Monday, 18 March 2013

New Thermostat, New Beads, New Shop!

Well what a funny two weeks this has been. Since I wrote my last blog, so much has been happening I haven’t had much time to get too much done. My heating went wrong, in that the thermostat decided it wasn’t going to tell the boiler ‘ok you can stop now we’re hot enough thank you’, and so the boiler just kept on going. Needless to say we only noticed when it became like an oven in here and the heating kept on going even when I turned the thermostat down to 0.  So I reset the timer to ensure it would come on every two hours for a short burst, which kept it ticking over nicely until the landlord came and replaced the thermostat. Apparently it was brick dust in it from all the works we had done, and as the thing is on the wall outside the wetroom door, it was plastered in breeze block dust from when they removed and widened the door, and concrete dust from when they took the floor up. I’m surprised it kept going for another two months after that. All’s well now though.

We’ve been involved in the anti-bedroom tax protests, peacefully I might add, we’re not anarchists. Even though it won’t hit us as is, if we had taken the option of moving to a two bed flat across the road last year, instead of having the works done, we’d have been forced out to find a one bed flat again, as many are, in spite of need and disability. It was so cold though, most people only lasted an hour, then enough was enough.

But I’m not here to get all political, that’s not what this blog is all about. We’ve also had meetings with local community organisers who have offered all sorts of help to get my partners social charity group going, and lots of contacts have been put our way. I’ll talk more about that at a later date, but for now, you can find it on facebook HERE.

So besides that, what did I do with my rose cane? Well not much that I got photos of. There are lots of lovely beads made, but not put together into jewellery yet, but I did manage this compact mirror.

I also bought some of the new super-duo twin holed beads some weeks back, and this week I decided to give them a try. I began by following a free tutorial for a pendant, just to get the feel of them. I undid that, and made a pattern for some leafy earrings. I would like to write a tutorial later, but need some decent software to produce the pattern sketches. It’s not really something you can do with photos alone.


  Then I decided a rivoli would look gorgeous in the middle, and made a sample pendant, which worked out really well. I have to be careful here, so I scoured the internet to see if someone hadn’t already developed one just like it, and success! They haven’t, so this is my design. Again, I hope to write a tutorial at a later date, but for now, here are the pendants.


There is also a bracelet using the same beads. I think they are gorgeous, with the shapes they produce.

Besides that, I have now joined WowThankYou, following a recommendation. The initial fee is £40, which covers advertising and promotion, and I’m told the advertising goes in the right places…to the buyers. I am the 1000th seller to open a shop on there too. So far my experience has been nothing but good. Listing is free and for as long as you want, you only pay a fee if there’s a sale, which is 10% I believe. The home page of the site is full of recently listed items and a little seasonal promoting, so customers can see right away what’s new. On asking a few questions by email of the owner, Tracey, I have had only honest and candid answers in a way which makes perfect sense to me, which after experiences with one other site I sell on, which shall remain nameless, whereby anything not working properly was down to my browser, operating system, cat or the local bin men, anything but them.  It was like a breath of fresh air let me tell you!

I will set up a shop tab on here eventually, but for now, you can view what’s uploaded so far HERE.

Thanks for reading, and don’t be afraid to add a comment, I don’t bite 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

What is a Cane?

This was a question asked by a good friend of mine recently, and the best way I could describe it was like a stick of Blackpool rock, with the design running right through it. The perplexed look I got from that description deepened as I imagined she was wondering how on earth you do that. So I thought I'd show a little demonstration of one of my far-from-perfect Rose canes, so you can see for yourself how they are built and the amount of work that goes into one.  Now, this is not a tutorial, though if anyone looking in you can use it as such if you wish, but trust me, there are free tutorials all over the net, just google. This is MY way of doing it, which may or may not be the 'right' way, but it works for me.

 So, we begin with the colours of clay we need. In this one I've used fuschia pink, mid pink (which I mixed with some of the white to lighten it a bit), white and translucent. Translucent clay looks opaque in it's raw state but after baking, clears almost completely. I've only ever had one bad batch of translucent that stayed whiteish after baking. I binned it.

After conditioning and rolling the clay to a smooth, soft workable state, I then made a 'skinner blend' of the three colours, which is a way of folding and rolling over and over to meld the colours together . I then rolled it through a thin setting on my pasta machine to make a long thin strip of white through to fuschia pink. I then concertina folded the clay to make a block of graduated colour.

After gently teasing it into a rounded block, I rolled it to 20cm length and cut it in half. The first half I cut five 2cm lengths, while the second half I rolled further to 20cm again and cut that into ten 2cm lengths.

Then came the shaping. The smaller ones were flattened along one side, while the larger ones were flattened along both sides.

Then comes the assembly, which begins with rolling one of the smaller petals, and placing the rest of the smaller petals one at a time around it, overlapping slightly. The larger petals are then added, again slightly overlapping.

Once this is done, take a small smooth long tool, or cocktail stick, and make a groove along the length of each of the outer petals.

Now comes the packing. First roll out some translucent clay to a thin snake about the size of the tool you used and place lengths of it along the grooves you made in the petals.

Once that is done, place thin slices between those to level it out. Smooth it all down a bit and then roll one thin sheet of translucent clay around the whole lot.

Now you have a roughly 2cm long, fat rose cane, which needs to be reduced. Gently squeeze it and rotate it from hand to hand, really gently. This bit takes time and patience, so think of your cane as a tiny fluffy kitten, squeeze too hard and you'll hurt it, or in the case of polymer clay canes, distort it.

As the cane gets longer and thinner, you can begin pulling and twisting ever so slightly, with a quick roll every so often to keep it smooth. As it gets thinner still, you can begin rolling it on the board or table, but be careful you don't do this too soon. The ends will bulge and look distorted but don't worry, that's supposed to happen, you just cut them off when you're done.

Here is the result of the cane. Slices are then taken and placed on a base sheet or bead and smoothed in, in whatever way you wish to use it. I'll show you more when I've made something out of this cane.

Reflections, Spring and New Things.

That was quick! February I mean. Where did it go? I’m hardly out of January-mode yet. Mind you the weather hasn’t helped, it’s been so grey and drab most of the month, and doesn’t it make you feel grey and drab too?

Now we’re in March, soon to be Mother’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, we’ve already had St David’s day, and of course, the first day of British Summertime, and the clocks go forward at the end of the month. By then we should be seeing more warmer weather, migrant birds should start to appear, the daffodils should almost be finished and seeds planted ready for the garden. The leaf buds on the trees should be swelling nicely ready to burst open in April.

Last week I told you I made lots of beads and just needed to make them into jewellery. Well here they are…and they will be listed through the week.

I have also been busy with a new range of compact mirrors and pill boxes. These were a bit different as I had to make the ‘tile’ first, cure it, then fix it to the top with superglue. It wasn’t possible to bake the in situ, as there are plastic components in the pill boxes and I’m not sure if the mirrors are glass or plastic, so it was to risky.  This meant a lot of careful handling when fitting the raw tile to the mirror or pill box, then moving it to a ceramic tile to bake flat, so as not to stretch it, but we got there. So far I’ve done some mokume gane patterns, a millefiori and a leopard print. I have more millefiori coming up, but have only made the canes so far.


I’ve also been busy in the evenings with my zendoodling, zentangling whatever you like to call it. While my other half has bought some blank wooden trinket boxes and a wood burning tool, and he wants to use my doodles for the top. Believe it or not, it’s actually hard to do a simple, less detailed doodle that he can burn into the wood, but I have come up with a couple for him, so I wait in anticipation the results of that. I hope the weather warms up enough for him to be able to do this at least in the doorway and not set off the smoke alarms. EEK!!!

We're a bit picture-heavy this week so I'll only show one doodle. That's all for now..