Monday, 20 July 2020

Fun with Biscuits etc. Not a Tutorial. A Journey Down My Creative Process, Such As It Is. . .

Start off by having a silly idea while trying to get to sleep.

Wake up in the morning and think "Why not? What have I got to lose?" etc etc and wander into the workshop. After all it is still Lockdown pretty much and you are going slightly nuts like everyone else. . .

In line with the aforementioned silly idea, take some of these. . .

'These' being what are known as 'biscuits', which shouldn't be confused with what are normally thought of as biscuits round here as they are distinctly inedible, even if dunked in really hot tea.
They are in fact small pieces of plywood used to accurately join two sheets of wood, as in a worktop. Useful things, only I didn't get on with them particularly, even with the proper biscuit jointer power tool thingy. I have plenty of them lying around though, and have previously used them every now and then in bead related projects. (I have no idea if Americans call them 'cookies' or not. . . Quite probably. Whatever. . . )

Now take some of this stuff, which is 2mm diameter approx blue plastic 'wire' from the large reel of it to be found in the shed, left by our house's previous owner. I assume it is strimmer wire but I can't be certain, and am not that bothered what it is. I am just aware of it sitting there awaiting some sort of use. (My strimmer uses those little plastic things rather than plastic wire, which though a bit pricey, is so much better. The wire ones are a complete and utter total pain.)

Lay the biscuits on a thin sheet of polymer clay and cut round them. Bake and then glue the resulting poly clay pieces onto the biscuits. Tidy up the edges.

Drill 2mm holes in patterns or at random intervals in the poly clay fronted biscuits.

Cut some short, roughly the same size, lengths of the plastic wire and poke them into the holes in the biscuits. Try different length bits on each biscuit. Look at the results and go "Hmmm.. ."

Decide to paint the biscuits with bright colours that will set off the blue of the plastic bits nicely.

Decide you quite like the results and glue the bits in place.

Think "Now what?"

Sleep on it. Not literally, obviously as that would be a bit spiky.

Next day, decide to see what one of the simpler ones would look like as a pendant. OK, a bit obvious maybe, but worth keeping. Looks like a little scrubbing brush, but in a good way I hope ;-)

Try one out as a brooch. Kind of funky, but as the plastic bits on this one are quite long the whole thing kind of hangs down instead of sitting nicely on the chest or lapel or whatever.
Try to stabilise it with some upcycled wire grid. That works pretty well. Another keeper.

Now, get distracted by the model railway figures you just bought, and ones you had around anyway. For fun, put the two retro, cute kids on the more minimal biscuit as though standing by a fence or somesuch. Nice. But how to use this as a pendant as it's flat and horizontal, not vertical. Maybe a tallish wire loop would do the job and allow the piece to be hung on a chain or something. That could work. I like. . .

For more fun, put the milk churn carrying man in amongst some shorter plastic bits, like he's walking through grass. How about a wire grid to maybe allow the piece to be strung somehow? The grid obviously needs some electronic components and an image transfer abstract tile to finish it off. The electronic bits also go with his shirt.

I like this 3D effect. The figures have a sort of environment to exist in.

Box carrying man can also get in on the 3D act, with a grid and another image transfer abstract tile above him as he heaves his box through the rather small opening in the 'fence'.

The question "Why?" doesn't need to be asked unless the answer "Because" is sufficient for you, because that's all the reply you will get ;-)

These can be weird pendants or equally weird small ornaments for the mantlepiece.

Just what you've always wanted ;-)

Now call it a day and wait for the next silly idea. . .

Jon x

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Stripes, Glitches, Multi Image Trans Veneers, Model Railway Figures and Fancy Lawn Mowers

Well, still in the throes of this lockdown thing though the situation has eased slightly. Shops are open again apparently, which makes no difference to me as I am not remotely interested in risking my life and that of others in order to 'shop'. To be fair I don't do 'shopping' at the best of times, I buy stuff as and when I need it, so I don't see shopping as a recreational activity in it's own right and can't understand why anyone does ;-) Especially in those hideous, charmless and soul destroying places known as Malls. . .

Of course being a hypocrite, I enjoy trawling through charity shops and the scruffier kind of antique shops and finding interesting things therein. . . That doesn't count as shopping though, obviously. . .

My wife went to the coast yesterday to scope out the seaside town for possible painting locations, she is part of a 'plein air' landscape group who intend to meet up on Sunday for the first time since lockdown began. The place was heaving with visitors, no masks, no social distancing, just crowds of idiots. So she came home pretty quick. What is wrong with people? Silly question, don't get me started. . So no plein air meeting on Sunday, or if there is, she won't be going.

While I am on the subject of domestic life, the two goslings are growing apace and are over half as big as mum and dad. They are growing white feathers to replace the downy yellow ones they had up to now. Big fat healthy buggers they are too. Good to see. The moorhens have several babies but are being quite shy about it all, very protective, so I'm not sure how many babies. At least three.

Anyway, I'm still making and selling stuff, so not a lot has changed for me really. I tend to move between obsessions, bead wise, and have been exploring striped tube type beads and 'spindles' for a while. Encouraged, it has to be said, by buyers being quite keen on them. I try to avoid the temptation to make things because I 'know' they will sell, but I fall prey to it from time to time. I usually find that when that happens it turns and bites me in the bum. The surefire sellers don't sell and I am left feeling suitable chastened for my presumption, and determined not to get caught again. Until next time ;-)
The stripey stuff is getting to the bum biting stage I think so I need to move on again.

Luckily, I still have my obsession with image transfer tiles on upcycled wire frames. I have been messing around with veneers. Not very much, but I have been having fun painting and distressing sheets of poly clay and using the results instead of image transfers on tile beads. I have also combined paint and multiple image transfers, distressing and overlaying them. All great fun. I shall try some more in due course.

I also made use of what would otherwise have been an annoying glitch. The laser printer decided to splatter and splurge ink on the back of the paper, while printing faded rubbish on the front. It hadn't been used for a while so I think it was getting back into the swing of things via a mistake or two. Anyway, the splurges on the back looked interesting so I used them as image transfers. 

I also have an ongoing obsession with model railway figures, the little people that model railway enthusiasts position on platforms etc. I have used them before on wire frames, but it occurred to me that I could embed them in a sheet of poly clay, with other suitable and unsuitable objects. That is how my most recent pendant things were born. 

I am reluctant to sell them, but am not sure what else I would do with them. I may see how difficult or otherwise it is to make brooches, or try to find a way of hanging them on some kind of string/thing/whatever to make a pendant necklace, I dunno. No hurry. I do need to source some more figures though. Ebay is the place by the look of it. They ain't cheap though.

That's all very well, but what about the fancy lawnmower? I hear you cry. . Well, my wife finally got so fed up with having to ask me to start the old lawnmower as she couldn't muster the physical oomph to do it herself, that she went out and bought a small, sit on lawn tractor type thing. One that starts with key. It's red and shiny. . . It also doesn't cut shorter than 3mm, which is a bit long for a lawn. The solution to this problem? Let the tyres down! Only a bit, but it brings the blades lower and makes a nice neat cut. . . Technology eh?

See you next time, 

Jon x

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Lockdown - Overthinking, Goslings, Socially Isolating Chickens and Stripey Stuff

So, two and a half months since my last blog post. That must be a record. Not one to be proud of I have to say. (I initially wrote 'two and a half moths' until I noticed and corrected it, still, I like the image it throws up. . . )
I suppose the enforced limbo we are all in has eroded any sense of urgency I might have felt. Also, feeling guilty about not posting for weeks doesn't help. How can I possibly post after so long a gap? etc. etc.
Oh well, I am doing it now aren't I?

Scratch design rustic, turned look tube beads
The trouble is, for us, so far this lockdown has actually been rather pleasant, which is something else to feel guilty about. We have had fine weather, a lovely big garden to spend time in, access to pleasant country walks and good, responsible neighbours. I know, sickening. . . And it's so much like the everyday existence of self employed freelancers working from home, which is all I have ever done, that it doesn't even feel even vaguely disconcerting. (OK, the supermarket trip is a bit weird with 2 metre distances and masks etc but everyone is pretty chilled and considerate. I tend to go at 8.30 a.m. to avoid any queues.)

Pleasing shape stripey rounded bicone type beads
I feel guilty mentioning it, which makes no sense really. Feeling guilty doesn't actually help anybody else. You can end up feeling guilty because you feel you ought to, that somehow it's not right not to feel guilty considering the predicament some people find themselves in.  Somehow it's the least you can do. You find yourself feeling guilty for even wanting to not feel guilty. . . Like it's a social responsibility to make yourself suffer because others are suffering. Not that affluent middle class guilt is in any way comparable to real suffering you understand. Anyway, I've been round this convoluted moral dilemma enough times for one blog post so I'll stop wittering on about it. Apart from to say that of course I miss seeing friends and family, I miss pubs, I miss meals out, I miss finding cool things in charity shops and I miss playing music with others, but as long as they are just deferred pleasures and not permanently withdrawn ones I can cope without them.

Extremely bad taste
Obviously we wish the situation was different for those unfortunate enough to have been directly affected by this potentially lethal virus, and send them our sincere sympathy/empathy/thoughts/prayers/support. Meanwhile we will keep our heads down and maintain social distance and all the things a certain government advisor has shamelessly ignored recently. I'm not even going there apart from to say 'Grrrrrrrrrr!'. . .

Distressed blunt ended turned look spike bead
As I am talking about domestic stuff, I'm pleased to say that the two geese have done themselves proud and produced two wonderful, greeny yellow, fluffy goslings. ( I don't have pics, sorry) They have even reinvented themselves as good parents, the goslings are about two and a half weeks old and are thriving, unlike last year when the poor little things lasted two days.

Using some simple digital patterns and upcycled steel split rings
The chickens are also in lockdown. We have confined them to the orchard and the pond area, as they were trashing the spring flowers and threatening the well being of anything that might show it's head in the veg patch. (and pooing everywhere) There is more than enough room for the four of them and they are still amongst the most environmentally fortunate chooks you will ever come across so don't waste any sympathy on them ;-)

Weird conjoined tube bead focal thing
My jewellery components have had a few ups and downs, but that is more to do with general retail variation and the fact that I make different stuff every week which will either tickle someone's fancy or not. Recently things have been going nicely, so that is one more thing that hasn't changed much in this time of lockdown. They say that craft supplies are undergoing a boom as people turn to crafting to alleviate the boredom of lockdown. Not so sure about that in my case as I sell to a variety of repeat customers with only the occasional new buyer appearing. Whatever, I am still busy making stuff, so again, situation almost normal. .

An actual necklace - 'Red Lorry -Yellow Lorry' retro rubber stamp images with nylon garden string. .
I have been experimenting as usual, and producing variations on tried and tested things too. The images throughout this post are in chronological order, (apart from the first one) just showing some of the things I have made and mostly sold in the last two and a half months. Enjoy ;-)

I will post again soon, probably. . . ;-)

best, Jon x

Sideways spikes, like fairgound ride spaceships


Seriously large hole tube beads

Multi blob painted distressed spikes

Image transfer wrapped chunky large hole wooden beads


Stripey painted tube beads - these and others like them have been popular ;-)

These rustic image trans wrapped tubes have been popular too

Sunday, 15 March 2020

The World is Suddenly a Different Place. .

Well, strange times. . . Surreal times. The fragility of the links that hold everything together are suddenly exposed, although I guess this fragility was obvious enough if we chose to look in that direction -which of course we didn't.

Not that it has had much effect yet round here. Nothing tangible, which makes it like a kind of Phoney War, everything is fine and normal until the first bomb drops on your house. But the advice is to practice Social Distancing, which makes a lot of sense if slowing the rate of infection is the idea, which it should be. It will be weird not seeing friends or family for weeks on end but it has to be done.

It did occur to me that when some people have survived the virus and are no longer infectious, they can act with impunity, mustering in confined spaces at will, having wild parties and dancing on the tables while us virtuously uninfected types lurk in isolation, looking on and muttering darkly over our stacks of toilet roll.

A friend of mine joked that he will be 'self oscillating'. . . Which, I pointed out to him, could get messy if you need to go to the bathroom. . . Could an outbreak of mass self oscillation explain the panic buying of toilet paper?

I am foreseeing complications on the bead making and selling front looming. I have to weigh up the risks of standing in a line at the Post Office, and whether customers are prepared to wait indefinitely for their orders if I decide not to risk it. I need to mail stuff in person to get proof of postage which covers me in the event of things getting lost in the post. I may have to risk not being covered, and print out postage labels online. Also, are people still going to be buying components when they perhaps won't have venues to sell their finished work? It's all very up in the air right now. All I can do is carry on and see what happens. It's all any of us can do I think.

But doom and gloom and viruses aside for a moment, Spring is in the air, I heard a skylark singing yesterday (who knew skylarks could sing Paul McCartney songs? groan. . . ) sorry, I also heard a chiffchaff (a kind of warbler) for the first time this year. The geese are getting frisky in the pond, and as a consequence a goose egg appeared on a patch of mud at the pond's edge. Not in the nest box thing nearby, or on anything resembling a nest of any kind. . The female goose showed no sign of wanting to sit on it or any awareness of her motherly duties. So the egg is forlornly sitting there, being rained on etc and obviously not going to progress to the point of hatching. I thought birds had strong instincts concerning that sort of thing. Evidently not these ones, silly creatures!

So we will be Social Distancing and continuing our own brand of Self Isolation, not because we have symptoms of covid19 but because we have both been freelancers working from home for the last three decades at least, and that kind of social isolation (at least for five days in the week) is completely normal for us and we wouldn't have it any other way. . .

Please stay safe and well and keep up your Social Distancing whenever possible to give the health care system every chance to keep up with things as they transpire ;-)
And as the legendary comedian Dave Allen used to say, "May your God go with you".
Jon x

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Stringing things up, Issues with. Advice gratefully received. . .

Well, having created and constructed a good few interesting pendant focal pieces, in my view anyway, I have been mulling over and wrestling with the problem of how to present them as finished necklaces, if that's not too loose a term.

Wire wrapped copper links and jump rings

Simple chain. . .

I can make pendant things that look great on their own, and that are recognisably my work, but as soon as I try to put them on a string/chain/other, they look kind of wrong and somewhat amateurish in a worrying sort of way. It is occurring to me that the choice of stringing/hanging material is a lot more important than I had previously thought. It might just be that am not used to seeing my work in this way, and that I just need to get used to it, but I don't think it's that simple.

Upcycled wire links and industrial style heavy washers

Simple suede cord, titanium clasp - I think this one might actually work

A necklace is a construction in it's own right, I know that, and admire the work of the many necklace constructors whose work I see online etc, but it's hard to echo what they do in my work. By that I mean that the take away I get from others' work is that the combination of beads/items and string/chain/whatever just looks 'right'. It suits their creative identity/aesthetic. The choice of carrier suits the thing carried if you get me drift. I find it hard to find and nail down that relationship in my work. Sometimes sticking something on a chain might work, sometimes something more complex and visually demanding might work too. The issue is working out, or feeling instinctively which approach suits which pendant/bead/etc.

I have made some small progress I think, in that often my work is quite bold and somewhat eccentric, with industrial overtones ;-). Therefore, the choice of 'string' should echo that. To that end I have made chain links out of bits of the wire grid i like to use, from copper wire, and from upcycled steel wire, basically a short length of wire with a loop at each end, which can join onto one or more others. These work OK, but aren't suitable to go round the back of the neck, for comfort and possible allergic reasons. Therefore a piece of chain, suede cord or suchlike needs to be added. This never seems to look quite right to me.

I think I need to accumulate a larger and wider stock of possible stringing material and try things until something 'works' and is identifiably my creative choice and belongs to my aesthetic.

OK, I could spare myself the grief and just sell the pendants themselves, should anyone want them, (and I have done that quite often) but I see my dilemma as a challenge, something I should be able to surmount. Then of course I will have the issue of actually trying to sell the resulting jewellery, but that is something to be addressed when the time comes ;-)

Friday, 24 January 2020

Pruning, which has no relation to Prunes, Swords, Mixing Wires and Getting Back into it All

Well, the weather got a bit wintery for a change! In a good way, it's been dismally dull and wet for weeks round here. Steady light rain and the kind of dull light that makes you feel like you never actually woke up fully, so you mooch around, squelching across the mud and moss that may revert to something like a lawn one day if it ever stops raining, grumbling, mumbling and tripping over the chickens, feeling like your battery failed to recharge properly and you left your 'oomph' in your other trousers. .

But a few days ago it was crisp and bright. Cold, (comparatively of course - this is the south eastern bit of the UK after all) but we had bright sunshine for two whole days, which meant it was actually pleasant to be outside. This was convenient as there was work to be done in the garden. 

The apple trees needed pruning and as it was the right time of year for such activity I got the ladder out and set to work. I might have been a bit too enthusiastic as when I looked up a Youtube vid or two  after the event, (I know!) it seems I cut some of the new growth back a bit too much. Still, I got rid of the millions of spindly vertical bits called 'watershoots', that produce neither fruit nor blossom, so if we get fewer apples this year than we potentially might it's no great loss as we usually get far too many anyway. . . 

It's the cooking apple tree up next, Bramleys, lovely great big buggers they are. We get shedloads of them, maybe I should start up an apple pie factory or something. 

Still I'm not really complaining, I am only doing a good impression of somebody complaining, I mean, we have an actual (small) orchard FFS! Not something I imagined I would be lucky enough to own years ago ;-) So I feel suitably blessed.

Anyway, pruning aside, I have been back in my workshop making stuff. I think people, including me in my capacity as a person, are a bit tired of the chunky rectangular image transfer stuff I've been making lately, so I will leave that alone for a while I think. 
I am busy making some spike related things. Spikes with a slight difference, as I am using upcycled wire instead of copper for the bails and loops. Something I have done before but not quite in this way. I have been making Swords. . . Cool huh?

Oh yeah, before I knocked the image trans stuff on the head temporarily I messed around with using thin copper wire wrapped round some of the upcycled wire I like to use as bails etc.

Note the copper leg warmers, very 80's

I liked the effect, so I have integrated it into the Sword thing. . .

Selling wise, things have been a bit slow but it's all going OK, with a few things actually selling on Etsy believe it or not. Maybe I have ceased to be invisible there for a brief time, who knows?
Anyway, onwards and upwards, or at least not backwards and downwards, the climate is taking that journey on it seems. . . ;-(
Until next time, whenever that might turn out to be,
be well,
Jon x