Sunday, 24 May 2009

New Glass Storage!

One of the biggest headaches that most lampworkers face is how to store glass rods. If I had a larger entrepreneurial streak and bigger pockets I would definitely be exploiting the enormous gap in the market that exists for purpose-built glass rod storage. As my pockets are shallow and there are already too few hours in the day, I'll have to let this opportunity pass me by! It's this "I really cannot be bothered" attitude that comes between me and making my first million time and time again. Ah well, I'd rather be poor and making beads than rich and selling Bespoke Glass Storage Modules.

Unsurprisingly, creative people have developed a variety of ways of storing their glass rods. Favourite methods include cardboard postal tubes, drainpipes, vases and vegetable racks. I myself have up until now been using a rather nifty Plastic Guttering/Wine Rack Combo, which has served me pretty well. However, every beadmaker knows that beadmaking is not just about the beads. Oh noooooo... most of us eventually add a second hobby to our repertoire: Glass Collector.

When I began lampworking just over two years ago I set myself up with an Effetre Studio Pack of some 49 colours. I was able to justify this fairly substantial investment, because in actual fact I wouldn't need to buy any more glass for years. Err... hello?? Why did no-one warn me that "needing" new glass and "buying" new glass are activities that are in no way related to each other?!

I discovered Vetrofond, with all their fabulous odd-lot colours. Frog Pond. Wasabi. Painted Desert. Delicious!

Then I discovered Lauscha clear; the very best crystal clear glass there is, in my opinion.

Then I found CiM colours, whose rods have a lovely sheen.

Soon after I was smitten by the ASK range, and am still eeking out some of my favourite colours now that the glass is no longer produced.

Double Helix silver glasses now have me in their thrall, closely followed by TAG and Northstar.

I'm itching to try the Reichenbach colour palette too.

Now I'm no mathemetician, but even I can hazard a guess that with the amount of glass I own I shouldn't actually "need" to buy more until 2038. For the avoidance of doubt that's the year two thousand and thirty eight. However, I may as well come clean and tell you that if I last until 20:38 tonight I'll have achieved something. Yes, I am obsessed. Completely and utterly.

So, my glass collection is growing, and the wine rack no longer cuts the mustard. What to do? Clearly ceasing to buy more glass is not an option. In fact I get the shivers just thinking about it. The only answer is to build more storage. Bigger, better storage! Yes, this is what I need. Bigger and better, with room for expansion. Embrace the obsession!

This time I have gone for the Quality Downpipe Model, and because I know my fellow beadmakers are as occupied with storing their Glass Collection as I was, I thought I would share how it was built. As a picture paints a thousand words, here it is step-by-step, in pictures.

First I had to acquire 80 metres of 6.5cm square downpipe. Yes, that's not a typo. Eighty metres! As luck would have it one of my neighbours has a plastic extruding company, and was able to supply me with exactly what I needed, and even cut it to 40cm lengths. Thanks Dave!

Next, it all had to be unpacked, and cleaned of all the swarfy bits. Then the protective plastic covering had to be peeled off. It took ages, but sitting in the sunshine to do it made it more bearable.

I decided to build four separate modules, each made up of seven compartments by seven compartments. At this point I went all girly, and couldn't fathom how to get it all squared up. My tactic worked perfectly, and my hubby became so exasperated with my feeble efforts that he decided it was men's work. I watched, from underneath my parasol on the patio. It was tiring watching all this activity!

The pipes were glued together with silicone glue, and then checked to ensure they were neatly aligned with a set square and spirit level. I'd have just checked they looked about right, so it's probably for the best that I wasn't left in charge of such an important task.

More layers, and more spirit levelling.

And here is the first one, all finished, except for the heavy card that was glued to the back to stop the rods slipping out of the back.

Two days of drying later, and today I've finally been able to move my glass to its Luxury Accommodation. I have 196 compartments, and it's about three quarters full. I've agonised over the order I should store it in, but have opted for the "approximate rainbow" scheme. Today has been a voyage of discovery as I've found colours that were long-buried and that I had completely forgotten I owned!

I keep popping into my studio to have another look. This new storage system has made my glass so much more accessible and consequently so much more easily strokable, and this can only be a good thing!

This is the bit where the credits roll up the screen, so I should like to thank "Silicone Dave from Over the Road" for providing the materials, and my lovely hubby for transforming it from 80 metres of 6.5cm downpipe into the Luxury Glass Accommodation that it is now!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Poached Billiard Balls

I've recently returned from a few days on Exmoor. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful. I strongly suspect that the next beads I make with be heavily influenced by the rugged landscape.

Until then, I have two sets of beads to show you that I made before my trip. These are of the organic variety.

This first set is named "Stepping Stones". I can imagine these beads just poking their heads above the surface of a babbling brook, their surfaces being worn smooth by the water.

The second set is set of six stone-inspired beads. The silver and black have been deliberately overcooked so that fine veins of colour web across the surface of the bead.

The two sets of beads go together beautifully, and would make a fabulous project for someone!

While we were away we visited Arlington Court and Dunster Castle, both National Trust properties, and both well worth a visit if you find yourself in the area.

At Arlington Court there is an impressive billiard table. The Guide told us that the billiard balls were made from dyed ivory. She explained that as they became worn, they were returned to the maker who would re-work the surfaces to make them smooth again. Each time the balls were re-worked they would obviously get a little smaller, which she said was "terribly inconvenient". I pointed out that it was not nearly as inconvenient as it was for the elephants who were slaughtered for their tusks, and she agreed.

The London firm that made the billiard balls apparently used 1000 elephant tusks a year, and there were another 40 London firms producing a similar number of billiard balls at the same time. That's tens of thousands of elephants being slaughtered each year, and many of these elephants would have had babies who would not have been able to survive without them.

It would be good to be able to say that slaughtering elephants for their tusks is a thing of the past, but unbelievably it is not. Sadly, for as long as there is a market for ivory and while the world's governments fail to take the necessary action to totally end the ivory trade, these beautiful, loving, emotional animals will continue to be hunted down.

Shocking isn't it?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

In Print Again!

I am really pleased to have discovered that I have had an article published in the June issue of Beads & Beyond. In it I write about my two greatest passions; beads and elephants, and how I've managed to find a way to combine them.

The article has been given a full page, with pictures of the jewellery I created for the auction in February, and of the orphan elephants in the care of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

There are more auctions coming up in late May/early June, so the timing of this article is absolutely perfect! If just one person decides to foster an orphan elephant or rhino as a result of the article I will be so happy.


I make no apology for blogging the link to the DSWT's Orphans Project again.

I shall announce details of the forthcoming auctions as soon as I know the start date. Here we go again!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Tie Dye and Other Beads

I've had an absolutely lovely day today at Ludlow's first ever Spring Food Festival. A smaller affair than their famous Autumn Food Fair, it was nevertheless an excellent day out. On entry you were given a souvenir half pint glass and a token for your first half pint of beer or cider. Then it was just a matter of eating and drinking your way around the entire event for the rest of the day. Bliss! The weather could not have been better, which really made the day and put smiles on everyone's faces. The Fair was held in the grounds of Ludlow Castle, which is fairly spectacular in its own right, as castles go. Row upon row of classic and vintage cars, lorries, tractors and motorcycles were an extra attraction. Came home with asparagus and chocolate. I'd call that a very successful shopping day!

Yesterday I made beads, and these are them all scrubbed up and shiny;

Berry Focal

Berry Tie Dye Set

Surf's Up

Coast I - shiny finish (I couldn't decide whether to etch these Coast beads or not, so I left one shiny and etched the other!)

Coast II - etched to a matt finish, with the "water" left shiny and wet.

That's it for this week!

Have a good week.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Ring Sizing Pellets, for use with Silver Clay

I've been so disappointed to finish a ring only to discover it doesn't fit! I love these pellets so much I've made them available on my website.

If you've ever made a ring using silver clay you'll know how tricky it can be to get a perfect fit when the clay shrinks a little more than we would have liked. These fabulous ring pellets take all the drama out of it. Cast from fine investment powder, these pellets won't mark the inside of your ring.
Just make your ring a couple of sizes larger than the size you need the finished ring to be. Before you fire it, place a ring pellet of the size you want the finished ring to be in the centre of the ring.
During firing the ring will shrink tightly to the ring pellet, resulting in an accurate fit. Brilliant!
One the ring has cooled, place the ring and the ring pellet into a paper cup. The pellet will dissolve quite easily. If necessary use a needle tool or a stiff brush to carefully poke out any remaining pellet. Rinse the ring.

Do not pour the ring pellet residue down the drain. Instead, let it dry out and then pop it in the household rubbish.

Pellets are sold in sets of 9, one of each ring size 4 to 12. Each pellet is imprinted with the ring size. Ring sizes are US sizes, but the comparable UK size and the diameter in millimetres is as follows;

4 H1/2 (15.5mm)
5 J1/2 (15.5mm)
6 M (16.5mm)
7 O (17.2mm)
8 Q (18mm)
9 R1/2 (19mm)
10 T1/2 (19.8mm)
11 V1/2 (20.7mm)
12 Y (21.4mm)

A set of 9 pellets is just £4.95, and you can buy them here.