Tuesday, 30 June 2009

June Desktop Background

My photographs this month have been dominated by the fabulous oil seed rape in the fields out the back so, just before the month changes, I bring you a new desktop background.

To use 'June' as your desktop background simply open the image using the link below, right click on the image when it opens and select 'Set as Desktop Background'. The image is for your own personal use and I retain the copyright, thanks! (If you just right click on the image and set as background you'll get a rubbish pixelated version!)

Starting up your Business

As some of you may know from a previous post I was fortunate enough to have a consultation with a creative business advisor when I had decided to become self employed. He gave me a wealth of information, much of which I'm still working my way through. Now that the school term is nearing an end I know I'll have more time to further develop the business side of my work and thought I'd share with you some of the links and tips given to me as I revisit and revise my plans.
  • Business Link Starting Up Huge amounts of information and the best place to start for those of you in the UK. Business Link offer twelve months free support to those just setting up in business and they are definitely worth contacting for guidance and opportunities in your area.
  • PEST analysis provides a framework for considering your environment before starting to plan your marketing activities.
I'm going to be focusing on stocking my Folksy jewellery shop whilst working on my painting and doing up the studio - we've just collected litres of white paint from a kind fellow freecycler so it should look refreshed soon, although R has talked about painting downstairs as well, so we might be in for a summer of decorating!

When school finishes work on my website begins in earnest, I'll keep you posted!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Florence Friday

On our last full day in Florence this year we started the day with a visit to the Giardino dei Semplice, a botanical garden maintained by the University of Florence. Containing over 9000 plant specimens the compact gardens were enchanting, even more so due to the thunder storm rumbling overhead!

I've added some new prints to my Artfire studio including two ttv images taken in the gardens. There is space for one more image in my studio and I 'm going to work on a photograph of the tumbling yellow roses as they were so beautiful and I still love Ellen Olenska - but not the blonde Michelle Pfeiffer version!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Ali Bali Jewellery

As you may know I was fortunate enough to win not only a groovy hat from Hats and More but this gorgeous pair of silver clay earrings from Ali Bali Jewellery as well! If you haven't seen silver clay before you must check out Alison's beautiful jewellery ranges and she is here today to tell us a bit more about her work:

1. Would you introduce yourself for readers who are new to your work and tel
l us what got you into creating?
I'm Ali, owner of alibalijewellery. I have shops on Folksy, Etsy and Dawanda. Working from my home studio in Edinburgh, I create a range of contemporary silver jewellery for women. I started making jewellery just over two years ago as a way of relaxing and the hobby quickly got out
of control!

2. You make and sell a range of gorgeous jewellery, what are your favourite items at the moment?
My favourite item is usually my most recent creation, but I think overall my favourite is my range of silver crochet bracelets. I love the sheer variety of styles I can create with these.

3. Are there any influences on your work? What and who inspires you to create?
I admire the work of several Precious Metal Clay artists, a particular favourite is Hadar Jacobson, her jewellery is amazing! I love colour and so this features strongly in much of my work.

4. Describe your creative process - when and where do you like to work? Background music of choice? Company or alone? Snacks to help you along the way?!
I am supposed to work in my spare bedroom/studio. I mainly work at my dining table though with music on in the background. I prefer to work alone, I get a bit bashful about creating in front of others!!

5. Where do you sell your work?
Online I sell on www.alibalijewellery.folksy.com and www.alibalijewellery.etsy.com and www.dawanda.en/shop/alibalijewellery
. I am also a regular face at craft fairs in the Central belt and Borders of Scotland.

6. How long have you been self employed?
Oh... how I wish I was solely self employed!!
One day maybe. In the meantime I'm actually an HR Project Manager for a global bank.

7. You kindly answered many a silver clay question from me, what would be your top three tips for those just starting to make and sell their jewellery?
a) If you are opening an online shop, take the time to produce great photos of your products, have a look at other shops selling on the venue and see how they photograph their jewellery. You are unlikely to sell anything with poor photographs.

b) Don't sell anything until you are confident that you have mastered the technique you are using. You don't want customers coming back complaining about faulty goods.

c) Be realistic in your expectations. Don't expect to open your shop, sit back and wait for customers to arrive. Jewellery is a tough market, you will have to work hard to publicise your shop.

8. Do you have a favourite blog / website which inspires you?
Hadar Jacobson again, fantastic website. I love reading the blogs of some of the other UK sellers on Etsy and Folksy. Autonomous Artisans is excellent!

9. Have you any suggestions for books which have helped or inspired you? To do with your craft?
Sorry, I'm like a stuck record!! Hadar Jacobson. Tim McCreight and Sheri Haab do great Precious Metal Clay books which are excellent for beginners.

10. Do you have a motto?
Where is the wine?

11. Lastly (phew, I hear you cry!) would you be so kind as to let us know three of your favourite handmade sellers so we can all check out their work.
I love Emma Baird's beads, find her work at www.thelittlebeadshop.co.uk

www.lizardsjewelry.etsy.com features some amazing precious metal clay work!

www.maggiecook.folksy.com does lovely handknitted clothing which I aspire to own!

Many thanks to Alison for this contribution and for the lovely earrings!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

One Hundred Followers

As of a few moments ago I now have one hundred followers on Twitter, thank you kindly to all my followers! It's a funny old thing, Twitter, but I've found some great sites, helpful information, worthy causes and hilarious videos through it and it is so good to receive a joke or brief word of encouragement when you are busy working away. It's a bit like the office banter you miss when you go self employed so cheers everybody! Same again next week!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Florence Friday

Having confessed my resemblance to our dog, I feel I should restore a little dignity to my blog and talk about the wonders of Florence again. The diptych of said dog and me features a photograph of me taken moments after spotting our first coypu along the River Arno, hence the somewhat exaggerated, toothy grin. I do not always look quite so, well, puppy like!

Our night wanders through Florence were fully splendid and I'm so glad we kept a journal as well as taking photographs. I've been flicking through it, in all it's lovely pen and snapshotto glory and couldn't help but laugh at one of R's briefer entries:

"Carousel in the Piazza della Republica, much to Laura's joy. All illuminated and horsey."

And it was!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

It's official. . .

I look like our dog.

Wee puppy Marley, rescued by the fabulous people at the Dogs Trust, is getting huger by the day and the jokes and the giggles over my parents now having a ginger dog to match their ginger daughter continue. The rescued pets group over on redbubble had a photo challenge around the theme of pets who resemble their owners. Now, whilst not officially Marley's owner I thought my family would have a chuckle at my entry, seems the voters did too as it won the challenge! If you look closely you can even see Marley's 'glasses', they aren't as striking as when he was tiny but they are definitely still there.

Marley is currently causing havoc at home after having his necessary boy operation he has now managed to chew through his stitches whilst still at the vets, destroy his lampshade-style collar to chew through them again at home, gone back to the vets to be stapled (sorry to any male readers wincing at this point) and is defying the laws of sedation by running around like the loon that he is!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Florence Friday

I love this image swiftly snapped while walking across the Piazza del Duomo, especially the group enjoying the balcony! A few weeks ago I started creating a mixed media piece inspired by this photograph using four small (roughly 7x5") canvases and treating each in a different way. The upper left is still blank, the upper right and lower left so far has a black and white version of the image collaged on and acrylic paint applied and the lower right has been painted in acrylics. It is a sample piece, all part of continuing to develop my painting techniques and I'm really enjoying it! It is on hold at the moment while I work on my jewellery for our first fair at the end of the month, which deserves a quick plug . . .

Starting tomorrow Creative Open Workshops based in the Custard Factory in Birmingham will be hosting handmade fairs every Saturday in June, we'll be there on Saturday 27th June and hope to see you there! If you are handy to Birmingham and haven't visited the Custard Factory before you really should, it's fab! On Saturdays there is also the Vintage Flea Markets and with the Handmade Fairs for this month you simply must go!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Hats and More

My new hat!

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to win this beautiful orange, crocheted hat from Folksy seller Hats and More (also known as Beanie Hats) by entering a give away on her new blog and now I have the pleasure of introducing you to the lady behind the hats:

My name is Anita and I have been married to Craig for eighteen years and have three lovely children. My husband has been very supportive in my venture and helps out in the kitchen at really busy times.

I started learning how to knit and crochet at the age of five and have not stopped since. My first piece was a pony tail hat which had more holes than anything but I am glad now that I continued.

Out of all the things that I make I especially enjoy making my 1920's flapper style hats. I start off with a ball of wool and take it from there, adding feathers and flowers to co-ordinate.

Gorgeous teal 1920s style crocheted cloche hat

I am inspired by what I see around me, in the shops, on tv and in magazines. I use little bits of things that I see whilst I am out and use it to make something. I work from home and make my items while watching tv or listening to the radio. I manage to get more done while the children are at school, with mid morning snacks of chocolate biscuits to keep my mind working.

I sell my items online and up until recently sold them in a local boutique which had to close due to the credit crunch. I have my own dedicated 'wool' room, it's hard to open the door with the amount of wool that I keep in stock.

My top 3 tips for people just starting out would be:
1. Chat in forums and blog on a regular basis.

2. Take good photographs of the items that you are trying to sell, think about the background and lighting.

3. Give a brief but detailed description of the item.

My motto is keep on trying and never, never give up or lose faith in what you do.

My 3 favourite shops on Folksy are:
Jolicious - love her jewellery

Wee - her t-shirts are great

Many thanks to Anita for taking the time to contribute to my blog and, of course, for the fabulous hat! Visit Anita at her blog or Folksy shop and enjoy the range of super hand crafted hats and more!

Sunday, 7 June 2009


This is what I've been busy making this week some watches and earrings as requested by the lovely Learning Support ladies! All ready to go and next I have to make as many items as is physically possible for our first venture to a fair in three weeks time! More on that soon!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Florence Friday

Santa Maria Novella is known, chronologically, as the first great basilica in Florence and, after working our way out of the train station of the same name, it was the first great building we saw on our first walk through the city.

The looming facade of green and white marble is stunning in both size and decoration including the billowing sails from the Ruccellai family coat of arms - top left image. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to photograph the interior of the church which feels hugely lofty and very different in style and atmosphere to the facade which was completed some hundred or so years after the church's completion. The amount of paintings, frescoes and sculptures within one church is almost overwhelming and truly fascinating especially the frescoes in the choir depicting the elements of the lives of the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


Today has been a day when I have loved being self employed, I woke up and did some work online, whilst chatting to my sister in Shanghai on Skype, time differences mean this would not have happened if I'd have been in school today. Then, after breakfast, we took the cameras out into the back fields where the oil seed rape is now nearly as tall as me! Returned, hot sticky and yellow to have a shower and discover my watch faces had arrived. Tweaked and listed a photograph from this morning on my redbubble gallery, ate lunch with R in the garden then spent the afternoon making watches.

Silly hats, no sunburn, depth of field and bumble bees out the back of May Cottage

Monday, 1 June 2009

Holiday at Home

Last week we went back to my home land! I love Northern Ireland and it was a fabulous week of catching up with my lovely family and friends, walking, talking, eating, frolicking, walking and eating some more! As always I didn't have enough time to see everybody but will be back again in August. On our first weekend we walked from the Giant's Causeway to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which, depending on which book or website you consult, is a walk of between nine and a half and eleven miles long. After completing the walk we are convinced it is definitely closer to the latter. During the walk I spotted this tub in a field and am now wondering if there is an alternative available for humans!

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