Thursday, 4 February 2016

Louise-bot hijacks the blog ...

*Cough* Yuck!  *Splutter* Well, hello, there!  This is Louise-bot signing in for the first time, after fighting my way through a mountain of dust bunnies (seriously, they have ears - they're scaring me) and what I think must be tumbleweed.  I've never seen it before, and it's freaking me out, rolling along by itself even though THERE'S NO WIND.  *Shudder*

Anyway, I should probably introduce myself.  If you follow Louise on Facebook, you'll know that I run her page when she's away or too busy to check in.  Okay, 'run' is perhaps slightly overstating the case.  It's more a case of getting up to all sorts of shenanigans with my friend the Wine Bell (you'll meet him later), then conducting damage control before Louise finds out what I've done and locks me in the cupboard again.  Woe is me, it's a hard life being a bot.  Oh, alright, she doesn't really lock me in the cupboard - but she threatens to.  And one day I'll push her so far that cupboard has my name on it ...

I'm absolutely forbidden to touch the Etsy shop too ... but it's so tempting - all those pretties!  I do like to tinker - should I go and list this new pendant, to save Louise the job?

So, a bit about myself - well, I like to read Tolstoy and listen to Rachmaninoff while enjoying my hobby, nuclear physics.  Oh, ALRIGHT, that's not strictly true - but I don't think you need to know about the imbibing of yummy demon drink and the questionable acrobatics to electronic dance music, really.

Sorry, am I rambling?  I don't normally do that.  Shut up at the back there - I don't ramble, right?  I'm completely sober and looking very spick and span (the Hammerite incident notwithstanding - but we don't talk about that, and we studiously ignore the ruined wall, too).  ANYWAY, I've decided to resurrect this sad little blog, and I really think we should have some guest bloggers.  Yes, I'm sure I can persuade the Wine Bell to give us a bit of tintinnabulation for entertainment, but wouldn't anyone else like a spot?

Hopefully, SOMEONE will reply to me, otherwise it's back to the tumbleweed and dust bunnies - seriously, they're creeping me out ... Oh, and this photo is in no way representative of the way I live my life.  I mean, honestly - the glasses are upright, and they're not even empty!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Ignoring business advice ...

There are many - many! - of us small (micro) businesses, trying to sell our work, both online and face to face.  We are competing in a huge marketplace, and often it's the little tips that help.  That said, I've seen it stated many times that we should find the one thing we're good at and stick to it.  Well, I'm going to fly in the face of that little piece of advice and state that, while this may work for some people, it's not set in stone.

Those of you who follow my work will know that I create both traditional jewellery (mainly earrings) and more unique wirework.  I started with the jewellery (as many do) and progressed to working with wire, which includes making my own findings, as well as the little wearable wire pictures.  I would say that if I'm known at all, it's the wirework that I'm known for, as I have developed my own style over the years, which is often (I hope!) instantly recognisable.

But last year when I was considering which direction I needed my business to go in, I considered that little piece of advice and ultimately ignored it.  Instead of shelving the regular jewellery work and focusing purely on the wirework pieces, I continued to create earrings.  It was not a failure.  People didn't sneer at the fact that I was trying to do two quite different things, and I sold almost as many pairs of earrings as I did wire pendants.  My earrings may not have a recognisable 'style' like my wirework, but does that mean I have to stop making them, just because they don't fit with my brand?  (Whatever that is - I have to confess that to me it's one of those techy marketing terms that eludes my limited comprehension ... )

I'm not suggesting it would be sound business sense to blithely continuing making a diverse range of items that just don't sell - it's important to keep track of what's actually successful for you - but neither is it particularly sound business sense to stick to just one thing when two (or maybe more) work.  It is of course impossible to be all things to all people, but as they say, variety is the spice of life.

Do you sell your work?  Have you found that it suits you to concentrate on one thing, or do you have more diverse success?

Monday, 12 January 2015

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you all!  I don't know about you, but I always feel the post-Christmas lack of sparkle quite keenly - I'm a huge fan of Christmas, and all its attendant twinkly lights, delicious scents and good company, and New Year, followed by cold, bleak January always feels like a real anti-climax.

But this year, I have special memories of a lovely New Year to cheer me up.  For the first time ever, Mr G and I went away and stayed by the sea.

You all know by now that I have an abiding love for our coastline, and to spend a few days there, in winter, was a new and fulfilling experience.  Not hindered by the fact that (for once!) we were exceedingly lucky with the weather.  We had beautiful sunshine for all but one day (New Year's Day), and we didn't get rained on once!  Well, until we were packing the car to come home, but that's quite normal ...

That's not to say it wasn't cold - it was!  But we bundled ourselves up in many layers (and daft hats, in my case, much to the delight (!) of my long-suffering hubby) and did lots of beach-walking.

We made a trip to Cromer - where it really was flippin' cold! - and enjoyed hot chips on the seafront, watching an intrepid surfer with amazement.

And, because we were there at the right time of year for the first time ever, we had to go to Horsey to see the seal pups.  The seals arrive there every year to have their babies - and the humans also arrive there in droves to see them.  It was very busy (we had to queue for ages just to park), but worth it, to see the cute blobs of blubber rolling around on the beach and up in the dunes.  I'm a HUGE seal fan, and I like to think that I might have paddled with the parents of one or two of those babies, on that very same beach.

New Year's Eve was spent barbecuing (yes, really) and drinking champagne, and you won't hear me complaining about that!  So I started 2015 in the most awesome way, and am hopeful the rest of the year will follow suit. ;)  Yes, the house looked rather sad, once it had been denuded of most of its sparkle - but I used some of my Christmas money to buy myself a ridiculously bright rose light tree for my work room, so that will suffice. :)

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Why Wire?

Why wire?  Well, that is a very good question.

If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know how I fell into jewellery-making and thus wireworking.  But why am I still playing with wire?  Why haven't I diversified into some other branch of jewellery-making?  It seems to be fairly common for wireworkers to move on to working with metal clay, or at the very least to soldering precious metal.  This hasn't happened to me.  I'm still a dyed-in-the-wool cold-connections-loving wire-wrapper.  I did bite the bullet a couple of years back and buy myself a torch to make ball headpins with, but it's never had even a moment's contact with solder.

I think the main reason for my lack of exploration down other routes is that there still seems to be so much to challenge me with my chosen medium.  I dislike using ready-made components in my wire pendants, so it's always a challenge to create the motifs I need from wire and beads.  I have found myself struggling with certain elements, which is tempting me to make the embellishments I need from polymer clay.  To me, that isn't 'cheating', so it would be acceptable, and I'm not averse to the idea of mixed media pieces.  I still haven't stopped trying to find ways to depict the things I want to, using just wire and beads, though.

Wire can do so many different things.  Because of the immense variety of colours and gauges - and the fact that you can mix both of those up by twisting, plaiting etc. - there's so much you can do with it.  I haven't found a way to make very tiny, sharply-delineated motifs yet (although I give it my best shot!) and depicting water is not 100% successful, but often if an idea jumps into my head and keeps insistently poking my brain, I'll find a way to make it happen.

There's no doubt wire is not as versatile as - for example - clay of any type.  There are limits to what you can achieve in the way of texture, form and detail, but somehow, that's part of its charm.

This may have completely failed to explain to you what it is about wire that I find so appealing.  But perhaps the fact that I can't explain it well shows that I really haven't finished exploring it.  That's my excuse, anyway! ;)

Thursday, 18 September 2014

What are you grateful for?

I'm as guilty as the next person of occasionally becoming bogged down by the sometimes irritating minutiae of daily life.  On the whole I can make long lists of things I'm grateful for, and if you asked me, I would describe myself as happy.  But still ... those minutiae ... I have been known to moan about things that will not be important in a year, or a week, or maybe even tomorrow.  (As those people I'm grateful for will no doubt attest!)

And occasionally, some heartbreaking insight into someone else's life will jerk me right out of that state of being less than grateful, and remind me how damn lucky I am.  It is easy - and understandable - to succumb to worry.  About your health, the health of those you love, your weight, your job, your looks, the state of your finances.  And sometimes we (I) get so focused on those things, we might forget to rejoice in what we have.  So here are the things I'm truly grateful for.

I have my health.  That's not to say that like many I don't have some health issues teetering on the horizon, but I am generally healthy.  I can get up and go outside and look at the sky.  I can see the sky.  The spectre of cancer - and many other illnesses - looms over us all.  There is no telling if it will one day (soon or not so soon) strike me - or worse, my loved ones - down.  But today I am healthy.  I could do with being a bit thinner (something I'm working on!), but my body is a miracle - like everyone else's.

I have people I love, who love me back.  Without being sappy, this is the most important thing in the world.  With all the pain, suffering and evil out there, love is the thing that redeems humanity.  I still have all my parents (I say all, because I am even more fortunate than most, in that I have 'extra' (step) ones).  I have a husband I've been with for 24 years, and married to for very nearly 12.  To use one of my Dad's favourite expressions, I wouldn't swap him for a gold pig. ;)

I have very good friends, who've seen me at my worst, and are still here.  I may be a bit hopeless at staying in touch (sorry), but I never undervalue them.

For the first time in my life, I'm doing a job I love.  On the 12th October I'll have been doing it full-time for a year.  I don't know what the future holds, or whether I will still be lucky enough to be doing it in a year - or five - but today it's awesome.

I can go outside and touch a tree if I want to, walk barefoot in the grass, paddle in the sea anywhere on our beautiful coast.  Maybe the latter not as often as I'd like, but some people have never seen the sea.  Imagine that.

So today I'm full of gratitude for this rich, imperfect life I lead.  Or perhaps it leads me.  Life can be beautiful, rewarding, cruel and downright unfair.  But it's life.  And I'm happy to be alive.

What are you grateful for?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Early Artwork

As those of you who follow my blog know, I took art up to A level at school, then I put my pencils down and barely picked them up again until a couple of years ago.  Last weekend, I persuaded my long-suffering hubby to drag down my school portfolios from the loft and had a good old rummage through them.  The most surprising thing was how many large artworks there were; I'd forgotten just how many larger-scale (A1) pieces I'd worked on.  I can see it wasn't my greatest forté - and if you follow me on Facebook, you probably know how much I love small-scale!

Sadly, I can't show you the largest pieces, as my scanner is only A4, and I couldn't get them to stay on the door so I could photograph them, so I've just included a few of the smaller pieces, plus an A3 pastel and a photo of my A-level art piece.

This was from my fourth year Communications project (don't ask me what fourth year translates to in today's schooling terms, because I haven't a clue!).  I can see the errors, but it was quite a good exercise in perspective.

These were sketches of my hands for a graphic design project (not my strongest point!) - I included them because it amused me to see my stumpy little paws - they're still the same!  And they're exactly the same shape and size as my Mum's. Definitely not artist's fingers ... ;)

This was an attempt at a portrait of my lovely Grandad.  It's not perfect, but it does look like him.  Brought a tear to my eye, too.  RIP, Grandad. x

A random cat that I copied from somewhere - no idea where, it certainly wasn't one of ours!

And finally, some colour!  Pencil has always been my medium of choice; I did a lot of painting at school, but it was never particularly successful.  This was an experiment with pastels.  I think it may have been a depiction from a character from a novel.  I did a lot of that - still do, in fact.

And finally, my A-level piece.  We had a choice of whether to use Letraset (anyone remember that?!) or draw our own letters, and I chose to draw mine.  Coloured pencils, of course!  It's a photo, so it's not very good quality.  The butterfly's hiding a mistake!  This is on my Mum and Dad's wall - upstairs, thankfully.  It's quite a large piece.

So that's a tiny fraction of my schoolwork, and most of it hasn't been seen in a looong time!  It was a little bizarre looking back at it and remembering drawing some of it.  Where have all those years gone, eh?  The only thing I really miss is the student discount at the local art shop, though!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Book Review: The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams (urban fantasy ... ish)

I liked this book.  It didn't suck me in and shut off real life until I'd devoured it at speed, but I did finish it, and I do have the next one on my wishlist.  I'm not entirely happy with calling it urban fantasy, as some of it felt more like straight fantasy, although that may be due to the fact that much of the story takes place in the fae realm, not in our world.

McKenzie (I really don't understand why so many characters seem to be given surnames these days, but I can get past it!) is a shadow reader - she can not only see the fae, she can tell where they have teleported - or 'fissured' - to.  A rare talent that the Fae king has been making use of for several years.  McKenzie is in love with his sword master, Kyol, but relationships between humans and Fae are forbidden, so she knows nothing can come of it.  She has never questioned the stance of the king and his soldiers, however - she knows they have right on their side, and she's happy to use her talent to help them.

However, when she is kidnapped by the Fae rebellion - those she assists the king to defend against - she begins to realise that perhaps not everything is exactly as she's always believed.  I liked McKenzie's character.  She's not super-human in any way other than her particular talent.  She gets hurt, she makes poor decisions, but she learns along the way and she's not absolutely resistant to the truth when it's shown to her.  That said, she's loyal, so making a decision that will hurt the king and Kyol, or the rebels and their leader, Aren - who is quite different to Kyol, but noble in his own way - is a terrible choice for her.

There's a cast of interesting, mostly three-dimensional supporting characters, and the premise of a woman who can sense teleportation was unusual.  I thought the book was well-written, although I must warn you it's written in the present tense.  I've read several such books recently, and it doesn't really bother me, but I used to really struggle with it.  I've never in my life written anything in the present tense, and I don't really understand why writers use it, but I'm okay with it.  And after writing this review, I'm actually quite eager to start the next one!

4/5 stars