Tuesday 29 January 2013

Focus on Life - week 4: Create Art

Late again! Partly due to a very poor Internet connection over the weekend, being busy teaching and also, to be honest, hiding away a little as I've just had another biopsy and I'm waiting for the results, and it's hard sometimes to concentrate on other things! The results will be fine, I'm sure. My consultants just like to be very careful!
The prompt for this (last!) week was create art. I haven't got any finished jewellery to show you as everything that I've been making recently has either been for magazine projects and so have to stay under wraps, or part made examples for my classes. I've treated myself to a new crochet project though, so I thought I'd give you a snap shot of that. Hopefully the fact that I've shown it to you will make me finish it and not add it to my other projects in progress! If you'd like to see what I'm aiming for have a look here.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Focus on Life - week 3: Take Time

I'm a little late with my Focus on Life photo and post this week as I have been doing exactly as Sally's prompt told me to and taking some time out for me! Well, for me and T, as we have just had our first night away without children since before Ben was born, and those of you who have children will understand just how wonderful we found this weekend! Please don't get me wrong, we love our boys to the moon and back, but it was absolutely wonderful to stop being Mum and Dad for a weekend. It wouldn't have been possible without my parents though, as they not only had my boys to stay for the weekend but came and collected them and brought them back again so that T and I could have as much time as possible. They would have had the boys Friday night too, but the snow didn't allow that.
We went to the New Forest and spent Saturday night at the Cottage Lodge bed and breakfast in Brockenhurst in the New Forest. We are so lucky to have such a beautiful National Park right on our doorstep, and we really don't take advantage of it enough. Brockenhurst is a beautiful village, and the B&B was within walking distance of three pubs and some fantastic restaurants. Our weekend seemed to revolve around food - pub lunch on Saturday, then cream tea at Cottage Lodge after a long walk in the snow. Italian in the evening, and breakfast in bed (how luxurious is that!) on Sunday morning. After a visit to Lymington on Sunday we headed back to Southampton for lunch in a lounge bar I love - which is when I suddenly realised that although I had most definitely been taking time, I hadn't actually taken any photos of it! So, I just about managed to stop myself from eating my chocolate brownie long enough to a quick snap on my ipad!
If you are ever down this way, please do go and visit the New Forest. It is a wonderful area. Do watch out for the New Forest ponies though - they are a law onto themselves! And I really recommend a stay at the Cottage Lodge. The staff looked after us so well, and everything about the place was wonderful. We're already trying to plan our next visit!

Friday 18 January 2013

Lights, camera, earrings! (oh, and snow!)

My mission to get more organised has continued this week in between teaching and making lots of clasps. Remember the new photo set up I showed you here? I have finally, after five years or so, bought some new, proper photography lights and umbrellas to throw lovely diffused light on my jewellery. They arrived on Wednesday but I only got round to opening them this afternoon - we had a snow day today so while the boys were relaxing after a morning playing in the snow I went and played in the workshed!

It's going to take me a while to get really happy with the photos I take with the new lights - I only got the chance to play for an hour or so - but I'm pleased so far. I took some quick photos of a couple of pairs of earrings I've made for the Art Jewelry Elements Earrings Challenge, and they are definitely a lot better than the ones I took last week, but I want to find a few more props to show off the jewellery better on my new background as I don't think the lovely wooden box that I've used for a few years now goes that well with the lighter backdrop. I'll get there! Both pairs of earrings are now available on my Daisychain Jewellery etsy shop, and I've pinned them to the AJE Earrings Challenge Pinterest board too. If you haven't had a chance to go and look at the Pinterest board yet please do so - there are some really beautiful entries so far!

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Rushing - but trying to relax!

Thank you for all the lovely responses to my last post - it seems that the word "relax" hit a chord with more than a few people! In the past the word always made me feel a bit, well, guilty, as if I was relaxing then I wasn't making the best use of my time, and as I've always got family, house and business job to do then what on earth did I think I was doing relaxing?! It took me far too long to realise that if I don't relax sometimes then I'm not recharging my batteries and I'm not going to be able to do my best at everything else. Unfortunately I seem to need to relearn this lesson periodically.

Thank you too for the lovely compliments about the cuties in the photos. I have to own up here and admit that I can only lay claim to two of them - the little girl pictured is Gracie, my beautiful God-daughter, but she is just as much a part of the family as my nephews and nieces. I always tell Ben that there is family that you're born with and family that you choose, and as Katie, Gracie's Mummy, and I have known each other since we were 10 and Gracie and my boys are growing up together they, and Katie's husband (T's partner-in-crime!) are most definitely family we have chosen. By the way, this birthday party was only relaxing as it was just family, not lots of children, and for once I had decided not to stress about making a cake myself but bought one. My baking skills are good, if I do say so myself, but I put too much pressure on myself about decorating each one perfectly! I did feel a few twinges of guilt for not making a birthday cake for one of my boys for the first time ever, but only until I saw Jamie's face light up at the sight of Peppa Pig! He does love that pig!

We had another family day this weekend just gone. I spent Saturday teaching privately in the workshop at home, but I can't show you photos of what Brenda made yet as she's coming back later in the month to complete her projects. Sunday, however, my brother and his girlfriend came over for a lazy Sunday lunch as they hadn't been able to make it over for Jamie's birthday the weekend before. They arrived complete with the giant balloon you can see above which both boys think is fantastic!

So, that's family caught up with, what about jewellery making? After all, that is what you've come here for, isn't it? Now that I've got caught up with ordering materials and new boxes and bags etc (always a good sign as it means that I've been using them for orders!) this rest of this afternoon is going to be spent cutting out some new designs I've had planned for a while, preparation for college for the next two nights and also making sure I've got everything I need for tuition for the next two days. It is another busy month for teaching, which is great! A couple of things to share with you though...

Firstly, I wrote another blog post for Artisan Whimsy at the weekend covering one of my favourite topics, hallmarking - you can see it here!

And the latest issue of Beads and Beyond is out, with a simple but elegant pair of earrings that I made from bending wire into teardrops. There's also a gorgeous project by Rebecca Anderson in there as well, so plenty to keep you busy!

Saturday 12 January 2013

Focus On Life - Week 2: Your Word

For week 2 of the Focus on Life challenge Sally asked us to focus a little on “our word” or “our resolution” for 2013, asking "What is the one word or resolution that is going to help you focus on your life this year, make you more confident in your abilities, make you happy?"

I'm not usually one for making resolutions, as whenever I do they tend to be lists of things I should do better, or things I should give up, things that at heart I know I should do but don't really want to do, and so I end up breaking them - and then feel guilty for it! But, having a word to focus on to remind me of what's important in life is a lot more positive. I said in my first post this year that I'm going to try and be a bit more relaxed this year, so that's the word I'm going to focus on.

Last Sunday was the perfect relaxing day. A family tea to celebrate Jamie's second birthday, with a very excited little boy who has just realised that the wrapping paper and boxes that are so fun to play with contain other things that are just as much, if not more, fun!

Friday 11 January 2013

Getting organised

That's what I feel I've been doing this week! I'm teaching quite a bit this month, both privately at home (including tomorrow!) and at college, so I've been sorting out the workshed after the pre-Christmas, making lots of last minute orders, rush. It definitely needed a good tidy, but I've also taken the opportunity to do a couple of jobs that I've wanted to do for a while, including putting together a new photography set up.
Not the most exciting photo I've ever shown you!
 For the last few years I've been using a table top photo tent that I wrote about here. I've been wanting to change it for a while though as it's not big enough to take decent photos of long necklaces, and the backgrounds I've made for it get creased really easily. Putting up the new roller blinds in the window of the workshed gave me the idea of using one to take photos on, and I finally got it set up this week. It's not really anything fancy, I've just fixed the blind to the wall above the table, but it draps really well, it's not going to get creased (I hope!), I can roll it up out of the way when I need to and I love the texture of the material. I still need to perfect the lighting for it though as the lights I've been using seem a bit dark for it. I can turn up the exposure on my camera to compensate for that, but as I hold my camera rather than use a tripod so that I can get the angles I prefer turning up the exposure can result in some rather shaky photos!

Blackberry Earrings
 The first piece of jewellery I took photos of using it was the pair of earrings above. They're my first pair of earrings for the Art Jewelry Elements Earrings Challenge - we're challenging you to create a pair of earrings a week during 2013, making sure that each pair includes art beads or art components. The challenge is broken down into 13 week sections, so you can just do part of the year if you wish. You can find the full details of the challenge here, and if you'd like to see how I made these earrings head over to the AJE blog for a step-by-step tutorial. And if you really like the earrings you can find them here!

Saturday 5 January 2013

Focus On Life: Week One - Self Portrait

I always mean to take more photos. Afterall, I've got a good camera attached to my phone nowadays, and I've always got my phone with me! So, when I found out that Sally Russick of Studio Sublime had set up a photo journal challenge this year I thought it would be fun to sign up. Sally will be sending out an email once a week with a theme for the photo, and we're to publish them every Saturday. This week that challenge was to take a self-portrait. And the biggest part of that challenge for me was finding somewhere where I could take a photo without a little person wanted to "help"! So, I locked myself in our bedroom while Jamie was having a nap!

So then, this is me on a Saturday afternoon taking a quick break
between packing up the Christmas decorations and cooking pasta for tea!
This photo has made me realise just how much my hair has grown!

Friday 4 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Ok, so I know that we're a couple of days in already, but I seem to have taken a while to get going this week! I'm blaming the cold that knocked me out for most of the first week of the school holidays, and the travelling around that we did at the start of this week. We spent New Year's Eve with lovely friends in Wales - great company, good food, lots of laughing and relaxing. My favourite way of spending New Year's Eve, although Jayne, if you're reading this, I'm holding you to your promise of never playing the Krypton Factor board game again!

I've had one day back at work this week, but I seemed to spend most of that tidying the workshop up after the pre-Christmas rush. At least that means that I'll be organised and ready to go next week. I like starting a new week, and the New Year, feeling organised. I've promised myself that I'm going to try and be more relaxed this year, as last year, last term especially, got a bit frantic. It took me longer than I thought it would to get used to teaching three college classes a week last term, especially as I hadn't been able to prepare for them at all, or prepare any Christmas stock, while we were away in  New Zealand over the summer, and there definitely were times when my stress spilt over into family life. And one of the reasons for leaving full time school teaching and setting up the business doing something I love was to have less stress in my life. We'll see how I do, but tonight is a good start - T is out, so I'm watching the end of series 1 of Downton Abbey (yes, I know I'm very late to that particular party!) while trying not to eat the whole tub of Belgium Chocolate ice cream!

Trying to be more relaxed doesn't mean, though, that I haven't got any plans for 2013 - quite the opposite! I'm just going to try and get less frantic about them and stop taking on more than I should - although that is usually easier said than done. I've got some new designs to take photos of to add to both my Daisychain Extra and Daisychain Jewellery etsy shops, and more designs sketched out. I've got a new challenge coming for you in the spring, lots of writing planned and new workshops planned. We've also got a fun new challenge planned for you on the Art Jewelry Elements blog, but you'll have to visit there on Sunday to find out more about that!

I'll be adding the first of the new designs to my shops at the start of next week, but in the meantime there are two days left of my New Year sales. This is your last chance to grab some of my more autumnal and wintery designs in the Daisychain Extra shop for a while as I'll be giving them a rest until later in the year - so if you fancy an owl or an oak leaf, get'em while you can!


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