Tuesday, 17 February 2015

End of an era. Probably.

So - I think the time has come.  It's time to put Venerable Bead to bed.

For those who don't know, I've been making jewellery for the last 12 years under the name of 'Venerable Bead' (yes, there's a website and everything...) and for the first five or so years things were going pretty well.  I was never really going to make enough money to make an actual living from it but it was encouraging to pull in a few grand every year.  People seemed to like my stuff and were willing to pay me a reasonable amount.  I enjoyed designing things, and resourcing interesting stones.  I learned how to fuse glass to make my own dichroic glass bits and pieces - it was fun.

Then the economy collapsed, and people reined in their spending.  My sales started nose-diving.  As my mother said (she also sells handicrafts and also suffered) 'we're not selling sausages', and you can't deny that she's right.  Sausages, we were definitely not selling.

What she meant was that jewellery (mine) and decoupaged items (hers) are not essential household items like food, mortgage payments, utilities, etc. and given the choice of being able to feed your kids or hang some trinket from your ear'oles, the sausages are going to win.

Things have slowly gone from bad to worse.  Last year I experienced my first ever craft fair where I sold nothing.  Not a single sausage (see what I did there?)  My mother tried to gee me along, saying motivating things like 'don't worry, the economy will pick up, it'll come back...'

But it hasn't.  And the reptilian Cameron pronouncing last week that we're heading for a second market crash hasn't exactly helped.  Thanks, Dave.

For example, the last three craft fairs I did I sold a grand total of £10, £16 and last Saturday saw me go home with the princely sum of £12 in my pocket.  Bearing in mind the pitch cost £16 and there was petrol costs involved, it means I'm actually paying to attend the fair.  Plus I haven't sold anything at all from the website in over a year, where I used to sell a few bits and pieces a month.

This is not good business practice.  Admittedly I don't do any advertising/marketing at all, but then I never did and always managed to sell stuff.

I was chatting to Janet, the organiser of the craft fair I attended on Saturday (which I've been doing regularly for about 7 years now) and she said that many craftspeople are giving up, and it's the first time she can remember that she doesn't have a waiting list of people waiting to get a table at her fair.

My heart has most definitely gone out of it.  If people don't buy your stuff then there's absolutely no incentive to continue adding to your stock, so you stop looking for new stones/beads/whatever and you stop designing.  No point making more if you're not selling any - it's just that much more to cart around. Plus I'm far more excited about painting and making art these days and, to be honest, selling more of that than my jewellery anyway.

So The Lovely Husband and I have come to a decision that this will be the last year for Venerable Bead.  We're committed to doing 6 more craft fairs in Alresford, Hants, which will take us up to December 2015, and then that's it.

God knows what I'm going to do with all my semi-precious beads and pearls - I'm thinking I'll probably eBay them in bulk next year.  And, of course, I have my lovely little kiln that I fuse glass in, but I think I'll hold onto that - I'd like to try and incorporate dichroic glass cabochons into my paintings somehow, and I'm quite keen to have a go at using powdered glass to make seascapes or other art pieces.

It's sad, but times change and events conspire to make you alter your plans, and the time has come to bid Venerable Bead a fond adieu....

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Welcome to our new feline overlords.....

So then, we have new cats.

We've known them for several years so they weren't strangers, but I suppose I'd better start at the beginning.

Back in, I think, about 2009, our friends J and S got three new kittens - Maggie and Prince (short-haired, black and white, brother and sister - Prince only had a stumpy tail because the mother had, weirdly, chewed it off when he was born), and Puffle (long-haired, all black except for white splodges, half-sister to Maggie and Prince).  At this time, J and S lived about half a mile away from us.  I popped down to visit and cuddle them  - I've got some photos somewhere, I'll see if I can find them....

Prince (first 3 photos)- with a black nose and no tail; Maggie (next 2), sleeping on her head; Puffle (preposterously cute) - May 2009

Adorable, non?

Anyway, in November 2011, J and S moved house with their 3 kids and 3 cats and came to live directly opposite me in our small close.  All the cats used to pop round for a visit (as, seemingly, all the cats in the close tend to do) primarily because, I think, we leave our upstairs back door open all summer long and the canny ones realise they can get in to eat our cats' food, but also because we feed the birds so there's always the opportunity of catching something feathered, and just over our back wall is woodland with all manner of enticing rodentry to hunt.  Plus we like cats and will always make a bit of a fuss if one comes to visit.

Sadly, though, not long after they moved here, Prince got into a tussle with a car and it didn't end well for him, which was very sad.  I loved his stumpy tail because he flicked it around as if he had a long tail attached and it amused me no end.  Farewell, Prince.

Moving more up to date - about May last year, one of J and S's kids decided that they wanted to get some kittens of their own, so got 2 identical stripy tabby kittens.  The idea was that the 2 remaining original cats - Maggie and Puffle - would just beat the kittens up a few times to show them who was boss, and they would all settle down to being a 4-cat household.

Maggie and Puffle had different ideas about this.

They basically flounced and made themselves voluntarily homeless, refusing to go back to J & S's apart from stopping by in the morning, eating some crunchies, hissing at the kittens, then leaving the house again.  J would occasionally ask me if we'd seen Maggie because they had not clapped eyes on her literally for days.

Eventually, Puffle started hanging round more and more and, it being summer and the back door being open, we didn't mind.  If you remember, we no longer had cats (Sylvester having departed in December 2013) so we didn't have any food.  I think she just wanted the company and somewhere warm and safe to come to during the day.  We'd kick her out at night when we went to bed, but she'd be at the back door crying to be let in as soon as we came down in the morning.

Maggie then realised that Puffle had latched on to a good thing and also started hanging out more with us.  They then realised (this would probably be about August/Sept time) that if they started pestering us while we were eating our dinner, they most likely would be left a small bit, which they would wolf down.  They were hungry.  I decided I couldn't let them go without so we relented and started putting down a small bowl of crunchies for them (not least so they'd get their noses out of our damn plates while we were trying to eat!)  We felt very guilty about this because, at this time, they were still J & S's cats, and I knew they missed them, and by feeding them we were encouraging them to stay with us rather than try and get along with the kittens and move back home.  Trouble is felines are very independent and stubborn, and once they'd made their minds up, there was just no way they were going have anything to do with those interlopers.

All the while this was happening I was keeping J updated about what was going on, not least so that he didn't worry and knew that his cats weren't far away and were being looked after, and, in the end, in October I think it was, we decided that this was all a bit daft and the cats had made their choice, so we might as well become their official minions.  J was sad about this but was grateful that we agreed to take them in rather than having them become vagrants just wandering around the close, scrounging food and getting in the bins where they could.  Also it's not as if they were being adopted a million miles away from J & S - we are only a few steps away, and can, in fact, should we so wish, wave to each other from our sitting room windows.  So very close indeed.  I was also aware that the winter was just around the corner and just couldn't deal with the thought of them being out overnight in the cold and the wet with no food, they needed taking care of properly.

So we now have 2 cats!  And although we said we weren't going to get any more cats once Sylvester had gone, I have to say the house feels SO much better and 'right' again.  They're hugely entertaining and you can tell they're sisters as they have a love/hate relationship with each other - they will groom each other frantically and, inevitably, it'll descend into a wrestle and a scrap.  And they're enormous love-bugs.  We've had 3 cats previously in this house - Suki, Sylvester and Pepper - and none of them were the lap cats that these two are, which is just lovely.

So, that's the story of how we got some new moggies, and I'll leave you a selection of photos of the two of them making themselves very much at home, thank you:

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Welcome, 2015

So, that's 2014 done and dusted.  As hinted in my last post I had a reasonably eventful year involving both the good (travel, art - both the making of and subsequent selling of, new cats) and the not-so-good (death of my youngest aunt, illness (mine) in various forms from August onwards), so a bit of a mixed bag.  But, in all honesty, a year is a pretty long time so that means there's ample opportunity for all manner of set-backs and brilliant stuff to happen.  I don't suppose my year has been all that much different to anyone else's in the scheme of things.

But what can I look forward to over the next 12 months?  Well, obviously, I can only expound on things that I know for certain are going to happen, the unknown is exactly that, unknown.  I'm seriously hoping that I can see the entire year out without any kind of major illness.  I seem to have a cycle of 7 years where nasty bodily things happen to me.  For example, in 2000 it was recovering from an operation to remove an ectopic pregnancy, and then a subsequent miscarriage; in 2007 I had a dreadful time with gallbladder removal which resulted in a very nasty infection, the investigation into which then resulted in pancreatitis - I reckon I took at least a year to recover from all that; then this year in August I had a sudden, nasty attack of Mastitis which needed some brutal antibiotics to sort out, but my insides didn't like the antibiotics and caused problems throughout September, all of which I was taking a lot of Ibuprofen for, which, I think, eventually caused the Gastritis that I'm currently very slowly recovering from which hit me on 21 November!  I mean, FFS!  Enough already!

But, as I say, I don't have a crystal ball to predict that kind of thing, except that I will be starting the walking/running again.  I gave up the running in mid-2014 as I got so disheartened that, seemingly no matter what I did, I was just not improving.  I had hoped, when I started, that I would've been taking part in races by now and perhaps doing half-marathons, but I found that, even after 18 months of taking my running relatively seriously, I STILL couldn't get a mile down the road without having to stop and walk for a bit.  I got seriously disgusted with myself and threw my running shoes into the cupboard and left them there in a fit of pique.

While I've been more than delighted that The Lovely Husband has taken to running so well, I found it extremely disappointing that I was (and will be) unable to join him, as I'm just not good enough.  So I've had enough time to reassess what I want from all this, and I've decided I will start again this month but without any specific goal (like a 5k, for instance) other than exercise and fitness and fresh air.

Last year we thoroughly enjoyed our trips to see various International Orchestras come and play in our nearest big town, and we've already booked for the 2015 season, so that should be fabulous.

We saw two terrific plays as part of the 2014 Chichester Festival season - 'Amadeus' with Rupert Everett as Salieri, and 'Taken at Midnight' with Penelope Wilton.  We also had tickets for a third - 'An Ideal Husband' with Patricia Routledge but my Gastritis wasn't good on the day of the performance and, to be honest, it had had not-brilliant reviews from the critics, so we gave that one a miss.  I shall see what the 2015 season has in store.  I can highly recommend the Chichester Festival, especially if you're in the south of England - tickets are often half the price of the West End, it's easy to drive to and parking is free.

I expect we'll go to the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition this year - we've been every year now for the past 7 or 8 years.  Last year's was fun as we took my brother with us - we treated him to a day out in London and did the Summer Exhibition, the Dennis Hopper photography exhibition also at the RA, the Making Colour exhibition at the National Gallery, the BP Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery, with lunch at our favourite Mexican restaurant, Wahaca, in the middle.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable day - I love my little brother a lot and really don't get to see him as much as I would like, so this was a huge treat.

I need to research to see what other art exhibitions are coming along this year - the Anselm Kiefer at the end of 2014 completely blew me away and was utterly inspirational, so it would be fantastic to see more stuff like that.

Some more travel in 2015 would be very lovely indeed.  2014 was going to be the year of three holidays - Florence in June, Copenhagen in August and Marrakech in December - but sadly, due to my fecking Gastritis and the sudden illness of the mother of one of our travelling companions, we had to cancel, which was a huge shame but really couldn't be helped.

I've signed up for next term's art classes, which have become a hugely important part of my life.  I produced quite a few paintings last year, most of which have been put up for sale on my Artfinder shop - there would have been more but, again, the Gastritis put paid to that.  In fact, the Gastritis effectively ruined the last two months of 2014 for me, as I literally couldn't do much more than sit on the sofa in my dressing gown, clutching a hot water bottle to my painful side, shove Paracetamol down my throat and eat barely anything while watching old black and white Hollywood films to take my mind off the fact that I was obviously growing a cancerous tumour and would be dead in a week.

But, as I said, I'm miraculously going to survive and am slowly improving enough to start thinking about beginning my next painting and sorting out a dedicated art website for myself, so that's obviously on my list for this year.

In April, TLH has signed up to run his first full marathon, down in Brighton, which should be tremendously exciting.  He has signed up for other races throughout the year but the Brighton Marathon is the biggie.

And I think I've chuntered on long enough on this post so I'll shut up for now.  I don't do New Year Resolutions but there are some things I'd like to achieve - have you got anything you want to do this year?

(You may notice I briefly mentioned about 'new cats' - remind me to tell you all about that...)

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

I know, I know - it's been far too long since I was here.  May, in fact.  I think I got a bit sick of the sound of my own voice blathering into the abyss about nothing in particular - I got bored with myself.

Stuff happened, as it always does - travel to foreign climes was attempted and succeeded (Florence in June, Copenhagen in August) and failed (Marrakech in December), visits to the beach accomplished, lots of paintings made and sold (hooray!), new cats acquired as well as illnesses (mine, the latest of which is ongoing and slowly improving but did manage to scupper the trip to Marrakech).

I shall try to do a bit more blogging next year but can't promise anything, but in the meantime, if there's anyone out there still accidentally getting my blog in their feed, I wish you a very happy Christmas/Yule/Channukah, etc., etc., and I'll hopefully see you all again in 2015!

Monday, 5 May 2014

SwiftWatch 2014

Every year I keep a weather eye out for the return of the Swifts and this morning spotted my first two, swiftly followed (see what I did there?) by several more over the course of the day.  By this evening there were small gangs of half a dozen screeching in delight around the houses.  I love this time of year.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

More looming fruit....

I think one or two of my most die-hard and dogged readers paid heed to my pitiful whining last post and signed up to my Artfinder profile, for which I am profusely grateful.

The very lovely Katyboo knocked me over with a feather by writing an entire blog post about me (which feels all kinds of undeserved - it made my chin wobble and I ended up doing that double-handed face fanning thing while trying not to cry too much).  I was deeply touched.  She is a very kind and lovely person, and I'm very proud to call her my friend.

Sadly, we don't see that much of each other because we live a few hundred miles apart, although we have managed to coincide in That London a couple of times, and it was a shame that last week I actually found myself not too far away from Leicester (where she lives).  However, the circumstances were not really conducive to meeting up as TLH and I were driving up to Macclesfield in Cheshire to attend a family funeral, and it was a sad and stressful few days that didn't really lend itself to conviviality.

The death had been rather sudden - my mum's youngest sister (aged 62) had gone into hospital about 8 weeks ago suffering from heart palpitations.  Investigations showed shadows on her lungs.  Up until that time she'd (more or less) been fine.  The shadows were inoperable Stage IV lung cancer.  Six weeks later she was dead.  She hadn't even had time to start any chemotherapy.  It was so quick it was shocking.  But, on the other hand, it's better the inevitable end came quickly.

My mum is (was) the oldest of 5 siblings, one of whom lives in the Netherlands, the other in Canada, and they both managed to get to the UK to say goodbye before she died.  We've now got to the stage where we only see that side of the family at weddings and funerals, which is a shame, but is, I think, generally the way that families go these days.  It was really lovely to see my aunts and uncles, and some of my cousins, again but sad given the circumstances.

Anyway, we set off the day after the funeral and really just wanted to get home so even though it did cross my mind that I could've had a small detour to have a cuppa with our Katy, I just wanted to get back.

Still, the weather was lovely and I was pleasantly surprised with how beautiful the countryside is around Knutsford, Macclesfield and Poynton.  And we managed to get in a visit to Jodrell Bank where my brother (who is a brilliant photographer) took some fab high-definition photos of the radio telescope:

And a really cool selfie in front of the infrared camera monitor they had there (I'm probably going to paint this as a portrait of him - look at the colours!!):

It was also lovely to get to spend some one-on-one time with him, as I don't get to see him often enough, and when I do, it's invariably with loads of small (and not so small) kids knocking around, demanding his attention (well, he is their dad, after all).  So to be able to spend two entire evenings with him, laughing like loons and knocking back the vino without interruption was a real treat.

But I seem to have sidetracked - I've finished another painting!  I'm really pleased with how this one has come out.  It's another in my 'Looming Fruit' series (I'm sure there's a joke about Fruit of the Loom in there somewhere...) and has more than a touch of the Dutch Old Masters about it.

As usual, I took a few photos as it was progressing - weirdly, seeing a photo of the painting as it's going along helps me to 'see' it better, and spot what's going wrong or what needs doing next.

Anyway, this painting was of three apples, set slightly off-centre.  The lighting is very strong and the background is pitch black, so it's very dramatic, and this is how it progressed:

The bottom photo is the finished version but the colours of the apples look a bit washed out - the real colours are more like the penultimate one.

I'll probably be putting this one up on Artfinder too but at the moment I'm rather enjoying looking at it in my sitting room!

I've started my next painting already - cherries tumbling from a pail - which is slowly coming together, and I've got another three, no, four, paintings planned, not to mention the Russian icons paintings I'm thinking about (have I told you about those?  Can't remember...) so I'm going to be pretty busy.

Plus it's my forty-eleventh birthday this coming Wednesday, and TLH and I are off to London on Thursday to take in the British Museum's current exhibition on Vikings, followed by a trip to the theatre to see Jeeves and Wooster starring Robert Webb and the utterly brilliant Mark Heap.  I've promised Katyboo I'll tell you all about about it!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Hello! Hello! I am not dead!

Indeed, dead I most certainly am not.  This is, of course, a very good thing.  I've just been a bit quiet on the blogging front, yet again.

But this doesn't mean I've not been doing stuff.  Nosirreebob, not by a long chalk.  I've been painting, so I have.  And I've been very fortunate to have had a couple of commissions as well!

My very lovely friend Katyboo has an equally lovely mother, Sue, who took a shine to my painting of a large jewelled beetle and asked if it was for sale.  I was very torn - I wanted to keep the painting (as I wasn't sick of the sight of it yet) but I also actually want to try and make some money from my paintings if possible so didn't want to pass up the opportunity of a sale.

I pondered.  Then decided the easiest thing to do would be to paint it again, and this time I could customise it to the size Sue would prefer.  I discussed this with Ms Boo and she agreed it was an admirable solution, so I painted the beetle again, but a bit smaller this time, and shipped it off to her in time for Christmas.  Hoorah! (I managed to get the photo thing to work this time so have now added the pictures).

I have decided to offer some of my paintings for sale, just in case anyone likes them enough to want to buy one.  Like I said, I've had two commissions - the first being the beetle and the second being a copy of a painting of a still life of garlic cloves on a windowsill (again because I couldn't bear to part with the original painting, so agreed to paint it again - this is not a habit I want to cultivate, though!), but as Blogger is being a bitch about pictures, there's no point just yet in putting up a photo of that painting but I'll try -

*Sigh*  okay, so that one worked.  I give up.  It'll be something technical...

But to get back to the point - I like my paintings, my art tutor likes my paintings, two other people like my paintings enough that they were willing to spend their hard-earned pennies on them (for which I am enormously flattered and extremely grateful) and, frankly, I don't have enough space on my walls to put them all.  So I've taken the plunge and opened an Artfinder profile and put 10 of my paintings up for sale.  These are the paintings that I'm happy to sell at the moment.  I have others that I've painted that I really like and want to keep hold of them for a bit longer; in a few months it's quite likely they'll join these ones.

Artfinder is a large, online gallery for artists to sell directly to the public.  As it's providing a service, it, justifiably, charges me commission, much like a traditional gallery would.  In this case, 30% and then they charge me VAT (20%) on the commission.  This basically means that I get about 63% of the asking price of the painting.  In other words, I have to decide what sum I would be happy to receive for selling a painting, then add 30% (& 20% VAT) on top of that and putting that as the asking figure.

I also had to include a shipping fee and it wasn't particularly flexible so I went for a middling sort of price.

What I'm trying to say, in my appallingly British, unable-to-sell-myself-for-toffee, roundabout way is PLEASE go and have a look at my profile, and if there's anything there that takes your eye, then feel free to contact me directly at kaz DOT jones AT btinternet DOT co DOT uk (you know what I mean) and I can offer it to you for 30% (plus VAT) less than the price on the website, and the shipping will probably be cheaper too.   Admittedly there's not very many paintings available at the moment, but as I'm painting all the time, I'm expecting it to increase over the months.

Anyway, I'd be grateful if you went and had a look, and any feedback would be most gratefully received.  I know they're not going to be to everyone's taste but I don't think they're too shabby.  I've seen a lot worse sell for a lot more...

I'm completely hopeless at doing the hard sell so I'll just do the embarrassed shuffle back off to my studio and start working on my next still life....

UPDATE - I think I've solved the photo problem so here are the pictures that I've got up for sale currently (These aren't the best photos - I couldn't get those to work, and I can't for the life of me get the apple one to show up any bigger - the ones on Artfinder are better, but at least you can get an idea!) -

'Apple' - unframed canvas, 20" x 16"

'Kiwi' - unframed canvas, 20" x 16"

'The Lich King' - mixed media, including freshwater pearls, Turquoise beads, dichroic glass cabochons.  unframed canvas, 20" x 20"
'Orange Flower' - Acrylic paper, A4 size, unframed.

'Parrot Tulip' - Acrylic paper, A4 size, framed.

'Bluebells' - Acrylic paper, A4 size, framed.

'Shortspur Seablush' - Acrylic paper, A4 size, framed.

'Empire State' - Acrylic paper, A4 size, unframed.

'Reflections (in a garden pond)' - Acrylic paper, A3 size, unframed.

'Still Life with Vases' - Acrylic paper, A3 size, unframed.

'White Starflower' - Acrylic paper, A4 size, framed.