Giveaway – tickets for the Farnham Festival of Crafts

Farnham Maltings Craft Festival Flyer 2010

I’m doing a show in a couple of weeks at the beautiful Farnham Maltings, in Surrey. Taking place on the 16th and 17th of October and featuring 75 leading designer makers it’ll be a gorgeous showcase for contemporary craft and the perfect opportunity for some early Christmas shopping.

I have a couple of pairs of tickets for the event (worth £6) to giveaway as a little incentive for you all to make the trip down to Surrey and see us all. Check out the impressive exhibitor list here and leave a comment below to enter (or email me with ‘Ticket Giveaway’ in the subject line) and I’ll draw it next week!

The Worcestershire Guild’s Autumn Show

I spent the weekend doing my first selling fair with the Worcestershire Guild of Designer Craftsman at the Malvern Autumn Show. I joined the Guild back in January but this was the first opportunity I had to get involved with what it’s really about. The Guild is designed to bring individual craftsmanship to public attention, through fairs and shows, and encourage us craftspeople to make a living doing what we love.

It’s a noble aim and, looking around at the variety and quality of work on show this weekend, I think that they might just be achieving it.

One of the things I find when I do events is that people are always surprised by the sheer quantity of talented craftspeople around … and so was I when I stumbled across the Guild. I had no idea that so many of them were hidden away, scattered around Worcestershire, where I’ve lived for most of life. It’s clear that I don’t get out of the Jewellery Quarter and explore enough!

Among the jewellers on show were Sian Elizabeth Hughes and Melanie Hamlet (who runs the inspirational contemporary jewellery business, Kokkino) both of whom will be exhibiting at Goldsmiths Fair next week.

Left: Sian Elizabeth Hughes - Right: Kokkino

But I was really taken in looking at the Crafts that I have very little experiene of. There’s a staggering wealth of these in the Guild:

Marie-Therese King is a batik artist who creates original artwork in a medium that I only ever managed to get burned with, when I attempted it way back in school. Her inspiration ranges all through the natural world and her images are dealt with using a bright, bold palette that’s confident, assured and quite beautiful. She puts stunning levels of detail into her work, this was on of my favourites:

Marie-Therese King, Seagulls

though I loved this series too:

Marie-Therese King, Aquilegia and Honesty

And, just across the hall from Marie-Therese, hung the work of Rowan McOnegal. A stained glass artist Rowan’s glass panels made me want to build a cruck framed house, Grand Designs style, so that I had a home to do justice to her work. Based around botany and with a real rural feel Rowan combines colours and somehow works a sensitive, textured feel into the flat surface of her glass:

Rowan McOnegal, Pink and amber Sunflower

She says that she feels that “this medium perfectly combines her love of image making using drawing, painting, colour and changing light” and that’s shown off perfectly here:

Rowan McOnegal, Willowherb Portrait

Needless to say I’m now looking forward to the next Guild show, Innov8:

to be held on the 26th – 28th of November at  Number 8 in Pershore where another selection of Guild members, hopefully including me, will be on show.

Malvern Autumn Show 2010 – set up

I spent the day on the road today, going down to Malvern to set up for a weekend show. Malvern is a gorgeous little historical town but the driving wind and gloomy skies kept me from appreciating the view too much. Plus, I had to keep my eye on the SatNav to find the venue. When I got there I realised that it’s actually pretty hard to miss the Three Counties Showground. I’ve never been there before,  it seems to be mainly used for agricultural shows … and it’s huge. No really. I sort of expected some marquees in a field but this is what I was greeted with:

Yep. Huge. And that’s one hall. The event, The Malvern Autumn Show, is looking forward to welcoming 60,000 people across two days and includes everything from gardening to quality local craftware. It’s an epic selction and I’m not sure you could honestly see it all in two days but, if you do venture out to see it, drop by the Worcestershire Guild‘s stand and say hello to me!

Follow Friday : The Night Sky

I woke up yesterday morning at 4.30am.

There was no particular reason for this, I guess that sometimes your brain can just decide ‘yep, you’ve had enough sleep now’ and wakefullness is forced upon you. It’s all terribly unfair.
But, as I lay in bed, slightly frustrated that I’d beaten the alarm by 3 hours, I noticed the stars.

I used to stare at the night sky a lot as a child. It seems that I’ve just been too busy lately. Isn’t that sad?

Right now I can’t recall what was so important that I couldn’t just take a minute to see something as big and beautiful as the sky.

So this collection is all about the stars in the hope that you’ll find a minute or two just to stare for a while …

Top Left: Constellation Earrings by Lolariera

Top Right: Constellation Earrings by Grace Handmade Jewelry

Lower Left: Leo Contellation Necklace by MiniCyn

Lower Right: Cassiopeia’s Crown by COGnitivecreations

The demise of the pickle

It’s not been a good couple of weeks for machines in my studio. Firstly Vera got sick and now, now my piclke has died. Well, I say died- I really mean ‘is just no longer usable’.

I should explain exactly what my pickle is -lest you think that I’m just a particularly sentimental and strange vegetarian. Don’t get me wrong, I like to garden and have been known to grow the odd thing but this pickle is distinctly jewellery related.

It’s a standard household slow cooker that I fill with a weak acid-like solution. At the proper temprature it eats away the layer of oxidisation that forms on metal when it’s heated. This cleans up the surface of most precious metals and is an essenial step in the making of any piece of jewellery. It’s heated simply because that makes the chemical reaction go faster and I am impatient. Most makers will have some kind of device that serves the same purpose as my pickle tank – be it an acid bath or a vinegar solution.

A few weeks ago, upon plugging it in, my pickle tank threw the household trip switch. I wasn’t overly worried because I live in an area prone to power cuts and electrical over-sensitivity and, well, it didn’t look broken or anything.

I probably should have taken it more seriously given that I have no idea how old the thing is -I had it second hand from a former housemate and, well, take a look:

It’s not exactly a modern design right? When was avacado coloured plastic in anyway?

Last night when I plugged it in it threw the trip switch 3 times in as many minutes. I thought that maybe, just maybe, it was time to stop plugging it in for good. A little research confirmed my opinion and this morning our dustmen took the pickle away.

It was all a little sad, because it was a part of my first independant studio, but  it does mean that I won’t get fried while I’m working (and this may seem shallow) that I got to go shopping.

And behold:

New, beautiful, fully functional and electrically safe pickling equiptment! I am quite happy and relieved, as there’s a show coming up in Malvern in a couple of weeks and I’ve totally run out of a few things. Time to get making.

Wirksworth Festival 2010

Wirksworth, in Derbyshire, is a strange little town. On one hand it’s very much a traditional 18th-19th century village with a slightly touristy feel and some rather wonderful views.

And then, every September, the creative energy of the place expresses itself beautifully in the form of the Wirksworth Festival. Suddenly, overnight, this seeming sleepy town is filled with a truly inspiring buzz of energy:

(Now, I realise that there’s no one buzzing with energy in this particular photo but I did take it at 7 am when I was up to get my stand ready. Once 10am rolled round and the studios opened there were plently of people out and about!)

So, for a whole weekend local artists throw open the doors of their houses, cottages, studios and garages to let the public wander ‘round, getting a first hand look at the creative process. This year there were a good sixty or so venues to explore – almost too much for one weekend – alongside performance events, community projects and 2 actors telling stories while driving you around in a rickshaw. (No, really, they stayed in the same B&B as me so I knew they were real …)

I got to participate by setting up a stand at one of two Maker’s Markets, filled to the brim with local and regional contemporary craft. You’ll be pleased to know that I made good use of my bunting:

and had some great comments about how summery my stand looked.

Of course I wasn’t the only jeweller there, Lucy Palmer had brought her gorgeous mythical pieces back to the festival, Laura Creer had beautifully textured work on show and I met the lovely Helen Shere too. Helens work has a wonderfully quirky and illustrative feel:

Helen Shere - Birds in the Garden Rings

She says that:

I am particularly interested in the use of pattern and naïve folklore in illustration and seek to combine these ideas in my jewellery.

Her ranges are inspired by birds, nature and pattern, it was all so tempting but in the end I came away with one of these:

Helen Shere - Silver Birds Pendant

plus a little mushroom patterned dipping bowl (from ceramicist Mary Johnson) which will make a super present for my mum – who’s an olive fiend:

Mary Johnson - Small Mushroom Bowls

The only really sad thing about it was that I didn’t get to go and explore the towns trails myself, but with events all through September the festival is still going strong and I might get the chance to go back and look at some of the more permanent installations …

10% off at the Wirksworth Festival this weekend!

I’m taking my work on the road this weekend to the lovely Wirksworth Festival in Derbyshire. I’ll be in the Town Hall as part of the Maker’s Market, a fair of contemporary craft with everything from jewellery to ceramics via handbags and cards. It’s a super event and to celebrate I’m giving you all the chance to get 10%* off  a jewellery purchase from my stand!

Just print yourself out a voucher from above and come shopping! Have a look at the full Festival programme on the Festival website here, with craft, Open Studios, music, street theatre and comedy it’s a really fun weekend out and a great opportunity to visit other makers studios.

Don’t forget to print your voucher and come by my stand to say hi!

*Please Note:
Vouchers are only valid on purchases from Becca Williams at Wirksworth Festival 2010
Vouchers are not valid online and do not apply to any other sellers at the event.

Vera and the Black Scum : Adventures in barrel polishing

Now I must apologise in advance but I fear that this is going to become a rather technical post. You see, while I did spend a good three years at university being taught to be a silversmith I did very little in the way of machine maintenance while I was there. So, when my barrel polisher went arwy on Monday I didn’t have a clue what to do.

Firstly, let me introduce Vera to you all – she’s my barrel polisher. Technically (for anyone who wants to be picky) she’s a stone tumbler, for finishing gem stones, but in principle jewellery barrel polishers and stone tumblers are both just high speed tombola‘s – so it’s okay. Why did I buy a stone tumbler and not a barrel polisher? Because they’re a fraction of the cost of a proper barrel polisher and I’m a poor artisan. (Though in truth Vera was a Christmas gift from the lovely Mr W.)

Anyway, here she is:

She works by rotating a mixture of finished jewellery, steel shot (of many shapes) and polishing soap to give the jewellery a lovely, shiny finish that gets to the magpie in us all. Only, on Monday, this happened:

Hmm. My silver came out speckled with black and grey scum. I had no idea what caused it but it was decidedly ick. So I scrubbed it off with pumice, cleaned Vera out and tried again. Same result. Another clean of the jewellery later and there was no improvement. I did what anyone would do in my situation. I Googled it.

Underneath a lot of confusing internet madness about motorcycle parts and industrial manufacturing I found a handy article which seemed to describe my problem. 6 months of soap build up had left poor Vera all full of alkalines which were tarnishing the silver as they polished it, effectively oxidising it on the move. Even I knew that this was not good. And the solution? Vinegar.

Oh yes, pure and simple household cleaning vinegar has such an acidy pH that it neutralises alkaline build up and lets you start all over again with a happy, clean polisher. Unfortunately a small part of my studio now smells like a chip shop but it did solve my problem. Vera barrelled away for 20 minutes, full of vinegar, then I rinsed her, filled her with soap and ran her again. After that I braved putting in a test piece of jewellery and, ta-da! It came out shiny and beautiful.

Everything else was then barrelled and left sparkling ready for the show in Wirksworth. Vera is now anticipating a happy and restful weekend with me out of the county and hopes that another vinegar bath won’t be coming her way any time soon.

Making Bunting … Part Two

Bunting is addictive. I had been warned (by Jenny at Junky Chicken) but clearly I didn’t listen and now I have five meters worth of the stuff! It’s going to make my stand look lovely next weekend, plus, it was lots of fun to make:

and I even had enough fabric, time and creativity left to do a little machine embroidery and make some envelopes for my letters too:

Follow Friday: Lets go Fly A Kite!

Mr Williams flying the kite

In a suprising spell of August sunshine last week Mr Williams and I dusted off our kite and took it out to the Lickey Hills to play. I always forget how much fun it is to fly the kite and regret that I didn;t get it out of it’s bag a little sooner. It’s peaceful to be standing on the ground, hanging on to such a little scrap of material that looks so free up there in the big wide blue. And you really did have to hang on that day – it was astonishingly windy!

So this weeks Follow Friday (and my first)  features kites, in all their many shapes and forms as bringers of simple joy:

Top Left: Hello, Girl with Kite from Happy Day Studio

Top Right: Kite Pillow Cover from Sukan

Lower Left: Anyone Can Fly … a Kite from Birdland Creations

Lower Right: Parent with Child by Longarms