Friday, 11 June 2010

This week I have mostly been photographing and measuring

Please click on any of the photographs to see a larger view.

Sometimes the only way I can get through tortuous tasks is to set myself incentives. I'll allow myself to do something I do enjoy, if I finish something that I don't enjoy so much first. So it has been this week.

I simply love making things. My mind is perpetually full of ideas and shapes and there are simply never enough hours in the day to bring them to life. But the peril of being productive with work is that I then have to photograph, measure and describe the finished pieces in order to even have the vaguest chance of selling them. Necessary to fund my addiction.

I think this copper bracelet is the last piece to be photographed from a backlog of spiral link pieces from a previous theme.

So I set myself a target yesterday to list a batch of 9 pieces just finished and photographed before I would allow myself anywhere near metal. And I stuck to it, tempting though the lure of my tools was. So now, I'm free for the rest of the day to actually get my hands on some metal. Unfortunately, this didn't actually make much inroad into my backlog either - to which I can now add a further handful of new pieces not even included in the 9 piece target I set myself.

Antiqued copper bracelet featuring hammered figure of 8 links, joined with hand sawn jump rings and my own toggle clasp. This one's for me. I wanted to wear it for a few days and see how the toggle performed in practice and I was really happy with it. I have some more like this in progress.

But I have now reached the milestone of 100 pieces in my Etsy shop and I'm approaching 400 pieces in my own shop too - although that number includes some optional extras and now-sold unique pieces - which I leave in place to serve as a portfolio.

Double wrapped loops of antiqued copper with rosy copper buds. Molten buds are a perpetual theme that I haven't exhausted yet.

Also done in polished Sterling silver. This design was started as I wanted to make a pair for myself to match a pendant I have and I personally don't suit big earrings, so these are quite small and delicate. My own pair are antiqued, so I must photograph them too as an optional finish.

In line with comments I've made in previous blogs, my recent pieces have all been on related design themes - once you sort out a particular design element or perfect a shape or technique, related items just flow from the initial design, so my work always emerges in batches of closely related pieces.

A necklace from an earlier work theme of wrapped rosy copper buds. This necklace features a oxidised and hammered scroll wire wrapped with buds and joined directly to the chain with double wrapped loops.

Dyed jade beads on long wraps of oxidised copper, tumbled to a lovely gunmetal sheen.

And this week has been no different. I honed a technique to allow me to symmetrically wire wrap stones to other shapes and I've made several earrings and pendants along those lines this week.

Hammered copper rings wire wrapped with faceted amethyst beads with matching earwires with small roughly faceted garnets.

The same technique used in Sterling silver to make a pendant with 2 faceted amethysts. Antiqued to highlight the wire wrapping.
Fully oxidised and tumbled copper rings with faceted citrine beads.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

My garden is now ready to face summer

Alternative title: another gratuitous opportunity to post some photos I took over the weekend. Please click on any of the photographs to see a larger view.

I have a small garden. A very small garden. Not the kind of small garden they talk about in the commentary to the Chelsea Flower Show TV coverage - mine is merely postage stamp sized - far too small for a garden designer to trouble themselves over. A friend came to visit me one gorgeous day a few years ago and I suggested we take lunch into the garden to which he commented "I knew you had a small garden, but I didn't think it was this small!"

As we like to eat out as often as weather permits and I like to take my work outside too, I concentrated on flowers with fragrance this time and got two of these candy striped phlox plants which are a dome of those pretty little flowers.

I've blogged in earlier summers about my garden - it's basically the enclosed back yard of a Lancashire cottage, intended to house the outside facilities and for storage of logs and coal and for drying washing, the house being built pre-indoor plumbing, central heating and tumble driers.

I keep several dichondra each summer, each in a separate pot on their own adjacent to seating, purely for stroking purposes you understand. They're deliciously velvety and soft to run your hands over, just like stroking a weimaraner puppy.

My house is a long thin tall stone cottage of about 140 years old, so my yard is too. The house sits in what is basically a square plot, divided into three long strips. The house sits in the middle third, with a long thin garden on either side.

I've only just finished the summer planting, which will need to fill out - and hopefully flower - a considerable amount yet - so it looks a tad scrawny still, but another month will see a huge difference.

The garden in question is enclosed within 6 foot high stone walls and the base is entirely concreted. The concrete is of very poor quality and badly uneven, so we covered it with small sized gravel when we first made it into a garden some years ago. When we first decided to make it into a garden, largely as an area for sitting out to eat in summer, it was pretty bare, unnaturally new-looking and has taken a number of years to fill out and develop a personality. It's finally reached the stage where it looks like a proper, established garden. I suspect these things can only be hurried along if you have deep pockets.

Height is achieved in this area as the display is based on lots of cut logs from a dead tree my father felled in his garden - logs of different heights simply stand on end and form stepped risers for smaller pots. In fact, some of the plants have simply seeded themselves into crevices in the timbers.

Everything grows in pots, so we do periodically lose things that just run out of steam when confined to a pot, so every year it is slightly different and I supplement the perennial, largely green, planting with summer bedding to add colour. That has been my priority for the last couple of weekends and I finally put my trowel down last night as darkness drew in and declared it finished. As far as a garden ever can be finished. But I've planted all the new things I'm going to this summer.

I think the deep frost and extensive periods of cold this winter seemed to benefit this pyracantha - which doesn't like to flower that often, but is going to put on a good show this time. The flowers at the top, that get more sun, have already opened. It has wicked, long sharp thorns though (hence one of its names of Firethorn), so I tend to leave it to its own devices.
I went out to admire my handiwork in the light this morning, just as it started to rain. But it was nice, gentle downward falling summer rain, without wind and the air was just nicely shirt-sleeve warm. The beauty of that sort of still gentle rain is that it lands and remains largely undisturbed, forming jewel like droplets on leaves and flowers. A perfectly beautiful phenomena in its own right.

So I grabbed a camera and just spent a pleasant Sunday summer morning under my umbrella in the company of my camera.

Shame that I can't include the fragrance with this Pink, it's fabulous within the enclosed walls of the garden.

The waxy leaves of roses are ideal for the raindrops to form droplets.

This Japanese maple was the first big feature plant I bought and is just turning green from its spring red, returning to this flame like appearance in autumn.

'Peaches and cream' Verbenas - just look at the perfect spherical beads of rain in the centre, what could be prettier?

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Spring - full of optimism

Alternative title: gratuitous opportunity to post some photos I took at the weekend.

I love this time of year. I love autumn too. But I find spring to be inspiring and energising and it fills you with a mood of optimism.

Please click on any of the photographs to see a larger view, they tend to look rather dark here on the page.

The earth, awoken by lengthening days and increasing temperatures, puts forth new life at an alarming rate. The world around us positively explodes with new growth, in a green the most vibrant we will see all year. It's never quite as fabulous as it is when spring gravitates towards summer.

Ferns and brackens unravel themselves like something other-worldly.

I love the things that grow at this time of year, I love the climate and I love that sense of promise of longer days and warm evenings watering the garden. I love that I can work outside or at least with the door open. I love being able to get my washing out on the line and to eating breakfast in the garden. I love opening the curtains in a morning to sunshine and bird song.

Although I don't much like warm weather, which is why I think I'm most happy and comfortable in spring and autumn, the temperatures suit me rather better.

Tiny delicate Speedwells emerge through the leaf litter in woodland. There seemed to be two different species growing beside each other. One a vibrant violet blue and the others had a smaller mauve flower with more distinct stripes. Both are gorgeous.

I love to look at the little things that emerge from the earth, before they are dominated by longer grass and stronger plants. Those delicate little flowers that have adapted to emerge first, to fulfill their cycle before their dominating earth-mates overshadow them.

We just spent the bank holiday weekend in the Lake District. To me, getting away and walking through woodland particularly, is an absolutely vital way I must spend time periodically. I just don't think I could survive life's demands without communing closely with trees every week or two. It's an activity that takes a high priority in my planning and for the scant money we have available. Some people like to eat in restaurants or go to bars - to me, there is no restaurant in the world that I would enjoy as much as eating bread and cheese under trees. It's a bonus when it's not actually raining.

One particular favourite path we walk often takes us past this massive beech tree - it's stunning, in different ways, at different times of the year. This weekend it was just coming into full foliage - bright glossy green leaves at their peak of perfection, before being ravaged by weather and insects. It is slightly raised from the road, so that you initially view its roots at eye level and due to its commanding size, has a large clear area around it, strewn with mossy rocks.

At least, that's how it looks at first glance. But the bare-looking ground beneath, is in anything but. On closer inspection, it is a positive cornucopia of emerging growth and subtle variety. There must be dozens of species of plant growing in that particular environment of cool and shade beneath its protective spread. There are a multitude of tiny beech trees that have germinated from its own masts, even some small bright green new pine trees, violets, digitalis, mosses and grasses. The photograph below represents about a square meter of ground from the bottom left corner of the wider shot above. I am sure to return many times this year, so will be interested to repeat this process and record how that little patch develops.

I've prepared this photo rather larger than usual and sharpened it quite hard so that you can see the detail. Please click to see the large version.

And you couldn't possibly consider the beauty of spring without mentioning bluebells. I have more bluebell photos to come, from another camera, but for now, these are two ways I love to see bluebells, in a fabulous fragrant carpet over moorland, these from an area above Coniston that I must check the map to get the correct name for. They looked mauve looking upwards and more blue when viewed from above looking down the hill - must be the way the light spectrum was reflected from the petals.

And I love to see them like this too - just dotted amongst emerging woodland growth, at the base of trees and amongst fallen timber - more subtle and delicate - but perhaps their colour is all the more highlighted and vibrant because of it.


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