Tuesday 27 May 2014

X by Trollbeads: New Limited Edition Ocean Blue Rubber X Links

The new X links debuted on 23rd May and although I don't have any nearby shops, our lovely postie managed to deliver mine the following day - go postie!

New Ocean Blue Rubber X Links!

Saturday saw me make a triple stack but it was hard not to keep using the black rubber X links as I was playing with my new metal links; so Sunday was the day I'd set aside to experiment more with the blue.

Yesterday I'd postulated that the new links look better with silver links but never one to give up on a challenge I thought I'd use all my links to make new bracelets in blue, both the silver and the bronze!

Here is the result, step by step and finally teamed with a fabric wrap.

Ocean Blue and Silver X combination

Ocean Blue, Silver and Bronze Bracelets

Ocean Blue and Bronze Bracelet, with a twist of Silver!

Double Stacked Blue X Bracelets

Triple stacked with a fabric wrap

I had a lot of fun making these up in the garden, it was a sunny day for a change, so I made the most of the time!  Here are the snaps I took to send to friends.

I'm still on the fence with using the blue links for me personally, I gravitate to the black naturally as I love the look with the silver and bronze X links and it's hard to break that habit, I think at the moment 9 out of 10 times I'd still end up making a black/silver/bronze combo, but that's just me!

I think the blue offers a great alternative for many people, it's a lovely colour and in looking back at the bracelets I made over the 2 days, it was the one I didn't show or have a pic of on it's own that I am most likely to choose first, a long wrap of black and blue in 2 solid colours with no other links, just rubber - you can see it below as I was messing around whilst wearing the triple stack from Saturday.

I plan to remake the all blue/back rubber one
but with all the blue and even more black!

I'm dying to see more photos from others who have the blue, and what they pair them with, as I predict if I were buying this for the first time and designing my first ever bracelet - I'd probably choose different links to go with the blue; so I can't wait to see the blue with other links!

What's your verdict?  What do you think to the new blue X?
Hit the comments and tell me what you think,
I'd love to hear all your opinions! 

Monday 26 May 2014

X by Trollbeads: New Collection ~ Limited Edition Blue X, Cloud Flower & Bronze Heart

So my ambers weren't the only new arrivals on Saturday.

Friday saw the launch of the new X Necklace Collection and Wishes Can Come True, the new Ocean Blue Limited Edition (LE) X links and the first Bronze decorative link, My Heart.

All my X Collection with new additions: New Ocean Blue X Links, new Bronze heart link and new Flower Cloud

I'd been wrestling with my budget and ended up throwing it away to indulge in even more of the new carved amber beads, so I had to scale back on my original plans with the new X collection.  No big statement necklaces yet for me... BOOO!

The big statement necklaces that I can't indulge in just yet!
X by Trollbeads Necklace Collection - released May 23rd

So when I ordered online I decided to concentrate on the LE element, the new Ocean Blue X links and the (more affordable) smaller links in the collection, namely the single Flower Cloud link in silver and the first Bronze decorative link, My Heart.

If you fancy the bronze My Heart, don't forget you can buy this in a starter bracelet set, giving you 20 black X links and a bronze lock making a saving on the total cost.  If you need more links and/or a lock (don't forget you can use locks as links too) it's a really good deal.

Bronze Heart is also available as a Starter Bracelet Set as well as a single link

I was pleased with my choices and having had to forgo getting one big piece at rather a high cost, having a bag turn up full of new blue X links and the 2 new decorative links felt rather nice and was kinder on my budget.  It also meant that there was such a lot to play with out of the bag!

Top Row - Flower Cloud, single
Bottom Row - Bronze My Heart link

I'm so pleased that X by Trollbeads have made a decorative bronze link, it's been what I, and several other X fans have been clamouring for.  I know that bronze doesn't oxidise the way silver does, so it limits the designs more, but just look *how* beautiful a metal it is and how sumptuous it looks next to the black rubber X links.  

I love the new links and wasted no time in putting them into new bracelets,  but as much as I experimented with the blue, I found myself being drawn back to the black links.

My new X Stack!

I decided to swap out all the black links for blue in the triple combo to see what it would look like, and for now at least, my opinion is that the ocean blue links are more at home with all silver combos than with the bronze.

Well at least that's my opinion until I see something amazing with blue and bronze and then I'll change my mind :)

Same stack but swapping out the black X links for blue.

A surprising feature is that the single Flower Cloud is actually flat on the other side... the live pictures I've seen of the statement necklace piece show the same flat finish on the back.  

I'm a bit disappointed that it's different on the reverse.  As far as I know it's the only link produced so far that has a "flat" back - that is when the other side is rounded, obviously there are some flat links in the collection but they're designed to be flat on both sides and they're not links I've been tempted by.  Pixels in Love and Skyline are two that spring to mind.

Reverse of Flower cloud showing the flat side

I've been wearing this in a stack for 24 hours and find that the Flower Cloud link can and does flip over, so that's something to bear in mind if you're going to get one.  I can't see the necklace having the same issues but if I was paying the necklace price I'd want to be able to wear it on either side given that the design is asymmetric.

Another delight from Saturday (it was a very delightful day as you can see by the photos) - was that I now possess enough links for an all silver and bronze bracelet.  I wasn't a fan of this look originally (I do think the rubber "makes" the bracelet) but I think one of the reasons why I've changed my mind is that some of the silver/bronze combinations I've seen recently look more cohesive than some of the earlier attempts. 

My new triple stack "stretched out"

On Saturday I had the most fun with the two new single links; but my next challenge is to design some blue & silver bracelets!

I've read a lot of comments in forums and groups across the Internet that the New Collection has won some new fans as well as exciting the existing collectors.  Clearly I'm a big fan of X and really pleased to see something that I feel is more in keeping with what I felt the brand originally had the potential to promise.

But I'm keen to know what you think - do you like the new X by Trollbeads Collection?  
Hit the comments and let me know! 

Sunday 25 May 2014

Copycat Combos: Carved Amber Fantasy Necklace & Bangle Set

When Victoria from Endangered Trolls posted her giant carved ambers on a Fantasy Necklace (FN), they were so fabulous, I knew I had to copy the idea!!

Carved amber & silver combo on an onyx Fantasy Necklace

I've never put any of my ambers onto a FN before; probably because all my other ambers come in a myriad of shapes, sizes & colours and I think it might look a little odd.  The 3 carved ambers I've used here are all tea-coloured and similar in shape so they work really well as a co-ordinated combo.

I've had this made up for a while now and originally my bangle design was just my Rose carved amber (I told you this was a copy cat combo), the only difference was I paired mine with Trollbeads "Two Sides to Everything" silvers to create a tapering effect to the stoppers.

This is actually my favourite version of my carved amber bangle; but a delivery yesterday led to my Carved Amber Indulgence Bangle.

Rose carved amber bangle

We were sat in the kitchen at the back of the house when the arrival of the postie was announced by the clang of the letterbox flap falling off, I dared to hope, but didn't actually think my new amber beads would have got here that fast - I think it is fair to say that yesterday was a good mail day!

I did tell you that I have no off switch where carved ambers are concerned didn't I?  I couldn't resist adding these two to the bangle as well!

Carved Amber "Indulgence" Bangle: Rose, Turtle & Ladybug

My turtle is lighter than my other carved ambers and is just beautiful, when I first saw the carved ambers appear a turtle was quite high up on the wishlist of beads I wanted; wish granted!

A ladybug was also on my wishlist, and this one happens to be extra special - whereas most carved critter ambers have 4 of everything, mine is quite a small bead but with 3 very plump ladybugs instead of 4 small ones!

Close up of my new beads: A 3-ladybug bead and I love the turtle crawling up over the ridge of the middle bead!

I couldn't be more pleased with my new additions, or how I'm wearing them.

Clearly huge thanks go to Victoria for showcasing the giant ambers on a FN in the first place as I wouldn't have naturally paired my ambers with my FN and it seems such an obvious match in hindsight!

Carved amber FN and Bangle Set

I love the carved ambers, I would happily eat beans on toast for a month to acquire another/others; not so sure my husband feels the same way (he likes the ambers but hates baked beans).  For me, I put these on the same level as the LE Chinese Silvers of 2009, yes I love them that much!

I don't believe I've indulged myself this substantially since I collected a full 2nd set of the Zodiac Birthstone Stars after they'd retired from the Collection.  I think it's true to say that I threw my budget out of the boiler shaped hole in my wall!

What have you indulged in?  Any tales to tell?  
Hit the comments and let me know I'm not the only one... 
or am I?

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Oresome Gallery: Taster Day ~ How to Make a Silver Ring

I introduced Oresome Gallery to Curling Stones as part of my role as one of the official Bloggers for Hull Fashion Week (HFW); but I'd actually met Victoria (one of the partners) by chance late last year and had expressed an interest in working with Oresome Gallery to showcase them here.

Today marks the first of these opportunities, as I had the pleasure of spending the day with Victoria and Nicola at their workshop with a group of their students for one of their monthly taster days in Silver Ring Making.

Oresome Gallery at 1 Humber Place in Hull's Fruit Market Quarter (opposite Thieving Harry's)

The Gallery and Workshop are situated next to Hull Marina, making it a great place to come and visit if you find yourself in Hull; they are also opposite Thieving Harry's Cafe who I've mentioned before - so you can visit Victoria & Nicola, take a nice walk around the Marina, and then settle in to Thieving Harry's for a bite to eat and a drink when you're ready.

Hull's Marina - looks good even on a grey Sunday morning!

Now you've had a small slice of my tourist advert for Hull, let's focus on the jewellery... or let's not for just one more Mars indulgence.

On arriving at the Gallery, Victoria greeted me as I was the first to arrive, I'd wanted to get settled before the students turned up so I could get set up - setting up for this blogger means making sure I had a cup of tea on the go before we started.  Nicola showed me around the kitchen and told me to help myself... need I say any more?!

Slowly the students started to arrive and were greeted with the same warmth and welcome and this nicely set the tone for the day.  Nicola and Victoria are great hosts and quickly put people at their ease, they have a natural teaching style and work very well together, which is perhaps unsurprising given their history.  Nicola and Victoria actually met and worked together teaching at Hull College in the School of Art and Design before becoming business partners at the Gallery.

We started naturally with an introduction to the day, and a run through of the Health and Safety aspects, not only of the day, but of the environment we were in, which is a workshop after all filled with sharp pointy things, chemicals and things that can go bang, whizz and result in an ouch (or worse)!

After running through all the potential dangers, how to avoid and minimise your risks and what to do if something does happen, Nicola has a lovely reassuring manner in which she explains that it can sometimes be initially a bit overwhelming if you're not used to being in a workshop, especially later when things get busy, but just to relax, take your time, be mindful of what's going on around you and that her and Victoria are around to help and will keep an eye on everyone.

My two penneth is it's the nicest workshop I've ever seen, nice and light and windows all around, and if you fancy a breath of fresh air it's only takes 2 seconds to step outside and chill alongside the Marina, it's actually a very relaxing environment to be in!

Oresome Gallery Workshop is light and airy

Oresome Gallery... just step outside and you're on Hull Marina

So with aprons on, hair tied back and any very dangly jewellery removed for safety reasons, everyone got stuck in to the first lesson...  The Guillotine!

The Guillotine

Students were shown how to cut copper into pieces on the Guillotine so they could later practice with these before working on their silver in the afternoon.


Everyone took a supervised turn and was helped by Nicola to make sure they got what they needed for the next stage.  Annealing!

Annealing is the use of heat to make the metal ductile or malleable so that it can then be worked.  When you "work" the metal this hardens it, so annealing is an essential process that needs to be repeated on a regular basis to keep it soft enough for you to work on.

Nicola demonstrating how to anneal the metal pieces

Many moons ago when I was at school I chose to do wood and metal work up to O Level, I enjoyed these classes a lot and spending time at Oresome was a bit like going back in time for me personally but WAY cooler... I really wish we'd been able to make jewellery rather than coat hooks and torch holders!

After the metal has been heated up with the torch it's time to cool it down, this is called Quenching and it is what it sounds like, you are running the metal under cold water so that it's cool enough for the next process.

Nicola quenching and teaching at the same time

After you've quenched your metal, you then move on to Pickling (okay it's got to be said - is anyone else feeling peckish with a strange craving for a Ploughman's Lunch and some ice cold Lemonade?) 

Getting ready to pickle!

Pickle - Oresome use a safety pickle of sulphuric acid and this cleans the oxidation off the metal.  You place your metal pieces into a basket which you lower into the acid, Nicola pointed out that you should be careful not to forget what it is and some of our aprons bore the marks of less, a'hem, careful students!

Showing us how to identify previous pickling splashes!

Once your pieces are pickled (no peppers or pipers here) you move onto the next P, P is also for Pumice

(Excuse me whilst I have an A to Z Challenge flashback here)

Pumice powder is used which is an abrasive powder to clean any residue of dirt off the surface of the metal. 

Your metal is *almost* ready to be worked... although this is where Nicola and Victoria turn into very strict teachers to talk about drying your piece of material off completely before you start to do exciting things with the now softened and clean metal.

The reason for the seriousness at this stage is that Oresome Gallery is a working jewellers, although the students are in having a taster session today, the workshop is used by many jewellers, not just Nicola and Victoria. 

If your metal isn't completely dried off this can contaminate the steel equipment... which in turn could wreck someone's work when they go to use the machinery.  

Suitably instructed it was time to move onto the really fun part... experimental working - getting to design, decorate and play with the metal.

First up is the Rolling Mill, or the Mangle as I like to call it.  This is essentially two heavy set rollers that your now soft metal can be passed through. 

Nicola demonstrated a range of patterns that you can put onto the metal using wallpaper, mesh, paper shapes & even your old lingerie lace!

Before Victoria moved onto the next technique, it was time for the group to practice what they'd been shown so far and get their metal pieces ready - these were the ones they'd cut themselves earlier on the Guillotine.  

Nicola and Victoria were very hands on guiding and advising their students on each step of the process.  In teaching it and indeed in writing about it, the process seems very drawn out, but in reality it's something jewellers do time and time again when making pieces and actually doesn't take very long to do.

Whilst I was stood taking these photos, I tucked myself out of the way of the students so they could concentrate on their work without having a nosy blogger putting them off when they were brandishing torches and working with the pickle, I didn't want to be responsible for causing any accidents!

Being a blogger I'm naturally curious (or perhaps I'm a blogger because I'm naturally curious) and I couldn't help but notice the tools and materials of my beloved glass beads... yes Oresome Gallery also do lampworking too!  Look what I found...

Anyhow before I go completely off the point... 

Once the students had finished with working their pieces to make them soft, Victoria started to teach the next set of techniques, hammered finishes.

Hammers get called such fun things!

I love the look of hammered silver, it's a favourite finish of mine and having seen a demonstration of it, I can appreciate even more how much physical effort goes into making even the smallest of pieces.

As we travelled on our jewellery making journey throughout the day this was a theme that students kept returning to, just how much work goes into handmade jewellery.

Time for the students to explore patterns and designs on their copper pieces themselves, but first I must show you Oresome's stash of copper off cuts and example pieces.  I love this photo; when my plumber visited this week I was seriously eyeing up all the copper pipes!!

Oresome Gallery's copper off cuts & spare pieces

The Rolling Mill seemed to be the most popular choice on the day, the patterns that were being produced were really really cool, and from some of the most innocuous objects.  This wasn't necessarily the easy option either, it took quite some welly to get the tightly packed rollers going by the looks of it!

Some of the items students used to create patterns

I love this finish

Students hard at work!

Rolling Mill in action

Old lace; it's true!

The final session before lunch was the ring making demonstration by Nicola.  

Showing students for the first time the silver they would be able to work with, Nicola explained that they would have the opportunity to put all the skills they had learnt so far to make a pattern on the silver, which Nicola and Victoria had already cut to a workable size to make things easier... silver being a lot more expensive than copper so no chance of any costly mistakes.

Nicola demonstrating how to size a ring

First of all everyone had to decide which finger the ring would be worn on and learn how to size the ring.

This would involve a bit of maths (the sizing, the students know how to count their own fingers) or twisted wire and a bit less maths!  It's all very clever, and the process sheets clearly explain how to account for the thickness of the metal you're using so that when you cut your silver to your own size, the ring doesn't end up too small.

Nicola quickly showed how to bend the metal into a circle with jewellers half round pliers.  At this point what is important is that the 2 ends match up, tightly together, as tight as you can get them, and totally in line along what will be the join in your ring.

At this stage it isn't important for the ring to be round in shape as you will deal with that after you've soldered the ring together.  

For the demo itself Nicola whizzed ahead so she could show everyone the the soldering stage, but when working on their own silver the students would be filing the inside and outside edges of the silver, but not the ends as these would be part of the ring itself and need to remain flat.

For the Soldering Stage, you first you prepare the flux, this is the liquid that coats the join and where the solder will go when it's heated.

You use a thin needle like tool to coat the liquid flux along the join and then you pick up little bits of the solder and place it along the join like so.  This was the one Nicola prepared and it looked really neat, then the delicate stage of heating this up so the solder melts and joins the two ends together.

Copper coated with flux and laid with solder ready to be heated & soldered together to form a ring

Or that's the theory, I have to say Nicola made it look so easy!  

Once you've done this, you quench, pickle and pumice and you file off any excess solder on the inside and outside of the ring, then you start to hammer your ring into a round shape.

I really couldn't believe how much the group had covered in just 2 hours and it was now time for lunch!

The day is organised to give you an hour's lunch break, this is great as it gave everyone the opportunity to have a proper meal locally if they wanted to, or have a look around, or to go shopping... or in my case time to move my car into one of the main car parks in the city!

The break also allowed Nicola and Victoria a chance to grab a bite to eat, clean up and prep the next session for after lunch, and more importantly it gave the students the space to think over what they would like to make in the afternoon and time to absorb all that information from the morning session.

By the way I can recommend Thieving Harry's - I popped in for a quick toastie and a coffee after I moved my car and it was lovely!  I would have taken some pics but I got chatting to one of the Oresome Students over lunch and didn't get a chance to take photos before we both returned a bit early to get cracking with the afternoon session.

My choice for lunch!

For this session, Oresome provided some easy to follow process sheets for the ring making so you have your instructions to hand at each step to recap, as well as expert help from Victoria and Nicola who were readily available to provide reminders, demonstrations, and literally a helping hand if things got tricky.

It was interesting to observe the day, as I noticed a real difference in the afternoon.

In the morning, everyone was a new student to some extent and a couple of the photos I took showed not only total concentration but you could almost visibly see people processing all this information.  

I am sure my face was a mirror image by the way!

But there was something about the process of when people started to work on their own projects, the ring they were going to design, make and take home as a finished piece of jewellery, that changed the atmosphere and in the afternoon an air of quiet bustle settled over the workshop. 

Here are some of the photos I took of the students and their work as the afternoon, and they, progressed.

Victoria lending a helping hand at that tricky stage
of getting the ring ends to line up perfectly!

Tools of the Trade

Getting rid of the excess solder off the edge of a ring

As the afternoon advanced and I later retreated to the kitchen to charge my phone (i.e. my camera) and make some notes; I listened to the chatter drifting through the workshop, the (surprisingly) very melodic sounds of the hammers as people shaped their rings or added a finish, and as the sun finally broke through the clouds over the Marina and filtered into the kitchen; I could have happily curled up on the seats for a nap... very soothing indeed.  

However there was more work to be done by this blogger, and with notes scribbled, muffins nibbled, tea drunk and a freshly charged phone, back to work I went!

Rings were now beginning to look like rings, soldered, shaped and filed - there was one final stage to be completed before they were ready to wear.

P is also for Polishing!  Here is where the machinery did all the hard work as up until now the group had done everything by hand, rings were put into a polishing machine that contained a suspension of grit, and on it was switched!

That gave everyone a chance to tidy up, have another cup of tea and another muffin.  I declined the last muffin... whilst everyone had been busy working earlier I'd already indulged... again!

Suitably refreshed, and with the workshop looking a wee bit tidier, a mere 20 minutes later and the rings were ready for the final inspection.

Everyone was keen to see the final article, not only their own but what others had made too, it was time for my "ooh shiny" mentality to be given full rein, and also to be thankful I'd charged up the phone as there were just a few more pics to be taken.

Last part of the class was the group shot for Oresome (hence why everyone is looking to the left), I think some of the grins on this photo will give you a hint of just how pleased everyone was with their own ring...

Students on the Ring Making Taster Day - April 2014

All the rings!

Time to go home, for me the work was just about to start, for the students they could most certainly congratulate themselves on a job well done!

I felt really honoured to be able to spend the day with Nicola and Victoria and their amazing group of students, I *loved* the rings they created and it's a fantastic way to spend a Sunday.

Oresome Gallery Jewellery Courses

Taster DaysThe ring making workshops are usually held on the 3rd Sunday of every month, they cost £50 for the day and the silver will cost £20.  Next one is on 15th June 2014.

Taster Evenings - The pendant making workshops in the evenings on the 3rd Wednesday of each month £50 for the session plus £20 for silver.  Next one is actually tonight, but as that might be a bit short notice, how about the one on the 18th June 2014?

Make Your Own Wedding Ring 2 day bespoke course for couples. £500 per couple - dates can be arranged to mutually suit everyone.

Jewellery Summer School is a week long course taking place from Monday 18th August to Friday 22nd August 2014, 10am-3pm and is suitable for any level of experience, from complete beginner upwards to more experienced practitioners.  £180 per person.

You can contact Oresome Gallery for more details at:
1 Humber Street
The Fruit Market
East Yorkshire

Tel: 01482 213881

Email: oresomegallery (at) gmail (dot) com

Finally they are celebrating their 3rd Birthday Party on 
Sunday 20th July 1pm-4pm
and they invite you to come along
and help them celebrate!