It wasn’t really a surprise that Amy died, but it was shocking to hear that she had. I got into recovery when I was 28…(I’m 49 now) it’s tough going, it takes courage, it takes being around people one can trust, and above all, people who know what they are talking about. ‘Just Say No’ is so simplistic it must have been coined by someone with absolutely no idea about addiction. So for me it’s not just that Amy wrote great songs and had an amazing voice, it’s that she represents the people I belong to, she’s One of Us, and never got to appreciate what recovery could be like. That’s why I feel sad about her dying.

I’ve just had a couple of weeks of being on a lovely creative roll, it’s come to an end though, as it will, and the last three shed sessions have been a bit difficult, made worse because I didn’t realise that I had to have a break from melting glass so that I could go back to it fresh (I’m a bit slow around things like that). I was in the shed last night, struggling to make attractive beads to sell at the bead fairs next month, if I had had any sense I would have shut everything down and watched a film or something, anything but flog a dead horse. The news was on and I was thinking about Amy in her yellow dress, I had a sudden urge to depict her in bead form, out came the rod of yellow glass and off I went. It went so well, I could hardly believe it myself, but I felt terribly grave as I made it, and still do 24 hours later. Her death feels like another significant marker in my own recovery, because she didn’t make it and that could have been me. I know that sounds a little self absorbed, sometimes I am (it’s a selfish programme 🙂 ). Making the bead you see in the picture was as much an acknowledgment of my own survival from the devastating illness of addiction, as it is a tribute to Amy.

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, 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, 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. 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. 

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…


Well, I’m busy making beads again after a little backing off period, and have found (again) that if I don’t make beads for a while I have to fight to get back into the happy beader zone. It’s like having a row with someone and then taking those tentative first steps to making up. The good bit is getting back onto the same page as the glass and becoming as one, which makes opening the kiln in the morning a pleasure rather than an anti-climax.
My new neighbour Jane, and I, bustled up to West Kilbride recently, the home of Scotland’s craft town to see if The Gallery would be amenable to selling my beads, and after a meeting with Maggie a couple of days later, I am happy to have another outlet. This means actually having stock to take up there, hence the renewal of my rampant affair in The Shed of Destiny, and what with the four craft fair bookings slowly creeping up, I absolutely must be in there lustily following my passions.

I met Louise Nelson, a glass artist, at The Gallery, and we had a fun day when she visited, her main comment being ‘I thought you’d have a sign on your shed with ‘The Shed of Destiny’ on it, I’m going to get a sign on my garage before you get your sign up’. So, a challenge. Hah! Will I be beaten? We shall see. Somehow I think her sign ‘Gorgeous Garage’ (don’t tell me anything you don’t want in my blog he he) will be more professional than mine. I might get a plank and write on it in white paint, then nail it over the door, done in ten minutes. Luckily that look works by the seaside. The long term plan being to totally rebuild my shed and have a big neon blue sign Vegas style, arrow pointing downwards, lighting up the Saltcoats sky.

We’ve had fab fab fab weather, absolutely beautiful. People have flocked to the beach, and I love watching them enjoying the view and the space, although I am a bit baffled by those who bring folding chairs and sit on the verge by their cars, they are most fascinating. Yesterday there was a marvelously pot bellied granddad in full topless glory kicking a football (while attempting to avoid the dog shit) with his grandson…this is people watching paradise on a sunny day. But who are the people who spend a day on the beach and see fit to leave piles of rubbish behind them? Who are the people who don’t pick up after their dogs? All the facilities are there for them. They are candidates for being made to run naked through briar patches, that’s who, and me behind them if they snivel (I would be dressed by the way, don’t get your hopes up). The alternative would be quite simple, a full month of spending all daylight hours litter and poo picking (NO fag or burger breaks) and signing a promise that, ‘I, the Foul Rubbish Tipper and Dog Poo leaver, promise never to litter again in any way (including chucking stuff out of car windows) or Min will be allowed to punish me however she sees fit’. The consequences would depend on whether I was pre-menstrual, or not, and one would hope for the latter state.
In South Africa they have ‘PIKITUP’ written on bins, which I find humorous and direct, an almost subliminal instruction to be tidy, no threats. ‘Huh?’ you think, ‘and there I was thinking that Min condoned threats after what she said in the last paragraph’. Well I do, and I don’t, it depends. That’s a whole new blog.

I’ve been making beads and not taking pictures of them so my best ones are currently unrecorded. I hope to turn that around soon and give my visitors something new to see, a couple of days should do it. Unless I find myself back in the shed, in which case we’re back to square one.

Probably I should get dressed and make a plank into a sign now…and of course when I have, there will be a photo of it on the site, and an email of triumph to those who doubt my true dominance in shed signage, he he he…

better late than never?

I loved my weekend at Towcester, and in Enderby, where I stayed. In fact, although I said I’d write about the weekend, I haven’t found it easy to begin, because some aspects of it feel too precious and private to shout about here. I was welcomed and looked after so kindly, I am still very touched by that. I doubt I can ever return what I was given by my hosts, but maybe one day I will be able to do what was done for me, for someone else.
I was delighted to swap two of my beads for one each of Sally Carver’s and Sarah Downton’s, they seemed to like my animal beads…from now on to be known as ‘Minnie-Moo’s’ according to my husband, which means that I have the option of changing the name if I want to, especially as it sounds fairly cow orientated and I haven’t even made a cow yet…but who knows, maybe I should. Perhaps I’ll call them ‘Minnie-Who’s?’ or ‘Minnie-What’s?’ – but stop! this is reminiscent of choosing band names before there is a song to sing. I love the beads I received in return, and having started a collection am now planning a driftwood hunt so that I can display them beautifully.
I’m also the proud owner of one of Diana East’s beads, the more I look at it the more impressed I am. I left a couple of mine with her, and she gave it to me in return, which meant a lot, but by then I was already a bit overwhelmed so I don’t know if it showed. You know when you meet someone and feel proper, real, heartfelt respect for them? That.
It was fab to meet people at the Flame Off, especially the FHF members, I didn’t have a FHF badge (I will next time though) so I collared people who did have one on and said ‘hi’. It was so nice to feel part of a greater movement, everyone is at a different stage in their flamework journey, and I think I was struck by both ends of the spectrum – Virginia (Madbunny) with her box of first bead treasures and then people like Dora Schubert, Sally Carver and Emma Green who are inspirational, a lot of us aspire to talent like theirs.
It was good to see total newcomers to bead making having a go on the various torches downstairs at the Flame Off, and the patience with which they were being taught what to do. The look on their faces as they take their first steps must be reward in itself for their teachers, no matter how often they hear the same questions and concerns.
I remember being so desperate to make glass beads that when I finally got to my weekend class I was in a state of anxiety for every moment that I needed to watch a demonstration. I was the only one who didn’t have equipment at home, I didn’t want to stop making beads.
The demonstrations upstairs went on all day, and were brilliantly presented on a large screen and several tv screens. The room was packed, and it wasn’t small. I learned a few new things that I hope will improve my bead making, but some techniques, like stringer control, come naturally to some – just check out Dora’s work.
There were so many people sitting in silence, just watching the demo’s – apart from the man who wasn’t silent and I felt my blood begin to boil as he talked, obviously about an important issue to him at the time, but eventually I had to move because I could hear him better than the demonstrator. Later I found myself indulging in a similar scenario and felt quite awful about it, even though I was having a lot of fun at the time. I left the room feeling as if I had been disrespectful towards the demonstrator, not only that, I missed Mike Poole at work. So, it was a case of doing the things that one judges other people for…oh to be perfect!
The Tuffnell’s made UK bead making history this year, I can’t wait to see what other events they come up with in the future, and I hope I can be part of every single one. There’s a link to their site on my links page, for some reason I can’t add one to this blog. Technology is great, when it works!
The Flame Off/Enderby glow lasted a few days, but of course eventually reality stuck it’s horrid head around the door and I’m still looking for work, which is soul destroying. I’m so busy and running over with creative ideas, I resent having to fit my round self into a square hole, but it must be done. I just need someone to trust me when I say I’ll turn up and do the work, no matter how dull. I have my bead shed to look forward to and the prospect of selling my beads (six more sold yesterday, some hadn’t even made it onto the website), that’s enough to keep me happy while I earn a more reliable income.