Welcome from Crafty Chicita

A big welcome to old friends and new. Follow my crafting adventures as I take you on a journey through the daily life of a creative crafter. Experience the successes and disappointments that are all part of my working day, but most of all, enjoy the ride.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Pneumonia? How the hell did that happen?

Late November and the Christmas craft fairs were upon me before I knew it. The last fair I'd attended was way back in July and I couldn't even remember how I usually set up my table. So I used a craft and vintage event as a dummy run and it was here that I got chatting to a young and outrageously talented cross-dressing silversmith. Fascinating though he was he stood way inside my personal space and I think that was the moment when the exchange of bacteria occured.

The following 3 weeks were frantic. I had organised the usual fundraising craft market with 36 crafters for a locally based charity and despite being promised as much help as I required the administrative assistant was more, so much more than more than useless. The snow came for the first time this winter and as craft fairs across the region dropped like flies I was determined that the show would go on. Said admin assistant became more conspicuous by her absence. We ventured out one cold and frosty afternoon to drop leaflets through local doors and had to stop after half an hour. She felt cold. I had a streaming cold but kept going for days afterwards as I had no choice. Correction - I could choose to not be bothered and let down a whole heap of wonderful crafters. That was not an option. Meanwhile there was another craft fair to attend, orders to make up and send out. The day of my fundraising craft fair arrived. Admin assistant and I had started to set up the tables the day before but she complained that she was tired. We arranged to start early on the morning of the event and get everything set up before the crafters rolled up, only she didn't turn up and I was left to flap around squawking like a headless-chicken. By the end of the day my voice had all but disappeared. The following day my child was to perform at Gorton Monastery with the school brass band. By now I had literally no voice, and sat about in a cold and draughty yet very beautiful building for hours. The snow was still hanging about and the temperature was -10C at night. One more craft event, an evening open-studio party at a friend's house meant standing around again in the cold, close to a smoky bonfire and my voice, which had briefly reappeared, did a disappearing act again. Two days later I was helping friends to move house, hacking and coughing away. I took to my bed later that day. Finally, my daughter's birthday party - not so much a party, more a gathering of 3 old friends from primary school which required no organisation on my part other than sticking pizza and Coke under their noses at the right moment. But what on earth made me go outside and wash the car wearing only jeans and tee shirt? I thought it was a warm day. I was shocked to find solid ice on the roof of the car. I didn't realise that I had a temperature.

So that brings me to last Monday when I just could not stay out of bed longer than I had to. I sent my daughter off to school, fed and watered, tried to get an appointment with the doctor only to be told that there were no appointments available until after Christmas and that I should head down to A and E. I could not get out of bed, couldn't drink and certainly had no appetite. My lungs were so congested that I had to sleep sitting up. By Wednesday I had made such a nuisance of myself on the phone that the doctor's receptionist miraculously found me a cancellation. I literally staggered to the car, and despite being in a state of mild hallucinations, enjoying the ever changing display of textures and newly invented colours on my bedroom walls, I managed to drive 2 miles to the surgery and back and crawl under the covers once more. My new challenge was to try to swallow the antibiotics the size of bullets whilst feeling nauseous. By Friday I was still not eating and felt weak and weepy. I was worried that the new snowfall would kill my tough old horse, Sid, who lives outside all year round. I'd not been able to travel the 7 miles to feed him for over a week and now found myself sobbing hearty tears at the thought of him dying of hunger. I phoned the farmer to ask her to feed him. She laughed and said he was fat; he'd be fine. I phoned my ancient old mother who also has a chest infection to ask her if she could post my two jewellery orders to customers, but she was suffering too and the snow had now fallen again. I phoned my sister who lives 16 miles away to ask her to collect our mother and look after her, as she refused to go to bed or even to sit down and relax. I was going to be responsible for the death of my horse and demise of my 89 year old mother simply because I was not well enough to look after them.

Today is my 7th day in bed and I'm underwhelmed by the offers of help that I have received from my family. As a single parent I have to feed the hens, the cats, the gerbil, the human child. My family has not offered to help. In fact my phone has not rung for 3 days. Pneumonia? How the hell did that happen?

Saturday, 13 November 2010

I Met The Dolls

If you are a regular on the Folksy forum you will already be familiar with The Dolls. Sarah and Laura are the dynamic duo behind The Dollhouse and have fast become prominent in the threads with their sharp and witty comments, empathy and understanding.

This afternoon my daughter and I got to meet them both and all their cute critters. One of their cats was networking on Kitsy (the feline equivalent of Etsy) while their crazy dog, Mylo, made sure that he was the centre of attention. It was so great to meet the people behind the online presence and The Dolls did not disappoint. They are every bit as wonderful in the flesh, and I feel like I've known them for years.

Here's a bit of Laura with a lot of Mad Mylo riding piggy back.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Busy Busy Busy - Two New Shops!

Blimey, I've really neglected the blogging thing lately, but here I am to let you know what's kept me out of your hair.

So I've at long last opened an Etsy shop and have some fabulous sterling silver wire wrapped rings and earrings lurking there, just waiting for a new home. Things are going well on Etsy. I've made a few sales and have had my items featured in 54 treasuries already.

Having got used to rushing around like a blue-arsed fly on a daily basis I found myself with an hour to spare last week so what did I do with that time? Did I chill out with a cup of tea and bar of chocolate? Did I go for a lovely walk through the heaps of October leaves just waiting to be kicked into the air? Did I take a long hot soak in a bubble bath? Don't be daft! I did what any craft-obsessed person would do and I opened another Folksy shop. This one stocks my funky handspun art yarns that are all softer and fluffier than kittens or bunnies, and I hope to add more wild and unusual wool as and when I spin it. The shop is called Gimme That Spin (did you see what I did there?) and I made my first sale within two days of opening. Feel free to get the sudden urge to knit someone a handspun scarf or neck cowl for Christmas!

I've also been playing with silver metal clay, an amazing medium that I just adore. I can use my ceramics skills with this stuff and have designed a few solid silver boho rings that are most definitely one-of-a-kind pieces which are now in my Folksy bling shop

Thursday, 16 September 2010

I Had Lunch With.....?

I've been busy opening my new Etsy shop! Oh yes indeedy, this shop stocks sterling silver wire wrapped rings and earrings and today I made my first sale! I have been promoted by one person in particular who, if you know your Etsy, is something of a star in many people's eyes and it is because of her amazing endeavours to selflessly promote newbies like me that this sale occured. I adore her wild and funky jewellery designs and have 'known' her for a while through Facebook but we had never met until today.

So, today I had lunch with ..... Vicki Diane. Yes, the one and only! As she was escaping the drab and cold climate of the UK and heading back to her home in warm and sunny southern Spain we had a chance to meet up at the airport for a couple of hours and boy, did we talk!! None stop natter as if we'd known each other forever! Let me tell you, Vicki is one sassy, sexy, raunchy, vibrant and gorgeously glamorous woman and always the first to help others. So I'm packing my bags at the weekend and moving into her spare room! If only!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Day Trip To Blackpool

My 12 year old daughter is too old to attend the summer play scheme this year so instead she was invited to work as a helper, reaping the benefits of free trips to the cinema, bowling, the museum and the big day out - a day trip to Blackpool. Needless to say it was a dull and dismal day but big fun was had at the Pleasure Beach fun fair. We did all the traditional Blackpool things - ice cream, donkeys, Blackpool rock, chips, fizzy drinks, deck chairs.

My thrill seeking child was on this horrendous fun fair ride that shot up into the air and shot back down again!

Hane 'em high! Poor meerkats!

A tradional Blackpool tram and the famous Blackpool tower lurking on the horizon.

The vast stretch of beach. When the sea goes out you have to walk a long way for a paddle.

Blackpool ain't Blackpool without the donkeys!

Under the board walk. All sorts of naughties used to and probably still go on here late at night, preferably when the tide is out!

Chillin' Chicita!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Lucky Break

It's hard to believe that it all happened a year ago today. I'd been looking forward to 5th August as the weather forecast predicted a hot week of sun starting on that date. My riding buddy, Ellen, and I went out for a lovely hack on our horses, down to the water's edge in Reddish Vale Country Park. We noticed that our horses were both a little skittish and took it slowly. I am a very cautious rider, particularly as my horse, Sid the Sod, is a twit who jumps at anything, even his own shadow, but for the last couple of weeks we'd been cantering up a field in the park, something that I did not normally do. On this particular day just before we went into a canter I noticed a large man with a large stick and 2 large rottweilers. Ellen led the way into a canter but Sid would only trot so with one kick I had him up and running, but he reared and accelerated, making me lose my stirrups and eventually my hold on the reins too. I screamed to Ellen to stop as Sid never overtakes the leading horse but he swerved and went into a gallop. By now I could see the whites of his eyes and I was bouncing about in a tight ball, trying to stay on him. After a quarter of a mile I came off him and still with my body in a tense state I landed in the long grass, the centre of my back taking the full force. My head, legs and arms didn't even touch the ground. I was not even winded. After a minute the pain started to kick in and the adrenalin rush had me jibbering nineteen to the dozen as Ellen told me not to move. As she phoned for an ambulance I had already made up my mind that it would take me 10 minutes before I was back on my feet and riding the horse to his field. It took half an hour for the ambulance guys to reach me, across a rough field, by which time I had hundreds of ants crawling all over me, up my nose, across my eyes and in my hair, and many of these critters ended up still with me as I lay in A and E in a curtained cubicle, all alone, still strapped to the stretcher, hungry and scared for 2 hours.

I was begininning to think that I had been forgotten when a porter came and asked if I was OK, went and fetched me a sandwich and lent me his phone so that I could call my 88 year old mother to collect my child from summer play scheme. 'I had a fall' I told her 'and I need you to take her home. I'll be back later this evening'.

4 hours after the fall I was wheeled to X-ray then into a ward where I was left alone for another hour and told not to move a muscle. Eventually a consultant told me that I'd fractured a vertebra and those words meant nothing to me at all. 'OK, so can I go home now?' I asked. They needed to keep me in for anything up to 12 weeks, I was told.

My tearful daughter arrived that evening. It must have been an awful shock to see me like that, although I felt fine, not ill, no longer in pain, just wanting to get home to look after her. When the lady serving supper came to my bedside and said to me 'Aw, did you know you'd broken your back when you fell?' the extent of my injuries hit me at last.

Being a vegetarian in one of the worst hospitals in the north west for 6 days was beyond belief. I was given chicken for each meal, remained unwashed for 3 days until I pointed this out and the situation was resolved when a nurse brought a luke warm bowl of water with a bar of soap half melted in it and left it just out of reach. As I was not allowed to move still I could not reach it and developed a horrendous rash all over my back. I won't even go into the bed pan issue other than to say that I was left on one with my back arched for one and a half hours on one occasion and I put my current back pain down to that experience. A night nurse gave me morphine on my second night there which I said I didn't need, then returned 10 minutes later to give it to me again, insisting that she had not already dosed me.

After 4 days I was allowed to move my legs. After 6 days I was fitted with a back brace, a rather Heath Robinson design with thick metal rods up the back and front and a kidney shaped plastic piece that stuck under the chin and rubbed the skin raw around my neck. Physiotherapists walked me up and down the ward for 5 minutes then left me sitting on my bed. I was dressed and out of there so fast, well as fast as I could hobble, and back in my own bed by that evening. I had lost over a stone in weight and was filthy and angry.

4 months later I was allowed to remove the back brace forever, and a month ago I was discharged from the hospital's 'care'. So today I have been a little emotional, remembering the event, my lucky fall. I was lucky, very lucky. I could have been killed. Worse still, I could have broken my neck.

I have taken this happening and turned it into a positive experience. At the time it happened I was struggling to sell my handmade ceramic pottery, but with a back injury I was no longer able to lift heavy bags of wet clay, and started getting interested in the lovely online bead shops while recuperating on my bed with the laptop. If I hadn't had the fall I would not be making jewellery. I'm thankful for my experience. It changed my life in so many ways. I no longer ride and miss it dreadfully, but I still have Sid the Sod, happy as a sand boy and stuffing his face in a huge field with his mates.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Incongruous Alpacas

Last weekend we ventured out to the Cheshire plains to collect some fleeces from an alpaca farm. I had planned to drop into the farm shop, choose a couple of fleeces and leave, all within half an hour, but best laid plans of mice and men.... So, choosing a fleece was not an easy task. The farm has 80 alpacas in a range of 21 different colours. Luckily the farmer had selected 7 colours for me to choose from, but if you know me and fibre you will understand my dilemma. I finally plumped for a creamy mink and a chestnut fleece.

We couldn't go all that way (a mere 14 miles) without visiting the fluffy alpacas themselves.

What an incongruous sight - 3 fields of these gentle, timid and weird looking creatures in the middle of leafy Cheshire, noshing on the summer grass and making the oddest sounds - a cross between a falsetto horse whinny and a bee.

These two little babas were only a couple of weeks old. So sweet. How we managed to leave the farm without buying an alpaca I do not know!

In the past few days I have handspun both colours seperately and they don't half pong of gents' urinals, until they are washed. Super soft and fluffy, the yarn is well worth the effort, as it's not the easiest stuff to prepare for handspinning.

Yes, I found my dream house, bang slam in the middle of a field of alpacas, next to a field of wallabies, only to discover that it is about to be demolished.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Some Summer!

Yes yes, I know we had 3 weeks of scorchio weather here in the rainy city of Manchester. I was out there, blinging like crazy in the glorious sunshine. But 3 weeks!! Just as I was beginning to assume that it would be fine to throw on the shorts and bikini top again the heavens opened and it doesn't plan to stop for at least the next 6 days.

Enough griping in true British fashion about the weather. Let's take the positives from the negatives here and have a look at what or who have been wriggling their way around my garden of late.

A Comma butterfly. I had to chase this little lovely around the garden for 10 minutes before it took a short breather on a white hebe, but it's colour is fantastic and I've not seen one of these here for 3 years.

Then there was this amazing Vapourer moth catterpillar that was having the time of its life doing a little wriggly jig on my outdoor table. A very ordinary looking brown moth but this funky dapper dude looks might fine in its gladrags.

I need help in identifying these brightly striped caterpillars. I've only ever seen them hanging out on ragwort and they are common as muck.

Ooh, is that the sun trying to force its way through those dark grey clouds? Must dash and get some Vitamin D!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Dye Hard

Following the wonderful yarn spinning workshop (see previous post), the obvious next step was to go to the natural and vegetable dyeing workshop, both classes conveniently run by my lovely friend Carol of Beetlefelt here in south Manchester. What a wonderful time we all had. Step back a few centuries and the neighbours would have been collecting dry wood in order to watch us sizzle on ye olde barbecue, as we made like a covern of witches, stirring our potent brews, cackling at the amazing spells that we had managed to put on our yarns and fabrics, and running around Carol's garden squealing with delight at the end results.

We used onion skins to produce the most unnatural looking vibrant mustard colour, with the aid of a tin mordant which helps the yarn to take up the dye but also causes a chemical reaction. We also produced a rather delicious smelling brew from blackcurrants and a salmon pink colour was produced by the madder root, famous for its use in yester year on the bright and not at all camouflaged jackets of the king's army.

The photo above shows my very basic handspun wool after dyeing. I love the fact that you can dye using natural ingredients that can be collected from the kitchen, garden or hedgerow for free, and the colours are unbelievable. Needless to say I am now utterly hooked on the witchy business of stirring cauldrons with bubbling noxious contents, and now that I have my own spinning wheel (oh yay, lucky lucky me!) there ain't no stopping me.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

My New Obsession

As if having an obsession for beads and more beads was not enough, and knitting and buying yarn and more yarn until my stash bag is full to overflowing, I now have a new obsession. Spinning - not that futile heavy duty static cycling exercise thing where you pedal like fury and get absolutely nowhere. No! Handspinning.

I attended a half day workshop at my friend Carol's studio in Chorlton, Manchester last weekend. First we inspected a Suffolk fleece to see which bits were best for spinning.

Then we learnt to card bits of fleece to get all the crud, dead beetles and bits of hedge out as well as straightening those curly dreadlocks.

We rolled the carded wool into rollags, which were then stretched out before spinning.

Then came the really exciting bit. Of course, if you aren't into yarn and don't have to cross the road to avoid a knitting shop just to save yourself hundreds of pounds, you won't find this exciting at all, but I know a hell of a lot of people who can talk for hours about a nubbly silk, mercurised pure cotton, baby alpaca or even camel yarn that they covet. So, the next stage was to spin the yarn on a drop spindle. This was harder than it looked as the darn thing kept spinning and unspinning until I got into a rhythm.

Finally, we all had a bit of a go on a spinning wheel. This was a little like learning to drive a car, with hand-foot-eye co-ordination going straight out of the window as the yarn whizzed through the machine's orifice faster than I could blink.

So, here's my first attempt at spinning. Truly remarkable and to anyone but me it just looks like something my cats brought in one night, but it is knittable. I have practised my carding and drop spinning technique daily for the last week and have seen a vast improvement. I no longer spin lumpy fat yarn.

Next step - a spinning wheel. I have one on order! This weekend I'm taking another course with Carol - natural vegetable dyeing. Her workshop schedule can be found at www.beetlefelt.co.uk

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Woozle Revisited

Well, what a first week in the Robins household Dinah formerly known as The Woozle formerly known as Dinah has had. She broke out in eczema last Tuesday as well as sharing her fleas with me, so the little critters were zapped straight away. She decided to go on a nil by mouth diet last Thursday and not a drop of food or liquid passed her lips, despite my best efforts. I offered her different flavours, textures and shapes, but no yummy morsel would tempt her to eat. She was wafer thin and looked as though a gust of wind would blow her into the air.

The fabulous heat wave arrived in Manchester on Friday and the sun enticed her into the garden. Initially she had me attached to a piece of string so I couldn't escape or get lost, or so she thought, but after half an hour I was realised from my bonds and allowed to make earrings while following her around the garden (not an easy thing to do, I can tell you, but said pair of earrings were promptly sold).

But the crash diet continued despite the heat. So, on Saturday night, when I was at my wits end after a very tiring but successful day at a craft fair, I told her to buck up her ideas or else it was back to the cats' home. Well, who ever knew that cats understood every word! Sunday morning found her making up for lost time, and she has been stuffing her cute little face ever since and gaining weight.

It's not all good news though. This morning I felt the biggest lymph nodes in her groin and whisked her off to the vets, to discover that the poor little lamb had extremely inflamed gums and a full set of bad teeth, all of which need to be extracted next week. A shot of antibiotics and one of steroids has boosted her no end, so at least I can understand the super-model diet phase she had adopted.

Despite the discomfort she must be experiencing, she has her own bolt hole, my tee shirt cupboard, where she disappears to when it all gets too much, although she hasn't gone there since her treatment this morning. She is settling in well, knows her way around the garden and loves hissy-spitting at Zebra and Dolphin whenever she gets the chance. Dinah the Woozle is in residence.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

City of Green

I bought a bike last week, mainly for my daughter to cycle to school on, a round trip of only one mile. On Thursdays she walks to school as she has a trumpet lesson, and so that lovely bike was just sitting there this morning looking forlorn and dejected. I have not cycled for around 25 years but let's face it, it's like ... well, it's like riding a bike. You never forget how.

I live in the suburbs of Manchester, the second largest city in the UK. I'm only 3 miles from the city centre which I avoid like the plague, but only half a mile up the road from my house is the Fallowfield Loop, a stretch of converted disused railway line that runs for miles and miles. This is where I headed this morning on a gloriously warm and sunny day, and this is what I found.

The peace and quiet was amazing. A few people were out walking their dogs and several retired gents were cycling the route. I met a lovely chap with his two small dogs and we got chatting. Turns out he is a creative type, writing, painting, alternative lifestyle and very interesting brain. Manchester never ceases to amaze me. How green is my city!

Monday, 17 May 2010

The Woozle Has Landed

In early December my lovely cat Norman died of stomach cancer, leaving his mum, Zebra, and his brother, Dolphin, searching for him for days. Eventually they cosied up together for a long cold winter. It seemed odd to only have two cats to feed. I've been known to have as many as five at one time, and so my daughter and I decided to visit the local cat sanctuary a couple of days ago and adopt an adult rescue cat. Off we toddled with the intention of bringing home an adult male or even a squeaky little kitten.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and Chicita are always altered by fate, and despite an overwhelming choice of both kittens and adults, it was we humans who were chosen by one lovely female. I was kneeling on the floor as she was let out of her pen, and she promptly made a bee line for my lap and settled herself down. Utterly confused after spending 2 hours getting to know all the cats on offer, and having not even spotted this quiet and gentle mass of black fur in a large pen on the floor, we rushed home to check that daughter's bedroom door closed properly, downed a cup of calming tea and pelted back to the cats' home, keeping our fingers crossed that she hadn't been whisked away by one of the many people perusing the feline collection.

The cat formerly known as Dinah is now officially called The Woozle, a never yet seen but most definitely existing weasel-like character from the Winnie The Pooh stories. Woozle settled in to her new room immediately, drank 12 gallons of milk, ate a few cat bikkies from our hands and settled down in a ball on the bed for the night.

How she could have been named Dinah, heaven only knows. This beautiful and graceful cat has eaten hardly anything since she has been here and is far from a diner. In fact she reminds me of a size zero super model who claims to have overeaten when offered a second lettuce leaf.

It's early days still, and she has just had her first grand tour of the house, met the other guys and done some amazing throaty gurgles. Her vampire-like fangs are huge, especially when she screws up her face to do the hissy fit thing. Zebra and Dolphin are not finding her a threat. After all, she is nothing but a small fluff ball that can't weigh more than an ounce or two.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Twinkle Toes

Every morning this week I've leapt out of bed to find the sun shining on my beautiful garden. Once my daughter has been fed and watered and has set off for school, I get stuck into a few writing briefs (my proper job) in the hope of getting outside and sitting at the table to make some jewellery before lunch time. However, the best laid plans of mice and women are always scuppered by some force greater than that of the mere mortal, and that big glowing ball of light in the sky miraculously runs and hides just as I'm switching the laptop to hibernate mode. Is this one of Sod's Laws or are the elements programmed to annoy? Another of Sod's Laws is the one that states that ten minutes after the entire contents of a washing basket is pegged to the washing line and the washing maid is comfortably esconced behind a bar of chocolate and steaming mug of tea, subtle drops of rain begin to fall, and go unnoticed by said servant for at least an hour before she scuttles outside to find a dripping mass of washing that is now wetter than it was when first pegged out!

Let's get optimistic about the great British summer, shall we? I have high hopes for summer 2010. It's been one hell of a cold winter. My five huge hebe shrubs will flower no more, devastated by the snow fall and persistent frosts. In the fifteen years that I have lived in my house I have never lost a single plant to the cold. So, seriously cold winters usually mean seriously hot summers.

Let's cut to the chase here. My witterings about the weather must be leading to something, I hear you mutter impatiently. Here's my suggestion. When the heat begins to rise, go barefoot whenever you can. Stroll around the garden without shoes, wander the house with your tootsies exposed. Barefoot life is so good for your feet, and strengthens the calf muscles. Now, I find that feet are not the most beautiful body parts but when appropriately decorated they can be turned into sexy features in an instant. What they need is a pair of Summer Barefoot Thongs, a kind of combination of toe ring and ankle bracelet. I first discovered these in my teenage barefoot hippy days, when my girly posse and I lurked around Fog Lane Park in Manchester, hoping to see the eye candy of the day, commonly known to us as the pink shirt gang. Man, those boys were cute! Shoeless and with black and green striped painted toe nails our feet caused quite a stir.

This fabulous foot bling can also be worn on your beach holiday as you dance across the sand at dusk, or for doing barefoot exercise like yoga, tai chi and Nia. If you haven't heard of Nia, watch this space as I intend to write an article about that very subject soon. Oh, and did I mention that these lovelies are available in my Folksy shop for only £13.50?

Friday, 30 April 2010

Hot For You

Last week I had one of the best days of my life. What a thrill it was to hold that powerful tool in my hand and be instructed by one of the nation's finest in her trade. She showed me the basics of this traditionsl skill that dates back as far as the ancient Egyptians, and it was not long before we moved on to the more complicated stuff, incorporating all sorts of little added extras. What an amazing experience and one that I would never have even considered doing let alone known about, this time last year. So, what exactly was I up to? Well, not what you might have been thinking, for a start. No, this was much better than that, although you can work up quite a sweat with this skill too and I did have to strip off some of my clothes in order to get it just right!

OK, enough silliness. I was at a lampworking class - a one-to-one day-long session with lovely Karen Baildon of Cheeky Cherub Designs over in Alderley Edge which is just 10 miles south of Manchester. She told me how she had started out in lampworking by attending a class in Adelaide and she needed to overcome her fear of the powerful torch before anything else. I didn't have a fear of the flame. Perhaps I am a closet pyromaniac or maybe it's just that I'm used to extreme temperatures as I have a ceramics kiln in my house.

Kaz has a funky little studio in her garden where there is space enough for two people to work. She showed me how to make a plain glass bead, before we moved on to making long thin strands of glass and twisted strands of bi-colours to use as decoration. I added dots to basic beads and poked holes in molten glass, refilling it with contrasting colours. We swirled, prodded and tweaked the glass all day.We also experimented using silver leaf, the effects of which are out of this world. Check out the large turquoise bead that I made - the crackly grey patterning is created using silver leaf.

The most important part of lampwork is to keep everything moving at the same time. The bead mandrel is held in the left hand and needs to keep twisting the molten glass and must never be too far from the flame as it will just crack and die if allowed to cool. Simultaneously the glass rod which is melting in the flame must be in exactly the right spot and also needs turning constantly, so the brain is coping with a metaphorical 'patting of the head with one hand and rubbing the belly with the other' kind of multi-tasking. Lampworking is not easy, but once I'd got into it, the hardest part for me was choosing which colours to use. Believe me when I tell you that Kaz has every colour under the sun, and then some. I told her that next time I come to her studio to play with molten glass, she must hide all the colours except my favourites - olive, ivory, orange, turquoise and black. Life will be much easier with that choice. But just look what I made - yes, mine are the ones on the lower string that aren't quite circular but don't they look handmade? Of course, Kaz's lovely beads are the round ones!

So now I have a new hobby that needs a special torch and clamp, propane, lots of rinky dinky tools and of course, oodles of glass in lots of different shades of the aforementioned colours, as well as pots of frit, silver leaf, mandrels and......

Check out Kaz's website for her gorgeous groovy beads and details about her workshops.