Artistic Block – Annette Piper

17 02 2009

Artistic block – have you ever had it? That awful feeling when you look at your bench or at your drawing board or at a blank canvas or at your sewing basket and go completely and utterly blank? When, if you force yourself, it just turns out wrong?

I was starting to get like that at the end of last year – I was tired out from shows almost every week, from filling orders, from creating when the well was almost dry. Sitting at my bench had become a habit, but one I really wasn’t enjoying. I knew I needed a break.

I have younger children and Christmas is a family time, as well as our summer holidays. So I just stopped. I switched off and tried not to think about work – tried not to think of shows I should/ could do, what I may need in stock, what supplies I had stockpiled, what new supplies I may need… Of course I didn’t always succeed, but by the middle of January (about a month into my ‘holiday’) I was a bit shocked when clients started popping in to look at jewellery or to get something made!

I thought about getting back to work when the children returned to school from their summer vacation at the end of January. After all, I had to prepare the winter collection. But it was so hot, I was still so tired and although I sat at my bench and moved some stones around – well, it just didn’t happen. I got up and left it.

I admit I became somewhat discouraged and the thought that ‘maybe I’ve lost my creativity’ did fleetingly go through my mind. But I decided to put that negative thought away and let it happen when I was ready.

Sure enough a creative burst was just around the corner … well a couple of weeks away, but not long in the course of a year!

I sat down and made a bracelet. Yes, I liked that. But nothing more came for a few days. This was obviously just a creative ‘warm up’.

Next, I did a necklace – it was rather challenging and took me a whole day to get just ‘right’. Then I finished off a necklace that had been sitting there for months – just needing an extra pair of hands to help me finish it off.

A week passed, then I decided to start pulling apart all those pieces that for some reason I had set aside – they either weren’t right or I had grown bored with them before I’d even finished with them. There were quite a lot from the last few years. (Yes, I also procrastinate!)

I deconstructed the first piece, I added some extra bits, I took others away, I fiddled and fussed and before I knew it, I was deeply engrossed in CREATING.

Yay, it’s back! I’m now in full creative mode and loving my work again!

A bright creation in lime, black and silver

A bright creation in lime, black and silver

To read more from Annette, visit her blog at and view her jewellery at


Business 101 – Annette Piper

20 12 2008

I am lucky to be in a situation where I sell my creations – this validates my reason for making substantial amounts of jewellery and enables me to continue to purchase vast quantities of gemstones!  


But a lot of people don’t sell what they make – sometimes this is because they choose not to, sometimes it is because they don’t know how.


Here are some of my pointers to selling your wares should you want to sell but not know where to start.


* Ensure you practice until your wares are as good as they can possibly be. Don’t even attempt to sell goods of questionable quality and workmanship as this may harm your reputation down the track.


* Create a ‘look’ that fits your style.   This look will be utilized in such things as business cards, packaging and advertising.   Think about your target market and what they react favourably to in advertising.   Research first to avoid costly mistakes – you don’t want to pay for business cards and then change your mind a month down the track and find they no longer suit you! 


* Price your items fairly. A good guide is to charge what YOU would be prepared to pay as a member of the general public.   Once again, do your research – you don’t want to be either too high or too low compared to your competitors in the marketplace.  Make sure you add all your costs together when pricing an item –  don’t guess in the early stages.  You will often be surprised how quickly small amounts add up.


* Seek out local shows and events in your area and see which attracts your target market.  Attend these shows as a visitor first if you can to gauge the clientele and the other booths/stalls.   If you think it is a good fit, then start to apply for them (some shows have extensive waiting lists).   A lot of quality shows will be juried, so be prepared with examples of your work.


* When you make it to a show, think about your set up.  Do a trial run at home of your display to make sure it works and looks attractive.  You may not have time to tweak your display at a show!    Make a list of things you will need and tick these off when packing.   Make sure you turn up to the show in good time to set up before the doors open.   Greet everyone with a smile.   Don’t pack up until the doors have shut or the last customer has departed – open booths will benefit from last minute sales.  Sit down a couple of days after the show and think about what went well and what could have been done better and make notes to refer to next time.


* Think about alternate ways of selling your wares – eg. home shows, trunk shows in local businesses, through art and craft outlets, on consignment, online through sites such as etsy or your own website.


* Network with other business owners, artisans and artists.


* Enjoy what you are doing!   If you lose your passion it may be time for a rethink.


Amethyst and sterling silver ring by Annette Piper

Amethyst and sterling silver ring by Annette Piper



To read more from Annette, visit her blog at and view her jewellery at

Art or Craft? – Annette Piper

19 10 2008

It’s a frequently asked question … “Is what I do art or is craft?”      


While what I do is attractive and takes skill and a lot of it is one of a kind, it isn’t rocket science either and given passion and practice someone else could probably do similar work.  


Therefore I am more likely to refer to myself as a designer and sometimes an artisan, rather than an artist.


I DO have some pieces in an art gallery and when I queried the appropriateness of my pieces in a gallery (yes, I know, keep quiet Annette!) the owner of the gallery told me that he could see my art in the way I put things together and even in my colour combinations.


On the other hand, I don’t believe my work is craft either – although I wouldn’t be upset to be referred to as a craftsman (woman!) as, to me,  that denotes a dedication to your ‘craft’ and a refinement of techniques.  


The perception of craft by the wider population tends to be someone who dabbles in making something that is not that difficult, although I am sure some ‘crafts’ are far, far harder than we imagine!


What IS important is that we follow our passions and that need to create – whether we call it art … or craft.


Amethyst and silver cocktail ring

Amethyst and silver cocktail ring


To read more about my creations and get to know me better, pop into my blog at  and see my jewellery at


The Creation Process – Annette Piper

17 08 2008


A lot of people ask me how I manage to create the pieces that I do.  Its not that they’re that complex, but even simple pieces can take a lot of organizing!  


Unlike some designers who start with a design in mind, I start with a beautiful stone or strand of stones.  Beautiful to me of course.   When I look at them I see the possibilities of how they could be in a finished piece that would be attractive to wear, even if they don’t look that spectacular all by themselves.  


Some pieces you just know are going to be stunning and going to be snapped up quickly.  Others may quietly achieve and these can’t be discounted as there has to be items for those people who don’t like their jewellery to loudly announce their presence.


Once I have the stones I look at the colour, patterns, texture and automatically, possible combinations are being imagined.  I consider them all and those that may have some merit I haul out and place next to the stones, to see if there is that ‘spark’ that will make them irresistible, or whether there is a gentle acceptance of each other. 


Sometimes the possibilities that I imagine so vividly end up sitting there with their backs to each other in a standoff situation.   It’s okay, I realize I’m not always right.


After the basic combination is there, this is followed by moving things around and often a partial mock up to see if it will work.  Once that shows promise, it is ready to be completed.  

A combination like this can take quite a while to get just right

A combination like this can take quite a while to get 'just right'




With some of my more complex combinations it starts off the same way – to see if the individual stones looks great together.  Once I have that right, then I start tipping quantities into a container and keep adding to the mix until the overall look is ‘just right’.   Then comes the construction.


It can be quite a lengthy process.  The actual creation time may take half an hour or it may take days.  (Some pieces are very reluctant to change their state in those latter cases!)   The actual construction is usually fairly fast, but I have to be in the ‘mood’.   If I’m not, regardless of how good the combination is, it just won’t have the pizzazz of the pieces I make when feeling quite passionate about them.


It could reasonably be said that there is a little bit of me in all my pieces – through the creations process of my inspiration, my skill and my passion.  So when people buy my jewellery, they are buying a little touch of me too.

Getting Motivated by Suzanne of Solar Flare Creations

13 08 2008

Motivation is a slippery creature – sometimes hard to catch and often even harder to hang onto.  I am often thankful that I do not need torely on my glasswork for a living, as I think that having to torch, rather than wanting to, would make motivation a very rare creature indeed.

I am motivated to melt glass by the joy it brings me, the fascination with the flame and the way molten glass moves and by the objects of beauty that are produced at the end of the process.  I’m motivated by the feel of glass beads in my hand, and by the appreciation of those who admire my beads.  I am motivated by a need to master new techniques and a fascination with a craft that has existed for over 3000 years.

Molten glass inspires wonder… and a sense of wonder is a powerful motivator.

Space Poppies on Etsy Now

Space Poppies on Etsy Now

Balancing Career with Life – Annette Piper

18 06 2008

It is so easy to get caught up with work. As often struggling artists/artisans we put 110% into our work – to creating, to promoting, to selling and we often fret when we are prevented from doing so. Sometimes we have to step back, take a breath and a good look around us and assess our lives.

The old saying that you should “work to live, not live to work” is true. Admittedly some amazing artists put their lives on hold while they worked and worked and worked. And the body of work they created has afforded them a measure of fame (often after their decease, however). But what was the quality of their lives as a consequence?

We mustn’t let our health suffer – we must take time to stop, to rest, to eat healthy foods and to get sufficient exercise. Our minds are important too – we need time to reflect, to refresh our perspective, to recharge our batteries. To let new ideas flow and new creations emerge without being forced.

What about our families? The love that our families can give us and the esteem in which they hold us will be for the type of person that we are, not just for the art we are able to create. Do you want to see your children grow and be a part of their lives? Do you want to be a valued and integral part of your family’s life?

When I started designing and creating jewellery, things accelerated incredibly fast. I found myself busier than I had ever been and surprisingly stressed at the success I was experiencing. But I was too busy to do things with my family and I also became very ill. Even though becoming ill was unpleasant, it made me stop and assess – and I realized that, for me at least, living my life and being enriched by my art, but not controlled by it, was the key to my lasting happiness. And years down the track, it is still working.


Garnet jade and peridot sterling silver necklace

Keep your work fresh and new with a balanced look at your life.

Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery
Under the Loupe

Studio – Annette Piper

19 04 2008

The luxury of a studio is something we as artisans or artists all desire and most of us manage to some degree.   I would love to have a studio that is free-standing, with masses of storage, a display area and somewhere for clients to visit and make their purchases. 


In the meantime I am content with my half of the study/workroom that I have to share with my husband, the children and our farming business.  However, I am making a good attempt at taking over this room completely.  


I have one wall dedicated to my work bench above which is shelving for my stones and for my books.   As I have to share, however, it isn’t big enough for all my things.   The opposite wall also has some shelving and I have managed to snag about a third of that for storing my display equipment.   We have a long banquet sized table in this room that is purportedly for my husband to use.  I have managed to cover two thirds of that with boxes filled with stones and pearls.   The family computer is also in this room, however I spend the most time on it and feel it is in ‘my’ space.   As this room is part of our house, my torch is set up down in my husband’s shed.


My ‘studio’ is a great space to work though.  The room is usually a good temperature, it is large and the light during the day is good, even though it doesn’t get any direct sunshine in through the windows.   All these things add up to me liking to be in there, which is great for productivity – although not so good when it’s time to stop. 


I see clients in either my dining room with its excellent natural daylight for viewing finished pieces, or they like to sit with me at my bench, while we work out their designs.  The drawback of course is that I have to have a very tidy house all the time – just in case I have clients come to call.  As anyone with younger children would know, this is often a challenge. 


I shall continue to dream, however, of that ideal stand-alone studio and maybe one day that dream will come true

Pearl and gemstone bracelet by Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery