Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Uh-oh! It's back already ...

Bead creep. This is a term first coined, I think, by Judith Johnston in her blog. I recognised all the symptoms in myself and have adopted it. In a nutshell, the main symptom is that glass beads appear in little piles all over the house and hardly ever get tidied away. Before Christmas I had a big tidy up in readiness of the arrival of various relatives for the festive period. I found beads were all over the place:
  • In the window sills
  • Recently cleaned beads on the coffee table in front of the TV
  • On the dressing table in the bedroom, absent mindedly put there when I meant to take them into the studio, but I went upstairs with them instead
  • Lots of disorganised piles and trays of them on my jewellery making table
It took quite some time to tidy them all away, either into the big bead bottle where my fuglies, experiments and end of lines are or neatly temporarily strung and put into zip log bags in a tin for future use.

Fellow beadmakers, depending on their tidiness, may or may not contract bead creep at various times. I seem to have suffered pretty much all of 2009, went cold turkey (ha!) on 24 December but - as the photograph evidences - only managed to remain symptom free for a mere six days.

These beads are quite simple little things, various colours of transparent glass, rolled in a reduction frit and then subjected to a propane-rich flame has turned them into coppery beads that go really well with this handbag I bought from Mayhem in Cambridge during their summer sale. Fringed handbagI very rarely use a hangbag, I tend to wear jeans pretty much all of the time and just use my pockets. However, I always liked fringed things and when I saw it in the window, it kind of spoke to me saying that if and when I do want to use a handbag, this is the one!

Anyway, I made the beads on 2.4mm mandrels rather than the usual 1.6mm which means the holes are just big enough to be threaded onto the fringe. I've only done a few to see if they go and I think they do - there's actually six on the bag but you can only see two! I'm going to need quite a lot more in order to make an impact so I plan to make a big batch and get lots threaded on there! I've made some with regular holes as well to make a matching pair of earrings.

In fact I wasn't planning on making any beads for several days as I earmarked this limbo time between Christmas and New Year for experimenting with PMC and enamelling. Unfortunately, one of the website orders I received before Christmas hasn't reached its destination and I am going to send out another pair of earrings to the unlucky lady (this is the first time one of my a UK packages has been lost by Royal Mail). I didn't have any more of the beads in stock and so I needed to make some more; rather than waste a kiln annealing cycle on just a handful of beads, I decided to make it more worthwhilst with the coppery ones. It's something I have been meaning to do since I bought the bag and now I've made a start, I'm thinking I might just get on with it tomorrow and leave the enamelling for now ... (beads are my first love after all!) :-)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

I am now officially on holiday

I have now officially finished work for the year, having spent a chilly Saturday and Monday outdoors at the Art & Craft market selling my handmade jewellery. My feet took hours to defrost last night! There were many fewer customers this year than the same weeek last year but given the state of the roads, I don't blame people for not travelling. Plus the local radio was allegedly putting out messages telling people not to come into the town centre because of the state of the pavements which won't have helped! Anyway, I did enough sales to make my presence worthwhile and so I consider myself very lucky. Thank you to all my customers throughout the year, regular and new ones alike, for all your business and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I am amazed by the size of the icicles on my house!!!! Some are over a foot long. Lookee ....
Icicles through an upstairs windowIcicles along the gutteringIcicles on the roofIcicles on the rosemary bush

Friday, 18 December 2009

Protx / Sage Pay possible fraud

I am writing to let my blog readers know that I have reason to believe that Protx / Sage Pay, one of the credit card processing companies for on-line businesses, is selling debit and credit card details to criminals.

My reason is that I ordered items with the Bead Shop (Nottingham) Ltd on 22 June 2009. I don't use them very often as they're a little on the expensive side but my usual supplier did not have the colour of swarovski crystals I wanted. The Bead Shop (Nottingham) Ltd use Sage Pay / Protx as a credit card processing company for their website. When I placed the order, I hadn't actually come across Sage Pay /Protx before but after doing some research on the internet, it seemed a legitimate company and I have been into the Bead Shop (Nottingham)'s retail outlet in Nottingham on several occasions. Believing them to be a reputable company, I went ahead with entering my details into the Sage Pay / Protx system. Just a few days after that order, my bank informed me of fraudulent transactions on my debit card. I had to cancel my debit card and they issued me with a new one. The bank were unable to tell me where my card details had been stolen, and I was unable to link it to the Bead Shop (Nottingham) as I had placed several other on-line orders in the time leading up to the fraud. It was really inconvenient as I use that debit card for many regular routine payments on-line and so I had to go through all of them changing my details (Love Film for my monthly DVD usage, my web hosting provider, Amazon, etc). A right beeping pain!

Anyway, the next time I dealt with the Bead Shop (Nottingham) Ltd and Sage Pay / Protx was to place an order with them on 14 December and guess what? Just four days later, I have today had a conversation with my bank when they informed me that fraudulent transactions have again occurred on my card and I have had to go to the inconvenience of cancelling my debit card again. Someone has bought a mobile phone at the Car Phone Warehouse and tried to top up another mobile phone using my card. (I won't have to pay for those I have been assured!)

So, I have spent time this evening going through my bank account with a fine tooth comb and the ONLY organization I placed orders with a few days before the bank contacted me on both occasions is The Bead Shop (Nottingham) Limited.

Coincidence??! I think not. I do not use my debit card in shops or ATMs ever. I pay utility bills using direct debit or I pay my landlady direct using cash or a cheque. My business is largely cash based and therefore I tend to also pay for things in shops using cash. Most of my shopping is done on-line anyway because I don't like shopping that much and as I don't have a car, the only time I tend to do any shopping at all is in Cambridge on a Saturday when I am usually cash-rich (ish!) I cannot recall the last time I used my debit card in a shop and I haven't used one in an ATM for at least three years.

I have e-mailed the Bead Shop (Nottingham) to tell them I will NOT be placing any further orders with them in the future unless they offer PayPal as an alternative means of payment. Plus I will never ever use any website that uses Sage Pay / Protx as a credit card processing company either. I have to say, the Bead Shop (Nottingham) is the only one I deal with that does use them anyway.

I am awaiting comment from the Bead Shop (Nottingham) before reporting them to any authorities that take an interest in this kind of fraud though it probably happens so regularly, I am doubtful anything will be done.

... and this is why!

Snowy **
Snowy **
Snowy **
Snowy **

No market today

I telephoned the Market Manager this morning just past 6am this morning to check whether to travel to Cambridge and for the first time this year, he told me no, he wasn't going and he asked me to let my sister know (Arcturus Jewellery) as well. The Art & Craft market is therefore cancelled and so I won't be at my stall today.

Hopefully everything will be more back to normal tomorrow and I will be there then, I am also planning to be there on Monday as well.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Maybe I should tidy up

Messy torch stationI lost my burnisher under this lot yesterday! I eventually found it again, but I really think my torch station needs a good tidy up. I'm too busy to do it at the moment but after the big Christmas rush is over, this is going to be my first job. I don't usually let it get this bad!

I'm sorry there's no new beads, at this time of year, I'm in full production mode and coming up with any new bead designs has to wait til January. I have made lots of new jewellery; mainly bracelets and repeats of earrings. The bracelets over £25 are all unique one-offs, I often make more of the same kind of beads but next time the bracelet that I make with them is a different design, with different spacers/clasp - certainly something will be different to make it a distinct item. I usually limit the number of bracelets made with the same kind of beads as after a while, I get bored and want to do something fresh from scratch. It also ensures that my regular customers always have something new to see.

I'm afraid at the moment, I have no time to photograph the new bracelets and put them up on the site so the only way to see them is to come to my stall on the Art & Craft Market in Cambridge. I am no longer accepting orders on the website for Christmas deliveries but I will be manning my stall on Fridays as well as Saturdays in the run up to Christmas, so there's more opportunity to buy!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

In praise of Laura

I had a brilliant day at the Art & Craft market yesterday, it wasn't nearly so cold as last week. I brought my hat, scarf and mittens but didn't even need to put them on. I wasn't getting caught out by no woolly tights under my jeans this week but I have to confess, I found myself a bit on the warm side in my long johns! The BBC were also forecasting rain for Saturday for most of the week but fortunately, on the day, the rain was only in the early hours of the morning, it stopped for me to sell jewellery and then started again just as we were packing up (which I don't mind!)

So, in addition to great weather, my favourite buskers, the Beatles (not the real ones!) were playing and they give a great atmosphere. The danger is though, that you sing along to all the songs and don't engage with potential customers visiting the stall! They were a trio this year, I'm sure they were just a duo when they last visited us, the one doing the drums looked just like Ringo Starr!

And then, bestest thing of all, favourite beadmaker, Laura Sparling, turned up with her boyfriend, Chris. I've only met her twice now - both times quite briefly - but from reading her blog and website, it feels like I know her quite well! Unfortunately, we didn't get much time to chat because customers kept wanting buying things (tsk! ... only joking, I'm very grateful for the business, thank you, you lovely people!)

I did get time to show her the first four roly poly beads I made using her latest tutorial, they're really fun to make. Whether reading the blog, website, downloading tutorials or meeting her in person, I always seem to learn something. On Saturday, Laura could see from my beads that the roly poly bit was lopsided (one was straight so I'm improving!). I thought it was just me having a tendency to melt glass more on the right which was causing it to be lopsided but Laura says when she was teaching recently at someone else's studios, she had chance to try out lots of torches and they're all hotter on one side; I just need to compensate by holding it more to the left. I'm not posting photographs of the beads here as they're nowhere near sale-worthy yet but I am going to practice a bit more in the new year.

Before she left, Laura gave me a present, she is such a thoughtful person, not only did she remember that I avoid palm oil when she bought me some festive Christmas Santas, but they were also milk chocolate (which anyone reading my blog will know is my favourite!) I was half expecting her to stop by my stall if she got time, but it was a big surprise to get a lovely pressie too!

If, like me, you love beads, then I recommend you purchase a copy of the Beads by Laura 2010 calendar. I've got mine a few days ago and its really of a very high standard with beautiful, quality pictures of the very best of Laura's colourful beads. It's going to hang in my studio where I can admire and be inspired by her stunning work!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

It's still autumn!

I had to wear my newly crocheted hat, scarf and mittens on Saturday when manning my stall! I usually wear woolly tights on the very coldest days but recent mild weather lulled me into thinking I wouldn't need them just yet. However, shortly after setting up I realised my legs were f-f-f-freezing! I went to Milletts and bought some long johns and put them on under my jeans in their changing rooms! Actually they don't call them long johns any more, they're thermal foundation garments ...! There you go then. They're extremely fetching in a kind of mad purple flower design but I don't care what I look like in them, they rescued me on Saturday and I'm very grateful.

Silver birch tree with leaves onWhy the picture of this tree? This silver birch tree is in my front garden and it's my hero.

I took this pic about 10 days ago because it was one of the few ones around that still had leaves. All the time there are leaves on the trees, it's not winter yet.

I really like Autumn and try to hold onto it for as long as possible; despite all the gales recently, they haven't shifted the last few clinging onto my hero tree and so it's still Autumn :-)

I've not been blogging much the last few days because I am having something of a record on-line Christmas rush and have much to do to fulfil all the website and e-mail orders I have received and still do a few new items for my stall. Everyone should have received an acknowledgement and an indication of when to expect delivery.

I shall be temporarily shutting my on-line shop in a few days time until the new year so be sure to get any orders in now else I won't be able to finish everything in time for the big day!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Tardis bead needs a new name

Gosh, we were lucky in Cambridge yesterday. The forecast predicted dire weather from lunchtime onwards but it's too close to Christmas for me to stay away and I had customers planning to stop by to pick up things ordered via e-mail, so I really needed to be at my stall. My rule of thumb is that if I can get a good half day's trade in then I'm happy to be there.

As it got closer to lunchtime, the weather actually started to brighten up from the grey claggy cloud we'd had in the morning and by mid-afternoon, we even had some glimmers of sunshine! It didn't last all day though, we packed up in the dark at around 4.30 in some yukky drizzle but we counted ourselves extremely fortunate to have had a good day's trading.

I had loads of new items to show off having been away last week. The jewellery I made with the cava beads attracted lots of interest, I sold a bracelet to a lady who zoned right in on it; it was the first thing she picked up - she was amazed when I told her what the beads were made off as it's her favourite drink. The guy with her insisted she buy it (what a sweetheart!) :-) A couple of pairs of earrings also sold (Sorry no photos, I didn't get time to do any this week).

Unnamed handmade lampwork beads The new tardis beads were another good talking point! DH didn't feel that the name was very conducive to jewellery sales and so we were trying to think of a new one; we enlisted the help of anyone who picked the tardis bead jewellery up (two pairs of earrings and a bracelet - no photos again).

One young lady came up with "dalek beads", which I totally get and isn't it a coincidence that she used a Dr Who theme even without us telling her their provisional name?

Another person said "blister beads" which we didn't think would help at all! :-) By this time, both a pair of earrings and the bracelet had been sold. The last pair of tardis bead earrings sold to a lovely lady whose husband came up with the unfortunate name of "pustule beads" ... ahem, I think I'll be sticking with "tardis beads" when I make some more of these next week ... unless any of my blog readers can come up with anything better!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Lovely start

What a lovely start to the day! :-) I checked my e-mails and there was a thank you message along with some beautiful photographs from a bride for whom I made matching his and hers hammer finish sterling silver rings in the summer. I'll be adding the message to my testimonials page next time I update the website.

Congratulations Jancy and Simon and thanks for the photographs of the wedding - looks like you had a brilliant day! You'll forgive me for not publishing them all here but I couldn't resist showing off your rings. What a picturesque place for your honeymoon.

Have a long a happy life together. :-)

I just know I'm going to be in a happy, smiley mood now for the rest of the day despite the awful weather and dreadful forecast for tomorrow. Because I missed last week, it feels like ages since I've seen my customers and I've got lots of new things to show off!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Hats off to the new tardis bead

The hagstone bead was inspired by my holiday in Bamburgh, Nortumbria in the Spring and the jewellery made with them has been popular but I've become a tad tired of them so I tried various things to glam them up for Christmas-time and this is the result of their makeover: Handmade lampwork bead with tardis bumpy bumpsIt's the usual mixture of two colours of grey with sis stringer dotted and then gravity swirled as a base. I changed the shape to a cylinder and then added dots of raku which I heated and cooled a few times, topped with blobs of clear glass, there's quite a variety of colours trapped behind the clear glass. I've called them tardis beads as they remind me of the interior of the tardis (great Dr Who special on Sunday wasn't it?!)

My new crochet hatAnd here is my new hat, it's based on a pattern of hat that was made for fellow beadmaker Laura, by her fella, Chris's mum. (Thanks for sending the link, Laura!) I've used different yarn as I couldn't find any Coats on-line in the UK. I used Sirdar Crofter instead bought from Sew Creative on King Street in Cambridge. I've also changed it so it's got a turn up as I like 'em and it comes down right over my ears - I get very grumpy when they get cold on my stall!

I'm also doing a matching scarf which is almost finished; I might have enough wool to do some mittens as well - we'll see. Now I'm ready for when the colder weather arrives. It's a bit mild for hat wearing at the moment. I remember last year pinning my poppy onto my "big" coat a few days into the start of November; this year, it went on my slightly padded showerproof jacket and didn't shift.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Website products updated

Streaky blue lentil braceletBlack and white stripes double earringsAmber Nugget Necklace

Here is a small selection of the new jewellery items I've been making since I last updated the website. In all I have added 13 new ones, the majority are on the Lampwork > Lampwork Jewellery page, but there is also one new Red Mist bracelet being sold with the half the proceeds (when it is sold) to be donated to the Orangutan Foundation on the Lampwork > Red Mist charity page.

I have made more jewellery than that shown on the website but some of the photographs were taken in particularly poor conditions and will need redoing. As always, the way to see absolutely everything I have for sale is to come to my stall on the Art & Craft Market in Cambridge (but I'm not there today).

Have received text messages from my sister of Arcturus Jewellery, who has gone to the market today - she says it is raining there now as well as being very windy - I am so glad I am here instead ... eating shortbread and drinking tea!! (Sorry Sharon!)

Cava bottle beads

I am not at my stall today, with the forecast being for the weather to be so wild and windy, from experience, I just know it's always really difficult to cope with on an outdoor market. For anyone who does venture into Cambridge to see my stall, I apologise for not being there. I think this is only the second time this year I have missed a Saturday due to the weather.

So, I have a "free" day, time to make good on my promise to update my website with new jewellery and I am going to get on with it any minute now ... can you tell I'm putting it off?! Anyway, in the meantime, here are some photographs of the glass beads I made by recycling the Cava bottle I photographed early in the week.Handmade lampwork beads made from recycled Cava bottleAs you may be able to tell from the photograph, the glass is in fact a very dark brown rather than black, the top edges of the beads reveal this where the light shines through most. When I was making the beads, I was a bit worried they were just going to look the same as the beer bottle beads that I make but these are quite a bit darker than those.Handmade lampwork etched beads made from recycled Cava bottleAnd when they're etched (as the bottle is), as you can see, they transform into these lovely velvety black beads.

I made quite a few more beads than I have photographed. As this is a new type of recycled glass to me, it's difficult to know what the COE of the glass is precisely and therefore ascertain the correct temperature to ensure the beads are properly annealed. The beads will have to pass several of my own personal quality control tests for durability before I turn them into jewellery for sale to all my lovely customers. I'll keep you posted!

Shadow of jewelleryI leave you for now with a photograph that I took last weekend when the weather was much nicer - I noticed this shadow made by the sun shining through my jewellery.

Whatever you're up to this weekend, have a lovely time and I hope the weather doesn't disrupt it too much.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Happy New Year!

I know I'm a bit early (or very late, depending on your point of view) but I have made a new year's resolution already/at last!

Prettily coloured handmade transparent lampwork glass beadI made this bead about a year ago but can I repeat it??? NO (wail!) It's such a pretty colour. It was a disc of a transparent Effetre and then I twirled the edge in one of three frits that I was playing about (either Double Helix Aion, Beadysam's Iris Gold or Tuffnell Glass's Iris Gold) and then melted it round.

In the past few months, I have made a bead with every transparent colour in my collection with all three frit colours. In the past week, I have made a concerted effort, all I can remember is that I was very surprised when the bead turned this colour as from the base it seemed most unlikely.

In the face of my failure to repeat it, my new year's resolution is to write down what went with what when I'm experimenting. This bead has become a kind of quest, a nirvana, an ineffible unattainable ultimate colour.

I know I promised yesterday that I would update my website with new photographs ... tomorrow, I promise!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Melted orange blossom bracelet

Here is the bracelet that I made with the encased beads that I photographed last week. It's got a mixture of two shapes of amber beads, two shapes of moonstone, three colours of 8mm swarovski crystal bicones and some swarovski pearls in the mix. Each bead has been triple wrapped with sterling silver wire onto the links inbetween the lampwork beads and so there was a lot of work involved, reflected in the price of £75.
Handmade bracelet with lampwork glass beads, amber, moonstone and swarovski crystalI've been very tardy in updating my website with new jewellery, I assure you there has been quite a bit made but it's the time of year when I'm making stock like mad in readiness for the Christmas rush. When December comes, I can't make enough to keep my stall full so I like to try to get ahead of myself. In the Autumn, there will always therefore be more jewellery on my stall than on the website.

However, in the last couple of days, I have been unpacking the boxes and photographing some of the newer items and am planning on having a website updating session this afternoon (possibly the last of the year) but for the time being, I'm off out into the studio to make beads. My commute to work is such a trial .... a very short walk down the garden with cuppa in hand to my shed! :-)

Monday, 9 November 2009

Cava bottle for recycling

Empty bottle of black glass which used to contain Spanish CavaLook at this bottle ... black glass for recycling into beads. The last time I drank Spanish Cava was on holiday in Barcelona many years ago. I haven't been abroad for a long long time. It was in a bar behind the Picasso museum. There was a huge queue to get in and we didn't fancy waiting so we dived into the bar intending to see if the queue had died down in a couple of hours ... we never actually made it to the museum that day!

I wasn't even making lampwork beads in those days so I didn't think twice about the black glass of the bottle at the time but when I saw this on the virtual shelves at Sainbury's whilst doing my on-line shopping last week, I suddenly remembered that lovely holiday and couldn't resist ordering a bottle.

We drank the Cava with Sunday lunch yesterday - I am soaking the label off as I type. The bottle needs to be rinsed and thoroughly dried before I can melt it into beads so it will be tomorrow that I make the beads. DH has told me not to buy any more; it's only 12% proof but it's loopy juice! Maybe it's because it's fizzy, anyway, as I am always telling customers who come to my stall on a Saturday - one has to suffer for one's art!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Postage revision

As Royal Mail staff have suspended their industrial action until after Christmas, I am pleased to let you know that postage rates on my shopping cart have been revised downwards to their usual levels: a package to the UK is £1.50 for up to £24.99 and £3.00 for anything over £25.00.

International posting will also be resumed immediately.

Thursday, 5 November 2009


I've been practising a new way of encasing. Encasing beads is really tricky to learn. Beginners find it maddeningly difficult. I've only been making beads in earnest for about two years and I remember well how long it took me to learn and how many beads ended up a horrible mess. The only method I could get to work was as described in Kimberley Adams book which starts with a lollipop of clear glass. Actually, it could be any colour of glass but usually clear or a light transparent colour works best. I've tended to stick to that method as it works for me, although I do sometimes get a small number of tiny bubbles trapped in the encasing.

My favourite beadmaker, Laura Sparling, has been making some wonderful tuturials in PDF format and she's even had a got a moving and talking version of one of them so I thought I'd go back in time and have a go at learning a different encasing method - you never know, it might be better! I couldn't make this work from the descriptions in the books I had at the time - if only these had been available then!

Encased transparent frit lampwork beadsHere's what I have come up with, no trapped bubbles! These orange beads are quite simple, just clear glass some transparent frit and then encased in Effetre pink (which I always think looks more like a pale beige than pink ...) and the result is that the frit is magnified and looks like it's just floating around inside the bead. I have them on my table teamed up with some other lovely things which just look great with them. These are going to be made into a very special bracelet tomorrow!

Encased transparent frit lampwork beadsThese are Vetrofond black with raku frit rolled, heated and cooled a few times to bring out the colour and then heavily encased with Vetrofond clear. The photography conditions haven't been too great, it was grey and overcast and so the glass looks grey too, but hopefully you get the idea. These beads are already a pair of earrings which you'll be able to buy from my stall in Cambridge on Saturday!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

This man needs a shave!

One of my sisters, Sandy, and her long time partner, Chris recently told me about one of their friends and his son who are doing a bike ride across Vietnam in aid of Stoke Mandeville Spinal Unit children’s ward. Sandy and Chris's friend's son had an accident when he was 15, the specialists thought he might not walk again but the unit got him walking again and this is their thank you.

Chris and Sandy at Brave launchSandy's partner, Chris, has said that if his Twitter and on-line contacts' contributions amount to £500, then he will shave his beard off ... we are all extremely keen for this to happen so if anyone wants to help it on its way off and donate to a great cause as well, all the details are here.

By the way, Chris is the one on the left in the picture ...! ;-)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Some new beads

At last, here is a blue version of my dimpled nugget beads. I have tried loads of blue combinations, as blue is my favourite colour, it had to be just perfect so I took my time. It's a mixture of Effetre Ocean and Reichenbach's Mystic blue. I'm very pleased with them but I'm not sure any of the jewellery made with the current batch is going to make it as far as the stall - I'm pretty sure I'll be keeping it myself! Blue nugget glass lampwork beadsI have plans for a purple and aqua version but none of the prototypes are quite right yet.

I've also been making beads for a regular customer. She wanted a pink version of the akamai beads which have so far been made in the following colourways:
  • turquoise/violet
  • orange/brown
  • blue/green
I'm sure a pink one would be as well received as the others so this is what I've come up with for her.

The other akamai beads had blobs of sis (silvered ivory stringer)* swirled inbetween the colours but that didn't work with pink so I've used a combination of opaque pink, EDF and an intensely pink frit blend. I showed this bead to my customer on Saturday and I think she liked it but I showed her the new pink dimpled nuggets at the same time and she preferred those! All the same, I think I'll make a batch of these cos I like 'em!

*For non-beadmakers, sis is a rod of ivory coloured glass with silver foil burnished into the surface, the rod and foil is then melted into a blob and when it's still in it's melted state pulled out using tweezers into a thinner rod. The thinner rod is then applied sparingly to beads in the case of the akamai beads.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Fender bender

DH has been dropping me off at the Art & Craft Market and unloading my numerous boxes, battery for my lights and assorted paraphernalia for the best part of six years. There are numerous high kerbs in Cambridge which are all angling to scratch your alloy wheels, there are bollards strategically placed below eye level to trap you into scratching your paintwork. Cylists - without proper lights or high visibility clothing - appear from all over the place out of the gloom to dent your bonnet. So far DH has avoided all of the hazards Cambridge has placed in his path.

Not so my sister, Sharon, who also has a jewellery stall at the Art & Craft Market. Her car(s) have had one or two encounters with the bollards and of course, it wasn't her fault ... ever ... Additionally, when a battery falls off her trolley, it wasn't the hazardous placing of the battery near the edge of the trolley, it was the pedestrian who stepped in front of her making her have to come to a halt faster than the battery could cope with.

So used to hearing tales of why the latest dent or scrape on her car wasn't her fault, I think that he must have caught someone-else's-faultitis from her because when this happened to his car ...Mr Dorans car with scraches... then, of course, it was the fault of another stallholder's inconsiderate parking.

The cost of putting this right will probably wipe out any profit I made on Saturday and so I might just as well have stayed at home and watched Merlin! (Instead of having to wait for the repeat the following Friday).

Monday, 26 October 2009

I want a pumpkin!

Look at these templates for making halloween lanterns out of pumpkins ... the scared ghost one will appeal to all lampworkers who like dotty beads! I'm printing that one out and have instructed DH to find me a pumpkin this week when he's on his travels out and about!

I am hoping that the Covent Garden Soup company recipe I use for roasted squash soup will suit pumpkin as well ...

Image copyright:

Friday, 23 October 2009


This week, I've been experimenting with different colours of the dimpled nugget beads. Many colour combos have been rejected - these are the best ones and I've made a batch of each. I'm turning them into jewellery today but by the time I'll be finished, it might not be great photography conditions so I thought I'd post this picture in the meantime.Handmade lampwork glass nugget shaped beadsI think the green ones are my favourite, they have stains of a darker green whispering darkly through the core of the bead with smudges of teal murmuring quietly around in there too.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Strike ... what strike?

This morning, I got quite a bit of post ... one item was postmarked only a couple of days ago but unfortunately, no sign of the supplier package that by rights should've been here much earlier in the week. Oh yes, my BT bill arrived fine - if you're going to go on blinkin' strike, you can blimmin' well keep the bills you awkward so-and-so's. (People who know me will re-write that sentence with other words for those italicised!) ;-)

And about an hour ago, there was a red Royal Mail van and a yellow DHL van, one of them must've been collecting from the postbox which is opposite my house, I'm not sure which one. Curious ...

I thought it was all the sorting office and delivery/driving personnel were on strike but I have both received post and seen it being collected - are they on strike or not??! This leads me to wonder if these are temporary, non-union staff. I remember something being on the news about Royal Mail taking on double the number of temporary staff it usually does to cope with Christmas. I wonder if those staff are now doing as much as they can, once they get trained, the regular workforce will have to watch out. When they're on strike, Royal Mail don't pay them, they forego their wages, the management will therefore just use that money to pay the temporary staff (who will be glad of the work), and starve out the regular workforce.

I try to be sympathetic with my postman whilst I'm signing for the numerous packages that arrive for me, he told me about how one day he was expected to do an extra half hour's sorting AND deliver post to a second village which would take him another 2 hours but he had to fit it all in his usual timeframe because he has to pick his kids up after school (and there was no offer of overtime even if he could get someone else to pick them up). So I can understand that when they say they're not arguing about pay, OR modernisation (they all have those handheld devices now for you to sign instead of paper), it seems the management want to modernise the amount of work they have to fit in.

When I was a kid, I went to primary school with the postman's little girl. We still had the same postman when I left home aged 19. After getting married, I lived in one house for 10 years, another for 13 - both times we had the same postman from the day we moved in until the day we moved out. So, they don't seem to move on that eagerly, they can't be that badly off ...

During the recent regional strikes two days at a time I wasn't getting post at all on some days and it impacted on how quickly I got supplies for my business from time to time which was inconvenient but the local office seemed to get quickly caught up. I was still using Royal Mail for sending out jewellery and I never received any complaints.

However, as it's now a national strike, I can't be certain packages aren't sitting in intervening sorting offices. With a two day strike this week and they are talking about a further three next week, they must really have grievances to forego so many days pay but I am wondering how big the backlogs will become, I won't be risking Royal Mail til well after the strikes have finished. No-one is going to order a couple of pairs of earrings at the prices couriers charge for UK deliveries, let alone £19.13 for an international package. Given the number of companies that have sprung up to step into the breach, and the prices they are charging even for small packages, we clearly haven't been paying enough for mail deliveries, there must be some middle way but we're stuck coping with it whilst the management and the Unions just posture at each other and don't do anything serious to sort it all out.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Temporary postage increase

During the disruption caused by Royal Mail workforce's regional and now national strike actions, until things get back to normal, I am only undertaking to post packages within the UK. I will be using DHL. I will e-mail you when I dispatch and your package will take 1-3 days to arrive. A signature will be required upon delivery. I have had to increase my post and packaging charges as a result of this from to £9.09 per package, whatever its value. I apologise for this big increase but matters are out of my hands - normal postage charges will be resumed as soon as possible.

Many apologies to any international customers wishing to place orders during this time.

If you come to Cambridge on a Saturday and buy from my stall on the Art & Craft Market, there are no postal charges at all!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Home for a rest

I was supposed to be on holiday this week. We left on Monday for a week in a rented cottage on the North Norfolk coast which we thought would make a nice autumn holiday before the weather gets too cold. I took some new yarn to knit myself another pair of socks, a couple of paperbacks and was looking forward seven days of of rest and relaxation somewhere different.

When we arrived, the pretty leaded and frosted glass in the window of the front door was cracked in several places; we reported it immediately to the owner as we didn't want to get the blame and have it deducted from our deposit cheque. She knew all about it, apologised and said a trustworthy workman had a key and would repair it on Wednesday morning, she was going to ring us that evening to let us know.

As the stay at the cottage progressed, we gradually found more and more things wrong:

Timer on the central heating came ON in the early hours of the morning, the boiler was in a corner of the bedroom and so woke us up and kept us awake til we turned the thermostat right down to turn off the heating. There was no instruction manual so we couldn't re-set it.

The toilet seat was so loose, you had to be aware of it before you sat down else you nearly fell off ...

Lid of the pedal bin in the kitchen was broken so it didn't pop up, you had to manually lift it every time you wanted to put anything in it which I thought was unhygienic and kept having to washing my hands afterwards which I found extremely annoying and time consuming whilst trying to cook.

The FM radio didn't have an external aerial and it kept going off station so listening to the radio was irritating. I really like listening to Chris Evans' Drive Time in the evening when I'm making dinner and Classic FM is really relaxing to have in the background when you're not watching TV.

We don't really watch much TV - especially when we're on holiday - but after very stressfully getting locked out of the cottage by the repairman yesterday for hours and hours til we got hold of the owner (looooong story), we sat down to our dinner which was great - a seafood and pasta salad made with fresh seafood (we usually have to use frozen being so inland where we are!) We began to relax a bit after a bottle of Chianti. We wanted to watch the England game which was on ITV so should be OK to receive on the TV - it's not like it's a wildly obscure, digital pay-per-view channel or anything ... but no, the TV is tuned only to BBC digital channels.

The TV had an analogue mode as well but I couldn't blimmin' well work out how to change it to analogue, bum all about it in the manual. Our own digital TV is really easy to retune so I decided the solution was to retune it. I dutifully read the Manual left by the owner. Trouble is the two options indicated in the manual on the Set Up mode were missing on the menu so I couldn't retune it. I am fully computer literate, used to be able to set the timer on a video machine in the days before DVDs and I passed a two year HNC in Software Engineering with distinctions in all modules - I ought to be able to do this, especially with the manual. After 40 minutes of cussing, losing both our tempers, it was practically half time when we finally got ITV working - I couldn't tell you how the hell I did it. If you've ever seen Basil Fawlty getting cross with his car when it wouldn't start and hitting it with the branch of a tree ... that's kind of hysterical irritation I was experiencing!

Tired from two nights of interrupted sleep and the stress of all the other things going wrong, we decided to call it a day and go home first thing in the morning. I think if the location were better all these minor things in isolation could've been overlooked but they all built up into a great big hole of despair. Yesterday was honestly the worst day on holiday I have ever experienced.

We stayed at a place called Blakeney which - with it's flint cottages and quaint quayside - would be lovely if it weren't for all the cars everywhere plus it isn't close to the sea at all which I didn't realise when we booked. We like to stay by the sea, use the car as little as possible and then explore the location on foot doing lots of walking with Missy, our adorable Manchester Terrier.

Normally we stay in a lovely, well equipped cottage on the Northumbrian coast in a lovely place called Bamburgh, but we decided we had got a bit staid and set in our ways and thought we should go somewhere else, I wish we hadn't! In Blakeney, you have to walk for two hours to get to the sea through the salt marshes. Salt marshes are I guess, interesting enough for the wildlife and birds alone, but there's a lot of it and it's pretty featureless and flat so four hours of walking through it can be a bit boring. (Plus it smells in places too!) We found the walking from Blakeney dreary and dull (when it wasn't smelly).

We got back home a couple of hours ago after a very stressful three days away and are looking forward to four days of rest and relaxation by way of a staycation at home. In order to get over this "holiday", I am not planning on being at my stall this weekend. All of my regular customers know I was going away this week and I have had a note on my website for several weeks that I wouldn't be there so I hope you will forgive me if I go off-line now and have a little lie down!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Less hazardous selling conditions this week

The weather on Saturday for the craft market was much calmer ... a truly lovely early autumn day. The week before we had wind that was so gusty, we considered putting up a sign saying "Beware - low flying earrings!"

I'm pleased to report that I sold two pairs of earrings and a bracelet from the pink camouflage range and that means a donation of £30.50 to go to Cancer Research UK.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Pink camouflage jewellery

I've named the jewellery that I'll be selling for Cancer Research UK as pink camouflage - this is the name of the latest design for their ribbon. I've made all the beads up into jewellery, photographed them and made a new Cancer Research charity page on my website. Here is a selection of a few of the items on offer:

Pink Camouflage crystal earringsPink Camouflage crystal braceletPink Camouflage drop earrings

Black and white striped lampwork bead earringsI've also been making black and white stripes beads very similar to last week's red stripes. I sold all but one of the items made with red striped beads last week so am hoping for a similar result with the black and white ones! The full range of black and white striped jewellery can be viewed on my Lampwork > Lampwork Jewellery page.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, don't forget to visit me on the Art & Craft Market in Cambridge if you're about on Saturday!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

New charity beads

Someone close and very dear to me was diagnosed with breast cancer on Monday. I'm not going to go into any more details mainly for the sake of her privacy plus if I write anything sentimental, we're all emotional enough already and it will just cause more tears.

On the same day as I got the awful news, this envelope arrived with my post.Cancer research envelope with Will You Join the Fight written on itWhenever something touches me very deeply or is extremely upsetting, I want to do something practical. In this case, I want to cure all cancer ... now. Unfortunately, I can't do that on my own so I have decided, yes I will join the fight.

The literature from the Cancer Research people urged me to do a direct debit of £2 per month, I was tempted to do that, but if I do another Charity Page on my website like the one I have at the moment for the Orangutan Foundation (on which I am selling my red mist jewellery), I am hopeful that my wonderful customers will help me raise much more than that. So far, by donating half of the proceeds from the red mist jewellery, the Orangutan Foundation UK has received £193 in the past four months.

So I need a bead ... on Tuesday I made all kinds of prototypes based on the colourway on the envelope and I have chosen this one as my favourite.Cancer research handmade lampwork beadsThe shape of the beads doesn't really show up very well from the photograph, they're nugget shaped rather than uniform round. I have commandeered the melon baller from my kitchen which is metal. After making a roughly round shaped bead, I make indentations on the bead with this new tool, the work marks are then melted in and it leaves an gentle organic shape which I am calling "dimpled nugget" - the shapes left on the surface are like the camouflage blobs on the envelope image.

For beadmaking colleagues, the colours I've made this bead from are all Effetre: rubino oro and violet swirled around dark rossato and then heavily encased in dark rossato.

I've made a big batch of these beads today along with numerous matching spacer beads. They're annealing in the kiln as I type and they should be cool enough to clean whilst I watch TV this evening.

I'll be making them up into jewellery, it will be my top priority tomorrow so I can put it all up for sale on my stall on Saturday. Half the proceeds will be donated to Cancer Research, I'll be making a new charity page for my website when I get chance to enable my mail order customers to join in.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


It's odd the things you think about when you're making beads. Yesterday for example, I was trying to remember all the lyrics to "Ernie, the fastest milkman in the west". I think it was because the night before I was watching a programme on TV about a family living with just the technology that was available in the 1970s. I was interested in it because that's when I grew up. The connection between Ernie and the programme being that we had that record when I was a kid and I could sing it word-perfect.

What was worrying me a little yesterday was that we never got to find out what happened to Trigger, poor old Ernie caught the concrete hardened crust of a stale pork pie underneath his eye and I'm not quite sure who looked after the horse that pulled the fastest milkcart in the west after Ernie bit the dust. Ernie's rival, Ted drove the bakers van; he wouldn't have needed a horse, I hope Sue looked after him. As Bennie Hill is now dead, there's no-one to ask, alas!

Other notable things I was remembering from growing up was making the Christmas Pudding that we had on Christmas Day, 1973. We made it in a cookery class in the Autumn and had to store it cool and dark til Christmas. When the day came to eat it, I remember being so proud because my dad said it was the best Christmas Pudding he had ever eaten!

Talking about my dad, he loves pomegranites (runs in the family because I like them too - this time of year is great!) So when I was seven or eight, I decided he might like one for a christmas present. I was very organised with my christmas presents in those days (proof that some things DO change!), I bought it from my pocket money and wrapped it in October. By the time dad opened it two months later, it had gone all shrunken and hard ...! Good old dad looked delighted, thanked me profusely and said he was looking forward to eating it later :-)

Rightio, I'm off to make a load of recycled glass beads and try not to think about the clothes I used to wear back then!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Problems update

Houdini has been caught and relocated, it took a couple of days to catch him - he's obviously wary of going down green tunnels in search of jam after it was such an effort to get out the last two times!

My marver has been affixed to my torch by my ever-wonderful DH, who has pointed out to me that the "socket" I referred to in my last blog entry was in fact a circular spanner. In shame, I have therefore cancelled my membership of the honorary-bloke club.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Sue World ... join us!

Carlisle Mini CC torch marverI've had another "wish I wasn't a girl" moment today. For the last couple of weeks, I have been attempting to apply handmade murrini to my bead surfaces but these tiny scraps of prettiness (from Lori and Kim's Etsy shop), ideally need preheating - they stick much better then and it saves much swearing when the murrini falls off your bead. Once I get the hang of applying murrini, the big plan is for me to make my own.

The ideal thing to pre-heat murrini is a torch-mounted marver so I bought one (see pic). It duly arrived last week and this morning, I have been attempting to attach it to my Carlisle Mini CC torch. All I have to do is undo a nut on the torch, put the hole in the marver over the thread and do up the nut ... easy! The marver is then close enough to the heat generated by the torch to get to an ideal murrini warming temperature.

I locate a spanner of the right dimensions (pat on the back), but there's not really room for it to undo the nut. In a burst of inspiration (some kind of guy gene kicking in I think), I realise that what I need is the corresponding sized socket and this too is found (at this point, I start to think about growing a moustache). Anyway, can I undo this blimmin' nut .... NO, I can't (sigh).

Then I get cross with myself about wishing I wasn't a girl cos actually I pretty much like it 98% of the time. The problem is these people who invent nuts, taps and suchlike that cannot be undone by the average female. I am not a weak, feeble person - I hardly ever resort to man-power for undoing jars - my trick is an elastic band round the top and then the extra grip usually allows me to undo them. I can wire a plug, change lightbulbs, top up the oil and washers in my car (in the days when I had one) I am a capable person - I should be able to do this. I decided that there really should be a law which prohibits the doing up of nuts to an impossibly difficult degree, furthermore, it would be deemed to be sexist behaviour and subject to the Sexual Discrimination Laws along with an unlimited fine for offenders.

When I got thinking about it, actually, I could invent several new laws in an alternative world whereby all nuts could be undone by myself ...

In Sue World, all clothes would be made of fabrics that never need ironing.

In Sue World, all mice would be housetrained and use litter trays.

In Sue World, grass would mow itself.

In Sue World, dust is abolished. We don't need it and what's it for, anyway? I remember learning about dust at school - all I can remember about it is that a tiny proportion of it is shedded cells of skin ... yeurghhhh! Any duster manufacturers would be compensated and given training in producing alternative products.

In Sue World, hair would grow to the length you wanted to minimise haircuts, and then start growing again as soon as you wanted to wear it longer.

Last but by no means least, in fact after the nut tightening law, this would be the most important one - in Sue World, the BBC would NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES cancel the Sunday re-run of Merlin due to the Formula 1 racing, causing me to miss my weekend Anthony Head fix.

Please do feel free to suggest any other laws that you think could be considered for inclusion in the Sue World Charter!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Red stripes jewellery

Here are some photographs of the red stripes jewellery I promised. You will undoubtedly have noticed that I haven't used the red carnelian beads yet. They're quite big beads actually and whilst I think they will work for a future pair of earrings for ladies who like big earrings, I decided they were definitely wrong for a bracelet. The black round beads I have used instead are onyx with a lovely smooth shine to them.
Red stripes long earringsRed stripes braceletRed stripes drop earrings
I think the carnelian beads will be great for a bold, large beaded necklace - there's a particular bead cap that I want for what I have in mind. I'm going to have to order some in so it might be a week or two before you get to see it. I will make the earrings to match at the same time, in the meantime, there are three matching pairs of earrings to go with the bracelet. You can see them all, and in a larger photograph, on the Lampwork > Lampwork jewellery page of the Sooz Jewels website.

Aquamarine and teal striped lampwork beadI did some experiments with different colours of these beads yesterday - the black and white one works well, as does a purple one but this is my favourite - the glass colour is a mixture of transparent aquamarine and dark teal over white. I shall definitely be making some of these next week.

There are a few other new things on the website too so don't forget to have a click about for them - or better still, come to my stall on the Art & Craft Market on Trinity Street in Cambridge and see them "in person" tomorrow - have a great weekend everyone!

More mouscapades

Humane mousetrap with hole chewed through itHmmm, I'm not sure if it's the same one (I haven't got a look of it yet), but when I got up this morning, this was the state of the humane mousetrap. The hole it has chewed through the trap is really small, I'm amazed even a teeny mouse would be able to fit through it. I guess it must've been in there a while, must've got caught just after we went to bed and so it had plenty of time to get out. Fortunately, I bought two of the traps so I got some more jam out, set the second one and then checked back on it every half hour so it wouldn't chew through that one as well.

Missy the Manchester Terrier doing a bit of mouse releasingI was merrily making jewellery (I love my job!) when I heard a commotion in the kitchen and this was the scene that greeted me ... Missy must've heard the mouse clunking around in the trap and decided to let it out, bless her. Manchester Terriers were bred for ratting in years gone by, really she shouldn't have had much trouble catching a mouse. I suppose she's not really been trained but you'd think there'd be some kind of instinct .... anyway, we are now onto attempt three in 24 hours to catch the mouse I have nick-named Houdini.

We think we found the hole where they have been getting in yesterday. There is a pipe which must've used to be the escape for a former tenant's washing machine or something. We've temporarily stuffed it up with newspaper until the landlord's handyman can do something more permanent. So hopefully we shouldn't get any more furry visitors after this one has been relocated.

I'll be back shortly with some pictures of the jewellery I've been making this week.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Carnelian stripes

I have been experimenting with red a lot lately. My red bubble beads have been popular this summer. Red was really in fashion for weddings 3-4 years ago and customers were complaining that they couldn't find any red jewellery then so I always make sure I have a selection as the shops still don't seem to have caught on - I'm always happy to fill a gap in the market! I bought these lovely carnelian beads and the prototype lampwork beads I have been making are specifically to go with them.

Red and black striped lampwork beadsFinally, I'm happy with these stripey red ones. The carnelian beads are quite large and so I thought they need something with a bold design to go with them. I cleaned these last night and after seeing how well they go, I have made a batch today; I'm looking forward to combining them into some new jewellery tomorrow.

We discovered another mouse in the house a couple of days ago. Yesterday, I dusted off the humane mouse trap and laced it with seedless raspberry jam. Sure enough, s/he couldn't resist! You're supposed to let them out a couples of miles or so away so they don't try to get back into the house but as DH was out working all day, I had to use the furthest end of the garden to let the mouse out. I did consider taking Missy for an impromptu walk but thought it might be a bit stressful for the mouse in my pocket as it would take 10 minutes or so to get far enough away, allowing for all the sniffs and messages that Missy has to leave for any other doggies. Anyway, I have set the trap again today just in case s/he finds her way back.

Here are some photos of the release ...
Mouse release-is this the way outIs this the way out??
Mouse release-ah, that's betterThis looks more likely ....
Mouse release-byeeeeeI'll be back ..........!