Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Shower, The Course and the Thought Bubble

The front and back cover

More than 12 months ago my good friend Rum Charles asked me to edit a book he'd been working on for some time. Of course I accepted - I was honoured to be asked.

I set to work reading the draft copy, and as I turned each page, became more and more interested in the story and style that was unfolding. In fact, I found myself chuckling and couldn't put it down until I finished.

Once read, I hopped on the phone to Rum and informed him how much I enjoyed reading it, and was absolutely chuffed to be able to put some grammatical correctness to this delightfully entertaining, very enlightening book.

It's been more than a year now and The Shower, The Course and The Thought Bubble, '5 steps to successful communication 'is finally a real, printed, published book.
In place on my favourite display table at Bella Moon

Designed to be read on a flight that takes an hour or so (or commuting on the train, or during an afternoon over a cup of tea and biccies), this book isn't preachy or annoying, as so many so-called self-help titles can be.


Instead, The Shower, The Course and The Thought Bubble introduces us to characters based on personalities Rum has actually encountered in his years of facilitating corporate training and development courses.

We meet the Woman with the Impressive Mane and Broad Grins One and Two, while Eighties Guy ... well he's something else. These are a mere three of the colourful characters that bring the book's EQUAL philosophy to life.

With Rum at the helm, we are guided through tips and techniques about what it is to communicate more effectively and improve our relationships with people - both at work and in our private lives.


I've never read the books Who Moved My Cheese or Fish, however Rum's book has been likened to both these major titles.

All I know is I thoroughly enjoyed The Shower, The Course and The Thought Bubble and highly recommend reading it - and not just because I'm credited in the opening pages.
The Shower, The Course and the Thought Bubble for sale at Bella Moon

Now available at Bella Moon for a mere $22.95. Postage extra. Tel: +61 3 9380 9882 or email: info@bellamoon.com.au

Friday, October 9, 2009

Incalesco by Erika Harris now at Bella Moon

As of this afternoon I am a proud stockist of the gorgeous hand crafted work by jewellery artist Erika Harris. Until today I'd only seen her work in photographs, and it lives up to my expectations. It's really stunning.

For a closer look at Erika's jewellery, drop by Bella Moon in funky Sydney Road, Brunswick and I'll be happy to show you her work.

Erika has kindly allowed me to use some of her photographs, which I do so below.

Incalesco Triangulum earrings by Erika Harris.

Incalesco Effervesce ring by Erika Harris.

Incalesco Black Bird ring by Erika Harris.

Incalesco Mokume Fire Opal ring by Erika Harris.

These few photographs are just a snippet of what is in my store - and they are already attracting loads of attention by passers-by!

Cheers

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Open for Business!

It's happened! As of Sunday, 4 October, Bella Moon has been trading. My little shop is at:

Shop 2, 341 Sydney Road
Brunswick, Victoria, 3056
Australia

Telephone: +61-3-9380 9882

There is still so much to do and lots more stock to fill the space with, but as a starting point, the feedback and reaction from people walking by or coming in is really positive. It's very exciting.

Enough words, here are some photographs of Bella Moon, week one.


Looking from the back of the shop.
The counter top is hand made from rough oak boards that Tony and I put together in a herringbone pattern. We then bogged up the cracks and holes in the wood, before Tony planed, sanded and lacquered it. I think it's gorgeous.


Some stock and cabinets ... the glass cabinets are so hard to photograph and capture the contents. Very reflective.

Taken from the side window looking in.

Just another angle from back to front of the shop.

I haven't added any photos of the entire shopfront ... and probably won't until I have a sign up (that'll take a while, I'm guessing) and the front is painted. At the moment it's covered in graffiti, so I simply have to wait for the body corporate to organise the cleaning and painting of that.

Spread the word!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chained Up

Last week I finally acted upon an urge I've had for ages - to make a chain. The jump ring maker came in handy to start with and I made heaps of round silver open rings (otherwise known as jump rings) and set to work designing a pattern.

Purist silversmiths would faint at that statement ... one is supposed to design a pattern before cutting out your metal, but I tend to work a bit backwards and start with a concept and refine it as I go. It's more than likely my lack of formal training that's put me in that working head space and I know I really should design first, but ...

So back to chain number 1. I had it finished in an afternoon, which was very heartening. It consists of two different sizes of jumprings (the larger ones are hammer textured), some punched and drilled discs, some focused soldering, then an hour or so in the tumbler and it was done. This is what I came up with (not a great photo, but you get the idea I'm sure):


The next day, enthusiastic with my discovery that I could make chains, I set off to the city to buy some more wire so I could do something with a bit more substance. I bought some 1.8mm round wire and some 1.7mm square wire.

When I arrived home I went straight into the studio and set to work again (designing as I went). Chain number 2 has large square wire twisted ovals, smaller ovals (twisted and straight) and round rings. It's finished in a random pattern - the only consistency I aimed for was to space the large twisted ovals reasonably evenly. Here it is (I've Photoshopped the background in this one - not too bad considering I'm not very good at Photoshop):


This chain is quite chunky and heavy (almost 50 grams of sterling silver in this!). When my husband saw it before it was tumble polished he commented that it'll be interesting to see who's interested in this piece at the shop - because it will definitely be for sale when I open.

Yesterday, while my husband toiled away at the shop (it's coming along well now), I worked on yet another chain. It's almost finished, but not quite. I'll share that one when it's done.

Being a self-taught metalsmith is challenging at times, to say the least. It's taken me positively ages to just learn what a good solder flame is and get that right, and I still struggle with soldering larger pieces. This latest development into chain making could be just what I need to get more and more confidence and practical skills - while making jewellery that I can put up for sale in Bella Moon (rather than wasting silver or just making pieces I'm happy to wear but aren't up to my exacting standard for others).

It's all coming together ... step by step by step ...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Things are coming along

Just a brief update ...

Work on the shop is progressing now, following a slight mishap by my chief tradie (aka my husband), who managed to fire a nail gun nail into his hand. This caused a massive infection (yuk) and daily visits from nursing staff and doctors from the Royal Melbourne Hospital to feed him heavy duty antibiotics through an IV feed in his arm. It also meant he couldn't do a thing for a week. It set us back a bit, but we're catching up on the work to be done.

I've been busy ordering stock, which is now starting to trickle in. I have some fabulous sterling silver jewellery from Melbourne-based design company Mohini Jewellery. The order, which I received yesterday, consists of a sensational range of rings, pendants, earrings and one cuff bracelet. Why only one, you ask? Well, I'm not sure actually - the order was placed at a trade show and I must have felt a bit conservative in the bracelet department. It's all going to be trial and error, so if it sells quickly, I'll order more.

I also have lovely greeting cards from New Zealand designer, Lisa Hamilton-Jones. Her company, iCandy, produces cards and gift tags with meaningful messages, simply illustrated and with a touch of whimsy. Once again, I discovered these at the Life in Style trade fair and placed an order for cards and gift tags straight away. Lisa has kindly said I can use a couple of her design images here, so here's a snippet of what's available in my shop.



Other great things my shop will stock are scarves (two ranges - more on those later) and a small range of completely natural skin products and lip balms made in Victoria. After all, beautiful jewellery should be worn on beautiful skin!

Oh, of course Bella Moon jewellery, made by moi, will be there too!

Y'all have a great day now.

Friday, July 31, 2009

New look

Today's wonderful new image is my new logo. This is it - professionally designed and approved and I love it.

When I contacted the designer for a new logo a few weeks ago I didn't really know what I was to expect. The brief was to keep it clean and clear and I gave him the red I was using on my website (http://www.bellamoon.com.au) and intended to stick with.

The first file I received contained four images. The first one was appealing, but wrong for my business.

The second one I liked, but it seemed too plain, the third was a lovely swirly image, but a bit busy - and the fourth one I loved, but it didn't seem to sit exactly quite right.

Each one had a different font.

To cut a long story short, I sent through some feedback and wanted the fourth one edited a bit. It's the one that introduced the font I've stuck with and also where he'd suggested the new brown/gold colour - well that's what it looks like on the Mac. When I received the edited file back it had lost something in the edit - flow, movement, that sort of thing. It was certainly edited to brief, just didn't work visually.

So I thought about it and decided that I did like the swirls in the third image and could I have a different version of that, but with font number four.

Fred the designer sent back an edited version, and once again it lost something in translation.

I sat on that over the weekend. On Monday night my sister, brother-in-law, nephew and niece came to stay, having just arrived back from overseas. I showed my sister and brother-in-law the files the next morning and Paccy, bless him, made some wonderful suggestions that allowed me to see the four original concepts as if viewing them for the first time.

I sent yet another email to dear Fred and said I wanted to go back to concept number two (yep, the plain one), but in gold and with the font from concept four and some of the pearly dots similar to those he used in concept three.

Whew, what a process! His response was perfect, and I now have a brand new logo that I can use horizontally like in my header, or like this:

I hope you like it as much as I do!

My business cards will be coming as soon as I get the phone organised in the shop.

That's about it for now. A busy day - visit to the bank and another trade show today. More on trade show weekend later. That's exciting too.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We're into it

Yesterday was a significant day in the life of Bella Moon with the handing over of two keys for my shop. Yes folks, I'm officially now in refurbish and fit out mode. YIPPEEEE (that's what I have to say about that, anyway).

So I began with windows. Those gorgeous, important features that can make the difference between whether people walk in or walk past. My windows are essentially what attracted me to the shop (well that and the location), but the poor things had been badly mistreated. When the old pub that was there was being renovated and turned into apartments the brand new front windows had been painted over.

Fair enough, you may say. A bit of privacy while work was undertaken.

But the newest windows are aluminium framed and the dodgy workers had painted them without any protective tape on said frames! Aaaaaagh. So yesterday's efforts were focused on cleaning paint off window frames and rubber seals, cleaning the windows themselves and taping some very funky 1960s newspaper to the windows to cover them up while the refurbishment is undertaken.

Here, my dear readers, are some photos of the outside of my new shop with the windows papered. Oh if you do happen to know of it there is currently some very ordinary graffiti on the front, but with a bit of photo editing magic, we can just make that disappear.

Align Left
The outside of the shop with all the windows papered.
~~~~~

The page on the front door is a motor vehicle ad for Simca.
The page is dated Saturday Feb 16 1963
~~~~~

The corner window is at the entrance to the apartment block
~~~~~

The patchwork window has some great pages from 1961 - 1963
~~~~~

Featured on the patchwork window is fashions from Myer.
This page is dated March 2, 1963
~~~~~

It's fun to have some newspaper that's a little bit entertaining for passers by while the inside remains a mystery to the street.

And if you're wondering where they came from, well, I'll let you in on the secret. My darling husband, (caring!) tradesman that he is, pulled these up from under some very old flooring he's replacing and brought them home for me for this very purpose.

I'm a lucky, lucky girl.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lease signed - shop to come!

No photos today, just a very excited me. I've signed a lease on a shop in a sensational location in central Brunswick (Melbourne) and will be opening Bella Moon once renovated and fitted out - probably mid-September.

It's very exciting, so watch this space for photos, updates and the big launch date :-)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's been so long

Hello dear reader,

It has been a while since I've been able to blog. Things are starting to move along in the jewellery department, as I made the big decision recently to open a shop from which to sell my jewellery, along with a few other goodies.

That said, I did slow down on jewellery making for a while. There were a variety of reasons, including lack of inspiration. But the decision to open the shop also put a bit of a stop on things. You see, sterling silver dulls when it sits around for a while, and considering I haven't sold a thing through the Etsy store, I'm holding off making too much until a few weeks before the shop opens its doors. That way everything on the shelves will be bright and shiny and brand new. I've recently had to go so far as to pull some pieces apart so I can polish the silver - especially pearl pieces. One doesn't want cleaning chemicals near pearls, that's for sure.

I'm also improving my silver and gold skills at a rapid rate! With the additional purchase of a disk cutter and dapping block, I'm having fun with different ways of working with circles. The soldering's becoming more consistent too, which is cause for celebration for this little duck!

Just so you don't give up all hope, here's a few teasers of some new work:

On Golden Ponds
Hand made sterling silver twisted wire with 9 carat gold, featuring
tiny granules in the centre of the domed disk.
A very delicate and delicious bracelet for a dainty wrist.

~~~~~

Silverado
Hand beaten sterling silver disk with 9 carat gold wire feature and twisted gold/silver bail.
A funky, spunky 2.5cm pendant, featured here on a 1x1 sterling silver figaro chain.
~~~~~

Golden Ripples
I just love dangles!
These delicious numbers are made from sterling silver chandelier findings, for which I've made 9 carat gold and sterling silver disks (in graduated sizes for the centre).

These are fabulous, with the right sort of light-catching gleam to really make an impact. oh, and they are on my hand made rounded French ear wires ... of course!
~~~~~

There is going to be a lot more to come. I can't wait to start sharing pictures of my shop, in busy Sydney Road, Brunswick! Hopefully work can start on the renovation and fitout this weekend!

Exciting times ahead. Until next time ...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Oh Dear

Dear Readers,

I thought it time to let you know I'm still here ... although since coming home after Ava was born (where I enjoyed my new grandmother status very much), I have been doing some serious reassessing of life, work, the universe. You know, that sort of thing.

I've also been most neglectful of my little blog.

Things could be a little quiet for a while, but
I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, be patient with me. I'll be back again with photographs and words of wisdom before you know it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On becoming a Grandmother

I flew out from Melbourne last Tuesday and headed south to Hobart to see my beautiful daughter, her wonderful partner and her gorgeous, gorgeous new baby - my first grandchild. Wow.

Yes folks, I am now officially a grandmother. Ava Brigette was born on 26 April, a perfect, healthy darling who I have fallen totally in love with.

That's about all this over the moon Grandma can manage right now. Just thought I'd better check in and drop a line.

I'll write more and post a snapshot when I return home.

Let's raise our glasses to beautiful babies and wonderful parents.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

New store on Madeit.com.au

I signed up with Madeit.com.au last week.

Bella Moon Jewels on Madeit.com.au

As I'm not exactly moving jewellery through Etsy at a rate of knots (erm, still to make a sale), I thought I'd see if an Aussie site would work better. No bites yet, but I guess that's the nature of things in this strange old online world.


Jewellery is one of those tactile, personal things. Ideally you try something on, decide whether you like it or not, see if it suits you or not ... then purchase it - or not. Selling over the internet is a little more tricky though. Without the capacity to actually try a piece, or see its finish or its sparkle, it's difficult to know whether you're getting what you're paying for.


Buyers place a lot of faith in the seller when purchasing online, which is something I certainly work hard in maintaining (the faith, that is). What you see is what you get - no hidden agendas, or dodgy work. I place a lot of pride in my work - from the materials I use and how they are turned into designs and then ensuring my finishes are neat and strong.


Then I think about how to photograph the piece. Without professional photography gear, being able to capture the way a piece sits, flows, dangles or spins can be tricky. Light is an issue, but I'm figuring it out. I know my work doesn't look as fabulous in photos as it does in reality, but that's just the nature of the game at this stage.

Then I write a description, detailing the materials used, length, size of beads - anything at all that will fire the potential wearer's imagination and leave them wanting my lovingly created masterpiece.

Pricing is the tricky bit. Everyone wants a bargain on the internet, but some of my pieces (Gypsy Princess and Bella Rose necklaces for example) can take days to make. From the concept design through to construction and tweaking to get it just right. I'm not in this to lose money, so combine the time with the cost of materials and I charge what I think is a fair price. I don't stick to a particular hourly rate, but just what's fair to me and right for the quality. But so far it's not working.

With thousands of jewellery stores on the internet, finding a point of difference helps too. I ask myself the question: what is it about my jewellery that sets it apart from all the rest? I'm not sure I've found the answer except I know I have a style of my own, which is part way there.


I know my work is good when people see my jewellery close up - hold it and try it on - and it sells in a flash. They recognise how well made it is, how well designed it is, how lovely the quality of materials are that I've used. They are happy to pay the prices I ask.


It's just something I have to chug along with I guess. I'm not going to compromise my standards and use cheaper materials or make the latest fashion item that can be bought for $5 at cheap costume jewellery stores.
It's a matter of hanging in there and sticking to what's right for me and ultimately for the customers I'm yet to gain.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Restless

I've been a bit absent from the blog recently. I've been avoiding it actually, suffering from blogger's block. Stuck.

When I feel a bit stuck I start feeling restless for travel. To hop on a big jet plane that'll land me somewhere I know nothing about, from which I can experience something new and wonderful. But considering overseas travels are not in the foreseeable future, I'm learning yet another lesson in patience.

To achieve my goal of travelling and living somewhere new I must focus my energies on doing something about marketing my work to generate some sort of income.

Even so, it doesn't stop me thinking about my last trip to Europe.

For six weeks I traversed the continent by train on my own, meeting up with friends along the way and making pilgrimages to galleries and churches and piazzas and palazzos to see the wonderful art and architecture I'd studied and loved while at university.

Flying over the Alps on the way to Venice

After spending a week or so with a friend in London, I caught an evening flight to Venice, which is where the adventure began.

It was quite something arriving at night, especially considering I had to go all the way to Zattere - the last water bus stop - to reach my little pensione, La Calcina.

Once through customs I found my way to the floating bus stop, where the bus arrived and I hopped on. The bus ride was really something - the airport is quite a way from the city and it was pitch black. Then we rounded a corner and were amongst the lights of Venice, stopping and dropping other passengers off, until I was the last one on board.

The path along the Guidecca near Zattere bus stop in early evening light

I alighted at Zattere, onto a wide footpath along the side of the Guidecca, with water lapping up and across the path. I was the only person in sight and walked towards my pensione, breathing in the night air and relishing in the feeling I was about to embark on something completely new and exciting.

It was about 11pm by then and the hotel was expecting me (I'd warned them I'd be late).
Even though their restaurant was closed they graciously agreed to pour me a glass of red, which I really felt like by then.

The next morning after breakfast I set out and was lost in about five minutes. It was raining, cold and absolutely wonderful.

One of the many bridges across a canal

One of the things I loved most about Venice was the lack of cars and the fact it's virtually impossible to follow a map.

In fact, I realised very soon the best way to see this amazing city is to just allow yourself to get lost.

I also avoided the major tourist centres and wandered into quiet local churches and piazzas, stopped for nibbles and a glass or two of red at a local chicchetti
bar. Chatted to locals about their city, leaning up against the old stone wall along the canal, smoking local cigarettes. Now that's what life is about.

I spent three days in that wonderful, magical place (not nearly long enough - I'd move there tomorrow, floods, mists and all) before moving on to see more of Italy, meeting up with friends for a week, then heading by train to France and the Netherlands. I loved every moment.

My first day in Venice - wet, cold, happy and eating gorgeous, creamy gelati

That first week in Italy was a bit like the adventure I'm embarking on now - starting a new career, working from home. It begins with major excitement, it's new and there's lots of anticipation of great things to come.


Then it feels a bit lonely, a bit removed from reality, but with the right moves, it will perk up again and I'll be invigorated with fresh energy
and focus to just get out there and have a fabulous time of it.

Always learning, always moving forward and meeting new and interesting people along the way. I just have to hang in there, get it out there and enjoy the ride!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

More dangles

I've been running around like a mad chook lately, sourcing new materials, setting up my administration systems and just getting in some making when I catch my breath. I've also had a couple of custom orders for friends to keep me busy.

But I have managed to photograph a pair of pearl and crystal dangles I made a couple of weeks ago. I love black and white together - so classic and versatile.

The sterling silver ear wires were formed and beaten first, then I made the dangles to suit the wires. The round pearls are Akoya and the 1/2 drilled drops are 10mm long freshwater pearls. The crystal is Swarovski jet.

These are called Diva and are finally available on Etsy.

I like these so much I think I'll make an extra pair for myself!

Friday, April 3, 2009

An afternoon at Kaz's and a day of sales

A friend of mine recently ordered my lovely green aventurine set, Grace, that she'd spotted on my blog. The condition was I went to her place for a drink and a good catch up. She hasn't been very well lately, so I offered to bring lunch or dinner and feed her. I'm quite well known throughout my circle of friends for my culinary skills, so she didn't say no. We organised a lunch date and that was that.

A couple of days later she phoned me to ask if I worked in gold at all. I said I did, but didn't generally keep a huge stock of gold and asked her what she had in mind. She wanted to purchase a pair of earrings for a friend as a gift. In gold and something "either in browns or greens" were the instructions. Great. Brown or green with gold. Nothing more than that, but she said she liked my work and trusted my judgement and left the rest up to me.

Now that sort of thing is a bit of a challenge, so I really had to trust my instincts. I started preparing by making two pairs of 9 carat gold ear wires, both slightly different.

I then went to one of my local bead suppliers who I knew to sell single semi-precious stones and set about choosing the ideal stones for the brown or green earrings. After an hour or so comparing stones and combinations, the mission was accomplished.

Because I wanted to keep the cost reasonable I also made the decision to use some gold-filled components.

After spending the best part of a day out shopping for what I hoped would be the right thing, I returned to my home studio and the next morning set to work.

The brown ones are red rainbow jasper - although there are so many variations in jasper and I'm not overly familiar with the stone, I'm only going by what I've found out. I love the variations in the patterns, especially on the lower stone. The top stone is a deep, rich browny-red.

Next I made these lovely chrysocola and green garnet dangles. Once again, I love the patterned oval chrysocola disc, and the green garnet just sets it off perfectly.

The little rondelles perched on top of the garnets are 9 carat as well.

In addition to these, I made a couple of simple kambaba jasper drops I could have swapped onto one of these pairs of earwires if she'd preferred those (only having the two pairs of handmade wires, it was the only way to go).

The verdict

Yesterday was unveiling day.

As I was driving to her place she phoned to let me know she'd be home a couple of minutes after I arrived and to let myself in. She had also invited another girlfriend.

I was quite pleased about this, as I'd taken the majority of my jewellery along for show-and-tell and who can resist the opportunity to show one's work to others as well.

I'd made some lovely veggie burgers and salads for lunch, which I set about finishing off while the jewellery was perused. Kaz, being a non-meat eater later called them the best veggie burgers in the world. She co-owns the Famous Blue Raincoat Cafe and they may even end up on the menu!

Kaz opened her little box and was delighted with what she saw, then rushed off to put the new jewellery on. It looked great on her! I'd also made her an extra pair of earrings as a little gift, which she really liked as well.

All in all I sold both pairs of gold earrings (Kaz taking the jasper discs for her friend), my Morphed in Red coral nugget necklace and Pixie earrings. I also have an order for some kambaba jasper oblong earrings for Kaz and possibly a set for an upcoming 17 year old's formal outfit.

It was fantastic getting such positive feedback and having my work appreciated. I've spent the last few years preparing for this, refining designs, finding my style and ensuring my finishes are excellent. I appreciate quality work and I won't sell anything I'm not happy with myself.

This little experience also goes a long way to explaining the internet and its unknown quantity - purchasing jewellery over the net can be a risk, but once people see, hold and wear my work, they realise it is something special. And best of all, it's all theirs.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sunday driving

On Sunday Tony and I went for a drive through some of Victoria's bushfire ravaged landscape so we could gauge first-hand what happened out there. We headed to Kinglake - a horrendously affected town - via St Andrews.

We both had a strange sense of anticipation about the whole thing, not knowing what to expect. Much of that feeling was due to the huge media beat up, especially around the sense of loss and deep emotion throughout the scarred communities.

Just after St Andrews the impact of the fires hit us. Prior to that, we'd noticed some burnt bush here and there, especially as we drove through St Andrews, but not much. That is, until we came up over a rise and an endless landscape of black, burnt trees and bare dirt was before us. It was suddenly like being on a different planet.

Then the flattened houses started to appear. Just totally nuked. Perhaps the odd chimney, but nothing else. I didn't photograph them.

In amongst the remains of homes, there were burnt out cars, piles of flattened metal and bricks. Completely decimated homes and sheds. It was strange seeing what we'd heard so much about - a burnt down house between two that remained virtually untouched. There is no explanation, just a sense of sadness for the people dealing with the one that had gone. A bit further on, a melted road sign.

We arrived in Kinglake, but didn't stay long, just used the bathroom at the pub (the one featured on so much television footage), and read about the owners' experience saving their hotel, livelihood and lives. What a harrowing experience.

We didn't quite know what to do - whether to stay a while and have lunch or move on. We decided to move on.


From Kinglake we headed to Healesville. A bit past Kinglake the fire had missed much of that road, but there were sort of lines of burnt bush, where wind had swept it through, up over a hillside, with unburnt bush all around.

It was during that section of the drive I realised what made the worst of the firestorm areas so stark and desolate. Not only the blackened trees, but the lack of saplings and any form of undergrowth at all. No density in the bush, just trunks and bare earth. Quite strange.


Just out of Healesville we stopped by a couple of wineries and started chatting to the people there. The woman at Long Gully Estate said that they had no idea that the fire was on its way on that black Saturday. It was upon them before they could do much at all. She said the wind was so strong the fire was being pushed up the south side of the hills, then just skipping the north side - so all the south sides are burnt, but the north faces are untouched.

She's concerned it's another disaster waiting to happen next year if it's still as dry as it is now and there's fire again with the wind in a different direction. It could hit them all over again. Doesn't bear thinking about, really. But they're preparing already. Increasing the size of their water tanks, ensuring they're not reliant on grid electricity to run pumps or water.

At another winery we spoke to an owner, a lovely woman. They had lost 90 percent of their property to fire - vines, stock, tractors and other equipment. Thankfully they saved their house, their wine stock and the cellar door. I said "you're lucky you still have your livelihood". But it's not that rosy.

She explained: their vines are already reshooting, which they shouldn't be doing until later this year. That means they're all out of sync and there'll be a low yield next year, so not much wine to make. Then that wine has to sit for time in barrels before being bottled. It'll take two years for the vines to recover and bear at full capacity. She said it'd be four years before they had a worthy vintage to sell again, and they'd just have to survive in the meantime.

It was a strange day. I'm glad we went for that drive, but the reality of those walls of fire and darkness and smoke and fear and adrenalin still remain as surreal images from the television screen during that awful week of heat and wind in February.

All that remains is a moonscape with some touches of green where nature is healing. It's quite haunting.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The child within - featuring Tummy Mountain

I clicked into an artist's site on Etsy recently that really made the child in me feel all gooey and warm.


The images on Tummy Mountain are unique, each exuding a little story of childhood play, happiness and innocence.

Watermelon
The colours in this are so summery and warm - I love the golden sky and the pink watermelon, with that big grin of the little one as she peeks out behind this oversized piece of happy summer fruit.



What Cake
Can't you imagine the childish conspiracy behind these two cheeky kids?

Mum or Dad issuing the instruction not to eat the chocolate cake - freshly iced and ready for afternoon tea. But who can resist just a little taste? I bet they promised not to tell too.

Shelter
Getting caught in the rain is quite an adventure! But so is the delight at finding something just right to shelter under, especially when you're with your friends.

I love the looks on their faces - just a little bit stuck. For now.



When my daughter was a little girl I always read bedtime stories to her at night. In fact, bedtime was something she looked forward to and I never suffered the endless tantrums and hours of teary wakefulness I've witnessed since.

Sometimes a book wasn't enough though, so I'd sit with the lights out, holding her hand and tell stories of all sorts of wonderful things. Her favourite was one about a magic apple tree, which would take her gently to the land of nod.


The Milky Way
This is just the sort of picture that could conjure up a million children's stories, stimulating their imagination and taking them to all sorts of happy places in their dreams. But don't forget the cat!

The many prints and paintings on Tummy Mountain are inspired little vignettes and deserve to adorn the walls of children's rooms everywhere. Or in print - what perfect illustrations for a hundred books or more. I adore them.

Thank you to the artist for permission to reproduce the images. The hardest thing has been to choose just a few!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Here comes the bride

You may have gathered I really like pearls. A lot. I have quite a few in supply and I've been wanting to make something bridal and gorgeous and girly.

I wanted to make this one special, so I've used Akoya pearls - cultured saltwater pearls - rather than freshwater.

One needs to add some sparkles to bridal jewellery, and given I have some Swarovski crystal to hand, I started on a necklace with an idea in my head. I worked on it for a day or two, then tweaked it and now I have a finished item that I'm very happy with.


The photo just doesn't show how gorgeous this is. I just hope it can adorn the neck of a beautiful bride one day soon.

Then I started on some earrings to match.

And a name.

Bella Rose.

There are red roses in a vase in the house my husband brought home to me the other day. I thought one rather appropriate for the photo.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In the studio

With my ever increasing passion and enthusiasm for jewellery, my husband decided to build me a studio.

He's in the building trade, so he set to work with a lot of building materials gathered from work sites that would otherwise have been discarded in the skips.


Over time, the little room started coming together and I began getting rather excited about what was to come.

It began feeling real when an electrician friend came and wired it up, and a few weeks ago I was finally in there.


It's actually not quite finished off in a few spots yet, but dear Tony hasn't been allowed near the room because he can't get me out of it.

I love sitting out there and working. The morning sun comes in the window and I have good artificial light if working in the evening.


There's still a few tools on my list of 'must have' supplies, but for now I'm doing quite okay with what I have. Often starting out with less makes you a much better craftsperson when you finally get some of the bits and pieces that make life easier.

He's a very clever cookie, isn't he!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

All Quiet

The weekend has come and gone and I almost made a lovely silver piece. But things kept going a bit wrong. There was a little voice in my head saying "stop now, you'll stuff it up" ... but I didn't listen to my own reason and by Sunday I'd completely buggared it. I locked up the studio and all I could do was learn a big lesson and think on it a while.

Yesterday I took the day off from my studio and pottered about, doing other things.

Today I had a much better day. I dug out the piece (I'd put it in my scrap silver jar) and looked at it, thought about it a bit and decided to try something completely different. I'd scratched it over the weekend - scratches that wouldn't come out. So I attached a little diamond-tipped burr to my trusty Dremel and began texturing.

It worked! I stopped when it had worked too.

Then came the rest. Red coral nuggets, some chain, a couple of extra drill holes in the new silver and a little imagination and this is the result:


I was rather pleased with it in the end. The sterling focal piece is rather shell-like and sets off the coral quite nicely.

Having completed this and photographed it I then worked tirelessly for the afternoon on an absolutely gorgeous girly wedding set.

You're going to have to wait for that one, though. It's finished, apart from one little tweak I'll do tomorrow.

Have a great week.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Is it Friday already?

This week has been a little crazy, a little disorganised and a little unproductive (apart from making my sister's necklace I haven't managed to do much at all in the studio). I guess you get that.

I'm really enjoying being part of Etsy and DUST (Down Under Street Team). I've been spending far too long sitting on the net and reading forum posts, offering feedback, receiving feedback and generally getting a fantastic vibe from the whole thing. It makes me realise how much this career change right now is so right!

There is an incredible array of talented, creative people out there - I'm so proud to be part of it at last. Or I should say: again. Many years ago I gave up life in theatre and film (direction/art direction) to open a business. Through being in business I became all businessy and let the creative part of me go for so long. I even went back to uni and did a degree, majoring in journalism.

As part of my degree, however, I undertook a 3-semester sequence of units titled: Renaissance Art & Architecture. This sequence began my time of learning about how to read, write and generally appreciate art and architecture of all sorts.


But I was still businessy and corporate and wore suits to work and focused my energies on strategies and writing dry things and all that sort of stuff.

In recent years, with the discovery of a passion for making jewellery, I have found myself drawn back into creating. This time I have the love and support of a fine man, who I adore. He's so excited that I've found the confidence at last to take my passion to the world, instead of running around in a suit in a semi-miserable state, which just frustrated the hell out of me in the end.

But that's another story.

Back to the other wonderful people I'm meeting - albeit electronically. Where to start? I'll just post a few links from an amazing selection of talented artisans out there. Do take the time to check them out, they are worth it.

Incalesco - silver and other metal jewellery with stones, fabric and all sorts
Inner Earth Soaps - divine hand made soaps
Finchbird - stunningly simple jewellery with a touch of whimsy
Realisation Creations - gorgeous wire-wrapped jewellery

These are such a tiny selection of what's out there and very one behind these sites is a unique, talented creator of gorgeousness.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My first success

It's taking a bit of time, but I am finally getting my flame right and managing to solder successfully. It's a huge step and is going to allow me to add a little more flair to my work.

It's my sister's birthday tomorrow and I really wanted to make her something, so having had a couple of hectic days where I didn't get near my studio, I went and set to work on a couple of things. This one was looking the best, so I kept at it and it turned out like this:


It's hand-sawed and hand hammered, but I cheated and bought a pre-made cabochon setting and soldered that on with medium sterling silver solder (bezel mandrels are also on the shopping list). The stone is blue lace agate. It's a simple piece, but I like it and I hope she does too.

Unfortunately I'm finding photography a little tricky, getting good light is a bit of an issue, but there's a Digital SLR on the horizon, so things should be a little easier to photograph soon.

I'll be back into my studio tomorrow, so will hopefully have something new to add after a day's work there! Digital SLR or not.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Today's photos

I managed to take a few shots today that have turned out okay, including one of the necklace I'm wearing in my profile picture. Yep, more pearls. There's also another strawberry/cherry quartz piece that's a bit of fun. Here they are:





It's actually been one of those Mondayitis sort of Mondays. You get that. I'm aiming for a more focused day tomorrow to get some of the designs out of my head and made into wonderful pieces of jewellery.

Photography

Having spent most of Saturday setting up my Etsy page, I had aimed to photograph my latest jewellery designs yesterday. I'm a little hesitant about taking more photos, because I have a very limited happy snaps camera right now and it's difficult to get quality light and focus in the shots.

Well, great plans don't always come to fruition, so after joining my husband on a little errand, we decided to have some lunch out in one of Brunswick Street's eateries. (That's a funky street in Fitzroy, an inner-urban suburb of Melbourne.)

I made the mistake of having not one, but two glasses of red wine, which undid me at the seams and instead of coming straight home after lunch, we pottered around and stopped here and there. By the time we arrived home, it was too late for photos and we just had dinner and watched a DVD instead.

So today I must do what I was going to do yesterday. Hopefully I'll have some new pictures up on my Etsy page later today - all going well with the camera and light today. Must get a DSLR soon.

I'd best get to it then.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pearls

My daughter said to me over the phone the other day that I have a lot of pearl jewellery on my site. She's quite right, I have, and I plan to have much more, including South Sea and Tahitian pearls. Why? Well, I simply adore pearls.

Unlike stones, pearls require no cutting, faceting or shaping. They are already perfect from the shell in which they are created. Pearls are quite miraculous - so much beauty emerging from such a strange little package as an oyster.

I have recently been reading about the mystical qualities of pearls. These include offering the wearer the power of love, money, protection and luck. They are also said to offer wisdom through experience and to keep children safe. They are calming and centering and signify faith, charity and innocence. They symbolise purity and sincerity, bringing honesty, integrity and loyalty. They are ultimately feminine, helping women connect with their inner goddesses.

Pearls have also been used throughout medical history to help treat digestive disorders, muscular systems and the skin. In some cultures, powders and potions containing pearls assist in fertility, as well as in easing childbirth.

Pearls are associated with myth and legend. The ancient Chinese thought pearls fell from the sky when dragons fought. Greek culture believed that wearing pearls would promote marital bliss and prevent newlywed women from crying. Pearls were also thought to be the tears of the gods, or tears of the moon.

With all that positive energy, who couldn't appreciate the beauty of pearls?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Now on Etsy

I'm making more moves to get my work and art out there and created an Etsy-based store.

You can find me by clicking on the title of this entry, or search me out by my username of BellaMoonJewels.