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.

19 Jul 2011

This weeks fixation is . . .

Further to my last post about the new teardrop pendant I’d been working on, as often is the case, I get somewhat fixated with a design idea or technique and work several variants of it in short order.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

I don’t suppose for one minute that I’m any different from other designers in this respect – once you get attuned to working on something, your mind just runs away with it and the more you work, the more variants and ways you can use the element pop into your mind.

Thus is has been over the last few days. I’ve fine-tuned my method so that I can make them consistently and with a symmetrical shape and my head is full of ideas to work on – like it needed any more in there fighting for my attention.

The first photographs above are of what was the initial prototype I made from a soldered oval I already had on my bench. As the soldered join was a little untidy, I thought it might be nice to cover it with a molten silver nugget and make a feature of it. It was also quite small and didn’t have much weight to it, so this will help it hang nicely. I’m going to keep this one myself and as I almost always wear pendants on a Sterling silver snake chain, the silver nugget will co-ordinate with that.

I also made some larger copper teardrops, more in line with the shape of the silver one – which had been my intended shape all along. I kept one highly polished and plain like the silver and another I adorned with an internal squiggle with hammered molten button ends, wrapped to the outer teardrop frame and supplemented with a couple of wrapped tiny copper beads – antiqued to enhance the textures.

It perhaps isn’t evident from the photographs above, but the bails are at 90 degrees to the body of the teardrops , so that they hang perfectly perpendicular to the chain they’re on. I’d photographed at angles to show the twist between the two loops of the teardrop and bail eye, but it does sit straight and central to the body of the pendant. I’ll unfortunately have to leave my ideas for a day or two as I have other non-jewellery work to do.

Post script:

Famous last words above; I knew I wouldn’t be able to help myself. I had to wait for a client to get back to me today before I could complete some work for them and I was able to finish this further variation that I started a couple of days ago. I’ve done various pieces with rosebud knots in the past and seeing (at the time) a rosebud knot piece in the ‘I’m currently working on’ box on the right, I wondered if it could be combined with the teardrop shape – which would rely on the knot retaining its shape whilst I made the pendant shape above it – which places quite some forces on the metal.

Thankfully, in this gauge of wire, it did and I was thrilled to bring two of my favourite recent techniques together. Even as I write that, I have a further idea to bring the teardrop together with another of my often used techniques – so it’s off to the sketch book yet again.

This version is made from a single length of heavy copper wire, which hasn’t been soldered in this instance, the knot holds it together.