Thursday, 24 December 2009

Twas the Night Before Christmas, And My House Smelt of Orange Polenta Cake

It has been snowing like you would not believe in the past five days.  I've never seen snow this early - it usually comes at the end of January for a couple of weeks, and its just beautiful to look out on the garden which is as white as white as can be.  

Horse care has been more of a challenge - trying to convince a healthy, raring to go half-ton horse that he needs to stay in his stable for the duration for his own safety is not at all easy...he's been out in the field in the snow a little but our livery-yard owners have decided its too dangerous to put horses out because of the ice that follows the snow for the moment, so we are all confined to out stables (well, ok - the horses are - the owners can come and go as they please I guess) - I've been taking Merlin for walks, letting him run and roll in the indoor riding school and today I gave him a massage.  I wouldn't mind someone do all that for me!  He seems to be ok, and hopefully the snow and ice won't last too long.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Goodbye Borders....Why Its Such a Bad Thing

The bookseller's chain Borders has gone into administration and is unlikely to be open many more days - I visited a few days ago and it looked like it had been ram-raided - with about six things left on the shelves.   I read an article in a newspaper claiming  the people of the UK just didn't get the whole thing with Borders - that it was a product of the 'Friends' TV Series era - where people sat around drinking coffee whilst choosing books and that we in the UK just never got the concept.  I can tell you if my relationship with Borders had been repeated up and down the country, they would be thriving. 

It seems, said the newspaper article, that the people in 'Friends' moved away, grew up, and started using Amazon.  But I do find this sad.  Even as an enthusiastic owner of a Sony E-Reader I could never have given up my paper book habit, and I never left the store without purchasing several books (and I mean several each time) - I LOVED the fact that I could go up to Starbucks on the mezzanine floor and that I could lug a pile of books up there too and I could sit and decide what I'd buy.  As I said, I never left without buying something. 

Let It Snow...A Horse Owner's Perspective

Its the first time in years I can remember seeing snow pre-Christmas - I looked out the window last night and yikes, its snowing!   Is it snowing specially to make a point to all those people holed up in Copenhagen right now?   It looks so beautiful, so clean and so amazing and it was tempting to wrap a big blanket round myself and huddle round the fire with egg-nog (to be honest, I've never had egg nog, so being English it would probably be tea...?)

But then I remember that beautiful horse of mine and my conscience prods me into life - brrrr --

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

New Car!!!!!!

Well, I finally took delivery of my 'new' car (well, OK, its a used new car, but its new to me!) - I was sooooo glad to get rid of that old lemon!! 

Tempered with the happiness of having a new car though was the dreadful experience of dealing with the car dealership - I have to tell you, I hate the haggling, the 'horse trading' and the downright sneaky dirty tricks they try to pull to get you to part with even MORE money - want your paintwork protected?  How about paying a fortune for wheel insurance?  No?  Then try the three months free warranty - oh, OK, thanks so much.  But you can extend your warranty by twelve months for '£X' - oh - OK - so that'll be '£X' for 15 months will it? - its still twelve months - so WHERE did my free three months go exactly?.  Yeah.  You got it.  It never existed.

Currently Reading...

This is what I am currently reading...
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice; this was a happy accident - .  it jumped off the shelf in a book-shop.   I have started this series out of sequence as it is one of a large series, but I plan on reading the others - vampire books are not usually a genre that appeal to me one iota, but this is fun; the central character Lestat (who as you might surmise is a vampire) should be an unappealing and hideous character but as a reader, I found myself liking him very much; the first book in the series is 'Interview with the Vampire' which I plan on sinking my teeth into as soon as possible...
The Horse Dancer by JoJo Moyes - a young girl lives with her Grandfather, who was a  long time ago a member of the elite French 'cadre noir' - a bit like the Spanish School of Riding but in France.   She lives on the wrong side of the tracks in a rough part of London and the one bright part of her life is her horse Boo; with her Grandfather she has been working on haute ecole movements with the horse which will one day, he hopes, give her a way out of the rough environment.   The grandfather has a stroke and the girl ends up in care...believing that she will have the horse taken off her, she chooses to conceal it which causes her terrible problems.  A lot of difficulties ensue for the carers and the child, which culminates with the child riding to France to try to show the Cadre Noir her horse; there is a second story going on about the carers, and a couple of others about the characters in the story so its not 'just' a horse-and-a-girl type book.   Even if you are not into horses, this is one of those wonderful tales that would be excellent for both adults and older children.  The result is unexpected, poignant, but ultimately positive. 

Art Journals & Creative Healing (Restoring the Spirit through Self-Expression) by Sharon Soneff and Mindy Caliguire - even had I been able to buy this as an E-book I wouldn't have done so, because this sort of book has to be read, handled and enjoyed - I toy with journal-keeping on a sort of wistful basis most of the time - its basically creative diary keeping, or a process of working through an event or an emotion or a way of keeping an art-based journal on whatever subject you choose.  Its a great idea, and I have lots of ideas for working on a variety of subjects...I'll occasionally start one and then other creative stuff will come along and push it aside and I feel ashamed of my pathetic efforts to keep up with it.  Journal keeping doesn't really have rules other than  you actually have to write it and keep up with it....and as good as my intentions are, I just cannot seem to do that.   The process though, when I do put effort in is rewarding and I have (in theory, at least, at various stages of being worked on) several which focus on my animals, my work, and so on.  This book's title is self-explanatory...the scope of the work and the subjects is inspiring.   I always feel that my journals should be more beautiful but the process is designed for the writer/author to work through that subject and not for the books to be open to the scrutiny of others.  In this book though, we do get to scrutinise the journal-keeping work of others...the book is full of advice and inspiration, so perhaps this one will make me put some work into the process.

The House on The Strand by Daphne du Maurier - it comes as a surprise to me how accessible and readable du Maurier's work is when I have not picked up one of her books for a while.  Considering her work was written a relatively long time ago, I sometimes fall into the trap of imagining it to be stuffy and stiff.   Not so.  She produced a lot of other work besides her most high profile books, Jamaica Inn and Rebecca, which are fabulous reads.   The House on the Strand is a story of drug-induced time-travel - which sounds a bit weird but is an original and inventive bit of storytelling with great atmosphere.   I loved this one; I plan on re-reading Rebecca and Jamaica Inn as soon as I can find the time. 

No, Really, I'm Not Actually Dead....

I apologise for having been so neglectful of my Blog of late.   We got off to a good start and then in the last month, well, you know when you realise you haven't done something for a while then it just gets harder and harder to do the thing you haven't done?  Its like ringing a friend you haven't spoken to for ages - all of a sudden for no particular reason you think its all going to be awkward.  And it rarely is.  I can speak from experience here because I once lost touch with a friend for ten years.  But during those ten years I still thought of her as my best friend.  OK, I know that's weird. 

Anyway....what's been happening?  Well apparently its Christmas.  I have to be honest, I hate Christmas.  I have this belief that we should be nice to each other all year round, not just because its a particular time of year.  I loathe the way we

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Beating My Car With A Branch of a Tree.....

The scene from 'Fawlty Towers' of John Cleese beating his car with a stick because it broke down seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Its official, my car is knackered.   I have to confess its probably not had an easy life, being used as our 'workhorse' car, it is continually loaded up with saddles, bridles, sacks of horse feed and bales of horse bedding; we moved house using it, and its probably moved tons and tons of stuff over its lifetime.   I do though keep the front seat free for my handbag, spare coats, my packets of tissues, bags of sweets, phone chargers, bottles of water

Saskia Heirloom Comb

This is Saskia Heirloom comb - as soon as I saw the huge c.1980's vintage clip on earrings I knew they were too large for the ears of any human being, but I knew exactly what I would do with them - they were an unusual shaped piece of Mother of pearl overlaid with goldtone brass filigree and then some nice beadwork and crystal twinkles - I took the backs off and then sat with my head in my hands for a while regretting that - how, when I had taken the fixings off was I going to be able to wire them back into something?  
I sorted that one out in the end then had fun wiring Swarovski crystal pearls and beads, freshwater pearls and other tiny treasures into the comb - making the middle join up was a challenge because every time I put in new beads, the earrings parted company which meant going back to more wirework; to me, the important thing about using vintage items in a fresh new piece is that is that the entire finished piece should look as 'seamless' as possible; despite my telling you there are vintage items in there, the join between the new and the old should not be obvious. 
I've made the comb a bit flexible so that it can be inserted against the hair rather than perch on the end, I was pleased with the piece and can't wait to see someone wearing it!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Talia Heirloom Tiara

This is Talia Helirloom Tiara; I started with a handmade flexible wire band then added a patinated mesh butterfly which I had in my stash - this dates to around the 1960's; over time it has developed a darkened patina which I decided to leave as is rather than clean up and make it shiny so it looked like new - mainly because I wanted to use the gorgeous Swarovski crystal pearl colour 'Platinum' in the piece.  I made a Swarovski crystal, wire and rocailles (seed bead) flower and added Czech glass leaves, Swarovski crystal pearl and bead wired 'sprays; the colour that naturally goes with the Platinum coloured Swarovski pearl is turquoise and this looked gorgeous with the butterfly.   I finished off the piece by wiring Swarovski pearls on the band; its an unconventional piece for a bride, but I thought it would look lovely for a 'Midsummer Night's Dream' type wedding or perhaps for a bridesmaid. 

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Currently reading...

Books I am currently reading...
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell - this is so beautifully written, a story about a young woman who finds out she has an aunt who has been in a mental institution most of her life, just as the institution is about to close.  Despite not wanting to, she becomes drawn into the story of Esme and the resulting story is wonderful, happy, tender and so worth spending the time reading.
Creative Time And Space by Rice Freeman Zachery - Rice's books are always a visual treat, and this new one is no exception....the writing is pretty darn good too!  I have a billion and one things to do for work right now, and all I have managed to do is flick through and bookmark here and there but I am constantly distracted by it...visually it draws the reader in; it truly is a work of art in itself, I managed to read a bit of it whilst the equine dentist was looking at my horse's teeth a few days ago (which is probably a first for this book generally!) - this is a beautiful book that artists of all kind will enjoy and use constantly.Goodbye, Dear Friend - Coming To Terms With The Death of A Pet by Virginia Ironside...I am sad to be once again reading this book; I am struggling with grief following the death of my beautiful pussycat Cleo who was my constant companion.  This book has gently guided me through the loss of other deeply loved feline companions in the past, and I am working through its wisdom again.   I miss my pretty girl every day, and my heart is breaking from the sadness.   This book is a much needed resource; this is one to remember for times like these.    
Becoming Queen by Kate Williams...this author writes wonderfully - her style is faultless, beautiful and readable...I loved her previous book about Emma Hamilton, the mistress of Lord Nelson and this one is every bit as good...the book, whilst about Queen Victoria, begins with a the fascinating and tragic story of the previous heir presumptive, Princess Charlotte which was a rather unusual start to a book about Queen Victoria...but as I had not read anything on Charlotte before, I found this in itself very interesting.  The ensuing work on Victoria is very good too. 

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Vivienne Heirloom Band Tiara

This is Vivienne Heirloom Tiara/Band which I made using an original 1980's crystal-and-faux-pearl-set goldtone brooch, wired into a handmade frame and embellished with Swarovski crystal and seed beads/rocailles.   A particular challenge was identifying the crystal pearl colour to match the original faux pearl, but as usual, I found a good match in one of the Swarovski pearl colours, and after identifying the matching Swarovski crystal colours, the challenge I had to come up with something a bit inventive for the side ornamentation which complemented the original brooch, so I made four-petal Swarovski-based flowers and also came up with Swarovski crystal pearl and bead 'rosettes', which you can see here to the side of the piece. It was only after I finished it that I realised that the gold-plated rocailles are what can only be termed 'delicate' - after quite a lot of gnashing of teeth, I found myself having to remake several of the flowers and rosettes because the gold was coming off inside the beads.  In the end, I used the same rocailles but used a painted on substance which is used to preserve and protect artwork and fragile papers - it cannot be seen by the naked eye, and gives a great deal of protection to these delicate beads and also the wirework and original piece of 1980's jewellery; I held my breath whilst I worked with the archival fluid but it worked out just fine.

I've been working on new and fresh items for the relaunch of my tiara site, 'Tiaraonline' and the relaunch has been in the works for months and months - this piece took me the best part of a week to make, so progress is slow but I think that's ok as I feel its important to have good work to display and offer for sale when it does launch.  I anticipate it will be up and running in about three to four weeks.
It's a fairly substantial piece of hair jewellery, which I imagine worn in alice-band fashion though I tried it out and it can be worn as a conventional tiara too - there are loops at the back of the frame so it can be pinned into place, but I find that my handmade flexible frames tend not to need securing in that way.  I can't wait to see photos of the bride who eventually wears this.

A Minute for Madeleine - If You Do Nothing Else Today, Please Watch This

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Time for a little 'ahhhh moment...'

I just wanted to share the latest picture of my little niece May, who is just over a month old...she went to her first party on halloween and her mum and dad (my brother Colin and wife Clare) dressed her as a black and white pussycat, which seems perfectly reasonable to me....

Sunday, 1 November 2009

And The Winner Is...

Janet Yard is the winner of my 'win a necklace' competition which was drawn today - congratulations Janet!  I'll be running other competitions and offers in the future (join the e-mail list for advance notification) so please stop by often!

This is Janet's necklace - made with sterling silver, handmade lampwork roses and Swarovski crystal.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Like A Horse, But Not A Horse...So What's The Point??

As a horse owner, I find this product quite hilarious...

this, people, is the I-Joy Ride. Apparently it "tone(s) up your abs, inner thighs and buttocks...using up to the minute technology, it gives you all the associated benefits of horse riding within the comfort of your home."
Now, frankly, we have to ask the question 'why' and I'll say it again 'why oh why?' - I get

Monday, 26 October 2009

Ten Things About Me....

I am afraid of heavy vehicles passing me on the drivers side because a truck once drove over the side of one of my cars whilst I was in it.   I still own the car.

My cats have mostly been black and white.   My horse is also black and white.

When I was six I visited the Victoria Falls in what was then Rhodesia - I remember thinking 'I will never forget this' and I never have.

If I could have any job in the world, real or imaginary, I would like to design cat's coats (I mean their fur) - I think I could come up with some novel cats. 

Most of my t-shirts are aquamarine;  this is despite my current favourite colour being purple.

I think goats cheese is the work of the devil.  Coriander is a close second.

I couldn't tell the time till I was 12 because we moved about so much all over the world and that sort of got missed somewhere along the way.

I once ended up in my bra in departures at JFK.  It actually wasn't all my fault.

I hate Chrysanthemums.

My Mum often gets mistaken for my sister.  I am not sure if this is a good thing or not.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Did I Ever Mention?

Having had some feedback from a few customers after they received their jewellery purchases, I realised I hadn't previously mentioned the bags and wrapping I use for your purchases...beautiful slk-embroidered pouches and bags which do double duty as they are either mobile phone pouches, jewellery rolls or drawstring bags. When I do a 'giveaway' offer I wrap in tissue with an organza drawstring bag.

I am fortunate many of my customers come back for more, and I've always been in the habit of periodically saying 'thank you' by sending a little something extra , well, I suppose its no use not mentioning it!

Recently I decided to periodically offer a publicised freebie which is open to anyone making a qualifying purchase and of course there is the packaging too; I hope when you open your envelope you'll not only be happy with the item you purchased, but the gorgeous packaging or perhaps a free gift from time to time makes the process a special one for you - it's my way of saying thank you!

New York New York

Its almost a year since I was last in NY...sigh...anyway, here is a gorgeous time lapse photography film by Max Moos which is almost as good as being there....

Music by Moby from Max Moos

Monday, 19 October 2009

Currently Reading...

These are the books I'm currently reading....
Georgiana; Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman; I'm reading Georgiana for the third time - the first was on holiday in the Florida Keys; an American guy tried to buy it for his wife whilst we were on a boat trip - we'd got into a conversation about the Duchess of Devonshire and that Chatsworth House wasn't far from where I live (its actually about 30 miles away but that's not considered far in America....) - I hadn't finished it so I wouldn't part with it, but before I left the States I mailed it to his wife because I'd finished it by then.    A Superior Death by Nevada Barr; the 'Anna Pigeon' mysteries are a bit like Nancy Drews for grownups - I have them all on my e-reader which is currently broken so I am having to read it on my PC which is a pain in the derriere, but there you far, this one is not as good as the others but maybe that has something to do with my irritation with the loss of my Sony e-reader....  The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama: This is a lovely book - it's  like the Alexander McCall Ladies' Detective Agency stories without the patronising attitude, only this is set in India and its about a Marriage Bureau...its light and unchallenging which is great at bedtime...I have a habit of reading until I fall asleep and often get woken up by the book slapping me across the face when I nod off.  Which means I start over and end with another slap in the face...obviously, hardbacks hurt more.   Feeling Fat, Fuzzy, or Frazzled?: Beat Hormone Havoc and Feel Better Fast by Richard Shames and Karilee Halo Shames   OK, this is not light bedtime reading.  Again, its stuck on my computer as an e-book because my Sony Reader has died and is about to go back to Sony (9 months use and then it breaks down at an original cost of over £200?  Not good, Sony!)  Anyway, I digress...this book argues that being overweight, having depression, arthritis and being infertile (amongst other things) are all the products of hormonal inbalances within a body's system and that this can be rectified in some way...(haven't got to that bit yet because this is hard work and I'm lazy when it comes to reading and I desperately want to know if Anna Pigeon catches the bad guys who 'dunnit....'  And anyway, I know why I feel Fat, Fuzzy and Frazzled and its mostly to do with eating chocolate....

This Always Makes Me Smile....

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Today's Jewellery Making.....

I'm just working on the update for SLC - then an e-mail will go out to all customers - in the meantime, here is some stuff I made today!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Adventures of The New Fur Baby

Mia is settling in well, she loves to snuggle up next to me in bed, which will be handy in the wintertime if we have no electricity when the entire nation goes on strike.  

Tomato And Roast Garlic Soup

This is my own recipe, invented because we had a glut of tomatoes...its soooo yummy, and what's more, really easy too!!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Freebie for October 2009 - SLC

Psssst...want a free pair of earrings...?
I'm in the process of loading lots of fresh stock at but this is an advance heads-up for a freebie which I will be starting in the next few days...

Monday, 5 October 2009

How to Ride A Horse Upside Down

What a beautiful sunny day!! Perfect for a ride...Mark came with us on his birthday bike and we had an hour or so out an about on the Moss behind the stables - Merlin and I did some trot and we were even brave enough to canter a little, though the bravery did not last too long...I've been having trouble with my saddle slipping and sure enough, when I was coming down a bit of an incline my saddle went sideways and I went with it - I was lucky that Mark managed to grab my arm before I ended right under Merlin - and Merlin, bless him, did not turn a hair despite me hanging off his neck going down a hill with his saddle round his belly - most horses would probably have run for the hills. I think its to do with my left side being so weak because of my RA, but I have a tendency to run the saddle to one side despite it being girthed properly - its definitely not Merlin's fault and I have to occasionally shift it over a touch to stop it turning turtle; it has been properly fitted and all, I think its just rider discrepancy!!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

"One cat just leads to another"

This is Mia, the new addition to our family....

Starting a new Journal page was one way to draw a line under September. The distressing death of my lovely pussycat Cleo affected me dreadfully and I was glad when the month came to a close. I imagine readers will fall into two categories - those who get the whole pet thing, and those who don't - well, I guess because I don't have children and having tried so hard to save her, it hit hard and I ground to a halt in terms of new creativity for a little while, though orders went out just as normal.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

New Bracelets

A small selection of bracelets I have worked on recently - I started with Swarovski Roses Montees (which have a criss-cross back) and went on adding more Swarovski with seed beads, sterling silver, and they are all strung with Beadalon Pro.
Above - Tropical Colours

Above - Autumn colours with topaz roses montees
Above - Autumn colours with ruby roses montees

Friday, 25 September 2009

Emile Heirloom Tiara

This is my latest Heirloom Tiara, caled Emile. I used a 1950's cold painted enamel and diamante brooch and earrings, silvertone tiara base, Swarovski crystal, glass rocailles, freshwater pearls and silver plated wire to make this piece.

Friday, 11 September 2009

10th September 2009 - The Saddest News

Today I had to have my beautiful pussycat Cleo put to sleep. For weeks Mark and I have been trying to keep her alive by wrapping her in a towel and feeding her with a spoon, but today I lost her - despite only being 11, she had some terrible tumours in her tummy which meant she was in pain and was dying...she had an ultrasound and the vet rang me with the news, I went up there to be with her for one last terrible, hideous, heart-rending, touching hour - she sat on my lap wrapped in a blanket, pushed her face into the crook of my elbow and purred constantly - I sang her her song 'You Are My Sunshine' and too soon, the vet helped her slip away...this lovely little cat whom I loved as my child, who would sit with me in my studio whilst I worked, who comforted me every time my arthritis hurt, who purred me to sleep each night, my funny little black and white cat who followed me everywhere, is gone.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Studio Pics

Some new pictures from my studio - excuse the mess!! I love this space - its really why I went for the house - some people love a big kitchen, mine is tiny - but the studio is in the loft space where I have lots of light and air and space. Though most of the space is taken to be honest....maybe I'll have to move again....

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Currently Reading....

Books I am currently reading...
Amelia Earhart; The Mystery Solved - chronicles the life up to and during the ill-fated flight that resulted in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her co-pilot.  This is a fascinating subject which could have made a wonderful book but the author went into some minutiae which really made it a bit tedious in the end...sadly the result of the flight is that she went missing and really no-one will know what happened so all the technical detail was for me superflous, though perhaps if you fly planes for a living it might be interesting.  I was more interested in the person and what drove her and I found the book lightweight in this.     Living the Creative Life: Ideas and Inspiration from Working Artists by Rice Freeman-Zachery - I subscribe to Rice's blog (see my blog list) and her books are wildly entertaining, wonderfully and beautifully writtten and presented and offer a wealth of support and inspiration for any artist in any medium...this is one of those books that I read constantly on and off, if only to remind myself I am not the only nut in the world.    Abundance, a Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund; this got off to a shaky start and I put it down and picked it up a few times before settling to it.  Its historical fiction, but actually in the end I picked up some more interesting stuff about Marie Antoinette and enjoyed it. 
Tiaras: Past and Present by Geoffrey Munn; I read this book on and off all the time - with beautiful photography, this is an informative refrence work about the history and culture of tiara wearing - even if you have never worn one (they're perfect for shopping at Tesco), this is a fascinating book that chronicles society, history and the wearing of hair jewellery.