Friday 20 February 2015

The A to Z of Me!

WARNING: This post has NO PICTURES.....!

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that as a blogger, I quite like reading other folks' blogs too. I used to just use my blog roll right here (down on the right!) to read blogs, but for the past year or so I've been using Bloglovin' to follow all my favourite blogs. Other than the missing g and apostrophe in its place (yuck) I really like Bloglovin' - it's easy to use, and best of all (for me), it comes with an app which I have on both my iPhone and my iPad. (And yes, you guessed it - I'm typing this on my MacBook.....I am not quite an Apple junkie, but getting there...!). 

Along with your own feed, BL also shares popular posts (on a different tab, you don't just get them stuck in there amongst all your chosen favourites) and whilst some of these are not things I would necessarily read - 'how to make delicious chocolate brownies that are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, sugar-free and chocolate-free from only kale and dust' is not really my idea of a good time - some of them are really fun and a good read, and I appreciate getting a peek into other people's lives through their blogs. It's just a little more personal than Facebook, isn't it? It's also quite refreshing to read non-jewellery blogs from time to time - shock horror, I can step away from the beads from time to time! 

One of the blogs that I stumbled upon through BL (Sophie Cliff) shared a post last week which seems to be a current trend in some blogs, and I thought it was quite a neat idea. So here goes - the A to Z of me! Some silly, some personal and some in-between. 

A - Acupuncture. I've had quite a few health issues over the past 18 months, and since moving to Edinburgh in August, I've been going once a week. It makes me feel that I'm taking just a little more control of my life and is hopefully helping to sort things out for me.

B - Come on, you know what that's going to be. BEADS......It could have been so many other things though - books, beverages, Belfast, bunnies....but no. It really does have to be beads. I love how old they are as objects, how accessible they are to each of us; I love their symbolism, I love their teeniness, I love their colours - I love working with them. I love all the materials they can be made from - from the humblest of plastics to the most expensive of gemstones. I love the friends I've made because of them, and also, through sharing them with other people they pay my rent and help put food on the table. Pretty great wee things! 

C - Camper vans. Preferably VW. I WANT ONE!!

D - Detectives. Poirot, Miss Marple, Quincy, Cagney and Lacey, Columbo, Sherlock (Holmes), Jessica Fletcher, Broadchurch, Shetland, Vera, Morse, Lewis....etc etc etc. Watching or reading, you cannot beat crime drama, IMHO.

E - Earl Grey tea. My favourite. Preferably decaf - since I switched over at home a few years ago, my tolerance is SO low, I try to avoid caffeine when I can to avoid feeling like a jangly mess.

F - Food. Yum. I really love it (a bit too much!) and I've recently got back into cooking, since we've been living with Mum. It's so much easier to cook for 3 than it is for 2, somehow.

G - Grey hairs. Not too many yet, thank goodness, but I am going to dye the heck out of them when they arrive. Love grey on other people, but I will die a blonde, people!

H - Home. It's proved a somewhat elusive concept for me during my adult life. I lived in Manchester for 13 years, but it never felt like my home (much as I loved it). 11 months in Belfast and it truly did feel like my home, and then we had to leave to return to Edinburgh, the place I'd thought of as home all the way through living in England. Still getting used to it being my full-time home. 

I - Introvert. That's me. I recently took the Myers-Briggs test and came out as 100% introvert! No surprise to me however. I am so much more comfortable here in the written word rather than the spoken.

J - Jewellery. I love it. Love, love LOVE it. Love wearing it, making it, sharing it with others - I really do. It's such a special form of art. I mean come on - art you can wear! How awesome is that?!

K - Keyboard - well, piano really. I don't play so much anymore but I used to all the time when I was teaching. I am so looking forward to having my clavinova back when we are in our own flat, and I can play again. 

L - Love. The world could do with a wee bit more of it! 

M - Music. It has been a central part of my life since I was 6 and joined my first choir. I have a complicated relationship with it, as I grew up and spent most of my 20s wanting to be a full-time performer and - well, that is not going to happen for me. But still - I AM doing some more performing later this year, which I'm ecstatic about, with the most fantastic and exciting music theatre group. Music is and has been so important to me that I really can't leave it off this list. 

N - Northern Ireland - It's my Soul Home. I adore it - the people, the scenery, the music, the culture. I am still sad that our time there was so short, and I'm already looking forward to our next trip over. 

O - Ovaries. Mine don't work so well right now but I'm hoping that will change soon!

P - Prosecco. Need I say more?

Q - Queen. My favourite band, ever ever ever. Ever. I still have not a little of that teenage obsessive thing for them. I love them, and I have for very long time. 

R - Rabbits - my fur babies. Rufus, Florrie and Lily are our little ones right now and I ADORE them all!

S - Silver-smithing. I've gone back to school and am learning how to slice, melt and solder metal, and I love it! Can't wait til I can start to incorporate what I'm learning into my own jewellery.

T - Travel. I really do love it. I've been lucky enough to visit France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Madeira, Corfu, Lanzarote, Fuertaventura, Tenerife, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Italy, USA (Illinois, California and Florida), Israel, Egypt, Ireland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Russia in my time, not to mention exploring a lot of Northern Ireland and the British Isles too.

U - Untidy. I am SO untidy. Really and truly and I don't expect that to change any time soon, however hard I try (which isn't always much, granted!). Helen (who is tidy) and I have a theory - everyone falls into one of four categories: Clean/Tidy, Clean/Untidy, Dirty/Tidy and Dirty/Untidy. Thank goodness, I am definitely CLEAN/Untidy. The worst of that little lot though is Dirty/Tidy. Disgusting - but deceptively so. Yick.

V - Voting. There's been a lot of talk on this subject recently, not least in Scotland where we recently had a referendum. I'm not necessarily the most political animal, but I think it is so, so important to exercise ones right to vote. Yes, sometimes it does feel like you are choosing between dumb and dumber, but people have died for the right to vote, and it only takes a quick look at a country without democracy to see how important it is to get in that polling booth, even if you just put a cross next to the 'None of the above' option. Use your voice, people! Not everyone is privileged enough to have one in this world.

W - Wine. But of course.

X - Xylophone. Because I can't think of anything else beginning with an X right now.

Y - Yellow. It's actually one of my favourite colours, which is unusual I know. Sunny, happy and bright - what's not to love? 

Z - Z├╝rich. My Mum used to live there, so we have quite a special relationship with it, and with Switzerland as a whole, as a family. It's a FANTASTIC city, full of beautiful architecture, cool shops, cheese, culture, cheese and one of my favourite languages to listen to. Oh, and did I mention the cheese?

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed that little trip around me and my life. Send me the link if you decide to do an A-Z post too!

Wednesday 18 February 2015

FLASH Sale at Curious!

Ok guys, this is just one of those super-quick posts to let you know that I am having a FLASH sale over at The Curious Bead Shop today! I've got new beads coming in soon and need to make some room :-)

You just need to use coupon code FLORAL15 at the checkout and Etsy will do the rest. If you are stuck, feel free to check out this handy guide to using coupon codes on etsy here.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Going Back to School

If you follow me over on Facebook, you may have heard mention that I have gone back to school. No, not anything like full-time, but every Tuesday evening I spend 2.5 hours at the Edinburgh Contemporary Crafts jewellery workshop in town, leaning how to saw, hammer, torch, solder and more. I actually started this silver-smithing process back in September, when I took a slightly random (for me) class on making a bowl and spoon from copper. Well, it was not the beginning of a great love affair with making bowls(!), although I did thoroughly enjoy the term. What it did do however, was make me much more comfortable working with fire, and with the process of annealing, pickling and hammering metal. The perfect prelude to this term's silver-smithing jewellery class! 

I've even gone so far as to book in extra sessions on some of the weekends. Yep, total geek. But I knew that already - it's ok, I can deal with that! I am not planning on abandoning what I already do - no fear there - but I am really exciting about incorporating silver-smithed elements once I am feeling more confident in my basic foundation skills. Soldering my own rings with confidence - I have made  a few (not pictured here) and am hoping that in a few weeks, with much practice, I will be able to create rings with enough consistency and skill to build on the range of rings I started just before Christmas. Loops, clasps, pins, pendants, charms.....I can't wait! 

Here are a few images from the class so far. Please be kind about my less than amazing drawing skills.....

It's another new idea for me to actually draw my ideas out. I rarely do that when working with beads, but of course when you want to pierce something out of metal, you really have to draw it first, or at least I do right now! 

Here's the first thing I've pieced with which I am actually pleased. Sure, it's far from perfect, but I can see the potential here, and it does look like a feather. Rather than an ink blob, which the first flower I pierced out a couple of years ago definitely did...

And here's a tree. Ok, not the most beautiful tree ever, but a tree nonetheless! It's now soldered onto a little platform. Not quite sure what I'll do with that, but my soldering wasn't bad - it wasn't great, but it wasn't bad - and I'm pretty pleased with it too. 

And here are some more ideas as yet unrealised. Flowery birdies, a sun, and a nellie. Watch this space....

Sunday 15 February 2015

Art Bead Scene Take the Challenge! - Amapolas

Amapolas, 1913
Illustration published in "News of Spring and Other Nature Studies
By Edward Julius Detmold
Watercolor, 208 by 124mm

Regular readers will know that I am part of the Art Bead Scene editorial team - a collective blog that deals with all things jewellery and art bead-related! Each month, we hold a fun competition and throw out a challenge to our readers to create jewellery inspired by our chosen piece of art. And of course, part of that challenge is to use art beads in your designs. We also have a new category now, inviting readers to create art beads inspired by challenge piece. It's a lot of fun (and there are some awesome prizes for our readers too), but it is easy when you are working hard behind the scenes for time to run away and not get a chance to actually take part yourself. 

However, this month I *made* the time! And so did several of my other teammates. It really is a beautiful piece and I'm glad that, even in the shortest month of the year, I was able to take a little time to create in this way. It is one of my favourite things to do - to take an image, a palette; to dig around in my art bead boxes and pull out components that may have been there a while (which is certainly what happened this time around) and sit down and create a few items around a theme. 

One thing I always love to turn to is a palette drawn from an image. Take a peek at what colour-guru Brandi Girl  whipped up for us this month:

What I find about the palettes is that they really make you *see* the colours in the art works. And in turn, it gives you something more concrete to work with. I think I would have missed the hints of plum altogether without Brandi's palette to guide me. And once I noticed it, it really made the picture for me. I feel like my subconscious was aware of it, but I would have entirely missed it in trying to design inspired by this piece. 

So, enough blethering from me - here's what I came up with. 

Cream is not a colour I work with often. Not quite sure why, other than a) it's a little too close to the dreaded Magnolia paint that we all have to live with when we rent and b) it doesn't suit my skin colour in the slightest! The only real exceptions are freshwater pearls, which I adore. But in this painting, it really is a thick, luscious, Cornish clotted cream shade which is used. It's delicious, and has not just a hint of sandy yellow to it. The large lucite curvy bicones which I've used here are the perfect shade! I love them, but have only used them once since purchasing a small hoard of them. I love the speckled patterns on them, and lucite has such a nice, satisfyingly smooth yet hard feel to it. 

Another bead which I have been hoarding for years - literally - is this absolutely beautiful hand-wrapped silk bead from Claire Braunbarth of Smitten Beads. It's incredibly special, and it has travelled with me from Manchester to Belfast and now on to Edinburgh....and it has finally found its forever home in this piece. Isn't is gorgeous? And just the perfect shade of red too. 

Now onto the to be only-to-be-expected earrings. Three pairs! I do love earrings. Here I pulled out more of the purple which I so love in the painting, coupling them with some rust-red (dare I say Marsala?!) ceramic daisies from Captured Moments. The angles in the photo are a little off because I've used hoop earwires here - but the hoops are the same size, I promise!

...and here's how I knotted them at the back. One of my favourite ways of working at the moment - you can see the double lengths of Irish linen here, in the bracelet above, and in the necklace below too.

For some reason, I'm not really one for hearts in my jewellery. Sometimes, yes - but not often. However, I had two of these little deep, deep burgundy hearts left over from last year when I had a small batch over at Curious, and they again were such a perfect shade for this challenge piece. I thought they looked quite neat with some layered charms below, including handmade enamel drops from Beads by Earth Tones, one of my absolutely favourite bead artists. 

Here's another pair - and I'm the first to admit that they've perhaps transitioned one stage further from the painting than the rest. However, those delicious deep red ceramic lentils were the first beads I pulled out when gathering supplies for this challenge, and they go so perfectly with the red and black poppies above, I couldn't not include them here! The colours are just a little more contrasting than the rest of my set. Of course, the painting is only ever the starting point, and any creative play can move as far away from that point as your mind can stretch, I just feel this pair don't share the cohesive feel that the rest of the jewellery here does. Still, they are cute nonetheless! Art beads her from Humblebeads and Beads by Earth Tones. 

Last but not least, and surely I should have a GIF of a drum roll here, a necklace. Yippee! And I really, really like this one - I think it's my favourite piece out of all I've shared here today. Ceramic pendant and daisy from Summers Studio Etc., and a handmade copper rose from me. No purple here, but I've picked up on the soft, sage green, the contrasting coral to rust reds, and of course, the butterfly imagery here too. 

All of these items are now available in my etsy shop

If you've enjoyed seeing what I have made, then take a peek at my team mates' blogs! Posts will be popping up throughout the day. And if you are a jewellery maker too, then why not join in? There are still 2 weeks to go to play along! Full details here.

Friday 13 February 2015

Garden Green

Necklaces, we meet again....or should I say *necklace* singular. It's a start! If you remember from this post, I said/resolved "As for February, it's time to create a few more necklaces!". Well, here we go, here's my first. Oh dear! Actually, that's not true, but a couple have gone to local friends/customers before photographing. I think that's half the problem with them for me - so much to fit in on the full shot, not having a spot where I can pose a mannequin - the conservatory is great for light but filled with - shudder - house plants and various other bits and bobs which are not necessarily great background props - close ups focussing on the pendant area not giving a proper 'feel' of the piece as a get the gist. 

Garden Green is nice and chunky, and so it's a little easier to squeeze it all in to one shot without feeling like the eye doesn't know where to rest. Lovely vibrant green chrysoprase, one of my favourite gemstones, has a slightly waxy feel to it somehow, and I've paired it with some delicious vintage German pressed glass. Vintage German glass is similar to but distinctly different from it's Czech neighbour - somehow, the pressings are just a little less sharp, but it gives them a little more heft, and they are definitely bolder too. I've had these twisted rounds for a couple of years now, and they seemed happy to be paired up with the chunky chrysoprase, and a similarly visually weighty ceramic house from Elukka. Pretty pleased with this jolly piece! What do you think? 

Wednesday 11 February 2015


I don't often reach for these colours - fuchsia and juicy orange - but every so often they arrive on my worktable in the form of a pair of earrings or a bracelet of such. Aren't they juicy? Don't they speak of sunshine, orange groves and exotic flora and fauna? Toned down just a little with the addition of rustic golden-brown brass, I really love this palette. One to reach for a little more often, perhaps...

Monday 9 February 2015

Good Morning!

Good morning everyone! I hope today is bright, shiny and lovely for you all. Happy Monday!

Sunday 8 February 2015

My colours of far...

My colours of 2015 so far? Without a doubt, blue-turquoise and vibrant, saturated orange. I'm not sure if it's quite fair to call them my colours of 2015, as I think they were my colours for quite a bit of 2014 too....but looking back over January, they leapt out at me. Aren't they just a little bit wonderful together? 

Here are a few of my pieces in this palette:

...and one of my favourites from 2014...

Some of these have flown away, but some are still over on etsy. 

Friday 6 February 2015

Fresh off the boat!

I have been lucky enough to have been published in the last two issues of the beautiful publication that is Stringing Magazine. Do you know it? If you are in the UK, it can be tricky to get hold of, but you can always download a copy right onto your computer or tablet. If you like making jewellery, or even if you just like looking at - and wearing! - gorgeous handmade jewellery, then it really is a feast for the eyes. It's one of those publications I've always longed to be published in, but never quite screwed up the courage to submit any designs to. Well, I'm not quite sure what changed, but back in May(?) (April? June? I can't remember now! Definitely back in Belfast at any rate) I got my nerve together and sent in a few pieces for their Winter issue. 

I'm not sure I ever got round to sharing those which were accepted - a real and true honour for me, incredibly humbling and exciting to be sharing those pages with so many talented folk. The Winter pieces arrived back in the midst of craft fair madness, so they went straight onto the stand, apart from a dainty necklace and earring set which I knew from before I even sent it away was destined for my wee sister. 

Fast forward to September(? I really am not good at remembering dates.), and it was submission time all over again. Well, I didn't get my act together quite so much but I managed to whip up a few pieces - earrings and a bracelet to submit, and some of them were accepted. Yay! They arrived back with me today, and here they are. A few PicMonkey snaps to share with you of them. (I forgot to shoot the bracelet - but that will follow). 

I'm enjoying playing around with fonts at the moment. Really, I want to find one that works for me, but my style does tend toward the eclectic - why shouldn't my font-age? Which one is your favourite? Do you like a mix? Or do you think I should hone it right down?

Annoyingly, I just didn't get my act together in time for the Summer issue submission deadline, so you won't be seeing any of my work then. Hopefully I can be more organised, and get some designs submitted for the Fall issue - and fingers crossed, more of my work will be gracing Stringing's pages later in the year. It's hard work, but I think it's good to have to 'put yourself out there' every single time. There's something quite bracing about designing to a specific brief, but it doesn't have the added pressure (not quite the right word) of designing for a specific person. That layer of specificity and direction from the magazine, but then you are free to do whatever you like from that - you only have yourself (and hopefully the magazine!) to please. 

Tuesday 3 February 2015

And now for something a little different...

And now for something completely different....One thing you may not know about me is that I am a HUGE Queen fan. I have been for most of my life; my Godfather of sorts recorded all of his original vinyl LPs onto cassette for me back in the early 90s. Needless to say, I wore them out.....

So I grew up with not only the Greatest Hits, which I don't know many people who don't love, but also all of the original 70s and 80s albums. I listened and listened and listened to them, I read biographies, I was thrilled when Made in Heaven was released a few years after Freddie's untimely death. (I even joined the official fan club a few months ago, god help me!!)

Never mind Bohemian Rhapsody, I Want to Break Free is one of the BEST music videos ever!
Two weeks ago, I had the experience of my life, going to see Queen + Adam Lambert live in Glasgow. Haters gonna hate, but Adam Lambert was AMAZING. Really and truly - that boy can sing - lungs of steel! Of course, he is not Freddie Mercury, but then, he's not trying to be - he's allowing this fantastic music to continue to be performed live - to live and breathe - with 2 members of the original band. (I think it's worth saying that John Deacon, Queen's bassist, was also sorely missed.) If you get the chance, I cannot recommend enough going and seeing them. Worth EVERY penny, and more. I can't help but feel that Freddie would be thrilled to hear a musician and singer of such skill tackling his incredibly challenging repertoire. 

Queen (minus Adam Lambert!) have also recently released a 'new' track - one recorded (but not finished or released) back in 1984 but reworked and with original material added by Brian May and Roger Taylor. It's on their new album, Queen Forever - and really, that title says it all for me. 

If you are a Queen fan at all, I defy you not to feel a lump in your throat watching this beautifully put together video that accompanies this track - Let me in your heart again. 

Monday 2 February 2015

Good-bye January - Hello February!

It's the start of a new week; we've left January behind and thank-goodness, now it's June. What's that you say? It's actually February? Another month of Winter, essentially....?

Oh well. At least February is followed by March, and is blessedly short. 

January may have been long, dreich and dark, but it's been quite a productive month for me here at Songbead. That opportunity that the beginning of a new year provides us with - to look back and take stock of what has come before - is never a bad thing, and it's made me reevaluate where I am in terms of life balance. I've blogged about it before, so I won't bore you with it again, but I have been considering taking on someone to help me one day a week for The Curious Bead Shop, to allow me to devote more of my time to designing, making and creative play. I'm hugely grateful for Curious and every single order that comes in, and I want it to stay that way - I don't want to begin feeling that it's swamping my week and stopping me from making and creating. 

And so beginning this past month, I've been making a concerted effort to CREATE more. I've missed magazine deadlines already(!) but I have been keeping my etsy shop stocked, taking more photographs (despite the time of year  i.e. poor light), and trying to keep my blog and Facebook page active. I mean, I love making jewellery. I like Facebook but I love blogs and that extra layer of the personal and intimate that they provide. So why not start the year as I mean to go on? 

Here's a peek at what January looked like for me in terms of jewellery design:

As for February, it's time to create a few more necklaces! And to work on my silver-smithing skills, so I can start to incorporate bits and pieces into my jewellery - this past month, I have started a weekly class, and I'm LOVING it. But more about that on another day!

How about you? How's your January been? What does February hold? 

Sunday 1 February 2015

Three Bracelets

Three wee bracelets for you today, all quite different from one another. 

Most frequent readers will know that I *love* colour in general, but I think it's fair to say I tend toward to vibrant. I reached for the softer tones here though, and I'm pretty pleased with it's gentleness. We can always do with a wee bit more gentleness in the world.

Ceramic bird - Something to do beads
Polymer rondelles - Alison Sachs

This bracelet seems very 'me' to my eyes. I love flowers (especially in bead-form, it must be said!), I love turquoise and orange/red and I love birds. And if you add in a piece of vintage brass chain from Paris, it can't hurt, can it? Unfortunately this bracelet is an absolute pest to photograph. The chain section just doesn't behave when sat on a flat surface. Much better on the wrist. I hope you still get a good idea of it nonetheless.

This last one is a bit different in more ways than one. It's a return from Stringing magazine, where it was published in the Winter 2014 edition. The first issue with some of my designs featured - I was pretty chuffed! It was part of the issue's 'delicate femininity' section, and I love, love, love the palette which Stringing selected, part of which you can see below. Hand-cut tiny gemstones, a bit of organic rusticity alongside it's delicate palette and general dainty-nature. My quandary now is that I just don't know how to price this type of piece. It's unusual that I would use quite so many gemstones in one piece. I get most of my gemstones from Precious Sparkle Beads and honestly, the quality is second to none. So I am keen not to undervalue a piece like this with the wrong price. It may be that I just *have* to keep it for myself.....oh well, it's a hard life and all that! 


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