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

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

What would you go back and tell your 15-year-old self?

I saw my best friend at the weekend and she suggested this question for a blog post idea.  And as someone who knew me when I was 15, she'll know if my answers don't add up (so no pressure)!

Firstly, I have to try and remember what I was like when I was 15.  It was 26 years ago, after all.  Much like now, I was very quiet with people I didn't know.  I hated being the centre of attention and loathed being asked to answer questions in class.  I remember the encompassing dread I felt when my English class was told we each had to stand and make a presentation to the class.  Public speaking was not my forté!  I also remember that we never had to do it, in fact, as the class was so naughty and disruptive, we managed to delay the teacher sufficiently to postpone it permanently.

Apart from being quiet, I remember little things seeming to have importance out of all proportion - for example, crying with rage because my fringe wouldn't 'go right'.  Really.

So what would I go back and tell my fifteen-year-old self?  In no particular order:

  • Don't sweat the small stuff.  No-one else cares if your fringe is sticking up on one side.  (My hair is never perfect.  I can live with it.)
  • You are never going to use matrices in normal life, so don't panic when they try to put you down to the next maths group.  Your maths will be sufficient for a working life spent mostly in accounts (I might not mention that bit, though - my fifteen-year-old self may well have a meltdown at the thought of such a future).
  • You are not fat.  One day (26 years later, say) you will look back and wish you were still that size.
  • Stop wishing to be taller.  It's not going to happen.
  • Don't go to the A-level certificate evening.  The humiliation of your horrible form tutor announcing to the entire hall that 'Louise is currently unemployed - any offers?' will linger for a long time.
  • You're right to think your relationship with your parents will be improved by leaving home.  Sad, but true.
  • Work harder.  I was the mistress of the 'revise-right-before-the-exam-only' technique.  It shows in my grades.
  • Be more tolerant of people who don't grasp what you're saying right away.  One day you will realise that there are far greater qualities in human beings than a quick mind.
  • Stop waiting for good things to happen to you.  Make the things you already have good.
  • Trust your instincts.  If it feels wrong, don't do it, no matter who you disappoint.
  • Don't suppress your creative side.  It will find its way out!
  • In spite of what you hope, you're never really going to feel grown up.  But you will have the right to walk away from a situation that makes you uncomfortable.  You may never do it, but knowing you can helps.
  • Finally, to myself and my lovely friend - the permed hair.  Don't do it.  Nothing else to add.
I'm sure there are many more things Louise aged 15 needed to know, but I'm pretty sure I'm still learning, so ask me in another 26 years!

(An old, poor quality photo scanned and cropped, of myself and my friend - I'm the one on the left!)

What would you go back and tell your fifteen-year-old self?

Friday, 8 August 2014

Book Review: The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers and City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

First up this week is a novella by Mary Ann Rivers, The Story Guy.  I'm not sure how to categorise this one - probably contemporary romance (something I almost never read).


I'd never heard of this author.  I found her while trawling for new authors (I do this a lot since getting the Kindle - it's usually less expensive to try out a new author, and you can often download a free sample to see if you like their writing style.  In this case, the price was so reasonable, I decided to give the whole thing a go).

In her thirties, living alone, and still holidaying with her parents, Carrie is starting to feel dissatisfied with her life.  Her friends are in happy relationships, and although she knows her life is good, it's also just a little too safe and boring, and deep down she's lonely.  She enjoys reading personal ads placed by men who seem to have a 'real' voice to her - nothing glossy and superficial, just honest, often painful insights into their lives.  She never replies.  Until the day she sees something a little more intriguing than usual.  It begins: I will meet you on Wednesdays at noon in Celebration Park.  Kissing Only.  Before she has a chance to talk herself out of it, she's replied and agreed to meet him on Wednesday.

When she does muster her courage and go to meet Brian on that first Wednesday, to find that he's kind and passionate - not to mention gorgeous - of course she wonders why he's restricting himself to this small window of contact.  And she wants more.  As does Brian, apparently, but he won't allow himself to take more.  And as they start to fall in love - and, naturally, can't resist contacting each other outside of those Wednesday interludes - you find out why Brian can't take - or give - more.  And my goodness, was I ever glad I work from home.  I often read while I'm eating my lunch, and sobbing into my sandwiches with an audience would have been most embarrassing!  I can't remember the last time I read a book that made me cry like that.  Brian's struggle is beautifully drawn, and Carrie is no two-dimensional character either.  I defy anyone to read this, and not be sucked in by the characters.  It is a well-written love story (and the love scenes are fairly hot, so be warned) by an author I'm going to be reading again, and I highly recommend it.

5/5 stars.

Secondly, we have the third in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare - City of Glass.  It's a young adult urban fantasy series.

Again, I can't give much away with my review, in case you've yet to read the first two in the series.  There is still much of Clary jumping into situations without considering the consequences.  She is still only sixteen, so I can forgive her that a little, and the things she has gone through in these three books do seem to have made her grow up and make hard decisions that your average sixteen-year-old probably wouldn't need to, so I'm happy with the development of her character.  Jace is still witty and gorgeous, along with a newly-acquired streak of self-loathing that makes him even more interesting.  And Simon (Clary's friend) has no choice but to grow up fast, thanks to the events of the previous books.  I love the way his character has been drawn, and how Clare uses the plot to put him under pressure and prove his worth.  There are nice little sub-plots featuring the supporting cast of characters and you never feel as if they're just page-fillers.

There's plenty of peril in the book, and you're never sure the characters are going to survive it - something I think is important in a series of this nature.  I used to be a (huge!) fan of the Anita Blake books by Laurell K Hamilton, but she lost me when it became apparent that, in spite of the cast of characters becoming ridiculously large, none of the main characters would ever die.  I don't mean I like my series peppered with painful killings-off of my favourite characters, but if you know Anita's going to save the day every single time, the tension is gone, and tension is the second thing after characters that I value in a novel.  And never mind the fact that Anita turned into an uber-slut at the same time ... but I digress.  (Again!)

This book concerns the villain Valentine and his quest to obtain the third and final Mortal Instrument and his plans to wipe out all opposition when he does.  And of course the quest of our heroes to stop him doing that.  It's fairly standard heroes and villains fare, but it's nicely done and I like the world-building and the characters.  If you don't mind reading YA - and it's not dumbed-down in any way - you might want to give these a try.

4.5/5 stars

It has occurred to me that I'm really only reviewing books I've enjoyed.  The reason for this is that if I really don't enjoy a book, I don't finish it.  Life is too short (and there are too many great books out there) to waste it on less than stellar books.  And I feel that I shouldn't really review a book if I haven't read it in its entirety.  So I may just include a little DNF (did not finish) section, with a few words about why I didn't finish the book and my rating for the part I did read.

This week's DNF:

Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler.

I really wanted to like this!  An urban fantasy by a new-to-me author, it's about Jane True, a woman who doesn't know why she's drawn to swim in the sea over and over, although it's obvious from the start that it has something to do with her departed mother.  It started off well, the writing style was fairly engaging and I didn't hate the protagonist.  But I really, really didn't like the 'love' interest.  The moment he entered the scene, I pretty much switched off.  This is a problem for me.  You all know how I feel about tension - including sexual tension - in a novel, and for me it just wasn't there.  Jane practically rolls over for him - there may be all sorts of reasons for this that I had yet to read, but it bounced me right out of the story and left me feeling somewhat cheated.  Yes, I like the odd smutty book, but I'd rather read a well-written story without a single love scene, than have them included just for the sake of it.  I may try and go back to it, but I'm a picky reader - you don't often get two chances to grab my interest!  So my rating is based on about 40% of the novel.

3/5 stars.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Book Review: The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale

As I'm in the middle of two books right now (paperback for bath-reading and electronic for the rest of the time), I'm going to review one of my favourite books today.


While my favourite genre is without question dark/urban fantasy, I've also long been a fan of romance.  It sounds cheesy - especially historical romance - and much of it is, but there are a few authors whose work I really respect in this field.  One of those is Laura Kinsale.  I struggled to choose which of hers was my favourite, but in the end I went with The Shadow and the Star.  I find her titles a bit ... naff ... if I'm honest, and the cover of my copy reinforces that impression.  It features that huge muscular male model with the long hair who was on so many of the bodice-rippers of the 80's and 90's.  I used to be embarrassed to read them in public; I think perhaps I'm too old to care any more, though!

The cover is - of course- not indicative of what's inside, however.  This was published in 1991, and not discovered by me until years later.  It follows timid, law-abiding seamstress Leda and rich businessman (and martial arts afficionado) Samuel.  I know what you're thinking.  Seriously?  Can anyone say hackneyed plot?  Well, it's a case of suck it and see, with a Laura Kinsale book.  Samuel is most definitely not your typical strong, silent alpha male.  He is (as you would know if you had read her earlier book The Dream Hunter - not necessary, by the way) very damaged.  And filled with self-loathing at the feelings gentle Leda inspires in him.  When he acts on them, almost in spite of himself, she doesn't rebuff him, and it's not entirely because she's so innocent that she doesn't understand what's happening.  Some small part of her wants something beautiful for herself, even for a fleeting moment.

Of course, even fleeting moments have consequences when it's 1887 in London.  And much of the book tells the tale of how their lives change when they have to deal with those consequences.  Samuel still believes it is wrong that he wants to touch Leda and she struggles with the almost subservient nature her upbringing (and social station) has left her with, to try and make him see that it isn't.  We see how the characters fall in love, and how Leda begins to heal Samuel in her own quiet way.  Laura Kinsale has a rare talent for making her characters unique.  I've lost count of how many romances I've read which could have had various characters from other books dropped in and out without me even noticing.  But Kinsale's characters really do have their own voice and their own distinct nature.  And you're not told Leda feels x because of y, you're shown.  Which, to me, is how a good book should be written.

There is a minor suspense plot that creates some peril for the characters and enables the story to be wrapped up.  I've never been entirely sure that it was necessary, although it does prompt Samuel to reveal his feelings, so perhaps it was.

Anyway, if you like romances with beautifully-drawn characters, some plausible angst, a little well-stirred sexual tension and a few touching love scenes, you might want to give The Shadow and the Star a try.  You may also like Flowers from the Storm by the same author - another woeful title (in my opinion), but a heart-wrenching love story about a Quaker and a nobleman who has suffered a stroke - something which had yet to be diagnosed back then, and was seen as madness.

5/5 stars.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Colour Choices

I was scraping around in my brain (ugh - that sounds unpleasantly Hannibal Lector-esque) for blog post inspiration last week, and one of my lovely Facebook followers asked what makes me choose certain colour combinations and why I choose silver over bronze or other materials, or vice versa.

Well.  It's not an entirely easy question to answer.  Mostly, it seems pretty random to me.  Or maybe intuitive, although that's implying I always get it right!  Sometimes, particularly when I'm making wire pendants, I choose colours based on what I'm trying to represent, so I don't really have to think too hard about them, just select the nearest shade from my HUGE collection of seed beads.  And sometimes I'm trying to match something, e.g. an item of clothing, like with these stunning beads by Claire-Louise Patrick of Ciel Creations, which could almost have been made for my new skirt.

I've also been known to take inspiration from pretty much anything around me - from the sky to wrapping paper.  I remember making a pendant inspired by the colours in a cushion in the caravan we holidayed in a couple of years ago!

I love the site Design Seeds for inspiring colour palettes.  When I was making bracelets from orphan lampwork beads a while back, I chose several palettes, selected beads in those colours and put them together, like my Hydrangea bracelet.

If you're lacking inspiration, this is a great site - there are so many colour combinations I would never have thought of using.

And the other question - what makes me choose silver, bronze, copper, gold etc. for the metal components in my jewellery?  Unless it's a commission, I often weigh up how warm or cool I think the beads I'm using are, and use silver for cool and (usually) bronze for warm.  But not always!  Sometimes I like to ring the changes and do it the other way round.  Which, I realise, is not really much of an answer, but that's how the creative process works for me!

 Water Nymph

The Stream That Stood Still

 Eternal Love

Take the three examples above.  Silver was the natural choice for the Water Nymph earrings, with those cool-hued lampwork beads with their splashes of silver.  And I could have gone the same way with The Stream That Stood Still, as they're also smattered with silver, but that glorious greyish-green seemed to be calling out for warm bronze findings.  And pink is perfect with silver, but I wanted to give the Eternal Love earrings a warm glow, and again bronze seemed the right choice.  I still think all three pairs would be lovely paired with different metals, but I'm happy with my choices! :)

So, there's nothing scientific about it (something that wouldn't surprise my science teachers at school, I'm sure - I was so bad my physics partner decided to go it alone, rather than continuing her project in partnership with yours truly!  She was justified, by the way - I never did get that circuit to work.)

What makes you choose certain colour combinations?  Or is it all a bit random? :)


Design Seeds

My Facebook page

Ciel Creations

Friday, 25 July 2014

Friday Book Review

I have 3 books to review this week.

First up is On The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves.


This is the story of Anna, a 30-year-old teacher, and T.J., the teenager recovering from cancer whom she is going to spend the summer tutoring on an island in the Maldives.  Without giving anything away (it happens quite soon after the start of the book and the title's something of a clue!), they are involved in a plane crash, which results in the pair of them being stranded on a deserted island.  They're then plunged into a desperate race for survival.  I was gripped right from that point - how do you even fulfill the most basic need to find water when you're surrounded by millions of gallons of it that you can't drink?  Life on the island is not all swimming and sunbathing; it's hard graft just to survive.  Add to that the loneliness, grief and often despair that they feel, and it's a painful ride.  But it's a beautiful one, too.  In spite of the age gap, you can see what a great team they make, and as T.J becomes a man, and it appears that they will only ever have each other to depend on, it's natural for them to fall in love.

But you know as you're reading it that it can't last forever - they're fighting a constant battle against the elements as well as illness, not to mention the malnutrition caused by their limited diet.  I spent most of the book in an agony of suspense, and I'm not going to spoil the ending for you.  But it was without question worth reading.  It's written as if the story is told in alternating chapters by the two main characters, and I felt this gave the story an added layer, to get both viewpoints as the story progressed.  Yes, I did find myself thinking of both Castaway and The Blue Lagoon, but I thought it offered something different in the characters themselves, more than the setting.  I loved it, and it's gone into my 'faves' folder on my Kindle ... 5/5 stars.

Next up is City of Ashes: Book II of The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.


This is a YA (young adult series) which began with City of Bones - a book I enjoyed a LOT more than I expected to.  I can't say too much about this book without giving away major spoilers from the first book, but the main protagonist is teenager Clary, and while we see most of the story from her viewpoint, we do get some insight into the other characters' minds, too.  I don't read much YA (being a looong way past that myself, of course!) but I find Clare's writing compelling.  The characters are complex and the story generally doesn't pull any punches, so it's easy to forget that it's aimed at the teen market.  I didn't find this story quite as gripping as the first, but still head and shoulders above much of the adult urban fantasy out there.  (And if you follow me on Facebook, you'll know I was underwhelmed by the big screen adaptation of the first one, which I saw last weekend - I really should have stuck with the books!)  I'm looking forward to reading the next one.  4/5 stars.

Lastly, we have Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow.

Firstly, let me just say that I hate this cover.  My paperback has the original cover, and it's much prettier - embossed with lots of demonic sigils and the like.  But I couldn't find that image, sadly.  Secondly, isn't Lilith Saintcrow the most fabulous name?  And her real one, too.  Anyway, I digress ...

If you follow my blog, you'll know that I've fairly recently gone to the 'dark side' and bought myself a Kindle, so I'm consuming electronic books voraciously.  However, I like to read in the bath, and I do NOT trust myself near water with an electronic device, so I'm happy that I can still read the old-school way every day.  I'm being judicious with the amount of 'real' books I buy now - after all, a large part of the reason for buying the Kindle was the space issue in our bursting-at-the-seams-with-books house.  So I'm rereading some of my immense collection.  Currently, the Dante Valentine series by Lilith Saintcrow..  Working for the Devil is the first one.

Dante (Danny) Valentine is a necromance.  She can raise the dead, and does so for profit.  Or, if not quite profit, enough money to pay her mortgage and allow her to eat.  The book begins with a demon knocking on her front door and pointing a gun in her face with the demand that she follow him to Hell, because the Prince (the Devil) has a non-negotiable job for her.  From then on, Danny's life (which clearly has an angst-filled backstory, glimpses of which we are shown throughout) seems to spiral into something approaching chaos.  Although you get the feeling it's (almost) all in a day's work for her.  I liked the story, the world-building, and most of all, the characters.  It's always the characters that make or break a book for me.  And more than Danny's character, I was riveted by that of Japhrimel, the demon bonded as a familiar to Danny by the Prince.  In spite of his power and willingness to use it, he is taciturn and implacable for much of the story, but he is not the typical alpha male character.  All the characters were well-developed and interesting, but Japhrimel was something a little out of the ordinary.  Again, I can't say much without spoiling the story, but I remember finishing this and immediately ordering the rest in the series.  I still love it, so that's definitely one paperback that won't be consigned to the charity shop any time soon.  (It's unlikely any of my rereads will have less than a five star rating, by the way, unless they're interim books in a series - after all, why would I want to reread them otherwise?) 5/5 stars.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

My favourite piece?

I was asked by one of my lovely followers what I would consider to be my favourite piece of jewellery.  Well, I'm sure it's not quite like asking someone which of their children is their favourite, but it's pretty tough, nonetheless!  It's particularly difficult, because, as my style evolves and I achieve new things, I become quite fond of the new pieces.  The only thing I can say for sure is that it will be a wire pendant - I'm very attached to some of my pictorial pendant designs.  So I think I will just show you the evolution of the picture pendants, with a few of my favourites along the way.  And I'll end with the one that is probably (maybe) my current favourite - until next week, anyway. ;)

This is where the obsession fascination with creating wearable wire pictures began.  When I was a child I loved making little nature dioramas, complete with tiny mirrors for lakes and moss for grass etc.  It occured me one evening how cool it would be if I could do something similar with a pendant.  And this was what I made:
Awful night-time photography aside, it's pretty basic.  Just a simple wire fish, some stone chips, twisted bugle beads for weed and tiny moonstones for bubbles.  But I was still quite excited when I'd finished - it was an underwater scene!

I progressed to this sort of thing - the fish are woven, of course, and the seaweed is more sophisticated, but the basic design is similar.
I was, of course, still mildly (!) obsessed with trees, and making them look like specific types of tree, like this olive tree.

And this is the very first pendant with a woven backdrop; I'm still a little bit in love with those glorious sunset colours.  It was inspired (of course) by the sky, with lots of mental wrangling over how I could depict a sunset.  I had a bit of a light-bulb moment, and this opened the way for many more scenes.

And then came the sheepsies ... I have an unwritten rule that I almost never use actual shaped beads or charms in my pendants, because of course I like to make life difficult for myself, and insist I create them myself from beads or wire!  I'm not tired of the sheep yet ...

So hopefully you can see the progression of my picture pendants over the last few years.  I think this is currently one of my favourites, as it just has so much in it (including my beloved sheepsies):

Friday, 18 July 2014

Book Review: Sheltered by Charlotte Stein

I've decided to start reviewing books as I finish them, although I read fast, so I may not get round to reviewing every one I read.  I'm also going to try to get to grips with Goodreads - it was suggested to me that I might want to use the app, and after faffing around for a while trying to set up an account, I realised I already had one - d'oh!  It seems important that my ratings at least should reach the authors themselves - after all, they're the ones who've put in all that hard work for our reading pleasure, and I'm sure the feedback is valuable to them.

So, my first review.  This was my first book by Charlotte Stein - I saw it recommended on another blog and I decided to give it a go.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to review this book - particularly as my first - as it falls under the heading of erotica, and I'm just a little bit of a chicken.  But then I remembered that I don't believe anyone should ever apologise for their taste in books, art or music.  If someone has created it, and you like it, it has value.

So, the book is Sheltered by Charlotte Stein.  The main character is a nineteen year old girl/woman called Eve, who has spent her entire life under the controlling and abusive thumb of her father - and I do mean abusive.  Her restricted life begins to change when she meets a tattooed, pierced pot-smoking art student at her garden gate.  Sounds like a cliché, right?  Introverted girl meets bad boy with a heart of gold and he awakens her sexuality, leading to lots of energetic romping in the sack and thus freeing her from her old life?  Well, not quite.  For a start, he's not a bad boy.  Appearance aside - and the reasons for that will become clear later in the book - Van is gentle and kind.  Oh, and smoking hot.

Eve and Van's developing relationship is written beautifully - with all the attendant awkwardness that is crucial to their individual characters.  I'm not going to lie; I like the odd smutty book.  But more than that, I appreciate some finely crafted sexual tension.  And this book has it in spades.  The hot, tender scenes as they are tentatively exploring their feelings for each other are just beautiful.  If you don't like explicit love scenes, don't buy this book.  They're emotionally raw and naked, as well as physically.  But I think Charlotte Stein has done a spot-on job of bringing these two hurting characters together and making a beautiful love story.  My one small gripe would be that it's not the longest book in the world, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in intensity.  I'm still thinking about these characters, and that's always my measure for how much I've enjoyed a book.  You can write the most amazing plot in the world, but if the characters don't touch me, I'm unlikely to remember the book, and I certainly won't reread it.

So if you do like the sound of it, here's a link.  Please, please ignore the truly awful cover - I don't know whose idea that was, but it's not indicative of either the contents or the actual character descriptions.  Link: Sheltered by Charlotte Stein.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Ever Growing Wire Stash ...

Well, this is novel.  A blog post from me that's actually about wire.  I gathered all my wire together to try and photograph it yesterday - and my word, I have a lot!  I had to stand on a box to photograph it, and even then, it wouldn't fit on the A2 mountboard I was using as my photography backdrop.

Seen here are four small drawers of wire, a plastic box containing all the loose coils, my bag of precious wire (in the middle - see what a tiny proportion of my stash that comprises) and the larger rogue reels of wire that are too big to fit in the drawers.  Ideally, I'd like to upgrade all my wire colours and gauges to this size, but firstly, I can't afford it and secondly, it would be a nightmare to store and transport.  Some of my wire goes holidaying with me, and a certain husband would balk if we couldn't actually lift the wire receptacle into the car (it's been close sometimes, already - and yes, I would happily leave food/clothes behind if it was a choice between those and the wire!).

All the smaller reels live in this recently purchased drawer unit.  I like to have them accessible, so it's on the left-hand side of my desk. 

I haven't got room to show you all my wireworking tools too, but trust me, there are many!  What I love so much about wire, is that you can go from one or several of those little reels to this:

or this:

To me, wire has so much potential, in the same way that seed beads do for those enviably talented sculptural seed bead artists who can create beauty from tiny glass beads and thread.  Sometimes I look at a mundane reel of wire, and I see sunsets, or meadows, or cobwebs.  What mundane materials transform in your imagination into something quite different?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

It's all about cake ...

Cake.  That's right, today's blog post is about cake.  I was racking my overworked (no, really) brains for a blog post subject, and all I could think about was cake.  It may have something to do with the fact that there is a distinct aroma of freshly baked lemon drizzle cake wafting through the house.  I don't make cake particularly often, but I do think that no shop-bought cake can ever compare with a home-baked one.  That's not to say I won't eat shop-bought - I'm not a purist, and I like cake.

I know people who can construct fantastical confections that not only look like they were magicked out of a fairy tale, they taste good, too.  I'm not one of them, sadly.  If you mention icing to me, I start getting that deer in the headlights look and frantically inventing reasons why I can't make cake after all.  Icing for me comes in two categories - the Dentist's Dream (toothbreakingly hard), and Spoon Required (running off the cake).  That said, I can make basic, delicious cake - they may not look like much, but they taste pretty good.  From banana, to date and walnut, to bakewell tart (no icing - just strategically placed almonds), if I use a trusted recipe, it rarely fails.  And the slaving over a hot stove (look, that's my story and I'm sticking to it, alright?) is all worth it when Him Indoors gets home and his eyes light up at the sight of the cake.  The way to a man's heart is, without question, through cake.

Hopefully, my not-so subliminal overuse of the word 'cake' in this blog post has made your mouth water.  I can feel smug for once in my life - there is cake in this house.  What's your favourite cake?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

If you could only make one more ...

Interesting question this week - posed to me by the lovely Liz Cullen.  If I could only make one piece of jewellery during what remains of my life, what would it be?

Ooh ... I have to tell you, that question almost made me break out in a cold sweat.  The thought of only being able to make one more piece of jewellery is so hideous my mind kept trying to sneak round it and find a way to cheat.  But I forced it back into its cage and withheld coffee until it gave the matter some serious thought.  I mulled over the pieces I have already made - would I make a full woven necklace with a matching pendant?

There's a lot of work in one of these, granted - but the rest of my life?  Unless I get run over by a bus tomorrow (and fingers and toes crossed THAT doesn't happen), I'm going to have a fair bit of jewellery-less life left.  So I broke one of the bars on the cage, dribbled a bit of coffee in and allowed my mind to cheat a little.  I'd loathe not being able to create with my wire and beads, so I'd probably be cheeky and make a giant piece of wall 'jewellery', similar to my Four Seasons piece - but much bigger!

Technically, I might still be allowed to make that, as it's not jewellery, in which case I'm going to stick with the embellished necklace as my piece of choice.  But if not, I think I could see me working on an ever-increasing wire scene.  Yes, I KNOW it's cheating, but I don't care - so there!

So if you could only create one more example of what you make - what would it be?

Saturday, 28 June 2014


A quick interim post from me - I'm having a giveaway over on my Facebook page to say thank you to all those of you who follow my ramblings, like, comment and of course buy my work.  I'm truly grateful to you all for not making me talk to myself (I've found it's generally a short and unfulfilling conversation!) and this includes those of you who follow my blog too.  So please do pop over to my Facebook page and enter to win this ocean-themed mini pendant.

The giveaway closes at 8pm next Friday 4th July. :)

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Origins of a Jewellery Maker

I was asked yesterday why I started making jewellery.  I can't actually remember if I've covered this before (although you're welcome to trawl through all my previous blog posts and check!) so here is an answer of sorts.  You may have seen me write elsewhere that I 'fell into jewellery-making' by accident.  It's true.

I've always had a creative bent - my favourite subjects at school were art and English language - but like a lot of people, when I left school, I just needed a job to pay my bills.  It was during the recession in the early 1990's, so it's not as if I had a lot of choice.  Non-creative job eventually secured, I did what I had to do - got on with it.  Was it fulfilling?  Not particularly, although there is something very satisfying about earning your own money and paying your own bills.  (The novelty of that wears off quickly, but it's an ethos I still live by!)  And that's what I continued to do for the next 20 years - get on with it.  My only creative outlets for many of those years were writing fiction, which I've mentioned before, and making food and other items for my dollshouse (yes, the love of all things miniature lives on in my pendants!).

Then in 2006, while I was doing some work for a haberdashery company, I found some boxes of beads on a shelf in their warehouse - you know the type, a few different beads in pretty colours, with some basic findings.  On a whim, I bought one and had a play with it.  Did I instantly discover I had a talent for it and produce perfectly finished items?  Of course not!  My first earrings were very basic, made with plastic beads and base metal findings and as for the technique - let's just say calling the loops 'round' would be far too kind (as you can see, and I hope my photos have improved, too!).

But ... less than impressive experiments aside, I was nonetheless hooked.  I started to look around for more beads, then more - in fact, I'm surprised eBay didn't crack under the strain.  I can't actually remember when the love affair with wire first began - I do remember that I bought some basic tools with some birthday money from my uncle, and I was nervous that I might be rubbish at wireworking and have wasted the precious money!

It turns out that, with practice (lots!) I wasn't entirely rubbish after all, and the bending, twisting and hammering began in earnest.  I love being able to make all the components of a piece of jewellery myself - that's not to say I don't use beautiful findings made by other people, because as you know, I do.  There are many things I don't and can't make, but there's always some skilled craftsperson out there who does.  And you know I'm absolutely addicted to beads - the glamour hasn't worn off after all these years.  I've progressed from plastic and mass-produced glass beads to handmade lampwork and polymer clay, but I'm equally as fond of the humble seed bead, along with a nice sparkly bit of Czech glass.

And of course wire is my favourite material - relatively inexpensive, unless you're working with precious metal, and so versatile.  I can't translate everything that's in my head into wire - wish I could - but I'm not going to give up trying! ;)

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Importance of Hobbies

Hobbies.  It's a frivolous word.  And a frivolous thing, perhaps, but I think having a hobby - or several - is really important.  But isn't making jewellery your hobby, I hear you ask?  Well, yes - it certainly started out that way.  And it still is, in many ways - I've lost count of the number of times my hubby has said to me 'You're working?  Again?' as I'm sneaking out the wire to fiddle with in front of the telly.  It is, of course, my job, and a lot of my working hours are spent completing work for customers, (something I love doing) but finding myself inspired by something fresh and turning it into a piece of jewellery - just because - is the icing on the cake.

It's not my only hobby, though.  As you know if you follow this blog, I have always been a voracious reader.  This dates right back to when I first learned to read, and my Mum and I used to get the bus into town so that she could treat us both to a book from the secondhand bookshop in the square.  Then we'd spend the bus journey home reading - terribly sociable, I know!  Books have ALWAYS been my means of escape from a real life that occasionally sucks.

Similarly, when you're not reading someone else's story, why not write it?  I love words - the way a carefully chosen phrase can convey an emotion, something that hits you right - well, wherever it is you feel things most.  Is there anything quite like finishing a book that makes you similarly sigh with satisfaction and almost weep that the journey is over?  Writing is the flip side of that coin, but it's no less satisfying when the final word is written, and the characters still exist in your imagination, somewhere far outside of the pages.

So why do I think having a hobby is important?  I cannot comprehend the concept of boredom.  If ever I hear someone say they're bored, I'm amazed.  How does anyone have time to be bored?  As long as I have a blank page and a pen or pencil, I'm able to occupy myself.  There are so many things you could be doing with your hands or your mind, why would you relinquish a second of your precious time to ennui?  To me, hobbies - interests, passions, whatever you want to call them - are so important because if you have nothing else to fill your time, they give you purpose, and if you're only able to fit them around jobs/illness/less than fulfilling lives, they provide an escape and a route to personal joy.  And there is always room for more joy in this world.

So tell me, what hobbies bring you joy?

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Dorset Interlude

A couple of weeks ago, we went away to Dorset for a long weekend.  We'd been promised (threatened with) abysmal weather, but in fact most of the heavy rain seemed to happen overnight.  This meant that we woke to glistening rain-slick greenery, sparkling in the spells of sunshine we hadn't dared to hope for.  We made our first ever trip to the rock formation known as Durdle Door.
The view was stupendous, but it was quite a trial for me to get that far - I'm afraid of heights, something which is made much worse when it's windy.  And my word, was it windy!  I actually spotted a little girl leaning on the wind as if it were something solid - she was clearly delighted by this, while I was by then heading for the car with as much speed as I could manage against the wind, hoping I'd make it in one piece!

We also enjoyed the sight of the kiteboarders in Sandbanks, who were taking advantage of all that wind - although I'm still mystified by the fact that anyone would pay millions of pounds to live there. ;)
As we were staying right next to some beautiful woodland (and I mean right next to - the trees were overhanging our log cabin), we took advantage of the time of year to tramp through the soggy undergrowth and enjoy the profusion of bluebells blooming there.  Hubby even saw a fox (Did I?  No, of course not - I was wandering around aimlessly taking a million photographs of things on the floor as usual).
It was a lovely chance to recharge our batteries and to enjoy the beautiful Dorset countryside and coastline.  And did I take any wire with me, you ask?  Well, just a bit ... here's my Violet Tree set - started while watching The Eurovision Song Contest.  Hey, even I need a bit of culture now and again ... ;)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

That tricky subject ...

That tricky subject I've been avoiding blogging about.  Actually it's two in one - inspiration versus copying.

Firstly, a word about copyright.  In the UK (and many other countries) an original artistic work is automatically copyrighted.  You don't need to register it - you need to be able to prove the work is yours, of course, but it is automatically protected by copyright.  This includes your own photographs - so if you lift a picture from the internet, you need to find the source and ask their permission.  Of course I know this doesn't always happen, but it should.  If you use an image without gaining permission or crediting the source, it's breach of copyright.

And so to copying a design.  What is the difference between taking inspiration from someone's work and copying it?  Inspiration is an idea forming in your mind in response to something you've seen.  That does not equate to reproducing the item exactly.  If you copy the form and style of an original work it is just that - a copy.

So how do you define an original work?  That is tricky.  In the jewellery world, most ideas and themes have been represented somewhere along the line.  It's all in the detail.  An example: I make tree of life pendants.  So do thousands of other people.  It is not a unique idea, and you couldn't possibly copyright a standard design.  But here is something I made earlier:
Yes, it's an apple tree.  Nothing unique there.  Apple trees have no doubt been depicted in one way or another for thousands of years.  If someone makes a wire pendant with an apple tree in it, does that mean they've copied my work?  Of course not.  But if I see one made with exactly the same execution as this one, will I consider that to have been copied?  Yes.

I am happy - no, more than happy, thrilled! - to inspire others in whatever medium they choose to create with.  But I will always speak out if I see my images or those of others being used without permission - nicely, as I'm not confrontational and the whole thing makes me feel a bit sick, to be honest - and I cannot condone direct copying.  Like many others, I work very hard to produce work that is original.  I'm sure I don't always get it right - as I said, most things have been done before - but I never deliberately copy.

And lastly, watermarks are coming!  I've resisted using them for so long, as I don't want to obscure my pictures, but I already use them on my artwork, and I've had so many of my own uncredited photos pointed out to me recently, that I can resist no longer.  The only thing that worries me is all the hundreds of images already out there, that I can't retrieve ...

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Random Facts ...

As I have somehow managed to leave most of the stuff I need at home today (Wednesdays are spent in my hubby's workshop), I've decided to write a slightly different blog post today.  A while ago, one of those daft things was going around Facebook where you are supposed to comment, then tag your friends to play - I usually ignore them, but this one intrigued me.  It simply said to state 10 things that people may not know about you.  It was interesting - not so much to do, as obviously I already know these things! - but to read the things other people revealed.  So here are a few random things you may not know about me, although some you may, if you've been following my blog and Facebook page for a while.

I took A-level art at school, chose to forgo my place at art college, and barely picked up a pencil for the next 20 years.

I have two stuffed toy seals and a monkey who always come on our holidays ... ;)

I've enjoyed writing fiction since I was a child writing by torchlight under the covers.  I've written 3 full-length novels, along with many more finished and unfinished stories - all unpublished.

I've been a vegetarian since I was 21.

I met my hubby (some of you will know him as 'the post boy') nearly 24 years ago, while I was still at school.  It took us 12 years (most of those living together) before we decided we'd probably keep each other after all and get married.

I taught myself to touch type when I was 20 - came in handy with all those stories ...

I worked in accounts for 21 years before giving it up to be poor and happy as a jewellery-maker.

Lastly - and this will be the shocker - I'm not a natural redhead. :P