Wednesday 25 April 2012


A slow start to the day today. Both of my college classes last night were starting new topics (anticlastic raising for the advanced class and silver clay basics for the beginnners) and I also had two new people in the beginners class, both of which meant a lot more talking and demonstating from me than usual. I don't like how tired I get from talking a lot after classes like that, but it's getting better as I recover more from the surgery I had last year. I keep having to remind myself that unless I'm very tired most people can't tell a difference in my speech at all, which is amazing when you consider that this time last year I was still re-learning how to talk clearly. And during the classes there isn't an issue, mainly because I love teaching and the adrenaline kicks in! All I can say is that I had a wonderful team and a wonderful speech therapist looking after me - and having a baby to sing and talk nonsense to also helped a lot!

Anyway, I spent the first part of the morning polishing and oxidising while my brain woke up - which is good news for my etsy shop as it meant that I finished off some new pieces, including the lovebird clasps above. These have been listed in the shop this evening with a few other clasps and connectors. Most of the new pieces are made to order, but the lovebird clasps are ready to go. I put them in the "limited edition" section of the shop as I don't make them that often and no two are ever the same.

And then the post arrived with two parcels from the States, and that definitely woke me up! Two very different parcels but such gorgeous colours, which sent ideas buzzing round my head! I've ordered them for some new projects, a couple for Beads and Beyond and also some for a new ebook that I've started work on - but I'll tell you more about that nearer the time! I had a lovely afternoon working the kinks out of a couple of the projects and taking step-by-step photos. Have I mentioned before how much I love my job?!

Monday 23 April 2012

Goodbye Picnik - Hello PicMonkey!

I've had a few emails and comments over the weekend asking which programme I was using to edit my photos. Like many bloggers I was rather sad panicked when Picnik said they were closing down. Ever since Rebecca told me about them I'd been using Picnik to help me easily create the collages that I've used to show of my new designs - nice rounded corners, great colour effects, easy cropping and great frames for the photos, and I loved the fact that I could drag and drop photos I'd uploaded into the collage templates. What on earth was I going to do without them? Oh, I knew that there were software packages out there that would do much the same job for me, but I also knew that they would take more than just a few clicks of buttons and dragging the cursor around the screen - and I knew that I didn't have the time, or to honest the inclination, to learn how to use them. So I was very relieved when I read about PicMonkey in the emails the Picnik team sent out! It's been developed by the some of the old Picnik team, and would you believe it, PicMonkey is even better than Picnik was!

This is the front screen that greets you when you reach the website. At the moment there's no need to register and no fee, although I suppose they may eventually end up with a small fee for premier effects like Picnik did. See the picture in the top left? All you need to do to get started is to open up a window with your picture files, choose the one you want to edit and drag it across. No more waiting for files to upload!

Once you've done that, the editing page opens up - and it is so easy to use. The clicking on the symbols on the left of the screen shows you different menus of effects. Basic edits allow you to crop, resize and do things like change the exposure.  

Other menus add frames, overlays (you can upload your own - perfect for adding a logo to your pictures for example), and textures. I've been having fun adding text to some of my photos - it's so quick to colour, tilt and resize, and there are some great fonts to choose from. I can see this being very useful for adding labels to the photos I do for my tutorials.

And this is what I ended up with - if I hadn't kept stopping to take screenshots to show you it probably would have only taken me a couple of minutes at most. The only thing that PicMonkey doesn't have at the moment is a collage tool, but that is apparently coming soon. I'm not panicking anymore!

Sunday 22 April 2012

Well, that was quick!

This whole week has flown by, but that's probably because I managed to fit a lot into it! Let's start at the beginning, shall we... birthday! Yet again I didn't blog on my birthday. It seemed a little too attention seeking and despite teaching, chatting to customers and having a blog etc I am actually quite shy, honest! As it was a school day most of my birthday was pretty normal, although T and the boys had got me pain au chocolate for breakfast (my favourite!) and gave me time to eat it, and I got greeted with lots of "Happy Birthdays" down at the school gates - I'd completely forgotten that my birth date is on my Facebook profile! We did go out for tea with my parents, which was lovely, and I gave myself the day off from doing housework - which meant I had double to do on Tuesday, but never mind, I had a lovely hour and a half sitting knitting and relaxing while Jamie had his afternoon nap! Most of my birthday presents were money towards a Kindle, but I did have a couple of lovely parcels to open....

an absolutely gorgeous journal from my friend Katie. She found it on etsy ( and I LOVE it! Every page is different, with spaces for photos, for journalling and tags to jot memories on.

and a pair of sweet earrings from Rebecca - who also had her birthday on Monday! I've been wearing them all week, and they've had lots of compliments. They are, of course, in turquoise and red :)

Tuesday...catching up with housework, music bugs with Jamie (which he mainly spent crawling around the room, emptying the basket of musical instruments and bouncing up and down on his bottom - his version of dancing!) and then an evening of organising our new tools cupboard at college. I know it's sad but I've been so looking forward to getting this cupboard! Up until now we had boxes scattered in different cupboards in two different rooms, neither of which are the room I teach in. Now everything is in the same place, we've had a good clear out of broken bits and pieces and some lovely new tools are on their way too!

Wednesday...I spent the morning doing something I haven't done for years - I taught Geography! Ben's school had a Geography week and asked if any of the parents had any Geographical knowledge they could share, talk to the children about Geography based jobs etc. They based some of the week on the water cycle, so I spent the morning going into classes helping them to set up a "water cycle in a box", and teaching them about it. Lots of fun, but no, I'm not going back into mainstream teaching - I love what I do now too much. The afternoon was spent on etsy orders as was most of...

Thursday....but I spent the morning with my gorgeous friend Anna, touring the gargage that she and her husband Syd have turned into an amazing studio for metal work and lampworking. It's a bit smaller than my workshed, but they've fitted so much in there and there's so much beautiful colour! It really is filled with colour and looks like a fantastic place to create. Thursday was, of course, also the last day of my Flap Your Wings bracelet auction - thank you so much again if you bid/left a comment/helped to spread the word on Facebook!

Which leaves Friday (housework, food shopping), Saturday (gallery order in the morning, lego with Ben and his homework in the afternoon) and today (trying to get Jamie to take a few steps on his own, cooking chilli, more lego), and then it all starts again tomorrow....without my birthday of course :)

Saturday 21 April 2012

Wrapped, Stacked & Layered

I'm really enjoying taking part in jewellery challenges at the moment - they're making me stretch my skills, especially in terms of colours. This challenge has been no exception.

Tracy's Wrapped, Stacked & Layered challenge is all about combining textures, colours, patterns and materials in combinations of bracelets, and not necessarily bracelets that you'd normally think of wearing together. I decided to make a couple of brightly coloured bracelets that I could combine with the square wire bangle I usually wear - I love making bangles, and this one is made textured with my favourite hammer.

As you'll probably have guessed by now I love making my own clasps and findings, and I've made all but one of the clasps you see here. The first bracelet uses a leaf clasp and charm that I designed for my latest Beads and Beyond magazine project. I've used some vintage turquoise beads that I've been hoarding for a couple of years, together with gorgeously rich faceted purple dyed jade beads and simple rose quartz rounds. The inspiration for this bracelet came partly from Lorelei's new ebook on asymmetrical designs.

The second bracelet uses a curved sterling silver connector that I've embossed with daisies - I'm so pleased with this! I used a couple more of my precious turquoise beads and dyed purple and bright pink dyed jade beads. I'd almost forgotten I had these dyed jade beads in the bottom of my beads boxes, but I'm so glad I found them again! They may be a dyed jade and I know not everyone approves of dying stones but the colours of these are just so beautiful.

So, there are my contributions to the challenge! Please do go and see what delights the other participants have come up with!

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Thank you!

Bidding has now ended on my Flap Your Wings. The winner was Lynne, who got in at the last minute with a generous bid of £70/US$114.

Thank you so much Lynne, and thank you to all of you who bid - I can't tell you how much it means to me that people bid so much for my bracelet! A lovely friend of mine works for the Wessex Cancer Trust. She's the person who reads the applications cancer patients and their families put into the Trust for money to help them with travel to hospital, medical equipment, things that they need to help them to fight cancer. My mum and I have been helping to raise money for the trust ever since I met my friend when Ben was a baby with things like coffee mornings, sponsored swims and donating money from sales of my daisy collection, never expecting that one day I would need their support - well, if you don't drink or smoke and there's no history of cancer anywhere in your family you don't exactly expect to get cancer, do you?!

Lynne, your bracelet will be winging its way to you in Canada first thing on Monday morning!

Tutorial Tuesday - Custom Hang Tags

Jenny's gorgeous tags!

Jenny at Glass Addictions has posted a couple of really lovely tutorials over the last week on how to easily create your own custom hang tags from inexpensive shipping tags that you can buy at most stationery stores. She even makes her tags smell  gorgeous too! You can find her first tutorial on making the tags here and her second on how she uses them in her displays here.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Flap Your Wings

A month after Judy passed away, 31 designers have made jewellery in her memory, with Flap Your Wings as inspiration as that was the name of Judy's jewellery website. I gave you a little taster of what my design looked like last night - and here it is!

Lampwork disc bead by Outwest, lampwork spacers left over from other projects, silverwork and lovebird clasp by me

I took this apart three times! Three times! That is really unusual for me, as I usually have ingredients for designs lined up on my workdesk for so long that by the time I come to make them up I've usually already worked through all the kinks in my head, so making the actual finished piece is fairly quick. Not this time though! I knew that I wanted to use one of my lovebird clasps to fit in with the theme, and I wanted to use the gorgeous lampwork donut by Outwest (well spotted Julie, yes that's one of yours!), and I wanted to make a bracelet as I would normally use a donut as part of a pendant, but my original plan had been to soften the black and blue with either macrame or silk ribbon. Those were the attempts that I took apart as it just didn't look right - too messy, too many different looks in one small piece of jewellery - so I ended up wire-wrapping it all!

The clasp has a hook on the back of the bird to close the bracelet

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm auctioning the bracelet off to raise money for the Wessex Cancer Trust, a charity that raises money for cancer research (which helps all of us, no matter where we are!) and supports cancer patients and their families in the south of the UK. I'm also donating half of the proceeds from the pieces I made with my Bead Soup from Michi to the charity, but I'll post properly about those next week so there's no confusion!

The bidding starts at £15 (just under $24) for the Flap Your Wings bracelet - 
to enter a bid leave a comment on this post and let me know how much you'd like to bid,
or email me and I'll comment on your behalf.
I'll keep a running total on this post and the top of my blog, so keep coming back to see if you've been outbid!
There's no extra cost for postage, no matter where you are in the world!
The bidding will end at midnight BST on Thursday 19th April.
Please do make certain that you either leave your email address in your comment or have your email address linked to your profile - thank you!

Thank you so much to all of you who bid and spread the word about all the Flap Your Wings auction, and thank you especially to Lynne who won the bidding with her bid of £70 US$114!

And to see the other designs in the Flap Your Wings challenge please visit the blogs below!


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