Friday, 26 March 2010

Almond Blossom necklace finished and uploaded

I've finished making a necklace with the beads I showed you a couple of days ago that were inspired by the Art Bead Scene March Monthly Challenge. I feel that just managing to get an entry uploaded within four weeks has been quite an achievement for me! At the time of typing, my entry isn't showing yet as it has to be approved by the group monitor but in the meantime you can see the the photograph on my new FlickR account

Every month the organisers post an image to be used by designers as inspiration to make something, the only set criteria is that the piece has to incorporate at least one art bead. Every month, I try to come up with something to enter but a month just isn't usually enough time for me to make the beads and the jewellery. I often find I have something a couple of weeks or so after the competition has ended!

It can take several days of experimenting with different things before I come up with a bead I'm happy to include, let alone design and make the jewellery. This is why I am cautious about accepting commissions - I usually need at least two months (and preferably three). In the days when I had a proper salaried job, I was used to working under pressure and just got on with it but with creative things, I just cannot function with deadlines hanging over my head.

The fact that I've managed to do something I'm proud of within four weeks shows that I'm getting a little bit more disciplined with my time, and possibly more focused but I don't think I'll be altering what I tell customers about commissions until I've entered a few more.

The Railway Children

My very old mobile phoneAn item on the radio this morning reminded me of something that happened one Saturday on my stall earlier this month.

Apparently the Railway Children is 40 years old and there is going to be some kind of party at Waterloo station to celebrate it. The Railway Children is a special film to me because it is the first one that I can remember going to see at the cinema (yes, yes, when it first came out - that dates me!)

Anyway, on this particular Saturday, at lunchtime when I was popping to the shops to pick up some bits and pieces, I saw Jenny Agutter (who starred in the Railway Children) going into a restaurant in Cambridge City Centre. I recognised her immediately, she looked very stylish and elegant. I don't know if anyone else saw a series called The Invisibles a year or two ago, she was excellent in that as well starring opposite Anthony Head's character as his wife (very very jealous!) Of course she's been in loads of things inbetween as well.

Anyway, a little later on, at the end of the day after packing away all my jewellery, I always send my mum and dad a text as they like to know how I got on so I mentioned it in my message and .... spooky pause ... guess what mum was watching on TV at the time my text came through?! The Railway Children was being run on BBC3 or something. It's normally, my sister Sandy that does the weirdo stuff like this but some of her wicken power must have rubbed off on me!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Almond blossom

I made these beads in response to the March monthly challenge on Art Bead Scene. I can't make floral beads for the life of me so I haven't gone for representing the blossoms themselves but I flatter myself that the colours in the beads match the Van Gogh picture pretty well and so that's where I've taken my inspiration from.

As you can see, I have made a start on turning them into jewellery, hopefully I'll get a nice piece made and photographed before the end of the week!

I made several of these beads too yesterday, beads that are largely transparent are are beggars to photograph so sorry about the reflections but hopefully you get an idea of what they look like "in person".

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Finished but unworn necklace

I managed to finish the necklace I was making last week for a special occasion but unfortunately, due to one of my two dayer headaches, I had to miss my mum and dad's surprise Diamond Wedding Anniversary party (that's sixty years!) I just wasn't up to the travelling. I put the necklace out for sale on my stall on Saturday and it got lots of favourable comments.

To make up for DH and I missing the party, mum and dad came to lunch with us on Sunday and we took a walk through our neighbour's snowdrop wood (with Penny's permission of course!)

Here's mum, dad and me, I put the necklace on to show them but as I'm turned sideways, you can't see it!
I heard all about the party, it sounds like I missed quite a do, my sister Sandy and her partner, Chris, drove them down to Sussex where mum and dad did their courting, got married and spent their early wedded life together. They just thought they were going for a day out and meet Auntie Mary for lunch in the pub but when they walked in there was a big buffet and cake for everyone.

Other sister, Sharon and her fiance, Martin, did an acoustic version of the Anniversary Waltz which they danced to at their wedding, Auntie Mary did the flowers just like the ones mum had in her bouquet and also put together a slideshow "This is Your Life" with lots of embarrassing old photographs with copies bound into an album to keep (I'm quite glad I missed that bit actually!) ;-)

An old schoolfriend of dad's he hadn't seen for years was tracked down, one of dad's old workmates and his wife who mum and dad were friendly with for years but then lost touch with also put in an appearance so it was all a huge surprise for them. Uncle Arthur paid for the champagne and mum and dad saved one empty bottle and brought along a full one for us (it's empty now of course!) So I'm going to melt those and turn them into beads in a couple of days time. I will make some jewellery for all the gals in the family as a nice momento though I imagine Sharon will want to make her own so I'll probably just give her some beads.

No-one has ever taken me up on the offer to turn special bottles into beads and then jewellery, there was one e-mail enquiry which came to naught but that's about it. I often mention it on my stall, there's a page about it on my website but it doesn't seem to appeal - oh well, I think it's a good idea!

The only down side was that we lost mum's brother, Uncle Fred, the day before the party. I don't think he ever got over losing his wife, Auntie May, last year. His last words to sister, Sandy a couple of days before was that he wasn't feeling well enough to come to the party himself (he was suffering from liver cancer) but not to change any plans on his account, so we decided to go ahead with the party. It's what he would've wanted, bless him.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

I don't get ...

Three quarter length sleeves on a cardigan. I mean, what's the point?! If I put a cardie on, it's cos I'm cold. I need full length sleeves to feel warmer. Given the fashion this year, I think I am going to have to knit one myself!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The cost of jewellery

The price I pay for being able to make jewellery out of recycled glass beads like the above bracelet (made from recycled cava bottle glass) is holes in my clothes!
In fact, this hole is a monster, a record for me actually. If you introduce glass to the flame a tad too fast, bits are apt to fly off hence very good eye protection. Glass from bottles is particularly "shocky" and prone to do this. The bits are hot and make holes in clothes very easily. It's quite normal for me to get smaller holes - you can see a teeny one top right.

I wonder if I can offset a replacement fleece against my tax?! My £100 penalty notice arrived about a week ago, they sent a leaflet and a form telling me how to appeal so I guess they're expecting me to argue about it!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Back to black

I've had chance to experiment with the three new blacks that I got with my glass order last week. The Reichenbach Deep Black produced akamai beads which looks identical to the Vetrofond Black result published a few days ago so I haven't photographed those. The photograph above shows the beads I made with CIM Hades. These produce the best black akamai bead in my opinion. Just as black as Effetre Intense but without so much unpredictable spreading. The only colour is from the silvered ivory stringer which lends the organic feel.

The photograph below is using Effetre Silver Black. No ... don't even look, they've done that horrible yellowing thing that I sometimes get when I encase silver foil with clear (this is CIM clear). If I encase when the base bead is slightly cooler, I might lose that but I think they're so awful, I'm not going to give them another go. I'll stick with Hades for black akamai beads and Vetrofond/Reichenback for the bluish navy black ones. I'm sure there are much nicer ways to use Effetre Silver Black but I won't be making akamai beads from it! Actually, I changed my mind, I've deleted the picture, I don't wany anyone to see them yuk-yuk-yuk.

{Photo deleted}

At the same time as my glass order, I got a new lentil press. It has taken me a few goes to get used to the amount of glass to use to get a nice shape and the dimpled in ends. These are the latest two, they're 20mm long. I'm particularly happy with the black/white/grey one. The other has been etched. I've never made a lentil so big before. In fact I do have a bigger lentil press but I have never melted enough glass to fill it! One day I will give it a go ...

Anyway, apologies for the bad photograph, it's not been very sunny here, the reflection on the black one makes it look like it's dented but honest - it isn't!
I seem to be making a lot of monochrome beads recently, don't I? It's not just that a customer asked me for a black and white akamai. It could also be something to do with Laura Sparling's March calendar picture which shows a collection of her lovely black and white beads, but there's more to it than that. I have a special occasion lunch to attend next week and I want to make a nice necklace to match my top which is black white and a bit of grey. I'm wearing it with charcoal trousers and maybe a new pair of boots, if not I'll be wearing my old black ones. I am cutting it a bit fine timewise to get it all finished though!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Missy and puppies

This is a picture of my dog, Missy on our bed this morning after we got up. She looks really cute with her toys but she's been a bit of a pain for the past few days. Every six months or so she comes into season and then a few weeks later, around the time that she would've had puppies had she been mated, she gets very difficult. Any small squeaky toy (like these two), suddenly become very precious and she acts like they are puppies, licking them and trying to get into small spaces with them.

It sounds adorable, which it would be if she weren't so stressed about it all. She's very restless, wanders around with one of them making wining noises constantly, if we try to comfort her, we get licked and cleaned like we're puppies too! I'm not sure if it's a good idea to indulge her by letting her keep the toys but try and take them away ... I'd be prepared to put up with it for her sake but she really does seem to be very unhappy. This time is the worst she has ever been. Today she has been to the vets and we've all decided it would be best for her to be spayed.

We've resisted doing this in the past because she's a rare breed (Manchester Terrier). The year she was born, there were only 90 Manchesters born in the whole of the UK. However, I doubt I could ever part with any puppies if we decided to breed from her. It has additional health benefits for the dog eliminating the possibility of various cancers that unaltered female dogs can suffer so that makes me feel a bit better about putting her though a big operation. Hope we're doing the right thing.

Monday, 8 March 2010


Anoter interruption to my creative time this week; I have a dentist appointment for a new filling this morning; I'll be leaving in around an hour. No NHS dentists around here means it's a round trip of two hours to go to St Neots (the small town where I went to school all those years ago), half an hour waiting (they never see you on time) and then half an hour for the actual work means half a day gone! :-(

Since the new year, there seems to be something that I have to do to maintain this fragile body every week. Dentist check up (leading to the filling appointment), hair trims every 6-8 weeks, 3 visits so far to the wonderful Jonathan Hobbs (Osteopath) and another due in next couple of weeks to check I'm not tightening up again, eye test, go back to get glasses fitted, precautionary CT scan on my head at the hospital (as expected they found nothing!) Add in the usual female-related routine doctor's visits for smear tests, blood pressure, contraception, lump checks etc., then I don't seem to ever get a week when I have an uninterrupted week to just go at my beads and jewellery.

Plus the time in the car going to these appointments is just such a waste of time. I can't read, knit or crochet or do anything that involves looking down in a car without getting nauseous. I can on a train, I have no idea why it's so different in a car but when I'm just sat there with nothing to do but listen to music, then my fingers get so itchy to be busy and I am impatient to be back in the studio.

I'm the same when something I'm doing is going particularly well, I don't want to stop but my stomach demands I put food in it or my bladded demands emptying! These are all irritating interruptions (you can probably understand now why I hate the phone so much can't you?!)

Still, I have an hour before I leave so what am I doing here moaning about not being able to do anything??!

PS New things got added to the website yesterday afternoon as promised. Most of them are on the Lampwork page.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

End of winter?

Although it means waving goodbye to these lovely snowdrops and aconites which I can see out of my kitchen window, I think the sunshine of the last three days may mean that Spring is Springing. The daffodils haven't really shifted much beyond poking their noses out of the soil but I think they'll get going very soon if this lovely weather keeps going.

On my stall yesterday, it was definitely cold but I am not going to grumble about the weather - oh no, not me ... not after packing away in a thunder and heavy hailstorm last Saturday!

I'll be updating the website a little later with new photographs of the things that I made (some have sold already but again, I'm not going to grumble about that either!)

Brilliant news was waiting for us in the post when we got home yesterday, there has been a second Adjucation on the Countryside Properties stuff with our house close to Cambridge there's a long document formally summarising the situation but they have again found in our favour on all points except one minor one which we aren't going to argue about.

From what I gather, unless further evidence is provided by us or Zurich Insurance, the Ombudsman will now find in our favour. We have a couple of weeks to accept the Adjudicator's offer (which we will). There is a warning stating that the Ombudsman will back the Adjudication unless there is significant new evidence. If Zurich don't accept it, then it will go to the Ombudsman for a final decision which is binding. We'll wait and see what they do, I guess but it's another round to us. It is taking a long time to sort out but at least we're getting there and it's all good news for us at the moment so we're having an extremely happy weekend!

There was also another letter with excellent news it in, but that's more appropriate for my Free Me Of Palm Oil blog so I'll blog about that over there.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Sneak peak

I've made lots of new pieces of jewellery for my stall over the last couple of days. I have taken photographs of most of them but no time to process them this evening.

As a sample of the new things that will be on my stall tomorrow, here's a necklace I made with my red fossil triangle beads. I am naming this range red jagged edges.

The piece is a tad under 18 inches long and the black saucers and rounds are onyx.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

New blue tardis

I've made some blue tardis beads, rather appropriate as Dr Who's tardis is blue. I've been playing around with Amy Kinsch's storming technique on and off for a while and these are my favourite beads so far to come out of my experiments. The swirly texture underneath the clear raised dots is mesmerising.

They take ages to make, I'm not the fastest beadmaker in the word as it is but the most I can do in an hour is 5! I've got 12 in total and am looking forward to turning these beads into jewellery tomorrow. :-)

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Black is black (or is it?)

I have quite a few different colour-ways in the akamai bead: orange and brown, violet and turquoise, blue and green. I was asked not long ago if I could make a black and white one. I already knew that Effetre black glass is in fact very dark transparent violet colour but I wasn't sure about other manufacturers' black. Just like Cava bottle glass (which is very dark greeny/brown) the Effetre black glass specifically made for beadmaking by the Italians isn't black at all - it just looks black under most lighting conditions. If you pull a thin stringer of black glass and lay it over a light opaque colour, it doesn't stay black.

I offered no guarantees but said I would try! The above photograph is what happened when I tried a white base, dots of Vetrofond black and dots of sis*, gravity swirled and encased with clear. The "black" when spread out thinly (as gravity swirling is wont to do with your glass), becomes navy blue.The above photograph also uses black glass and sis but this time, the black is made by Effetre. When spread out, it's an entirely different colour, not sure I would describe it as violet but it has probably reacted with the silver in the sis anyway.The above beads are the most black of all, this time I've used Intense Black and it's done it's usual webbing out thing which is sometimes desirable in beads. The photograph doesn't show it that well, but the "black" is blue in places. You can see some top right of the right hand bead and there's also some of the "violet" in the webbing too.

Overall, I prefer the top beads and have made quite a few of these today and they're baking away in my kiln now as I type. They remind me of the colours in a poster that I have on my studio wall of two rare white tiger cubs (aw cute!)

Just as I was coming to the end of beadmaking for the day, some glass I ordered yesterday arrived (always an exciting moment!) I have got three other varieties of black glass to add to my stash:
  • Reichenbach Deep Black
  • Effetre Silver Black
  • CIM Hades
It will be interesting to see what colours these blacks turn into under the same conditions.

*For non-beadmakers, sis stands for silvered ivory stringer (a rod of ivory glass with silver foil burnished into the surface, melted and then whilst molten pulled into a thinner rod of glass).

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Cava bottle earrings

Handmade lampwork beads made from recycled Cava bottle glass and turned into sterling silver earringsI have now made a Recycled Black Glass page on my website. I've photographed a few of the Cava bottle recycled earrings and added them and also moved the Aeolian Treasure jewellery to that page as well so although this jewellery is not new to my stall, they are new to the website and my blog. The photograph above is just one as an example.

There is always more jewellery on my stall than on the website. I'd always rather be making beads and jewellery than taking photographs!