Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Getting Past Creative Block: Let It Grow

This is what I did to get past my creative block and get started making things again.
  • I took inspiration from something with real emotional content for me
  • I tried to communicate that emotional content in my work
  • For the purposes of getting past creative block, I told myself that it is not relevant whether the work was good or not-good. The only important thing, I told myself, is whether the work speaks.
  • I had a lot of fun hammering wire.
I think actually that last point was probably the most important one.

Let it Grow Necklace

Where this started from was actually the wire-hammering and combination of elements that I described in this blog post. The curling shapes were meant to represent the thaw of the frozen forest, the sudden blossoming of flowers and the  growing of wild vines in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - especially the scene when Bacchus arrives and they all have an enormous party! Then at the last moment I added the little blue ceramic bird from BlueBerriBeads, left over from the Bead Soup Blog Party.

It is quite a riotous necklace. If worn with very sensible clothes, it might be called a "statement necklace", except that the statement usually made by statement necklaces is something like I spent a lot of money on this necklace whereas the statement I was trying to make was more like


Which reminds me. I really ought to get round to watching Frozen one of these days...

Monday, 22 December 2014

Inspired by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

My inspiration currently is C. S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I'm reading this to my son at the moment. One of my favourite parts of the story is the thawing of the frozen forest, when the streams start to flow again and the flowers all begin to appear.

So I tried curling some 0.8mm wire to embellish acrylic flowers, trying to capture the idea of new things growing. The rest of the wire can then make a loop, so that the flowers can be attached to something.

The other beads in the mix at the moment, apart from those green acrylic flowers, are:
  • glazed ceramic rings
  • pinkish-beige coloured rondelles of (howlite or magnesite? not sure…)
  • rose-gold coloured pearls
  • jasper stone chips to use as spacers
All the above from my local bead shop, except the jasper chips which were from The Internet (I forget where).

Here are the elements strung on a bit of spare beading wire - which is what I will have to use if I string them all together, because it's the only wire thin enough to go through the small holes in the pearls. And that means that the wire loop on the acrylic flowers will have to be a wrapped loop, as simple loops can too easily fall off beading wire.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Magical spaces and colours

Today I have had that rare thing, a quiet, reflective day.

For several months I have seemingly been able to exist only in two states: working (I include housework in this category, although alas it's not paid), and feeling guilty about not working. But today, I had a whole day of being in that space between those two states, where I can just be me without reference to work of any sort. Which has been rather lovely.

I have to admit that I haven't actually made anything for ages, since making only happens for me in that magical space between the working and the guilt-at-not-working, and that space hasn't yet opened up for long enough for sustained creativity.

But, I wanted to share with you these pictures taken from when my son and I visited the park in November. (That is actually the last time we have been to the park; the weather since that time has been shocking). The colours were so gorgeous, I had to take photographs: bright golds, misty purples, and emerald greens. Autumn is a sort of in-between, transitional space too, of course; every day the colours change, and every day is one day further away from midsummer and one day nearer to Christmas. All the golden colours have gone now; winter trees abound. More updates later.

Monday, 9 June 2014

In which we are all infected by Tour de Yorkshire Fever

It seems that Yorkshire has gone completely Tour de Yorkshire mad. For those who have been on another planet for the past few months, this year Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France will take place in Yorkshire. This is very exciting for everyone. To put it mildly.

Yorkshirepeople have been decorating their homes, villages, shops, public buildings, and anything else they can with Tour de France-themed things:

Tour de Yorkshire Fever
Inspired by the mini jerseys hanging up on the Ceramic Cafe in that top-right image, I decided to make little yellow-jersey earrings with some of the scraps of left-over felt from our toy-making. These cute little jerseys are sewn on to bits of wire bent into the shape of coat hangers. You can see both sides in this picture here, but they hang so that the coathanger-side is towards the back. 

Tour de Yorkshire earrings

Patch acquires a collar and a friend

In breaking news: Patch has now acquired a collar and a slightly alien-looking friend called Kitty. Kitty's alien looks are not exactly helped by her blue colour: actually she is supposed to be a Siamese cat. Can you tell?

Kitty's ears are notably more resilient than Patch's. This may be something to do with the fact that we forgot to read the bit in the instructions about making Patch's ears out of double-layer felt. Oops.

Here endeth your update from Felt Toys Central. You're welcome.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Perfection, imperfection, parenthood and the importance of handmade things

I've been spending this week with my son (half-term holidays). We have been revelling in all my favourite things. We've been to the library, to several playgrounds (I am quite happy to spend hours in the playground, even in the rain, if I get to sit on a bench under an umbrella reading a novel), to the museum, to many fine cafes, and even to a fascinating talk by a classicist from the University about narrative devices in epic.

During one of our many cafe trips we chanced upon Jane Bull's "Crafty Creatures" for sale (ALL cafes should have books for sale, right?). My son was incredibly excited by the "pocket pets" section of this book - it was so special that he wouldn't even let me take a photo of the page with his favourite one, Patch.

We wrote out a shopping-list (comprising: felt, thread, and stuffing), and off we went to the Needlepoint Cafe to select our materials. The Needlepoint Cafe, by the way, is an amazing place - stocked full of inspirational delights, from kits and books to raw materials. Also, coffee and cake (although we didn't stay for those because we were so excited to have bought our materials).

He was worried that he wouldn't be able to do it, and reluctant to try at first, but I reassured him that it didn't have to be perfect, and anyway nothing in life is perfect… So we made a deal that he would trace the pattern onto greaseproof paper, that I would do the cutting-out and other fiddly bits, and that we'd each take it in turns to do the stitching. I was surprised how well he did with the stitching, given that he'd never held a needle in his life before: and also, remarkably, how quiet and focused he became while doing this (usually he plays noisily at battles and suchlike).

We started out by making Red, a tiny rabbit. Red is only a baby, so he had to have a nap on my bed while my son sang him a lullaby which went like this: bouncy bouncy bouncy away to sleep. Then, buoyed by our success, we made the coveted Patch. But then Patch wanted a bone, so we made him one of those too.

Lastly Red needed a sleeping-bag "so that he could sleep on his own". My son was very exacting about the design, which had to be redrawn several times. He also designed the star-and-five-dots motif all by himself, and helped stitch the star and place the dots. It's quite hard to see it in this picture: there is one dot in each of the five gaps between the star's points.

"Perfect!" I exclaimed, as he pulled through a particularly well-placed stitch.
"But Mummy ... I thought that nothing was perfect?" he said.
"I meant nearly perfect," I corrected myself hastily.
"Well, why does the word perfect exist," he said after a little thought, "if nothing is actually perfect?"

I thought back to our earlier conversation about why things are often so good in your head and then don't turn out as planned.

"I suppose perfection is an ideal," I said, thinking of Platonic idealism, "it's something in our heads, like the paper patterns we used for our sewing which didn't come out exactly the same when we traced them and cut out the fabric pieces. But we still need the pattern, the template,  in our heads so that we can compare the real things to the ideal."

That comes close to expressing why handmade things are so important to me. What we make with our hands is an imperfect representation of something that's in our heads: maybe not always a template but sometimes an idea, an emotional truth.

I don't know what his truth was: but I do think that one of the many roles of a parent is to give a child the shielding it'll need to cope on its own one day, just like Red's carefully-decorated little sleeping-bag.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

BSBP reveal.

This is my BSBP reveal! Yay! (See my previous posts for the beads my BSBP sent me, and a link to her blog; here is the link to the complete list of blogs in the BSBP).

So I was sitting side by side with my six-year-old son, companionably doing our "arts and crafts" together, when he astutely observed: "Mummy, why do things always look so brilliant in my head, and then, when they come out, they don't?"

Good question, mate. I have often wondered the same thing myself.

"It would be a lot easier if we lived inside our heads," he added, helpfully.

Anyway, my main BSBP creation, which was originally supposed to be a necklace, decided it was going to be a lariat instead:

I am also in the process of making things with the other bits, but they're not quite ready yet.

Looking forward to seeing what the properly talented people produce...

Monday, 31 March 2014

Some ingredients of the Bead Soup I sent to Stacy

Stacy tells me she received the Bead Soup I sent her (phew - WHY did I not send it recorded delivery?) so I can now post photos! Unfortunately, not all my photos of this soup came out properly, because I was in a hurry.

Here are the less-blurred ingredients:

a) lampwork toggle clasp from Earthshine Beads
b) poppy jasper rounds from Beadworks, Covent Garden
c) dark blue Bohemian faceted crystal - bought from Ron Chudy's shop when I was in Australia

all of which are shown (not all in perfect focus) in the photo below.

Photo the First. Demonstrating the refractive power of, er, plastic.
The focal is:
d) a lampwork heart bead from Craven and White

Photo the Second. Pillowcase: stylist's own.
The soup also contains:
e) some other stuff not shown here, because I am a rubbish photographer.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Readers, I made something! (Don't all faint at once).

So I finally made that knotted necklace. It is made from different-coloured ceramic discs, silver-plated large-hole beads and silver-plated toggle from Beads Unlimited  and navy waxed cotton which I bought from the Harrogate Bead Fair last year.

It is very simple but it has a bright 1980s kind of vibe. I have already been complimented on it.

Now, on to the next thing… (What is the next thing?)

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Bead Soup Arrived!

My bead soup arrived a few days ago!!

It is lovely!!! There are all sorts of interesting handmade things.

 More later!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Bead Soup Blog Party

Yay! This year I'm taking part again in Lori Anderson's Bead Soup Blog Party.

My partner is Stacy, whose blog you can find at http://iridalsattic.blogspot.co.uk.

Based on her blog I can tell you that we have the following things in common:

1. Like me, she lives in Northern England, which our local radio tells us "the greatest place on Earth". They may possibly be biased. It is pretty great, though.

2. Like me, she has a small child. 

3. Like me, she has been quite busy lately and we have both left posting our bead soups until just after the deadline…

There the comparison ends, though, as her hair is way better than mine. I am keeping a list of rude things hairdressers have said about my hair. "If only hair could talk!" is my favourite. 

I hope Stacy likes the soup I have sent. I spent ages choosing the clasp on Etsy, as I felt slightly anxious after our strict instructions about Choosing Nice and Thoughtful Gifts and Not Just Any Old Tat. Not that I would buy any old tat on purpose, you understand, but it's just that my taste is rather eclectic at times and may not always fulfil all the criteria for the BSBP. And then after that I felt anxious about whether the beads I thought were co-ordinating were actually co-ordinating.

Anyway. Fingers crossed. Gotta go now, before my hair starts talking.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Amazing wirework seen at art exhibition

Today I visited the Frodsham Arts Centre in Cheshire. And I saw this amazing piece of copper wirework, which I just had to photograph.

The label says it is by Sandra Christie and is called "Healing Herbs". The copper wire is very shiny so I think it must be quite a new piece. This is just a quick snap taken with my friend's phone, so it doesn't really do the artwork justice, but I don't often see wirework in real life so thought I'd record it here.

UPDATE: Sandra herself!!!!!! has got in touch with me and provided this much better photo of her beautiful artwork. If anyone wants to get in touch with her you can go to her website here.

Sandra's proper photo

My hurried snap

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Help me overcome my "block" and get back into making jewellery!

Suggestions / general encouragement please! I came across these chunky ceramic disc beads (about 3cm diameter) from Beads Unlimited and really liked the bright colours. I think this might just be my route back into making jewellery! I have been experiencing something of a "block" lately, for reasons unknown.

Here I have put them together with some navy blue waxed cotton and large-hole silver spacers, planning on making a necklace. The colours here are almost true - the second disc down is a sort of salmony-pink and the fifth one, at the bottom, is a bright, pillar-box red.

All suggestions and encouragement welcome! What would you do with them?

De Clutter 2014 Week 2! (OK, I sort of skipped week 1).

Inspired by Bonnie at Jasper's Gems I am doing a big de-clutter over 2014.

Today I have done 2 clear-outs!

Firstly I have sorted out my son's wardrobe. He had a growth spurt a couple of months ago and I'd got him the next size up in lots of things (and recently augmented his wardrobe further in the January Sales). But I had not got round to passing on (to the charity shop) all those old favourites that are now slightly too small, so we were running out of space to put anything anywhere.

So I sorted out his clothes today. I was really worried that he would take offence, as he doesn't like change very much when imposed by others (well, who does?) but he was SO pleased to wear his new pyjamas that he specially requested a photo be taken of him wearing them! (no comment on whether this may have been actually a cunning ruse to spin out bedtime...)

The second clear-out I haven't quite finished yet for today - it has also been forced on me by shopping in the January Sales (damn that online shopping, it's far too easy): so I have been thinning out my own wardrobe too. Gotta make some space for the new stuff, after all!