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.

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.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Don't Get Despondent

What a weekend! I attended a craft fair on Saturday which consisted of 90% jewellery stalls. Granted, it was advertised as a jewellery and craft fair, but most of us crafters with handmade items were only too aware that around 75% of the items for sale were bought in, and these were the goods that sold well as they were going at market prices. This is the gripe of many real crafters attending these events. We spend a good few days preparing for a fair, making, ordering in materials, pricing up, loading up the car, not to mention making all the domestic arrangements so that life can go on at home in our absence. I always take a packed lunch with me - I'm there to sell not to spend, and like many others I have a child in tow.

I also attended another fair on Sunday. It wasn't a great success but it was my decision to choose to attend it and the organiser is a new friend of mine, so I wanted to support her in her new venture. I take full responsibility for my decision to be there, and cannot believe that serious flack is flying in her direction from some crafters. A degree of maturity and a philosophical attitude is required when we don't sell much at craft events. After all, there will be more craft fairs to attend and more chances to make up for any losses incurred.

I started writing this with a complete feeling of self doubt towards my craft, my designs, the competition from others out there and the fact that I'd wasted the whole weekend, with very little profit to show for the hours (17 of them) that I spent, grinning inanely at potential customers, shmoozing, and talking about my work to people who probably didn't give a damn how to wire wrap a bead. but the upside is that I met some lovely people, Realicoul and Kitty Eden from Folksy for example, networked with fellow crafters, extended my mailing list for any craft fairs that I organise in the future, and was invited to two more craft events.

The despondency I've felt all morning hasn't gone away completely, but I've talked myself into realising that onward and upward is the way to go. Sitting for 17 hours, eating unhealthy food and socialising are things I don't do in my everyday life. Consuming a few green smoothies, a couple of days on my own devoid of humans and a good night's sleep will have me up and running as normal.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Garden Jewels

This glorious spring weather that we have experienced recently in the UK will have had many of us bursting forth from our winter woollies and out into the wild wasteland of our gardens for the first time in months, beating back the brambles as we attempt to locate the patio furniture. Keen gardener though I am, I have to prioritise the important jobs from those that can wait until tomorrow, so washing up, hoovering and mowing the lawn don't get a look in as I opt for basking on a sun-lounger and knitting up some silk/cotton yarn from my huge stash.

The peace and quiet in the skies is so noticeable without the continual thrum of the planes, and as I live only 3 miles from Manchester Airport that low and constant rumble has been conspicuous by its absence. So, while basking outdoors the lovely cooing sound made by my happy hens is beautiful and all the more audible. These 4 girls are Black Rocks, a cross between Rhode Island Reds and Pembroke Blacks, and they enjoy the sunshine as much as I do. On days like this they make a different kind of noise, a contented vibrating throaty sound, and they spend their day taking dust baths in the dry earth and actually collapse in a heap in the sunshine for an afternoon siesta.

While I was shovelling sweet smelling compost this morning I disturbed a beautiful common garden toad and had the chance to dash into the house, hunt frantically for my camera and capture him for blogsville before he knew what had happened. Garden jewels are there to be admired. I hope you find some too, wherever in the world your green haven is.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Al Fresco Studio

I have to confess to being a total sun addict. By April I'm desperate to soak up some Vitamin D and to feel the sun's rays on my skin. So this morning the sun was beating down on my garden. Off came the patio table cover, out came the clay and tools and as I peeled off 2 woolly handknits my skin breathed a warm sigh of relief. 'This' it shouted ' is the onset of summer! Get your kit off and start basking!' What is it about the sun that makes me so happy and buzzing with energy? I feel as if I've shaken the winter's shackles from my limbs and can be seen a leaping and a hopping like a demented lamb around the lawn, much to the embarassment of my pre-teen child! So a constructive morning was had by me.

This is what I made. These pieces will be turned into rings and brooches and who knows what.

And the energy continued and my hens made their 'happy' noises, as I potted up 14 tomato plants, tidied the garden and sewed up a couple of doggy sweaters for chihuahuas. The icing on the cake was an al fresco salad for lunch. Here comes summer, y'all. Forget the SPF30 and soak up those rays!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Big Deal

I've branched out with my makes and am now making doggy jumpers for dogs - not very sensible considering we are approaching summer, but I'm not a logical kind of girl. I've listed this cute handknitted roll neck dogs' sweater in my Folksy and Zibbet shops.

As I'm among friends here I feel the need to spread the word about Zibbet. A lot of you guys probably haven't heard of this site. It's based in Australia, but works in US dollars, but they have plans to have multiple currency options soon. I have had a shop there since the beginning of February and had only listed 6 items as I was focussing on my Gimme That Thing Folksy shop at the time. Consequently I only had 200 viewings in February, but Holy Moly, in March the viewings shot up to over 1300 without me promoting it at all - more viewings than I get in a month on Folksy with all the promoting I do. Apparently a surge in interest has occurred as many Etsy sellers have transferred their shops to Zibbet bringing their customers with them and raising its profile. It looks like things are just going to get better and better.

So here's the deal. Zibbet started enticing people to open shops with an offer of 500 shops at $6 then $7 a month with no commission to pay. Now the fee is $8 and when those 500 have all gone, the fee rises to $9 and so on. When you sign up, you get a referral link to promote the site and for each referral you get $1 off your monthly fee. So at present you need 8 referrals to have a free shop for life. When you join up you can contact me for help, but I'll be writing to welcome you anyway

If you would like to get yourself a bargain deal on a growing site, here's my referral link for you to use: