Sunday, 31 October 2021

The headless chicken

There’s a nice little lane just a few minutes from our house, but for many years we only walked there occasionally. It had become a bit of a rat run, and a walk down it meant that every few minutes my husband would yell ‘car coming!’ and we would leap onto the bank to avoid a vehicle whose owner barely seemed to notice us. 

Although there were plenty of wild flowers and nice scenery, the stress of having to leap to safety every so often made it impossible to enjoy the stroll.

Then, a few years ago a new bypass was built, and one day in the summer we decided to see what had become of the lane, now that the new road had cut off the end. The difference was apparent straight away. Not a car in sight and we were able to stroll down the middle of the lane in complete safety. Little holes in the hedgerow undergrowth showed us that other creatures were enjoying the lack of traffic. I’d brought my new camera with me and spent a happy couple of hours poking round amongst the ancient hedgerow gathering inspiration for some new handcrafted jewellery.

Skylarks rose and twittered, insects hummed and Arthur Rackham style gnarly bushes and trees lined the wayside. The sound of the bypass wasn’t that obvious until we got to the end. Here they’d planted hundreds of trees on a high bank to shield the road and made a footpath and cycleway. Burnet moths flew in abundance and brightly coloured skipper butterflies fluttered amongst the various wild flowers. The kestrel hovered overhead, and a pheasant sped over the adjacent farmland.

As we turned for home I wondered what the genius loci (protective spirit of the place) would make of it! Under an ancient oak tree I noticed some objects poking though the soil. Bending down and scraping the soil away I found shards of ancient pottery, bits of old pickle pot, a rim of plate with a boars head on it and a tiny head of a chicken. I picked up the little chicken’s head and put it in my pocket.

Somewhere out there the headless chicken stays buried. Maybe the genius loci is happy with the new configuration after all!

Sunday, 15 November 2020

The time traveller's craft

I’ve not been sitting idly at home during the lockdown. Oh no. Not me. I’ve been mastering the art of time travel.  It all started when I decided to get my paints out to make some hand carved and painted pieces of jewellery. Ideas that had been in the back of my mind for a long time suddenly found a means of expression. I’d wanted to do a sailing boat against a sunset for a while, and the paints were just what I needed. 

As I sketched out my design I was suddenly a small child again, standing on tippy toe on the upstairs landing at my Gran’s house. I could see right across the village and there were little white triangles going across the horizon. I had been told it was the Regatta on the river and that we would be going! The whole family went and there was a carnival atmosphere with people in and out of the riverside pub and all the excitement of the yachts racing and tacking back and forth across the water. Even more exciting I thought were the stalls selling model kits and oh my….  a shallow tank with toy yachts just like the real thing. Imagine my joy when my uncle Hugh handed me my very own little yacht, painted and shiny with white cotton sails. Many a voyage did that little boat make in the years to come, round and round the top of our old rainwater butt!

There’s nothing like art and craft to transport you to another time or place – and you don’t even need to leave your chair!

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Jewellery designs inspired by goddesses and heroines

I like to sketch out a piece of jewellery before I start making it. It really helps to have a plan before cutting out a piece of wood and a little bit of planning can save a whole lot of 'fettling' later. At the sketch stage, I can work out where I will wrap wire, knot thread, or place a bead. Often a piece can evolve once work begins and it’s always interesting to look back at the drawing and compare it to the finished jewellery. My recently completed (and sold) Epona’s Amulet is a good example of how helpful a sketch can be and it illustrates the thought process well.

On the theme of mythology, I recently bought an enthralling book all about goddesses and heroines. It covers deities from all over the world and I’ve found that the section on Norse mythology is inspiring several ideas. The description of Freya is of one who wears a cloak of feathers and cries tears of amber. You would have to have a heart as hard as Thor’s hammer not to be excited by that idea!

Pictured above are some sketches I’ve done this morning, of a couple of shapes I’m planning to cut and carve. I like the idea of putting an incised rune into it. Although not obvious to the onlooker (unless they knew their runes), it would make a pleasing little decorative feature and of course the wearer would know it’s secret and special meaning. I love that idea. Now I’m off to my workbench to start turning the thought into reality!

Thursday, 4 June 2020

A floral fantasy in painted silk and bead embroidery

Spending time in the garden in early summer always inspires me to create something that reflects my planting colour scheme. This year I have many purple and pink flowers, planted in every sort of container I could find, as well as some lovely old weathered and much loved terracotta ones. I sat in the sunshine with my sketchbook and came up with a plan for a lush beaded ‘v’ shaped necklace.

I’ve decided to include a large painted silk centrepiece and the pictures show it in progress, just before completing the edging. Many hours of happy crafting lie ahead of me!

Not all went smoothly last week though. I was sitting comfortably in my favourite old patio chair when the fabric seat gave way. Have I really eaten that much cake during lockdown. My bum hit the deck and I was left with my legs pointing skywards through the frame in a most undignified way. Mr J had a job to extract his poor wife and all credit to him for keeping a straight face!  But hey ho, we crafters are a positively ingenious lot. As the old saying goes, 'If life gives you lemons, make lemonade', so once I’d nursed my bumps and bruises I looked at the nicely seasoned good quality wood in the arms of the old chair and wondered if I could saw some nice jewellery making elements from it! Perhaps I will carve some leaf shapes and call it ‘Fall’. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Going wild with wood and wire

The month of May always seems full of tasks that keep me away from the beading desk. There are hedges to trim, patio pots to fill and spring cleaning to do. But a walk through our favourite little wood had me throwing down my duster and reaching for the beads and wire. I could see what I wanted to make in my minds eye…… but how could I make those wooden leaves into a necklace fit for a wood elf? I played around with some scrap wire for a while and eventually the aha moment arrived.

Many happy hours of drilling, painting, wiring, bead weaving and stringing and my ‘Wildwood’ necklace is finished.