Saturday, 30 December 2017

Midwinter trees

There is a stark beauty about the view from my window at this time of year. Grey clouds scud across the sky and the branches of the trees in the field opposite are dark silhouettes. The big old oak looks impressive now it’s bare, and I can once again see ‘Old Spikey’ the tree spirit, picked out in twigs against the December sky. 

Every autumn I look forward to his reappearance. All through the summer he has hidden away, whispering to the varied wildlife the oak attracts. But as the leaves fall, he is revealed once more. I always wonder if a storm will have changed his expression, but his dear old face hasn’t altered much over the many years I’ve known him. He's made of stern stuff!

There’s a wonderful symmetry in some of the branches, quite ‘art nouveau’ in appearance and as the emerging sun’s rays light up the raindrops on the twigs I’m inspired to make a quick sketch. My first project for 2018 is born.

Time to be glad for all the pleasures of 2017 and wish you love and light for the new year!

Saturday, 28 October 2017

A ramble down the sloe lane

It seems to have been a good year for sloes, we saw lots of them in the hedgerow on a recent nature ramble on one of the last sunny days. A few happy days with the macramé board followed, as I created a necklace inspired by the colours we had seen.

When I’d finished that I decided I would finally get to grips with bead tube crochet. This is something I’ve never mastered. I’ve had several attempts over the years but the technique has eluded me. The aim is to take thread and seed beads to make a beautifully neat tube. The beads sit on the outside and the thread ‘core’ makes a rope with a lovely flexible drape. Every time I’ve tried it I’ve ended up hot and flustered with a birds nest of thread and a tiny tangle of beads that look like a bunch of grapes. It annoys me – because I can happily manage eight kumihimo bobbins, or a whole swathe of macramé threads. So I bought myself an instructional DVD and took myself in hand. 

A whole six hours later and I finally had it mastered. Turned out it was like learning to ride a bike and something suddenly just ‘clicked’. It doesn’t look much for six hours work does it – but there’s definitely a glass of wine with my name on it this evening with ‘Strictly’.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Mabon Magic

The autumn equinox arrived with a beautiful sunny day. This is when the nights start becoming longer than the days. On the Wiccan wheel of the year this time is known as Mabon (the next one is Samhain followed by Yule). I love this time of the year, with all it’s bounty and wonderful colours. 

I began the day by changing the background on my computer screen to one with autumn leaves in glorious orange shades. I do this every time the season changes - it may sound mundane, but it's a nice techy way to start things off! Then we set off to the usual Friday grocery shopping. I wanted to pop in to the local charity shop on the way, to see if I could find some autumn inspired trinket to mark the season. My eyes were drawn immediately to this pretty carved box. Beautfully made, the two carved stripes of foliage on top seemed to represent the equal lengths of day and night so well.

Anyway, it came home with me to be treasured and will hold some beady bits and bobs on my workdesk. I also found some cute handmade glass toadstools in the same shop - and will make two lots of earrings with them. The universe sometimes hands you some special little gifts - along with the odd curve ball! 

I’m planning to make something in autumn shades next, which will be in contrast to the pinks and blues in the macramé necklace I’ve just completed. 

Putting a splash of lime green in this was a good choice I think, as it makes a pleasing contrast with the other colours. More pictures on my Folksy shop listing at 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Vintage treasures

Mr J and I have started to stroll off to the local car boot on a Thursday. As well as the nice long walk there, it’s fun rummaging for ‘treasures’. Usually we are not hunting for anything in particular, but last week I mentioned to Mr J that I wanted a pretty little pot to keep beading tools in. I’ve recently been learning how to bead crochet and the little hand painted pot that he discovered in a box of bric a brac looks lovely with all my pastel coloured crochet hooks in. My workspace has evolved over the years to include all kinds of pretty bijouterie!

Talking of vintage treasures, I recently picked up a pretty ‘Stratton’ compact in the local charity shop to add to my growing collection.

The colour scheme is so pretty that it has inspired a new macramé piece in just those colours. 

My little brass tortoise reminds me to take my time and make my work neat and tidy. He does the job so well and Mr J hasn't had a single pin in his foot since I picked him up on Ebay!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Cords of many colours

I love the Superlon threads by ‘Beadsmith’ Made especially for micro macramé, they come in a vast array of colours. I now have quite a selection, but how typical that I ran low on the very shade of orange that I needed to complete my latest piece. I trawled the web and eventually had to order it from the USA. But the necklace is complete at last and has already been reserved by a customer. I have gained some new skills during the making of it, most importantly I know next time to allow way more thread than I think I’ll need!

I’ve been on a bit of a personal mission to perfect the technique of making a woven bezel around a cabochon. I’m pleased with the neat finish on this one – I wanted a tidy finish to the back so I added a woven seed bead section.

As well as making the piece durable this seed beading  also has the effect of helping the front to retain it’s shape, enabling me to show as much of the beautiful cabochon as possible. Another advantage is that I can tuck thread ends within this section. I always feel a little nervous about just using a knot and then sealing the end by melting – I want my piece to be really sturdy without any risk of unravelling. I really enjoyed the challenge of making the chain with it’s colour changes along the length. Now I can’t wait to start a new piece – using Superlon threads. I’m thinking lime green and navy blue cords, with a cabochon centrepiece in those colours.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Micro macrame pendant

We beady folk get inspired in some funny ways. Mr J and I have been enjoying the athletics on TV in the evenings over the last few days, and I have loved seeing the arial shots of the stadium, all lit up and looking so sculptural. I particularly like the triangle forms of the floodlights.

It occurred to me that the shape of a sports stadium is rather like a woven bezel around a cabochon, which is something I am working hard to master just now. 

The tricky bit is the join, which has to be as neat as possible. When the woven strip that will surround the cab comes off the macrame board, there are several threads that need to be tied off invisibly so that the front looks tidy. But slowly and surely, I'll have it mastered.  I like to be the tortoise, rather than the hare when I’m learning a new technique, so have spent the last week just practicing, but I’m now working on my actual piece, a beaded micro macramé pendant with a glass cabochon as the centrepiece.

I’m intending to weave in lots of small beads, and the colours will be rust, purple and green with beaded beads incorporated  in the chain. Hopefully the look will be eyecatching, encrusted and lustred. Perfect with autumn clothes.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Learning the ropes

My grandad was a nifty knotter. I remember as as small child I would watch him weave a wonderful knobbly string of onions with a few deft twists of twine, or construct a network of strings for beans. He was always unhurried, enjoying the making as much as the finished result just as any craftsman will do. Some scrap sheepskin became a pair of fleecy boots, to keep my little brother cosy in his pushchair. Grandad was a keen baker too, long before cookery talent shows came along. He would make cordials, pickle and salt vegetables and even made his own horseradish sauce from a plant in his garden. A visit to his house would send him to the pantry, and I would sample a succession of goodies, a happy chuckle would come from him at every expression of pleasure from me and he would return to the pantry again and again to pull out yet more treats!

This must have been one of my first encounters with any sort of weaving, together with being taught to knit and crochet by my granny. Christmas gifts of a ‘Spears’ weaving loom, bead stringing set, a french knitting doll and other assorted craft toys ingnited the creative flame that has burned in me throughout my life. I didn’t come across macramé until much later though, when it was chunky and often in the form of plant hangers and the ubiquitous owl hanging. Things have changed and now there are some exciting threads available to the jewellery maker. I’ve been patiently learning some new knotting techniques over the last couple of weeks, and the imagination is well and truly fired up with ideas for at least a dozen new pieces. 

I’ve just finished knotting round this fabulously large moss agate donut. Waxed linen is just right for such a chunky stone and I’ve paid particular attention to making the back look really neat and well finished. 

It occurs to me that I'm still that child with a ball of twine, happily occupied in making something completely out of my own imagination - unhurried and keen to make it neat, well finished and sturdy as well as beautiful. I hope grandad would approve.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Wildflower necklace

It's amazing where beads can take you. One day you may be swimming with the mermaids in some far away blue lagoon, putting together a piece made of shimmery shells and pearls.... or you may be wandering through a spice market, stringing coral and other warm hued treasures.

Today though, I have travelled back in time. I am in the cool of a spring wood, surrounded by new greenery and wild flowers. I've had fun depicting the fat little white campions I see growing together with the pink version. I selected some oblong silver toned beads and then added little glass flowers at the ends.

I also represented the blue speedwells which grow at the edge of the wood, where the canopy still lets in light early in the year. I had some blue flower beads which I've modified slightly. I bought some wonderful 'Swellegant' products which include paints, dye oxides and sealants, especially for the jewellery maker. Now the beads look much more like the real speedwell flowers with the silver highlights and little silver beads in the centres.

I've a fair way to go with this and I'm determined to master some new knots to go in the beaded cord that will complete it. A peaceful and meditative way to spend a few days.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Bundles of threads and boxes of beads

Having completed some tricky soldering this week, my fingers are itching to get weaving and knotting  again. The new pendant needs a strap, something light and pretty that will match the colours in the cabochon. The cab fits in the claw setting as snug as a bug, and I managed to achieve my objective of allowing the lime green border to show. Any other mounting would have obscured it so it was a real challenge.

There’s a place for black leather, but this certainly isn’t it! I certainly need to have a good sort out before I start, but immediately I can see some possible contenders in the delightful (dis)array of threads in my ‘Artbin’ storage box.

 Maybe I will get out the wooden marudai and make a cord in lime green and blue. Pity it is so stormy here – no sitting outside with the calming noise of wooden bobbins today. 

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

A summer of creativity and change

Things have been rather frantic of late. We’ve been ruthlessly tidying and sorting stuff out. We started with the garden shed. It had got to the stage where we simply couldn’t get at stuff because it was full of unused  things. A perfectly useable vacuum cleaner and shampooer went off to the charity shop and my poor little bike has had a makeover. I used to cycle most days, but as the brakes gradually wore out and not being good with puncture mending it has languished there unloved for the last 7 years. I decided to find a small local business and let them transform it for me. Off it went to bicycle hospital – AKA Soren’s Cycles – and he has done me proud and given it a whole new lease of life! I had my first proper ride yesterday, off to the hairdresser. Norfolk is fairly flat, but I still found I was rather out of practice as the dimply bits around my middle testify!

I’m in the process of giving the website a bit of a change round too, as I was finding it very time consuming to list any new pieces.  I know a little bit of web design, but really I’d rather spend the time making  jewellery than writing javascript so I’ve opened a Folksy shop, and linked it in to the website and blog. I adore Folksy. I buy nearly all my gifts from there, and it is a lovely site to search and browse. Like all these things, as a seller I realise it will be as good as I make it, so the summer will be spent making new and lovely stuff to stock it up with. I also need to get to grips with Pinterest, as it looks an exciting thing to be a part of. Social media is a wonderful resource for anybody who loves to make things.
I discovered some great focal beads to make into new pieces, including this unusual ceramic bead. I like sitting outside to make jewellery if the weather is good. It gives you a completely different mind set beading close to nature and I find natural materials inspire me at this time of year. Certainly the jewellery I wear myself has a lighter, more organic look in the summer.

I love leather thong necklaces, just right for the summer weather with a floaty top and sandals. Bring on the Pimms!

Monday, 8 May 2017

Inspired by a rose garden.

Another copper clay and wired beauty has kept me happily busy and enthralled over the weekend.

The copper clay centre gives a little weight to the necklace and the wire wrapping continues right to the clasp. This means that the necklace hangs in a beautiful curve. The copper took 10 mins continuous torch firing, and I'm now seriously thinking of buying a mini kiln. This would mean I can fire several components at once without having to wield a hot torch. A bonus if we ever do get any summery weather this year!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Adventures with metal clay

I've had enormous fun experimenting with metal clay. Torch firing is easier now that I have a second torch - larger than the small one I use for soldering and it fires the pieces nicely in 10 minutes provided they are not too big. Most of my jewellery is made of smaller elements joined together so this technique suits me well. The clay is moulded and shaped then dried thoroughly before firing. At the dried stage copper clay has the look of terracotta and can be sanded and refined before firing it. Here is a picture of the clay at the dried stage before I did the sanding. I wanted an organic, bark like look to it. It feels like alchemy to watch the clay as the flames burn away the binder and it magically becomes solid copper.

After refining and then torch firing it was ready to include in a necklace. This is how the finished piece turned out. 
I also completed the necklace I started in my last blog post, an abundance of techniques went into it, including making some epoxy clay elements, which is also something I had not tried before. It's so lovely to learn new ways of doing things.



Wednesday, 5 April 2017

All fired up!

It was ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’  that did it. Anyone who is a fan of the programme will know just how fascinating it is to watch someone transform a lump of clay into something beautiful, individual and permanent. The episode where the potters were making raku fired Saki bottles had me itching to try to make something that had the appearance of ceramic. But I don’t have ceramic clay and I don’t have a kiln. Never mind – where there’s a will there’s a way, so I decided to get out of my comfort zone completely and experiment with materials and techniques I’ve never tried before. First of all I decided to make some earrings using papier maché.  Here are the three pairs I made.


This kind of papier maché is a million miles away from the stuff we made in school. It involves many fine sanded layers which I have painted and then coated and glazed many times using artist grade materials, so that they withstand the rigours of everyday wear. I constantly fiddle with earrings when I wear them, so the quality of the finished piece is important to me. I especially enjoyed coming up with some different ways to finish the bases and made metal bits and bobs to introduce an additional texture. Handy to have learned some skills with the soldering torch so that I can make my own metal fittings.

Then I remembered the metal clay that has been waiting for me to sum up the courage to try. I decided to make a sea themed necklace with some handmade copper clay elements. Working with metal clay is daunting if like me you’ve never tried it, but once you conquer your nerves it’s a wonderful medium and sooo expressive. I modeled three small components and fired them with a torch. After cleaning and polishing I added some enamel to certain areas.


A steady hand is needed when putting enamel powder onto small sections, but I am pleased with the result and this is something to explore further in future pieces.Now I have the fun of putting all the bits together into a pretty marine inspired necklace.