Saturday, 27 October 2012

The making of a necklace

Ok, firstly I feel like I should acknowledge that its been an embarrassingly long time since I last wrote a blog post.  So, er, sorry about that!  Been rather busy at the mo, I feel like I've got lots going on in all aspects of my life and I've not felt really like writing blog posts I'm afraid, but I'm hoping I might be able to squeeze one in every now and then a bit more frequently for you!

For a while now I've fancied writing a blog post documenting how I make my multi-strand knotted necklaces - they are such nice pieces to make, incredibly time consuming, but lovely to see how it develops as you add each strand.  There's only so much you can plan with them, they are very much pieces that change as you make decisions on which beads go where - depending on the order, ratio of big/small, light/dark, heavy/light etc, it all is part of the creation of each piece which is totally unique (and will often vary a little from my initial idea of what I think it will turn out like!)

Basically, I start by choosing my thread colour, I use Griffin silk, a very high quality silk that comes in either 100% natural silk, or Nylon which is much stronger for those heavier weight gemstones.  Great quality and lovely to work with, it gives a much softer and more organic look than beading wire.  The colour I use really affects the 'feel' of a necklace, whether it's subtle and complimentary, or punchy and contrasty.

I start knotting the beads at intervals and in different combinations, and make sure I've got the length right before attaching the clasp components on each end.

That's the easy bit - it starts getting a bit more complex as you start to add the next strands - each one intermittently intertwines with the other strands, so they become interlaced with each other, which is what makes the necklace hang so nicely I think...

As I add more strands and knots, I love the weaving effect you create, all these little intersections of threads and beads!

So really, I just keep on going until I feel I have got enough strands, the right balance of beads, and I've got it hanging how I want, then I just make sure all my knots are secure, and hey presto, I suddenly realised its a wearable necklace!!  :D

My design techniques have developed a little over the last year or so that I've been making them. With the first one I made, I didn't create it one strand at a time ~ I had all 4 strands going at once, which was a bit of a brain-bender keeping track of which thread was which and where each one was going, whilst trying not to spill beads everywhere from wayward strands!!  See the photos of 'Multi-strand necklace #1' here. I am glad to say the improved technique is a lot more straight-forward and less stressful!!!

The lady who bought this very first piece has actually since commissioned two additional necklaces in the same style, which is just fantastic, and I find really flattering.  In addition to the first necklace in sea greens, she now also has one in deep olive greens with Pearls, Unakite and Peridot (like this one), and another one that was particularly enjoyable to make ~ the brief was that it had to be in orange, purple and coral colours, and bright!  Great fun, and looked absolutely stunning if I do say so myself!  You can see some piccies here.  

These necklace are real labours of love, but utterly worth all the hours that go into them (min. 4-6 hours solid) ~ they are immensely satisfying to make, to wear, and of course also to watch someone else fall in love with and take home :)

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Aventurine - my gem of the moment!

I'd say 'Gem of The Month' or something a bit more pithy and catchy, but my phases don't really stick to convenient time periods like that.... they come and go as they please, and this current phase is really at its peak at the moment!  I have been making a few pieces using Aventurine recently as you may have noticed if you follow my Facebook page, and I have been thoroughly enjoying myself!  

A new combination I've found recently that works particularly well is using the Aventurine with Labradorite - it brings out the flashes in the latter out nicely - I've tried and tried before to find something complimentary to those wonderful blues and greens that you get little glimpses of when the light catches the Labradorite just right, but its been surprisingly difficult - Turquoise is too 'solid' and opaque and bright in comparison, distracting from the subtleties in the Labradorite, Swarovski crystals tend go the other way and are a bit too delicate and don't have enough 'oomph' to draw out the blues and greens in the flashes of colour.  Other gems have just never been quite the right colour.  Aventurine on the other hand has the perfect opacity, gentle yet rich colour, and tones wonderfully with the grey whilst discreetly but effectively enhancing the flashes of greens and blues.

I love the soft green and greys together, I think they're really gentle and calming.

Hand-knotted multi-strand necklace on natural silk, with Aventurine, Labradorite,
Fluorite, Jade, green Agate and Swarovski crystals

necklace detail

I've been making more pieces with Aventurine and experimenting more with the wire rings too - here's a commission piece for one of my very bestest friends, making it an extra specially lovely item to make :) 

Wire-wrapped ring in Sterling Silver with Aventurine

I have realised, looking back though my archive of photographs of everything that I've made, some of my very favourite pieces have been using Aventurine:

One of my all-time favourite colour combinations -

Wire-wrapped bracelet with Aventurine, Fluorite and Amethyst

And the ever popular Mother of Pearl heart earrings: this particular pair sold just the other day -

Mother of Pearl heart buttons, with Aventurine and teal crystals

And a few older designs too!

Aventurine, with Amethyst and Freshwater Pearls

Aventurine, with Amazonite, Fluorite and Diamant√© rondelles

Aventurine with Rose Quartz and tiny Freshwater pearls

So I think its fair to say Aventurine is one of my very favourite gemstones, I just love the way its not entirely opaque, it has a wonderfully soft and gentle appearance, and combines so well with so many other stones or simply looks understated yet elegant on its own.

I think it only comes second to Fluorite, but that's another story/post...!

C x

Friday, 2 March 2012

My dilemma with Digital

I realised tonight that although I am incredibly frustrated at not having my favourite camera to use:
[Mamiya C330f for those who are interested - or for the more hardcore camera geeks]  ~  being forced to use my digital camera has turned out to be quite refreshing.

The thing is, I just adore my old film camera: the special & unique way it blurs when the image is going out of focus, the square format (I HATE 35mm format!), the weight of the camera in your hand & around your neck (a pretty hefty 1.7kg), the way you look down into the viewfinder, not forward like with a 35mm.  And just the fact it's film & the serendipitous nature of the beast.  There's nothing quite like waiting for a film to be developed, then taking a sneaky peek at the negatives and finally seeing them scanned in and big on your screen.  Or even better (but nowadays a rare and impractical treat) - to work with them in the darkroom.

The whole process is just magical, and a large part of the enjoyment of being a photographer.

So when I normally pick up my digital camera, it always seems so disappointing... its not particularly heavy, its a horrible rectangular format, I end up looking at the digital screen after every shot, ruining any element of surprise later on, I take shot after shot, rather than relishing and taking my time with individual shots.  And the photos are just so boring!!  I find it so hard to get any life and soul into these utterly "perfect", regular, predictable, clinical images.

Yet, having taken very few 'proper' photos since finishing my MA (my Mamiya broke 1 or 2 weeks before the final deadline & has been out of action ever since) as I've not been feeling inspired to use my digital SLR... my photographic spirit finally had enough and I've been gradually taking more photos again.   Its been a wonderful release, as well as a massive challenge to get what I want out of that damn digital camera!

I've had to force myself to slow down when taking photos and not just snap away willy-nilly.  Getting there I think - here are a few of my favourites so far.....

A walk round the reservoir that I often go on with my partner... a serene and beautiful spot:

 A close-up of a birds nest I found that had fallen out a tree:

But for me, they're still not a patch on my film work - you can't beat the softness and scrumptiousness of film photography...  I guess in the meantime I'd better keep practising with my D-SLR and try to save enough money to get my Mamiya back up and running (& to also pay for the film, processing & scanning - before I even think about printing)!!!  *Gulp*

Wish me luck!!

C x

Friday, 24 February 2012

proud moment at work!

Just a real quickie... just been looking at the paintings (on our website) that I've been hanging this evening for our next exhibition at work - and I'm just so proud to be showing his paintings, I love it and just have to share it!

I know it probably won't be everyone's cup of tea (what art is?!) but I love it and am SO excited to be showing his work, and I'm really proud of what the team and I have achieved tonight, the gallery looks lush!

If you fancy it, take a look - its Benjamin Warner - click the link on our homepage....

C x

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Rant Rant Blush Smile!

I think i'm just in an angry mood today.  Anybody else get days like that?  Its just been a non-stop "one of those days".  Still angry at someone who tried to scam me the other night.  I got all excited when I discovered an email from someone saying they'd seen my Chunky Rustic Gemstone Necklace on Etsy (£150) and would like to buy it.  They asked a couple of questions like what condition it was in, did I accept payment through Paypal etc and what the final asking price was.  It all seemed pretty normal, I'm used to being asked to negotiate the price of paintings at work, so didn't think too much of that.  I wrote a long reply and was surprised to get an email replying almost immediately....and then my heart sank.

"Thanks for the respond,i am an oceanographer and am currently on the sea at the moment, i am buying the item as a gift for my Mum,i want to make it a surprise gift for her,she won't know anything about the gift until they get delivered to her so i want you to reassure me that the item is in good condition as you have described. I can only pay through PayPal. So please kindly get back to me immediately so i can proceed with the payment and after the payment has been done,i have a pick up agent that will come around to pick the Item up immediately after payment as i have told you i have an agent that will come over for the shipment so you don't have to bother your self about shipping,all i will need from you now is your PayPal email,phone number and the address where pick up is going to take place with the final asking price, so i can book shipping with my agent before making the payment for you


 I look forward to hear from you soon 


I immediately suspected something fishy, but just couldn't bring myself to not reply on the small off-chance it was genuine... I simply replied with my shop rules, saying that I could not arrange pick-up and would only send items recorded through Royal Mail and only after payment had cleared in my account etc, but that I was happy to gift wrap the item for her supposed mother and send it to an alternative address.

Funnily enough I haven't heard anything from them since.  Up until that point I was having a good day for my jewellery - got my statement from work saying how much I'll be paid this month for my jewellery sales, sold two pendants and received payment for a customer order - I really thought I was on a roll when that email initially came through!  Talk about anticlimax!!!  Ah well...I'm not knocking my sales though, it was a good day!

Karma came back round in my favour tonight though when I came home to an email from Violet at the "Etsy Stalker" website saying she had featured the very same necklace on her most recent post. Its a really lovely little review, short but sweet, and just what I needed to see tonight :)
To see her post - inspired by the colours in her bruise(!) - click this link:

So thanks to Violet and all at Etsy Stalker, you have restored my faith in internet shopping and socialising and put a nice big smile back on my face!  :)


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

...a little bit about me...

Ok, here we go, I promised you a little peek into my world, so hope you're sitting comfortably & have a nice cuppa or some chocolate handy!

Well, the beginning seems a sensible place to start...

I grew up in the Cotswolds (in the UK) and lived in a rural little village and had a wonderful childhood, learning about plants, animals, the environment and anything & everything else I could cram into my little head!  This fantastic upbringing really set me up for my life with a love and respect for the environment, which has fed into practically every aspect of my life.

When I was 16 and went to college I discovered Photography in my second year and fell in love... this became my passion, which led me to an Art Foundation Year after completing college, specialising in Photography.  A trip to Krakow (Poland) in the middle of winter and experimenting and working for hours on end in the darkroom with toners & all sorts of chemicals, and trying out anything and everything with the support and encouragement of superb tutors resulted in one of the most exciting and creative years of my life so far.
This in turn inspired me to move to Cornwall to study a BA degree in Photography at UCF (University College Falmouth) - then the MA postgraduate degree, which really helped cement my practice and theory [and get me in a bit more debt! ;)].

As a practical soul, I knew I needed a regular job, and largely by chance ended up getting a job in a local picture framers, which I loved.  After a while I became a specialist framer, doing all the fiddly or delicate jobs... some of my favourite jobs were heirlooms from a favourite aunt/granny, a collection of old army medals that belonged to someone's Granddad, and very old & valuable artworks (my most memorable ones were by Dame Laura Knight and Charles Napier Hemy).  Amazing things to be involved in!

My next venture took me to where I am today... I saw an opportunity to work full-time in a local and well respected art gallery and jumped at the chance - I have become their Gallery Supervisor, and am constantly surrounded by incredible artworks and locally made jewellery & ceramics.  We are constantly putting up new exhibitions so it's a very dynamic place to work.

It is over these last few years that I have started to take my jewellery-making more seriously - I have always been making craft work - cards, jewellery, textiles etc since I was little, and mainly made jewellery as I got older, but it was when I discovered Gemstone beads that I got really passionate about it - and I haven't looked back since.

I now sell my jewellery at the gallery where I work (Beside The Wave Gallery in Falmouth, The Picture House Gallery ( in Padstow, and also through online stores Folksy (, Etsy ( and Two Red Trees ( - a new website to promote hand-crafted items in Cornwall.

So that's me really... I love living in Cornwall, working with artists and artworks, taking photographs & making jewellery from beautiful natural gemstones... its all very rewarding and keeps me busy - I can't stand having nothing to do!  (Can you tell?!)

...and now I've decided to write a blog... I must be mad!


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Post #1!!

Well well well... here I am... finally doing something I've been thinking about for ages but simultaneously justifying putting it off for one reason or another....  I've finally plucked up the courage to just get on with it and start my blog!  The first is always the hardest, right?  ;)

I want this page to be mostly about the creative things I make - primarily my jewellery and also my photography (more on that later) :  ~  a place where I can show new things I've made, share new ideas and inspirations, & inevitably very occasionally ramble on about totally unrelated things that are buzzing around my head!!

You may already know a bit about what I do, but I figured its always nice to find out a bit more about 'the person behind the page'.... So, if you're interested, my next post will hopefully be a little window into my world & introduce myself really!
I remember my parents evenings when I was at school, there was a reoccurring comment from teachers - and fundamentally I clearly haven't changed..."Catherine works very hard but does chat quite a lot"!

So hopefully you will enjoy my blog, I can't promise to post every day or even every week, but I will try and keep it interesting and hope we can enjoy having a natter along the way!

Thank you for popping by, and hello!

C x