The crafted object : Britta Boeckmann {resin & wood jewellery}

Britta Boeckmann moved to Australia for love. When she got here, she fell in love all over again with its beautiful wood.

britta boeckmann - pink resin pendant with wood

britta boeckmann – pink resin pendant with wood

Combining Australian native timbers with translucent resins and semi-precious stones, her jewellery looks a bit architectural with its bold, simple shapes. I love how the clean forms let the rich colours and natural textures shine through; sometimes she adds in bits of twig, flowers or gold leaf to make lots of intriguing details. Britta loves the landscape of Australia too, but is also especially inspired by the organic and modernist furniture of Nipa Doshi & Jonathan Levien (it’s on my wish list as well!).

 

britta boeckmann - pendants in teal blue resin wood

britta boeckmann – pendants in teal blue resin wood

 

britta boeckmann -pendant with sheoak pod in resin

britta boeckmann -pendant with sheoak pod in resin

She studied Industrial Design in her home country of Germany and there discovered her  passion for wood. After moving to London, she had a stint designing jewellery for a brand in Oxford which ignited a desire for further study. “I finished my studies in September 2013 and moved to Australia with my partner. I started working in a woodworking group in Wangaratta straight away, happy to find a place to explore my ideas. The lovely members there always supply me with stunning pieces of wood to work with and that’s a credit to them.” She loves working there: “They always tell me interesting stories about the history of each piece I get.”

Her time is currently split between three work areas. “Most of the work is in the Wangaratta Woodworkers workshop which has a great setup with all the tools you could image. I also have a table with tools in a garage, where I make the moulds and cast the pieces, and then I finish off my pieces on a desk in front of a big window. This is where I glue hooks on, attach the chains or cords and oil the pieces. The last two are a total mess most of the time.”

 

britta boeckmann - wide green pendant with redgum

britta boeckmann – wide green pendant with redgum

 

All her work for the Oxford brand was built on CAD and sent out for manufacture, and that is very different to how she works now – completely handmade, mess and all.  “There are several steps involved in the process of making these pieces. I colour resin with oil based colours and then pour it into moulds which I make from clay. Then I embed flowers, branches, gold leaf or mostly wood in the resin. A couple of days later I take the cured block out of the mould and I sculpt the shape on the belt sander. After the piece gets its final shape I sand it with different grits by hand to get rid of the scratches. Finally I oil or varnish the pieces and sometimes add additional elements like metal tubes or gemstones.”

 

britta boeckmann - ring - wood with light blue resin

britta boeckmann – ring – wood with light blue resin

 

britta boeckmann - ring wood resin gold flake

britta boeckmann – ring wood resin gold flake

 

Like many jewellers I know, Britta says she never wears much jewellery (although she admits she has one special piece that she has kept for herself).  “I love jewellery, but I am just doing so much physical work that it would disturb me wearing it.”

 

wangaratta workshop

wangaratta woodworkers workshop

 

 

Her best best of advice comes from her partner, who told her “Not to take life so serious, to do what I love to do and not to think about money all the time.”

 

You can find more of Britta’s jewellery in her Etsy shop, BoldB.

The crafted object : Chris Taylor {ceramics}

Looking at Chris Taylor’s multi-coloured vessels I am reminded of layers of wallpaper in an ancient house. Pattern on pattern over paint, in colours that are both rich and muted. And just like wallpaper, layers on layers bring with them ideas of process, and each pattern and surface needs time to contemplate.

 

Chris Taylor - vessel (photo: Ester Segarra)

Chris Taylor – vessel (photo: Ester Segarra)

 

It’s pattern in particular that interests Chris, for its abilities to either aid or confuse the eye when looking at three-dimensional objects, and it’s why he tries to cram so much of it onto one thing. But he also enjoys the process and technique, exploring unconventional ways of applying and arranging the decoration on ceramic vessels.

It’s quite a process. “Most of my current work is thrown on the potter’s wheel, distorted before being decorated in various combinations and layers of coloured clays and print. Once this initial stage is completed the pieces are fired before being partially glazed, after which the decorative process continues with additional layers of pattern and colour being applied. Sometimes pieces are sanded to reveal some of the earlier layers of patterning, and sometimes a lustre is applied to create additional interest.”

 

Chris Taylor - vessel (photo: Ester Segarra)

Chris Taylor – vessel

 

Although he has been working with clay for more than 15 years, including a stint as a teacher at the North Devon School of Art as well as producing his own range of handmade tableware, it was not until undertaking his MA through the Royal College of Art in 2010 that he started working in this way. At the beginning of his MA he won a travelling scholarship to visit Jingdezhen, China, describing the experience as “pivotal”. It was there that he discovered the printing technique that allowed him to build up the layers before firing took place. “This technique has had a massive influence on my work and I continue to use it now.”

The experience has been pivotal in more ways than one. Not only was it an opportunity to learn a new technique, but it also meant that he had to do something even harder – to unlearn.

“Something I had to learn to overcome was accepting that certain things I had for years considered to be faults were no longer faults.”

“I have been making for many years and my early training was concerned with making tableware for various companies. With the tableware I produced there was a standard that needed to be met. Warping and cracking were considered incorrect, as were glaze chips, colour variations etc… This way of thinking became quite ingrained in me to the point where I did not question it.”

 

Chris Taylor - vessel (photo: Ester Segarra)

Chris Taylor – vessel (photo: Ester Segarra)

 

Chris Taylor - surface detail

Chris Taylor – surface detail

 

“When I came to make this series of work for my Masters it was my intention to question and actively resist expected practices. However at the beginning I found it hard to accept some of things I was producing as successful pieces of work; rather I viewed them as seconds. It took me a while to realize the rules by which I had worked when making tableware were no longer relevant and I began to accept all outcomes as interesting experiments. At this point my work appeared more successful to me. Ultimately the way I see technical failure now has completely changed.”

 

Chris Taylor - vessel (photo: Ester Segarra)

Chris Taylor – vessel (photo: Ester Segarra)

 

Chris Taylor - surface detail

Chris Taylor – surface detail

 

“I am conscious of the desire for the series to continuously evolve, so with this in mind my favourite piece at any point in time is usually the one which is the most different from the one before. Often this is a piece that has ‘gone wrong’, or at least not according to plan, forcing me to try new techniques or make different decisions which results in something new.”

Chris Taylor - group pf vessels (photo Ester Segarra)

Chris Taylor – group of vessels (photo Ester Segarra)

 

“When reading your blog in preparation for answering your questions I was quite taken by Angela Stevens‘ quote, “If things aren’t right in the end, then you are not at the end.  I think that this sums up my way of thinking with regards to the development of the series. If I am not happy with a piece I will keep on working on it until I am.”

You can find more of Chris Taylor’s work on his website, www.christaylorceramics.co.uk.

The crafted object : Moshikoart {jewellery}

I was a bit stumped for words when I first spotted the silver and resin jewellery of Moshiko Boshe (aka MoshikoArt). “Bright” and “colourful” didn’t quite do it justice.

 

moshiko - bunny necklace

moshiko – bunny necklace

 

Based in Tel Aviv, Moshiko’s work is kind of a wild hybrid between organic and hi-tech, ancient and futuristic. He sits archaic symbols from long-forgotten cultures alongside modern interpretations of Henri Matisse and Keith Haring, and includes references to jellyfish, strawberries and the X-files equally, without batting an eyelid.

 

moshiko - matisse ring

moshiko – matisse ring

 

moshiko - celestial lagoon bracelet

moshiko – celestial lagoon bracelet

He first came to work with metals about 25 years ago, after a visit to Nepal. There he was fortunate enough to visit the workshop of the royal jewellers and was captivated, watching them heating and fusing metal just with lung power and a simple oil burner. He returned to Israel, teaching himself the skills before ending up working in high-end jewellery workshops as in-house designer and prototype maker for several years. During this time he also studied glass blowing with master glass blower Rika, and trained in traditional North African jewellery crafting.

 

moshiko - raindrops earrings

moshiko – raindrops earrings

 

moshiko - omega bracelet

moshiko – omega bracelet

 

He loves working with resin too, relishing its organic and fluid possibilities. He says of the process, “Working with resin is like riding a dragon.” Using a variety of techniques to suit each piece, some surfaces are handpainted, others are embedded with photographs or gold leaf.

 

moshiko - talking heads ring

moshiko – talking heads ring

 

moshiko - spherical maze ring

moshiko – spherical maze ring

 

Moshiko has participated in numerous exhibitions, his work has appeared in several publications by Lark Books., and he runs his own gallery featuring jewellery and sculpture in Tel Aviv.

You can find more of his work in his Etsy shop MoshikoArt, and on his own website www.moshikoart.com.

 

Small Biz how-to : Monday Mini Makeovers!

closed for renovations - michael sweeney

closed for renovations – michael sweeney {click image for source}

 

WELCOME to my brand new segment, Monday Mini Makeovers. Here every fortnight, I will be showcasing a bunch of online creative micro-bizzes just like yours – and giving them a visual makeover!

The idea is that not only do these good folk benefit from having a fresh set of eyes over their online presence, but that YOU my fab reader, also get tips on how you can charge up your own online presence.

I reckon that’s a WIN-WIN.

 

Just a quick disclaimer – these are simply my initial impressions when I land on people’s sites. It’s not an in-depth analysis, and it’s not intended to be taken as any kind of definitive professional advice.

I’m concentrating on my initial impressions because it’s what your potential customers do. If your site doesn’t look interesting enough, if it’s hard to navigate, or it doesn’t clearly convey who you are and what you offer, another store is  just a click away.

Of course you’d like them to stick around and have a bit of an explore – so, these are my suggestions on how these sites could be improved for easier customer access, for visual cohesion and branding.

I play things as I see them, so you can expect honesty, but I PROMISE I will be kind 🙂  So here goes!

 

Bec Gullo and Bluebird Candles

Bluebird Candles

Bluebird Candles

Bec sells lush-sounding fragrant soy candles in recycled and recyclable glass, and she asked for some suggestions on her Facebook page.

From having a quick look through her FB photos, I can see she enjoys a bit of retro styling in her images – kind of 60s, but warm and homey, with some tropical lushness thrown in (she’s based in Innisfail, Queensland). This is a lovely aesthetic to work with, and I think she could concentrate on it to help her with her whole branding efforts.

With images and branding, the idea is to pick out what suits your product and the mood you’re trying to convey and then reinterpret that with your own styling. It’s often helpful to stick to a limited palette (say of 5-10 colours) and 2-3 fonts that you use for everything.

With regard to Bec’s FB page, it’s important to note that you are a bit limited on what you can do on Facebook – a lot of the screen is taken up with Facebook’s own colours and layout. Image-wise, you can really only change your ‘Cover Picture’ (i.e. the big one) and your ‘Profile Picture’ (the little square).

Bec’s cover photo does nothing much to convey anything about her business – it just looks like a blue jar in the garden.  I think both cover and profile pics could benefit from some lush styling, something fragrant and pretty (perhaps tropical – e.g Pina Colada? Tangerine anyone?) from one of her best sellers. Or for instance, lit candles in a lush garden would be much more inviting and descriptive as a cover photo. Concentrate on how those scents make you FEEL – conjure up a relaxing scene!

Just underneath the cover photo, there are four frames. You can’t change the ‘Photos’ and the ‘Likes’, but you can add in more frames and use them for apps – that way you can link to your shop, special events, notes, and a whole lot more – just click on the little drop-down arrow on the right.

When you use them to add in specific events, make sure they’re kept up to date. Nobody likes clicking on a link only to find something that finished 2 months ago – yuk! Bec has used them well, adding in a link to a giveaway she is running at the moment, and to a market that she will be doing soon.

Generally, she has very good engagement on Facebook, with frequent posting about new products, events, and other special things that have happened (like the glorious sunset she saw). Engaging with your customers on facebook is also an excellent way to do a bit of customer research if you keep your eyes and ears open – what sorts of things do they respond to the most? The more you engage with them the easier it is to build up a picture of your customer.

 

Deborah Davey and Domum Vindemia

Domum Vindemia

Domum Vindemia

Deb sells upcycled vintage crockery (turning them into sweet cake stands) and linen, as well as bunting and other decorative items in her Etsy shop, DomumVindemia, and I would describe her style as a sweet and ditsy style of shabby chic, with lots of florals in pale and pretty colours.

Firstly, Deb’s shop header needs a bit of a tweak. The images chosen are fine, but the text looks chunky and pixelated. I probably would chose a softer colour too – the black looks a bit harsh.

Looking through her first page of products, my initial suggestion is that she should try and keep the viewpoints in each of her photos at a more consistent angle (at the moment when I browse her shop, the multiple angles remind me of a ship rocking in the ocean). Composition wise, the cake stands are too large in the picture frame – give them more space to breathe. In Etsy, for each product you have 5 images to use, so use some of them for macro details of the patterns. Take a straight, level, side-on view to show off their stands.

Style your bookmarks with books so that it is obvious what they are and how they look in use. Some of the plainer items look good against the sheet music, but if your items have lots of pattern then beware of making your photos too busy – it can detract from the item. A plain background is easy to make with a large piece of white cardboard – I use a bulldog clip to hold it onto the back of a kitchen chair, or onto a large hardcover book that I have standing up and propped open (Yes, I’ve got a tutorial with some photography tips in the works and it will be published soon, I promise!). Cardboard doesn’t crease like paper or fabric, and it’s easy enough to remove spots in Photoshop or Picmonkey by using the rubber stamp tool.

Lighter items like the bunting can be styled against a darker background. However, keep the backgrounds more consistent – using various spots around the garden would be fine, but perhaps not against the brick wall as it doesn’t fit with the rest of the vintage shabby feel of the product in Domum Vindemia.

Overall, I think it comes down to consistency. In Deb’s shop, there are lots of competing angles, widely varying backgrounds; and some but not all of the photo frames have a soft fadeout edge. At the moment it all looks a bit busy and I feel like I need to walk into the shop and tidy the shelves.

If you have all of your similar items styled in a similar manner, at the same size and orientation, your shop will look and feel neat.

 

Louise Radge and Radge Design

Radge Design

Radge Design

Louise is a graphic designer and makes wire-wrapped jewellery in her Hand-Made shop, RadgeDesign.

Like many other platforms that allow you to set up your own shop, the vast majority of the screen space is given over their house-styling, leaving you with only your shop banner to grab potential customer’s attention. Louise has got a distinctive logo of a purple flower, which she has developed out of one of her artworks. The logo is interesting, but there is nothing much else so it all looks a bit too white and empty. The grey stripe along the bottom looks a bit flat and thick, because it’s very different to the hand drawn elements. The “R” and the purple flower obviously come from hand drawn elements, so perhaps instead she could try using a hand drawn line like on the flower to do a simple frame (or even a fancy one, if it suits) to define the whole banner and give it more personality.

Arial is a very common font, and I’m sure it doesn’t do justice to Louise’s talents as a graphic designer. To advertise her talents, I think she would be much better off choosing something more stylish. I also would not mix up capitals halfway through the tagline. Easiest way around that is to use all caps or all lower case.

The word “funky” could be used with a shop that specialises in bright, colourful, 60s/70s-inspired kitsch, but really I think it’s a word best left to describing James Brown (WOO!).  Spend some time with a thesaurus, write down a list of words that you might like to use in your tagline and then choose the best, or just leave it out entirely and concentrate on the practical words that describe what you do.

Now to the product lisitngs. The size of the products in each photo is good, however all the photos are a bit dark, and this is especially noticeable against the graphic design items which are very white. Brightening your images is quite easy with Photoshop, Picmonkey or any other photo-editing program. If your images look a bit washed out when you up the brightness, then all you need to do is up the contrast as well, and this should fix it.

 

 Phew! Got all that? 

 

Now it’s over to you! Can you think how the suggestions I’ve made today could be applied to your biz? What would you change? What would you keep the same?

Have I still not solved your problem for your biz? If you’ve got a specific question let me know in the comments below!

AND, if you would like a Mini Monday Makeover on your biz, you can join in too – all you have to do is subscribe here, and follow the instructions.

See you then!
Julie X

The crafted object : Cardboard Safari

When Chris Jessee first interviewed Luis Rodrigalvarez to come on board his fledgling laser-cutting business building model kits for model train enthusiasts, Spanish-born Luis could barely speak English. Chris was dubious.

But then Luis showed Chris his portfolio, which was enormous and full of amazing things. Luis and Chris have been working together ever since.

 

cardboard safari - bucky

cardboard safari – bucky

 

Chris was always a drawer and maker from a young age, and credits his brother with urging him to draw and pushing him to work at making his drawings better and better. He continued drawing, making models and handmade gifts for friends and family, and before he’d even hit the teenage years, knew that he wanted to make a living by building things.

He studied architecture and spent several years working for architecture firms. It was while working as an architect that he realised the power of CAD and added a degree in computing to his repertoire. Then in 2003 he pulled it all together and took the big leap to starting his own business making the model kits.

 

carboard safari - bucky jr - modern art print

carboard safari – bucky jr – modern art print

 

It was  few years later later that an architect approached him to make a topography model, and so Chris in turn went to his cousin who worked for a cardboard manufacturer. The cousin was a keen deer hunter, and so the conversation pretty quickly turned to trophies… and Cardboard Safari was born.

‘Bucky’ was the first of the product line in 2006, and Cardboard Safari started on Etsy on 2009. Since then, they have developed a whole menagerie – moose, deer, lion, unicorn… “Safari is equal parts adventure and animal observation.”

 

carboard safari - juliette

carboard safari – juliette

 

ardboard safari - eyan jr - pop art

ardboard safari – eyan jr – pop art

 

Based in Charlottesville, Virginia and surrounded by the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, they now have stockists around the world from London to Sydney. Getting Cardboard Safari to this point has been a big journey, and Chris is immensely grateful to Amy Gardner of Scarpa in Charlottesville. “She was the first retail shop to carry our products in 2007 and urged me to exhibit at gift shows, which greatly expanded our presence in retail stores such as Urban Outfitters.”

 

cardboard safari - jack

cardboard safari – jack

 

carboard safari - micro vince

carboard safari – micro vince

 

Each new design takes months of process. “We brainstorm about new ideas and listen to customer feedback about what new products they would like to see.  Our ideas and customer suggestions become a list and we sort and reshuffle, weighing the merits of each product to determine what we do next. Then we research through web searches of photographs and then build the model in the computer. Lastly there are many cycles or iterations to refine the design so it is visually pleasing and easy to assemble.”

Visually pleasing they are! Most designs are available in various sizes, and now they’ve added the extra option of having them cut from printed card – Pop, Mondrian-style, or pixelated camouflage – the variations are almost endless. Pink with that? Sure!

 

cardboard safari - rocket table

cardboard safari – rocket table

 

After all these years and hundreds of new designs, does Chris have a favourite? Yes; he is pretty definite on this – Bucky always holds a special place for him as the genesis of his product line.

 

cardboard safari - merlin jr - stars and snowflakes unicorn

cardboard safari – merlin jr – stars and snowflakes unicorn

 

His best piece of advice? “Life is a thinking man’s game.”

You can find more of Cardboard Safari in their Etsy shop CardboardSafari, and on their own website, www.cardboardsafari.com {which also includes links to their stockists around the world).

 

The crafted object : Your Organ Grinder (textiles)

I have long been fascinated by the curious felted viscera of Simmone Spring from Your Organ Grinder. Eyes, kidneys, teeth, brains, hearts, lungs, thyroid… Who buys them? Why?

 

your organ grinder - brain

your organ grinder – brain

 

“I get to work with a lot of people who are ill or have had surgeries or have chronic illness. It is pretty special to be invited into a persons life when they are ill. Some of the illnesses people have had are things they are probably cautious about telling anyone about and I want to make sure no one has to feel embarrassed about the things their body does. I also get to learn a lot by talking with them, and learn how the illness makes itself known, what are good signs, things like that. It is wonderful when someone gets really enthusiastic to be able explain to me what is going on with their illness, I am always really interested to know!”

 

your organ grinder - heart brooch

your organ grinder – heart brooch

 

Simmone has a diploma of applied science and a degree in literature and sociology. She contemplated working with animals (and would still love to), but also thought about writing. She ended up working in a retail position that required crafting skills, and loves it that she is always learning new things – her job is being the coordinator for handsonbrisbane.com – a group dedicated to teaching people new craft skills.

 

your organ grinder - brain stamp wrapping paper

your organ grinder – brain stamp wrapping paper

 

Simmone started making organs about 6 years ago after a chat with a friend about her collections of animal skeletons and exoskeletons. “I didn’t think I could manage to make animals in jars but though an eye was possible, and maybe a heart. Once I started making anatomy it was hard to stop.”

After researching the shapes and colours of each body part, she starts each new design by cutting directly into the felt, admitting that drawing is not one of her strong points. “It requires a lot of effort. If I whip out scissors and just go for it I usually get a better result, and a much faster one!  The first kidney I made was entirely free hand, and I then used what I cut to make a template. I also like to read a bit about the body part as knowing how they function can give a lot of insight into how to represent them.

“I’m not a fan of a sewing machine but I do use it every now and then. Using the sewing machine always makes me frustrated so I allocate a very small amount of sewing machine work at a time and probably only use it once a month. Consequently there is screen printed anatomy all over the place that is printed, but has got no further.”

“I know I was making stuff all the time as a child. Cutting up fabric to make barbie clothes, making little gifts for friends. When my Nana taught me to knit I made a pink cape for a barbie, it was pretty terrible, my knitting still is, but to me it was the ultimate in barbie fashion. I made fairly dodgy stuff! My mum taught me crochet when I was quite young, 9 or 10, so I was always interested in making things and entertaining myself with making things.”

 

your organ grinder - placenta with specimen jar

your organ grinder – placenta with specimen jar

 

“Usually once at every market I have someone say something very rude to me about what I create. Thankfully I’m fairly used to that kind of thing as I have liked weird stuff my whole life and always been the person that gets told I’m a weirdo, or sick, or has strange looks from people. I’m lucky to have had equally weird friends and everyone in the craft community has some bizarre interest! I still do feel paranoid about certain things I am interested in and not a lot of people know about them, but often I am surprised to learn that there is someone else I know with the same interest.”

“I think my biggest influences are actually horror movies, because they spark my interest in ideas that I go off and research and find something interesting out from them. It is not necessarily anatomy that inspires me but more colours and techniques and idea’s. I have a real interest in how people represent and portray their creativity. Seeing creativity in action inspires me. I love watching RuPaul’s Drag Race as I love how creativity is portrayed in this show.”

 

your organ grinder - skin hoop

your organ grinder – skin hoop

 

Her favourite piece at the moment is her “Skin Hoop”, showing the structure and layers of the skin. “It’s a lot of hand sewing and cutting out felt really precisely and actually kinda a pain to make and takes ages but I love it. I put on a terrible movie to watch while I work on things like that. It was originally a custom order. I loved the result and had to make another smaller version. I definitely want to make more in this style.”

 

Many people think Simmone’s craft is a bit strange. But it’s not as strange as knowing what actually creeps Simmone out. 

 

“Long fingernails, feet, anything to do with pregnancy and small babies, chicken on the bone, countless other foods. Pregnancy stuff makes me feel faint sometimes, just thinking about it. I also find doing some research can make me quite queasy and hot and clammy and feel faint. It is funny what does it!”

 

your organ grinder - studio

your organ grinder – studio

 

You can find more of Simmone’s work in her Etsy shop YourOrganGrinder, and on her own website and blog, yourorgangrinder.com.