Monday, 26 September 2011

Wertheim 2011

I'm nearly home! After a whirlwind three days, I'm back at Frankfurt airport, with a long wait ahead of me and excellent internet access what better place to blog than in a comfy chair with a chai tea latte in front?

Leaving at some ungodly hour, I got to Manchester airport, hopped on the plane to Frankfurt, and caught three separate trains to Wertheim. By the time I arrived, I'd been on the road for over 12 hours, and only a long trek up the hill (across cobble stones, with several thousand ££ worth of glassy stock in my suitcase) separated me from the bliss of a youth hostel bed. That evening, I managed to sneak back down into town and checked out the 'Arkadensaal', where all the shenanigans would take place.

I have to say, the Glasperlenspektrum people, organisers of Wertheim, got the location spot on:



Directly on the water, in a picturesque town, and round the corner from a glass museum, in the shadow of a castle - I was one happy bunny!

(The windows to the right in the picture above are where the action took place!)

Friday morning I spent dipping my demonstration mandrels (which din't exactly take hours ;o) and meandering about town, then, when everything opened officially, checking out the dealers' tent (which is a literal translation, and no drugs changed hands, unless one counts the addictive properties of presses, glass, frit, findings, etc!) I then had a chance to check out some demos, but made a wild dash to the glass museum, as I knew it would be my only chance!

Here, I encountered the mouthblown 500-litre flagon:


No machines involved in the making, which I think is just showing off.


Back to the Arkadensaal, where it was soon time for my own demo, and then, I was hugely disappointed to miss Charly Hummel's marble demo, since I had to try and get some credit for my dongle, lest the internet forsook me. What I thought would be a quick hop into town turned into a hike to the out-of-town petrol station, and so, by the time I got back, Charly was finished :o(

Out for a meal with a group of people, hike up the hill, bed!

Saturday morning, an early morning, hoiking my suitcase down the hill at 7am to set up my stall. A lovely mood in the artist space, which was also in the Arkadensaal, so we could witness all other demos first hand. Although my stall was a bit dark (lights not being the easiest to fit into a 'suitcase-proof stall', it looked okay.


The two days went by really quickly, although I have to say, had I not been chained to my stall, I could have spent a *lot* of money both on glassy goodies and on beads. As it is, I managed to engage in some swapsism, the results of which are packed safely in my suitcase.

I met so many lovely people that I'm deliberately not naming names, because I'll without a doubt forget somebody! But, since I was asked lots of times why more Brits didn't turn up to Wertheim, and having now met the Danish delegation who drives down each year, I think there is definitely scope for a class exchange - who's up for it? :o))))


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

I see angels

Yesterday, I made an angel - well, actually, I made a fairy, which was meant to be an angel, and then I had a little heart to heart with myself to sort the wings out, and then I made an angel. And today, the angel went on a little road trip, just across the road, to the local church. Here are the best 'angel captures' :)

Angels 4

Angels 3

Angels 2

Angels 1

...I think the top one might end up being my Christmas card this year...

Friday, 9 September 2011

Under Pressure

Everybody says children are creative. So when my beloved three-year-old showed me this:

Under Pressure (the first design draft)

I knew that I had to make it work in glass. The same beloved three-year-old has a current obsession with Greek myths, which was kindled by seeing a picture of Atlas. So for a couple of weeks, my head went round and round, thinking of modern versions of 'Atlas', not carrying the heavens, but our daily pressures of the modern era, squeezed for time, for relaxation, balancing all our demands on a fragile base, which may shatter at any moment. And out came this:



The body is not 100% there yet - I could try and fudge that by saying it's starting to get mangled, lol! But I hope I've done munchkin's design proud!

Monday, 15 August 2011



Last Saturday saw the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Wall. Of course, I wasn't there. But my parents were. My father was born in Berlin, and my mother moved there, through the iron curtain, in 1962, and eventually, they would meet there, in Berlin, and marry, and have first my sister, then me.

Because large parts of my family lived in East Germany, I may have more of an understanding of the wall than my contemporaries, I don't know - I was 14 when the wall came down. I do remember the summer of 1989, the feeling building up that something momentous was going to happen, but not quite realising how momentous it might be. Because, you see, the wall was *there*. It was in people's minds as well as in concrete, it had become the status quo. I had not known the country any way other than divided. But things can change. People, no matter how fragile or small they might look individually, can make a difference. A big enough lump of glass will tear down barbed wire and concrete.

The wall came down in 1989, Germany has been re-united for 21 years. I's not all rosy - which country is?

But if recent events here in the UK may have made a dint in our beliefs in humanity, or the future, then let's look at the tea cups served on riot shields, the army of brooms, and let's remember that there are more good people than bad people out there in the world.


Thursday, 7 July 2011

Shane Fero Course No. 1

Phhhht! Let me try and blow some dust off this blog! I am currently at the amazing Bildwerk Frauenau summer school - imagine a place where people congregate to learn arts and crafts, and have done for 24 years, where popping into each others' classrooms for a nosy is encouraged, where talks and communal meals are organised, where you might chat with others about anything, shedding light on it from any number of media, where creativity oozes out of every pore, with random glass and clay sculptures dotting the landscape, where you might find a small carving on your wooden seat, or the windows engraved with sketches, or the walls painted with scenes and quotes from the minds of people who attended years ago. If you manage this (and you might well arrive in your head at some sort of 1960s commune - in a good way!), then you have begun to scratch the surface of Bildwerk Frauenau. I have been here for two full days, and I won't pretend that I have done any more than that!

If you now populate your visual image with a group of people spanning about 12 nationalities, and steep it in lovely sunshine, add a dash of 'sitting on the lawn on a balmy evening, discussing the day over a bottle of beer', then you have added a bit more detail.....

....and from me taking the pains to describe this in such detail, you might deduct that I'm rather enjoying this particular environment!!

I'm here to spend 16 days (!!!) with Shane Fero, lampworker extra-ordinaire. And in fact, now that I've given you a taste of what this place is like, I think I might wait until the next post to tell you more about the course itself ;o)


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The time has come, the walrus said..., isn't that interesting? I chose the blog post titles because I haven't posted in a while, so I have to 'talk of many things'...but have you actually read the full poem? Well, I never! And I thought I knew Alice! If you're as clueless as I was 10 minutes ago, there you go:

So, so much happened in the last couple of weeks, it is truly astonishing! Two new galleries have received jewellery packages, one, the Schatzkiste, is on the island of Borkum, in Germany, the other one, St Mawes Pottery, is in Cornwall. It's odd to think that some of my jewellery is now much closer to my childhood home than I am!

As part of the publicity for Sheffield Open Studios, I got interviewed for Mosaic Magazine Barnsley:

Mosaic Magazine, Issue 53

Apart from looking like I'm the evil creator of glassy monsters, I think it's a pretty good shot (and I love them for printing this quote of mine: "I am a flame worker and I fight a constant battle against mass-produced tat so it's good for people to come and see why they are paying more for what I make." Yay!

Then, about a week ago, something amazing happened - I found out that I won Silver in the Craft & Design Selected Awards (Glass category) ( - it has left me truly gobsmacked to be honoured in such a way, next to long-established artists (I know that sounds gushing, and that's exactly how I feel!) And in the way that good news sometimes breed good news, I know that there'll be a story on me winning the award in this Friday's Barnsley Chronicle :o) The finalists were decided by public vote, and the winners by jury - so, thank you so much to everybody who helped me reach the final, without you, the jury would never have had me to pick :o))))

Then, today, I got featured (or rather, my studio did) on the UK Handmade website:'m hoping this isn't the biblical 'time of abundance' to be followed by scarcity...eek! Hopefully, it's the start of 'onwards and upwards'!

(There'll be new beads tomorrow, too...while I'm writing about 'abundance' - my kiln looks like a butterfly house!!!)

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Random Craft Attack: E-Reader Cover

Sorry, I was going to do step-by-step photos, but it was done so quickly, I didn't get a chance, lol! After the success with the family Easter eggs, I decided to post the odd random craft tutorial, as and when it takes my fancy - I hope you like them. Today's crafty story starts like this:

E-Reader cover

In February, I bought myself an e-reader in America, plus a leather cover, from a brand endorsed by the e-reader, and sold by the same big-name store. I happily read my book for 20 minutes, put it in its cover, then in my handbag (otherwise occupied by my wallet and a 0.5l plastic water bottle). The next day, the magnetic snap button on the e-reader cover had shattered the screen of the reader and frozen the image. Complications due to having bought in America and an end-of-line product etc. seemed to make the returns process more costly than the e-reader itself.

I grumped for a good six weeks before I decided to buy another e-reader - but I was damned if I'd put it in the same cover. So here's what I did.

You'll need:

- A hardback book that is slightly larger than the e-reader, and that you are happy to 'gut'.
- Sharp knife or craft knife
- Two rectangles of cardboard that fit each side of the inside cover of the book
- Fabric remnant
- Rubber band
- Gorilla tape
- Glue

1. Take a sharp knife and carefully 'gut' your book.

2. Cut your cardboard to size (each rectangle should be slightly smaller than the inside cover, you'll need one card each for front and back).

3. Open your book cover and place the cardboard pieces accurately, then use gorilla tape to tape the cardboard together with the right spacing. Tape it from both sides, so you have a stable spine.

4. Cut fabric remnant to be slightly larger than your cardboard 'book'. Lay fabric face up on cardboard 'book', turn over, fold over all edges and either glue or gorilla-tape in place.

5. Decide where you want your rubber band - you're best off knotting a piece into an 'O' shape, rather than having to trust that knots don't slip through holes, etc. Place rubber band and hold in place with a length of gorilla tape.

6. Spread entire back of the cardboard 'book' liberally with glue and stick to inside book cover. Weigh it down with something heavy until glue is dry.

7. Marvel at your creative prowess :o))

E-Reader cover

Total cost for me: £ 0.65. Yup, 65p, the cost of the book at a second-hand shop. Total time taken: About 6 minutes. Enjoyment to be seen reading 'The naughtiest girl in school' for years to come - priceless :o))

Saturday, 23 April 2011

"Untold Tales" or "When two glass people talk"

My friend Emma Mackintosh and I recently had a natter - it was something to do with having a 'style', which kind of morphed into 'getting stuck in a rut'. We both love our 'usual fare', namely dragons and roses, of course, but we thought it might be fun to start some collaborative work to challenge ourselves, or to set some parameters for 'structured playtime'. So, over the course of a few messages and phone calls, we decided to start a joint blog, and to post about our efforts and outcomes. To give ourselves a bit of a framework, we thought we might tackle one fairytale each month. Since we both have leanings to the slightly obscure, we figured that it would be interesting to see how we each interpreted each fairytale, and promised each other to share out thought processes behind the pieces as well as the results.

To cut a long story short, there's a new blog on the block, called 'Untold Tales', and this month, we've been playing with 'Sleeping Beauty'. At the moment, there are only a few posts on it, but it will grow over time. We thought that, maybe, others might like to see what we're up to, too. This doesn't mean that this blog will stop, if anything, it'll get more interesting, because I'll be pointing to our blog posts as and when they occur.

If you're interested, you can find it at :)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Ring Top Tutorial

Due to popular request :o) A quick explanation of the techniques behind making ring tops :o)

Option one - no pictures:

Make a cab on the end of a dipped 4mm or 5mm mandrel. Cool, glue in a nut with your favourite 'will hold even in the apocalypse'-glue, and you're done.

Option two:

When you make ring tops "on the go", it helps to burn off the nylon insert first. To do this, hold the nut in a pair of tweezers, and hold it in your flame. Burn off the nylon out (you'll see a small flame flaring up, then die down), then leave to cool.

Dip a mandrel in bead release - *either* a 2mm mandrel (left in pic) or a threaded mandrel (right in pic - trust me, the end is threaded, even though it's hiding under the bead release). If it's a normal 2mm, just pop the nut on top (as shown), if it's threaded, screw the nut on. Leave to dry.


When dry, get the nut in the back of the flame, to pre-warm, as if you are warming a rod of glass.


Then, moving to the front of the flame, get you nut glowing gently - don't go hell for leather!


Wind glass around the nut, near the bottom, making sure not to cover the underside of the nut:


Cover the top of the nut as well, and make the top as large or small as you dare (but make sure there is enough glass to give the nut a nice even coating. Hold it so the glass can start to cover that last bit of the nut (you can till see an edge here):


Here, the nut is covered:


Decorate as you like (or make it bigger)!

A few hints and tips:

1) If you want to make a large top, use a marver and marver the bottom to ensure it doesn't creep underneath the nut.
2) If you choose the 'balance-on-top-of-2mm-mandrel' option, the bead release may break if you engage in too much poking and/or prodding, so be careful!
3) As you can see from the top above, light transparents aren't very pretty options, since you can see the nut. Use frit, or etch, in order to cover the 'evidence' :o)

And *cough* nuts, threaded mandrels, and rings and pendants in stainless steel and sterling silver are on my website: ;o)

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

There *will* be glass - Part 2

Can you tell what it is yet?

The lovely Rachel came over today, and my education in willow weaving continued! A morning well-spent!!

A Cunning Plan, Pt 2

A Cunning Plan, Pt 2


A Cunning Plan Pt 2

A Cunning Plan Pt 2

It's living willow, so it'll green over, carry on groing, new shoots will be woven three years or so, you won't be able to see the structure, just a green play den!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

There *will* be glass - Part 1

As those who know me know, I do love playing with natural forms, and tying them in with fact, maybe you don't know, because I never shared my glassy moss, did I?

Here it is:

Fairy's Abode1

...and it glows in the dark:

Glowing Glass Moss

.....but that's not what I wanted to show.

There's a clever project taking shape in the garden. It *will* involve glass, but only in step Three. Step One involved clearing a bit of the garden, making a circular hole, and filling it with concrete:

A Cunning  Plan

It is happening thanks to my lovely friend Rachel, and a text she sent me last Monday...and the idea kind of grew from there. I realise this is a slightly mysterious post, but all will be revealed ;o)

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Meet the Twiddle-Fiddle-Diddle

It's a twiddle-fiddle-diddle

Isn't it funny! I spent ages trying to get a sculptural piece just right. No, I can't show it to you yet. Be patient. But as part of the prep for it, I found myself with large (we're talking at the torch here, so please see this in context) gather of glass. Sooooo....I pulled. And twisted. And twirled. And then stood like one of those kids who has played with a piece of string and tied herself in knots. So I melted one end off, all prettily, and shoved the whole thing under my fibre blanket. And forgot about it.

A couple of hours later, I started tidying up, when I noticed this rod sticking out from the fibre blanket.'s the thingy. In order to get my rod back, I melted the other end off. Hmmm........there's quite a bit of glass at this end. If I heat it enough, I wonder if I can make a little base. Heat, heat, heat, plop. Oh yeah, a base. Great. I made a ... thing. It's small, it serves no purpose. I suppose, if you really wanted, you could plonk a couple of rings on it and call it a ring holder.

I photographed it for a laugh. And three people told me they liked it. The little twisty-twirly thing, now lovingly named...Twiddle-Fiddle-Diddle.

Is there a moral to this story?


There is a place for twiddle-fiddle-diddles, for useless gathers of glass, random rod ends, bits and pieces. And it's not always the bin. Or the water jar.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Homemade Confetti

I've been asked by the lovely Kati to take part in her 'world beautification' project, since the current topic is......the Royal Wedding. The idea is to post a crafty tip, a recipe, anything that inspires others to get crafty. And with the Royal Wedding coming, is there a better time to take a patterned hole-punch to a newspaper (or a Shakespeare-Anthology), to create your own heart-shaped confetti? is also a great way to - erm - recycle/destroy all that annoying press about *that* date and *that* event :o)

Marjorie Moo

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Vorsicht Glas No. 16

The latest issue of Vorsicht Glas has been out a while now, but I wanted to get the British Craft Trade Fair out of the way before I got a chance to blog it.

The lovely Isi Merkel contacted me around Christmas, asking whether I'd be happy to be featured, and of course, I was absolutely chuffed to bits! Lampworking spread quicker in the German-speaking countries than it did in the UK, and I am always absolutely inspired by the talent there (this is not to say that I'm not inspired by the talent here ;o)) Being able to participate in glassy discussions in both English and German has been one of the best advantages of being bilingual that I can think of :o)

So, as well as posting photos of the article and crowing just a teensy little bit, a very big thank you to both my German-speaking and English-speaking glassy friends, for their ongoing inspiration!

Vorsicht Glas No. 16

Vorsicht Glas No. 16

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

You've been framed

I've been busy framing this afternoon - partially to find permanent 'homes' for sculptures, to make them less fragile, and partially as a way to display my jewellery for the upcoming British Craft Trade, I thought I'd share :o)

There's one more 'type' of frame to come, but that will have to wait until the trade fair, I couldn't get a proper photo :o)

You've Been Framed - Roses

You've Been Framed - Feather

You've Been Framed - Wordsmith Collection

You've Been Framed - Wordsmith Collection

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Easter Eggs a la Batik

Hello all...I thought it might be time for another non-beadie post ;o)

Last year, I shared our family tradition of painting Easter eggs on the Frit Happens forum, but this year, I thought I'd blog about them a bit earlier, to give anybody time to get in on the action. Here's what you need:

- Eggs (no! Really? I hear you say? Yes......the whiter, the better, and scrub of that silly date stamp, if you can)
- Egg dye tablets (easy in Germany - in the UK, search for 'egg dye' on ebay or similar, you're looking for the kind where the egg is dunked into water)
- real beeswax
- lid from a tin of sweets
- pencil with a large-headed pin stuck into the back
- hob/cooker plate (electric)
- jars to make egg dye up in
- kitchen paper
- knife & fat (optional)

1) Put beeswax into tin lid and place on hob, on *low* heat (maybe 4 to get you going, but then, down to 2) - it should be about 5mm deep
2) Make up the dye in the jars (big compot jars work well, or pint glasses) according to instructions
3) Get comfy near the cooker, pick an egg, pick p your pencil (you're 'writing' with the pin head!), dunk it into the wax and *quickly* draw on your egg. You'll only ever get a single stroke or dot done before the wax is hard, so don't try to do more. Start with dots to get your confidence, if you want.
4) Dunk the egg :o) Pick your first colour, dunk - the longer the egg stays in, the more intensive the colour. While egg no. 1 dyes, paint egg no. 2.
5) Take egg no. 1 out when the colour looks right, and leave to dry on the kitchen paper. Once dry, take it back to the stove, and paint on it some more with wax, then dye a different colour.


Repeat the above steps with as many layers of colours as you like and/or have patience for.

Once all your eggs are painted, dyed and dry, you can either leave them as is, or *very* carefully scrape the wax off with a knife - this looks much nicer, as all the colours shine through properly. As a final step, use some fat (oil, butter, etc.) on a piece of kitchen paper to 'polish' the eggs.

NB: You can either boil eggs first, in which case, let them cool down before dyeing them. If you poke a hole in for boiling, close it with a dot of wax, or else the dye will run into the egg and colour it.

Alternatively, you can paint the eggs raw, then poke a hole in the top and bottom and blow them out - this is hard work, but it means you can leave them to dry before tying a piece of thread around a broken-off matchstick piece, stick it through the hole, and you can then hang it from the egg.

Happy painting, and if anybody has a go, I'd love to see pictures! For anybody interested, this method of egg painting is called 'Pysanky' or drop-pull, and is most prevalent in Eastern Europe. Our family, thanks to my son (seen in a picture from last year below) is now the fifth generation I know of to paint eggs this way.

Happy Easter

Easter Eggs 2010

Happy Easter

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Play Day

It's always good to push boundaries - or so I told myself when I signed up for a neon glass workshop. Yesterday, I trundled off to Neon Workshops in Wakefield for a one-day course. Following an intro about the history of neon, the various gases, burners & other equipment, we were invited to create a design that would get created by one of the course tutors in the afternoon. know me, right? After explaining that I'd rather have a wonky squiggle that was mine than a masterpiece that got made for me, I hit the burner - As you know, I do do sculpture, but bending tube was a bit of a novelty, and my main reason for signing up. I was hugely impressed with how well behaved the glass was (neon makers work with soft glass, soda lime - did you know??). I discovered a love for the ribbon burner and managed to make two squiggles in 18mm tube - then, I have to admit, I let one of the tutors join them together into one long squiggle. Filled with Argon and a hint of Mercury, the squiggle will be my 'blue sea' and will proudly live one the wall in the new studio - now all I need is some glass fishies and boats to live above and beneath it.

Here are a few photos from the day - one shows my squiggle being filled with gas, one is of somebody else's piece (done by the tutors), and one show my squiggle on the 'aging bench' (underneath the main work surface), where the colour settles after filling :o)




Sunday, 6 February 2011

Studio refurbishment - exciting times are afoot!

I'm in the process of refurbishing the studio, after my better half gracefully donated the rest of the garage to me.

So far, the internal wall has been moved, the wall has been painted, existing furniture has been re-shuffled, new ventilation and some additional furniture has been ordered. There will be five ventilated spaces (four permanent torches (two big enough to handle boro, so either 'four littles' or 'two with two oxys each') and a silversmithing/occasional 5th torch space), a coldworking area with grinder and sandblaster in the far back, silversmithing set up with tumble & wheel polisher & bench drill, and a bit of space to sit/ponder/design/peruse books.

Can you tell what it is yet?

Can you tell what it is yet?

I'm hoping to be properly up and running in time for the 'teaching the teachers' course on 12th March (which I still need to blog about!), and will also start running group evening and one-day classes :)

I'm very excited bout this, and couldn't have done it without all the lovely people who came for tuition and made me realise that increasing the teaching space would be a good idea - thank you!