Wednesday 29 February 2012


A quick peek at a couple of the projects I've been working on today - I've been stirring my soup! The Bead Soup Blog Party is this Saturday, and although I've been planning my designs for the last three weeks or so I only started actually putting those plans into action today! I've come to realise that that is the way I work best. I used to beat myself up for leaving things to the last minute, but I've realised that by thinking about the possibilities for the designs, sketching out ideas and working out exactly how everything will be put together means that when I actually sit down and make it things (usually!) go fairly quickly!

Anyway, you're going to have to wait until Saturday to see the finished designs, but you can see that I've added even more colour to the mix!

Poppy Challenge Blog Hop

It's here! The date of the Poppy Challenge Blog Hop seemed ages away when I set it, but the last week has flown by! I planned out what I wanted to make early on, but I've come to realise that I'm the type of person who will plan and plan, sketch ideas out, work out how to do it in their heads and then, finally, make it just before the deadline. Which usually works out just fine as all that planning means that the making is usually quick, but with Jamie being ill I did start to worry that I was going to miss the deadline - which would have been embarrassing considering I set the challenge!

So, this is what I planned and planned and finally made on Sunday.....

The challenge was to make something lovely from two of my poppy headpins. I sent five pairs of headpins out to the people listed below, a mix of oxidised copper, oxidised silver and bright silver, and made a pair for me too. I had a pair of oxidised silver poppies, and I knew that I wanted to make a pendant rather than a pair of earrings. I twisted the stem of the poppies onto one of my large teardrops, making them sit slightly to one side. I liked that, but knew that I wanted a bit more movement and a little bit of colour so I used normal headpins to wind tiny faceted amethyst beads onto a smaller teardrop, and then used a jump ring to hang both teardrops together from a chain. It's got more of a romantic feel than most of the jewellery I've been making recently, but I really like it, and it's lovely and light to wear.

The other poppy challengers are

Marissa                Sea Flowers Studios
Molly Alexander               Beautifully Broken Me
Kristi      Curiosities by K
Fiona     TizDuster
Jennifer Cameron            Glass Addictions

I'm really looking forward to seeing what everyone has made - please do go and look and join in the fun!

P.S. Thank you to those of you who left a comment/emailed/facebooked about Jamie - apart from being tireder than usual and not having his full appetite back he's back to his normal happy, smiling, crawling round the house at top speed self!

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Cuddle time

Source: via Joanne on Pinterest

No, not for you, sorry. It would be a bit difficult to give you a cuddle through the computer screen, but I expect you can find someone or something to cuddle at your end. It's my poor poorly Jamie who needs lots of extra cuddles at the moment. He's having a bad reaction to the MMR jab that he had last Tuesday, and although I know that the fever, loss of appetite etc that he's going through is nothing compared to actually having measles or mumps it's still horrible, especially as he doesn't understand what's going on. Yesterday seems to have been the worst day, his fever has just about gone now and he's a bit brighter than he was, but he's still not himself today. So, lots of extra cuddles with Mummy.

I'll leave you with thanks for comments on my last post - it's been really interesting to find out what people did before turning their hands to crafts, or how you juggle everything! And a quick reminder too - it's the Poppy Headpin Challenge blog hop tomorrow so come back then to see what everyone made!

Saturday 25 February 2012

Do you have another life?

I've got a couple of project and article deadlines for Beads and Beyond to meet this weekend, including the latest Spotlight review pages. My favourite part of Spotlight reviews is writing the blog reviews. There are just so many fantastic jewellery blogs out there, whether they're written by jewellery designers or lamp workers or people who make ceramic beads or about enamel or metal clay, and it's fantastic having an excuse to spend time reading them!

I've realised recently that quite a few of the people whose blogs I've written about were graphic designers in their previous life. Maybe it was their training and experience in graphic design helped them in their move towards crafts, or maybe it was their flair for crafts that gave them the skills they needed for graphic design.

Anyway, that started me thinking .... assuming that you are making a business out of crafty life, no matter the size of business or the type or craft, what was your first career? Were you a graphic designer like Kerry Bogert, or were you in the military like Lori Anderson,  or were you like me, a teacher in your previous career? Do you still have a daytime job in addition to your craft business and if so how do you find time for them both? Does one career help another? Does the creative outlet of making jewellery or other crafts help you to cope with the stresses of your day job?

P.S. If you have a jewellery-related blog, especially one with great photos and maybe a tutorial or two and you fancy having a paragraph written about it in on Beads and Beyond's Spotlight pages, send me a quick email! I'm always on the look out for blogs to review, and I try to include as wide a range of jewellery types and styles and materials as possible.

Friday 24 February 2012

Peacock Bracelet - ABS challenge

The inspiration for the Art Bead Scene blog challenge this month is a wonderfully painted manuscript page full of beautiful birds. The colours are so rich, despite the page being over 400 years old. At the centre of the page is a peacock, and as soon as I saw it I knew that I had the perfect bead! It's a bead by Mindy Macgregor (of course!), one of a set that I bought from her a few years ago and that had been sitting in a dish on my desk for ages waiting for the perfect project - and here it is!

The clasp is the silver feather clasp I made on Wednesday, and I've used dainty faceted amazonite, amethyst, Swarovski crystals and lovely soft purple lampwork spacer beads to pick out some of the colours in the bead and the peacock's tail. I did try some tiny faceted labradorite beads in place of the amethyst at first - it seemed appropriate considering the original name for labradorite was peacock stone - but they looked a bit washed out. The glossy purple brightens up the bracelet instead. Unusually for me, I've strung the beads in the bracelet rather than link them with wirework, and I've formed the beadalon into loops to stop the strands of beads from being too narrow. The clasp hooks onto one of two rings - I put two at the end of the bracelet so that the length can be adjusted if need be. The silver has been given an antiqued patina using liver of sulphur both to highlight the texture on the clasp and it seemed more appropriate considering the age of the manuscript.

I am so pleased with my feather clasps! I'm definitely going to be making more, but each one will be different as no two feathers are ever the same. In fact, the two I made on Wednesday still turned out differently despite being made from the same feather. I've added the copper feather clasp to my etsy shop if you fancy using it in your own bird inspired jewellery, and the peacock bracelet is on my website here.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

BTW part 2

I've managed to get quite a bit done on my ever-growing to-do list today, and even more impressively this is (just in case you hadn't noticed) my second blog post of the day! I finally bought a new phone, an iPhone 4s, a couple of weeks ago to replace the iPhone 3G I'd had for over 3 years, and it's making blogging a bit easier and quicker. The 3G had done me well, but I'd dropped it in water when I was pregnant with Jamie well over a year ago and although T had got it working for me again it had never been the same again. Having a new phone makes me realise just how bad the old one had got, and I've had great fun downloading new (useful, of course) apps. So far I've got the blogger app which I'm obviously using for this, Facebook, etsy, and my favourites Instagram and color splash. Oh I've been having fun with those! With Picnik closing down in a few weeks it's good to find a few more easy to use photo editing sites and apps. I used color splash to edit the photo in this morning's post to just leave the colour in Michi's beautiful beads, and I've been taking a few photos of work in progress during the day

Anyway, I can't show you everything I made today as the designs I made with Michi's beads are obviously for the bead soup party, but you can have a peek these. First up is a pair of oak leaf earrings. Been meaning to make these for ages! And secondly there's two clasps textured by sending the metal through the rolling mill with a feather sandwiched between the two. The silver clasp is destined for a bracelet for this month's Art Bead Scene challenge. I'm teaching tomorrow but I've got the bracelet all laid out on my desk to put together while my student is sanding and polishing their work and won't really want me looking over their shoulder all the time.

BTW part 1

Sitting on my work desk this morning - hopefully it'll look very different in a couple of hours!

Saturday 18 February 2012

For me....

I decided to treat myself today. I love tulips. I used to buy big bunches of them from Leicester market when I was a student. I'd wait until the end of the day and I'd be able to get two or three bunches of brightly coloured flowers for the price of one - perfect for cheering up student digs!

Family time

I have felt completely disorientated over the last few days, not knowing which day of the week it was! It's been halfterm holiday so Ben has been at home and T has been too now that he's back teaching in a school again. We've had a great family time for most of the days, although the boys went to their childminder as usual on Wednesday and Thursday (and only the reminders on my phone made sure that I got the right days!) so that I could catch up on some work and T could do some marking and preparation.

The week started with a visit from T's brother and his two children. Their Mum couldn't get the time off work, but we still had lots of fun - trips to the Royal Marine museum where they had to follow clues to stop baddies from setting bombs (!), swimming at Romsey Rapids with lots of slides down the flume (not for Jamie though - he and I paddled and splashed in in the toddler pool with a a pirate ship slide to play on), trips to the park and lots and lots of giggles. The children get on brilliantly. Tom is only 7 months older than Ben, and Katie is nearly 4, and they played fantastically together, rarely a cross word, and Jamie absolutely loved all the attention.

Yesterday we had another trip to the park with friends, to Royal Victoria Country Park which I love and we don't go to often enough - another treasure hunt but this time to find Duncan the Donkey's carrots which all the other animals had hidden rather than to find baddie bombers, and then tea at Pizza Hut. Tomorrow we're meeting up with my parents and my brother for a family meal as Mum's birthday was last week and my brother's is next week, and then it's back to school with PE kit washed, homework done, uniform ironed and shoes polished - and I can have a break!!

Friday 10 February 2012

Michi's soup

The bead soup I sent Michi arrived in Austria the same day the soup she sent me arrived here, and she's blogged about it here. I thought I'd show you a few pictures of it too. I'm so pleased that she likes it, but considering how much she sent me I wish I'd sent her more now!

When we emailed Michi said that she usually worked in silver and that copper would therefore be a challenge for her - so of course I had to send her some copper! The heart shaped focal is piece of carved variscite, a phosphate based stone that you can find more about here. I bought it a couple of years ago from my friend Brenda who sells her stones on etsy. I loved it, and had it sat on my desk where I could see it. I tried it out in several designs, but they never did seem quite right, so I thought that I'd send it to Michi and see what she could come up with. Added to the mix are freshwater pearls, smoky quartz, copper beads, silk ribbon - and of course a handmade clasp.

I'm really please with my sweet little owl! She (and she's definitely a she) was made copper sheet that I textured with various hammers and punches. She's got a hook and a loop on the back, and I've used Liver of Sulphur to give her a warm patina. I will probably make a couple of these for my etsy shop in the next couple of weeks, but they'll be in the limited edition section as each one will turn out slightly different.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what Michi makes with her soup - not long to wait now, less than a month to go!

Soup's on!

So did Wednesday's teaser give you any ideas as to what Michi wrapped up in all those little parcels? Whatever you guessed, be prepared to be amazed! I was going to start with the supporting cast of beads and then build up to the stars but I just couldn't wait to show you!

If you'd looked at a large copy of this picture you may have noticed that on one of the parcels Michi wrote that she couldn't decide which focal to send me. I assumed that she had been wonderfully generous and sent me two. I was wrong - she sent me not two but four amazingly intricate beautiful brightly coloured lamp work beads that she made herself. Four! And they're big too. In the photos below I've tried to show you all the details, but that's nothing compared to seeing them in real life. The detail on them is astounding. I have no idea how Michi has made the fish which have such delicate details, or how she has made the glass twist and swirl like that. And the colours! Now, I know I said that I've become more comfortable with using brighter colours in my work, but orange is definitely my biggest challenge, a colour that can make me panic to be perfectly honest. I'm ok if it's a bit of orange adventurine that I can tone down a bit like in these earrings, but there is no getting away from the fact that these beauties are bright orange!! Well, a challenge is a challenge is a challenge, hey Janna?!

Do click on each picture to see a larger copy - these beads are gorgeous!

Now, I mentioned a supporting cast. Michi has sent me enough beads for three bead soups. More amazing lampwork - gorgeous deep blue large nuggets and a set of beautifully decorated orange pillow shaped beads and some sweet coral coloured spacers. And then there's these beautiful ceramic beads (love these - more in my comfort zone!), a string of coral, pretty blue faceted beads, some really sweet fish shaped silver beads and a beautiful daisy toggle clasp.

I have been so spoilt! And I wish now that I had sent Michi more! Thank you so much Michi - I am going to have such fun creating with your beautiful beads.

You can find Michi's blog here -
The bead soup I sent her has arrived too, and you can see what she thought of it on her blog. I'll post some pictures of what I sent later today.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Michi's Bead Soup Teaser

Wonderful goodies, and some treats to help with the creating!

My parcel from Michi arrived this afternoon - and oh my! the wonderful goodies inside! I have been thoroughly spoilt and wish I'd sent her more now! It's almost time for me to pick the boys up from the childminder (work days go so quickly) so I'll post some proper pictures this evening, but for now a bit of a teaser - the packaging is a clue to what is inside!

Thursday 2 February 2012

My Bead Soup Partner

It is most definitely about time that I introduced you properly to my Bead Soup Party partner this time round. This is the fourth party that I've taken part in, and I've had amazing partners each time who have definitely challenged me in terms of colour and materials. Lori works hard to match people up, making sure that two lampworkers, for example, aren't matched together, or two people who have too similar styles of work. You can see what I made with the bead soup that my previous partners Lynne, Malin and Janna sent me. In hindsight I don't think that I did Lynne's soup justice. I did better with the ceramic pendant that Malin sent me, but I was really pleased with the necklaces I made with Janna's soup. The Bead Soup Parties have made me think and design outside of my comfort zone and I think that they have improved my work, so thank you again Lori!

This time round my partner is Michaela Pabeschitz. As I (briefly!) mentioned last month, Michi's a lampworker who lives near Vienna in Austria. The beads that Michi makes are absolutely gorgeous, and she makes them in such a variety of styles, as you can see from the pictures above. My favourite is the purple and green beauty in the middle of the top row, but the fish is so cute too! Michi posted a teaser of the bead soup she's sent me on her blog yesterday - click here to see it. It sold be here any day now, I can't wait!

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Not everything goes to plan....

I wish it did, but not all plans work out the way you hope! Sometimes that leads to good things - for example, if I had got the grades I was predicited in my A levels the first time round (my Mum says it was because we moved house three times during college and both my Grandads died just before my exams, but it may have had something to do with the fact that my boyfriend at college was one of those really annoying people who don't have to revise at all to get top marks) I would have ended up studying Meteorology, probably working for the Met Office, and not have gone into teaching, met T, had my wonderful boys and ended up playing with stones, beads and metal for a living. plans for the last week did not involve major work on my website that has taken up what little free time I've had, and again it's my blog that has suffered, sorry. I've kept up with all my orders and teaching and a couple of commissions together with family stuff and painting the new cupboards that T has built for the lounge diner (really looking forward to showing you what we've done, but I want to wait until it's finished!), but it's always my blog that suffers when things go mad, sorry. If you've been on my website over the last week or so you'll have seen a few funny messages talking first of all about malware and then about maintenance. The malware was trying to redirect you to a site selling fake gucci goods, and that was easily sorted within 24 hours. I then decided to upgrade the site to the version of zencart that has just been released, and that's where it got complicated as this version isn't compatable with the software my hosting company has on the server. It's taken longer than I'd hoped to sort it out, but hopefully I'll be back up and running by the end of tomorrow by the latest. Didn't someone say that computers would make our lives easier, create a paperless society, reduce the burden of admin etc etc? Pah!

Anyway, lots of things have gone to plan over the last week. Jamie has finally cut the three teeth that were coming through all at once, so he and T and I are finally getting some sleep. Poor love, he's so good and rarely gets upset, but he was not happy. Ben seems to sleep through all of Jamie's noise thankfully - I don't think I could cope with the two of them and me being overtired! Ben has yet more birthday parties and homework involving building robots (I'm sure that my homework wasn't as much fun when I was his age!). And I've been spending lots of time up at the post office. The poppies for the poppy challenge were posted last week so the overseas ones should be arriving with the challengees any time now and the UK ones should be there already, and I posted Michi's bead soup off to her yesterday as well. Fancy a sneek preview.....?

For once, there are no daisies or poppies, but that's all I'm saying, you'll have to wait until it arrives safely in Austria!


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