Friday, 10 November 2017

Goodbye Website. . . (My Fault Entirely) - More Creating and Experimenting - Alcohol inks and an Annoying Pink Tint

Custom made long spike beads, close up

Carried along by the general tide of dissatisfaction with the way Etsy was going, (and still is pretty much, for me at least) I decided to set up my own website with it's own shop. (I wittered on about it in a previous post) I got it looking nice, mentioned it a few times but never kept up the promoting pressure needed to drive traffic to it. Try as I might, that sort of carry-on just doesn't sit right with me. I know that's 'unrealistic', self indulgent, not the way it's done and all that stuff, but I'm just not one of life's blow yer own trumpeters, and if it doesn't feel right I'm not going to do it ;-) . . . 

So, I'm going to knock the website on the head at the end of the month. The platform I chose is totally free from blame. Indiemade are very good. It's just me that's not prepared to do the sort of work required to make a success of such a venture. I'll stick with Etsy as my shop for now, as it does have at least some built in traffic, but use Facebook as a selling venue. Any stuff that doesn't sell on there gets put up in my shop. Probably.

Earring spikes with oxidised copper loops - sold

I have just bought the domain for so I will probably use that for a stand alone site in future. 'If and when'.

Big, ornately rustic focal - sold

On the bead creation front, some of you will have seen these beads on FB, but here they are again in their full glory ;-)

I enclosed a repurposed wooden bead from a charity shop necklace bought for such a purpose, in polymer clay and then added turned technique bits on either end to make a bigly rustic large focal or two. Using textures on some, and my surface treatments on others. 

Double bead wrapped focal

I sold a couple as well. 

It's a fun process which I will revisit when the mood takes me.

woody, ceramic-y surface treatment on this big focal - sold

Talking of the mood taking me, I often find that I go into my workshop fully intending to make a certain type of thing, and then find I just can't get going, the results don't move me. Then I find I have to let go of my intention and mess around until something clicks, other than the bones in my neck. . . It can be a bit frustrating, especially when you feel that precious studio time is ebbing away, but I trust my instinct and it never lets me down. . .

Custom long spike - sold

I was asked (via FB) to make some long (3"ish) turned effect spikes by an excellent beaded jewellery maker from the West of the USA, so I set to work and had great fun working out how all the different ins and outs and textures fit together on one piece ;-)

Pink and black annoyances

The annoying pink tint I mentioned in the title comes from the nature of the pigments in alcohol inks. When diluted, or used in fairly vigorously applied layers they tend to change colour in a weird way, or revert to some kind of base pigment, sometimes quite unlike the expected colour. At least that is what I think is happening. 
In the pic above, the black ink has turned the white areas pinky purple. (when painting with black alc ink and the brush starts to run dry you find you are painting with purple and not black any more) This happened when I varnished it, the varnish seems to slightly dissolve the black ink which then reveals it's secret purply nature ;-) .
Acrylic paints don't do this.
What I was attempting with these beads was to scrape off the black ink to make a simple black and white design. I ended up with black and pink instead. Not so desirable.

Proper black and white scratch beads

So I made another set and used black acrylic paint, and scraped that off instead. it is denser but more delicate than alc ink, and is easier to use, as you can easily paint bits of black back on if you make a mistake. It sits on the surface of the clay, whereas alc ink spreads out and stains the surface, which makes it less precise. I varnished them, as the paint would just wear or chip off otherwise. I might try matt varnish next time. I really like these sort of simple, African inspired patterns with their simple mathematical logic, which, let's face it is the only kind of mathematical logic I can handle ;-)

Gonna be a busy couple of weeks, the bathroom bits and pieces have arrived, (basically the whole shebang, bath, toilet, shower etc etc) and I am also in the middle of the fake panelling on the landing, while a new set of bannisters is being fitted by a local joiner. I hope I can squeeze some bead time in there somewhere.

Until next time, be good, unless of course being good doesn't appeal, your call. . .
Jon x

Friday, 27 October 2017

Trying Something New, Actually Selling Stuff, and The impending Doom of Innocent Voles. . .

Textured Spikes

Well, it's been an interesting week and a bit. To me anyway ;-)
I've been musing and muttering in my own inimitable way about Facebook groups and whether to try to sell my beads in them, for months, without actually taking the plunge and just doing it. I mean, why would it be any better than listing stuff in a shop? etc. . . Well, if you don't try it, you never know do you?

Black and yellow neat(ish) spikes

So I took the plunge and just did it, and blimey, it's been a bit of a revelation. You know all those people who give advice online about how to set up a successful shop and how to make sales, and how they always bang on about 'finding your audience'? ('Huh! Easy enough to say' was always my cynical response. .) Well I think I just found mine. . .

Sold these

I sold a very encouraging amount of things almost straight after listing them, which has not been my experience with my online shop, that's for sure.
There is something about an auction format that adds a sense of urgency to the selling process. People  are there to buy things and they want to get them before somebody else beats them to it!
Which is all good for sales and for the ego of the seller. . . Let's see how it progresses from hereon. .

And these

I've been playing with my turned effect technique again. I am having too much fun with it, obviously. I have taken to putting large oxidised copper loops at the tops of my beads rather than having them as through drilled tube type beads. I think this adds a sense of purpose to them. They are definitely earring charms, or maybe pendant necklace focals if they are larger beads, and there is no ambiguity about which way up they should go.

And these, I'd only just made them too.

I am coming to the conclusion that giving people too much choice in how something can be used can backfire on you. Certainty is good. Of course I may change my mind about that in future, but this is my position for at least the next twenty minutes. . .

Not to mention these

Cat stuff - The girls have had their final post neutering check up and are fine. Which means they can go outside whenever they like and decimate the local vole population with their brother. I expect at any minute, a petition from disgruntled owls (Owls of Protest) complaining about their supply of voles being drastically reduced by these feline interlopers. Well, they have had it good for a long time, they will just have to get over it.
The cats are not kittens anymore, they may behave like kittens still, but they are getting big, especially Hereward, (referred to as Hairy or Fat Boy) who is getting to be a big handsome beastie. I can't imagine life without them now ;-)
Ay well, more DIY is calling me. Fake panelling the landing, and then taking a deep breath and tackling the bathroom! Eeek, what have I let myself in for? . .
Jon x,

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Oh Well. . . Onwards and Upwards, or maybe just sideways for a bit. . . Stir Crazy Cats, Rejection and Necessary Tedium. . .

Small, big loop spikes

Well, Not the best of weeks. . .

I went along with my work to the Craft Soc application event, (see my last post) which was part of their AGM. The two other applicants had dropped out so I was the only one. I did answer a lot of questions about my process etc and had a very good buffet lunch so had quite a nice time. But the day after, I got an email saying that my application hadn't been successful.

It was to do with the tiles and coasters not being hand made as such, which I suspected might be an issue, and to do with the society's rigid view of categories. They liked the jewellery and said I could re apply next year as a jeweller if I wished, when my work had progressed. hmmmm. . . ;-) kind of back handed compliment. . .

What I find a bit irritating is that my work would happily fit alongside other craft work in a shop or gallery context, but is somehow not acceptable as 'craft' in principle. I'm not sure I will bother to re apply next year, but I will try to find some other sales outlets if I can, I just have to put the leg work in. 

It's hard not to feel a bit despondent though. . .

Double ended spiked loops

But enough of that. . now for some cat stuff. . .

The two girl cats, Boudicca and Cleopatra, have just reached five months of age and had their visit to the vets to be neutered. They came through the experience well, and we have tried to follow the instructions on the advice sheet the vets gave us. It says they should have complete rest. . . Yeah right, you tell them that! Two lively young cats who have been cooped up in their travel box thing for most of the day, and finally get their freedom, have other ideas. We kept them in the one room and tried to settle them down but they were intent on running around like mad things, climbing the curtains and wrestling each other. They objected very strongly to wearing their conical 'buster collars' and wrestled them off however tightly we fastened them. Luckily they had little interest in licking their scars so it was ok to leave them off.

We can't let them outside, but if they are progressing ok when the vet sees them on Monday to check how the healing is going, I'm blooming well letting them out! They will come to less harm roaming around out there than if they stay inside, going stir crazy, burning off excess energy by fighting and thundering up and down the hall like demented creatures.

Textured and turned effect mini spikes

Cat issues not withstanding, life goes on. Tomorrow is another day etc etc. 

As an antidote to despondency, doing your accounts wouldn't be rated very highly by most people, but it has to be done, and I've been doing mine. Which has meant that I have had little time to indulge in any activity of a bead making nature in my workshop. in the last few days. But before this whole craft soc thing, I did have a good play around with some smaller beads/charms, mainly but not always involving spikes or points and largish loops, as the pics in this post will confirm. Some promising results I think. Your mileage may vary ;-)

Small cone charms

For quite a while I have been exploring what happens to alcohol inks when diluted with rubbing alcohol and applied in layers etc. Interesting and not often what you would expect. . .

Subtle coloured plain spikes with loops

Stumpy, turned effect layered 'spikes' with loops

Organic textured loop spikes in mossy greens

Conical heavily textured spikes with plain loops

I'm going to try selling these on Facebook, as Etsy is positively glacial right now and I've been rubbish at driving traffic to my new shop on Indiemade. I'm grateful for the faves and suchlike, and for the few sales I've had, but I'm just not sure I'm getting found in Etsy search anymore. At least FB is where my potential 'audience' hangs out, and I have a presence there.
Anyway, till next time, be good and stay well,
Jon x

Monday, 2 October 2017

Craft Soc Application, DIY featuring Blurred Cats, of Tiles and Coasters and lastly a Pent-up Splurge of Polymer Clay Things

Well, it's been a long time since my last post. apologies for that, though if there is nothing much to post about I don't see the point in doing it out of a sense of duty or whatever. There hasn't been much to post about, unless making faux panelling and laying engineered oak flooring floats your boat. . . mmmm. . . engineered oak flooring. . . .

BEFORE - with cat
AFTER - with blurred cat

But back to the matter in hand. You may or may not know that I have a second Etsy shop, dealing in my own digital designs on ceramic tiles, which I sell in specially made frames, and on sets of coasters, - glass ones and wood/mdf ones. 

I don't spend a lot of time promoting it, for no particular reason apart from a vague disinclination to do so, but I sell some from time to time. I am quite proud of how good they look and am always getting nudged by friends and family to get them into shops etc. Well, I showed them to a local craft/home decor shop in my nearest small town and they met with approval, and they agreed to stock some. The response from the shop's customers has been good and a couple of coaster sets have sold in the last couple of weeks. I will be making some extra stock for the lead up to Christmas as they would make good Xmas prezzies I think.

On the domestic front I used some of my tiles as part of the splash back for our cooker. Visitors seem to be impressed, I am too to be honest ;-)

The reason I'm mentioning this aspect of my creative life is because I have applied to be a member of Suffolk Craft Society, an organisation that has exhibitions from time to time, and promotes craft activity in my general area. I have been accepted to their showcase day, where selected prospective members set up their work for discussion and approval or otherwise from members attending the AGM. My tiles and coasters will be displayed alongside my jewellery and beads as a two pronged assault on the members senses ;-)

I do have a concern that the tiles and coasters aren't really an artisanal, hand-made thing in the same way that pottery and textiles might be, and therefore get marked down. Using a computer may be looked down on also, but I have less worries about that as the application form mentioned a desire to see unique work with modern materials. I do have very good explanations for the hows and whys of what I do, so I should be able to answer any questions that get thrown my way.

Oh well, we shall see what transpires.

On the Polymer Clay front. I haven't has much time in the studio/workshop to make anything much up until a day or two ago, when I had a good old session of bead making and earring experimentation. The best bits of which will likely be part of my craft soc application showcase. I'm getting a bit more confident with wire loops and ear wires and such. Have a look at what I've been up to and see what you think. . .

spikes with big loops

wood and polymer earrings

Thick, dotty, wood and polymer charms

wood and polymer image trans earrings

bicones with additions

Texture spikes with wire loops

Long single bead - sold

shorter texture spikes with wire loops

I'm thinking that the spikes with loops might be more useful to jewellery makers than similar tube/through drilled ones. What do you think?

Anyway, be that as it may, I have to go. I have to work out my Suffolk Craft Soc presentation layout, choosing what beads and things to use to win hearts and minds. . . wish me luck ;-)
until next time, 
see ya,
Jon x

Saturday, 9 September 2017

A Microwave Mishap, Hollow Lentil Beads and Charging for Actual Time Spent, I wish. . .

Hollow, Image Transfer beads, using my digital images. . . 1'' 25mm.

Having managed to lay myself low with relatively minor but still unpleasant food poisoning, due to not heating up leftover moussaka sufficiently in the microwave, duh. . . I have had a day or two of sitting around, feeling delicate, and recovering my equilibrium, which is a poncy way of saying 'getting my guts back to normal'. I'm not normally that dozy, not quite anyway. Dunno what I was thinking, but I wasn't concentrating on the matter in hand that's for sure. Still, lesson learned and no lasting harm done.

Hollow polka dot image trans beads, first experiment.

I'm feeling hugely better now and have been in the workshop/studio messing around with stuff. A valued regular customer asked me to make some more hollow, lentil shape, textured beads like some I had sold previously, so I made a set or two. While I was making hollow forms I decided to try the lentil shape with image transfers instead of textures. I liked how it looked so I tried some experiments to define the best way of getting the result I wanted.

Not too bad. Not so sure about the varnished look but I shall live with it for a while and see.

I got quite close to the look I was after but the process was pretty time consuming. I will do a step by step with pics if anyone is interested.

The reverse side of the ones in the top pic

Which leads me to wonder about the whole subject of charging enough for the time things take to make. Especially with supplies like beads, which people mainly buy in order to use in items which they then sell on. Whatever the theories about pricing, I don't think it is realistic for me to charge twice the unit cost (although not a lot when using polymer clay) plus a generally acceptable hourly rate etc etc if I actually want to sell what I'm making.
Finished items, like jewellery, maybe, as perceived value is connected to price and many sellers say that raising prices helped sales, but supplies are a bit different I think. Maybe?

I made some smaller ones 3/4" 18mm. maybe a more usable size.

I tend to look at what other people have sold similar things for, and price bearing that in mind. I suppose, pragmatically, if something is not economically viable to make, it's probably not a good idea to continue making it.
But then again, there is a lot more than economics involved in what I do, and a lot of my time is spent on all sorts of unproductive things anyway, so the question 'Is it worth it?' becomes a more complex and subjective one ;-)

Any thoughts?

Jon x

ps - I'm still not sure how much to try to sell these for. . .

More groovy small ones

And another

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Rural Bliss, Good and Bad Consequences of Sparkling Wine and Inspired Upcycling

This is a day or two late. Drat. I have been trying to post every ten days but this time it’s slipped a bit. Not that I’m going to beat myself up about it you understand. . . ;-)

Well, late or not, this post finds me at 8 a.m. sitting here in the garden, in the sun, in my dressing gown (an impressive garment, hand made long ago out of blue and gold damask pattern furnishing fabric from John Lewis fabric dept, with a silk lining, but that’s another story. . .)
As I was saying, here I am, in the garden, in my dressing gown, enjoying the sun, nursing an unexpectedly mild hangover and appreciating the gentle sounds of nature coming at me from all directions. Moorhens chinking at each other on the pond, robins singing from the bushes, a woodpecker calling as it flies over, a couple of swallows chattering, fat wood pigeons cooing throatily in their rather comical, self-important sounding way, all mixed in with the sound of chickens from the farm down the road and Sheila bringing her two horses up to our paddock for the grazing. (I know, we have a paddock fer god’s sake, but not being horsey people we let our neighbour use it). It’s all rather lovely, apart from the hangover, but that is fading. A cup of tea and a bowl of porridge with brown sugar helped. Bacon later to complete the cure!

A path down to Arncliffe in Littondale. An example of The North not being grim. . .

We’ve been away for a few days doing the duty trip to see my wife’s dad up north, which for various reasons which I won’t go into, is a bit depressing. We managed to stay somewhere nice in the north yorks dales which helped to sugar the pill somewhat. Very scenic and all that. So that’s why I’m running a bit late.

The river Skirfare

And why there’s not much to report on the polymer clay stuff. But before we left, I had been playing some more with earring ideas.
You are no doubt familiar with those metal, twisted wire things that keep corks in place on sparkling wine bottles. Of course you are. Well, we are anyway. I have been saving them up for a while with a view to maybe making something out of them, or re-using the wire etc. But nothing had inspired me to actually take the creative leap, and use them, until the other day, when I found a rusted and flattened one in the gravel on the drive. (I’m afraid to say I pounce on bits of rusty wire these days, and store them away for future possibilities too.) This aforementioned rusted wire artefact sparked an idea. 

The other pair I made

I cut out two of the twisted ‘struts’, each of which had a convenient loop like feature at each end, and, after brushing any loose bits off and applying a bit of Ren wax to seal them, used them as part of a pair of earrings, attaching them between oxidized copper ear wires and two of the grungy, textured polymer clay charms I had been making. I think they work pretty well. So now I just have to take my collection of sparkling wine wires, throw them into a puddle and run them over several times before leaving them for a month to achieve a suitable patina. . . ;-)

Here are some more grungy, textured poly clay charm thingies I mentioned just now.

I hope to get back into the studio/workshop in the next few days and get stuck into some more creative stuff.

Cheerio until next time,
Jon x

Monday, 14 August 2017

First Year 'Houseversary', Timely Perseids, Lack of Jam and More Uncertainty about Earrings

Our house from the end of the garden. The paint job we did made a disproportionate amount of difference. 

It's our 'Houseversary'! We've been here exactly 12 months! We absolutely love it here. We couldn't be happier ;-) All the stress and anxiety of the move has turned out to be totally worth it. . . 

We wouldn't do it again, mind, no matter how worth it it might ultimately turn out to be, but that's academic, as I can't see a reason why we would ever want to move again. Like I said before, we both feel that the only way we would leave this place is in a box. . .

view across the pond to the conservatory

What made the moving in day even more memorable than it might ordinarily have been was that it coincided with the peak of the Perseids meteor shower.
That night we dragged our exhausted selves and our cane sofa onto the lawn and sprawled on that, sipping prosecco and watching sporadic shooting stars whizz across a clear starry sky. . . This year we did the same again, only it was a bit colder and less clear, and we had no prosecco. . . but we had just got back from the pub and as luck would have it we timed it just right. There was just enough clear sky to see the show. Until we started to get cold and went to bed. ;-)

I hope you got to see it too.

The 'lack of jam' thing refers, jokingly, (ha ha hee hee etc) not to a shortage of preserved fruit condiment, which would be a serious matter, but to the monthly jam night at a pub in the next village (an event which also had no connection to preserved fruit condiment). I hadn't been before so I was feeling a bit nervous about the whole thing as I lugged my bass guitar down there, but, due to it being the time of year when many people are away on their holidays, there was a distinct lack of musicians. 'Dearth' would be a better word ;-) We found only the organiser and his wife there. Undeterred, we had a drink and a good chat with them and will come back next month when folks will be back from vacations etc, we hope. They were both artists too and were very nice people, so that was a good connection made.

Anyway, or 'Any road up' as my wife says when in Yorkshire mode, this is turning into a bit of a diary so, without further ado I will get onto the earring stuff. . .

'Biscuit' charms, polymer clay image transfer with wooden backs, with copper jump rings and oxidised copper ear wires

As a non earring wearing male, I do feel as though any foray I make into earring construction involves a lot of guesswork and certain amount of copying what others do in order to get things 'right' (whatever that is). This makes me a bit nervous about it all. I've posted about this earring insecurity before, which didn't seem to move me forward even though I got many supportive comments. Hopefully I have worked through the anxiety and now can just make the blooming things, leaving the question of whether anyone except me likes them up to fate/life and not worry about it.

rough polymer clay beads on flattened copper wire with copper ear wires

I have realised that ear wires can be any shape I like, as long as they fulfil their purpose and look good at the same time.

Round image trans beads on oxidised copper ear wires

I think that certain amount of eccentricity can be a good thing too. Probably. Well, me being me it's going to have to be. ;-)

distressed wooden beads on up cycled nails with steel wire wrap and titanium ear wires

Upcycling is fine too. And using non standard materials. Well, I think it's fine and I am working by my rules. . .

Textured polymer clay charms with textured beads on oxidised copper wire.

And, it's ok to make more conventional looking earrings as long as everything works well together and there is enough quirkiness in the choice of beads. . . For me, 'conventional' counts as a radical departure from the norm, being one of those annoying people who just has to be 'different' for all sorts of unexamined reasons. . . :-)

I'm still enjoying making earring charms/beads too. Trying different types of image and treatments.

DIY permitting I'll continue my earring exploration and see where it gets me. I mean, if others don't find my beads useful I can always use them myself ;-)

And to finish, a garden update. Not that you wanted one, but you're getting it anyway. . .


We will be inundated with various kinds of fruit soon. The pear tree is looking promising, but the pears won't be ripe for a while. The gooseberries and blackcurrants have just finished, but we do have ripe victoria plums, early apples, mulberries and the last of the redcurrents. Damsons, greengages, medlars, quince, and the other apples to follow. Lots of apples. . . I've never lived anywhere with so much fruit involved ;-)

I tried to make cider last year but it was a disaster, I will get more serious about it this year.

On the veg front, the asparagus finished a while ago and so did the artichokes, though we hardly ate any of them. Right now we have potatoes, courgettes, tomatoes and beans all demanding to be dug up/picked/cut including some very red potatoes. I'm pleased with those as I actually grew them myself rather than inherited the previous owner's plantings.

Very red potatoes. They cook quickly and tend to fall apart, but taste really nice. I must try cooking them more slowly and carefully. I'm too used to supermarket spuds. . .

On the DIY front, for those interested, a minority group for sure, the fake panelling is nearly done. The colour is a darker, greyer turquoise-lish colour than in the pic but I had to use flash which bleached it out somewhat.
Next we finish the painting, get some pictures up and construct or buy a radiator cover of some kind. And we lose the green carpet of course! Yech. . .

My round stones collection and bust of Beethoven are in place already. .

So, onwards and upwards as they say. 

Even though Etsy is, perplexingly, still not what it was and my new shop and site is not visited as much as I had hoped, I will plough on. . . I need to research ways of amassing more 'traffic', but it's still early days and these things take time.
Jon x