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.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Capturing nature with fabric collage

We’re just back from our daily walk. It was lovely out along the hedgerow today. I noticed a few different things in flower today, at this time of year things really start to change quickly. High up in a big oak tree we saw seven noisy jays – clearly not socially distancing! The bird life seems much bolder and more noticeable now that it is so much quieter.

I got down to have a closer look at the patch of celandines, paying close attention to the way the centres are formed. Yesterday it was dull and damp, so their little faces were closed. Today the sun was out and their glossy petals had unfurled. I’ve started my fabric collage pendant, couching the petals and leaves onto a painted background. The photo below shows it in progress. I use a piece of card with a aperture  cut out to see how the design works within the circular shape. I changed the shape of the leaves from my original sketch, to better reflect the actual heart shape of the celandine foliage - you really can't beat getting up close and personal with your subject!


I found some tiny size 15 seed beads and a gorgeous rayon embroidery thread to make a raised detail in the middle. I’m also including some gold thread – and it’s real gold! I have a selection of tiny bobbins of this precious thread that came with a goldwork starter kit and it’s a joy to use. For the first time in days I awoke this morning and my first thought was not about viruses and lockdown but about beads and threads.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Ideas for nature inspired pendants

It’s been a funny old week hasn’t it? We’ve all had to make some adjustments to the way we live our lives and even if you’re fit and healthy it can make you feel a bit weary. But there is still much to enjoy and Mr J and I are able to do our usual daily walk to see what’s happening in the wood and hedgerows.

After making some delicious pancakes for breakfast this morning I felt keen to start putting some ideas for pendants down on paper, ready to start painting, stitching and beading next week.


I think I’ll start with the ‘Springtime’ pendant first, it will be lovely to use a fresh palette of greens and blues with some yellow celandines in the background – the little wood was full of them yesterday. I’ll post some pictures as work progresses next week.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

‘Guinevere’ - A neckpiece inspired by Arthurian legends

It’s very quiet here, living as we do at the end of a cul de sac with a field on one side of us. Usually there is the hum of aircraft from the local airport, but of course there are no planes just now. But beading goes on as usual, and crafting is a wonderful stress buster. I’ve had several emails from some of my usual online craft shops saying it’s business as usual.

My Oak Tree Crafts ‘Acorn Club’ beads arrived this week – lovely spring colours, so will inspire a catkin inspired piece I expect.


The Lakeland Crafts faux leather pieces have proved inspirational, and gave me the impetus I needed to make a start on something I’d scribbled in my trusty sketch book.



 I had some dicroic glass cabochons and some pretty clear glass beads that I wanted to combine, but the clear glass needed pepping up a bit to tie it in more with the cabochons. Faux leather pieces at the back of them makes them truly shine, a technique I will find useful in many more pieces to come as I have lots of clear glass in my collection.

My ‘Guinevere’ piece involved several happy hours of blissful beading. I recommend anyone to try beadwork as an absorbing way to craft some calm into the chaos that seems all around just now and a lovely excuse to have a parcel of beady goodies popped through the letterbox!

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Glorious Goldwork

I rather like January despite the cold damp weather. I’ve always found it a peaceful, reflective month in which to plan projects for the coming year, brush up on old techniques and find out about some new ones. At first glance nature seems to be pausing too, but of course she never really sleeps, as the green spikes of bulbs in my garden, and the tiny buds and tightly furled catkins along the hedgerow testify.

December is often too busy to get much crafting done, but is an ideal time to catch up on reading. I’ve treated myself recently to a wonderful set of ‘tomes’ on traditional Indian jewellery. Hours of happy study to look forward to within its 600 or so pages – it’s so heavy I struggle to lift it!



I love the rich multi-layered look of the skilfully crafted pieces and it inspires me to create something using a rich colour scheme of golds with some jewel like accents. I did some quick doodles last month and one of those provided a starting point.



 One of the techniques I’m keen to explore this year is ‘goldwork’ which uses a variety of textured metal threads and wires. Traditionally it is often done on a background of silk dupion, which ties in nicely with all my recent experiments with this material. I’ve also treated myself to a variety of goldwork threads and materials and I can’t wait to start creating some exciting new pieces with them.



January promises to be a very enriching month craftwise!