Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June in books and movies

Time for my end of month summary of what movies I've watched and what books I've read during the month of June.

The movies I watched are:

The Three Kings
Vicki Christina Barcelona
Frozen River
Pale Rider
Taking of Pelham 123 (orginal 1974)
Last Chance Harvey

None of them were ones that make my all time favorite list but last night I did enjoy watching Last Chance Harvey. A sweet movie with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. Just a sweet little story - no great surprises but whiles away a couple of hours in the evening when you are tired and don't have the energy to do much else.

This month I haven't read any books! I even failed with my book club this month and didn't finish the selected book - Team of Rivals. I wasn't alone - in fact only three people finished. It's all about Abraham Lincoln and 944 pages! I won't be finishing it either....... other things to do with my time....

I am half way through another book - but won't be finishing it in June so I'll add that to July's list!

You can tell that I've been busy doing other things this month! Maybe July will be different?????

Have you read or seen anything worth recommending this month? Do share with us.....

Featured in 2 Etsy Treasuries today

Thanks to Milanca Bubanja for featuring my little bird cage necklace "You can fly" in her treasury "Hot! Hot!...Cold"

What great colors! Milica is also a metal clay artist, from Slovenia.

It's been hot, hot, hot here lately with temps in the 100 degrees -but I think today will be a little cooler. Not very conducive to switching on a kiln to fire some pieces!

Thanks also to Nicola from Murano Silver for featuring my "hanging out" necklace in her "Clayology" treasury. Nic is a metal clay artist from England and part of the Etsy Metal Clay Team.

If you click on either photo above, it will take you to the treasury when you can click on any item that catches your interest and find out more about them - and leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Feeling like a show dog!

Woo-hoo! Or maybe it should be Bow-wow!

My winning bracelet from the Bead and Button Bead Dreams competition was just returned to me - and inside was a rosette! It made me feel like I was a winning dog in a dog show. Not sure when rosettes are given in the US - but in England - it's only for dogs or horses or other such animals! So how cute is that, to get one myself!!!! Here it is:

But now I think of it - guess you can get it for birds too!!!

However the best thing of all is that with the rosette and bracelet was a scoring card with feedback and scores on why the judges liked the bracelet and what they thought could be improved. There were great remarks and it offers wonderful feedback for me. So thank you Bead and Button jury people - that is great that you take the time to do that.

PS Latest update! My prize check just arrived! Thanks to Art Clay World USA and Jackie who were the sponsors.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday's spotlight - No interest in clothes

By guest blogger Pete.

As my family will confirm, I've never been over concerned about clothes. Now don't take that statement to mean that I'm either a naturalist or uncoventional in the clothing idea. It's just that I can't understand this obsession some folk have for clothes. As long as clothes are clean, decent and warm, when you need them to be warm, then I can't see what all the fuss is about. It certainly doesn't matter how old they may be. I wear shoes until, quite literally, they fall apart. By then they have become so comfortable that they are like old friends and I don't want to lose them. My latest "old friend" now nearing retirement lives in my car and exists under the euphemism of being "my driving shoes".

Pam, my wife, is, however, somewhat interested in clothes. Something I have found to be quite common with members of the female gender! When we are in town - ANY town - she loves nothing better than wandering around clothes shops looking for some bargain or other. When we visit any town we usually, by mutual agreement, decide to part for about 1 1/2 hours whilst she indulges herself visiting clothes shops and I turn my attention to book shops and,that other good supplier of 2nd hand books, charity shops.

However, that interest of mine in the traditional books store has waned of late and during next week's 7 day break in Suffolk I'm not sure what I will be doing whilst Pam raises the hopes of clothes shop proprietors throughout the county. The reason for the decline in my bookshop interest is the Sony ebook reader that I was given for my recent birthday. I confess to liking gadgets but this is NO gadget. In fact it comes into a category all of its own. If you're interested in books then have a look at the ebook reader. Basically it enables you to carry around a whole library of books in your pocket. No dedicated reader should fail to consider the possibility.

IN the 1950s I worked, for some considerable time, in the east end of London - a very deprived area indeed. Custom House, Plaistow, Canning Town, Poplar, Limehouse, Whitechapel, etc, were all places that I got to know quite well. The other day I found an ebook about life in the 1950s east end - centred on Poplar and the work of the Nonnatus nuns, whose ministry was one of nursing and midwifery. I knew a priest who lived and worked in Cable Street - surname was Corbin and I think his Christian name was Robert but I can't be sure of that. Cable Street in the East End was notorious for its "all night cafes". I could never understand why the police didn't close them down. I have my suspicions but I've no intention of commiting them to print. If you're really interested in London's east end of the 50s then look up a real live character who spent decades in that area. His name is Joe Williamson. I've never googled him but chances are that he'll be somewhere on the internet. I have no photos of London's east end but I hope you'll enjoy these unconnected offerings anyway.

Don't knock the ebook reader until you've given it a real test!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Good News continues.....

One of my pieces has been selected to be part of an online exhibit. The exhibit is housed at Crafthaus and is entitled "Birdhaus" and shows avian themed art from artists on Crafthaus.

The piece selected was my jack in the box bird necklace.

It's a great collection of birdie things. Some really unusual.

Just this week I had seen the work of Teresa Faris and it caught my eye. Her latest series is called "collaboration with a bird" and she uses pieces of wood that have been carved by birds. What an interesting idea! Imagine all the acorn woodpecker trees that could be used around here with their thousands of perfectly aligned holes! Here is a photo of a ring of hers:

The other piece in the exhibit that stuck out for me was a toy by Miel-Margarita Paredes entitled Fledgling.

Hope you'll go and take a look at the exhibit. Crafthaus are going to be doing regular exhibits with lots of interesting themes. It's worth a browse....

Friday, June 26, 2009

Merry Go Round - Favourite publication

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 "what is your favourite publication(s)? Is there a book(s) or magazine or website that has become your bible for your craft?

I interpret this question to mean "technical" resources related to how to work with metal clay. While it surprises even me in that I looooooove books and have a wonderful collection of them on metal clay, I think my favourite "publication" is actually an online forum - or two to be precise.

The first one is the yahoo group "metal clay" and the second one is also a yahoo group - "etsy metal clay". Both are forums where anyone can ask questions, post their latest pieces, discuss different aspects of creating with metal clay, learn about new materials and techniques, the business side of jewelry making, or just receive support and encouragement from other artists using the same medium. On the metal clay forum, there are loads of comments and questions every day. I don't know if anyone has time to read them all - but its good to browse through and see what is relevant and of interest to you.

As I have all these books, I will recommend a couple of great ones ....... The first is "The Handbook of Metal Clay - Textures and Forms" by Hadar Jacobson

and the second is "Structural Metal Clay" by Kate McKinnon

Both are great resources and are also quite different from each other.

Please take at look at the responses from the 9 other artists on the merry go round and learn what they read to help them with their art and craft!:

Jenny at Jenny Karlsson design http://designjennykarlsson.blogspot.com/
Nikki at Beaded Zen http://beadedzen.blogspot.com
Wendren at Wren http://thewrendesign.com/
Sara at Sara's Texture Crafts http://sarastexturecrafts.blogspot.com
Marian at Florcita http://florcitasart.blogspot.com
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent http://lebarduvent.blogspot.com
Fabienne at Easterya http://easterya.blogspot.com
Charlotte at FancyPicnic http://fancypicnic.blogspot.com
Lily Pang at Lily Pang Art http://lilypangart.blogspot.com

Ruth at Birdland Creations http://insidetheartisan.blogspot.com

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Singing instead of silver

Not much silver time this week as I'm participating in the Chanticleer workshop. If you don't know Chanticleer - you should! 12 male voices singing a cappella. They are "based" in San Francisco but tour all over the world. We have 5 days of making music with them. This is their 4th workshop and I've been to them all. It's lots of fun and has started that way already. But it's busy, busy, busy....

We will be singing some lovely music....more later!

PS I did make one little necklace for myself yesterday just for the workshop...I'll take a photo soon and tell you why I made it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Business Matters - What's in a name: Storytime

The voting last week to name my new piece resulted in a win for "hanging out". To be honest, I'm quite pleased with this as I have it in mind to do another one with the first person hanging onto someone else and then calling it "hanging out together"....

Some of the name suggestions got no votes and we did get a couple of new suggestions including "swing up to the sky", "anyone can trapeze" and "topsy turvy". Thanks for voting and your suggestions. Interesting to see how different names appeal to different people....

In the naming post today, I want to look at stories. Does the name of your piece hint at a story behind it?

There was a recent article in the Economist all about contemporary jewellery. The author wrote about how jewelry nowadays is more about ideas than the flaunting of wealth, with storytelling as a key element so that the wearer can be seen as "buying a bit of the artist's brain".

So do our creations' names suggest a story? Would a potential buyer look at the piece and its name and write their own story or try to find your story in it?

When I think of my pieces, I suppose that calling this necklace "Birdcage" is very lame! It doesn't suggest anything. It's just a bird cage. Guess I need to do something about that....

Maybe it would be better to call it "I know why the caged bird sings"...... or "you can cage the bird but not the song"...It adds a little intrigue and....while people may not search for an item with that name, as long as it is tagged/keyword "birdcage", then it still should be found....

What about "in safety's keeping".....That does conjur up more than one image....or is suggestive of a story.. I think it does ....

And how about "Atlantis" by my friend Fabienne from Easterya This conjurs up lots of underwater and seaside stories for me...looking in rock pools for starfish and other creatures.....

So I'm going to check over my names this week and see if I can offer up a bit more of the "artist's brain". Join me! Come on all you "flat" namers - instead of "leaf earrings" or "shell necklace", get creative in naming and suggest a story too....

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

PMC Guild 2009 Annual

June is proving to be a good month for me! I just learnt that one of my photos/pieces (don't know which one) will appear in the PMC Guild 2009 Annual.

This is the 3rd Annual of the Guild and is a juried publication which will come out in the fall. A total of 109 images were selected from artists around the world. I haven't submitted to the annual before so am really pleased to be selected.

A few of my friends from Etsy Metal Clay have also been selected so congrats to them too.

Monday, June 22, 2009

In the Etsy Top 10

My Bird Tracks bracelet has been selected for Timothy Adams top 10 on Etsy this week!

Here's a link

If you click on that, you can vote for which item you like the best from the 10 selected - through etsy and his blog comments.

Gosh - just reading the etsy forum on this and the comments on his blog are so heartwarming! People just say the nicest things :=D

Thanks to all who voted and commented. You made my day!

What a difference a day makes....

Eyes wide open!

Here are the Brewers Blackbird babies today in the lemon tree nest - still hungry!!! Nice to see their eyes wide open - this happens when they are about a week old. They are also holding their heads up much better with greater strength in their necks.

But look at all that fluff around their heads!!! Looks like the photo is blurry but it's pre-feather fluff!

Feed me!!!

Soon it'll be time to come up with some names.......

Dreaming you can fly

I often used to dream that I could fly - and loved yesterday's Pickles cartoon so thought I'd share it with you....


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday's spotlight - Retirement

By guest blogger Pete.

To visit Lincoln today you would find it hard to believe that, at one time, it was one of the heavy industrial centres of the U.K.. It was a Lincoln factory that produced the first tank for World War 1 and even aircraft production has taken place here. Today, though, all that is gone and the city has just one remaining heavy industry, named Siemens. Ownership of that group has changed hands fairly often over the past few years but it does appear to be stable at the moment with management talking of moving their city centre factory to the outskirts at North Hykeham.

Near by Grantham, where we once lived, has also suffered the same sort of loss with, amongst others, the closure of Coles Cranes and Avling Barfoot - the latter produced heavy industrial plant. This week a large dairy in the city was forced to close with the loss of 126 jobs. The other four diaries at various locations in the UK - all farmers' cooperatives - have followed the same fate and local farmers have received no income for May's production. Lincoln, at one time, as known as "Bicycle City"; today it's known as "Retirement City".

This recession is also having a say about when folk can retire. Private pension funds have been badly affected by the recession; many of those due to retire have felt fortunate if they've been able to carry on working rather than exist, as many retirees do, on a reduced pension.

Retirement is not looked forward to by some folk. But if you can afford it then it is definitely something to recommend. I wouldn't advocate a "couch potato" approach to it but then if that's want a person wants then who is to deny them that? There is, in most cases, no need to give up activities when you retire even though, at some stage, this may be unavoidable. It's rather a time for doing what you want to do when you want to do it. One of my neighbours - an old boy of 94 - advised me when I first retired to get all the chores done in the morning and have the rest of the day for yourself. He's still doing his own garden and house work - even goes for a walk every morning to collect his newspaper and the ingredients for his lunch.

I find that retirement is a time for indulging in hobbies. For me that mainly involves photography and the manipulation of photographs. I hope this week's photos show some of that despite their size. It's great fun. The first photo was the original one I took; the second some of the detail was removed to give an overall impression; the third I used high definition rendering; and the fourth was simplified but with colour exaggeration!

Answers to previous weeks' questions:
1) "TWTWTW" = That was the week that was.
2) "Where in SFIT" = Where in San Francisco is this?

By the way, the dvd/video sage is over. Got the machine back before Christmas after all!!

Go on looking forward and not backwards.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Etsy Metal Clay blog

The Etsy Metal Clay group blog just wrote about my new website and my competition success! Thanks EMC team for spreading my good news!

They also show Kelly Fehr's new site - another EMC team member. She does jewelry in braille Worth taking a look at. It's a lovely new site Kelly.

Lemon treehouse

A Brewers blackbird has built a nest in one of our lemon trees.

It's been interesting to see just how protective the male blackbird is. We've been watching a couple times when a great blue heron has come to the pond (which is quite a long way from the lemon tree), and the male blackbird goes up to the heron and starts pecking at it's legs. Both times, it's managed to make the heron leave quite quickly....

Then a couple of days ago I was walking around the pond and the male blackbird came out and made lots of warning noises to me......I was beginning to feel a little threatened......so moved away before he went for my legs!

But just a minute ago, daddy was out of the scene and mummy had just left the nest so I got this quick little snap. Not sure how many babes there are in there - but they make lots of lovely little squeaks and these two are obviously hungry!

Excuse the not so brilliant photo - but I wanted to be out of there quickly!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Adding color

I've been experimenting with different mediums to add color to some of my pieces. I've used resin in a few pieces but I want something brighter sometimes.....

Here's one of my trials.....still working on it - but I love the vibrancy of the balloon.

Everyone needs a guest house....

It appears that even the birds think they need a guest house!

A few weeks ago some cliff swallows built a mud nest on the front of our house. Eggs were laid and hatched but as the babes grew bigger, family wanted to come and visit and say "hi".

And so last week, they built a couple of guest houses! I think they look like hammocks! Here is the nest on the right and two hammocks to the left (the occupant of the furthest left hammock has just stepped out for a quick bite to eat):

The babes stay in the proper nest with an adult guarding the front and one swallow sits in each of the hammocks!

In this photo - the swallow from the left hand nest had finished his dinner and was now back (he still looks hungry to me!):

And here's mummy with auntie staying next door!

There are many more cliff swallows flying around but I'm not sure why they are all living...maybe they take it in turns to hang out in the hammocks???

We've normally had barn swallows nesting before - so nice to see Cliff this year! The cliff swallows make a gourd shaped mud house with small entrance whereas the barn swallows make a mud bowl.

All the cliff swallows you see here are adults - you can tell by the white forehead.

Wonder how long the guest houses will remain full????

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Five year shoe mystery solved!

Five years ago, not too long after we moved to CA, my husband John had this old pair of deck shoes. They were too old and beaten up to wear out anywhere - but he used to keep them outside near the back door and then slip them on when we went around the vineyard or garden. They were perfectly suited for this - worn in, comfortable, pale so showed the dirt but didn't matter....

One morning in September that year, he got up and one shoe was missing...... We searched around....he wouldn't have taken one off outside and brought the other in....but we checked everywhere...and sure enough - he only had one shoe..... Where had the other disappeared to???? It was a mystery.....

We once did a evening class in "murder mystery" ( that's another story I'll tell you one day - best class ever !) - and even though this wasn't a murder, we wanted to solve it and figure who/what would take one shoe? Our only theory at the time was that there had been a fox around lately. We had seen it in the garden and heard it's calls at night time so we decided that the little fox had taken the shoe...for some reason or other....Didn't really make much sense but then there was no other theory that made any better sense....

Fast forward three months and we got our first rain for months - since the spring. It was a Sunday morning and John was out playing golf. I got up and just glanced out of the window - and what did I see - but John's shoe!!! What a surprise after all this time... It was in an obvious place so if it had been there all along, we would have seen it - but no - it was "returned"!!

So I ran out and picked up the shoe and put it in a big cardboard box and put a big bow on it. I then left for the day and left the box for him to open when he got home!!!

He was surprised by getting his shoe back but then admitted that just the previous week he had given up hope the thrown the other shoe away!!! So now he was left with one shoe again..... I extended our fox theory to include that with the first rainfall, the shoe started to smell a bit so the fox returned it!!!!

It was about this time when we were trying to come up with a name for our vineyard. It will probably come as no surprise to you if you have read my "naming" posts - but we weren't short of names - we had loads. We just couldn't decide which one...but after the shoe incident, we were sorely tempted to call the vineyard and wine "foxtrot"! We could just imagine a wine label with a fox on it with one white shoe on one of his paws......

Well, until yesterday, the fox being the culprit was just our theory and, as we felt, a nice little story. That is until our neighbour emailed us this link.

It's all about a fox in a western town in Germany. A forest worker saw some shoes near a fox's den and investigated further and found 120 shoes in the den! It seems that the fox stole the shoes for her "cubs to play with"!!! How many cubs are there and how many shoes do they need???

Anyhow, although there were missing laces, the shoes were in good condition. John's too was in the same condition as when he lost it! The German shoes have been returned to their rightful owners and no charges will be pressed!

Aren't animals just amazing creatures!!!!

Thanks Craig and Natalie for passing on the German fox news. We now feel confident that our theory from 5 years ago, was indeed correct!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Business Matters - Stuck for a name?

For this week's "naming" blog post, let's think about what to do if you can't decide on a name. It may be that no name comes to mind, or as is often the case with me, too many names come to mind!

In these situations, one of the easiest things to do is to enlist the help of others. It's good to see what others think when they see your piece, and maybe you won't end up choosing one of their titles, but it might spark off a new idea of your own....Yes, it may seem obvious to ask your family or friends, but why not spread it wider.....and use your blog or forums on marketplaces or social networks or twitter or......?

A couple of times now I've put up pieces here on my blog and asked readers to vote on the poll and choose their favorite name. It's a great way to find out about your piece and what others see in it, and also your audience. If you run a competition for someone to choose a name, it's nice to offer a prize, like I did with "chrome-o-somes" - or else you can put up a poll of your choices and see which is most popular or if another sparks some interest....

Let's try it with a piece I finished off today. While I was making this piece I had a name in my head for it but now that it's finished, I don't think that suits it. So let's take a poll....

So here's my latest piece - an "anyone" figure - so maybe that is in the name?...or maybe not?....and he/she is hanging upside down on a swing:

I won't tell you what I was thinking but I'll put up a poll at the top of the blog in the sidebar and I hope you'll vote on your favorite name or add another of your own choosing in the comments section here.....

Here are some suggestions from me:

Hang in there
Hanging out
Want to hang out?
Swing low
Look at life differently
Anyone can fly
It don't mean a thing (if it aint got that swing!)

Please vote at the top and we'll see what the most popular is.....and what I learn from it! Or else if you come up with something better, then I'll make you something as a prize!!!

Why not try it on your blog this week too - and let us know so we can join in!

Lavender all around

It's getting hot here and the forecast is for it to be even hotter over the next few days. Sadly that means that we'll have to switch off our aga cooker. I love it but as it's warm all the time - it's too much on 90 degree days. And it was always the plan to not use it in the summer when we cook everything on the grill anyhow...

But before it is switched off, I thought I'd try drying some of our lavender. We have many many lavender bushes - and different types of lavender - some good for cooking with, some a little earlier than others...

Anyhow, I thought I'd try drying a bunch in the simmering oven and see how it turned out. The simmering oven is just a gentle temperature so I picked some of the brighter lavender and just put it in on the bottom grid....

Thirty minutes later and not only is the lavender perfectly dried but the whole house smells of lavender! I've now decided that if we ever have a bad smell in the house or it smells of cooking, all we need to do is put some lavender in the simmering oven and the house is transformed! What a great bonus.

Maybe I need to get some more quickly...... Gotta run now but will be back later with my usual Wednesday "business matters" blog post.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Last night's movie - The Cove

The movie the Sonoma Film Festival showed us last night was the soon-to-be released "The Cove". It will be shown around the US opening night on July 31st - and in other parts of the world too, but I'm not sure when. It won the 2009 Sundance film festival audience award.

The movie was excellent...and heart breaking. It's all about the mindless slaughtering of dolphins in Japan. Gosh - talk about eye-opening.....

One of the main people behind the movie was the guy who was involved in the Flipper movie all those years ago. It's touching to hear how his view has changed.

The trailer starts automatically which is annoying with the sound track so rather than embed it here, click here instead www.thecovemovie.com

As someone who has lived on Sanibel island and would often see the dolphins, they do seem to crave or enjoy communicating with people. They are intelligent creatures. We could go out in our kayak and so often be followed by dolphins...or sometimes we'd follow them. It was like they were leading us on a new route, they'd keep looking for us, and lead us on to a new area of mangroves... Or else we'd be paddling in the ocean and they'd come so close to the beach - seemingly wanting to play.

One time we were walking the beach with my parents - we thought we'd only be out for a short walk, but the dolphins were so interactive that we stayed transfixed and in awe for a couple of hours. The next day, my mum's legs were so sunburnt , we thought she looked like an white ibis ( the ones that have bright pink legs!) - but she didn't need that as a reminder of her dolphin interaction.

So it's not an easy film to watch but the people involved did an excellent job. I'm so glad I saw it and if you only see one movie this year (yes Lora - that could be you!!) - go and see this one.

Then go to http://savejapandolphins.org/ and see what we can do.

Bathtime at Birdland

I'm in the lounge, trying to learn some music but keep getting distracted! It's bath time at Birdland. 11:45am is their time I guess. So I gave into my distraction, got my camera and watched the fountain for just 3 minutes - and here are the bathing beauties:

Time to make a splash I guess!