13 Mar 2017

Spring is finally visiting

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.    Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

I am delighted to see that spring has finally come knocking at my front door.  She hasn’t however just crept along timidly, hoping not to cause too much fuss, she’s banged repeatedly on the knocker and is wearing her brightest finery.  I even saw my first lambs yesterday, so that was a treat too.

It’s one of my very favourite times of year, when the usually scrubby patch of grass [read that as more moss than grass] outside our front door is solid with spring flowers.  I’m pretty sure that they’re usually more spread out, in that the snowdrops are usually past their best by the time the crocuses emerge and they then overlap with the daffodils.  But at the moment, they’re all in full bloom.  There are even daisies amongst them already.

In fact, I thought the snowdrops had taken a battering in recent storms and were certainly finishing blooming, but a whole raft of new flowers have emerged this week, so it seems that it was only the first flush that were done.  There are some, thankfully still in bud, yet to enjoy.

What could be more cheerful after a long winter than seeing this vibrant splash of colour and a bee busy at work.
What could be more cheerful after a long winter than seeing this vibrant splash of colour and a bee busy at work.

I must start keeping a record of what blooms when, as I’m sure it must vary quite a bit year on year, depending on how severe the winter weather was.  I’m also pretty certain that winters are nowhere near as severe as they used to be – I know that we get a fraction of the snow we have had in past years.

I’m not sure this is entirely good for nature, I think some species need a good hard frost as part of their cycle and I feel this may be why for the last few years, my smaller daffs, often flower just above the soil, without ever growing proper stalks and developing the height that they should.  It feels like they haven’t been allowed to sleep and then woken properly.

We had a lovely day earlier this week, when the wind finally dropped enough to try and take some photos – delicate flowers like snowdrops quiver significantly even in the slightest breeze.  I caught it just on the right day – the warm sun caused the crocuses to open wide and they were pristine and new and I was delighted to see several industrious bumble bees.  I wasted more time than was decent to try to capture one particular character who was very keen on the snowdrops, but he was a large chap and heavily laden with yellow pollen caught in his furry back (you can see him in the banner image at the top) and every time he landed on a snowdrop, his weight caused the flower to drop violently earthwards and dump him onto the grass.  He valiantly kept trying though.  The crocus shape was more suitable for him and I did manage to catch him visiting them.

Recent work and gallery:

Pink bronze earrings, initially inspired by a couple of my favourite jewellery designers; Archibald Knox and Georg Jensen. I started with an idea and before I knew it, it had taken on my own style anyway.
Pink bronze earrings, initially inspired by a couple of my favourite jewellery designers; Archibald Knox and Georg Jensen. I started with an idea and before I knew it, it had taken on my own style anyway.

My husband was working away for a few days recently and I consequently had a really exceptional time getting lots of work done. I was really in the zone and had few interruptions, so made significant inroads into my ‘to do’ list. It was a most enjoyable and satisfying time.

So I now have a pile of finished pieces and some fired metal clay components to make into something and I’m just getting them all added to the web site and for sale.

Having sold several polymer clay pieces recently, I decided that I hadn’t played with polymer clay for a while, so a session was long overdue and I already had some ideas tucked away that I wanted to try.

I decided to start simple initially, to get my eye back in and also used some old baked pieces to try carving designs into. I’d done some rudimentary carving on metal clay and to make texture plates, but carving into polymer clay is most enjoyable. It’s just the right texture and density to carve easily and smoothly, but hard enough that it doesn’t slip away from you too fast, as some of the softer texture plate materials can do.

I do however need some better carving tools, what I’m working with is decent enough to let me try it, but not fine enough to turn tight curves, so my designs are somewhat limited.

The blue green earrings in the gallery were made with a mix of clays to give rise to a semi-translucent clay with fibrous inclusions. I thought they had the look of carved jade and having looked at carved jade netsuke I saw that a lot were teamed with red beads, so I thought that this would be a nice way to finish these earrings, so have paired them with Brecciated jasper beads; a combination I’m certainly going to use again.

25 Mar 2015

Paper becomes metal

A house with daffodils in it is a house lit up, whether or no the sun be shining outside.   A.A. Milne

My husband had a couple of days holiday to use up before the end of the holiday year, so we sneaked a couple of days off and hoped to get some time outside in the spring sunshine.  We did manage that and jolly lovely it was too, but for an assortment of reasons – apathy largely – I didn’t get any worthwhile photos to share with you.  I had it in mind to post some cute little spring lambs, but the areas we visited were only just starting to lamb and the ones I did spot weren’t in a place where we could stop for photos.  So they will have to wait until another day.

Tulip bud, all bulbous and soon to burst into colour.
Tulip bud, all bulbous and soon to burst into colour.

As you can see above, the little Tête-á-tête daffodils in my garden are now in full bloom and are an absolute delight – so cheering to see out of the window.  I love any daffodils, but am especially fond of these compact little ones, perfect little miniature specimens.

I also have tulips starting to emerge too.  Whilst I love the blooms, I also enjoy the buds before they open – they’re often spherical and bulbous and amongst the leaves make lovely abstract shapes, especially if you can catch a few raindrops sitting on the leaves.

Because I have a tiny garden, when my bulbs are done, I pull them up and dry them ready to re-plant in autumn and then put my summer bedding in the same pots.  Consequently, my bulbs end up totally mixed up from one year to the next, so I’m never quite sure what any one individual bloom will be like, or any pot arrangement, adding a tiny frisson of excitement as they open.  Maybe I’m just easily excited.

 My work this week:

I’ve posted previously about the wild roses that I’ve made in paper, designing and cutting the components using the Silhouette Studio software and my Portrait cutter.  Whilst assembling one to stick onto a gift, I wondered if I could use the same basic structure with copper clay to make the same sort of flowers in metal.

I know that a lot of metal clay workers use the Silhouettes to actually cut thinly rolled clay for complex features like bezels and that was certainly one of the reasons I wanted the machine for myself.  But to date, I’m still having fun using the software and machine to make my own textures and design elements and I haven’t even tried cutting clay with it directly yet.

One of the original paper wild roses, alongside its metal counterpart.
One of the original paper wild roses, alongside its metal counterpart.

I wanted the roses to be fairly substantial in size, which would necessitate a decent thickness of sheet clay to work with, almost certainly beyond the cutting capacity of the Silhouette and I also wanted to shape the petals as I worked too – best done with wet clay.

A lot of the charm of actual wild roses is the curl and random shapes of the petals themselves and in this instance, I didn’t feel they should be too uniform in shape.  So instead, I used the cutter to create a template which I could cut around manually, allowing me to form each petal the same basic shape and size, but individually contoured, to give them the same natural variation you’d experience in real flowers.

Wild rose pendant in antiqued copper.
Wild rose pendant in antiqued copper.

The metal clay as a medium also allows a slightly different approach to details too – so the centre of the flower is more anatomically realistic, where the paper version is more of an impression of a real flower.  I did actually make the flower in pretty much the same way as the paper versions, in that I made each petal and allowed them to dry, then refined and assembled them onto a small circular base, adding the centre details last.

The large pendant has a simple loop on the back to hang from the chain, I didn’t want to bail, in this instance, to detract from the details of the flower.

Wild rose pendant made in copper metal clay.
Wild rose pendant made in copper metal clay.

Having made the large pendant, which is around 42mm (1.65″) in diameter, I wondered if I could work a smaller rose, to use on earrings etc.  I approached this slightly differently due to the size, creating my own cutter for the basic shape of the petals.  Other than that and simplifying the centre a little, the process was much the same.

With this pendant, I’ve applied the smaller wild rose to a basic textured circle frame, accompanied by a few rose leaves adjacent.  I have some other variants in progress to make into earrings, but at this point, my kiln was full anyway, so I have a second batch of pieces to fire shortly.

Circle pendant made in copper clay with a wild rose centre piece with accompanying leaves.
Circle pendant made in copper clay with a wild rose centre piece with accompanying leaves.


The wild rose circle pendant prior to firing.
The wild rose circle pendant prior to firing.

It is my habit with all metal clay work to keep a very detailed record of all pieces.  I keep a kiln log of the firing itself, with photos and measurements recorded in a separate log.  That way I know what brand of clay was used for a particular piece and when and how it was fired etc.  As I always like to see other artists pieces in progress, I’ll post a couple of pre-firing photos too.

Wild rose pendant in its finished state immediately before firing.
Wild rose pendant in its finished state immediately before firing.
18 Mar 2011

Mother Nature knows how to cheer us up

I apologise for yet another blog lacking in worthy literary content. I have been working and concentrating on other things recently and need to get back to my usual routine and thought processes and get some of the draft tutorials I have in the works actually finished. So in the short term, I’m going to fob you off with some photographs and hope it serves as a suitable distraction from the lack of actual information.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.
There is a dense patch of tiny tete-a-tete daffodils in the corner of the park – how could that fail to lift your spirits.
I’ve always had the idea that Mother Nature knows everyone is a bit fed up after winter and in need of something cheering and she came up with daffodils. Isn’t she clever?

It was a totally gorgeous spring day today – wall to wall sunshine (well, almost; the scant clouds always seem to know just when I’ve got myself into a preposterous position to take a photograph), deep blue sky and whilst the air was decidedly nippy and the breeze quite brisk, the sun was warm and I could hardly wait today to finish some tasks I needed to, so I could grab my hiking boots and head out for my lunchtime walk.

One thing leads to another – I stepped towards the railings along the river to see if there were any nice views to be had and as I looked carefully where I was standing to prevent me crushing any plants coming through the leaf litter, I saw a little cluster of small brown fungi – the structure of the gills is quite beautiful and clearly arranged in patterns of ascending size – you needed to get low to appreciate the structure, the photograph was taken on the ground. It was only around 25mm (1″) in diameter and the same sort of height. Whilst I’m bending down taking photos, I spotted my gnarled root photo prop.
I believe this fungi to be a Winter Twiglet – Tubaria hiemalis – apparently there are few traditional mushroom shaped fungi this early in the year and it certainly has the gill patterns which would identify the species.

That makes it sound like I scaled some strenuous peak, where in reality I walked a loop to the next village, tickled a cat, threw sticks for a gorgeous auburn coloured boxer dog, caught up on the family gossip with an old friend out tending her horse, took some photos and found a fabulous bit of dried gnarled root for a photo prop. As previously mentioned, I always have a tie handle bag in my pocket for the collection of such treasures. Dangling from my camera bag it must make passers-by wonder where I lost my dog, but I care not.

The house that faces this view is currently up for sale. I’ve looked at it a couple of times when it’s changed hands over the years, but I don’t think my pockets are anything like deep enough.

As I headed back, I got the flashing red icon to indicate that my camera batteries were going. I had spares with me, but didn’t want to bother trying to change them with cold fingers and without my glasses to see which way in they go. I managed to squeak a couple more out of these primroses.

I really should have made more progress on my to do list, but tickling cats, talking to boxers and old friends and sharing my day with pretty fungi, daffodils and primroses was far more agreeable. I can work when it’s dark.What on earth are they doing?

Maybe you can help to educate me – I saw these chickens at a farm shop recently and was perplexed by their actions. There was a dusty hollow in some dry earth in the shadow of a wall and the chickens were taking it in turns to ‘bathe’ in the dust. That much I can comprehend, but after some fluttering action, they would lie perfectly still for a while as though in total ecstasy, with their heads on their side. Then jump up and saunter off, like the white one who was clearly ‘done’.

I was tickled that the white chicken standing has markings on its side like a boot print. I sincerely hope that is is just patterns on the feathers.