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Springspration! 

It’s beautiful here right now, everything is fresh and green, blooming. Yesterday was beautifully sunny so we went out for a walk, we found secret pools of bluebells and sunlight filtered through leaves, magic at every turn 🙂  I took my macro lens and a million snaps, I could help but feel inspired and refreshed. 

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Hard Working Hands

As a creative person my hands take a great deal of punishment, I think that working in an outdoor workshop my hands are exposed to the cold at the start of the day, they get warmed by the torch and then suffer the cold again later, I have a little arthritis in my finger joints which can make them achy and sore, needless to say it doesn’t stop me but it does mean I should probably take much better care of my hands. Last year I bought myself a warming paraffin wax hand bath, basically you moisturise your hands and then submerse them in melted wax several times before wrapping them up and letting the heat soak in, its blissful and has the added bonus of hitting your hands with a blast of moisture.

I don’t have time to treat myself every day so on the days in between treatments I use a homemade hand balm, I know that lots of lamp workers use this, its good for treating etched beads too.

In a bain marie I melted the following ingredients:

20g raw organic cocoa butter

20g organic shea butter

10g beeswax

10g apricot oil

There are heaps of recipes online to make something like this, you can add a few drops of your favourite oil, I used peppermint (it smells of mint chocolate with the cocoa butter) you can substitute the apricot oil for coconut oil or any other nice quality oil. Once its all melted together you can mix it well and pour it into little pots for the perfect hand treat! Like any other tool, you need to take care of your hands 🙂

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Date Yourself

A couple of years ago while I was in the middle of creative slump a friend recommended a book to me called The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. I will be completely honest and say that I didn’t follow all the exercises but two of them stuck with me, the one I want to tell you about is the idea of having a creative ‘date’ with yourself, a concept of giving yourself a day out, to explore something that inspires you, it could be a walk somewhere beautiful, it could be a trip out with your camera or a visit to a gallery or exhibition, something that inspires and replenishes your creative well.

This week my lovely hubby took me into Glasgow to the Kelvingrove Museum to visit the Alphonse Mucha exhibition, its only on for a short time and I really wanted to go, I wasn’t disappointed, such incredibly beautiful work on display, and stunning colours, I can only say that if you have the opportunity to visit, go, its so worth it, even more so if you love Art Nouveau.

Needless to say I came back to the workshop brimming with ideas, this weeks beads are a bit scattergun, so many different colour combinations, I’m not convinced they all work but somewhere in the chaos of being inspired is a seed, something that will grow and develop until it becomes something more tangible 🙂

Either way,  when you next sit down with your beads and feel stumped or blocked, take yourself out for a date with yourself, refill that well!

 

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Photography

You might have noticed this week that I have changed my banners on my shops, I have been thinking a lot about the images I present and decided it was time to get a little help to ‘up my game’ as far as photographing my work is concerned.

I have been really lucky recently to have been introduced to a fantastic photographer Lottie Judd,  she’s recently moved to Scotland and last year we were lucky enough to win a family photoshoot with her, over the last few months we met up a few times for coffee and a natter, we have a lot in common, neither of us are native Scots,  we both love images, colour and jewellery and seem to find things to natter about endlessly, naturally it made sense to as Lottie to help me with my photography.

I knew that I needed an idea of what I wanted out of our session, I knew that I wanted help ‘staging’ my jewellery but I also wanted to create images that were inviting and warm, over a couple of days prior to Lottie coming over I collected a few props together including some lovely pussy willow sticks, pieces of wood and dried leaves/petals.

Lottie helped me to check my camera settings in manual were correct for the photos I wanted, we talked about depth of field (blurring the background so the foreground is in focus) we talked about F numbers and why they are important and we talked about white balance and light, more importantly I came away with some wonderful images, the knowledge to create them again and a sense of direction and purpose to take forward.

If you are a small craft business and you want help to polish your images and sharpen your skills I can honestly say investing in an few hours with a professional photographer who is happy to share their skills with you is invaluable! Consider these things:

  • Choose someone who appreciates your work and understands the images you want to create.
  • Choose someone who has patience and is willing to talk you through your camera and its settings
  • Have a good idea of what you want to achieve before you pay for a session, look at Pinterest, think about how you want your images to ‘feel’ to the viewer.

You can see Lottie’s photography on her website here: http://www.lottiephotography.com and follow her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/lottiephotography/?fref=ts

 

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New Year

Its that start to the new year thing again…..I’m trying desperately hard not to make any resolutions other than to be healthier and try to balance work and life a little better, its harder than it sounds, not the balancing part but the not making any resolutions, I’m not dead set against them, I’m just terrible at keeping them and really don’t need the self imposed guilt trip!

So, my plans (not resolutions) for the new year are as follows:

  • Look up more, pay more attention to the gorgeous place I live and enjoy just being here and now!
  • Come up with some new and exciting ideas for beads (not quite sure how thats going to happen, I’m hoping that a dust mote of inspiration will strike, the stars will be aligned and all will be good!)
  • Try to be healthier, not just in my diet but I need to move more, the downside to shed life is largely not moving about enough.
  • Work outside my comfort zone, I want to try new things, things with glass, things with metal (theres other mediums I could add to this list but I really don’t need to start another hobby with all the paraphernalia that goes along with it!)

I think thats probably enough to be going on with 🙂 so I’m going to leave you with some of the photos I took on New Years Day, we took a trip to Glen Etive and it couldn’t have been more beautiful!

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Workspace Sharing

Recently my best friend moved house, like me she’s a lamp worker, her new place doesn’t have a shed, or workshop, no where for her to light her torch and melt until her hearts content. Lampwork is a meditative process, it can be restful and restorative, when you are told that you can’t do it, or you’re restricted for a period of time it can feel like your world has shrunk, like a part of you is cut off, with this in mind I offered my friend the use of my second torch.

I dont think I was really prepared for the benefits of shared workspace, I don’t think I was prepared to observe how differently someone else worked,prepared and used their tools. I have spent time with other people in their workspaces, I have taught people in mine, but this is different, my friend has the space set up in a particular way to suit her needs, where I am scattered she is neat, where I know where my tools sit and can just reach for them hers are laid out ready for use.

The week my friend took me up on my offer was a bad one, I was in a creative slump, feeling lost and directionless, contemplating all the other things I could take up without really seriously considering any of them it would have been really easy to resent someone invading my space, I didn’t, I actually enjoyed the company, the chatter and feeling of camaraderie, having someone on hand who totally understood my slump and didn’t utter the words ‘you should’. The silence wasn’t awkward, it was companionable, it was easy.

Having chatted at great length about being in a bit of a slump we decided to create ourselves a private Pinterest board for things that inspired us. It has proven already to be a wonderful source of ideas, not only for colour combinations but for patterns and structures of beads, my favourites so far have been a series of totems, gorgeous brightly coloured poles with lots of pattern, you can see the pin here https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/398005685800173378/

Below you can see the dolls I have made inspired by those poles.

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I think the best part of all of this is the genuine excitement and thrill of making something new, having someone wonderful to bounce ideas around with,  we have even been talking about collaborating on some projects 🙂

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Evolution

One of the hardest parts of working for yourself is the constant need to evolve and being able to recognise when it needs to happen, maintain interest whilst being able to make things that bring you joy. Recently I have felt the need to shake things up a little so have decided to keep a seperate jewellery shop on my website, I’ve been adding some lovely charm necklaces with some beautiful charms I’ve made in the workshop and some gemstone elements. 

The first is ‘make a wish’ it features a stunning chrysoprase in the best summer colour ever, a small enamelled disc with leaves imprinted underneath the enamel and a soulsilver dandelion charm. 


The next is Luna, this has the sweetest carved bone moon face, a soft grey druzy Quartz and a pretty moon and star soulsilver charm, it reminds me of dawn when the sky has lightened to softest grey but the stars and moon are just visible. 

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Something Different.

I have been making beads for nearly ten years, granted the first couple were a huge learning curve, and it certainly took a while before I had anything I felt was saleable and even longer before I could confidently say that I had something that was distinctly mine in terms of style.  Its not really any surprise that my mojo has taken a little bit of a hiatus recently and in some respects I think my confidence has thought ‘ooh, mojo is on its hols, I think I will go with it!’  I will be honest, its a pain, and a worry, I don’t want to go back to working for someone else, I love that I am home with my kids, I love that I get to listen to audiobooks while I work and drink tea whenever I want, I don’t have scheduled breaks and if I want to sit and eat my lunch in the sunshine and dip my feet in the kids paddling pool I can do that too 😀

 I don’t love the fear of not selling enough, or the realisation that selling in quantity has become validation for what I am doing. I wish with my whole heart that I could pop back to the days when earning money from, what was then a hobby, was a wonderful bonus to what can only be described as the absolute pleasure of melting glass and turning it into wonderful new shapes.

So this week I decided to cut myself a little slack, I pulled out my rather dusty paint box and started to play 🙂 I don’t know what will become of these yet, I think that little notebooks might be rather nice but we will wait and see. For now the pleasure lies in watching the paint float across the page and mingle its colours dandelion girl1 lostgirl2

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Rare Days

It’s Saturday morning, nothing rare about that except for the fact that we have been blessed with a bluer than blue sky today, not a single cloud. It’s not a day for working, I’m sitting in the garden enjoying my coffee, listening to all the birds. It’s moments like this when all is well, there is calm, the sunshine has the ability to dissolve the worries and self doubt involved with running a business, earning a wage and just enjoy the “nowness” of sitting in the garden with coffee.

Have a peaceful weekend X 

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Experiments

One of the things I love most about what I do is the opportunities to diversify, as with so many other crafts, one often leads to another and another, in some respects its distracting, in others its a joy, I will never be at a loss for things to do, try, learn. It does on occasion leave me with a sense of panic that I will never have enough life time to experience or try out all the things I want to do.

Anyway I digress, this week I was having a long overdue tidy up in the workshop, and was distracted by some discarded copper sheet (my kids do this when I ask them to tidy their rooms, they always end up playing with forgotten toys and the room never gets cleaned) I started by cutting a circle of copper and using my sandbag and a ball pein hammer started hammer in a spiral from the centre ( its at this point I wish I had taken photos of the process) after repeatedly annealing the copper and gradually hammering until I reached the outer edges I ended up with a small copper dish, I know I haven’t done it properly because the edges of the dish shouldn’t be fluted so I must read up on properly sinking bowls.

Having left the project alone for a day I had another look at it and decided to enamel the centre, I have some lovely enamels that I use for glass beads, I layered them up and then heated the kiln, it has to get really hot for the enamel to melt. copperdish2

You have to be careful moving the unfired piece to the kiln so you don’t disturb the powdered enamel.

copperdish

You can see from the second photo that the enamel has fired but there are still small spots of it where its moved slightly when I’ve placed it in the kiln.

When it comes to this type of work I am a complete novice, I really do need to read up more on the proper processes, but it was a fun distraction project and I am left with a pretty bowl that looks like it has a pool inside 🙂