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!

From: http://kerrieberrie.co.uk/new-handmade-lampwork-beads/handmade-glass-turtle