14 May 2012

Spring green – such an optimistic colour

Firstly, apologies, I did promise that my next blog would be on the stages that a piece of copper clay goes through, but I need to retrospectively take some photos on another piece, for stages I overlooked when making the piece to be featured – a decision I only initially made once I’d started and progressed with the piece.

But we did get out on Saturday for a nice walk and some very welcome fresh air and I wanted to post the photographs I took, if only so that I can find them again.  That is, if the new ‘streamlined’ Blogger interface will allow me.  If it’s as slow and tedious as the last post I made proved to be, I may well not include many images after all!

Please click on any photographs to see a larger view.  If your browser has the option, clicking to open in a new tab or window will allow you to see it at the full size I prepared it at.

My husband had commitments in the morning, but when he returned, the weather was looking pretty decent, so we hurriedly decided not to waste any more of the day and made and ate some lunch, got ready and packed some refreshments for later in the day and headed out to one of our favourite spots, at Beacon Fell in Lancashire.

The young pine trees were all exploding with vibrant new foliage.  Trees in the better light were further progressed, but those in deeper shadow still bore their little papery sheaths over the new growth of needles.  The green of the emerging needles was almost unnaturally bright and in stark contrast to the darker older growth.  As I understand it, they only grow in this manner as young trees, developing needles differently as they age?

It’s a Lancashire County Council run forest park with a visitor centre, toilets, cafe that also serves ice creams (we had one and made like we were on holiday), lots of car parking salted throughout the woodland (and even using the main car park only costs £1 GB Pound per day) and an infinite variety of walking, with miles of well made paths snaking and criss-crossing through the trees and adjacent moorland – meaning that you can walk as much or little as you wish – with many paths with disabled access, there’s something suitable for everyone.  It’s our default ‘day out’ location as it’s about 20 miles from home, has everything we need, is open all year and I suspect that we often head there, because the drive to it is a pleasure in itself.  Perhaps our favourite time is in winter; on crisp clear days, especially mid-week, when we often have the place much to ourselves.  Sunny summer Sundays, not so much.

This little group of beech trees were just opening into leaf and catching a ray of sunshine – very momentarily – through the dense trees.  The colour was pure optimism; the brightest freshest perfect green of a new generation, in sharp relief to the brown of their past-foliage underneath, which will go on to decay and nourish the tree for the future.

We’ve visited so often over very many years (Mr Boo was in a Scout party that helped lay some of the paths, over 40 years ago) that we must now have seen it in every possible weather and time of year.  But each time we visit, there’s something different of interest and each season has its own particular pleasures.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I am especially fond of the wild species that grow at this time of year  – and especially those in deciduous woodland – the small delicate flowers that blossom on the woodland floor before more robust vegetation will steal their light.  We rounded a corner to find this lone little patch of delicate pink flowers, amongst the fallen, moss-engulfed logs, which I think are Pink Purslane, looking a little like a Stitchwort, but pink.

This weekends particular pleasure was that gorgeous emergence of spring flowers and early foliage, when everything is at its most pristine, with the promise of summer to come, but before leaves have been ravaged by weather and insects – when everything is at the most perfect and the colours most intense and vibrant.

In looking through my wild flower books to identify the plant above, I was struck by the gorgeous names of old fashioned English wild flowers, such evocative and descriptive names as Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Lady’s Bedstraw, Nipplewort, Frogbit and Butcher’s Broom.

Most of the ground in clearings and path edges amongst the coniferous areas had a new bright green carpet of Bilberry bushes with their gorgeous, almost hidden, tiny bell-shaped flowers in a delicate translucent red – what my wild flower book called “nodding globular flowers”. I really couldn’t do them justice and was struggling to even focus properly on them as they truly were nodding in the very brisk breeze, whole branches moving several inches back and forth, so this is the best I managed.  They’re so pretty, it’s well worth bending down and turning back a few leaves to have a look at them – they look like berries at a casual glance.

After our walk, as it was drawing close to the time that they lock the gates on the smaller in-tree car parks, we relocated to one of the quieter road-side spots with a good view, to have a bite to eat and a warm drink and we parked next to a field with a handful of sheep, each with a single lamb.  They must have thought that we were ‘the man’ that brings their supper as they all came galloping over, baa-ing loudly for their supper and were a little put-out that we obviously weren’t who they’d hoped to see.

My work this week:

I worked on two significant – and rather different – projects this week – one was to create some more copper clay components for designs I have in mind.  It’s the sort of work where I have to work in sessions amongst other work, as it takes time to dry enough to handle for filing and shaping, then it needs a little longer to dry thoroughly until it can be fired – then that process ends a little drawn out as I do them in small batches as I’m torch firing – then pickle and polish etc. etc.  This is a batch of finished components between filing and firing; I can’t resist polishing them a little to reveal the metal appearance as it gives me a better idea of how they might look as finished.

I had a couple of orders for rings this week, so once I had my eye in and was set up for ring making, I made a few more to replenish my craft fair stock – going back to earlier designs that I haven’t made for a while.  I don’t know how I feel about making rings – I enjoy the process in itself, but worry about the whole sizing issue – perhaps because my fingers change size a dozen times a day and I rarely wear fashion rings for that reason.  So I worry about someone getting a ring I’ve made and not being able to wear it, even though I know it was sent the size they ordered – what if they measured wrong themselves, or their fingers swell as much as mine do?  Earrings a little longer or shorter than expected wouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but a ring has to be spot on.

Of the designs I’ve made over the last few days, I think I might now offer a few of the more repeatable designs on-line and see how they are received.  I’m happy to sell them at craft fairs as people can simply try them on and choose one they like, but on-line has always felt more problematic and a little uncomfortable.  The wire wrapped rings are the ones I’ve sold in person in the past as they can be made with any bead with a hole and inexpensively enough for impulse treats.

I love the colour of these Czech pressed melon beads against the copper and have enough to offer these as made to order rings, along with the more delicate rosebud knot ‘stacker’ variant of my hammered band ring, as shown below.  I’ll see how I feel about them in a few days time.

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.

2 Oct 2011

Autumn scenes and a heatwave

As those in the UK will already know, we’ve had a glorious Indian summer period this week, with record breaking temperatures and wall to wall sunshine lasting several days. A fabulous and much-appreciated treat.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger, better quality, view.
I just love to see sunshine filtering through trees – which can be quite a challenge to do justice to photographically – your eyes are much more efficient at taking in the subtle nuances of the lighting on the scene than the camera can manage in a single shot.

We didn’t want to waste the opportunity yesterday of the last fabulous day forecast in this run, so we dealt with our errands in the morning and packed the picnic basket and set off to get some much needed fresh air and to stretch our legs.

I don’t know much about them, but I do love taking photographs of wild fungi – maybe because they grow in my very favourite environment, so are synonymous to me with being in places I love.
I think this particular photograph was my favourite of the day – I like taking low level macro shots and especially with a slightly wide field of view to give a hint of the wider scene for context.

It was rather incongruous to be walking through very autumnal woodland, with dry golden leaves underfoot and some trees already almost bare, yet for it to be sweltering hot and us to be glad of the shade under the trees and the gentle breeze. We often get a lovely period at this time of year, which is why we’re usually away on holiday at this time, but it was incredibly hot for the first day of October.

We chuckled when we remembered doing the same walk in August in fastened up coats, scarves and gloves when the brisk wind was too bitter to eat outside and we retreated inside the car for lunch.

This tiny emerging fly agaric mushroom was about 6 feet away from the clump I photographed and posted recently – no doubt part of the same colony, which grow on the roots of trees and these are the above-ground fruiting bodies.

I can’t resist little scenes like this where a natural detail is highlighted in a shaft of sunlight, emphasised by areas of shadow behind.

I took this frame, then as I turned the camera to take a more vertical shot from the centre, the sun vanished behind the trees and was gone for the day.

I don’t have much else to report this week, I’ve been dealing with things that are beyond the remit of my blog and not very interesting, but I’ll try to add something more worthy and interesting next week – I really should address some of the many tutorial or technical subjects I have as ‘works in progress’.

In closing I’ll add a couple more photographs from the first of the nice days earlier in the week before it got quite so hot, but I managed to get a nice walk in during the day – after all, I can work when it’s dark and it’s a shame to miss out on such nice – and rare – opportunities. This is one of the lovely advantages of being self-employed, you can at least manage your time in this manner.

I’ve taken this standing in the local park and looking towards a field that usually has several horses in it, but they were out being ridden at the time. One of them at the fence would have finished this off nicely. I took this particular series of shots using an in-camera film simulation (Astia) which tends to give a rather yellow tone to images, thinking that it might work well with the colours on this particular day.

I posted a similar frame of this scene last week, but the light was rather better on this occasion and I made a better job of metering the scene and it has some additional warmth from the film simulation used too.

23 Sep 2011

A pocketful of conkers

Due to some of the heaviest rainstorms we’ve had for some time, I’ve not been getting out much during the day for a walk – I start off my day fully intending to, but dark clouds always seem to know when you need or want to be outside and gather accordingly. We had to cut our walk short last Sunday as the heavens opened in a spectacular deluge.

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

There was clear evidence of recent heavy storms, this mature tree had fallen and done damage to the wall and pavement beneath.

It always happened doing the school run – it’s a known scientific fact that weather worsens as school home time approaches – and you can get very wet walking almost a mile in a downpour. The same force seems to ensure that we have lousy weekend weather and glorious Mondays.

The last hard winter has given rise to a bumper crop of berries and fruits, these are perhaps the biggest hawthorn berries I’ve ever seen, they were like cherries.

I desperately had the need for some fresh air yesterday so decided, as soon as we had a spell of better weather, to just drop what I was doing, put my boots on and grab the camera and what might be a short-lived opportunity. I decided that the break and fresh air would probably do more good than me battling on working. I actually had assorted thinking to do, but didn’t even manage that, I just pottered, taking photos, gawping at the scenery and with a largely empty head. Sometimes that’s just what you need; a bit of mental inactivity can be deceptively productive.

There was a distinctly late-summer feel to the vegetation with everything bursting into seed and fruit.

I must admit that I do get a tad bored of doing the same walks, it’s times like this that I regret not having a car (I’d have to learn to drive first too) and being able to take myself a little further afield, but I also want to walk where I feel safe and comfortable and I do at least have some open countryside within walking distance of my door, so I can’t really complain.

I’ve always had a bit of a fixation with this old gatepost and others like it. I worry that one day it will be gone and replaced with something modern, boring looking and utilitarian.

I normally don’t venture down this route alone, as it’s very quiet (and I’m a pussy), but it just looked – and sounded – too tempting.

I usually stick to known routes on my own that are fairly public and near houses and roads, but the dappled sunshine through the trees and accompanying birdsong tempted me to walk the circular route through the two adjacent villages. It’s much quieter than my usual route and I normally only do it with other people, but it looked that bit more attractive than returning and seeing the same things.

I’m glad that I did, it was the perfect day for it and I was treated to sunlight filtering through the trees (it wasn’t always sunny, it left me a few times and was alarmingly dark to the north), undisturbed fallen conkers to stuff in my pockets and was serenaded by the woodland birds and very little else.

I live in an area that is a combination of industrial and greenbelt – often directly adjoining each other and even where it’s now quiet and no longer worked, the signs of the Victorian heritage are very evident. Even though I’ve shown the prettiest parts of the route, I also have to walk along a main road and through industrial yards to be able to enjoy the nicer green bits.

It was however somewhat breezy, so some of my photographs suffered for it, but you really can’t beat coming home with rosy cheeks, wind-tousled hair, muddy boots and pocketfuls of conkers!

I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a conker fall from a tree, they just appear on the ground, but one of these blighters actually got me hard on the bonce whilst I was gathering others. I did look up sharply, half expecting to see an irritated squirrel taking aim with another.