Sunday, 18 August 2013

And relax.....

Over the last couple of days I've done lots and lots of making.  How so?  Well, one of my constant dilemmas is that I don't have a set workspace, but for the most part I have tools and some materials in the kitchen and everything else lives in the cupboard under the stairs in the living room so I can sit on the sofa and watch TV or listen to music as I'm playing around.  I keep wondering how easy or not it would be to make myself a workroom in one of the bedrooms whilst the children are still young enough to share.  But I keep feeling as though that's really over-indulgent of me (I prefer to be around for the kids and I do a lot of making at night when they are in bed) plus I like pottering in the kitchen and sitting on the sofa when I'm making.  Anyway, I cleared some more space in the kitchen and as a result got lots done whilst the kids were playing.

First up I had a revelation.  I can't wear earrings as everything makes my lobes itch like crazy (ok, so I've not yet tried titanium or gold but I'll get around to trying them sometime).  Anyhow, I thought I'd have a go at making some ear cuffs out of some bits of copper I had etched.

This is they before they've been liver of sulphured. They're kind of cute and I plan to add a couple of dangles to one or two of them before I take some proper pics and get them up in the shop.  And obviously I'm wearing a couple of them all the time.  Have you ever tried getting a picture of your own ear?  Seriously hard to do.

Next up - earlier in the week I read on Beatnheart's blog about a polymer clay tutorial sold by Ginger Davis-Allman in her Blue Bottle Tree Etsy shop.  I was suitably impressed and so bought it and this weekend was the first time I'd had a chance to play around.  I didn't make many bits and bobs but here's the outcome.

I don't know why this pic is sideways - blogger won't let me turn it around.  I have a couple of pieces of ammonite, one fossil and one piece of rock where an ammonite was extracted so I used them to texture three pieces of clay.  I love ammonites.  These aren't done yet in terms of being painted/finished but they're getting there.  I'm quite pleased with them.

These three pieces were textured with a couple of old belt medallions.  Yes, the colours on all of them are pretty similar so I'm going to have to do way more experimenting with different colours but my brain gets stuck into a green-ish purple place more often than not.  More on that later.

Some pods.  I quite like the pods, I just need to use them all now.

I made another bangle stack. These are probably for me.  I'm going on holiday with the kids next week and realised that I don't often wear jewellery so i figured I should make something that will go with mostly everything I have.  Again, the groove is a neutral pinkish/purple/green/black/metal thing going on.  Dinge.  I like dinge, it goes with a lot of things.

Some necklaces - etched copper, a Buddha pendant (left as-is, for now) and a key assemblage piece.

Some earrings using etched copper and beads, etched copper ammonite (again) that's a bracelet. 

Another sideways one.  This was my experiment in making those bright shiny Buddha cases look aged and grungy.  I've a couple more of these somewhere so I shall grunge them up too.  But my experiment was fun - I used gesso, alcohol inks, embossing powder and my heat gun.  My heat gun nearly killed the whole thing because these cases are made of plastic.  There's no metal or glass in these at all (although the Buddha's themselves are stone).  But the heat-gun made the clear cover go all warpy but in the end didn't do too much damage.

Then because I was playing with embossing powder I decided to try and add some silver dots to the pods - I love when bead artists do this with real silver on glass beads.  I think my technique needs some refinement (as in, not doing it when I'm cooking tea for the kids) but I'm liking this a lot.  In fact I've realised that all I need is to keep hold of a felt-tip pen that's lost its juice and I can use that to dab the ink or the PVA glue on.

In the meantime the postman came and delivered these babies!  Wowsers.  These are a lot bigger than I thought they'd be, even from the description that was given.  Excellent.  And yes, they are that purple, greenish. goldish colour again.  I've decided to stop trying to get away from it and just go over-board with the purple green gold thing.  Once I get it out of my system I might be able to do other colours.  

Funnily enough my current costume commission has been from someone who wants a fusion belly dance costume in, you guessed it, purple and green.  She might find herself with some crystals on it.

So all I've got to do now is settle in and get some jewellery made.

And to finish?  In amongst all of this my 4-year-old geek son wanted me to find the teeny tiny sonic screw-driver for his teeny tiny Dr Who and friend.  I'm sure you can imagine how easy it is to lose them?  Anyhow, what can I do?  I dug a lolly stick (the rolled paper kind) out of the drawer (I keep them at the moment because you can make light-sabers for teeny tiny Star Wars figures....) and using the kids felt pens made a new sonic for the 11th Dr.  My son did a 10th Dr version for the 11th Dr's friend.

Men at work.  Best not get in the way.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Mojo? Where are you?

Ok, probably my problem is that I am not as creative as I would like to think I am.  But this isn't some "poor me" fest, it's a proper, "What am I doing with my life?" questioning period.

As a belly dance teacher and performer I am questioning everything at the moment.  I have a niche that I should probably run into head-long but as usual I am questioning my ability in this very niche area (I'm mainly rubbish at self-promotion) but I'm beginning to understand that it IS something I should do and be more proactive about.

Other creative areas in my life are making costumes for fusion belly dancers and making eclectic and experimental (for me) jewellery.  I'm at a hiatus with both but try and push myself with the jewellery making and keep getting custom work coming in so I have to keep going or my brain will explode (and so will my house as there's no room to keep everything).

In a bizarre head-rush of fusion this week there were two posts from belly dance costume design crushes of mine about, 1) copying styles and how crap that is and, 2) offering tutorials which free you up, give you licence to use what you've learned to make things you can sell as your own and how that might influence your own path.

When discussions of this type start I am always brought back to a blog post by someone who influences a great many jewellery makers, Marina Rios, aka Fanciful Devices.

More recently this worldwide discussion relates to me buying a tutorial about making polymer clay pieces and focals.   A great many jewellery designers and makers seem to have come across this tutorial and have sucked in every iota of information that was expressed, and i'm sure that they were as greatful as I was to have it all so clearly explained.

Today there was a post on FB in a group I'm in (Tribal Fusion Bellydance UK) about cultural appropriation and the discussion that followed was about how we all felt about throwing things into the mix.  Should we use markers from other cultures that we love because they look beautiful to our eyes or should we only build in a personal story about how we cannot add these because it is inappropriate, even to people who will now gift us or sell us those markers? (Saris and bindis being the bigger players in these stories).  This is a difficult subject to approach because amongst other trades the Silk Route and the Spice Trade both brought benefits to the cultures they came from, and to the cultures they arrived at.  In the same theme should assemblage jewellery makers use religious medals, crosses and sacred beads in their work?  If a jewellery designer understands the cultural mix that is implicated by using elements from a different culture and yet comes from a country and was brought up in a culture that uses images and symbols that are both important and common but that they have decided not to assign a meaning, does this make their work art or the bastardisation of entitlement?

Within this mix I always come back to the most influential blog post by the inspired jewellery maker Marina Rios/Fanciful Devices who thoroughly encourages people to copy her as she understands that it is by copying and then by experimenting after copying that one finds ones own space.  She understands, and knows from sales, that her skill is never really hit by anyone who tries to copy her outright.

Should we copy someone we admire?  Should we, can we copy from a person or a culture that we admire and aspire to emulate?  Does it inspire us or constrain us?

Friday, 9 August 2013

Been away too long...

...and I have nothing to show you.

I'm not sure that I'll ever have anything to show ever again but I'm going to try.  It's hard not to get caught up in the day-to-day stuff of life, particularly with small children who still need me to be around, but each day I get a little more time.  Sadly I seem to be getting lazier.  The summer we've been having so far has been pretty awesome, so I can't blame drizzle and grey skies for my feelings of sadness and my lack of mojo.

No pressure.  Let's see what happens

Monday, 17 June 2013

Mojo Rising

Yay!  Remember that job interview I went for?  I was offered the post so am a very happy bunny indeed.  It ticks the boxes for me in all sorts of ways, not least in that it's a term-time job (so no mega-expensive holiday child-care to pay out for) and part-time so that if my hours do run over school-pick up time the kids can go to the after-school club across the road a couple of afternoons a week, and I can still do my self-employed dance teaching and creative making.

The other thing it has done for me is it's unleashed a corner of creativity again.  Once I'm working for someone else later this summer (references pending!) I won't have to rely on the creativity money so much, and so my god-awful selling skills won't be tested to their outer limits on a daily basis.  If it sells it sells and if it doesn't...well....that's a consideration for another time.

Quite often when making something I err on the side of affordability for the potential customer, but this often translates to something mundane to my eye.  After all, the higher the cost of the components the higher the overall cost of the item.  Not that a lot of my components are in and of themselves expensive (well, some are but I try and collect things as economically as possible) but once you start stacking them up it's surprising how much you can rack up onto one costume piece.  However, this particular mind-constraint left me at the weekend.  this was going to be opulent and to hell with the cost.

Saturday should have seen me at a craft fair but on waking up at 6.30am on Saturday the very last thing I felt like doing was going to a craft fair where no-one was going to buy anything from me.  Occasionally I've made back my stall fee, sometimes made back my stall fee and my travel costs, and on other occasions done rather better than that but I was conscious that more more conservative items had all recently sold and that it was unlikely that I would do more than chat all day and interestingly I didn't feel like chatting, I felt like doing.  I got as far as making my packed lunch for the day before finally deciding that sometimes I'm allowed to change my mind.

Feeling somewhat guilty I contacted the fair organiser and explained my absence (and apologised but to be fair she had had my stall fee in advance) and then decided to pull out all of my fabrics and jewellery and bits and bobs and see what could be divvied up into things to keep and things to sell online or at the belly dance events I'll still be attending as a vendor, as I generally do well when I'm with the sparkly people.

But it didn't work out that way......after finding a section of gold net with beautiful ornate embroidered bullion work and sequins......not a large piece, only around 25cm by 20cm at it's widest point.....I pondered what to do with it.  The realisation was that I should put my big girl pants on and cut it up if it was going to get any use at all as I wanted to turn it into a tribal fusion belly dance belt.

I'll spare you the blow by blow account of what and why and cut to the pics...... (p.s. if you want the blow by blow then chuck me a message and I'll explain it to you).

tribal fusion belly dance belt

So, here's where it was at after about 6 hours of sewing.  But it just didn't feel needed some extra va va voom........

                           tribal fusion belly dance belt
Tassels were made from some cute bead caps I had made by cutting up a big old metal bead with my super strong craft scissors  (love them so much, they cut through thinnish sheet metal like a dream) and using some Egyptian bead fringe from the stash made some tassels.  To make sure the tassels were secure I used tiger-tail rather than thread and sewed it up through the tassel, through the bead cap, up through the beads, into the fabric and inner layer of the belt and then back down again before crimping it securely in place.

tribal fusion belly dance belt

Here's a close up of the bullion and embroidery work.  Although it's a scary thing to cut through (omigod will it all fall apart!?) previous experience told me a few beads will shed from this stuff but it is so resilient it can withstand it and it was all firmly sewed into place on the brocade backing before adding the extra embellishments.

tribal fusion belly dance belt

Once upon a time I would have used just one element across the top or bottom section but these days it's so much more satisfying to play around a bit and for this one used combinations of old Turkoman buttons, new metal stampings, shells, chandelier beads, and use some silver ric-rac to thread the Turkoman buttons and tribal coins fact this is still very symmetrical so the next challenge is to do take inspiration from my opulent headdresses and make them "balanced" but not symmetrical.  After pulling out my stash of vintage brooches I found two big golden star/flower shaped ones and popped those on for some extra impact.

tribal fusion belly dance belt

This pic makes me feel slightly woozy but only because blogger won't let me turn it around...... those chandelier beads?  All vintage..... in fact quite a lot of the components are vintage and have been waiting to be used on something as opulent and decadent as this.  Looking at where the net is sewn to the base I think it may need some more love, a scattering of vintage rhinestones might stop me from wincing when looking at it.

tribal fusion belly dance belt

See that big sparkly thing by the ring at the end?  That's a button!  There's another at the other end too.  They are hugely heavy and I can't begin to imagine what they were on originally - maybe a coat?

These clear acrylic buttons are also vintage.

tribal fusion belly dance belt

Here's the whole shebang but obviously you can't see the detail....hence the picture fest.....

tribal fusion belly dance belt

And here's another close up of the gorgeous embroidery work - at the top there is a bracelet bought at least 5 years ago that's been waiting to be used - I can date it because I remember being pregnant with my youngest and he's just coming up for 5 years old.  The glue on the bracelet gave the big stones a yellowish hue, which annoyed me initially but being a magpie couldn't get rid of it and it turned out to be perfect for this gold and silver combination.  In the end there was about 8 hours work on this and there may well be a few more tweaks till happiness sets in completely.

Now what's needed is to do is use up the rest of the net and the bullion/embroidery work.  There's an edge section left that will make a great edge on a bra, plus there's enough gold net to cover a bra too as the groundwork for more embellishment.  And there should be just enough bits and bobs of embroidery left to make a headdress that "matches" although I don't really enjoy making matchy matching things.....

Also tucked away in my stash is some even more amazing bullion work on a red fabric so you should look out for a red and gold version of this, there's a black shalwar kameez that has black and silver leaf and stem embroidery that will make cool set, and work is ongoing on a blue chiffon base/gold and pink embroidery costume that's properly for myself.  Properly because if these babies don't sell then they're all mine aren't they?

It's not up for sale in the shop yet but I'm willing to sell this beauty for £120 - she measures about 3" deep and is 40" long from D-ring to D-rind and can be tied in place with a scarf or other fabric.  Feel free to message me if you're interested.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Ch ch ch changes......?

It's been more than a month since I made my last, slightly depressed, blog post so I thought I ought to do a quick catch up.

I've been making some necklaces recently......  one of them sold within minutes of me putting the pics up on Facebook and another one sold the next day at an event I was at so yay!

This is one that sold......

this is still available.....

so is this one......

and so is this headdress......

I have more headdresses to make and I've made two more necklaces tonight but I can't get pics cos my camera battery is dead - I'm such a numpty. 

But my biggest news is about a real life job.  Now.  I know.  You're scratching your head and wondering why on earth I might be seeking out a real life job when I could just carry on being a starving artist.  Guess what?  I hate being a starving artist, I have me and two kids to look after and some weeks it's just too stressful.

So I need a real life job.  I'll not bore you with the ins and outs of life as a single parent (trust me, I never ever imagined I would be a parent let alone a single parent at age 46) but my life would be made a little easier if I could find a part-time job that I could do alongside my part-time self employed hours.  

This week I had an interview for a job that I'm pretty sure I could do well.  Fingers crossed eh?  

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Quiet Times.....

Since my last post I've been reflecting, feeling anxious and hugely uncreative.  Not good eh?  Hmm, no, not good at all....

I'm struggling and feel as though I'm swimming against the tide - my swimming strength is not good and I feel unable to go further out to a distant shore, nor to swim back to safety and so my strength is sapped and my resolve is weakening.

My desire is for my love of creating and dancing to be able to go back to being pastimes, not my bread and butter.  It's time to accept that although my creative work is admired by those who are demonstrative about such things not enough people love it enough to buy it.  My marketing skills are nil - and to be honest I'd rather not force anyone to buy anything, they should buy because they can't live without it.

It used to be that my pastimes and experiments could be sold here and there and I'd be happy with that as it offered me a little extra, a way to buy new supplies and play around with new techniques.  For the last two years I've needed the money to be able to buy food, pay bills and it's barely happening.  Two years ago I moved out of the home I had shared with my (now ex) partner, the father of our two children and with whom I had shared 10 years of my life.  During that time the children were born and because we were able to we decided together that I would be a full-time mother and he would work and bring home the money.  I was happy with this decision and was able to do a little work here and there, never expecting that giving up my place in the larger workforce would be the desperate issue that it is now.  Despite what you may read in the media, very few single parents ever planned to become one.

So now I'm treading water - not selling enough of my work to make it viable, too dependent upon the benefits system to live without it at the moment, so far unable to gain other employment (but still trying), battling inner demons that keep me awake at night and most devastatingly beginning to accept  that what I do is not admired enough to make it worth carrying on.

Filled with sadness I have to keep swimming but my arms are tired and I don't know where to swim to.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Tribal Fusion Belly Dance

For some reason I had gone off the boil when it came to making tribal fusion belly dance costumes in the last couple of years.  Actually, I think a bunch of stuff had happened, not least that I moved home due to relationship breakdown and I've had to shift my ideas about a lot of things in my life.

Anyhow....after making a conscious decision in the last month to re-embrace the whole sphere of creating costumes for dancers I re-vamped my Blackwillow Tribal website and I'n currently re-assessing my supplies and then this week this happened:

It's the most opulent headdress I've made yet, dripping with beads and metal and feathers.  I'm definitely going to be making more of these and once I get another stash of coins and stuff I shall make an accompanying costume.

The other things that happened this week was that I got myself a new patroness - I had a long email conversation with her this week and she wants to send me some of her stash of goodies so that I can play with them for her and make lots of new things.  She's already bought some jewelry from the shop and she want MOAR!  I love it when a customer sees jewellery as art.

There's also a new costume waiting to be discussed with the awesome Lily Devla, a most passionate and engaging woman and dancer.  I'm looking forward to getting together with her again for that project.

And so now the weekend, I hope, is given over to the opulence of romanticised 20's style headdresses.  Given that the weather is less than inspiring outside I might as well cosy up and get making.

And I have had a music epiphany - after struggling for months to find music I like to listen to and could imaging myself dancing to I am smack bang in the middle of a gorgeous Soundcloud, currently listening to Jeff Stott.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Jewellery Display Ideas

This morning has seen me coming up with some new ways to use some of the items I already have and make them even more useful in terms of displaying my handmade jewellery.  I've set myself a task this year and have booked myself into a craft fair each month for the rest of the year.  So I wanted to make sure that I could get everything set up as quickly as possible and have it look good too without having to spend any extra money.

First of all I took out my print tray and considered screwing in some little eyes so that I could hang earrings but then I had an idea......why not use some of my card-stock and make cards that could slot into the sections.  Each card has two holes and then the earrings (and a few other things) are hung on the cards.  Customers can then take out the card and even buy the earrings with them still attached to the card should they wish to.

jewellery display case

handmade earrings

Positioning is important and I need to play around with where things are but overall I'm happy with this - and the tray fits on my easel so I can have it standing on the table or lie it down flat and the cards make sure that the jewellery gets seen.  I've also added a little price sticker onto the top right corner of every card so the earrings are not marred by having a price label directly on them.

Here's the tray propped up against my dolly/body:

Next up was a way to display and house all of my handmade bracelets.  I have a cute little case and again was going to screw in some hooks but that idea was thwarted by my inability to actually screw the things in once I had drilled a little hole.  How pathetic.  Never mind, necessity being the mother of invention I remembered I had a couple of metal coat-hangers left so I cut one up and using my pliers and the strength I do have, I fashioned a wire hanger that sits on the top edge of the opened case and onto which I have hung some bracelets.  The rest of my handmade bangles can sit in the bottom of the case.

handmade bracelets and bangles

I used another length of hanger wire to make a similar hanger for a similar sized box that can stand on one end and have a few necklaces draped across it.

Also in my possession is an ornate tray that has a slight verdigris on it and although I didn't have enough length of wire to make another hanger, I did have enough to fashion some hooks that slide on and then they can have jewellery hung on them inside the tray.  The pic doesn't do this set up justice and the beauty of the separate hooks is that I can use them on either the long or the short side of the box making it more versatile.

So now all I have to do when I get to a fair is position these various devices on my table and then artfully arrange my necklaces on the dolly body and some of my vintage and vintage looking frames so that they can be easily seen.  Although I will confess that I do love how they look when they are all piled around dolly body's neck:

assemblage jewellery

Now that the kitchen is clear I shall make another cup of tea and see what everyone has been up to over at the 100th Handmade Monday blog hop.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Happy New Year

Wow, I'm shocked.  Almost a month since I last blogged, how very remiss of me.  No matter, as the children are both back at school today I've been able to get myself together and get a couple of things done. Headers header, website headers, Facebook headers and Etsy header have all been re-done.

I wrestled with Pixlr for a while last night before giving up but this morning sense and creativity returned long enough for me to get them all done and loaded.

And despite the children being off school I managed to have  little play around with an idea that's been floating around in my mind.  Tiny books, decorated with hand-dyed silk, lace, vintage beads and this and that and place on a chain to be worn as a necklace.

They have vellum paper inside that I sealed in case the item got worn in the rain, but I'm going to play around with resin coated paper next time I think.....

These books don't open but I'm going to make some that do......

I have a couple more to make into necklaces or to use as charms on other assemblage jewelry pieces.....

I'll definitely be making more of these as they're very cute.