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!