Thursday, 26 March 2015

Creative Skills - The Next Step

So, you have your crafting drawer. Or, has it started to take over all the drawers?  Maybe that little collection of beads or paper has spread to the cupboard under the stairs, or even (if you are lucky!) a haloed space in the garden shed? If so, then welcome, you are officially a dedicated crafter, that not-so-rare breed that just loves to make things. Make anything in fact, be it jewellery, cards or gift boxes, up-cycled furniture and clothes, you will approach the task with your trusty tools and persevere until emerging triumphant with a handmade gem. 
But maybe it's not enough, now you want to hone these crafting skills, learn new techniques, push your creativity to new levels? Then you are ready to join one of the many amazing classes, courses and workshops that are available. Even with 25 years experience making jewellery and being a tutor myself, I still love the thrill of attending a workshop, meeting others passionate about crafts and learning from experts. 
At Bedwas Adult Education Centre we can help with that. 

 If you join me on a jewellery workshop I will introduce you to the basic tools needed to cut and shape wire, help you understand just how to form a perfect loop and the benefits of using jump rings to connect everything together. I will recommend what wire gauges are best for each job, the different finishes you can choose to get your desired effect. I can even show you where to get design inspiration, how to develop your ideas from images or items. I can answer questions about where to buy materials and tools, which ones will suit a particular job. 
You will become more confident using the different pliers for each task, begin to understand what effect or finish each twist and turn of the tools will achieve on the wire. You will start having your own ideas about how to put beads together and pick the colours you love. You will push yourself to try new techniques, explore new ideas. You will not get disheartened if things fail; there are no mistakes, just unusual design features or, practice pieces. You will wear your jewellery with pride; tell family and friends "I made this". 
You may start making so many pieces you give them as gifts, friends will ask you to make something for them. You realise you have actually become pretty good at making jewellery, people love your work. You may decide to turn your hobby into a business and start looking for support. You can sell your designs at local craft fairs, get a website. 
You can choose how far you want to go. You can get there. You can contact us to get started.

Bedwas Adult Education Centre offers workshops and lifestyle classes in a number of craft based subjects including, wirework jewellery, kiln fire glass making, art, card making, cake decorating, sewing and pottery. These are run daytime, evenings and Saturdays.
Accredited courses are available in a wide range of subjects from first aid; small business support, work skills and customer care to qualifications for becoming a lifeguard or working door security. 

Ring 029 20852537 to find out about upcoming courses and to book a place or 
look us up here,on Facebook to learn more.

 Bedwas Adult Education Centre is situated at the rear of the Workman's Hall, a lovely venue that hosts an array of local events including a fantastic 
monthly Craft Market and a Sewing Bee Club
Visit them here on Facebook for latest news.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Making Jewellery Magazine Issue 68 - SIMPLY SEASHELLS TUTORIAL

The 'beach style theme for July's edition of Making Jewellery Magazine was the perfect opportunity for me to display some lovely shells I'd gathered during holidays with my children. I've always loved beachcombing and shells, stones and seaglass are probably one of my favourite items to make with. The natural shapes and contours of the shells ensure each design is different and varnishing brings out the stunning colours and patterns beautifully. A selection of Chilichic Jewellery shell necklaces can be found at Y Galeri, Caerphilly.

This project though was about more than just making a nice piece of jewellery. Sadly we lost  a wonderful and much loved member of our family the day I was working on the designs and so this project will forever hold poignant memories for me, not just for the deep sadness and emotions I felt that day but also for the happy memories they provoked of the beach holidays I'd spent as a child with my lovely Aunt.
It was on these annual weeks away that I learned to appreciate the beauty of the shoreline, how to gather various creatures in the rockpools and collecting pebbles that could be painted and made into doorstops with funny faces...who knew? For a kid who liked nothing more than to be crafting and  making pretty things, it was heaven

 It was here whilst staying in one of the beachfront bungalows on The Strand, in Saundersfoot that my young self really fell in love with jewellery, buying an elaborately strung beaded necklace from a gorgeous little shop called Paraphernalia. I can still recall the delicate, pastel coloured flower beads and how I couldn't wait to take it apart to see how it was done! The wonder I felt wandering around this little gift shop packed to the rafters with fun novelties and handmade decorative bits and pieces no doubt also influenced my future employment choices in retail gifts and shop display. I've not been to Saundersfoot for many years but I plan to take my own children this summer and show them where I spent so many happy days at their ages and hopefully make some new happy memories on that pretty beach. I only wish our Aunt could be with us.


Friday, 4 April 2014

Sustainable Crafts: From recycled materials

So, we have quickly come to the end of the 8 week Sustainable Crafts: Recycled Materials course at Bedwas Adult Education Centre and here are the designs made by the students. With a mix of complete beginners and experienced makers in the class, the focus was on introducing everyone to using recycled materials in their work and looking at what we may deem 'junk' and giving it a new lease of life. Everyone learned how to make paper beads and many chose to incorporate them into their final designs. Recycled lace and lots of old jewellery parts were also used and even some sewing bobbins and old tights were inventively adapted for a couple of necklaces! I wanted this to be a project where we got to use scissors and glue and have fun with the designs and I think everyone's creativity was put to good use.

Sue's sewing and crochet skills were invaluable in creating a beautiful bib style necklace. Recycled lace forms the background to a myriad of tiny, handmade paper beads, fine knitted wire and pearl beads all hung on matching silk thread.
A well balanced, vintage style design with perfect colour choices for the wire and findings. Sue also created matching earrings
Angela's first time at jewellery making has produced a  lovely, elegant design featuring handmade paper tube beads, glass faceted beads, a focal pendant and finished with gorgeous gold coloured chain. The wrapping paper used for the beads has an  unusal, embossed finish that give them a tactile quality.

Avril had the ingenious idea of using old nylon tights to make her necklace. Using the technique of Kumihimo to weave two shades together, she made a lightweight base on which to hang her wire wrapped., upcycled bead pendant.
Lynne used black paper flecked with silver to make stunning tapered beads and combined them with matching recycled beads to produce an Art Deco style set. The silver chain and findings are a  great choice for the beads.
Tobia wrapped a lovely piece of seaglass in a wire design and weaved a decorative bail to hang the pendant on a simple chain. She also incorporated a mix of wooden buttons in this very pretty choker style necklace.
Victoria hadn't made jewellery before and along with producing unusual paper beads and using recycled lace for other designs, she decided to combine paper beads and recyced bead mixes for a choker style necklace and bangle. The wire spacer beads were made from wrapping wire in  random tube and bead shapes.
Viv has gone for a sewing theme and re-used bobbins to make the main section of her design. Adding colourful buttons and matching wire to attach everything to a re-purposed knife spring! The safety pins and little scisssors charm give it a great quirky finish.

Rachel is new to making jewellery and had a  great idea to use safety pins for this bracelet. The blue topped ones look fab with matching recycled beads. She also made these vibrant red paper beads using wall paper. Combined with gold chain and findings the necklace is very striking.

Kelly combined lots of recycled jewellery parts in her design including woodand beads. She used a variety of techniques to create wirework designs including coiling and freeform flowers. The design is bold and the oranges mix really well with the copper coloured wire and brown suede. I like the asymmetrical element of the necklace which has a great deal of work involved.
Katie is new to jewellery making and opted for paper beads to create a necklace. The beads are threaded on wire to give the shape rigidity but is attached to some chain which lets it sit on the chest rather than around the nek and gives the piece some movement.
Jen is new to jewellery making and has really enjoyed learning the new processes. She made three paper beads in a tube style that were slightly different in length. this worked well to create a central section and is given focus at the bottom with a solid, recycled square bead. Recycled gun metal chain, matching beads and findings pull the look together nicely. The baeds are decorated with glitter and the purple tones are very pretty, making this a very wearable necklace.


Monday, 10 March 2014

Making Jewellery Magazine Issue 65 - Tutorial 'Pass the Crown'

The lastest issue of Making Jewellery magazine is on sale now and I'm very pleased to have  another tutorial included. The theme is 'Best of British' and there are some lovely, quirky ideas for a range of projects inside.

I settled on a crown theme but decided against a traditional, gold 'Crown Jewels' style headpiece, and started sketching designs that were more wearable instead (think fairy princess...but with a slightly off-kilter, darker edge to it!). I kept imagining the Miss Havisham character in Charles Dickens 'Great Expectations' and this tied in nicely with the British theme.

I really love the colour of the antique bronze wire (from Palmer Metals) and went for the square shape for an even better effect. I got the pearl bead mix from Jilly Beads and they were a perfect match. Although the design appears to be random, the measurements are quite precise and the wire wrapping is kept symmetrical. This ensures the overall look is balanced and by hiding the spare wire, it ends up with a quality finish.
The extra projects were very simple to make and this time I felt the gold coloured wire worked better.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Sustainable Crafts: From Recycled Materials

Weeks 3 & 4
We've reached week 3 of the 8 week course and are having a  breather during half term. So, what will the learners be doing ready for week 4? Well, they've all had a  go at making paper beads now and at least two have totally embraced the craft, producing the most beautiful and unique designs that they will develop into finished jewellery pieces. I will be showcasing these at a later date but I am amazed at how a simple craft like paper bead making can turn, in the right hands, into an art form! Well done ladies.

It is still early days and not everyone has decided yet which of the five recycled materials (paper, plastic, fabric, glass & metal) they will focus on to make their chosen artefact. Of course, they may choose to incorporate more than one of the materials and so long as at least one is of a recycled nature, this is fine. We will be looking further at shrink plastic in week 5 but it does not have to be this product that is used for the plastic requirement - recycled pastic beads are readily available at charity shops and probably in our jewellery boxes. One of our new starters has a lovely collection of beads in both pastic and glass which will look great in a number of designs...the next step there, is to gather ideas together for inspiration. I touched on some of these ideas in an earlier post -Upcycled blog post.

Recycled wooden beads, large metal beads wrapped in scrap material and tied with strands of cotton.
I always suggest keeping a notebook or sketchbook to gather and record any ideas relating to projects and hopefully, all of the learners have their own starting to fill up. When you start out in making jewellery, there is an abundance of info to absorb and special names for things and specific measurements to remember, keeping notes of some kind really will help and if you want to go back and make  the same item again, you have all the info to hand. Simple mood boards that show a collection of images cut from magazines is a great idea and ideal for this course. As this is an accredited course too, it is another good way of showing evidence of learning. Another old blog post mentions more on this and can be viewed here. 
Mood Board Ideas
I've fallen a  little bit in love with tassels lately and  have just set up a new board on Pinterest (click here) in honour of these fab little dangling delights. I hope the learners will be equally inspired by some of the designs as incorporating upcycled cotton/leather or chain tassels would be a perfect project for completing the course requirements.
Cotton tassel & recycled jewellery parts
Meeting requirements with recycled glass can be in the form of old beads or even beach glass. If the learner is new to jewellery making then I'd advise sticking to making beaded links from upcycled beads as this will give them the chance to practice the basic techniques of looping and how to connect all the components together. There are lots of tools available now for jewellery making but I advocate mastering the main pliers, cutters and needle file techniques before attempting these short cuts.
In all classes we use the following: Flat, round, narrow nosed (sometimes called snipe) pliers, top or side (flush) cutters and a needle file. Buy sturdy ones and they should last you a long while, I recommend buying from as these are great for starter jewellery makers. Jilly Beads is another good supplier for a range of items, including tools.
Tools required
Basic techniques for jewellery making include opening and shutting jump rings (various sized rings that are essential for joining the jewellery components together). Use your flat nosed and narrow nosed pliers in conjunction to hold the rings either side of the ring's join. DO NOT PULL APART! Instead, gently twist with one hand pusing away and the other towards you. No need to over do it and avoid twisting out of shape. The opening needs to be enough to thread on whatever finding (this is the name for the assorted metal parts that are required to make jewellery) or component that is to be threaded on there. To close simply repeat the action in reverse until the ends meet and the ring cannot allow things to fall off!

Basic loops are the most important technique to master and much of their success comes down to getting the size right. For standard sized plain loops using head pins or approx 0.8mm wire, you need to cut the wire at approx 1cm in length. File the end flat, bend over on a right angle, place your round nosed pliers (approx 1/3 of the way along the pliers) right at the top of the wire - no spare. If you are right handed, support with your left and turn the pliers AWAY from you while gripping the wire. You will not complete the loop in one movement, just ensure the wire is tight against the pliers and forming around it. Turn as far as feels comfortable then remove the pliers to reposition. Grip again at the top of the wire and continue to turn away from you to complete the loop. It should look round, NOT like a tear drop...if it does, next time check you are gripping the wire at the very top, with none spare. To finish the loop, hold so you are looking down on it and place the round nosed pliers up through the hole until it rests without moving. Position the pliers so that the both sections meet at where the wire join is. Grip gently but firmly. You need now to COUNTER TURN the pliers (or move the wire if it is flexible) so the loop sits on top like a needle head. If you turn it the wrong direction, you will simply get a split ring effect...fine if that is needed but not for a  simple loop!

For wrapped loops, do not cut the headpin/wire short but allow a few centimetres spare. Create a  loop as stated above but leave the spare wire for wrapping. The loop needs to be postioned close to the bead before wrapping so turn and check it is snug. Grip the loop with the flat nosed pliers and use narrow nosed ones to tightly wrap the spare wire around the base of the loop. Squeeze ends around for a  neat finish.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

New Course - Sustainable Crafts: From Recycled Materials

Well, 2014 is here and we are already into February (not sure what happened to January?!!) and it is time to embark on a new course at Bedwas Adult Education Centre. This time it is an accredited unit based on recycled materials. We covered a bit of upcycling in the last Lifestyle class and this time we will be making some of the main components of the jewellery from recycled items, specificically fabric/thread, paper, plastic, glass and metal.

As always we will first ensure the health and safety requirements are met and understood by everyone undertaking the sessions. The nature of the materials and techniques used this time have the potential for danger and we will spend some of weeks 1&2 covering these. 
As well as the standard pliers and cutters used in jewellery making, we will be using very sharp craft knives, heat guns, glues and varnishes, each requiring their own safety considerations. Apart from the obvious danger of not using a craft knife correctly (I literally have the scar to prove tip - do not get distracted and look away when cutting!), using a  heat gun poses the danger of burns and ignition of flammables. When using glues and varnishes, ventilation is essential and if a learner has any health concerns about their breathing, they may prefer to be excused from the exercise. Skin conditions need to be considered also when using some products and protective gloves or barrier creams are recommended. No open toed footwear would also be best as some of the tools are heavy if dropped and also spilled glue and skin tend to find each other...
So, preparation is key to getting your workspace ready: 
  • Protect tables/work area with newspaper
  • Identify requirements for each task, store surplus items until needed
  • Place required equipment and tools in easy to access areas, use additinal small storage containers if necessary
  • Remember to use cutting mats or heat mats when needed
  • Place sharp craft knives in covers when not in use
  • Unplug heat guns when not in use
  • Place tops back on glues and varnishes when not in use
  • Ventilate the room if necessary (using glues/varnishes)
  • Do not place hands in front of the heat gun when in use or point towards others
  • Be considerate to other learners and their space
  • Keep fingers away from pliers mechanisms to avoid cuts and pinching
  • When cutting wire, place low down on the table area and cover with other hand if necessary (wire can fly off at random angles and there is potential danger to eyes), be aware of loose wire catching or poking others, if working from a  reel
  • Be aware of the fire drill details for the venue you are in (if you are working at home, a fire extinguisher is best kept within reach) and who to contact in case of a medical emergency 
Happy Making!

Paper Beads

Sustainable Crafts: From Recycled Materials
Well, it is the start of the latest Bedwas Adult Education Centre course and I say... making jewellery doesn't need to be a difficult and expensive endeavour, it can just be fun and imaginative. Kids love drawing, painting, colouring and glueing bits and bobs for a reason..they enjoy doing it! This is where we will start on our journey towards gaining accreditation in this recycling unit. By using things that can be found all around us, we can become more creative and try out ideas that using precious materials may not allow. The jewellery produced can be highly wearable designs or prototypes of ideas that can be further developed for other, more traditional materials.

Tapered Paper Beads
I'd not had a  go at making paper beads for many years and so I took a  tour of You Tube and Pinterest (click for my board of Paper Projects & Upcycled Projects) to get me pointed in the right direction. There are great ideas on these for anyone wanting to make a serious venture into this particular craft. Templates for different shaped beads are online as well as useful tools and materials such as bead rollers, glues and varnishes. We however are going to keep things very simple and cost effective and use household items wherever possible to create our beads.

 Gather your paper. I had a wide selection of pretty, printed paper sheets in my collection but using magazines or thick wrapping paper is a great idea for cheap bead making.
Step 2

 Choose your sheet and using a craft knife, cutting board and steel rule, cut the paper into long, narrow strips in a  triangle shape. The finished bead size will be determined by the width at the bottom and length of sheet. For my gold beads I measured 3cm at the base, length approx 30cm.
Step 3
Repeat to make as many beads as needed
Step 4
In place of a professional bead roller tool, use masking tape to secure x 2 metal skewers together leaving approx 2 1/2 inches at the top to make the beads.
Step 5
Slot the wider section of one strip between the skewers, dab some glue to secure, and begin wrapping the strip tightly around the two skewers.
Step 6
Keep rolling, keeping it tight to avoid undoing.
Continue wrapping until just the narrow section is left, secure with small amount of glue. I've used a  water based PVA glue that is white but dries clear. I found it more than up to the job and as it is popular as a glue for kids, easy to locate. Specialist glues and varnishes are available, research online for card making suppliers (some jewellery suppliers like The Bead Shop also stock selected items) to learn about Diamond Glaze and Mod Podge, brand names for combined glues and glazes.

Step 8
Once secure, remove bead from the metal skewers and transfer to a single wooden skewer. Use this to first ensure the folds inside sit neatly. 
Step 9
 Use a  paint brush to coat the whole bead and leave to dry. Try experimenting with nail varnishes to add interest. I used a subtle gold nail enamel to coat some of the beads and a clear one to give them a more solid finish.
Alternative Idea
For added interest to the bead, carefully paint black nail varnish along edges of the strips before rolling. Leave to dry and they will give the finshed bead a different effect. Coat with clear varnish to finish.
Finished bead selection

Finished necklace design
I added gun metal & gold plated beads to the paper beads, creating links with gold plated wire. I drew a rose with a gold marker pen onto black shrink plastic for the pendant and added an orphan bead to give the necklace some weight.
Tube Bead Shape
 For a tube bead shape, cut your paper into long strips, my measurements were 4cm width, 30cm length
 Use same techniques as shown in steps 5, 6 & 7 above.

Paint the edges with coloured nail varnish.
Finished Necklace
I used gun metal beads and silver plated wire to create links of the paper beads, added pretty metal beads as spacers and a  handmade 'messy' wire bead as a pendant.
Shrink Plastic
 Our other projects will include using Shrink plastic and I can't wait to see what everyone manages to make! Most craft suppliers have shrink plastic (brand named 'shrinkles' I believe) sheets on sale, try Hobbycraft and The Range who both usually stock a selection of colours. I like the basic , frosted one best and  this works well with stamped designs. The brand ink Stazon is best for not 'bleeding'. The thing to remember with shrink plastic shrinks!! Obvious maybe but until you've seen it, it's hard to comprehend just how much it shrinks. So. any design needs to take into consideration that it will shrink approximately 7 times smaller. Also remember to punch your holes before heating. Sharpie pens, pencils and other colourants can be used to decorate your plastic before heating. Shrink plastic can be heated in a conventional oven ( follow manufacturer's instructions for use) or heated with a craft  heat gun. Ensure you do this over a  heat resistant surface (also cover with foil) and take safety precautions to avoid potential fire or heat damage to surrounding area...and yourself!!