighing up the pros and cons of sharing it with the world.

“When reading the "about me" page on the website, the comment about how "if it doesn't move it goes into my jewellery" really stood out to me. There are so many people now who like to recycle or reuse objects, or use ‘reclaimed’ materials in the arts, but I haven't come across anyone else who produces pieces such as these. Can I ask where the original idea came from? What was it that first made you think of encasing something in resin?”

I see beauty in natural and everyday objects. So for the example the natural beauty of a daisy flower, you just can’t replicate that, you can try but to reproduce the subtle colours and details would be near to impossible.

Real Flower Jewellery
I didn’t see the point of trying to copy what nature gives us and I wanted a way of preserving this natural beauty. So my first experience of the use of resin was when I was looking for a material that I could use to encapsulate everyday objects.

I like the idea of making jewellery from objects that aren’t using up the earth’s resources. Traditionally jewellery has been made using gemstones and precious metals, but I wanted to make items of beauty from things that are around us (without harming the earth too much).

My favourite item of jewellery that I have made consists of strips of newspaper with the words love randomly placed within the pendant. I think it is such a simple concept but so effective and that it is providing something wearable from a few strips of newspaper.

What inspired me to start making jewellery I don’t know, it just happened one day!


"Obviously the thing that stands out most about your jewellery is how personal it can be. The items in the shop are all fantastic, but the added dimension of being able to almost design your own piece must be quite a big selling point. Would you be able to talk me through how you go about commissioning such a piece from yourself?"

I like to be more than just a click of a button on a website and provide a very personal service for my commissioned jewellery. When somebody asks me to either embed an object or make an item of jewellery to their specification, I like have regular conversations with them during the process and keep them involved every step of the way. I like to make it very personal, which obviously may not suit everyone, but I have made good friends with customers working that way.

Horsehair Jewellery
Wherever possible I like to submit designs, often photographing their items set against a mould or bezel that I use for making the finished jewellery. That way the customer can visualise the finished item. More often than not however, a customer would usually refer to a previous commission by me and ask for it to be made like that.

So the best of luck to Karen for your presentation and I hope that some of the things that I have said will be useful to you!

Mick

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Ozric Tentacles Experience

It has been a mad last few days in Shpangle land; on Friday 15th October I went to see my favourite band the Ozric Tentacles at the newly refurbished HMV Institute in Birmingham. The Ozrics (as they are sometimes called) have been an inspiration for me for years and continue to be my most listened to music. With 30 albums spanning over 25 years of music making there is plenty to choose from.

Ozric Tentacles Live 2010
I went to the gig with my wife Angela and my brother Rob who took lots of photos, so many thanks Rob for doing that and for driving. It was his first experience of seeing and in fact listening to the Ozrics, and I think he is now a converted man. Angela and me have been to loads of Ozric gigs over the years and have many happy memories, and this one was no exception. We were right at the front, the venue was very friendly and the atmosphere electric.

The Ozric tentacles have had several band members come and go over the years, and Ed Wynne (pictured below) who writes the majority of their music is now joined by his wife Brandi on bass guitar, his son Silas on keyboards and a drummer called Oli. They have now moved to America so any chance to see them playing live in this country has to be taken.

Ozric Tentacles - Ed Wynne
The Ozric Tentacles are true artists and have that ability to paint pictures with their music. I often play their music when I am making my jewellery and always do when I am making my name on rice jewellery as the music gets me into the right zone for when I am writing on rice.

This picture was taken of me ‘letting my hair down’ to one of their many tunes and probably sums up the night. I was pretty much useless for the next couple of days, and was completely Ozric’d out, ached in every muscle of my body but it was so worth it!

Me at Ozrics Gig 2010
On Monday night my brother took me to see the comedian Frankie Boyle in concert. He was so funny and just as I had recovered from the Ozrics gig; I not have an aching face from all the laughing! I have often seen him on Television and have thought him to be controversial but playing live he doesn’t hold back at all!

What a mad few days. If you get a chance to see the ozrics playing near your town or city, please go along as I promise you, you will never forget the experience :)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Name on a grain – Custom Jewellery Order

I mentioned in my previous blog post that I had been working on quite a large name on a grain of rice jewellery order. Well this is it, there were twelve items in total and each one contained a message written on a grain of rice.

Name on rice jewellery
This kept me busy for a while, 7 name on rice key-chains, 1 name on rice phone charms and 4 name on rice necklaces. Each glass vial also contained a small pink flower, now I have seen small flowers before, but these were so tiny. They all had either the name ‘Hope (heart)’ or ‘2010 (heart)’ written onto the rice, so my heart drawing skills have now improved quite considerably.

Name on a grain jewellery
I have also conquered my fears of having to write on both sides of a grain of rice. For one of the pendants, as well as the message, they also wanted a date of birth written on the opposite side of the rice. I have always had problems, which are probably psychological with writing on both sides of a grain of rice. I think I have over-come this by leaving it a day and then completely ignoring the fact that I have already written on the rice...it also helps to have a few spares!

Name on a grain necklace
Also, this was the first time I have been asked to incorporate birth stones within the jewellery. I used a small Ruby Swarovski crystal bead to represent the month of July and it really was effective. Just fitting inside the glass vial it would slowly follow the grain of rice up and down the vial as you tilt it.

Name on a grain pendant
It was a lovely name on a grain of rice jewellery order to do as from it I managed to establish a few more rice writing techniques, and the use of flowers and birthstones in the jewellery was good fun too.

If you would like to see more of my rice writing, please visit my name on a grain jewellery website page.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Personalised Birthday Presents

I remember as a child and even now that my favourite birthday and Christmas presents have always been those that have been handmade. The fact that whoever gave me the present had taken the time to design and make something just for me means more than any shop bought item. My favourite present when I was little was a sledge that my dad made for me. It was extremely heavy and so well made that it lasted years, and I think at some point we even turned it into a go-cart.

It was our daughters 12th birthday this week and being a girly-girl I thought I would make her some jewellery. It is quite handy being a jewellery maker at times like this and decided to make her one of my name necklaces. I have had a really big name on rice jewellery order to complete this week so because I was in the zone of writing on rice I thought it was probably the most sensible thing to make. It is also something that would be very personal to her; her name written on a grain of rice, and I also included her birth stone as well within the glass vial. A very small Rose coloured Swarovski crystal to represent the month of October.

Name Necklace
I personalised the jewellery box that contained the rice pendant with her name in gold lettering and I think she loved that alone, but when she opened the box saying she was happy would be a understatement; I immediately go a really big hug from her. I think the face that I had made something for her and had taken the time to write her name on a grain of rice meant more than anything.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

1st Wedding Anniversary – Wedding Keepsake Jewellery

I was asked by a young man last week to make a pendant for his wife for their 1st wedding anniversary. He wanted some of their wedding keepsake items, flowers and ribbon setting within a pendant. I was originally asked several weeks ago, but these things happen and I was sent the items with only a couple of days to make the jewellery and get the finished pendant back to him for their anniversary.

The first pendant that I made for him contained a few rose petals, grouped together with a small piece of ribbon from their wedding. I had to first press the rose petals to remove any moisture and then grouped them together with the wedding ribbon to form this pendant. I added a little bit of glitter dust to give the pendant that extra sparkle.


The second pendant contained small a sprig of small white flowers, please correct me if I am wrong, but I think they are ‘baby’s breath’ flowers. Again I used a small piece of the wedding ribbon that he sent me to finish the pendant and added a sparkle of glitter dust.


I managed to get the pendants back to him in time for their 1st wedding anniversary celebrations and what a thoughtful gift it would have been; keepsakes from their wedding preserved forever, and that can still be worn and enjoyed for years to come.

If you would like to see more wedding keepsake jewellery ideas, please visit my website page Wedding Keepsakes.