Friday, 21 December 2012

Unusual Christmas Gifts

Just finished and posted the last of the Christmas orders that I have made for people this year so thought I would take a breather and write a blog post about some of the more unusual gifts. It is such a great feeling that on Christmas morning people around the world will be opening their presents and some of them will actually be made by me! I wish I could be there to see their faces although the satisfaction of knowing that I have been involved means so much to me; certainly a more satisfying feeling than working behind a desk like I did in my old job!

Here are a couple of the more unusual Christmas gifts I have made for people this year. Both of them are custom made paperweights and the first involves a Pork scratching! Yes I received this Pork Scratching through the post from a lady who wanted it encasing within a paperweight for her husband. Why I do not know but I had great fun making it. Firstly without knowing how it would react with the resin I first had to go out and buy myself a packet. My neighbours must have thought I was odd sitting outside on the patio spraying lumps of Pork Scratching with Acrylic sealant...but then they are probably used to it by now!

Unique Christmas Gifts - Pork Scratching Paperweight
Unique Christmas Gifts - Pork Scratching Paperweight


This second paperweight incorporates several items that I received through the post. The items included a pound coin, table confetti, a photograph and a blade of barley. Again I am not sure of the connection these items have but I am sure somebody will like it when they open it on Christmas day!

Unique Christmas Gifts - Barley Paperweight
Unique Christmas Gifts - Barley Paperweight


I do like giving and receiving unusual gifts at Christmas time; I think the most unusual gift I have given was a big lump of fossilised Dinosaur dung which I gave to my wide a couple of years ago.

What is the most unusual gift that you have given or received at Christmas?

Mick

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Pet bedding fabric pendant

I was asked recently by the owner of a rabbit themed magazine called ‘Bunny Mad Magazine’ if she could feature me and my work within an issue of the magazine due out in the spring. The editorial that I sent to her focused on the pet rabbit tributes that I can offer but also went into why I started my little business.

As a thank you for featuring my work in her magazine and in exchange for a copy of the magazine when it comes out, I offered to make her a pendant. Sadly she did not have any rabbit fur however she had a sample of fabric from one of her bunnies bedding that she had kept. The fabric is very special to her since she has many memories of my bunny Fern sleeping in her leopard bed!

She sent a sample of the leopard print fabric to me and this is the pendant I made for her, hung from a leather thong style necklace.

Pet bedding fabric pendant
Pet bedding fabric pendant


Lovely isn’t it! I am looking forward to the ‘Bunny Mad’ magazine coming out in April and sharing it with you. I have already forgotten what I wrote for her and hopefully it should be an interesting read!

Mick

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Fossil Cupuladriid Bryozoans Pendant

Cupuladriid Bryozoans now that isn’t a word you get to hear every day! The Bryozones are small aquatic creatures that have chalky skeletons and can be found all over the world and are often preserved as fossils when they die. The lady who introduced me to the world of Cupuladriid Bryozoans actually wanted some of the fossils making into a pendant and a paperweight.

Cupuladriid Bryozoans
Cupuladriid Bryozoans


She had studied fossil Bryozoans for her Ph.D and part of that study was researching climate change and the effects on the Bryozoans. Apparently there is a relationship between the Bryozoan size and the temperature it was formed in; so they can help identify the Earth’s temperature at different times in history....that is all I know!

Cupuladriid
Cupuladriids


I do not normally agree with setting fossils within resin. I have bags of fossils at home from my fossil collecting days when I was younger and I wouldn’t dream of setting them in resin. I have always had the opinion that they have survived millions of years so why should they end up in there? She put my mind at ease by telling me that thousands of them exist in the world today and that she has lots of them doing nothing in her loft. Also as part of her research the Cupuladriids are often crushed for testing purposes... this made me feel better!

Anyway here is the pendant that I made with some of the Cupuladriid Bryozoans:

Fossil Pendant - Cupuladriid Bryozoans
Fossil Pendant - Cupuladriid Bryozoans


...and here is the paperweight made using the Bryozoans:

Fossil Paperweight - Cupuladriid Bryozoans
Fossil Paperweight - Cupuladriid Bryozoans


So there is your introduction to the world of Cupuladriid Bryozoans isn’t it fascinating? I love the unusual requests I am getting for my custom made paperweights at the moment; I have received some unusual things including a pound coin, a blade of barley and pork scratching!

Mick

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Unusual Mobile Phone Gifts

I had an unusual request this last week from a lady who wanted a mobile phone themed Christmas gift making. Initially she wanted a mobile phone top-up card to be encased within a paperweight however the top-up card would not fit any of my designs. She then suggested having a mobile phone SIM card to be incorporated within the paperweight and here it is:

Mobile Phone SIM card in a paperweight
Mobile Phone SIM card in a paperweight


As well as the mobile phone SIM card she also wanted a message within the paperweight. You may remember a few weeks ago that I developed a technique of using transparencies within my jewellery and paperweights to form personalised messages. Well these are proving to be a convenient way of incorporating messages and I have used them on several occasions since.

On this occasion the lady wanted the message ‘Break glass in an emergency!’ within the paperweight. Now this has given me a great idea; it would be great to make a paperweight with a cigarette inside, and to add a similar message as a gift to somebody who is giving up smoking. How frustrating that would be since you would never get it out!

Mick

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Personalised Bracelets

I must have far too much time on my hands because I have been investigating recently if there are any patterns to the types of custom made jewellery that I am asked to make for people. It is always good to be prepared so I looked into if certain months of the year are dominated by a particular style of jewellery. There are certainly jewellery buying trends that are driven by events in the year such as Christmas and Mothers Day, but then there are other buying patterns of my jewellery I can’t really explain.

For example September is repeatedly the month where personalised bracelets dominate. I can’t explain why and it is not related to a particular style of bracelet but this generally repeats itself year after year. So the following are a few examples of the personalised bracelets that I made for people last month...

Personalised Name on Rice Bracelet


I have been making Name on Rice Jewellery for a while now however have always made pendants, so this is my first bracelet containing rice writing. Originally the ‘Dad’ asked me to make three individual pendants, with each of their children’s names written onto grains of rice. Subconsciously I probably knew it was ‘personalised bracelet month’, because I suggested attaching the charms to a bracelet which would at least give the option of having individual pendants at a later date.

Personalised Name on Rice Bracelet
Personalised Name on Rice Bracelet


Lock of Hair Keepsake Bracelet


I was initially asked to encapsulate a lock of hair within one of my sterling silver pendants and to engrave the back of the pendant with a message. However the message became a poem and not something that was going to fit onto the back of a pendant, so again it was suggested to incorporate the hair into a bracelet instead. (Are you seeing a pattern here? I am now beginning to think that it is me that is influencing the seasonal buying trends of my jewellery!).

Hair Keepsake Bracelet
Hair Keepsake Bracelet


Horse Hair Bracelet


I am now just satisfying my initial statement that there are seasonal variations in the type of jewellery that people buy, and indeed September is the month for personalised bracelets. Now I am confident that I didn’t influence the decision to have this horse hair set within a bracelet, it was asked for I promise! I did suggest having the glitter within each charm though (but then if it was me I would have glitter in everything!).

Horse Hair Bracelet
Horse Hair Bracelet


I began writing this blog post convinced that there were patterns to the type of jewellery that people buy throughout the year. As the blog post has gone on I have become less and less convinced... is it just me that has been influencing these decisions?

Mick

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Handmade Poppies for the Poppy Appeal 2012

No I haven’t taken up knitting just yet, although I wish I could as it would save a fortune on buying clothes! This hand knitted poppy arrived in the post last week and it is lovely, it is also lovely to know that all of the money paid for it (they are on sale for a suggested donation of £5) goes to the Poppy appeal 2012.

Hand Knitted Poppy - Poppy Appeal 2012
Hand Knitted Poppy - Poppy Appeal 2012


Laura of Tiny Stitches and her team are knitting poppy brooches in support of the Royal British Legion and the work that they do for the armed forces. Laura is aiming to make as many Poppies as possible so is also looking for knitters who can help her too.

Tiny Stitches Poppy Appeal 2012
Tiny Stitches Poppy Appeal 2012


If you haven’t got your Poppy yet they can be purchased from her Etsy shop and please help spread the word if you can. Her poppies really are lovely; they are handmade and help such a great cause.

Mick

Friday, 5 October 2012

How to preserve wedding flowers

A couple of weeks ago I took delivery of a huge box of pressed flowers that the lady had pressed following her recent wedding. The box included flowers from her wedding bouquet as well as a sample of her lace wedding dress material. She wanted both the flowers and wedding dress material preserved within necklaces for her and her bridesmaids as keepsakes of their special day.

Over the next couple of days I began to sort through the flowers and prepared various designs for her pendants. I had so much choice because of the beautiful selection of flowers that my design document grew at such a rate and I produced a 14 page design document, all annotated with the different possibilities. There was so much choice!

Wedding flower jewellery design
Wedding flower jewellery design


We settled on a couple of designs however first I needed to check the feasibility of embedding the fabric within the resin. I have made several pendants in the past incorporating wedding dress material but nothing as delicate as this lace material. So I made a test pendant incorporating the material and here it is.

Wedding dress lace pendant
Wedding dress lace pendant


The pendant was given as a freebie to the lady and we agreed that the fabric would look good as a backing to the flowers within the pendants. So over the next few I started to incorporate the wedding flowers within the pendants and here is an example.

Wedding flowers and dress pendant
Wedding flowers and dress pendant


And this pendant was given to one of the bridesmaids.

Wedding flower keepsake jewellery
Wedding flower keepsake jewellery


They were all given a little bit of Shpangle by incorporating some glitter dust; I do like my glitter dust and would add it to everything if I could!

Mick

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Confetti Gifts

This week has very much been a Confetti week! First of all I was asked several weeks ago to encase a particular colour and style of confetti within a pendant for a customer. I spent ages trawling the internet and found some sold by a company called ‘Confetti’ of all things; who also claim that they are ‘wedding experts’.

Now two weeks later and there is still no sign of my confetti that I ordered and then a couple of days ago I receive an email from ‘Confetti’ stating that they do not have my confetti in stock and wouldn’t have any for several weeks!! It is a good job I wasn't getting married!

Luckily I had a very understandable customer and I looked elsewhere, found a lovely online shop (who didn't claim to be ‘wedding experts’) and received my confetti the very next day!

This leads me to a lovely custom made gift that I was asked to make recently. A lady had collected some real flower petal confetti that had been thrown at her Sister’s wedding; she wanted the confetti to be set within a paperweight as a gift for her Sister and here it is.

Confetti Paperweight - Real flower petals paperweight
Confetti Paperweight - Real flower petals paperweight


The photo doesn’t really do the paperweight justice (it is very difficult to photograph paperweights) and in real life the confetti petals do look like they are floating just as they would have done when originally thrown at the bride and groom.

If you would like to read more about confetti and its history and origins you might want to read my Confetti – Weddings, Parties or just for fun blog post that was made two and a half years ago...doesn’t time fly!

Mick

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Personalised Jewellery – Message Necklace

Probably my favourite piece of jewellery that I have made to date is still this ‘words of love necklace’. The necklace came about when one day I was seeking inspiration for my jewellery by looking through my local newspaper and got to almost the last page without success. I then arrived at the birthday announcements column and noticed how many times the word ‘love’ was used, so cut them out and made this...

Message Necklace - Words of Love
Message Necklace - Words of Love


I was contacted last week by a lady who wanted something similar making however she wanted the necklace personalised with the names of her children and husband. I suggested rather than having the names made using paper that I print the names onto a transparency sheet, cut them out and incorporate them instead; and here is the result with the names appearing to float around within the pendant...

Personalised Jewellery - Name Necklace
Personalised Jewellery - Name Necklace


This leads me onto my latest custom made paperweights; the family wanted a message and family logo to be incorporated within a paperweight to give to family and friends. I used a similar principle to the pendant and printed the messages onto a transparency sheet. The printed transparency sheet was then incorporated into the resin paperweight...

Personalised Paperweight
Personalised Paperweight


So there are my latest personalised message jewellery and paperweights. I think I am going to have some fun printing messages and incorporating them into pendants and other things!

Mick

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Horse Hair Jewellery

Traditionally horse hair jewellery has been associated with the braiding of horse hair into patterns, commonly made to form bracelets. Beading, ribbons or other embellishments are also incorporated with the hair to further personalise the item of jewellery. There is some speculation as to the history of this art form, some suggest that it dates back to 8th century Spain and there has also been evidence throughout history including Cowboys, Indians and even prison inmates during the mid-1800s used to pass the time braiding horse hair.

Braided Horse hair bracelet - Horse hair jewellery
Braided horse hair bracelet


Horse hair jewellery has great sentimental value to its owner and is often worn in remembrance to a horse that has sadly passed on. You can find some great examples of braided horse hair jewellery HERE.

In January 2010 I made my first piece of horse hair jewellery by incorporating the hair into a resin pendant for a friend. Since that first pendant I have made many items of jewellery containing horse and pony hair so that the owners can carry a piece of their treasured friend.

There have been the colourful...

Horse hair pendant / necklace
Horse hair pendant 


There have been the unusual...

Personalised horse hair necklace
Personalised horse hair necklace


...and everything from cufflinks, pendants, bracelets, key rings, brooches and stock pins containing horse’s hair.


Horse hair bracelet
Horse hair bracelet

The main advantage that this style of horse hair jewellery has over the traditional braided form of jewellery is that very little hair is required. I have in fact made pendants in the past containing literally one or two strands of hair that had been discovered on a grooming brush after a horse had unfortunately passed on.

Another advantage is that the horse hair is encased within resin and therefore is not exposed to the touch. Lots of beautiful effects can be created with the hair and other objects or colours included to further personalise the items of jewellery.

Horse hair necklace and forget me not flower
Horse hair necklace and forget me not flower


So there is my take on a traditional form of jewellery that has been given my Shpangle approach. Almost every order I receive for horse hair jewellery is different to the last and most new requests ask for something that little bit different. I originally used the glass vials below as pendants and charms for my name on rice jewellery, however recently a customer requested one to hold a small amount of her horses hair. Isn’t it also funny how things evolve from one craft to another?

Glass horse hair necklace
Glass horse hair necklace


If you would like to see previous commissions of horse hair jewellery that I have made for people please click HERE.

Mick

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Custom Made Paperweights

“Not more custom made paperweights” I hear you so. I am afraid so, not sure what to blog about this week so thought I would show off a few more paperweights that I have made recently. I love blogging about my jewellery but I get excited when I am asked to encase something different within a paperweight... and just want to share them with everyone!

The first paperweight contains several parrot feathers and this was made for a lady in America. The photograph really doesn’t do the paperweight justice since in real life the subtle colours and textures of the feathers are fantastic.

Custom Made Paperweight - Feather Paperweight
Parrot Feather Paperweight


This next paperweight is the first one I have made to contain a real flower. The flower was actually brought back to the UK from a funeral that was held in Cyprus and I am sure made a lovely keepsake.

Custom Made Paperweight - Real Flower Paperweight
Real Flower Paperweight


This next paperweight is a square option that I provide and in this case contains a lock of hair...

Custom Made Paperweight - Lock of Hair Paperweight
Lock of Hair Paperweight


The beauty about the square paperweight is that it can be stood upright on one of its edges to provide a display piece as illustrated in this example:

Hair Keepsake
Hair Keepsake


If you would like to read more about my paperweights, please visit my Custom Made Paperweights website page.

I appreciate I haven’t been blogging for a while but it should be back to normal next week since my children go back to school! It has been a little difficult juggling my jewellery business and entertaining them over the summer holidays but I have managed to survive!

Mick

Friday, 10 August 2012

My London 2012 Olympics Experience

It all started last Saturday when I had a visit from my brother who asked if I was interested in going to London the next day (Sunday 5th August 2012) to watch the Olympics. He had managed to get tickets that day including some extremely sought-after tickets for the stadium to watch the athletics!

How could I turn down a chance of a lifetime opportunity like that; we set off for London at 5.00am the next day and after parking and getting the tube, we arrived at the extremely impressive Excel centre in the docklands area.

London 2012 Olympics - Excel Arena
London 2012 Olympics - Excel Arena


The Excel building is huge and houses indoor Olympic events including Wrestling, boxing, fencing, weight lifting and our event Table Tennis (or ping-pong that we were calling it). We watched over four hours of quarter final team performances between China and Singapore (for which my Brother bought a Chinese flag that he was waving between points) and a very close game between Hong Kong and Japan.

London 2012 Olympics - Mens Table Tennis Teams
London 2012 Olympics - Mens Table Tennis Teams


The arena was packed and we were treated to some excellent games and jaw-dropping rallies from the players. When the ping-pong finished we made our way via the tube to the Olympic park. First impressions were how clean, tidy and well organised it was and after passing through the airport style security checks we began to look around.

London 2012 Olympics - Olympic Park
London 2012 Olympics - Olympic Park


We had all afternoon in the Olympic park until early evening when we needed to head for the Olympic stadium so had plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere and have a good look around. We soon began to appreciate the enormity of the place and did lots of walking and taking in the sights.

London 2012 Olympics - Around the Park
London 2012 Olympics - Around the Park


The Olympic stadium itself is the centre piece of the park and is enormous. It seats 80,000 people however seems a lot bigger and has a beautiful presence.

London 2012 Olympics - Olympic Stadium
London 2012 Olympics - Olympic Stadium


Close by to the stadium is the Orbit, love it or hate it, initially I found it quite odd but began to quite like it as the afternoon wore on.

London 2012 Olympics - The Orbit
London 2012 Olympics - The Orbit


The landscape of the Olympic park has been very well planned with and has a mature almost wild feel to it with lots of flowers and trees; it is hard to imagine that the park has only recently been built and feels like it has always been here.

London 2012 Olympics - Olympic Park Landscape
London 2012 Olympics - Olympic Park Landscape


They have even thought about the flooring with a mixture of traditional tarmac, wooden decked flooring and this beautiful multi-coloured floor used throughout the park.

London 2012 Olympics - Olympic Park Floor
London 2012 Olympics - Olympic Park Floor


We took a breather and escaped the endless meandering crowds and visited the Park Live area to watch the Big screen TV.

London 2012 Olympics - Park Live area
London 2012 Olympics - Park Live area


We then continued our walk around the Olympic park and witnessed the different architecture around the park. From the Athletes village that reminded me of Eastern Europe blocks of flats...

London 2012 Olympics - Athletes Village
London 2012 Olympics - Athletes Village


...To the beautiful wooden exterior of the Velodrome.

London 2012 Olympics - The Velodrome
London 2012 Olympics - The Velodrome


It was now time for our evening entertainment within the Olympic stadium. Armed with our Team GB Great Britain flags we entered the stadium and it was awesome! The stadium was much bigger than I expected and as always so well organised.

London 2012 Olympics - Inside the stadium
London 2012 Olympics - Inside the stadium


We had a great night’s entertainment including Gold medal ceremonies for Greg Rutherford (long jump) and Mo Farah (1000 meters), Christine Ohuruogu winning a silver medal (400m), 400 metres hurdles, women’s triple jump, men’s high jump, men’s 1500m, men’s hammer, men’s steeplechase and then the highlight of the night watching Usain Bolt win a gold medal in the 100m final...Wow what a day!

London 2012 Olympics - Athletics
London 2012 Olympics - Athletics


My fondest memory of the London 2012 Olympic games has to be of the ‘Games Makers’, an army of volunteers who provide help, directions and a very warm welcome to all the visitors to the Olympics. They always had smiles on their faces and went out of their way to help and many entertained the crowds whilst we queued to enter venues.

London 2012 Olympics - Olympic Park at Night
London 2012 Olympics - Olympic Park at Night


What a brilliant day and one I am unlikely to have again in my lifetime (it isn’t often the Olympics comes to Britain) and a day I will never forget.

Mick

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Seashell and coral paperweight

As promised in my last blog post I said I would show off another paperweight that I made last week, well here it is. This was a custom order for a paperweight and the customer sent me a selection of seashells and coral to encase within the resin paperweight.



This paperweight was a lot trickier to complete than it looks, mainly due to the possibility of having trapped air within the shells and coral escaping out into the resin as it cures. I had to pre-coat each shell and the piece of coral with layers of resin before encasing them within the paperweight. The other possible problem I had to contend with was the irregular shapes of the shells and preventing trapped bubbles underneath them as they are embedded. Thankfully the paperweight was perfect, it takes about a week to make the paperweight during which time I cannot see what is happening underneath, so the moment when it popped out of the mould was quite exciting!

These sea shells hold an important sentimental significance to the customer and what better way to present them as a gift. Many of us take a few shells home with us when we go away on holiday and if anybody else is like me, they just end up put away into a box. Having a paperweight is a lovely way to display the shells and a reminder of a happy holiday!

Mick

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Love heart sweet paperweight

My custom made paperweight making seems to have taken over from my jewellery making recently and I have had quite a few orders to complete. This paperweight was completed a few days ago just in time to be given as a wedding gift for a young man’s new wife. The wedding is due to take place today and I hope they had a lovely time and that they are lucky to have great weather!

When the couple got engaged two years ago the gentleman proposed using a Haribo sweet ring and a Love Heart sweet with the words ‘Be Mine’ on it. So to mark the occasion he asked me if I could incorporate a similar Haribo ring and Love Heart sweet into a paperweight and here it is...

Custom made paperweight with a love heart sweet and Haribo ring
Custom paperweight - love heart sweet and Haribo ring


I was very pleased how the paperweight turned out and I am sure the bride will love her very thoughtful gift from her husband. I have another custom made paperweight to show you next week and it is lovely so watch this space!

Mick

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Album cover artist Blim

Music has always been important to me and especially so whilst making my jewellery. I like to drift off with the ethereal sounds produced by my favourite band the Ozric Tentacles. Their music to me is very much about painting pictures with sound and has had a massive influence with quite a lot of my jewellery designs. To be honest I very rarely listen to anything else (probably with much annoyance to my wife when I always reach for the Ozric CDs when we are in the car!)

The artist know as Blim has been until fairly recently the album cover artist for the Ozic Tentacles. Her pictures have been displayed on many of their albums and have always been a lovely visual representation of their music. Unfortunately I have been doing quite a lot of research on the internet for references to Blim and her art but have found very little.

This is my favourite picture by Blim taken from the Ozric Tentacles ‘Erpland’ abum released in 1990.

Blim cover art - Ozric Tentacles - Erpland
Blim cover art - Ozric Tentacles - Erpland


And this is one of the latest album covers produced by Blim for their ‘The Floor’s Too Far Away’ album released in 2006.

Blim cover art - Ozric Tentacles - The Floor's Too Far Away
Blim cover art - Ozric Tentacles - The Floor's Too Far Away


And here I am chilling out at a festival wearing one of Blim’s T-shirt designs; I call it my spider-monkey T-shirt.

Blim T-Shirt design - Spider-Monkey
Blim T-Shirt design - Spider-Monkey


I am showing my age now but I think pictures like these are just another reason why all albums should be available as vinyl records. CDs are alright but do not give the art created by Blim and other artists justice; I would have these pictures all over the walls if my family let me!

If you have a favourite artist that you admire or even music that you like to listen to when you are at work please let me know!

Mick