Thursday, December 23, 2010

ON DOING THINGS THE HARD WAY

My mum always said that if there was a hard way to do anything, even as a little girl, I would find it. I once read somewhere that this is a classic Sagittarian characteristic.
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So, when I decided it was time to sell some of my home-made jewellery at a craft fair for the first time, I decided to do it in a foreign country, with only a modest grasp of the language and in the middle of winter.




An outdoor food stall at the market.



It happened like this: my friend Nicole in Le Grand-Pressigny mentioned that there was a really nice Marché de Noël at Ferrière Larçon in the Loire every year about two weeks before Christmas. This seemed like the ideal opportunity. Christmas markets in France are wonderfully colourful, jolly and festive affairs. And with it being near enough to Christmas but not so near that everyone had done their Christmas shopping, surely this was perfect timing. So I asked her to find out if she could get me into it.

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(Just to explain, I thought trying to get a table at a French market for myself would be extremely difficult from my home in the UK.)
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The atmosphere inside the church was festive and jolly despite the bitter cold.


This proved to be frustratingly difficult. Nicole left many a message for the organisers of the event and had no response. Time was ticking by and by October I still had no idea if I would have a stall or not. I had quite a few pieces that I could sell but would need to produce more to make a reasonable display of items for sale. On the other hand, I didn't want to make too many Christmassy items because if I was not selling at the craft fair, what would I do with all of them?


The variety of really nice home-made items on sale was enormous. This stall was all nice and cosy in the marquee.
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In November the contact finally replied to Nicole's messages saying that all the invitations to stallholders had already gone out, implying that only people who had previously had had a stall were invited to attend. In which case, how would newcomers get a foot in the door?
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Then, right at the last minute, I received an email with an attachment that was the application form for a table. For the princely sum of 10 euros I could have a two metre table with one chair, an electric socket and the option of some kind of grill that I could use as a backdrop.


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I sent off the form with my cheque straight away and followed it up with an email to the lady who was the contact for the organisers, explaining that the cheque was on its way but would probably arrive two or three days after the closing date.

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Then I waited. Nothing happened.



My stall was at the end of this long wind tunnel - there was an icy blast every few minutes as somebody passed through the long curtains that led to the interior of the church.

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However, I got on with the job of creating jewellery for the event. I repeated a few designs that had been admired or sold in the past and made lots of new, Christmassy styles, focussing on red and black with lots of silver and a bit of twinkle. I had no idea what the other stalls would be selling or what might or might not go down well. Being snowed in at home at the beginning of December helped to boost the stock slightly !!


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The snow fell in huge quantities in Derbyshire and by the time the day arrived to set off for France, we debated over and over whether or not to risk the journey. The Christmas market was on the Sunday and we were intending to get to France several days before, making a bit of a holiday of it. In the end, we left home more or less as planned. The journey was largely uneventful apart from a couple of hours driving through a blizzard in Northern France. But we made it without mishap, although with nerves very slightly frazzled.


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What was more worrying was that by the time I left home I still had had no response to my email and the cheque for 10 euros had not been cashed. In other words, having put all this effort into the event I was prepared for the possibility of turning up to find no table for me at all. I considered phoning the lady organiser but speaking French on the phone is something I still find extremely difficult. I manage in a face to face situation because facial expression and hand gestures go a long way towards helping either party get a point across. On the phone I easily get completely out of my depth. So we decided to just turn up on the day and see what happened.



My little stall.
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The system worked !! As we pulled up outside the church where the market was held, with a boot full of beads, busts and boxes, a man with a clipboard and a list approached us and my name was on the list. What a relief.
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My friend Jackie was there to help and we had practised setting up the table and arranging things on my dining table at home the day before. Most stalls were ready to go when we arrived but within a few minutes we were all set and waiting for our first customers when the doors opened at 10.00 am.
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I quickly worked out that I had a table in the least favourable position in the market. I was expecting this - why should they give a good pitch to a newcomer? When the man with the clipboard told me we were indoors in the entrance to the church I was initially pleased but in fact an outside stall would have been better and one in the marquee attached to the side of the church better still. My pitch was in a perishingly cold area and the light was poor. In fact it was in something like a freezing wind tunnel. Those outdoors fared better when the sun came out and those in the marquee were positively toasty for a large part of the day.

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There were three other stalls selling jewellery. This lady's work had a more modern look than mine.

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Business was slow. In fact we observed that nobody was selling very much at all. I chatted with my fellow stallholders and we came to the conclusion that the event was mainly a good place to catch up with friends and enjoy a glass of mulled wine in jolly surroundings rather than a place to do some Christmas shopping.
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By lunchtime I was frozen through and the number of visitors dwindled as people drifted towards the food stalls. Jackie and I decided we would pack up discreetly about three o'clock and slip out before the market officially closed at five. I really didn't think I could face another four hours of advancing frostbite.
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But then, at about two-thirty, crowds of people arrived. Suddenly, as if by the flick of a switch, the place was buzzing. There was loads of activity around my stall and I made a few more sales and answered lots of queries. My business cards were disappearing fast. Sadly, if anyone was thinking they would look for my stuff in a shop in Le Grand-Pressigny, they would be disappointed - at the moment anyway.



Another stall selling some jewellery.

All in all it was a good and interesting experience. A few glasses of mulled wine helped to keep the chilblains at bay and put a rosey perspective on everything. I was pleased with the appearance of my stall and very pleased with the reaction from the French ladies to my jewellery. It was obvious from the sales I made that I was appealing to a certain age-group and that was fine by me. I would rather make things I like and would wear myself than try to make stuff I don't feel comfortable with. For now, anyway.
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I was very pleased too that I was able to communicate adequately with the French ladies, using my limited vocabulary, and glad I had swotted up on a few relevant words beforehand. Nobody seemed at all perturbed or suprised that I was English either, which was something I had worried about. Looking at the other jewellery for sale, my prices were about right, too.
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Would I do it again? Definitely, but at a warmer time of year and a different kind of event. One of my customers suggested that my stuff would sell well at a couple of other local markets so I will see how easy it is to find out about that. Apart from being the coldest for the longest that I have ever been in my life, it was a good day and a very worthwhile experience.


One of the items that did sell.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SNOWED IN AND BEADING


This was the view at the back of our house at 10 am today.


And this was the view at the front.
It's still snowing heavily.




We're snowed in !!
So who can guess what I'm doing today ??

Just as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining !!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

EXCITING TIMES


I am busy creating necklaces, bracelets and earrings for a Christmas craft fair in France.
I decided to take up one of those "free business cards" offers to have something to give people with each purchase.
Exciting times, and I must say, I am inexplicably nervous !

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

WINDOW SHOPPING

Some interesting ideas for jewellery designs spied through the window of a shop in Poitiers.

Interesting prices, too.
This selection seemed to be mainly black lava stone or agate, coral and hemetite.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

RECYCLED SURFBOARDS



A friend was given a pair of earrings by an aunt last Christmas. This lady usually gives lovely presents, often jewellery she has bought at craft fairs. Last year, the earrings had enormous dangles. My friend said they were like mini surfboards and they were much too big for her to wear. So she gave them to me to see if I could do anything with them.

No problem ! I used one of the dangles to make a nice pendant necklace, just adding some sparkly beads, and made a dainty pair of earrings to wear with it.

I could see what she meant. They would have been enormous as earrings but made a lovely necklace.




Detail of the surfboard pendant.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

JUST DOODLING

I recently bought these lovely big pink beads from Clare's Beautiful Beads in Belper, along with the disc beads. I was having a doodle and ended up with a design where all the beads happen to have come from the same shop, although I have had some of them for probably a year, just waiting for inspiration.



Just like any other hobby, designing is the fun part and finishing off is the fiddly part. I have quite a few part-made things to finish off. No doubt I will get round to it one day.




This is another doodle from a while ago.

I am waiting to be inspired as to how to complete the necklace.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

WEDDING DAY BLUES

I offered to make a necklace for a colleague to wear with her "mother of the groom" outfit next month. Her dress is a mixture of blues and greens, with an aqua colour predominating.




I partly made up a few designs so that she could decide what sort of thing she wanted. Mostly they were too strong in colour and drew too much attention away from the dress, I thought.


We decided on a minimalist design, including some of my favourite beads to use, crackle beads, shell and Swarovski crystals. Also some black beads to reflect the black bits in the pattern of the fabric and to blend with her black accessories.


She was very pleased with it. I have suggested that she wears it a few times before the big day so that I will have time to fix it if it falls apart - always a worry !!


Detail of the heart pendant. My colleague doesn't usually go in for too much glitter or soppy hearts but she felt it was ok to have one at her son's wedding !!

Monday, April 26, 2010

TRUE BLUE


Someone asked me to make them a blue necklace. I aked her what kind of blue and she said "true blue".

I wasn't quite sure what that meant but after a rummage through my bead box I found the bluest beads I had. She likes it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JACKIE



It's my friend Jackie's birthday today so I made this necklace for her as a present.







The birthstone for April birthdays is diamond or crystal. So I made it from rock crystal and hemetite with some matching earrings, too.





Happy birthday, Jackie from me, Nick and Lulu !!

Monday, March 29, 2010

SECONDHAND BEADS


These beads were given to me by a neighbour who thought I might be able to do something with them. I'm sure I will ! They are glass beads in lovely earthy tones.


I bought these beads for next to nothing at a secondhand stall at a craft fair last year. I love the old fashioned feel of the AB coated glass.
I am still pondering what to do with them but I'm sure inspiration will come soon, it usually does, at about 4.30 in a morning when I can't sleep and am dreaming of beads.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

TURQUOISE NECKLACE


A combination of turquoise nuggets and cinnabar with silver.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

INSTANT NECKLACE



Sometimes I can fiddle for ages with a selection of beads and somehow the design just doesn't seem to come together. Then other times the beads seem to sort themselves into something that works straight away.




When I spotted this large bead in my local bead shop I couldn't resist it (even though I have more than enough beads already and just needed a packet of crimps). A quick browse around the shop and I found the little strawberry quartz beads and the smokey quartz hearts that went with it so well. I added a few green Swarovski crystals and little shell beads I had at home to tie in the other colours and add a bit of sparkle. All done in one day before my purchases made it into the bead box.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A QUESTION OF INTERPRETATION

A colleague asked me to make another birthday necklace for her. The vague idea was for a messy necklace for someone who likes nature. So I was thinking shell, bone, wood and semiprecious beads. Then she added that she also likes sparkly things. Hmmmmm.




She also wanted a the birthday girl's name on it. As I was unable to get to the bead shop to buy the letter beads, she volunteered to fetch these for me. She also bought a selection of other beads that she thought I might put in the necklace. Now there's a surprise, I thought.



This is not what I had in mind at all. However, I added a pretty shell pendant I had picked up at a charity shop last year and some other "natural" beads of wood and shell - et voilà. A necklace for someone that likes nature and fairies, made from a mixture of natural and sparkly beads but pretty all the same.


I hope she likes it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

INTERNET SHOPPING




When I was recently unable to get out much, I did a bit of internet shopping and ordered some beads. Then these lovely beads from Artisan Clay plopped through the letterbox, all the way from America.



They are beautiful glazed pendants with some toning semiprecious beads.

I can hardly wait to get going with them.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BEADING AGAIN



Now that I no longer have to sit with my foot up most of the time, and I can sit at the table for long enough, I can get back to making some jewellery. Thank goodness.
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Having sorted my beads and being in the frame of mind to be sensible rather than indulgent, I decided to get on with finishing projects that were already hanging around. This is one I was doodling with a few months ago.




The beads are dyed shell, hemetite, Czech crystals and aventurine. The clasps and earhooks blend in with the hemetite circles and rondelles.

Monday, February 8, 2010

BEADING THE KIT



This is another kit that I bought recently from Celia at Jencel. I had fancied doing one for a while so, being confined to the sofa and she having a sale on, gave me the perfect excuse to buy one.




Detail of the way the beads are strung.


It uses three strands of wire of all the same length and the beads are strung so that two wires pass through each bead at a time, alternating which wire misses out, if you see what I mean. It's a very neat idea and produces a pretty, delicate and lightweight necklace. I'm sure that once my beads are sorted and I'm up to speed on my feet (literally), I will be making another one.


It's a very nice design and well worth the money. Well done, Celia.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

HAVING A SORT OUT

I have now got lots and lots of beads. They are not very well organised and it's so frustrating when you don't know what you've got or where you've put it. Rummaging through tupperware boxes of little plastic bags was becoming a pain and things were getting very jumbled up so I decided to have a big sort out. It's good for the soul anyway, like spring cleaning.

Bead storage is a problem, I find. Somehow I have ended up with a hotch-potch of boxes that don't necessarily stack too well. It would be nice to afford one of those custom-made drawer systems that are advertised in the glossy bead magazines but they are sooooo expensive.

Here are some of my current solutions.



These clear plastic bead boxes are ideal for small quantities of beads as you can see the colours properly. I have bought them for about £3 each from Hobbeycraft or John Lewis. Last year I swooped when they were "buy on get one free" somewhere.




These cases are less than £3 each from Focus. They're not quite so good in that the lids aren't completely transparent but they hold a lot of beads for the money.



I also saw these in Focus. Just over £5 for a pack of three boxes and they look as though they will hold plenty of beads and be good for findings, too. Filling them is my next task.

I spotted these ice cube trays a while ago. For less than £1 each they make a good recepticle for beads whilst work is in progress and I find they help with the tidying up and putting-away of beads when something is finished. I have to exert enormous will-power to do this, otherwise I end up with a box of mixed beads that would take hours to sort but otherwise just be completely fogotten and therefore wasted.

Monday, February 1, 2010

INSPIRATION FROM BOOKS

I love books. Always have. Fortunately there are lots of books on beading and making jewellery available so I have treated myself to some. I have also been given some as gifts and borrowed lots from the local library (although parting with these after a couple of weeks is hard!).




A friend spotted this book in a secondhand shop and bought it as a present for me. Miriam Haskell (1899 -1981) made costume jewellery for the rich and famous in the 40's, 50's and 60's.





It's full of fabulous designs. Some of them would be impossible to repeat using the basic skills I have but there others that have given me lots of ideas.





In the book, it's interesting to see how a very chic but simple outfit would be transformed into something quite spectacular by the addition of the right piece of jewellery.




These necklaces are some of my favourites. They would go perfectly with a "Carmen Miranda" outfit !!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

THE SUNSHINE AWARD


I have seen other people on all kinds of blogs getting awards and wondering how it worked. Now I have one, too. (This cheered me up no end on a grotty January day, feeling very sorry for myself with a gruesome-looking foot now the dressing is off.)

Thank you, the Jewellery Girl for sending it to me. Now I have to send it on, too!

The rules for accepting the award are :
  • Put the logo on your blog or within a post



  • Pass the award on to 12 bloggers



  • Link the nominees within your post



  • Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog



  • Share the love and link the person from whom you received this award

My nominees for the award are:

Saffies Blog - this blogger makes gorgeous beads and jewellery

Chelester's Beads - this lady makes lovely jewellery and is branching out on new techniques

Little Castle Designs - Sabine makes fabulous beads and lots of other stuff as well. If only I was even half as talented.....!

Bead the Change - Sarah does the sort of beading that makes me gasp because I know I'll never have the patience for it myself !

The Lone Beader - it was the poodle that did it !

Beadography - I can only admire her work - never in a million years could I do this....

Beads and more by Lois - this lady makes lovely jewellery

Beady Pool - great jewellery and that recipe for cheesey tomato spirals.......yummy!

I deleted this one from my list of nominees as she deleted my invitation from her comments !
Maybe she thought I was just spam !

Chameleon Designs - this lady makes lovely beads

Elca Designs - more gorgeous jewellery made in the north of England!

Ken Devine - I'm not sure if this really counts as craft work or how Ken will take this, sitting amongst all the ladies, but he's a painter with an ambition to paint forever in France, and a really nice guy, too.


That's the lot !!

I hope everyone is as chuffed with receiving their award as I was !!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

BEADING ON THE SOFA

I am confined to the sofa for a while, having had an operation on my foot. I can't sit at the table to do any beading as the foot has to be kept up.


If I had had more time to be more organised, I would have had several projects lined up to do on a beading tray on my lap but what with Christmas and everything........


I saw that Celia at Jencel had a sale on, including her beading kits so I ordered some. That was easy, then, I just tipped the beads into a bead tray, sent his nibs to get the tools and away I went.




This kit included a very pretty agate slice and all the beads needed to make the necklace. In the instructions the method for making loops was different from how I normally do them so I gave it a go and was pleased to find they mostly came out neat and evenly sized.


I made the necklace slightly shorter than intended and added a clasp of my own. I made some earrings with the unused beads.



Detail of the agate slice.