Saturday, 29 March 2014

Bead well ..... with your 5 a day!

I have been on a bit of a fruit and veg bead making stint this week, no real reason, just have.  This is a blog post on the fruit of my labours.
I am getting ready for the annual Flame Off event, a huge collection of lampwork glass artists, beads, torches, glass rods and tutors willing to demonstrate and share their skills.  This will be my 3rd year attending with my beads, every year has been a great success and although exhausting as I stay for the 3 days, 2 days of the Flame Off and the 3rd day is the bead fair in the same venue, I meet wonderful people, customers that buy my beads, new friends and old friends.
The down side is that I am now busy making beads to take with me and am unable to offer them for sale in my Etsy shop or on my Facebook Izzybeads page or on Ebay, but I can show pictures here and there when I have wired and strung the beads and taken photos with my new found skills!
First up is Chilli's and flowers.

Then we have bunny and carrots.

Oranges and lemons...

...and finished off with cherries, grapes, blackberries and of course a glass or two of home brewed wine!  Why else grow fruit??

I did have some strawberries but they sold so I will just have to make some more, I love my art!
Right I am now off with the daughter, gulp, another drive out in the country to photograph old and abandoned houses, won't be long before mine will look like one of those if I don't start dragging the hoover round and maybe a quick polish or dust.  Daughter is doing A Level Photography and 'abandoned' is her project, its been fun driving round and seeing some fantastic places, I really must do the blog on the wonderful house we found abandoned in Mordiford Woods in Hereford, all black and white, wattle and dab walls, very spooky but brilliant.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Improving on improvement..

The other day I was faffing with the camera and although I did actually improve the lighting, I was still in the 'dummy' camp and still having problems.  I wasn't totally satisfied with the 'fuzzy' looking edges on my beads, I wanted clean, sharp images and that wasn't happening.

This is one of the photos from the other day, lighting not bad but its just fuzzy.  After several hours of fiddling with buttons and referring back and forth from internet to camera manual, the battery of the camera died, which wasn't a bad thing, so I had to take a break.  I only have the one battery, at the moment.

I got the camera out, yesterday, to take photos of my bead soup from my Bead Soup Blog Party partner Janet of Anvil Artifacts and had another fiddle with the camera, and would you believe it I stumbled across yet another web page but this one was so much help: just click the link.

When I posted the last blog post on my camera exploits I did find another dial on the camera, I knew it was there but I didn't know what it did so I ignored it.  Its the ISO controller.  This dial allows you to control the shutter speed and therefore the max light coming in.  I investigated further and found that the 'noise' which is the correct term for the 'fuzzy' image I was getting was probably due to my manual setting of the ISO number being at HI-Max, which I incorrectly assumed was the best setting for my picture taking of beads.  It isn't.  The higher that number the more noise you get.  So I have figured out noise reduction, shutter speed and how to control the ISO manually whilst taking the photograph as well as having it set in the programme.

I'm getting there!

So this picture is the original setting, programmed on Hi-Max ISO and also on the dial command button at the highest number 1/4000, which is the shutter speed, so 1 4000th of a second and therefore limited light coming into the camera, but lots of noise...I think I have that right, its confusing but I do know more or less what I am doing now.

I reduced the command dial ISO to the lowest number 1/40, too much light means over exposed.

After having a fiddle a bit more, I reduced the programmed ISO to 400 and the command dial to 1/200, so allowing the slower shutter speed and max light before noise.

The image is sharper and the background is lighter. 
The other day's photo

today's result

I re-took this photo of this particular bead, I struggled the other day, it was seriously noisy and I wasn't happy, hence thinking maybe I ought not to make encased beads ever again as I couldn't photograph the buggers, but...ta dah....clear, sharp and lighter background.  I will figure out the white background but I think that is probably a computer programme and I don't want to run before I can walk!

You might have noticed I have removed the mirror under the bead and photographed on white paper, I am now not sure which I prefer.....decisions decisions!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Bead Soup from Janet of Anvil Artifacts.

This blog post is my show and tell of the wonderful bead soup I got from my lovely partner in Texas USA.
 Both of us have signed up to the Bead Soup Blog Party, which is in its 8th year and its my 2nd year to take part.  My partner this time is Janet from Anvil Artifacts and yesterday I received my bead soup, an enormous parcel that the Post Office was holding to ransom, but once retrieved and now much wiser on how much a 'gift' parcel is allowed to be before HRMC get their hands on a cut...for those not in the know if you have a 'gift' coming from the USA to the UK the max amount on the label is upto £36, I am still a little unclear as to whether or not this includes postage, if you want to purchase something from the USA the max you can import before tax is just £15.  Now if Janet had sent me a Ferrari or a Yacht, I wouldn't have minded paying to get my parcel released from the dark dungeon cell of the Post Office depot, but she sent me beads, so after being a bit miffed I was rewarded with what can only be the best bead soup in the party. 
I got some real treasures.
I know that Janet was a little worried that her soup would be bland and she put in some spices to jazz it up, these came in the form of luscious red corals, reconstructed turquoise, beautiful agate stones and some moakite.

I am loving my focal piece, the Fossil Ammonite, that is delicious and the two large chunks of Jasper to the left in the photo are amongst my favourite pieces in this soup.
There is just so much to play with, I keep taking it out of the packet and looking at it all, can you see the citrine in the top photo, in the middle?  they have just caught my eye on the table around me...I have it all spread out, then there is some fossil mammoth bone beads with I am just many beads, what a fantastic bead soup, no wonder HRMC wanted a cut of this, they were probably hoping I wouldn't send the husband (!) to pay the ransom demand - in the form of customs charges - so they in the office could divvy up the finds!
I have an idea of what I want to do with some of these glorious pieces and sadly I can't show you Janet's beads that I sent yet as she hasn't received them, even though we posted on the same day, still my beads will be basking in some Texas sunshine as I type and hopefully Janet will get them in the next post delivery. 
Thanks Janet :)

Friday, 21 March 2014

What the F.....?

No I am not swearing, although I will admit to saying some pretty rude words during my extensive session the other day, I was 'fiddling' with the camera.
Its the bane of many artists, regardless of medium, unless of course you are a photographer then really you should know this stuff.
F is aperture.  So what the F is aperture?

Maximum Aperture (Minimum f-number)

The maximum diameter of the lens opening is referred to as its maximum aperture or minimum f-number. The minimum f-number is the smallest f-number that can be selected with the lens. The maximum aperture varies from lens to lens and is included in the lens model name.
I took that from here, all about Nikon which is my camera, a Nikon D3200 VR...please don't ask what the VR is, I have absolutely no idea!
Photographing glass beads to put on the internet can take more time than making the bead itself and considering my love is the flame of the torch and the melting of the glass, taking the photo to show the world in the hope someone else will love it and buy it so I can buy more glass and burn more oxygen and propane, the photograph side of this can be ALOT tedious and can end in swearing and temper tantrums...the swearing I can almost accept, the temper tantrum from a woman in her 40's jumping up and down and threatening obscenities to what is basically an inanimate object is a little childish to say the least.
This is the photo in question, well one of the many.  The bead is a dark purple but the light is wrong and the bead looks black and well...rubbish...and its a nice bead.

I use a light tent and a couple of daylight bulbs, the light tent just stops the glare of the light bulb...apparently.  Yes the lights are on.

So I start fiddling with the camera and end up searching the internet in the hope of finding help in photographing these beads. 
I type in Photographing Glass Beads for Dummies.
Surprisingly I am not the only one, pages of websites come up in various degrees of big words and complicated sentences, I want one where they treat you like a right dummy and basically tell you which button to press and when to produce a photograph a professional would be proud of.

I stumble across this website its the light tent I use. 
Now I want a light thing that goes under the bead, but I use what I have and follow the instructions.
I drag out my camera manual and figure out my camera properly.
I now know how to change the F setting...without swearing!

Wanting light or even white backgrounds is what I am after, I rather like the background on the pictuer above and you can now tell its actually purple, but its all fuzzy and I don't want a soft lens effect - get me with the terminology - I want sharp and clear with white backgrounds.
Back to the manual and the website.

The picture above is better but do you think I can remember what button I pressed?
The one below is rubbish and I know what's wrong with it, its over exposed.
I am in danger of knowing what I am talking about.
Not only do I now know how to adjust the F I can also play around with the button that alters the E V settings.
Go me.

It took over 2 hours to get these photos, and believe me I took hundreds and fiddled with more buttons and settings than ever before, and do you know what made the most difference?
Moving the damn camera tripod back a bit!  Even though the camera is set on automatic focus - I am not professional...yet - the macro setting needs to be a little further back than 'on the top of' that I had the camera at.
This picture below is rather nice and its an awkward bead to photograph, its also too far away.

Getting there.  I cropped it!

Below, on a darker background, but its too fuzzy...too close!

There are many buttons on the camera and this one is the max exposure or EV if you want to be technical...I would say this one didn't work, but it was worth knowing how the highest EV setting worked.

I don't think this bead is going to have a white background this is as good as I got it, but its better than it was and although its not as clear and sharp as I would have liked it is created with soft colours so maybe I can't make soft colours sharp?

So we come to today and more beads to photograph - I am getting ready for the big Flame Off event in April so lots of beads being made - the photos are better...I think!

Encased beads are incredibly difficult to capture nicely for me, but the sculpture ones seem much better..note to self, don't make encased beads!

Monday, 17 March 2014

The phone call I dreaded....

Yesterday, Sunday, I was up early, husband had been working all night and was somewhere down in the South of England, my son was out stopping with a friend and after dropping my daughter off at work for 8.30am I was once again home alone, so as the sun was shining I put on my really awful pink trainers - hubby brought them cheap last year and they are just nasty and so damn comfortable! - first time this year that I haven't walked the dogs in welly boots and we went on our walk.
And saw no one!
I hadn't been home long when the phone rang.  It was the husband.  'I have bad news', he said, obviously your first thought is 'he is in hospital' your second 'what has he done now'.  So you skip a heart beat and he says something so much worse.
'You will have to go shopping I am not coming back until tomorrow'.
It doesn't get any worse than that.
Its probably prudent to say I don't shop.  Ever.  I hate it and am totally rubbish at it.  You know when men are asked to wash up and they make such a hash of it that you don't ask again?  I am like that with shopping, I have no idea what I am doing and wander aimlessly up and down the aisles and if the packaging is sparkly and attractive I stop if not I don't. 
It is not good shopping practise.
I don't even clothes shop.  Being a natural scruff my husband waits until even the dogs start complaining how I look and refusing to go on the walk with me before he drags me out to Sainsbury's (big supermarket here in the UK) on one of their many 25% off all clothes days and makes me buy new jeans and a couple of t'shirts. 
In our house husband shops...and cooks...and I decorate and garden, it works well for us, until he gets caught up somewhere and I have to go shopping.  We were out of dog food and down to the last tin of cat food.  There was no cheese for sandwiches, or snacks or crisps, it was desperation time.  Over the phone he gave me the list - I told you I was rubbish - of what we needed, name, make, brand and price, right down to whereabouts in the store I could find these things and if needed an alternative it that item wasn't in stock. 
Dog food
Cat food
Bread - thick sliced
Frozen peas and corn - I was also cooking tea!
Crisps - 30 pack
Chocolate bars for pack lunch - 4 packets (my son eats a lot!)
Ham - £1.79
Cheese - mature chedar in the corner of the shop back left, bottom shelf 800g packet.
It was an interim list until he gets back to do the 'real' shop.
He wished me luck and told me to ring him when I got back.  It was 11.50am.
I was back by 12.35.
So I washed my hands, changed my top that was covered in dog hair, dragged out my boots, got the shopping bags, car keys and purse and set off.
I had to fight for my car parking space.  Really?  on a Sunday?  I had some lovely little old lady, who must have felt the waves of 'oh I hate this' coming off of me and out of my car, she stopped me to tell me there might be a space at the end if I was lucky.  I have an enormous car!  Its long and fairly wide, car parks are not built for big cars.  I found a couple loading their shopping into the boot of their car and called out 'excuse me, are you leaving?'  THREE times before they heard me!  They were sweet and said yes, but now I had cars backing up to steal my found space.  I put my indicator on and just about gave the chap enough room to get out and then did my best impression of a Formula 1 racing driver and swung the car into reverse and parked in one move.  The wife was waiting for me with her trolley so I found the £1 coin in my pocket, the same £1 coin I had to borrow out of daughters bedroom as I don't have 'money' other than a credit card, and secured my space and my trolley.
I was on a roll.
'Its really busy in there' says the lovely wife.
Brilliant! not!
I lock the car, smile nervously at the chap next to me now loading his shopping in the boot of his car and set off across the car park towards the shop with dread in my boots.
It was heaving with people and screaming kids.
Really REALLY don't want to be here.
Start cursing the husband under my breath.
I have my list clutched in my hand and with his words of where everything is echoing around my brain I try the polite way of smiling at people and saying excuse me.
Everyone ignores me.  Trollies are coming at me in all directions, kids are running and screaming up and down the aisles, a couple are having an argument over buying something important and I am stood there like a twit with a polite smile, no nearer to the chocolate bars I can see on the bottom shelf, just behind that woman with the three kids, one of which is called Ben (like my son) and said child is running up and down grabbing stuff so the mum is trying to talk nicely to him to make him stop....I am not a believer in soft parenting, in my opinion it doesn't work.  My kids were brought up with manners and respect, consequences for their actions and at 20 and 18 I am now immensely proud of them, they are well rounded, confident and capable adults, polite and caring.
But I digress.
Still with the smile on my face and looking decidedly like I have escaped from some hospital mental ward, I make my way slowly towards the coveted chocolate bars.  I lean in and grab the 4 packets, the mum with the screaming Ben child is now telling him how to behave, he has that zoned out look on his face that means he isn't listening, she carries on anyway.  I smile at the kid, he looks at me, we know he isn't going to behave.
I have one item on my list.  Next stop bread.  Its in front of me, on the big trolley thing as the shop assistant hasn't restocked the shelf.  I grab it.  Bread.  Done.
Its been a while since I was last in this shop and everything has moved - hubby does take me once or twice a year for moments like this I need an understanding of the layout.  I can't see the dog food, they have moved all pet stuff, I feel the slight panic starting in the pit of my stomach.
Good grief the cheese corner is like a scrum.  How on earth do I get my cheese?  I can see it, there are at least 4 trollies in front of it, all pointing in different ways, people everywhere, even a couple so relaxed they are stood in the middle of the shop chatting.  I am sweating.  I would rather enter a cave of lions that do the weekly shop.
I have the cheese.  And the ham.  Still no dog food.
I see the pet food, just one lady, no trolley in the way, I can do this.
Fish in jelly for Gordy...I actually choose for myself I had two cans in my hand and made a decision.  Go me I am getting into this shopping lark.  Dog food sack in trolley.  I spot the cat litter, its not on the list.  I was 43 last weekend, I can do this.  Cat litter, not on the list, in the trolley.
Quick check of the list to the items in the trolley.  I even have my snack nuts, I saw them and grabbed them.  Now the tills.  The lines of people...and still screaming kids...I get in a line and immediately hear my husband in my head..'this isn't the shortest one'  Tough.  I am in a queue and I am staying here until the end.
Just have to pay.
I always panic at this point.  I rarely shop so I rarely pay and I always think 'what if I have forgotten the pin number?' I am sure I go pale and show signs of sweating.  I just wait for the alarm bells to go off...everytime.  But I remember the pin number and I am outta here.
Triumphant I go back to my car.  I load the shopping in the boot.  I set off to take the trolley back.  There is a chap there, he has one trolley and is holding out a £1 towards me.  I don't know what to do, he has a trolley, so like an idiot I point this out 'you have a trolley' I say 'yes' he says, 'but I want two'.  I mumble something along the lines of 'fish out of water, husband shops he is away' grab the £1 and give him my trolley.
Back home in minutes.  The complete trip has taken me just over 30 mins and I am shaking with nerves.  My son is home at this point and he comes out to the car.  'Where have you been mother?'  'Shopping' I say, 'on your own?' he asks incredulously,  'Yes' I say, 'you should have waited' he says, 'I would have come with you'.
Bit late now son!
He makes me a cup of tea and I sit down quite exhausted from my travels.  I ring the husband. 
'I am never EVER doing that again'
He chuckles.
Now I just have to cook tea later.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

End of the day

The best thing about living in the west of the UK is the sunsets.  I took this snap shot on my phone.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Spring planting has begun

The weather yesterday, Thursday was glorious, t'shirt weather and rather than sit in the kitchen and wire up the beads that I should have done I couldn't resist the pull of the garden.
Gordy, our little cat with special needs, also seemed to feel the pull of the sunshine, he hasn't been outside in a while as the wind and rain scares him and he just sits and shakes, but there was no stopping him yesterday, so out we went.  It soon became clear that having Gordy outside and doing anything wasn't going to happen as he was feeling very adventurous and Defi (my youngest Golden) kept showing Gordy how to go through the hedge and look into the field beyond - we are getting sheep in the field and my son was putting up the electric boundary fence (he works for the farm) the other day so the dogs know what is coming.  Unfortunately we have stock fencing on the other side of the hedge which does keep the dogs in but Gordy can fit through the gaps and being brain damaged and not able to look after himself something had to be done for safe garden play. 
Gordy's harness and lead were put on but the lead isn't very long and I wanted to dig the veggie plot over and plant the summer potatoes, that wasn't going to happen if I had to hold the lead, so I rooted around in the cupboard and found the long training lead that I used when Iz was a puppy...a very naughty and not easy to train puppy!....this extra length gave Gordy lots of 'free' play whilst still being safe and not in danger of running off and getting into trouble.  He didn't seem to mind, he had relative freedom and could sniff in the flower beds, chase flies and watch bumble bees come and go as well as come into the veggie plot with me if he wanted or lie in the sun with Defi.
Problem sorted.  Digging began.
Gordy resting in the long grass, we desperately need the mower fixed!
Last Autumn I cut back the enormous Buddleia bush and took a few cuttings, I just stuck them in the old veg beds and left them too it, they rooted and so yesterday when I cleared the old beds I potted them up, I think I will leave them a bit longer before I decide where to plant them.  The joy of a big garden is being able to have big shrubs.
The new vegetable plot, which is the old chicken coop, its all still fenced in so the dogs cant dig anything up.  I had to re-dig it over and do a lot of pulling up big weeds, back breaking work but worth it.
The planting has begun.  Just the potatoes are in at this point.  My studio over looks the veg plot, I used to love looking out and seeing the chooks running around, they were free ranging but their food and water was in the coop so they used to pop back and I could watch them.
I dug over the old veg beds and harvested the last of last years crop, some carrots and technically leeks but they are small so great spring onions.

 The old veg beds before I started digging, they are all clear now and waiting for flowers.  I am turning these into raised flower beds and have a lovely selection of bright colourful seeds to throw into them and make them a ladybug, butterfly and bumble bee attraction.
I rather like this photo of the potato rows looks like a line of small graves, a bit macabre but after the loss of the chooks due to foxy loxy and badger its rather apt!
Its misty here this morning and I really do have to finish wiring up the beads, I started last night but was too tired to finish, so I joined a very sleep Gordy, Iz and Defi and had an early night.


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Wordless Wednesday....

Well almost wordless, ask the husband I can't keep quiet for a second!
Yesterday the sun shone and I went out in the garden and pruned back the roses and shrubs and made this sparkly bright silver foil encased flower bead, it just sang with the sunshine that was beaming through the window, today we are back to misty and chilly, but on the morning walk I did spy a few brave faces....

This tree is so ethereal looking in the misty morning.

No matter what the weather there is always time to play.  Gordy has  not been himself the last couple of days due to his routine being upset with visitors, he doesn't do change very well, but this morning he was making up for lost time and trying to get Defi to play ball with him.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Another year older.

 Well, that's another birthday done and dusted, another year gained and probably a few more pounds in weight due to the meal out and a beautiful collection of plants and flowers dotted around the kitchen and the living room...oh yes and decorating is to commence!
My birthday was yesterday, Sunday 9th March and I won't tell you how old I was but I am now well into middle age! 
I had a lovely visitors, my mother and my step dad came from Lincoln to Hereford to celebrate with us and to take us out for a meal.  I worked out that the last birthday I spent with my mum was when I was around 9 or 10, she shed a few tears on this one, but as I pointed out to her life throws us experiences and we learn from them, if my life had gone differently I wouldn't have met my husband had my kids or have a shed I love at the bottom of the garden where I make my glass flowers and animals.  I am happy to be at this age and where I am now, the road might have been rocky getting here, but, I got here in one piece.
 It was a wonderful birthday and I was lucky to share it with my mum, whom after many years of being estranged we are enjoying meeting up and having our experiences together as adults...einough of being maudlin....I can't wait to meet up at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford as soon as possible, I only made it half way round the museum on my last visit so it will be fabulous to go there with mum and Bob (step dad).
As well as some beautiful flowers that now adorn my dusty window sill in the kitchen, my mum made me this embroidered sampler....
The complete alphabet in tiny tiny embroidery stitches, each letter decorated with a flower that begins with that letter, the outside edge has a beautiful border of ivy leaves dancing around the letters.  This photo isn't a patch on the real thing, its really beautiful.  Its beautifully framed too and behind glass, all done by my step dad Bob.
The photograph below shows a close up of my initials L M, Lupins and Marigolds.

When my mum and Bob went back to their B&B to change for our meal out, I wandered around the house with my sampler looking for some where to put it.  I decided on above the fireplace in the kitchen.  I spend a lot of time in the kitchen...not cooking!...on the laptop and beading at the table and I wanted it somewhere I could see it often.  We live in our kitchen its a huge space and although we have a fireplace in the living room we only use the kitchen one.  So I was just about ready to take down the pictures that are up there already and relocate them, when my husband said 'before you do that I will buy the paint and we will decorate the walls its desperately in need of decorating in here and we have been putting it off for years, we will do it this week' he says.
Thanks Mum!! 
It will look nice when the decorating is done.. just got to get on with it!

Gordy might not have much to do with visitors but the upset to his routine has seen him comatose today and snoring.
Iz and Defi managed to behave, just, Defi did jump in a big muddy puddle this morning on the walk when I did ask him not too so it was a quick shower with the hose for him, he does love visitors and constantly seeks a pat on the head and a fuss, my mothers lovely black trousers had layers of golden hair on them as they left. 

 Its nap time for our Iz, look at those tired eyes!
Even Defi has only made it to the dog bed, which is a first he usually is on the other end of the sofa to Iz.
I had the best birthday and spent it with lovely people eating nice food chatting and laughing and we won't mention the awful birthday photos of me, Bob tells me I have an expressive face....he was just being kind!!