Tuesday 26 January 2016

Heart-centred - Part 1

We're coming to the end of January now - thank goodness! January is definitely not my favourite month of the year - all the lovely festivities are over, there's still a few months of awful weather left, things are dark, and (at least over here in the UK) TAX. Yuck! Thankfully, I've almost (honestly!) submitted my tax which is a huge weight off my mind. It's one of the very few times that I wish for a salaried, contracted job where I just wouldn't have to think about sorting out the tax side of things myself. But those wishes don't last long, it must be said. Self-employment suits me 43628954563 times better than a salaried job, at least at this point in my life. 

This is turning into a fairly wordy and reflective post, so I'm going to intersperse it with pictures, so you don't lose the will to live from All The Words TOO much! Feel free to just scan through the pictures if that's more your thing. Links to all the jewellery are beneath each image. 
Love More 

January 2016 has also been made more unenjoyable than usual by my having flu for the first 2 weeks, and one or two other long-term health/body issues happening behind the scenes (we're trying to have a baby, but essentially, we are not even getting to the starting blocks right now due to my silly body). These things that I thought my body was being more co-operative with, it's decided it really doesn't want to co-operate with at the moment, thank you very much. Hoping that next month, things will settle a little. Keep your fingers crossed for me! I'm trying not to be too down-hearted about it all (it's been an ongoing issue for around 2 years now), but I can't help but feel a little flattened by this month's setback. Flattened really is the word too - like a compressed vessel, struggling to pop up into shape and structure and purpose again.

Quilted 2

And really, it seems like a comparatively minor issue - but who likes short days and long nights? I miss the light. I miss the sun. I won't go as far to say that I miss the warmth (I do live in Edinburgh, after all!) but I am longing for a little more daylight. Soon; soon. 

Onwards and upwards for sure, but I think it's important to recognise these upsets and setbacks before we try and move on, not to simply repress our feelings and pretend everything is 'alright'. Otherwise they pile up until you simply can't shut that lid anymore, not even if you sit firmly upon the case! I'm trying to count my blessings however, and more importantly (to me), seek solace through making. Through colour, through form - through other people's art and creating something new from that. I love these 'silent collaborations', as I like to think of them. We're working on improving my 'make space' in our flat - my Curious Bead Shop set up is generally good, but my Songbead space leaves something to be desired. And it's time that was fixed! Charity furniture shops (Big Love to these wonderful establishments) and Ikea (not quite so fun or potentially beautiful, but often, just what is needed), here we come! 

Love Bravely

Of course, in my solace-seeking making, I have been turning to hearts. I used to be a little turned off at the idea of using these within my work, but I've found over the past year or two, more and more hearts have popped up in my jewellery. Am I softening in my 'old' age (ok, at 34 I know I'm not what a lot of people would class as 'old' - but gosh, you don't half change a lot from your 20s to your 30s!)? Maybe - but I think it's also that I'm more confident that they won't 'cheese up' my jewellery, which used to be a worry for me. If that makes sense! I do look out for quirky, artist-made heart focals, perhaps in non-traditional 'love-heart colours' - but even so. If I look through the past year or so of jewellery, there are definitely more and more hearts popping up. (I won't say that it might be because I am incredibly fortunate to have an amazing wife with whom I share a very stable, loving and happy relationship, because that make you and me both feel a little nauseated. I'll spare us all that!)

On My Soul

January has also contained a few highlights, it has to be said. I'm not sure I'm ready to create a gratitude jar (too much potential for guilt over forgetting to use it, I reckon), although it is a really lovely idea. But I have been struck by something that a good friend (and astonishing bead artist) Julie Wong Sontag shared a wee while ago - Brene Brown's TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability (YouTube link!). I'm paraphrasing here, but one thing that Brene mentions is 'practicing happiness and gratitude'. Yes, that DOES sound like a platitude - but somehow, the idea that happiness doesn't just fall into our laps - that it's ok to have to work at it - really stuck with me, and it was something that Helen and I talked about, and that I have continued to ruminate on. Yes, sometimes you can really try to think positively and look on the bright side (as I mentioned earlier) and it is just too hard, and not something that feels or is indeed possible (I'm sure we've all been there - I know I have) - but the idea of seeking out small joys and moments of thankfulness when I can really struck me. So I am trying to remember those small moments - those morsels of happiness; those chinks of kindness and laughter - when I'm feeling blue. Balancing out. This month, I've reconnected with two old friends - people that I had drifted from over the past few years - and that felt good. It felt like an active choice on my part, rather than simply being passive to time and life's sometime erosion of certain relationships. I'm very good at being passive to life - it feels good to get up and meet it face to face.


So, you've made it to the end of this post, almost! It may have felt like a slightly dreary one, but it wasn't meant to be, I promise. I guess I'm just saying, January has been tricky, but I've kept on going, and there have been a few treasured moments there, and I'm doing my best to make note of them. And that I am pressing on with my heart-centred creations as a central part of this. Whether you gift yourself something for Valentine's Day - it's never wrong to celebrate yourself, in my opinion -  your partner - or if you simply ignore it, and the hustle and bustle of commercialism that it can bring! -  then I hope you'll like my current offerings. I'm still keeping up with my resolution to try and pop new items into my etsy shop every few days, so do stop by to see what's new. 

January, I can't say I'm sorry that you'll be leaving us soon, but I'll be taking a few joys with me and hopefully leaving the negatives behind with you. Time to savour this last week and find more small joys to be thankful for. 

Thursday 21 January 2016

Looking Out - Responding to Art

I feel very fortunate as a bead and found object jewellery designer-maker (try saying that quickly!), to work with not only some fascinating beads and objects, but some true works of art. It's funny - it's something I've been musing on a lot as I begin to pick up my silver-smithing skills again this year, and think about dabbling in lampwork and possibly even polymer as the year progresses. I have always loved to work with things that already exist, even when creating my own original compositions. As a musician - something I pick up whenever I can - I sang and played pieces which were already composed - pieces of music which had often existed for 100s of years. The challenge is to make your performance worthy of the composer's art, to bring not necessarily something new in my opinion (originality does not always mean the best and most authentic version of something!) but to bring yourself to the music, in the moment - to create something of beauty and share it with others. 

As well as performing, I did a lot of composition during my years studying music. I love sitting down with a blank sheet of manuscript and a piano, and creating something from scratch - from a set of notes that many, many others have worked with before and will do in the future, and come up with something new. Something you. It's magical, and I'll be honest - a lot more strenuous (at least for me!) than whipping up a pair of pretty earrings! 

Even with composing music however, my favourite thing to do was and is to set words. Words! I just love them. Other people's words, never my own (I fear I have very little talent there, my wordsmith-ness extends to this blog and not much further). To respond to something already in existence. It really is marvellous to work with poems and words, and transform them into something of myself. 

And that's how I feel with beads. If you're a frequent reader here, you'll know that along with making my own handwoven beads, I also love to work with as many other bead artists' handmade beads in different media, as I can get my hands on! 

Here's one of my latest pieces - a handmade necklace featuring handmade art beads from Soul Silver (the polka dot turquoise lampwork tab up the right-hand side), a pewter swirl hook clasp from Green Girl Studios, and a wonderfully grungy etched lampwork glass heart from Helen Chalmers. How lucky am I that can not only work with Sally Soul Silver and Helen's beads, but also call them my friends? We are often craft fair buddies. I've added in a couple of my own handwoven rondelles, and a whole bunch of pressed glass beads and tiny glass seed beads. 

As for Looking Out? These colours seemed to me to be a typical Scottish sea scene (on a bright day, mind!). Vivid, deep hues of the sea and the sky, and dark, foreboding colours of the rocks and possibly/probably a forbidding sky somewhere. What is more inspiring than the sea? But the title also strikes me as particularly apt for my way of working. Not just looking inwards to my own artist's soul, but outwards to the art that exists before my eyes - responding to that which already is. 

Monday 18 January 2016

Pantone - Rose Quartz and Serenity

If you are a fan of colour like I am, you may well also be a fan of Pantone - not just colour experts, but guides in the world of colour fashion. In their own words:

"For over 50 years, Pantone has been inspiring design professionals with products, services and leading technology for the colorful exploration and expression of creativity. In 1963, Lawrence Herbert, Pantone's founder, created an innovative system for identifying, matching and communicating colors to solve the problems associated with producing accurate color matches in the graphic arts community. His insight that the spectrum is seen and interpreted differently by each individual led to the innovation of the PANTONE® MATCHING SYSTEM®, a book of standardized color in fan format."

So there you go! Now, I'm not necessarily very fashion-led - I wouldn't say I am unfashionable exactly (hopefully!!), just drawn to timeless, classic pieces - be they in wearable fashion, home furnishings or interior design - and even more than that, I am drawn to quirky, colourful design that doesn't quite fit into any fashion niche. I am more interested in the art that we wear and surround ourselves with being an expression of our true selves, and having an emotional connection with that art. It doesn't have to be high-brow or serious - but it does have to connect. 

Nonetheless, I am always intrigued when Pantone brings out their Colour of the Year, and the palettes which they release twice a year. For 2016, they've changed things up a little, and selected two colours for this role - Rose Quartz and Serenity.

If you're a bright and saturated colour fan like me, you may be thinking 'meh' a little. Ok, I admit this was my first reaction! Old-fashioned 'gendered' baby colours. (Colours don't have a gender - something else I'm not a fan of! Hurray for boys in pink and girls in blue and everyone in all the colours of the rainbow.) But take a look at Pantone's Spring 2016 Colour Report palette:

I am a lot more of a fan of this larger selection - particular the brighter hues at the right-hand side (surprise surprise). I had secretly hoped that Snorkel Blue would be selected as 2016's colour of the year! However, seeing the soft pastels as part of a larger selection, I feel much more happier with them - they seem to make more sense to and for me. I've also begun a Pinterest board for Rose Quartz and Serenity, so that I can explore these colours in many different visual contexts. 

And really, that is what I love about Pantone's palettes and colours of the year. They push me to work with colours and colour combinations that otherwise I might not. Cornflower and pale rose-pink? I admit, neither are the first colours I reach for when beginning designing. But seeing these over at Pantone and on Pinterest is somewhat of a challenge - it inspires me to try and incorporate them into my designs, and to make them work for me. 

One of my first ports of call when exploring colour is to whip up some handwoven beads in whichever colours I am keen to explore. Look out for these in my own designs (particularly the Rose Quartz I have to say - I am in love with it's subtle shimmer, and delicately frosted exterior) - but if you are also a jewellery designer, then you can pick these up over at The Curious Bead Shop in various combinations - pairs, and sampler sets. 

What do you think of the Pantone Colours of the Year? Are you drawn to them, or are they more of a challenge for you, as they are for me? 

Tuesday 5 January 2016

New Year, New Jewellery

Well, well well. Blogspot, we meet again! It's been quite some time since I graced the pages of the bloggerverse, for one reason or another. November and December felt incredibly busy and slightly stressful months for me, and I guess something had to give! Not least because I've had back to back colds since the end of October too - I'm currently tucked up on the sofa with a blanket and a hot Ribena, the cold remedy of champions. My Facebook pages also slipped through the net for December at least. But it's a new year - time to turn over a new leaf and get back to it! Sometimes, I think there are just SO many social media outlets, that I get overwhelmed and so succeed at nothing, rather than pacing myself and selecting the arenas that work best for me. But I've goals and aims and hopes to be more organised; more streamlined in 2016 - to use my time better. Hopefully, you'll see me more frequently ~

*On Twitter (Ok, so this is linked to my FB page so there's a lot of overlap, but still - good if you are a Twitterer rather than a Facebooker)

Phew! It's not like it used to be, is it?! I remember when it was all about the blog and nothing else. But there you go - times change and we must move with them. My favourites are undoubtedly the blog (honestly, despite my very infrequent posting habits of 2015!) and Instagram, but they all have their place. 

Anyway, I know that they say about good intentions and all that, but if you don't start with them you can't really hope to get anywhere, can you?! 

And I have at least begun well with jewellery creation this year, which I don't always manage to do. Often, I feel a little paralysed by the unspoken challenge that a new year brings - bigger, better, bolder. Instead, I've chosen to continue to organically build on what I was doing towards the end of last year. Essentially, just carry on making! I took a break for a lot of December - we hosted 13 for Christmas day, and had a heap of preparation to do before then, and I am one of those people who is well and truly wiped out by a cold, so the past couple of months have been a bit of a struggle(!) - but wanted to start the year as I meant to go on - with beads. 

A couple of these pieces have been snagged already but most of them are in my etsy shop. Please excuse the lazy-girl instagram pics - the Christmas tree is in my usual photography spot and due to the awkwardness of taking photos right now, I am just using my phone and Instagram rather than my bad boy camera. The tree will be down some time tomorrow, so once that's gone (sob) I'll have my little photo set up up and running again. 

Thistle in the Crown (sold)

Sakura (sold)


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