I can't believe I Iast wrote a blog post in March! I used to be so good at writing one every month but I've been slacking. The good news is that back in spring I finally got my workshop floor fixed after water ingress that left it a little, shall we say, 'spongy'. I took the chance to rearrange everything and now I'm much happier with the layout. I also bought two large metal cupboards, one to store bits and pieces and another for my little library of books.
Also back in April I received a new box of enamels from Japan. I stocked back up on the several of the colours that had run out and got lots of lovely golds and yellows among others. I'm out of Deep Sargasso Sea and Medium Benthic Blue already (which were new colours) and of the three Wisterias I only have the Pale Wisteria left!
Due to rising costs I will have to wait until some of the less popular colours sell a bit more before I can get more of the popular ones back in. The funny thing is, some of the less popular colours are absolutely stunning! I can only think that my customers don't get the full effect of them through a simple photograph. The lighter colours are especially lovely over basse-taille work.
I've added a photo of the current Nihon enamels I have below (and Hirosawa Direct Red). To make this board I simply bought some velcro and attached a little piece of velcro to the back of each enamel test strip. I know it's a bit sad but I just love looking at all of the beautiful colours, especially in the glorious September sunshine!
In other news, my friends Helen and Sue were married recently and we had a wonderful evening at their reception. I didn't know what to buy them but I was inspired to make them something instead. My husband Steve made the most beautiful little wooden ring box with chamfered edges and a little heart insert. He even made two little symbolic plaited copper rings which I tied together with blue ribbon to sit inside as placeholders. Meanwhile I enamel-painted a little copper roundel with a Tudor rose sitting on a bed of shamrocks (Sue is English and Helen Irish) which Steve inserted into the lid. I thought it was a gorgeous little box and I'm pleased to say that the recipients loved it. May you have a long and happy marriage!
Inspired by Steve's plaited copper rings, I decided to make a delicate ring band from silver wire (below). The wire I used was quite thin and it went a little wonky, but a friend of mine really loved it so I gifted it to her. I've since made a another braided ring which isn't as ethereal, but I made it from thicker wire and purposefully beat the crap out of it with a large hammer to make it chunkier. I'm probably going to bezel set a stone on it.
On the pet portrait side of things I have been commissioned to create four pet portraits - 3 cats and a dog - for a client's two sons. So far I have finished portraits of 'Tiny' (below left) and 'Dipsy' (below right). I used Carbothello pastel pencils on Pastelmat and I've really enjoyed using this medium which is relatively new to me. I'm completely sold on pastels now; they allow a painterly effect whilst also letting me get all the detail I want. And if I want even more detail I can use my Prismacolor pencils on top.
I've also been continuing silversmithing and I am so pleased to say that I made and sold my first wedding ring recently. It wasn't a conventional gold wedding band; instead it was made from sterling silver with two rabbits / hares chasing each other around the edge. It was the trickiest thing I have done so far. The rabbits themselves were made from 0.5mm wire and the height of the rabbits was only about 5mm! My patience was stretched but I managed to pull it off and I'm so pleased with the results.
While I was at it I also decided I needed to upgrade my photography set up. I bought a reflector and two small desktop photography lamps from Amazon and they have made a real difference, as did using my Photoboards, a little set of battery-operated fairy lights and a macro lens on my Canon. Apart from the camera and lens, the setup probably cost me about £60 altogether. Of course I still have to balance the whole lot rather awkwardly between my art desk and metalworking desk....some things never change!
Of course, since I last wrote the Queen has passed away. I've seen her twice: once passing by in a car in Whitehaven and once at Lowther Show. On the latter occasion we were visiting the show where Prince Phillip was attending the horse driving trials with his fell ponies (a fabulous local breed of pony that I learned to ride on) and we were mooching around the various stallholders. I was probably on in my teens.
Suddenly several big guys in black suits passed us by and it was then we realised the Queen was only a few feet away from us buying dog beds! My mam was enthralled and stood watching the her. I felt a bit embarrassed by us all staring at this poor woman who just wanted to do a bit of shopping, so I actually looked away. My mam said the Queen smiled at her. Looking back she was probably well used to being stared at by people so now I wish I had smiled at her too.
Anyway, that was just my little anecdote. Whether or not you like the monarchy, the Queen has done a lot of good for our little island.
See you soon!