Friday, 20 January 2017

I've been featured

I've just been feature over on Silver Moss' blog. She is a fellow jeweller I know from Folksy and I have been following her blog for years. She is so much more diligent with her blog than I could ever be, so when she asked me of she could feature me I jumped at the chance.
Do have a look at the post and also stay to check out her regular 'Jewelled Web' posts with tons of interesting links about Jewellery and lots of other stuff.

Silver Moss Jewellery

How is January treating you guys? I went for a walk this morning in the botanical garden and found snowdrops which cheered me up immensely. The day is now 8 hours and 17 minutes long. We're getting there!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Making the Wild Grasses RIng

Progress shots, the making of a metal clay ring

Here's another quick runthrough of me making one of my most popular rings - The Wild Grass Ring. This one seems to suit both men and women and I love it myself. I'll show a few progress shots and you will see why no two are ever completely the same.

Ring mandrel, sterling silver clay and the grass texture plate.

To start making these rings I needed first to make a texture plate of real grass. I picked some out in one of Sheffield’s lovely parks.
The stalks are then arranged carefully on polymer clay – a soft modelling clay that doesn’t harden until you bake it in the oven.

That done I get the materials ready for the rings.

The clay is rolled out in the right thickness on top of the plate and comes out looking like this:
I then cut out a strip that looks promising and wrap it around a ring mandrel several sizes larger than the finished ring needs to be. The clay shrinks both when it dries and when it is later fired in the kiln.

Here it is on the mandrel. Joining the ends to make a nice looking seam is the tricky part of the process.

Once dry the rings need to be sanded to smooth out all the rough edges

Here are the two rings before and after sanding. My little maker’s mark have also been added to the inside. The rings might not be absolutely round at this stage, they can dry a bit wonky; but that can be fixed once they have been fired.

This is right after firing at 900 degrees Celsius. The clay binder is gone and pure sterling silver is the result. The rings have a matte white appearance at this point and need to be polished. In the tumbler they go.

After an hour in the tumbler the rings are all shiny. Time to make them dirty again :o)

The rings are dipped in oxidation fluid and come out completely matte black. Rubbing with a bit of steel wool brings the white back inside and on all the raised points.

The last thing to do is to burnish and polish the ring, bringing back the sparkle and shine on the edges and the grass pattern.

After a final wax the rings are ready.

Get yours at

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Time for a change

I've been thinking about a name change for a while. The name Nanfan is one I have used as a gamertag and nickname since I was 12 wherever such a thin was called for. So when I opened my online shops five years ago without a very clear idea of what I wanted to do with them it seemed natural for me to use that name again.

Back then I started out selling prints of my illustrations and handpainted domino tiles.

Now however, my business is a lot clearer to me - I make handmade jewellery with the inspiration taken from storytelling - fairytales, folklore and fantasy - and also from the nature around me that I love so much - woodland, wildflowers and wilderness.

So I wanted a new name and have been annoying friends and family with every new idea that came to me; "What do you think of Nimue? Nenya? What about Dryad? Maybe it should be two names - Nettle and Nymph?" They showed remarkable patience - thank you guys!
And all of these names where duly googled in case they already existed and I even checked domain names.

In the end the choice seemed simple enough. It's a name I came up with years ago when I was playing online roleplaying games. My character was a druid and I wanted the name to reflect mysticism along with deep roots in nature (there's also a little joke in the name as the character was a tauren - affectionately referred to as cows in the game).
She was called Sycamoon. From Sycamore - a family of trees not native to England but hardy and beautiful. And moon of course - ever a great symbol for the mystical and unearthly.
So there you have it. I think it is perfect for my jewellery and I love that I already have a history with the name.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Making of a Flower Wreath ring with Opal

Opal engagement ring

I thought you might like to see a few process shots of a ring I made recently. It shows the stages we go through when making something in metal clay.

Metal clay is basically a technique for working with silver that circumvents traditional casting and wax moulding. Instead of shaping a ring first in wax and then making a mould around that ring to cast silver in, with metalclay you shape the silver itself.
This is made possible with an ingenious bit of alchemy.
The silver is pulverized into tin particles. Half of the process is in fact already done as this silver is recovered and refined from photographic fluids and the like, so very much recycled silver.
The powder is then combined with an organic binder so that when you add water the mix turns into a clay that you can shape with your hands. It can be hand shaped, rolled into snakes and pressed into moulds. Once it is dry it can be carved, filed and sanded.
Once you've made your delicate clay creation it is then fired with a torch or in a kiln at a very high temperature. The trick is to make it so hot that all the little particles melt on the surface and stick together in a process called sintering. Make it too hot and the silver just melts into a blob. Very sad when that happens. The binder buns away in the heat and you are left with the pure metal.

This is a ring I made for Amy who lives on a long boat. She has a blog here. She wanted an engagement ring that could withstand a bit of water and her favourite stone is opal.

1.       First thing to do is to roll out an even slab in metal clay. The silver particles are mixed with a binder that make it workable like clay. I love working with this stuff
2.       Then cut to the right width – thank God for rulers.

3.       Shaped around a mandrel at this stage the ring has to be a lot bigger than the end target as the ring first shrinks on the mandrel (hence the gap you see) and then again in the kiln
4.       The shank has been filed and refined and is ready for decorations.

5.       The little element in progress here. They fun to make. Some are shaped by hand, some I have made tiny moulds for. I like having plenty to hand once the assembly starts
6.       The setting for surrounding the bezel is cut out in roughly the right size.

7.       Then sanded and made to fit perfectly. Again it has to be slightly larger because it will shrink around the little fine silver bezel
8.       The setting is fitted to the shank using slip clay and a lot of water. A little hole in the bezel gives the clay a good mechanical bond so it won’t fall out.

9.       Flowers and leaves go on one tint bit at a time.
10.   I wear magnifying glasses to see what I’m doing at this stage :o)

11.   The ring has dried and is ready to go in the kiln.

12.   Several hours later it comes out again and is looking good. It has that white look as the silver particles ‘stand up’ straight out of the kiln. When burnished it gets the proper silver look.
13.   Checking the size. Luckily it came out a perfect K

14.   And the stone still fits. Yay
15.   After a few hours in the tumbler the ring comes out all shiny.

16.   Just been dipped in liver of sulphur. Completely black.
17.   Polished back to shiny again. This procedure leaves a little bit of black in all the recesses which emphasizes all the little flowers and details.

18.   Ready for setting the stone. It’s always best to do that last so it doesn’t get damaged during polishing.

The end. Then the ring went to my proper photography station for the last shots before I had to say goodbye.

metal clay process

Monday, 2 February 2015

Design Challenges

fine silver pendant - moon and earth

One thing I've been dying to participate in for a long time is jewellery design challenges. Lots of groups have them and jewellery material suppliers frequently do them too as promotions.
They push you out of your comfort zones and make you design things you wouldn't normally have done. 
I haven't joined in before for various reasons - lack of confidence, scared of harsh judgement and too much to do already, but the group Metal Clay Europe on Facebook had one in January that I am really glad I went for.

The challenge was to make a piece mainly in metal clay with the theme The sun, Moon and Stars.
Brilliant theme.
The support is amazing and there was lots of fantastic entries. I love to see how a single theme can produce such different end results. And I will definitely be going for more challenges in the future.

This is what I did for it:
It's made from Art Clay silver, A dichroic cabochon, 3 yellow czs and two lab spinels - the five gems are tiny. Got a bit carried away with the silver balls - I've been recycling my scrap silver :oD
The back is engraved with a Cameo machine and says "By light of moon and ray of star". The diameter is 34 mm.

It was scary to fire an open piece like this. I supported the 'moon' with fibre blanket so that it wouldn't collapse. It held up beautifully, but the back suffered some distortion because it couldn't shrink evenly around all the silver balls stars (metal clay shrinks in the kiln as it sinters). It took some careful straightening and the back is still a wee bit wobbly, but I am quite pleased with it all in all. It's my first time using glass in a piece and I love how it sparkles in there.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Nature? But they're all at it

As a jewellery designer amongst thousands I think we're all looking for some way to stand out. Marketing people are constantly urging us to tell our story and list our USPs (unique selling points).

Being fairly modest by nature and rather down to earth I struggle sometimes to see what is so brilliantly unique about my brand (still not comfortable with that word...)

I take a lot of my inspiration from nature - but looking around it seems like that is definitely nothing unique. So how do you stand out? Should I choose something more clever like rubber soles for inspiration or dirty linen?

There are many fantastically talented jewellers out there that take their inspiration from nature - and I think that is simply because nature is one of the most profound elements of many people's lives. Nature is a constant source of wonder, delight and peace. And fortunately it strikes a cord with a lot of jewellery buyers as well so it is a match made in heaven. :oD
I will stay by my inspiration as walking in woodland is one of my most favourite things in the world. I guess paired with my other inspirations - stories and myths - and my style of execution something unique comes out of the mix after all.

The Frog King - Loved drawing that expression on her face :o)

After so many art teachers having berated me for not finding my style - I am finally learning to just express what I myself like and let the style grow out of that - why didn't they tell me it could be that easy?

Friday, 27 June 2014

Lost Wax Casting Results

citrine briolettes and sterling silver poppy heads

Just wanted to share two of the final pieces that I made as a result of the casting in the previous post.

I love the cute little earrings and I am very pleased with how the necklace turned out. I had a piece of braided wire too short to make a ring out of and thought; why not make it a bar for the necklace? So it has been soldered in every joint and the little loose ends folded over to form hoops for the chain.

There is 10 grams of silver in that pendant without the chain, so unless I want to sell it as "white metal" I need to get it hallmarked. 
I have been dithering about that for a while, but I think it might be time to get my own mark. I now have 3 necklaces that exceed the 7.78 grams which is the limit here in the UK for non hallmarked silver.

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Sunday, 15 June 2014

Lost Wax Casting

Learning new stuff is one of my favourite things to do. I have been taking a course in silversmithing at Sheffield College to try a few of the things I can easily do (Yet!) in my home studio, such as casting.

Lost wax casting simplified is basically to carve a design in wax. Make an investment mould around the wax - a bit like plaster of paris. Then stick the mould in the kiln to burn away the was - hence the lost wax. That leaves you with a mould to pour your molten metal into.

Turns out you can actually cheat - you can use any item that burns away in the kiln instead of wax, so what I did is use some of my growing collection of dried pods and fir cones.

They have to be attached to a tree of wax called a sprue - this is the channel that the metal will flow into. Here's my first attempt.

Once the pods and wax was burned away in the kiln I was ready for the centrifugal casting machine!
Once the lid is closed the little arm inside with the balancing rod will spin around really fast forcing the metal into every corner of the mould.

 The silver was added to the white crucible and heated up till it was a round shiny ball. Time to slam the lid.

Once the silver has cooled a little the mould is grabbed with tongs and plunged into a bucket where all the investment starts to dissolve and you can fish around for your lump of silver in there.

This is what it looked like fresh out of the bucket. There is still gooey investment stuck to it and the silver is black from firescale and oxidation. I removed the goo and plunged it in the acid bath to clean the scale off.

It took a few goes, but eventually it came out looking like this:

It then has to be tumble polished to reveal the shiny silver:

Now I just have to figure out what to do with all my lovely little pods. I think the poppy seeds are destined to be tiny necklaces - they don't match in size for earrings. The conifer cones on the other hand are perfect for earrings. Tiny little dangles.