Monday, 28 December 2015

2015 New Years Bead Resolutions in Review

Although I've been stupidly super busy, I have a few days off ahead of me and a determination to get around to reviewing my New Years Bead Resolutions for 2015, there are only two... how hard can it be?

My New Year's Bead Resolutions 2015
  • To book myself another Lampworking Lesson - At the start of this year it had been 18 months since my first (and only) lesson.  I wasn't going to set myself any more than a "1 session resolution" as I wanted to see if I wanted to continue any further before committing myself.  I also needed to check out if my shoulder would physically let my right arm be in a position to hold a glass rod.
  • To spend less in 2015 than I did in 2014 - At the start of the year I wanted to reduce my jewellery spending in general.  I knew my bus would take up a large proportion of my income, and I didn't set any complicated way of doing this other than it being less overall.
I did a review in July at the mid-point and I was well on track with both resolutions - so what happened in the latter part of this year?

To book myself another Lampworking Lesson
Considering it was as simple as booking myself another session I was well under way by July, I was renting bench space in a fab jewellery workshop and even had some of my own basic kit and glass stock.

I'm still not sure I can believe how much difference another 6 months has actually made...

Bird's Eye View of my home "Studio Space" from August 2015

Six months later... and I have my own studio space set up at home, my own kit and even my own kiln.  I guess I did like lampworking after all!

I could write an entire blog post on any aspect of my lampworking and in the New Year I will keep my promise and tell you all a bit more about it - each month I learn something new and there is another tale to tell!

This month I have been busy learning how to core my beads with a one piece silver lining.

One of my beads cored with 1 piece silver bead lining

This week I'm trying out my very first glass fuse... or "bad coaster project" as I have named it.  As usual I've just jumped in; so I am expecting a coaster with very bad bubbles in; having read the appropriate chapter after I started firing it!

To spend less in 2015 than I did in 2014 
At the halfway point this year I was doing very well on this goal, although I did hint that it may get a little less controlled in the months that were to follow...

Alex Cramariuc - Elements Silver Bead Collection

My first slip was the gorgeous Elements Set from Alex Cramariuc, an absolutely beautiful set of heavy silvers that marked the start of my spending spree.  Half of which I've not even told you all about yet.  In fairness, I must point out that my Halloween splurge was actually diverted holiday funds after my mega virus, but it all still needed counting up for the final tally.

In the second half of the year I did spend more than the same period in 2014.  However due to my exceptionally good start to 2015, where I was considerably more constrained, I did actually finish the year by spending less than in 2014! I didn't even scrape it; it was by a wide margin, which, er, probably just highlights why I needed to cut back a bit...

So what's the plan for 2016?
I don't really have one for now, I shall try and finish the year by not buying any more jewellery and spend more time on making some - that sounds like a good enough plan to follow for the next few days... I might just manage it!

Did you set yourself any goals for this year?  What happened?
Will you plan for 2016?

Saturday, 12 December 2015

My Crazy Life... All the B's!

Life on in with Mars can always be a little chaotic but these last few months have been more so than usual...

Being a Secret Santa
This week I've been a Secret Santa - well once I found a pineapple (it's a cocktail thing) and as my partner lived nearby I turned up in person complete with a Santa Hat with bells on, well once I'd found out where she'd moved to... I did say it was chaotic didn't I?  So glad she was in; I could never have got that pineapple through the letterbox!

My Secret Santa lives in France, and after a chaotic week at work (hunting pineapples in strange cities before meetings), it was just the best thing to sit down and open a whole host of very carefully selected goodies - my partner knows me so well!

I am in love with how France Italy* packs it's Trollbeads, it was the most beautiful packaging and such a lovely gift unwrapping experience...

Italy just has the coolest Trollbeads packaging...

Lucky spoilt me received the recent glass Halloween Bead - Trick or Treat, and the new Love Dragon which is clutching a little heart.  I love asymmetric beads, so the dragon has found a very happy home here with me and I can't wait to incorporate the glass onto a bracelet for next year.

*although my Secret Santa lives in France, she shared with me that she bought my beads in Italy and it's their fabulous packaging; so my apologies to the Italian retailers... it's your packaging that ROCKS!!

Bead Buying Bonanza
I've been very naughty with my bead buying, I think I lost sight of my budget at the back end of the Summer - I've actually forgotten what I've told you all about and what I haven't!

There was a glut of artisan beads, both glass and silver, from some of my favourite designers and some newly discovered artists too.  Brand wise there's been Elfbeads, X Jewellery, Story, the fabulous new Black Friday beads from Trollbeads (Midnight Brilliance) and quite a few preloved Trollbeads stones and the odd chain thrown in for good measure.

Some of the new beads that have made it onto a bangle!

The downside to all of the chaos is that I've had very little time for bead play, so I have a ridiculous amount of lovelies just sat waiting to be made into bracelets and put onto bangles.  Apparently it's not just me as I have a few friends who are in the same position - although I am partly to blame in one case...

Bead Making Bonanza
...because I've been making too many beads that have found their way into her hands.

I'm really enjoying playing with glass; currently I'm learning how to finish my beads by manually lining them with silver tubing in one solid core, rather than gluing in two end caps.  

I can be a bit shy with showing my beads, but I really love the photo I took of this bead using a new bit of photography kit - here it is before I put the silver core in...

I think I actually held my breath when I cored this one, as it was one of my favourites out of the last big batch of beads I made.  Erm, I must confess I've lost a few beads along the way whilst I'm practising.

I'm away with work and quite busy in general at the moment, so poor old Curling Stones for Lego People is having to take a bit of a backseat at the moment.  So please know it's not a lack of interest on my part, as I love writing and chatting with you all - it's just that my daily life is getting a little too chaotic to keep to a regular writing schedule at the moment... but there will always be something to read at least once a month!  Even if that is how busy I am!

Would you like to know more about my journey with making beads?

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

So what exactly was #HBAlPorto all about?

Writing is something I normally do solo, but every now and again I meet up with the lovely Hull Bloggers, a local (ish) group of folk who also write, tweet, review and tell stories too.  I always look forward to these meet ups as it's an opportunity to connect with other bloggers.

The Summer Meet was at a local restaurant on Hull Marina called Al Porto.  If you follow me on Twitter you may have wondered what on earth happened to my timeline as it was full of the hashtag #HBAlPorto everywhere, accompanied either by photos of groups of people or (generally) empty food wrappers!

So what did we do at the Summer Meet? Well chat and eat were high on the list, along with try, try, try things out!  Blogger Meets are a good opportunity to try things that you may not necessarily have heard of before, or are well known, but you've yet to experience them!

Above is a photo of my empty Mango Chia Pod from The Chia Company - an example of something I'd never heard of before, and that are now on my shopping list whenever I fancy a quick boost.  I've yet to try the Coffee Bean one but that's next!  They can be bought in the UK in most of the main supermarkets as well as Boots and Holland & Barrett.

An old favourite of mine are Lush.  They were hosting a stall at the event so lots of testing and demonstrations and we were all given 3 products to test at home.  Mine were their "Don't Look at Me" face mask sample pot, "Granny Takes a Dip" Bubble Bar for the bath and the "Yellow" Fun - all 3 were hits and as usual there was enough for 2 portions from each.

As a non-beauty/fashion/lifestyle blogger I always appreciate that Hull Bloggers are big on food; so there is always something for me to be interested in product wise and our 3rd meet was no exception.

As well as the lovely food and drink from the restaurant that Al Porto kept supplying us with to sample throughout the meet (and yes Al Porto is worth a visit if you've never been!) there were plenty of things to bring home to try out...

My absolute favourites were the Ryvita Crackers, if you are the person who hunts out the water biscuits in any cheese biscuit selection these are the top of the league table in this style of biscuit - there are SO good (and I'm very fussy about my cheese biscuits).  Handily they are wrapped in 4 individual packs so no worries about them going stale - not that they lasted that long in our house... okay it had nothing to do with anyone else I ate them ALL.

I was less fussed on the Ice Tea this time around, but I'm not a big Ice Tea drinker, my other half really enjoyed it though.  We fought over the Kettle Chips, great flavours as we've come to expect from Kettle (not had a bad crisp off them yet) and we both enjoyed the Chia Pods... the chocolate from Choc on Choc and the Border Biscuits were both hoarded by me and it was a strategy worth employing - delicious!!  I've just checked out the selection from Choc on Choc and I think there may be a few Christmas presents to be bought; the Igloo and Penguins are so cute!

Both Choc Shots have been in use ever since the meet, the Chocolate Orange didn't last long, but I've managed to hang on to the Coconut one a bit longer... I've been drinking these with milk in whisked up hot chocolates, used on sliced banana in a bowl for a sweet treat and I also love these on wholemeal toast - you can do a whole lot more with liquid chocolate as they are very versatile.

From the The Garden Pharmacy I've enjoyed the Miel Honey shower gel (no photo) and from NSPA  we've been trying the Coconut Shower and Bath gel, a big 500ml bottle which is lasting ages (you don't need much per shower/bath).  Nspa is available exclusively at ASDA - some great 2 for £4 offers at the moment, so I might pop in later this week and get another 2 bottles to try!

We're also using the Wisdom Quantum enamel protect toothpaste which is lovely, the Nspa Face Scrub (nice but not my skin type) and a Baylis and Harding body lotion and a shower gel (which I think is currently in my travel bag - so no photo).

As per tradition there was a raffle raising money for The Eve Appeal which raises awareness of all five gynaecological cancers (Womb, Ovarian, Cervical, Vulval and Vaginal in case you were sat there trying to figure them all out).  Their web site contains lots of useful info and we raised £227 on the day, well done us!

I won a couple of times on the raffle, my favourite was some great nail varnish from Paul & Joe!

The Raffle was commentated by Lewis-Duncan Weedon, who as well as being a Celebrity Stylist, a Celeb Ambassador for the Princes Trust, a fashion/style/beauty writer and presenter, a total handbag and jewellery nut... he can also manage a cracking line of wit and repartee whatever the source material; I genuinely giggled throughout the whole raffle!  We've met a few times over the course of Hull Fashion Week and Blogger Events in Hull and it's always a pleasure to see him.

Sadly as these things do they had to come to an end, we had to call in reinforcements to get us all home due to HUGE selection of products to try in our Goody Bags of which even now I've barely scratched the surface.

The one discount card in my bag that I made sure I used immediately was from Personal Planner. This is my second order with this company and I love them!

Personal Planner Website

I ordered another diary for next year, going a tad smaller with the "mini" this year as I don't have much room in my bag, and another of their square notebooks (which I am currently recording kiln temperatures and glass recipes in for glass bead making).

Everything else, I am slowly making my way through, there may be a Part II or III to this at some point!

Do you ever meet up with like minded people for a hobby you are involved in?

DISCLAIMER - All raffle prizes and goody bag products were supplied free of charge,
all food and drinks from Al Porto were paid for by the Bloggers attending.

Monday, 16 November 2015

What do you mean it's Monday again?

I sometimes have no idea where the time goes at the moment...

One minute I was like "Yay it's the weekend!" and the next I'm preparing for a full on week of the day job.

This weekend I've been sorting out some of my own lampworked beads and trying out some different coring materials, only one cut on one finger yesterday so I've been doing quite well!

The last two days were a lot more fun than last weekend which looked something like this... then I bathed the kitchen in a dayglo orange light...

But I'll save that story for another day!

Really I was just popping in to say sorry I'm not around much this month as I am busy getting my little studio table set up and learning how to do a lot of things I never knew I had to know!

I'm also stalking the postman as my Elfbeads Deal of the Year package should be arriving this week - so excited!

How is everyone else? Let me know what you're up to...

Monday, 2 November 2015

Alex Cramariuc Elements Series Bracelet

I've been an admirer of Alex's work from the start - so it was no surprise to me that when he designed the Elements Series I fell head over heels with the design of these beads and the story behind them.

To read the original preview on Endangered Trolls -  just click on the link to open a new window: the full story is in the comments... but don't forget to come back!

Alex only produces a set amount of beads at a time, then the stock is replenished when it runs out, but once so many have sold he retires the design - all elements are in stock at the time of typing so if you do fancy any of these now is a good time to buy them.

Quick peek in August when I was out and about

I did feature a quick peek at this bracelet back in August but I've held off showing you it in full as I've been making my own glass to go with these, and I still had to make one final bead.

Like many things it was on my to-do list but it took a bit longer to get around to it, obviously Lurgy 1.0 and 2.0 didn't help, and I didn't want to put the full pics up until I could replace my temporary bead with the one that was supposed to be on there.  Problem now resolved!





I find it hard to choose a favourite as I love them all, but I think AER probably has the edge for me, well today at least!

I took way more pics than I needed for the post so I could also show you the glass beads too.

I love this bracelet, it's a tricky one to put on as firstly the silvers are quite big for my smaller wrist.  I only wear a 17cm chain with a 2cm lock so there's a bit less "bend" than I'm used to. Secondly I've also used the Trollbeads Sun Moon Stars lock which has to be the most awkward lock I've used to date; however I love the design and it complements the bracelet so I shall persevere with the lock for now!

What do you think to Alex's Elements Series?
Do you like bold silvers in general?

Monday, 26 October 2015

A Different Kind of Halloween

I was convinced that I would need to break up last year's Halloween Bracelet* in order to make another as there were so many "must have" beads on that bracelet and I love the combination of black, orange and green!

*actually in my case an all year round bracelet - bats and skulls are not just for October!

OHM's lovely Deadhead Bead arrived just in time!

Then, being stubborn I decided to try and do something completely different with my haul of new beads - mixing them with beads that are currently "off bangle", available and perhaps some that have not seen much action lately!

This is what transpired, it is totally NOT what I had in mind when I ordered my new beads!

I went for a completely different colour palette of soft pinks and purples with metallic blues, hard stone and a sprinkling of soft black just to add some contrast.

The detailing in OHM's Deadhead bead is fabulous and you can just see the chain peeking through the eye and the teeth; I can't wait to try this on a coloured leather bracelet!

Another stand out bead for me is Elfbeads Everscale silver.  I love the sweeping curves that are not neat and even, and when you find the sweet spot for it on a bracelet it really *pops* - yes I know that sounds so cliched but it actually does!  Here I've used it nestled in between Trollbeads Blue Tiger and the original Aurora bead.

New to me, but an older Trollbeads Halloween bead is the Spider, it tends to spin on a bracelet looking like it's about to start creating a new web any second, it's a gorgeously detailed bead for those of us with a fondness for our 8 legged friends!

Another new one from my haul was Redbalifrog's Book of Spells, a  different design front to back and lovely "bookmark" detailing on the top and bottom of the bead.  Here it's between my Trollbeads Blue Hematite and Aurora Stripes, and to finish off this side of the lock; another of my favourites... one of my retired Trollbeads Zodiac Stars in Onyx.

My glorious new (to me) Redbalifrog Frog Lock, I've had my eye on this lock ever since it was released and I finally have one.  Longer than my average locks (think Big Fish/Flower in Trollbeads terms) it adds length to my bracelet but nothing I need to worry about.

Trollbeads Three Monkeys is another old bead, but again one that I've only recently picked up and not really used yet.  Great detailing as is often the case with older silvers, and it complements the same level of details on the new Trollbeads Heart Catcher (or more recently rebranded Wicked Web?).  A Spider on one side and a Heart on the other, either way, it's becoming a firm favourite of mine!

Incidentally on the Heart Catcher / Wicked Web shown above you can just about see that the heart and the spider are lined up in the same spot!

Another new silver (I really was on a shopping roll) was Cyclops Skull from Redbalifrog, I fell in love with this as soon as I saw the campaign images; it's just as glorious and full of detail in real life as we've come to expect from Redbalifrog.

Finally Trollbeads Silver Path of Life is seen here in between the Valentine bead from 2014 and the Aurora Flower bead.  I've barely used the Valentine bead but I love the contrast here between the copper hearts and the skull!

I had this bracelet as a Work in Progress when I first photographed it late at night to show some friends - but in truth I've not changed anything about it from my late night bead play.  All I needed to finish it was to see it again in daylight to realise I'd cracked it first time around.

What do you think to my new take on my Halloween Bracelet?
New era or should I stick to my beloved orange, green and black?

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Double, Double Toil and Trouble

I'm having a Victor Meldrew moment here... a glorious 5 days of feeling much better after Lurgy 1.0 finally gave up defeated after our epic month long battle, and then I went down with Lurgy 2.0 on Friday...

An unexpected visitor who came to see
what I was up to last week... I think he heard about
my new Redbalifrog Lock!

So far it appears to be a faster, quicker version so I'm hoping it's also a shorter version and that I might be sane & healthy by the weekend.  I really don't fancy another 4 week stint - I have plans and a life to get back to!

As a result of Lurgy 1.0 I indulged in my Redbalifrog Wishlist starting with the Dragon Lock that's been at the VERY top of my lock wishlist for years.  This was shortly followed by the Frog Lock from the 2014 Me'Lange Collection and two of the charms from the Myths and Legends Collection that debuted earlier this year: Book of Spells and Cyclops Skull.  Which you might notice is doing a headstand for the photo, bear with me, it's been one of those weeks!

Look what happens when you're stuck at home ill!

In the background you can see I'm catching up with my rubber links from X Jewellery, the not so new but gorgeous Khaki colour, with more on the way now I've seen the colour in person!

I also wanted to show you what's been on my wrist this last week or two, a slightly belated delivery of beads that have gone straight from parcel to bangle.

Scott Bouwens Glass Beads

Two gorgeously deep red and black beads from Scott Bouwens - if the name sounds familiar to Trollbeads fans, Scott was the designer of the Rocky Beach Kit!

These weren't the only beads that arrived, nor my only Scott beads... but it's time to have another Lemsip and I'm flagging a bit.. so I'll leave you with just these for  now!

What new things are you looking forward to?

Monday, 12 October 2015

Story by Kranz and Ziegler - Watch Charm Review

When I first heard the news that Story would be releasing their watch charms to the UK market I was really excited to turn my bracelet into a watch... it was 1 year later when I finally got my wish!

Photos really don't do this justice but I will try...

The charm is silver coloured high gloss polished steel with genuine shards of mother-of-pearl and with the bling of 12 Swarovski Crystals.

It has a hoop on the back in the same way as any other button charm, so you just slide and twist on to the bracelet.  As they are a snug fit twisting them on makes it easier - less friction and less chance of causing any damage to the bracelet, once on they stay put!  Just twist off when you decide to change your design again.

I've styled my watch a few different ways since I got it but I kept coming back to the watch and heart on my black lambskin below.

I only popped into the shop I bought it from randomly on the off chance whilst I was passing... they had 3 more designs in stock at the time.

Story do offer a much wider range than these four designs - you can click on the link at the top of the post for a much more detailed look at the ones that were released to the UK market last year; the first two in the photo above were part of a much more recent collection.

Sadly though my story doesn't have a happy ending... buyer beware!

My battery ran out and needed replacing, as they do!  As my normal watch battery had also run down I took both to a shop to buy some new batteries.

My battery was changed by the shop in both cases, but they were not impressed by the Story watch charm at all - as it was hard to get the back off, and almost impossible to put it back on again.  They showed me what they were talking about so I could see for myself... I had to agree with them on that score but told them to go ahead and change it anyway as I really liked the watch.  That was my mistake...

The design of the charm as a watch is, in my opinion, not great in terms of being able to change the battery, something that is fairly critical to owning a battery powered watch - my watch charm was in fact damaged when the back was eventually put back on - the face was cracked and it stopped working all together!

I took it back to the original shop I bought it from (well within the 12 months), as after talking to fellow Story fans I discovered I wasn't the only one who had been disappointed by the lack of a practical design - indeed others had returned theirs for a refund.

The original shop would not refund or issue a credit, as the battery had been changed by someone other than them, and they did not believe it was a bad design.  Story would not refund or credit but would repair it (at my cost) after I'd paid for the charm to be sent back - but couldn't say how much it would cost until they'd seen it in person.

So given that I don't think the design is up to par for using it as a watch in a practical sense, I've decided to sadly write off my £69 - and not spend any further money posting it back to Story to get a quote for repair as I do feel I would be throwing good money after bad.

Ironically the original shop I bought it from, and everywhere else I shop in person or online for Story are also dropping the line.  So although I could pick up another watch charm at a fraction of the price I paid originally - I'd still be left with nowhere to change the battery lest I void my warranty!

I've really debated writing this post at all as generally my jewellery brings me joy, and this whole episode has left me feeling both angry and upset in equal measure.  However having enthused so much about the watch charms on the blog, I feel I should at least share my experience and leave you to make up your own minds - hopefully my experience is in the minority!

I've never had any quality issues with any of my other Story charms, I love the brand to bits and I'm really sad that so many shops in the UK are dropping the line; I do think it's the best of it's kind for that type of bracelet and charms!

But my advice to anyone who has bought a watch charm would be:
Make sure you take it back to the original shop you bought it from
when the battery needs changing - just in case!