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?