Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Where have I been?

Where have I been? It's reasonable question, especially if you don't follow me on Instagram or Facebook. If you do follow me there (or know me In Real Life of course!) then you may have an inkling(!) - for the most part over the past 7.5 months, I have been very busy growing not one, but two tiny humans.  

Finally, after almost 4.5 years, our babies are almost ready to meet us - not that I have had a 4.5 year pregnancy I hasten to add (quite frankly, the usual length has been serious hard work and troublesome enough!) but a rather series of fertility issues with me took a long time to diagnose and then help which meant that it has taken us a long time to get to this stage. IVF at the beginning of this year was tough but amazingly, successful first time, and for that I am hugely and inexpressibly grateful. I appreciate that in that way, I am one of the lucky ones. Infertility sisters and brothers - we go through so much, and you have my heart. Our struggle has been short compared to many, and you are incredible warriors - never forget that. Infertility is one of the hardest things I've ever struggled through - with a twin pregnancy being by far the most challenging thing I have EVER done physically! - and it seems almost unreal that in just over 5 weeks, we will become parents and we will become a family of four. Incredible. I almost feel like I'm jinxing it by writing that, with so many obstacles we've had to deal with over the past few years - but every appointment I've been told the babies are doing well and I am trusting that my midwives and doctors know their stuff.

As I inferred above, it's been a really tough pregnancy. The babes are doing well, which is by far the main thing, but for my part it's been a slightly complicated and continually physically challenging pregnancy, and I am more than ready for this part of the journey to come to an end - although babies, please stay in for a few more weeks! For this reason, work has been incredibly tough for me this year. I'm self-employed of course, and as most of you will appreciate, this means no sick pay, no annual leave, no work-supported maternity leave....thankfully, with a load of support from my amazing wife, I have got through this year with a limited but not too inefficient service (I hope!) at The Curious Bead Shop (now closed as I prepare for my maternity leave) but a woefully patchy presence in terms of my jewellery over at Songbead. And precisely zero blog posts this year! Well, I figured that I really should write something before my two babies make an appearance. 

My brain isn't up to working out the precise weeks but I think I've got these bump shots basically in order. The main one is the most recent of course - me 2 weeks ago, at 30 weeks. Where are these babies going to go?!

I won't bore you with all the details of the pregnancy - suffice to say, I am still feeling nauseous at 7.5 months (and on 2 anti-sickness meds still), I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes 6 weeks ago, and I have been absolutely exhausted from beginning to - well, not end as we're not there yet, but I'm still exhausted and I don't see that letting up anytime soon! (Yep, I know I will be seriously sleep-deprived when the babies appear - but I won't be TWIN PREGNANCY EXHAUSTED, which is a blissful thought, honestly). And of course, with my enormous bump, I am seriously uncomfortable all the time too. But just a few weeks left to go - we can do it, little bugs!

Because I felt the bead shop really had to be a priority, as I said above, it's my jewellery that has suffered. There's been a serious lack of creativity in this pregnancy, aside from the obvious(!); heartburn and reflux put singing out the window even when the most intense period of nausea and vomiting passed around 4 months, and Songbead really took a back seat aside from 2 or 3 bursts of making throughout the year. I've missed it dreadfully, and whilst I'm hopefully going to have all of my outstanding Curious orders out by next week, I am hoping to give myself a week or two of making once they are all out. It feels like it's good for my brain - I can't imagine there will be a lot of beading once there's three of me, initially at least, so I would love to get a little more done now. Good for the soul, too. 

This past weekend, my wife was working, so I took the opportunity to sit down with the beads and do a little creating. I have a bunch of overdue custom work - sorry folks! See above for Pregnancy Problems and energy issues... - which I managed to cover about half of, but I also managed to make a few new pieces for the shop. I find with custom work, that's the best way - my brain has to work in a different way so it's good to intersperse it with new work as well. Here are some of the pieces I managed to create:

Drop of Honey (SOLD)

Poppy Field

Petroleum

Woodland Walk (SOLD)

Foxglove

Gypsy Rose

In the Hedgerow

Flutterby Lane

These are just a few I've managed to get into the shop over the past few weeks so do hop over to my shop and take a look. The plan is to keep Songbead open until the end of October but as there is every chance that the twins could decide that they want to become early, that's not a guarantee. So if you have any purchases in mind for now - or now that it's October it's surely safe to say, potentially for Christmas?! - then I'd get a shifty on. 

And of course, watch this space for some teeny tiny baby faces coming soon........I honestly and truly cannot wait to meet them! 



Wednesday, 7 December 2016

O Tannenbaum


A quiet combination of artisan beads, larimar and wood - each element reflecting the next.


Glossy,  smooth yet rustic wooden nuggets echo the branches of the regal fir tree of the clasp, and the darkness of the wood is picked up in the organic larimar slices, which also reflect the cool blue-turquoise tones of the button.


Linked together with the grounding quality of the forest olive green  - the tiny seed beads springing from the handwoven round, running through and closing the clasp and connecting the beads themselves. 


Thursday, 1 December 2016

2016 Mini-Retrospective - of Jewellery and Myself

I have been rootling around in my pictures from the past year, partly in preparation for doing a proper retrospective of 2016 at the very end of the year, and partly just for curiosity's sake. I thought I'd share a few here - a bit early for a proper retrospective, but for one reason or another, I kind of feel like most of my 'moving forward' work - the kind of work where you feel like what you are creating is part of a progression; a continuum - was done at the beginning of the year. 

It makes sense when I look back on this year. We are struggling (and have been for 3+) with infertility, and in the summer I was diagnosed - after a real struggle to make myself heard with the medical profession - with pretty extreme polycystic ovary syndrome and as hypo-thyroid.  Although there was a sense of relief with both of these diagnoses, there has also been a sense of unravelling, of life becoming somehow structureless, and the waiting waiting WAITING for my thyroid to finally come under control and to a level where I can go ahead with IVF. It is fair to say if the first half of this year was filled with increasingly-hopeless desperation (not all of which has passed, I freely admit), the second half of this year - post-diagnosis, and especially since it became clear that my thyroid was worse and more unpredictable than initially thought - I've felt scattered and disorganised, and fairly aimless in many ways. 

So that's where I'm at, and I'm sure if you look back at my social media presence - here and on Facebook in particular - that it's been sporadic. It's just me doing it after all, and when I've had a week getting thyroid results moving in the opposite direction to the one in which it's supposed to, and therefore further away from IVF - which is after all, still an unknown quantity - it's been terribly hard to motivate myself beyond that - at times, really impossible. Hope is a flickering candle which does go out at times for me. That's a struggle. Not only to cope without that essential light, but to somehow find a way to re-egnite it for myself. That's what I've been dealing with continually this year - each day I have to heave off the suffocating weight of infertility and childlessness to get up and get on - and some days that's easier than others. I'm sure if you have been through this or something similar, you will know exactly what I mean. You have my heart, you brave and dear and resilient warriors (even when this is the last thing that you feel), who keep on going, even when all you have that day is a thread of smoke leading up from your candle.  

Who knows what 2017 holds, but this strange limbo in which I find myself needs to hold more space for my own creativity. For music - also completely gone from my life since the summer. For creating. These pieces which I'm sharing with you here all date from the first part of this year, but I see that forward-motion within them - that sense of progression that has forsaken me (or perhaps I've forsaken it?) latterly this year. Here's to more of this - not just in 2017, but even to claw some back this last month of the year, some of my own creative normality, would be a huge blessing. It starts with me, I know - it starts with my own intention. I just need to find the space to allow myself that intention - and the light. Always the light. 

Colour Me Purple
This first piece that I'm sharing was I think the first time I used one of Sally Soul Silver's new triangle beads. These, along with her tabs, have been HUGELY inspiring to me this year. I turn to them with most bracelets that I make. The shape is just such a natural connector between a single and double strands - one of my favourite bracelet forms (and you'll see that in so many of my bracelets this year when I do a proper retrospective here later on). I also find that they sit perfectly on one of my own handwoven rondelles - a new shape from me this year - which is terribly satisfying. I'll be interested to count up just how many pieces have had this combination this year! I remember making this piece and thinking 'yes'. This works. This is me. This is something new, somehow. 

(I should say now, I'm not expecting you to necessarily see something 'new' in any of these pieces, or feel that they represent my best work of this year. I just know that they are all little pivots for me - significant cogs in the machine. Tangible signposts when I look back on the year.)


Florida Sunset 
Here's another bracelet which you can definitely draw a direct line from Colour Me Purple to. Another theme with the pieces I consider my best and most significant this year, is the materials I've used. They've contained more of a mix of media than some of the others - handmade beads and Czech glass, yes, but also gemstones, pearls, vintage acrylic and glass, mixed-metals - and here, some fibre-coated copper wire (Wooly Wire) which I'd been hoarding for literally years. Different shapes, textures and colours - all contrasting yet all (to me) harmonising perfectly. In fact, when digging around on FB to find out when I made these I found I had this to say:

'When I'm working with different materials, often individual elements seem to have their own character. Whether it's the colour, texture, shape or a little of everything, they bring their own little personality to the table and it's part of my job - a super-fun part! - to combine these elements together and tell a story with them.'

(Is it bad form to quote one-self?!)

This was about Colour Me Purple specifically, but it holds true to each of these pieces, and more.


Gather Ye Rosebuds
This last piece (for today) contains none of Sally's beads but rather the lampwork glass is all from Helen Chalmers, another lampwork artist whose work I turn to again and again. Her sense of colour is a continual inspiration - I adore colour of course, and love working with it but I find Helen's beads always push me that little bit further.  That little pop of yellow in her Moroccan- or Gaudi- or just Helen-inspired tile design on the lentil, led me to Claire's rose bud which for me, just *makes* this piece. The fragility of the crazed and torn petals, formed in delicate yet hard porcelain. Or is it those spiky, sticky freshwater pearls, another resounding theme from my jewellery this year? They definitely add something key here - organic, rustic, natural; each one unapologetically different from the last. Perhaps the rose is simply the perfect bridge between Helen's glossy, smooth, vibrantly organic beads and the pale nubbliness of the stick pearls. And of course, there's always so much texture and colour saturation in my own handwoven glass. The final touch - two vintage tin hand-formed caps from Lorelei Eurto, around my rose-pink {song}bead. The only spot of cool colour in this piece. Needed, I think.

I'll be back with more a more thorough jewellery retrospective when the year is actually over. But until then, I have my December creative contributions to make! I'm closing this post feeling inspired.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Christmas Art, Craft and Design Fair this weekend


Coming up this weekend! Loads of amazing artisans will be there with a gorgeous selection of handmade goods. Do Christmas the right way - support handmade and shop local. At The Assembly Rooms on George Street (Edinburgh)

Here are a few of the pieces I'll have on my stand (unless they are snagged from my Etsy shop first...!):





Perched




Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A couple of the new pieces in the shop...

I had a bit of a photography session this morning - still quite a bit more to go under the lens, but the mission has begun! I am going to be sharing them here with you this week - and there will be more to come as the week goes on and I get back to the camera. Still time to snag your perfect Songbead piece in time for the festivities! 

You can also shop with me in person this coming weekend at The Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh with 3d2d - always a really great event - and in fact, I have a couple of tickets to give away! If you'd like to be in with the chance of winning them, then leave a comment below. I'll perhaps do something more official over on my Facebook page tomorrow or Wednesday but I'll make sure to put any blog comments into the hat too :-)

Berriful

I couldn't come up with a title for this piece for ages - it contains so much of what I love about making jewellery; artisan-made beads, pearls, pressed glass, so much colour in so many of my favourite saturated vintage-inspired tones...in the end, I had to follow my colour love and go with my whimsically made up word 'Berriful' because those berry tones are really speaking to me, especially at this time of year! Perfect with a pop of turquoise. I've combined an artisan-made turquoise ceramic house with two of my own handwoven glass beads in contrasting purples with some gorgeous dyed freshwater pearls in rich and juicy burgundy (dare I say marsala?!) and beautifully rustic pressed glass chunks. I also used my 'end of day' process to create a short extender chain - a pile of beads left over from many hours of bead-weaving - to create a colourful backdrop for the larger beads.

Night Vision
I'll let you in on a secret - these are so-called because someone on Facebook said they looked like peas and carrots. Not quite what I had in mind when I created them but I can totally see what she means...! Gorgeous handmade ceramic drops in a vibrant yet rustic orange hang from a pair of my handwoven glass rounds in a pale celadon-sage green. The ceramic drops seem to have been top-dipped in burnished gold - elegant and slightly decadent whilst still bohemian and earthy. bronze floral caps separate the ceramic and glass elements and the earrings hang from my own hand-formed oxidised sterling silver earwires, perfect for sensitive ears.

There are several more new pieces which hit the shop yesterday so do hop over and take a peek!

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Stacked Earrings Challenge - Chapter 5

Hello! Goodness me, it's been a while since the previous chapter of this stacked earrings adventure but we are back again, with Heidi's bead selection. 

This exchange is the brain-child of Swedish jewellery designer-maker, Malin de Koning, who invited Heidi Post, Leah Curtis and Claire Lockwood and myself to join her. Here's the lowdown in Malin's own words:

"The idea is that I give each of us the same set of beads. Beads that I believe would be nice to use in earrings. Nothing exclusive, and no art beads. Just a group of different beads that I myself believe can be used in fun and interesting ways in earrings in a stacked style.

 I am longing to see how we all use the same things but in different ways. I am thinking we could all make at least one pair of earrings, but hopefully more. And that we are free to add our own extra beads and/or other components, if we at least use three (3) of the beads from my set in each design."

Since Malin began this challenge back in January 2015, we've taken it in turns to send out little curations of beads, and all turning them into our own creations. It's been so fascinating seeing not only what people have in their stash, but what they choose - how they curate these little bead collections. I freely admit that my selection (last time) was more about assembling an interesting grouping of beads, rather than gathering together items for specific designs. I kind of think this adds something to the design process though - not least the fact that we all start nearer the same point when turning to the bead collection. I wonder if the other designers did the same? 

Anyway, back to this round of the challenge. Here's Heidi's lovely curation (picture courtesy of Malin):


It's interesting looking at this collection here again, whole. You'll see below but I've stuck with a fairly muted, soothing colour-scheme in my creations - and I'm interested to note that, despite there being a fair quantity of coral/orange in Heidi's wee group, I've not used any of it - despite it often being a 'go-to' colour for me when designing. Instead, I've stuck to a tonal palette ranging from mint greens to cool blues to warm purples - nothing too contrasting, nothing too clashing. Fairly unusual for me, but I'm pleased with what I created! See if you agree...

Anyway, here's what I came up with:

Peacock

First of all, these long, elegant drops. I've used the peacock-silver biwa pearl discs and the moon-blue faceted rondelles here, connected with some gorgeous fancy chain in a co-ordinating gunmetal dark silver. You may think that those are the only one of Heidi's beads that I have used here - but no! You see those little handwoven rondelle beads? Inside are some of the little wooden discs - top left of the bead collection picture. When I saw them in Heidi's selection, I couldn't resist seeing if I could bead around them - and yes I could. Which leads me onto these studs...





Not technically stacked earrings, but I wanted to share them here as they came from Heidi's beads - each stud contains one of her tiny natural wood discs and I love them! They are about 10mm across in width when fully beaded. If anyone knows a source for these discs, message me - I'd love to make more. 

In the Fires


Next, a pair in soothing pale violet - almost like cape amethyst - and minty green. I was so pleased to find these Scorched Earth droppers in my stash - how perfectly do the colours go here? Both pairs of discs and the tiny flower caps are from Heidi. I just adore Petra's glazing work here - the way both base colours have so many other colours flashing in them. 

Roundhouse 

These earrings are the cute shorties of the bunch. More of the pretty mind green spacers from Heidi, little wooden plum-purple cogs and some beautiful transparent glass rounds with deepest aubergine swirls throughout - topped off with some of my tiny handwoven rounds in dark pewter. I like the flashes of copper wire here and how they contrast with my hand-formed oxidised silver earwires.

Graffiti


Lastly, these long elegant chaps. Glass rounds and violet gemstone chips from Heidi - and beautiful long porcelain drops from Round Rabbit. I love how the graffiti-style decoration on the rounds is echoed in Nancy's glazing. I purchased these drops in a  'grab bag' from Round Rabbit and I admit when I saw them, I knew I would struggle to use them in their gorgeous earthy olive-brownness - a lovely evocative colour, but not one I work with often. However, I started with the two upper beads and then just knew that I had to hunt down these drops to go with them as the perfect earthy foil to Heidi's beads' bright and bold colourfulness.

And so that's it for this challenge - we've come full circle, each one of us having sent out a grouping of beads now. Who knows if we'll go round again....I've so enjoyed each of these challenges - and whilst we've taken our time with each round, that's been nice - no pressure to create things to deadline that we may or may not be satisfied with. I hope you've enjoyed following along with us! 

Now hop over to my friends' blogs to see what they created with exactly the same materials:





Saturday, 1 October 2016

Speckles are so hot right now


In the fibre world, 'speckles are so hot right now' is a familiar hashtag that you will see attached to artisan-dyed yarns - those amazing creatures which have been through a long and loving process of saturated dye baths, followed up by a flicked paint-brush splattering of multi-coloured speckles. Every time I see this tag on a beautiful skein of artisan yarn, I am so very reminded of my own end-of-day beads - and so this little bracelet is an homage to those lovely skeins. 


Bead-weaving and knitting actually have a vast amount in common - not least the very ordered and almost pixilated nature of their construction - and my end-of-day beads really show this off perfectly - each orb is constructed from 96 individual 2mm glass beads, each one separate and distinct yet coming together to form an almost perfect sphere, with the help of nylon, a tiny needle and a steady hand. I've combined these burgundy-based speckled rounds with a gorgeous artisan lampwork bicone - this pale blue bead has an ancient-inspired feel to it - and a hand-formed chain of stainless steel, nylon and Japanese glass in a beautiful sea foam green - not forgetting a smattering of beautiful burgundy freshwater pearls. A real one-of-a-kind piece. 


Find me - and this bracelet! - today and tomorrow at The Art Market York at York Racecourse. Open 1st and 2nd of October (this weekend!) from 10am - 4pm. 

A note about the {song}beads in this bracelet - they began as some of my very special 'end of day' beads. These are each totally unique. Borrowing from a very old glass-working tradition, I gather the loose beads from the end of any [song}bead weaving session, and rather than tidy them away, I create a unique mix of seed beads, and stitch up little beads with these 'bead soups'. I love letting serendipity and chance take a part in my creative process like this! 

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