Friday, 26 November 2010

The blizzard finally hit

Thank goodness The Boy came and picked me up from my friend's jewellery party early tonight.  This is the view from my bedroom window now.  Full blizzard ongoing:

I am SOOOO glad I don't have to go anywhere tomorrow.  Sadly, The Boy has to get himself to an airport tomorrow as he is going to the Motorbike Show In Birmingham.  Hopefully it will have thawed slightly by the time I want to go to Anne Marie's bead shop.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

All my own work!

A while back I bought a whole load of copper wire in different thicknesses.  I am attracted to copper more than gold or silver at the moment for some reason but there doesn't seem to be the same choice in findings, etc. in copper.  My intention when I bought all the wire was to start making my own findings but I've never really got round to it.

So, today, I decided I'd have a go.  I thought ear wires might be the easiest thing to start with so I cut a couple of lengths of 0.8mm wire, straightened them and then bent them around a mandrel to make hooks.  I filed the ends to make them smooth then shaped the hook to make it more like ready made ear wires. I also got to play with a hammer and my little anvil to flatten and strengthen the hooks.  I threaded on a little, pink glass bicone under the hooks and made loops.

Next, I cut another couple of lengths of 0.8mm wire, hammered one end of them flat and then filed the flattened edges to smooth them off.  Voila!  A pair of home made head pins.  I threaded a biggish glass foiled bead and 2 glass bicones on to each head pin, turned a loop at the non-flattened end and connected them to the ear wires.  And the result is a lovely pair of girly pink earrings that I am currently wearing.

Not bad for a first attempt:

After the last photgraphic fiasco I decided NOT to try and photograph myself wearing them so I'm afraid you will just have to make do with the rather unexciting photo above. 

I think I'll be heading down the home-made route more often in future.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

What a week!

I had intended to update my blog on Sunday evening after I returned from my Cold Enamelling workshop at the Bead Shop Scotland in Edinburgh.  For a number of reasons, good and bad, that never happened.

First of all, last Thurday I received an e-mail inviting me to a job interview on Tuesday afternoon.  I was very happy about that as it's a job that I really like the sound of and the salary would definitely cover the mortgage. :o)  The downside was that I had to create a PowerPoint presentation and submit it by lunch time on Monday.  Now I don't have any issues with creating PowerPoint presentations.  I've done a few in my time.  My concern was due to a combination of the subject of the presentation and the allotted time for presenting it - 5 minutes.  Ordinarily I'd probably say that a 5 minute presentation was a good thing.  On this occasion, when I started looking into it properly I thought "I have far too much to say on the subject to fit it all into 5 miutes and make a decent job of it."  Panic!

So, on Friday, I cleared the decks, cleared my mind (or at least tried to) and knuckled down.  I ended up with 9 slides in total - 3 intro & outro slides and 6 that I needed to talk over.  A lot of reviewing and rehearsing went on during Friday and Saturday and I was starting to feel more confident.

On Sunday I had my Cold Enamelling workshop in Edinburgh.  I don't know what I thought that was going to involve.  Whatever I did think was wrong!  When I walked into the room I saw tools and things reminiscent of my silversmithing workshop.  This wasn't a good start.  The lady running the workshop was the same one who ran the aforementioned silversmithing workshop..... so..... it all started off the same way - with a little rectangular piece of sterling silver sheet.  I was a bit more clever this time though.  Last time I spent almost the whole workshop cutting out, filing and texturing my chosen shapes.  This time I went for the simplest option, triangles!  In the end they were slightly trickier than anticitpated, purely because I seem to be incapable of sawing in a straight line so there was a lot of filing and finishing.  I hadn't decided whether to use a transparent or opaque enamel so I decided not to texture the pieces as texture can't be seen through opaque enamel.

I was open to suggestion regarding colours and by the time I was ready to get to work on colour someone had mixed a lovely transparent blue colour so I decided to use that as my base colour.  I then chose an opaque black to use to make a pattern.  My hand isn't the steadiest but I was quite pleased with the result:

Yes, I know, they're quite plain and totally unadventurous shape-wise.... BUT.. I was there to learn how to use enamel, not spend the whole class sawing, filing and shaping silver. I haven't decided exactly what I will use these pieces for but they definitely have potential.

Can you believe I was the first in the class to finish?  Are you impressed? I was!  So I carefully put my not-yet-set creations in a margarine tub (they take 24 hours to set properly so no touching allowed) and headed to the car.  As I was pulling out of the parking area a pedestrian walking past started frantically pointing at something towards the back of my car.  I opened the door and looked where he was pointing and saw ... one half deflated tyre.  NO!

I drew round the corner and pulled in at a bus stop.  Fortunately the pedestrian reached the bus stop at the same time ... and ...  he offered to change the wheel for me.  Hallellujah!  I would have no idea where to start.  Thankffully he knew how to take off a wheel with a locking wheel nut and knew that the car had side skirts and that he would have to remove a section of the side skirt to attach the jack.  What an absolute star!  I don't know who he was but that young man was my saviour.

On Monday morning I gave my presentation a final review, bit the bullet and sent it off.  Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning were spent rehearsing the words to accompany the slides.  Fortunately The Boy had found a couple of dinner recipes that he liked the look of and was planning on cooking dinner on both Monday (chicken pie) and Tuesday (a leek lasagne with all sorts of interesting tastes in it) so I was able to concentrate.

Tuesday afternoon - interview.  I arrived way too early as I had no idea how close I'd be able to park.  I was so nervous at the start that I could hardly speak but I got through the presentation and statyed within time. Phew! I think I made a reasonable job of answering most of the questions. I can only wait now to see if I answered well enough to be offered a job.  Fingers crossed.

Wednesday I had to take the car to have the tyre fixed first thing, then a hair cut.  Ideally I would have preferred to do the hair cut thing before the interview but I didn't have time.  According to The Boy my hair had exploded and I needed a hair cut.  So it's fixed.  I also managed to list on Folksy 2 new pieces of jewellery I made last week to match my copper, blue and peach tiara:

After I made them I realised I forgot to make a matching neclace.  Doh!  That will be the next item on my creative agenda.

Today The Boy and I spent a good bit of the day trying to clear out the box room and my ex-office to try and give ourselves some space.  My blue recycling bin and my neighbour's one are now full.  There are bin bags at the back door waiting for space in a wheely bin.  The living room floor is covered in piles of DVDs that are being sorted through. I suspect eBay will become acquainted with a few of them soon.  There are other piles for me to sort into 'bin', 'freecycle', 'eBay', 'charity shop' and 'keep' piles.  So more work to do still.

Tomorrow is Friday and the weekend awaits.  It's been a busy but productive week.  It has confirmed to me also that my brain cells are still alive and kicking inside my cranium.  That's a relief.  What on Earth will next week bring?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

My creative muse has returned

I don't know where she's been lately but my Muse went AWOL round about the time I invested in a whole lot of copper wire.  I keep looking at it, touching it, sitting it beside other shiny, sparkly things but, until now, nothing has inspired me.

Today I decided I was going to have a creative day.  In the end I didn't create very much.  I took The Boy's scuba diver cufflinks apart and put them back together with sterling silver wire in a double wrapped loop instead of the specially bought cuff link chains that were far too long. Humph!

Tiaras were on my mind so I took the reel of 2mm diameter copper wire that's in my 'shiny bits' box and shaped it into an Alice band to use as a base, then I gave it a gentle going over with a chasing hammer to harden it up a little and filed the ends to smooth and shape them.  Then I lost my inspiration again.  Tiaras are what I started with but I stopped liking them so much after a while, probably because my creative Muse had deserted me.

So.... I took the little silver leaves that I made with silver artclay and decided to use The Boy's Dremel to drill holes for jump rings.  Slight problem.  The drill bits were way too small for the chuck in the Dremel.  So... I'd to resort to the maual method., ie, twirl the impossibly thin drill bit with my fingers.  It took a while and I'll probably have RSI as a result, but I did it.  Result!

I suddenly remembered about dinner, or lack of any kind of meal in progress so I chopped onions and braising steak, put them on to cook and ran out to the butcher's to buy puff pastry.  Potatoes are peeled and in the pot and peas are ready to go.  Dinner sorted.

The fresh air must have done the trick because when I went back upstairs to my 'studio' I felt inspired at long last.  I name my Muse 'Irritation' as she irritates the Hell out of me by not being at my beck and call.

I was looking for something to match bright, pure copper wire.  The gold coloured lampwork beads I took out first just didn't go.  Then I came across some heart shaped lampwork beads in pale blue with a dark gold foil and there was no stopping me after that.  Add a few pale blue fresh water pearls, some sort of coppery coloured Swarovski pearls, some pale blue and peach Swarovksi crystals and we're sorted.

I won't show you the naff results of me trying to photograph myself wearing the finished result.  They're just too awful.  I will try to take more photos in the daylight to show up the lovely colours but this is probably the best photo I managed to take using the transparent lid of a tiara box as a prop:

I haven't made a tiara in a while but I'm really pleased with this one. I think it's the prettiest one I've ever made.  This is for the bride who wants to be that little bit different.  Or it would suit someone with vibrant red hair.

Did I do good?  I will be listing it on Etsy, Misi, or Folksy later.  Check my website later to find out where.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

An eventful week

I've had a such a busy week this week that I completely lost the plot and didn't know what day of the week it was by the end of it.

Monday: Spent catching up on housework and trying to put the house back in order after being out all weekend. The dishwasher & washing machine haven't been that busy in a while.  Hung up the diving hoods, masks & gloves to dry, put away the fins and snorkels.  Put the soggy thermals and towels in the washing machine. 

Tuesday: Put the BCDs (Buoyancy Control Devices) away, hung the thermals up to dry, put the dry stuff away.  Then manhandled the drysuits down the stairs to the bathroom one at a time, fought with them to turn them inside out, filled the bath with cold water and rinsed all the salt from Loch Fyne off them then mandandled them back upstairs and hung them up to dry.  Last week The Boy installed a rail just inside the box room door to hang them on.  Honestly, they look like 2 dead bodies hanging in the doorway.  Look:

We need a bigger house.  Looked out some stuff to take down to the Kidzeco shop and went there for a visit. 

Wednesday:  Quick scoot round the shops fopr necessities in the morning then home and made lunch, a nice big bowl of home made Bauernsuppe (beef, potatoes & smoked paprika).  After lunch I wrestled with the drysuits again to turn them the right way out and hung them up again. Went to visit my cousin Geri in her new Curves gym in Broxburn.

Thursday: Wore something slightly more respectable than my scruffy trousers and t-shirt to go out for lunch with The Boy and a friend of his that I'd never met before.  Had a lovely chicken pesto pasta salad. Changed into the scruffier gear after lunch and went to the Kidzeco shop to see if I could help with the preparations for the Christmas Preview Evening that night.  Spent the next couple of hours cutting out price tags and pricing hand knitted and sewn items, helping set up tables, etc.  Then stayed for the preview.  We were all worried that the torrential rain would keep people away but it was really busy.  Sauntered home (no rain) just after 9 and had a slightly late dinner of spaghetti bolognese that I'd cooked before I went out.

Friday:  Ok, by now I'm convinced it's Saturday and go into overdrive as we have a party on Saturday and  I have a birthday present to make.  Eventually I realise it's only Friday (phew!) and move all of my beads and tools upstairs to my former office as The Boy is dozing on the settee (my usual workshop).  I know my friend likes leopard print things and I had 2 big leopard print beads but could not for the life of me think what I could make with them that would make a nice gift.  So I rummaged and eventually found some Picasso glass dagger beads that have a pattern not unlike leopard print.  I added some Swarovski pearls and crystals and here is the final creation:

That done, I got ready for going to friends' for dinner. Woop! No cooking for me tonight.  The Boy said "I'm going mountain biking tomorrow, so I'll take the car, not drink and we can leave at 10:30 so I can have an early night".  Ha!  Not too long after we arrived he was persuaded to drop the car at home so Jack was his friend for the rest of the night and it was after midnight when we got home.

Saturday: Woke up convinced it was Sunday. Eventually got to grips with it being Saturday and started getting ready for The Party.  I found a pretty organza bag for Gillian's present, made her a birthday card, cheeky, but not too cheeky.  Then I decided to dye my hair.  Toilets in pubs and such always have lights that show off my white roots much more than is decent in my opinion so L'Oreal belle Colour was my friend. The rain even stayed off while we walked down to the church hall where The Party was taking place.  We didn't know that many people there but we had a really good night.

Sunday: Yes, that's today and I knew it was Sunday when I woke up.  I finally caught up with myself.  No hangovers for either of us.  The Boy tried to freeze me to death by leaving the back door wide open while he jet washed his mountain bike.  We had a late breakfast, quick run to Tesco, leisurely late lunch/early starter for dinner and we're now sitting chilling with a beer while we wait until we're ready for the main course.

I'm hoping next week will be slightly less busy. That way I might manage to keep track of what day I'm on.  No more diving until December so that will help a little.

Monday, 1 November 2010

What a difference a day makes.....

.... or to be more correct, a fortnight.  Regular readers (do I actually have any of those?) will remember that two weeks ago at Loch Long, I had a slight underwater trauma due to a leaky mask and regulator.  Last week we went to Aquatron, our friendly, local(-ish) dive shop to investigate different mask styles along with my hood and I came home with a mask to match my snorkel:

Isn't it pretty?  My last one was blue but I went for pink this time because I thought it would discourage any of the boys from stealing it.  It's not a whole lot different from my last one but it made a big difference to my diving experience this weekend.  Yes, it still leaked a little but I could cope.  It also didn't push my regulator out of my mouth all the time so I wasn't fighting to keep the regulator in my mouth and I don't have sore jaw muscles today.  Result!

Thank goodness the clocks went back on Saturday night.  It made the 5:30 rise on Sunday morning slightly less painful.  We had a 200+ mile round trip to get to Furnace on Loch Fyne and we weren't able to enjoy much scenery on the way as it was a bit grey and misty.  It wasn't too cold though.  We arrived at Furnace, had the safety briefing, got ready, had the dive briefing and went for our first dive.  Skill #1 - fin pivots.  (Basically you use your breathing to control your buoyancy keeping the tips of your fins on the bottom.) That was interesting as we'd to lie on a big, sloping, concrete waffle and wait our turn.  The least movement kicked up silt so the visibility was practically zero at times, very weird feeling.  I did my fin pivot, eventually, though how the instructor could actually see enough of me to decide I'd done it properly was beyond me.  Skill #2 - hover.  Very similar to skill #1 except you have to be suspended in the water, not touching the bottom when you do it.

We had a swim around after the skills then came back to the surface to this:

What a difference!  Look at how calm and smooth the water is.  And the sun was out and giving off enough heat to make our drysuits steam.  We could see seals just off the end of that rocky outcrop but they were clever enough to avoid us when we were under the water.  Shame.  Maybe next time.

How gorgeous is that?  Maybe scuba diving in winter in Scotland won't be too bad after all.

We had lunch and did our second dive.  Only two skills to perform this time as I did my remove and replace BCD & tank at the surface on my last dive.  Skill #3 - remove and replace dry suit inflator hose under water (sorry can't find a video for this one).  It's fiddly enough doing it on the surface with no gloves but underwater, with gloves???.  I surprised myself by being able to disconnect the hose first time.  Yay!  Reconnecting it was a tad trickier but even the instructor had trouble reconnecting his so I don't feel so bad.  We had another wee swim under water then it was time for the final skill.  Skill #4 - safety stop.  When you finally ascend to the surface at the end of a dive it's good practice to make a safety stop for 3 minutes when you are still 5 metres from the surface.  If you've had a deep dive then you must be able to make safety stops for varying lengths of time to avoid the bends so this really is a skill you have to master.  Stopping isn't always something I'm good at once the upward momentum kicks in but I managed it. 

So - yesterday's result - The Boy and I both passed our PADI Drysuit speciality.  Yay!

Thank you to Ally at Aquatron who was able to spot (despite almost concussing himself at the start of the morning when he slipped on the grass)  that I had too much weight on and that it was excess weight rather than dodgy technique that caused me to drop to the bottom like a stone now and then during the dive.

What's up next?  We have PADI EFR (emergency first response) in the classroom at the start of December then 2 dives the following day.  I expect the two dives will be underwater navigation (that will be fun) and underwater naturalist and they will contribute to the PADI Advanced Open Water qualification.

Tune in after 5th December for my latest underwater adventures.