Tuesday 12 December 2017

Plumbing, Strumming, and a new Photography Set Up, which doesn't rhyme. . .

Turned effect and scratched design idea.

Well, it's been a while. Mainly because I haven't had a lot of blog worthy creative work to share owing to my time being tied up with other things. Constructively tied up with other things, but tied up nonetheless. . .
I have been refitting our bathroom, which is a pretty major undertaking for me. Not outside my capabilities but pushing the limits of my know how. Anyway, all major elements have been fitted (not without some tricky moments and stressful stuff, as is the way with these kind of projects. .) and seem to work as they should, so I can relax a bit more and get back to my creative work. Eventually.

Some new spikes taken with new photo set up. I need to lose the blue tint but the bead colours are accurate.

I did take an hour or two to follow up something that had been nagging at me for a while. I have had issues with the white point setting on my camera. Whatever I do, I find that I need to spent too much unnecessary time adjusting colour in Photoshop (or rather, Affinity Photo, which is what I now use) to get the colours to match the original bead/object being photographed.

So I decided to make a photo box thing. You know, a big cardboard box with the sides cut out and white paper taped in instead. There are various youtube vids on how to make/use one. You can buy them on ebay as well.
I knocked a crude version up in about half an hour. It hasn't completely solved my issues, but it has made a big difference to the consistency of my photos. I can use the same levels setting on each pic and hardly ever have to reach for the white balance adjustment layer, or any of the many other colour correction options, which is great.

Simple 'Pot' beads. Faux ceramic look

I have decided to rephotograph all my products using this set up. Which will be a time consuming process, but worthwhile I think. Or a big waste of time. . . whatever, I have decided to do it anyway.

Scratched and semi crackled 'primitive' beads. Faux bone, sort of.

The other thing that has added to my general hiatus from the creative process is that I had a couple of disappointingly unsuccessful selling sessions on Facebook, and realised that, unlike a shop, where something is on view and on sale until it sells, on Facebook, like an auction site, if something doesn't sell in the three days you have allotted, then it has to be removed. In which case it disappears from public view.
I found it kind of dispiriting. Not a very logical reaction I know, but I don't think I had quite thought it all through.

Spotty texture tube/drum beads

I don't think it is appropriate to list the same items more than once, (or maybe listing once again in a different group is OK. . ) on FB, so I will have to create listings on Etsy for them, until I can work out what my website strategy will be.

For the reasons detailed above my recent social media presence has been pretty minimal of late, which doesn't help my visibility much. I have started putting stuff up on flickr again though, so that's something.

With a bit of luck I will be back in the workshop/studio next week at some point, so I will have some new stuff to share soon. meanwhile here are a couple of reasonably recent things you won't have seen on FB or elsewhere.

Textured and deliberately crudely sanded black and white tube beads
Long spike. Spike end.

Long Spike. Middle

Long Spike. Loop end

As for the reference to strumming in the title, it isn't entirely accurate as you don't strum a bass guitar, or at least I hope not, though is technically possible and I dare say some players have ventured there at some time or other. . .

I had been hoping to run across some other musicians in my area ever since we moved in a year and a quarter ago, and as I think I mentioned a few posts ago, I ventured out to a 'jam night' in a pub in the next village only to find that the organiser and his wife were the only relevant people there, and she didn't play anyway. Which left me and him, and I didn't bring my amp with me as I hadn't quite understood the low key nature of the set up ;-) so we didn't play anything.
But on the due date the next month I rolled up again, with my amp in tow, and me and the him sat in a corner a banged out as many songs as we could remember the chords for. More of a sing song than a jam as such, and a lot of fun. It went on till about two a.m. The other pub goers enjoyed it too.
So we are going to do a new year's party there. Just him and me playing, unless a drummer materialises. It's great to be playing music again after about three years of not being in a band of any kind ;-)

Stop press! We had Snow! Not snow that anyone from more northern climes would get excited about, but a bit of a novelty round here. We had at least half an inch! ;-) . . . So I wandered round the garden and took some photographs. Enjoy. . . and see you next time, hopefully with some new stuff to show you.
Jon x

The orchard

Roses still in flower, for some reason best known to them. . .

Wednesday 22 November 2017

A Transparent Mistake, Expanding Cats and an imminent DIY Tsunami. . .

Red brown semi trans rounded tube beads, or possibly 'bugle' beads(?)

Well, I was in a hurry so I didn't notice that I had bought 50% transparent Cernit Clay instead of the usual opaque stuff, until I opened the new pack and began using it. But After a bit of a double take and some initial confusion (until I spotted the little 50% badge on the packet), I decided to run with it. I made some simple beads and explored the way surface treatments seem to have more depth to them on trans clay. I used alcohol inks in layers, and other stuff. . . They came out nicely and look quite stone like, not that I was aiming for that particularly. I sold some as well, which always encourages the creativity. . .

Green stone like beads with 'includes'. .

For some I used a kind of a variation of my crackle effect idea. I was going to say that I made the clay a bit dirty by rolling it a few times and letting a little dust and tiny bits of desk detritus stick to it, but what I mean is I used 'includes', yes, that was what I did, cough. . . . Just slightly, so that it looked a little bit veiny and speckled.
I ordered some opaque Cernit straight away of course but as trans was what I had it made me explore  a bit more, which is always a good thing.

Groovy blue ones

I didn't get much done as time is a bit lacking this week as I am planning the details of how to redo our bathroom. I like to think it all through before jumping in, going nuts with a club hammer and ripping stuff out willy nilly. . . (there is a plasterboard side to the shower that has to go.) But I will try to get into the workshop and have a play in between diy splurges when I can ;-)
Oh yeah, and a joiner is fitting new bannisters on our stairs this week too. Gonna look so posh ;-) So it's all go round here. . .

I like the semi trans effect here

Alongside the other beads I made some turned effect earring bead pairs using the semi-trans clay. They came out quite nice too, imho. I shall make some more I think, although I am trying not to repeat myself too much.

And here, they sort of glow . .

I'm going to make more of these simple spikes too, seeing as how they sold, and I like the simplicity of them. 

unapologetically simple spikes

Simple beads are challenging in an strange way. There is quite a bit of resistance to putting forward something that has very little evidence of 'work' in it. Silly I know, but it does take a level of confidence to be satisfied with the simple and not complicate it for complication's sake, or for what you might imagine other people might think etc etc. I'm actually pretty ok with keeping it simple as a principle, but I get the annoying doubts from time to time ;-) Anyway, hitting people over the head with 'skill' for its own sake is amateur stuff ;-) You know, like those guitarists that play 48,000 notes a second when 3 will do. . . Skill is a means to an end and not an end in itself, which sounds like an excuse but really isn't. And worrying about what you think other people might think doesn't lead anywhere useful. imho.

As for the Expanding Cat thing. They are six months old now and have changed so much. This is Hereward as he is now, and as he was the day he arrived in our house. He's a big handsome boy now ;-) The two girls are all almost grown now too, but not as big as himself here.

Hereward 'Hairy Boy' now and then, wasn't he a cuticle?
I read something on several sites on the inter webs about how big cats are likely to grow. It said they grow up to 20 times their size. . . Yeah right! If a kitten is 3 inches when born it would be 60 inches fully grown. That's five feet! Hmmm. . . Not convinced that is altogether true. I hope not or I will need a much bigger cat flap. . . . .
Amazing how misinformation happily shared on the net isn't it?

Friday 10 November 2017

Goodbye Website. . . (My Fault Entirely) - More Creating and Experimenting - Alcohol inks and an Annoying Pink Tint

Custom made long spike beads, close up

Carried along by the general tide of dissatisfaction with the way Etsy was going, (and still is pretty much, for me at least) I decided to set up my own website with it's own shop. (I wittered on about it in a previous post) I got it looking nice, mentioned it a few times but never kept up the promoting pressure needed to drive traffic to it. Try as I might, that sort of carry-on just doesn't sit right with me. I know that's 'unrealistic', self indulgent, not the way it's done and all that stuff, but I'm just not one of life's blow yer own trumpeters, and if it doesn't feel right I'm not going to do it ;-) . . . 

So, I'm going to knock the website on the head at the end of the month. The platform I chose is totally free from blame. Indiemade are very good. It's just me that's not prepared to do the sort of work required to make a success of such a venture. I'll stick with Etsy as my shop for now, as it does have at least some built in traffic, but use Facebook as a selling venue. Any stuff that doesn't sell on there gets put up in my shop. Probably.

Earring spikes with oxidised copper loops - sold

I have just bought the domain for jbdrusticorganic.com so I will probably use that for a stand alone site in future. 'If and when'.

Big, ornately rustic focal - sold

On the bead creation front, some of you will have seen these beads on FB, but here they are again in their full glory ;-)

I enclosed a repurposed wooden bead from a charity shop necklace bought for such a purpose, in polymer clay and then added turned technique bits on either end to make a bigly rustic large focal or two. Using textures on some, and my surface treatments on others. 

Double bead wrapped focal

I sold a couple as well. 

It's a fun process which I will revisit when the mood takes me.

woody, ceramic-y surface treatment on this big focal - sold

Talking of the mood taking me, I often find that I go into my workshop fully intending to make a certain type of thing, and then find I just can't get going, the results don't move me. Then I find I have to let go of my intention and mess around until something clicks, other than the bones in my neck. . . It can be a bit frustrating, especially when you feel that precious studio time is ebbing away, but I trust my instinct and it never lets me down. . .

Custom long spike - sold

I was asked (via FB) to make some long (3"ish) turned effect spikes by an excellent beaded jewellery maker from the West of the USA, so I set to work and had great fun working out how all the different ins and outs and textures fit together on one piece ;-)

Pink and black annoyances

The annoying pink tint I mentioned in the title comes from the nature of the pigments in alcohol inks. When diluted, or used in fairly vigorously applied layers they tend to change colour in a weird way, or revert to some kind of base pigment, sometimes quite unlike the expected colour. At least that is what I think is happening. 
In the pic above, the black ink has turned the white areas pinky purple. (when painting with black alc ink and the brush starts to run dry you find you are painting with purple and not black any more) This happened when I varnished it, the varnish seems to slightly dissolve the black ink which then reveals it's secret purply nature ;-) .
Acrylic paints don't do this.
What I was attempting with these beads was to scrape off the black ink to make a simple black and white design. I ended up with black and pink instead. Not so desirable.

Proper black and white scratch beads

So I made another set and used black acrylic paint, and scraped that off instead. it is denser but more delicate than alc ink, and is easier to use, as you can easily paint bits of black back on if you make a mistake. It sits on the surface of the clay, whereas alc ink spreads out and stains the surface, which makes it less precise. I varnished them, as the paint would just wear or chip off otherwise. I might try matt varnish next time. I really like these sort of simple, African inspired patterns with their simple mathematical logic, which, let's face it is the only kind of mathematical logic I can handle ;-)

Gonna be a busy couple of weeks, the bathroom bits and pieces have arrived, (basically the whole shebang, bath, toilet, shower etc etc) and I am also in the middle of the fake panelling on the landing, while a new set of bannisters is being fitted by a local joiner. I hope I can squeeze some bead time in there somewhere.

Until next time, be good, unless of course being good doesn't appeal, your call. . .
Jon x

Friday 27 October 2017

Trying Something New, Actually Selling Stuff, and The impending Doom of Innocent Voles. . .

Textured Spikes

Well, it's been an interesting week and a bit. To me anyway ;-)
I've been musing and muttering in my own inimitable way about Facebook groups and whether to try to sell my beads in them, for months, without actually taking the plunge and just doing it. I mean, why would it be any better than listing stuff in a shop? etc. . . Well, if you don't try it, you never know do you?

Black and yellow neat(ish) spikes

So I took the plunge and just did it, and blimey, it's been a bit of a revelation. You know all those people who give advice online about how to set up a successful shop and how to make sales, and how they always bang on about 'finding your audience'? ('Huh! Easy enough to say' was always my cynical response. .) Well I think I just found mine. . .

Sold these

I sold a very encouraging amount of things almost straight after listing them, which has not been my experience with my online shop, that's for sure.
There is something about an auction format that adds a sense of urgency to the selling process. People  are there to buy things and they want to get them before somebody else beats them to it!
Which is all good for sales and for the ego of the seller. . . Let's see how it progresses from hereon. .

And these

I've been playing with my turned effect technique again. I am having too much fun with it, obviously. I have taken to putting large oxidised copper loops at the tops of my beads rather than having them as through drilled tube type beads. I think this adds a sense of purpose to them. They are definitely earring charms, or maybe pendant necklace focals if they are larger beads, and there is no ambiguity about which way up they should go.

And these, I'd only just made them too.

I am coming to the conclusion that giving people too much choice in how something can be used can backfire on you. Certainty is good. Of course I may change my mind about that in future, but this is my position for at least the next twenty minutes. . .

Not to mention these

Cat stuff - The girls have had their final post neutering check up and are fine. Which means they can go outside whenever they like and decimate the local vole population with their brother. I expect at any minute, a petition from disgruntled owls (Owls of Protest) complaining about their supply of voles being drastically reduced by these feline interlopers. Well, they have had it good for a long time, they will just have to get over it.
The cats are not kittens anymore, they may behave like kittens still, but they are getting big, especially Hereward, (referred to as Hairy or Fat Boy) who is getting to be a big handsome beastie. I can't imagine life without them now ;-)
Ay well, more DIY is calling me. Fake panelling the landing, and then taking a deep breath and tackling the bathroom! Eeek, what have I let myself in for? . .
Jon x,

Sunday 15 October 2017

Oh Well. . . Onwards and Upwards, or maybe just sideways for a bit. . . Stir Crazy Cats, Rejection and Necessary Tedium. . .

Small, big loop spikes

Well, Not the best of weeks. . .

I went along with my work to the Craft Soc application event, (see my last post) which was part of their AGM. The two other applicants had dropped out so I was the only one. I did answer a lot of questions about my process etc and had a very good buffet lunch so had quite a nice time. But the day after, I got an email saying that my application hadn't been successful.

It was to do with the tiles and coasters not being hand made as such, which I suspected might be an issue, and to do with the society's rigid view of categories. They liked the jewellery and said I could re apply next year as a jeweller if I wished, when my work had progressed. hmmmm. . . ;-) kind of back handed compliment. . .

What I find a bit irritating is that my work would happily fit alongside other craft work in a shop or gallery context, but is somehow not acceptable as 'craft' in principle. I'm not sure I will bother to re apply next year, but I will try to find some other sales outlets if I can, I just have to put the leg work in. 

It's hard not to feel a bit despondent though. . .

Double ended spiked loops

But enough of that. . now for some cat stuff. . .

The two girl cats, Boudicca and Cleopatra, have just reached five months of age and had their visit to the vets to be neutered. They came through the experience well, and we have tried to follow the instructions on the advice sheet the vets gave us. It says they should have complete rest. . . Yeah right, you tell them that! Two lively young cats who have been cooped up in their travel box thing for most of the day, and finally get their freedom, have other ideas. We kept them in the one room and tried to settle them down but they were intent on running around like mad things, climbing the curtains and wrestling each other. They objected very strongly to wearing their conical 'buster collars' and wrestled them off however tightly we fastened them. Luckily they had little interest in licking their scars so it was ok to leave them off.

We can't let them outside, but if they are progressing ok when the vet sees them on Monday to check how the healing is going, I'm blooming well letting them out! They will come to less harm roaming around out there than if they stay inside, going stir crazy, burning off excess energy by fighting and thundering up and down the hall like demented creatures.

Textured and turned effect mini spikes

Cat issues not withstanding, life goes on. Tomorrow is another day etc etc. 

As an antidote to despondency, doing your accounts wouldn't be rated very highly by most people, but it has to be done, and I've been doing mine. Which has meant that I have had little time to indulge in any activity of a bead making nature in my workshop. in the last few days. But before this whole craft soc thing, I did have a good play around with some smaller beads/charms, mainly but not always involving spikes or points and largish loops, as the pics in this post will confirm. Some promising results I think. Your mileage may vary ;-)

Small cone charms

For quite a while I have been exploring what happens to alcohol inks when diluted with rubbing alcohol and applied in layers etc. Interesting and not often what you would expect. . .

Subtle coloured plain spikes with loops

Stumpy, turned effect layered 'spikes' with loops

Organic textured loop spikes in mossy greens

Conical heavily textured spikes with plain loops

I'm going to try selling these on Facebook, as Etsy is positively glacial right now and I've been rubbish at driving traffic to my new shop on Indiemade. I'm grateful for the faves and suchlike, and for the few sales I've had, but I'm just not sure I'm getting found in Etsy search anymore. At least FB is where my potential 'audience' hangs out, and I have a presence there.
Anyway, till next time, be good and stay well,
Jon x

Monday 2 October 2017

Craft Soc Application, DIY featuring Blurred Cats, of Tiles and Coasters and lastly a Pent-up Splurge of Polymer Clay Things

Well, it's been a long time since my last post. apologies for that, though if there is nothing much to post about I don't see the point in doing it out of a sense of duty or whatever. There hasn't been much to post about, unless making faux panelling and laying engineered oak flooring floats your boat. . . mmmm. . . engineered oak flooring. . . .

BEFORE - with cat
AFTER - with blurred cat

But back to the matter in hand. You may or may not know that I have a second Etsy shop, dealing in my own digital designs on ceramic tiles, which I sell in specially made frames, and on sets of coasters, - glass ones and wood/mdf ones. 

I don't spend a lot of time promoting it, for no particular reason apart from a vague disinclination to do so, but I sell some from time to time. I am quite proud of how good they look and am always getting nudged by friends and family to get them into shops etc. Well, I showed them to a local craft/home decor shop in my nearest small town and they met with approval, and they agreed to stock some. The response from the shop's customers has been good and a couple of coaster sets have sold in the last couple of weeks. I will be making some extra stock for the lead up to Christmas as they would make good Xmas prezzies I think.

On the domestic front I used some of my tiles as part of the splash back for our cooker. Visitors seem to be impressed, I am too to be honest ;-)

The reason I'm mentioning this aspect of my creative life is because I have applied to be a member of Suffolk Craft Society, an organisation that has exhibitions from time to time, and promotes craft activity in my general area. I have been accepted to their showcase day, where selected prospective members set up their work for discussion and approval or otherwise from members attending the AGM. My tiles and coasters will be displayed alongside my jewellery and beads as a two pronged assault on the members senses ;-)

I do have a concern that the tiles and coasters aren't really an artisanal, hand-made thing in the same way that pottery and textiles might be, and therefore get marked down. Using a computer may be looked down on also, but I have less worries about that as the application form mentioned a desire to see unique work with modern materials. I do have very good explanations for the hows and whys of what I do, so I should be able to answer any questions that get thrown my way.

Oh well, we shall see what transpires.

On the Polymer Clay front. I haven't has much time in the studio/workshop to make anything much up until a day or two ago, when I had a good old session of bead making and earring experimentation. The best bits of which will likely be part of my craft soc application showcase. I'm getting a bit more confident with wire loops and ear wires and such. Have a look at what I've been up to and see what you think. . .

spikes with big loops

wood and polymer earrings

Thick, dotty, wood and polymer charms

wood and polymer image trans earrings

bicones with additions

Texture spikes with wire loops

Long single bead - sold

shorter texture spikes with wire loops

I'm thinking that the spikes with loops might be more useful to jewellery makers than similar tube/through drilled ones. What do you think?

Anyway, be that as it may, I have to go. I have to work out my Suffolk Craft Soc presentation layout, choosing what beads and things to use to win hearts and minds. . . wish me luck ;-)
until next time, 
see ya,
Jon x