Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday's spotlight - Updates

By guest blogger Pete

Over the past few weeks I have written, in this blog, about certain Lincolnshire men and the different things that they have achieved or that have happened to them.

I think that one of the first I wrote about was Peter Moore. You may remember him as the Lincoln man who had been held hostage in Iraq or Iran (or both) for a number of years. Throughout his captivity a candle has been kept burning twenty four hours each day for him in Lincoln Cathedral. Earlier this week, as I write this blog, Peter himself paid a return visit to the cathedral and there he blew out the candle that had been dedicated to him. On a sad note for Peter, he also lit four new candles for the four men who had been captured with him. These men had been his bodyguards and it is known that, over the years since the five were taken, these four men had been executed.

Here's a link to an interview with Peter Moore in Lincoln Cathedral (sorry, I couldn't embed it) - the video is at the bottom of the page.

Mic Dawson and a companion were the two who had rowed unaided across the Pacific. Mic has recovered from his adventure and in a recent radio interview said that he has begun to put on weight again. Asked if he had anymore challenges in mind he replied in the negative. He thinks that both his wife and his age are against him undertaking any new challenges. He is in the U.S. as I write this, discussing a film documentary of the crossing (which will entail a certain amount of re-enactment) and testing the waters to see if there is any interest in a book.

News came through earlier this week of a teenage girl survivor of the Haiti earthquake disaster. She had been trapped under the debris for 15 days. It makes you wonder if the authorities were a bit too quick in deciding to send the various rescue teams (from countries all over the world) back to their homes. The men from Lincolnshire who went with the U.K. team to help WERE back a work on the Monday following their return. They had the weekend off and then it was back to normal duties. Personally I think they should have had a little longer away from work and a bit more time to begin to come to terms with what they had seen and done.

Photo by Chuck Simmins

For me, my Art Group has begun again after the Christmas break. (Doesn't Christmas seem years ago already?) I have decided to work on another painting of Lincoln and have made a start on it. Like the previous painting of Lincoln I completed towards the end of last year, this one, too, is based around the Cathedral. It's from a photo I took from the Castle walls. What impressed me about this photo was the way the Cathedral dominated the intriguing foreground of roofs. Below is a scan of my progress so far and I'll show you updates so that you will be able to see how things are progressing.

Congratulations to Ruth and John, both of whom became U.S. citizens this week.

Keep on supporting the survivors of the Haiti disaster. The earthquake began the problems these people have to overcome but I can't help feeling that there is still a great deal more they've got to come to terms with before anything like normality returns for them.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A true friend is a rare bird

"Amicus veritas est rara avis" - a true friend is a rare bird.

Thought I'd share a last Christmas gift that I made for a friend. Unfortunately, before I sent it to her, I forgot to photograph it - which is why I haven't shown it here before. But she kindly took some photos of it this week, so I have a record of it - and I get to put it on my blog!

It's a tiny little box to hold wishes and special thoughts. A little birdie sits on the lid and then inside is the inscription in Latin "amicus veritas est rara avis".

Friday, January 29, 2010

Merry go Round - Artisans we like

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 topic for discussion is: Introduce us to the work of some other artisans you like.

The first artist I want to introduce you to is Hilary from Bunny with a toolbelt She even starts off with a great name for her company!

Just look at those fun creations - bright, whimsical, happy - I'm sure you can tell why I love them so much. I have one of them - a little birdie in some flowers.

Hilary has a great blog too, with frequent competitions - like the Love Poem one that is currently happening. As well as selling on Etsy, she also has her own site Here you'll find that she doesn't limit herself to small size sculptures and cake toppers, but does large sculptures too.

She's quite partial to dogs as you can see here:

The second artist I want to introduce to you is Bettina from Beadworx She makes wonderful jewelry from polymer clay. The first pieces I saw of hers were these bracelets:

The rings remind me of liquorice allsorts! They look soooo tasty (and I don't even like liquorice!) She has an etsy store too but only has her book there at the moment. Here book is written in German but she offers pdfs of the projects in other languages. It includes instructions for making the rings!

Doesn't her work just make you want to learn all those polymer clay techniques? She is teaching at the Synergy2 pre conference coming up in February.....I wish I'd known about that earlier as I'd love to learn from her...

Hope you've enjoyed seeing a snippet from two of my favorite artists. Please take a look at the artisans other members of the merry go round have selected too:

Fabienne at Easterya
Wendren at Wren
Marian at Florcita
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent
Lily Pang at Lily Pang Art

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Etsy Metal Clay Team donates to Haiti

The Etsy Metal Clay team made a charm bracelet after doing charm swap, and I listed it this week on the Hearts for Haiti Etsy store. The bracelet is a hand made silver bracelet with 25 silver, copper and bronze charms, each made by a different member of the team (if you look carefully, you'll see Quentin there!).

All the money from sales goes to, to help those in Haiti.

The bracelet sold within a day! We raised $350 for Doctors without borders!

It was a great team effort and I'm sure the owner will enjoy having the work of 25 different artists around her wrist!

Great work also by those who are running the Hearts for Haiti store. They are giving so much time to list donated art and craft to raise money. Well done Victoria, Nora and others.

U.S. Citizenship!

Today's the day!
We head down to SF shortly for our oath taking and swearing in ceremony to become US Citizens. A couple of friends will be there to cheer us on too! I hope they have stamina as it can take quite a while with up to 1400 people pledging.

It's been lovely to hear people's reactions - and quite surprising too!

Then one of our friends suggested we go for hot dogs afterwards....Hmmm... Do we have to be THAT American????

So think of us at 1.45pm!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Master Muses

Whole Lotta Whimsy have just announced their new design team for 2010 - "Master Muses" - and I'm proud to be a member of the inaugural team! Yeah!

There are 10 artists on the team and we will receive regular "challenges" from Tonya, covering new materials, techniques, themes etc. Every Wednesday, a tutorial from one of the team will be featured on Tonya Davidson's blog and then further information will be available for sale from Whole Lotta Whimsy as step by step projects.

The other artists involved are:

Angela Badual-Crispin
Barbara Becker
Tonya Davidson
Vicki Hallmark
Lora Hart
Patrik Kusek
Anne Mitchell
Donna Pennoyer
Kelly Russell

If you know any of these and their work, you will understand why I'm particularly honored to be part of the team (and a little over-awed!).

As muses, we hope to be a source of inspiration!

The first interpretation of the challenge is up tomorrow - Wednesday on Tonya's blog. Mine isn't due for a few weeks yet....

Hope you'll enjoy the series and be inspired - whatever art/craft you do.....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hear ye! Hear Ye!......

Announcement time is approaching.....this evening...late.... (don't you love secrets and surprises?)

I'll blog about it tomorrow but if you can't wait until then, be sure to check the "news" on this evening and

Monday, January 25, 2010

The other Quentin in my life - Quentin Blake

Illustration by Quentin Blake

I've been thinking for a while now about how I wish I could draw. It would really be useful with what I do.....but I never did art at school or out of school and just don't seem to be able to do it....
And the sort of drawing I want to do isn't "serious" drawing you know, that isn't my style :=D...

Illustration by Quentin Blake

So I've been looking around at classes etc ....and when I was in England over the New Year, I looked at some "how to draw" books....and who should I find but Quentin! This time - Quentin Blake, not Quentin Quail. He has written a Klutz book entitled "Drawing for the artistically undiscovered". So I bought it and I love it! It even comes with a little pouch with 2 art pencils and a pen.

I've enjoyed Quentin Blake's style of drawing for years - but I don't think you see much of him here in the US. He is one of Britains's best-loved and most successful illustrators and children's authors. He has illustrated more than 300 books and is probably most well known for this illustrations of Roald Dahl books. He also illustrates a lot of greeting cards so you see his drawings everywhere. He has recieved many awards, included a CBE.

His how-to-draw book is just delightful and with the whimsy style and humor, it is quite liberating. You are not trying to do something perfect - just putting pencil or pen to paper. His lessons often involve you finishing some of his drawings, like the prize winners of the World's Hairiest Man competition:

You spend time drawing candles with attitude, brooms, rakes, mops with all kinds on characteristics...and then progress to adding perspective to your drawings ..... light and shadow....

Then there is a section on different animals - including the zoo in your imagination with such things as s 14-legged Gaumposaurus....but also birds, pigs, horses, fish, crocodiles and dogs:

and then people:

I'm only about a third of the way through and I'm already dreading getting to the end as its just such fun. You can pick up the book for just a couple of minutes, or get in the swing of it and spend ages doing lots of silly drawings.

Parrot by Quentin Blake
So if you've been wanting to try drawing - give Quentin a try. You will have a wild time! And check out his website

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday's spotlight - Lincoln and Lincolnshire in the news

By guest blogger Pete.

Lincoln and Lincolnshire men had been in the forefront of the news this week.

Pride of place must go to Mike Thomas and the members of the Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Team. Taking on the mantle of the U.K. Fire and Rescue Team Mike, as leader, and seven others from the Lincolnshire Team headed out for Haiti at short notice shortly following the devastating earthquake there.

As I write this rescue work in the island has ceased and the U.K. team are flying back to their homes. Their work day began at 5 a.m. and went on until darkness forced them to call a temporary halt. I guess one or two of them might be having a lay in this coming Saturday and Sunday mornings before they return to their regular duties on Monday. They have been credited with over 100 rescues during their time on the island. Their first rescue was that of a 2 year old child.

I can't remember now whether or not it was Mike who spoke to us but some time ago I heard an account of the U.K. Fire and Rescue team's work (under the mantle of the U.K. Fir and Rescue) in northern India following an earthquake there. They spent over a week in the district and told us not only what the rescuers had to contend with but also the hardships facing the survivors.

I'm sure another Lincolnshire man, Chris Sands, won't object to getting 2nd place in this week's blog. Chris lives in a village just outside of Lincoln and for nearly three years he has been suffering from continuous hiccups. This has stopped him from such things as sleeping and eating properly, driving, follow his profession as a professional musician and much more. The hiccuping began in September 2006 and, with the short relief of 2weeks early on, has continued until last month. All this hiccuping for no apparent reason.

Chris has tried every remedy - both medical and old wives' - that he could find but all to no avail. He was interviewed on a number of occasions by Radio Lincolnshire and it was easy to see the stress and pressure he has had to live under.

In desperation he appealed for help on the Internet. That appeal was picked up by a Japanese T.V. station, who flew him to Tokyo to see a hiccup specialist there. This doctor discovered a tumour on his brain stem. Following his return home that tumour was removed in a Sheffield Hospital.

Darwin admirers might be interested to know that some experts think hiccups are a throw back to our ancient pre human ancestors, who had GILLS. Even after all this Chris doesn't make the Guiness Book of Records for the longest non stop hiccuping. This is held by an American farmer who hiccuped non stop for 68 years - yes, 68 years.

Next time you hiccup just think that your far distant ancestors might well have been fish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Making and using stencils with metal clay

Yeah! I've had some time in my studio again! It's been far too long an absence....

So straight back in and I've been trying out a new technique - stenciling. Basically you cut out a stencil from brass and then place it over a dried metal clay shape. You then drag very thick metal clay paste over the stencil with a palette knife. The clay goes through the holes in the stencil - and voila! A pattern comes through onto your dried metal clay shape.

Here is a photo of me in the process - sanding the stencil......Bet you can guess what it is?

There is a whole chapter on the technique by Kelley Russell in the PMC Technic book if you want more info and inspiration....or drop me a line if you have any questions.....

Can't show you my whole piece yet as it is a surprise!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday's fascinations, facts, and folklore - Bird Bills vs Beaks

What is the difference between beaks and bills?

It used to be that parrots, hawks, eagles and vultures had beaks - curved downwards structures for tearing fruit or flesh, and all other birds had bills - more dainty pointed structures.

Photo by Praziquantel

Nowadays however, either term can be used for birds as the distinction has been lost and the terms are used interchangeably.

The beak can also refer to a wide range of other animals, including turtles, some insects, some fish and a few mammals. But the bill is only used for birds (apart from the duck-billed platypus!)...but maybe the dog species shown in the photo below...?

Photo by Nathan

Thursday, January 21, 2010

International Hug Day

Just my luck! It's 10.16pm and I've only just found out that today was international hug day! Think of all those hugs I've missed out on today :-(

Here's one for anyone who needs one.


I guess it's also a good excuse to show the "free hugs" Youtube video. I love this!

especially when it changes from black and white to color...

Using Flickr photos freely in your blog

No, the above photo isn't my latest sales plan!!! - but it is an example of a great "jewelry" photo from Flickr, by Lepiaf

I was talking to a friend of mine today about using other peoples' photos in your blog. I explained to her about the creative commons search on Flickr, and while I could explain it here - instead I'll just link you to the wonderful explanation by Skelliewag. It is great.

Skelliewag - the complete guide to finding and using incredible flickr images

You'll find lots of other information on his blog too. Definitely one to read regularly.

Previous post about Flickr

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Google analytics - keywords

I check Google Analytics regularly for my website, this blog and also my Etsy store.

Looking today, I analyzed the most frequent keywords used to find my Etsy store in the last six months. They are:

1. birdcage necklace
2. bird cage necklace
3. red seed beads 9/0
4. artisan jewelry
5. Alexander Henry Dragon Ring
6. Bella's bag in twilight
7. Caribbean scarf
8. birdcage earrings
9. Lapis turtle pendant
10.tassel scarf

Hmm. I guess 4 actually relate to what I do......All I can say is that people must have been disappointed in a lot of their searches! Especially the 20 people looking for the Alexander Henry Dragon Ring! The keywords really don't make any sense as to why they would find my store!!!!

But I guess the positive thing is that I should keep making birdcage jewelry as the birdcage necklace ALWAYS tops the list with 62% of new visitors finding me for that term! And my Etsy store is number 1 on google search for "birdcage necklace".

So what are the most frequent keywords that people use to find you? Any odd ones?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Snoopy in the rain

It's wet here! Big storms with thunder and lightening...... and in today's paper is Snoopy, also having to deal with it:


Reasons to use Photofunia for adding effects to photos!

My admin-January is going well and I hope to get back into my studio tomorrow. I've filed my CA sales taxes, sorted and updated my website, sent off bio and photos etc for a project coming up shortly.....and I'm currently working on some changes and improvements to my blog.

While doing some blog stuff, I came across this fun site - Photofunia - and here's what I made in less than a minute!

Cat eyeing up Manchego Mouse!

They have lots of different effects to choose from...and while many of them are for faces, there are a few that seem appropriate for other things!

Reasons to use Photofunia:
  • It's easy
  • It takes less than a minute
  • It's fun
  • It's free
Here's one of me in a train station!

Have a play!


Monday, January 18, 2010

Top Ten wild birds

I've been thinking about the different birds I use in my jewelry, from Quentin quail .... to Clair de Loon ...... to Orlando the swan...., and wondering what other birds I should be trying. So I thought I'd come up with a list of what seems to me to be the most popular wild birds. The list is highly unscientific - just my thoughts based on what designs we see, photographs, news....a whole variety of things. Here are the top 10 - in no particular order

So what do you think? Have I missed out something obvious? What is your favorite?

What about my runners up: herons....Should they be on there? And what about Quentin??? What about a type of duck...

From the list I've made a penguin, a woodpecker, a hummingbird, an owl and a swan..... What next?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday's spotlight - "LINCOLN'S BIRDLAND (with apologies to Ruth and John's "Birdland")"

By guest blogger Pete.

I thought that this Sunday I'd introduce you to some of our garden visitors at Birdland, Lincoln. I don't have photos of many of them but I'll include the ones I took, during our recent cold spell, with this blog.

One of our favourites - and a regular daily visitor - is LEFTY. Now Lefty is a very handsome dove. He's not the only dove we see but we can recognise him quite easily because some year or so ago he broke a leg (his left one, incidentally!). He keeps going despite this handicap and flies just as well as his companions although he is no where near as mobile as they are when on the ground.

We have lots of blackbirds come to our garden and they really entertain us. They all seem to be acrobats - even though we do see the odd stumble now and again. They absolutely love apples. We attach the apples to one of the trees in the garden and there their acrobatic expertise is soon seen. If eating two apples a day will keep the sparrow hawk away then they can do that in a morning!

Our favourite blackie was a character we called MERLOT. For some reason, Merlot had some white feathers on his head and so was easy to identify. It's months now since we last saw him so we don't know if he's gone to that great apple tree in the sky or just shed his few white feathers.

The blackbirds are real characters. There's another we call BILLY ELLIOTT. We name him after the lead in the film of the same name where Billy was a male teenager interested in becoming a ballet dancer. Our Billy lands on the roof of our conservatory and then with a series of "thump, thump, thumps" hops across the roof to the edge and from there down onto the feeding shelf. With the frost and ice we have been having lately he's found it rather difficult to land and so we have been getting a "sluuuuuuuuuuush" as he slides to a halt rather than the accustomed "thump, thump, thump.".

MRS BULLY is probably the silliest backbird visitor we get. Whenever we put food out in the morning she is soon there and stands guard over it to keep the other blackbirds away. She doesn't attempt to deter the other birds - only the blackbirds. Nor does she ever think of eating any of the food we put out for the birds. The other blackbirds have got her summed up, though. One or two of them will make a diversionary flight in to draw her away from the shelf. Once that is achieved other blackies will swoop down for a quick bite or two before Mrs Bully returns to send them on their way. Yes! You've guessed it. Whilst she is busy seeing off the ones who have started their breakfast down come the others for a quick snack. So it goes on.

We also have a bully pigeon, who is definitely number one amongst his fellow pigeons. We call him HOOVER. Now, as you probably know, a Hoover is a vacuum cleaner and that is Hoover's approach to peanuts. He starts at one end of the shelf and in record time he cleans up every peanut in sight.

There are many other varieties of birds who come to visit us. It took us some time to attract the goldfinches. We used thistle seed to do this and eventually succeeded. When Ruth was here last week she didn't believe they were gold finches and it took the authority of a "British Birds" book to persuade her otherwise. It appears that the U.S. variety of gold finch is all yellow and looks more like a canary than anything else. The U.K. variety is much more attractive - even though I may be just that little bit biased.

Watch the birds. They really are worth watching and they will keep you amused as well.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Unusual sculptural scenes

I recently came across these lovely little paper sculptures of everyday scenes and found them so delightful:

Then I found out they were all made from a toilet roll!

Artist Anastassia Elias carefully carves tiny scenes in the toilet rolls, leaving the outside intact, with the layer of the scene providing shadows and depth. The artist then photographs the toilet rolls/sculptures at different angles so you see different parts of the scene.

I love them! Maybe I'll have to stop giving our paper rolls to our parrot to chew up and create something with them instead!

I remember when I was a kid, my mum used to do arts and crafts with children and often used toilet rolls for different projects. We always called them "do di do rolls" then - so much more refined than toilet rolls!!! Ever made anything from a do di do roll?

Friday, January 15, 2010

January activity

January is a month for administration and reflection. It is generally a quiet month for sales so I like to spend most of the time looking back and looking forward...and catching up. It's like a step-back-from-it month when I can take stock and plan and consider.

Right now I have quite a few administrative things to complete too - including my CA sales tax return - and so I am not making anything new.

It's tricky. I have lots in my head that I want to do, new techniques to try and explore...but I'm trying to keep the creations as a "reward" for when I have completed my admin "chores"! Hopefully that will be sometime next week, then I can get my hands dirty again!!!

So while I have nothing new to show, thought you might like to see a couple of playful things I made a while ago - "On Safari". Unfortunately, admin and the such is not as exciting as being on safari!!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Back to the birds

We arrived home last night and this morning had a new bird on our pond to welcome us home.

It's a northern pintail and I don't think he's been to Birdland before.

My photo isn't very clear I'm afraid as he was a long way away and I didn't want to go outside and disturb him. But you can clearly see his blue bill! What a handsome fellow.

Here are a couple of good photos so you can see what a pintail looks like:

I don't think Harold was impressed. Here were are, back after two weeks and spending our first breakfast looking through binoculars at a bird outside, instead of him! But no - we are happy to see Harold too - and he's been singing a lot since we got home.

Time for me to head off and sing now....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Flying home today

All being well, we'll be flying back home today......back to the clement weather of northern California, away from the cold and snow.....back to Harold......back to my studio......back to the vineyard and wine country...

We've had a great time catching up with everyone, but I have to say the snow did mean we missed out on seeing some people which was disappointing. But we still drove around quite a lot - north to Lincoln, west to Cardiff, east to Croxley and London....

It's always mixed emotions when we leave....happy to be going home but sad to be leaving family and friends here....