Sunday, April 29, 2012

Week 2 - 52 Earrings a Year!

I was going to make a really bright, happy pair of earrings for the challenge this week as retaliation against the miserable weather we are having.  It feels as though it has rained forever and somewhere above those grey clouds is a hot, yellow sun basking in a brilliant blue sky....hopefully this week we will get to see it!

Despite the weather I had a fantastic day on Wednesday meeting with some lovely polmer clay artists ( The not so lonely life of a bead maker..) and was truely inspired by everything I had learnt.  The next day, rather than spend my time making glass beads, out came the pasta maker, clay and away I went.....

I started off with the intention of making a Mokume Gane pendant/earrings...bear with me... (a technique I learnt on Wednesday).  I prepared my sheets of different coloured clay and stacked them on top of one another put them through the pasta machine and repeated several times.  Then I imprinted the surface using my flower stamp...

Then I changed my mind....I couldn't help but think this would make a lovely pendant just as it is! I chopped the rough edges off and cured the pendant. 

The colours I had originally chosen (Alizarin and Gold) blended into a deep red/bronze colour which because of the gold, looked metallic.  I decided to cut thick slices of clay and wrap them around each other leaving the edges rough so that they would look rustic and slightly industrial.  You can just see them at the back of the tray. 

After making these 'industrial' beads I mixed yellow, turquoise and silver to make a silvery green colour.  I wanted to make some tiny leaves to compliment the flower prints on the pendant. To make them I cut out some small circles and gently pinched two sides together and using a cocktail stick I made veins on the leaves...

To finish the pendant I made two borders using the colours I had chosen for the beads and thread them all on green and olive silken thread.

Now all I needed was a pair of earrings! I know this is a very long-winded way of explaining how I reached this week's design for earrings but I needed to make a pair to match the pendant.  I used the rustic beads and strung them on brass headpins.  I was going to add some leaves to the top bead but it really didn't look right....

Sarah xx

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The not so lonely life of a bead maker.....

Yesterday, very excitedly.....I packed up my clay, pasta machine and tools and went to a polymer clay day organised by the lovely Cara JaneI have been admiring Cara's work for ages, she makes the most beautiful beads from polymer clay and it was lovely to finally meet her.  I also met some amazing ladies (Caroline Casswell, Hannah Falcon-Lang, Chrissie Baker, Anita White and Rosalind Vernon) all sharing their knowledge and experience of polymer clay.  I learnt so much I felt like my head was going to explode with all inspiration and ideas that kept formulating in my head as we were making things.

Caroline Casswell was wearing a couple of beautiful rings that we were all openly admiring.  Very kindly she did a demonstration of how she made them and guided us all through the process.  It was so clever and something I would never have thought of!  You can see my examples in the top right hand corner of the photo....I need a lot more practice but my daughter has placed a very large order for herself......

Caroline also showed us how to make a heart bead.....mine kept growing longer and longer.....I'm still not sure why or what I am going to do with it ... but it was funny making it!

The main theme for the clay day was textures so after lunch Cara showed us a new technique called Mokume and told us about an amazing polymer clay artist called Melanie Muir who developed this technique and makes absolutely stunning bracelets.  Cara is a brilliant teacher and we all had a great time following her with our own versions.  I am definitely going to try this again!

Cara also showed us a good way of using up all the waste canes and clay that is left over (I had lots).  I was particularly struck by this technique called Stropple Cane named after Alice Stroppel the lady who invented the idea and when I got home I combined this technique with our heart making.....

One of the things that struck me as we were working is how much I work in complete isolation.  I really enjoyed sitting at the table with a group of like minded ladies chatting, sharing ideas, sharing knowledge and experience and having company.  It was great! Also as a result of this my mind was buzzing with so many ideas and inspiration.  Creatively it was fantastic! 

It did make me wonder if I am lonely when I am working or if sometimes this is a necessary evil.  I put myself in isolation to be able to focus on creating an idea that has formed in my head.  I know I can't work at all when my children are running around because I cannot concentrate or focus.  But it can be a very lonely existence and yesterday did show that there is definitely a need to meet with people and share ideas, thoughts and experience because it helps develop your own creativity and creative talent.

So what am I doing now.....well I have abandoned the torch today to focus on polymer clay because this is another thing that I realised yesterday....I really enjoy working with polymer clay and really want to do more.....  Another thing that struck me using polymer clay was that the ideas are limitless.  You can add textures, colour with inks, make the most extraordinary shapes, patterns etc etc....what a fantastic medium to work with.... as I am right now.......

Sarah xx

Sunday, April 22, 2012

52 Earrings in a Year Challenge!

I feel as though I have been away from my blog for ages ...... I have been incredibly busy lately catching up with a million and one things I had put aside to make beads.  Then I ended up in that vicious cycle where I couldn't concentrate on beads until I had sorted out all the other things....but enough of my gibberish....

I actually started this challenge two weeks ago after reading Chris Pellows Musings and following Cara Jane but rather than try and catch up I thought I would start it fresh today! The challenge was started by Anke Humpert at Anart Island Studios to make a pair of earrings for each week of the year.  This is my week one.....

I made these earrings using a Klimt cane, the first one I had ever made. So I was very pleased with myself.  I used Premo Sculpey Clay (not glass this time), Gold, Alizarin and a pale green that I made myself from mixing colours.  The gold has given the surface a nice pretty sparkle but unfortunately I rushed taking the photo which I slightly regret now because you can't see the sparkly bits sparkling in the beads....oh well....

Sarah xx

    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Enchanted Tree Beads

    A friend of mine suggested we take our daughters to a story telling day at our local theatre.  It was great! There were 5 local authors and whilst we sat back and relaxed, they told us wonderful stories about fairies, dragons and enchanted forests.  We really enjoyed the whole experience.  However, whilst one part of my brain was enjoying the stories, the other part was in a creative frenzy of inspiration..... The next day in shed/studio/shed I started making these.....

    I decided to name the beads after places from the stories.  Therefore this bead is called Holford.  I must admit this wasn't my first attempt at an Enchanted Tree Bead.  This was bead number 4 and I will show you my journey in a minute.  I wanted my trees to be on bright colourful backgrounds and have magical swirling branches .... that could come out and grab you as you passed ..... I wanted the leaves to be spherical explosions of colour complimenting the background colours and adding to the magical, enchanted feel of the stories. 

    This was my first attempt at an Enchanted Tree.....

    I was fairly pleased with the result but I am also very critical of myself.  In my mind I had a very specific image of what I wanted the tree to look like and although the branches of this tree are swirly, they are not swirly enough.  This basically comes down to stringer and heat control ...... practice! Also when I placed the dots for the leaves I placed some of them too close together.  When I heated the leaves some of the dots merged into one. I wanted them to be separate.  Finally, the background didn't work.  It looked too messy and there wasn't any depth to the bead...

    Second Attempt ..... Watchet

    I worked harder on the background for this bead.  I mixed up some frit in colours that would compliment the blues that I had chosen.  It has given more depth to the bead and made it all the more interesting.  I quite like this tree, it has a good shape to it and fits on the bead quite nicely.  The leaves are all separate little bursts of colour and haven't all melted into one enrormous blob of glass .... great! But can I re-create this bead?

    Third attempt ..... Morte

    Yes and No!  The background is fairly similar but the tree itself is quite different.  Much more swirly!  These are quite big beads to make and it is difficult trying to stop them from cracking (I lost a couple today) and I want to make the actual bead shape a bit more interesting.  I want to make them more elongated and 'tree shaped' and have the tree wrapping itself around the bead.  I will need to develop the leaves more, possibly change the shape a little and definitely change the colours.

    You can find my Enchanted Tree Beads for sale in my shop on Etsy -

    Sarah xx 

    Monday, April 9, 2012

    Etsy Treasuries - Do they help sales?

    This was an really interesting question posted on my Beadscrumptious fan page and I thought it would make a really good blog post .... particularly because it gave me lots to think and ponder about......

    I must admit I have 'ummed' and 'ahhhed' over this question many times.  What is the value of making an Etsy Treasury or being included in them? Do they help increase sales? Does listing them on Facebook or Twitter help increase sales?

    .....this is my own interpretation of treasury lists....

    It is a huge compliment to be included in someone's treasury list and considering the amount of time it takes to make one I like to return the compliment by listing the treasury on facebook and twitter.  I feel this is helping to promote myself, the person making the treasury and all the other sellers that have also been included.

    Does this increase sales?

    To be honest, I don't know without asking my customers where they heard about my shop.  But what I do know is that being included in a treasury does increase the number of people visiting my shop.  Therefore increasing my exposure.

    I also know (from testing this myself) that when I list a new item in my shop on facebook and twitter this also increases the number of people visiting my shop.  This is getting me 'noticed'.  People are 'favouriting' my shop, my beads and 'liking' my facebook fan page directly from Etsy. 

    This can also have a knock on effect because if someone on Etsy adds you as a 'favourite' it will come up on their activity feed.  If they are in 'circles' with other people, all of the people they are connected with will also see that they have added you as a 'favourite' on their activity feeds. This all increases your exposure, especially if people come across to your shop to view your products.

    Etsy is such a huge market place that I have always worried that my shop could be lost within the hundreds of other bead selling shops on Etsy.  So all this exposure is very valuable to me.  As a new seller to Etsy I think it also adds credibility to my work.  Having admirers and people adding your work to their list of favourite items is a great compliment.

    I also view Etsy as a big community of Sellers helping each other out.  At least this is what I have found so far....and in these difficult times we need as much help as we can get!  I have joined a few teams on Etsy aimed at Sellers helping to promote each others work and it is through these that I have learnt the value of making and being part of an Etsy treasury lists.  There are some very talented and kind people out there!

    I know I am just scratching the surface of how this world of social media works (more blogs to follow I think...) and this is entirely my interpretation of a tiny aspect of it (Etsy).  I would be really interested in hearing your views.  Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.

    One last thing......does being on the front page of Etsy help increase sales?

    Sarah xx