Sunday, 28 March 2010

Special Visits to Birmingham Assay Office

I was very interested to see that The Birmingham Assay Office is is uniquely opening its doors to the public and offering limited places on its popular Silver Collection Visits programme on three dates only.

Usually these visits are only available to organised groups, so this is a unique opportunity to see the spectacular Silver Collection, the Library, and to hear the Curator, Dr. Sally Baggott talk about the history of hallmarking and The Birmingham Assay Office.

If you want to see how hallmarking works, find out more about the costs, whys and wherefores then it's well worth taking a day out for a visit. The Assay Office is also located in the heart of the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter, offering you the chance to do some window shopping and get plenty of inspiration.

Visits will take place on Tuesday 6th April, Tuesday 6th July, and Tuesday 5th October, at The Birmingham Assay Office, with the option of a morning visit at 10.30am or an afternoon visit at 2.00pm. Places are limited to 25 for each of the visits, so early booking is advised. To book a place or for further information, call the Birmingham Assay Office on 0871 871 6020 or email A charge of £7.00 per head is payable in advance and non-refundable.

Silver Beads

If like me you end up with little bits of spare silver clay, I've found that there's only so much paste you can use. I prefer to turn these little odds and ends into silver beads and the process is really simple.
Roll the pieces into a ball and push them onto either a cocktail stick or a ballpoint pen refill. The latter makes the hole a little bigger and give you more options for using the bead afterwards.

You can decorate the bead at this point by adding a texture or using a cocktail stick to add little dimples to it, then leave to dry out. When dry, remove the bead from the cocktail stick or pen refill then sand and smooth any rough areas. Fire the bead and then either leave it with a brushed surface or polish it to a high shine. If you're using a tumbler to polish your bead, thread a piece of cord or ribbon through the hole first, otherwise the shot will compact itself in there nicely and you will struggle to get it out!

These beads are great for bookmarks or as embellishments for necklaces. What's nicest of all is knowing you made them yourself and you used every last bit of clay wisely.

Here's some I made earlier!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Top Tips From Cookson Gold

Some top tips I just picked up from Cookson Gold. Well worth bearing in mind:

"Those black emery boards sold in High Street chemists, such as Superdrug, can be used on small areas of jewellery. They can be customised to fit with scissors or a craft knife and bits cut off when worn out. They will last for ages.

Waterproof pens do not interfere with soldering, so they can be used to mark crosses or circles for locating parts to be added. They can also be used for colour coding solder strips.

To check that small objects are square, forget engineer's squares and go for graph paper. You will be much more accurate.

To divide a ring into four, fit it into the best match on a circle template from a stationery shop and use the four marks on the template. To find the centre of a disk, join the marks to make a cross."
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Sunday, 7 March 2010

DVD Reviewed by Beads & Beyond Magazine

I was delighted that our Silver Clay Made Simple DVD was reviewed by Beads & Beyond magazine last month in their Spotlight section. The review was brilliant for us and very positive. I've also surveyed all my customers who have bought the DVD to find out what they liked about it and what improvements we can make for the next installment ' Further Adventures in Silver Clay'.

All the feedback has been immensely positive and consensus seems to be that the DVD is very thorough and carefully and simply presented and explained. This is exactly what I wanted to achieve as it's all too easy to use lots of jargon and get blinded with science (I've been on one or two silver clay workshops where I've been made to feel 2 feet tall by course tutors who like to believe they are the world expert and their way is the only way. I'm not sure how that can be as I'm learning something new about it every week). To me, teaching silver clay is all about showing people how to get the best from the clay, to understand how it reacts well and what can go wrong. Once you know these things, really magic can happen and I get most pleasure from seeing how creative everyone who uses it really can be.
My favourite quote from the survey was from Sally in Loughbrough who said "The DVD is brilliant and has led me to spend lots of money on silver clay. I've also recommended it to several strangers in craft shops" Thank you Sally, you really made my day!

Coffee with Liver of Sulphur a Match Made in Heaven!

We had a fabulous Introduction to Silver Clay workshop on Saturday 6th March. Thanks to all the lovely ladies who came along and brightened up my day, it was such fun to see you enjoying yourselves and making some gorgeous pieces.

We tested out Joy Funnell's advice about using coffee granules with hot water and a few drops of liver of sulphur and the results were amazing. We achieved a rainbow patina of reds and greens that was beautifully iridescent. I shall always use the coffee solution in future I was blown away by it. It's such a shame David wasn't there to take a photo, but I will do some more experimenting next week and get him to capture the results on camera.