I was invited by the London Jewellery School to try out one of their taster classes, so I jumped at the chance to try working with precious metal clay (PMC). I’ve seen it around the internet and have been intrigued by the possibilities it offers to make jewellery in real silver without the need for traditional silverworking skills and tools. It can be shaped like polymer clay, but contains silver particles with water and binder – the other bits burn off when fired leaving a pure 999 (purer than regular 925, even) silver charm.
The lovely tutor Chu-Mei started by giving us a quick history of PMC, its properties and uses, then she demonstrated how to use cutters and textures to make a small charm. There are many ways to shape the clay, from cutters and moulds to drawing freehand shapes, and anything from leaves to leather can be used to add texture.
I decided to go freehand, cutting a button and feather shapes from my clay (playing cards are used to transfer the shapes and as a rolling thickness guide). You have to work fast because the clay dries out quickly with handling and exposure to air. Our shapes went onto a hotplate to dry out (you can also use a low oven), then a hole for the jump ring is drilled using a fine drill bit. Then Chu showed us two ways to fire the charms – either the traditional kiln method or a more DIY method with a kitchen blowtorch, which only takes around 2-3 minutes.
This was the exciting part. After firing, the shapes are still matte white but after a quick polish they magically become shiny solid 999 silver! There were tons of oohs and aahs as people unveiled their new jewellery charms. My efforts are a little rustic but for a first try I’m very happy with them. The best part is that the process is completely achievable at home using fairly everyday materials, and I had two lovely wearable charms to take home at the end of the class.
You can pick up PMC from beading supply shops and eBay. The raw material is pretty expensive, but there’s absolutely no wastage as unused clay or broken pieces can be ground back down and mixed with water to create new clay. I’d definitely recommend the London Jewellery School‘s taster classes as a great way to try out the process without spending much money (the PMC class is £35 including all materials), and they offer lots more advanced classes if you’d like to learn more.
I spent a fun Thursday lunchbreak in the local Urban Outfitters yesterday, taking a stamp-cutting workshop with Christine Schmidt of fabulous SF-based stationery and jewellery studio Yellow Owl Workshop.
Christine was on hand giving tips and advice, as well as signing copies of her new book, Print Workshop, which covers all sorts of do-at-home printing projects, from block-printing to stencils.
I had a quick flick through and it looks like a very comprehensive guidebook to DIY printing, with tips on materials and techniques, as well as several pages of Christine’s own designs to use for personal projects.
Lookit, I made a little hello bubble stamp to take home! A little rough, but not bad for a lunchbreaks’ work.
Buy Christine’s book here and check out the rest of Yellow Owl Workshop’s lovely work here.
I always love to see a mash-up of traditional tactile craft skills with modern graphic design stylings, so I’m a whole lot in love with this work from Sydney-based studio Maricor Maricar. The satin-embroidered typographic pieces are particularly beautiful. Lovely papercuts and line-art illustration, too.
Meet the fruits of my third class at The Make Lounge – a quilted log cabin cushion. Like the otherclasses I’ve done there, it was fun, relaxed and informative. The hardest part was choosing which fabrics to use – and sewing in a straight line after a glass or two of wine…
I picked the colour scheme – using two of my own stashed fabrics mixed with 3 from the extensive selection in the Make Lounge shop – to match with our living room, and the quilted finish makes the cushion extra-squishy and cosy.
It was really good to get back onto a sewing machine, and it’s made me determined to buy a new one and do more sewing at home – can anyone recommend a good reliable machine for >£300?
If you fancy having a go at learning quilting too, there are dates for more Make Lounge classes in March and April – click here for more info and to book.
Here’s a little gift I made for my aunt for Christmas – a bake-it-yourself cookie jar. I got the idea from the excellent Bakerella but did my own measurements to fill my jar, and designed my own labels.
Here’s the recipe if you’d like to make one (modified from this recipe).
Layer the dry ingredients in the jar and add the eggs and butter when you make them. This quantity will fit in a 1 litre jar (I found mine in Adsa Living). It makes about 40 cookies, and you can freeze any leftover dough.
I realised with a bit of a shock the other day that my next paycheck has to stretch to both finish the house renovation (Phase One, anyway) and buy all my Christmas presents. Eeek! So I’ve decided to make a lot of cheapthoughtful gifts for my friends and family. Here are some ideas I’ve found.
Photo: Emma McCleary Teacup candles. I’ve long wanted to try these as they are so simple yet effective. I have some vintage shot glasses hanging around that I think will make pretty cool holders, too.
Ready-to-bake cookie mix jar, spotted on Bakerella. Isn’t this sweet? I’d certainly use this if someone gave it to me and I can design sweet custom labels for them, too.
Photo: craftapalooza I might even try to get over my crochet-phobia again and make some flower brooches.
Any other ideas for sweet homemade gifts – especially for men?!
We were strolling down Stoke Newington Church Street on Sunday when Josh spotted this window filled with odd-looking handmade guitars. There was no shopfront but a buzzer labelled ‘Tin Tone Guitars’ on the door, so we buzzed and entered the family home-come-workshop belonging to Jon Free.
Jon is a professional musician who also fixes old guitars, and has recently started building these beautiful ‘sonic fascinators’ from vintage tins, salvaged wooden table legs and homemade electronic bits and pieces. Every tin-tone guitar is built by him in this workshop, he told us.
They are apparently beloved of Sonic Youth and Seasick Steve, amongst others, for their raw bluesy sound. Josh fell in love with them and now wants one desperately. I’m no musician but they were beautifully made and I’d happily just have one to hang on the wall!
Visit Tin-tone.com for a gallery of all current pieces and to order, or pop into 91 Stoke Newington Church Street. Prices start at £150 for acoustic and £200 for electric models.
Last night Poke held the opening of our inaugural Pokexhibition – a rare glimpse into what Pokers get up to when they aren’t crafting web-type things on computers. We’re a diverse herd of makers with fine artists, monster makers and model boat builders in our midst so it was always going to be an interesting show.
Here’s just a small sampling of the work – Emma’s Catalan music video prop, Mike’s awesome steampunk tank, Nicky’s sock monster and Greg and Marc’s legendary Lomowall.
I made this embroidery piece for the show. It’s sort of a follow on from my Lubalin-inspired paper stitchery, but this time I used Marian Bantjes‘ beatiful typeface Restraint as my basis. It was loads of fun building the pattern up from the ornamental font pieces – a bit less fun actually stitching all those loops and curves! The font actually reminds me a bit of cross-stitch with its grid formation and cross-shaped sections.
I mucked up quite a few times because it was hard to trace white lines on the black fabric and I was rushing to get it done over the long weekend. But I actually quite like the effect of taking such a precise, exacting design and roughing it up a bit, making it more human and tactile. Here’s the original design:
Despite being seen as a generally ‘crafty person’, there are two things I can’t do well at all: bake, and wrap presents.
Baking, I suspect is because it’s a very precise practice more akin to science than art, and I tend to be a little slapdash in everything I do which doesn’t fare well with baking. I’ll substitute baking powder with bicarb of soda, or leave it in the oven until I think it looks ready, or run out of flour and think ‘oh, 100g less will do, I’ll just put in a bit less of everything else too’… predictably, the results are usually fairly disastrous. Viz my failed entry into the recent Poke studio bake-off:
I had visions for a charming little gingerbread house decorated with iced gems and silver balls, but my dough was too crumbly to even stand up and no amount of squeezy icing or melted chocolate (and icing sugar to hide the damage) would convince it otherwise. In the end I got too angry to continue and forfeited the competition. You can see some of the more successful bake-off entries on my Flickr.
The other sticking point, wrapping presents – I think again because it requires the kind of precision and attention span I don’t possess. I can never get corners tidy, the tape curls up and sticks to itself, ribbons and bows are liberally applied to hide the damage.. the whole thing generally looks like I let the cat wrap it for me.
So this year I went for a purposefully ‘rustic’ look with handmade wrapping paper and tags. Even the rubber stamps are handmade (at the Make Lounge class I did last month), and just stamped onto brown parcel paper and manila tags for a rather pleasing lo-fi look.