Monday, 31 December 2007

The End is Nigh!

So its another New Year's Eve and another night in. Technically Geoff and I were supposed to get to go out this year - we had my sister's kids last year so it was OUR TURN, dagnabit! But Daxi is 8 and a half months pregnant and not in any real condition to have our kids as well as her own so we don't get to go out. I can't even drink because I'm on labour emergency call (so if she goes into labour I get to jump in the car, drive down there and look after the evil wee girlies). Which is a shame because I'm high as a kite at the minute and partying the night away would be FUN. Although I'd be seriously at risk of inappropriate, gender irrelevant snogging. But c'est la vie.. there's always next year and she's going to bloody well get spayed this year if I have to take her to the vets hospital myself!

Otherwise I'm good. My Plan is going to... well, plan, helped along by the fact that I'm almost certainly mid mania at the minute, not sleeping, highly energetic and ultra efficient but I'm pleased I've been doing quite well at keeping a balance betweeen different things. Work, play and home are all featuring in equal amounts (even my husband doesn't appear to feel neglected... just slightly harrassed by my constant demands that he do this, that and t'other). I have set myself the possibly unrealistic target of stocktaking everything and changing all those blinkin domains by the 3rd (because thats when the shop reopens) but I'm actually getting through them OK at the minute so it should be perfectly manageable.

Both Bry's and Jans paintings have had work done on them (I say painting, they're both technically still drawings - brys is at least mapped out on watercolour paper whereas jans is still getting its rough draft done). I was waiting for masking fluid before doing any more work on Bry's (which also served as a reminder Not to Shop when manic - because a simple quest to get a couple of bottles of masking fluid turned into a £350 art materials & paper shopping spree *sigh* including masking fluid from four different retailers...). And my house is getting tidy and hoovered (another classic manic thing.... I clean when I'm manic. I don't clean any other time though...!) I've been kind of good with not eating too much rubbish which is to say I've ben eating less of it, not none, although it won't kick into full gear until all the christmas goodies are gone. And I've been home exercising dutifully. Holly likes it - slightly bemused kitty rubbing up against me when I'm on the office floor doing stretches!

So... here's to a productive, busy and highly enjoyable 2008 :o)

~loves y'all lots~


Saturday, 29 December 2007

Making my life better - creativity

"I want to find a balance between money making, personal fulfillment and my responsibilities as a wife and mother. I want to make my husband and children happier while not feeling it takes away from the money or personal side of my life."

That was written amidst some notes but probably sums up what I'm aiming for overall.

With my job, and business development plans, creative wellbeing is intrinsically tied to work. So this post is about creativity and work as two separate but interrelated topics. I'll have a separate one about money and work although again, I have a fairly holistic approach. How could work, money, creativity, relationships, health and fitness not be interlinked? They're all about the common theme of me and my sense of happiness and fulfillment.
I want to work through the points 2 and 3 in Steven Aitchison's article 'Change Your Life Part 1: Grab Your Balls'

[Taken from his post with my answers in red:]

Most people don’t know what they really want to do with their
working life. Try the following exercise:

Write down 7 things you love to do: Read, Shop, Spend time with friends, Draw, Play with Beads, Write, Receive praise

Write down your 7 best talents (be honest and don’t be shy): Design, Analysis, Seeing how things (physical or abstract concepts) work, Jewellery making, writing, ability to learn quickly, sales, animal interpretation

Write down 7 jobs you’d love to do: Jeweller, Artist, Singer, Entrepreneur, Writer (non fiction), Wildlife photographer, erm... I'm stuck

Write down 7 things other people say you’re good at: Jewellery making, art & design, making people feel better, self analysis, sales, techy web stuff, mind reading (its a combination of empathy, logic and interpretation of body language, I do it unconsciously).

Write down 7 courses you would take [cut - specified university but I think thats too limiting. Not everyone wants to learn something purely academic - personally I've done quite enough academia to know I'm damn clever, now I wanna have fun!] if you had the chance: Silversmithing, salsa classes, drama, enamelling, fantasy watercolour painting, the psychology of mental illness, circus skills

After you have down this look at all the things you’ve
written and try and find a common theme. It might be teaching, it might be
learning, it might be driving just try and find the theme.

Art, design, performance, sales. I want to be good at my arts, and I want to achieve recognition and financial recompense for them.

3. If someone gave me a million pounds

If someone gave you a million pounds to change careers what
career would you choose?

I'd take the opportunity to learn to become a bench jeweller, opal cutter and artist, and to develop a name writing about my chosen arts. All three skills would require learning and practise.

[end article text]

To an extent I know what I want to be, what I want to do and how I need to change things to get there - but I think everyone knows that about themselves really, whats important is working out the specifics.

  • I want to develop as an artist.
  • I want the development of my websites, galleries and tutorials to drive money in through the business rather than the sales side being the focus and everything else being an afterthought 'when I have time' - switching those focuses is perfectly possible but requires planning and determination.
  • I want to spend less time on the work that I dislike to free up more time for the artistic side.
  • I want to get my websites up,
  • I want to be a good artist,
  • I want to be beautiful and I want to keep in touch with the things I enjoy.
  • I want to stop procrastinating with things that mean nothing and result in me getting frustrated,

I can see all the answers are there, everything I need to change my entire life focus and I can see what's stopping me from reaching it. I need to work out how to get past those obstacles, not just now but as an ongoing thing.

So - back to the focus. Creativity is a wonderful thing and I have the good fortune to be passably good at most things I try. I also learn extremely quickly. But I do have a tendancy to be impatient and fickle. My interests can change quickly and I'm not very good at working myself through passably good and onto excellence. I'm also quite poor at doing things that require a degree of setting up - because its not instant gratification and inevitably requires the drudge work afterwards of clearning up. My strongest artistic skills are cold jewellery making, web design and written communiation - because they're the ones I've been doing the longest. They're also the ones that currently contribute to my income. I'd like to add traditional art, cgi art, bench jeweller, opal cutter, and specifically specialist jewellery making writer to that skill set that makes money. Of those four extra things, writing is the only one I currently do so it stays as its essential to my business plans. The others are all new skills that will require development over a period of time. As my current interest is traditional art (and by traditional I mean pencils, pastels and paints), that stays too. Bench jewellery and opal cutting both require additional expenditure and learning from scratch so they can be pus aside for later development. CGI art I was reasonably good at until I found a reason to stop doing it, and realistically I no longer have a computer capable of dealing with modelling software. So it stays on the shelf as well.

Creativity requires regular practise - the more you do it, the better you get. Simple and obvious but easy to overlook. Some creative things are essential to my job. Jewellery making sells my beads and components by demonstrating their potential use. Writing enables me to sell my products through clear use of words. Web design enables me to create welcoming and easy to use environments in which to shop. My fledgling tutorials project is aimed at reaching a wider jewellery-making audience to buy my products (I write the tutorials using the ebay guides feature. Whether you love it or hate it, ebay has great search engine ranking). But they all need developing. I have a jewellery gallery within my ebay shop aimed at providing design ideas but it doesn't get updated anywhere near as often as it should. I should be producing a tutorial a week, and I've only managed two since the conception of the project several months ago. Both finished jewellery and jewellery making sales websites are still in their embryonic stage. I have plans to start writing for magazines, again with the aim of promoting myself and my products to a wider audience (but need the websites finished first, realistically - eBay is a problematic venue). And I have all manner of plans for raising my internet profile to much higher levels (again, I kind of need the websites finished first). Artistically, I see no particular reason that I couldnt become a good enough artist to be saleable, but more importantly, its something I enjoy doing for ME. I don't want to spend every waking moment obsessed with whether what I'm doing makes a profit.

I believe that doing (I used 'practising' first but that suggests 'not for real' which is misleading) those artistic skills, regularly and consistantly will automatically result in a greater income. As above, I want to use my creativity to drive sales to the more mundane side of my business, by creating a reputable, well regarded presence within my fields, rather than my focus being entirely on the mundane side with anything creative being an afterthought. So my products are listed, sold and restocked with very little direct input while traffic comes from making jewellery, writing about design ideas, tutorials, magazine features etc which is a major shift from where I am now where all of my sales come through ebay and I'm constantly revising listings, and adding new products (and getting very bored and frustrated with it, and angry at myself for being bored with it).

So on a regular basis I aim to:
  • Draw or paint
  • Make Jewellery
  • Write online tutorials for publishing on both my websites and ebay
  • Write tutorials aimed at specific magazines
  • Spend some time every week looking at promoting my web presence through the use of online communities (various methods from writing book reviews to offering advise on jewellery making forums)

I should be spending some time, every day, at a creative activity that I enjoy.

To do this I need to:
  • Get my house in order - finish my websites and make sure my stock is all listed
  • Energise myself - mental energy is related to physical energy and that is related to diet and exercise
  • Create a calm environment - I hate mess and disorganisation (bit stupid really given that I'm one of the messiest people I know) - schedule in regular housework.
  • Develop a balanced life schedule. I don't mean to the exclusion of spontaneity but I dont want to be sitting round going arghhh I don't know what to do either. I'm at my best when I'm structured and busy and I operate well with lists.
  • Have welcoming artistic environments. My bead room is getting better, it feels a bit more homey now and Geoff shifted his CCG cards off my desk in there. My stock will be moving out of the office at some point in spring (to new premises - they're currently being built) at which point the office  can be optimised towards Geoff and I doing things we enjoy. Drawing is OK at my desk, painting really isn't.
My main problem here is balance and scheduling and organsation and I want help and suggestions with this.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Still reasonably content...

... although possibly slightly cranky because my shoulder has gone again - I pulled a tendon or something in my neck a week ago and I thought it had healed but stretched it a little too sharply this morning and I'm once again in agony and unable to use it without severe pain. Possibly hauling 20kg boxes of beads around yesterday didn't entirely help matters either. Sadly that limits my drawing and painting - and computer use - typing isn't a problem but using a mouse IS. Possibly I should get Geoff to swap my tower and printer round so I don't actually have to stretch for my mouse.

Either way, given pain and inability what I was drawing has been temporarily abandoned and instead I'm busy printing off all the squillions of reference photos I have and organising them into files. Which will give the advantage of not needing me to be tied to my PC when I'm drawing because there little display folders are portable :-). I was busy doing both Bry's and Jans stuff but Bry's is at the stage where I can't go any further without masking fluid (I'm working in watercolour) and Jan's needs large amounts of sketching-planning done which hurts my shoulder if I do it for more than a few minutes.

While there's numerous other things need doing I'm having real difficulty coming up with anything that isn't going to further damage me. Even reading strains is which is a total bitch because I'm kind of left with plonking my arse down in front of the TV which I rarely do and have no wish to do. Given everything, reading is possibly my best bet, especially as I'm currently at home alone with mini bratling - Geoff and the middle two kids have gone over to Andy & Alvery's to see the kids and play some games and Darren's off out with a pack of teenagers. Sleep sounds kind of tempting - I deliberately woke up at 4am to get some drawing time in undisturbed by kids or husband so I'm kinda tired, but obviously not an option with the small snotty one running around.

So yeah, enjoying the time off work even if it does make me feel guilty, but kinda bored on account of not being able to do anything. Ho hum...

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Merry Christmas

Its boxing day. I managed a WHOLE DAY without turning on my PC, a feat of which I'm reasonably proud, being me. So Merry Christmas everyone and I hope you're enjoying it.

Christmas with four hyperexcited kids was, unsurprisingly, tiring. Possibly moreso for Geoff than for me, given that he's post killer-illness and all. Mainly I sat around and read - finished my Terry Brooks novel which I started on Christmas Eve - Genesis of Shannara is really rather good. I've never read the Shannara books (and have no particular desire to do so) but am a huge fan of the Word and the Void trilogy and his newest series (beginning with Genesis) ties the two worlds together. And then sat and read a couple of fantasy art books.

This morning have just started yet another fantasy art book. I know I'm going to like an author when, within the first couple of pages, he has a diagram with corresponding descriptions of his workspace which include "2. Door. This leads to a big, scary thing called the Outside World. Most fantasy artists avoid using this unless completely neccessary" and "8. Phone. Tenuous link with the Outside World - to be used carefully and wisely.". He even writes like me (LOL - note the capitalisation!) so I think I'm rather going to like Finlay Cowan, he has a sharp, intelligent humour and unusual streak of practicality that appeals.

Other than those I had a stack of other books to get through, which doesn't concern me too much given that I read faster than anyone I know, by quite some way. It amuses me that that particular skill awes Geoff. I'd never particularly thought about it before he brought it up but he is gratifyingly amazed by it. Its not a conscious effort *shrugs* I just read quickly. Its also vaguely pleasing that there's an 'intellectual' skill in which I rate higher than he does. I have a definite tendancy to prefer significant males to be cleverer than me... rooted in, I suspect, an evolved version of base instinctual desire to have a 'strong' mate... I just value intellect over strength and speed, unlike my historic peers. But it can make me feel slightly 'lesser' at times (look, I married a nuclear physicist - I'm going to feel intellctually inferior at times!). But strength of mind - both intellectual and emotional are important (the latter possibly moreso, emotionally broken people make me VERY uncomfortable. Rather hypocritical of me, all things considered).

Eitherway, yeah, reading. Lots of it. And working up the neccessary resolve and conviction to get an entire collection of outstanding birthday and christmas presents drawn. Bryans first one has at least been sketched in rough, Georgie's and Jan's are still half-formed images in my mind. And they're all very different so should be good practise at a variety of skills (luckily going to a collection of people who will appreciate the sentiment and effort over the artistic skill!)

I also, on christmas eve, had a delivery of some 200+ kg of beads which should have arrived some six weeks previously, in time for christmas selling. So at some point I need to investigate those.

And on a lighter note, Geoff's Auntie Jean, wonderful character with a baby obsession and ability to talk, incessantly, for hours in a cigs & whickey soaked voice, about people you've never met and don't care about managed to buy one of the boys a tin of succullent, hard-boiled willies by mistake. She thought the tin looked nice, in an old-lady kind of way - a traditional tin of boiled fruit sweets but missed the modern twist of phallic amusement. Luckily she has a sense of humour, I think my grandmother would have died of embarrasment.

So I hope you're all having a good one without too much stress, arguments and bitching!

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Lesson 5 - Colour Pencils

OK its not the greatest work of art ever, and I'm not quite exhibition quality but I like it :p

As mentioned in my last post, I tried drawing a castle (Conwy Castle to be precise) which was working rather well until I tried adding a girl in the forground using colour pencils. And discovered that colour pencils are not as intuitive as one might think. So I read a book on drawing with them (thanks Geoff! x) and followed a very simple exercise on getting the feel for colour, shading and hatching with coloured pencils - the suggested idea was completely abstract - just a sheet divided into different shapes and forms shades in in a variety of colours but I didn't feel like abstract to I've given them a recognisable form. The colour is more accurate on the one without the frame mount (its scanned - the mounted one is photographed)

I like colour pencils. They're bright and fun and don't need any set up or cleaning up after. So for now I'm going to continue trying with them (and watercolour pencils - which to be fair, said book concentrates on heavily).

Friday, 21 December 2007

Bah humbug!

It would appear that Christmas is not happening this year due to large amount of internet-ordered christmas pressies having not yet arrived (including darren's main present). So christmas is cancelled and its coal for the stockings.

On a lighter note, I've now STOPPED selling, today is my last day of mailing anything and as of this afternoon I'm officially On Holiday. Woohoo! Given that I haven't had a day off ( at all - I work weekends too) since June its really rather needed.

On the arty stuff side I've spent the last few days doing a coloured pencil exercise after a disastrous attempt to draw a girl in the forground of a castle with coloured pencil (the graphite castle kicks arse. The girl was incredibly poor). So I read a colour pencil techniques book and spent some time getting the 'feel' of coloured pencils with a pretty pretty picture which I shall post at some point soonish.

My mother in law took me birthday shopping to hobbycraft on wednesday which was cool. I am now the proud owner of some posh colour watercolour pencils, some very nice quality watercolour and sketch pads and a bloody great big portfolio carry thing in which to keep stuff.

On the subject of my birthday it turned out I wasn't forgotton after all. I got some cool stuff including a book on woodcarving and a miniature grinder set from my sister (plus a fluffy Tinkerbell fleece blanket!), a beautiful set of watercolour paints from Geoff, an easel from the big kids and oil paints from the wee ones among other stuff. And Jan got me the most amazing book on painting watercolour fairies which I'm desperate to try out once I get a few hours and some inspiration.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Fickle as a flutterbye!

Me that is! I've been busy for the last couple of days creating a shiny new website to showcase and sell my jewellery and provide an artsy backgroundess to it all. Artsy backgroundess including a getting to know the artist bit - which this blog will be imported into (hence locking anything I really don't want visible to potential customers to LJ friends). Its coming along nicely, Ive got the structure almost done, the design is looking good and a load of products are written and in place. Its not online yet - I need my card processing details to be resent to me before I can add them to the site but its coming along nicely.

However 10 minutes ago my birthday pressies from georgie arrived :o) So I have a shiny new how-to-draw-fairies book and the Drawing for Dummies book here and a need to sit and work through the ENTIRE drawing for dummies book with pencil and sketchpad. So at least for a while I'm going to leave my website creation in order to play. I'll probably spend the day alternating both.

Its perked me up a little though. While I've been working fine its been in a very 'normal' manner. I read something about omega three being beneficial to bipolars so I've been eating a little peppered mackeral every day and it does seem to be working. I'm not falling asleep whilst doing monotonous work and I'm not being utterly manic about my new site (or my new books - its the weekend, I'm allowed to play!)

But on Monday I reach the grand old age of 32 and I'm not a huge fan of birthdays, possibly just because having a birthday a week before Christmas really sucks. Apart from Georgie's books I have two presents to open on Monday - I know Geoff had one arive in yesterday's mail plus Jan dropped on in last night which was a welcome and very sweet surprise from him. I wanted to open it then and I think he'd have liked me too but presents being in such short supply I thought I'd save it. There will undoubtedly be more but everyone is so frantically busy organising Christmas that I tend to get forgotton until they're dropping / mailing christmas stuff. Geoff is broke so I don't blame him in the slightest for not managing my birthday but *sighs* it would be nice to have some exciting new things to play with.

The other thing that has been stressing me out is work. eBay customers are SO impatient this close to Christmas - and of course mail can be severely delayed - which adds up to a whole lot of annoyance.

I might get some sleep before doing anything - I was up early with Finn this morning and had fairly horrific nightmares through most of last night (its the stress!) and while I did try going back to bed at 9am when Geoff woke up, it lasted all of an hour before arguing children disturbed me.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

hmmmm artistic blank

I haven't been doing a whole lot of arty crafts stuff of late. Or rather I have but my entire time has been spent trying to master the drawing of realistic fur, which I've yet to accomplish. Jewellery making hasn't been happening at the minute simply because its too late to really get things hallmarked and on sale for Christmas so I've been concentrating on other things. I've also been weirdly obsessed with trying to get my house clean which I blame ENTIRELY on my sister. I ALWAYS get her pre-birth nesting instincts. Its so unfair.

Georgie did send my an amazon voucher for my birthday/christmas which I promptly spent on some artsy fairy books (and a terry brooks novel). Haven't arrived yet but amazon assure me they've been dispatched. And as I detailed in previous post I've been thinking LOTS about ways to develop the business in a way that will keep me interested. And I've done most of the geoff & older kids & family christmas shopping now. Only really my mother and some ancient relatives who need frames for their cam & finn school photos we had done to sort. Geoff will do cam & finns shopping.

I did finally get around to photographing my Vintage Lace necklace. Although it looks better 'in person'. I need to work on my necklace photography skills. Tiny things - no problem. Anything bigger than a bracelet and I start to struggle.

I can't remember if I already posted a picture but here it is.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Helping someone with depression

Please read. If you think it might help someone else you know, please pass it on (in a strictly non-spammy way of course! I wrote this, its not a forward)

At some point in your life, you will have a friend of family member suffer from a form of depression, whether it be long term chronic depression, postnatal depression or shorter term depression. Yet so many people refuse to accept its a real illness and think all a depressed person really needs is a kick up the arse.

Think about this. Just because you don't understand an illness doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Just because you feel you can't help doesn't mean you're not able to.

The key is educating yourself. Knowing about the illness and knowing how to help can all be achieved easily. You may not understand it - but you'll be aware.

Please read this and remember it. Because some day you might need it. Its a US site but very useful and very relevant.

Most of you are aware than I'm manic depressive (or bipolar if we're using the current PC term) by now I guess. This isn't about me, its about my current state of extreme anger towards someone I love who refuses point blank to accept the illness of someone else I love.

Oh and for the record I don't subscribe to the prayer-makes-everything-OK
stance. If you do, please remember more tangible gestures can be felt more easily. If you don't, do what i did and smile amusedly at the susperstition whilst taking on board the sensible stuff.


Monday, 3 December 2007

Lesson 4: A Whole Head!

Firstly... I want to explain something about how my brain works. If I think about doing things - I mean really think, do them in my mind - it has pretty much the same effect as practising. Hence my assertation that I'm pretty sure I could silversmith without too many problems - because while never having touched a soldering torch, I've read a lot, I understand the concepts, and the behaviour of metal and I've 'done it in my mind'. This always prompts looks (or types) of disbelief if I say it but its true.

The same applies to drawing. Before lesson 1 I hadn't drawn anything in over 5 years other than evil cat pic. And before that, when I was occasionally drawing I was awful. But I drew evil cat pic, thought I'd like to learn to draw, read some stuff and started *thinking* about it. Everything bar a cube and a cylinder that I've drawn in the last week has been detailed in my journal. So I'm not practising lots, but I AM thinking about it lots. Hence getting from not-very-good cat pic to quite reasonable portrait in a week.

OK portrait... this 'lesson' had a number of aims. Firstly to try and train myself to use more than two shades of grey when drawing! Secondly to get over my stupid statement that I can't draw noses or lips. If you can draw one thing OK you should be able to draw anything OK using the same basic techniques. And thirdly it was an excercise in drawing from sight - I used a googled photo of a girl to work from. And greyscaled it to help get to grips with the different shades of grey.

I think I managed aims 1 and 2 OK although because I once again couldn't be arsed to go upstairs and scan, the picture looks lighter at the bottom than the top. Aim 3 is a different matter. It is a reasonable drawing considering, but doesn't look especially like the model I drew. But that will come with time.

Its also highlighted that I could do with reading some hair tutorials. The picture was a close up of her face so there wasn't much of her hair to work from. The hairline was entirely made up because her photo cut off before the hairline. But I'm quite pleased with it.

And this is the same picture when I'd done the structure and just started filling in detail

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Lesson 3: Eyes and eyes and eyes all over....

This evening, I've tried to teach myself to draw eyes. 2 and a half pairs of.

The first one came out best overall I think but they're not aligned properly, the second pair ARE properly aligned but the irises don't match properly (plus the model was at a weird angle so one of her eyes had eyelashes pointing up and one eye had them pointing down. Which looks kind of weird without the rest of the face to explain it). And no, I can't do the rest of the face. I can do the eyes. A vague symbolic attempt at eyebrows. And thats it. Eventually I hope to have enough body parts in my repetoire to build an Entire Person however at the minute I can do a person with eyes, one finger and a thumb.

The third one was a quick 60 second attempt at 'value' drawing - ie drawing the image using tones to define rather than starting with a line drawing and shading in. Its very distinct from line drawing with shading and produces a different effect. Apparently. Either way the single eye was just to see if I'd grasped the idea properly. What I gleaned from that little exercise was that I really need toget a pencil which produces darker tones (I only have a standard HB pencil. I'm not allowed to go buy a range. Or some decent paper :p)

I did try drawing a rose this morning. It sucked. At least in part I think coz I used a fakey fabric rose as a model so didn't have the proper plant structure and texture to work from. So thats at the bottom but is a bit rubbish.

First set of eyes

Second set of eyes and single eye (underneath)

And a really awful rose

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Lesson Number Two

OK... so strictly speaking I should be working my backside off at this time of year. I'm working certainly but really not to the extent I should be. Although I'm trying harder. But I'm also very aware of the danger of getting completely overwhelmed by Christmas sales because I've had mass stress and depression every December for the last 4 years. So I'm consciously keeping myself doing 'normal' things like the drawing. Not that thats normal in itself but I'm doing it in a normal way. Anyone who knows me is aware of my frightening tendancy to throw myself completely into any new interest to the exclusion of life, the universe and everything. I'm deliberately keeping the drawing down to a couple of hours a day (a lot of which is reading, not drawing).

So yesterdays exercise was to try looking at outlines as a series of interconnected angles which can then be smoothed out, the idea being accurate shape reproduction and as yesterday, training myself to see what is really there. I then added the shading/shadowing stuff from my first lesson (when I say 'lesson' what I mean is what I gleaned from an hours reading and rereading of various tutorials condensed down to what I felt comfortable trying. I also read a lot on shape form, head construction and drawing roses yesterday. But settled for the basic angles practise with my thumb (because its a multiple angle shape and, well, it was there). Ignore the pen, its a leftover on the same sheet from lesson 1!

Eventually I'll manage something interesting. But I want to do this properly and slowly and really focus on the techniques a little at a time.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Drawing 101

OK as noted previously, I've always been vaguely disappointed that I can't draw or paint. But having put a little thought into it, I'm sure I could learn. So Step One in Stephie's Learn to Draw project came last night. I spent about half an hour flicking through how-to for beginners articles on last night before doing a very simple exercise at 1am - the 'pick something random but simple and draw it' exercise. The point being to focus on seeing what something really looks like (because your brain compensates for things like perspective and shadowing - try doing the optical illusions app on facebook!) and developing hand-eye co-ordination. And 10 mintes later I'd produced a reasonable facsimile of my pen. Its not perfect my any means, its fatter than the actual pen, the point where it joins stem to nub isn't quite right and the tapering is out - its wider at the further away end making it look flat, when it should be getting ever so slightly narrower towards that end - but as my first attempt since probaby 2nd year high school at drawing an object from sight I'm still reasonably pleased with it (and for those who did high school with me - do you remember drawing the cheeseplant in art? Or the one where we had to do a self portrait half human, half machine?)

Either way I figure with regular practise I could become OK. Then its fairy time! I wonder if I own a sketchbook... Tesco Value printer paper perhaps not the best surface.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

First thing to make me laugh all day

Stephie: Why is my brain not working properly today Geoffy?

Geoff: Because sometimes your brain doesn't work properly. It goes a bit 'wheeeee'

Stephie: 'Booooooo'

Geoff: It does that to

Stephie: 'Booooh' and 'wheeee'?

Geoff: Yeah your brain has 'Boooo' chemicals and 'wheeee' chemicals fighting a battle over clusters of neurons. Today the 'booooo' chemicals are winning.

*recorded for posterity*

Monday, 26 November 2007

Maybe if I took lessons...

OK I'm trying to be objective. And its still awful. But this is the first thing I've even attempted to draw in about five years. I don't have the natural talent that some people have - but I think I could learn to draw. I'll scan it properly when I've finished it. Its not finished yet. The cat demon incidentally came from hallucinations the other night. Purely mind induced hallucinations that is, my brain is quite weird all by itself without adding external substances. I was stroking my cat and her face kept morphing into demon boy down there. It was kinda freaky. Why did I draw it? Erm at stupid o'clock last night I wondered if I could. So I did. It was a bit weird. It also inbued me with a desperate need to do a 'this is why you're wonderful' post... for people in my life that I appreciate in one way or another. OK its sappy and possibly stupid but I reserve the right to both those states so thats at the bottom.

Because you're wonderful....

Geoff - Who else could I start with but my husband? An anchor to my chaos, a lifeline to my madness, a balance to my flightiness. You're the other half of my soul and I love you completely.

Dax. Because you're you. Because you understand and don't judge. Because you help without complaint. Because even when your world is imploding you still have time to keep mine stable.

Georgie - You're my best friend and a welcome oasis of total sanity. Because I'm a difficult person to be friends with and you just accept that sometimes I don't want to talk or keep in touch. For accepting me completely even while completely failing to understand the why of me. For putting up with my cockups, insanity and occasional paranoia without letting it ruffle your fur in the slightest.

Phil. For managing to put up with my sister and not once strangling her and burying her beneath the patio. For incredible patience, tolerance and acceptance joining the utter chaos that is our family. For being a wonderful father to my nieces.

- For loving the worst friend in the world. For knowing I don't mean anything by it when I ignore you for months. For being the most beautiful woman in the universe.

Jan - . For being a giver when its so very evident you need to take as well. And for a journal post that described how you thought illness was not something to be ashamed of. That made me think.

Andrew - For being an embodiment of calm and rationality and letting Geoff know he's not alone.

- - Because you make me laugh. For trying to make me feel included. For supporting Geoff and not judging me despite what you know.

Fiona M.
- You make me smile. I'm glad I found you again. We should have been friends 20 years ago.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Something is missing....?

I have a vague feeling that I've missed something I've finished recently when doing these photos. I KNOW I forgot to photo my Vintage Lace (or possibly Rhapsody in Lace) necklace - the cake part of my Coffee & Cake sets but I'm sure there's something else missing. No clue what though.

Either way. I don't usually make earrings as anything but an afterthought - I'll make them up to go with a necklace or bracelet, but this week I felt like making some relatively quick projects and opted for earrings in 9k gold (partially because I needed to make up the numbers for hallmarking - I only had a couple of pieces in gold and given that I have to pay for a minimum of 10 IIRC, I may as well send that many in for hallmarking)

Today however I have earrings to show you. And the Coffee part of my Coffee & Cake necklaces

Hoop earrings made with 9k gold wire, Swarovski bicones in Capri Blue and Swarovski crystal pearls in Gold Pearl.

More hoop earrings in 9k gold wire with assorted colour Swarovski bicones. Kind of dreamcatchery. Wish I had some little gold feathers to hang off the bottom.

Emeralds and golden shadow Swarovski crystal cluster earrings with 9k gold wire. The spirals at the bottom are a direct result of my being unable to get hold of headpins at a remotely sensible price in 9k. Mainly I just wanted to play with green and gold. I like the colour combination.

Long chain drop earrings in fire colour crystals and 9k gold. I adore these (and am halfway through making a matching bracelet - unfortunately I forgot that I'd sent the relevant 8mm Swarovski round faceted fire opal beads to my mums for counting).

Cute butterfly earrings. I wanted to see if I could do exact replicas/matches in bent wire so I did the wing shapes on these and added rose and 9k stardust beads and light rose Swarovski butterflies.

And the coffee part of my coffee and cake necklace and is called Autumn Cascade. This is - as my pal Andy would put it - an blatant exercise in fanwank. Not that I'd use such a crude term, but it WAS inspired by a very beautiful character for which the costume dept managed a perfect and meticulous detail to her jewellery at all times. Prize if you can guess the character :p. Hint - TV.

I have - finally - finished the cake section which is probably called Vintage Lace but potentially Rhapsody in Lace. Feel free to vote :p You can also vote for 'naming your jewellery is the most stupidly pretentious thing I've heard in a long time' if you must. Be nice about it though, I appear to be somewhat oversensitive at the moment.

Sunday, 11 November 2007


Well I managed the hour of listing in my ebay shop yesterday. Then did an arrghhh I don't want to be here any more and spent large parts of the rest of the day sleeping or moping. But by 2am my drive had returned and I spent 5 hours or so making my sister's birthday pressie. With barely a bent bit of wire in sight (note its not that bent wire is WRONG. Its that its my method of choice for 90% of what I make. So occasionally producing something none-bent-wirey is cool)

Necklace, bracelet and earrings set. I'm particularly pleased with the bracelet - I don't generally do beaded strung bracelets and I'm pleased with the result. They're made with a mixture of Swarovski crystals and glass seed beads from my friend Georgie at madcowbeads.

Saturday, 10 November 2007


I am going to be good. I've been seriously up and down all week and frankly have done nothing at all in the way of useful stuff. But right now I am going to spend an hour listing some of the stuff thats on my desk and then I'm going to go and play with pretty things. Conscious target practise :p... I've been buzzing so much this week and its been wasted on random internet stuff or worse, just making me frustrated that I wasn't doing anything with it. So today I'm going to try some structured targetting. It won't work while I have the babies to myself as well - that creates conflict and I don't do well at conflict - so I'm going to wait until Geoff gets back, then spend an hour listing, then spend an hour playing. Thats just two hours and two things which shouldn't be too much to handle. So... forget about all the other stuff thats outstanding and just do those two things. Great. Go Stephie.

I might even get back to the point of this journal and post some pics of my creations later :p

Sunday, 4 November 2007


OK... as a jewellery maker, I don't do chunky, I don't do asymmetry, I don't do rectangles and I don't do wire wrapping. Which could be why this piece is confounding my usual philosphy of 'part of being good is knowing when you're not'. I don't know if I like this. I don't know if its any good. I think it stops just short of chaotic mess - but am not 100% certain.
I do like that its very tactile - its heavy and a mix of sterling wire, smooth glass beads and faceted Swarovski crystal beads and its also quite motion-y - there's slight movement in the wrapped beads and a tremulous jiggle to the beaded rings on the botttom (they look fine when its hung by the way - not so good flat which is how the photos were taken).

So am posting it here. Not that anyone reads this journal other than my OH who is quite capable of commenting when I wave it under his nose (anyone else is more than welcome to comment - but most of you who are likely to see this ain't going to have any interest!). I've done it on two separate chains. And again, am not sure which I prefer. I'm leaning towards the crystal linked chain.

So... Attempt Number 1 at a framed wire wrap type pendant. My wire wrapping experience before this was limited to wigjig components and wrapped loops so there's plenty of scope for improvement!

Saturday, 3 November 2007


I suppose I'd better do a proper introduction post. I almost feel like I'm starting over with this journal - realistically, opal work is not something I have the time or the equipment to do at present, so for the time being it's being shelved.

I’m Steph Hall, 30-something years old and I made my first piece of real jewellery when I was 17. I so wish someone had introduced me earlier! The short bout of metal work we did in school would have been so much more interesting if it had been jewellery focused and 3 years of secondary school art classes would have been far less excruciating if someone had explained you don’t need to be able to draw to be an artist. Because I can’t draw for toffee. I totally suck. I still enjoy it on occasion but my 12 year old son is significantly more talented than I!

!Artist.... Am I pretentious? Of course I am. I call my work 'art', my workshop a 'studio' and see 'inspiration' everywhere :p I'll get around to putting up a 'gallery' soon to 'showcase' my 'portfolio' as well. I've even got my very own fashionable mental illness to explain away my 'eccenticities'*. Just be thankful I'm not churning out crap poetry anymore!

*As an aside I did try getting my husband and best friend to refer my wierdness as 'endearingly quirky'. Their responses were 'Nucking Futs is more like it' and 'No, you're completely insane' respectively. I love them :o)

Jewellery making first came about because my parents decided their latest get-rich-quick scheme (or at least earn some extra cash scheme!) was to be making jewellery. So armed with plated wire, a pair of round nose pliers and semi-precious beads I set about making jewellery which went into local shops, libraries and such for sale. It stayed interesting for a while but I was significantly ‘handicapped’ by my parents’ cost awareness. If I used a bead too many or tried something a little too ornate it was too expensive to make. Eventually, my mum left and the jewellery making died and it was a good 13 years before I picked up a pair of pliers again.

Can't Paint...

Can't Draw...

Can Sew a Little...

In the interim I’ve flirted with a lot of crafts. I became reasonably good at my style of digital art & modelling, painted (badly!) and wrote a lot of poor short stories and poetry. I’ve also done a reasonable amount of sewing. For a while I had a stepdaughter for whom I enjoyed making pretty-girly dresses (I had two sons then – I’ve since had two more so there’s a lack of girlyness in our home!). I’ve also done a reasonable amount of costume making for amateur dramatics (I always particularly enjoyed panto and have performed in a number of shows – always with my hands firmly dug into the costume and makeup design as well). I also spent three years designing and selling ballgowns before selling off the business due to a lack of space.

Finding my Mediums
Digital Art

Ballgown Design

Wire Jewellery

So through a very roundabout route, I ended up selling jewellery, beads and jewellery findings for a living. It started when I thought it might be nice to try making jewellery again and I discovered I enjoyed it. I do seem to have ‘caught’ the cost awareness aspect from the parents however instead of limiting myself, I made a business from selling the components needed to make jewellery and have established a lot of wholesale and manufacturing contacts around the world. So I use whatever I feel like using for a piece – I just buy at very low prices in bulk! Its not unusual for me to buy 1000+ identical beads because they gave me an idea for a necklace. I just sell off the excess – which fortunately I’m quite good at - my ebay shop pays the mortgage and the bills so its reasonably important!

Colour is my main motivator. I find inspiration in all manner of things – from art to nature to people but what I see will always be related to the colours I can use in a piece. I’ve zero interest in the very intricate and beautiful art of chain maille – I can appreciate it as an art form but it doesn’t hold the allure of working with colour for me. I frequently look at other artists’ jewellery and sites – not to copy, I’ve never replicated anything in my life – but because their beauty stimulates my creativity – sometimes I look at the same styles as I make, sometimes I’ll browse through sites showcasing the wonderful art of glass beadmaking or polymer clay, or silver & goldsmithing none of which I’ve ever tried and all of which I’d love to be able to do and I do of coursed have my own favourite artists whose work I will never tire of looking at. Alas, I’ve had to put measures into place to severely restrict myself – I’m quite bad for getting worked up about something new, spending way too much money on it and finding myself without the time to work at it.

Jewellery is exciting. There are so many methods and techniques that I’ll never get through them all, and if I start to even consider it my mind takes off on wild flights through my imagination so I do try and keep myself grounded to one or two things at a time simply because I’d never get anything done otherwise!

And the point of this... *shrugs* do blogs need a point? Its a visual and literal diary & scrapbook of my play-time :p

Friday, 28 September 2007

Sadly neglected

I do try not to completely ignore this space... but looking at the dates it seems I erm... did. Financial meltdown and pneumonia (in August. I mean really.... who gets pneumonia in August?) means that I've been desperately trying to keep enough money coming in to live on. Not helped by the tax credits office being total incompetant idiots.

Anyhoo... I promised pictures and pictures there will be. Nothing very inspiring but the studio (yes, i did give it a pretentious name!) is looking much more studio-ish - in my own, chaotic fashion. No longer a child infested bombsite anyway. More a bead-infested bombsite.

Plus opal. Not that rough opal is particularly inspiring in photo (its actually very inspiring if you're sitting handling it. But maybe I'm just odd). But I've amassed quite a collection of Stuff to Play With, I just need a shiny expensive machine with which to play. True I could go buy something to do the job for considerably less than my shiny toy but I'll just get frustrated I think and want to upgrade. So I might as well do it properly the first time.

In the meantime I took some normal work deliveries that I've been playing with. I'm in love with gold filled findings and I think its high time the UK craft making population realised their value. So its my current mission to make them do so, along with pushing gold foil beads. And being a seller of such treasures I do of course need to demonstrate their application. So I've been making some shiny things.

These were made with gold fill chain, beads and gold foil beads.

Soooo pretty! Must get round to selling them. And because my core market is sterling silver, I've added some more sterling jewellery to my designs, made with a combination of Swarovski crystal and glass beads (coz I've just added glass beads to my shop). Must get around to doing my ebay designs gallery.

And finally... Christmas is coming! And a little logical thought says that kids jewellery is the perfect line. Quick, easy, pretty and the little horrors get more money spent on them than any other section of society. So I've been knocking together a range of kids jewellery using little ceramic beads, sterling silver and Swarovski crystal - couple of example pieces below.

So I haven't been completely unproductive whilst ignoring my blog. Just concentrating on things that will make me immediate cash!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

I'm still standing... yeah, yeah, yeah...

*shudders* bad eighties music running through my head now. Although I think we're probably the luckiest generation.... born long enough ago to have had free reign and exploration encouraged, whilst modern enough that the positive side of feminism had left its mark. We're the far ranging, imaginative innovators :o)

Either way... as the title suggest, I am in fact, still here. And my workshop is looking a lot more Stephie-friendly now with all the crap removed and useful furniture of the we-had-to-put-it-somewhere variety all arranged. And a herd of My Little Ponies adorning the shelf. Absolutely essential.

My opals, tools and beads have been moved in there (I really ought to get my arse in gear and do some beadwork - which qualifies as 'real' work because I use my designs to sell the components). Although I'm still waiting for a couple of opal parcels - some cut Mexican and a lot of what should be extremely high quality Lightening Ridge black.

I'm not actually doing anything in there yet. Partly because I'm still stupid busy with real work, partially because I'm too broke to buy any equipment that I need. Although the nice people at eBay gave me a shiny £150 Powerseller Reward voucher which I promptly spent on a rolling mill (bargain - £250 list price, £150 best offer accepted so all I paid was the £30 shipping).

The good news is is that I'm one of those people who really absorbs books. I barely ever read fiction, because I become completely and totally immersed in it until finished (which is cool, but it don't half piss off anyone around you). Similarly, good techniques books are read from cover to cover, then sections that particularly interest me reread. Then I go to sleep and dream about working metal. You may laugh... but I've got a particular affinity for materials as far as shaping, displacing, bending etc go (I'm also one of those people who can tell by touch whether dye will leak from a garment, or if it really ought to be dry cleaned or if the label is lying). Had I followed my mother's physics-degrees footsteps, I probably would have excelled at an engineering discipline that required a lot of materials science. Sadly the same doesn't apply for carving, drawing or sculpting. I've got very little ability at creating from an empty space. The point being, that dreaming about metalsmithing is a perfectly good starting point for me.

I did have a fun hour or two with my mum 'opal dipping' - the idea being that when rough opal is wet it looks like it will when polished... so we sat dipping rough pieces or Andamooka opal into water in the sun. Its amazing :o)

So I'm thinking. Lots. And exploring websites (I've fallen in love with the work of Victoria Lansford - check out her site, she's absolutely amazing. And on top of the actual metalsmithing techniques, there's been some definite design tricks that have struck a chord. I already have various (scattered) folders on the PC where I nab images because I like the feel of the jewellery, or the colour mix or similar (I almost never copy... where's the fun in that?). Inspirational pictures is what I should refer to them as. But the very simple idea of keeping them and cutouts from magazines etc in ye oldey-fashioned-scrapbook appeals (and its not an idea I would have thought of - I've been surgically attached to computers since I was eight years old with a C64 and a BASIC programming book). But I like the idea of being able to flip through. The other, related, idea was to keep a looseleaf design sketches folder. While I can't draw to save my life, the idea is not to Make Friends and Influence People with my scintillating artwork, but to pin MY ideas down as and when I think of them. Especially important for me because I have a memory like a sieve.

Anyhoo... its 1am and I'm supposed to be getting some real work done (actually I'm supposed to be sleeping, but it just wasn't happening *shrugs* terminal insomnia sucks). So its bye for now but I will be back soon with pictures of my magically transformed workshop and my not-yet-magically-transformed rough opals.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Getting there....

Back to workspace. I wasn't joking when I said the designated room was a tip. Here's a 'Before' picture...

The grey bar in the forefront is a crosstrainer by the way. One of those 'I really need to get fit' moments several years ago that's sat collecting dust ever since. And underneath the pile of boxes and rugs at the back is a sofabed. Honest.

But I'm getting there. All of the kids crap is now out (you can't see it but the desk and surrounding floor area were covered in stuff). My sister's other half is coming up to collect rugs, crosstrainer, and sofabed, plus a spare cooker and freezer from our old house that were unneeded after we moved! She can use them or sell em or whatever. My time is worth more than I can make from them, hers isn't. I'll post another pic when I've finished sorting it out.

There is so much equipment I want. I need an anvil, and some jewellery hammers. A milling machine (I think thats what its called - has steel type rollers - mainly because I want to be able to texture metal sheet with it). A propane torch and something heatproof to solder on. A Genie has become my cabbing machine of much desire. It will be mine! Various other 'little' bits. And longer term a kiln and glassworking equipment. Oh and a safe... I'm impulsive, not stupid :p. Unfortunately they'll have to wait... Mr VAT man is owed £1800 and I owe quite a bit to my Big Sis Friend Georgie of so I have that as my main priority. So project Be-A-Jeweller will have to wait a little while so I can sort out urgent payments (not helped by the fact that I'm owed about 6k from the sale of part of my business earlier this year).

Therefore this week will, I think, be dedicated to real work (doubly important because eBay have decided to add item specifics to the jewellery making category *sigh*. I haven't finished adding them to beads yet and now I have a zillion other templates to edit. The only good point is that at least they did it when its quiet!). Unfortunately its August, the sun seems to have finally come out for summer on this little grey island, and that means folks aren't spending anywhere near enough shopping online! I also have an absolute shedload of unlisted stock to get up on my ebay site - just taken a massive load of glass beads (with lots of shiny gold foil beads - beautiful, expensive and hard to get over here!) plus I have a fair few new findings and bails that I haven't sorted out yet, including a lovely new range of gold filled items. Unfortunately gold filled is still relatively unheard of in the UK so I'll have the task of educating my customers on the value - approx 100 x more gold than gold plated, 5% of total weight is real gold and doesn't cause allergies, flake, or tarnish. Wonderful stuff!

If I do get a few hours to play with, I do have one toy I'll be trying out - my lovely dremelly-type tool - which while not what I want to use long term for opal cabbing, can certainly be used to play with until I can afford something better. Although having looked at all the zillion bits for it, I'm not sure I have a fine enough grit to get a really good finish. I do have stickyback wet & dry sandpaper though, so I can probably modify some of the bits. And I have some rough and valueless low grade opal to play with before I let myself loose on the good stuff!

Ad finally, to balance out the not-very-attractive picture above, here's a pretty one - this is one of mine, made with gold filled findings and Swarovski crystal (I sell lots of Swarovski). I really wish I could master photographing necklaces. I kick ass at tiny things - crystal & findings are a doddle - but anything bigger than a couple of inches and my quality drops. On my list of things I need to learn!

Saturday, 4 August 2007

For years I've been fascinated with precious metals, sparkly stuff and especially opals. I adore opals! And after years of hesitantly looking into metalsmithing and opal polishing techniques without actually DOING anything about it, I think its high time I started. I'm not a total novice to jewellery - I wire work and play with beads - and also sell beads, findings & other components for a living at so metalsmithing - and learning to polish opals - is the next big step.

Sure I could buy ready made settings and calibrated finished stones... but where's the sense of satisfaction and artistic achievement in that? I'm definitely borderline frustrated artist (albeit with an engineering brain!). Its a bitch being creative and not being able to draw for toffee.

So... the story so far. I've been reading lots and lots on metalsmithing. A whole load of books arrived from Amazon and as I'm a boring, read-the-manual type of gal, a mentally devoured them and took the bits that felt like me into my grand mental plan. Or possibly mental chaos. Kind of like a bubbling witch's cauldron with lots of unidentifiable elements in there, some of which are almost definitely going to have weird effects.

I've also scoured the web on info on opal polishing and found lots of very good sites, the best of which I'll get round to linking permanent links to at the side.

Finally, I spent far too much money on pretty rocks. Finished rocks, rough rocks, opal rocks and faceted gemstone rocks... you name it. My one point of validation is that they're most definitely a business expense and therefore reduces my tax bill! Surprisingly for me, I've thus far managed to be remarkably restrained on equipment - a dremel type pendant drill with a zillion different cutting, grinding and polishing attachments, and a stand for it. Embarrassingly, its the second time I've bought this model of drill-wotsit. I got almost to the stage of throwing myself at stone polishing in the past - and kind of got distracted by real work and ended up selling it unopened (in all fairness, I do work very hard, and have 4 kids, 7 cats and two blinkin' great german shepherd dogs. Oh and a husband but he's pretty low maintenance).

So, I got the rocks, the dremel and plenty of sources for precious metals and associated supplies (an advantage of trading in jewellery components for a living!). Next I need.... workspace.

I'm fortunate enough to own quite a large house (by UK standards anyway) - need it for all the horrible beasties. So I have a big room downstairs that doubles as my office and stockroom, and the kids had another 'spare' room downstairs for one of their computers & consoles & stuff. However after months of trying to get them to keep it even vaguely tidy, I feel fully justified in kicking them out (its not as mean as it seems - just means the PC goes into one of the boys bedrooms - and given that the wireless connection didn't work too well downstairs - the fault of a rather large aluminium backed magnetic board I have on one of the walls - the kids ain't complaining :-).

So my next step - again before even touching any jewellers equipment - is to clear all the 'spare' furniture and other crap that's been dumped in it - kids desk and computer was in one corner, the rest of the room was erm... pretty much temporary storage.

So there's the start of the journey :-) Its quite exciting really... I like new things!