If only I had known… – Annette Piper

17 04 2009

Ah yes, if only I had known … there are so many things in life that could have been better with the aid of hindsight.  A wonderful thing hindsight, but in a way – it takes away all the surprise!!  Here are a few of my “if only” moments …


If only I had known gemstones would one day take over my life and a good proportion of my house!   I worked with gemstones since my earliest working days but never imagined they could have become such a big part of my life!   And the storage issues are a nightmare – they have to be there to see and to touch and to feel, but there is just not enough shelving in my whole house to accommodate them all!   When we built my workroom I blindly thought that would be enough shelving.  Ha.  How could I have been so utterly wrong?


If only I had known that jewellery making was to be my future I would have paid a lot more attention to the jewelers when I was working in the trade and would have taken them up on their offers to let me have a go at the bench!  As it was I only picked up bits and pieces from them (but all valuable nevertheless) and then had to pay to do lessons! 


If only I had known the Aussie dollar was going to tumble in relation to the US dollar last year I could have bought so much more stock and saved some $!   I remember that the AUD was almost at parity and I was actually thinking ‘but I don’t need anything else’.  How absolutely mistaken I was – I ALWAYS need more – especially gemmies.  Now I just have to pay so much more for them … it has slowed down my purchases, but certainly hasn’t stopped them!


If only I had known the satisfaction I would get from creating and selling my creations I would have started a lot sooner.  It has made me a happier, more rounded person being able to fulfill my creative outlet and sharing my passion with the world!  Of course, others could call me addicted, but hey, nothing’s perfect!



Bright red bamboo coral - if only I had known it would have been so hard to get really nice quality pieces - I would have bought a lot more!

Bright red bamboo coral - if only I had known it would have been so hard to get really nice quality pieces - I would have bought a lot more!


 To read more from Annette, visit her blog at http://annettepiperjewellery.blogspot.com and view her jewellery at www.annettepiper.com


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 http://annettepiperjewellery.blogspot.com and view her jewellery at http://www.annettepiper.com

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 http://annettepiperjewellery.blogspot.com and view her jewellery at www.annettepiper.com

Giving Back – Annette Piper

19 11 2008

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

 – Winston Churchill


How much do you participate in your community or in your artistic field?  Not just in selling your wares and promoting yourself or your goods – but actively helping organizations that you are surrounded by?   


Is there an organization within your community that you admire for what they do?   Is there a professional organization that fosters new artisans/artists?  Is there a group that helped you in the past?


I live in a small rural community.   Every organization (and there are a LOT of them) fundraise to meet their expenses or to achieve their goals.   They are all run by volunteers.   I have found that I no longer have the time to sit on stalls all day, to spend a day baking, or to help organize a fundraising function. 


However I do have a product that people appreciate and want.  This makes it ideal for me to support these organizations by the donation of a piece of jewellery.  The jewellery is either raffled or auctioned – either way someone gets some lovely jewellery and the organization gets much needed funds!  


Of course, they don’t ALWAYS want jewellery, but three or four times a year  I will donate an item or two to organizations in my local town or the surrounding district.    And you know what, it feels GREAT!


How about supporting a local artisan group by giving lessons or talks to young people interested in getting into the artistic field?   Encourage their efforts and support their endeavours.  


Hopefully your generosity will inspire others to do the same.  And you will benefit by getting the satisfaction of strengthening and helping your community.

This coral, lava and silver necklace raised several hundred dollars for a neighbouring school.

This coral, lava and silver necklace raised several hundred dollars for a neighbouring school.


“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”

– Aesop


To read more by Annette, see her blog, Under the Loupe and view her jewellery at www.annettepiper.com.

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.




Texture – Annette Piper

18 07 2008

Have you ever looked closely at gemstones?   They are like small worlds with their own character and each is unique in its patterns, shape and internal beauty.   Whilst texture often only relates to the ‘feel’ I can often get the effect of texture from the look of a stone.

The pattern of the stone, perhaps it is orbicular, banded or variegated.   The stone could be transparent, translucent or opaque.  The colour may be solid or shaded.  All of these factors build to a visual texture of depth even though you know the actual surface will be cool and smooth.   This ability makes jewellery very tactile.  People want to FEEL it.


There are stones that do have a different surface texture of course.  Lava, for example is aerated and pitted.   Some jaspers feel almost like cold velvet.   Tumbled stones are smooth but may have pits and bumps across their surface.   Faceted stones are often hard and almost sharp along their edges.   Pearls and organic gemstones such as amber and shell, have beautiful surface textures caused directly by nature, even though they may be more fully revealed by man’s intervention.


Adding levels of textural interest into jewellery is possible by mixing the smooth with rough, the dark with the light, the patterns with the plain, lustrous with matte.   Be adventurous and experiment – you never know what brilliant amalgamation could emerge.


Textural contrast - matte jasper with lustrous pearls

Textural contrast - matte jasper with lustrous pearls

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