Today in France, it is Music Day: everyone is out in the streets playing music!
Today in France, it is Music Day: everyone is out in the streets playing music!
Recently, I have started making cufflinks. I had wanted for a while now to try making jewellery for men. I did not expect to stumble upon the very type of obstacle I hate most, which made me question my design choices a lot more than usual.
This notion, as sexist and moronic as it is, is everywhere. Real men don’t wear accessories, they are not interested in fashion, and if they do there must be something wrong with them. I will not rant too long on this matter because there is so much to say and I don’t feel qualified enough for it. But there is something furiously unhealthy in our society.
When you look up “jewellery for men” on the internet, you get very simple things made with leather, metal, chain. The designs have lots of angles and straight lines, dark colours, wide seams or links, rough looks.
It would seem the 21st century man is supposed to be a suit-clad caveman with everything about him very large and very sturdy (there was so much potential for a joke about size and/or hardness here, be thankful I’m a classy person).
So here I come, all about round shapes and lively colours, ready to conquer the manly market. I would love to make things in leather but it’s not something one can improvise; I have too much to learn before starting and now is not the time. Metal is coming, but slowly. This was not looking very promising…
After a time of reflexion, the first easy-to-make accessories I decided to try were cufflinks. I liked this idea because I could keep using the materials I enjoy: metal and gemstones.
But cufflinks are either old school or a joke: as far as I know, nowadays, people only buy it for occasions such as weddings or to make a silly gift. I guess it says a lot about how masculinity in fashion has changed over time. Accessories for men, I find, are very limited, just like styles of clothes. Professional wear? Nothing much there except suits. Formal event? Suits again, or maybe a tuxedo if it is really formal.
For women, on any day and any occasion, tons of options are available! Who said that men don’t like diversity in their clothing and women do? Why is it considered effeminate for a man to like jewellery? And why would something ‘effeminate’ on a man be such a bad thing anyway?
We are all influenced by the buttloads of images and sounds we receive daily, that spread all the dumbest clichés. I look at what I make and keep wondering: ‘Is it too girly?’. And then I get pissed off at myself for falling into that trap again.
I have yet to find the delicate balance needed to try to make things that get out of those stupid constraints while also trying to sell them. It is not easy to reconcile your deepest convictions with… well, marketing.
In the end, I still finished my cufflinks. I made them in my own style and I’m happy with them. I am not one to be discouraged by ideas I despise, however prevalent they may be.
Does this look girly to you? I don’t know anymore. I have decided to stop caring.
To celebrate my hundredth blog post, I will give you a quick tour of my favourite blogs. Warning: my selection is quite eclectic and there is nothing there about jewellery making… I don’t read any DIY or creation-oriented blogs. When I browse the internet, I am rather looking for other subjects for a change.
Bouletcorp — Boulet is a French comic artist who’s been blogging for more than ten years, with great humour and drawing style.
Scandinavia and the world — Denmark, Norway and Sweden walk into a blog…
Letters of note — A collection of all sorts of historical, touching, funny, sometimes crazy letters.
The Oatmeal — Matthew Inman is some sort of comic artist alien with a very weird humour.
Crocodiles Project — A webcomic telling stories of everyday sexism and harassment.
Sarah’s scribbles — Delightfully funny webcomic by Sarah Andersen.
What the fuck France (Youtube channel) — Paul Taylor is English but lives in France. Many French things escape his understanding for three reasons.
As promised, here is a new tutorial.
I’ll show you how to make this kind of pretty origami vertical garland.
Origami is a nice and relaxing activity that I recommend to everyone. There is something peaceful about folding paper with care that is similar to threading beads or knitting: I guess it has to do with the repetition of simple movements.
I make garlands with cranes, the most common folding, but of course there are plenty of other shapes to choose from.
I selected four types of Swarovski bicone crystals, shown above:
Feel free to change colours and types of beads for your garland!
For this tutorial, I chose paper in sunny yellow tones. Some are plain and some have patterns; I like mixing the two.
First things first, let’s fold! Here is how to fold a crane. We will need 5 of them.
Two down, three to go. I enjoy listening to music or a podcast while keeping my hands busy.
Voilà! All five cranes are done.
Prick each crane’s back with a needle so you can thread the wire through it later. There is no need to make a hole on their bellies as the folding already leaves a space there.
First, we will make the loop from which to hang the garland. Slide a crimp bead on the wire and make a loop by threading the wire back through the bead, as shown in the picture below. Leave a bit of a wire tail so the bead has a good hold, but don’t make it too long.
Flatten the bead using the flat-nose pliers.
Thread a yellow crystal and slide it through the wire tail to hide it. If the tail is too long, you can cut it. Then thread another crimp bead and flatten it so the crystal holds into place.
Your garland’s top loop is now ready!
Now thread the cranes and their accompanying beads, in order: one small brown crystal, one crane, one regular-size brown crystal, and lastly one crimp bead.
I don’t put a crimp bead on top of the crane: it’s not necessary and the result looks better that way.
Measure approximately 2 inches (5 cm) from the yellow crystal to the small brown crystal on top of the crane. Then flatten the crimp bead.
For this manipulation, I find it easier to hang the garland on a nail and work vertically. Gravity helps measuring: push the beads and crane high then let them slowly come down until they are where you want them to be. Pinch the wire just below the crimp bead to hold it in place then flatten it.
When your first crane is up, thread a crimp bead at a 1.5 in. distance of the previous one, and flatten it. Thread a black crystal and another crimp bead, flatten it. Next will be another crane like the first one, then another black crystal, then a crane, etc. Rinse and repeat five times, finish with the last crane. Here is a breakdown:
Same concept as the top one.
Thread and flatten a bead at a 2 in. distance of the previous one. Thread a yellow crystal and another crimp bead. Using your round-nose pliers, make a smaller loop that goes back through the crimp bead and crystal. Cut the excessive wire if necessary so the loop is small, and flatten the bead.
The bottom loop is now ready.
You now have a large bead, a small metal bead and a head pin left. I like teardrop-shaped beads to end the garlands, but a tassle look very nice too. Just be careful it weights enough so that the stringing wire is straightened when hanging.
Set the beads on the pin.
Cut the excessive part of the pin. I leave about a finger’s width, as shown in the picture.
Using the round-nose pliers, make a loop; don’t close it yet.
Hitch this open loop with the garland’s bottom one then close it using the flat-nose pliers.
Congratulations, the garland is now done! You can hang it anywhere you like. It looks lovely either on a wall or on the side of a mirror, door or window. The cranes can spin freely on the wire so they interact nicely with the wind.
There can be many variations on this theme: you can hook several garlands on a stick and make it a wide wall decoration. Or hook them on a circular hoop to make an origami mobile to hang above a crib. The limit is your imagination… so no limit at all.
I have been trying new styles recently. I’m actually not very interested in fashion on a daily basis. By ‘not very’, I mean the whole thing makes me roll my eyes and sometimes vomit. But that’s a story for another time.
When it comes to the products I sell, I just make whatever I like, which is obviously not the best marketing strategy. Luckily, I can rely on my coworker L., who loves accessories and lets me know what is fashionable these days (please don’t make me say ‘trendy’).
I might make a tutorial for this type of origami garland soon. They are super easy to make.
In the meantime, have a nice week-end!
Sometimes I end up asking myself questions on life, the universe and everything, and let me tell you the answer is not always as obvious as 42.
After a long time spent researching, wondering, and hesitating, I have finally tried working with metal clay.
From what I had found on the internet, the best known metal clay is silver clay. As I love silver jewellery but have no skill whatsoever in metal working, this is a great alternative.
The concept is simple: around the 1990s, some smart Japanese people came up with a way of recycling the precious metals dust created in the making of electronic components. Adding water and a specific binder to the dust, they obtained a paste very much like polymer clay or play-doh… only it’s still metal.
You can then model an object, leave it to dry then fire it at very high temperature. The binder burns and the water evaporates, leaving only the pure, now solid, metal. That is to say, making stuff in copper, bronze or silver is now possible for anyone!
Sometimes I really like living in this century.
On the downside, silver metal clay is outrageously expensive. 25 g of clay cost almost 60 €, plus there is an important investment to make into the material.
If that wasn’t enough, all precious metals are strictly controlled in France. I couldn’t sell silver jewellery without going through a long and painful administrative process that I am not even sure would succeed.
And lastly, silver clay, once fired, is very pure: it’s 999 silver. That way, there is no need for a special oven: a blowtorch or a gas cooker are enough, unlike copper or bronze. It makes silver clay easier to fire, but this is utterly absurd in terms of professional jewellery making. Silver is a soft metal. What you buy in a jewellery shop is usually 925 silver, which means 925 ‰ silver mixed with 75 ‰ copper to make it more resistant. Selling jewellery that might easily break is not my idea of being professional.
Hence my hesitation: I needed to be sure I would enjoy the possibilities enough to justify overcoming all these obstacles. I found out later that there was many other metals available in clay form, which solved the selling problem. So I decided to start there!
At my initiative, three of my friends and I signed up for a beginners workshop with Météor Clay, a French small business I can’t recommend enough. Farida, the business owner, came to my flat with all the required material and introduced us to metal clay: either copper, steel, or several types of bronze. She is a sweet lady whose business is crazily upstanding. Their general goal is to offer good material for a very reasonable price, and they stand by it even if it means their profit is lessened.
I won’t tell all the details of the workshop as it would take too long (it lasted from 10 a.m. till at least 6 p.m.), but I’ll highlight the best parts. The quality of my pictures is not the best, unfortunately, as we were inside during a cloudy sunday.
I tried my hand at copper as I am hopelessly in love with this metal.
Météor’s clays come in powder: the binder is already mixed in, all you have to do is add water. That way, you can preserve it indefinitely. Once you’ve made the wet clay, you can keep it in the refrigerator, but it won’t last more than a few weeks.
In many ways, this is similar to cooking. You make a dough, give it a shape, then bake it!
Just as, I assume, polymer clay, it is easy to stamp textures and shapes on it, and cut, roll, or model it. As long as the firing temperature is the same, you can also mix metals. Clays can be mixed or ‘glued’ to one another. For example, you could make a flat copper surface and put white bronze parts on it. Or you can try something close to mokume gane. Or you could make 925 silver (doesn’t solve the selling problem, though).
The possibilities are huge, to say the least.
Once you are done playing with the dough, you leave it to dry.
Once dry, the clay has hardened but is still fragile and will break if you are not gentle. This is when you can sand, engrave, and make holes to set them on a finding later. Once fired, you won’t be able to alter it much aside from polishing it or, on the contrary, patinate it. Therefore, your piece has to be as finished as possible.
Météor also created their own high-temperature oven and sell it for 100 €. It’s basic but you actually don’t need anything more sophisticated. Apart from theirs, this type of oven starts with the Prometheus, for more than 500 €. It is not specifically designed for firing metal clays, so it takes longer and uses more energy than necessary. I might buy one eventually if I end up dabbling with enamels, glass and the likes, but that budget is unreasonable for me right now.
Apart from silver, the metal clay pieces must be fired in active carbon. You put them in a stainless steel container, covered in carbon, into the oven and plug it. You leave it for the relevant time depending on the metal.
I am amazed at how simple it is. Of course, you need to be very careful and wear protections when using it: you are firing metal up to 900° C. You can see by the bright orange colour how hot it is.
Once the time is up, you can leave the pieces to cool inside the oven. But it’s best to take them out of the oven after only a few minutes: you will later obtain a shinier finish that way.
The stainless steel is bright red when out of the oven… There should definitely be gloves on this picture (it’s not my hand).
As soon as they are fired, the pieces make a beautiful metal sound when you put them down, even if they still look like dry clay! Very satisfying.
After some polishing, it shines! All that is left to do is set them on hooks and clasps. That, I am familiar with.
At the end of the workshop, we each left with our creations and several tubes of metal powder. I bought an oven and can’t wait to try again!
A new shipment of Berber beads has arrived! It comes straight from Marrakesh. The beads are traditional Berber work made by local artisans. In my experience, they are quite difficult to find either online or in Paris.
Luckily, I have my very own distribution channel: as I have mentioned before, I know a girl.
I can’t wait to make new pieces of jewellery with those!
Whatever I make is likely to be quite successful, too; whenever I post one on my shop, it sells within a few weeks. I guess it shows Moroccan crafts needs more attention.
I fear the day I will go to Marrakesh myself. I can’t be held responsible for what I might buy when I step foot in that bead shop.
— Advertising digression, as a thank-you to my dear distribution channel —
If you fancy getting a feel of Morocco without travelling too far, try spending a night or two in Kerity’s Riad! It is a nice Bed and Breakfast with lovely owners, traditional hammam and argan oil massages, tasty moroccan food made with local products and comfortable rooms… on Brittany’s seashore.
By complete coincidence, some of my jewellery is also for sale there!