Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Old tweezers

I'm not making beads this morning as is my usual practice, I have to leave the house in about an hour for an optician's appointment. But I will be back at work this afternoon and am planning on making some more recycled glass beads by melting a Cava bottle. All of the Aeolian Treasure jewellery has happily sold out in just over two weeks so I need to make some more (the necklace will be different this time - as regular readers know, any item over £25 is unique).I took this photograph of my tweezers so I can remember them before they completely fall apart! Look at the way the metal has bent in the heat of the torch whilst they hold the shards of broken glass firmly in place. I have bashed them back into shape more times than I can recall but they are so brittle now, they will just snap off if I apply any more pressure to them. I have to hold the glass so high up the length of the tweezer arms that they get hotter much faster than they used to so they can only work for short periods at a time. This is why I have three pairs in use so they can cool down but I can keep working continuously. You can even see where the wood has charred; occasionally they catch fire too and I have to quench them in a bowl of water I have on standby (hence the rust too). I think they are kind of beautiful in a way.

They have done such a great job for so long, I really don't want to part with them ... not just yet, eh? I hope I can find another use for them when they can't perform any more - a nice long retirement incorporated into a piece of sculpture perhaps.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Glass behaving badly

Today I'd like to highlight the difficulties of working with the unpredictability of some glass colours. Stormed Pandora glass beadI made the bead on the left last week and was really pleased with the lovely purples and blues that I got out of encasing Double Helix's Pandora glass. It's quite an expensive glass containing a lot of silver and that's what leads to all the fun! I've had some Pandora in my glass stash for a long time and never managed to get any really nice colours out of it but when I "stormed" the glass before encasing after buying a tutorial on the storming technique written by Amy Kinsch, the bead on the left was the happy result.

Delightedly, I made a batch of them the following day and was careful to ensure the beads were "garaged" for approximately the same length of time (2 hours) as I know the length of the time the beads soak at annealing temperature can affect the colours Pandora gives you. I swear I made them exactly the same way, I even used the same stringer of stormed glass - the only difference is that the beads are a little smaller as I usually make earrings first and then find out what my jewellery customers think before I invest more time in making matching bracelets/necklace. But the bead on the right is representative of the colours I got this time - all 6 beads were the same. Oh well, back to the drawing board on Pandora!

Red is another tricky one ... Red triangle glass lampwork beadsHere are some triangle beads that I made with a transparent black base, dots of Effetre fossil (which give a stratified effect which looks a bit like a swirly fingerprint in the background) and then each dot is encased with Effetre transparent red. Again, I tried to ensure I made all the beads exactly the same way but look at the colour shift I got when striking - the ones on the right are positively orange!

Of course, us long-suffering beadmakers are not helped when the glass itself changes colour at the manufacturer.Iris blue glassOver the last three years, these are the different colours of "Iris Blue" I have been sent.

Customers often wonder why I can't guarantee to match beads that I have already made with more ...!

There is always a solution to badly behaved glass - cake! Angel fairy cakesI baked these fairy cakes yesterday. They seem to be called cupcakes nowawadays but when I was young, my mum used to make these for our birthday parties and we called them angel fairy cakes (the bits on the top are supposed to be angel's wings) so that's what I'm sticking to. I have tried to make them look exactly the same as she did, my sisters will undoubtedly tell me whether I've got them right or not and I shall take some round to my mum and dad's next time we visit so we can take a trip down memory lane; there are only two years between Sandy and I; there was always a battle over the right to lick the spoon and bowl after the cakes were made. :-)

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Winner of the Aeolian Treasure competition

I have had a draw this afternoon of the three competition entrants and the winner is Kendalee! Please let me know which pair of earrings you would like from the new range. You can have your choice of the Aeolian treasure nugget, Aeolian treasure rondelle or Aeolian treasure dangly nugget earrings. Photographs of the earrings are on this page of my website.

The name Kendalee suggested is also my favourite so I'm using this in the future for this range. Many thanks and congratulations!

I am very grateful to Mandy and Alice for entering via e-mail as well. Hugs to you both.

I will publicise my next competition using my mailing list as well so hopefully I'll get more entries next time! :-)

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Smart buttons arrive in style

Sorry for recent blogger absenteeism, busy - busy - busy!

The postman brought me a package from Hong Kong today. I'm always excited to receive packages but this was an extra special one from fellow blogger friend, Jenn at Kanna Glass Studios. I admired some lovely polymer buttons that she blogged about here and I was really pleased to receive an e-mail from her offering them to me and today they arrived! They are super and I will be using them on one of my hand knitted creations very soon! I'm thinking about a pair of gloves as there are two. I'll be sure to post piccies here when they're done (which reminds me, I must do some photographs of my escapades in knitting toe up socks as suggested by Laura in the comments section last time I wrote about knitting socks).

As a total aside, aren't the stamps just super?!Hong Kong stampsThanks, Jenn!

One of the things that's been keeping DH and I both busy is preparing more paperwork for the Ombudsman concerning the house that we own about 10 miles outside of Cambridge. It all seems to be coming to a head and we might get resolution of our longstanding dispute with Countryside Properties and the insurance company, Zurich, very soon. We moved to the house we currently live in due to Countryside Properties repairing the one near Cambridge. We have wanted to sell the house near Cambridge for nearly two years but due to the outstanding defects, we couldn't. All the defects concerning safety have been completed and whilst we argue the rest out with Countryside Properties, we have a tenant living there.

We now rent a house close to Grantham which is roughly halfway between Cambridge (where I have my stall on a Saturday) and Lincoln (where DH spends a lot of his time). A summary of the long sorry story is on our Countryside Problemities website for anyone interested.

Also, I've spent an inordinate amount of time researching jewellery display items. I have finally decided on the range to invest in and I am expecting delivery very soon - can't wait! When it all arrives, I'll be setting up an exact replica of my stall table in my dining room and having a play around to see what looks best. I've bought some new fabric and boxes to give height etc. - it would be brilliant if I were ready to show it all off this weekend.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

It IS all VERY VERY VERY taxing!

Moira Stewart is now my least favourite person in the entire world.

I received a letter from the Government Gateway this week, "ah, must be my activation code" but no, it isn't - it contained a neat little card with a number on it which is my user ID. This number I already knew because that was given to me on-line. What a waste of paper! Don't they know that the rainforests are being cut down in order to send out useless letters and cards?

Sigh, apparently the activation number is sent separately - in another envelope. WHY? WHY? WHY? Another waste of paper - just do it at the same time, save postage, save paper, save useless pieces of cards, save my bloody sanity! Who are these numpties running the tax department?!

Anyway, the activation arrives a couple of days AFTER the user ID (which I already knew) and so finally I can file on-line. It wasn't too difficult, actually because of how straightforward my affairs are and I had all the information to hand that I knew I would need. By answering a few simple questions early on, they cut out a lot of the stuff that isn't applicable to me. I now know exactly how much money I need to pay. So a nice pat on the back there to the tax man.

The hard part is paying on-line. I can pay using a one-off direct debit, great! Finding out where that is from the "How to pay" page was tricky ... very tricky (haven't they heard of on-line links?!) but I got there in the end and started to set it up ... now I need my self assessment reference number ... um, what's that? I have a Tax Reference number (won't that do?) no, the on-line DD form says it has a K after 10 digits. I don't have any numbers that look like that, my User ID has 12 numbers in it (too many and no K), my Tax Reference number has 10 numbers (right number but no K). According to the "How to pay Self Assessment" page on the HMRC website: "This is shown on the payslip HMRC sends you and is located in the reference box." What?! They have to send me another piece of paper so I can pay on-line?!

That can't be right - I phone the telephone number, they work Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and some of Saturday but not on Sunday. I finally come across a reference checker page so I enter my Tax Reference number (without a K just in case ...) but the page automatically adds a K for me and apparently my Self Assessment Reference Number IS the same as my Tax Reference Number (it just has a K on the end - why didn't they tell me that in the first place?!) Why not just call them the same thing and leave the K on the end (or do we need a K at all? this is complication for complication's sake).

So, I CAN now FINALLY pay using the one off On-line Direct Debit form ... where was that page again? I've bloody well lost it! (in more ways than one).

Friday, 5 February 2010

I need a new name

The new name is not for me, I know who I am (well, most of the time I do!) It's for these:
This morning I have been taking photographs and updating the Lampwork jewellery page of my website with new jewellery. There are a couple of new crocodile bead earrings and a super double length crocodile bead necklace on that page but the stars of this week's updating is this new jewellery range using beads made from recycled Cava bottles and turquoise. Indeed, I have only just realised that I need a new page in my Recycled section for recycled Cava beads; I don't seem to have ever photographed them before and I usually have a few pairs for sale most weeks. Until I get round to making the new page, I'm just putting them on my Lampwork jewellery page.

All I am calling them at the moment is Cava Turquoise which seems very boring so ... I am having a second competition in two days. To enter, please just post a name for this new jewellery range as a message in the comments section or E-mail me using the contact page on my website. I will choose the new name from my favourites but everyone's name who enters will go into a hat and I will draw out a winner whose prize will be a pair of earrings of their choice from the new range.

If you want to see them in person, do stop by my stall at the Art & Craft Market in Cambridge tomorrow, I'm looking forward to showing them off!

This afternoon I have been to see Jonathan Hobbs, the osteopath who has done such sterling work to unfreeze my neck and cure that persistent headache which plagued me for much of January. It's steadily been getting better day by day and I've only had one dose of painkillers in the last three days; I still get the odd twinge but I feel so much better now and I'm able to think. He's suggested that I don't go back for 4-6 weeks when he'll check me out again to make sure I'm not tightening up. In the meantime, I've got some upper back exercises to do which should help.

Now I'm feeling back to normal, I'm finding that suddenly I've got lots of ideas for updating the display area of my stall which was one of my top priority jobs for this month but I just couldn't seem to get "switched on". Now that I'm feeling myself again, I am looking forward to putting it all into practice. I had hoped to have that done by now but watch this space for more news soon!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Pay it forward

I have won a prize on Beads and Botanicals' blog! :-) I've no idea why it was called "Pay it forward" cos "Play it forward" makes more sense to me but never mind, I am looking forward to receiving my prize and in accordance with the rules (published below), here I am, passing it along:


1. Be one of the first THREE bloggers to leave a comment on this post, which then entitles you to a handmade item from me. (It will be a surprise but I promise to make it something fun)

2. Winners, you must post this challenge on your blog, meaning that you will Pay It Forward, creating a handmade gift for the first THREE bloggers who leave a comment on YOUR post about this giveaway!

3. The gift that you send to your Three Friends can be from any price range and you have 365 days to make/ship your item. This means you should be willing to maintain your blog at least until you receive your gift and have shipped your gifts. And, remember: It’s the Spirit and the Thought That Count!

4. When you receive your gift, please feel free to blog about it! If you are not one of the Top Three Commenter's on this post, you can still play along. Start your own Pay It Forward chain, and encourage your blogging friends to do the same!