Sunday, 16 December 2012

Lucets and other things ...

When I'm in the middle of a day-job project it seems to consume my ability to write anything other than whatever it is I'm working on, hence the lack of posts recently.  The project also meant I haven't made as much jewelry as I usually do although I am pleased with what I have found time to create.  Thanks by the way for all your lovely comments from my last post, I am so sorry to have been so tardy in  responding.

I'm still very enamoured with the sari silk and recently bought a lucet - a two pronged fork which creates a square braid which is strong but quite flexible.  There are tons of YouTube videos on how to do it, the technique dates back to Viking times apparently.

I've just listed the hamsa necklace but the one above with the salt cellar has already sold.  I thought I'd try a bracelet as well:

These are quite quick to make as the braid works up rapidly on the lucet.  One of the advantages is that unlike macrame or kumihimo you can work straight off the skein or spool 'til you get the length you want, so there's no pre-measuring involved. Great for lazy people like me!!

Also had a bit of a run on bangles in the shop so I made these over the weekend:

In between we've been preparing for Christmas.  I decided this year to have a real tree with, other than lights, only hand made ornaments. My daughter and I made a bunch of pom poms and my husband found a little pine tree.  Not sure its going to make it through to Christmas though, its looking a bit sad.   I tried to take a photo for the blog but it's in a dark spot in the house and just looks like a blur.  Now the children are a bit older December is a bit more relaxed, much less rushing around.  School has finished up for the year so I'm looking forward to spending some time with them both.  The fact that it's summer here helps as well.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Even more color ...

So Richelle got me thinking with her comment on my last post and I decided to give braiding another try.  I have this friendship wheel thing (it's basically a kumihimo disc for kids) which I tried once before with some yarn, but it took forever to get even a short length and I got bored and put it to one side.  Rather than wool or cotton I used the sari silk ribbon I am so in love with.  I had to cut some extra notches in the disc so the silk would fit but it actually worked really well and, better still, was really quick to work up. The finished braid was a bit too much on its own so I added some dangles and wrapped short sections with balled copper wire to break it up a bit:

The skein the ribbon came from is multicolored (the color changes every yard or so) so I wasn't too fussy and just went with the flow.  It's one of those pieces, I think, that looks far nicer on than off.

Whilst I was in Melbourne I picked up some lovely noro sock yarn that was on special. I vaguely planned to make a hat (I justify my yarn purchases with the flimsiest of excuses) but used a bit on the tassel for this choker:

The round bead is actually bright pink plastic so I used some gilders paste to tone it down and sealed it with acrylic lacquer.  I really like chokers.  They're easy to wear and suit pretty much everyone.

These earrings have already sold - I bit the bullet and bought some sterling silver for the ear wires - and made the cylinder beads by wrapping silk around a mandrel and treating with mod podge.  They go absolutely rock hard, and are pretty much unsquishable:

I've had some leather scraps sitting around for a while - beautifully soft - which I used for this amulet pouch.  I took 13s advice and used the smallest crimps I could get away with o the beading wire - don't know what a wire guardian is though?  Must look it up.  I still have reservations about beading Beatnheart and am so much more comfortable with wire wrapping:

I also share Beatnheart's exasperation around sales.  Mine seem to have taken a bit of a nose dive just lately.  Not sure if it's down to what I have on offer in the shop or the fact that it's coming up on Christmas.  Most of my sales seem to be to the USA and you guys have had an absolutely rotten time of it lately what with Sandy and all.  It's getting warmer here which is lovely but the thought of bush fires keeps nudging me.  We were caught up in the terrible Victorian fires in 2009/10 - fortunately we were all OK but it was incredibly scary. The fire was heading towards us but a slight change in the wind caused the neighbouring village of Boolarra to take the brunt.  Several of my friends lost their houses.  In the North of the state, whole towns were destroyed and lots of people tragically lost their lives. Just dreadful.  I think we are all much better prepared now so hopefully it will never happen again.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Happiness permeates...

An endless round of head colds, school holidays and various other bits and pieces of life have got in the way of blogging lately although I've managed to keep up with things on the making side at least.

I recently bought some vintage sari silk ribbon from Australian etsy seller plumfish.  She makes the most beautiful tattered scarves and accessories. The silk comes in skeins made up of frayed lengths tied or sewn together - incredibly eclectic and quite beautiful.  I've used them in a few pieces including this Hamsa nekclace and wrist wrap:

As individual lengths the ribbon can be quite fragile and I was a bit worried about using it in my work - it's just so lovely though, and I'm obsessed with lots of color lately.  I road-tested both the above pieces and they seem to be holding up OK.  I've also used  it to wrap bangles:

And a more recent experiment - making fabric beads by wrapping little bits of the ribbon around straws, treating with mod podge and then pulling off the straw when dry.   This talisman assemblage necklace is an example of how I'm using them - the charm on the left just above the crucifix.  I've found they look much better if the ribbon is patterned or multicolored rather than plain.  Incidentally, I debated whether to use the angel wing in this necklace.  It stared life as a large silver metal charm reclaimed from a pendant which I painted and embossed to age.  I'm not keen on all the cutesy guardian angel stuff but I love the shape of the wing and I think the tribal beads, including some bamboo coral, and grungy white wavy leather necklace offset.  

I'm trying to find away to incorporate some yarn in my work - anybody got any suggestions?  I've got so much in my stash, which is stored at the top of my husband's wardrobe, that he can't close the door properly.  

My daughter and I were in Melbourne over the weekend - she had a dentist appointment so we stayed over for the night.  It was so lovely spending time with her (despite my second head cold which meant I didn't have as much energy as I would have liked).

The weather was warm and it seemed as though everyone in the city headed to the river - the restaurants and bars were packed and there were loads of people on the bridge taking photos of the sunset.  Just shows you how sun starved we've all been!!  There was a lovely vibe going on - a sort of general happiness permeating through the layers of the sometimes cynical Melburnians.

We had to catch a bus back home (a 2 1/2 hour journey) because they were doing some work to the rail line. One of the shops we visited over the weekend was selling little blackboards:

I see I'm definitely not alone when it comes to having reservations about stringing. Both Barbara and Richelle made some really good points that it is somehow counter intuitive but, if you can master it, adds a new dimension particularly if integrated into an assemblage aesthetic.  I have to confess though, despite buying a one step beader,  I haven't overcome my reservations yet.  I'll have to get those tips of you Barbara.

'Til next time.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Baby steps ...

Just had a tidy up in my studio and so thought I would post these pics to prove (to myself mostly) that I do have the capacity to have things neat, tidy and in some sort of vague order.  It wont last of course.  I use vintage tins or divided containers to keep the majority of my supplies in, but I tend to forget what I have in my stash if I can't easily see it, so I have put a selection in clear plastic tubs from the $2 shop - a thrifty but not terribly pretty solution.

I see that lots of you are enduring poor etsy sales.  On the one hand I'm pleased it's not just me, but now I feel bad for all of us.  Being realistic though, in times of uncertainty people really aren't going to go jewelry shopping which is completely understandable.  Other than a couple of galleries etsy is my primary vehicle for selling my stuff and I sometimes worry about this.  I read an interesting blog from a seller whose shop was closed by etsy, because of some minor infringement or other, and overnight she lost her entire business.  She recommended against having a total reliance on a third party like etsy which, ultimately, you have no control over.  All very well and good but I'm not sure what the alternatives are particularly when you live in rural Australia!!  All this talk is spectacularly dull and makes me sound as though I'm fixated on sales and money.  Not the case I promise.

I'm still on a bangle binge - singles rather than stacks though.  In addition to the copper ones I've also made a couple of assemblages using vintage brass stampings and other bits and pieces.  Stylistically, these two types are completely different from each other.  Not sure which are more 'me' but I guess they are both an expression of my artistic voice (that sounds horribly pretentious, so sorry).

From bangles it's a fairly short hop to chokers, especially since I found a metal lined ice bucket in the thrift store which has proved to be an ideal choker mandrel:

Both chokers are wrapped in silk (salvaged from head scarves or clothes), metallic vintage trim and then wire wrapped.

I'm participating in one of Deryn Mentock's online courses at the moment and this necklace was in response to the symmetrical design challenge she posed us.  One of the reasons I'm doing the course is that it  includes bead stringing which is something I have always shied away from.  I am completely paranoid that the beading wire will break and I hate using crimping pliers.  I do think developing confidence around stringing as opposed to just wire wrapping beads will open up my design palette, so I've invested in some softlex and a bead buddy (one step crimper).

This necklace is mostly wire wrapped apart from the small beaded section at the back - baby steps.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Crossing my fingers...

I'm crossing my fingers that this post will be free of frustrating blogger problems - such as not being able to upload photos - apparently something to do with a clash between my antivirus software and chrome/blogger.

I've pulled a few things out of the shop over the last few days so that I can put them into the Artisans Store, a local gallery just around the corner from me.  Rather than my assemblage/narrative work (although I have submitted some of these pieces) I thought I would concentrate on the embellished/embroidered textile cushions.  Here they are on display in my kitchen the night before:

Here's a collage of the necklaces in more detail. 

I also thought single bangles might be a little more accessible (ie. easier on the pocket) than stacks:

Really simple but I am pleased with how they turned out.  I'm thinking about putting some in my etsy shop.

All this switching stock around has left the etsy shop a little depleted.  I know some people have an item for sale in several sites/locations at once but my brain just can't cope with this.  I have listed a couple of new things though:

I've found a new way to attach bails to the textile cushions - cut a short piece of wire, paddle each end and drill a small hole.  Bend the wire in half and place over the cushion.  Insert a long dress makers pin (glass head or hammerhead) from the front to the back through the cushion and holes in the wire, secure the pin by bending it so that the sharp end lies flat against the cushion and then trim off the sharp end with wire cutters.  You can then over-sew the bendy end of the pin to the cushion or put a bead over it - whatever works.  It's a much neater technique although still a little time consuming.  

I'm still lovin' working on the bangle stacks:

This one was in the etsy shop but is now in the Artisans Store.

I really like this white/cream set - it's even got a bit of bling. 

For those of you that sell on etsy - how are your sales lately?  Mine seem to have taken a bit of a nose dive over the last few weeks.  Not sure if it's the time of year, economic climate or, perish the thought, people aren't liking what I'm doing enough.  Mind you, compensation is meeting (online rather than in person) some really lovely people and that doesn't seem to be impacted by the seasons or the GFC!!

Talking of lovely people ... I don't buy many jewelry magazines but I have splashed out on a subscription to Belle Armoire Jewelry which is hugely expensive as I have to have it mailed to me from the US.     I see that the Autumn issue is essentially a tribute to some of my favorite artists including; Tracy DiPiazza from pipnmolly, Janet Loomis from anvilartifacts and Cynthia Wolff from beatnheart.  You guys rock.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


I'm having a problem uploading photos - it's been going on for a few days now and I gather I'm not the only one judging by the number of frustrated posts on various forums.  Rather than wait until the problem has been resolved (or throw my laptop at the wall) I thought I would do a quick post today and then, hopefully, post photos of latest work as soon as I can upload again...

The internet, as we all know, is a forum for people to share their opinions which, not infrequently, are bigoted and small minded.  On the other hand, sometimes we get an opportunity to witness people at their absolute courageous or heart warming best. Occasionally something comes along that does both.

What possessed Bic, the French manufacturer of pens, to market a 'Bic for Her' is beyond me.  The product description from Amazon reads like a page from the anti-feminist manifesto:

Product Features

  • Elegant design - just for her!
  • Thin barrel to fit a women's hand

I mean, seriously! They even have a YouTube video . I'm not convinced that this video isn't actually a parody.  For a mum of a teenage girl it's bad enough that I have to fight the tidal wave of misogynistic crap in magazines and on TV. But now pens ...!!

That's the bad, now for the good.  Bic's misguided marketing campaign has prompted a completely brilliant retaliatory back-lash as evidenced by the hilariously sarcastic and tongue in cheek product user 'reviews' for the pens on both the UK and US Amazon sites.  So, if you feel like you need some cheering up - hop on over to Amazon and search 'Bic for her'. It started with one extremely funny review but now there are now hundreds of them.   I love the fact that people are protesting against Bic's idiocy using humor and I don't think it lessens the impact of the protest one bit. The only downside is that all this publicity will probably end up being good for Bic...

Here are  couple of my fave 'reviews'.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Girly Pens August 28, 2012

OMG!!!!!! I luv these pens!!!!! They R so gurly and sweet! But they would be better if they made everything look like a rainbow or a pony. PONIES!!!! Or maybe a vacuum. If they could make like a pony or rainbow pen, I would buy all of them. Or a fairy. I like fairies.
I would give these pens more stars if they made sparkles. Cause sparkles R the BEST!!!!!! But they only make lines. : (


4.0 out of 5 stars My life has been changed! 20 Aug 2012

I never did very well at school. I wanted to learn and it felt like all the words I needed were right there in my head, but I just couldn't get them onto the paper in front of me. If I really pushed myself, I could sometimes manage to draw pretty flowers in the margins but this didn't please Sir and I was soon in all the bottom sets. What really confused me is that I had no problems in cookery or textiles. At the time I didn't understand why I could grip and use a wooden spoon or sewing needle but couldn't properly hold my black-coloured pen for more than 45 seconds without dropping it on the floor and weeping.

Things were a bit better when I left school to go and work sweeping up hair at the local salon - yet again, the broom seemed to just fit into my grip as if it was meant to be there - and I saved up to buy a pink laptop. I still had trouble writing for a long time because, although the case was pink, the keys weren't designed for female eyes which, as we all know, struggle to discern between shades of black and grey. I could write for about 4 minutes at a time, though, and that's how I found out about these wonderful pens for girls like me.

As soon as they arrived, I was soothed by the pink packaging - I'd been feeling stressed after driving back from work because my hands just won't stay on the black, leather-effect steering wheel in my cute mini. Anyway, I quickly found a piece of notepaper with pictures of kittens round the edges and had a go at writing my name. It was amazing! The pen just stayed in place between my fingers, just like it always had for the boys in my class at school. Well, in no time I'd filled a whole notepad and had to go and get another one!

Now I've gone back to night school and hope to realise my ambition of enrolling on a childcare course next year. I'm also halfway through writing an erotic novel set in Victorian times - but with vampires!

My only criticism of these wonderful pens is that I get a bit bored with all 12 looking the same. I get around this my customising each pack. At the moment, the pen I have in use is covered in stripes of glitter and I glued a pink pompom and one of those diamanté charms you get on mobile phones (I couldn't fit any more on my phone) onto the top. I think BIC should start adding pens like this to their range because some women find it difficult to hold tubes of superglue properly - I asked the 6 year old boy who lives next door to help me.


5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary article - must buy! 20 Aug 2012
This pen is great. I bought it for all my female friends and relatives. It enabled them, finally, to write things (although they may not yet know to do so on paper; but you can only expect so much, really). I thought they were just a bit slow.

My mother, a hard-working woman who raised twelve kids single-handedly whilst doing all the ironing (as nature intended), was furtively abashed by her illiteracy. Long would she gaze upon her husband and sons' scrawlings and would dedicate five minutes a day (which she really should have spent making sandwiches) to pray that one day she would be granted the ability to create such scribbles of her own. She's still a little slow on the uptake, but this product has definitely helped start the ball rolling. We tried to give her men's pens but she used to rip the cartridges out and drink the ink. Typical woman.

Anyway, it's good that BIC are finally doing something to aid the plight of women. Hopefully a range of 'for her' paperclips is on the horizon - my wife has an awful time keeping her recipes together.

...til nex time'

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Fairy-tales and shopping

I've been a little preoccupied this week and haven't had a chance to get too much work done other than this piece:

I wanted to weave a narrative around the focal and swans always make me think of fairy-tales.  I searched and searched for inspiration but couldn't find anything quite right (and there was no way I was going with an ugly duckling metaphor!!).  I did discover that transformation or metamorphosis is a dominant theme for many of the folk/fairy stories involving swans (including the ugly duckling one I suppose) and, given this focal started out as shiny brass, I thought it appropriate to come up with my own adaptation reprinted below.  I've borrowed bits and pieces from other fairy-tales and, whilst it's a love story, I wanted my swan to have a bit more free will than she does in most. Of course, it's entirely possible I've been watching way too many episodes of Grimm and am now a living example of how TV really does have a detrimental effect, so I'll also take this opportunity to show you a couple of thrift shop finds first:

The beads on this necklace are absolutely beautiful - not sure if they are bone or stone. It also has a wonderful carved hook.  The weird looking things in the top photo are Chinese lucky key chains - I bought them because I really like the bells.

And now .... Once upon a time...

..a young man, hunting by a stream in the woods, spied a swan.  As he reached for his bow the hunter was amazed to see the elegant creature transform into the most beautiful woman the hunter had ever seen.  Every day for a month the hunter crept back to same spot to witness the transformation, and each day his love for the swan maiden grew ever stronger.  Finally, he could wait no longer and as she swam in the stream, he crept out of his hiding place and, before she could transform herself back, professed his love and begged her to stay as a human so they might be together.  Now whilst the swan maiden, who had seen the hunter watching these many weeks past, was flattered she explained to him that for her to remain as a girl was impossible.  Even though she sometimes appeared as human, she explained, she was always a swan on the inside and, to remain human, would mean giving up her swan self completely.   For many months the hunter searched the land for a way he and the swan maiden could be together.  He began to despair of ever finding a solution until one day he met a wise woman who, on hearing his story, said she would help him.    The very next day the hunter returned to the stream and presented the swan maiden with an amulet necklace fashioned by the wise woman.  He explained to the swan maiden that as long as she wore the necklace she could keep her swan self safe inside but remain human on the outside.   The swan maiden put on the necklace that very day and returned with the hunter to his village where they lived happily together, the swan maiden remaining unchanged, but the hunter growing older and frailer as the decades passed.  On the day that the hunter died the swan maiden took off her necklace and transformed herself back into swan and was never again seen as a human woman.

'til next time.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Small Things Take Time

Small Things Take Time
By Susan Wallbank

Small things take time
they twist into fragments
which hang like strands of DNA
impossible uncoded strips that thread the days
between the cut glass black jet nights
to form a kind of necklace

Small things take time
they scatter it with actions
the deed-compacted seconds lie
like long-gone moss and little flies defy decay
suspended in warm amber hours
to make a kind of bracelet

Small things take time
they grind it into powder 
and from the dust create a paste 
that glues the wasteful hours between each deep decade
compression-packed, dull-glimmering
to forge a kind of ring

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Horses and cushions ...

 I've been working on a couple of pieces that I wanted to share.

I remember my father taking me to see the white horse of Uffington when I was quite little. Carved into the side of a hill and visible from miles away it is an experience that has stayed with me ever since. One of the most ancient of the hill figures found in England, the white horse probably dates back some 3,000 years. Nobody really knows what it stands for (or indeed if it is really a horse at all and not some other animal). This not-knowing regarding its purpose does not detract in any way from its beauty and grandeur.   I remember being completely awe struck when I understood the scale of it and I also remember wondering what motivated the people who came together to create it. Was it fear, an appeasement or gesture of faith?  

Without careful maintenance the white horse of Uffington quickly disappears from view as nature reasserts itself and this is the narrative behind this piece.  

The brass horse of my necklace, and its accompanying cluster of bits and pieces, are not as they were - once bright and shiny they are now aged and flaking but still I think beautiful.  Caught between new and old the items are preserved. But, left to the ravages of time they would have disappeared completely.

I've noticed that my pieces seem to have lots of colour or no color. And so to this:

I am still completely obsessed with using little textile cushions as a base for embellishments.  This one uses a vintage sari scrap and some gold trim.  I like the fact that the fabric is a little bit tatty and frayed (bit like me really).

Lastly, judging by your comments quite a few of you are not, stating it mildly, fans of Facebook.  Far be it from me to defend this bastion of bad grammar and mundane status updates I do think Facebook's powers can be used for good rather than evil!!  An example to illustrate - Facebook is an excellent way to link people who would otherwise be socially isolated for mutual/peer support and friendship.  Facebook's relatively straightforward interface makes it a better option for those that are not quite so computer literate or who may be intimidated by other online options or who, for one reason or another, are unable to get out and about and, if not for the internet, would be rather disconnected.  Also individual pages are a little different than pages for organisations/businesses. The latter tend to be much less ...well, teenage.    And I have to say Quisnam's Facebook page has connected me with some really really lovely people.  It's definitely different than blogging but, as I said in my last post, horses for courses.

'til next time.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

New ways to make things old

Blimey, I've been neglectful of my blog over the last month.  I think this is in part because I have been working on a day-job project which has involved writing (pages and pages and pages of it) and I just didn't have the energy to write anything else. I've also been using Quisnam's Facebook page to post my latest work - I know lots of people hate Facebook - but I actually think it's quite a good way to communicate with people and, just as importantly, vice versa.  Not like a blog of course, but still horses for courses.

I've been working away on some new pieces as well.  I'm still very much enjoying using textile cushions but, rather than just using the Hmong ones as a base, I've started making and embellishing my own:

I'm discovering better ways to make them as I go - inserting the bale before stuffing rather than sewing it on later for example - and find the process rather meditative.  Thrift stores are a fantastic source of fabric, the top necklace actually came from a skirt.

I've also had a real  urge to do some assemblage pieces:

I wanted to show you a closeup of the Buddha focal in the above piece which I painted with vinaj patina paints and then textured with pewter embossing powder and shoe polish.  I've had these Buddha pendants sitting around for ages but hated the shiny metal cases they came in.  I tried gilders paste, rub 'n' buff and a couple of other things but this worked so much better than I was expecting.

These earrings use a similar method except I've used ink and a combination of cream and pewter embossing powder for the grunged up flaky look.  I've used this technique before but not for a while - it was actually a post of fancifuldevices that reminded me to dust of the embossing powder and heat gun, thanks Marina.

Same thing with this necklace which is a narrative work - each item symbolizing a different aspect of our lives - marriage, motherhood and home. The ties that bind us.  

I've been experimenting with a slightly different approach to my bangle stacks, making fewer bangles but in a much heavier weight wire. I've been really lucky to find some excellent vintage bangles recently which, when altered, also add depth to these stacks.  

I was also fortunate to find some beautiful trims in a thrift store in Melbourne although now my supplies are starting to pile up and I've only got a finite amount of storage space.  I'm wondering if I should open an etys shop for my destash.  I've got heaps of things that I am sure I will never use.

'til next time