Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Willow Pattern Sea Pottery

The Willow pattern is probably one of the most widely recognised designs in ceramics. Also known as the Blue Willow, it's an elaborate design based on a Chinese story. The term 'Willow' refers to the pattern itself plus the manner in which it is printed on ceramic, that is, Transferware.

Willow has been around for over 200 years. There are and have been several variations of the pattern produced since circa 1780-1790. Inspirations came from Chinese designs but the key European players involved in developing this style of household ceramics were Josiah Spode, Thomas Minton and Thomas Turner. 

The background in Willow pattern is always white. The foreground is most commonly blue but other shades such as brown, pink or green are also found.
My grandmother had a brown set. When she married, my mother had an entire, breakfast, tea and dinner service in the popular blue as part of her dowry, so I am well familiar with the design. As a small girl I was enchanted by the fable behind it.

A humble assistant named Chang fell in love with the Chinese Mandarin's daughter, Koong-Se. He was forbidden to marry the beautiful young lady as he was of a lower station and she was already promised to a wealthy nobleman. In order to keep them apart until her wedding, the Mandarin locked his daughter in a small house in an orchard overlooking the river. However, the brave Chang came to Koong-Se's rescue. The young lovers escaped across a bridge and eloped to a secret island. They spent many happy years together in self-imposed exile. However, the jilted nobleman eventually caught up with the couple and had them slaughtered. But the Gods took pity on the lovers and turned their souls into a pair of doves. They flew away, free to be together in happiness.

Irish Beach Pottery Pendant. Blue Willow Pattern Porcelain & Sterling Silver. 'Tea n Surf'
Willow pattern sea pottery pendant (Sold)
 When I saw this piece of sea pottery I recognised it as a section of border on a Willow pattern piece similar to the version my mother had.  I suspect that the slightly concave shard came from a saucer or serving dish perhaps. (The sea pottery pendant I made with it has been sold.)

 Although there are several variations of the Willow pattern, elements common to them are three people crossing the bridge, the willow tree, the apple tree, the temple, the fence and essentially, the two birds flying overhead. Some versions are more stylised, some more flouncy.

I recently found this shard of sea pottery on a Dublin strand. You can see the smaller rooftop and the trees, most often found on the top left of a piece. On the right, you can make out the tips of the wing and tail of one of the birds which would commonly be in the top centre of the pattern.

This was a very exciting find. It has been beautifully leached and de-glazed by the acidity and action of the ocean. It has that 'chalky' texture that comes only after a long time tumbling in the sea. The colour is a little faded but still quite a true, indigo blue. I shall put a lot of thought into it before wrapping it in silver wire. The trick will be to show off as much of the pattern as possible while holding the piece securely - that's the kind of wire-wrapping challenge I relish. However, I am sorely tempted to leave this piece as is and keep it in my personal collection.

Sea pottery pendants for sale on Etsy 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sea Glass and Copper Wire

Seaglass & Copper Pendant. Rich Autumnal Reddish Brown. Irish Beach Glass.  Sunset in Dublin
Copper has been used in Irish jewellery for centuries. It is a reddish, brown metal that is a pleasure to work with and beautiful to wear.

Natural copper wire lends a warmer look than silver, and tends to scratch less easily than plated wire when working with it. It is pliable for wire wrapping, yet strong and sturdy, perfect for encasing seaglass. I love it whether it's shiny and red, or whether it has garnered a darker, more rustic patina with time.

I've just listed this russet-brown seaglass pendant on Etsy. I found the frosted glass on a beach in Dublin. The rich, autumnal colour works really well with the warmth of the copper wire.

Right now the metal is bright and shiny. It will slowly gain a darker patina. This is a natural occurrence known as oxidation.

Long Turquoise Stone Pendant Copper Wrapped. Adjustable Necklace. Blue and Brown. Temptress
This turquoise stone pendant is wrapped in pre-oxidised copper wire. It has a more rustic or vintage feel to it.

Brightening untreated copper is actually fairly easy to do. Beware of trying this on lacquered copper or so-called 'Vintaj' copper or similar. Lacquered copper will never really tarnish, it just gets grimy. All it needs is a wash in soapy water. 'Vintag' or 'Antiqued' copper is a cheaper alloy metal and will not brighten properly.

However, natural copper that has oxidised over time can be brightened with a lemon and salt solution.  Just pour a couple of inches of water into a non-metallic bowl. Add a few drops of lemon, enough to lightly cloud the solution, and a few decent shakes of salt. Dip or soak your natural copper and watch how quickly the patina is lifted off.
salt and lemon solution will brighten natural copper
This method is safe for sea glass and other glass but not recommended for gemstone, pearls or amber. It is safe for sheet copper jewellery that is un-coated.

Copper bookmarks. Oxidised on the left, cleaned with lemon and salt in water on the right.

How to Clean Silver
How to Clean Seaglass and Sea Pottery
How to Care for Seaglass Jewellery

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Caught My Eye 12: Glass Houses

 Caught My Eye is the section of my blog that I reserve for scenes that struck me as curious, comical, weird, or aesthetically appealing when out and about on one of my rambles. Please forgive my amateur photography and enjoy the photos for what they are - a glimpse at the world that I find so inspiring.

On Saturday I was at the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin. Ever since I was a child, the glass houses fascinated me with their exotic plants and jungle-like atmosphere. A few years ago I got caught in the largest one in the midst of a thunder and lightening storm. I couldn't think of a more dramatic yet beautiful place to get caught in a storm.  For now, here is just a quick peek at the beautiful structures themselves.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Craft Market Display

up-cycled photo frame displays sea glass pendants
I've just posted this piece: Ideas for Market Stall Display on the Etsy Ireland team blog. Thanks to all team members who gave input/sent me photos.
LED candles, useful for stall display with no power source

Thursday, October 18, 2012

More October Treasuries

A few more recent treasuries to share and say  

 This one is good enough to eat!  Thank you Deb of Blue Sky Pottery for including my bronzite, jasper and red glass bracelet in  'Strawberry and Chocolate.'

Thanks Puffin Patchwork for this festive collection to get us all in mood for the season 'Decorate for Christmas.' I will!

Once more Lynn Corrigan of Lynn's Creative Crochet has come up trumps with a gorgeous treasury, 'The Birth of the Blues.' Thanks Lynn for adding in my vintage sapphire glass pendant.

 Today, my brown gemstone necklace, 'Nature' was featured in this gorgeous, earthy treasury 'Anniversary finds' by Ksusha of Flower Decoration. I really appreciate it, thanks.

And here's one I made myself:

I put together this Irish collection titled, 'Samhain Halloween' to showcase a few fellow, Irish crafts persons, artists and craft suppliers.

Today,  Samhain is the Irish word for Halloween. Samhain was originally a pagan, Celtic holiday to celebrate the end of Harvest and literally meant 'summers end'. The ancient Celtic year began in November just after this festival. 


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Busy Elving Away

Celtic Connemara marble tree ornament
Just a quick update on how I am getting on with the Christmas ornaments. Yes it really is that time of year for online business. It just comes out of nowhere and blind-sides us every year, but I still can't help but get excited about it! Making cute things brings out the inner child in me. 

Like many of Etsy store owners, I am busy, busy, busy like an elf getting ready for the festive season. I've listed a few Irish,Christmas ornaments this weekend but have a hole heap more to make and to list...I wonder if I will ever get there? I'm particularly happy with how the seaglass is turning out, especially a small piece I found on Dublin shore, that looks like a stocking or boot.
Watch this space for more...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Caught My Eye 11 Johnny Fox's Weather Stone

 Caught My Eye is the section of my blog that I reserve for scenes that struck me as curious, comical, weird, or aesthetically appealing when out and about on one of my rambles. Please forgive my amateur photography and enjoy the photos for what they are - a glimpse at the world that I find so inspiring.

I had a great laugh last night thanks to Welsh comedian, Rhod Gilbert , who was on in Dublin last night. Inspired by a good belly laugh, I thought I'd share a little Irish wit:

Weather Forecasting stone at Johnnie Fox's Pub, where I partook of some post-ramble refreshment, in July this year. (Well worth a visit to Ireland's highest pub known for its food, quirky decor and welcoming atmosphere.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Citrine, November Birthstone

Birthstone for November, citrine is the colour of sunshine, sure to brighten up cool, Autumn days. The name comes from the Latin for lemon yellow, 'citrina.' This golden gemstone is a member of the quartz family and can vary in shade from barely there yellow through to a brownish whiskey colour. It is a hard and resilient stone (7 on Mohs scale). It wont scratch too easily and will stand up to a lot of knocks and bumps.
Spanish Citrine Earrings. Golden November Birthstone with Sterling Silver. Honey Dew

This glorious gem adds instant elegance, especially if worn with a simple outfit, like that LBD for the festive party nights. Just of hint of the liquid honey with a plain dark dress in black, chocolate, titanium grey or darkest navy is enough to garner a sophisticated look. Less is more. Put on a pendant or some earrings and wont need any other jewellery. Just grab your handbag  and you're good to go.

Spanish Citrine Purse Charm, Jeans Fob, or Zipper Pull. Lemon Yellow Stones.

Natural citrine is very rare. Its yellow colour comes from the presence of the mineral iron. I only recently learned that the much of the citrine stones found on the market are actually amethyst that has been heated up to 560 degrees, causing the original purple colour to change to a honey hue. Far from being a modern process, this treatment of the crystalline quartz has been around for almost 200 years and has earned a certain respectability in its own right. Apparently, a heat-developed citrine will have stripes of colour, discernible only to an expert eye, whereas the gold of a natural stone will be more cloud-like.
Spanish Citrine Earrings. Golden November Birthstone with Sterling Silver. Honey Dew
 Spain and Brazil both boast fine specimens of citrine, but it is not found exclusively in those countries. In Europe, France and Hungary also have a history of mining it.
File:Hoard of ancient gold coins.jpg
 Ancient gold coins, from Wikimedia
This lemony gem is the symbol of wealth, prosperity and success.  Traditionally it was believed that if you kept a specimen of the stone in your purse or wallet it would  attract money into your life.  we should add some to the coffers of the country! I wonder if this association was born out of its gold-like appearance.
Healers who use gemstones have long associated the stone with aiding digestion and with providing clarity and enlightenment.

Citrine is the designated stone for the 13 and 17th wedding anniversary. It is the official birthstone for the month of November. If you have a birthday in November, have a bright one!

to read about Amethyst, February birthstone click HERE
to read about Irish stone, Connemara marble click HERE

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October Treasuries

A few more recent treasuries to share and say A BIG THANK YOU for:

Feast your eyes on beautiful artwork by Irish artists and artestans in Seascape Inspiration by Rosemary of Selke Crochet. Thanks for including my wire wrapped pendant, 'Waves'.

 Treasury Queen, Lynn of Lynn's Creative Crochet has featured me in multiple collections lately. I absolutely adore this purple list, titled 'Plum Palette.' Thank you so much for including my dark purple amethyst earrins 'Damson,'

Anna Victoria of Carillion Collectibles was feeling nostalic for Ireland and so created this treasury titled 'Irish Moss.'  A big thanks for inluding my Connemara marble ornament. Sending a massive Irish Ireland hug to you!

And here is one I put together myself to promote fellow members of the Top Treasury Team: 'Mild October', inspired by the current weather in Dublin - cool and crisp yet dry and bright.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Foot Injury Forces Me to Get Craftier

During September I was very frustrated to have developed plantar fasciitis from all the walking and hiking I did (or overdid) since January; hence the sudden drop off from blogging about inspiring Irish scenery.  No pun intended with the cliff pic...well OK then, maybe a wee bit intended.
Lower cliff path, Howth
I was out nearly every weekend, walking for miles and feeling healthy, happy and full of creative ideas. Unfortunately, I ended up with this painful soul infliction. Yes, yes, I meant 'sole'  infliction but I'm leaving my Freudian spelling mistake as is. After all, it is soul destroying.

I am pretty hobbled and wonder if I have a heel spur too. I've managed a few short walks, though I've paid for it dearly afterwards. I can only look on the bright side though. Losing the motivation to spend entire days out in the wilds has meant I finally made time to work on my Christmas stock. (Um... is it too soon to use the 'C' word?)
Connemara Marble Star Ornament. Christmas Tree Decoration in Rare, Green, Irish  Stone
I'm a little embarrassed to be posting about Christmas a few weeks before Halloween has had a chance to say Boo! 
Irish Ornament. Connemara Marble Christmas Ornament with Silver Flower Snowflake

The reality is though, if my Irish ornaments are to find happy homes this side of the holidays they need to be in my store like yesterday. Looking at other shops on Etsy, I am indeed a  bit behind.

I do tend to have one or two tree ornaments and beaded angels lurking at the back of my shop at any given time. It's surprising that I sold one or two in recent months and 4 of them in July. Seems Christmas is never entirely out of style.
Irish Seaglass Ornament or Beach Glass Suncatcher or  Loose Pendant
I spent a good portion of the weekend wiring up ornaments and new jewellery. They are photographed but waiting patiently to be edited and listed. But I have a huge list of goodies yet to make and I wonder will it happen? Where are Santa's elves when you need them? Time to put my best foot forward then. I guess that would be the one without the plantar fasciitis.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Easy To Fasten Jewelry

I'm a big fan of throw-on jewelry. I have oodles of patience and dexterity to wire wrap stones and seaglass or bead a long eyeglass chain. Oddly enough though, I can't stand messing about with finicky little clasps when it comes to blinging up.  And I'm not alone in that.

larger losbster clasp
handmade hook and eye clasp
In my case it's because I tend to fling on a necklace just before grabbing my coat. But my Mum has arthritic fingers, something I must bear in mind when making a piece for her. She prefers a larger lobster clasp or (my favourite,) a big hook and eye. Some of my customers have the same requirements and if the clasp is too dainty for them I will customise when possible.
rounder lobster clasp with extender chain

                  Connemara marble pendant with extender chain

An extender chain tends to have broad appeal, even with a standard sized trigger or lobster clasp. Not only does it allow for adjustable sizing, but it can be easier to latch onto at first go than a tag as the links tend to be wider.
 Recently, I began searching for something fresh and edgy to use for my seaglass pendants. I don't crochet - another thing I don't seem to have the fingers for, but maybe one day I'll come to grips with it....'scuse the pun. As an experiment, I commissioned some cotton crochet chains from the very talented Mo of Huggle Knits,  I've been using one of these chains myself now for a couple of months on my own personal seaglass and button pendants to see how it wears. I absolutely love it! Not only has it kept its shape and not gone all fluffy or dirty looking, but it has to be the easiest chain I've ever put on. And it's so light and comfortable, I forget I'm wearing it.

The crochet chain closes with a button. The hypoallergenic cotton is elastic enough to stretch the loop over it, without even looking in mirror. Just what you need as you rush out the door. Yet, the chain does not sag or stretch under the weight of my seaglass pendants. And if it does get make up or perfume on it, a quick wash with soapy water is all it requires.
First Communion bracelet
gemstone bracelet with sterling silver toggle clasp

When it comes to bracelets, an extender chain is always useful. Many find it much easier to latch the clasp onto it with one hand than onto a tag. However, Toggle clasps are generally easier again, once you get the hang of them, that is.
Asymmetrical, gemstone necklace, silver plate
Ease of use also comes into play in my necklace designs. Oftentimes, I will use a toggle clasp placed at the front or side instead of the back. This allows for a modern, asymmetrical style
asymmetrical necklace, sterling silver
Just as importantly, you can throw on the necklace without any help or a mirror.  Handy if you are on the run or up-styling your work outfit as you head off to the office night out.

                                        Adjustable slip knots                   Pendant on adjustable chord                                 
For a more casual look, an adjustable chord necklace can be really handy and easy to use, especially if you prefer to wear your necklaces long. Like any long necklace, just slip it over your head. Then if you want to wear it short, you just slide the knots away from each other. The soft suedette in the turquoise necklace above slides easily with just the right amount of traction. 

You can make this type of adjustable, chord necklace yourself. To learn how, click HERE