Monday 15 July 2024

Jennie Lamb's Wearable Art Class


I've been playing with glass for over a year now, but it's hard to get better just from watching YouTube videos or reading books, so this week I went to Rudson, Yorkshire to learn some new things.


I buy a lot of my glass and tools from Tuffnell Glass so I was interested to see they also run workshops.

This weekend we were with Jennie Lamb to learn how to make wearable art - how to make patterned mandela disks to make into rings and pendents.

It was a small class with a variety of abilitys but although I was a little worried how'd I'd get on, everyone was really nice and the class was paced so everyone could keep up.

Over the two days we learnt lots of new (to me) techniques, which should allow me to improve the things I make at home.  I also made my biggest bead ever!

It was a very flexable course.  Jennie was going to touch on how to use millefiori but as we were all interested, she changed the course so we could make our own and use it on our own beads.  This was perfect timing as I've been thinking about having a go.  But reading the books and doing it are very different!


While I might have only made a handful of beads over the 2 days, I learnt sooooooo much which I'm really looking forward to trying at home.

Although it did take 6 hours to drive up there and it rained for the whole weekend, it was a really good weekend.  We were looked after very well with very tasty lunches and a great workshop.  We also had access to the shop, so I ended up buying even more glass and tools! 

I'm looking forward to going back next month to take another course.

Monday 8 July 2024

Sustainable Practice: Recycling Silver with Elisavet Messi


 Today I was up early to catch the train to London, but I wasn't going into the office, I was visiting The Goldsmiths Centre to learn how to recycle all my offcuts of silver.

I really wasn't sure what to expect, but I arrived a little early which gave me a chance to look at the beautiful student work in the foyer. Wow!  


At 09:30 me and another lady were met and taken to the classroom we'd be using.  It's an amazing building and we walked past several classrooms, all very well equiped.  In our classroom we met Elisavet who talked us through what we'd be doing.

First we had a chat about the sustainable and ethical reasons why we'd want to recycle our offcuts, before going through the process.


First we had to set up our crucible by enameling it with borax.  This involved heating it up and melting the borax powder so it ran over the surface of our crucible, meaning our silver wouldn't stick to it later.  You only have to do this the once, then you're set for the life of the crucible.


Next we weight out our silver (13g), put it in our crucible and melted it.  Sounds easy, but it took a little bit of skill to get the flame the right distance away to get the metal hot enough.  Once liquid we poured it into a mold.  We'd made a tiny ingot!

Once it had been pickled we could start to shape it using the rolling mill.  I wanted to make wire with mine.  You can only pass it through 3 or 4 times before you have to anneal and pickle it again otherwise it will probably crack, so I didn't have time to finish it, but I will take it to class with me, I'm sure I can finish it there.


It was a great morning, and wonderful to finally do something with all the offcuts I've been hoarding without really knowing what to do with them.  Elisavent was so knowledgable and happy to share, I really feel this is something I could do again on my own now.

I then went on to the V&A to have a look at their glass display.  A nice way to spend a couple of hours on a damp afternoon, before heading home.

Saturday 29 June 2024

Wedding Cards: Book and Book Box

 This summer 'im outdoors and I have been married 10 years!

It doesn't feel that long ago, but then I think of all the things that have happened since and I guess it really is.


After everything had settled down again after the big day and I started to put things away, I found we had a mass of beautiful cards filled with love and best wishes from friends and family.  I didn't want to just stick them in a box in the loft.  But what to do with them?

 At some point I got the idea to bind them into a book, so you could open them and still read the nice messages inside.  But at that point it was a bit beyond anything I'd ever done before.  I had a kinda idea, but nothing solid, so they just got put away in a box.

Then last year I did an online bookbinding course and that started to solidify my ideas and so I finally decided to give it a go.

I found some wedding gift wrap in a shop on offer so bought a couple of sheets, I wish I'd bought another now.


And I found the purple card and paper we used for all our wedding invites etc in a cupboard. 

Last autumn I started by folding concertinas out of the A4 purple paper.  Then I sewed some of the cards into the valley folds.  It did work, but it was hard to do with the cards flopping all over the place and I was having second thoughts.  Thr project got put on hold.


But I was determined to finish it.  Beside everything was in the way.  I wrote myself a motivational note (Just F**king Do It!!) and I finally got on with sewing the cards to the concertinas. 

It was hard, but I stuck an audio book on to listen to, and so instead of thinking about how hard it was I was listening to the book and suddenly all the cards had been sewn in.


Normally I'd have left them like this and just added a cover, but the cards were heavy and had a mind of their own, so I clamped them up and stuck some scrim along the spine to give it some structure.  This worked very well.

Now everything wasn't flopping around it was much easier to sort out the cover.  I used black bookcloth and some of that gift wrap for the end papers.


When I'd been tiding up I found a spare photo of me and 'im outdoors and decided to stick it into the front cover.  It just makes this book more personal to us.

With the book made I then made a book box to hold it and keep everything safe.  Although quite a simple project I forgot how much resources it takes up and had to buy more grey card and as I said I wished I'd had more gift wrap.

But now it's finished I am so pleased with it!  It's probably the project I've thought about for the longest - always at the back of my mind, so it's sort of a relief to have finally finished it.  And just in time for our anniversary.

And the study has been cleaned and tided and ready for my next project.  All in all it feels like a very safisfing outcome.

Sunday 2 June 2024

Evendoon Cardigan In Plum


After the success of my first Evendoon Cardigan I wanted to have another go.  This would give me another colour to wear and allow me to make a couple of small changes that I've thought of from wearing the first one.

This time I wanted to make the arms and body just a little longer.  And I made the ribbing at the bottom of the body a little longer too.


Although I think this is a very straightforward pattern, I still managed to mess it up twice and had to undo it - once where I turned half way through a row when I got distracted and put it down for a bit!  So it did take a little longer than the first.

This time I was using Stylecraft Special DK in plum - 3 balls.  And I made glass buttons in black.  The black isn't really black, but a very dark transparent purple which you'd see if you held them up to the light, but looks black here.

I'm pretty happy with it, but the real test will be in the wearing.  Roll on my next day in the office.

Friday 24 May 2024

Reactive Glass Jewellery


Can you guess where I’ve been this week?

Yep, back to West Dean.  This week if was for Reactive Glass Jewellery.


It kicked off on Monday evening where the class met up for dinner, then into the classroom for our first session.


Claire our tutor is a very talented glass fusing artist and she was very friendly and  knowledgeable and was happy to answer all our questions as she overwhelmed us with information.


The course was all about fusing glass and the wonderful reactions you can create when mixing certain glasses and metals together.  In this case silver foil.  The idea being that you can then make these pieces of glass into pieces of jewellery.


On Monday evening I started by making a square tile with a piece of French vanilla glass, scraps of silver foil, and a pinch of glass powder with a piece of clear glass to cap it all off.  Everyone made their own versions then everything went into the kiln. Then we either went home or most of the rest of the class went to the bar!


The next day we started to learn more about the possible reactions and other techniques we could use.  We spent the morning working on more glass creations to fuse.  Then at lunch time we could finally open the massive kiln and see our work from yesterday.  I was very pleased with how mine came out – the vanilla had reacted to the silver creating a dark line round it and there were tendrils of brown showing where the fumes from the reaction had tired to escape.  (see the first image)


 Now we had a piece of glass we could practice our cold working techniques on, grinding and polishing and eventually putting it back in the kiln for a fire polish. 


On our last day we could create more things for the kiln if we wished, but I didn’t want to leave anything behind, so I just focused on my cold working.  This time using a tile saw to cut some of my tiles of glass up, then drilling a hole in one piece!



Once again we had to wait until lunch time before we could open the big kiln.  I was delighted with my work.  I'd had no real idea what might come out of it.  Just because I followed a 'recipe' doesn't mean it would come out the same.  It definitely made me want to do more.


Claire also had some silver findings for us to purchase to finish our pieces off.


This was such a great course and added so much to my glass knowledge.  I’ve now got to build up the courage to try and reset my kiln so I can try fusing at home.  I’ve got lots of broken bits of glass which could make good/interesting cabochons.


There are also a few pieces from the course that I'd like to do more cold work on and then fire polish to finish.  Glass continues to amaze and fascinate me.  


Monday 6 May 2024

The Next Step

 Anyone who looks at this blog will see that I’ve been making stuff for a long time.  And it goes back much further than when I started to blog in 2008.  I’ve been making for as long as I can remember.

I’ve tried a lot of things, and have favorites that I keep going back to.  And because I’m making so much, I find that I can try my hand at most things and end up with a reasonable end result, much to the amazement/annoyance of other people.



But I’ve ended up feeling like a jack-of-all-trades while not being a master of any.


So I’ve talked to a bunch of creative people and done a lot of thinking over the past couple of months about what and if I want to do anything about this.


Apparently to become really good at something you need to spend at least 10,000 hours doing it. And I can see that in my knitting.  I’ve been knitting since Dec 2013 And I’ve come a long way since that first hat.  Now I’m making jumpers and cardigans that I’m very happy to wear in public, and I’ve even had people ask me where I bought them! 



But I have spent hours working on this skill and I'm still nowhere near that 10,000.  Quite often I use the last hour of my day, sat on the sofa with ‘im outdoors, knitting.  Let’s say that’s 5 hours a week, that time quickly builds up but it will still take about 35 years before I hit 10,000 hours!


On the other hand there is my glass work, something that I’ve only really been doing for a year.  Due to the nature of the material, I can only work on it when I’ve got a reasonable chunk of time which for me means at least 2 hours on a Saturday afternoon.  It’s going to take a lot longer to hit that 10,000 hour mark.



While thinking about all this I’ve also been thinking a bit about what I want to be doing when I get to retire (many many years away, but it’s good to have a plan).  I don’t want to wait until I retire to do things, but I’d like to be in better creative habits when I get there.  So this year I’ve done things like join my local arts and crafts society so I start to meet other creative people and become part of the community.



And I’ve bought a new sketchbook and coloured pencils and I’m trying to make sketching a daily practice (failing so far), something I haven’t really done since I was on my art foundation year many many years ago.


And on top of thinking about the glass work I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with the glass things I make, and having attended a couple of jewellery making courses over the last couple of months I’d love to do more of this too.



After all this thinking I’ve come to the conclusion that what I really need is more time.


Which led me to think about where I could get more time from and the realisation that I’m in the very privileged position of being able to change my hours at work, without affecting my income too much.



So from this month Fridays will no longer count towards the working week and I’ll be going back to Frensham Old Barn to do more jewellery making in the mornings, with more time for glass work in the afternoon.


I have no idea how this experiment will play out.  There are so many unknowns:


Will my new reduced income be enough?

Will I be able to do my current job in the reduced hours?

Will I have the discipline to use Friday’s as a crafting day?

Will it give me the time I crave to work on projects?

Will my glass and jewellery work improve with the additional focus?

While it is scary, I know I would regret not trying.  So off I go, and I’ll keep you posted on here.

Sunday 14 April 2024

Wood Turning Experience Day


 I have wanted to have a go at wood turning for ages.  I was aiming to do a class for my 40th birthday, but then we all got locked down.

But this year 'im outdoors gave me a wood turning experience day at Hampshire Sheen for my birthday and yesterday I got to use it.


There were just 2 of us on the course and I wasn't sure what to expect.  The workshop is hidden at the back of a garden centre and we met in the cafe (amazing food) to have a chat before wandering down to the workshop to get hands on.

In the workshop we were introduced to the lathes we'd be using and the block of Ash we'd be making a bowl out of.


A bowl is a great project to start with as there is a lot of wood to cut away before you get to your actual bowl shape, so you can practice your cuts lots before you get to the point where it matters.


Martin took us through the process step by step.  We learnt how to hold the tools correctly and how to attach our block of wood before smoothing the sides of our wood to make sure it was even.  We then made a recess to use later before cutting away all the wood we didn't want to make the outside of the bowl.  The shape was up to us.

As was the colour finish.  We used his range of dyes to colour the outside of our bowls.  I used a mixture of Midnight Blue, Plum, Ruby and Sky Blue.  We then sealed the wood and finished with a wax.  I used purple.


After lunch we turned our bowls round and uses the recess from earlier to attach our bowl to the lathe before learning how to cut away the inside of the bowl.  This was very tricky as you need a nice smooth cut so you don't have a lumpy inside.

With some very good guidance from Martin, I managed to finish the inside of my bowl as nicely as the outside.  Once we were happy with the finish we also sealed the wood, bringing out the beautful pattern.


Wood turning isn't quite as easy as you'd think (things never are) but I had a really brilliant day and am soooo pleased with my finished bowl.  


It was very messy, but you don't need much strengh to make your cuts, the lathe does that for you.  Martin was a great tutor, very knowledgable and always at hand to help you out.

I won't be investing in a lathe anytime soon, but I know 'im outdoors is thinking about it, so maybe I can convince him to let me have a go if he does. 

Sunday 7 April 2024

Making A Mosaic


I recently joined my local Arts and Crafts Socity.  

One of the benefits I'm really enjoing is their monthly demonstations.  Here a local artist spends a couple of hours demonstrating their craft, and some times we even get to join in.

Last month Tamsin Norris did a demonstration of how to create a mosaic.  I'd never really considered that they had anything to do with glass, until Tamsin showed us some of her work.


Once she'd shown us some examples and talked us through how it worked we were able to have a go.

We were each given a square tile, some PVA glue and a tub full of glass tile shards.  It was suggested we'd want to draw a heart but I ended up with a star.  We covered our shape in glue then found chunks of glass to fill the space.

While this was fun, what I enjoyed most was just being able to chat with other creative types.


At the end of the session we got to take our tiles home with instructions to let them dry for at least a week before grouting them.

Inspired by some of the other things Tamsin showed us, once home I also used some of my sea glass to make a heart on a stone found on the beach at Easter.  I wasn't sure if this would work, but it did and once grouted a little rub of bead wax made the sea glass shine.

I'm not sure I'll do any more mosaic, but it was brilliant to find another application for glass, and learn a new skill.