Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Today's Creative Effort

I always like the doorway in my home to look pretty, so the postman feels happy when he delivers our mail (!!) and the guys selling stuff we don't want don't feel so downhearted when we pour boiling oil from the upstairs window, so I always have a silk flower 'wreath' to welcome visitors...and today I made this...hours of wiring and pushing and sore fingers, I swear this is the last time I make one of these things....but I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Textile Cuff Bracelets

These textile cuff bracelets were made whilst  working on new ribbon scarves (because there's nothing quite like being distracted to stop all work on the thing you were supposed to be doing....)

I am a complete and utter hoarder of lace and ribbon which has left me with a great pile of stuff; also my mother in law Simone gave me some fab French vintage lace a while back some of which she decided was over 80 years old (she is French and over 80 years old herself).  These cuffs are worked with vintage, antique and contemporary textiles and each one is a labour of love.
These are currently for sale in my Etsy shop, click on the Etsy link to side of this post to go there.

This is 'Giverny Textile Cuff' with vintage beaded trim, velvet, lace and collected threads and fibres from around the world and across time... 

La Vie En Rose Textile Cuff...I love the antique rose colours of this one - vintage lace, gold thread, antique lace, velvet, grosgrain, vintage beaded trim, organza, silk, satin and ombre ribbons with collected threads and fibres from around the world.
 St Tropez Textile Cuff Bracelet - With vintage organza rose trim, contemporary bead trim, silk, satin, organza, wool, velvet, antique lace collected both in England and France; this is a lovely rich chocolately-gold cuff with some pretty gold lace, organza ribbons and vintage beaded trim. 

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Friday, 24 September 2010


I know, I've not been around much recently, but as usual I have a plethora of excuses waiting in the wings.  Sometimes you have nothing to say, and that's part of it, but I mostly have nothing to say because I am saying ouch with every other word.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

What I've Always Wanted....

You're going to snigger, and for that I forgive you, because everyone does, but I've always wanted my own tail.  Just imagine what you could do with it.  You could have it co-ordinate with your clothes, you could use it to hang jewellery from, you could take it to the hair-dressers and have the colour changed.   As I don't have one, I'll have to show you Mia's instead....

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Coral Anniversary

The 35th Wedding Anniversary is Coral, and I've recently been commissioned to make some earrings in celebration of this event by a regular client of mine, Jonathan.   I can spill the beans now because I know that "Mrs. Jonathan" has been given her earrings and I wanted to share the three options I made - when I work to a commission I usually make two or three different pieces so the customer has a choice - I don't like having a choice of one, why should my customers? - I give them their choice and hope they'll like something enough to want to buy it; to be honest I'm never a fan of someone telling me they like something but can they have this and that and the other differently because somehow it makes my artistic muse grumpy, but I love having someone say 'I want coral and gold in earrings' and leave me to it, now that's giving me some artistic licence - Jonathan had wanted a copy of a pair of coral and freshwater pearls I did a few years ago but of course creativity moves on and I wanted something more beautiful, more delicate and pretty for Mrs. J.   Anyway, Mrs. J, happy anniversary.   Shown below are the earrings that were chosen - this was vintage coral

Friday, 10 September 2010

One Year On...

A year ago I had to have my pussycat Cleo put to sleep, I still miss her and think of her every day.   

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

New Hall Hotel and Spa

I've just returned from a stay at New Hall Hotel and Spa in Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham - I needed to visit some of my business contacts in that city and its easier for me to stay over sometimes to have a couple of days in and around the Jewellery Quarter which can be an interesting trip in itself - I've stayed at New Hall before, but just wanted to share some photos with you of the place.  It is the only remaining inhabited moated house left in England, and parts of it date back to the 12th century - it has grafitti on windows from the 15th and 16th Century (so apparently there were hooligans even as far back as then)... - of course, since then there have been lots of additions to the buildings but the tower part is the oldest are of the house and it is just fantastic - its amazing to be allowed to walk around a building this old and with this much history!

Its my little secret hideaway when I am in the Birmingham area on business and its a lovely place to stay, so if you're ever in the area and need somewhere peaceful, clean and lovely to stay, I'd recommend it; there's also a health spa and pool in the grounds which is great after a hard day's drooling over jewellery and tools in Birmingham, which is a city I know well and love very much.

The windows shown in my pics are the ones with the ancient grafitti - apparently the author who penned them was the owner of the house and was a bit of a lovestruck loon - George Sacheverell who was resident in the house in the 15th to 16th Century had plenty to tell us - some of which I wrote down ....the story goes that he fell in love with a woman who did not return the feeling....

"I prefer that I regret my fortune than be ashamed of my victory"

"If I do harm because I love, I confess I will be doing harm without end"

"You are silent and I bear it and hope"

"I do not always have property but hope is always with me"

How amazing to think of this man, standing in this room hundreds of years ago, lovelorn and hopeful, scratching grafitti into his windows, which of course would have been astonishingly costly things at the time.  I wonder if his love was ever returned.    I wonder if ten years after writing all this stuff he wished he hadn't?

Monday, 6 September 2010


I am a keen supporter of Etsy, an online community of artists of all sorts - the community is vibrant, alive and supportive and I've made lots of friends through it; this is the place where all the artists went when Ebay went down the pan and started charging through the nose for just about everything.  It's been in my mind for ages to start selling on Etsy though as with all the best-laid plans it was on a back burner for ages and I hadn't been able to find the time to devote to it, well, today I've started listing on Etsy, and my idea is that mostly the things on Etsy will differ from those on my site.   Please take a look over there, I hope you'll find something you just have to take home....just click on the image and you will be taken there as if by magic (or more accurately, by the internet....)

Wednesday, 1 September 2010


I've made this piece today - this was originally a PARIS bracelet from around the 1940's (see below) and to be honest I paid way way too much for it - but I'm a sucker for this shade of blue - I had to have it.

Taking vintage or antique pieces apart makes me break into a nervous sweat, I must be sure it's right for the piece, which leads to lots of jewellery waiting for me to make up my mind before I start in with the pliers.... 

From the outset, I imagined a 'V' shape necklace with swags and tails - the initial construction went to plan, but getting the length and drape of the chain swags right was a horror - I kept snipping away at chain and opening and closing jump rings.   The only way to construct a piece like this is to do it on a dress form, it's not possible to get it right working straight from a bead mat.  It would have made sense to draw it before starting, but I rarely do; I only draw when I'm not sure and I'm worried about cutting something that will make it unuseable if the design doesn't work.

Currently Reading

"Books have to be read. It is the only way of discovering what they contain. A few savage tribes eat them, but reading is the only method of assimilation revealed to the West." - E.M. Forster
Currently reading....

The Island by Victoria Hislop - what a wonderful book; beautifully written, full of empathy and you'd happily adopt the characters into your own life. 
Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother Sofia's past life on Crete which is a mystery to her. When Alexis decides to visit Crete with her boyfriend, she is given a letter by Sofia to take to Fotini, her Mother's childhood friend, who Alexis hopes will shed light on her heritage.

Alexis finds the village lies a stone’s throw from the deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s former leper colony. When she meets Fotini, she finally hears the story that Sofia has hidden: of Eleni, her great-grandmother and a family split by sadness, passion and war.   I enjoyed this book so much, the characters were absorbing and real, but the book covers so much, such a breadth of years and events that I felt parts - especially the ending, seemed rushed - like there was a list or a series of tick boxes the author had to get through; although a long book, it would quite perfectly well have stood another 50 pages, and its a shame because so much of the work is beautifully written and worked.  Or is this just me being greedy?

Authenticity: Clearing the Junk: A Buddhist Perspective by Venerable Yifa - I'm not one for religion - spirituality is a different thing entirely; I believe in the good in people rather than feeling the need to go to church to find that, or whatever it is each person looks for when they practice their religion.   The one religion I can see the sense in though is Buddhism; the gentleness, the understanding and the overall common sense of it appeals to me greatly.
Venerable Yifa is a Buddhist monk, and here she writes about our lives being overwhelmed with junk.  From a rather flippant context of considering the state of my studio, I can see the sense in considering the junk we surround ourselves with - junk food, junk mail, junk culture, junk relationships.  She argues for finding and connecting with a deeper meaning in all aspects of our lives, and that makes sense on so many levels.  This book is short but full of layers of meaning and guidance - its one of those books you'll have to read over and over again to find new messages each time.   Common sense guidance from a gentle soul.  And who could argue with that? 

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory - despite the soul damaging 'Wideacre' mentioned in last month's 'Currently Reading', I picked up another Philippa Gregory book because I love her characterisations and the pictures she paints of history.  The Other Queen mentioned in the book is Mary, Queen of Scots, but this book is about three women - Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and Bess of Hardwick Hall and Chatsworth (both near here) in the Peak District.  Her characterisation of all three is fabulous, and as always, there are new historical glimpses to be had, though some of the facts have of course been re-worked to give a better story.  

Pompeii by Robert Harris - Pompeii is somewhere I've always wanted to visit.  The thought of an entire culture and time being stopped, frozen and preserved is fascinating to me.   The Roman culture is not one I have done as much reading about as I have in terms of British history, but again, its an area I will explore in the future.  Harris' Pompeii brings the culture, the time and his characters to life quite beautifully, so much so I found myself holding my breath.   Two central characters, a now rich and powerful ex-slave and a waterworks engineer, make unlikely heroes and villains, supported by a cast of many others including Pliny.   There is a terrible inevitability to the whole tale of course, rather like waiting for the Titanic to sink.   I know Harris got at least one fact wrong, because there were no cats in Pompeii at the time of the eruption (ref: The Character of Cats, Stephen Budiansky) which made me think ha!, but its the one thing I could find to criticise; you find yourself hating the villain of the piece as you do with the best villains; and you hope the hero gets it together with the girl he falls in love with.  A great beach read, started off my Roman/Pompeii research reading at entry level, I enjoyed this very much.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

New Stuff

Two more bracelets, waiting in the wings to go on the site...one is hand-wired using brass, the other is collected Venetian and antique beads from around the world. 
Above: three strands of hand-wired freshwater pearls, Swarovski crystal pearls, Czech glass beads, Swarovski crystal, copper beads, vintage and collected beads from round the world.  I was talking to someone whilst I worked on this, which is why it took me 3 hours to make.....
Click on the photo above to go to the Etsy Listing.
Above - Venetian glass, Swarovski crystal, Bohemian glass, American artist-made beads, sterling silver - the beads span approx. 1920's to present and were made from a dive into my bead stash - sometimes I find this kind of piece the most difficult of all to make - not only do I have to part with long-loved friends (yeah, beads....) but I often spend hours just trying to get exactly the right partner bead for the next one along - and then all of a sudden the whole thing is disrupted because it's not quite right and I have to start all over again....well....there's a good long dose of pink in this one anyway.

Sneak Peek Two...

Well, I finally got my fresh vintage stuff uploaded onto the site, but I've been doing lots of creating in the meantime...these should hopefully be up on the site in the next week or so....

Below is a selection of work with Rose Quartz, silver and gold lined Murano glass, sterling silver and Swarovski crystal.
And some new earrings...
Above and below - new earrings featuring Swarovski crystal and sterling silver.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Alice In Wonderland

I've just watched Alice in Wonderland...have you seen it?  Its just A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!   OK, its got a lot of CGI in it and its an adaptation of the original but we've all read (and seen) that so it was refreshing to see something new.  
In the film, Alice is now 19 and is about to receive a proposal of marriage when she falls down the rabbit hole once again.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that Jonny Depp is a huge part of the film because not only is he yummy but he is also funny - strange how many times we've seen him in wild make-up in films - (aha, I have here a copy of his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)...but recognise him in this film - no way!
At first I thought the lead actress Mia Wasikowska was incredibly plain and disappointing but of course that was part of the film - once she falls down the rabbit hole she blossoms, and I loved the way her costumes evolved.   Best part of the film for me?  The Cheshire Cat of course.   You just can't miss this - I watched it on my PC snuggled down in bed, and was just completely lost, lost.  
And as for the Cheshire cat, what can I say?   He's utterly scrumptious..... not sure which one I prefer - Depp or the cat, Depp or the cat....oh, its got to be the cat!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Sneak Peek....

Right now, I'm into lace, vintage, patination, copper, Murano glass, brass, bows, birds, organza, satin, hand-stitching, shabby chic, collected charm bracelets, fabric dying - including using tea, marie antoinette, france, black and white, red, turquoise, upcycling, paris, new york, and venice. 
~Those are all the things I can think of (without looking in my journal that is); which I'll be working with for a while.   
I've been playing with patination in a big way - both in terms of oxidising metals (brass, copper, silver) and also using patination solutions to achieve effects. 
Finding the time to experiment, play and create is difficult, when I feel I should be 'doing some real work' its hard to justify just messing about with not much achievement at the end - it's the only way to progress though, otherwise I tend to stay in the same place creatively which leads to stagnation.  I've been working on necklaces galore, though I sell more bracelets and earrings, it seems necklaces are what my brain wants to make right now, and so be it.

Here are some of my new lace pieces.   I stiffen the lace so it holds its shape - cutting, stiffening, and reshaping takes around 2 days, then I use it in jewellery - some shows me what needs doing, other pieces need more input; I stiffen the lace with an archival treatment that preserves it from staining and damage.
These asymmetric earrings are made from grey-black lace medallions, sterling silver and Swarovski crystal.

"Take A Bow Necklace" - a cute little bit of fun; with Swarovski crystal, Swarovski crystal pearls, bronze and brass filigree, circles and chain, each element is wired with enamelled wire. Can be worn asymmetrically to one side or conventionally.

Somewhere in my lace and ribbon stash I've got 3 or 4 precious handmade lace butterflies which are at least 100 years old; some have a little staining, others are pristine, I hope their previous owner had the pleasure of wearing them at some point.  
In the meantime, this  contemporary lace starts a new direction for me; I've found I am freer creatively when I am not constrained by precious metals, so I'll take risks when I use copper or bronze where I usually work in sterling or gold; this is hardly surprising considering their price.   I like mixing metals too, and for the first time ever I've found myself in a happy place working with plated metals, enamelled wires and ribbon, mainly because it seems to engender freer and more spontaneous work.  My studio floor is currently covered in lace scraps, bits of cotton and lace and velvet and organza ribbon.


This is how I felt when I got the bill for Merlin's latest escapade in the field.  

One kick to leg = £ = one long, long scream.

Kudos, Kerry

Now that Merlin has settled into his lovely, happy home, I wanted a stable sign that reflected his character - it's the first time he's been allowed to put his name on a stable door, and this wonderful plaque was made by a very talented artist, Kerry Machin. 
I detailed what I'd like and sent photos, and she came up with this creation which is beyond gorgeous.  This struck envy into the hearts of my fellow yard-mates when I took it for a viewing.  It's not on the door yet as it needs a wood mount, but it will be soon.
Kerry was a pleasure to work with, and if you're in the market for a stable or house sign, I'd highly recommend her.

Contact Kerry at - kerry@machin2004.wanadoo.co.uk

Friday, 13 August 2010

A Day Out In Manchester

Yesterday I dodged the rain and had a few hours in Manchester city centre. Being a country mouse, its not a place I visit much - in fact, I think I was last there about 3 years ago...(she says, with straw sticking out of her ears...)
I keep thinking I should have a day just wandering around taking photos, but you know, just a few hours is quite enough for me - I feel grubby after an hour, so goodness knows how I'd feel if I was there much longer.  I don't know, its all so fast and loud (now I REALLY DO sound like the country mouse) and although Sale is prety urban, its not the city centre.   Really, since the IRA redesigned the shopping areas for us, its quite nice and there's lots to see and do.  I headed for the Northern Quarter, where I know my way around because the Artists/Craft Centre is located there - and my favourite place to source paper bags, gold coloured heart shaped labels and jewellery price tags, that sort of stuff.  Mark was with me and was nearly gibbering when we walked out of that shop nearly £50 lighter.  £50 on paper bags, on bags, he was heard muttering.   Poor boy.
Anyway, I did take a few photos - the first (above) is a fabulous distressed looking poster I came across - was it made to look this way or did it end up that way, who knows, and is it art, well, there's another question.  Taking photos of this kind always causes puzzlement on the part of the husband, but its always good to keep them guessing. The other pics are the inside of the artists centre - there was lots to look at but I had to keep the photos general in case anyone thought I was trying to infringe their copyright. Blowing £50 on paper bags was one thing, infringing copyright quite another. 

Above and below: Walking back to the very expensive car park (!!), I took these photos of the old fish market building which is now a courtyard for modern apartments.  I am sure this is a relief to the fish.