Monday, 12 February 2018

Spikes, Car Trouble, Rationalising Bead Boxes and Appreciating Past Efforts

Well, this is a bit late, as I try to post every ten days, but we took a short break for our combined birthdays and various DIY things happened too. But I did get some time in my workshop despite all that. 

I sold a bunch more spikes things on Facebook last week. So I am feeling appreciated ;-) These pictured below are some of they. .

On a less happy note, I managed to reverse into a friend's car on our drive a day or two ago, so the feeling of being appreciated is only transient. . . An insurance job, as it bent the front wing and cracked the lens on the headlight. My car was merely scratched a bit. 
Oh well, there goes me no claims bonus for a while. The rear visibility is not good in my car, but that is a poor excuse.
To bore you further, said car has done 100k miles, so I splashed out for a service. The mechanic asked me when the cam belt (I don't know either) had been changed, I said as far as I knew, I didn't think it had, so he looked it up in the manual. It contained the interesting information that it should have been changed 40k miles ago. . . So I have been pushing my luck apparently.

Back to bead matters - I have been sorting out my various bead boxes, in conjunction with checking my laptop, with a view to working out which beads have been listed on Etsy, which have expired, and which never got as far as being listed in the first place. There are surprising number of things that aren't in my shop. I am going to start remedying that situation forthwith.

It's been nice seeing some old friends lurking in their little compartments. Some things I was, and still am quite proud of. I always learn something from looking at what I was doing a year or so ago, it's easy to forget how far you have come in that period. And to realise what you have also forgotten, some it useful stuff that you would do well to remember.

Here are some of my new spikes, for sale in the LBA Galleria Elementals group on Facebook. Only a glimmer of interest so far, but give it 24 hours and we'll see where we are.

On to more general stuff, like the weather. . . 

Time marches on, and as was the case this time last year, (and every other year I imagine) the aconites are out in the garden, and some snowdrops, some cyclamen and even some crocuses are coming out. The hazelnut trees have catkins hanging off them, and all sorts of daffodils and suchlike bulbs are determinedly pushing their way out of the ground. At least Spring seems like something that will happen in due course. I even heard a skylark singing the other day, when the sun broke through. Don't know what it was thinking. . .
Winter ain't over yet however. I don't mind, as long as it stops blooming' raining. This winter has just been sodden. Give me a crisp, cold day anytime instead of dismal wetness and uncomfortable blustery winds. . . Extreme weather? We get extremely dull. Hence no photos ;-)
Jon x

Sunday, 28 January 2018

The Diary of a Complete Pillock, part 68 - Back to Vague Visibility, (Probably) and The Gentle Art of Not Getting Caught Up In It All. . .

So after a period of experiencing what Americans refer to as 'tumbleweed' in my Etsy shop, I got two big orders in the space of one hour. One from the UK and one from the USA. Exciting stuff. . .

So what do I do? I carefully package the orders and send the UK order to the USA and the USA order to the UK. Brilliant.

What a pillock. . . (A mild semi-swearword that I have used often but never thought to look up the derivation of. Until now, thank you Wictionary -

"The origin of pillock is believed to go back to the 16th century meaning penis, from the Norwegian word pillicock, presumably akin to the slang dickhead meaning inept fool.")

Oh right, another knob related insult. Had to be really didn't it? ;-) So it's not some sort of cross between a pillow and a hillock after all, that's a shame. . .

Anyway, both bead sets are being sent back to me as soon as they arrive at their erroneous destinations, so I should be able to rectify the situation amicably, refunding various bits of postage, and paying for it all over again as I resend to the right customers. Might take a week or two though.

Oh well, these things happen. Bloody annoying when they do though, for everyone concerned.

But, the good thing about this occurrence is that it might well mean that I am at least somewhat visible to prospective customers. A conclusion backed up by a couple of smaller sales in the last few days. We shall see.

Facebook has been interesting, sales wise. I sold out of the small selection of new spikes I listed, with a couple of requests for made to order thrown in, but a subsequent listing session involving crusty, ancient type beads met with little interest and no sales. So it's a case of the usual swings and roundabouts of online retail stopping me from getting complacent.

It's impossible to second guess the reasons for these ups and downs, but that doesn't stop me trying. . . The beads may have been too expensive, or the right people just weren't checking that group that day, maybe my potential customers had spent all their cash on the spikes a few days before, or some better known bead artist has a showcase on another group and all the buyers are congregating there, throwing their money around, not even aware of the wonders lurking nearby, who knows?

These things are pretty much unknowable, so I shall just try again, with some different things and see what happens. I shall relax and let it be instead of endlessly going over the ways I might be doing it 'wrong'. If a pattern emerges over time, I may be in a position to draw some conclusions and work out a strategy to improve things, but until then, I shall stick to happily creating things and seeing if anyone likes them enough to buy them.

There is a down side to selling well. I don't actually like the fact that on the relatively rare occasions it happens, I start thinking "Those beads sold, I should make more like that," because when I do I often find that the spark goes out of the process somehow, and the results aren't as interesting.
Once I am aware that I am going through the motions rather than exploring, I have to stop and try something different. After all, the selling is just an afterthought to the making for me. It's great, but it's not what I do it for.
Fah! Bloody Artists!
Jon x

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

More Adventures in Ancientness, (if that's a word), in Solving The Unwelcome Pinkness of Black and in the Production of Spikes

Well, here I am, taking a deserved break in the laying of tiles and grouting of same, and taking the opportunity to share some of my recent creations with you.

But first, I would like to say a special 'hello' to the interestingly large number (percentage wise, pertaining to this blog) of Russian readers. ;-)

I'm told that 'Privet' is the correct greeting. Though in English it is the name of a type of shrub largely used for garden hedging. . . .
There are lot of excellent polymer clay artists in Russia, as any time spent on Facebook will show you. So - Privet!

Ancient look blue simple beads - SOLD

OK. 'Ancientness'. I am having fun playing with all sorts of things that can make the surface of a bead look ancient and crusty. Mainly it involves using stuff you can use as a barrier between inks and paints, and which will then wash off in water, leaving an interesting random pattern.
Well, that's all the handholding you get I'm afraid. Have a play with anything you have lying around that fits that description and see what you get ;-)

This sort of thing

Now for the unwelcome pinkness of black. I mentioned in a previous post about the tendency of black alcohol ink to revert to a pinky purple brown when either diluted a bit, or when the brush starts to run dry ( if you use a brush to apply it instead of just using the dropper/nozzle on the bottle).

It fades into pink purple when baked too.
Also varnish can kind of leach out an extra bit of pinkness if applied too enthusiastically.

This is a pain, as it turns the edges of the black and white into a purply pink smear instead of a lovely clean demarcation between black and white, so I have been messing about with mixing several colours to get a better, non-pink black. (I could use black acrylic paint, but I want the particular surface effects that alcohol inks give.)

Dark brown pinky black with pinky smears. . .

Dark blue and dark brown seem to be the best colours to mix, as the brown compensates for any purpleness in the blue, and the blue compensates for the redness in the brown. I tried adding a small amount of green too, as black is technically the sum of every colour. Well, in theory anyway.
Whatever, it worked pretty well. See below.

How much more black can they be? The answer is 'none more black'. . .

I hope you got the Spinal Tap reference ;-)

I have also made some more of my popular turned style spikes. I probably need to explore some different colours next though. Not that there is anything wrong with browns and blue greys ;-)

Anyway, until next time,
Jon x

Thursday, 4 January 2018

How many of What? Crackly Stuff, No Room in the Inn. . and New Year Good Intentions

First off, may I wish a very happy new year to all my readers, present or past. thank you for your support. It is nice to think that I am not just talking to myself.  ;-) 

I'll try to make the read worth the wear on your link clicking finger. Failing that, I will at least try to make the the pics worth looking at. . .

simple crackled barrel beads

So, to business. . . 

As you may have realised from the title and any pics that may have passed in front of your eyeballs so far, I have been playing around with crackly stuff again. It's nice to come back to a technique after a month or two of not using it. I find the time gap has somehow consolidated a few things in my mind, and I am more sure of what I can achieve with it. 

I am really liking how it can be combined with my turned technique to make ancient looking beads which could be made of anything from ceramic to bone to horn etc.

Semi trans cernit tube beads with crackle and alcohol inks

Talking of making beads, the other thing that has been exercising me somewhat, is the issue of how many of what to make. 
I guess it all depends on the use the beads get put to eventually. I used to imagine my creations being used in necklaces and the like, so I made sets of six or eight. The number was pretty arbitrary but seemed to be ok with buyers. 
After a while I realised that they were using them mainly as earring components, which I obviously didn't have a problem with, but I did think that maybe making pairs would be more convenient for earring makers, so I started making pairs of beads. 

So, sixes or pairs? 

Crackled round semi trans beads

I hope you had a good Christmas or other festivity you may indulge in.

Mine was by and large good. We had an interesting moment when we turned up (after a four hour drive) at our pre booked hotel in a small Yorkshire town only to find that it was dark and uninhabited. It had gone out of business a couple of weeks before. The booking firm sent us an email just after we left on the 23rd but we weren't online after that so it didn't get to us in time.
Luckily the phone number had been rerouted to a pub just up the road, who were very nice and helpful and got us booked in to another local hotel. Phew.
Could have done without that to be honest ;-)

green patchy crackle beads

The new year gig I mentioned in a previous post went very well. Just me on bass and my mate Rich on guitar and vocals banging out old faves. The pub was packed and we all had a great time. Yay! And we got paid! (getting paid to play is a novelty, believe me)

grey round, turned technique semi trans crackle beads

I haven't made any new year resolutions as they never quite work, and make you feel bad when you don't keep to them. I have set some intentions however, but not with negative associations attached.

I am going to list more stuff on my Etsy shop and share on FB and Instagram etc. Thus keeping my profile reasonably high. But only if it feels good to do it. I'm trying to avoid the concept of 'should' where feasible and not harmful, as it usually turns out to be a confused version of somebody else's 'should' and not something drawn from my own experience. Which doesn't tend to turn out well imho.


I made some more cool spikes. These are fun to make and I will keep on making them and variations of same. . .

MDF backed poly clay 'biscuit' beads

I also found some smaller 'biscuits' (for use with a 'biscuit jointer') in a diy store (in the reduced price box.  .) They are MDF unlike the larger ones I had used previously which were plywood. This makes them a bit less forgiving to work with, and produced nasty dust when sanded, but nevertheless I made some MDF biscuit backed poly clay textured drops in a faux bone style. .

Well, that will do for now. Have a good 2018 'going forward' as they say, I intend to have a good one too, though going sideways is probably more my style ;-)
Jon x

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Plumbing, Strumming, and a new Photography Set Up, which doesn't rhyme. . .

Turned effect and scratched design idea.

Well, it's been a while. Mainly because I haven't had a lot of blog worthy creative work to share owing to my time being tied up with other things. Constructively tied up with other things, but tied up nonetheless. . .
I have been refitting our bathroom, which is a pretty major undertaking for me. Not outside my capabilities but pushing the limits of my know how. Anyway, all major elements have been fitted (not without some tricky moments and stressful stuff, as is the way with these kind of projects. .) and seem to work as they should, so I can relax a bit more and get back to my creative work. Eventually.

Some new spikes taken with new photo set up. I need to lose the blue tint but the bead colours are accurate.

I did take an hour or two to follow up something that had been nagging at me for a while. I have had issues with the white point setting on my camera. Whatever I do, I find that I need to spent too much unnecessary time adjusting colour in Photoshop (or rather, Affinity Photo, which is what I now use) to get the colours to match the original bead/object being photographed.

So I decided to make a photo box thing. You know, a big cardboard box with the sides cut out and white paper taped in instead. There are various youtube vids on how to make/use one. You can buy them on ebay as well.
I knocked a crude version up in about half an hour. It hasn't completely solved my issues, but it has made a big difference to the consistency of my photos. I can use the same levels setting on each pic and hardly ever have to reach for the white balance adjustment layer, or any of the many other colour correction options, which is great.

Simple 'Pot' beads. Faux ceramic look

I have decided to rephotograph all my products using this set up. Which will be a time consuming process, but worthwhile I think. Or a big waste of time. . . whatever, I have decided to do it anyway.

Scratched and semi crackled 'primitive' beads. Faux bone, sort of.

The other thing that has added to my general hiatus from the creative process is that I had a couple of disappointingly unsuccessful selling sessions on Facebook, and realised that, unlike a shop, where something is on view and on sale until it sells, on Facebook, like an auction site, if something doesn't sell in the three days you have allotted, then it has to be removed. In which case it disappears from public view.
I found it kind of dispiriting. Not a very logical reaction I know, but I don't think I had quite thought it all through.

Spotty texture tube/drum beads

I don't think it is appropriate to list the same items more than once, (or maybe listing once again in a different group is OK. . ) on FB, so I will have to create listings on Etsy for them, until I can work out what my website strategy will be.

For the reasons detailed above my recent social media presence has been pretty minimal of late, which doesn't help my visibility much. I have started putting stuff up on flickr again though, so that's something.

With a bit of luck I will be back in the workshop/studio next week at some point, so I will have some new stuff to share soon. meanwhile here are a couple of reasonably recent things you won't have seen on FB or elsewhere.

Textured and deliberately crudely sanded black and white tube beads
Long spike. Spike end.

Long Spike. Middle

Long Spike. Loop end

As for the reference to strumming in the title, it isn't entirely accurate as you don't strum a bass guitar, or at least I hope not, though is technically possible and I dare say some players have ventured there at some time or other. . .

I had been hoping to run across some other musicians in my area ever since we moved in a year and a quarter ago, and as I think I mentioned a few posts ago, I ventured out to a 'jam night' in a pub in the next village only to find that the organiser and his wife were the only relevant people there, and she didn't play anyway. Which left me and him, and I didn't bring my amp with me as I hadn't quite understood the low key nature of the set up ;-) so we didn't play anything.
But on the due date the next month I rolled up again, with my amp in tow, and me and the him sat in a corner a banged out as many songs as we could remember the chords for. More of a sing song than a jam as such, and a lot of fun. It went on till about two a.m. The other pub goers enjoyed it too.
So we are going to do a new year's party there. Just him and me playing, unless a drummer materialises. It's great to be playing music again after about three years of not being in a band of any kind ;-)

Stop press! We had Snow! Not snow that anyone from more northern climes would get excited about, but a bit of a novelty round here. We had at least half an inch! ;-) . . . So I wandered round the garden and took some photographs. Enjoy. . . and see you next time, hopefully with some new stuff to show you.
Jon x

The orchard

Roses still in flower, for some reason best known to them. . .

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

A Transparent Mistake, Expanding Cats and an imminent DIY Tsunami. . .

Red brown semi trans rounded tube beads, or possibly 'bugle' beads(?)

Well, I was in a hurry so I didn't notice that I had bought 50% transparent Cernit Clay instead of the usual opaque stuff, until I opened the new pack and began using it. But After a bit of a double take and some initial confusion (until I spotted the little 50% badge on the packet), I decided to run with it. I made some simple beads and explored the way surface treatments seem to have more depth to them on trans clay. I used alcohol inks in layers, and other stuff. . . They came out nicely and look quite stone like, not that I was aiming for that particularly. I sold some as well, which always encourages the creativity. . .

Green stone like beads with 'includes'. .

For some I used a kind of a variation of my crackle effect idea. I was going to say that I made the clay a bit dirty by rolling it a few times and letting a little dust and tiny bits of desk detritus stick to it, but what I mean is I used 'includes', yes, that was what I did, cough. . . . Just slightly, so that it looked a little bit veiny and speckled.
I ordered some opaque Cernit straight away of course but as trans was what I had it made me explore  a bit more, which is always a good thing.

Groovy blue ones

I didn't get much done as time is a bit lacking this week as I am planning the details of how to redo our bathroom. I like to think it all through before jumping in, going nuts with a club hammer and ripping stuff out willy nilly. . . (there is a plasterboard side to the shower that has to go.) But I will try to get into the workshop and have a play in between diy splurges when I can ;-)
Oh yeah, and a joiner is fitting new bannisters on our stairs this week too. Gonna look so posh ;-) So it's all go round here. . .

I like the semi trans effect here

Alongside the other beads I made some turned effect earring bead pairs using the semi-trans clay. They came out quite nice too, imho. I shall make some more I think, although I am trying not to repeat myself too much.

And here, they sort of glow . .

I'm going to make more of these simple spikes too, seeing as how they sold, and I like the simplicity of them. 

unapologetically simple spikes

Simple beads are challenging in an strange way. There is quite a bit of resistance to putting forward something that has very little evidence of 'work' in it. Silly I know, but it does take a level of confidence to be satisfied with the simple and not complicate it for complication's sake, or for what you might imagine other people might think etc etc. I'm actually pretty ok with keeping it simple as a principle, but I get the annoying doubts from time to time ;-) Anyway, hitting people over the head with 'skill' for its own sake is amateur stuff ;-) You know, like those guitarists that play 48,000 notes a second when 3 will do. . . Skill is a means to an end and not an end in itself, which sounds like an excuse but really isn't. And worrying about what you think other people might think doesn't lead anywhere useful. imho.

As for the Expanding Cat thing. They are six months old now and have changed so much. This is Hereward as he is now, and as he was the day he arrived in our house. He's a big handsome boy now ;-) The two girls are all almost grown now too, but not as big as himself here.

Hereward 'Hairy Boy' now and then, wasn't he a cuticle?
I read something on several sites on the inter webs about how big cats are likely to grow. It said they grow up to 20 times their size. . . Yeah right! If a kitten is 3 inches when born it would be 60 inches fully grown. That's five feet! Hmmm. . . Not convinced that is altogether true. I hope not or I will need a much bigger cat flap. . . . .
Amazing how misinformation happily shared on the net isn't it?