Saturday, 26 September 2009

WARNING: Chainmaille is addictive

Did I say I might not try making chainmaille again because I found it really difficult? Yes... but I also said I love a challenge! Guess which won!!

Actually, it should come with a health warning, because it's really addictive! But in contrast to last weekend's frustrating attempts, it's also proving to be really quite easy and very relaxing. I've jumped up a notch to a more complex design with the Full Persian weave. The trickiest bit is getting started, but once I get into the swing of it, there's no stopping me. It's really satisfying watching the intricate pattern develop and grow.

So this week's offering is a pair of earrings in a contrasting copper and bronze finish that I embellished with Apollo Gold Czech Bellflowers:

I also made a bracelet with the same contrasting copper and bronze weave which I further enhanced with Czech melons in a gorgeous rose gold and marbled olive gold:

I'm now keen to try my hand at other weaves and experiment with various combinations of materials and colours. So watch this space!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Weekend Offerings

I thought I'd try my hand at something new this weekend, and as I've always admired chainmaille, I decided to give it a try. I love the intricacy yet simple form of chainmaille, but the more complex weaves leave me baffled, and my poor arthritic fingers aching before I've even picked up my pliers! So as a beginner I felt it would be sensible to walk before I could run, and start off simple.

Am I glad I did! I don't think I have the mind for chainmaille, even with a very basic link I got confuddled and kept having to undo it and start over again. I'd say there's definitely a knack to it. I'm surprised I didn't find it easy because I have a very logical and analytical mind that loves solving puzzles... but this was way too frustrating for my brain.

This first pair of earrings were easy as it's just straightforward linking. I alternated brass and copper for a more interesting look, hung them from Celtic knotwork, and added a little bunch of hearts to finish off.

Cross My Heart Earrings

The second pair were much trickier, and although a simple pattern, I kept getting in a muddle trying to get the links to lie in the right direction. It looks really simple, and for some it might be, but my little brain really struggled with it. Mind you, it was late at night, so maybe I was too tired. I hung these from Celtic knotwork too, and finished them off by threading small ribbed brass beads along the bottom edge.

Guinevere Earrings

I'm undecided whether or not to try again with something more complex. My heart tells me not to, but my head is stubborn and loves a challenge. But I'm not noted for my patience, so we shall see!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Autumn Collection

I've finally made a start on the autumn collection for my Etsy shop with a couple of necklaces and a pair of earrings. I'm awaiting delivery of new beads and findings before I can really get stuck in, but yesterday's creative session went well, and I'm very happy with the results. One necklace is made with an antiqued brass filigree pendant to which I've wrapped bellflowers in Czech glass. I also made matching earrings but added a bigger central flower for the pendant. For the other necklace I've used vintage lucite in a gorgeous amber and these will pair beautifully with a pair of amber teardrop earrings I made recently.

Vintage Amber Lucite Necklace

Vintage Bellflower Filigree Necklace

Matching Earrings

Monday, 14 September 2009

Chinese Lanterns

I've had a bumper crop of these Chinese Lanterns (Physalis) this year. The plant itself isn't particularly attractive, until the small white flowers turn into these beautiful bright orange lanterns; that's when it really comes into its own! For that reason I haven't planted it in the border, but have it in a large terracotta planter on the patio. For most of the year it's behind other more showy plants. But in autumn when things are beginning to look a little drab I bring it forward to steal the show.

Mind you, they soon fade; the tissue paper thin cases deteriorating to leave a veined skeletonised structure containing a small orange fruit. So before they are past their best I like to collect them for the house. I've displayed some of them here in a cream ceramic bowl of winter potpourri, but may collect some conkers as I think they would make a lovely pairing!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Topsy Turvy Seasons

Browsing the internet for autumn colours for 2009, I came across Under the Loupe, a blog by jeweller Annette Piper, and in particular an article concerned with selecting stones and beads to compliment this years autumn fashion colours. This piece was written way back in March, and I was impressed by her forward thinking, wondering perhaps if I should have been planning this seasons designs and ordering supplies many months ago.

It was only when I saw her most recent post, concerning spring shows, that I realised she was in Australia and her March piece about autumn colours would have been written as they were entering autumn!

The reason I mention this is because I recently went through my Etsy shop collection changing and updating my tags to reflect the upcoming seasons of autumn and winter and deleting all references to summer. Bad mistake! I have potential customers in Australia, and have sold to someone there already. It must be really frustrating for them to be constantly bombarded with references to seasons months ahead of theirs and offered jewellery that is totally at odds with the colours they are wearing.

So, I shall pay a little more attention to my tags and promote some of my more summery colours, because many potential customers will be looking forward to the lazy hot days of summer while we're heading into winter, not to mention those who choose to spend their winters in warmer climates.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Creature of Habit

Carrying on from my "Oh what a beautiful Day" post... it hasn't escaped my attention, and no doubt all of those who know me, that I am very much a creature of habit! I am very fortunate in that I have the freedom... if not the money, nor the energy, to do pretty much as I please with my days. Yet they rarely vary much from day to day. Health problems (fatigue and pain) prevents me from doing too much that's physically taxing, but that aside, there is a constant inner voice nagging me about not living life to the full... not packing in as many experiences as possible before I expire.

And yet, hand on heart, I can honestly say I love my life. I feel so incredibly content with my lot, and take enormous pleasure from simple things, such as my daily morning walk (pain allowing), reading, writing, music, creating jewellery... I'd like to say gardening, but my little patch of land is looking sadly neglected of late!

In the past, life has often felt such a struggle; family and kids... head down, trudging along on the treadmill of life, lurching from one crisis to another... and now it's simple, uncluttered, unfettered, peaceful and contented. I'm not in any particular rush to do anything... if only my inner voice would stop nagging me!

However, I am becoming increasingly irritated with one aspect of my daily routine. I love mornings, am definitely a morning person... but I hate getting going in the morning. All that palaver of showering, straightening my unruly mop of hair, applying moisturiser and just a hint of make-up to tone down my ruddy outdoor complexion. Basically I am sick and tired of looking at the same face in the mirror every single morning, tweaking it till it looks reasonably presentable... and I fear I am fighting a losing battle as the ravages of time catch up with me.

It takes me an hour before I am ready to go down for hour I tell you, a whole bloody hour!! I hate it, it is an hour of my day wasted, when I could be contemplating my navel instead of a face I barely recognise these days, even though I stare at it for a whole bloody hour every morning!

I put myself through this punishing routine every day before I go downstairs, because it'll more than likely be late afternoon before I go back up again. I've just been up now and realised I haven't been up there since 8 o clock this morning... not even for a wee. That's a total of 8 hours!! I must have a very strong bladder... or maybe it's the commode in the corner!

So, where is this all leading... well, I'm going to set myself a challenge to make some small changes to my routine... and who knows, tiny steps might lead to some mighty adventures!

Watch this space!

Oh What a Beautiful Day

Such a happy day today! The sun is shining, and I managed to forget I was in pain as I drove along singing:

There's a bright golden haze on the meadow,
There's a bright golden haze on the meadow,
The corn is as high as an elephant's eye,
An' it looks like its climbin' clear up to the sky.

Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I've got a wonderful feeling,
Everything's going my way.......

Until that is, I got out of the car and had to start walking. Ouch! I hobbled round the woods with my dog Bailey, sat on a wet bench and got a damp bum (I was that desperate) and hobbled back to the car. I think it's an inflamed sciatic nerve, but nothing that could wipe the smile off my face for very long. :)

On arriving home the postman brought me another little present... a most exquisite bracelet designed and made by the lovely Alison of and my smile widened to that of a child on Christmas morning!

I fell in love with this gorgeous bracelet and bought it, even before Alison had time to list it after she previewed it on Flickr! It is absolutely dripping with dainty flowers and melons in an array of autumn shades. Every which way I turn my wrist, the light catches it and the beautiful iridescent colours change magically. I'm wearing it now, the tiny glass beads tinkling as I type. I will have to take it off before bed... or I could just stay up all night admiring it! :)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Look What the Postman Delivered

What better way to brighten up a miserable grey and rainy day than for the postman to pop these little beauties through my letterbox!

I've had my eye on these earrings ever since I first joined Etsy and discovered Rachellucie's jewellery shop, and I have to say they are even more beautiful in person! I love them so much they are now my No1 favourite out of all my personal earring collection!

Rachel is celebrating her first Etsyversary, and is currently running a month long promotion offering free worldwide shipping and at least 10% off everything in her shop. In addition to her Etsyversary promotion, Rachel is donating 20% of the proceeds from the sale of selected items to Etsy project Embrace, set up by Etsy artisans to raise funds for the American Cancer Society in honour of fellow Etsian Laura Slocum of The beautiful earrings above were one of the items Rachel included for this wonderful cause.

So what better time to pop along to Rachel's shop and treat yourself to a little something to brighten your day.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Yes! We Have No Bananas

Not being one to be beaten... and a glut of over ripe bananas festering in the fruit bowl; I decided to have another go at baking a banana cake, as my first attempt was most unpleasant... when is a soggy bottom anything but!

My banana purchases are very specific. I buy them at the weekend in readiness for the start of the Monday morning diet. But my good intentions rarely proceed beyond Monday lunchtime, so the fruit bowl doesn't get so much as a cursory glance for the rest of the week. Until, that is, pesky little black fruit flies flit around my head attempting suicide by drowning in my glass of wine, which alerts me to the presence over ripe fruit.

Not wanting to waste the black skinned bananas, I Googled a recipe for Banana cake, and the top result was this one, which everyone seems to rate very highly. But sadly, mine was very disappointing. It was heavy, with a dense texture that was so moist towards the bottom it looked uncooked. Needless to say it went in the bin. Would have been a lot cheaper and less wasteful, not to mention time consuming, if I'd just chucked the bananas in the bin in the first place!

So, realising how futile it was, I didn't add bananas to my shopping list this week. Instead, I came home from the supermarket determined to put the over ripe fruit to good use and bake a banana cake to be proud of... well one that was edible!

Having thoroughly researched the subject, I discovered this isn't the easiest cake to bake and get good results, which made me feel a little better. Believe it or not, there are probably more disgruntled banana cake bakers out there than happy ones. I also discovered that I had probably over blended the mixture, as I used a food processor instead of doing it by hand.

Anyway, always one for a challenge, I decided that this time I would follow the recipe exactly! Well, when I say exactly... I didn't have self raising flour, so I used plain flour with the addition of baking powder and a pinch of bicarb and salt for good measure. Neither did I have enough castor sugar, so I substituted half with demerara sugar. But that apart, everything else was exactly as stated.

One hour and 10 minutes later I removed it from the oven.

Looking good...
Eager to see what it was like inside, it wasn't long before I cut into it to check the consistency.

Not a soggy bottom in sight!

But it was still a little warm, so I served up a couple of slices and left them to cool while I made a cuppa.

It was at this point I think I was going a little bananas as I surreptitiously glanced around the room in a suspicious manner, and announced to the dog that I hoped there weren't any cows in the kitchen. Yes you read right, I said cows, when in fact I meant flies! Why this should be I have no idea, bus I suspect it might have something to do with a fellow Etsy member called Cow who loves cake and is always on the scrounge for it. After a quick search under the table, behind the fridge and in the pantry I was satisfied Cow wasn't lurking, and my cake was safe to be left unattended while it cooled.

Never turn your back for a minute...

Spot the difference

I am happy to report my banana cake was delicious! I say "was" because it didn't last very long... possibly on account of a couple of slices going walkabout! It had a lovely crunchy outer, moist but light centre and was bursting with flavour. Although by morning the outer had lost it's crunch and become slightly moist, which I actually think I preferred. So to my mind it improves with keeping, very much as Parkin does.

'Tis Monday tomorrow, I need to start my diet and I have no bananas!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Pondering Self Esteem and Seeking Approval

Self esteem - not to be confused with self confidence and self love... although closely related, is something we all need in varying amounts in order to feel we are doing okay. It's fed by our personal achievements, but also hinges precariously on the approval of others. A reasonably high level of self esteem provides us with a feeling of accomplishment, acceptance and self worth. A low level leaves us feeling we're of little worth, and in extreme cases, unlovable; as anyone who has ever been in an abusive relationship can testify.

Clearly some need more of this fodder than others in order to happily flourish. We've all met those self effacing, modest types who hate the spotlight, but are nonetheless content with their lot. But it's the self effacing ones who hog the spotlight; the ones who claim to suffer from low self esteem, yet appear to display a self love bordering on narcissism that intrigues me.

I know quite a few of these folk. They tend generally to be considered attractive, even beautiful individuals, who appear to adore showing off their physical beauty while protesting they are anything but. They are very hot on self promotion, their personal websites often displaying hundreds of self portrait photographs. Yet when questioned on this apparent contradiction, stress in elaborate detail how much they despise their appearance. But their behaviour belies their protestations. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways; dressing to be noticed, always striving for perfection in their physical appearance, often by a combination of extreme diets, grueling workouts and resorting to cosmetic surgery... yet they never seem satisfied with how they look, whilst displaying it for all the world to see.

Many, if not all the ones I know have suffered from an eating disorder. Perhaps they are deluding themselves, or maybe deep down they know they are physically attractive, because the compliments come thick and fast, when prompted... and their perpetual self promotion accompanied with self effacing put downs ensures a constant supply of reassuring compliments. They clearly need this reassurance to keep their levels high.

Self esteem is a fragile creature... starve it and it rapidly becomes emaciated... feed it and it thrives. There's no doubting we all need it, but why do some need it more than others? Is it constant over feeding that triggers an almost addiction like craving? There's no doubt beautiful people attract others, are generally successful and appear to lead charmed lives compared to the rest of us mortals who were less fortunate in the gene pool. So why do so many of these beautiful people feel unloved, insecure and lacking worth? Do they come to rely on the approval of others for their feelings of self worth?

Not that I'm suggesting for one minute that we shouldn't be generous with our compliments. I think most people would agree that praise fosters healthy growth far more than criticism ever did. It could be argued that we subconsciously expect more from beautiful people, or they themselves perceive that more is expected of them? Or is it that compliments were kept to a minimum because it was a given that they were beautiful, so deemed unnecessary... but clearly was necessary? We've all heard of the beautiful girl who was never asked out on dates because everyone assumed she must have a boyfriend.

I possess a high level of confidence, a fair degree of self love, and reasonable self esteem... but it hasn't always been the case. Abandoned by my mother as a baby, discriminated against by my childhood peers, a marriage devoid of affection and emotional support, and ultimate rejection for a younger more attractive model; knocked my confidence, my feelings of worth, my perception of my lovability, and fed my fear of abandonment.

My reserves all but depleted, I eventually recovered, fueled by a single comment from my childhood. I lived with my nan... we were very poor and living in an affluent neighbourhood, and because I was different (I was the one with no mum and dad), I had few friends. One day after being rejected once again by one of the neighbouring kids, I ran home and sobbed in my nan's arms. She took my face in her hands, looked me in the eye and said "they're only jealous because you're so beautiful". That one sentence must have planted itself deep inside me to carry me through, despite all the knock backs life had in store for me. Let me assure you, you would not consider me beautiful, not in the conventional sense, but I do believe I am beautiful.

Something similar happened to Dawn French (I could be her body double). When she was a young girl her dad asked her to come and sit down as he wanted to talk to her. He then proceeded to tell her how beautiful and special she was. All these years later, despite her weight gain and fading looks, she still radiates an inner confidence that translates into real beauty.

I'm sorry to disappoint those who were hoping for a conclusion... I don't have the answers. I am just curious why some people seem so contradictory in their behaviour and what they claim to feel about themselves.

But if you'd like to enlighten me, I'd be interested in your views.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

New Necklace

I made a new necklace for my Etsy shop today... the first listing I've made for a couple of weeks. I figured it was time I got my finger out and actually made something rather than just re listing existing stock. I'm really happy with the result; a gorgeous vibrant poppy button adorns a reto styled hoop strung on a mix of red vintage glass and black seed beads.

Retro Red Poppy Pendant

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Recent Sale

I was honoured last week to sell these art deco style earrings to a lovely fellow Etsian AMI

AMI also makes the most gorgeous hand crafted jewellery and very kindly blogged about her purchase Here

Here's a taste of some of AMI's beautiful work: Why not check out her shop... I'm sure you'll find plenty there to delight you!

More Improvements

The makeover of my Etsy shop continues....

I've been working really hard at improving my photos. This is something I'm striving to perfect. But just when I feel I am happy with them, I tire of looking at them... and perhaps others feel the same? I think it's important to keep a shop fresh, not just by adding new items, but by sprucing up the display to keep the browsers interested.

I think my photography skills have come quite a way since my earliest attempts. My first attempts were awful:

But I soon started to learn about lighting and began to take them on a windowsill.

Then a lovely man, photographer JimJuris advised me to download GIMP and very generously and patiently guided me through the basics. I'm slowly learning how to use the various functions, and although I am improving, the results are still very hit and miss. But I have him to thank for getting me started, otherwise I really wouldn't have a clue about editing photos.

So after much experimenting, I improved. But I became complacent, opting for plain black or white backgrounds, an overhead shot as the main picture, and a few shots from various angles.

I was taking photos with the prospective purchaser in mind, making the pictures clear... but not very interesting. My views were low, bounce rate high, and Treasury inclusion virtually none existent!

It was the very talented artist Illusio who came to my rescue. She provided links to some excellent articles on photography, and suggested I check out other successful Etsians... the ones who always seem to be in Treasuries, and compare my photos with theirs. To do this I used a Poster Sketch; a very clever and useful tool for making Treasuries, but also ideal for making side by side comparisons of similar items.

I decided my photos looked boring, and although essentially telling the viewer everything they needed to know, it also gave them an excuse not to click on them which would effectively take them to my shop. I liken it to the jacket of a book providing a detailed synopsis and telling you how the story ends... giving you no need to turn the pages to find out!

So I decided to have a go at using props to "dress" my photos... make them more inviting! I searched the house for suitable props.. small trinket boxes and visually interesting objects, and composed an old fashioned letter on cream card in a fancy brown font to add a touch of vintage style romance! I actually enjoyed that bit... but that's the writer in me!!

Using props isn't as easy as it sounds when photographing tiny objects such as earrings, as there is the danger the prop will dominate. I'm still not entirely happy with some of my shots... too much prop showing in some, not effectively marrying the prop to the item in one or two, and terrible lighting in others. The latter hasn't been helped by the recent awful weather, so I've had to make do with a windowsill and more editing than I would have liked. I tried to construct a lightbox, but found its use far too fiddly and restrictive. I plan to re do some when the weather improves so I can take them in natural daylight, which is my preferred light source.

Here is a selection of some that I feel are OK'ish:

It's been a long, hard slog... I'd much rather be spending my time working at my bench making jewellery than taking and editing photos, but it's all a part of the learning process and hopefully improves the look of my shop. I've recently been included in some lovely Treasuries too... not sure if it's due to the new photos, or my bribes of cake that did it... but I am very grateful! :)

You can check out the rest of my photos in my shop here.