Friday, April 30, 2010

Merry go round - a Merry Gift

It's time for another ride on the merry-go-round! Jump on and join a group of 9 artists/crafts-women as they link around the world and tell you a little about their lives in art and craft.

This month's topic is: A Merry Gift. Our little group of merry bloggers have become great friends from all around the world so we decided this month to each make a little something for one of the other merriers.  I drew names out of a hat as to who would make for whom, and we had the option of making something personalized or not.   Our blog post today is therefore to show off the gift we received and then we can link and see what the others got!  I'm eager to find out!

My gift came from Sara from Sara's Texture crafts.  Sara was one of the first people I connected with online when I started selling on Dawanda.  We both joined Dawanda at roughly the same time - 3 years ago - and I was always inspired about how often I saw her name in so many different places! She did and does a great job of marketing and connecting.

Her store has changed direction since then with more focus now on selling supplies and connecting "fiber" people together on forums and other platforms for learning, support and experimentation.  It's been great to see that path develop, and now all the new things that she seems to be trying.

I got a lovely lavendar heart as my gift from Sara.  The top of the heart is hand made felt in flesh tones and feels so soft and cozy - very  comforting.  It is adorned wtih beads and embroidery - and the beads just happen to be in my favorite color!

The reverse is maybe muslin or some such fabric (?) and now the fun begins as it turns into a scratch and sniff toy!  The lavender aroma comes through the fabric and even more so if you scratch it a little!  The scent is calming and it reminds me of my mum.   Not really sure why... I don't recall her wearing lavender perfume....we grow a lot of lavender here and while she and I have made lavender wands isn't that.  Anyhow - it doesn't matter why -  she comes to mind when I smell it and that just adds to the comfort and calming feeling.

I love it - including Sara's little tag on it which says " Handmade for you by Saras Texture Crafts".  It just adds to the piece and also provides a means of hanging it, if you want.  For me I'm going to put it in my closet between some clothes and then be pleasantly surprised when I take them out. 

Thank you Sara. I feel comforting love exuding from it!

I made something for Mariana at I'm not going to tell you - you'll have to go and take a look!  Her link is below, and  I hope you'll look at  all the other merriers so see what everyone made.   As we are all on different time zones, please be patient if someone has yet posted their merry gift!

Alison at Tweed Delights -
Mitsy at ArtMind -
Kim at Vilt a la Kim -
Sara at Crafts of Texture -
Fabienne at Easterya Jewellery Creations -
Mariana at Florcita -
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent -
Lily at Lily Pang Art and Design -

Thursday, April 29, 2010

2nd unusual bird sighting in Glen Ellen

As I mentioned yesterday, I wanted to show you the second rare bird sighting I've had this week here at Birdland.  Thanks Jennifer for your help yesterday in the identification.  You are a sharp-eyed woman!

So here is the other bird recently sighted in the vineyard:

Look at the bill on it!  Just amazing.  But still I'm undecided as to what it is.

I'm thinking its either a female Greater Billed Gobbler or the Dopey-eyed Billasaurus...

He/she has very distinctive markings on the chest - but I'm afraid I couldn't quite catch those in the maybe its a Chest-barred Chirper?

What do you think?  And yes - the two birds even came close together - as you can see here!

 And the large billed bird was busy nest building

 I think they quite like each other.....

So get those bird books out and help me identify these birdies!  Thanks, in advance, for your help!  I'll keep you posted of their activity........

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Unusual bird sighting in Glen Ellen

Springtime is definitely bringing the birds to Birdland!

Just today I've spotted two birds that I'm having trouble identifying.  I'm hoping you can help.  Please circulate the photos to see if your family and friends and any other birdwatchers out there can help identify the species.

Here's today's bird:

I'm thinking it could be the male Sharp-eyed Shufflerasis

or maybe a juvenile Lesser Flapasaurus

Or maybe it's the rare Bog-eyed Bugeater?

Any ideas?  Get your bird books out and see what you think!

I'll post photos of the other bird tomorrow so even if you can't figure out today's - be sure to come back tomorrow and see if you can help....please!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Doug the dog meets a Sloughi

I recently had a commission to make a charm like Doug the dog, but to make a few changes like:
  • add longer legs, 
  • add a longer tail, 
  • keep the same cute smile,
  • add a collar and chain,
  • add foldy over ears
The lady has a Sloughi dog and while she said it didn't have to look just like that - she wanted these little changes yet still maintaining the humor/whimsy that Doug has.

I just finished her doggie today. His name is Johann after Johann Sebastian Bach (as in bark!!!..... thanks Caulie!)  and that'll work out fine as he's going to live in Germany!  He's not as sleek and slim as a Sloughi but I think she'll like him.

Here's his smiling face

The essence of Sloughi in Doug!   He is to go on a leather and silver bracelet that she has which is why she wants it on a chain rather than just a jump ring.

I think he looks cute!  I'd never heard of a Sloughi dog before and not sure how you pronounce it - but they look pretty handsome!

Anyone got a Sloughi?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday's Millinery Musings - A Fine Straw Hat

By guest blogger Jennifer
Jennifer's Etsy Store

I generally make spring and summer hats from parisisal straw which I shape by hand and on the rare occasion starch and shape on a wooden hat block. I much prefer the organic, free-style approach to hat-making - a pleat here, a tuck there, a prodigious amount of steam, and sometimes wire to hold a particular shape, instead of formal blocking. In either case, however, parisisal is key to my operation.

Parisisal hood

The word parisisal is made up of two words that describe the straw: pari, the name of a particular weave structure, and sisal, the type of fiber used.  This straw is very fine, indeed. Beautiful, supple, durable, and is found in a wide spectrum of factory dyed colors. Parisisal comes to the milliner as either a hood (used to make small brimmed hats) or capeline (used for large brimmed hats) both generally referred to as "hat bodies". They are not hats. They hold the potential to become hats.

Parissal hoods in colors

Parisisal hat bodies are mostly made in China. The stunning fact about them is that they are made entirely by hand. It takes a skilled weaver about 25 hours to make one hood. This does not include the additional 4 hours to prepare the straw prior to weaving. Work begins at the "button" or center and many thousands of strands of sisal are used to weave the hood. The finished edge is  tightly woven to prevent raveling. At this point the hood is sent to the factory for finishing.

I appreciate deeply that I can begin my own work with what is already a wonderous work of art! I often think about the ladies, the homeworkers, who spend their days manufacturing these amazing hoods that require so much skill and focus.

A parisisal hood is ironed to make a hat

There is only one straw hood factory in the world now, and it is in China.  The culture there is changing rapidly and weavers are leaving their profession to take better paying jobs doing other things.

A parisisal hood is wired to make a hat

Parisisal hoods are becoming very exclusive.

A parisisal capeline is starched and shaped on a vintage  wooden block to make a hat

One day, like many things in millinery, parisisal hoods will disappear and that will be a sad day. But as happens with hatmaking, milliners are spurred on by lack and search for new materials that will shape their imaginations - new vehicles for their inspiration, wit and skill. Life is never dull for a milliner, there are always new frontiers to explore and new hats to make.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Etsy Treasury East

Etsy have created a new treasury "outlet" called Etsy East which means you can make as many treasuries as you like without the waiting.

Currently there are three that people have kindly shown some of my pieces in.   The treasuries are larger than before so sorry I can't take a screenshot of the whole thing!  If you click on the link, you'll see the full 16 items.

The first one was created by FavreBijoux and entitled Metalsmiths and Fine Jewelry on Etsy and features my necklace "anyone can dance"

The second was created by Stephanieburciaga and entitle Metal:Wood and features Rupert the Bird

The third features members of the Etsy Metal Clay team and was created by Lorena Angulo  and is entitled Metal Clay  + Craftsmanship = Etsy Metal Clay Team and features my birdtracks bracelet.

It's always lovely when people feature your work.  Many thanks for that.

In celebration of all these lovely treasuries, I made one myself too, featuring the Etsy Metal Clay team. It's entitled "Bloomin' lovely" and shows lots of floral works.

Sunday's Spotlight - Spring has Sprung!

By guest blogger Pete.

No one seemed to detect my "deliberate" mistake in last week's blog, when I credited Jimmy  Connors with making Gene Kelly look as though he had two left feet.  In actual fact it was Donald O'Connor who had the aforementioned effect on  Gene.  What do you mean "deliberate", I heard you saying - (I've got very good hearing!!!).  Okay, you win.  Put it all down to "crinkly" weaknesses.  At least I nearly got the surname right!

We did see Debbie on Sunday. How's that for name dropping?   "Whose Debbie?" my extraordinary hearing hears you ask.  Well, Debbie Reynolds, of course.  A very entertaining afternoon it was as well.

She is an extremely professional performer. In fact I would say that her one weakness was that she was too professional.  Of course she didn't dance - at 76 years of age  (our local paper said that she was 77, but that's par for the course) -but you can't expect her to give a repeat performance of "Singing in the Rain".  She was a bit unsteady on her pins and the one fear I had was that she'd fall; fortunately that didn't happen.

The poster advertising her performance read "ALIVE and well".  As someone who shall remain nameless but has the initials RB said, " Just as well that she is alive or it wouldn't have been much of a performance!"  in actual fact she joked continuously about her age and closeness of death  so the poster blurb wasn't as wrong as it may have sounded (or read).

She cracked some great gags and turned out to be a very talented impersonator.  She now has a bit of gruffness in  her speaking voice - this enabled her to do a first class impersonation of Jimmy Stewart.  That gruffness, however, disappeared when she sang.

Although she received a standing ovation at the end of her performance it was a pity that she didn;t think an encore worth while.  A few years ago we saw an equally aged Tony Bennett at the Sonoma Jazz Festival.  Of the two I would say that Tony Bennett's performance outshone that of Debbie Reynolds.

Over the early May bank holiday the churches flower festivals in the South Holland district of southern Lincolnshire begin.  As you read this that festival started yesterday and will go on until Monday week.  Pam and I plan to visit Long Sutton tomorrow.  That town has a large church and they draw flower arrangers from all over the midlands.  It's a long drive but worth it.  The photos for this blog are taken from last years South Holland flower festival.

Keep on singing.  If you want to see Debbie Reynolds then she's due to preform at the Leeds Grand Theatre tonight at 7.30 p.m. (UK time).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What's (Gluten Free) Baking Today?

I'm doing a little gluten free baking today - and trying a new bread recipe.

If you've never tried gluten free bread before - I suggest keeping  it that way.  Typically it isn't very good but I'm on a mission to find a good recipe for myself that can be made relatively quickly.

At the moment the dough is rising by the Aga (my cooker).....

and I'll bake it in a couple of hours or so....... Fingers crossed it'll turn out better than most GF loaves.

I made a couple of gluten free tarts recently that turned out well.  Here is the slow roasted tomato and gruyere tart:

And the even yummier souffled crab and asparagus tart:

If you have any wonderful gluten free baking recipes - especially bread that is tasty - I'd love you to share them with me.....

I'll let you know how this bread recipe turns out.... Enjoy your day and eat some yummy food!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Colors of Columbine - Friday's fascinations, facts and folklore

After dinner this evening, I went outside to pick some Columbines from the garden.  We have masses in flower right now.  They must have re-seeded well last year and just look spectacular. Some of them are really tall, and in lots of different shades.

I just love the shape of the petals of Columbines (Aquilegia).  It is quite a complex shape and one I wish I could sculpt.  I have actually made some silver earrings of the seed pods of Columbines but that was quite a few years ago....

The flower name people say: The name Columbine comes from the appearance of the flower looking to some as a circle of doves (Latin: columba) drinking around a fountain?????

The Aquilegia name is because the knobbed spurs look like the talons of an eagle (Latin: aquila)!!! Hmm...what's in a name anyhow??....

We, and the hummingbirds, are graced with such a wonderful abundance this year so its nice to bring some indoors to enjoy as well.  

Which is your favorite color? I think I like the soft blue/purple the best....

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gertrude's Garden Party

A couple of months ago, I had a request to make a ring based on the design of my "come rain or shine" necklace.

I had quite a few conversations with the customer advising her that the design isn't particularly well suited to a ring as it stands tall and could get knocked and the such....but the customer really wanted it - and wanted it on an adjustable ring.  She totally accepted that it was a "cocktail" ring, would need care when wearing and that it was a crazy idea - but she just really wanted it. 

She also wanted to add some color to the design which I was a little doubtful of to begin with - but hey, I was doubtful of the ring in the first place so might as well as some color too!

So in the end, she got her crazy ring - and she loves it! She wears it carefully - in Australia where she lives -  and gets lots of comments.  She asked me to name the bird and ring and so I decided it looked like a Gertrude who was all dressed up and going for garden party, complete with her own flower parasol! Thus "Gertrude's Garden Party".

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An octopus got out!!!

Yes,  Octavius has got out!  That clever little octopus!!!

He was seen on MustHaveCute this week:

I didn't even know of MustHaveCute but obviously Octavius is better connected that I am - probably something to do with having 8 arms instead of my two!

And while he was there, someone kindly adopted him so he's heading off to Massachusetts!  Do they know what they are letting themselves in for?  Octopedes can be slippery customers....

Nate and Kate were meant to go to their new owners tonight too - but I'm not feeling so good - so they get to live with me for a little while and look after me!  Sorry Elaine!

Looks like we'll have to see if more octopedes babes are due anytime soon.....  Keep your feelers out...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Master Muse Projects

I'm busy working on my next master muse project.  It's just finishing up in the kiln as I type and then the fun begins!  I need to send it in this week, so hopefully I'll finish it tomorrow and can then get on with writing up the step by step project.

I hope you've been checking out what the other muses have been doing.  Vickie Hallmark last week showed a ring for the torch fired enamels challenge, using enamelling on a copper disc. 

 Photo by Drew Davidson
The previous week was Barbara Becker Simon who had the same challenge as Vickie and made a colorful pendant.

Photo by Drew Davidson

A new project will go up on Tonya's blog site tomorrow - be sure to have a look.  I'll let you know when my next one is coming up.  Luckily for me it's not on torch firing enamels, as I've no idea how to do that!  Guess I'll have to get one of the tutorials and learn!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Business Matters - Outright Bookkeeping software

Last week I spoke about NeatReceipts - a scanner and software program that enables you to scan in your receipts and then creates a database of all the information.  At the same time as starting to use NeatReceipts, I also found Outright - which is free online bookkeeping software.

Here are some key features of Outright:
  • it's great for small business
  • it tracks income and expenses
  • the software is free
  • there is nothing to download  - this is cloud technology - but safe and protected
  • it imports income and expenses from Paypal
  • it's simple to use
  • it's really simple to use!

It shows simple profit and loss graphs providing quick visual checks on how each month is going.

The company is quite young so they are still developing the software and improvements are being made all the time.  The main reasons I chose it was a) because it's soooooooo simple to use, and b) because it can import all my paypal data automatically and I use paypal for the majority of my income and large percentage of my expenses.

The only downside re. their Paypal system is that currently, they can only import in US dollars.  As I have two currency accounts on paypal - US dollars and Euros - it won't convert the euros.....but this is one of the things they are currently working on.  I can instead convert all my payments in paypal to dollars which gets around it.

There are only four tabs: Income, expenses, taxes and reports.  In the reports section you can search by date,  income by category (which you can set yourself), income by customer, expenses by vendor, expenses by category etc etc.

If you want a complicated system, with lots of bells and whistles this is not for you.  If you currently don't have a computerized system, this is free to try and easy to set up so worth a go!  For me, the fact that it imports Paypal data means its a great instant check on transactions and a back up for my pen and paper records.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday's spotlight - Debbie Reynolds

By guest blogger Pete.

In the 1960s we lived in South West Africa - now known as Namibia.  Our home was in the port of Walvis Bay.  Now Walvis Bay is situated in the tropics and such a location is usually associated with fairly continuous hot weather.  Not so Walvis Bay!  An Antarctic current, known as the Benguela Current, reaches the African continent roundabout Walvis Bay.

There are a number of pluses to be gained from this.  The weather is cooler than inland; in fact it was known for me to wear a jumper!  But the big plus was the abundance of fish, particularly pilchards, to be found off the Namibian coast. Fishing off the quay at Swakopmund was more an exercise than a sport!  Walvis Bay was a boom town but that statues was not associated with gold deposits but rather in the richness of the sea.

Photo by FreeCat
Walvis Bay is the only deep sea port in the country so the various fish factories there in the town have a ready means of exportation to markets throughout the world.  If you've ever had a tin of pilchards then the chances are that they originated in Walvis Bay.  When we were there the main export was fish meal.  You've got to live in a small town with nine large fish factories all producing tons of fish meal to know what life is like and how it affects your sense of smell.

This Benguela Current hitting the heat of the tropics produced many foggy, and so, cold days.  Entertainment was a bit sparse and when we arrived the only cinema in town was boasting of a premiere season of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films.  I kid you not!

You had to travel about 10 miles inland before you began to feel the tropical heat.  In Windhoek, the capital and a few thousand feet above sea level, we used to stagger from cafe to cafe in search of ice cold drinks.  This city boasted a drive in cinema.  There you literally parked your car in front of a huge screen and either sat outside in your own garden chairs to listen to a watch the film or else you clipped  a speaker inside you car  and watched from there.  A friend of ours' came from the U.K. to visit us one Christmas.  Just before she flew home we took her for her one and only visit to a drive in movie.  The film wasn't specially attractive - an early Batman film - but there was only one night when we could take her so off we went.  Seasonal rain didn't improve the experience now did having to watch the adventures of Batman and Robin through windscreen wipers make the film any better.

It was in Windhoek, however, that Pam and I saw one of Debbie Reynolds least well know films, "The Singing Nun".  Sounds awful but, in actual fact, it was very good even if a bit on the yukkie side.  She starred in quite a few films with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor.  There was a dancer for you.  Connors made Gene Kelly appear to have two left feet!

But I digress.  (I read recently that you can now begin sentences with "and" and "but" so why not indulge yourselves?  On Sunday Debbie Reynolds is making a one day appearance in Lincoln's Theatre Royal and Pam and I are going to see her.  More of that next week.

In the meantime, keep singing in the rain  -  get it?