Sunday, 30 March 2014

Vintage teatime

Just before Christmas I took Ma and Ma-in-law for a day out. We drove to a little village that has survived in the middle of nowhere by over thowing its rustic past, and instead, offering an amazing selection of shops and cafe's housed in the ancient outbuildings and main street cottages. In an antique store I came across some wonderfully ornate tea pots. Sadly most tea gets made in a mug with a tea bag these days, so reaching for the Brown Derby and offering... Orange picot anyone? a ritual consigned to the past.
These were made of German Silver, an alloy that was often silver plated. I was astonished that these were selling for less than £15, but the shop keeper explained that it was simply the fashion in antiques, less than five years ago they could fetch over £50. With the Ma's being adorably kind, I found myself unwrapping a silver teapot on Christmas afternoon.

Tea drinking is so very English. It is the go-to cure for all ills, no matter what the drama or grave the crisis, in so many houses here. 'Let's put the kettle on', or 'A nice cup of tea?' is the opening gambit to any problem solving.
Now that my working life includes plenty of foreign travel, I've come to accept that it's not so easy to find the elixir of life in a recognisable form beyond our shores. Yes I do pack t-bags, I accept that drinking tea without milk is better than no tea at all.

My colleagues tease me about my plaintive quest!  I would so love to suck on a Latte or down an Amercano, but I just can't drink coffee. Instead I have learned that in Europe I must ask for black tea and most black tea will be Earl Grey. In the USA tea is proffered in assorted paper envelopes by the checkout and the sight of me rummaging for the rare English Breakfast among the chai, cinnamon, lemon and mint amuses restaurant staff no end. I am not a tea snob, instead, it's just the familiar little comforts that mean so much when you are an ocean away from home, and when work is an eight hour performance centre stage.
All that said, my Christmas teapot is purely decorative, the perfect place for a few flowers.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

City Bangle

Urban chic alert! I love my rural setting, but sometimes it's nice to get busy in a city. I was inspired by the thought of how cities are full of mechanical movement and how it all works like clockwork while we humans bustle like busy ants. How everything is designed and refined, which led to the mechanics of getting about and an amazing source of inspiration.
Go on, google 'images of tyres' and be amazed like I was by the huge range of patterns carved into slick rubber, cool!
So now I can't help but check out those wheels whenever I'm out and about.
City Bangle was also inspired by this random art installation.
Well I'm guessing it was art as it was just sitting in a big glass window with no signage. I love it! Random acts of neon colour and of course the blue green is definitely in my zone.
The design came out of these observations and it's one of those which is great to sit and make, takes a little time, but not so great for a class because it takes a little time.
Once I had the moves in place I had a tinker with the scale and just love the chunkiness when it's scaled down to ring size.
Thread the rings onto a scarf, or be like me and wear one (or more... more is always good), on your thumb.

City Bangle is worked over a thin metal bangle.
The pattern is in my store as a downloadable pdf
or traditional printed version, and I have packs of three wire bangles to go with it. Enjoy.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones necklace
You might remember that I made a piece using bits from my bead stash. Well the idea is now a fully
fledged workshop and it's proving to be great fun to teach. To make all the beading I really wish I could... there would have to be three of me at least! but each time I teach this workshop I find myself inspired to delve into the stash and make another piece.

In class students are invited to bring along focal stones and cabochons they've purchased, but find a bit tricky to incorporate into a finished piece. I've seen some amazing cabcohons, from the epic scale nugget of Amber which got encased with 24 carat gold beads, to dainty Victorian buttons rescued from obscurity.

The first half hour of class can be a bit nerve wracking, as I get presented with such a diverse selection of shapes and sizes. But you can see my shoulders drop bit by bit as students get started on their individual creations. The second part of the class is about how the newly bezelled pieces can be made into wearable art necklaces, this is the sticks bit. I share a pattern for beaded links that can be used in lots of different combinations. A starting point that soon morphs off in all kinds of directions and total fun to participate in.
I have a few more Sticks and Stones classes coming up (you can find links to them on the workshops page of this blog), and, time permitting, a few more pieces to show and share.
The latest is worked around a dichroic glass cabochon, it was gifted to me by a lovely student. Sadly no amount of trying can get the digital camera to capture the vivid oranges and reds, but I had the best fun beading the colours to go with it. The necklace part is beaded rings linked with antique copper chain. I also used the CzechMates two hole dagger beads; they are great for fringe ends and so much easier to get to lie well in the same direction!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Charity begins in the china cupboard

I like living in a semi rural place, our local towns and villages are full of people we know and who
recognise us with a smile. Shopping is fun as we still have the luxury of small independent shops, where you can pick out exactly the number of vegetables you really want and know they are sourced locally. Where the butcher will happily trim for you.. and on it goes. Our local cafes are great places to sit and listen to snippets of conversation and not mind if your own are overheard. Plus they serve real food that tastes amazing, not food that looks amazing but leaves you strangely dissatisfied.

Many of our shop keepers are busy supporting budding creatives, one does a great line in locally made cards and knitted tea cosies; and no end of community fundraisers find a place for their wares. We do have a high number of charity shops, more as the recession bites, but as a lover of a good bargain hunt and an eclectic wardrobe, I prefer to look beyond the gloom. It's a joy to take some pocket money for a walk in search of a sensibly priced bit of 'cheer up' treasure and nicer still to know that the money I spend in the cycle of re-cycling is benefitting those in real need.

All this came together recently in the sweetest way. A local school is fundraising for some equipment; with a bit of ingenious juxtaposition they gathered together odd cup and saucer combinations. Each filled with a bit of damp oasis into which they arranged flowers usually 'retired' by the local florist at day's end. A swish of cellophane and a bow of raffia changed leftovers and un-loveds into pretty bouquets. I bought one and enjoyed the easy display it made, the flowers lasted well over a week and all I needed to do was add a bit of water occasionally.