Monday, 30 December 2013

I'm Craft Britannia Shop of the Week #75!

Wow, I had a blog-neglect wake-up call today... I forgot the link to my own blog!! I'm utterly embarrassed and chastened. I promise I'll post more in 2014.

Things I have neglected to post about include a lovely working trip to see my fiance in Tunisia, turning my living room into a sweatshop for most of December to produce homemade presents for friends and family for Christmas, and my shop being Craft Britannia's Shop of the Week #75!

Check out my Craft Britannia Shop of the Week interview here.

And here's some eye candy too, 'cos you're lovely ;)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Be careful what you wish for...

Only last week I was complaining that I was so busy with editing work that I had been forced to neglect my crafts. Well, here's a lesson in being careful what you wish for, because two of my clients have turned out to be flakes, and I have had to accept that they're simply not going to come through with the goods.

So I spent yesterday at my very lovely client's ceramics studio in Bermondsey pummelling clay into submission and generally having a wonderful time. There's something exceedingly therapeutic about thwacking a pound and a half of wet clay onto the wheelhead and wrestling with it until it runs smoothly through my hands. She has new bats too - the wooden kind for clay, not the furry kind, although with the squeaky flash going off in the next studio it did sound like there were delinquent bats in the belfry! Anyway, these new bats are smooooooooooooooth and most importantly, level. I threw my biggest and best bowl yet. And now I wish I had a picture of it to show you, but I don't, so here's a shot of the rest of my day's output instead.

I'm so excited for that red in the top photo - it's a velvet underglaze - doesn't that just sound gorgeous?

And while we're on the subject of gorgeous things - and of the fickle nature of freelance workloads - here with unprecedented frequency is the next Craft Britannia Shop Of The Week!

May I present to you the wonderfully named, and incredibly talented Feather and Sixpence. Their quirky watercolours are cool, warm and fuzzy all at the same time. They're like listening to The Lumineers on Bonfire Night with your hands wrapped around a hod toddy and your sweetheart's hands wrapped around you. Check them out, I urge you.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Shop Of The Week - Fabrilushus

Well I didn't quite manage to keep up with my - frankly rather ambitious - idea to blog about the Craft Britannia shop of the week every week. Life sort of got in the way, and between running my own Etsy shop and building a freelance editing business, there wasn't a lot of time left for promotion!

I intend to remedy that as best I can, by promoting the current SOTW - a lovely, generous and friendly lady called Jilly's shop - FABRILUSHUS.

You can read an interview with Jilly over on the Craft Britannia Blog. This gorgeous lavender sachet is one of my favourite items in her shop - isn't it lovely?

Friday, 25 October 2013

Fame for my Face Cabochons!

Last week I got an email from a lovely Swedish lady called Halinka who had seen this post on my blog and wanted to order some of my cabochons to use in her own designs. I agreed and sent her three cabs, and she wrote back a couple of days later saying that she LOVES them and has written a blog post about them. Well, how about that? :)

Please visit her blog (IE works better than Firefox for some reason) and give it some love. My cabs are discussed towards the bottom of the post. Check out her amazing beadwork while you're there!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Waving not drowning

Hello! I'm still alive, despite all evidence to the contrary. Announcing that I intend to do anything regularly seems to be a death knell for this blog ;)

Since I last posted back in August, my editing work has picked up. I put in a lot of effort for very little return initially, and then as soon as September hit all the authors seemed to come back from their summer writing retreats and start their search for an editor - me, for a couple of them :)

I have had two manuscripts on the go, which has been stressful and hasn't left much time for anything else. All of which serves to illustrate the ebb and flow of freelance work. Feast one month, famine the next!

Actually this suits my creative side rather well, since while I am waiting for work to come in, I can busy myself with work of my own - stocking up my Etsy shop in anticipation of Christmas (Yule, Winter Solstice, Thingymas, Commercial Season) - and when I have editing work in hand I can put down the polymer clay and get on with it.

I think with freelance work there is a balance to be struck. You will be unhappy if you need to be constantly supplied with work from external sources, because it just does not happen that way in the current economy. You need to have your own interests, and preferably ones that make a bit of an income, so you can be productive and make use of the inevitable down time - perhaps even see it as a perk of the job.

We'll look at how you make ends meet in another post!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Craft Britannia!

Hi All,

Just a quickie - I'm supposed to be working on my new blog A Very British Editor preparing for its launch and instead I am on Etsy, chatting to virtual friends :P

I am a member of a very active and friendly team on Etsy called Craft Britannia. They're a group of lovely women and men all from the UK who work hard to promote each other and help each other out. They have a great blog, which is also in my blog roll over on the right of this post. Every week they have a Shop of the Week, where they interview one teamie and promote their shop. This week it is a lady called Alice and her shop The Sequinned Sheep.

I'm going to try to post here once a week to tell you who the shop of the week is, and to give them a little love. As crafty enthusiasts yourselves, I hope you will enjoy the opportunity to read about how another crafter uses their skills, and also see some awesome handmade stuff.

So without further ado, I give you The Sequinned Sheep *wild applause*

Interview with Alice on the Craft Britannia Blog

And some knitted eye candy from Alice, just cos I love ya.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Mini-tutorial - Tissue blade holder

Firstly I make no apologies for the gap between posts this time - it is SUMMER! The sun is out and it is gorgeous in the UK. People have stopped complaining about the gloom... and started complaining about the heat. Summer is here at last :)

Today I'm going to share with you a little contraption that has become so much a part of my toolkit that I had forgotten that it was something I even made. It's just always there, by the side of my ceramic tile, and I take it utterly for granted. So, in honour of my little tissue blade holder that sits so patiently doing its job and asking nothing in return, here is my tutorial for making one of your very own to take for granted for many happy years to come.

Here it is in all its glory. Basically what this little thing does is keep your blade upright, with the sharp side pointing downwards, so it is always easy to pick up. Tissue blades are thin - when they're lying flat on something they're really hard to pick up, and I always end up sliding them to the edge of whatever surface they're on, or scrabbling with my fingertips to get a grip on an edge. If we were in a lab this would be totally unacceptable from a Health & Safety point of view. Keep that blade visible, easy to pick up and sharp side down!

Here are a couple of close ups so you can see what the tissue blade holder looks like properly. From above you can see the groove where the blade sits is quite narrow.

From the side you can see how far down to cut the groove.

Anyhoo, on with the making part. This is ridiculously easy! Take a small handful of clay - scrap is fine if you have it, if not then choose a colour you like. Roll it into a ball. If you want to add a veneer add it now and smooth it all over, or if it is precious, wait and only cover the visible part of the holder.

Once you have a ball of clay, press it down onto your worksurface and flatten the bottom until you have a dome. It should be about the same size and shape as a chocolate marshmallow teacake. (Totally gratuitous teacake shot coming up... ta daaaa)

I joke, but this really is just the right size and shape for your tissue blade holder. So, once you have your domed ball of clay, the next step is to cut a groove in it for your tissue blade to sit. To do this: hover your blade on top of the dome, look down on it from above and centre it, then cut down, about 2/3 of the way through the dome. (Obviously you don't want to go all the way through, otherwise you'd just be left with two halves - 2/3 is about right as it is enough to hold the blade steady, but leaves enough of the base of the dome intact so the holder remains solid.)

Here's that side view again so you can see what I'm talking about - or it would be if Blogger didn't decide you can only link to photos older than the one you previously linked to. (Why do you do that Blogger? Why do you live in the past? Did someone hurt you?)

Basically you're gonna have to look at the one further up the post. Blogger is being a tad passive-aggressive today. Here's a picture of a baby armadillo to make up for it. (BTW - never ever make a typo when searching for cute baby armadillo pics on the internet. An image of an Armadildo is not something you want burned into your retinas for all time. Yeesh.)

Once you have made the initial cut, wiggle the blade around slightly to widen the groove. I tend to focus on widening the groove at the top, and leave the bit at the bottom quite tight. You could stick two tissue blades in side by side if you wanted to, to make the groove wide without mashing it up too much.

And that's it. I wouldn't fiddle around with it too much at this point or you risk distorting the groove and then the blade might not fit. Stick it in the oven and bake it, and then worry about fixing any minor imperfections after it is cured. Once cured it can be sanded and polished and finished in any way you like. Just avoid sanding the groove too much, or adding any sort of finish into the groove that might dull the tissue blade.

So there you go. Make a load and give them to your clayer friends. Make custom ones - try one for a ripple blade. Make one to stick your needle tools into. Get creative. And feel free to send me pics (...of your tissue blade holders. Unless of course you're really really ridiculously good looking, or you're an ageing bazillionaire looking for a wife and you're sending me pics of your mansion, your olympic-sized swimming pool and your most recent ECG*.)

*I'm  kidding. Pretty sure Mr Blind Crow would disapprove of that, unless you're also looking for a pool guy / masseur and when you croak you're willing to leave all your posessions to your new wife and pool guy / masseur ;)

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Need a task done? Get it Sorted

I've just joined a website called Sorted which links people who need tasks done with people who want to do tasks and earn a bit of cash. Now you can hire me to help out in your garden, do your admin, or edit stuff for you.

If you live within 5 miles of Twickenham (Greater London, UK) you can now hire me to help you with odd jobs, especially gardening and admin and wherever in the country you are you can hire me to help with editing stuff. It doesn't have to be a big job - I'm glad to help out with letters, emails, CVs, covering letters, job applications... any everyday editing task you need done. Simples. :)

 My profile on Sorted


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The accidental craft-preneur

This is just a quickie. I've neglected this blog a bit over the last month - I took my "allow yourself time off" message a little too much to heart! ;) But I haven't been idle I can assure you. Quite the contrary in fact.

So I want to take a few moments here to plug some of the areas where I am particularly active, because it is all great content and if you're interested in polymer clay, running a craft business in the UK, or any of the other stuff I occasionally write about on here, you'll love what I'm about to show you.

First off is RebelMouse. If you are at all active on social media I urge you (nay, implore you) to get your own RebelMouse page. It's absolutely great. It takes all the masses of interesting stuff  you pin, tweet, post on Facebook etc, and it collates it all in one place and makes it look aesthetically pleasing while it's at it. You can even get it to post tweets from groups for you. And it is a quick win - it takes minimal time to upkeep (did I just verb a noun there? Bad me) and with a little tweaking you can highlight your best content and even delete or edit the stuff you'd rather keep to yourself.

Here's my RebelMouse.

You can also find it waaaay down somewhere on my right-hand nav, although that's getting a bit out of hand these days. I need to shrink it down a bit.

Secondly I want to plug Pinterest. Six months in and I am still addicted - to the point of being mildly obsessed. OK, forget "mildly" - since I got a smartphone with a bigger screen I have used countless battery hours scrolling through and repinning all the polymer goodness on there. It's like crack. I just can't seem to get enough, and now, as if to taunt me, I have a following! Me, with people who want to see what I pin! Over 680 of them and growing by the dozen every day!

So think about it, craft entrepreneurs, by spending time doing something I enjoy, I am reaching out to a whole community of people. Add a link in your profile to your shop, Facebook or Twitter page and that's hundreds if not thousands (one day) of potential customers finding your stuff. Not to mention that you're building a following of like-minded individuals - people with similar taste, background, or hoarding tendencies (kidding) to you. Instant filtered customer base!

So there you go, my quickie update blog post has turned into a lesson in how to get your name out there and get yourself known for the things you do best and what you love the most.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Allowing myself time off

When I saw this in my list of potential blog posts I knew its time had come! I have been beating myself up since last Thursday about not having written a post for nearly 2 weeks, and what could I possibly write about, when the idea for this post slapped me in the face like a wet fish. Allowing myself time off.

Time off can be a tricky subject when you're self-employed. There's not the same concept of annual leave as there is as an employee, and as your own boss the only person who needs to sign your leave request is... well... you.

With a system like this in place you would be forgiven for thinking that self-employed people do half the work that employees do. Well, you'd be wrong. When you're your own boss, you're harder on yourself than almost any other boss would be. You push yourself harder, work longer hours and take less time off. The issue is giving yourself permission to take time off.

It's not like there's another employee to pick up the slack. When you clock off, the work sits there waiting patiently for you to return. As a consequence it can be very hard to switch off. And that is why allowing yourself permission to take time off is so important.

Time out from work is important for our health and wellbeing, for creative renewal, for inspiration, for so many things. In a world where I can be sitting on a beach in North Africa checking my emails on a smartphone, the boundaries have to come from within. I have to be the one to switch off my phone, to switch of my brain, and to choose to relax.

And so I give myself, and you, permission to do that. Factor in some time off for yourself, say, every three months, and stick to it. That doesn't mean turning down jobs, but when a contract is coming to an end see if you can find a few days for yourself before the next one starts. I promise you you'll be able to work harder and have more stamina as a result.

The beach, just yards from my holiday apartment last week.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Customising casts and mouldings (A mini tutorial)

I have been very remiss. It has been a fortnight since my last blog post (say 4 Hail Marys and 2 Our Fathers). I have been very busy with custom orders, authors and coping with not having a camera. It has really cramped my style! I could write a whole blog post on just that, but I'll link to one instead, and we can focus on a tutorial - it's been toooooo long since my last one!

So what I want to show you today is how to customise casts you make from moulds (molds). Now, this may seem like the most obvious thing in the world to you, but it was a bit of a Eureka moment for me. I can't even claim credit for this simple conceptual shift - credit for the idea goes to generous and creative polymer clay artist Ponsawan Sila.

The concept is forehead-slappingly basic. Essentially, when you peel a casting out of a mould, rather than view that as the finished item, instead view it as a blank canvas. Take this blank and tweak it to make something amazing and one of a kind. Is it a face? Add nostrils, refine the cheekbones, draw the edges of the mouth up into a smile. These are all tiny changes you can make, but you can also make bigger ones - open the eyes by putting in a pupil and eyelashes along the top of the eye socket, even make it wink!

And the customisations don't have to stop at the raw stage. Once cured, use gilding wax to highlight the forehead and bridge of the nose, or a fineliner to draw in Maori-style tattoos. Here I have used a cotton bud to create a triple goddess symbol )O( and a pin to create eyelashes.

As I mentioned above, this is a such a simple shift in thinking but it has had quite a huge impact on me. I had been quite ambivalent about moulds in the past - in fact the faces came from a friend - but with this notion of the moulding as a blank canvas my curiosity has been well and truly piqued. I can make OOAK items with a mould! The same goes for moulds of other items, especially big ones where you only like part of the mould. Either only impress the area you like, or trim away the rest of the casting. Think of patterned moulds like texture sheets - if you have a cavity and you want to transfer the pattern to a sheet, try casting the clay by pressing it into the cavity and making it concave, and then carefully removing the dome and squashing it flat. Like this. Here the large mould second from the left has been used to make a flat mica shift pendant (which I then curved slightly over a light bulb after I had smoothed out the mica shift texture which is why it is domed.)

I hope all of this has gone some way towards inspiring you to dig out your old moulds that you thought were limiting and to breathe some creative new life into them.

Friday, 19 April 2013

What inspires you?

I've been reflecting a lot lately on where inspiration comes from. Most of my inspiration for my polymer clay jewellery right now comes from curiosity - I have a list as long as my arm of techniques I want to try and so whenever I get the chance to play with clay I give a new technique a go. The result is masses of fun but it means my stock is somewhat eclectic in style. You certainly can't pigeon-hole my shop! (Or crow-hole it for that matter ;))

I have often wondered how artists and designers develop their signature look. Does it come naturally and instantly, or does it evolve over time? Do even the most original artists begin by mimicking others? I grew up as a scientist and then later an editor, and my creative exploits were always driven by my desire to explore and experiment, and to try out what I thought might be a hoot. I didn't have the artistic upbringing that might encourage one to specialise, to become fixated on one thing, or one method. To be honest, that's why I got out of science - the thought of being the world's leading expert in one tiny protein in one of a billion chemical pathways in the human body just left me cold. I had no desire to be king of a very tiny and lonely castle!

I tell myself that my inspiration is nature. That's pretty damn broad I can tell you! It encompasses colour, form, structure, texture... pretty much anything that isn't manmade, and in my view that really only leaves out architecture, industrial, steampunk and kawaii (oh and vintage, but I make an exception for that). I suppose it takes my king of the castle philosophy to its most extreme point. It allows me to be a wanderer, going wherever whim takes me like a happy vagabond.

Bearing all of that in mind, Pinterest suits me down to the ground. I can be the ultimate magpie, browsing through thousands of pins and plucking out anything that sparkles at me. I even love the way it is laid out, so no matter what I pin, my boards look cohesive (to me) and lovely (to me). Pinterest seems to quietly sort out and organise the disparate thoughts in my mind. As a result, browsing through my inspiration board is like plugging directly into the mains. POW! I get 10,000 volts of inspiration right smack in the face. I love it!

So I guess what I am saying is that I am not quite ready to settle down yet. I'm having far too much fun gathering my pearls of inspiration - disparate as they are - and hoarding them like jewels. All that is to say, don't be surprised if my shop goes through some changes as I develop. It's like a teenager, working out its style.

And now I have given myself permission to be creative, let's see where that takes me :)

PS - you are welcome to follow me on Pinterest. I'm quite a prolific pinner, but it is all me, I don't pander to anyone else's idea of what inspiration might be.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Rebel with a mouse

Hi there, it's been a while since my last post - shame on me! I had sort of decided to post once a week, on Fridays if possible, and generate some sort of order here. Looks like life got in the way of that one. While I've been quiet on the blog front I have been very busy behind the scenes curating and collating (try saying that one after a medicinal brandy ;)) and generally getting my hands dirty in the world of social media.

Social media has changed a LOT since I last ran a craft business. When I first started out, some time around 2004, the big new thing was Mr Site - a website in a box - and that was about it. I joined Facebook as it was back then, but had no idea how to build an FB page, or connect that page to other websites. I posted on Livejournal, occasionally pimped the website link, did a monthly newsletter, but everything I (and my business partner) did was driven by us and at our pace. This time around I am floored by the changes.

I worked as an online editor for seven years, so I really shouldn't be so surprised with how quickly social media has moved on, but I am. Most publishing companies in the legal compliance arena are just about comfortable with having a Twitter account, perhaps a linkedIn presence, maybe an app or two. I was even perversely proud that I had managed to avoid the dreaded Twitter for so long. Looking back on it now, I think I was steeling myself; plunging into the world of social media is not for the faint hearted or the ill-prepared.

Social media today is not just Twitter, Facebook, Web 2.0 and all that jazz. Social media today is all of those things plus so many more. There's, Sulia, RebelMouse, ExploreB2B, Digg, StumbleUpon, Tumblr... there are sites for collating all your social media activity into once place, sites for guided discovery of material of interest to you, sites for networking, groups on Twitter dedicated only to retweeting each other... there's almost too much choice.

So what is a budding craft entrepreneur to do?

My advice is to take it one step at a time. If you try to do too much too quickly you will burn out. After launching my own, deleting it, launching a RebelMouse page which I like much better, tweeting and retweeting others, building my network of likeminded souls, after two weeks I am worn out! I want to retreat into my studio (OK, my kitchen) and play with clay. That's the point of all of this after all?

What I intend to do is to get organised about this. I'm gonna get strategic on this mutha-humper's ass. The trick is not to do everything, but to channel effort where it brings the most reward. I'm going to stick to #uketsyhour twice a week, to keep retweeting and promoting the friendly people I come across and to keep an eye on who returns the favour and who does not. I'm going to do my #shoutouts to the people that I feature on my RebelMouse page, and I'm going to share tidbits of fun with my Facebook likers on my FB page. The rest can go hang... for now.

The trick to being a good editor is being able to quickly and calmly filter out the dross. If you try to include every single news story in your weekly digest then you're going to be coding til midnight and nobody wants that. You'll give yourself RSI from all the typing and your readership won't appreciate wading through mountains of irrelevant stories to get at the jewels hidden beneath. Neither of you will be able to see the wood for the trees. The trick is to prune wisely, to focus effort on maintaining an overview, and to know when to stop, take a step back, and review.

So with that in mind, follow me on RebelMouse, like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, and know that the information you will receive will be incisive, relevant and timely, and hopefully occasionally heartwarming and/or funny too, with no extraneous crap. Lord knows, we all have to wade through enough of that as it is without me adding to the noise.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Rings! (sort of tutorial)

I've been reading a lot on Pinterest lately about rings made from polymer clay. There are various ways to do it - I've tried using silver-plated blanks and finishing them with resin, which is nice, but I wanted a different challenge and to make something a bit different. So when I saw my aunt's birthday on the horizon I saw a chance to get crafty and here is the result!

Please bear in mind that this is the first time I've done this, so there's probably lots of room for refinement. I also only decided to do it after I had made the clay plug, so even I don't know the details of how to get an exact replica, only the method :)

Let's start with a beauty shot to whet your appetite. Something like this is what we'll be aiming for. So to begin, build yourself a plug of clay. I chose to layer mine so that when we come to shape the clay later the layers will show as colourful strata in the ring. Make sure you adhere the layers well so that no air bubbles are trapped inside and all the clay is well stuck to itself. If you're making a plug in a single colour (bo-ring!) the best way to ensure you have no air bubbles trapped inside is to run the clay through the pasta machine on the thickest setting then slice the sheet and layer it into a stack in the same way as you would if making a multicoloured stack. It's fairly quick to do and ensures no air bubbles or gaps, which is important otherwise you can end up with holes in your finished ring other than the big hole you intended to be there ;)

Once you have your plug, you need to cut out a ring blank. Lots of tutorials skip this step and just bake the whole plug, but I'm not a fan of baking more clay than I need to bake, nor of sanding and carving any more than absolutely necessary. Do yourself a favour and cut out a blank. It takes a few seconds and saves clay, time, and landfill.

These are my blanks, next to the cutters I used to make them. First you want to cut your plug so it is the right thickness. What's the right thickness you ask? Slightly thicker than you want the final ring to be. Then take that slab and the oval(ish) cutter and cut out the basic ring shape. I allowed more clay at the top of the ring as I wanted to create a carved shape there later. (If you want a ring that is even all the way round you could use a round cutter for this step.) Once you have done that, you're going to want to cut out the inside of the ring. I measured this in a rough way against my engagement ring (see pic below). You could use anything you want. My ring just happened to be handy (ha - you see what I did there? ;)) and I had a kemper cutter that fitted it almost exactly.

You'll be left with a nice neat hole and a little plug of clay. I saved the little plug - I don't know what for yet but I'll think of something. Gauges for modified ears perhaps? Anyway I had spent too long layering up the clay to just add it to the scrap pile. YMMV.

The next step is to bake the blank. Bake it on the tile (you don't want to risk deforming the inside hole by moving it and the clay is fairly thin at this point). I gave mine a bit of extra time since I wanted to be sure that it was fully cured.

When it comes out of the oven leave it to cool on the tile. I like to leave it overnight since I feel the clay firms up even more after baking, so I never sand or work freshly cooled polymer if I can help it.

Admire your ring blank. If you've been neat, it almost looks like you could wear it right now. (Gratuitous here's-stuff-I-made-earlier shot with my ring blanks in the top right corner.)

When you're finished admiring your blank it is time to get down to business. You need a scalpel or other sharp whittling tool, a safe surface (like a ceramic tile), a paper towel or piece of denim (NOT your jeans - if the knife slips the denim is to protect the blade from hitting ceramic and getting damaged. If you use your jeans it will protect the blade, but only by slicing through you.) You might want to look through the blade shapes you have on hand and choose one that is sturdy and easy to handle. I like this curved blade best because I can hold it comfortably and if it slips it tends to cut out of the clay rather than gouge deeper. Note that in this pic the sharp edge is pointing upwards.

VERY CAREFULLY start to carve your blank. I would start with one side and start carving at the top where there is most bulk. Cut shallow, small bits to begin with. Mistakes are easier to conceal if you haven't removed too much material, and the knife will be easier to control if it doesn't have to plough through a lot of clay at a time.

Take your time and ALWAYS CUT AWAY FROM FINGERS, HANDS AND YOUR BODY. Work your way around your blank shaving off little bits here and there until you get the rough shape.

Now you're going to want to start smoothing it. Start with a low grit wet and dry sandpaper - I used 240 and 380 because they are what I had available. Sand lightly and rub the paper against the ring rather than the other way around otherwise I have found that all I end up doing is rubbing the grit off the paper. Wet the ring rather than the paper, and aim for it to be just wet enough to stop dust rising. Rinse the ring regularly as you go along as if you get the sanding technique right the polymer will abrade fairly quickly.

Work up through the grits. I used 240, 380, 600, 800 and 1200. At each grit make sure you work every surface, not just the ones that will be visible. A ring gets worn in one of the most sensitive areas of the body (the finger, pervert!) and so it needs to be smooth all over. For this ring I wanted the sides to be gently curved to show off the stripes, so I worked the clay against the sandpaper in the palm of my hand rather than against a flat surface.

If the ring is for you, try it on regularly as you go to ensure it fits. If it is too small, it is easy to sand off a bit more to make it fit.

Once you like the design and it is sanded all over it's almost done. Buff the ring against a piece of denim (you can safely use your jeans at this point) to bring up a shine and there you go - a lovely, tactile and one of a kind ring, made by you, from scratch.

This ring turned out pink on one side (bottom pic) and purple on the other (top pic). Kinda cool since those are two of my aunt's favourite colours :)

(Important disclaimer: scalpels and other sharp blades are SHARP (duh), so you need to take extra care to avoid injury. I accept no liability for any loss or damage arising as a result of you reading this tutorial.)

Friday, 22 March 2013

The other string to my bow

I was going to call the post "my day job", but then I realised that as a freelancer what counts as my day job and my other creative activities have become blurred. When I have someone's manuscript in hand I work, and when I have time to myself I create polymer clay jewellery.

I am increasingly coming to believe that there is no need to separate my life into neat little compartments. In fact, one talent feeds into the other, and they both benefit from me being in a "good place", whether that means I have enough editing to pay the bills, or I am getting to create often enough that I feel happy and contented.

More and more I am hearing about friends with "portfolio careers" - where they have no one single shining talent, but rather a suite of abilities that may or may not complement and enhance each other. I always held that my editing and my creating were separate and that one did not really feed into the other but that's simply not true.

I work as an author coach, which means that I help and support an author as they work on their manuscript. We take their first draft (or, at least, the first draft that they were willing to share with anyone), and together we explore it and finesse it and bring out the vision that prompted them to set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) in the first place. In some ways it is like taking the vision in my mind's eye of the piece of jewellery I want to create, then building it up step by step until I have something in front of me that resembles that initial vision. At that point I might seek feedback from family and friends, and then I will sand it and polish it and turn it into something I am proud of and willing to put on public display.

So what I want to do here is to say that I am an editor and a creative, and that those two things can coexist. More than that, they can support and enhance each other. So bring me your manuscripts, your craft books and your stories, and I will help you craft them and polish them and sculpt them until they resemble the work of art you first imagined. I will do so with the utmost care, in exactly the same way I treat my jewellery.

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Knitting and Stitching Show 2013

What a fab day out! My good friend Ella took me to The Knitting and Stitching Show in Olympia as a belated birthday present. So much wonderful stuff crammed under one roof!! I hardly knew where to start, so I let Ella take the lead and wandered along just taking it all in. The creativity was amazing. Check out these favourite snaps of goodies that caught my eye :)

 Kia-Ora - it's too orangey for crows ;)

Knitted farmyard animals filled with beans for juggling (including a hedgehog).

But the highlight of my day was a 2-hour workshop with the very talented Heather Belcher, learning how to make 3D felted vessels. I've made felted slippers before, and I have fulled (whether intentionally or accidentally) more jumpers than I care to mention, but Heather's technique is unique. She uses calico instead of bubblewrap or a plastic resist, and turns a watery, swimmy, messy activity into one of precision and control. I suspect witchcraft.

Her control of water, fibre and fabric is masterful. She tells us to tap on the fabric to get the water to penetrate and then smoosh gently but firmly to get the fibres to lie down. I tap and smoosh, but my fibre remains rebelliously bouncy. She taps and smooshes in exactly the same way and the fibres lie down obediently and stay there. Later on she tells us to glue a piece of calico to the table with water. I glue as she directs but my calico slides around. She does exactly the same and my calico is stuck to the table like Arthur's sword in the stone. I'm in awe :)

We finish slightly early and she asks if we'd like to make felt balls. She half-laughs because it is something kids do when first learning about making felt, but I'm excited because it is something I have never been able to master. I'm struggling, and it is almost comical how badly I'm doing, having been quite confident making my vase. I wail and hand her what looks like an amorphous acid green sneeze which she calmly dunks in water and turns into a compact sphere. More witchcraft. I can't quite believe it so I have another go, and lo and behold I make a slightly egg-shaped but crack free sphere myself. I'm so chuffed! Other participants are amused that I seem to be more pleased with making a felt ball than a vase. They may laugh but I really am. This is something I have struggled with for years.

So, hold on to your hats because now I have this technique under my belt there shall be felt jewellery in my Etsy shop. Oh yes. In the meantime here's some gratuitous loveliness from Heather.

Next time: Shawl pins, silicone and polymer :)

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Silicone mould experimentation - part 2

Impending carb coma aside, today has been a very productive day. Over the last few days I have had a play with the silicone moulds from my first and second attempts (see part 1) and some clay leftover from a custom order.

It was a mixed success. I learned why press moulds need to have a wall round them - basically a thick wall around the edge of a mould makes it harder to deform the cavity when pressing clay into it. My cabochons came out a little wonky as result of using a mould that was too thin-walled but I managed to ease them back into rounds.

So here's what this whole experiment has all been about - what do things made with these moulds look like? Well, I sanded and polished a few items and here they are. I love the magic of gilding wax :)

Before and after - adding gold-coloured gilding wax turns a textured surface into a lovely design.

The cabs on the left will probably become rings once I can find a decent blank for them. I think they'd make cute Boho-style summer wear.

This makes a nice earrings and pendant set. I think the pendant would look great strung on a steel torque in the same gorgeous green colour. Next time I might find a way to create an integral bail like the pendant below. The trick will be how to support the pendant for curing so the bail on the back isn't squashed and neither is the relief pattern on the front. 

And here I tested another mould with a different technique. The mica shift was accidental - I was aiming for mokume gane to bring out a turquoise layer underneath - but the gold looks effective against a contrasting blue steel torque :) I love how this spiral mould has come out - I'll definitely be using it for more experiments. It has a sort of Newgrange/Pictish look to it I think.

My next experiment with caulk will be making two-part moulds. I have a few double-sided charms and round beads that I'd like to be able to reproduce in polymer to turn into custom stitch markers and needle organisers.