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The last time I moved house, I saw that there was a craft centre nearby and envisaged cycling to work there each day. That didn’t work out and I continued (in between all of my important mum duties) to work from home for the next 9 years! Well, I’ve just moved again, and this time, I’ve managed to take that next step, and now have a little space at a nearby craft centre, that’s not at home, but is close enough to cycle to each day. 

It’s a big change...bigger than I expected, and at the moment I’m battling with lots of guilt at not being at home, and at the beck and call of my (now really old enough to look after themselves!) children over the summer holidays.

My lovely partner works from home, and so he’s now bearing the brunt of the demands....cue more guilt! I know though, that once we’ve all got used to it and got into some kind of routine, it’s all going to be ok. Working alongside lots of other creative people is really good, and having a bit more space also means that I can now offer clients the opportunity to make their own wedding rings. 

Finally, although it’s only about a mile and a half away, getting home is all hill, including one massive one....but yesterday, I made it to the top without stopping - hoorahhh!!

My new studio, ready for the first “Make Your Own Wedding Ring” workshop.

Loving cycling to work!

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This (kind of) follows on from my last blog about re-thinking my social media strategy. By default, I haven’t posted much over the last few weeks due to the fact that I’ve just been so busy making! Everything always happens at once doesn’t it, and following months of going through the process of moving house, we’re finally due to complete this Friday! As welll as this though, because I currently work entirely from home, I have to also move my workshop.

Now, I could have taken the easy option, and just continued being at home, but it just is happens that about 2 miles away from our new place, is Taurus Crafts...and...it also just so happened that they’d just finished, and had put up for rent, so shiny new workshop units...it had to be fate right?

I picked up the keys on Saturday, and we got straight in to paint the floor, and begin kitting it out. I have some gorgeous new jewellers benches, that will the base for running “Make Your Own Wedding Ring Workshops” and already have my first couple booked it at the end of June!

It’s going to be a big change work wise, including the fact that my commute, which will be by bike, will increase by about 4000% (an estimate, I haven’t actually done the maths)! I’ve had my confidence knocked a fair few times in my life, which I think I manage to mask pretty well, but right now, being in a position where I can afford to pay rent on my own proper “studio” feels fantastic!

Currently very empty looking, but this space will soon be the new AFJ HQ!

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Yesterday, I read the news that Lush have decided to leave social media almost all together. They say it’s due to data breach concerns, and it’s really made me wonder about doing the same. Despite all of the worries about brexit, 2019 has so far been busier than ever for me. A bit too busy in fact, and I think I’d love to be able to just remove it from my list of work tasks! I know though, that this is definitely not a time to start getting complacent. UK business is hanging on a knife edge and some rich people sat on expensive leather benches, shouting at each other across a room, are doing their best to start the next depression! 

Last month I took part in March Meet The Maker, an instagram challenge where “makers” post every day (in March!) based on a particular prompt. I’ve tried to do it before, but this is the first year that I actually managed to get to the end!! It seemed to be really good for my social media presence, and I picked up quite a few new followers along the way. It was hard work keeping up though, even with posting via a scheduler app, and since the end of March, I don’t seem to have been able to find any spare time to post anything at all!! 

So, I know I’m, not Lush, and so not in a position to be able to just throw away a wonderful source of free advertising, but I am thinking that I need some kind of strategy, rather than just randomly posting. I don’t know what that strategy is yet, and it’s time to go for a run, so I’ll just continue to think about it for a bit longer, and I’m the meantime, here’s a few of my #marchmeetthemaker pics…



http://www.facebook.com/nikkicooperphotography

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What can I say about the Eclectic Wedding Extravaganza apart from the fact that I’ve exhibited at the last three, and in my opinion anyway, I’d just like to say its THE most amazing wedding event ever!!!

This blog is part of a massive “thunderclap” of posts, all timed to go out between 11am-12noon today (28th Jan) in order to launch the next bigger and even better show!

“EWE” is the brainchild of Jo, fantabulous wedding dress designer and maker at The Couture Company and Sassy, photographer extraordinaire at Assassynation, and all takes place on the 16th and 17th of March, at The Bond Company and Fazeley Studios in very hip and cool Digbeth in Birmingham.

So for my part of the thunderclap, I’m giving away 2 tickets (worth £20) for the Sunday. To enter, just reply to this post and tag the person you’d like to bring with you.

This is going out on my blog, instagram, facebook, Pinterest and twitter, so if you REALLY want to win, feel free to enter and tag your fiancé/partner/bestie/mum/dad/brother/sister/long lost great aunt (sorry no dogs unless its a guide dog) on as many of those platforms as you like!

The lucky winners will be announced on Wednesday night (30th Jan).

Good luck and if you’re planning a wedding, don’t be a sheep and come to EWE

Me and Nate at the last show - thank you to Emma and Rich for the photo. X

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Gosh, it feels like ages since Christmas, but I’ve just checked my calendar and I’ve actually only been back in my workshop for just over a week! January is typically a time when a) couples start getting into full on wedding palnning mode and b) a time when there’s lots of newly engaged people around looking for a ring. I’m also going to add a “c)” in here as this Christmas was probably the first time that I’d really noticed a surge in commissions “before” December 25th. Business wise, this is fantastic, as it means that people are finding me when they’re planning their Christmas and New Year proposals. All these things together though, had added up to a “very” busy Anna!

No way am I going to complain about this, but it has left me feeling like there isn’t any breathing space for anything unexpected that might happen. I’m being very mindful of this and am at least “trying” to plan my making/designing/admin time carefully. Trying is good, even if it doesn’t quite work, right?

So, in my first week back, I’ve completed 3 commissions and have got 2 more “almost” finished and ready to go for hallmarking. I’ve also done several commission drawings and started designing a new collection of pendants and earrings for a gallery. Oh and I almost forgot about exhibiting at a wedding fair and researching and booking another new one.....AND......of course not forgetting all my mummy duties! 

OK, writing all that down was great. I often think that I don’t get enough done, but that’s loads!!! 

Here’s a few pics..........










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As an ethical jeweller, I like to be completely transparent about where my materials come from, and this weekend, I have seen two pieces about two opposite ends of the spectrum about mining. I hope you enjoy this recent blog from one of the main places that I buy my “newly mined” gemstones from:

http://www.nineteen48.com/blog/thats-not-just-a-hole-in-the-ground-types-of-mines-in-sri-lanka?fbclid=IwAR2eXi8m6kQr_aajLnCyl-XgD_9ziIVrAn6MH91q4933xQr3Y9BDgnF7SVg

And in complete contrast, please also have a look at this link to a BBC new story about an awful illegal gold mine collapse in Afghanistan where 30 people have been killed:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-46772155

The following is copied and pasted from Nineteen48:

26NOV That’s Not Just a Hole in the Ground – Types of Mines in Sri Lanka

When most people hear the term “mining”, they usually think of a large scale operation, such as a diamond mine, where the pit can be up to 1 mile across and the gem material buried deep in the Earth’s crust. It is said that these monstrous holes can be seen from space.

In Sri Lanka, nothing could be further from the truth. The mines are classified as ASM (Artisanal Small-scale Mining) and are typically run by a team of 6-12 experienced miners with simple equipment and techniques. This has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive, but very importantly, it is much more environmentally friendly.

The most basic operation is shallow mining, where the gem gravel (known as goda illama – literally, “surface gem gravel”) is only 1-2 metres below the surface and can be extracted very easily with minimal impact on the surrounding environment or danger to the miners.

Where the illama is slightly deeper, the mining team undertakes open cast mining. The top layers of soil (up to several metres) are removed, either manually or using an excavating machine, to expose the gem gravel, which is then extracted. As the miners are only interested in the gem-bearing gravels, the other material can be easily replaced to restore the land to its previous state. With open cast mines, it is usually the case that the land recovers within a few months and is soon ready for reuse.

Another type of mine that is very common in Sri Lanka is a simple shaft mine, designed to extract yati illama (yati means “underneath”). These mines are of wooden construction and built using local materials, as far as possible. The surface opening typically measures a few metres square and the depth can be in excess of 20 metres.

The shaft itself is formed using wooden supports (called tattuwa) which are placed about every half-metre. The mine depth is normally quoted in a number of tattuwa, giving an approximate indication of the depth. The sides of the shaft are packed with branches and other natural material to prevent erosion. The shaft is usually protected from the elements by a temporary “shed” structure, again made mainly from wood and branches or palm leaves. These sheds are clearly visible from the main roads in Sri Lanka’s mining districts and are easy to dismantle once the mine is completed.

Where necessary, the shaft mines will also incorporate underground mining (known as dona pathal), as the miners follow the seams of gem gravel from the main shaft by digging tunnels (called donava) up to a few metres in length. Of course, depending on the depth of the shaft, this can be quite a hazardous undertaking and the miners must exercise extreme caution.

The last type of mining is the least common and involves dredging river beds for the gem gravel or even diving into deep rivers to recover the illama. Of course, the impact on the environment of this activity could be very detrimental and it is extremely rare for the National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA) to give permission for such operations, since the damage done could be irreparable.

Overall, however, the mines in Sri Lanka are well regulated and constructed in such a way that they leave no lasting scars on the countryside. The restoration of mining plots is monitored by the NGJA. The miners themselves are typically very respectful of the environment and their techniques and materials reflect that.

By conducting mining with these restrained and small-scale methods, the industry in Sri Lanka maintains employment for tens of thousands of people in a controlled, sustainable and responsible way.







And Here’s the BBC story:

At least 30 people have been killed in the collapse of a gold mine in north-eastern Afghanistan, officials say.

The collapse occurred in the Kohistan district of Badakhshan province.

Villagers had reportedly dug a 60m (220ft) deep but makeshift shaft in a river bed to hunt for gold and were caught in its collapse.

Afghanistan has vast resources of minerals but many of the mines are old and poorly maintained, creating severe safety issues.

Villagers were reportedly using an excavator at the site when the mine collapsed.

At least seven other people were injured, officials say.

Kohistan district chief Rostam Raghi told the BBC's Afghan service: "Locals rushed to the scene and managed to rescue only 13 workers. Dozens of others, including some children, died."

Nik Mohammad Nazari, spokesman for the provincial governor, told Agence France-Presse: "The villagers have been involved in this business for decades with no government control over them.

"We have sent a rescue team to the area, but villagers have already started removing bodies from the site."

A spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority told AFP the families of the dead would receive 50,000 afghanis ($660; £520).

Afghanistan's vast resources remain largely untapped due to the conflict with the Taliban.

The conflict has seen the rise in illegal mining both by villagers and Taliban fighters who use it as a key source of revenue.

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For today’s blog, I thought I’d share a few of my best selling “ready to wear” rings that can be orderd through my Etsy Shop:

1. Twist Solitaire - Probably my best selling design, and also one that I’m often asked to base a bespoke design on.

2. Walk On The Hills rings - These are inspired by the Malvern Hills (where I currently live)  and are a really great option if you have a ring to be remodelled, as I can use the old metal to make the hills layer. I also sometimes get asked to make them with a specific skyline that holds a special memory.

3. Spirals ring set - I love this design, and over the years, I’ve sold lots that are exactly the same as the ones in my Etsy shop, and a fair few with added stones in the spirals on the wedding ring. 

4. Something Blue engagement ring - This is also one of my most popular designs, that I’ve made is all of the precious metals and sometimes with the stones reversed so that the blue stone is the main one.

Finally, as a special THANK YOU for scrolling to the end of today’s blog, you can get 10% off these or any other design that currently on sale in my Etsy shop by using the code “NOVBLOG”. Just remember though that I’ve closed my order books fro 2018, so any purchases made will go onto my making list for the new year. 

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