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.

A kick up the bum!

I've spent most of the last few days (while conscious anyway, I have a cold and I have a tendancy to sleep ridiculous amounts when I'm sick) sitting being very aimless and thinking of all the things I should be doing and haven't, and mentally adding them to an as-yet unwritten list for some unspecified 'tomorrow'.

So I still haven't....

  • Finished listing the beads on my desk to my eBay shop (get a move on woman, there are only 6 styles and some chain left to do)
  • Tidied my office
  • Put away all the new storage boxes into useful places where they can be used to STORE
  • Put away all the stuff that I HAVE listed and that is now selling and isn't where its supposed to be when it comes to packing
  • Done any art 'lessons' of any variety
  • Made any jewellery.
  • Not even managed the tinyest hint of writing a tutorial. Stupid thing is I know exactly which project I want to write up - I just haven't done it
  • Done anything on my 'book'. OK its not actually a book, its writing for personal gratification and the satisfaction of curiousity for interested parties, but it still needs doing!
  • Finished my jewellery website. All it needs is a few pictures and a link changing. Not rocket science.
  • Read this months jewellery magazines. I have a Simply Beads, an Art Jewelry and a Bead & Button that I've done nothing more than quickly flick through.
  • Gone through all the starred stuff in google reader and acted on those which require action

I could go on... but its getting silly.
Trouble is I rely HUGELY on Geoff to help keep me focused. I am not the most self disciplined of people. Not that HE disciplines me (well not at work anyway *grins* ...he can be rath... oh OK, TMI, I'll shut up... ) but he's pretty good at getting me to focus myself. I'm great with ideas, conceptualisation, innovation, ingenuity and occasional flashes of brilliance. I'm not so good at daily grafting and staying focused. Neither is Geoff of course, but he's pretty good at keeping me on track. And now he's back at work full time, I don't have that help here when I need it.

So focus, Stephie. Focus!

Monday, 21 January 2008

A bit of a bust...

I've been a bit useless today really. Not helped by feeling decidedly washed out post-friday night having gone out for drinks for our friend Andy's birthday. I'm getting too old to get trashed and sleep on floors.

But today... I've slept a lot for me, again I think because I'm slightly ill with a sore throat and sinus infection. I've not done much in the way of work due to a combination of illness/sleeping, the Evil Nieces being here till 4pm and then a (welcome) trip to Georgie's of madcowbeads. It was good to see her and good to get away from the kids. Then came back, had dinner, slept some more and have pretty much messed about on Facebook until now.

Tomorrow... I need to focus. I have a lot of stuff on my desk ready to list in my ebay shop and it needs to be done yesterday, then I need to send out my Monday product update email. I really need to do various things this week that have been sorely neglected as well. My design ideas gallery hasn't been updated in ages, I desperately need to start writing a jewellery tutorial a week, I also need to do the finishing touches to the jewellery website and start promoting it - its structurally there, more or less, but needs prettifying and personalising - and I have a whole bunch of jewellery that needs making to model some new findings I have in.

I'm dreading Tuesday's weigh-in. I ate soooo much rubbish over the weekend its unreal - I worked my way through a fried breakfast, then lunch, then chocolate, then a BK meal... etc... I rarely eat any of that stuff - or drink - and I dread to think how its affected my weight loss. Not well I suspect.

As for beautiul artistry-de-Stephie... gonna have to wait a few days I think, way too busy with work stuff. Georgie reckons our office is going to be completed soon (its being built) so I need to get in a position to pay the rent very quickly. I'm a little apprehensive about it. I desperately want my stock out the house, its got just too big to keep here but given funds, I'd go with filling in my swimming pool and putting a great big insulated shed in the garden. Sadly thats about 15-20k to be done properly which is way beyond our current means. But paying for space is going to be tight, I'm not making as much money as I should be at the minute, and I'm not looking forward to having to leave the house every day.

There's also the additional problem that, at the minute Geoff is working and we only have one car between us. And I can't get up there without a car. It also means that most days we're going to be back to me doing the packing on my own because we have Cam around once Geoff and the car are home and we can't really drag him up there every day. Plus I think G and I have different idea on how I'll be useing it. I see it as a storage and packing space, she sees it as joint premises complete with office-hours phone manning between us which really isn't practical for me - I can't have the computer up there because I can't live without it here and I don't want to leave the dogs and cats on their own all day. So its difficult. But it will be nice to not have the stock here.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Lesson errr...

I have no idea what 'lesson' number I'm up to. And I did these a little while ago anyway - almost two weeks ago, I mentioned I'd been sketching purple animals - well here they are. I wasn't going to post them, being rough sketches to see if I could get animal shapes vaguely correct but *shrugs* I've been too lame for words and haven't posted anything painty or draw-y or bead-y for ages (because I haven't done anything!) so this is my penance!

They were very quick, very rough sketches from photos. My personal favourite is the lion cub - although thats actually the one that looks least like to photo I was working from (in that the the original was erm... a kitten. But all kittens think they're lions anyway!). There's a multitude of flaws which I shan't bother to list - what I take from this is that yes, I can in fact learn to draw and indeed am doing so. I couldn't have done these two months ago.

Purple Animals

Purple Unicorn Purple Unicorn

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Just half an hour to go....

...then I can SLEEP! The girls have been... tiring in the extreme today. Every time I've left the room to try and do anything their have been wails of Auntie Stephhhhhh I want a drink, auntie Stephhhhhh I want a sandwich, Auntie Stephhhhhhh, I need the toilet ad infinitum... so I'm kind of wrecked and peed off in the extreme now.

Which is a shame because I suspect if the girls hadn't been here I would have had a really rather creative day. I got all fired up last night after realising the 2008 Bead & Button Bead Dreams competition was now open. Not that that I expect to even register as more than an entry fee but one has to start somewhere and get in the habit of submitting (and that somewhere is erm... one of the biggest beading jewellery competitions in the world...) and I've had all manner of sparkling entry possibilities whirling through my head and no time to work on the detail. I reckon work productivity would have featured as well, I have soooo many things at the minute that I need to model in the form of sparkly jewellery and no time to make anything up.

I also found an RSS reader that I LIKE in the form of Google Reader. Perhaps I haven't really looked very hard before but no description of a free RSS reader ever sounded like exactly what I wanted. Google reader IS. Its perfect and I love it and now all those zillions of RSS feeds I click subscribe on and promptly forget about are all nicely displayed as new items for me to read on my browser homepage. I truly am in love.

So I'm feeling artistic, productive and completely and totally frustrated at my complete inability to act upon it due to stress-inducing babies of the niece variety. Made slightly more annoying because I strongly suspect that Phil could have picked them up this morning and taken them into their nursery for the day. But Phil has vanished off the face of the earth. Plus its Georgie's birthday TOMORROW and I still haven't finished her blinkin present (eeep!... its been in-the-planning-stages for weeks!)

The good news is that, assuming Phil actually materialilses into some sort of solid and useful form, rather than a rumoured existence, the girls WILL be going home tonight and WILL be going to their school tomorrow. Then we need to not only repair the damage 3 days of small girls does to a house, but completely clean and hoover it so my asthmatic mother doesn't die when we leave her babysitting (we're off to have birthday drinkies with Andy tomorrow night and will be gone from tomorrow lunchtime to sometime Saturday afternoon).

And ~yay~ typing has cut down my time-to-go to just 15 minutes till Geoff gets home. ~does a happy dance~. And I don't think the girls are screaming... which could be a bad sign but I'm hoping one or both has fallen asleep, they did at this time yesterday.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

The girlies have descended

Now as anyone who knows me even vaguely well is aware, I'm not good with babies. Yes this is despite having four of em. I'm never quite sure what to do with them (apart from the basics of keep em fed with dry nappies). Plus my brain switches itself off and runs away screaming when confronted with the task of Keeping Small People Happy. If I start in a neutral mood, I merely descend into a zombie-like numbness. If I'm tired or stressed or have other things to do I morph into in an incapable, sobbing wreck. I think its a conditioned reaction of way too many years of PND which resurfaces when I'm around little people. And today I have two of em.

Usually, everyone is very careful to make sure I'm not left with small babies. Its a simple matter of pragmatism. We wouldn't ask Geoff to do jewellery design, my mother to do marketing, dax to do financial management, tricia to do website design - or me to do childcare. Because we're all a bit crap at those things that we wouldn't ask each other to do. So usually in this situation, Geoff would look after the babies and I'd make money. Because I'm good at making money and Geoff is good with kids. Sady at the minute, Geoff is also in the somewhat novel position of breadwinning and therefore at work today leaving me to play Auntie Steph to two very lovely but very demanding small girls while their mom hatches a third.

Sooo... how to approach it? Do I try seeing if I can work while they occupy each other in the living room? I have shitloads to do but if I end up not being able to do it when I've planned to do so I'll get majorly stressed. Or do I write off the day entirely, shut down my PC and move into the horrible dark living room for the day? I'm aware that technically its possible to just.... go with the flow and be wherever is most practical at the time. I'm just very much an all-or-nothing girl. Half-assedness doesn't come naturally and 'maybe getting a little work done, if I can' is very much half assed. And kids being chaotic and unpredictable, I can't plan ahead well, I can't set targets and goals and lists for the day which might seem like a little thing to you but its a major issue for me. I need my time to be planned and filled because boredom and indecision and internal conflict are not things I deal with very well.

So.... expect the worst, and anything else will come as a nice surprise has to be the way to go I think. It frequently works as well. So if I expect the kids to be horrible and demanding and me to totally not deal I feel better when its not as bad as expected. You'd think it has the potential to be a self fulfilling prophecy - ie I think it will be awful so it will be - but surprisingly, it doesn't tend to work like that.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Skiving! With purple unicorns!

Hokey cokey... I've been OK today. Still rather tired but I think thats the beginning of a cold taking hold, I felt decidedly ill last night and first thing this morning. Which was unfortunate given that it meant I forgot my dentist appointment until they rang with a 'Mrs Hall... you were supposed to be here five minutes ago'. Ooops.

Nonetheless I've been good and (mostly) worked today. Then Geoff and co went off to geekland and left me with the Evil Small Children who were on the whole OK. Finn did require my pretty much constant presence until he went to sleep but was happy with me reading in there with him. And Cam both let geoff leave and went to bed with no complaints which is nothing short of miraculous.

Then I escaped and skived off for a couple of hours. Technically I should have been doing stocktaking, in practise I've been sketching purple animals. And a unicorn. Just to practise drawing shapes accurately more than anything. I did have to find a clear picture of a horse's head to check what kind of nose they have. Flared nostrils. Got it now. Thought the bear nose didn't look quite right on my unicorn... I'm improving. Still not great though I need to be much better. I can't draw all the cool things in my head till I'm better at it.

Other than that... things are boring. My sister STILL hasn't had the bloody baby. I wish she'd get a move on so I can relax and not be permanently ready to drive down the M4. Bitch woke me at 3am to come down when she had the last one. That was fun....
Darren turns 16 on Thursday (eeep!) and should be starting to work for me next week as week (its a long story... but I get cheap labour, he gets bribed to actually pass his GCSEs.... because he's damn clever but damn lazy and so disillusioned with school its unreal). Jay's friend's parents came round to complain about prank phonecalls at 2am on Sunday morning *sigh* and Geoff goes back to work on what looks like Monday (coincidentally the same day as my mother - another blinking physicist contractor - goes back to her old workplace). Nothing has made me laugh all day which is a little sad.

And I'm now bored. Geoff's been out all evening and I definitely prefer having someone around to mutter at. I'm not tired (plus I'd quite like to still be awake when Geoff gets back)

Sunday, 6 January 2008

I'm bloody knackered

I have finally been through every single template of every single relevant product in my shop (there's around 1200 products - with around 1-2 templates each) and changed all the bloody listings that still have image URLs for the old domain. Its boring, mind numbing and what few braincells I have left are attempting to escape their torture by climbing out my nose *sniff*. I also stock took as I went... so now in theory all my stock levels for those categories - which is most of the stuff I have - are correct and absolutely everything is listed for sale. Erm all the already written-and-photographed stock that is. That doesn't include the few hundred lines I have sitting here unphotographed, uncounted and unwritten. So much as I'd like to, I can't really take much of a break yet. But its a good start to the year I guess and my shop is now reopened so I should start making money pdq again. Which we need coz we're a bit screwed at the mo.

Soooo tomorrow its stocktake the remaining stuff that doesn't have potential wrong domains - glass beads and jewellery - sticking the jewellery up on the new website as well as I go. Then starts the slow process of getting through all the brand new lines that aren't up yet. And I'm still only on step 2 (of 10) of The Big Picture. And they're not even linear steps *sighs* they go like this:

1..2....3....4................5..6......7...................................8.............................9......*10* utopia!

Or to put it more simply, the first 6 steps - about 2 months. The next 3 steps - about 6 months and simultaneous. Thats way more planning and forethought than I've ever shown any ability to stick to before.

Unsurprisingly I've done bugger all other than work my bum off and sleep the last few days but I figure now the absolute immediate essential stuff is out the way I can maybe go back to having slightly more balance. And, y'know, reintroducing my husband to his wife. I think he's forgotton who I am.

And finally a question.... because I'm really quite interested in the answer. Is finding balance supposed to be so damn difficult?

Its a MAJOR mental logistics problem trying to get my head around doing work-play-family-house-health-etc every day. How do people manage it all the time?

Coz my natural inclination is to one or the other. Like... I can work solid for a week no problem. I can spend days straight reading new books. I can decide my house needs cleaning / redecorating and keep going until the damn thing is done. I've lost weeks of my life completely immersed to the exclusion of everything else when finding new hobbies. I've lost entire months of my life in online communities (or amateur dramatics! Away from rehearsals, costumes need making, props and sets need doing, the am dram pub quiz team Needs You!... is very easy to give your entire life over to it)

But I find it sooooo hard to do little bit of each, every day. So whats the secret?

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Being a good girl

Sadly the fat chick picture tells me that I've lost the ability to do sweet, cute and delightfully angelic so I shan't try. It would be grimace-like. Sadly my kids noticed it and have been teasing horribly. Or rather Darren was teasing horribly until he decided to convince me that if he really stopped talking to me I'd be worried (haha - I won that one though, he's 'not speaking to me' for a week to see if I get panicky. Yay! No incessant teenage rambling!). Then he just sent Jay in with comments about double chins *glares*.

But I have been behaving in the sense of sticking to my lists a little more. Work has been getting done, although I've changed the shop reopen date to Monday to allow me to get through the rest of the stock edits unhindered, I've been dutifully getting my minimum-per-day exercise, staying (mainly) off the chocolate and attempting to get my finances slightly more... afloat. As Geoff appears to be still largely non-posting on his journal, I'll say that it looks like he's going back to work part time as a contractor - at least for a little while. I won't pretend I won't miss having him at home - I'm not sure how I'll feel to be honest, I've been a lot less depressed with him around - but we need the extra income at the minute. We're not entirely sure how we'll manage kids though given that Cam needs collecting from school at 3.15 daily and I don't currently have a car.

I'd like to have found some time for drawing/painting but most of the stuff I'm in the middle of is currently at the stage where its going to require a good few hours uninterrupted to get further and I haven't really had those hours to spare. I have however got several new books that I've yet to read some of which are relevant to the artwork I'm working on so could read them instead, takes considerably less time!

Sadly the one major thing on my do every day list that I've skipped today is 'something houseworky' so I'm going to bugger off and change the cat litter trays in a mo... Oh and I didn't take my extensive collection of vitamins, supplements and meds this morning either. Ooops. Bad Stephie. Bad, bad bad. *Adjusts the halo from where it slipped anklewards*