I come from a line of women who make stuff - my mother always has something on the go, and always has had. I can remember back to the 1970s when she used to do flat pewter work, embossing the dark grey metal to create placemats and mirror frames. Then there was upholstery and a brilliant thing she used to do with large brandy glasses - she would glue stuff into them like bits of natural cork that looked like miniature tree trunks, dried grasses, seed heads, dried flowers and then add real (but dead, obviously) butterflies, then glue a clear round flat piece of glass over the top to seal it all in. I can remember we used to have to travel to Brighton to a shop that sold these butterflies (also beetles, that sort of thing) that people could then put in frames, or maybe they were already in frames...whatever.... The butterflies would be flat when she got them but she worked out that if you held them in the steam from a boiling kettle, the wings would start to fold back up, so she would hold them there until they looked more naturalistic. They were lovely but I can't remember if she sold them or what she did with them. I don't think she even kept any herself otherwise I'd put a picture up to show you but I'll ask her when she's back from snowbirding around Florida and Jamaica.
At the moment she takes picture frames, mirror frames, small chests of drawers, flowerpots, wooden trays, metal trunks, pieces of furniture, and decoupages them. This is extremely laborious and involves painting everything cream, then cutting out designs from wrapping paper, napkins, anything paper-based, gluing them onto the item and then varnishing it several times over. Look:
Wooden tray with Hydrangea design
Metal trunk with ivy design
Lovely, aren't they? She sells them at craft fairs but also through Black Sheep, a shop in Midhurst, West Sussex (you can get my jewellery in there too).
One of my mother's sisters, Marg, who lives in Canada is also extremely 'crafty' and has done most things over the years - I believe she's focusing on quilting at the moment.
I have a cousin, Karla, who is currently growing vegetables and herbs, then making oils and such-like from them to sell at farmer's markets.
My maternal grandma was also very hands-on and used to sew, knit and cook fabulous meals. So there's definitely something in the genes (but seemingly only on the female side for some reason....)
Over the past few months I've taught myself to crochet - I bought a 'kit' off eBay for a couple of quid which consisted of a crochet hook, a ball of violent lime green wool and some photocopied pages of a teach-yourself-to-crochet manual. I took these with me to Budapest to keep myself occupied. I persevered but found it quite difficult to understand what I was meant to be doing via written instructions, so I just practiced doing the...um...stitches? knots? what do you call them? Stitches, I suppose. Well, anyway, I just kept practising them just to get used to manipulating the wool and the hook, regardless of what I ended up with. What I ended up with was this:
Somehow I kept losing a stitch at the end of each row and, if I had continued, it would end up being triangular. So I put it all away and didn't think about it for a few weeks.
Then, just after christmas, I wondered if there were any instructional videos on YouTube or Videojug (this is a website that has nothing but instructional videos on it, for practically anything you can think of - it's great for recipes). Of course there were! So I started again and can now make a mean Granny Square.
I'm almost done making a cot blanket for my new niece/nephew (due at the end of January). These are the squares laid out - I'm currently crocheting them all together but you get an idea of what it will look like when finished:
And, hell, yeah, I'm feeling pretty smug about it! The whole thing has become quite addictive - I'm having to force myself to do other stuff first, with the promise of more crocheting as a reward. I wake up in the night thinking about colour combinations. This is what it was like when I first started making jewellery - ideas would suddenly occur in the small hours and my brain would start spinning. I think I'll do a blanket for our bed next....
And the other thing I'm doing now is making what I've decided to call 'window jewellery'. This is glass that has been full-fused and tack-fused using a combination of clear and dichroic glass to make light-catchers that you can hang from window catches or dangle from the knobs of kitchen cupboards, in fact anywhere where the light falls. I started a few weeks before Christmas by making an abstract, vaguely snowflakey/xmas tree-y sort of shape:
This shape is mostly clear glass but dotted about are small pieces of clear dichroic glass which show colour when the light shines on/through them:
I then experimented with making 'proper' star shapes and using dichroic glass that has a black base. This works nicely but has to be hung where the light shines on the front in order to show the colours properly. I made three of these to give to family and friends (including the ever-lovely Katyboo - she posted a picture of the one I sent her, which is just as well because I forgot to take a picture of it before I sent it, d'oh!). This is the one I kept for myself:
I'm now having a go at different shapes - I made a large heart shaped one:
Then thought it might be a bit too big, so have done a couple smaller. This is one of them, I realise there's nothing to give an idea of size, but it's about half the size of the bigger one:
The concept works well but my kiln is not happy in this very cold weather. A kiln is basically nothing more than a small oven that gets fucking hot. Not just 'hot', you realise, but 'fucking hot'. I cannot overemphasise just how hot that is. But, like an ordinary kitchen oven, every kiln gets its hot and cold spots. In mine, the back left corner is most definitely hotter than the front which is against the door. This means stuff can fire unevenly. If the ambient temperature of the room the kiln is sitting in is quite warm, this shouldn't be a problem. But mine lives in the garage where, currently, it is fucking cold. Not just 'cold', you realise, but 'fucking cold'. I cannot overemphasise just how cold that is. This is resulting in glass fusing too much at the back of the shelf, and not quite fusing enough at the front of the shelf, so I have a couple of glass hearts that are too smooth and rounded at the top:
but the edges of the bits of glass at the other end (the pointy bit) are too sharp.
I will put them in again, but facing the other way in the hope of evening it all out, but it's a bit of a pain, nonetheless.
Never mind, I have to get it right because 'pain' is not what I want to be causing my customers because I have decided to open an Etsy shop to sell these lovely things. I've got a name and everything but I'm not telling you yet because, until I get the firing sorted, there's no stock. But watch this space and I'll make a big announcement when it's all up and running. And then I'll close it all down 6 months later when I don't sell a single thing.....!