Thursday, 19 September 2013


I made a long necklace!

The disc beads are from the bead shop in the Custard Factory, Birmingham; the glass beads are Indian lamp work; and the rest is silver-plated. I especially like the plain style of the chain, which nicely complements the floral design of the disc beads, and makes it easy to adjust the necklace length.

In the picture above you can see that it's all misty over the fields... the weather really is autumnal now.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Late summer earrings

Although summer's almost ended by all objective criteria, I still have summer in my head - at least, I'm still slightly jet-lagged from my holidays.

I made a little present for another Sarah, whose birthday party we're going to today, and I think a little bit of summer crept into that too.

I used:

green shell beads from the late lamented craft shop in our town
silver plated Greek ceramic discs
matte aqua seed beads
silver plated headpins
sterling silver earwires

ETA: She liked them!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

What am I going to do with all this sea glass?

Today I went on a sea-glass-collecting spree with my sister. We found LOADS at a beach near her home including a piece in a gorgeous intense cobalt-blue colour. She brought me back down to earth by asking me: "so what are you going to do with all this sea glass?"

Ah - experimentation is the fun part!

There's an overview of four main methods here, as well as other interesting links about grading sea glass. This recent blog post about drilling sea glass was also helpful - although surely one needs a clamp or similar to hold the sea-glass in place and drill safely? It looks a bit scary to me.

Using silver metal clay seems to produce the nicest results, and I even found someone who teaches classes and has experience in this technique.

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Rules of Sea Glass

Since I found my sea glass I have been trawling the internet for sea glass wisdom.

These are what I understand to be the Rules of Sea Glass.

1. If it is not frosted all over, with no shiny-smooth-glassy sides, it is not sea glass.
2. If the corners are not all rounded, it is not sea glass.
3. If the edges are sharp, it is not sea glass.
4. If it was not actually found on a beach, it is not sea glass.
5. If it is not glass, it is not sea glass (sounds obvious... but some stones can look very glass-like!).

Some of the bits I found are perhaps rather debatable specimens according to the Rules of Sea Glass, but I like them anyway! I am not sure what I am going to do with them. I am hoping to somehow combine them with some interesting shells that I found.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Sea glass

A few weeks ago, I visited the beach for the first time for a long while.

This is the beach we visited on our holidays. It is, let me tell you, absolutely amazing. Not only is there super-fresh fish and chips, and excellent gelato and coffee, but there is also a lot of sea-glass to be found on the beach.

Have you ever found sea glass on a beach? What is your favourite beach for sea-glass hunting?

Pictures of my haul to follow...

Saturday, 22 June 2013

"But Mummy that bead really likes me..."

Took my five-year-old son out to town today.

After we'd chosen some other presents, I told him he could choose five beads from the bead shop. He sort of got round this by choosing five charms and five beads, and wouldn't give any of them back because each bead had apparently developed a strong and unbreakable attachment to him...

On the way back, as a special treat we visited to a gorgeous ice-cream parlour, with a very kind waitress, fifteen sorts of ice-cream, tables with white table-cloths and a mirror that showed us eating our ice-cream in an "upside-down world". It was magical.

We also managed to cover lots of conversational topics over the day, including:
  • how soldiers now tend to wear camouflage gear rather than full suits of medieval plate armour
  • the difference between a true friend and a false friend (this came from something he had heard from the older children at school - a false friend is apparently someone who "gives you expensive presents and throws wild parties")
  • what children (his age) mean when they say "I won't be your friend any more!", especially when everything is fine five minutes later
  • why children should not run off in shops so that their parents can't find them (I heard this later re-enacted, with him featuring as the parent and his toy shrimp as the wayward child) 
  • how the planets are all named after Roman gods
  • how, with the weather, You Never Can Tell (a favourite saying of his)
  • what you can see when you are in an aeroplane (and why you are not in space, even when you are above the clouds)
  • the different methods for dyeing one's hair (or beard; this particular conversation was prompted by seeing a man with a pink beard)
  • what money is for
  • what a "chicken dinner" is
  • how God is the reason the world is "full of lovely things"

Friday, 7 June 2013

Natural World Necklace: water, earth, air

The focal for this necklace is one of the three grey ceramic hearts my sister Rachel selected at our Craven and White visit. She suggested pairing this heart bead with some of the round green glass beads I'd used for my winter necklace which I happened to be wearing that day. Luckily, I had two of the large green glass beads left, which seemed to suit the focal better than the small ones.

While putting this together for Rachel I was thinking how much she cares about the natural world. She is very knowledgeable about ecology. She and her husband are such great people to visit a nature centre with - they really bring the subject alive.

Thinking of this, I came across these beautiful turquoise rounds from Ilona Biggins. Then I added some long-hoarded poppy jasper beads from Beadworks, and some pale blue crystal rondelles. Together, they felt like "water", "earth" and "air". Because they're so different, I combined them in a simple repeating design, using almost the last of my upcycled translucent green 8/0 seed beads.


The necklace came out slightly on the short side, though - almost choker length. So I also made a matching bracelet with an identical Tibetan silver toggle-clasp, which can be used to extend the length of the main necklace if preferred.

The crystals catch the light as the necklace moves, which is nice since they signify "the air".

Luckily the weather has now substantially improved since this photograph was taken!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Re-stringing: Improvement?

I found I wasn't wearing my bracelet from the Bead Soup Blog Party.

There were 2 main reasons for this:
1. It was too long for my wrist, and kept falling off.
2. The beads seemed too randomly placed, and unbalanced with regard to sizes and weights.

Actually it was quite good that I wasn't wearing it much, because the sky-blue thread it's strung on is quite slippery and the knots tend to undo themselves unless glued (which at that stage I was not doing). So I could have lost all the beautiful beads.

Original bracelet design. Gorgeous beads. But, to be honest, they could have been arranged a bit better.

So: lots of reasons to re-string it. Here is the new version.

Restrung onto double-length cord - no new beads, but immediately a different look.
The first decision I took was to string it onto double-length cord, and tie overhand knots between beads, so that you can see the lovely sky-blue colour of the cord. Learning from my millefiori bracelet, I decided to attach the knot onto the ring part of the clasp, not the toggle-end, because the toggle-end of the cord gets a lot more stress placed on it and needs to be as flexible as possible.

Then I realised that this double-length design meant that I could now string the smallest beads - the turquoise glass and the silver seed-beads - in parallel, rather than in series.This really changes the look of the design and I like it. Might start working with seed beads in their own right a bit more, rather than just using them as spacers.

The extra length given by the new knotted design (despite doubling up on the smallest beads) allowed me to remove all but two of the glass pearls to give a more balanced design. Now they don't seem to dominate all the others quite so much.

The silvery-coloured thing in the top right of the photo is a pewter leaf-shaped charm. My son sweetly made me a simple mobile (or a hanging ornament) using another leaf charm just like this, combined with silver-plated wire bent into an interesting shape, and hung on a piece of string. So now the leaf charm reminds me of him and his intense curiosity about the world. The disadvantage, however, is that he constantly suspects me of having taken apart his mobile to make my bracelet, and he keeps demanding I get it down for him to inspect and check that its leaf charm is still there.

What do you think? Do you prefer the new design, or the old one?

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Wire-wrapped clasp

So, for the second half of the birthday present I sent to my sister in Australia. I had another go at making a hammered silver clasp. I also made my own spring ends. Both are made out of 0.8mm silver-plated wire (it really is fine when you hammer it) and the clasp also has some 0.4mm wire wrapped round it to strengthen it and to fix on a green bead. Hammering the thicker wire into a hook shape was easy. But wrapping the thinner wire around it was not easy and it's hard to get it really tidy. I expect this is one of those things that gets better with practice.

The nice thing about these over-sized hook clasps, though, is that they're really easy to do up compared to other clasps I've used (probably easier than toggle clasps and definitely less fiddly than lobster clasps).

The necklace is strung on natural leather, with some of the green beads that I was given for Christmas.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The New Adventures of Superglue

In line with my new adventures in stringing onto cord instead of wire, here's the bracelet and earring set I made for my sister's birthday (which is today!). I feel I can post a picture of them now that she says she has worn them. There was also a necklace, but she hasn't worn that yet so I'll post about it separately.

I strung blue/red millefiori glass, dark wooden beads and a single turquoise crystal onto turquoise 0.4mm Griffin Powernylon. It is very strong and has virtually no stretch. However, I found I had problems getting the knot to hold, so out came the Superglue! This seemed to work (fingers crossed) and the bracelet feels very light to wear.

Bracelet and earring set

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Taster sessions (lampworking and ice-cream-eating)

My sister Rachel and I had LOTS of fun on Sunday at Craven & White, at one of their glass charm and jewellery experiences (via a special offer, so cheaper than the advertised price on the website). It's essentially a taster session rather than a formal taught class.

Caroline started by explaining to us the basics of lampworking (basically: melting different-coloured glasses in a very hot flame), and about the properties of different sorts of glass. We admired the various beads in her current range. The glass is even more gorgeous in real life than on the website - the colours capture the light in a way that's nearly impossible to convey in a photograph. The ivory-coloured glass reacts with the light-blue coloured glass to give a grey outline that looks almost like a pencil-line. She took us through some of the easier bead designs, and then we spent some time choosing our own colours and designing our own beads. This was a harder decision than I'd thought it would be, as there were so many canes of gorgeous glass colours to choose from.

We had the option of having a go ourselves, so of course both Rachel and I jumped at the chance. We each got to make our own bead design. After the session is finished, Caroline makes a second bead of your design, kiln-anneals them both and sends you each two beads in the post, strung on a PVC tube bracelet - so I'll get both my own one and a professionally-made version of my sister's design.

With that in mind, we'd both chosen the same colour-scheme: ivory and a beautiful "teal" colour - you can see the canes I used on the worktop in the picture below (closest to the thing-that-makes-the-flame, which if I remember correctly is somewhat mystifyingly called a Brian). We each chose opaque grey for the decorative spots. I rather ambitiously chose to make a "wavy" pattern, which demanded a lot of concentration but was lots of fun too. If you've worked with wet-on-wet watercolour or silk-painting, you'll be familiar with the idea of "happy accidents". My bead was, pretty much, one entire happy accident. I don't know how people manage to actually make what they are setting out to make. It is not as easy as it looks. Here is a picture of me, concentrating hard!

Me making my "wavy pattern" bead
Rachel turned out to be something of a natural and was soon dotting away like she'd been doing it for years. Here's a photo of her in action:

Rachel adding a dot of colour to her bead
All in all we had a lovely time and I would definitely recommend it as part of a fun day out in Shakespeare Country. Especially if you also happen to spend part of the afternoon in the Henley Ice Cream shop!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Throwaway fashions

Today, I had a lampworking lesson (of which more in a later post, it was very exciting) and on the way back, I saw that the service station stocked entire Pandora-style bracelets, complete with not one but several lampworked glass beads in co-ordinating colours - for just five pounds per bracelet. How could this possibly have covered the full costs of making the beads, once the silver-coloured metal parts, the packaging and the transport have been accounted for? 

And guess what, the Bangladesh factory fire happened in a factory supplying the cheap "throwaway fashion" sector of the British high street.

What does "throwaway fashion" mean? It means:
  • not made to last: planned obsolescence
  • ephemeral fashions: destined for landfill (but not ephemeral fabrics: polyester will not decompose like cotton, linen or silk)
  • perhaps never worn before being discarded
  • perhaps never even thought about very much: bought on a passing whim
There is something very wrong about all of this.

I think that the very act of making something for yourself can remind you that:
  • the more care and love has been put into the making of something, the greater value it can have
  • things made by people close to us can have great personal meaning
  • things that are unique and irregular can be just as beautiful as machine-made perfection
  • everything is made or produced or processed somehow by someone, somewhere
  • most of us have more stuff than we really need
And if you choose to skip the step of making it yourself, you cannot pretend that it is the same thing to out-source this to someone in the Third World two pence per hour to make your very nice faux-patchwork, folk-style, yet fashion-forward garment.

We should not romanticise what is essentially very hard work, historically been done by women the world over -- except for a tiny minority of affluent women who have paid other women to do it for them. We are now in that tiny minority. Realistically, we can't hand-make everything in our lives, in some kind of pseudo-1950's idyll; not without a return to 1950's values and lifestyles (and I'm talking the British 1950's here, with rationing, drudgery and poverty). Thanks to feminism we have now been liberated from the 24/7 grind of domestic service. We are allowed to go to school, to university and have jobs (without having to get signed permission from our fathers or husbands!). We have washing-machines for the washing, and we are allowed our own bank accounts so we can buy clothes from shops. Without all that, we probably wouldn't have the literacy to blog, let alone the time or inclination.

So, when I make things, I think about the importance of making.

I think about family, friends, care and love.

I remember too how lucky I am to even be able to "play" at making things, when other women in the world risk their lives every day working in exploitative conditions to make stuff that just gets thrown away.

And I think about whether I can make some small changes to my lifestyle, on the basis that if everyone did the same, then we might start to change the culture of throwaway fashion.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Sorbet colours for Spring

Ana did amazingly with her bead soup, right "down to the last bead" - so, inspired by her example, I've now used pretty much all the beads she sent. So, in the "down to the last bead" spirit, here is my last piece: I've taken the advice of my lovely commenters and tried using PicMonkey - it is indeed much easier to use than a combination of Microsoft Photo Editor and Powerpoint. And the fonts are better.

This is more of a Bead Soup Blog After-Party than part of the BSBP proper: if you want to see what I posted for the 2nd BSBP reveal, please click the button on the right.
Sorbet-coloured bracelet
Ana had sent me these gorgeous flamingo-coloured shell beads - and I wanted to put in a bracelet because they're so beautiful you just want to look at them all the time. It's hard to capture in a photo, but they have lovely soft colours that shift as they move in the light. These beads were very keen to be paired with the peach-coloured fire-polished crystals, also from the soup Ana sent me.

It's now properly spring here (my Polish friend said to me yesterday: You know it's spring in England when it stops snowing and starts raining) so I wanted to use a sorbet-type palette. I couldn't quite make it work, until I realised I could use some more of these irregular-shaped greenish-turquoise seed beads that I found in a local charity shop (thrift shop) to make a multi-strand design.

I combined them with a few of my favourite iridescent large green seed beads (also originally upcycled, from a different necklace) to boost the green vibe, and added some odd pink, green and blue beads from my stash. And some of my favourite wooden beads to add an informal touch.

I knew I wanted a toggle-clasp because they're easy to do up (important for a bracelet!) but I didn't quite have the right style. Then I found this twisted Tibetan silver clasp online - perfect. The weight of the silver makes sure that the bracelet sits with the clasp at the lowest point, so that the interesting part of the design is uppermost.

The bracelet can be worn either untwisted, so that it looks like three stacked bracelets, or lightly twisted, like this:

Sorbet-coloured bracelet, with the strands lightly twisted

Saturday, 13 April 2013

BSBP reveal - updated!

This is an updated post, with further pictures and explanations of what, why and when.

The beautiful flower focal from Ana, now converted to a brooch
This morning was the first sunshine we've had in about three weeks so I took loads of photos all in a rush and then had to figure out what to do with them! So I've been playing around with Powerpoint to make composite pictures.

Brooch and earrings
The brooch and earrings were an inspired last-minute creation: I'd been wondering and wondering how to use this gorgeous fabric focal. Finally my mother came up with the idea to attach it to a brooch back and we came up with the crystals-on-three-chains design together. We thought it went well with her black pashmina (looking rather washed-out in sunlight in the small pictures on the right).

I'm not very confident at using bead caps, but these ones seemed to fit well onto a pair of frosted, translucent purple beads I had; adding a couple of green-cored seed beads made some great dangly earrings. I think they go with the brooch while avoiding being too matchy-matchy. Although I am not supposed to be making myself any more dangly earrings because I already have so many. Oh well...

This necklace was actually the first thing I made with the bead soup. The Bead Soup rules are that we have to use (at least) both the clasp and the focal. I thought that this clasp went nicely with the striking pewter focal, so that became my starting-point. I had some pewter tubes whose curves mirrored the swirls in the pewter focal, so those went in too. And my son had carefully chosen a bright red bead when we were buying the clasp for Ana, so I included that too. That set me off on a red-and-cyan colourscheme because for some reason I was reminiscing about computer games of my childhood ... so in went lots of blue beads. Hurrah for BBC Micro Red-alternating-with-Cyan.

Originally the chain sections lay on either side of the neck, and the pewter tubes either side of the focal, but that made the front section heavy and at the sides it reminded me of fish-gills! So I switched them round and that seemed to go better. Using my new waxed cotton, I threaded the beads and tubes onto some orange  cotton, threading it through the chain section to achieve a rather jumbled look with the mosaic-tile beads.
I like the bright colours of this one, but to be honest I think the design ended up a bit over-worked and not so much my personal style. I think my decision to use the clasp and focal and to incorporate fibre ended up sending me down a one-way street that I maybe shouldn't have gone down.

1990's style!
For this one, I was inspired by a de-clutter I had recently: I'd found a photo of me from my student days in the 1990s, proudly wearing a necklace that I'd made from wooden beads strung onto leather cord (I didn't know how to tie it properly at the time, so I used to tie it with a reef-knot every day). Ana's beads seemed to want to go with some other blue-green beads that my sisters had given me; I added some nice spacers purchased from Hobbycraft in Solihull.

I am very, very proud of my first ever hand-made clasp-hook! I was very pleased that I managed to hammer the silver-plated copper without the copper showing through at all. The hammering makes the wire stiff so that it keeps its shape. I have to admit though that the silver-plated oval came "off the shelf" from Beadalon. And I didn't make my own spring-ends but used clam-shells instead, to avoid the need for gluing.

This was a bracelet I made from the sheer pleasure of discovering how light and wearable beads are when strung on fibre. The green focal was a present from my sister. I was a bit worried that my knotting would come undone, so I did a round-turn and about five half-hitches! - that's why there seems to be quite a lot of blue cord next to the clasp components. There is also a leaf charm, ceramic beads and ice-blue glass pearls.

And this necklace has the most beautiful beads of all. I'd been watching Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring, and it occurred to me that the special blue focal would have suited Arwen. I also remembered I had some light-blue crystals which went nicely with it. So I found some of my other most lovely beads which reminded me of woodlands and nature in general - lovely lampwork; leaf-like Czech glass; pearls (Tolkien seemed to like to write about jewellery with pearls) and two moss agate beads from Brighton which I'd been saving for ages.

All in all I was really pleased with how many of Ana's beads I managed to use. There are just a few left, including the gorgeous flamingo-pink shell beads, which I'm planning to make into a multistrand bracelet (and will post pics at a later date).

Check here for the full list of participants in the Second Reveal. And here to see the amazingly creative pieces Ana has made from the things I sent her.

Thank you Ana for being such a great bead-swap partner! And thanks to Lori Anderson for hosting, and for providing words of encouragement early on!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Bead Soup reveal deferred one week

The Bead Soup 2nd reveal has been deferred one week, so check back here on the 13th April for what I made with the lovely things Ana sent me!

Am slightly relieved actually, as I haven't used all the bead-soup yet and I want to use as many of the items as I can!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Supposed to be working on Bead Soup. Getting distracted by Turtles.

Isn't this little guy so cute? If you have any other good turtle bead links, please feel free to share!


Saturday, 16 March 2013

Creativity and myth

I have been thinking about what I do and how in the end all creative pursuits are partly about telling stories - the need to make, tell and re-tell stories is such a fundamental human need. I'm a keen novel-reader, but I also like reading myths, folk-tales, fantasy and science fiction.

Turning into stone: Medusa, stalagmite, and fossils. From the Natural History Museum, London.
  • Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is currently being serialised on Radio 4/Radio 4 Extra. Having both seen the TV series and read the novel before, I think it's far better than the TV series and at least as good as the novel. It deals with "the people who fall through the gaps" - covering issues such as homelessness and mental illness, but in a metaphorical or mythical sort of way. This version has excellent casting and production and is highly recommended. If you've missed any of it, you can catch up on-demand until 29th March.
  • I have enjoyed reading The Hobbit to my five-year-old son. He often pretends to be Bilbo. Usually I get to be Gandalf, which I quite like. He is particularly fascinated by the Arkenstone and what the book calls the "power of gold". I don't think this is a concept he has been able to verbalise before, but he well understands it, telling me about "the power of sweets" and "the power of chocolate" - something that I can also relate to!
  • At the moment I'm reading him the Usborne Greek Myths for Young Children. It is beautifully-illustrated, and very much toned down and age-appropriate; there do remain a few unavoidable mentions of people killing their family members, however, which is very different to the cheery benevolence of modern children's TV. However, he loves all the mythical creatures, Atlas holding the sky up and trying to trick Heracles into doing it, and (best of all) King Eurystheus hiding in his big brass pot. I was also highly impressed that he remembered Medusa from our visit to the Natural History Museum at Christmas-time (see picture above).
What, if anything, has all this got to do with what I do? Well, I think it's that creativity isn't trivial, or some sort of time-waster for people with nothing better to do. It's part of being human and is a basic need we all have. If we ignore it, we are in danger of losing something of ourselves.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Addressing my fibre phobia

Well, I had the book "Bohemian-Inspired Jewellery" by Lorelei Eurto and Erin Siegel for my birthday, but I've just had so much difficulty getting my head round the use of fibre in general and fabric in particular. Now, though, since my Bead Soup from Ana has got some ribbon in (eek!), I thought I'd try and ease myself in gently with a more tractable problem - stringing beads onto cord using simple overhand knots.

Here I used waxed cotton in a lovely dark red. I soon discovered that only certain beads have holes large enough to work for this. This restricted my designs somewhat. The design constraints are different in other ways, too. The fibre itself provides additional visual interest, so a simpler design seems to work better than the more complex designs you can make with wire (either normal wire or beading wire). Because of that simplicity, each individual bead seems to speak louder, so it's even more important to pick the right ones. This bracelet here was very much a first attempt.

Bracelet made using knotted waxed cotton
The nice thing about wearing a bracelet made of fibre, I found, is that it's much more drapey than something strung on beading wire. So it's much easier to wear and doesn't feel like it gets in the way so much.

Overall this seems to have a much more informal feel than beads on wire. I have to admit that, despite my expectations, I do quite like it. I will have to practise some more!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Bead Soup sent to Ana

This is my own photo of the Bead Soup sent to Ana. It was quite a dull day, the house was dark, but I HAD to send the beads to her in time for the posting deadline - so my son and I went outside and put the beads on the ground! I used a white piece of card for contrast - it has my name written on in a design by my sister, a talented papercrafter.

Ana tells me she's used all the beads up already - I am in admiration at her productivity. I have to confess that I haven't finished anything yet using the beads she's sent me, but I have done a great deal of "playing" with the different colours and textures. Watch this space...

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Bead Soup from Ana

Oh my goodness, the Bead Soup I received from Ana was so amazing! It all came with little cards saying what everything was, but I took most of them out of their little bags for their photo-shoot.

I really do not know what on earth I'm going to do with all these glories. There is even a choice of 3 focals!

Gorgeous packaging! I had to admire it for about a day before I could open it.

This is most of the bead soup all together in one photo
Beautiful focal!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Introducing Ana, my Bead Soup Blog Party partner!

This post is to properly introduce my Bead Soup Blog Party (BSBP) partner, Ana. She has done the BSBP before but this is my first time - it's nice for me to be paired up with some a little more experienced in beady/bloggy stuff. She's kindly allowed me to use pictures from her blog to illustrate this post. Just for fun I've also done an email interview with her about her work (see below).
my BSBP partner Ana
Ana uses colour to great effect: I love the way the colours sing in these recent earrings of hers. A good way of seeing a lot of her work at once is in her Etsy shop, which also contains pieces made by her husband - they're evidently a creative pair of people!
Some recent work by Ana
Here is my email interview with Ana.

1. What is your favourite colour to work with at the moment?
Yellow, grey and green. I used to steer clear of these colours now I'm making an effort to incorporate new colours as part of the next step in my beading evolution. And the most surprising part: I'm having so much fun using these colours!

2. What is your favourite metal to work with at the moment?
Ana: I'm having so much fun discovering gun metal. As part of my dedication to improve my beading skills I go through my finished jewellery on a regular basis taking apart pieces that I'm no longer satisfied with because I see something in the design or technique used that could be improved. So I took apart some designs and substituted silver wire with gun metal with amazing results. It's just awesome how a piece of blah jewellery was transformed just by changing the colour of the wire.

3. What special place inspires you and why?
Ana: I've thought long and hard about this one because going on road trips is one of my favourite things to do. My husband and I love to travel around Slovenia and discovering our lovely country and its less known beautiful places. And while I do have a favourite city that I love to travel to it doesn't really inspire me. When thinking about what place inspires me I kept going back home, literally. So the place that inspires me is our home, our apartment, the way we've decorated it that resonates our personalities and our lifestyle from the tiny twin shelves to the vinyl sticker of a giant tree on our bedroom wall I love to look at as I sip my morning coffee.

4. What are your favourite books to read at the moment and why?
Ana: As I'm currently preparing for my bar exam I have put fiction literature aside for the foreseeable future and replaced them with law books, articles and other materials I have to study. While some of them are very interesting the others slightly less so and I do miss reading a good novel from time to time but at the end of the day the thought of reading some more makes my head sore, so I opt for some easy entertainment like watching my favourite hero: Poirot.

5. What things about jewellery-making have you learnt over the years that you wish you had known earlier?
Ana: To pay as much attention to the quality and diversity of clasps and findings as to the beads themselves. This would be the biggest lesson learned in all of my DIY whether it be sewing or beading or anything else, is that the foundation or the ground structure of any project has to be solid. By that I mean not only when it comes to materials used but also the techniques and knowledge of all steps of the creative process, like learning to fit clasps properly, knotting, wire wrapping etc.

6. What is your favourite jewellery-making technique at the moment?
Ana: Bead knotting using waxed cord. It's a bit time consuming but oh so relaxing.

7. What do you like most about the BSBP?
Ana: My favourite part of the BSBP is meeting new people. Since I live in an area with no crafters I could connect with, I often feel isolated. I love the bead soup because so many people get together to exchange thoughts, ideas, interesting techniques, knowledge and just talk to each other and connect and have fun.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Bead Soup Blog Party 2013

Well! Guess what, I have signed up for Lori Anderson's Bead Soup Blog Party for the first time ever. It is all very exciting. I have been paired up with Ana Krepel from Slovenia. We are going to be in the 2nd Reveal.

I posted my carefully-selected Bead Soup out to her on Saturday. Using my newfound hobby of messing with the settings in Microsoft Picture Manager (yeah, I know, I know, but the current alternative is MS Paint and its spray-can setting - I did try this but the results were rather garish) I have cropped my original photo severely, and messed with the brightness, colour and contrast until I got the rather pleasing but utterly uninformative image below.

Update: I received my package from Ana today! Will post photos once we get a bit of sunlight round here.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Rose-tinted glasses and anti-statements

We went into town today and of course, the shops seemed full of Valentine's Day things. Most years I get a bit annoyed at the commercialisation of February 14th and the not-so-subliminal cultural messages about what men and women are for. This year, against all expectations, I caught myself thinking "that's such a cute little gift", "ooh, like the colours on that", "that's actually really nice" and "hey, maybe I could make something similar"! It's official: I have become sappy in my old age.
Guess it might be something to do with the fact that my son was skipping along the pavement with infectious enthusiasm, his little hand firmly holding mine. Plus, I'd been for a seven-mile run earlier, and was getting a decent rush of post-exercise endorphins. All in all, a very good recipe for a rose-tinted view of the world.  
Anti-statement necklace
In line with the Valentines Day/rose-tinted theme, here is a rare foray into pink for me: my second new work necklace. My category of "work necklaces" has very strict eligibility criteria, including: reasonably conservative design, not too heavy, not too long, not over-complex, not jingly-jangly, and a nice finish without scrappy bits. It is sort of the opposite of a statement necklace: an anti-statement necklace, perhaps.
I've often found myself wishing I had a necklace with pink in, because warm colours can be fussy: often they do not get along with other warm colours (eg pink, orange, yellow, red, purple: pairs or trios of these colours can be made to go together, but they have to be exactly the right shades, or they have terrible fallings-out).

So this is a similar design to the last work necklace, but with some extra features including some chain around the back instead of gemstone chips: I'll see which version turns out more comfortable to wear. I can change the length of the chain section a bit if I want to (meaning: I can add/remove links with the help of pliers!). Could also change the pendant around if I get bored with this one.

Just discovered the "Edit Picture" menu in Picture Manager and have been having lots of fun adjusting settings!
Next thing to think about is going to be a "work necklace" for my sister in Australia, maybe with brighter colours because, I hear, they actually get some sunshine over there. Aiming to get it made and posted in time for her birthday...

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Stepping up a grade, silver, my sister, and the sea.

As people who know me may have heard, I'm supposed to be going up a grade at work soon - hurrah! I won't be contracted to work any nights or weekends anymore, so I will actually be taking a pay cut, but it will be my first exposure to formal meetings etc and will definitely help me develop new skills. All this is a good reason to upgrade my wardrobe - which in turn will necessitate some suitably sober necklaces that are not too long, jangly or whimsical!

Of course I wanted to wear a necklace that has meaning to me. So I chose this beautiful bead which my sister in Australia chose for me. It's white with gold speckles, and because of its shape it reminds me very much of a sea-shell glistening on the shore. So in line with the "sea" theme, I made a silver <cough-plated-cough> wire spiral, added some iridescent pink spacers, and threaded this pendant onto a string of seed beads and amethyst chips. Of course, as it is a sea-themed necklace, I had to go for a lobster clasp! - but may later upgrade the silver connector ring to something else if it gets too tatty-looking with use (this is what happened to a previous necklace using these components for clasps - I think it was just tarnish rather than the silver-plating wearing away).

I've wound it round twice in the picture above so you can see what I mean about the clasp, but the picture below shows how I've used the two colours of seed-beads - in a pattern inspired by the "colour blocking" trend of the past few years. Basically there's a section of silver-cored seed beads, then shiny dark-grey ones at the bottom, then silver-cored ones again. Having learnt from my previous "rustic" bracelet, I chose some of my better-quality seed beads that aren't too irregularly shaped!

What do you think? I am very pleased with it.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Experimenting with "memories" bracelet design

I liked the bracelet design I'd used for the Memories and Thanks blog hop, so I have been doing some experimenting with the same design using different beads. The results are very different!

Here is the first one. I found it hard to get the seed beads to sit properly, because they're not quite regular in shape. Also, the green seed beads were quite big, so even having the small black seed-beads at the end meant that they didn't want to sit next to each other very happily. Still, it has a rustic sort of feel, which I like.

So for the second and third one, I used smaller, more regular-sized seed beads. I also added crystals and chose colour-schemes that would suit the people I had in mind to give these to. I was pleased with how these turned out, and so they did actually end up as presents!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Muddy English winter

This is the last of the sunny photos. Here, I wanted to make a more subtle necklace that would Go With My Stuff, especially with the higher necklines that it's nice to wear in this cold draughty weather.

I have a lot of blue-themed necklaces (probably because I am always drawn to blue colours when buying beads) but nothing that goes well with warmer colours. I was also thinking about the thin, watery light we are getting now, and the muted colours and bare earth of a muddy English winter.

So here, I paired green glass with picture jasper, and with white and blue wooden rondelles. The simplicity and symmetry of the overall design is complimented by the individuality of each jasper bead. The findings (clasp, crimps, crimp covers) are all tarnished-copper tones.

I can't show you the whole thing because as originally photographed here (on that sunny day) I wasn't quite happy with the finishing around the clasp area. So I have re-strung it today, with improved end-sections, and am now pleased with it.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

On essential journeys, and some ways in which we are not like picket fences.

Well, I don't know about how it is where you guys are, but round here it is snowy. Driving back from work tonight, through snow-flurries lit up by my headlights, it was almost impossible to see the road properly. I took the long way home rather than cut down the tiny country roads as usual. Listening to the radio presenters debate at some length what constitutes an essential journey, I felt somehow despondent at hearing my own job listed among the long list of jobs which meant one's journey into work was "essential" - and very thankful for my winter tyres.

I still have some pictures left from that single sunny day before Christmas, so today seemed a good day for posting them. This one here is of the necklace made for my lovely middle sister, based around a purple-spots-on-white bead which reminded me of her. On either side of this are two beads that once adorned the very first handmade necklace I ever bought at a craft fair, when I was almost exactly the same age my sister is now. Recently I took that necklace apart, because so much has happened to us all since then that I almost get vertigo looking at it. But I do still like this pair of beads for their interesting shape.

Then, there's a lot of moss agate stones, and a collection of different purpley-pink glass beads of various different sizes - and different shapes, too, because a lot of them are handmade. The result has a knobbly, irregular, slightly folky feel to it, which I am coming to prefer to the pristine, machine-made look. The asymmetry in the shades of moss agate make the greens seem to shimmer, which draws the eye and gives some life to the design.

In this picture, the necklace appears longer than it really is - because people are not in fact shaped like picket fences. The perspective is a bit screwy, too: all the silver spacers in this necklace are actually the same size, so that the purple beads at the top are quite small really. I need a better mannequin than a wooden fence! Maybe I could get one of those vintage-French-style papier-mache dress-forms, if I can finally clear out the spare room (one of my New Year's resolutions that has sadly gone as yet unrealised).

Monday, 14 January 2013

Family ties

My mother has three daughters living away from home (well, it's recently become two-and-a-half for a while, but that's another story!). So I made this necklace as a Christmas-present for her, using beads sourced from where each of the three of us are based.

There are some large glass beads, recycled from a necklace that I bought second-hand in my local town; there are moss agate and silver-coloured spacer beads, from my youngest sister's city; and there are green glass beads and butterfly beads, from where another sister lives in Australia.

Over the three weeks in the run-up Christmas, we seemed only to have had about 10 minutes of sunshine, total. The rest of the time, it rained. Just rained. I complained a lot. Now it's icy-snowy, and I want the nice mild rainy days back again!

Anyway, during those brief few moments of sunshine, I took these photos.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

(Blog Hop) - Thank You From The Bottom of My Bathroom Basin

This blog hop is supposed to be about someone in your life who means a lot to you. But I found it really hard to decide who to choose. You see, there are so many people in my life whom I love dearly and admire greatly. I can't even list them, because that would involve putting them in some sort of order and I didn't want to do that, it just felt so wrong. What I really wanted to do, in fact, was to find some way of mixing them up and figuratively pulling a single name out of the hat, that didn't involve some mechanical procedure such as literally pulling names out of a hat.

In the end, I decided to solve this problem by focusing right down on the moment I am living in now. When I decided this, I was walking to collect my son from the house of the amazing lady who collects him (and a few other children) at the end of the school day, and looks after him until I get home from work. He is so happy there, and our lives are by far the richer for knowing her and her family.

Besides all this, she has even got him eating lasagne at her house and demanding second helpings!!! I have no clue how she does this, besides being a pretty incredible cook. Last time he ate my lasagne, he was a little baby who would eat everything, even paper: perhaps I need to work on those culinary skills a bit more.

So how do I make something that describes her personality? She is organised and calm; so I chose a regular, symmetrical design. She loves nature, so I chose a mottled green ceramic focal, wooden spacers and handmade black glass beads. She also loves the vintage/antique look so I included some glass pearls.

As you will see from the time of this posting, it's night-time here at the moment, so after some experimentation I have photographed this in the whitest, lightest area of the house (drum-roll....:) Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Our bathroom basin.

You can find the rest of the blog hop at Lori's blog.

Friday, 4 January 2013

1000 page views + Blog Hop 12 Jan

Whew, I have now had over 1000 page views! (I have set Blogger to not count my own page-views, also!)

I know this isn't a lot by some standards, but still, it's a lot more than I expected when I set this up. It is nice to feel part of a community.

So, talking of that community thing, I've finally plucked up the courage to sign up for my first ever blog hop - eek!

The blog hop is going to run on the 12th of Jan. You can read more about it here. I am still not sure what I'm going to post for it. Watch this space.