Thursday, February 27, 2014

Doll House Renovation - Ta-dah!

1,000 mini paddle pop sticks, one whole bottle of PVA glue and three days later, and the doll house renovation is finished, ready in time for Emerson's 2nd birthday tomorrow. Phew! #dollhouse #renovation #acertaintypeofcrazy
Doll house renovation
1. The doll house in it's original condition, 2. The thirty year old wall paper and carpet, 3. After scraping and chiseling off the wall paper and carpet,
4. Freshening up the paintwork, 5. New wall paper and 'floorboards' in the first room, 6. The result,
7. Work in progress, 8. The bathroom in progress, 9. Waiting for more floor boards.
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On Monday morning I decided to finish the doll house I'd started on six months ago, in order to give it to Emerson for her second birthday... on Thursday. At that stage the dolls house was as you saw it in the fourth image, stripped out and empty, with a fresh coat of white paint but nothing else. So, Monday morning we ran errands to Bunnings for red water based enamel for the roof, Spotlight for scrapbook paper for the walls and a variety shop for their last packet of mini paddle pop sticks for the floorboards.

During Emerson's two hour nap that day I managed to get the first coat of red paint on the roof and windows, two rooms wall papered and one room floored - before running out of paddle pop sticks (there were 250 in the packet!) and having to wake a sleeping toddler to pick up our Prep boy from school. Tuesday I went looking for more mini paddle pop sticks at another two variety stores, but to no avail. Tuesday afternoon I called around and ended up sending my husband on a mission to buy more of said sticks, then spent the evening with scissors and PVA glue in hand, cutting off the rounded ends and laying the 'floor boards' in each room. (I do love that man.) Wednesday was also devoted to paddle pop sticks, the last of which were given a top coat of PVA glue at 10pm Wednesday night. 1,000 mini paddle pop sticks in total, to make up the 'polished wooden floorboards.'

As I said when I first mentioned the dolls house on the blog, before having children I would never have anticipated renovating a dolls house. Nor would I have anticipated running around like a crazy lady and spending every spare moment working on it in order to get it ready for my little girls birthday. But what can I say? There's a certain amount of craziness and a whole lot of love involved in being a parent, and I am willing to embrace that and channel it into something beautiful, handmade and special for my dear little girl.

And thankfully she loves it.

(And secretly, I really enjoyed the whole process.)


* The furniture and accessories were eBay purchases. Her Aunty has brought her a doll house family for her birthday, and we intend to buy and make more furniture and accessories each special occasion for the next little while to fill those empty rooms.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lost and Found

Saturday I realised I had lost my sketchbook. I'd thought the kids had just moved it. But when I went looking it was nowhere to be found. It dawned on me that the last I'd seen it was while getting photocopies at the library - two weeks ago - but I couldn

Saturday afternoon I had that sinking feeling you get when you realise you've lost something. I turned the house and workshop upside down looking for my sketch book, after going to jot down an idea and not being able to find it. I'd thought it was with my library books, having taken it to the library to photocopy a sketch for my itern to practice saw piercing with. I thought perhaps the kids had moved it, as they love to play with and move everything in my workshop. But I couldn't find it. I felt a bit panicky. My sketchbook is full of ideas, notes, measurements, and sketches of upcoming collections. It's meaningful for practical and sentimental reasons, as it contains sketches of completed pieces, custom work and ideas for new pieces. I hadn't realised how much that sketch book meant to me of course, until I couldn't find it. I felt like having a bit of a cry and I must admit I wasn't great company Saturday evening.

Eventually I realised that I hadn't seen my sketch book since that trip to the library, which was two weeks ago. Oh, pregnancy brain. It was too late Saturday to be able to do anything about it and the library was closed on Sunday. I bided my time until Monday morning and held on to the slim hope that someone had found my sketch book and it was waiting for me in lost and found at the library.

As you can imagine, it was a very good start to the week when the librarian I'd told me tale to rounded the corner holding my sketch book. 

I shall now be writing my name and number inside the front cover, just in case...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Process - from sketch to finished piece

Joy
The 'Joy' Pendant and Earrings are the final pieces in the 'Sentimental Collection' and they are now in the shop. For those not familiar with the process of making jewellery, I thought I would run through the various stages of creating these pieces. If you are anything like me, you may enjoy a peek behind the scenes of a jeweler at work.

'Ideas become things.' First piece of a doily inspired collection completed! Really excited to be back at the bench and to be turning my sketches in to Jewellery. (Due for release in time for Mother's Day.) #handmadejewellery #wip #copyright #christinalow
Initially, there were several designs sketched in my sketchbook as I slowly built on my ideas for a doily inspired collection featuring drilled and punched details. I developed a set of stacking rings, a pendant and necklace, a pair of hoops, and of course the 'Joy' pendant and earrings.

Sneak peek... Five copper Masters to be sent off to have rubber moulds made. They will then be cast up in silver and gold. Can't wait to get these pieces back and add the finishing pieces to them! #handmadejewellery #wip #silversmith #thedoilycollection
The next step is to start realising these drawings in metal. This means sketching out the designs on sheets of metal and saw them out, filing and shaping them, and then in this case, drilling and punching them. Because I planned on making more than once of each piece, and in order to keep each piece identical and lower production costs, I made 'Masters' for each piece from copper. These masters were then sent away to be professionally moulded and cast in Sterling Silver and 9ct Rose Gold, before being returned to be hand finished.

Oooh, the castings have arrived for the 'Sentimental' Collection! I love seeing my copper masters come back in silver and rose gold. Can't wait to get started on these! #jewellery #casting #newcollection
This is how the castings return. They have the remains of the sprues on them, where the metal was poured in to the moulds, and a slightly rough textured finish. The next step is to saw and file off the sprues, emery (jewellers sandpaper) the surfaces and hand make the findings necessary to complete each piece - such as the ear wires and jump rings. These fittings are then soldered on and the entire piece is polished - first using a goats hair polishing wheel with tripoli compound to remove the scratches remaining from the emery, then a cotton polishing mop with rouge compound to create a high shine finish.

On my bench tonight - custom order opal ring and new pieces in progress for the Sentimental Collection. There will be three new designs in the shop soon. :) #handmadejewellery #sentimentalcollection #silversmith
You can see the pieces in the middle have had the sprues removed and have been emeried. They have also been stamped 925 on the reverse - which is the standard mark for Sterling Silver and means that the piece is 92.5% pure Silver. They are now ready to have their ear wires, jump rings and pearl posts soldered on.

Tonight on the bench: a secret custom order piece that I can't show you yet, and the new pearl collection coming together for the shop. #handmadejewellery #instasmithy #instajeweller #silversmith #pearls #thesentimentalcollection
Wires, posts and bails in place, the Silver pendants and earrings are ready for another touch of emery before being polishing. First though, I check that the pearl posts are the right length and trim them down to size to fit the half drilled round Freshwater Pearls.

Sneak peek! The final pieces of the 'Sentimental Collection' will be in the shop this afternoon and feature beautiful round pearls. The 'Joy' Earrings $190 and Pendant $180, will also be available in Rose Gold soon ($280, $260) and can be ordered in Yello
Ta-dah! The finished product. Polished, a satin finish applied with a fine emery, and pearls glued in to position on the posts with a two part epoxy. 

I hope that gave you some insight in to the process of a piece of cast jewellery from start to finish, and that you enjoyed this peek in to the workshop. I'm more than happy to answer any questions you might have. 

If you have ever fancied trying your hand at making your own silver and gold jewellery, there are some great courses out their run through private schools, TAFE's and Universities. For me, nothing beats the satisfaction of designing and creating a piece of jewellery.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

New in the shop - Center of the Earth Necklaces

Center of the Earth
Center of the Earth
Center of the Earth
Sneak peek! Going in to the shop today, Amethyst geode slice necklaces on Sterling silver chains. $30, $35 and $40 each, depending on the size of the crystal. (This one is mine!) #amethyst #geodeslice #simpleandunusual #necklace
'Center of the Earth' Necklace

New from the workshop, a collection natural Amethyst geode slice necklaces.

Accompany your favourite dress and sparkly shoes with this darling piece! These unique necklaces are the perfect accessory for those wanting unusual jewels with simple, natural beauty. These gorgeous gems also make the perfect gift for someone special in your life. 

Available in three gem widths-

Small: 2.5 - 3 cm, $30
Medium: 3 - 3.5 cm, $35
Large: 4 cm +, $40

The 'Center of the Earth' necklace features polished and drilled slices of natural amethyst crystal, threaded on to a solid Sterling Silver 45 cm cable chain. Each piece is unique. You may or may not get the piece pictured in the photograph.

This necklace comes beautifully gift wrapped in a navy drawstring bag, wrapped in vintage sewing pattern tissue paper and tied with string.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Weekending

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With Dave often working six days a week, and myself spending many nights and weekends at the bench, 'family Sundays' are the perfect way for us to end one week and begin another. I'm not the least bit religious, but the idea of a day of rest resonates with me. A day to connect, be creative, read, sleep in, explore. And so have our Sundays become.

Yesterday we explored Giants Causeway at Fingal Head. The beautiful hexagonal rocky formations are the result of volcanic activity. The island visible from the headland, Cook Island, was noted by Lieutenant James Cook during his east coast explorations in 1770 and thus named after him. While the sweet little lighthouse was established in 1872. Cohen was most disappointed that we couldn't go inside.

The wind whipped the rocky outcrops to such a degree that clamoring across the hexagonal rocks was off limits, especially to my pregnant self. Rock hopping is one of my very favourite things. I contented myself with the view from up high, though we will most definitely have to go back again.

How was your weekend? 
What adventures did it have in store?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Taking on an Intern

Creative folk, hop to and listen to the latest 'After the Jump' podcasts by Grace Bonnie. Celebrating creative inspiration and technology, you can't fail to find something you want to follow up and make your own. #afterthejump #podcast #inspiration #home
Squeezing in some bench time before school pick up. So many ideas, so little time. #silversmith #instasmithy #jeweller
On the bench today: One gold ring ready to be polished and set, and the beginnings of a new piece using this fantastic 42ct Madagascan Quartz. I've started by cutting out an emerald cut shape from a sheet of silver, then filing it so the stone fits in to
Progress: one set, polished and finished 9ct gold Opal custom ring, and one Madagascan Quartz setting in Silver, ready to be soldered together. :) #onthebench #instasmithy #jeweller #handmadering
Display progress. Coming together now and starting to look how I had imagined it. :) #phew #marketprep #jewellerydisplay #imadethis
I'm blessed to have what I call my 'craft brains trust'. Three creatively clever ladies running their own businesses who I catch up with on a monthly basis. Their support and input has proven invaluable from our very first impromptu meeting on the pavement after the Big Hearted Business morning tea. It was there that these ladies, Nic, Jennie and Kylie, encouraged me to overcome my self doubt and apply for Finders Keepers. And it was at our last meeting that they encouraged me to take on an intern. 

January was such a busy month for me business wise, which I hadn't really been expecting. I mused over tea and cake with the girls that I would need to hire someone in the future to help me keep on top of orders, so I could focus more on hand making one off pieces. However, as I have been reinvesting the profits back in to the business in the form of logo design, advertising, packaging, stock etc, I really couldn't afford it yet. Nic suggested I look for someone interested in learning what I could teach them, in exchange for their help. It sounded a little too good to be true. An intern? I held on to the thought and pondered on it.

Self doubt is a funny creature. I couldn't help but wonder who would want to work for me, for free, and what I could offer them. The more I thought about it though, the more I realised how much I could have learnt at the beginning of my career if I had been offered the same opportunity, and how, rather than paying around $90 for a lesson at a jewellery school, I would have preferred to work for free and learn from someone actually doing what I wanted to do.

I bit the bullet. I wrote a post on instagram, and posted it to facebook and my blog too. I figured the worst that could happen was no one would respond. Nic cleverly shared my instagram post with BrisStyle, who re-posted the details to their larger audience. Over the next day or two I received seven responses.

The strongest candidate, Didi, responded with an overview of her work and study history and images of her completed jewellery pieces. After a positive phone conversation and then a meeting in the workshop, Didi has started working with me twice a week. I'm searching for a sturdy old wooden table we can up-cycle in to a bench for her, and in the meantime she is using my bench while she is here. She's now been twice now and while she's learning and practicing, I have been able to work on making new displays, sort out stock, write applications etc. I'm really excited about the process and so glad I took my brain trusts advice. After an initial training period I'm hoping to be able to step away more and leave a few things to Didi, as the birth draws closer and again after the birth. 

And should I get accepted in to Brisbane Finders Keepers in July, you might just get a chance to meet Didi there.

Friday, February 14, 2014

25 Week Bump

25 week bump. Third time around and I haven't started preparing anything yet! I think around 35 weeks I'll be moving the bassinet in to our room and sorting through the baby clothes. :) #25weekspregnant #babybump

The bump is now 25 weeks, and like his little sister did, this bubba is taking advantage of the available space to twirl, dance, kick and wiggle. My bump looks very much like it did last time too (with Emerson at 25 weeks), though this pregnancy 'feels' more like my first one. I feel like it's a boy, but we are waiting until the birth to find out. What a wonder and surprise that moment is. I can't wait.

Third time around and I haven't organised a thing at home yet. I'm quite sure at this stage with both my other babies I would have had nurseries done and clothes ready. But this time I feel no hurry. Around 35 weeks I think we will bring the bassinet in to our room and stow an old wicker basket beneath it for babies clothes and sort through the bags of baby clothes and memories I have saved. 

There are so many little moments I love about being pregnant that I shall miss, as this is our last. So many little things to record and remember. Yesterday, Cohen and Emerson both crawled in to bed for early morning cuddles and we spoke about the baby. Cohen can't wait to meet him/her at the hospital, like he did with Emerson, and "hold it and kiss it just like this", as he delicately kissed me all over my cheek.

In the meantime I feel full of creative energy and inspiration. I am enjoying the current pace, which I know will begin to slow all too soon, and new rhythms and routines will be found with a baby in the house once more.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Eight Good Things

Making 'design your own beads' for a customer. They are still available, just email me the colours you'd like and I will put together a couple of pieces, send you a photo to choose from and add them to the shop. Five beads and a sweet hand printed calico
'Project Life' up to date. Tick. :) #projectlife #memorykeeping #photoalbum
Interested in starting your own Jewellery business? Looking for work experience or time at the bench to get a Jewellers apprenticeship? I am looking for a jeweller intern, in the Brisbane/ Logan area, to clean up castings and help out with an expanding bu
These pieces are all off to their new homes tomorrow! And with that, all the orders are up to date. :) #vintagesewingpatterns #tiedupwithstring #instasmithy
There's a bit of this happening right now. It's been far too long. #knitting #larchcardigan #slowburnproject
Special mail - My beautiful @paravent print, by the tremendously talented Kylie Hunt. Love all the beautiful packaging details too! #artprint #paravent #ilovemail
I spent today designing and planning my new market display while my lovely new intern, Didi, had her first day here. (Thanks to everyone who applied. I hope to be able to offer more places in the future). This afternoon I tried my hand at woodwork and sta
Gatherings collected on our wanderings today. Finding beauty in the side streets and on the footpaths. Inspired by @petalplum #gathered #nature #collection

1. Making custom orders for birthday gifts
2. An up to date 'Project Life' album - I love seeing our weeks come together like this
3. Cheeky workshop assistants
4. Brown paper packages tied up with string - la da de da dah
5. Tea and knitting - always always a good thing
6. My gorgeous print by the talented Kylie Hunt of Paravent - and her equally beautiful packaging
7. Learning new skills and making the first part of my table displays for Finders Keepers - my first ever attempt at wood work and I loved it
8. Gathering and foraging in the side streets and on the footpaths on our daily wanderings

What are your Eight Good Things today, or this past week?
Leave a comment or make a post and let me know! It's a lovely way to take a step back from a busy day and notice the little things - the little moments you might otherwise over look, and savor them.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New in the shop - 'Gladys' Necklace

Gladys Necklace
Gladys Necklace
Gladys Necklace

The next piece in the 'Sentimental' Collection has been released and is in the shop now. The Gladys necklace features five sterling silver scalloped pieces on a cable link chain. Inspired by crochet and doily bunting, the Gladys is a beautiful everyday or special occasion piece. It would look perfectly peachy with a vintage dress, or a floral t-shirt and cardigan. 

Each item in this collection is unique to Christina Lowry Designs. Crafted by hand, each component has then been professionally moulded and cast, and then hand finished by myself. These pieces are customisable and are also available in 9ct and 18ct Yellow or Rose Gold. 
Please email me with any queries you may have: christina-lowry@hotmail.com

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Still looking for a Valentine's gift? Express postage available on all pieces in stock, just email me to arrange.

Monday, February 10, 2014

'silver' Museum of Brisbane

Granny's Cloak Moths 2013 (detail) Madeline Brown, photograph Chelsea Sipthorp

Madeline Brown, photograph by Chelsea Sipthorp *

I snuck out of a sleeping household yesterday afternoon to attend an artist talk and tour of silver. I promised myself that despite loosing my gallery-ing partner in crime, now that my twin sister has moved to Canberra, I would make solo jaunts to galleries for the sake of my inspiration and sanity. And I'm so pleased I listened to myself.

The exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane features the work of six pairs of artists - a jeweller and a photographer in each collaboration. Yesterday, jeweller Madeline Brown and photographer Andrea Higgins discussed their collaboration and contribution to the exhibition. It was a fascinating insight in to the processes of their individual work practices and their coming together to produce what I felt was the strongest piece in the exhibition.  

Both women were extremely approachable and I had the opportunity to to talk to them at the close of the talk. Madeline and I recognised each other from our Uni days. It was fantastic to be able to discuss the process of casting crochet and tattings to create unique pieces of jewellery. While Andrea completes her photography Masters at QCA this month, and will be exhibiting a collection of her work, featuring photograms and Victorian lace collars, from the first of April in the Whitebox gallery. (I have already written it in my diary.)

I'm feeling incredibly inspired now and reminded once more that I need this time out to myself - good things come of it for both me and my family. 

If you are in or around Brisbane and are interested in fine art or silver smithing, be sure to hop in a lift at Town Hall and visit the third floor gallery.


*Photos from the Museum of Brisbane website

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wanted - Jeweller Intern

Progress - the 'Lois' castings you saw earlier today have had the sprues sawn off them (leftover metal from the casting process), I've handmade ear wires for each one, filed and emeried the scalloped edges of the hoops, then soldered the ear wires on. Nex

Interested in starting your own Jewellery business? Looking for work experience or time at the bench to get a Jewellers apprenticeship? I am looking for a jeweller intern, in the Brisbane/ Logan area, to clean up castings and help out with an expanding business and market prep. 2 days a week for 6 weeks, with the possibility of extending. Flexible working days and hours. Suit uni student or Mother (possibility of bringing child to work with them - as I do). Work from home also possible. Previous Jewellery study or workshop skills an advantage. 

In exchange I will impart my knowledge from ten years in the Jewellery industry, introduce you to trade suppliers, teach you bench skills and anything else you are interested in - blogging, account keeping, creating an online shop, Jewellery design, casting processes, gem identification, pearl threading, commissions, repairs etc. May lead to paid work depending on suitability.

Thank you! 
Email: christina-lowry@hotmail.com

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I posted this to Facebook and Instagram yesterday and I have received several responses. Due to the level of interest, this may become an ongoing thing. Expressions of interest welcome. :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Rhythm of our Days

Bump progress - 22 weeks + 4 days. This little bubba gets hiccups a lot, just like Cohen did. Braxton hicks (practice contractions) started at 16 weeks and always manage to strike at the most uncomfortable times - like when I have the hiccups, or while cr
More goodies for an upcoming collection! I love the feel and the sound of glass beads, don't you? #glassbeads #colourlove #artistspalettecollection
On my bench tonight - custom order opal ring and new pieces in progress for the Sentimental Collection. There will be three new designs in the shop soon. :) #handmadejewellery #sentimentalcollection #silversmith
It's Sunday. A great day for baking rosella jam drop biscuits, working on a commission and standing clear as the boys put a stump grinder to work in the back yard. How's your Sunday? #sundaysunday #baking

We have been finding new rhythms and routines these past week, and as a result my dear blog has been a little neglected. After eight school days - eight days of being a Prep Mother - I feel as if I we have found our rhythm. Oh, the joyous juggle of stay at home motherhood, home life, school, work and life in general. I am often asked how I do what I do. For those who are interested, and for my future self, our new routines these days go a little like this -

5.15: Emerson wakes up and comes in to bed for cuddles. 
5.30: Dave gets ready for work and leaves.
6.00 - 6.30: Cohen comes in for cuddles and then we three get up and have breakfast.
7.00 - 8.00: After half an hour of nagging Cohen has dressed himself, I have made the beds, emptied the dishwasher, done the hand washing, put a load of clothes in the wash, tidied up, vacuumed, emptied the bins and had a shower with Emerson and dressed us, done homework with Cohen and am herding my two little ones out the door.
8.10: Emerson jumps in the stroller and we walk Cohen the 500 meters to school, wait with the other kids, walk him in to class and see his art and craft, say our goodbyes and head home again.
8.45 - 11.00: Hang clothes out on line, put laundry away, fold cloth nappies, answer emails etc. play with Emerson, run errands, go to library or post office, go to Playgroup once a week, do the groceries once a week.
11.00 - 1.00: Put Emerson down for a nap and head in to my studio, or sit down at the computer (edit photos, upload new pieces, write blurbs, blog)/ or give in to pregnancy weariness and have a nap myself!
1.00: Make lunch, tidy up again. 
2.05: Emerson is back in the pram and we are walking back up to the school to pick up Cohen.
2.30 - 4.30: Home again, encouraging Cohen to get changed, doing homework with him, supervising 'Reading Eggs', playing in the back yard, taking clothes off the line.
4.30 - 5.30: Dave home, catch up, sit down for five minutes, start organising dinner.
5.30 - 6.00: Dave baths the little ones while I make dinner.
6.00 - 6.15: Encourage Cohen to eat his dinner - and encourage and encourage and encourage...
6.15 - 6.30: Story time! Both kids climb on to Cohen's bed while I read them a story or three. Meanwhile Dave clears the kitchen and loads the dishwasher. Tuck Cohen in.
6.30 - 6.45: Sit with Emerson while she falls asleep.
6.45 - 7.30: Pack lunchboxes, make overnight oats for breakfast, hang out with my husband awhile.
7.30 - 9.30: Leave Dave to watch a tv show or movie and head down to the workshop - to pack orders for posting, work at the bench on custom orders, repairs and new stock. Then head to bed, exhausted and happy.
5.15 am: Repeat above.

Somewhere in there I am trying to make room for blogging, writing in my diary, drawing new designs, keeping up to date with Project Life, digging in the garden, talking on the phone, handwriting letters to my sister in Canberra, playing with the cats, picking flowers, listening to pod casts, reading books, a spot of knitting, Sunday baking for school, ordering supplies (packaging, consumables, pearls etc.) for the shop and getting organised to apply for Brisbane Finders Keepers in July (despite the fact that I will have a five week old baby at the time. If I do get in you, will find me behind my new table with a baby in a sling.)

Now more than ever it feels so important to me to find time to slow down, appreciate the little things, stay in our pajamas all day, take photographs and document the moments that are passing by so quickly - and not neglect my blog.

How do you juggle it all and maintain balance?
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