Monday, 11 August 2008

Where does the time go!

It has been an embarrassingly long stretch since I last posted. Partly that was due to breaking two of my fingers in July (ooops!) but mainly it was due to being terribly distracted due to the kids summer break.

I've had a fun 6 weeks or so (distracting children aside!) with lots of drawing, painting and claying but for now I'll simply leave you with my latest tutorials available on my website.

First up we have this beautifully delicate silver filigree bracelet with rose Swarovski crystal. Deceptively easy to make, its a sure hit with anyone and can be made in any number of colour combinations.

I've also made matching earrings to compliment the above bracelet. For this quick and easy tutorial, click the image.

Finally, this cute and whimsical mermaid necklace is great for summer!

That's all for now - I'll be back with a claying post later in the week!


Monday, 23 June 2008

Busy, busy, busy!

It's been a busy couple of weeks here in Stardust land, and also quite stressful. I was diagnosed with Osteoarthritis in my hands and several other joints. Needless to say its the hands that worry me most, as a jeweller they're quite important. As a jeweller who sells entirely online they're absolutely essential. There's lots of useful things one can do to try and manage it though so I'm remaining optimistic. The Arthritis Care website has been invaluable in providing lots of useful and pertinant information that my GP failed to mention.

Other than stressing about my fingers (which are rather painful) I've been busy getting stock listed and ordering more. Check the New In Stock category over at to see what I've been adding. I'm also midway through another tutorial for a beautiful sparkly pink bracelet. I haven't written it up yet but it should be available in the next few days - watch this space!

And finally, I thought if I'm going to find myself with extremely restricted finger usage within the next few years, I need to get back to drawing regularly! I was always told I had no drawing talent and thus it was only around November last year when I plucked up the courage to teach myself to draw. Due to general busy-ness I haven't drawn at all since around January this year but over the weekend I pulled out my pencils and took a stab at my first ever fairy. She's far from perfect but given my lack of experience, I was reasonably pleased.

Fairy Drawing

Until next time...

Happy Beading!


Tuesday, 10 June 2008

A New Necklace Tutorial

Its turning out to be quite a busy week so far. Nothing major - just lots of little things needing doing. My ad for the UK's Bead Magazine was sent to them yesterday for the professional treatment (I sent a fairly basic layout of what I want, along with the jewellery I want featured in it for them to photograph and produce properly). The magazine comes out in August and of course, by then I really need to have the stock levels upped a bit (particularly on anything I'm featuring in a tutorial!).

More tutorials are on the agenda this week. Haven't quite decided what but I think I'm looking at the lovely bright white silver componants I sell at with some pastel shades in crystal. I also want a techniques tutorial done for the art of fitting pinch bails. I want a good selection of tutorials available in a relatively short space of time which means getting a few done every week for the next couple of months.

Speaking of tutorials, there is now a matching necklace for the Summer's End series. I hope you enjoy (click on the picture).

Free Necklace Tutorial

Friday, 6 June 2008

A new website - and new tutorials!

It has, admittedly, been an age since I posted here, mainly because I've been so busy with all manner of exciting things that I've simply not had time to update my blog! I am hopefully back on track now, and over the couple of weeks I shall try and show off some of the designs that have been made over the last three months.

The main reason for the absence has been the development and launch of my brand-new website at My wonderful range of Sterling silver beads & findings, Swarovski crystal, gold filled beads and findings, glass beads, etc. are now available on my own website. The selection on ebay has been cut down considerably so the webby is really the best place to shop!

I've also made a start on adding some brand-new tutorials to the site, and expect to continue increasing the range over the next few months - here's a few of the most recent ones. My tutorials are free to use, subject to the restrictions at the bottom of my Jewellery Tutorials page, so enjoy and don't be afraid to experiment with different colours and looks!

Flying Free Earrings
Free Butterfly Earrings Tutorial

Summer's End Bracelet
Swarovski Crystal Bracelet Design Tutorial

Summer's End Earrings
Earring Design Tutorial

Happy Jewellery Making!
Stephie Hall

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

A plethora of pretty things!

Shame 'plethora' is such an ugly sounding word or that title woulda worked better...

For all you jewellery lovers out there I have a tasty feast of eye candy today. Plus some stuff that I made :p

First off - I still haven't sanded & polished the weekend's lentil beads and realistically I can't see it happening before Friday now so here they are in their unfinished form.

First off - the best of the bunch

The beads I made out of the remainder of the red mix

Best of the blue/pink/silver

And the remainder

And these were made out of the scrappy leftovers from the previous 2 mixes (believe it or now, quite a lot of creamy gold went onto the red ones!)

Now... the Scheherazade necklace and earrings set - slightly better picture although blue goldstone is an absolute bitch to photograph. Its a little chunky for my personal taste.

And the first of the necklace connecters to go with the previously made red pendant (not yet finished)

And finally, these turned up today. I almost never use gemstones, partially because I sell Swarovski crystal for a living and so have lots of it lying around and partially because I'm not really an earth-tones kinda gel, however I've been looking for this stuff for ages - its titanium coated druzy (druzy is a generic name for the tiny little quartz crystals that sometimes form within rocks) and the titanium coating means it comes in a whole range of completely non-natural shades :p They're gorgeous. Far better than expected, I was absolutely blown away by this lot.

The druzy came from

Saturday, 1 March 2008

My puppies!

Non-dog owners always look slightly incredulous when I refer to these two as my puppies. Callie we've had since she was 10 weeks old and she's a white-apricot German Shepherd. Sabre we've had for a year and was a rescue dog who has improved enormously from the scared little boy he was when he arrived. He's never going to be a social butterfly but he's much more confident and happy now. Both dogs are almost 3 years old.

Why the random doggie post? Because they're my wolf substitutes and Cyndi over at just posted a GORGEOUS beaded journal page featuring a pair of wolf eyes.


You gotta hate it when that happens. Y'see it's the weekend, which is cool given that I'm on a strict no-work regime at the weekend BUT I'm at a total loss as to what to do with it. Not because I don't have any choices, but because I have too many choices.

  • I want to make a necklaces for the pendant I made last weekend.
  • And earrings to go with the dark blue necklace.
  • There's a set-out necklace in my bead tray that I wanted to do once I had some GF wire - which has now arrived.
  • I want to try some 30ga wire weaving stuff that's been floating around in my head this morning.
  • I have a whole bunch of different yarn and ribbons that I want to try some mixed media stuff with.
  • Last night, I spent FIVE hours (I kid ye not) sorting out all my personal beading stuff and threw up a whole bunch of beads & findings that had been dumped in little boxes with the idea of making jewellery to showcase the relevant componant products so that needs doing.
  • I also found an entire collection of half-made pieces / pieces that need fixing that I'd like to not be sitting in a to-do box.
  • I got my moulds delivered yesterday from the US so want to play with moulds and clay. I got them from which has some gorgeous designs.
  • And I STILL haven't tried the cool lentil beads tutorial I intended working through last weekend

Clay will be tomorrow I think - Geoff has to go out a couple of times today which means I'll have Finn running around and uninterrupted time is def better for clay.

A to-do box sounds a bit too much like actual work I think...

And product showcasing IS technically work...

...which still leaves me which a whole bunch of choices!

But look how organised everything is! The trays stack on the bead storage table so they don't take up anywhere near as much space as they do in the picture :o)

Sunday, 24 February 2008


It may surprise those of you who know me well enough to know that I'm totally anal and incredibly self critical, but I don't actually mind imperfection. I mind screwing up something I shouldn't - but I don't get mad at myself just because something isn't perfect. Everything's a learning curve and learning curves inevitably have fuckups - whats the point of trying things that you know you can do perfectly? where's the challenge? So... I can probably complete a 'perfect' necklace or bracelet using wrapped links and connecters. Because due to the nature of the day job, I do that a lot. I'd therefore get pretty peed off with myself if I screwed up all my wrapped links on a bracelet. But trying something new, half the fun is in seeing yourself improve. And being afraid of trying... well yes you could go through life doing everything perfectly because you never tried anything new but... your comfort zone would get boring very quickly.

Therefore this is an imperfect pendant, and up for rewiring. But the interesting thing about it was that as I was working my way down the weave, I could see the technique improving, and looking at it after completing it, I can see how to redo it so the mistakes start to be corrected. I don't know if it will be perfect on the second try. More likely, it will be closer to perfect on the third.

Pretty isn't perfect. Anyone can make pretty jewellery. There's very few people make perfect jewellery (and I don't count myself among them). One lady that does however, is Eni Oken and it was looking at one of her pendants that resulted in my trying this particular technique (I was orginally going to try crocheting). The pendant is here and check out her gallery as well - she's amazing - at the very top of her area. She also has a lot of tutorials. I've occasionally been tempted to buy the whole pack but I'm very much a figure-it-out brain and following tutorials seems like... cheating. Plus I'm spatially strong enough to be able to see how things are put together most of the time. Stupid, but it seems only a step away from all those jewellery people who only ever complete set projects and therefore never develop jewellery craft into jewellery art. Which is absolutely fine as a hobbyist - making magazine-published projects for yourself and presents for your family can be satisfying, but if you're going to aim to be a professional then originality is needed. Design and figuring out is important to me.

Imperfect Pendant

...two hours later...

OK second attempt. Still not even remotely approaching perfect - but significantly better than try #1

It was going reasonably well. So I added a bead. A reasonably adventurous choice of bead for the technique. Which screwed it up more than it otherwise would have been. Other than that, I changed from working with one really long piece of wire, to separate pieces for each 'row' (you can see the ends sticking out - I didn't tuck them in properly when I wrapped them around the beads as I expected to be undoing it again). And consciously remembered that wire loves curling. Its its natural state - no need to fight it.

For attempt three I'm going to take that slightly further I think and coil each piece around a pen to match the number of arcs in each row. Although later, because I'm getting tired.

...4 hours later... after a nap

OK - I'm actually reasonably happy with it now. There is still some slight problems but they should be fixable without restringing.

And perception of size works better on a bust - it's about 2 inches top to bottom. Yes that's my work bench, yes I'm messy. So sue me :p

The mesh size I used is quite a bit bigger than is usual for this technique which I think makes it harder to get perfect - each section has longer pieces to develop kinks! Its more usually seen as a cabochon bezel wrap with very tiny arcs/swags/whatever you call the graceful curves!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

An OhShitMoment

Below is a necklace I just completed. It already got restrung once because I didn't like the way it was turning out. So I finally finished it, crimped and attached clasp, trimmed the fireline its strung on... and realised there's an excess stardust bead at one end that isn't on the other end. So it needs restringing. Again.

An ohshitmoment (actually my standard exclamation of dismayed frustration is somewhat more... pithy than that... but perhaps somewhat offensive so I shan't repeat it here).

It's called Sheherazade. I don't even know if I've spelled that correctly, but she was the teller of the 1001 Arabian Night's tales and a necklace in predominantly navy with a million tiny sparkles seemed appropriate - the very dark blue beads are starstone (or blue goldstone) which shimmers with a zillion tiny twinkling stars. The rest is sterling and Swarovski crystal.

And if I'm honest I haven't managed to get the style as I want it. I'll try some different variations in other colours and beads but I want to test it with a few different methods including different stringing material, a double drop, and wire meshed 'gaps'.

Its only a point & click snap I'm afraid so not my best. Will post a better one when I get the darn thing to stay strung!

blue goldstone & swarovski crystal necklace

Round 2

(Cross posted on Art Jewellery - Polymer Clay)

Heh, I don't actually feel like I'm fighting. More dealing with a new dog. Not quite sure how its going to behave but absolutely certain that I should be in charge, not him.

Either way, its the weekend and I am gratuitiously playing (I feel incredibly guilty just 'playing' - I'm self employed and work from home and it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you should be doing money-making things all the time. But I'm persevering with discovering hedonism!)

I haven't touched clay all week having been flat out busy, so the last stuff I posted was the last I did. The good news is that I can see improvement as I get more of a feel for it. The bad news is that I'm having severe issues with managing regular, consistent beads of any shape. And I have an annoying tendancy to oversand - I can't manage smooth curves, they end up with small, flat planes in. But I think I'm getting better.

Below is last night's creations (well I started the flower last weekend - I got it to its current stage last night). Leaves were moulded, butterfly a cutter then embellished, everything else by hand.

polymer clay jewellery components

Still far from perfect but hopefully improving! And yes, I have a serious addiction to metallics and shimmers :p

Today... I need to get the hang of canes so thats on my to-do list :o) And I want to learn how to make lentil beads having spend large parts of yesterday drooling at Emma Ralph's polymer gallery (she does a lot of lentils). I love her beads and every time I stumble across her work I am completely awed. The service on the site is awesome as well - I bought a bead roller (in the hope of fixing my bead problem!) and some foil yesterday morning and its arrived today. Next day arrival only going to happen if you live in the UK of course :o)

Anyway... lentil beads. This tutorial by Barbara Fajardo over at polymerclaycentral looks to be just what I need. And its a fingers-free method for the most part so I might actually manage to produce something without fingerprints!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Viva la révolution

Oh I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair
In 77 and 69 revolution was in the air
I was born too late into a world that doesn't care
Oh I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair

(Sandi Thom)

I actually love this song. It was around last summer? The summer before? Its not my usual style at all, I listen to rock of the Green Day/Linkin Park/Evanescence ilk but this touched my soul. Even though 'punk rocker' should perhaps have been "peace-lovin', weed-smokin' hippie", given the flowers. I was born in December '75 so missed the spirit and change of the time. Even the early 80s punk rock scene passed me by as nothing more than the big kids wearing weird clothes and doing odd things with hair and makeup.

Either way... the point is that this is a 'who I want to be when I grow up' post. Not that I want to grow up, but I'm doing my very best to metamorphose. And I don't really want to be anyone but uniquely, insanely ME but I have a HUGE admiration for a number of people in this industry, and at the very pinnacle of that list sits the amazing Margot Potter.

Now those of you who also read my
personal blog will be familiar with my slightly chaotic, inspired and flighty way of taking ideas and sprinting with them. I'm not going to pretend for a second that it isn't a definite characteristic of bipolarity because it IS but its the part of the illness that I wouldn't willingly give up for the world. My personal journal is similar to this one in many ways, but I swear more, make more typos and subject my friends to moans about life, flights of ideas and the more sensitive business details, sometimes locked, sometimes not. This blog is the cleaned-up-for-professional-use version.

Either way, I've been reading
Margot's blog for a month or two now and she continues to inspire and amaze me with her talent and generosity of spirit. When I went blog-hunting I was looking for people who were doing what I want to do, in my own fashion and found so many amazing women, including Margot. She's a designer and writer and possibly the best non-pushy self-promoter I've ever come across and on an almost daily basis, she shares the reasons for her success and tips on how to achieve it with the world. Not in an awful, smarmy, life-coach way but in an absolutely genuine lets-all-help-each-other kinda way, whilst being totally sassy and original. I was sad to read she'd had an unnecessarily negative review about her latest book, Sparkletastic. Some people just look for things in life to moan about. Possibly because they don't know what to say if they're not moaning.

So Margot is the person I think I've learned most from this year so far, and her posts, among others, are keeping me going at the minute, when I'm putting my metamorphosis on temporary hold to concentrate on actually making money through the daily grind of
my eBay shop. Sadly I'm mid financial crisis and while I am certainly not abandoning my writer-designer plans, for the next week or two, they have to be put to one side while I make enough money to pay my mortgage and bills.

And finally, while I'm sharing linky goodness, go check out my Bead Magazine review over on the lovely Cyndi's
jewelryandbeading blog. I was privileged to be asked to write this and ridiculously pleased when I saw it posted yesterday. :o)

Monday, 18 February 2008

Polymer Clay & Bipolar Babes

First off here's my weekend efforts with polymer clay. They are very amateurish but it was the first time I'd EVER worked with clay and I'm confident I will improve, it always takes a little time to get the feel of a new medium. I'm currently midway through making a lily focal which is noticably better than the first pieces

Selection of pendants, drops and connecters. My poor fairy has a scratch which I'll fix before covering her in resin for a nice glass-like finish:

polymer clay pendants and connecters

Beads made with the clay 'leftovers'. Mainly I just wanted to see if I could manage regular, consistent spheres

polymer clay marble beads

In personal news, I was at the docs earlier partly to get more drugs, partly to see what my psych guy said about me after my January appointment. There wasn't anything particularly mind blowing there as we'd covered it all in the psych appointment. Being referred on to cognative therapy and psychotherapy, being kept under the mental health team's care as ongoing, no I don't want a change of drugs. Nothing surprising, nothing mindblowing - just yet more waiting around for referral appointments to happen. And they wonder why I periodically get sick of it all and self discharge from mental health care. Speaking of mad-as-a-hatterness I was reasonably gratified to learn that Jennifer Dangerfield of The Art of Curiousity is another bipolar babe. I don't know why I find that gratifying other than I admire her work, she's another Brit and unless I go out of my way to look (ie on dedicated forums) I rarely come across anyone 'openly' bipolar. Like being closet gays but with more stigma, and you can have a sex life even if you do hide it from the entire world *weird exasperation/irritation/amusement mix going on here*. I won't get on my mental healthcare soapbox or I'll never stop.

Geoff's off out tonight with Jan & Darren which is fine - only Finn & Jay here as its half term and Cam has gone to stay with the in-laws. Finn will be asleep within an hour if he's not already which leaves me free to get on with stuff that desperately needs doing. Mainly stuff directly relating to making money. Its a case of screw the Big Plan this week. Its a good plan. In fact its a GREAT plan. But it does involve long term slow and steady buildup of contacts, reputation and publishing which while will do wonders for business, doesn't help me pay the bills this month. So I'm having a focus-on-sales week. Newsletter to write, a squillion ebay listings to put on 10 day runs (I want about 1000 extra live for the end-of-the-month buying spree). eBay is a bit of an art form in itself. Sometimes having everything running quietly on 'background' shop listings is a good idea, sometimes going all out with the more expensive but more exposed 10 day auctions & Buy Now listings is better. After 5 years I'm still doing it largely by feel, and I currently feel that an extra thousand prominent listings is a Good Plan for the start of march.

Geoff saw a cat being hit by a car on his way back from collecting Finn. Just round the corner but it was gone when he walked back round to check (looks like the car that hit it stopped and hopefully took it to a vet). We've accounted for all our likely suspects but one so I'm keeping an eye out for Mini as Geoff thinks it was a tabby or a grey and Mini is tabby. Somehow I think I'm going to be reasonably agitated until I've found her. I'm trying not to think about it too much.

And finally, Darren was diagnosed as longsighted a week and a half ago, and got his glasses on Thursday. He looks... I dunno, older in them? Seems perfectly happy to have them though.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Polymer Clay

It was with great excitement that I unpacked my first ever delivery of polymer clay and associated paraphernalia last week. Friday night was the first chance I had to play and I figured I'd start just figuring out the feel of the clay and how to work it. Problem one soon struck in that I had a overly dry block of black that crumbled when I tried to condition it. Not a problem, I'd thought ahead and my little bottle of clay softener was put to work. I got it worked into my clay and tried again. Soon I had a nice, flat sheet of clay and stamped a star out then rolled some super thin rolls to decorate it with spirals. Problem two. Polymer clay and lint don't mix. I live in a house full of dogs and cats so I tend to have a coating of animal hair on whatever I'm wearing. Which happened to be a fleece, it being February and winter in the UK and rather chilly - fleeces however, particularly bad for collecting pet hair. No matter, fleece removed and I continued to work in a strappy pink vest.

I continued through Friday evening and Saturday morning making a selection of pendants, drops and canes, learning the feel of the clay, how to roll it evenly, making nicely round beads, mixing colours and marbling, texturing, applying mica powders and metallic finishes, then went through my art folder on my PC and miniaturised a number of my creations for use in pendants. So by midday Saturday I had, ready to bake, the original star pendant, plus matching drops for earrings, a selection of copperised drops, a marbled pendant frame with one of my tiny pictures in, a second pendant with another star motif, and a whole collection of beads.

After some experimentation, the correct temperature on the kitchen oven was obtained and things happily baked to completion. The kitchen still smells vaguely of molten plastic but I have assured my family (and two slightly perplexed German shepherds that live in the kitchen, who've never seen Mummy cook before) that as soon as my mini oven arrived, baking would take place in the utility room with the back door open.

I then dug out my Proxxon mini drill (like a Dremel but well... Proxxon) and associated bits and again, after some experimentation, sanded and buffed my creations to a reasonable finish.

Things I Discovered on the Journey
1. Polymer clay sticks. Not massively, just enough to pull up little patches of clay from your nice flat sheet when you stick it through a pasta machine or roll it on the purpose-designed mat. My solution - this is greatly reduced by working on greaseproof (baking) paper. You can roll it through the pasta machine like this as well - just cut a piece to size, fold it in half and put the clay inside at the fold. I did read a suggestion of talcum powder to stop sticking - like using flour to roll pastry on - and would appreciate an opinion. Surely this just weakens your clay by introducing a new, and very dry ingredient to it?
2. I discovered that clay doesn't behave as well as wire when you spiral it. Slippery little buggers like to retain their default position of 'log' but I eventually persuaded my tiny, slightly misshapen rolls to stay put and firmly stuck them in place with another, smaller star at the centre.
3. Somebody somewhere recently posted in a forum that pasta machines were a LOT easier to clean if you remove the front panel - no more taking apart to clean them. I am eternally grateful to this genius of 21st century art. For good measure, the back panel came off too.
4. The little things in drill accessory sets that look like miniature sanding discs are in fact for cutting. In fact they cut marvelously through 18ga sterling wire, embedded in your clay as a bail. Like butter. They don't sand very well either.
5. Luckily, you can, it seems, attach sticky-back sandpaper to sanding drum attachments without any problem and I happen to have rolls of such in a number of super-finenesses from 600 to 2000 grit.
6. Its not a good idea to catch your fingernail on the surface of printed, baked HP photo paper. My pretty little fairy now has a white scratch which I shall try and fix before covering her in resin!
7. If you're going to use repousse punches as modeling tools, when you wrap the clay around it, put a sheet of greaseproof paper around FIRST! I didn't think it would stick - steel not affected at the temperature polymer clay fires at so I figured they'd slide off afterwards. I was wrong. I now have a highly decorated repousse punch with completely immovable clay wraps (prettily textured and copperised).
8. Using liquid sculpey to help unfired clay stick to fired clay works wonderfully. It also leaves a white seam between the two pieces. The book suggested PVA.... maybe I should have listened.
9. Polymer clay is really good at taking fingerprints. It also deforms when you try and smooth them out. Practice, practice, practice! Do latex gloves work or do you lose sensitivity too much? (or does the latex react with clay?)
10. The more accurate you are getting your shapes right when you cut, the less sanding there is to do!
11. If, like me, you're used to working in wire of a maximum thickness of 18ga, its almost instinctive to try and work with the clay really, really THIN. Thicker clay makes better weight pendants though! There is no shame in 2mm+ thick pieces!

Today I intend sending the OH out to get some alcohol (arghhh polymer clay has driven me to drink!)... just kidding, its for cleaning the glaze brushes so I can get them finished up - then I need to make necklaces and earrings with them :-) Given that wirework and stringing is my normal MO, no matter how pretty a pendant is, I won't feel I've finished until I've incorporated it into something and just stringing them on cords simply won't do!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Its Springtime!

Wow! I realised at lunchtime that its over a week since I'd left the house. Which is never a good sign and one of the risks of working from home (especially as I don't have a car at the minute!) So I went for a walk along the river and back for half an hour and discovered it's spring! Being the UK though, that doesn't mean that there won't be howling blizzards next week, but its nice while its here! My Tree Stump with Character has developed leafy frondage growing from it's top, and there's little yellow flowers growing along the riverbank - I don't know what they are, those little wild flowers that are somewhere between a daisy and a dandilion. And this sounds weird, but they were oddly accented in a very peculiar suburban-beauty kinda way by a trolly with a bright yellow handle that had been dumped in the river. Not that I think we're suburban. We're more subrural - not quite rural but not urban enough to be suburan! Plus all the trees are sprouting leaf buds and the birds are being busily frenzied with numerous nests-in-progress. And there was a tiny patch of purple crocuses with saffron centres by the river which looked wonderfully spring like. I didn't see a kingfisher though (we do have kingfishers along the river but I've only spotted them a handful of times).

The weekend was tiring but very productive. On Saturday we completely swapped the stock with the studio which meant shifting all the stock and shelving out of here and bringing all the random studio furniture into this room. I actually started on friday night while the boys, Geoff and Jan were gaming. I was decidedly wrecked after but it was so worth it - this room looks a million times better AND I now have all my crafty stuff to hand in the room I spend the most time in. And on Sunday we cleared out the computer and all Jay's stuff from the library and put it in his bedroom. So the library is now no longer infested with the paraphenalia and litter of 13 year olds AND we can fit al least another couple of book cases in.

This is what the office looked like before we shifted everything (I forgot to take a proper pic but you can get the general idea from the background behind Darren - floor to ceiling in blue shelves and boxes with our computer desks at the end of the room the picture was taked from

And this is what it looks like now - my beading table and desk to the left, more beading stuff, books and magazines on the shelves at the back, my photography setup next to that and random wall unit that had to go somewhere by the door. I'm standing my my desk, the window is behind me and Geoffs desk is opposite mine.

I did take some time to plan out a necklace which is still sitting unmade in my bead tray as I realised I didn't actually have any 18ga GF wire in and 22 just won't do! So as soon as thats in I'll finish that necklace. I also finished up a pair of earrings which I think of as lotus blossom drops even though they look nothing like lotus blossoms. They're made with a bead cap that has been beaded although I think I need to change the design slightly, either to simply a beaded ring sitting below the cap, or a beaded cap with 3mm pearls rather than 4mm. They're still pretty, but slightly imperfectly engineered.

I also photographed my springtime bracelet which I love. Peridot and Light Rose always seem super-springlike and the red adds a bit of contrast with silver butterflies and rose beads to add silvery sparkle and a GORGEOUS rose shaped box clasp that I've just got in stock.

So I'm feeling quite happy despite feeling slightly neglected - Jan was here Friday and Saturday night so the boys were all gaming, and on Sunday evening, Jan, Geoff and Darren went out to meet with some similarly geeky friends before coming back and erm... gaming more. I did steal Geoff away for an episode of SG1 before bed though. And tonight, Geoff, Darren and Jan were supposed to be going out but Jan cancelled so I get my husband to myself - yippee!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Mrs Clarke's office, how may I help?

I appear to have developed a new role in life as the personal secretary of Mrs Clarke. Today I took a returned call after Mrs Clarke left a message on some company's answerphone, and dealt with her delivery company. This has been going on for two weeks, Mrs Clarke gets a LOT of phone calls and deliveries. She also saves or has a mortgage with Northern Rock.

Trouble is, I have no freakin' CLUE who Mrs Clarke is.

I am assuming she's a dimwit of the highest order due to her not only getting her own number wrong (forgivable, especially if BT are involved) but you'd think after TWO WEEKS she'd have a) clicked that no-one ever returns her calls and b) that SOMEONE in her personal circle would have mentioned it to her.

Its getting mildly irritating. Especially as I work from home and get her blinkin phone calls all day long.

But other than that life is.... tentatively OK. After a couple of bitch-from-hell PMT days this week I appear to be back to what passes as normality in my quirky little world. Work is happening. Its mainly counting beads and listing them so deadly dull, but it is getting done and I'm staying motivated by keeping up my research on magazine submissions. I figure, if I JUST manage to get everything outstanding listed then all I'll have to do work-wise is restocks and packing so I'll be able to spend a lot more time working on designed-for-publication jewellery, and will have the time to keep it all organised and efficient - there'd be nothing worse than having no clue what had been submitted to where and what was free to be submitted etc. Well there are plenty of worse things, but within the confines of my current ambitions its pretty bad!

I did have on my list for February 'hunt down submission guidelines for all relevant magazines' however the lovely Cyndi from blogged the entire list this morning, missing off only Bead Magazine which is a UK publication and therefore understandable (I also already have their submission guidelines bookmarked).

So I'm getting quite excited. I'm looking forward to the day I can come on here and say 'one of my necklaces is going to be in xxx magazine!' with happy bounciness and major overexcitement. I don't of course, consider that I'll spend a lifetime being perpetually turned down. I'm too confident/arrogant for that and honestly, what's the point of submitting if you expect to fail? Plus I know I'm good at design (it surprises me that some people can't do it, it's the easiest thing in the world) and if I'm actually trying my writing is OK as well (for years I wanted to be a journalist - I seriously kicked ass in GCSE and A Level English with 90%+ overall scores... then went and did a degree in mainy IT. How bizarre... all I can say is that I was 18, had just discovered the very new Internet (as far as public use went) and I was TOTALLY overwhelmed and enthused by the possibilities this geeky little toy offered the world. Turns out I was right ;-). Saying that for years before that I wanted to be a vet. And Geoff still wants to be an astronaut...

So thats how I'm staying motivated amidst millions of uncounted beads. Maybe not millions. But I'd say certainly in excess of a couple of hundred thousand.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Art and Discipline

Today marks the two month anniversary of my deciding that it was high time I learned to draw. Drawing has always been a bit of a stumbling block for me. Its one of the few things I'm not good at. Don't get me wrong, I don't really excel at much either. But I do tend to be passably good at most things I try. Sports and stringed instruments being notable exceptions. But I don't have the time or money for any of the sports that interest me, and I can live without having skill at the violin whereas I have ALWAYS wished I could draw. There are so many wonderful, beautiful images swirling around in my crazy-person mind and I want to have the ability to realise them in a tangible form.

So - after the revelation that the ability to draw is NOT a born with it or nothing skill - ie that it CAN be learned - on November 26th I decided to learn. And now I'm assessing. I'm better than I was before I started, which is good, and my knowledge of the technical aspects and basic concepts has grown enormously. I have, however, been totally lame at finding the time for it. Like everything else in my life, drawing needs discipline - daily practise - and its been neglected (admittedly, mostly in favour of work, but all work and no play....)

I mentioned a few posts back, that what I need is a page a day diary. OK, OK, it could be argued that what I need is to pick up a bloody pencil every day but I have a rimmer-esque need to keep my life in written-down order (in fairness as a by-product of being crazy-mad-bipolar-lady - I KNOW I'm ridiculously impulsive with a tendancy to fly off all over the place if I don't keep myself very disciplined and routine-y... and fly off all over the place can mean anything from spending a few thousand on a new hobby to changing partners / careers / cities etc... having done all of those things - on a whim - I quite like the idea of keeping myself vaguely stable, and if my methods look incredibly anal then so be it)

So. Geoff's assignment for the day is to get me a page a day diary so I can anally plan out the next few months. Maybe a week / 2 pages diary. And a new pretty A4 pad because the current one is nearly out.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Jewellery Tutorial - Rainbow Crystal Bracelet

Jewellery Tutorial - Making a Rainbow Crystal Bracelet.

Difficulty level: Level 2 - Quick & Easy (For explanation of ratings please see bottom of this guide)
Time: 60 minutes

This beautiful rainbow bracelet made from Swarovski crystal and sterling silver is a super-sparkly stunner! Works well in any colour scheme so if rainbows aren't your thing, try it in a different colour combination. With all my instructions, I'm simply describing how I do it. There may be other techniques and you may find that another suits you better - there's usually no right or wrong method, only how comfortable you are using it.

This tutorial assumes that you know how to use crimp beads, jump rings and are able to close clamshells - all easy :-)

Sparkly Rainbow Bracelet.

What you will need

I use the following which made up an 8 inch bracelet. 4 beads and 1 spacer is equal to half an inch so to shorten or extend just adjust the number of beads and spacers you use!

52 x 6mm Swarovksi Crystal Bicone Beads - 4 of each colour
13 x 2 String Spacers (I used my D96 Spacers )
4 x 3mm Stardust Sparkle Beads
2 x Clamshell with Loop
2x 2mm Crimp Beads
24 Inches Fireline (or the stringing material of your choice)
2 x 5mm Heavy Jump Rings
1 x Lobster Clasp

I also needed the following basic jewellers tools:
Wire cutters
Flat pliers (I used two pairs - I prefer two to open and close jump rings)
Chain nose pliers

Making Your Bracelet

Before starting, I find it useful to arrange the beads and spacers loose on a tabletop so I can see which beads go in which order. It makes it nice and easy when it comes to stringing the beads.

Slide a crimp bead onto your stringing material and crimp flat at at the half way point with flat nose pliers.

Thread both ends of the string down though the clamshell and through the hole until the crimp bead prevents you from pulling further. Close your clamshell with your pliers.

Thread a stardust bead onto each string and take them as close to the clamshell as you can. Then start stringing your beads and spacers (with a string going through each side of the spacers)

Continue stringing until all the beads and spacers are in place. Add the final two stardust beads.

Thread the two ends through the clamshell from the bottom (so through the hole in the bottom, up through the 'shell' part).

Slide a crimp bead onto one string down into the clamshell. Don't crimp it.

Tie the two strings together using an overhand knot (like the knot you use to tie shoelaces, before you do the looped bits!). You want the knot to close over the crimp bead while keeping the bottom of the clamshell as close to the stardust beads as possible - the tension of the beaded string is really important - too little and your beads will slide around leaving ugly gaps. I use a spare bit of wire to help push the crimp right down while I'm tying. (I've shown the wire in the picture - the hand I'd be holding it with is, of course, holding the camera instead!)

Repeat this overhand knot two more times, keeping the bead string tense. If you wish, you can use chain nose pliers or tweezers to crimp your crimp bead at this point (although it's not neccessary). I dab the knot with the tinyest bit of clear nail polish to help fix it before trimming away the excess line with my wire cutters and closing the clamshell.

Fit a jump ring through the loop on one clamshell, and a jump ring attached to a lobster clasp through the loop on the other clamshell.

Note from the Author

I hope you found this useful. I'm writing new guides all the time so don't forget watch out for more tutorials.

Many thanks and happy crafting!

Explanation of Difficulty Levels

I rate my designs by four difficulty levels for non-soldering or sawing jewellery making. They're rated by a number of factors including time taken to make, whether you need to make some of your own components and whether they need basic tools or 'specialist' tools.

  1. Beginner - Anyone should be able to manage this, even if you've never held a pair of jewellery pliers in your life.
  2. Quick & Easy - Fast project, basic techniques only. Should be confident with pliers, cutters, jump rings, basic beaded links - anything else will be explained in easy steps.
  3. Needs confidence - Longer project that includes some trickier elements including but not limited to using more complex wire manipulation (e.g. making wire bails, using a jig or pliers to make wire components) and more time consuming projects that involve lots and lots of small steps.
  4. Tricky - Projects for the terminally insane. Whether I'll put anything here is up in the air. The vast majority of what I make is 2 or 3 - simply because I don't have the patience for long projects

Copyright Notice

I am happy for designs to be copied where I've given instructions to do so :o) (i.e. this guide!). However if you're producing for commercial use (i.e. resale) credit for the design (e.g. 'A Stephie Hall design'), and a link to my website would be appreciated.

Text and pictures may not be reused without my express permission.