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.

6 Mar 2015

Mother Nature knows how to cheer us up

Spring is Nature’s way of saying “let’s party!”   Robin Williams.

I had always planned to make a large painting of the early spring, when the first leaves are at the bottom of the trees, and they seem to float in space in a wonderful way. But the arrival of spring can’t be done in one picture.  David Hockney

I discussed in my previous post the fabulous showing of snowdrops I have this year.  Unfortunately, they’re now passing their best and the first to flower are now withering, but I can still enjoy them for a little longer yet.

A little splash of cheery sunshine in my otherwise largely dormant garden.
A little splash of cheery sunshine in my otherwise largely dormant garden.

I also mentioned that the first crocuses were also emerging, adding a much needed and appreciated colour amongst the grass at the front of the house.

Yesterday I had one of my weekly chores to attend to – fetching the wheelie bin from outside the house and putting it away.  I always keep a selection of planted plots in front of them in a vague and largely ineffective attempt at bin-subterfuge, so it’s a tad tedious to position the bin and replace them all – especially in bad weather.

How fabulous is the curled structure of these crocus petals with their tiny delicate stripes.
How fabulous is the curled structure of these crocus petals with their tiny delicate stripes.

Having done that, I decided, as the sun was briefly out between showers, to survey our tiny walled garden and get a bit of much-needed fresh air.  I’d done the same task a few days ago, so wasn’t expecting any surprises, but was delighted to find that a good number of my bulb planting was reaping rewards with quite a few crocuses in flower and even a handful of the Tête-á-tête daffodils already in bloom – where a mere few days ago, they looked to be well off showing any colour.

I’ve always held the view that spring bulbs are Mother Nature’s way of cheering us up after the cold and lack of colour in winter.  She’s jolly clever; it works a treat.  I love this period where the worst of winter is behind you (but may yet come back for a bite) and the whole of spring and summer is ahead.

I couldn't even begin to catch the fabulous lustre of these purple crocuses.
I couldn’t even begin to catch the fabulous lustre of these purple crocuses.

I took some photographs, largely to cheer me up if nothing else. I suspect, if you want to trawl back through my posts, that you’ll find that I do this every year.  But it was quite breezy and the sun that was out when I set off to grab my camera only lasted about 2 minutes after I fired it up – so the photos aren’t quite as cheery as they would have been with sun on them.

It has been my habit for a few years to make a mental note of the time of day that the garden blackbirds noisily roost each evening – I used to actually document it for a while.  In the depths of winter if can be well before 4pm and last night, I noted that it was the first evening that it was after 6pm, so it felt like another little milestone towards summer was passed – the evenings are tangibly lengthening now.

My work this week:

These Carnelian and Butter Jade beads look like berries.
These Carnelian and Butter Jade beads look like berries.

I’ve spent a great deal of my working week spiral wrapping various gemstones for bracelets and necklaces to commission.  I’ve also made a couple of new ones for sale.  I loved how these deep red Carnelian and lovely fresh green butter jade looked together; like berries at differing stages of ripeness.

In fact, I’m only even getting chance to write this post as I’m giving my fingers a rest between sessions of polishing.  I find the bit that suffers most is my left thumb, in trying to keep a tight grip on the piece that my right hand is busy polishing – the smaller the piece, the greater the discomfort.  I’ve tried an assortment of gripping devices and methods over the years, but there’s nothing that can match the subtle changes of grip and positioning that the human thumb can manage.

beads riveted to hammered copper paddles.
Large Palmwood saucer beads riveted to hammered copper paddles.

Whilst ordering some of the gemstones I needed this week, I decided to try some wooden beads my supplier had to offer.  Wood has the advantage of being very light compared to gemstones and glass and for earring wearers like myself that can’t get on with weighty earrings, means that I can offer something quite chunky in size that is still comfortable to wear.

I paired these gorgeous Palmwood saucer beads with some hammered copper paddles cut from thin copper sheet and they’ve been riveted in place with balled bronze pins.  I chose bronze as the colour, once it’s been melted, is quite close to the colour of copper anyway, but the bronze makes an especially nicely round ball when melted and is lovely to rivet with.  The beads were called saucers, but they’re rather more like shallow bicones as they’re quite tall at the centre hole, which isn’t obvious at the angle shown.

7 May 2012

Woodland pretties

We did one of our favourite walks this Sunday, one we can do from the front door. Our son was visiting for the day with his girlfriend and it’s a pretty spot at this time of year, so was an ideal pre-lunch appetiser.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view. If your browser has the option to open the image in a new tab, you’ll get to see them at the size I prepared them.

Added later: I finally got to identify this plant, it just didn’t appear in any of my wildflower books – it would appear that it’s Water Avens (Geum rivale) a member of the rose family – I was wrongly thinking it was a geranium/cranesbill variety.

My husband and I did the same walk last Saturday and then it was bitterly cold in a very brisk wind (and we were jolly glad of hats, scarves and gloves) and was threatening rain the entire time and did in fact make good on that threat as we walked the last 20 yards to the front door. We’d commented that there were likely to be a lot of bluebells and that they were only just starting to flower.

After a week of sunny spells and lots of rain, they’ve positively romped away this week, along with several other woodland pretties; there were splashes of blue, pink and yellow amongst the gorgeous vibrant spring green emerging foliage and unfurling fern fronds. It was significantly more colourful than a mere 8 days ago.

It’s one of my very favourite things, to see woodland flowers at this time of year, before the greenery has really taken off and hides some of the more delicate ground-hugging species.

The walk was pretty dark initially, but as we returned, the sun came out again and I was able to grab a few photographs toward the end of the walk. If we get a nice spell this week, I’ll walk that way on my own and spend more time getting some closer shots, there are some side paths that meander through the trees, so I can get deeper into the woodland and closer to the patches of bluebells.

The primroses are a slight cheat in that I took these photographs earlier in the week. I especially like this patch as they’re growing on top of a wall, so I don’t need to grovel in the mud to photograph them and I also get to smell them too – they have a lovely delicate fragrance, which we don’t always get to appreciate as they grow so low.

My work this week:

I’ve finished several pieces – and that’s the fun part – getting them all photographed and listed isn’t quite as much fun – but something I will have to face in the next few days. I was in the mood for making something with beads – after I’d bought some very pretty colours on Etsy for use with copper. Although, as luck would have it, I didn’t use as may of those as I started out expecting to – I veered off on a tangent somewhat.

I was looking for some components in my box of assorted things that didn’t quite make it into a finished piece yet and a combination of shapes falling together in front of me gave me the idea for this wrapped wire loop bail – allowing me to combine a spiralled wire bail loop with a large eye to decorate with beaded dangles. The central focal bead is an odd colour, it looks very orange in daylight (and my daylight photography light) and yet quite a buttery yellow in artificial light – and in which light, the greens I accented with the faceted Czech glass donuts are rather more prominent too. I topped it with a copper clay bead cap and matched it with a pair of delicate green beads on some matching chain links.

These eye links are a shape I made often, early in my jewellery making career, as fancy headpins, but I was trying to fashion an art deco/nouveau stylised rose for a particular idea and these came back to mind. So I’ve put together 3 hammered links in these antiqued copper earrings.

Another variant of the wrapped loop bail eye, adorned with assorted purple glass and amethyst beads and a single flower-imprinted dangle, made in copper clay.

I used the same ‘eye’ links in these feature earwires for these copper clay spiral oval earrings.

My next blog . . .

. . . will be a work in progress (WIP) report on this necklace and earring set. They’re made with copper clay and wire, then antiqued and coloured. I’ve taken a series of photographs as I made them and want to show the amount of work and processes involved in creating pieces like this.

25 Feb 2011

Spring is tapping on the window

We had a lovely day yesterday. It started damp, misty and grey, but by 10:00am it was lifting and the sky brightening. By the time people were enjoying their elevensies, it was bright sunshine and pretty much clear blue sky.

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

The trees still look bare, but there’s activity brewing in them.

I wasn’t going to waste it by being inside, so picked up my camera (I’m still extensively ‘testing’ my new one) and headed out for a walk – I wasn’t going far, just one of my usual lunchtime walks of just over a mile. One route I do regularly has a steep hill, so offers more cardiovascular value, the other undulates much more gently, but has more scenic value. I opted for scenic enjoyment over workout in the sunshine, on this occasion.

I promised you some snowdrops.

There was very a very definite air of spring – I saw my first daffodils, heard birds singing like their lives depended on it, horses going daft being frisky, ducks canoodling and more people than usual out doing the same thing as me.

Not my best photograph, the ones flowering were in the middle of a large patch, so I had to take them from quite a distance. But it was lovely to see the first ones in bloom.

I chatted with the lady who lives adjacent to the memorial garden in one corner of the park and must maintain it – I think she thought as I bent to photographs the snowdrops that I was interfering with them, so sauntered over to check. She said it was official that spring had a arrived, as a pair of ducks that court in her pond before raising a brood, had arrived yesterday and tapped their beaks on the glass of her kitchen window to tell her that they’ve arrived and would like a welcoming snack please.

If you look closely you can see her husband nestled down behind the dead grass.

I remembered to take a drink this time and found a picnic table in the park in full sunshine and allowed myself the indulgence of 15 minutes sitting there doing nothing other than allowing the sun to soak into my face that was hungry for it and listening to birds and half-term children playing in t-shirts. It felt like spring, it looked like spring and it certainly sounded like spring.

The park is almost completely circled by mature trees.

I took this photograph at the weekend in damp, very cold, dark woodland, which seemed a world away today.