Friday, 22 October 2010

New jewellery

Here is a selection of the new items added to the Sooz Jewels website today and available from my stall on All Saints Arts & Craft Market in Cambridge tomorrow. The forecast is for a soggy start but I'm hopeful of a better afternoon!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Two cute photos

My cardigan was folded up and left neatly over the arm of the chair .... she looks too comfy to shift!

Have you ever tried to purchase some of Laura Sparling's lampwork beads? They go virtually as soon as she adds them to her website or Etsy store. It was therefore with mixed feelings when I got an e-mail from Sandy asking me to make her something with these:

Aren't they beautiful? I can see why Sandy liked them but ..... on the one hand I can't wait to get my mitts on them but on the other .... oi!! It's hard enough trying to get hold of Laura's beads without non-jewellery-designers buying them as well!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

New photography set up

Here are the first photographs of beads made this week using the new photography area which has been set up in my studio by DH and myself (thank you darling!)

Even with just one small light unit (daylight flourescent tube), it's giving pretty good results. I may add a second light but just a minor tweak in Photoshop to get the white background really white and the colours are really quite true to life. I'm calling the beads photographed "Melted Tigers" and "Drizzled Toffee", I expect you can guess which one is which.

Here's what it looks like. It's all very low tech and inexpensive.
I've covered David Tennant up with white sticky back plastic (ignores shrieks of indignation from DT fans). There are a couple of creases and bubbles in it; I think the Tardis is trying to find a way out but I'm assured it's Blue Peter strength so that oughtta hold David and the entire space time continuum behind it.

The flourescent light fitting has been screwed to a piece of white contiboard which is held in place with a batten of softwood fixed to the wall of the studio. The light fitting and bulb is being diffused with a piece of A3 photocopying paper secured with masking tape so I don't get a long rectangular reflection on shiny beads.

The base is another piece of contiboard resting on top of two drawer units which is temporarily ontop of a large Really Useful big box - this is to bring the item being photographed closer to the light but also has the advantage of meaning I don't have to bend down to take pictures. We will put another batten in soon to tidy it up and replace the box. The beads have been placed on top of some really white photocopying paper but I can put any background in there that I like.

I'm going to screw in eyelets as well to the left and right so I can string things across to photograph 3-D earrings and those that really don't photograph well on a flat surface. 

From now onwards, there can be no more excuses like "I can't take photographs because ...."
  • it's raining
  • it's too cold
  • it's too bright
  • it's too dark
  • the bench is covered with bird poo and I can't be bothered to clean it off
Strange coincidence but one of the blogs I follow The Drifter and the Gypsy is giving away a polaroid camera on this posting. To enter all you have to do is leave a comment and it's open to international visitors. I get a second chance for blogging about it and so I'm feeling lucky!

Monday, 11 October 2010


One of my sisters, Sandy, was diagnosed with breast cancer just over a year ago. I alluded to it in my blog at the time but I didn't say who it was because of her privacy. A full account of what we (and particularly Sandy) went through is on Sandy's blog.  She's absolutely fine now, thank goodness, though she has the hurdle of reconstruction ahead of her if she decides to go ahead with that. 

I have to say I am impressed she decided she wanted to share her experiences and we're hoping it will raise awareness of the importance of having checks and reassure others that the outcome of a cancer diagnosis isn't necessarily all bad news.

This year Reveal magazine and The Sanctuary (on Floral Street, near Covent Garden) held a free ‘Pink Friday’ party on October 5th for Breast Cancer Care supporters who have or have had breast cancer. She heard about the party via Twitter, I think, and applied for a place. She was lucky enough to be one of the 50 invitees. It was exactly a year to the day that she was diagnosed and so was a brilliant way for her and her work colleague, Lin, to mark the anniversary in a very positive way. 
Apparently it was very glamorous the whole place was lit up in pink, she drank far too much pink champagne and there were roving beauticians doing manicures and pedicures.

Reveal magazine was also there at the event taking pictures and interviewing 4 of the party-goers. Sandy also got in on that as well and so she got her hair and make up done for a photoshoot too! Apparently the article will be in tomorrow's issue.  

The picture above is of Sandy, second from the right with the other 3 selected for the magazine. Sandy had a brilliant time but was rather worse for wear the next day (she's not used to booze!!) She came home on the train with a huge goodie bag.

Well done Sandy, I'm looking forward to reading the article. I won't make you cry again by saying how much we all love you. ;-) In the meantime, here's another picture, this time of me ....

Now people may be wondering why I am poking my tongue out ... when we were little (there's only 2 years between us), Sandy and I used to play this daft game of sticking our tongue out at the other and then closing our eyes so the other one couldn't get us back. We'd go on for hours waiting for the other to open their eyes so we could get the last tongue-poke in (oooer Missus!) Happy days, simpler times - we were easily amused! Anyway, we forgot all about it for decades but recently it has got resurrected to much merriment.

I have had to put up with photographs of Sandy sticking her tongue out at me all over the place, she loves to play practical jokes. There was one on the windscreen of our the car going back from Martin's 40th birthday party (she colluded with DH on that one!) Another time there was one sellotaped underneath the toilet seat lid at her house when we visited! One two other occasions, DH has helped her again - the photo from the car surrepticiously replaced the photograph that I have in a plastic holder to show people on my stall how I make glass beads, another got sellotaped to the TV/DVD player that I watch when I'm making jewellery. 

 I have got my own back a couple of times, the ambush photograph above was e-mailed to Lin at Sandy's place of work and Lin very kindly printed it out and stuck it on her monitor. She e-mailed me to say You should have seen her face - it was funny she uttered some abuse about you being a bitch!!  A bit later in the day, Lin also kindly printed out this one:

and stuck it to the door of their office as Sandy was about to go home (my eyes are closed so she can't get me back!!) Thanks, Lin - I owe you one (or two!) 

I also printed them out and made the back of the photographs look like a postcard. I sent the first one to her from Northumbria when we were on holiday with news of what a nice time we were having. Chris, her partner, saw it first and left it with the writing side up so she would read that first and think it was a legit postcard. Apparently Sandy jumped out of her skin when she turned it over and saw me! :-) The next day, the eyes closed one arrived and Chris put it in a book that had arrived from Amazon, at first she couldn't work out how it got in there (thanks, Chris!!)

So I thought I was winning until Saturday, Sandy and Chris turned up to say hello in Cambridge. They came to my stall and very kindly bought me a cup of tea .... in THIS mug!

Any ideas for getting my own back gratefully received, get in touch secretly via my e-mail form on the Sooz Jewels website.

EDIT: Have seen the article and professional photographs, all four ladies look totally wonderful and have courageous stories to tell. Sandy wore a pair of Sooz Jewels earrings and so I can now tell everyone that my lampwork tube drop earrings are "as worn by glamorous people in Reveal Magazine" (ta, sis!)

Thursday, 7 October 2010

tCL error

I have been turning on my kiln to warm up very gingerly all this week. Monday was the first time I'd used it for a week and it wouldn't warm up. I got an error code "tCL" on the digital read out. I got out the manual and it said there was a fault in the thermocoupler and to check the wiring. Sounded like a job for DH but then I went to Frit Happens to see if anyone else had had this problem in the past and found a thread there. Someone else had the same thing happen after a fortnight away and they needed a new relay.

I have heard about relays being replaced, Laura had to do hers not so long ago and I knew it was an easy fix. I rang the people recommended at Cherry Heaven and a very helpful gentleman suggested I put the kiln in a warmer room. Apparently, the programmer has an expectation of how quickly the kiln should heat up. if it doesn't do that, it thinks something has gone wrong. The margin of decision has been increased on the newest programmers. it's not a fault - just an over-sensitivity. I was a bit sceptical about this solution as it's been much much colder than it was on Monday (especially last winter!) and the kiln has still worked. Anyway, if it still wasn't doing anything after warming it up, he said to ring back. I turned my heater on and left it for half an hour and it worked; every since it has been as good as gold.

I don't know why I didn't get this error on colder days in the past; one of life's little mysteries, I have a personal theory that my kiln just missed me whilst we were away and wanted a bit of attention as I'd been taking it for granted. My kiln has served me well for nearly four years without a problem and I certainly would've been stuck if it hadn't started working again.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Back to work time after Mary's books

I've been missing from blogger land for several days; we've been on holiday. We got back from another week in Northumbria on Friday. We had a lovely time but the weather was mixed to say the least! This was taken on the best day weather-wise, a 4 mile walk along the coast from Craster along to Dustanburgh Castle, then Embleton bay and on to Low Newton where there is a pub, the Ship, that brews its own beer (DH always thinks he's in heavy when we get there). Whenever we've been to that pub in the past, we've practically had it to ourselves but the weather was so nice on the Thursday, it was packed, we had to share a table and got talking to lots of other holiday makers. After suitable refreshment, we walked another 4 miles back inland along fields past a quarry and old lime works.

We stayed in the stable block belonging to the Pele tower at Craster, it's the first time we have stopped there and it was magnificent. The stable block was originally converted into a residence for Mary Craster, a cousin of Mr and Mrs Craster who own the Pele tower. She was an academic at Cambridge, a professor of Anthropology, deputy Curator of one of Cambridge's museums and taught Prince Charles. Since she passed away, Mr and Mrs Craster let her home out as holiday accommodation and they showed us the table where PC once sat, swinging his legs during tutorials. According to Mary, he was just like all her other students but he had better manners!

Mr and Mrs Craster can date their family history back 850 years and the village was named after them, apparently they constructed the harbour and many of the buildings there. 

I can't praise the accommodation highly enough, it was huge and the best, the very best thing, about the house is that it is full of Mary's books and those she inherited from her parents. They span almost the entire twentieth century and the variety of subjects was diverse and fascinating. I was taking notes and sketching things from books on Byzantine art, Islamic art, Indian art, Greek art, you name it. There were craft books on quilting and embroidery, books on mysticism, novels by a diverse range of authors, old gardening and cookery books and many of the books were about India where she apparently grew up. There was a section of poetry that was almost as large as the secondhand book shop in Alnwick! Barter Books is one of the largest secondhand book shops in the UK and dogs are welcome - we had a great afternoon in there! Another lovely shop in Alnwick is the yarn shop, a boring hour for DH but I can't visit Northumbria without a trip to it!

One way or another, I found myself with a nose in a book quite a lot of the time we were away. I took 2-3 novels to read but only finished one, Cross Stitch, the first in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon recommended by Lori, thanks to that, I found myself thinking in a Scottish accent for half the week! :-) Rather appropriate as we were close to the border!

The rest of the time I was buried in Mary's books and the really interesting thing was that every other book had a clipping in it, perhaps a review from the Times, an obituary on the author or something about the subject matter; a brochure from an exhibition related to it, sometimes a letter from the author! Some of the letters had 2.5d stamps with King George on them!

A very lucky find was No Signposts on the Sea, a novel by Vita Sackville West, I have read several of her works but I wasn't even aware of this one, it was apparently the last one she wrote before she died.

So I am back all refreshed, relaxed and happy and brimming with new things I want to get on with making!