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London's Lost Jewels

You know that huge sigh of repletion you exhale after a delicious filling meal? The sentiment and sensation are what I experienced after exiting the Museum of London's latest visual feast, "The Cheapside Hoard; London's Lost Jewels".

The exhibition is absolutely wonderful. Excellent commentary, good contextual information and delightful display of objects such as genuine maps and portraits from the era, elaborately locked strongboxes and lavish jewellery boxes, priceless brass globes, etc. Of the actual wooden sculptural signs the shops used my pick was the 4-foot beautifully carved wooden fish for 'the Shop at the Sign of the Pike’.

Something I particularly loved was the full reconstruction of a C.16th/17th jeweller's workshop. It's a little daunting and amusing at the same time to see just how many of the tools displayed are identical to those I use on my own workbench at home four hundred years later - over 75% I'd say. And my modern electrical equipment of a pendant drill, enamelling kiln, light with a magnifying glass in the centre and modern gas soldering torch all have medieval counterparts - the only difference being they are more manual. A Tudor or Jacobean jewellery could walk into my workspace and feel right at home. All I have missing is the wire draw-bench. Which is a b*#*h of a job that was best left to apprentices, of which I understandably have none, so thank goodness for CooksonGold.com.

What can I say about the treasure itself, other than it is overwhelmingly beautiful?

There is something to savour and learn about each piece, from the fleeting beauty of the easily damaged enamelled chains - the 'fashion jewellery' of the time - to the majesty of the carved emerald clock, a piece unique for both it's place and time.

Highlights for me were the intaglio and cameo gems, the exquisite little fan holders and the ship and lizard brooches.

My favorite pieces however have always been, and still are, the 'bunch of grapes' earrings carved from amethysts and emeralds, and embellished on a couple with white enamel vines and grape leaves. There is just something so delightful about them that has always appealed to me.

Finally; Yay for Friends membership! 20% discount at the shop where I bought the exhibition book and 23 postcards of it. No, I'm not sending them to any of you. They're mine, all mine...

Excellent exhibition book by Hazel Forsyth, curator for the show.

Not Sew Much

I just visited the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show (London's big sewing crafts bash) and only spent £6.90. On two packs of diamanté brads for card-making (SHINY!) and Clover's Extra Small Pom Pom Makers.

I usually spend about £100+ at this show.

I'm unsure whether to be proud of my frugality, or depressed by my disinterest.

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Put Coloured Glass on Metal & Add Flame

2013 is my ‘Year of Learning Stuff’, I have decided.

January was a Soldering Masterclass with Elizabeth Bone, and February has been an 'Enamelling for Beginners' course with Silvia Weidenbach.

My dad taught me how to torch solder enamel when I was about eleven or twelve, and I've loved the technique ever since. I still have some of his enamels from the 60's (now probably very decomposed, but still useful as counter-enamel). I'd done a course on enamelling PMC also, but the whole 'creating cloisonné cells and firing a multitude of colours in a kiln' was new and exciting for me.

The first lesson we shaped and cleaned copper sheet, then learnt to counter-enamel the back so the metal wouldn't warp when the front was enamelled. Our first piece was a colour test. Mine was alternating opaque and transparent stripes with their complementary colours on top. Pretty darn ugly (see photo for proof!), but it showed me I much preferred the opaques over copper. Also the haphazardly-spreading dots irritated my control-freak tendencies.

Lesson Two we made cloisonné cells - copper wire shaped, flattened, and then stuck to the metal with a base layer of clear ‘flux’ enamel. My intended designs fell by the wayside, as I was really struck by a hand-out photo of Coral Barnhart's brooch 'San Juans', that portrayed that landscape's distinctive silhouette. So I ran with the idea, creating cells depicting the outline of Rangitoto Island (instantly recognisable to any Aucklander). We learnt to mix the enamel powders with organic liquid glue, and paint/pack them into the cells. By the end of the lesson, layer one was completed and I had something that showed signs of greatness (or reasonable attractiveness, at any rate).

The last lesson I finished off my Rangitoto Island piece; firstly with packing on and firing another colour layer, then sanding down the enamel to level with the cloisonné wire.
So. Much. Sanding.
As I said to a friend - it doesn’t matter what jewellery technique you do, there is always lots and lots and lots of sanding!

Finally it was finished and I think it turned out really nicely. There are a few faults but I discussed them with Silvia and have a good idea why they happened, so can watch for that in the future. The piece has a satin finish that isn't completed but a little more sanding will do that, or a lot more will give a glossy finish. Maybe sometime I have a few hours to spare (hahaha).

I also tried out a couple of pre-enamelled blanks I bought some years back. The background was too high after firing to get fiddly (I should have used thick wire, not thin), so I covered them in bright beautiful Post Office Red and left the black background to show through the cloisonné cells. Of course, when I actually sanded it down the main body black showed through in bits, but it looks pretty cool on one of the discs.

This was definitely one of the jewellery courses I’ve enjoyed most over the years; Silvia was a thorough and delightful teacher; the other attendees were friendly and interesting and I really enjoyed our lunches together; I learnt a lot (and just as importantly, comprehended what I learnt) and feel quite capable of continuing on from where the lessons left off (especially as I have a kiln at home); and lastly, I am really pleased with what I made. Definite kudos and recommendations for this course. Sylvia also runs the Transparent Enamels on Silver course that I am raring to do, but I'm off to New York for Real Live Nieces Entertainment halfway through it. Maybe next term.

Enamelling for Beginners, City Lit,Centre for Adult Learning. Course usually run every term.

LJE Enamels
Piece 1:
Post Office Red, Cherry Red (T), Purple, Amethyst (T), Cobalt Blue, Sapphire Blue (T), Dots Tangerine, Sunflower & Apple Green.
Piece 2: Sunflower Yellow, Lavender Blue, Fir Green & Etruscan Blue.
Piece 3 & 4: Black, Post Office Red.

The beginning of my Tea Plantation

OK, maybe not, as 1) tea is difficult to germinate and I have a Black Thumb, and 2) on the off chance something sprouts it will have to live indoors as England is definitely not tea country (although there is a tea growing estate in Cornwall).

The seeds were soaked for 24 hours, then scratched with a knife. Next they were planted in compost with the 'eyes' upward and left to hopefully germinate sometime in the next 3 - 5 months in my nice warm bedroom.

The lovely Kitsune with tea painting is by Louis Masai Michel.

What I made yesterday...

Soldered bits and bobs:

From attending a Soldering Masterclass at the London Jewellery School.

Soldering has always been a bugbear for me (yes, despite how much I like setting things on fire!), but the class really helped. The tutor, Elisabeth Bone, was very thorough, clear and engaging (she also has a very good book, Silversmithing for Jewellery Makers, which I looked at during class then dashed out and bought online), and I was impressed with the facilities and equipment.

Although it isn't apparent, there are actually 5 different soldering techniques used on these pieces. They're samples, so have no planned use and are unfinished. The top one is a watertight box.

The school does several other classes I'm interested in, such as Wax Carving for casting, so they'll be seeing more of me in the future.

Yesterday I made a....

Soap Dish!

Simple, easy, cheap and ecologically sound.

Take one Luffa aegyptiaca (£1 from the Pound Store), a hack saw, and a couple of minutes later you have a 1" slice of sponge that will absorb any soap drips, can be used as a basin scrubber, and when it finally gets too tatty to be displayed, can be tossed in with the compost. Perfect.

(It also saves me the dozen plus bob all the lovely soap dishes I was drooling over on Etsy were priced at)

The soap is a Sandalwood, Lavender and Clary Sage Castile produced when I was teaching bend_gules how to make cold process soap. I have come to the conclusion it's definitely more fun to make soap with other people.

And the winner is...


Silver went to China.
Bronze went to Japan.

bend_gules and I nipped out before the medal ceremony and are now eating dinner at Ali Baba Egyptian Bistro. Yum.

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Just about to watch Women's Archery Team Final. Wet, cold and hungry - and having a great time.

Finals =
Japan and Russia compete for the bronze
Korea and China for gold and silver

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Olympics 2012 - 7 days to go

The Good:
I have a ticket to see the Women's Team Archery medal event on Sunday 29th!

Yes, thanks to the wonderful bend_gules, I am actually getting to see an event for one of the (actually very few) sports I am interested in. I thought it would be a bit (read: a lot) lame to live in the city hosting the Olympics and not go, especially as this is probably a 'one time in my life' chance. Fruitless multiple attempts later I had pretty-much thrown in the towel, so I am very happy about this.

Sadly there are neither a New Zealand, Australian nor Canadian team present, so I am going to wave a little Union Jack on the day. The British team are good though not top of the ranking, so it will be interesting to see if the home ground advantage propels them to medal heights.

Now, whether or not to dress up as Robin Hood?

The Bad:
Already there is crappy service and delays on the trains and the Tube, and a surge in commuter numbers. I am not looking forward to travel during that time.

The Indifferent:
Most of London. Yeah, sorry but the Olympics aren't exactly stirring the hearts and minds of most people here. It can be a fine line between British stoicism and British apathy, but I'm pretty sure I know which this event falls under. Everyone got a lot more excited about the Queen's Jubilee Celebrations (and the extra public holiday that entailed).

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Numb of hearing

Just been to emergency dentist and had two lower back fillings redone. Ouch! when the drugs wear off.

She stuck the anaesthetic so far back my entire right ear is numb...

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