Sunday, 31 January 2010

Back to the jewellery

I have photographed the jewellery that I made with the crocodile and marine walzer beads which I featured in the blog a few days ago. Nice to see some sunshine which enables me to get better photographs but brrrr - it's so cold again!Marine walzer handmade lampwork glass beaded braceletThis is just one of six new product pictures added to the Lampwork page of my website.

I didn't set up my stall yesterday at the craft market. We travelled to Cambridge but it was so icy, the roads in the town centre were treacherous, no salting at all and you could actually see the shine where the small sprinkling of snow had been compressed by tyres and feet.

It was a cocktail of things that made me decided not to stay and set up, we got diverted around some roadworks which made us late, a van nearly slid right into us at the end of Jesus Lane which although it was slow motion, that was kind of scarey, my neck was hurting and I'd forgotten to bring any more painkillers with me. It was really difficult to get out of the car, I had my big hiking boots on, they have tread on them that comes up to my armpits but it still took ages to get any traction so I could haul myself out of the passenger seat!

We saw numerous people falling over, bicycles seemed particularly vulnerable to going over (fortunately, they all got up and seemed none the worse for wear), Sharon, my sister who has the Arcturus Jewellery stall stayed and said she also saw two cars having minor accidents. It just didn't feel right and I wasn't in the frame of mind to be my usual charming and pleasant self. Half of me knows that it was the wrong decision because Sharon sold lots of jewellery and had a really great afternoon! Having said that, I'm certain she was jealous when I texted her from my other sister's home where I was warm, dry, eating bacon bagels and petting her two lovely cats, Georgie and Darcy! :-)

Thursday, 28 January 2010

She doesn't tell you everything!

After several cups of tea, episodes with the calculator, rechecking and punching lots of holes in supplier invoices, I have finally finished neatly filing my paperwork and have done my profit and loss account for the tax year ended 5 April 2009! Hurray! So I now know how much tax I owe and have to pay - boo, hiss!

I've just been on the HMRC website in order to file on-line and dutifully pay using my debit card but this is the first time I've filed on-line, my accountant always did a paper one for me. Moira Stewart didn't tell me that you have to register and the tax man then sends you an activation code which can take up to 7 days to arrive which means I probably won't get mine before the 31 January deadline. So I imagine, they will try to make me pay the £100 penalty ... that isn't going to happen. It's not my fault .... Moira just told me to go on-line before 31 January - she didn't tell me the bit about the activation code!

I'm really happy I have finished the preparatory paperwork, it's a weight off my mind (for the time being) and I have just quietly and calmly resigned myself to a fight over the penalty, I think I have a good case to not pay it. At the end of the day, it's not the end of the world if I have to, but I will do my utmost to make a nuisance of myself so they say "OK" just to stop me complaining about it :-)

I used to quite like Moira Stewart

I've gone right off her now she keeps appearing in adverts on Classic FM reminding me that I haven't done it yet (as if I didn't know) and she even pops up on TV from time to time as well. 31 January is the on line tax return deadlineShe started to appear in October last year after the paper deadline but I just smugly ignored her for three months telling myself that I was far too busy in the run up to Christmas but that I had all of January to do it and now it's getting a bit late!

Last year, I had my accountant do it, but my affairs are relatively simple and my business is quite straightforward too, I decided to do it all myself this year. I did some work on it at my year end last March but not as much as I thought. I had got all my sales entered onto my spreadsheet for the year but I hadn't filed or input any costs so suddenly it has become a much bigger job that I thought!

I spent all day yesterday on it but I admit there was quite a bit of displacement activity going on, some urgent housework that wouldn't wait, various blogs that just had to be read (and commented on), checking that the bird feeders were all full, watching the news at lunchtime cos I wanted to see what the former Attorney Journey would say at the Iraq enquiry, pulling faces at the dog ... a million important and priority taking matters.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The right turquoise aqua

Marine walzer lampwork beadsI just managed to get a picture of these beads before the batteries on my camera gave out on me. I coaxed the camera into downloading into the computer by switching the batteries around and this fooled it for just long enough!

After getting cross about the batch of these that were too dark, in the end I went two shades lighters rather than one, these are made with Light Aqua transparent Effetre glass and I think they're even better than the Light Turquoise prototype so I've gone into production with them and there are a batch cooking in the kiln right now. I'm calling them marine waltzers.

I was also planning to take a photograph of some jewellery made with the crocodile shoes beads but I'll save that for another day now.

I went to see Jonathan Hobbs again yesterday, he is the Osteopath who is fixing my neck/head problem. He telephoned me in the morning - I thought he was going to cancel my session with him - but he wanted me to bring in some of my jewellery that he'd seen on my website as he was thinking about buying a present for a friend. We came to a very good arrangement whereby most of my treatment for the day was paid for in jewellery! It's the first time I've ever used the barter system and I thoroughly recommend it. All I need to do now is get Sainsbury's to accept jewellery at the check out!

Additionally, I'm happy to report that today is the first day for a month that I haven't had to take any painkillers at all in order to get any work done. I was a bit sore yesterday evening and had to take some in the early hours of the morning in order to sleep, but Jonathan does warn you that the after effects of a session can be a bit rough. Since I first went to see him, it seems to have been steadily getting better and better and towards the back end of last week, I was taking far fewer tablets than before which means I've had loads more energy and am getting back to my zesty best!

Another plan for today's blog entry was to show you the round stud earrings which I enamelled at the end of last week. They've gone a bit wrong. I slightly domed them to give more interest but - as I'm an enamelling newbie, I should've stuck to flat ones because enamelling on a curve is a bit of an advanced technique and I definitely haven't done it right! I'm always trying to run before I can walk! I think they can be rescued with a third thin coat of enamel but as I can't take any more photos for the moment, you'll have to see them another time (perhaps after they're fixed!)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

New (to us) dishwasher

Dishwasher in corner of the Doran's kitchen
Today I got my new dishwasher plumbed in and it's had it's first run this afternoon. My neighbours had their kitchen refitted before Christmas and they had all their appliances built in. This dishwasher, less than a year old, was homeless and available for only £50! We always thought that we didn't have room for a dishwasher but the prospect of one at such a reasonable price really concentrated our minds to be creative about how to incorporate one into the kitchen. We had a dishwasher at our last house for two years and we have missed it.

We decided the best place for it due to proximity to cold water supply and ease of wiring into existing socket but it meant losing a double cupboard with two drawers. I emptied the cupboards and drawers in question and went to work fitting everything I took out into the rest of the kitchen.

When that worked, we got the joiner arranged to remove the double unit and he put in the small shelves in order to use the spare space, I can keep my clean t-towels and pinnies in there and so that took care of one drawer! We got the electrician in and had the plumber booked for the Tuesday before Christmas and we've been waiting for him to come ever since! Due to the extreme weather, he has been exceptionally busy fixing people's heating systems and broken down boilers. We felt as the weather was so cold, it wasn't right for us to get priority over peoples' heating so we were happy to wait (but slightly impatient if truth be told!)

We could really have done with it on Christmas day - eight people generate a lot of washing up and it was a bit of a laugh having the dratted thing sitting there but unable to use it whilst surrounded by a kitchen piled high with dirty dishes. Fortunately, my brother came to the rescue and led the charge to the washing up backed up by one of my sister's partner's to get it all done. Thanks, Dave and Chris! but I think we'll be alright next year. There is a bit of minor decoration retouching up though if you're interested ... :-)

Wrong turquoise

I am cross with myself. On Monday I had a play at the torch trying out all kinds of things I didn't get time to do at the back end of last year and had a fine old time. As I went, I made a note of what glasses and frits I used in case I wanted to go into production with any of the beads that resulted. I quite liked this turquoise lentil on the left and spent four hours yesterday making a batch of them along with some smaller round matching spacers. I was so disappointed when they came out of the kiln. Instead of actually reading my notes to check, I just went ahead and used dark turquoise glass instead of light turquoise. As you can see - the frit hardly shows up at all! I guess I can use them in combination with some other beads so it's not an entirely wasted morning but disappointing nonetheless.

Just to update you on the fine silver stud earrings, I'm not sure that diamond stud earrings really work as a shape. I'm not happy with them, the diamond design works really well as a dangly earring, I love them despite the wonky holes, but for studs they're just not right. So I've made some round stud earrings, similar design just a different shape. These are firing in my kiln as I type so I'll be cleaning them up, enamelling and then finishing them off hopefully today.

I think because I wear dangly earrings a lot myself and I prefer them to studs, I just have more of an affinity with making danglies. If I don't like the new round ones, I think I'll have to call it a day on studs. I can only make jewellery that I like myself; I can't sell jewellery that I have little enthusiasm for. It's like I've been asked to make men's jewellery in the past but I had to pass on that. I just don't "get" men's jewellery, DH doesn't wear any at all (not even a watch!) so he can't guide me in what men are looking for. I am beginning to wonder if I "get" studs ... we'll see!

It's been on my mind since Christmas that I really need to do my on-line tax return and get all my papers sorted out and filed (they're currently in a big pile awaiting my attention). I had steeled myself to do it today but when there's jewellery to be made, I'm afraid that has taken priority, I've got 10 more days before the £100 fine deadline kicks in, I'll do it next week!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Sock dilemma

Usually a 100g skein of wool from Violet Green is enough to make a pair of socks with a little left over (I am saving the oddments all up and will be making stripey socks from the ones that go together in the future!) However, these socks are well short of being finished and there's only a tiny bit of yarn left. I'm thinking of partially unravelling them and then reknitting them with a shorter leg. Thing is, these little beauties arrived in the morning post ...This is the first time I've purchased from Wild Fire Fibres on Laura's recommendation. The yarn is lovely and soft, I'm dying to get started using it. I really should finish the green pair first though ...

I went to the Osteopath about my neck/head yesterday, he has prodded and pulled me about. He said all kinds of things and mentioned names of muscles that I can't remember the names of but he seemed fairly confident he could fix me in 2/3 sessions and when things are getting better, he will give me some alternative upper back exercises which should maintain the improvement. In the meantime, he has stopped me doing the neck exercises that my GP gave me. He is not a fan of neck exercises as he finds they often just make things worse (which I agree with given my inability to get up on the day after I started them!)

We were chatting away during the therapy and I discovered he was a West Ham fan, I told him how in the days before I started my stall, DH and I used to have season tickets for Bolton Wanderers and we'd go visit DH's mum after the game every other Saturday (I had a proper job and could afford to go to football games then!) He suggested one reason why the muscles could be so stiff is years of watching Bolton's long ball game ... (harumph!) ;-)

Anyway, he says to just go about my normal business, take painkillers as necessary and come back in a week. So, I'm off into the studio to make beads!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Enamelled jewellery

I have made my first pair of enamelled stud earrings, here they are in all fine silver including the earwires, the colour is Kingfisher Blue and this time I've got the enamel level and smooth. Very pleased with these.Fine silver diamond shaped enamelled earringsThese are dangly diamond earrings with Celeste enamel but I am utterly, utterly ashamed of the holes I have drilled in these. They are not central. I am used to drilling in .3mm or .5mm sterling silver. I use a punch to make a small pilot depression to guide the drill bit and then use my .9mm dremel bit to make the hole. This method does not work on thicker fine silver made from PMC. I think the main problem is that I have textured the surface and the drill bit has skidded out of the pilot depression off to the side. I cannot offer these earrings sale because of that so I'll be keeping these for me. I just wanted to show off the enamelling!Fine silver diamond shaped enamelled earringsDitto goes for these rectangular earrings in Pale Blue - this is my very favourite colour so far of enamel.Fine silver diamond shaped enamelled earringsIt would have been so easy just to poke a well placed larger pilot hole when the PMC was wet and this is what I'm going to do with the next batch that I make - hopefully I'll be able to offer them for sale. I'll probably have a competition and a giveaway of the first pair.

I have received some really sweet e-mails from regular readers worried about me disappearing from my blog for a week after writing about headaches; I'm sorry I worried you - I'm still very much alive, not in hospital or lying in abject misery in a sick bed!

I do still have the headache, it has now been a permanent feature for about three weeks. Disprin is controlling it during waking hours so I can go about daily life. I spoke to a doctor about it again yesterday. GP still thinks it’s a muscular problem but as a precaution she is making an appointment for me to get a scan at the hospital in the next couple of weeks (I always knew I needed my head examining!) I also have an appointment with an Osteopath on Monday to see if he can "unspasm" it.

I feel a bit of a wimp moaning about my headache when so many other people are going through so much worse in the world, particularly in Haiti, so I am looking on the bright side and counting myself lucky that I have shelter, food, warmth, medical help and people who I love.

Whilst replying to e-mails about my health (thank you again!) I recalled a poem I read in my youth about someone's "get up and go", which "got up and went". Some research on the net has shown it to be a traditional poem so I guess I'm not infringing copyright if I reproduce it here:


How do I know my youth is all spent?
My get up and go has got up and went
In spite of it all, I'm able to grin
When I think of the places my get up has been

Old age is golden, I think I've heard said
But sometimes I wonder as I crawl into bed
My ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup
My eyes on the table until I wake up

As sleep dims my vision, I say to myself
Is there anything else I should lay on the shelf?
But nations are warring and business is vexed
So I'll stick around to see what happens next

When I was younger, my slippers were red
I could kick up my heels right over my head
When I was older my slippers were blue
But still I could dance the whole night thru

Now I am old, my slippers are black
I huff to the store and I puff my way back
But never you laugh, I don't mind at all
I'd rather be huffing than not puff at all

I get up each morning and dust off my wits
Open the paper and read the obits
If I'm not there, I know I'm not dead
So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed

Monday, 11 January 2010

Heads I lose

I've had a headache for ages and ages. It started a couple of days after boxing day. It was a slight inconvenience at first, didn't hurt that much but got worse as the day went on; enough to make me grumpy in the evenings.

I've suffered headaches ever since puberty. They usually last 2 days (3 tops) and are on one side of my head - I get them 4/5 times a year. Sometimes they have kept me off work in the days when I had a proper job and sometimes even now I'm a super-motivated-self-employed-if-I-don't-work-I-don't-get-paid kind of gal, they occasionally stop me in my tracks and I have to have a lie down when it gets too bad.

However, this new headache was in the back of my skull, low down and if I leant down or moved my head too quickly, there was a kind of horrible pounding for 5-8 beats; feeling like my veins aren't wide enough to take the blood flow. It wasn't nearly bad enough to stop me doing anything and a couple of disprin would get rid of it altogether for several hours but it always came back.

After nearly a fortnight, I resignedly made an appointment with my doctor last Friday. She diagnosed a muscle spasm in my neck going down my back and gave me some neck stretching exercises to "unspasm" it. She says it's common amongst people like me who hunch over their work, when I expressed how it was odd I'd never got this before as I've been working like that for ages, she said the additional factor - which won't have helped - is the exceptionally cold weather, I guess this makes sense. She also told me ibuprofen was a better painkiller than Disprin so I got some whilst I was in the village and DH drove me home. She said to carry on working if I felt like it, to stop regularly to do the exercises and take ibuprofen for a week and come back if there's no improvement.

What I experienced this weekend was a massive under-improvement. This new headache invited my old style headaches to come along for a party (I guess at least three turned up) and together they wreaked absolute havoc for two days straight. I couldn't get out of bed on Saturday at all. I'm feeling a bit more myself now but have gone back to Disprin as a painkiller as ibuprofen takes an hour to kick in, lasts only two hours and then wears off.

The trouble with taking painkillers for any length of time is that though I feel more comfortable whilst under their influence, I don't feel like "me" any more. It's like this zombified version of Sue Doran is inhabiting my body and just goes through the motions without any of my usual zest. I feel like I'm walking around in a fog and my creativity is dulled and uninspired.

In the few days when the new headache wasn't too bad, I felt able to work but the nagging at the base of my head still got in the way of doing anything new and exciting. So I used the "not too bad" time to tidy up my torch station, all the odd half rods were sorted out into opaques, light transparents and dark transparents and then sorted into individual colours. Then I had a massive torching session melting all the half rods together as it was something I could do that required no creative input. When they were cool, I sorted them into my glass stash and I suddenly have a lot more glass! I found 20 half rods of lavender blue alone; I thought I was getting close to needing a new order of glass colours that I use a lot of but I think I can go for several more weeks before that's necessary so have saved myself a bit of cash there!

I made some more beads for my bag because I can make those fairly mindlessly and so that project is coming along nicely.

On one of the days, Shaz and I had an enamelling day, she doesn't have a kiln so we shared mine. She was supposed to go on a course yesterday but it got cancelled due to the weather (aren't you just so fed up with the snow now?!)

Here are the pieces I made with some of the blues and greens, I need to practice enamelling a lot more as there are problems with all of these - particularly evenness of coverage - but my favourite so far (but still not of saleable quality) is the little oval with the cloisonne heart. This uses a transparent enamel which allows the textured scratches I put on the background to show through.Enamelled PMCThese are the most successful beads I've made since Christmas. They're quite simple, a transparent glass with only a hint of colour in the rod rolled in a frit blend and then a hint of extra iris gold frit melted in and then reduced. The photograph doesn't do them justice; the pic is a bit dark and the reduction irridescence doesn't show much at all but hopefully you get the idea. I can't get outside to photograph them as it's been snowing since breakfast time here so this is a window sill job. The beads remind me of a pair of shoes I had when I was around 8. They were super shiny patent leather with like a snakeskin pattern on them but I - for some reason - always referred to them as my crocodile shoes.Enamelled PMCThese are some winter-inspired beads; we've been in the grip of this hard winter for so long, it's difficult to remember how hot I got in the studio during Wimbledon fortnight last year! Anyway, these are icy blue transparent glass, ringed with raised stringers of double helix glass which have been reduced to a blue mirror finish. These beads demonstrate the difficulty of making hand shaped cylinders all the same size!Enamelled PMC

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Promised fireplace photograph

... and here it is complete with DH doing .... um - I'm not sure what?!Fireplace and DH arseing aboutThe birds are getting through the bird food at the moment; the nut feeders are being filled every other day, whereas they usually last 4 days. Ditto for the half-coconuts that I fill with melted fat and birdseed. First thing in the morning I am putting a half pint mug full of sunflower seeds on the birdtable and scattering some on the ground but it's gone by lunchtime. Then at lunchtime I put a mug full of birdseed on the birdtable and ground and that's gone by the time the sun goes in! They're just ignoring the water I put out so I guess they're either eating snow or finding moisture somewhere else. Hope they all make it through the winter, I would love to take a photograph of them on one of the feeders but it means waiting out in the cold .... think I'd rather stay in the warm!

I did some enamelling yesterday with my sister, Sharon, we had a fun afternoon experimenting. I will do some photographs eventually but I need to re-finish the silver before doing that.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Twelfth Night

And it's time to remove all the Christmas decorations (else we'll turn into goblins at midnight!)Christmas dining room decorationsI've done a close up of the mosaic table mats below as I like them so much - glass is my favourite medium to work in and so it pretty much goes without saying I'm going to like glass mosaics. These were made by the ladies of Magpie Mosaics whose work is on the Art & Craft Market most Saturdays. Apparently, they ask customers for photographs of their tables using their tableware but customers never come back. They don't have a website at the moment and I don't have their e-mail addresses, so I'll have tell them to take a peek at them here when I see them in February. So Karen and Mari, these photographs are for you!

I find the same with brides who very rarely come back to show me photographs of them wearing their jewellery on the big day. Magpie Mosaics also make lovely outdoor mosaics like geckos and seahorses. I have one of their turtles in my lounge!Christmas dining room decorationsI always enjoy Christmas when it actually arrives. I never understand those grumpy old people who complain about it. I admit that some of the build up with the shopping and preparations can be a bit stressful. This year on the Tuesday before Christmas (after finishing selling jewellery for the last time of 2009 on the Monday), I had a list with 34 "to do" items on it but as I crossed things out, I kept thinking of new ones to add! On Christmas eve morning there were still 17 items on it but DH and myself worked our way systematically through it. On Christmas day, we had eight for lunch at our home (first time ever for me cooking Christmas lunch), and two guests stopping overnight. After we had eaten, opened presents but before Dr Who's Christmas special, there were still two items which hadn't got done! The list, much discussed over lunch, was then ceremonially burned on the log fire. My sister Sandy is supposed to be sending me a photograph she took of the fireplace ...?!

Anyway, with Christmas now behind us, a big barrier to the arrival of Spring has been removed, not that the weather is very spring-like at the moment. I hope wherever my readers are at the moment, you're safe and warm.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Happy New Decade! and
First step towards enamelling

PMC shapes before enamellingI hope everyone enjoyed the holidays, we had a lovely Christmas with all the family here on the day and have been relaxing and doing a bit of "work" here and there. Some more beads made and these PMC shapes with gaps in them ready to be filled with colourful enamel.

I always like to try and learn a new skill at this time of year when I'm not so busy making stock. The Art & Craft Market is closed until Saturday, 23 January 2010 but I am not planning on going back until Saturday, 30 January 2010 (weather permitting). So I have virtually a month off and my priorities for the time are
  1. to change the display of my stall
  2. spend some time on this new skill I mentioned
  3. practise Laura's roly poly bead tutorial
I have wanted to try enamelling for some time and have decided to combine it with Precious Metal Clay. Pretty much all of the earrings I make are dangly ones to some extent or other but I often get asked for stud earrings and I think this is the medium to make them in. So ... all the things I have made in PMC are pendants ...! There is method in this madness, these are just prototypes to try the techniques out (and one of the holes is wonky so I shouldn't sell it anyway!) I've used PMC to make stud earrings before and they all sold but I haven't really got into it to any kind of depth because I like the use of colour that beadmaking affords me. By using enamel on PMC, I think I can make some earrings which are both colourful and studs.

I've got an order in for some equipment that I need like a firing fork and trivet and many other small bits and pieces but wouldn't you know it, after going on and on about never having heard of Sage Pay/Protx as a credit card provider, the supplier that has pretty much everything I want uses them! They say on the site that they take PayPal too so I have e-mailed them with details of what I want and asking if they can invoice me via Pay Pal instead of me going through the Sage Pay system. If they say yes, the order should be with me on Tuesday. Sister, Shaz of Arcturus Jewellery, also wants to try out enamelling, she has got a course booked this week, I'm reading a couple of books on the subject; between us, we should be able to figure it out!