Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday's spotlight - 50th Anniversary

By guest blogger Pete

This next week looks like being a busy week for Pam and me so I thought it would be a good idea to set to and write this blog before that week even began . The reason why, in all likelihood, that it is going to be so busy, is that Friday 29th May marks the 50th anniversary of my ordination in Winchester Cathedral. On Friday various close friends of ours are coming to Lincoln to help us celebrate the event at our local church Unfortunately, Ruth can't be there but she has persuaded some of the adults in her cathedral choir to record the hymns for that service so that we can play them for others to join in with. That will give us a link with our younger daughter and her a link with us.

After the service Pam is arranging a meal together, which will give plenty of time to renew old friendships. I have worked in quite a few places beginning on a 30,000 population new housing estate in Southampton, moving from there to Tilbury and then to Walvis Bay, in what was then known as South West Africa but is, today, called Namibia. When we returned to the UK we moved to Chesterfield, from there to Grantham and next onto Warminster. North Hykeham was our final working destination before retirement took us 2 miles down to road to where we now live.

I have managed to wash the car down after the MUDDY journey to the sticky pastures of Belvoir Castle last week. Unfortunately, I have not - as yet - managed to get the mud off my trainers. Pam is to blame for that! I was going to do it yesterday but she said, "Leave it until a bit later!" Now, I am a very obedient husband and would not go against my boss' instructions. The Boy Scouts used to have a great money raising idea called "Bob a Job". For any non UK readers (and maybe for a few of those as well!) a "bob" was the nickname given to our old one shilling (now worth 5p). I don't, for a moment, think I could get a scout to clean my muddy trainers for 5p but I'd be more than willing to negotiate a new rate. Please contact me via the "comments" on this blog site.......

I write this post waiting for the TV man to come and replace or repair our broken DVD/Video player. He was supposed to be here for his first call of the day at 10 a.m.. It's now 11.30 a.m. and a recent telephone call revealed that he had forgotten to add the booking in the workshop diary to the shop diary but that he is on his way. I had a look out of the window to see if there was any sign of him and the iris flowers in our front garden caught my eye. This year must have been an exceptionally good one for irises (or is it "irisi"?) so I thought a photo or two for the blog would be in order. For the past two years we've been away at the time the irisi or irises were at their best. This year we've really enjoyed them every time we've been out of the house. A bit overcast when I took the photos but hope you like them.

Keep on planting - you never know what you're going to get!"

Saturday, May 30, 2009

May in movies and books

To sum up my month of May, here is a list of the movies I've watched and books I've read this month.......first of all, the movies:

The Changeling
Two lovers
Reign over me
Rachel getting married
State of Play
Everest: Beyond the limits
Love song for Bobby Long

I think my favorite of these was The Changeling. I am a little biased by this one however, as it was one I watched on a plane, coming back from England. For some reason, I always seem to cry on planes - usually to the movies I watch - but occasionally to the books I'm reading. Well, the Changeling was my movie on the plane, so naturally I cried - I think my eyes just get dry and so need that moisture! Thus I remember it well and it was quite emotional.....all about a mother losing her son and being given another boy instead and her having to fight to prove he wasn't her son! I do recommend it. Angelina Jolie is great in it.

I also enjoyed Everest - Beyond the Limits. Actually, "enjoyed" is not the best word to describe it. It follows the journey of several men hoping to climb Everest, including a double amputee. It is astonishing to watch what they go through - mainly in terms of dealing with the number of other climbers up there.....At some stages, it's like waiting in line at Disney or at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa! Totally shocking. Many surprises in this - and a real eye opener. It's a six part series - there is also subsequent seasons which I haven't seen yet but they don't get as good a review as this first one.....

The other one worthy of mention is "State of Play". I first watched the BBC 6 part mini series of this - and absolutely loved it. I was bound to, as Bill Nighy was in it - and I always love spending an evening with him! It was a bit flabby in places and could have been edited down to 4 hours instead of 6...but I was curious to see how the movie would be with Helen Mirram instead of Bill - and only 2 hours! The movie was fine - but I'd recommend the BBC version!

I only finished one book this month and it was "We need to talk about Kevin" by Lionel Shriver. I finished this book on the plane too - so yes, there were tears! It is a tough book - written about a fictional school massacre. It is written from the perspective of the mother of the killer, in the first person, as the mother writing letters to her husband, trying to understand why their son did this and what was her role in it all and was she to blame. A fascinating book. I had bought this book a few years ago and it had sat on my shelf gathering dust. Then one day I decided to donate some old books to the library for their sale. So this book got put in the box and in the trunk of my car to be "donated" the next day. That evening, I was reading a friend's new blog that she just started that day, and on her sidebar, she listed that her favorite book of all time was "we need to talk about Kevin"!!! So how could I give it away now, without reading it!!! So - I grabbed it back and I'm so glad I did. It's a toughie -but worth reading.

So what did you watch or read this month? Give me some recommendations for June......

Friday, May 29, 2009

Merry go Round - Is this what you expected?

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

This month's question that myself and other merry-go-rounders will answer is "Five years ago did you think you'd be doing what you are doing now (craft/selling)? What has surprised you the most?"

I know that 5 years ago I was just graduating with my master's degree in Health Psychology and prior to that I had been a research pharmacologist! Designing and selling jewelry was not in my head at all. I guess my only slight leaning to creating and selling at that time was that when I moved to California in 2003, I started knitting again on the car journey from FL to CA. I hadn't knitted in many years but the thought of a long car journey over a few days inspired me to try it again. When I arrived in CA, a gallery owner noticed the scarf I was wearing and asked where I got it from. When I told her I had made it - she asked if she could sell them for me....and so I went home and thought about it - and decided "why not" (this was before the big "scarf" influx!!!).

At that time, I still wore the same gold necklace, rings and bracelet everyday and just wasn't a jewelry person! And I never wore silver! Oh, how we change!!!

I think one of the things that did influence me around that time was that I went to Germany in the summer of 2005 on a singing tour - singing Bach where Bach lived and worked. When I was there, we'd find a little time to shop and I found myself so attracted to the German jewelry. I just loved it all - the style was just so "me". Just beautiful.

Fast forward 4 years and here I am making jewelry and my biggest customer base is Germany! Guess our styles are connected!!!

What has surprised me most is everything! 1) I never thought I'd do something like this, 2) I never thought I'd enjoy creating so much, 3) I never thought anyone would want to buy what I made 4) I never thought buyers/viewers would send such lovely comments on my websites, blog, etc and 5) I never thought I feel such a connection and friendship to so many people I "met" at an online marketplace! Everyday I'm surprised. Who knew that I could make little figures and sculpt clay? I never did! I never studied art!

Guess you never say never! and instead you say "anyone can....."

Please take at look at the 5 year review from other artists!:

*Jenny at Jenny Karlsson design
*Nikki at Beaded Zen
*Wendren at Wren
Sara at Sara's Texture Crafts
Marian at Florcita
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent
Fabienne at Easterya
Andreanna at Glamasaurus
Ruth at Birdland Creations

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Anyone can ride a bike....

even a Penny Farthing???

I've just finished a new piece in my "anyone can...." series. It's "anyone can ride a bike". Rather than just do a regular bicycle, I thought "anyone" would like the challenge of riding a Penny Farthing!

Not that I need the challenge of a Penny Farthing. Any bicycle is challenge enough for me and my sister as we never learnt to ride bikes when we were kids. I only started riding a bike when I moved to Sanibel Island in FL in 2000. My sister Mary has tried a couple of times - but, let's put it this way, it isn't her choice of activity!!! I was fine on Sanibel where it was flat and there were bike lanes so I didn't have to deal with other traffic. I really enjoying cycling then - but I am not an confident rider.

We took a cycle ride when we were in Vietnam - and my hands were so sore afterwards as I was holding on so tight! The whole ride was on unpaved narrow tracks with big drops either side into a horrid looking watery mess!!! I knew falling off wasn't an option, but it was tricky to keep going over these scary bridges and uneven tracks!!!

So - maybe "Anyone can ride a bike" was always on the cards for me to create! Our symbol of our missed bike riding days as kids!!!! (By the way, in their defense, it was because our house driveway went straight onto a busy road that my parents didn't want us to have bikes as kids.)

See - I told you that you would learn a lot about me reading my blog and seeing the stories behind my creations!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bambi visits the vineyard!

We were sat eating lunch today when we noticed this tiny little deer wandering the vineyard! Now the whole vineyard is deer fenced so that (in theory) they can't get in, because they love eating the vines - but these tiny newborn deer can squeeze in such small places! He was so sweet...wandering among the vines........then he walked over our little bridge......

and down to the pond to get a drink.......

(look at those neat lines of spots on his back!)

then settled under some grasses for a little afternoon nap!

It all looks very sweet - but it is actually quite sad when the babies get in. Often times the mother is outside of the fence looking in and running back and forth calling for "Junior". Junior doesn't seem to remember how he got in and so can't get back out. We try to help and open the gates - but they aren't the brightest of animals and panic easily - so whilst we want to encourage them in a certain direction to the outside world.....they just get frightened.....

As this little fella settled down under the grasses, I'm thinking his mum is off foraging for food for the afternoon. They leave their young napping in the afternoons to go and feed. She'll cover too much distance for Junior to come too - so you can frequently see the little guys taking their afternoon snooze while mum is out for lunch.

We are keeping an eye on him for now and also checking for mummy coming back and will see if he finds his own way out without being scared..... fingers crossed......

Monday, May 25, 2009

Business Matters - Marketplaces - Review

In my business matters posts over the last couple of months, I've given you my point of view and experience with a variety of artisan marketplaces where you can sell your creations. Each one is different, they have their own rules and their own styles. If you want to look at back at my posts, here are the links:
Boundless Gallery
Smashing Darling
Not on the High Street

I hope what you have garnered from my discussion is that you get different things from different places. And while you may think the only place you want to be is where you get good sales, I encourage you to not let that restrict you. These marketplaces offer many things as well as sales - such as exposure, networking, friends, inspiration, connections, ideas for marketing, publicity, support,......

So if you are just using them for selling, I think you are missing out! Try somewhere new and see what you get and also what you can give to others. It's rewarding - and some of our most precious rewards aren't financial.

Here's some links to other sites I haven't mentioned that may be worth considering and there are plenty of others too:


If you sell somewhere else and have a good experience - do please let us know in the comments section.

I'll be starting a new theme of "business matters" next Wednesday. Look forward to seeing you then.

Paw prints bracelet......

or animals tracks bracelet? My husband always calls it paw prints!

Anyhow - just made another paw prints bracelet for my neighbour. It's very different making something for someone you know. I like the way that the person is always in my mind as I am creating it. It is like a special time to think of that person.....

No animals were hurt in this production - all very compliant!. On the back of each track is the name of the animal that made it (- no, not personal name like Tommy and Spike, but opossum, porcupine etc etc!!! ).

She seemed pleased and now can go down to the creek and see if those tracks are Mr Raccoon or Mr Mountain Lion!!!

Enjoy your wearable field guide Rony!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday's spotlight - Life in the monsoon belt of the U.K.

By guest blogger Pete.

Well, we managed to get to Belvoir Castle (though they didn't invite us in for a meal) and the Steam and Traction Engine Fair that took place there last Sunday. The only minus was the weather. As we drove out of Lincoln the heavens opened and dumped torrential rain on us. The weather forecast that morning had promised sun with very occasion showers but this was no shower. I do wish the weather would listen to the morning forecast from Radio Lincoln. I was in two minds whether or not to continue but my optimistic wife suggested that we carry on and see what the weather was like at Belvoir. True to form, the rain stopped about half way to Belvoir and although you wouldn't have wanted to sit out in the garden at that point it was much better.

"Ah...St Bruno... I recognize that anywhere":

We duly found the site, joined a long queue of traffic, paid a not inconsiderable entrance fee, parked the car and made our way to the well known "TEA TENT" (which also served coffee), where we were to meet other members of the Photo-Nomads group. Then the heavens opened up once more with a monsoon type rain this time. Fortunately we had found a seat at a table - where we thought that if we'd arrived 15 minutes later we wouldn't have paid that not inconsiderable entrance fee but rather would have returned to the dry home we have in Lincoln. Have you ever made one cup of coffee last for one hour? We managed it, chatting animatedly with two other strangers who happened to be sharing the table with us.

"Anyone seen my twin brother?":

Eventually the rain did stop so we left that infamous TEA ROOM and ventured forth into the muddy pasture where the Fair was being held. My trainers took on a completely new shade of brown from their original colour and are, as I write this on the Monday, sitting in the garage drying out. That Fair, though, was far more than just a steam and traction engine affair. The army were there showing off a few tanks and spraying watchers with lovely brown sticky mud as they illustrated what the afore mentioned vehicles could do. We saw some beautiful vintage cars and farm vehicles - even saw specimens of a few of the cars I have owned, which, I hope, doesn't make me "vintage". There was also a fairground, which we studiously avoided; a wild west show (U.S wild west rather than the U.K. variety); a number of excellent models of circuses and other similar events and innumerable stalls selling greasy burgers, the origin of whose meat I would hesitate to investigate in case I happened to know the animal.

"I didn't know they gave you a telly in one of these":
We spent about two hours there until hunger got the better of us and we returned to our car for a late picnic lunch. Whilst having that lunch the monsoon made a return visit so we made our way home rather than returning to the mud rink. Good day, though!

"Oh no! I've burnt the toast again!":
Keep sploding around in that mud - it's supposed to be good for you. We've even had a bath in it at (California).

Where is that leak coming from ?:

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bird feeder

A friend recently commissioned me to make a bird feeder necklace for her friend. I just finished it this week. I've made one very similar in style to this which is what she had seen but this time changed the birds a little bit.

I have one myself that I wear alot - and it always gets lots of comments.

As I haven't shown you a little video in a while, I thought I'd add this short youtube of feeding the birds. In this case, someone is hand feeding hummingbirds! Great idea! I want a go!

What do you think? Could you hold still long enough?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Be as a bird - new story bracelet

Yesterday I finished a new story bracelet - called "Be as a bird". It's based on a quotation by Victor Hugo:

Be as a bird that, pausing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.

The idea of the bracelet is that it is a reminder to "not worry" - with the quotation suggesting that we have the strength and capabilities within us so we can cope when things are difficult.

Hope you like it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Business Matters - Marketplaces - Smashing Darling

So far, I have given my impression on the following artisan marketplaces : Zibbet; Etsy; Not on the High Street; Nest; Dawanda; and Boundless Gallery.

Today it's Smashing Darling!

Now, I like SD! It a fun site. It is an independent fashion marketplace where you can sell clothing, jewelry, accessories, vintage.....with items designed for men, women and children.

The fee structure for sellers is that it costs nothing to set up a store or as many stores as you like and there is no listing charge - ever. (Listing is really easy and fast too!). So you only pay when you sell something - and then they charge an 18% commission charge. Yes, that's higher than other artisan marketplaces - but then SD is different from those places too.

Payment doesn't come through directly to you - so paypal is not used. Instead, SD accepts the payment and then takes their commission percentage and deposits the rest directly in your bank within 2 weeks of the sale.

The thing I like best about Smashing Darling is the management. It just feels like they are real people and people who take an interest. It was started by Julie Rorrer and Trish Ginter -- fashion designers. I have had a store there a few years and to be honest, I really don't sell much on the store - but I stay there because I like it. I think the store isn't really a good fit for my products. My jewelry isn't "fashion" jewelry per se - it's a bit too whimsy for that - so why do I bother? Well, for one, it doesn't cost anything to stay and two, I like being a part of it. I see Trish and Julie on their blogs, reading my blog, on facebook etc - it just feels inclusive and that they are interested. This morning I just got an email from Julie informing me that I had listed a pair of earrings for sale as "men's earrings" and obviously they aren't - so she let me know so I could change it. It's those little things - personalized - that they do so well.

There are over 300 stores there and they get a good number of viewers/potential buyers. A couple of years they submitted two of my necklaces to Elle magazine to use in an advertisment! How cool is that - and where else do you get that opportunity?

I recently introduced a friend to SD - Lora Hart - as I felt her jewelry might work there. Maybe Lora will comment on her experience so far. Here is her store:

They have a blog and newsletter and just today, my two latest items are listed on the side bar of the blog.
So while I don't think it's the best match for my style of jewelry - I stay and enjoy it. Do go take a look. You'll like it too. It's different from the other marketplaces - refreshingly different. Keep it up Trish and Julie.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sing your heart out

Don't you just love it when you wander outside and a birdie is sat in a tree singing his little heart out. He just keeps on singing. What a happy little bird. And sometimes they are soooooo loud!

Well, while I'm finishing up my "be as a bird" bracelet - I used one of the photopolymer plates and made a necklace - showing a little bird singing his heart out.

So take time out from your worries and stresses and just sing your heart out!

PS the bracelet is coming soon. Please come back to see it!

Monday, May 18, 2009


As I've mentioned in previous posts, when people come to stay with us, we ask them to paint a little bird house for us which we then hang in the garden. They don't last forever, and if one disintegrates, it is repaired twice but then........ This way, repeat visitors get to paint another one when they return!

Yesterday saw John hanging our three new 2009 birdhouses - two were repeat artists and the third was their first birdhouse! It's lovely to wander around the garden and remember all our visitors by their birdhouses. Everyone has their own individual style too, which comes through so clearly.

This one was painted by my mum:

and hangs in the jasmine on our arbor. She wanted brown paint for the roof and asked why I didn't have any. I reminded her that I hate brown and therefore don't want brown birdhouses and so don't supply brown paint!!!!

This one was my dad's and hangs in an oak tree:

The the third was painted by my cousin Caroline (and also attributed to Jamie although I don't think he held a brush - but I'm sure he was very encouraging!!!). This one is hanging in the lovely red maple tree:
Don't they look great! Wonder how many more we will get this year from visitors...... You can see how I get inspired to create birdhouse jewelry!!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday's spotlight - To new things and someone who couldn't count!

I think I mentioned it last week or the week before but it is a few years now since I taught in a school. That will teach me to tempt fate! Monday saw me taking the assembly at the local primary school. The school is attached to the church we worship in - St Peter at Gowts. I bet you don't know what a "gowt" is? I'll show off and tell you. "Gowt" means "drain". St Peter's history goes back to the 10th century and a Roman Road ran through its churchyard. We have a flood drain about 50 yards from the church but I don't think that was the original drain - more likely a Victorian introduction. Lincoln was very susceptible to flooding in the 19th century and being a large industrial town (the first tanks of World War 1 were built here) I suspect that the Victorians changed the lay out of the original drain to it's present position.

But I digress. The school I took the assembly at is not a very big one but it has some smashing kids there. Pam, my wife, on major festivals takes some of the children into Church to decorate the Childrens' Corner window sill. She'll have to train a new bunch of pupils at the beginning of next term because her present group will all have moved up to "the big school". I'm also about to become a governor at St Peter's School next term so you might be getting a bit more news about the children from time to time.

I've joined a new photography group in our area. This group is known as "Photo Nomads". We have no fixed meeting dates but when an interesting event comes up we meet there and, together, go around (i.e. "nomadic) looking for some good photos. The more experienced help the newly addicted.

On Sunday we are off to Belvoir Castle - about 30 miles or so from Lincoln - for a traction engine rally. "WOW!", I can hear you say - and you, Ruth! I bet you all wish you could be here to join us on Sunday. This is one of the largest such rallies in the Midlands and, unless the heavens open up and the rain pelts down, there will be plenty of people there. Just a little note for my daughter after her recent remarks about "tea". We will be meeting in the "TEA TENT", which, I'm reliably told, is very easy to find.

We went to our annual quiz last night - although why we should, each year, inflict such a punishment upon ourselves is beyond my comprehension. We had a table of what we call "anoraks" there but ours' was, by far, the nosiest and most useless table because we didn't get much of a score by the end even though we had more laughs than anyone else. In the first half we scored 18 points out of a possible 35 and in the 2nd half it was 22 of our 35. However, we came 2nd to the "Anoraks". Much to our utter amazement, confusion, delight, amusement and surprise we were praised for scoring 58 points. Actually we managed only 40 and were probably last but we did manage to shut up the "goody goody" in our team and stopped her from spilling the beans. Even the "anoraks" said "good night" to us! What more praise can you expect? Can you work out how we were awarded 58 points instead of 40? The only prize offered to any winners is an invitation to join us next year for this wonderful quiz.

Go on - keep quiet when things are going your way!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New story bracelet

I've been making some photo polymer plates for a new "story" type bracelet. It'll be in the design of the "remember the little things" bracelet but the story is based on the following quotation by Victor Hugo:

Be as a bird that, pausing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.

So it'll be like a 'do not worry' bracelet.... A reminder that we all have strength within us, even when things seem to be tricky.......

I share four of my initial sketches - which is very brave of me, as I can't draw - but it will give you an idea of the process and how I start. Hopefully you can match the sketches to the quotation......

Then hopefully next week, I'll finish the bracelet and you can see the end result.

If you have a story or quotation that you think would translate well into a bracelet - do let me know!