16 Nov 2015

Bad weather has at least made me productive

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.   Stephen King. 

I’m afraid that I don’t have any [non-jewellery] new photographs to include in this post, bad weather over about the last three weeks has ensured that we’ve hardly left the house for anything other than work, food shopping and appointments.  Which is driving me a bit bonkers frankly – I’ve not had any opportunity to capture the fabulous autumn colours this year – and now the leaves have pretty much been stripped from the trees in the torrential rain.

The very few nice days we have had have fallen at times when it’s not been possible to take advantage (like right now, when I have the kiln running and orders to fulfill).  It has however forced me to be very productive and I’ve got done a lot of work that has been in the “I really must make an effort to get that done” category.

I live in a perpetual state of having far too many items in my shop as out of stock or ‘made to order’.  It is my practice, if something sells, but I know that I could re-make it, to mark it as ‘made to order’  If someone then orders such an item, I try to make at least two of them, so that I can return it to stock.

But having recently sold a couple of items that appeared to be in stock (only because I forgot to tick the stock control button), but weren’t, I decided that it was time to do a proper audit of my shop and check the stock status of all listings.  I also took the opportunity to review what I had for sale and decided to simply delete a lot of older items.  It was a largely tedious task with almost 800 items listed in my shop – many of which are in the sold section – but also most therapeutic to delete over a hundred of the older pieces to get the numbers more manageable.

During this audit, I realised just how many of my repeat good sellers were not in stock, so I spent one very full-on week addressing many of them and returned over 20 pieces to stock – which was very hard work, but most rewarding too.  I still have many more to do the same task with, but I felt pretty smug for a short while that I’d actually faced it.

Sometimes procrastination can work for you:

Whilst in the midst of this task, I wanted a particular shaped component which I was pretty sure I already had a couple made and knew just where they’d be.  I’d started a particular necklace some months ago, but simply couldn’t get it to work how I wanted, so in frustration, I packed all the components into a bag and dropped it into my WIP drawer – also known as my procrastination drawer – to return to on another day – and, as they do, the months had passed.

Said component was in the bag, but having got all the other gubbins out, I decided to have a tinker with the original design too and unlike the original session with it, the work just flowed.  I found myself totally absorbed with it and went on to finish it completely that day.  The result is the flower garland necklace shown in the gallery below.  I’ve done various versions of this design before, but this has many more flowers over a wider span than earlier incarnations and features bronze as well as copper.  It’s funny how the state of mind on a different day can make such a difference to how the creative mood flows.  I’m pretty certain that the time delay has resulted in a better piece, for various reasons.

Tinkering with white bronze:

My first 'test' pieces in Prometheus white bronze, before firing.  I prefer to make actual pieces as tests, rather than just waste material making test squares - this way I get to learn how it handles in practice too.
My first ‘test’ pieces in Prometheus white bronze, before firing. I prefer to make actual pieces as tests, rather than just waste material making test squares – this way I get to learn how it handles in practice too.

My current adventure is with a new material; white bronze clay.  There have been other versions and brands on the market, but the one I’m trying is by Prometheus and is nickel free, which many non-EU produced white bronzes aren’t.  This brand will allow me to combine it with bronze and copper on the same piece – something I’ve been wanting to do for some time.  My first batch are in the kiln as I type, so cross your fingers for me – my next post is sure to be about the success or otherwise of that process.

My work this week:

I’ve popped some photos of recent finished pieces into the gallery below and they each have captions to describe them.  You can click on any of them and it opens a pop up window and you can scroll through the full set.


26 Jun 2014

Garden bird pool party

I thought I was doing well with remembering to post more frequently, but I see with horror that it’s already well over 2 weeks since my last post.  It’s alarming how the weeks flash past.  Not that I have much of interest to post.

I’ve found myself easily distracted over the last week or two with the amusing antics of the current broods of baby birds in the garden.  There’s this lovely delicious stage shortly after fledging when they’re out in the big wide world for the first time, yet not fully ready for it.  The stage when they fly in the oddest manner, more like bumble bees than birds – while they perfect the act of steering whilst in flight and hone the amazingly agile skills that adult birds demonstrate with jealousy-inducing ease.

 Please click on any of the photographs for a larger version.  You may be able to middle click to open them in a new tab at the size I prepare them.

It's lovely to see so many bees in the garden, it always feels like summer when you can see their constant business and activity.It’s lovely to see so many bees in the garden, it always feels like summer when you can see their constant business and activity.

I did the RSPBs garden bird count earlier in the year – I try to do it each year, not only for the data this adds to the RSPB’s efforts, but for my own interest too – I keep a copy of my count and like to compare it year on year.  This year I had a really good selection on the day of the count, but was aware that there were much fewer tits than I’d normally expect, yet more of the slightly rarer species like bullfinches – I had 6 (3 pairs) at the same time that one day.  Yet I only counted one each of blue tits and great tits, expecting more as they’re usually a garden staple.

But hopefully that meant they were just elsewhere that particular day as I now have a good crop of youngsters of each species.  The garden has been alive with them – I reckon at least 8 of each at the moment – and they’ve given me more than enough pleasure this month to justify my bird food budget.

Lots of young birds in the garden this spring.Lots of young birds in the garden this spring.

One thing that they’ve been up to that I can’t say I’ve noticed before is a seeming fixation with water.  I have 3 different bird baths in the bird area and pretty much every time I look, there are baby birds in and around all of them.  In fact they’ve got such a pool party thing going on with various splashing and drinking that I’m having to go out and top them up at least once every day.

My neighbour has a little water feature in her garden that has a circulating body of water that falls as a little fountain into a pool – the baby birds have been having even more fun in hers – washing vigorously under the fountain part – that she’s having to top it up daily too.  She also noticed that this seems to be a new phenomena this year.  Maybe the mild winter didn’t kill off as many parasites as usual and they feel the need for more vigorous bathing this spring.

Being babies, there does seem to have been a lot of time perching on the edge of the water wondering quite what they should do.  There are often two or three at once, and it looks for all the world like they’re trying to build up the courage to jump in and the others are offering the necessary encouragement.   I just haven’t been able to catch a decent photograph of the action as the baths the babies prefer is in a sheltered spot in deep shadow.

Baby great tit having a bath.This little fella stepped into the shallower of my baths and just stood there a while, testing the sensation on his feet, waiting to see if anything terrible happened.  He ventured to drink a little, paddled round a bit, sat down in it, paddled some more.  Stood looking around as if waiting for inspiration or help from above from a friend, then suddenly decided to just go for it – he flapped his wings vigorously splashing water everywhere, then sat for a moment, all fluffed up and wet, just taking stock of what had just happened, had he suffered any harm?  Deciding that he hadn’t, he flapped vigorously some more and was gone to shake off in the sun.  I felt rather privileged to share his first time with him.

The gravel chippings in that garden seemingly make for a good sun trap when the sun is actually on them and I’ve seen a whole parade of birds this week lying with their wings outstretched, soaking up the rays, although it’s the blackbirds I see most often.   Having lain for quite some time with his wings fully out, he tucked them back and rolled over a little, presumably to warm his tummy.

A blackbird catching some rays.
We managed one evening walk out this week and as we sat in the car contemplating coming home, were treated to a lovely sunset.  With sunsets of this nature, it always looks to me as though the intense colour of the sky is at the expense of the landscape, which ends up looking dark and colourless as the sun makes its departure, taking the colour of the day over the horizon with it.

Work this week:

I’ve had this particular connector idea in mind for some time and finally got to trying it this week after coiling some wire for another piece and it reminded me.  As is often the case with new designs, it takes a few ‘prototypes’ to perfect the methodology and overcome snags, but I am now in the regular habit of keeping a detailed design journal, so that once I have settled on a method, I record it in longhand detail and can easily return to the design to re-make it without having to re-think it each time.  As you make things, you might find that it works best to work a particular end first, or to hammer or polish a section before making up as you can’t reach it later etc.  So keeping a ‘recipe’ for the workflow for any particular design, as well as measurements and gauges of wire used, has proved to be well worth the time and discipline it takes me at the time.

Coil on coil antiqued copper earrings with deep blue teal and amber topaz Czech fire polished crystals.

Downloading the latest photographs, I noticed that I was almost at image no. 28,000 in my jewellery photography camera.   I do take a lot of duplicates, even of the same view, variously for optional focus or exposure to see which I prefer.   So I did a quick tot up of how many of these images actually make it to finally sell the item – I think that I have now ‘published’ over 4,200 jewellery images (and each one is done at least two finished sizes), selling something like 800 different pieces, an average of over 5 images per item.  If I were to spend 15 minutes on each published image; taking, cropping, retouching, saving and uploading it – wait for it – that represents over 1000 hours of work, which is over 26 working weeks!  No wonder it seems like a perpetual task!

A longer version made with dyed blue jade faceted stones, spiral wrapped on polished paddle pins.  The earrings co-ordinate with the Y shaped necklace below which features a chunkier version of the ‘coil on coil’ wrap and a large faceted jade pendant.