fluttering heart

Culzean Castle grounds were absolutely stunning today, and the drive along the coast road with views of Ailsa Craig were magic. Scotland in sunshine has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world (I’m not Scottish, and I don’t think I’m biased…)

I had lots of visitors at my table today, many of whom didn’t realise that the beads I have for sale are all Made By Me (MinMade, hah) despite notices to that effect. I usually have to explain it very clearly, and even then I can see the cogs turning before people actually realise what I am telling them, ‘You make all these? They’re lovely!’ (I like that comment of course) or the one that amuses me most, ‘Well, it’s nice to have a wee hobby’. Er…hobby?! Were it only so simple!

Eventually there will be more glass-bead makers in this area, meanwhile, I know I’m fortunate to be one of the few here on the west coast of Scotland, and I hope those about to launch themselves on the public will benefit from my endeavors. Mind you, I explained so often today, more than I have ever had to before at any other fair, light headed because there was no time to snatch a proper bite to eat (all together now…aw…!) demonstrating with mandrels and ends of glass rods, that I felt like having a collection tin on my table for donations for my efforts. I could give the money to the cat’s protection league…or buy myself some Strepsils maybe.


There’s a lot going on in politics at the moment. I am aghast at my lack of interest, but remain unmotivated to begin to understand all the implications of current events. Ever since I became aware of politics I have felt I would never ever catch up, in the meantime I’ve clocked up about 40 years worth of not trusting politicians. Choosing one to support is like having all my least favourite and most hated foods on my plate and being told to pick one to eat before I can leave the table. Yum. Notice the child-like state there, despite my years, that’s what politics does for me.

Actually, there aren’t many things I don’t like to eat, but there are quite a few that make me feel ill, so I have to avoid the lovely mature cheddar because of sinus, and the wheat because of sluggishness, and raw onion because it makes me sleep (I promise you, it does), so it seems that there are parallels between politicians and food, for me at least. I truly hate cooking…but I’ll clean up after someone else has cooked, which also suggests that I might not be bothered about what impact politics has on my daily life until it’s too late, but I’ll certainly muck in to clean up the mess once it’s done. In which case, it would be wiser to make sure I know why and for whom I do eventually vote, so that there isn’t too much shouting and clearing up to be done if the muck hits the fan. I think there are a lot of people like me and we need to get real and sort ourselves out. Perhaps the ‘don’t know’s’ should be renamed the ‘don’t trust’s’ because that’s the core issue for me. Politicians just don’t present as people I can trust, starting with their usual avoidance of a straight answer which annoys me everytime (yes, I know, that’s politics in action).

If politics wasn’t so serious, it would be amusing to watch the game playing politicians dancing around the issues, like puffed up, self-righteous actors on contract to a long running soap story, all afraid of being killed off.
But it is serious, and it’s not funny. Dash it.

bead display

A lovely customer of mine wasn’t happy with a recent New Improved and more Grown-Up bead display, and was good enough to let me know that she would prefer to be able to rummage through my beads and ‘discover’ one she likes, so I have transformed the display to something with which even I am pleased. I had some trays just waiting to be painted white, made some dividers out of excess window blind slats, organised the beads into the compartments, and off I went to the fair yesterday with my beads displayed in a more fun and accessible way. I really don’t want to spend any more time on displays than I already have in the time I have been selling them, I hope this is It, enough already!
Making and selling beads involves far more than melting glass. Creating a website requires being able to take decent pictures of one’s work, quite nightmarish at first and my first efforts are still visible somewhere on here. Last week I was working with wood and power tools, not exactly to high standards of finish, but sufficiently well enough that no-one will get a splinter while looking for beads. Then there’s business card design, I would not like to use any other programme than Adobe Photoshop for my artwork, I’m so glad I didn’t have to learn how to use that as well, luckily I’ve been using it for years. Being able to make basic jewellery is a useful skill of course, as well as lugging heavy bags to and from fair venue’s, not to mention being able to drive to them. It’s surprising how much time the whole business can take up, and I applaud anyone who manages it on top of full time work. Now that I have settled on a display method I will have more time and no  headaches over it, and I’m so pleased that I don’t have to go through yet another re-think before next weekend, instead I can focus on what I’m really interested in. What with all the peripheral occupations, I’ll be glad to get back to the torch, which brings it’s own niggles, as well as therapeutic value, but more on those another day…

I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s fair at Langside Hall in Glasgow. As usual it was fun to spend time with the stall holders around me. Becky Wilson’s photo’s are beautiful and would grace any home, see them at www.bexphoto.com, Jacqueline Graham’s jewellery is delicate and pretty (no website!) what’s more, she uses lampwork beads made by bead makers here in the UK, which I appreciate. It was lovely to have Sean and Gillian present too, from www.hamiltontaylor.co.uk, kind, funny, generous people. I wish I hadn’t forgotten the names of other people I met, I want to give them a mention too, but all the crafters are listed on the fair website if you want to have a look.
www.craftfairsscotland.co.uk is a well run organisation, all their venues have been pleasant to be in, plus which, their crafters/artists are of a standard which means that it is a pleasure to make that detour and come in to see the works on offer.

I was very much struck by three customers yesterday, they were more fascinated by the tactile nature of glass beads than by their colour, shape was very important to them too. I even had several customers who didn’t want me to make beads into jewellery, they had findings at home and were excited about making themselves something. I loved that. I’m very much looking forward to the next Glasgow fair!

big blue

Big Blue

I was asked to make a bead in a similar shape to the one on the left of the picture above, using the darkest blue in the bead. As the original bead had simply grown on the mandrel, I wasn’t sure that I could recreate the shape, the bead in the centre was my first attempt. I used several Effetre blues together, the darkest of which reacted with the others and made pits and discolourations (that bead is definitely heading for the etching solution!) but the shape was ok, if a little larger than intended.

So, on the second attempt I made a bead using only the darkest (and trickiest when combined) glass, Effetre 246, and it worked very well. A lovely blue with naturally occurring streaks and a smooth surface.
I am happy to consider commissions, especially when they work out as this one has. Sometimes there is an awful lot of blood, sweat, tears, gas, glass, electricity and most precious, time, before the required results are achieved, and then there’s the dilemma of charging. Does one charge for all the above, making one bead Very Expensive, or embrace the experience (bless the Learning Curve!) as payment in itself and charge a regular rate? There may even be perfectly good beads arising from the process of perfecting a commissioned bead, as I found recently when trying to get a cat bead just right, what a happy by product of a commissioned piece!

One of the traditionally difficult areas for an artist is pricing one’s work correctly, and everyone has an opinion on the subject. A lady at a craft fair picked up one of my beads, dropped (yes, dropped) it back down and walked away, saying ‘£4.00 for a bead! That’s too much!’ while another lady told me my beads were too cheap, and she was paying £14 for her bead. What can one do?! I’m so over the pricing dilemma. I ask what I ask, and that’s it. If it’s wrong then so be it. I’m glad to be making the beads, and while it must be brilliant to make money from something one loves, almost every bead has been some form of therapy or joy already. Money is a lovely, lovely bonus. Oh, and seeing people buy something I’ve made, for themselves or someone else, is a proper heart warmer. Excellent stuff. Lucky me.

told you I had a few beads…

told you I had a few beads…

And here they are. Well, most of them anyway.
A delightful customer of mine told me recently that I needed to update my blog – how right she was – and I’ve been thinking about what to write about ever since. It’s actually rather nice to think that someone has been checking in to see if I’ve posted anything new – thank you!
I’ve been making jewellery lately because people want me to, and although I say I am not inspired to make jewellery, even with my own beads, I do quite like seeing the finished pieces. On consideration, I think if my mind was freed from the driving urge to melt glass into bead shapes, I would probably be more drawn to making jewellery, which is what I planned to do before I started making beads, hence the collection of beads you see below.
I have rummaged around in markets in Delhi, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Thailand, Nepal, and America (to list more countries really would be boasting) and my husband got the bug too and brought me beads direct from Afghanistan and other places that he visited without me. The thing with glass beads is that one can buy them in all sorts of exotic places, but they could all originate in China or India…it takes some rooting around to find anything new and under-exposed in today’s global village market place. I don’t claim to have made any such find, but I loved buying every single bead that I have, and would rather have thrown out clothes to make space for them in my suitcases than leave them behind.
So, I have a drawer full of beads, and those tubs hold three layers of them…what shall I do with them all? Look at those semi-precious stones too, just hanging there! Collecting fed my passion for beads for a while, and then making them from Fimo, but making glass beads is the ultimate for me, and these travel beads are just waiting for me to make decisions on their fate. I think it would be practical and sensible to sell some of them as they are, they are wasted on me. Or maybe I’ll just hold on to them a little bit longer. Eye candy is so good for the spirit. 

I’ve been busy

Hmm, mostly I’ve been thinking about blogging, usually at about 2.30am when I’ve gone to bed because I’ve run out of steam rather than will.
I had my Very First Craft Fair recently, at Troon Concert Hall. I’d been planning it for months, wondering if all the effort I was putting in was worth it, and despite the length of time I had to be prepared I was still packing things up at 2am that morning. When I arrived (with my trusty friend Linda as help for the day) I was just so happy that I’d made it, that  actually having customers seemed irelevant, and by the time we had set up, my brain had officially gone on holiday. It didn’t take long before people started drifting in, and the real fun began, I love chatting to people and being surprised by their choice of bead – I sold two that I was wearing myself, and even though one of them was a little tricky to let go of, I knew as it went away with it’s new owner, it was going to a good home where it was genuinely appreciated.

I particularly enjoyed interacting with the children who passed by, and had a selection of small beads to give away (I confess that wasn’t my initial plan but it evolved like that) so with strict instructions not to put beads in mouths, ears or noses, off they went with a little bead given with pleasure. A friend and my husband tutted at me for that, but they’re my beads and I can do what I like with them, not everything is about money. Two girls, who looked about 12 years old, stopped for a look and were especially fun, they were so on the ball that I would have happily left my table in their charge for the rest of the day. They gave me some good ideas and pointers for things they would like, so I’ve put plans in action so that I’ve got stock for my next craft fair. After the success of the day (which I pray wasn’t just beginner’s luck) I booked five more craft fairs. It’s a good feeling to go to my shed because I have to, not only because I want to. I can’t just sit on my laurels (or that other thing) there’s ‘work’ to be done.


My (our) son James came to visit recently. We were a bit slow to get to the shed for the first bead making lesson, which meant that his second session was in a hurry on his last morning, but I was glad that he knew enough to get in there and make beads. He was quite excited about a bead he made, which I had to post to him as it was still in the kiln when he left. If he’s bitten by the bug even in a small way, then I am happy. Does that make me a lampwork pusher? I don’t know. I just think it’s nice to be part of someone finding something they are fascinated by and enjoy doing.

first beads are special, they’re stepping stones

red girl

I had a lovely ‘commission’ recently, a very small one, but one that I appreciated very much. I was asked to make a bead for a friend’s five year old daughter, the only proviso being that it must be red, as her little girl loves the colour above any other. I was immediately struck by this, a red girl among so many pink girls? I couldn’t wait to get started.
I forgot to take pictures of the selection I came up with, but out of about five beads two were chosen, one was a flower shape with poked dots and the other was quite a large clear bead with two twists of red running through it. ‘She can wear the flower bead round her neck’ said her mum, Gina, ‘and she can keep this one in her pocket’. I loved that. A bead for her pocket!? I almost welled up.
Best thing is, the little girl loved the beads but would like a red heart too…oh dear, tut, that means I have to spend time in the shed again, how awful…