Sunday, 28 September 2008

Pod Beads

I found a cool tutorial while browsing various blogs tonight - a tutorial that makes these lovely paper beads! All you need are a paper punch (the cardmaking/scrapbooking kind), some coloured paper and glue. They are such a simple effective idea, and I've got a dozen or so paperpunches, so I'm looking forward to seeing what shape beads I can make. For the instructions go and visit the Folding Tree's blog here. Have fun!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Last few days!

Nearly forgot to mention earlier - there are only 3 more days of my anniversary offer left! Order any jewellery or book workshop places before the end of September and I will send you a pair of daisy studs. I made some more on Friday to send out with the latest orders, so come and get 'em!

We're going to the zoo zoo zoo....

T is cycling in the New Forest today on a friend's stag do (I'm certain that at least one stop at a pub will be on the cards too!) so B and I decided to go to Marwell Zoo. We've got a season ticket so we've been several times this summer. I usually avoid the weekends, for obviously reasons, but this weekend Fifi and Bumble from the Flower Tots are there and as B enjoys that programme I decided to take him along. We got there at about 10.30am and joined the queue for the first 'meet and greet' at 11am as soon as we arrived, but even so we only just got to meet them and have our photo taken before they had their break at 11.30am! B enjoyed it, though, which is the main thing, and keeps talking about the fact that he gave Bumble a high five. We then had a lovely wander around the zoo, and I was pleasantly surprised at that fact that the site didn't seem at all crowded even though the car park was pretty much full. We took the road train up to the top of the site and walked down the other side so that we could see all the animals that we usually miss out by doing it the other way round. We had to go back and see the penguins at the end, though, as they are definitely B's favourites at the moment.

I think the walking, the sunshine, the excitement and the ice cream (which, as you can see, he enjoyed!) wore him out though, as he's had a lovely nap this afternoon. I've had time to tidy the house up and do some more work on the experiments I've mentioned before. They are almost ready to show you - hopefully I can show you the first by the end of next week! No work for me this evening though as I'm off on a rare night out - a hen night!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Chocolate Mug Cake

Yes, you did read that correctly - Mug, not Mud!

T sent me an email that was doing the rounds at work with a recipe that sounded perfect for trying with B, so this afternoon we had a go! It was a treat for him after he was so good letting me finish a very last minute commission (more of that at the weekend). I thought that I would write out the ingredients etc in case you'd like to make your own! will need:

4 Tablespoons cake flour
4 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa
1 Egg
3 Tablespoons milk
3 Tablespoons oil
3 Tablespoons chocolate drops (optional)
1 Mug

Add dry ingredients to the mug, and mix well. Add the egg, then the oil and the milk, mixing well to make sure that there aren't any pockets of flour left at the bottom, and try to make sure that not all of the mixture ends up on your child's face.

Add the chocolate drops - the trick here is to make sure that your child puts more in the mug than he does in his mouth!

Put the mug into the microwave and cook it - the recipe said 3 minutes in a 1000watt oven, but that was a bit too long in our 950watt oven, so you may neeed to experiment! Wait until the cake stops rising and sets in the mug. It had to be a cow mug - you'd understand if you knew our house - T used to collect cow things until all the family joined in. I lost count of the cows at 65!

Run a knife around the sides of the mug, and tip the still warm cake out of the mug on to a plate - you wouldn't believe how hard it was persuading B to let me take a photo before he started eating!!

And the verdict? Well, B loved it, but then it was chocolate! I prefer my cakes a bit lighter (maybe it was the oil?), so we'll just have to experiment and make it again!

Thank you Micki for sending T the recipe!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

That's better!

I don't think I realised how tetchy I had been getting until I managed to sit down and start work in the shed yesterday evening! I was definitely in danger of getting into what Nicky calls a funk, and all because I hadn't had much creating time recently. Daft, isn't it? At least I'm in good company. Most of the designers (jewellery or lampwork, or indeed any craft) whose blogs I read or I know in real life say that they NEED regular time shut away in their private little kingdoms (aka workareas) in order to stay relatively sane - maybe it's something to do with all those ideas running round in their heads demanding to be put to good use? I do know that I'm much nicer to live with when I've been "playing" with my beads and silver - in fact, T has been known on occasion to tell me to take myself off into my shed! In the nicest, most caring way possible of course.

Anyway, I promised you photos, and as you can see, I've kept my promise. These are some of the daisies I made on Tuesday. They are still one of my favourite designs to make, which is very good as they are also the design that I sell the most of at the moment! Creamy freshwater pearls and lovely fresh turquoise - they will be on the website very shortly!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Sophie's Appeal

One of the reasons that I'm so busy now is the number of shows that I'm doing between now and Christmas. I've got at least one big show a month, and a couple of jewellery parties thrown in for good measure, so I'm busy making sure that I've got enough jewellery ready. Of course, as my designs have changed and I'm now using a lot more silver in my work a lot of what I make now has to be hallmarked. That means that I have to plan my work in advance to make sure that I leave enough time for the hallmarking process.

Anyway, the biggest event that I've got coming up next is a fashion show in aid of Sophie's Appeal, a charity set up by Lin and Mike Barringer after their daughter Sophie was diagnosed with a form of cancer of the kidney. Sophie died when she was six, but the funds raised in her name are used to fund research into childhood cancers, sponsor dream holidays for terminally ill children and their families and to establish 'Sophie's Place', a dedicated children's assessment centre.

The fashion show is being organised by James and Sarah Beattie (ex-Southampton footballer, currently plays for Sheffield for those of you, like me, who don't follow football!), who are patrons of the charity and it's being held at the Botley Park Hotel just outside Southampton on Sunday 19th October. I've been involved in a few of the charity's events before, and this is definitely the biggest so far - Southampton's Daily Echo have been promoting the event and ran a competition to find models for the event, the finals of which were held last weekend. There'll be an auction (fancy winning a holiday in the Beatties holiday home in Malaga, anyone?), dance acts, and lots more - oh, and a few stands of fashion related goodies, including me and my jewellery! I'm also lending some of my jewellery to the fashion show, so I'm working on some bigger pieces to show off on the cat walk. I'm really looking forward to it - and so is my mum! I've asked her to come along and help me out, but I think she may be a bit distracted by seeing if she can recognise the footballers and their wives who will hopefully be there!

If you are interested in finding out more about Sophie's Appeal or, if you're in the Southampton area and fancy coming to the fashion show, then please visit

Blog cleaning

My cleaning and tidying in the house yesterday has spread to my blog too - I've removed links to some blogs that haven't been updated in a few months and moved some of the sidebar sections around. I've also added some links to my tutorials and to some of the jewellery making information posts that I've made. I keep referring people to them when I'm teaching workshops and in replies to people's emails, so I thought that it would be a good idea to make them easy to find!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Manic Monday

Okay, cheesey I know, but that is definitely the perfect title for today! Today has been one of those days when I've been busy all day, but it doesn't really seem as though I've done much. Let's see - did some washing, cleaning and tidying this morning and then took B to Toddler Twist (dance and music class) and then the park, ran some errands in town (banking, post office etc), came home and made lunch, did some more cleaning and a bit of ironing and then played trains with B and read some books with him, made a couple of phone calls, made B's tea. Ummm, I guess I have done a fair bit but it still doesn't feel as though I've done much as I should have. I think it's because I haven't been in the shed and hammered any silver since Thursday evening as we've had T's mum and stepdad visiting, so my mind is full of all the projects I've got to complete! That, and the fact that if I don't have regularly and very frequent creating time I start to feel really unsettled. Never mind! B's at preschool tomorrow afternoon, so hopefully I'll get some jobs done then.

One of the jobs I have to do tomorrow is take some photos. I'm really conscious that I haven't shown you any new jewellery for a couple of weeks. It's not that I haven't made anything - I have been busy making and designing, honest! It's just that several pieces have been commissions that I couldn't show you straight away, and it's taken me a while to get the new improved lighting for my photo studio set up. Anyway, tomorrow there will be no more excuses - you will have some photos!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008


My first three tutorials are, at last, uploaded onto the website, ready for you to download onto your computer! Isn't technology wonderful? Well, it is once you've figured out all the buttons to press, the boxes to tick on the admin side of the website. I couldn't get the 'download now' button to appear when I did a test purchase until I realised that I had missed '.pdf' off the filename, but it's all working now.

The three tutorials that I've uploaded are on eye loops, wrapped loops and coils. These 3 are, I think, the most important techniques for a beginner to learn and, even, better, they are FREE! I decided that most of the technique tutorials would be free, and the project ones would just have a small charge. I've been teaching jewellery making for over 6 years now, and the tutorials are a way of using my experience to help you if you can't make it to a workshop, and a way of refreshing your memory if you've already got some experience!

The next tutorials I've got planned are on making your own head pins from sterling silver, making your own earwires and information on wireworking tools. If there are any tutorials you would like to see, please let me know!

You can find all the tutorials here.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Tutorial Tuesday

Well, B had his first afternoon at preschool today. He was excited at going in as we'd been talking about the toys he could play with and the fact that his childminder's little boy was going to the same sessions, and he sat down at the table at the start really well and went to get some toys when the registration part was over. I had a chat with his key worker (I've got to come up with a better term than that - it reminds me of the keyworkers from social services I worked with when I was a teacher!), signed some forms, checked that he was settled in and wasn't bothered at the thought of me going, managed to get a kiss from him and then slipped out of the door - all without getting tearful! Both T and I knew that B wouldn't have a problem with starting preschool, it would be me that would get upset. I did get a bit tearful on the way home, but then started laughing at myself when I realised that today, of all days, I didn't have any tissues with me! When I arrived to pick B up he was sitting as good as gold in a circle with the other children - he looked like such a big boy! He wanted me to come in and play with him, but I managed too get him to leave with the promise of taking him to the park were he chatted about the toys he'd played with, so I assume that he had a good time! I just hope it lasts and that he still enjoys it when he realises that it's a regular thing.

Anyway, Tutorial Tuesday......after distracting myself by giving the kitchen a thorough clean, I got on and did quite a bit of admin and phone calls etc. Not all the phone calls I wanted to make as my phone is playing up again, but I managed to tick quite a few jobs off my list. I also uploaded the tutorials I've written onto my website. You can't see them on there at the moment as I've still got to double check that they've uploaded okay, but as from tomorrow my free tutorials on basic wire work techniques will be available to download. My plan had been to get them on the website by the end of August, but although they were written by then I decided I wanted to trial them at a couple of workshops first. So, tomorrow the next stage of my mission pass the addiction of jewellery making will be under way!

Right, off to get wrapped up to go to bed now! It may be sunny during that day at the moment, but it's definitely chilly at night! I can't bear being cold at night. No matter how tired I am I can never sleep when I'm cold, so tonight, if anyone is really interested, I shall be wearing winter pyjamas and bed socks (from a trip on a British Airways flight pre-B!), and I've put the blanket back on top of the duvet on my side of the bed. What on earth am I going to be like when winter arrives?!

Monday, 15 September 2008

I love the sun!

It has been lovely and sunny here today, and most of yesterday too. It's amazing how much that has lifted my mood! It's not that I've been feeling down, just that this summer has been such a disappointment weather-wise. I know that it rarely gets really hot here in the UK, but, well, put it this way, I don't think that we're going to have to worry about hose pipe bans for a while!

I feel a lot more productive when it's sunny, so I was really pleased to be able to have some time in the shed this afternoon. B has more or less stopped having naps in the afternoon now, so I'm having to get used to doing without my hour or so work time each afternoon. Today, however, B fell asleep in the car on the way home (we'd been to see Laura and then to see Nicky during her lunch break at work) and slept in his bed for a couple of hours. A perfect length of time to do some housework and then hammer some silver, and even more perfect as it was unexpected!

I thought that I'd show you what I got up to - the photo shows a couple of rings and what will eventually be a necklace sitting on my desk. You can also see some of my favourite tools, some new and some older than me! The older ones are my two favourite hammers, both given to me by a friend whos parents were goldsmiths. The metal hammer is pitted with age and gives a beautiful texture to the silver. My newest toy, erm, tool is my Pepe disc cutter. I've used it to cut the discs that you can see - I've domed them using a doming block. The cutter arrived last month, a couple of months earlier than I hoped, after being on back order for a few months. I'd decided to buy a decent one rather than an Indian made one that would only last me a few years, and the wait has definitely been worthwhile! In the background you can also see the silver tubing I bought from Laura this morning - she'd decided not to use it to make silver cores inside her beads, and I've got a few designs sketched out that can use it - some of those experiments I mentioned a while back that I promise to show you soon!

By the way, B is still sleeping well in his new bed. He loves it, and stays in it all night until we go into him in the morning. I'm sure this honeymoon period will come to an end soon though! He's got his first pre-school session tomorrow afternoon. I'll let you know how it goes!

Eye Candy

I mentioned last week that I went to the Design Edge Trade Show at Sandown Park last Monday. I felt as if I was skiving on the way there in the train as T was looking after B! The show was quieter than expected as there were accidents on the M3 and the M25 and, apparently, problems on the Tube too, but I really enjoyed it. There were lots of lovely things to look at, great designers and crafters to chat to, and I had a chat with the show organiser about exhibiting next year.

One of the stands that really caught my eye was Naive Textile Art....well, just look at the photos to see why! Naive is run by mother and daughter team Becks and Susan Jennings who use wool, fabric and felt to create what they have termed 'jewellery pincushions' - a great way to keep your jewellery organised and on display even when you're not wearing it. My favourites are the chocolate & trinket tray jewellery box and the ice cream jewellery pincushions. I think that a few people will be getting an ice cream with their jewellery from me this Christmas! I love the fact that the pincushions are practical as well as gorgeous to look at, and that Becks and Susan obviously really enjoy what they do! I think some of my jewellery in amongst those chocolates would look perfect, don't you?!

Someone else I had a good chat with was Mary Thorp of Creative Thorp. Mary is an interior designer, and her one-time hobby of designing cards with her beautiful photos and selling prints of the photos has now developed into a family business. I love the simplicity of her photos, especially this one, a windswept white poppy. It was great having a chat with Mary as she, like me, has been lucky enough to set up a business based on a hobby that she's obviously passionate about. Go and have a browse!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Charm Bracelets

I had a really enjoyable day yesterday teaching my charm bracelet workshop to a group of 11 fellow bead addicts in Devizes. It was organised by the Three Jays, 3 friends who sell their beaded jewellery and teach a monthly workshop. Apart from a couple who had done some chainmaille before I don't think that any of the women had any previous experience of wirework, but they are all now the proud owners of a sterling silver bracelet and matching pair of earrings, a couple of which you can see below. Aren't they great?

B stayed at my parents on Friday night and they brought him back over yesterday afternoon, so T had most of yesterday to himself - a rare treat as any parent will know! He had a lovely lie in (I snuck out of the house at 7.30am to get to Devizes on time for the workshop, closing the door very quietly!) and then pottered about the house - I think the xbox got a lot of exercise, but he managed to do some housework too, bless him! It was my turn for a much needed lie in this morning. I've been working some really late nights recently and they've been catching up on me. I'm not complaining, mind you - it's always great to be busy when you're self employed! I think that there will be a few more very late nights between now and Christmas, though, as my diary is looking lovely and busy!
By the way, I've added a new gadget to the blog. I'm finding it a useful way of keeping up with the blogs I read regularly as it gives me a list of everyone's last post. So, if you fancy seeing when I've got a new post then click on "Follow this blog". If you choose to follow publicly then your picture will appear in the list - others can then click on it and find your blog!

If you need a giggle...

Ikea are currently building a new store in Southampton - it's going to cause traffic chaos as it's right in Southampton city, not on the outskirts of the city like the Ikeas everywhere else, but that's not the point of this post.

They are holding a recruitment fair this month, and a friend has emailed me this cartoon. Don't know where it's come from, but it's great!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

And the winner is.....

I wrote everyone's names on bits of paper, put them in B's builder hat and he picked one out for me. Well, I had to explain the concept of picking just one out first and we got there in the end! So the winner is.....


Thank you for your lovely comments everyone, and Katy, I'll email you to get your address, and then the earrings will be speeding their way too you!

It's been a busy week - but that seems to be the norm, so I don't know why I bother saying it anymore! I went to the Design Edge trade show at Sandown Park on Monday and had a great time. I saw some fantastic gifts and jewellery, some of which I'll tell you more about later this week, and had a chat with the show organiser about having a stand next year. I left feeling very positive about my work and moving more into wholesale orders. Don't worry, I have absolutely no plans to stop the work I'm doing now, the plan is to increase the whole sale side of my business.

I've also been busy with tuition so far this week. Sunday was a silversmith tuition day, and my student made a fantastic bracelet of stars cut from silver sheet for his wife. Lots of sawing, drilling, filing and sanding involved! Another student came over last night for some wirework tuition and we were going over everything from wrapped loops to earwires and even rings. She told me that she's been selling some of her work through a local library and that it's been selling really well - congratulations Ali! I love it when people coming to my workshops start selling their jewellery successfully! I'm really lucky that I'm still able to teach something I love without having to worry about the school paperwork, marking and targets etc. Teaching jewellery making is much more relaxing than teaching ICT!

The tuition is continuing this weekend too. I've been booked by Three Jays Beading to teach my sterling silver bracelet class in Devizes this Saturday. They'll be making bracelets based on the one to the left. If you fancy making your own have a look in the workshops section on my website as I'm running that class in Southampton in October too.

Sunday, 7 September 2008


Just a quick reminder, the deadline for the Anniversary earrings is tomorrow at midnight - see here for details.

And I've realised that I haven't shown you the earrings for this month's newsletter prize here they are. They are pink jade and sterling silver, and all you have to do to be in with a chance of winning them is subscribe to my newsletter via the link to the left.

Good luck!

What a week!

Yes, I'm still here! It has been a busy week of ups and downs - with hindsight not very serious downs, but ones that I'd rather not repeat all the same!

The lows first, as they explain where on earth I've been. B and I had a couple of trips to the doctors which then led to a trip to the hospital on Thursday, but he's fine thankfully! He had a rash that they eventually decided was an unusual ezecma rash, and you have to search for it now it's so much better. I did try not to panic though, when the triage nurse we saw on Wednesday called in the duty doctor who then called in the pediatrican! I was given some creams for B and asked to bring him back on Thursday, and then tried not to panic again when we were sent to the hospital. B was fantastic and took it all in his stride. We did have our humourous episodes - B won't use a potty yet (he'll sit on it happily but not yet use it!) and the hospital wanted a sample. So they said to take off his nappy and gave me a pot about a quarter the size of a potty - I'll leave the rest to your imagination!

And the highs - I did manage to finish some commissions this week, and had some nice sales. I'm very pleased that I managed to do the commission despite not having a work day on Thursday (I shouldn't have said I was looking forward to it, should I? I jinxed it!). Anyway, that's where I've been - and tomorrow I'm off to visit a trade show with a view to exhibiting there next year, so I'm off to pack my bag now!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

My cake... and ouch!

I forgot to post this yesterday, sorry! Nicky and her two came over yesterday and after lunch we had some cupcakes I'd made at the weekend - and because it was Daisychain's anniversary Nicky decided we had to have candles on my cake - so here it is!

The ouch part is that I gave myself my first silversmithing burn yesterday evening. It was so stupid, I'd started to heat a piece for soldering, it moved as I touched it with the piece of wire I wanted to solder to it, so put the torch down and then I touched the silver with my finger to move it back into place. How stupid!! I was lucky that I'd only just started to heat it, and just as lucky that the burn was on top of a silversmithing blister (not my first!) and so didn't actually do any harm. In fact, it's actually made the blister better, but I don't recommend this as a cure for blisters at all!

I've been able to get some time in the shed over the last couple of days and I've been experimenting. They're not ready to show you yet, but it hopefully won't be long. The experiments are currently at the "I'm not sure about this any more, it doesn't quite look right" stage, but I keep reminding myself that I thought that about the first round of these experiments and they worked out really well. You'll see what I mean soon! I've also been busy with some commissions, but you'll have to wait until the new owners have seen them before I can show you, sorry!

I am really looking forward to Thursday. It's been 3 weeks since B has been to his childminder as she had to take some time off to look after a relative. He only goes one day a week, but it makes so much difference having a whole day in which to work. B starts preschool two weeks today - and I can feel myself getting a lump in my throat as I type! I'm sure all mums say this, but it has come round so quickly. I am so torn between excitement at the thought of some more time to get things done, guilt at feeling excited and sadness at how quickly this precious time is passing. Ho hum!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Happy Anniversary!

Two years ago today I phoned Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to register as self-employed. My full-time employment with my old school had officially ended on 31st August, and I was excited at the thought that all the wishing, dreaming, hoping and planning that I'd been doing for the previous couple of years was becoming a reality - but I have to say that the phone call was a bit of an anticlimax! It's not that I was expecting a fanfare when I registered, or that I was going to celebrate with a street party, but just having to give my name, NI number, date I started etc was just, well, too quick and easy!

It didn't take me long, though, to remember that official phone calls and form filling aren't the reason I started up Daisychain Designs - it's the excitment at making unexpected sales (one from Zurich and another from New Zealand were particularly lovely recently!), at meeting people by chance who have heard of my work and (I'm blushing now) admire what I do, at the eureka moments when a design I've spent ages perfecting comes together beautifully, at opening up parcels of gorgeousness (such as the beautiful focal bead from Mindy the other day!), at the satisfaction when a student is surprised and delighted at what they've created in one of my workshops. I can honestly say that leaving mainstream teaching and setting up the business was the third best thing I have ever done - falling in love with T and having B being joint first, of course!

Now, before I start gushing even more (although if you want to read lots more gushing go and read Kerry Bogert's gushing contest!) I have a couple of things that I hope you may be interested in. Firstly, you may have noticed that a link to sign up to my newsletter appeared at the side of my blog over the weekend. For ages now I've been sending out my newsletter using MS Outlook, and while that's worked well up until now, as my mailing list has been getting longer and longer it's become a rather inefficient method. I'm now going to be using a newsletter service to organise everything, so if you are already on my mailing list and would like to stay on it or if you would like to join up then please click on the link below or at the side. As an incentive (as if getting news of the events I'm attending, special offers and advance notice of new workshop dates and designs isn't enough!), each month I will be running a prize draw - and yes, that draw will be open to everyone, even those of you not in the UK - don't you just hate it when competitions are only open to those in a particular country?

Secondly, because it's always nice to get a little extra and because they seem appropriate (and I like making them) every order of £20 or more placed through my website during September will receive a present of a pair of little daisy studs (see right for an example). That includes workshop bookings. The studs are fine silver with sterling silver pins.

Thirdly (what a long post this is turning into!) I've got another little competition for you. If you fancy winning the earrings to the left then leave me a comment below to say hello. The deadline is a week today (8th September) and I will get T to randomly choose a winner. Again, you don't have to be in the UK to enter. The earrings are sterling silver, oxidised to give an antique effect, and freshwater pearl. If you fancy learning how to make a pair of these yourself, please visit the workshops section of the website!

P.S. Completely off topic here, and I'm probably going to jinx it now, but B LOVES his bed and has, so far, slept really well in it! There you go, jinxed it now, and we will have sleepless nights for the rest of the week!


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