Saturday, 28 November 2009

Is it something in the water?

First, this is not a moan, just an observation - and, I guess, a query. Picture the scene: Christmas Fair. Same place. Two consecutive days. Same stall. Virtually same stock.

Day 1: Lady approaches stall, fingers stuff. Me: "The glass beads are hand-crafted - I'm a glass bead maker." She: "Are you really? How fascinating!" Repeat that scene numerous times (with both men and women), liberally sprinkle with happy chats about different jewellery making techniques, the weather, tuition, matching colours, etc. End of day: pretty good, as far as the till is concerned. Frantic jewellery making to re-stock in the evening.

Day 2: Only slightly less footfall. Lady approaches stall, fingers stuff. Me: "The glass beads are hand-crafted - I'm a glass bead maker." She: "Oh yeah?" Insert fast exit here. Sprinkle with numerous people throwing a cursory glance at stall without ever wandering over. End of day: :o(

Overall, I'm not unhappy, the overall balance was okay. But why? Are Sunday shoppers casual shoppers? It's an out-of-the-way venue, no passing traffic, really, so everybody would have to make an effort to come in. Do craft-people exude invisible fumes on the second day, sending out messages like 'don't come near'? Are 'Saturdays' for spending (week-end grocery shop, etc.), and Sundays for leisure (i.e. 'browsing'? Was it just a fluke (which did repeat itself all over the fair, not just on my stall)?

And has anybody ever done a PhD on the psychology of craft fairs and their shoppers? Hmmmmmm...........................................

Friday, 27 November 2009

Double whammy!

So much has been going on, I've not yet blogged this month's Making Jewellery magazine! I thought I had one tutorial in it, until I was told another one of mine had been pulled forward, so there are two! Although I'm not normally one for fashion, I thoroughly enjoy this magazine - mainly because they also support fashion advice like 'this would look great with jeans and t-shirt' ;o) This issue is full of gorgeous Christmas bling, including several art clay tutorials that look rather yummy!

I'm in there with a pair of cufflinks and a bracelet.

The bracelet I made features an exchangeable clasp, and it just came back from the publisher, so I took a quick photo. The question is.......sell it, or keep it?

Off to my Christmas fair in a bit!

I need a new bust

Recently, I posted on a lovely forum about how to display large necklaces - I got lots of fabulous responses, that gave me loads of ideas!! Dutifully, I bought some polystyrene insulation, a cheap second-hand picture frame, an old velvet jersey top, and a staple gun. Not too long afterwards, I had a pretty 'picture' of velvet, to which I could pin my jewellery. just wasn't right. So, with two days of Christmas fairs to go, I decided I needed a bust - and a big one at that! Not being a woman who does things by half, I ordered three. Fingers crossed they'll arrive today. So, here's a 'before the new bust' photo - do you think getting the new busts will help me get noticed at the fair???? I hadn't realised just how important a good bust was..........


Thursday, 26 November 2009

Words that Inspire

I am hugely motivated and inspired by words. When I was five years old (yes, that's right!), I made a book in kindergarten, weaving the cover out of paper strips. It's slightly smaller than A6. And, at the tender age of 5, I decided that I would put one poem or saying per year into it - one per page - until the pages ran out. I realised that the end of the book would take me to the ripe old age of 25, which, of course, appeared ancient. At some point around the age of 14, English appeared in these sayings, or not. At the age of 18, I realised one saying was not enough to capture the mood of a year, so I wrote down more - 4, 5 sometimes - but I always stuck to one page. Looking back, I can watch myself grow up, from the first two years, where my Mum helped me find a quote (leading to quite old-fashioned proverbs), through teenage rebellion, into adulthood. Amongst other things, the book made me focus - what was this year about? With my birthday in October, I wouldn't even attempt to leave a quote until the following summer - what if my life was about to change radically, and the year would forever be eternalised with a quote that was no longer relevant? Through the quotes, I can track when I was grateful for things going well, when I was keeping myself psyched up to keep on fighting when things were rough, when I felt I was in need of cheering myself up, or when I was feeling contemplative. I would write down bits of poems, full poems, random sentences from books. If it meant something to me, it would go in.

And now, I'm on the hunt for words again. Words that mean something, that inspire, keep us going, motivate us, remind us of what we have, who we are, and what could be if only we went and got it. And I shall turn them into jewellery. On commission, or to buy. I have more ideas than there are hours in the day, but I have just listed the first one in my etsy shop. The quote is by Victor Hugo:

Be like the bird that, pausing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels
them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.

So, ladies (and gents), let us keep singing, for we all have wings!

My question to you is this: Which words motivate you? What saying/poem/random phrase reminds you to get out of bed, face the day with a smile on your face...and keep on singing?

I hope you're all having a good day!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Candy Cane Christmas market and a bit of a natter

This week-end is the Craft Candy - Candy Cane Christmas market, at the Sheffield Workstation (near the train station). You can see more information here. I'll be there on both days with jewellery, and have been making original items (like the Mad Hatter necklace I blogged yesterday). It's a funny old balance, isn't it? With beads and some jewellery in one shop, bridal jewellery and tiaras in another shop, work in a local gallery, and an etsy shop that is in the process of being resurrected, as well as fairs to attend, what do you list where? And when do you list it? So, I will be taking the new jewellery items to the fair, and on Monday, there shall be a listing frenzy. Expect keys on silk ribbons, fabulous chokers, and more poetry necklaces...unless they all sell, of course ;o)

Oh, and I did another interview yesterday, parked by the roadside on my mobile, since that was the only way to get a very excited birthday boy to fall asleep so I could have a good natter with the PR lady - watch this space - we need to book a photo, where's my 'airbrush?

Oh (lol, that's two 'ohs' - a bit like Columbo!), and munchkin the birthday boy discovered a bigger flame than from mummy's torch - the fire tornado at the Magna Centre in Rotherham!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Mad as a Hatter

I spent a ridiculously long time yesterday wiring up beads - I thought it'd be quicker. Before that, I played with a 3mm sterling silver wire length I've had for some time,
hammering, stamping, soldering, polishing and satin-brushing it. Then I joined everything together, and looked at it. And then I took some photos.

I love words. And I love sculptural lampwork. And
asymmentrical necklaces. And things with stories and meaning. And my 'major mojo' idea came when I realised that I could combine the whole lot!!!!! I've got the components for a second necklace - very different to this one - and if I manage to finish my commissions quickly tonight, I'll see if I can finish it. Until then, may I present: 'Mad as a Hatter'!!

Monday, 23 November 2009

The advantages of a 4am start

When the little one decided 4am was a reasonable getting up time, I was...erm...disappointed. But then I realised: what an opportunity! So, by the time I got to work at 7.45am, I had:

- cleaned yesterday's beads
- made a pendant and earring set up out of 'champagne bottle beads' for a celebratory graduation commission
- got to know the engraving gadget on my dremel a bit better
- packaged yesterday's orders up
- checked and replied to emails
- sketched a few ideas to do with my new
jewellery range
- had lots of cuddles with munchkin, showed him how to use hammer & anvil for silversmithing
- done all the mundane household things: showering, making lunch, having breakfast
- bought some milk on the way to work.

I have also learnt that I need way more PPP for my engraving tool to create what I want it to!

New beads went online yesterday, I'm attaching a close-up of my favourite focal/set combo, and a little butterfly.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Mojo alert!

There are weeks, even months, when mojos go on holiday - mine included. Then, suddenly, ideas burst out everywhere.........that's where I'm at at this precise moment in time. Never mind Christmas fairs, never mind the job, never mind the fact that there's lots to do in the studio yet.....I want to PLAY! I've had ideas for jewellery especially, and I'm keeping back some butterflies to explore these ideas.....sorry!

But there are still plenty of beads from my open day yesterday that will go online either late tonight or early tomorrow - if you want to be on my mailing list, just send me an email at and tell me so, and I'll add you in a flash!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Open Day

I had my Open Day today, and since my studio was in tip-top shape, I thought I'd share the 'grand finale' photos of the development. Ladies & gentlemen, may I present: the Little Castle Designs / Now Forevermore studio :o)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Rod by rod, bead by bead

Okay, something slightly more philosophical today - are you ready? There are a lot of expressions that illustrate when something is done slowly, but steadily - bit by bit, peux à peux, little by little, etc. But they don't really express what it means, do they? Analogies and metaphors work better: you build a house 'brick by brick', you empty an ocean 'drop by drop', you walk a thousand miles 'step after step' - in these contexts, a seemingly impossible task is broken down into minute components, implying that, as long as you stick with it, you'll do it - however long it might take.

When I first discussed bead making full time with my OH, he was, of course, apprehensive - it's a great leap into the unknown. I am fortunate in having been given a long lead-in time, my job ends next summer, so I have a long time to make it work. We both joked that I would take over the world - bead by bead. That, of course, was a joke - I have no intention to take over the world (and aren't you glad to hear it). But, thanks to you all, who buy my beads and my jewellery, bead by bead, spacer by spacer, full-time bead making looks like a viable option. And for that, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

So tonight, when it is finally time to move all my glass across from cellar to studio (and there is a lot of glass!), I shall take it steady - rod by rod, if I have to, so that tomorrow, those visiting my open studio, can see the full gorgeousness of glass :o)

Philosophical moment over! Today's photo is of my glass rods, but taken by my talented sister Katrin (see her other photos on Flickr here).

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

I'm a success, lol!

Surely, otherwise, nobody would have written a success story about me, would they?

Here's what happened: About half a year ago, I found out that the university I studies at (and now happen to be working at, too) was giving out enterprise grants for start-up businesses. Cheeky as I am, I checked regulations, double-checked them, and found out that I was fully eligible (as a graduate within the last five years) - in fact, I was strongly encouraged to go for it. So I asked for the money for the stall at the UK Wedding Show. No way would I have contemplated attending such a high profile (although, now that I've done it once, I might well do it again). With this grant came, of course, responsibility - handing over receipts, writing a report, but, to be fair, nothing onerous, especially not when your day job includes writing reports. And, now that all this is done, and I'm still standing, I'm a 'success story', and was interviewed by the lovely Samantha Deakin about my trials and tribulations. Reading it this morning, I realised it should say 'the further you get from the *mandrel* the colder the glass gets', but other than that, I'm chuffed to be sounding even remotely coherent. Whether or not anybody is interested in reading it, I don't know...but if you are, click here.

An older photo today, while I'm working on new stuff :o)

Monday, 16 November 2009

And begins!

The first torch moved into the studio under cover of darkness yesterday...and tonight, come hell or high water, I'll be making beads there - even if I have to carry a single rod of glass across.

Don't get me wrong - it's not 'finished'. Not in the 'everything's pretty, and clean, and dusted, and the fairy lights are up, and the potted plant is out'. In fact, anything but! I am two clamps short of setting up the full ventilation (and here was me, thinking I'd counted it out beautifully). I also have two 90 degree bends spare, since the design I had in mind just didn't work. So it's not as pretty as I'd hoped, but after setting fire to a random worktop offcut yesterday, I can confirm my ventilation works. I still need to sort out glass storage (OH had a very clever idea here - watch this space!!!!), and...well, carry everything across apart from one torch, one oxy, and one bottle of propane. My old hothead is set up on a splitter from the mega minor, so, I guess I carried two torches across. Still contemplating whether to mount it as an 'occasional third torch' and for demos, or whether to re-connect my Sievert silversmithing torch.

You know what I'm actually looking forward to? Not running out of propane...but simply switching torches. I have now owned the midrange plus for pretty much half a year, and since the new studio was always just 'round the corner', I've still never set it up, nor lit it. Criminal, really! I won't take any more pictures until I'm 'in' a bit more...and I guess I better go out and buy that potted plant!

Since there are no studio photos, have the newest dragonfly :o)

Things that make you go 'ugh' this pesky studio still not being done. *But* it's getting there :o) This is what it looked like this morning.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Playing with widgets

How tempting is it to waste lots of time with widgets??? I've now added my Facebook page - well, the Little Castle Designs one anyway. The geek in me wants to play with it until the perfect layout is achieved - the busy working-business-running Mum is reminding me that not even my banner is straight. A heads-up to trusty followers - the website should get updated tomorrow night, with new stuff on each and every bead-related page......and new options for made-to-order lace beads, including different shapes, such as these lovely mini-marquis ones!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Tantalisingly close...

I have a set of keys to the door in the picture. You will notice the foam spurting from any crevice, and what you can't see is the pile of junk that is still inside. Fingers crossed, the elves (in the shape of DH) will knuckle down properly on Saturday, while I'm doing the first Christmas fair of the year, at the Leopold Hotel in Sheffield - why not pop by and say 'hi', if you're around?

And I think I will go this lunchtime and get a spare key bright pink, with flowers on it. Then I shall make a big, chunky bead to go on the key ring - no mistaking which is the key to my studio! And just to carry on a discussion from elsewhere - if a studio in a shed is a shedio, is a studio in a garage a gudio? A goodio? A garudio? A studage? Answers on a postcard, please!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A blank canvas

Well, I was disappointed to find that the door still wasn't in when I came home from work yesterday. You must all get bored with the never-ending story of the studio conversion! However, apparently, the building inspector is booked for Thursday to sign off the final result, which gives me hope. And with hubby having Wednesday booked off work to start building the interior, we took to throwing bucket after bucket of masonry paint at the stones. I was all for keeping it natural, but trust you me, these stones were beyond rescue - we tried, wire brushing them and acid-etching them...there was no way around it. This way, the interior will look much brighter, too. The photo shows the first coat of paint, and the wall is painted up to the end of 'my bit'. :o)

Monday, 9 November 2009

Open Day 21st November!

Okay, this is scary! No, the studio is not finished yet, BUT! there will be an open day on Saturday, 21st November, to coincide with the Bolsterstone (my village's) Christmas market, and I believe there's an art show in the village church, too. Bolsterstone is well known as a starting point for lovely walks around the Peak District, there's a pub with good food, and I'll be demonstrating, as well as selling beads and jewellery. So, if you're stuck for something to do, why not pop by? Just come to Bolsterstone, park in the middle of the village, and I promise you won't be able to miss our house (getting a banner printed especially). Looking forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, 8 November 2009


Here's what happens. I bead along happily, minding my own business, then somebody mentions a tutorial. Hmmm...I think, and rarely bother to check it out. Then beads start appearing from other bead makers. NICE! I think.....oh, they're from that tutorial. Hmmmmmm.........then MORE beads start appearing. Oh bum, I think. And off I go to buy the tutorial. In all honesty, that still doesn't mean I'll make the beads with it. But in this case, it does. Amy Kinsch's tutorial on storm beads is fab, and, above all, really straightforward. And I could even do it in the dark deep cellar.

On the studio front, I *think* the door and window are being put in. But then, I thought that before, so I'm fresh out of promised finishing dates for now.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Lest we forget

While I was on the course last week, I got a commission for an off-mandrel poppy pendant - I think it's safe to say that I'd have struggled a lot more had it not been for last week's off-mandrel experience. I'll be making some with holes to go on the site this week-end.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

THAT poem

I'll take a photo of the final piece when I get it, but wanted to share the epiphany of the poem that went into it. I wanted to create a piece that I could look upon as inspiration, for my chosen path, which now looks more and more like a lampworker's path once my current contract finishes. I wanted something that spoke of beauty and fighting spirit...I found it hard to describe exactly what I meant...and it took me three days to realise that a poem I first discovered as an 18-year-old, by good old Nietzsche, and one of my favourite poems of all times, was already saying what I was feeling, better than I ever could. I finally tracked down a translation, too, after cobbling together a translation myself for ages. So, without further ado, Nietzsche, Ecce Homo:

Yes, I know from where I came!
Ever hungry like a flame,
I consume myself and glow.
Light grows all that I conceive,
Ashes everything I leave:
Flame I am assuredly.

So, for all of us, here's to 'being flame'.

Can you say pretty, please?

I'm at work on my lunch hour. Yesterday, I came home to find that the gables have been mortared, as has the very top of the roof, where it joins the house. No more leaks. The skip out front is fit to burst, it's that full, and a distinct sense of 'tidy up' is becoming apparent. If I say 'pretty, please' - will that ensure the door & window will be in when I get back from work - leaving me free to brush down the walls & move in? What do you think?

And meanwhile, I'm hearing rumours that, all over the country, the results from last week's course are arriving by courier. If I say 'pretty, pretty, please, pretty, please' - do you think I'll have the doors & the window, *and* a notice saying my casts are with a neighbour, rather than in a depot 100,000,000 miles away?

Pretty, pretty, please, pretty, pretty, pretty, please!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Interim measures

I'm off sick at home today, but it occurred to me that I've not shown my interim 'studio', read: the cellar. So I crawled down the steps to take a photo. Yes, that dark stain on the wall is water coming in, when I was torching yesterday, it was raining outside. The worst the cellar ever flooded was by about 2ft - 60cm. Since that would just about kill an oxycon, I've been keeping everything crossed. Actually, with the flash from the camera, it looks less bad than it is, lol!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

...the kitchen units have arrived, the roof has been slated, the velux windows are in, and both gables have been built up. Now, the gap between roof and brickwork needs mortaring, and the door & window need putting in the back wall. It transpired that builder automatically left a gap wide enough for wheelchair access, which means far less workspace for me, but once I'd thought about it, I'm quite happy about it :o)