Tatty Devine are having a retrospective of the 20 years they have been in business at the Lethaby Gallery in London. I entered a competition on Twitter, where they asked fans to share their favourite piece. I chose the rainbow necklace I made at another workshop I attended.
I was a little disappointed not to win, especially because I felt faked out when the gallery tagged me as the runner-up. Then there was a plot twist. The winner kindly offered me her +1 and before I knew it I was reorganising my Saturday plans so that I could go. Yeah, I guess I hadn’t checked my diary when I entered the competition.
I’ve actually been to a free bunting workshop at TD before. I just scrolled back through my Instagram feed to look for a picture and it was nearly four years ago!
I’d slightly hoped they might have some offcuts from the amazing acrylic they were using for another workshop available, but they didn’t.
I initially went for my default option of rainbow. However, since I know I’m pretty fast at making up the jewellery (I must have been to at least five workshops even though I haven’t blogged them all) I decided to spend a little longer at the design stage.
I laid out every colour of acrylic available, grouping them by the colours I felt went together. And this more pastelly option presented itself.
I also had a look around the exhibition- which I recommend if you are in the King’s Cross area for an hour or so. I first became aware of Tatty Devine when I was at university, so I’ve been well over ten years (god that makes me feel old). I remembered a lot of the collections. It’s interesting to notice how my tastes and personal style have evolved, and how that is reflected in the Tatty pieces I have been drawn to.
The founders of TD met at art school and I found myself, not for the first time, regretful about the way my life has turned out.
I don’t think the idea of studying art even crossed my mind when I was 17 and choosing universities, or even when I was 15 and choosing A’level subjects. I did art and graphics when I was at school. Back in those days, I think you had to choose a creative subject (art, music or drama) and a technology (my school was a ‘technology college’ and I think the choices were food tech, graphics or resistant materials (which once would have been woodwork and metalwork)) for GCSE.
Even though I spent more time on my creative subjects than all the others put together, I was raised with the idea that a woman has to earn her own money. Following my creative streak simply didn’t seem compatible with gainful employment. I ended up spending three wilderness years studying psychology at Oxford, then (after a couple of years of low-paid employment) a further three getting my professional doctorate to get the job I have now. While I don’t hate my day job, it’s also not a passion for me.
I tend to see some kind of second career in my future. I can’t imagine doing the same job for the next several decades. But at the same time, setting up a small business seems like an awful lot of work compared to the relative safety of my life now.
After a very challenging summer term, which included changing jobs (which has gone horribly) and moving house (which has gone well) I decided to treat myself. I’ve had my eye on a Tatty Devine rainbow necklace for an age. I’ve always loved rainbows and I feel that this necklace really captures how beautiful and fun they are. I tried the sample on at my last workshop and knew the necklace had to be mine.
And now she is!
I really enjoyed this workshop. Since I’ve done so many, I whizzed through the construction.
I was a little more apprehensive about adding the crystals- this element is what makes the workshop necklace unique and I can never resist a bit of sparkle. Putting them on took some serious glue.
I kept my crystal placement quite close to the sample and I’m happy with that decision.
And here is the finished item
We had a bit of a debate at the workshop about whether these necklaces are really ‘handmade’ or simply assembled (my view).
The fact that the workshop took place on pride weekend got me thinking. First, I thought that I am a sucker because I bought both rainbow doughnuts and a rainbow bagel as I walked down Brick Lane.
Secondly I started thinking about taking pride in a range of identities. As a mixed race woman, it has taken me many years to take pride in both sides of my heritage, especially spending my time predominantly in the company of white people. People tend to be black-or-white thinkers, struggling to hold on to complexity when the pull of easy stereotypes can be so irresistible. It felt pertinent to see this quotation from Harriet Tubman for the first time.
I’m never sure whether to include activities like this on the blog, seeing as I was really just assembling my Tatty Devine poinsettia necklace. However, it was still an enjoyable crafty morning and I ended up with a cute seasonal necklace that looks lovely with my two festive-ish sweaters.
As usual, Tatty Devine provided everything we needed to put together this snazzy necklace.
This is what all the pieces looked like laid out. Putting the two flowers in the middle together using a head pin was a new skill (but I forgot to take any pics when I was doing it.)
I found it really interesting to look back at the blog post I wrote about the TD forget-me-not necklace I made. I’m pretty sure I have been to more workshops since, I just haven’t blogged about them. That workshop was one of the first times I wore a totally self-made outfit- my autumn leaves skirt and my rolling rock sweater. It’s nice to see how far I have come on my handmade clothing journey in the past four years.
While I was away the other weekend, I partook in a silver ring-making workshop that was really enjoyable. Anna and I did a similar workshop a few years ago, but the rings I made are a little big now and I fancied making a replacement. I didn’t spend much time planning the design, so it’s a little more rough and ready than I would ordinarily choose, but I’m still happy with the outcome.
The first step was to measure my finger and then cut the silver down to the correct length. The strip of metal was then annealed (heated to make it softer and more malleable) so I could decorate it.
There were several options for decorating, and I spent quite a while being unsure of what kind of design I wanted. I considered trying to make the I or ! stamps into asterisks, but this seemed like it would be very challenging to make neat. In the meantime, I had already chosen the inscription for the inside of the ring…
It really tickles me to have these words visible, yet hidden.
In the end I settled on a question mark pattern for the outside of the ring, to remind me of the importance of staying with uncertainty.
If I could do this again, I would have fewer question marks in a neater pattern. You may be able to see that the patterning stretched the silver out a bit, so I had to saw it back down to length.
I then had to anneal the ring again so that it could be shaped. The first step was to clean it with some wire wool. I then bent it into a flat oval using pliers so that I could silver solder the edges together. It was then time to use a mallet to make the ring round and check the fit.
The final step was cleaning. This took at least half an hour, first using a file to neaten the solder, then two grades of sand paper and finally polish and a cloth.
Another of my Knitting and Stitching Show purchases was a kit to make a pair of pumpkin earrings for Halloween. I decided to dig out my old jewellery making stuff and turn them into jack-o-lantern earrings.
You will also need small jewellery pliers
This is a really cheap project. I bought my kit for £1 and you should be able to pick up the materials for this amount or less.
‘Carve’ your pumpkins
You can simply draw faces on with black marker or nail varnish and a tiny brush.
If you fancy more of a challenge, use yellow and orange varnish to give the design a shining light effect. Starting with the yellow, roughly fill in the areas you want to look cut out.
If you have orange too, blend it in with the yellow. I used a crisp packet as a palette to help me. I also looked at reference images on Google to help me get an idea of how the light shines through pumpkin carvings.
Next, outline with black to neaten the design. I used a striping brush, which was extremely fiddly. A marker would be much easier I think.
Thread a seed bead, and then the pumpkin bead onto the headpin. Thread on two more seed beads, then make a loop above them.
Put your pumpkins together
Attach the complete pumpkin to the end of one length of chain.
Put each leaf bead onto a jump ring. I actually made my jump rings from cut-off lengths of the headpin as I couldn’t find any.
I’ve had my eye on these Tatty Devine workshops for a long time. I have a worryingly large collection of Tatty pieces (jewellery is one of my many vices) and I really liked the idea of making one myself. Here’s what I ended up with.
This will definitely take pride of place in my floral jewellery collection. Since I have a couple of pairs of pliers, I might tinker with it further in future. This is probably my favourite detail.
I think it’s so cute to have a little charm on the leader!
Here are a few more pictures from the workshop. TD provided little bowls of pre-cut flowers and leaves, and we played around with designs. Each piece still has plastic backing on it to protect the acrylic from the laser, then from our sticky fingers (which leave prints). As always I was indecisive about mine. The flowers came in dark pink, light pink and lilac. I knew I definitely wanted to combine the pinks and showcase the three sizes, but I ummed and ahhed over leaf placement.
Surprisingly, the hardest bit was attaching the chain, which we cut to our desired length. The links were smaller than the jump rings, so we had to manipulate the final link so the jump ring could go through. We used pliers plus this tool, which I call ‘the poker’. Does anyone know the real name?
I know it’s not technically the right time of the year for skulls and morbidity but indulge me. Surely it’s not as bad as the endless hearts, cynical corporate cash-ins and worship at the altar of materialism. As Romeo and Juliet teaches us, love and death often go together.
That’s enough from me. Partly my annoyance comes from being born on V-day, which means all the shops are so full of schmaltz that you can scarcely find a birthday card among all the heart-brandishing bears. You could make one of these skull brooches for the love-bashing skeptic in your life.
- A small piece of shrink plastic. I used translucent but white or black would also work.
- A scrap of sandpaper. I use 400 grit wet and dry to prepare my plastic
- A selection of pens and pencils. I used ordinary coloured pencils, and silver and gold marker.
- Sharp scissors
- Strong glue
- Findings. I used a brooch back.
- Diamantes or rhinestones (optional). I bought a little pack of these from Amazon ages ago and they’re handy for all sorts of crafts. They’re intended for nail art.
- Acrylic sealer and/or clear nail polish. I bought some Plasti-kote matte acrylic spray. I’m not in love with it but I don’t know if any other brand would be better.
Draw a skull template
I used online reference images. Feel free to cheat and borrow mine if you like.
I did mine carefully and cut out the outline, folding in half to ensure it was symmetrical. It’s 9x6cm.
Sketch out your design
If you want to hang your skull, eg as a necklace or earrings, leave space to make a hole with a hole-punch.
Transfer design onto plastic
The advantage of using translucent shrink plastic is that you can simply trace straight over the design. I stuck the plastic to the sketch using masking tape.
I used black coloured pencil for all the outlines. Be careful to blow away dust from the pencils frequently to avoid smudges. Remember that colours will become much more saturated when you cook the plastic.
Cut out carefully and bake according to instructions
My few experiments with shrink plastic thus far have gone well and baked nicely. So I was horrified this time to open the oven and find the plastic totally curled in on itself. Fortunately I didn’t panic. I remembered reading that the plastic is malleable when hot so I gave it a few 15 second bursts in the oven, straightening it out in between and it worked!
Remove from oven and put a smooth book on top to help it stay flat
That’s a lot of shrinkage!
Carefully glue on additional embellishments
I used the dampened end of a match to pick up my rhinestones, and a pin to position small dots of glue.
Spray with several thin layers of sealer
I also used clear nail varnish on top for a shiny finish and to help prevent the rhinestones from falling off.
You could use nail polish instead of sealer if you don’t have it but MAKE SURE you test using it over any pens you put on your skull. The polish can cause some inks to spread.
Add your findings
Glue on a brooch back, or pop jump rings though any holes you punched and you’re ready to celebrate dia de los muertos, or indeed any dia, in sweet skully style.