Welcome to the art of curiosity; my personal amble through the worlds of art, crafts, books & all manner of other curiosities. You'll find examples of my jewellery & art work plus an account of how I'm attempting to confound depression & my bipolarity by pursuing my creativity. There's a lot of whimsy too; my mind set is distinctly frivolous at times!

So, Dear Reader, won't you join me on my journey?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Happy 1st Birthday Gussie!

Gussie (on the right) has gone from this...

to this...

to this!

Happy First Birthday Gussie!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Shedding tears

For the first time today, I used Google Earth to access some of the masterpieces housed in the Prado in Madrid. Looking at the 'Descent from the Cross' by Rogier van der Weyden in such close and staggering detail moved me beyond words. The stricken face of the swooning Madonna is a harrowing portrait of maternal grief. She's on my computer screen in miraculous close-up - I can see how van der Weyden painted the tears with shadows & highlights, yet on the other hand I can't. My brain simply won't accept that something this raw is artifice. Oh, the extraordinary power of art!

If you would like to venture into the Prado for yourself, this link will show you the way.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Why we live where we live - rooms with a view

As evening approaches, the sun turns the unmown heads of the long grass in the valley snowy white in the lens.

Remind me to show you some of our sunsets - our house faces west. We are lucky, lucky people to share our lives with the sky.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The great Kate!

I'm getting very excited as the utterly brilliant Kate McKinnon is adding the finishing touches to her DVD set, 'A Workshop In Fine Silver' Soon, I hope to lay my hands on a copy and suck all the lavish, luscious juice out of it. Kate's gifts as a teacher are LEGEND & as she talks and writes like an archangel, an extraordinary experience awaits you. I have all her books, including her latest, 'Sculptural Metal Clay Jewellery'. I owe you a book review for this volume and the accompanying DVD, but for the moment let me just say that it is SO magnificent that I'm going to be dictatorial and say 'go, buy!' I'm not on commission so this is an entirely altruistic prod. If you want to learn how to handle metal clay safely & sensibly and make deliriously beautiful, well-constructed jewellery, then this is the book for you. If you're interested in Wearable Art, then this book should be by your bedside because the lavish illustrations will deliver you into a trance fuelled by the most entrancing dreams.

I stick to Kate's books like a leech - is it any wonder? I learnt much of what I know about making jewellery from my copy of her 2003 Project Workbook (which is now in a ragged but highly venerated state) and now that she's releasing a set of DVDs, I'm going to be able to set her up on my computer & have Kate sit by me on the workbench. If I fall, I know that Kate will have answers for me because she thinks things through. I have a few books about metal clay, but most are simply a list of instructions which don't make many allowances for the questions of a beginner. I don't want, 'Do this, do that.' I want to know the whys and what-ifs and maybes too! I know from the DVD which accompanies 'Sculptural Metal Clay' how well Kate addresses the practicalities of a beginner's situation - I rejoice to hear phrases such as 'this might happen'. Kate drips confidence into your ear!!

And just look at the pieces that she makes...

What an extraordinary artist Kate is! Let her teach you too!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Having fun with a FABULOUS website!

I write like
Vladimir Nabokov

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Ha ha ha!!

Autism Study: Baby's Babble May Contain Vital Clues

Autism Study: Baby's Babble May Contain Vital Clues

I send grateful thanks to Jean Yates for alerting me to this extremely interesting article. Anything that might aid an early diagnosis is CRUCIAL!!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

'Think less. Draw more.' And seek out Danny Gregory!

More blog love!! Seth Apter of 'The Altered Page' (which is an immensely enjoyable read) is conducting a Buried Treasure 2010 collaboration in which he is encouraging people to search through their archives and repost some of their favourite articles. May I in particular point you in the direction of Danny Gregory's blog. The Slow=Know post is a particular favourite of mine - indeed a printed copy of it sits inside my Moleskine pocket.

Three cheers for Seth!!! Three cheers for Danny!!! And three cheers for Moleskine for putting pockets in their journals which is a throughly well thought out idea - I do so approve of thoroughly well thought out ideas! Anyone got any spare ones I can borrow?

Talking of archives, should you ever wish to look into mine, I've added a list of topics (or 'Labels' as Blogger rather irritatingly refers to them) that I regularly talk about, to the sidebar on the right-hand side. Go down past the list of places which I visit when I'm feeling curious, past my profile and there before you is my list of 'Labels'. Grrrr - I hate labels!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Book review, blog love & a patchwork chair!

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that my stress levels were on the increase again & that my brow was settling into a state of permanent furrow. I guess I could have solved this with industrial strength wrinkle cream & a chill pill, but instead I reached for a new book, 'Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists' by Carla Sonheim. Oh boy - THIS IS FUN! This book is packed to the brim with imaginative ideas designed to help you to learn how to develop your drawing skills & broaden your creativity. It's not a stiff drawing course - it's a lavishly illustrated fun factory, full of experiments & prompts that will inspire & feed you. It's so full of juice that I defy anyone not to find something that inspires them & sends them scampering off to gather up their favourite art materials. If you're in a drawing rut or feeling artistically blocked, then this book may well be able to coax your brain cells into exciting, exhilarating action again.

This isn't a children's book but I'm very grateful to have discovered it prior to the start of the long summer school holiday. There are ideas aplenty for each member of my Brood, whether it be creating imaginary creatures with 10 year Lula, developing illustrations & collage with Ellie or looking at life drawing with 16 year old Tom. I'm going to pack 'Drawing Lab' in our holiday luggage so that we can take it out sketching with us when we're out on the prowl in Devon & Cornwall.

As this book explores creative thinking in tandem with drawing matters, I think Carla's book will empower me to delve deeper into my imagination. It will be interesting for me to see anything 'rubs off' on my jewellery!

Carla's blog can be found here. Another art blog I'd like to recommend is UK artist Sarah Wilde's 'Curious Crow'. Sarah is another summer holiday saviour as she is currently on Day 17 of a Sketchbook Challenge which is so fascinating that the Brood & I are going to trace her journey as soon as they break up from school. Don't forget to check out the sidebars on Sarah's blog! There you will find links which will take you to her sketchbooks & art journals - I find her Non-Dom Hand Sketches both mind-boggling & enthralling! Go, see, enjoy :-)

Can I squeeze in a quick mention of a blog that sees me through moments of stress? Henrik Edberg's The Positivity Blog is a little gem that dispenses sensible advice that's easy to read & follow. It's neither preachy nor sanctimonious - I heartily recommend it!

And now for the chair....

Dear James,

Oh husband of mine! I know you won't probably won't read this, but if we win the lottery, please could I buy
the stripey Louis patchwork chair for my Shack? If I had this chair, I would curl up in it to read & you wouldn't see me for hours. Just think - you'd have the kitchen to yourself & be able to make as much mess as you desire whilst cooking. This chair by clever Kelly Swallow would keep me out of what's left of your hair ;-)

With love,

Your Shack Hag xox

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

New pen!

I'm not seeing eye to eye with photography at the moment so alas, I cannot bring you a picture of the iolite & amber necklace I've made which features a pendant by Kristie Roeder of Artisan Clay and a beautiful focal bead by Sarah Hornik. In the days of yore, I used to take photos in a tent-like set-up in which I could manipulate daylight with the magic of mirrors, but this voluminous rigging takes up a lot of room and there are currently too many demands on my workspaces for me to contemplate erecting a campsite on one of them!

I'm not as organised as I once was because I've filled life up with other things during my spell adrift from the world. There's my mark-making for one thing. I prefer not to call the mess I make 'drawing'. I LOVE to make marks, but as I don't want to make myself bitter & resentful for not turning in the perfect, presentable work I think of as drawing, I stick with mark making & my search for that one perfect, zen-like line that we can all achieve every now and then. It happens. And when it happens, it feels remarkable - all puns intended!! It's why I enjoy blind-contour drawing - the pressure is off and that line you've been longing for, seems to offer itself up much more readily when your eye's on the subject and your hand is freed from the judgement of your ocular article.

This week I've been making marks with my new Pentel Pocket Brush Pen which is used to extraordinary effect by such wonderful artists as Roz Stendahl. I've used brush pens before ( hello Sakura), but this is a real wayward beauty which offers a different experience to the others I've tried. I love it for it's a real Zen pen but it's going to take some time to get used to it.

Here's me struggling with my new pen, trying to get to grips with Gussie, our border terrier puppy.

What's with the neck?

Going loco - I backed myself into a corner & ran out of paper!

Forgive me for slipping in a ghastly old photo of a pastel of mine from days gone by, but for the sake of family record, I can't have Gussie in this post without also including the best friend a lass could ever have had. A beautiful girl - no longer by my side, but forever in my heart!

Gorgeous George

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Ellie ...in the blink of an eye!

Just when did she go from this to this?

I turned my back for a second and my baby's been & gone & grown into a woman. Just how did that happen?

British Mummy Bloggers

Visit British Mummy Bloggers

I'm in the Autism Parents Group, but there's lots more to browse & fodder for me to feed on! Come on over!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Confessions of a bead fondler & colour junkie!


I had my wrist grabbed today! And, as is usual when this happens, it was because I was sporting some rather delectable beads. Clare Scott's dazzling 'Continuum' art glass beads arrived in the mail last week ( along with some other dazzlers) and I was so entranced by the way these beauties toy with the light that I set my heart on making a chain bracelet. As I'm a bead-fondler & a colour-junkie, I have a habit of holding art glass up to the light in order to suck up the colours - with the movement afforded by chain bracelets, they're an ideal vehicle for captivating, light-manipulating beads.

There's a tender aqua & an exhilerating purple at work in these beads (which sadly I couldn't adequately capture in my photographs, but Clare has, so scoot off to her website or Etsy & take a closer look). These colours tickled my memory bank so into the bead trays I dived and I surfaced with a collection of ceramic beads by Emma Ralph. I then scattered handfuls of silver and rainbow amethyst tubes into my lap and started work on the bracelet which you now see before you.

The lady who grabbed my wrist made my day! Having your jewellery examined in such a complimentary fashion is a boost and a half! On so many levels, creating jewellery is a therapeutic occupation & I thoroughly recommend it!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Break-up!

Saucy Pendant

One enjoyable facet about creating your own jewellery is that you can freshen up your jewellery box whenever you wish. Haven't worn that bracelet in an eon even though the beads are a dream? Then take it apart, Dear Reader and revive & revamp.

This is how Saucy came about. I was looking at some delicious borosilicate beads which were languishing in a pair of tired earrings that were buried in the bottom of my jewellery box and the cruelty of my neglect finally shamed me into setting them free. And wouldn't you know it - as soon as I had liberated them from their old setting, a fresh idea occurred to me & I ran to my bead trays and got out these gorgeous saucers by Emma Ralph. I now have a pendant whose colour I revel in so much that, when I'm not wearing it, it's on permanent display in my study. It's a zinger!

Roll up, roll up, roll up. Head on over to Jean Yates' blog & read about her first selection of favourite jewellery designers. 'The Jean's List' is to become a regular feature on her blog and I'm looking forward to reading it immensely! What Jean doesn't know about jewellery design could be written on the back of a gnat so join her followers and make sure you don't miss any of her posts. I'm extremely honoured & bowled over to feature in her first selection which also includes Naomi Fujimoto, Cynthia Thorton & Margot Potter - how's that for glamourous company!!

So, keep reading her blog because next time, it might be you!!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Tearing my hair out!!

My computer is behaving very badly & thus it's got to go to the doctor for a few days which is infuriating as I was planning to share some photos of my bead trays & assorted tins of titivating titbits with you this week. That would have meant looking at ravishing work by such art bead luminaries as Emma Ralph, Laura Sparling, Beverley Hicklin, Melanie Moertel, Sally Carver, Helen Brodt-Savage, Heather Powers, Melanie Brooks and many more.

I also have a rather tasty bracelet to photograph which features beads by Emma Ralph & Clare Scott, together with that Saucy pendant I've been talking about. But alas, my plans are blighted.

There's no doubt about it - this is a bad hair day!! I hope to see you very, very soon!!

By the way, if you're ever looking for a tin to store your semi-precious stones or silver findings in, why not pay Emma Bridgewater a visit? There are things in her shop which, in my humble opinion, are irresistible!

The Kinks -with thanks to the Rock CHICk ™

My dear friend Jean Yates found this for me on You Tube . Bless you dear heart :-) Sing-a-long with me & Ray - here are the lyrics!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Kinks

The Kinks

During the recent Glastonbury Festival, I was lazing one 'Sunny Afternoon' & singing along with Ray Davies. Julie Fountain's beads were on my mind as I was planning to make a variation of one of my Leather Garland necklaces using some of her summer-themed beads. It suddenly struck me that the most obvious name for this knotted necklace was 'The Kinks' !

Lilac Garland

Whilst you're here, if you want to join me in a rendition of 'Waterloo Sunset', here are the lyrics. I could warble this when the summer grass in the meadow was taller than I!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Neckwear & three cheers for UK art bead makers!


A sterling silver wire & leather necklace featuring not one, not two, but three sets of beads by UK glass artists Laura Sparling & Josephine Wadman. Laura's conch shells and Josephine's scallops & decorated rounds are partnered by a set of Laura's famous 'Kamino' beads together with a smattering of wood for added organic accent.

Coming soon... 'The Kinks' featuring beads by Julie Fountain of Lush Lampwork & a rather saucy pendant with beads by Emma Ralph. Three cheers for UK art bead makers!!!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Sorely missed - Beryl Bainbridge

Beryl Bainbridge (21 November 1932 - July 2, 2010)

I will never understand why this wonderful English novelist didn't win the Booker prize. There's not a single book in her oeuvre that I don't treasure. She was one of our brightest & our best.

Namaste Dame Beryl! I hope you meet Samuel Johnson & all your other boys in heaven!

Rocking the Rafters with Jewellery News!

I really enjoyed Rodrigo y Gabriella's set at Glastonbury last weekend - was it truly just a week ago? They also played there back in 2007 which was my first introduction to their music. Here they are playing 'Vikingman' - I LOVE Glastonbury crowds!

If you want to dance all day, these two will fill you with jumping beans. I'm performing my bi-annual Shack studio muck-out at the moment and Rodrigo y Gabriella are rocking the rafters for me!!

I've also been making jewellery using beads by Emma Ralph, Josephine Wadman, Laura Sparling & Julie Fountain. There's a saucy pendant, a funky leather & Lush Lampwork necklace which goes by the name of 'The Kinks' and some beach babe drapery which features beads by Josephine & Laura. When I finally pack my hoover away, I'll unearth the tripod & get clicking.