Special Retreat - Just for You

Do you ever wish you could escape just for a few days and completely relax and nourish your whole being ?

Well, if this sounds like your ideal time of refreshment, then I have just the event for you. 

In September 2018 my friend and mentor Jodee Peevor is hosting a ladies weekend.   There will be lots of workshops for you to attend along with the opportunity to book one to one sessions with the speakers.

To learn more and book your space please go to:   http://jodee-peevor.mykajabi.com/p/jtw

 

Continue reading
  320 Hits
  0 Comments
320 Hits
0 Comments

Preparing for a Talk

I often get asked to do talks at various events about my business activities.   

From small ladies groups, to Women's Institute meetings, business networking events and charity get togethers, it doesn't matter how large or small the same amount of preparation should be undertaken.

When I am asked to participate as a speaker I always ask some very imprtant questions beforehand, such as how long am I required to speak for, how many attendees are expected, what are the demographics of the attendees, what's the main purpose of the event and what presentation facilities are available.  Of course, you should also ask about venue location, access, and meeting start and end times so you can allow enough time to get setup.   I also ask about other speakers and what topics they are talking about, so that you can research beforehand and then when introduced you can appear knowledgeable about their work.  

Another good question is to ask about the layout of the room.  Will it be conference style, or seating around tables, boadroom style around a single table, or just a circle of chairs ?   This is all very important as you can pitch your talk differently depending on the layout of the room.  The smaller the group, the more interaction you will need.  Also, if the audience are sitting at tables then it's more likely they will take notes.

If you are promoting a product or service then it's always a good idea to ask if you can pre-distribute leaflets or flyers on the seats or tables beforehand.  You may also be able to have a table on the side for people to browse your products during breaks etc.  This is always a great idea if you have products to sell as people quite often like to have something to take home with them.  Yo should take your credit card payment facility with you though as unexpected sales often involve card purchases rather than cash.

One rule of thumb that has proven useful is to obtain the business cards of the other speakers and professionals attending.  Always good to have made new contacts so that you can keep in touch and perhaps work together again in the future.

The most important thing you need to do beforehand is practice your talk.  Write down the key points on small cards if necessary and time yourself so that you don't overrun. Practice with a family member or colleague to ensure your timings are good.  

On the day of the event you should ensure that you arrive early with all your equipment etc ready to be installed prior to the start of the event.  This could include stand up banners, sales and promotional tables or other displays.   Always have a good supply of business cards and leaflets available and some samples of your work if you are not selling on the day. I usually have a notebook and pen handy too to take down details of any inquiries i may receive. 

The final thing you should always do on the day is to thank the host for inviting you, and follow this up with a further thank you email.   You would be surprised as to how few people send a thank you email, and by exception you will automatically gain favour with the organiser and be invited to future events.

 

 

Continue reading
  231 Hits
  0 Comments
231 Hits
0 Comments

Stuck for Inspiration

I really love making things, but sometimes I get completely stuck for inspration.  I don't know why this occurs, it just does.

There are so many things around me that I could take inspiration from, such as the seasons, the wide array of occurs in nature which you would think would provide more than enough to get the artistic juices flowing.  There are days when nothing gets me started.

For days like these, I find it better to park things on one side and just have a big tidy up in my studio instead.   Then, more often than not, I find something tucked away and the inspiration hits.  It could be some pretty fabric, a packet of beads, an odd button, a picture or magazine article that was lurking in the back of a cupboard.

Whatever it is, ideas start popping into my head, that's when I get my notepad out and start sketching down ideas.   Sometimes the ideas don't come until much later, when i'm cooking dinner or doing the laundry (life as an artisan can be very glamourous at times).   It really doesn't matter, as you can make lots of notes and musings in your pad and take a look at them when you have time.

So, I no longer worry about running out of ideas, as I know they will come sooner or later.   Now where did I put my notebook?

 

Continue reading
  244 Hits
  0 Comments
244 Hits
0 Comments

Craft Studio - Genius at work or Organised Chaos ?

If ever you get to come to my workspace you may think it's in dire need of a good tidy up, and you would be right!

It's true, I work to the space I have available, a bit like a goldfish.  Goldfish grow to the space they are given, hence why pond fish are larger than fish living in a small glass bowl.  This is exactly the same in craft rooms or design studios.  The space you have may start all tidy and organised, but it doesn't take long before you run out of space and have to coe up with ingenious space saving storage solutions.

Being short of space does focus the mind.  I've had to plan several trips to Ikea to buy more worktops, storage drawers and other bits and pieces. 

Because I am involved in several crafts, I have a wide range of materials and equipment, all of which needs to be stored so that I can easily access when required.  This is why I scour Pinterest and look for lots of different craft storage ideas, and there are loads, believe me.

So, genius or chaos?  I will leave that up to you.   (Here's a photo after a the big tidy up).

 

Continue reading
  250 Hits
  0 Comments
250 Hits
0 Comments

Summer Fair Preparation

It's that time of year again, when many crafts people are getting ready for the summer fayre season.  Aside from making new stock there is just so much else to do.

Obviously, the very first thing is to find events to attend, and this can be done by searching online, contacting previous fayre organisers or by word of mouth.  The best fayres always get booked up early in the year, so it's a great idea to get yourself on their mailing lists well in advance so you receive early notification of the events they are organising for the coming year.

Next, is to check your displays, there's nothing worse than getting to an event only to find that your displays are dusty, broken or even have bits missing.  Why not have a dry run at home if all of this is new to you?  Do you need a new table covering, or some better lighting?  Always better to think of this before you arrive at an event.   

If you run outside events, how is your gazebo holding up?  Does it need any repairs or additional supports ?   Now is the time to address any issues, including wobbly tables etc.

Then it's your packaging, this is very important.  If your items are already boxed, make sure you have sufficient, or if you wrap and pack upon sale, then again, ensure you have sufficient supplies.  Don't forget to remember that if you have introduced new products to your range you may need new sizes or types of packaging.   All packaging should be commensurate to the type of products you are selling.  For example, high value items should not be packaged in tatty poor quality packaging, they should be given in packaging that makes the cliet say, "Wow, this item looks great before I've even opened the box".

After packaging, pricing needs to be addressed.  You may need to re-price your stock if the cost of your materials has increased in order to maintain your profit margins.  Every item on display should be clearly priced, and it should be clear what's included and what is extra if applicable.  

Once you have covered the above, you can then turn your attentions to your admin box.  What, you don't have an admin box?

Your admin box, should contain everything you need on the day.  This will, of course, include your petty cash tin or money bag. which should contain lots of change.  A receipt book, if you use them, business cards, leaflets and flyers, credit card reader and charger. Pens, scissors, tape, string and safety pins are always useful, not only for yourself, but can save the lives of other new stall holder friends yo =u meet too.

A very useful item to take with you is your notebook and pen. I use mine constantly at events, for taking down orders, contact details of new clients and new stall holders, designing pieces of jewellery right in front my a client's eyes (always impressive).  One of the main reasons I have a notebook is to keep a track of what I've sold, details of the event, how much the stsall cost me, and whether it's a good event to return to in the future,

So what's the most important thing you need to take with you on the day ? 

I bet it's something you've not thought of?   How about a Thank You card for the organiser.   Every event I attend I always pop in a Thank You card which i write and hand to the organiser uponleaving the event.  It's a simple touch, but does cement your relationship and I always get a return invitation to the next event they organise, and very often get a better spot too!   It's funny, because as far as I know, nobody else I've spoken to does this, which is why they always remember my name the following year.

Well worth a thought don't you think ?    

 

Continue reading
  228 Hits
  0 Comments
228 Hits
0 Comments

Vintage Up-Cycling

We all love a bit of vintage don't we?   There are so many fabulous items wiaitng to be discovered in markets, antique fairs and even charity shops.  

Have you ever coe across a piece of old jewellery that you really love but it's just not in the style you would actually wear it ?

Maybe you have been passed down some faily costume jewellery that although is very sentimental you would never find yourself wearing?

Perhaps you should consider up-clycling those pieces?   One thing I love to do is to browse through secondhand markets, antique stalls and charity shops looking for unwanted vintage jewellery.  I look out for things like odd earrings, old brooches and necklaces that may have seen better days.  

Every piece holds a story, and if they could only talk, what a tale they would tell!

All the pirces I collect get thoroughly cleaned, inspected and repaired if needed, then many are dismanted and placed together in complimentary colour groups and remodelled into something altogether new and fabulous.   

It can be very hard on the fingers, with all the cutting, filing and re-making, but the effects are always worth it.  You would be surprised what you can make from a variety of old bits and pieces.  From necklaces, bracelets and brooches, every piece is re-used.  Even the bits with missing stones and tarnished metal can be re-used to make some great wall art.

So next time you are browsing around stalls, or just having a clearout at home, why not consider making something new from somethin old and out the bling back into your life.

 

Continue reading
  481 Hits
  0 Comments
481 Hits
0 Comments

Tools of the Trade

There is a misconception that you need a large variety of specialist tools in order to get started making jewellery.

Actually you don't, you can get away with a few pairs of pliers and a wire cutter and off you go.

The main types you need to get started are:

Wire Cutters - a good pair of wire cutters is essential to giving you a rofessional look to your jewellery.  You really don't want to skimp on these as rough edges or jagged cuts will make your items look shoddy and poorly made.

Roud Nosed Pliers - these are conical in shape and are useful for making wire loops which are essential for basic jewellery making.

Flat Nosed Pliers - These are very similar to the conical pliers only they have a flat inside edge to allow you to sqeeze findings really tightly,

Square Nosed Pliers - square nosed pliers are great for giving a perfectly flat or square edge to wire projects.

Crimping Pliers - The only tool you can sucessfully attach crimps to the end of your beading wires with.  There are two appertures in the mouth of this tool to allow you to use the two step process involved in making a good secure crimp end.

So there we are, a simple guide to the basic tools of the trade to get you on your way to making great jewellery at home.   You can buy these tools from craft shops, hobby stores or online and they are all readily available.   There are a number of different qualities available, and you should firstly go for comfort with comfortable handles.  The items displayed in the above picture have small thinner handles but you can easily find larger more spongy handles readily available if you find those more suitable.

They can be bought individually for around £5 each and £10 for the crimping pliers, or you can invest in a nice set in a case for not much more than £25.

Whatever you decide to you  I am sure you will have great fun in making your own jewellery, and I can't wait to see your results.

 

 

Continue reading
  374 Hits
  0 Comments
374 Hits
0 Comments

Guide to Sterling Silver Hallmarking

If you are looking to identify a British Hallmark then there are several components to look at.

1.  Silver Standard Mark - if the item is 925 Sterling silver and registered in england,then you will find a Lion mark on the item.  Similarly, there are different marks for ites registered in different aprts of the UK.

2.  City Mark - this tells us where the item was registered at the local Assay Office. For example an anchor denotes the City of Birmingham.

3.  Duty Mark.  This mark denotes the reign of the monarch during the period where tax was paid on the item.  You will find a variety of different marks depending on the monarch regning at the time.  This mark was abolished in 1890  so the last mark represented Queen Victoria.

4.  Makers Mark - often shown as the makers initials, this was to show the provinence of the piece so that value could be attached to it later on.  each maker was expected to have their own stamp with their pictoral image or later their initials for traceability.  This mark was also instigated to avoid any potential forgeries.

5.  Date Letters - to confirm the date of manufacture an alphabetic letter was designated for each year.  The letters changed each May and when the alphabet repeated itself the font was changed to avoid any visual duplicates.   

6.  If an item was imported from oveerseas a mark was used to identify that is was a foreign item, hence the use of the letter "F".  The overseas makers mark was also stamped alongside for traceability purposes.

Continue reading
  298 Hits
  0 Comments
298 Hits
0 Comments

What are Mille Flori Beads?

Mille flori means a thousand flowers in Italian.   Originally made in Roman times these beautiful beads are made from glass with the appearance of fabulous flowers held within the glass.  The technique was revived in the 16th century by Venetian glass makers.   The method used is very smilar to that used by candy rock makers.   The hot glass is rolled into thin rods  or "canes" of all different colours, each colour is then laid  lengthwise around a central core colour to make a flower, once the desired shape is acheieved the long flower rod is then cut into slices, revealing the flower design.

The beads are then fired to hold fast their shape and colour.  Shapes can be square, rectangular, heart or flower shapes to name a few.  

Although the process sounds complex and time consuming it's fairly straightforward which makes these adorable beads easily available and affordable.

Because the method for making these beads has been around for centuries you can find some very old beads in circulation, many of these become collectors items and can be identified by the deep rich colours as opposed to the lighter brighter fresher coloures of more recently manufactured beads.

Whichever type of mille flori beads you prefer you will always find a shapre and colour scheme to suit your needs, and as there are so many designs available you will have  alarge seldction to choose from for your project.

 

 

Continue reading
  289 Hits
  0 Comments
289 Hits
0 Comments

Are Craft Fairs Still Popular ?

Imagine spending a sunny afternoon in a typically idyllic English village, browsing around a Craft Fair whilst enjoying a refreshing glass of Pimms.

Sounds perfect, doesn't it?   But does anyone actually still attend Craft Fairs?

Well, in the UK, as we know, the weather isn't always condusive to outdoor events even in the height of summer.   Even if the day does turn out to be warm and dry, if it's been raining all week you could still be up to your knees in mud - dare I mention Glastonbury!

Then there's the stalls, OK so we know we can always find a tombola, guess the sweets in the jar and the obligatory bric a brac stall (full of everyone else's rubbish).

What about the actual Craft Stall Holders ?  Unfortunately these are usually very few and far between, and often interspursed with stalls containing items which have been "crafted" in China or elsewhere.  Personally I've never been able to determine which part of "Craft Fair" the Aloe Vera products, Pheonix Cards, Plastic Handbags and cheap cosmetics fit into.

I blame the organisers, so I know they are only hosting the event to make money, and rightly so as it's their business too, but hey, come on, at least find some decent crafters to hold stalls for you.  Craft Fair Photo

Crafts people and artisans are not a dying breed, we like to create and love to share our wares and show people how things are made and how these skills can be passed onto to future generations.   In recent years there has been a massive resurgence of all things hand made, upcylced and re-purposed.  You only have to try and get served in your local hobby store on a Saturday afternoon to know that!.

So why, oh why, are there less and less crafts people attending Craft Fairs ?  I blame the internet.  Internet shopping has taken over, within seconds, you can have chosen an item, clicked to pay and even had confirmation that your parcel is on it's way, all without leaving the confort of your cosy sofa.   Don't get me wrong, I love internet shopping, but there is a time and place for everything.  The internet has stolen some of the joy and fun of shopping.

So next time you want to buy a special gift or just spend a sunny afternoon browsing, take a thought for your local artisans and crafts people and instead of googling to purchase, google to find a local craft fair, summer fair or similar and jump in the car and spend a fun afternoon chatting with some lovely people who will really appreciate you taking the time to ask them about their items.

Oh yes, and don't forget the wellies, just in case. 

Continue reading
  476 Hits
  0 Comments
476 Hits
0 Comments

Findings & Fastenings - It's not all about the beads !

Have you ever thought about what goes into designing jewellery ?

You would expect for the colours, textures, styles and materials to be the main factors, but what about the findings and fasteners ?

Jewwellery Findings is the term given to all the little bits and pieces that holds the whole thing together.  Items such as little round jump rings, connectors, wire loops, head pins, crimp tubes, chain, and of course fastenings,

All of these have to be carefully selected to suit the stones or beads you are using.  For example, do we need silver, bronze, gold or copper tones to tie in with the overall colour scheme ?

Once the colour scheme has been selected, we know need to look at the styles, modern or vintage ?

Now that the findings have been selected, we need to determine what type of clasp should be used.   What sort of weight is the item being made ?  Is it chunky or delicate ?  Would the item be too heavy for a megnetic clasp ?   Is the item aimed at an elderley market, in which case would they easily open and close the clasp ?

There are so many choices out there, which makes my job really fun. as I can experiment with lots of different styles and finishes to make each piece of jewellery unique.

Of course, if a piece doesn't work out, or doesn't suit the style, I can always change it.   That's the joy of being able to remodel items.   

At Highly Strug HQ, we love working with magnetic clasps, just because they are so versatile, and can be opened easily without any struggles.   We also offer a fastener replacement service which includes a little TLC for your jewellery and a brand new replacement magnetic or other style clasp to make your jewellery looking like new.

 

 

Continue reading
  523 Hits
  0 Comments
523 Hits
0 Comments

Jewellery Cleaning - Hints & Tips

Keeping your jewellery clean can be a chore.   The secret is to do it regularly and without the use of harsh chemical products which can harm both your skin and your lovely jewellery.   

For fragile pieces I would suggest you simply wash in warm soapy water and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth. Take special care when washing pearls as if they have been hand knotted on silk, by immersing in water the silk could stretch and spoil your necklace.   If you have costume jewellery made up of a wide variety of materials gentle washing in soapy water is probably the best way to keep them clean.

For those of you with stubborn tarnishing on your silver jewellery I have found a useful video showing how you can clean sterling silver jewellery using household baking soda an old toothbrush and a glass dish lined with tinfoil.

This works well and make sure you rinse and dry as explained in the video as you don't want the baking soda to remain on your pieces.

Continue reading
  964 Hits
  0 Comments
964 Hits
0 Comments