Friday, 21 April 2017

Ever Decreasing Ducklings, liquid polymer clay as varnish, and the delights of doo doo. . .

Faux ceramic tube beads/earring beads

Enjoy the bead pics and excuse me while I witter on about ducks for a minute. . .

Nature is pretty impervious to sentiment it seems. One day we have twelve, or possibly thirteen ducklings buzzing around their mum (they don't stop running or swimming, so it is hard to count them). The next day we have eight, and later that day five.
The next day, we are down to three, then two. . . Fortunately two has been the number at which the duckling disappearances stopped. They are growing and sticking close to mum. Fingers crossed for them.

Reading up on this on the good old internet, it seems that this startling level of duckling decline is pretty normal in wild ducks, and two is a good number of surviving offspring as far as keeping up duck numbers is concerned. And they will most likely have more than one brood. Still, this tragic attrition rate is tough to bear witness to, even for a not all that sentimental human being such as myself, especially as the one extra-cute yellow one amongst the dappled brown and yellow brood was one of the first to go. . .

Moe faux ceramic tubes

We're not sure what happened to them, but most likely they became dinner for owls, kestrels, stoats, etc. There is a cat in the neighbourhood too (just the one, which is an unusual statistic I think), and always the threat of a fox, though they get shot by local farmers if they are spotted.

Oh well, these predators likely have broods of cute offspring of their own that need feeding. . . Nature huh? All together now, "The circle, the circle of l-i-i-i-i-fe. ."

A set of bicone and 'diablo' beads with crackly areas

And to continue this theme of predation and untimely death, something also put paid the big fish (a carp, about a pound and a half) that we used to see lurking in the cloudy water of our pond. We found its disembodied head on the bank. This is a bit odd because, reading on the internet (again) it seems that animals such as otters or mink (please not mink, they are not good news) that are able and willing to catch and eat fish, eat the head and leave the rest. We seem to have an inverse otter. . . It's a bit of a mystery as there are no tracks or droppings that I could find.

My fave so far, faux ceramic effect tube beads

Anyway, I have been back in the workshop after the distractions of Easter, and have been experimenting with liquid polymer clay, the clear kind, Kato clear to be exact. I have used it as a sort of varnish before, but a while ago and not very carefully. You do get a particularly glossy shine with it. The trouble is that it is quite easy to burn it if you aren't careful, which leads to a horrible smell and tiny blackened bubbles that set hard and can't easily be picked off.

Very shiny bicones

The technique I use once the liquid poly clay has been applied to the bead, is the time honoured one of sticking it on a wooden barbecue skewer or toothpick/cocktail stick and turning the hot air gun on it. If you hold the bead about six to eight inches away and spin the toothpick/other between your fingers you can usually avoid the heat concentrating in one place and it getting too hot. Not always though. The trouble is that there is nothing to tell you how hot the bead is getting until it's too late and it starts bubbling and smoking. What I now do is always hold the bead at the same distance from the heat gun, and only keep it in the heat for a set time, say 12 seconds. (You need to do a few trials to find your optimum time and distance). I have found that if I follow that procedure, the liquid poly clay evens out over the surface of the bead, and when cool results in a hard, smooth and shiny surface.
I like the toughness of the finish, but I wanted to see if I could get a duller finish, as hyper shiny is not always the look required. I tried thinning the liquid poly clay with a little white spirit before applying it to the bead. This sort of worked, but the semi shiny surface that resulted was easily smeared by my finger when cool so I put that idea aside.
I had a bit more success by using a brush and really trying to make a small amount of liquid clay go a long way. Smearing a very thin layer on the bead. This worked quite well. I got a tough semi gloss finish that suited the beads I was making.

Satin or matt finish

I will try the white spirit idea again, but only using a very small amount, to see whether that makes a useful difference to the result.
The shiny finish is very good for the sort of faux ceramic look that I have been messing around with though.

Earring beads, faux ceramic 'bells'. The colours look like Royal Doulton (I think that's the type of pottery I mean)

When we moved into this area about eight months ago, we were amused to see that there was a Chinese take away in the local town called "Do Do", which, of course, sounds like 'Doo doo' as in 'deep doo doo'. We have talked jokingly about having a take away doo doo someday, well today was that day. It was very good, so Woo Hoo for the Do Do! . . .
Jon x

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Art of Invisibility

So, I have discovered that one of the  most sought after super powers in human history is incredibly simple to attain. I have achieved invisibility! . . .

Well, all right, I haven't really, but as far as my bead shop on Etsy goes I might as well have done. . . As the powers that be at Etsy tend to do, they are tinkering and fiddling behind the scenes, but this time it's radical fiddling and it's messing a lot of thing up.

I suspect the tinkering etc is only part of the story, I do understand that retail is not predictable but when your views drop by half suddenly and don't recover over a period of three weeks, and sales dry up for a much longer period than what passes for normal, conspiracy theories start to come into play.

The psychological effect is surprising. If you had asked me how I would take a situation like this, I would have sworn blind that I could suck it up and stay calm, but disconcertingly, I find myself worrying about what I might have done wrong or how I might have lost touch with my audience etc etc. I find myself losing motivation to make stuff, even though I know this is a silly over reaction. So I seem to be more reliant on others reactions to my work than I imagined. I guess that is useful information.

I now know a bit more about myself, and my motivations. And what I should really address in order to have a better relationship with my work. I want to make my work stand on my terms and I have obviously been distracted by the idea of the approval of others. . .
I'm not beating myself up about this you understand, just having a bit of a rant.

And, 'predictably' in the overnight pause between me writing the above and getting round to posting it I have had a large order come in that just about makes up for the lack of sales in the past week or two. . . ;-)

You gotta laugh, innit?

Funny thing is, this morning when I woke up, I just felt better, I felt a bit lighter somehow, as if something had lifted. Then the order came in, and the broody chicken has returned to normal behaviour, and the ducks have had 13 ducklings, along with the five little moorhen chicks on the pond. Must be the full moon. . .

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Guinea Fowl, Norfolk Pronunciation and Faux Stoneware. . .

Oh yeah. . . and we painted the house.

The Spring has sprung,
The grass is riz,
I wonder where dem birdies is. . . etc

You know the rest. Probably.
We had that poem in one of a series of very nice poetry books for kids made for schools in the sixties/seventies called 'Voices'. Very much of their time. I must try and track some down, they were good.

Yep, spring has sprung all right. Our first in this house ;-) All sorts of bulbs springing up, as they do. Grass growing, blossom starting to appear and the first chiff-chaff of the year singing. He'll be an overwintering one, getting his voice back together I think, it's a touch too early for migrants yet though I could be wrong.

The geese are sitting on eggs in their nesting box things by the pond. (the geese and boxes, and pond, were all passed on to us by the house's previous owner who had lived there for forty years. . .) They are fluffy feathered things called 'Sebastopol Geese', and apparently, due to the fluffy oddness of their feathers, they are rubbish at incubating eggs, at least the ones on the outside of the clutch which can't be kept warm enough.

Nothing to do with ducks, geese or spring, but just some recent bead eye candy

Ducks have appeared, and are behaving badly. I never knew ducks went in for what I can only describe as gang rape. Seriously, four of them gang up on one female and physically hold her down. . Nature huh? Still, she has made a nest in the bole of a coppiced hazelnut tree nearby.

The moorhen has a nest in the base of a willow tree by the pond, and the jackdaws are eying the chimney in a purposeful sort of way. Oh well, I might have to light a smokey fire for a short while to put them off.

Oh yeah, Guinea Fowl. We inherited two of them along with the geese, except a fox got one (we assume) so the poor lonely male has been mooning about with the chickens, looking as sad as a guinea fowl can look, all winter. We decided to get another female to keep him company, so my wife went off to get one. She came back with two. The guy at the poultry place was obviously a good salesman. . .
We were advised to keep them apart from the male for a while, but visible to him. OK, so we put them in the fruit cage (also inherited. . .). Only we forgot there was no netting roof on it and that guinea fowl can fly when they want to. The male went nuts when he saw them, it was like all his christmases had come at once, he started running back and forth like a thing possessed, fluffing up his feathers and making those distinctive rusty-gate-on-steroids noises guinea fowl make. The females weren't too impressed and were pretty disorientated anyway, so when he battered his way through the netting and got in to the fruit cage, they promptly took to the air. One flew into the next field never to be seen again, (no idea what happened to it) and the other one flew into a nearby apple tree. So much for keeping them separate. . .
Luckily, things calmed down a bit, she stuck around and now her and him are a proper couple and spend their time pottering round the garden together in perfect and endearing guinea fowl harmony. They don't sing in harmony however, and their song is not remotely endearing, but hey, you can't have everything.

More eye candy - faux ceramic style

Norfolk Pronunciation - We are getting to grips with the local accent, which we love by the way. It's quite soft, and fairly slow, as country accents tend to be. A computer is a compooter, a human is a hooman, and my friend tells me he had a boss called Mr Pugh, whose name was pronounced 'Mr Poo' in the local accent. Well, it made me snigger. . .

Kind of interlocking beads. Faux Stone ware or what?

Oh yeah, polymer clay stuff. I've been playing with includes as they are called, I believe. All the DIY I have been doing and the materials involved has inspired all sorts of ideas, and all sorts of things to mix with the clay, texture the clay or destroy the clay. . . My experiments have turned out some interesting results. I shall pursue the techniques further. You can get a great faux stone ware look. . .

Complimentary shaped beads, well rustic.

Well, I have delighted you enough, as Mr Bennett would have it, so I will shut up until the next outpouring, which will likely be in a week or so I should imagine.
Jon x