Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On My Bench


Do you remember On My Desk? The meme Kootoyoo hosted before My Creative Space? Am I showing my blogging age?! Well, it was one of the reasons I fell in love with blogging. It opened my eyes to the creative community online, introduced me to many of the creative bloggers I still follow and gave me a chance to not only peek in to the crafty lives of other makers, but share my own works in progress. Some things never change, and you will quite often find me sharing On My Bench posts on Instagram.

Above are a couple of the things I have been working on lately. Pictures one and four show a blue quartz ring in progress, for a custom order. I love this beautiful dark blue rock, it's such an intense colour. It is going to be one amazing ring! A simple four claw setting and solid band, showing off the gemstone. The second image across is a pile of castings for orders and stock. The rings on the far right are a new design I have been working on and will be released next month. I have a couple of other ideas up my sleeve with these rings and I do believe my Christmas present will be taken care of as a result. The third image is of a pair of Maeve rings being resized for a customer, using a jewellers trick to make sure they are both the same size.

So my lovelies, what have you been making lately?
Did you used to play On My Desk?
Do you miss My Creative Space?

Monday, October 20, 2014

42/52


Cohen: My super hero.
Emerson: Blue eyed, blonde haired, cheekiness.
Oscar: He still has that baby scent, the softest head and the smoothest skin.

I'm quite late to the party with this post, and with this link up. It's been awhile since I joined in. It's hard to juggle being a good parent and being a good jeweller and having time to read, blog, garden, knit, write, and do all the things I'd like to do. So I do what I can, when I can, and just enjoy everything as much as I can. One day these little people won't need me so much and I will have more time, and that day will be bittersweet indeed.

Joining in with Jodi.

-

42/52 last year. What a difference a year makes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ten Things I'm Doing...


I'm joining in with Pip to share the things I'm doing for my health...

1. Eating overnight oats
I love overnight oats. I make them before bed, pop them in the fridge and they are waiting for me first thing in the morning. And as I am breastfeeding, I always wake up hungry! I make mine with oats, soy milk, chia seeds, soy yoghurt, slithered almonds and frozen raspberries. I make a mini bowl for Emerson too.

2. Cutting back on alcohol and soft drink
I love a glass of wine with dinner, or a soft drink with lots of ice on hot days, but I have cut back on both and now they are weekend treats.

3. Seeing an endocrinologist (thyroid specialist)
My overactive thyroid was actually been well behaved during my pregnancy with Oscar and has continued to behave since his birth. But given it's history, I am keeping up to date with my six weekly blood tests and specialist appointments (despite the fact that it is no fun sitting in a hospital waiting room with a baby and a toddler.)

4. Napping
My four and a half month old is still feeding at least two times a night, so once a week or so I listen to my body and take a nap. I do so love a nice nap, but more often than not there just seems too much to do to have a nap. Weekend naps feel more guilt free than week day naps...

5. Growing my own
My veggie patch is not as fully stocked as it was before I had Oscar, as it's harder to spend as much time as I used to in the garden with a baby. But I am growing tomatoes, asparagus, chilli, herbs, baby spinach, lettuce, shallots, sweet potatoes and mulberries, which are all free of chemicals.

6. Cooking from scratch
I have a sensitive tummy at the best of times, I can't eat dairy and I don't eat red meat (though I do eat chicken and fish), so eating out is often tricky. I feel better when I meal plan, cook from scratch and am mindful of what I eat. My favourite meal is Singapore noodles - a little curry, a little garlic, vermicilli noodles, chicken, prawns and lots of veggies like mushrooms, snow peas, shallots and onion. Yum!

7. Writing
Writing is great for my mental health. A brain dump in ones diary is second only to a deep and meaningful (D&M) over wine with your best friend (or twin sister.)

8. Stopping for tea
I have the tendency to just keep going. And I love tea. I make tea and bring it with me while I do my chores. It sits on top of the washing machine while I load it with clothes, it sits on my bedside table while I sort the clean laundry on my bed, it sits on the vanity while I have a shower before the school run. So once a day I try to actually stop and just sit with a cup of tea. No tidying. No working. Just five minutes to rest, reflect and enjoy my tea.

9. Wearing a safety mask
I am a good girl when it comes to workshop safety and despite the fact that my glasses often fog up while doing so, I always wear my safety mask when polishing jewellery. Breathing in lots of polishing compound it not good for my insides.

10. Yoga
I want to do yoga daily, but as I mentioned before, my baby still feeds twice a night, and I have a five and two year old to run around after. Walking to school, wearing Oscar in a sling and rolling metal are all good forms of exercise for me on a daily basis, and I squeeze in yoga when I can. But once I am sleeping through the night again, I have high hopes of returning to doing yoga each morning again, before the children wake up.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Capturing childhood


If there's one thing that all parents might agree on, it's that children grow up so quickly. It still amazes me that my first born is at school. And just this week my baby has started solids. Next thing I know all three will be in school. There is no halt to the progress of time, which is both wonderful and bittersweet. There are only memories, and words and images that capture the moments. I had been thinking for some time about getting family photos taken. Nothing formal and matchy matchy, just casual and candid, capturing the moment type photos. Something to add to the photo wall, which heavily features the first born, but not the next two... The thought stayed with me after Oscar was born and my older children suddenly seemed even bigger. 

As luck would have it, everything fell in to place when I realised one of the Mothers I know through Cohen's school is a children's photographer. Exactly the kind of business that I want to support. She understood what I wanted and gave me free reign to choose the venue. So one bright, sunny day we headed to the Beenleigh Historical Village. As we wandered around the old buildings, vintage fire engines, farm equipment and telephone booth, the lovely Trudi joined us with her camera. And it was just what I wanted. No awkward posing. Just my little ones exploring and playing, captured in the moment. With a few photos where I am actually in the shot, rather than behind the camera.

I do believe the third and the last photos are my favourites. Cohen and Emerson currently play a game where they pull a cranky face, as cranky as they can make it, which then makes them laugh. Rather than asking them to smile we asked them to show us their cranky faces, thus preserving this memory. In the last photo, Trudi had given them each a lollipop for being so well behaved and they sat back down and showed each other which colour they had chosen, which made for this sweet shot.

Now to swap out some of the photos in the photo wall.

Thanks so much Trudi Le Brese for your skill and patience, and for helping me to capture this time in their childhood.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mulberry Jam - A simple recipe


The mulberries soaking in the sugar, and the mulberries cooking.

Almost three years ago I planted a mulberry tree next to our shed. At that stage it was little more than a twig with two leaves on it. It was difficult to imagine that in three short years it's branches would be so heavy with fruit that I would happily allow the birds to take their fill and still be filling a colander with fruit each day. I feel rich with fruit! And to celebrate I have been sharing it with my neighbours, freezing it for when the tree is exhausted and turning my hand to jam making. 

I've attempted Mulberry jam in the past with limited success. My first batch wouldn't set and jars and jars of runny jam went to waste. My second batch I overcooked in an effort to right the wrongs of my first batch. This time the contents of my jars was something like a fruit toffee, though less edible. This week though I found satisfaction! I cooked a batch of jam that made me proud and which has been covering muffins and crumpets ever since.

Where I had been going wrong was trying to cook Mulberry jam the same way I cook Strawberry jam. But Mulberries are thicker, denser and need more cooking time. Cooking in smaller batches also seems like the best way to go. I've written down my steps for future reference, and for anyone else interested in making their own jam. I learnt to make jam after a whole lot of googling, and tips from Rhonda at Down to Earth blog.

You will need -

800 grams Mulberries
800 grams white sugar
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
Scales
Stock pot
Wooden Spoon
Teaspoon
Tongs 
Jam jars
Funnel
Measuring cup

Wash the fruit and twist the stems from the top - you can pinch them off too, but this hurts your fingers after awhile.
Weigh your Mulberries and sugar, you want about the same amount of fruit as sugar, though you can try using a little less sugar.
Place fruit in your biggest saucepan - I use a stock pot - and cover with sugar. Mix and leave for an hour.

Meanwhile, wash up your jam jars and heat your oven up on to a low heat (80 degrees) and place jars inside to sterilise them. Place a saucepan in the freezer.
Add lemon juice to fruit and sugar, bring to the boil while mixing.
Allow mixture to bubble up and skim the foam off the top.
Turn down to a rolling boil and keep stirring so the jam doesn't burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for approx. 20 minutes, or until mixture seems less runny.

Take a teaspoon of the liquid mixture and drip it across the plate from the freezer. This cools the boiling liquid so you can see if the jam has 'set' or not. This step confused me at first. I wasn't sure how to tell if it has set or not. What you are looking for is for your drips to behave like store brought jam. So when you push your fingernail through the drip, the mixture should part and not run back together again. If it does, keep cooking and try again in another ten minutes. If the mixture bunches up and stays separated, it has set and you need to turn the heat off.

Using your tongs to remove the jars from the oven and place the funnel in the mouth of one of the jars. I use a measuring cup with a lip to scoop up the jam mixture and pour it in to the jar. Be careful, it's hot! And hot jam burns! Leave a couple of centimeters room at the top of the jar.
Pop on your lids, turn the jars upside and leave them to cool and they are ready to eat.
If you aren't going to eat them straight away, and you want to store the jam for up to twelve months, you will need to use a water bath method to kill any bacteria in the jar.

Wash out your stock pot and fill it up half way with hot water. Bring it to the boil with a tea towel in the bottom. Place the jars in on top of the tea towel - this helps to avoid them from breaking or cracking on the bottom of the pan - making sure they are covered with water and bring the water back up to the boil and leave it to boil for about an hour.
Remove jars with tongs and let cool overnight.
Store in a dark, cool cupboard for up to a year.

Happy jam making!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Eight Steps to a Heart

1. Working on designs with the customer - their sketche and mine.
2. The finished sketch, gemstones and 3 mm thick silver plate.
3. Cutting the scribed design from the plate.

4. Once the outside was right, it's time to cut out the inner heart by slipping a jewellers saw blade through the hole drilled in the top of the heart.
5. The completed saw piercing.
6. The finished design with holes drilled and filed to accommodate the chain.

7. The pendant after the setter beautifully grain set twenty round brilliant cut Cubic Zirconias.

8. The finished piece, after polishing and hard gold plating.

When ever I hand make a custom piece, I take step by step photos of the process to share with the client. It's exciting seeing a design come to life, for me and for them. This elegant piece is a birthday gift from a loving husband to his lovely wife, and I am quite sure it will be cherished.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Spring Clean Your Jewellery Box

You've packed away the Winter woolies and you've been cleaning and oganising around your home, but your jewellery box is easily overlooked. However, now that the weather is warming up and there are exposed necks and wrists to decorate, it's the perfect time to sort through your jewels. Make a cup of tea, grab your jewellery box, lay the contents out on your bed, then take note of these tips as you look over each item.


With care, jewellery can last for generations. Like our cars and homes, some servicing and maintenance may be required to keep our much loved pieces looking their best. Many of us have experienced the heartbreak of loosing a piece of jewellery, but we can minimise the risk of lost items by ensuring they are in good repair. As a jeweller I have seen and repaired my fair share of broken jewellery and I know the following advice will help you repair, clean and organise your jewellery. 


Repair

Clasps - Open and close clasps a few times to check that they are strong and are closing all the way, with no gap that the jump ring could slip through. If the spring inside a clasp breaks, this can not be repaired. If there is a gap where the clasp meets this can often be squeezed shut with a pair of pliers. Claps will wear over time and may need building up (with more metal and solder) or replacing.  

Jump Rings - Jump rings are the round links that connect your clasps and chains to your jewellery. Often when a piece of jewellery gets pulled, if the jump ring has not been soldered shut it will open a little. This can be enough for a chain or clasp to slip through. You can tighten a jump ring yourself with a gentle squeeze with some flat pliers. Jump rings also wear over time and eventually need building up or replacing. 

Links - The links on gold jewellery in particular may stretch over time. That bracelet which used to fit you may now be too big. A jeweller can easily remove these extra links to get your bracelet fitting properly again. Links are susceptible to wear as well, so check over them for any thin or worn spots where they may be weak and break if pulled. 

Missing or loose gemstones - Check over each piece and look for any holes where gemstones have fallen out. To discover if any gemstones are loose, hold the piece of jewellery to your ear and tap it. A rattle indicates a loose stone and you may need a jeweller to tighten it. Check large round stones in a claw setting by gently trying to twist the stone around in the setting. If it moves it may need tightening.

Claws - Over time claws get worn and broken. Have a close look at the claws holding in your gemstones and if you identify any missing, broken or lifted claws these will need attention. If a claw has started catching at fabric, this is a good sign that it needs to be pushed back down.

Pearls and beads - It is recommended that pearls and beads that are worn regularly are re-threaded every 1 - 2 years. Telltale signs that it's time to re-thread them include frayed thread, build up of product on thread (particularly near the clasp), or stretched thread - where there are gaps between the pearl and the knots. Stands of pearls should be knotted between each pearl to prevent loss should the strand break. My rule with pearls is 'last thing on, first thing off' - so put your make up and perfume on first.

White gold - In order to keep white gold rings looking their best, they need to be re-rhodium plated from time to time. Jewellers remove the old rhodium, polish the piece, check the stones and settings and then re-rhodium plate.

Knots and breaks - Knots in fine chains are best removed with a pin and patience. While broken chains will need to be soldered back together again.


Clean

Commercial jewellery cleaning dips, gels and impregnated cloths can be used to clean silver and gold. There are also some great DIY, environmentally friendly, jewellery cleaning recipes available online, like this one for silver. Caution needs to be taken with gemstones though. Opals, pearls, turquoise, amber, coral and emeralds in particular are sensitive to chemicals and heat, and often need only a damp, soft cloth wiped over them, or a mild soap can be used to remove build ups of oil, cosmetics etc. Diamonds may be cleaned with a mild liquid detergent and a soft brush or old toothbrush. Many jewellers offer free or inexpensive jewellery cleaning, so take advantage of this when you can, as nothing gets a piece clean like a professional polish and ultrasonic.


Organise 

Now is a good time to sort out any pieces you no longer wear and think about remodeling them or melting them down to make in to something else, or perhaps selling them. Single earrings, broken chains and ex-boyfriends gifts can be melted down and made in to new pieces, like solid bangles or hammered rings

Think about the way you are storing your pieces too. Costume jewellery can be hung on hooks - there are some great storage and display ideas on Pinterest. Pearls should be stored wrapped in tissue paper or in drawstring pouches, to prevent them being scratched by other pieces of jewellery. Putting pairs of earrings together on buttons is a great way to keep them together. If you don't have room to store items in the boxes they came in, drawstring pouches can be purchased at variety stores or online.

Some people store their jewellery in safes, or hide it around them home. While this is a great idea, be careful! I once had an insurance customer whose husband had emptied out their freezer after a trip away, unaware that his wife had hidden all her most precious jewellery in there!


A note on costume jewellery 

As most costume jewellery is gold or silver plated base metal, it can't be soldered. If part of the metal has broken then glue (super glue or araldite) may be your best friend. Broken jump rings or missing gemstones can often be replaced by looking in craft shops or on eBay.



If you have any questions about repairing, cleaning or organising your jewellery, or if there's something you have always wanted to ask a jeweller, feel free to ask me in the comments. 
You can email me a photo of any specific pieces and I will offer my advice!
christina-lowry@hotmail.com
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...