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.