Recently I posted about agates, and about how they have other things captured inside. In the case of my most recent jewelry project, a piece of dendritic agate wrapped in stainless steel, the “thing” in the stone is iron or manganese. Typically, the added substances show up as little tree shapes, and I just think they add such style and character to the stone.
When I work with a stone that has some particular interest to it, such as dendrites, I try to bend the wire in such a way that it mimics the pattern of the extra feature. My goal is to always complement the stone and never overshadow it with the wrapping. Luckily, stainless steel holds it shape well and this makes it easy to sculpt the shape that I want. It’s also a really durable metal, so I can take pride in the fact that it will hold the stone well and not deteriorate easily.
Agate remains one of my favorite stones to work with, and dendritic agate is a big reason why. When I start losing a bit of motivation or, better yet, inspiration to create, I go back to this stone or another that I find equally as beautiful to handle and create around. I hope that if you are the creative type, you also have a “go to” item that always inspires you to get creating.
One of the things that I have loved doing in the past on my blog is author interviews for books or series I have read. I’ve decided that I want to broaden that concept and start doing interviews for other people too. There are so many wonderfully talented individuals out there, and I want to celebrate at least some of them on my blog.
So I’ve created this new blog series that I hope to post on at least several times a month, celebrating the journeys of some interesting people I either know, or happen to meet along my own journey.
I’m going to get the ball rolling with Sophia who I met through this blog. She has a business creating handmade jewelry. I saw her products and decided I had to know more about her and her business. So I’m going to hand this over to Sophia, so she…
Boy, I think we can all agree that 2020 was a real doozy. There were several things at the forefront of the many things that were flung at us this, oh wait, last year. A global pandemic, a required, unnatural disconnect from friends, family and other familiars, financial uncertainty, shortages of even the basic necessities (toilet paper…hello!), so many losses of loved ones and so many celebrities most of us loved. If you’re still feeling a bit dizzy, it’s certainly understandable.
The good news is…we are now at the beginning of a prosperous, new year. And I am going to challenge myself to make it a good year. Control what I can control, try to roll with as much of the stuff that I can’t, and surround myself with the things I love. So in an effort to continue to challenge myself, I have decided to add a bit more intricate and high end jewelry to my collection. Here is the first piece that I have created within that framework…
These are copper turquoise, pointed oval hoops with glass bead accents. The hoops were ordered through another amazing shop (www.etsy.com/shop/milehighbeads). After they arrived, I hand picked the beads and stones that would work well together, arranged them the way I liked inside of the hoops and then wrapped them with 22g gold plated wire. I really like how the hoops are totally modern, due to their different shape and antiqued finish. These are a lot of fun to play around with, since you can also attach the main element on the closed side and create a fastener on the open end.
I certainly plan to play around with more hoop earrings, since I really enjoy working with them and they are still really hot. I also have dreams of working with more elongated shapes, perhaps with a beautiful embellishment on top and a longer bead or beads below. Who knows where this adventure will take me, particularly because some of it rides on what my customers will love and respond to. In any case, I am very excited about what this new year hold and I hope that you will continue to join me on the journey.
Product photography. This can be a very slippery slope for some shop owners. How does everything come together to highlight a product, to create a background that is interesting but not too “noisy,” to keep lighting balanced and natural, and to stay in focus to keep details sharp and alluring? It’s a real juggling act! Luckily, experience and experimentation can make things much easier over time. One of the things that I’ve probably experimented with the most is with using props.
Props can really add to product photography! They not only give you something to place your product on, in, under or over, they give you the ability to create a mood. They give you the ability to tell a story…one that started with your item and expands from there.
Typically, I like to use a simple base when photographing items in my shop. I love weathered wood, so I have several things around that are made of distressed wood that exhibits varying colors. The different colors allow me to create a contrast when I photograph my items, so they can really be noticed. Although as you can see in the above picture, if colors are somewhat similar, it can create a softer mood.
Since I do jewelry with natural stones, it can be neat to photograph an item on another crystal or natural component.
Metal is also a pretty neutral item on which to photograph.
Once I have my base figured out, I start thinking about additions I want in the photograph, besides the main piece. I find it’s best to create a complement to the item without things being so busy that the item becomes visually lost or “part of the clutter.” Although it’s not my style, I have seen other shops successfully use a lot of extra items around their main subject…however there is usually a defined space between the item and the decor used, so the decor becomes somewhat of a frame, which can be really pretty.
In the photo above, I simply used some additional citrine stones to echo the citrine that is in the ring I created. Repetition of this sort can definitely make a piece appear stronger and more defined. A “hint” in the way of a blurred background is usually all that is needed.
Natural elements are also great photo props…particularly plants! When it comes to my jewelry, additions of this kind echo my shop’s closeness to nature. Although it’s amazing to use fresh plants and flowers from the garden in the spring and summer, fall can really yield some beautiful dried flowers, berries and grasses that help create a beautiful scene!
The props in the above picture also repeat the blue and green hues that are present in the earrings and card.
And then there is the unexpected. How about earrings on a tall drinking glass with a deep texture? Sometimes, pairing items that seemingly have little relation with one another can make for a very effective photo. Although a drinking glass and ametrine usually wouldn’t be placed in the same scenario, it’s tough not to notice the shared glassy texture, the pseudo transparency and the repeated round shapes (the wire wrapped circles and the rounded shapes in the glass’s texture). The subdued colors of it all go together well also. So even throwing two unrelated things together can work, if there is some common ground or a defined statement that can be created to communicate a vision.
So if you are looking for inspiration within the realm of using props (or in life), go with the obvious and then be daring enough to step outside of these constraints to give ’em something they’ve never seen before.
Out of all the stones I work with, agate continues to be a favorite. In fact, its beautiful patterns, sturdiness (6.5 to 7 on Mohs scale), and availability make it a go-to stone for many jewelry makers! Here is one of my current favorite pieces in the shop that features a polished agate pillow. It perfectly shows off the lovely variations that can appear in this mineral.
So what, exactly, is agate? It is mainly a combination of calcedony and quartz, coming together in many different ways. Here, some of the combinations create “eyes” to make eye agate.
Oh, and that’s another thing. Oftentimes, agates will have special names, denoting their patterns or area of origin. There is crazy lace agate, fortification agate (looks like a fort), botswana agate and moss agate, which is pictured below. Looks pretty “mossy,” right?
The most royal of agates, Botswana agate is famed for its history, scarcity and beauty. These stones are mostly found in the Bobonong district of Botswana and are famous for the extra fine banding of white, black, shades of grey and occasional touches of pink or salmon hues.”
Wow! What a stunner. Although this piece might be a bit large for jewelry, I would certainly love just admiring it in my home!
Personally, I am really fond of fire agate. This stone is not only really beautiful, but it is said to have formed millions of years ago, during a period of heavy volcanic activity.
Above are some pieces that I have made with fire agate. You’re probably thinking, “wait a minute…what’s up with the blue stone???” The last piece happens to be an aqua dyed fire agate! Yes, stones can actually be dyed! Although I try to stick with naturally colored stones as much as possible, my customers sometimes love the greater variety that can be seen in some dyed stones. Aqua dyed fire agate happens to be one of those stones that remains a customer favorite!
More agate fun comes in the way of inclusions (when extra materials are trapped inside of agate while it forms) and situations where agate forms inside of something else. Here is a beautiful example of agate in a geode.
This agate contains silver!
It is no wonder that agate shows up in jewelry or on display time and time again. Look for plenty more of it in my shop, along with some other surprising stones and materials.
It’s been brewing in my mind for quite some time now. Floating on top of personal requests, a desire to expand and a need to challenge myself to get more creative. A men’s line! Currently, I only make jewelry for (mostly) female clients. When showing my pieces at craft fairs, however, I have often been asked where the items are for the boys. Some of my beaded bracelets bore some appeal to the men browsing my jewelry, but they weren’t quite what was saught…something a bit more masculine, subdued, darker and more significant.
So here we go! I have to admit, I am going to get into this by cheating a bit. I do currently have some items in my collection that are a bit more simple and metallic, so those are going to be my “flagship” pieces. Hematite with aventurine stretch bracelets are now menswear…
I just love how the subdued blues in the aventurine pair with the strong metallic color of the hematite in these pieces! Definitely a great option to pair with jeans, other bracelets or even just to wear as single bracelets. Hematite is going to be a continual addition to this collection, as it’s one of my favorite stones to work with and has that beautiful metallic quality that stands out yet pairs well with just about any other color. Expect some agate as well along with perhaps tiger’s eye, lava rock and (dum dum dum)….leather! I currently don’t have any leather in my jewelry, so I am really looking forward to adding something completely new.
I’ll have to update my picture taking. Luckily my boyfriend’s wrist is currently up for grabs as a photo prop! Otherwise, I am thinking stone backgrounds, slate, wood…we’ll see what makes the jewelry look a little more strong and bold!
So keep your eyes on the shop if you are looking for male jewelry. I am finally taking the risk…and I couldn’t be more excited!
Although I find a ton of joy in jewelry making, there’s something about making soaps that just makes me uber happy. I really enjoy all parts of the process…melting the soap base, mixing in botanical ingredients, smelling the fragrance oils as their scents fill the kitchen, and popping the finished soaps out of molds and putting them into the packaging. It’s a fun process, and if you haven’t tried it, I would highly recommend you give it a shot!
Since I’m in the process of relaunching the soap offerings in the etsy store, I though I would share the process I used to create my latest batch of bath beauties. I made a few regular sized and sample sized soaps in my popular Bamboo Basil fragrance. Then I added several of The Goat’s Gardenia soaps, because I was in love with the gardenia fragrance offered by P & J Trading. I am actually in love with most all of their fragrances! More about that later, though.
So here is a breakdown of how I make my soaps. There are several ways soap can be made, but I find that this is one of the fastest ways to do it while still maintaining great product quality (which is very important to me).
I start with a melt and pour goat’s milk soap base by Our Earth’s Secrets (you can find it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/348DZqE). “
I tried other bases, but the one by Our Earth’s Secrets has a great lather and doesn’t leave the “residue” on the body that I felt when using alternatives. I normally use one pound of the base, which makes 6 typically sized rectangular soaps. This amount also gave me enough mix to make 20 sample sized soaps when I created the last batches! The smaller soaps could be sold as travel-sized soaps or placed in a gift pack with other soaps or bathtime items (I’ve seen some really great sets with washcloths, soap dishes and other cute items together).
I place the one pound block of base on a cutting board and cut it into cubes for faster, more even melting. I then place the cubes in a large pyrex bowl (works great for microwaving and pouring), and I microwave them for about 2 1/2 minutes, stirring the mixture with a wooden stick every 30 minutes.
Once the cubes are fully melted, I add fragrance oil and any other ingredients I wish to put in my soap. As I mentioned before, I love using P & J Trading oils exclusively. They are premium grade with an amazing aroma that doesn’t fade, even if my soaps are stocked for a bit of time! The company also has a beautiful website that contains great ideas on how to utilize the oils, so be sure to check it out for some inspiration https://www.pandjtrading.com/).
This is what my bamboo basil mix looks like, after I’ve added 1 1/2 tbs. of oil along with some basil and parsely (for variety). The mix then gets evenly poured into molds, and I find that sometimes it’s a good idea to stir the liquid in the bowl again after filling half the molds, so the organic items are even spaced throughout the soaps!
Pictured are my soap samples and regularly sized The Goat’s Gardenia soaps. I didn’t say it earlier, but I love using silicone molds because they make nicely sized, evenly smooth soaps. Wooden block molds are fun to work with as well, and can offer some other design options, like larger soaps or sculpted soap tops.
Once the soaps are completely hardened, they get removed from the molds and photographed or packaged. Here are some of the ways I display my finished products for my shop.
Voila! So fun and easy. Hopefully this inspires you to get into soap making as well. Until the next post….
I feel the need to write about pearls. Timeless, round, neutral, shiny, sophisticated. These gemstones always draw people in when I make jewelry out of them. Why? Had I posted this many, many years ago, I would have written “these gemstones always draw people in when I make jewelry out of them.” Same story, era, after era, after era. Crazy.
According to one source on the web,
Pearls were presented as gifts to Chinese royalty as early as 2300 BC, while in ancient Rome, pearl jewellery was considered the ultimate status symbol. So precious were the spherical gems that in the 1st century BC, Julius Caesar passed a law limiting the wearing of pearls only to the ruling classes.”
The earliest archaeological evidence of pearls in jewelry was found at Susa, the ancient capital of Elam, in the Khuzistan region of Iran. In 1901, a magnificent necklace of 216 pearls divided into three equal rows was recovered from the bronze sarcophagus of an Achaemenid princess at Susa.”
What a trend that started! Pearl rows continue to be an iconic way of putting pearls up front and center in an outfit. Whether in single, double, or triple strands, they add a simple and classic element to just about any outfit. Jackie O., former first lady and fashion icon, loved them. Honestly, it is hard to picture her without a set of pearls on!
Around the same time that Jackie O. was just making her way into the world, (1929), flappers were showing off their fashion creativity, and pearls were a bit part of the scene.
Worn everywhere, from the wrist, to the neck, to the head, pearls were synonymous with flapper freedom and style.
I have to admit, this is one of my favorite eras, and I love that pearls are hanging from every corner of it. I also believe that this era showed off some serious creativity when it comes to making pearls more interesting than just keeping them in a strand! They were tied in knots, adorned with charms and they helped carry feathers (a lot).
Today, this creativity with pearls has exploded. Strands are still around, but even those have now been updated with different elements, like color and style! Imperfectly shaped pearls (baroque pearls) are celebrated. Pearls are tossed into all kinds of positions in uniquely shaped rings and other accessories. Vintage collectors are even pulling the older pieces out of someone else’s closet and flinging them right into the middle of the now.
Here are a few of the pieces I have recently created with pearls…
Pearls are going to keep holding their position at the forefront of fashion and the creativity surrounding them is just going to keep evolving. Crazy.
I have recently grown addicted to hammered metal and hammering my wire to achieve that type of look. I always try to warn my boyfriend as I go off into the kitchen with my hammer and metal block so he isn’t totally caught off guard when the banging begins. Still not sure that he fully appreciates the noise, but he’s a metal guitarist, so how much complaining can he legitimately do, right?
So I recently finished a few projects, including a hammered ring, and I though I would share some photos and explanations of the process of ring making so that others might find inspiration or a starting point, if they are new to working with wire (don’t worry, it gets easier, hang in there).
Rings are a great way to start with wire wrapping! You can use a ring sizer as a guide, so the bending is usually a much easier task, and rings can also be a fast project, if you keep it simple. That leads to the instant gratification that most of us in today’s world crave, right?
So to start, I usually cut a piece of wire (18 gauge or 16 gauge wire works well) about 6 inches long. I typically make rings in a size 7 if I am using them for display or they are adjustable. So you can cut more or less, depending on the size you are making and how much you want to embellish. Even with 7 inches of wire, you can still get pretty fancy with a few swirlies and twirlies and stuff.
Since this latest project involved hammered wire, I got out my metal block and hammer and banged away until the wire was as flat/distressed as I wanted (not much this time). This is the set that helped me get there….
Once I’ve cut the wire and distressed it, I wrap it around my ring sizer. Small tip: wrap the wire around the mark that is 1 or 2 sizes smaller than the ring size you want! Most wires have at least a bit of “spring” to them, and so you’ll find that once you remove the shaped wire from the sizer, it will spring into a slightly larger size!
You’ll wrap the wire around as many times as you need for the type of ring you’re making. You can wrap it once and finish off the ends for a cute, stackable ring like this…
Stackable, wire-wrapped ring
You can also wrap it around twice and leave a gap so that a stone can be inserted, like this example…
As you can see in the last example, the loose ends were also cut at the top of the ring instead of the bottom, as in the first ring photo. You’ve got lots of options! Here’s what the wire looked like for the ring that’s depicted in the cover image:
The first photo is the top and the second photo is the bottom!
If the wire isn’t quite rounded, I will take the sizer and roll it on my work surface to help shape the ring (much like you would with a rolling pin when working with dough!).
Once the ring is shaped and designed as you like it, you can use a wire rounder tool to smooth out the wire ends so they are not sharp and look a bit more professional!
And that’s it, for a ring that is easy to make and makes an impact!
I hope you enjoyed reading about the process behind one of my favorite wire wrapping projects. Especially on nights where I don’t have as much time to dedicate to an intricate piece (or want some instant gratification), ring projects are just the best!
Check out my shop, Nature Bound Design Co. on Etsy for more rings and wire wrapped jewelry!”
So here it is, my first blog post. How exciting! Since this is the beginning of my blog, I thought it would make sense to share my humble beginnings as an etsy shop owner. Well really, I guess I should go back a little before that and detail what inspired me to become a jewelry maker to begin with. As I am on social media a lot, I started seeing photos of cute polymer clay creations. I was particularly drawn to pieces that were miniature recreations of larger things and also clay recreations of colorful stones. The latter is what I ended up getting into the most. I gathered supplies and starting delving into online videos about how to create faux stones. The beauty of this is that you can create just about any type of stone (whether real or imagined) with clay. Here is one of my favorite “stones” from those days. I still love all of the beautiful colors and patterns in these creations…
Although I loved the creative options that polymer clay offered, I didn’t like the fact that what I was making didn’t completely look like a real stone. I also was worried about the slight smell that the clay produced when baking. Not only was I sensitive to it, but I was worried about my birds. Being a happy parrot owner (I am now up to nine!), I understood that parrots are very sensitive to smells, and I didn’t want my baking clay to negatively affect any of my feathered companions. Then it dawned on me! Why don’t I just start working with some real stones and see how I like that? So off to our local craft shop I went to get some larger stone beads that I could turn into jewelry. Since I had seen a lot of the polymer clay items being wrapped in wire, I decided to use this method to create my natural jewelry.
These images are show a few of the first pieces I created. The wire ended up crooked at times, my circles weren’t very even, and I was using a haphazard collection of wires, not really understanding much about wire gauge, material, hardness and what lends itself best in various situations. And these were the pieces I settled on offering in my shop once many pieces of wire ended up in the trash! I am happy to say that each of these pieces sold, and I’ve come to learn that the imperfections are often what is cherished most by the customer. The things that give the jewelry (or whatever handmade item) that “handmade” look and feel. I still won’t put anything in my shop that I consider “sloppy” or poorly made, but I have definitely come to embrace the slight imperfections and unique qualities of a piece.
I also had a very basic set of tools at that time.
I was using a basic set of pliers, a plastic ring sizer, and threw in a stamp and string for some basic packaging. I would say my collection of tools has at least double since then and has become more durable, but this was all that I needed in the beginning to start producing work.
As I went on, my work became more refined and I started venturing farther than my local craft store in order to find materials. Bead shops, crystal stores and even other etsy shops became a great place for me to find beautiful and unique materials with which to work. This beautiful piece of agate, that I found at specialty jewelry making shop out-of-town, became a customer favorite when I wrapped it in stainless steel.
Stainless steel, by the way, has become one of my favorite types of wire to work with. It is strong, durable, and it bends extremely well without kinking or turning unevenly (I hope that makes sense). I tried it early on, in square form, because I loved the beautiful twisting pattern you can make with square wire, and I’ve never looked back. Oddly enough, I never really twist it. I have just fallen in love with how it looks in its “natural” form.
Here are a few more images of the “early days.” I stared working with more raw stones (like the pictured lapis bead), played around with different materials, including Swarovski crystals and glass beads, and I became better and better at bending wire and making it work with various different stones and beads!
That leads us up to the present time.
As you can see, I am still evolving and using new materials (like feathers) to make my pieces unique, trendy, and inspiring (to me and to my customer). I’m always thinking about the next technique to try, the next shape to create and the next stone with which to work. This blog is a step in a new direction, and I really hope that those of you who read one or all of my blog posts enjoy being a part of my evolution. Who knows where things will go from here…
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”