Search This Blog

Friday 31 December 2010

Thank you 2010 and Welcome to 2011

Just a few more hours left of 2010 so I thought I would post one last blog post for the year to wish everyone a happy New Year and hope 2011 is going to be a great year for all.

The year 2010 has been a great year for Shpangle. I started the year with a new year’s resolution to concentrate on my online business and not to do any craft fairs throughout the year. This has certainly been extremely positive; the custom jewellery side of my business has certainly taken off and it has also meant that I am able to spend more time with my family rather than to have weekends planning or attending craft fairs.

Year 2010 jewellery
Name on Rice Pendant - 2010

The Shpangle New Year’s resolution for 2011 will be to take myself more seriously; I have many ideas for new ranges of jewellery and other handmade goodies that I have promised to make all year. I don’t know where the time has gone because all these ideas are still tucked away in my mind. I think the only new designs for 2010 were my name on rice jewellery items, so for 2011 I am going to channel a lot of my energy into new releases.

I know this next year is going to be a great year for handmade crafts and I look forward to sharing all of our makes with each other in the coming year. Happy New Year to all! Mick

Sunday 19 December 2010

Custom Jewellery and Wedding Keepsakes for Christmas

I thought I would squeeze one last blog post out before the Christmas festivities start and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and happy New Year! I have been having a very busy time here at Shpangle with lots of custom jewellery orders keeping me out of trouble. I am certainly looking forward to having a rest over the Christmas period, locking my jewellery making bits and pieces away and coming back refreshed with lots of new designs in 2011.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all the custom jewellery makes leading up to Christmas but there are a couple of items that I particularly enjoyed, so I thought I would show them off.

The first custom jewellery order I want to show off is from a lady who lives in Canada. She first contacted me last July prior to her sister’s wedding and wanted me to set some of their wedding keepsakes into jewellery. I received a package containing items from her sister’s wedding a couple of weeks ago. In the package were a few small flowers from the wedding and small pieces of her sister’s wedding dress.
wedding flowers keepsake
Pendants for Wedding Flowers

She wanted a pendant making for her sister using the wedding flowers and inspired by my previous blog post about wedding dress cufflinks, wanted a pair of cufflinks for her brother-in-law containing pieces from her sister’s wedding dress.

Wedding Dress Cufflinks
Wedding Dress Cufflinks

The second custom jewellery I want to show off is from a repeat customer of mine. It is always nice to have a returning customer and in this case the lady was also kind enough to send me a lovely Christmas card! For her fist order I made a small silver charm for her charm bracelet containing some of her dog’s fur and last week she asked me to make two more charms. The first charm contained some more of her dog’s fur and the second charm contained some of her wedding dress material with some small crystals also taken from her wedding dress.
wedding dress keepsake
Wedding dress keepsake charm

I wish everyone a very happy Christmas and look forward to seeing all your lovely makes in 2011. I think 2011 is going to be a great year for handmade crafts and I look forward to being part of it.

Have a good one!


Wednesday 8 December 2010

Keepsake Jewellery for my Wife

You may remember a recent blog post where I had made a name on rice necklace for our daughters’ birthday – Personalised Birthday Presents. Well, it was my wife’s birthday a few weeks ago and one of her birthday presents from me was, guess what, yes a name on rice necklace!

Personalised Birthday Jewellery
Name on rice pendant

The keepsake necklace contained four grains of rice each one with our names on; my wife, me and the two children. I set the grains of rice within a glass vial that had a glass daisy fused onto the outside of the vial, I also coloured the preservative oil within the vial a tint of pink.

My apologies for the quality of the photograph but my wife has worn her name on rice necklace every day since her birthday and I haven’t had chance to photograph it properly yet. She even managed to get an order for four pendants the first day she wore it from her friend at work!

Making name on rice pendants is proving quite useful when it comes to family birthday presents and gifts. It was my wife’s uncle and aunts Ruby wedding anniversary recently and we thought it would be nice to give them something handmade and personal as a gift, as well as being a keepsake to their Ruby Wedding
Ruby Wedding Jewellery
Ruby Wedding Jewellery

 I made a key-chain for her uncle and a necklace for her aunt, each with two grains of rice, both with their names on. I also included a tiny Ruby Swarovski crystal bead to make it even more personal to the occasion.


Friday 3 December 2010

Buying local – buying from the high street

It is very busy in the land of Shpangle at the moment with the Christmas rush that, to save my sanity, I am now turning away any more pre-Christmas orders. So when I awoke at 3 o’clock this morning with my mind buzzing with jewellery related buzzes, I just needed to write about something totally un-related to jewellery making.

Although I am always preaching about buying handmade and buying local, I must admit that we as a family have always bought our weekly shopping from a supermarket (which kind of goes against all my principles). I suppose it is the ease of parking and then having everything under one roof, and it has become quite a routine, knowing where everything is and then being confused once in a while when they decide to change the shop layout.

Supermarket Trolleys
The Supermarket experience - Trolleys

But over the years, I have become more and more despondent over the tricks these big supermarkets play on us, what with their pricing wars, buy one, get ten free offers, the way they are squeezing our farmers and the general lack of quality food. So four weeks ago we decided to boycott supermarkets altogether and get all of our weekly shopping from the local high-street shops.

And it has been fantastic and I will never go back to buying from a supermarket. OK, it has been taking us longer to complete our shopping (but that is getting easier and quicker every week) we also make it more of an event, having a stop off at the local cafe for a bite to eat. The quality of food is far better and fresh fruit and vegetables seem to be lasting longer. We have also been eating a lot healthier; where before we may have bought a ‘ready-made’ pie, we are now baking our own and actually filling them with proper meat.
Local Market
Buying Local - The Market

Best of all, we are supporting the local high-street shops, many of which are sadly suffering from the un-caring, un-sharing hands of those money hungry supermarket giants. I would highly recommend giving it a try to anyone like us who regularly shops at supermarkets...

OK, back to the jewellery making, I hope everyone is well and looking forward to the Christmas break!


Wednesday 24 November 2010

My rice writing is in a movie

Well almost! A few weeks ago I was contacted by a film producer who was in the middle of making a series of short tutorial films about camera lenses that will eventually appear online on the Canon website.

One of the lenses was to be a macro lens and they were thinking it would be very nice to finish the tutorial film with the words 'The End' written on a grain of rice.

He had seen my name on rice jewellery and wondered if I could produce one and get it to them for their filming. I was given a day to do the rice writing and sent the grain of rice by over-night delivery to their film studios.

At the end of the movie the presenter sneezes and blows my hard work off the table! Sadly the tutorial is no longer on the Canon website, however I have preserved some screen shots of it below,

Here is the grain of rice being prepared by the presenter. He is lifting the rice out of a box (that I sent it in) and placing it onto a red silk pillow with tweezers.
Rice Writing
Canon Macro Tutorial with my Grain of Rice

And here is the rice after being brought into focus with the macro lens. It’s amazing how poor handwriting looks when it is magnified like that! But having said that, the writing is on a grain of rice as well...
Name on Rice
My Rice writing is in a Movie

If you would like to see more of my rice writing, take a look at my name on rice page.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Gothic Steampunk Rings – Recycled Watch and Clock Parts

This type of jewellery has been categorised many ways, whether you want to call it Steampunk jewellery, gothic, recycled, up-cycled, altered art or any of the many other labels that it has been given. I have always wanted to create something out of old watch and clock parts and when I came across these antique pewter Patera ring blanks I had the urge to make some Steampunk Rings (or whatever you want to call it).

For those who haven’t come across Steampunk fashion (and I have only recently discovered it), Steampunk fashion and jewellery tends to be modern styles influenced by the Victorian era. It is very popular with Goths, punks and industrial music fans and often incorporates old watch and clock parts into the jewellery. Steampunk jewellery is probably like Marmite, you either love it or you don’t. I am quite fond of Steampunk jewellery, but not so keen on Marmite...

Steampunk Ring
Steampunk Ring from Recycled Watch Parts

The Patera ring blanks are really nice and chunky and the worn, antique feel to them really do lend themselves to this type of jewellery. All of the old watch parts that I used were all responsibly sourced i.e. no watch was harmed and the parts could not really be re-used as spares. I came across many old watch and clock parts on my travels that had been ripped out of perfectly good and working old watches and clocks. Many of the watches and clocks had been broken up for their gold content on the casing which is shocking because many of them were handmade, very old and have been broken just for the gold.

Steampunk Ring - Gothic Ring
Steampunk Ring - Gothic Ring

I set the watch parts into the ring blank with resin and included a small Ruby glass cabochon to give them a little bit of colour. The Ruby glass also resembles a mechanical watch jewel so I think it works well with the other watch parts. The rings are fully adjustable and are completely one-of-a-kind. Although I have intentions to make more Steampunk jewellery in the future I will never make some like this again!

Since making these Steampunk rings, I have managed to get my hands on some gorgeous old, handmade watch parts and some Victorian looking bezels, so expect some more Steampunk jewellery from me in the near future!

Friday 5 November 2010

Horsehair Jewellery with Cross Country Colours

I am really busy with the Christmas rush at the moment and have bags and bags of various samples of hair waiting to be made into jewellery. Many of them are from horses and people but a few are from dogs and even a couple of cats. I think forensics would have a field day if they examined my work area with the DNA that is likely to be about!

I wanted to show off a horsehair jewellery order that I completed last week, mainly because it brought back memories of my very first piece of jewellery that I made. The customer wanted some little blue and red stars also incorporating into the horse hair necklace. The horses show name is ‘little star’ and her cross country (XC) colours are red and blue stars so it seemed appropriate to incorporate the blue and red stars into the pendant.

Horsehair Jewellery
Horsehair Jewellery with Cross Country Colours

 And here they are, I incorporated a few tiny blue and red confetti stars into the pendants and made two designs one with the horse hair criss-crossed within the pendant and the other pendant with a straight gathering of the horse hair.

Making these brought back memories of my very first resin pendant that I made, where I incorporated multi coloured confetti stars within a resin heart shaped pendant. This is still one of my favourites to this date and it was great to incorporate this design into the horsehair jewellery.

Confetti Stars Pendant
Confetti Stars Pendant

 Please visit my website page if you would like to see more Horsehair Jewellery designs.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Haribo Jelly Sweet Engagement Ring Keepsake

I have had several custom jewellery requests recently that have involved preserving customers wedding keepsakes within resin jewellery. There have been the preserved wedding flowers that I set within pendants for a 1st wedding anniversary gift, a brides wedding dress cufflinks for her fiancé to wear on their wedding day.

But last week I had a very unusual request to preserve a Haribo jelly sweet engagement ring in resin. The lady said that the Haribo sweet ring (sometimes called friendship rings) was used by her fiancĂ© to propose when they got engaged and obviously because it was very special to her she wanted it preserved as a keepsake. She didn’t want the jelly sweet ring making into jewellery but just wanted it so she could keep it and have it on display.
Haribo Jelly Sweet Engagement Ring
Preserved Haribo Jelly Sweet Engagement Ring

Initially she wanted it embedding into a block of resin, however I suggested it might be best to coat the ring with resin and therefore not only preserve the integrity of the ring but also keep it looking the same. She then informed me that she had initially been looking for someone who could do just that (i.e. coat it in resin), had trawled the net but was unable to find anyone that could do that for her.

The Haribo jelly sweet ring was obviously given the respect that is deserved, being such an important memento of the couple’s engagement. Firstly it was posted to my house by special delivery. I then gave it a coat of Acrylic spray to prevent any oils or colours from leeching out from the sweet over time. When this had dried I gave the Haribo sweet several coats of coating resin over a period of a week. The sweet was then finished with a good polishing of Carnauba wax and I then mounted the Haribo jelly sweet ring within a very nice clear lidded display box.

So there you have it, one Haribo jelly sweet ring preserved as a keepsake to their special day. If you get time please take a look at my wedding keepsakes website page.

Saturday 23 October 2010

Another Interview with Shpangle Jewellery

You may remember a little while ago that I was interviewed by Abi of Angel Eden. This was my 1st and only interview to date, however a couple of weeks ago I was approached by Karen who is currently studying for an FdA in Applied Arts at Cleveland College of Art and Design. For one of her assignments this semester she needs to carry out a small presentation related to a designer maker of her choice.

Karen explained that the brief was quite open for this; there were no set criteria for choosing the designer maker, and so it was a bit of an issue as to where to start! She had a spare ten minutes immediately after the session when given the brief, and so she spent those minutes on the Crafts Council directory, simply opening up random websites, and mine immediately caught her eye!

Karen had a few additional questions that couldn’t be answered from my website and blog, and here they are, complete with my answers which I thought I would share with you.

“In the article, you give some advice to new crafters about finding your niche, and making something unique. I've never seen anything such as your work before, but you must be constantly checking out the competition. Is there any major competition out there for you?”

The arts and crafts market has grown enormously over the last few years. With craft tutorials and supplies etc being so readily available online and online selling sites such as Etsy and Folksy making it so easy to setup an online shop, so many people have turned to trying to make money from the arts and crafts.

As a jewellery designer/maker it would be easy to follow the latest trends and styles. Whether it is beaded jewellery, the use of metal clay, steampunk etc but you will soon find that you will be competing for space with thousands of others, all doing the same thing.

So, the major competition out there is anybody who wants to make money out of selling jewellery, and there are thousands and thousands of them. Unfortunately not all of these ‘crafters’ and artists are perhaps as creative as they should be. I hate to say it, but there are elements of copying amongst crafters, and there is very little protection from this.

When trying to promote your work online you need to show off your designs a wide and varied audience as possible. Unfortunately this means that any new designs you announce are open to be copied. This has regularly happened to me and I know happens to other creative people. I have even had in the past sales enquiries from potential customers whom I have since traced as being fellow crafters trying to find out information; it can sometimes be a cruel world in the world of arts and crafts.

Words of Love Keepsake Jewellery
Words of Love Keepsake Jewellery

It has got to a point now where I will be moving away from the use of resin in my jewellery, and I will be adopting other techniques, some of these I might announce to the world, and some I will just keep to myself, and my family. I hope that I don’t come across too bitter, but the satisfaction of knowing that I have made something unique means a lot to me. I suppose it is weighing up the pros and cons of sharing it with the world.

“When reading the "about me" page on the website, the comment about how "if it doesn't move it goes into my jewellery" really stood out to me. There are so many people now who like to recycle or reuse objects, or use ‘reclaimed’ materials in the arts, but I haven't come across anyone else who produces pieces such as these. Can I ask where the original idea came from? What was it that first made you think of encasing something in resin?”

I see beauty in natural and everyday objects. So for the example the natural beauty of a daisy flower, you just can’t replicate that, you can try but to reproduce the subtle colours and details would be near to impossible.

Real Flower Jewellery - Daisy Pendant
Real Flower Jewellery - Daisy Pendant

I didn’t see the point of trying to copy what nature gives us and I wanted a way of preserving this natural beauty. So my first experience of the use of resin was when I was looking for a material that I could use to encapsulate everyday objects.

I like the idea of making jewellery from objects that aren’t using up the earth’s resources. Traditionally jewellery has been made using gemstones and precious metals, but I wanted to make items of beauty from things that are around us (without harming the earth too much).

My favourite item of jewellery that I have made consists of strips of newspaper with the words love randomly placed within the pendant. I think it is such a simple concept but so effective and that it is providing something wearable from a few strips of newspaper.

What inspired me to start making jewellery I don’t know, it just happened one day!
"Obviously the thing that stands out most about your jewellery is how personal it can be. The items in the shop are all fantastic, but the added dimension of being able to almost design your own piece must be quite a big selling point. Would you be able to talk me through how you go about commissioning such a piece from yourself?"

I like to be more than just a click of a button on a website and provide a very personal service for my commissioned jewellery. When somebody asks me to either embed an object or make an item of jewellery to their specification, I like have regular conversations with them during the process and keep them involved every step of the way. I like to make it very personal, which obviously may not suit everyone, but I have made good friends with customers working that way.

Horsehair Jewellery - Pet Hair Keepsake
Horsehair Jewellery - Pet Hair Keepsake

Wherever possible I like to submit designs, often photographing their items set against a mould or bezel that I use for making the finished jewellery. That way the customer can visualise the finished item. More often than not however, a customer would usually refer to a previous commission by me and ask for it to be made like that.

So the best of luck to Karen for your presentation and I hope that some of the things that I have said will be useful to you!


Wednesday 20 October 2010

The Ozric Tentacles Experience

It has been a mad last few days in Shpangle land; on Friday 15th October I went to see my favourite band the Ozric Tentacles at the newly refurbished HMV Institute in Birmingham. The Ozrics (as they are sometimes called) have been an inspiration for me for years and continue to be my most listened to music. With 30 albums spanning over 25 years of music making there is plenty to choose from.

Ozric Tentacles Live 2010
Ozric Tentacles Live 2010 - HMV Institute Birmingham

I went to the gig with my wife Angela and my brother Rob who took lots of photos, so many thanks Rob for doing that and for driving. It was his first experience of seeing and in fact listening to the Ozrics, and I think he is now a converted man. Angela and me have been to loads of Ozric gigs over the years and have many happy memories, and this one was no exception. We were right at the front, the venue was very friendly and the atmosphere electric.

The Ozric tentacles have had several band members come and go over the years, and Ed Wynne (pictured below) who writes the majority of their music is now joined by his wife Brandi on bass guitar, his son Silas on keyboards and a drummer called Oli. They have now moved to America so any chance to see them playing live in this country has to be taken.

Ozric Tentacles - Ed Wynne - Birmingham 2010
Ozric Tentacles - Ed Wynne - Birmingham 2010

The Ozric Tentacles are true artists and have that ability to paint pictures with their music. I often play their music when I am making my jewellery and always do when I am making my name on rice jewellery as the music gets me into the right zone for when I am writing on rice.

This picture was taken of me ‘letting my hair down’ to one of their many tunes and probably sums up the night. I was pretty much useless for the next couple of days, and was completely Ozric’d out, ached in every muscle of my body but it was so worth it!

Me at Ozrics Gig 2010 - Birmingham
Me at Ozrics Gig 2010 - Birmingham

On Monday night my brother took me to see the comedian Frankie Boyle in concert. He was so funny and just as I had recovered from the Ozrics gig; I not have an aching face from all the laughing! I have often seen him on Television and have thought him to be controversial but playing live he doesn’t hold back at all!

What a mad few days. If you get a chance to see the ozrics playing near your town or city, please go along as I promise you, you will never forget the experience :)

If you are interested in reading about the artist responsible for the album cover art for the Ozrics, please read my Album cover artist Blim article.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Name on a grain – Custom Jewellery Order

I mentioned in my previous blog post that I had been working on quite a large name on a grain of rice jewellery order. Well this is it, there were twelve items in total and each one contained a message written on a grain of rice.

Name on rice jewellery
Name on rice jewellery

This kept me busy for a while, 7 name on rice key-chains, 1 name on rice phone charms and 4 name on rice necklaces. Each glass vial also contained a small pink flower, now I have seen small flowers before, but these were so tiny. They all had either the name ‘Hope (heart)’ or ‘2010 (heart)’ written onto the rice, so my heart drawing skills have now improved quite considerably.

Name on a grain jewellery - 2010 Pendant
Name on a grain jewellery - 2010 Pendant

I have also conquered my fears of having to write on both sides of a grain of rice. For one of the pendants, as well as the message, they also wanted a date of birth written on the opposite side of the rice. I have always had problems, which are probably psychological with writing on both sides of a grain of rice. I think I have over-come this by leaving it a day and then completely ignoring the fact that I have already written on the also helps to have a few spares!

Name on a grain necklace
Name on a grain necklace

Also, this was the first time I have been asked to incorporate birth stones within the jewellery. I used a small Ruby Swarovski crystal bead to represent the month of July and it really was effective. Just fitting inside the glass vial it would slowly follow the grain of rice up and down the vial as you tilt it.

Name on a grain pendant - Hope Pendant
Name on a grain pendant - Hope Pendant

It was a lovely name on a grain of rice jewellery order to do as from it I managed to establish a few more rice writing techniques, and the use of flowers and birthstones in the jewellery was good fun too.

If you would like to see more of my rice writing, please visit my name on a grain jewellery page.

Monday 11 October 2010

Personalised Birthday Presents

I remember as a child and even now that my favourite birthday and Christmas presents have always been those that have been handmade. The fact that whoever gave me the present had taken the time to design and make something just for me means more than any shop bought item. My favourite present when I was little was a sledge that my dad made for me. It was extremely heavy and so well made that it lasted years, and I think at some point we even turned it into a go-cart.

It was our daughters 12th birthday this week and being a girly-girl I thought I would make her some jewellery. It is quite handy being a jewellery maker at times like this and decided to make her one of my name necklaces. I have had a really big name on rice jewellery order to complete this week so because I was in the zone of writing on rice I thought it was probably the most sensible thing to make. It is also something that would be very personal to her; her name written on a grain of rice, and I also included her birth stone as well within the glass vial. A very small Rose coloured Swarovski crystal to represent the month of October.

Name on rice pendant - Personalised birthday gift
Name on rice pendant - Personalised birthday gift

I personalised the jewellery box that contained the rice pendant with her name in gold lettering and I think she loved that alone, but when she opened the box saying she was happy would be a understatement; I immediately go a really big hug from her. I think the face that I had made something for her and had taken the time to write her name on a grain of rice meant more than anything.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

1st Wedding Anniversary – Wedding Keepsake Jewellery

I was asked by a young man last week to make a pendant for his wife for their 1st wedding anniversary. He wanted some of their wedding keepsake items, flowers and ribbon setting within a pendant. I was originally asked several weeks ago, but these things happen and I was sent the items with only a couple of days to make the jewellery and get the finished pendant back to him for their anniversary.

The first pendant that I made for him contained a few rose petals, grouped together with a small piece of ribbon from their wedding. I had to first press the rose petals to remove any moisture and then grouped them together with the wedding ribbon to form this pendant. I added a little bit of glitter dust to give the pendant that extra sparkle.

Wedding flower keepsake pendant
Wedding flower keepsake pendant

The second pendant contained small a sprig of small white flowers, please correct me if I am wrong, but I think they are ‘baby’s breath’ flowers. Again I used a small piece of the wedding ribbon that he sent me to finish the pendant and added a sparkle of glitter dust.

Preserved wedding flower pendant
Preserved wedding flower pendant

I managed to get the pendants back to him in time for their 1st wedding anniversary celebrations and what a thoughtful gift it would have been; keepsakes from their wedding preserved forever, and that can still be worn and enjoyed for years to come.

If you would like to see more wedding keepsake jewellery ideas, please visit my website page Wedding Keepsakes.

Thursday 30 September 2010

Handmade Crafts Terms and Conditions

Apologies in advance if I bore you with this week’s blog post, but I am going to talk a little about website Terms and Conditions (T&Cs)...well I did warn you!

If you are selling online you will hopefully have Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) covering your website shop, including amongst other things shipping policies and returns/exchanges.

Selling online is very different to selling from a physical location such as a shop or store because the consumer can’t see or touch the item that they are buying. Because of this, the Distance Selling Regulations were introduced to protect the consumer in the UK.

Terms & Conditions example
Terms & Conditions example

I cannot claim to be an expert in this area but the following advice was given to me by my local Trading Standards Officer after I asked her to review my website Terms and Conditions. I got these things wrong in my website Terms and Conditions, and many people still do.

Returning Earrings

Whilst the returning of earrings can be seen a health hazard, they are still returnable. What you can do, however, is seal the bag with hygiene seals and ‘ask’ that if they are returned then the seal must not be broken.

Seven day return policy

#The seven day returns policy whereby a consumer can return their purchase without giving a reason, for example changing their mind about the purchase upon receiving the product.

The seven day return policy is seven working days, starting the day after receipt of the product. The consumers’ time limit does not start until the day after they have received the goods.

Return of goods in an unused state

You cannot state that the goods have to be returned in an unused state as legally the consumer does not have to return the goods. You can however, 'ask' that the consumer returns the goods as soon as possible.

Consumer responsible for returned goods

The Distance Selling Regulations also state that as soon as a consumer has posted the item for return or given it to a courier, the trader is then responsible for it. This means that you are responsible for any goods lost in transit and therefore you cannot put that you are not held responsible.

Displaying Prices

It is best if you include VAT on all of your prices when they are first displayed as this will prevent the consumer from being confused or mislead.

Geographical Address

The website must display your geographical address of the place of business to which the consumer may address any complaints

I hope that this was of some help and that I didn’t bore you too much. If you would like a good bed-time read, grab a copy of the Distance Selling Regulations...Enjoy!

Friday 24 September 2010

Real Flower Jewellery - African Violet Pendants

I was given this custom jewellery order to make last week that involved taking some real pressed African Violet flower petals and setting them into resin jewellery.

The pressed flowers were taken from her Nan's favourite African Violet plant and were very special to her. She wanted them setting into a teardrop shaped resin pendant and I also added a sprinkle of glitter dust to give the jewellery an extra sparkle.

Real Flower Jewellery
Real Flower Jewellery

When I opened the package containing the flowers I was met with a lovely aroma that obviously didn’t come from the African Violets. The source of the aroma was a lovely bar of handmade soap (Cedarwood Orange). It turns out that the customer produced handmade soap, so being a fellow crafter I did a nice swap with her!

Lots happening at the moment in the land of Shpangle Jewellery, including an order for twelve ‘name on rice’ pendants, so I might be a little quiet for a while.

If you would like to see more of my jewellery made with real flowers, please visit my Real Flower Jewellery website page.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

A Pet's Name Necklace

I don't feel like I have blogged for a while so though I would show off one of the latest custom jewellery commissions that I was recently asked to make. This was for one of my name on rice necklaces but this time it was for a pet dog's name to be written on a grain of rice along with a image of a paw print.

Now, this took quite a few grains of rice to get the paw print right, it was a little like the difficulty I had drawing hearts; on paper fine but when you are trying to draw on a grain of rice less than one millimetre wide and not perfectly flat it is a different matter. I think I did a good job and I do like challenges but more importantly the necklaces new owner loved it.

Pets Name Necklace - Rice Jewellery
Pets Name Necklace - Rice Jewellery

I have had several requests for my name on rice jewellery over the last few weeks and they are all very different. But I really enjoyed doing this one because it was for a lady who had recently lost her lovely pet dog. She had been searching for something on the internet that she could remember him by and came across my name on rice jewellery.

Please visit my Name Jewellery page for more examples of my name on rice jewellery.

Monday 6 September 2010

Wedding Keepsakes – Wedding Dress Material Cufflinks

After spending many weeks making my lock of hair jewellery, the last couple of weeks I have had several requests for setting couples wedding keepsakes into jewellery.

The first custom jewellery order to be completed this week is from a lady who is getting married in a couple of weeks-time. She wanted some of her wedding dressing material set into a pair of cufflinks to give to the groom-to-be to wear on the big day. She actually asked for two pairs to be made, presumably the second pair was for either the best man or father of the bride. I set the wedding dress fabric into sterling silver cufflink blanks and sealed with a couple of layers of resin.

Wedding Dress Keepsake Jewellery - Cufflinks
Wedding Dress Keepsake Jewellery - Cufflinks

Other orders that I am currently working on are another pair of cufflinks for a wedding, but this time containing flowers from the place that the young man proposed. I am also about to start working on some wedding flowers (roses) which are to be set into a pendant.

I am over the moon to think that my jewellery is actually being worn on a couples’ big day and what a special keepsake it is for them to treasure after the wedding. I know I have been complaining recently about not being able to start something new...but I really enjoy making these keepsakes for people. I love the idea of giving the groom something to wear and keep from his wedding day and that it contains something so personal to the couple. Whether it is flowers picked from the place that he proposed or a part of the brides dress, it gives him something to wear that is much more than just a pair of cufflinks.

If you would like to see more of my previous commissions please visit my website Wedding Keepsakes page.

Monday 30 August 2010

Handmade Custom Orders - Website Tips

Have you ever seen the phrase 'Commissions welcome' or 'Bespoke service available' on a crafts website or blog? I have many a time and have even used a similar phrase myself on several occasions. It is used all over the crafting fraternity to welcome custom made orders from potential customers, and is usually followed by a 'please contact us/me' type of statement.

But it probably raises lots of unanswered questions such as how long does it take?, what materials can be used?, price? and probably doesn't really entice somebody to actually click on the link. So I thought I would share with you a possible solution to attracting more requests for custom-made orders. This was suggested to me by a member of a Business Forum that I frequent; at the time I was enquiring about solutions for displaying customer testimonials.

Although this method refers to the making of jewellery, it could be adopted for all custom made goods and services and is certainly something on my 'to do' list.

The idea evolves around telling the potential customer a story. Lets say that a previous customer wanted a piece of jewellery. He/she gave you a specification , you created the jewellery and in the process you took some pictures of the item. Upon receiving the item of jewellery the customer wrote a lovely letter to you saying how nice it is.

Custom Jewellery Website Design
Custom Jewellery Website Design

So, on your website you create a page with a description of the project, including the customers brief, the materials you used, pictures of you making the jewellery, pictures of the finished item and the customer's testimonial. You then repeat this process for other custom orders all linked through to your website home page.

This is a great way to describe and present your custom made process, display your customer testimonials and to entice future orders.

If you would like to see some of my custom made jewellery previously commissioned for people please visit my Custom Jewellery website.

Thursday 26 August 2010

A Montage of keepsake Jewellery

Since getting back from holiday a couple of weeks ago, I have been really busy making my keepsake jewellery for people; and the majority of that has involved the use of hair and fur.

So I thought I would show you a little medley of some of the jewellery that I have made over the last couple of weeks. At one point I had ten jewellery orders on the go, all containing hair so you can imagine it took quite a lot of organisation.

These keepsake jewellery items contain everything from horse and pony hair, dog fur and locks of hair from loved ones. One of the most unusual pieces is the horse hair key-ring (top-left) where the lady wanted some yellow and orange seed beads and glitter incorporated into the design.

Hair Keepsake Jewellery
Hair Keepsake Jewellery

I am having a change from the use of hair in my jewellery this week as I am currently working on a custom order for several pairs of cufflinks. A lady who is getting married in a couple of weeks wants some of her wedding dress material embedded within the cufflinks to give to her hubby-to-be and other guests. I am using sterling silver cufflink blanks and resin and will blog about them at a later date!

I really want to get started on my new ranges of jewellery but every time I get started, I receive another request. I am not complaining though because I really enjoy making these for people and the satisfaction it gives knowing that I am helping somebody, sometimes through a difficult time.

Please visit my website for other examples of my hair keepsake jewellery.

Friday 20 August 2010

The Soldier Boy's Pendant

As I write this one of my pendants is making its way to the other side of the world, proudly adorned by a soldier.

I was contacted this last week by a young man who had been told he was going off to serve his country. Being away from his family he wanted a pendant that contained both his son and daughters hair. Something that he could wear under his uniform and body armour that allows him to carry something of his family close to his heart. So I made this; a sterling silver pendant, containing the locks of hair from his son and daughter sealed with resin on a leather thong style necklace.

Lock of hair keepsake pendant
Lock of hair keepsake pendant

This pendant was so important to him and also because of the short notice that I was given, that he was prepared to travel for several hours to receive it in person. I really liked that; its not often I get to meet the recipient of my jewellery and it was good to see his reaction when he opened the case containing his pendant.

I am not altogether in favour of conflict, being an old hippie at heart, I wish differences in opinion could be settled differently. But I am proud that one of my keepsake pendants is helping a person in that situation.

I wish him well, to stay safe and bring the pendant home along with all of its stories to pass on to his children and his children's children.

Friday 13 August 2010

Perkins' Pendant

I won't write very much in this blog post, but I will leave it to Sharon and her Perkins below. Sharon gave me this message this week after receiving her horse hair pendant that I recently made for her. It brought tears to my eyes and makes me realise how special the keepsake jewellery I make for people is. Enjoy...

"I had my Perkins for over 16 years. I bought him as a scruffy, thin, green little thing just shipped in from Ireland when he was 6 years old. I only meant to keep him a year as I'd lost my confidence off my previous horse!

The Pony Perkins
The Pony Perkins

But somehow he grew on me and out-stayed his 12 month contract!!! We had many many happy years of hacking and competing. He was perfect! When he was 13 we found out he had a growth in his foot which had to be removed via a large, very expensive operation. I nearly lost him. I remember the night before the operation; I actually slept in his box with him, terrified of what the morning would bring.

The op was a success and he recovered slowly, but we never competed again and settled into a life of happy hacking. I semi-retired him in 2007 when my son was born and in 2009 he was joined by a yearling New Forest called Echo - my "future pony" for when Perkins fully retired to a well-earned life of leisure.

Perkins the Pony
Perkins the Pony

Sadly in June of this year in the field, while haring around with the Echo, Perkins chipped a bone in his leg. Being an old man and already arthritic it soon became apparent that the injury wasn't healing, that the pain killers weren't working and that my beloved old friend was suffering. On the 12th July 2010 I made the heart breaking decision to have him put to sleep - the last service I could do for a horse that had given me a lifetime of pleasure and loyalty.

The day before he went I took a lock of hair from his tail - I smiled as I did it because his tail was always a wild tangle of course hair, I could never really comb it all the way through and the white streak in the middle of the black was never truly white, no matter how many times I scrubbed at it! I took it home, washed it one last time and put it away in a drawer, determined only to look at it again when I felt ready.

I was keen to have some reminder of him - I had decided not to have him cremated and returned to me as having a wooden box stuck in the house somewhere was not how I wanted to remember my horse. I started googling for horse hair jewellery and found Mick and Shpangle.

The products were so unusual I immediately dug out the hair, emailed Mick and got it in the post as soon as I could. Mick was wonderful, emailed me back immediately, firstly stating his condolences, then letting me know he was going on holiday so not to worry he'd start my pendant as soon as he got back, then letting me know he'd received Perkin's precious hair and was starting work that day.

Horse hair jewellery
Horse hair jewellery

The pendant arrived this morning - along with a lovely surprise gift from Mick of a keyring, both with Perkins' hair preserved forever. I've worn the pendant all day today and lots of people have asked me about it.

It makes me sad when I explain the story of the pendant, but happy too that I can keep talking about my horse as people admire Mick's handiwork so Perkins' will always be close to my heart on a silver chain, and his name never far from my lips!"

Monday 2 August 2010

Buckets and Spades of Inspiration

I have been a little quiet recently with my blog and that's because I have just got back from a fantastic two week holiday in Cornwall! We went to the same place that we visit just about every year for the last ten years and I can't think of a nicer place in the world that I would like to be at. The beatiful scenery, coastal walks and beaches are breathtaking and I am already arranging to book our holiday there for next year!

Polly Joke Beach Cornwall
Polly Joke Beach Cornwall

We stop at a place called West Pentire, near Crantock on the west coast. The coastline in this area is thankfully protected by The National Trust and the whole area is beautiful...oooh I just want to go back now. I find Cornwall so inspirational and can see why so many artists and crafters base themselves there.

Mick Cluley at West Pentire, Cornwall
Mick Cluley at West Pentire, Cornwall

Having cleared my mind with the Atlantic sea breeze and taken in the inspiration of the area, I have had a good think about what I want to achieve with my crafting. I don't really want to be known just for my resin based jewellery and have decided to have a good long break from it. Of course I will continue with custom jewellery orders (which I have got home to find stacks of them waiting on my door mat), but I want to start making jewellery using more natural objects, so watch this space!

I hope you all have an equally good holiday!


Friday 9 July 2010

It must be fate my dear Violet

I am a great believer in fate and also believe that much of what happens to us is destined to happen. Something wonderful happened this week that cemented that belief and I can only put it down to something more than just coincidence.

A few days ago I was asked by a lady to make a pendant and keyring that contained a real purple Violet flower because her daughter’s name is Violet. Convinced that I didn’t have any such flowers in my box of goodies, I searched the Internet to try to source them. After several hours, and without any luck, I decided to take a look in my box of pressed flowers...and there nestled amongst the daisies, forget-me-nots and an assortment of flowers were two Violet flowers and they were both purple! Wow, how strange is that, the fact that I was asked for two purple Violets and I happened to have just two in my collection of flowers.

Violet flower pendant
Violet flower pendant

So I set them onto sterling silver bezels and coated them with resin to produce this pendant and keyring. I hung the pendant from a sterling silver fine curb necklace chain and for the keyring I attached it to a stainless steel key-chain. I think they turned out lovely, in fact so lovely that I found it hard to let them go! Having said that, I think they were always destined for their recipient.

Violet flower necklace
Violet flower necklace

If you would like to see more of my pressed flower jewellery please visit my real flower jewellery website page.

Friday 2 July 2010

Shpangle Jewellery in the Spotlight

I thought I would share this blog feature that has just been done about me and my 'Shpangle Jewellery'. Mainly because I don't normally do blog features, however when I was asked by a fellow Tweeter (the lovely Abi of Angel Eden) to do one for her blog I jumped at the idea.

Shpangle Jewellery Feature
Shpangle Jewellery Feature

I spent the whole of last weekend writing things about myself for her blog and soon discovered why I hadn't done this before; I initially found it quite difficult to do! However once I entered the zone there was no stopping me and I am extremely pleased with the feature as it captures a lot about me.

If you would like to read a little about me, my inspirations and experiences please read this blog feature. Shpangle Jewellery in the Spotlight

The rest of her blog is beautifully written with lots of tutorials, photographs and inspirational ideals...she is also up for the Dorset Cereals Blog award and would appreciate the votes!

Thursday 1 July 2010

"Forget-me-not" my Lady Daisy

My favourite flowers of all have got to be daisies and forget-me-nots. They are both beautiful flowers and seem to grow as nature intended...everywhere! I am not one for garden flowers and if I had my way would leave the garden to become more 'natural'. Daisies remind me of long summer days sitting in a field making daisy chains, and forget-me-nots as well as being beautiful, well I just love the name.

There are many legends and folklore descriptions regarding the origin of the name Forget-me-not, and most are connected with romance and tragic fate. Forget-me-nots were often worn by ladies as a sign of faithfulness and it was supposed that the wearer of the flowers would not be forgotten by their lovers. The legend that I particularly like comes from medieval times:

Once upon a time a medieval knight and his lady were having a romantic walk besides a river. As they walked, the knight picked flowers for his lady and held a bouquet of flowers in his hands. As he picked the flowers, (and probably due to the weight of his armour), he fell over into the water. According to the legend, as he was drowning he threw the bouquet at his lady shouting "forget-me-not".

Sadly the forget-me-nots have now finished flowering in my garden, however I did manage to preserve a few in my jewellery this week. I have been so busy recently with custom jewellery orders that I have not had time for anything else, so this week I reserved some time for me! These forget-me-nots were picked and pressed this Spring and the daisies were picked by my little boy last summer whilst we were playing in a local park.

Real flower jewellery
Daisy and Forget me not pendant and brooch

The flowers have been sealed in clear resin and I have made one into a pendant and the other into a matching brooch. Although I am not normally keen on the colour pink, I gave them a pink pearl-like backing which I tend to do with most of my pressed flower jewellery as it kind of suits it!

So thankfully now I can admire these forget-me-nots all year round!

Please visit my real flower jewellery website page to see more of my pressed flower jewellery.

Monday 21 June 2010

Horse and Pony Hair Bracelet

I finished this custom jewellery order this week so thought I would show it off! It was made for a lady who owns six ponies and wanted the hair of each pony set within different charms for a charm bracelet. Each heart shaped charm was also coloured to represent the pony's colours and a small gem embedded into each resin heart. Apparently each pony has its own unique colour so that all equipment such as buckets and blankets are all colour coded to match.

Rainbow Horse and Pony hair bracelet
Rainbow Horse and Pony hair bracelet

Unusually this bracelet took me over two weeks to make, mainly due to the fact that I only had one mould cavity that suited the size and style of heart that she wanted for the charms, so as you can imagine it was quite a production line to get it completed! She is extremely happy with the finished bracelet and I am too as it has my favourite colour combinations and I love rainbows! 

You can see more horse and pony jewellery designs that I have previously had commissioned on my Horse hair jewellery website page.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Name on Rice Jewellery - For a Crafts Forum Friend

I made this name on rice necklace last week for a friend on the Crafts Forum and a similar one as a keyring for her hubby. They have both got lots of things happening over the coming months and wanted the good luck that name on rice jewellery is said to bring it's recipients!

Name on rice necklace
Name on rice necklace

This was quite different to the rice writing that I have previously done in that she wanted two names (initially on the front and back of a single grain of rice). I spent a couple of days trying to do just that but every time I came to writing the second name, I failed. I am extremely meticulous with my work but I think it was the psychological barrier of knowing that I was writing on the back of something that I had spent so long getting right.

Anyway, as a compromise I suggested having two grains of rice, with their names in the same necklace vial, and I must admit it seems a lot better and more symbolic of them both.

Have a look at my page for more examples of name on rice jewellery and its history.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Custom Jewellery - Pet Hair Keepsakes

I seem to be spending a lot of time recently making custom jewellery for people and particularly hair keepsake jewellery. The majority of this has been horse hair pendants, in fact I currently have seven different horse hair pendants in progress in my craft room, all at different stages of completeness and all requiring different colourings and other objects you can imagine it takes quite a lot of organisation!

So to be given the opportunity last week of making a dog hair/fur pendant was quite pleasing and especially because of the background behind the order. These are the completed dog hair pendants, the original request was just for the heart pendant, but quite often I like to give an extra something and so I also made the sterling silver pendant as a gift.

Dog hair keepsake jewellery
Dog hair keepsake jewellery

The background to this order started when I had a problem with one of my website pages. Instead of asking my usual contacts via craft forums and other networks, I decided to ask for help on a technical forum related to website building. Not only did I get a solution to the problem, the respondent also emailed me to place an order for the dog hair pendant and he lives in the USA!

So the experience I have gained from this is that it is often quite natural to seek the comfort of the places that are familiar but to expand into unknown territories can be quite positive! The customer for the dog hair pendant also wrote a wonderful message to me (which can be seen here on my website testimonials page).

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Jedward, Jedward, Jedward!

Well, my wife came home last night and announced that she had been given a free gift of a suitcase. And a very nice one it was too. We haven't owned a suitcase in years and normally make do with carrier bags when we go away. The idea of owning a suitcase was quite novel and we all made suggestions of how best to use it, like for doing the shopping etc.

Then it came to me announcing my big news. I said 'I have won something today'...and we all did a big drum roll and then I announced what I had won.... 


A lovely Jedward keyring courtesy of the Glamglass Gifts Blog give away. As you can imagine there were lots of oooh's and aaarh's coming from all direction, and my 11 year-old daughter went hysterical! I think she automatically assumed that it was going to be for her!

So, many thanks to Rachel for her lovely giveaway, you certainly made our day, it's not often I get something as special as that and I will treasure it forever!

Tuesday 18 May 2010

My first name on rice custom order

I completed these pendants last week and they are the result of my first custom order for 'name on rice' pendants.

The young lady who contacted me wanted the pendants personalised with the words 'Ari (heart) Roni' writing on the grain of rice, and also wanted two identical pendants making, one for her and one for her sister.

Personalised name on rice necklaces
Personalised name on rice necklaces

These 'name on rice' pendants proved quite a challenge, it wasn't the wording that was the problem it was the heart symbol. For some reason I am not the best at drawing hearts on paper and trying to draw something that resembles a heart on a grain of rice is a different matter! She also wanted the pendants colouring with a tint of blue. Anyway, several hours later (and many grains of rice) I had produced two pendants that I was happy with.

She is over the moon with her new pendants and so am I for overcoming the challenge of my first custom order!

You can see more 'name on rice' jewellery, the history and symbolism on my name on rice page.

Monday 10 May 2010

Scorch's Pyrography & Custom Jewellery

I have been busy surfing the web over the last few days trying to find royalty free photographs to represent the various craft disciplines (all will come clear later this week when I launch a new website project). Anyway, the craft category that I was having the biggest difficulty with was trying to find a photograph to represent Pyrography.

Then it dawned on me that I (well actually my wife Angela) already has a pendant that has been made using Pyrography! It was custom made for me by the very talented Tracey Annison of Scorch's Pyrography for a Christmas present for my wife and I have never shown it off!

Pyrography pendant of Stonehenge
Pyrography pendant of Stonehenge

The pendant is made from solid sycamore wood and the picture is of our special place, Stonehenge and burnt onto the reverse side there is a personal message to my wife. The whole process of having the pendant custom made by Scorch was fantastic and enabled me to have something that far exceeded my expectations, and my wife was very pleased too!

On another note, I have just had my first custom order for some name on rice pendants. A lady wants two, both with writing on each side of the grain of rice and the glass vial coloured. I am extremely excited with this order as apart from making these pendants for friends and family, it will be my first custom name on rice jewellery order.

In fact, I am a little bit shaky with the prospect, which is not a good way to be when you are about to write on a grain of rice.

Hope you are all have a good week!