Saturday, 17 September 2011

Mmmm soup's on!

Well, checking a few of the blog links showed that people seemed to have started posting already, so I guess I'm not going to worry about my timezone making me ahead of schedule. :) My partner is Terry from Starseed Jewelry (guess I better use the US spelling, since its her business name ;) ). Terry works in Polymer clay, which is a totally new medium for me. While I have seen some techniques that remind me of the look of some lampworking techniques, they are basically very different, and the charming rustic style of this bead soup in particular. Lori's goes to a lot of effort to pair us up, and one of her criteria is the aim to push us outside our comfort zone and in a different direction. The bead soup I received is quite a departure from what I usually work with, so it was an interesting challenge.
One of the suggested approaches for this exchange is to mix beads you already have with the Bead Soup you receive. At first glance, I didn't think that was likely to work for me. I didn't think the style of my own handmade glass beads was going to suit, and the Swarovski crystal and Bali Silver I normally use just didn't seem to 'speak to' the polymer clay beads I received. In search of inspiration, I rummaged through my jewellery cupboard (I think all crafters, and jewellery designers in particular are terrible hoarders) and looked for some materials that were a little more earthy, and had some interesting texture, that would work to the best advantage with Terri's beads. I stumbled across all kinds of things I didn't know I had.... elephants carved out of bone, copper spacer beads, chunky crystals and a range of small glass beads.
With all of that laid out before me, the next step was to work out what to string them on, and what sort of design I was going for. I have never worked with a clasp like that. I wanted to make a feature of it in the jewellery, and show off the beautiful colour and interesting texture, but I wasn't sure how to even attach them. I'm used to working with clasps with a loop and generally rely on softflex and silver crimps, but it looked like the toggle would need wire wrapping. I did consider fibre, and found some just the right colour, but the holes in some of the beads were not large enough.... Back to rummaging through my 'stash' and I discovered some brass wire, and my kit from a class in silver wire crochet from Glasstock in 2009. An idea started to emerge - I wanted something eclectic and textural, to match the variety of beads I was going to use. I had to google crochet to remind myself how to start off, but then it all came together. I crocheted 2 strands filled with beads, featuring Terri's focal front and centre, and twisted them together, wire wrapping the ends onto the funky clay toggle.
I was pleased with the result, and I hope you like it - it was a real challenge to move away from my 'norm' and do something different. The colour is a bit off in some of the pics, due to a fairly hurried photo shoot this afternoon, but hopefully you get the idea. Thanks Terri and Lori for the fun of this exchange - and the creative challenge!! I don't think I'll be temped away form glass any time soon though - I just love the high gloss finish and the smooth texture of glass.

Bead Soup Bead Party Teaser

The first set of beads that my exchange partner sent me arrived unexpectedly yesterday. Talk about coming down to the wire! I was beginning to think the 2nd set, which she kindly sent to replace the beads that seemed to have decided to take a vacation on the way down under, were going to arrive first...
The show and tell part of this little Blog party is supposed to start on the 17th. Well... it is the 17th here, but so I don't jump the gun, I'm just going to post a little teaser pic for now, and then go and hit the torch. I'll post the finished jewellery tonight, which will be almost the 17th, US time. :)
The pic above shows the beads I was sent, but doesn't have a pic of the polymer clay toggle that was included also. I didn't get a pic of the beads before I started putting them together, and for Terri didn't include the Toggle in the photo she sent me to...
Check out the other participants blogs over the next few weeks - there is a complete list here. And don't forget to pop back and see the finished piece later!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Tape Melbourne!

Yesterday, after a tiring but enjoyable day taking photos with a class full of year 10 students throughout Melbourne and St Kilda, I ended up back at Federation Square, where my husband had met me to attend a friend's exhibition opening. That morning, I had seen the exterior of a fascinating new art installation in Federation Square entitles 'Tape Melbourne', a huge, alien-esque sculpture suspended from the buildings, created entirely from packing tape. It looked fantastic from the outside, but on chatting with one of the creators, and the Project Manager, I learnt that they were hoping it would be declared safe enough to open to the public. Heading back with DH that afternoon, we were able to climb inside, after shedding shoes and anything sharp :). It was a lot of fun, an amazing experience to be inside. It gave when you moved, like a hammock - in fact, the narrow pathways grabbed you as you tried to crawl through. It was very comfortable, but made disconcerting squeaking noises when you moved - was that just the tape squeaking, or was it going to give way? It is transparent in parts, so it feels quite ephemeral, but its deceptively strong. It was a very interesting experience - so glad I was in there at the right time! Well worth checking out if you are in Melbourne!
The photos are from 3 sources - the interior shots were taken with my little canon 'point n shoot', the exterior shots are were taken with my DSLR Nikon D7000, and the night shots were downloaded from the Fed Square blog...

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Bead Soup off the boil

Unfortunately, due to the vagaries of international postage, my bead soup hasn't arrived yet. I will try and get some photos up of my most recent work so there is something for people to look at when they drop by for the big Blog Hop on the 17th..... fingers crossed, the beads will arrive by then and I can get something up. My partner and our exchange host have both offerred to send more, but I just know the original ones will arrive the day after they post something :). Keep your fingers crossed!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Bead Soup on the Boil

While I was away, I saw some announcements online for the upcoming Bead Soup Blog party. I have been aware of this event for several years, and had often wished to be involved, but I never heard about it early enough to sign up. This year I did, but the sign up period was while I was in the air flying home from my trip! It's a conspiracy I swear :). Anyway, a friend organised my sign up while I was travelling, so this year, I'm involved. It was a real rush to get some new beads made and sent out in the short period between my return and the postal deadline, but I made it, and my beads are winging their way to the US as we speak. My exchange partner has also sent my bead soup mix, and I will post some pics as soon as it arrives. The basic premise of this exchange is to send a beautiful clasp, and a focal pendant-worthy bead, as well as some 'supporting' beads, that can all be put together to make a piece of jewellery, combined with extra pieces they might already have. So half the fun is the anticipation of not knowing what you are getting. My partner is a polymer clay artist I believe, so that will be new for me - Ive never made jewellery with polymer clay beads before.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Home Sweet Home

I guess its a sign of a great trip that I didn't really have time or inclination to blog while I was away? Unlike other travels I undertake, my trips to the US are all about the people... and the glass, but definitely the people. Its great to see the country, and some places have been highlights, but I choose my itinerary based on who I will visit, or what classes I will attend, not on tourist attractions or scenery. This last trip was no exception. I visited dearly missed close friends and stayed with wonderful, brave people who took a chance on a random visiting Australian, and I had a fantastic time. The ISGB Gathering was an amazing way to wind things up. If I hadn't been flat out learning and having fun with a few hundred like minded glass peeps, I would have been quite homesick by the end of the trip, but there was very little time to pine for home. I brought home wonderful memories, and some amazing new pieces for my glass collection. Importantly, I also brought home new found enthusiasm and inspiration for my glass. I am intending to change direction slightly, and get a bit more focused and disciplined with my glass. I want to explore and develop more deeply some of my own original ideas I've produced, and then moved on from, over the years. And I intend to actively plan my beads more. Sharon Peters talk about inspiration and creativity was quite inspiring for me. I guess it wasn't anything I didn't already know, as a secondary art teacher, but I have resisted that approach for some reason, to my glass. So, now I have a new sketchbook for beads, and a bunch of photos of designs, patterns, colours etc to start off with for inspiration. I doubt I will use it religiously - its just not my style, but there are already plenty of ideas to be going on with in those pages - something I've been lacking for quite some time. So, I'm happy to be home, and looking forward to playing with some new ideas at the torch. But first I have to finish the remaining 100 blue and yellow beads I'm making for SCA tokens - it's going to be such a pleasure to use other colours when I'm done!!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Writing from Memphis

I spent a few days last week in reading with a friend, as I mentioned last post. We had a great time - very busy, but we still had time to hang out and chat also. We went to see The Feeling at the 'Kew the Music' festival in Kew Gardens, which was a fantastic night. It was my birthday gift from my friend, and we took a picnic and drank Rose cider (highly appropriate, as one of our favourite Feeling songs is Rose') and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The Noisettes, who also played that night.... What an energetic performer!! Sophie Ellis-Bextor sang a song with The feeling on their new album.... The next day we took the train to Cardiff and spent the afternoon at Cardiff castle, and around the Bay near the Milennium centre and Roald Dahl Plass (in other words, Torchwood Country!!!). I flew into New York from the UK, and had a few brief few hours there with another friend, and we went to see 'Hair'. It was a great performance - all the singers were amazing, musically very tight, and full of energy. It was a little disappointing to not be able to clearly understand all the lyrics, but it was surprisingly easy to forgive, because it just sounded so good. At the end of the show they invited the audience on stage, and as I was sitting in the 2nd row, I was able to make it up there. So, less than 24 hours in New York and I got the opportunity to dance on a Broadway stage, albeit briefly, which was fantastic! I am currently in Memphis, attending and presenting at The Laptop Institute, an educational conference for 1:1 laptop programs in schools. I presented once today, and have two more to go tomorrow. Then I'm off to Raleigh, and am really on holidays, with no work related obligations at all!

Monday, 4 July 2011

The next adventure

I have changed time zones so many times in the last day that it's very hard to keep track how long ago I left home. I think it's about 30 hours, give or take. I am heading to the US once again, to attend both education and glass related conferences. Heading to London first to visit a dear friend who has been away too long, and the most economical way to do that, was a round the world ticket via Asia and Germany. Expected to lurk around the airport in hong kong, but by a fortunate coincidence, my boss was on the same flight, and she kindly took me under her wing and showed me the abbreviated sights. We took a taxi up to the top of the peak, to see some amazing views of the city, and went to 'times square' for dinner. That was an adventure I itself. The restaurant we chose, because of the dumplings on the menu, specialized in a kind of hot pot soup, and you cook your dumplings in it. We didn't have time for that, so they brought us a noodle soup with some dumplings in it. The waiters English wasn't as god as we thought - I asked if they would be pork and he said yes, but they ended up being prawns. I am not a fan of seafood, but they were obviously very well made and I managed 2 before the fishiness overwhelmed me. I was very grateful for the chance to see a little of the city, it always frustrates me to be stuck in an airport in city you have never seen before.... Case in point, I'm writing this from Munich airport, waiting for the final leg of my trip to London. Aim traveling with my iPad and a borrowed netbook ( to present at the conference with) so I won't be able to edit any of the pics I post first - they'll all be 'nude' so to speak. :). Will add some pics of Hong Kong when I have had a chance to download them.

Friday, 21 January 2011

More reviews

I know I am going to lose momentum/interest in this idea now I am home and busy again - so here is some thoughts about the other accommodation we stayed in during our NZ travels. After Tekapo we headed to Dunedin. There we stayed in our best value accommodation of the trip, Living Spaces, although I was shocked at first by how small the room was. However, we got to appreciate that we had everything we needed and it was very well designed to maximise the lack of space. The bathroom, built in a big glass cylinder, had fantastic water pressure, which redeemed the room when I was initially feeling a bit claustrophobic, compared to our wonderful large unit in Lake Tekapo. We didn't make use of them, but there was a range of shared facilities, like a 'theatre' you could book to watch DVDs and a shared kitchen. Overall, for the price, quite good value and I'd stay there again. Although, looking at their website, we payed quite a bit more than the advertised rate - (so much for bargains on wotif) but I guess it was peak period....
I can't remember where we stayed in Akaroa at the moment. I'll look it up at some stage :) but next stop after that was Hanmer Springs. The main draw card there of course is the hot springs, so a motel in walking distance to the centre of town is very handy. We stayed at Aspen Lodge Motel, and since it was our wedding anniversary, splurged on a spa room (in hindsight, a bit redundant in a spa town, LOL) and had a beautiful suite, with a separate lounge and its own balcony. The home made baked goods delivered when the room was cleaned were a lovely touch. And while you are in Hanmer Springs, make sure you try the Tapas at the Rustic Cafe - such good food, we ate there both nights (we needed 2 visits to try the full range of Tapas). While on the subject of dining, we discovered a fantastic restaurant in Dunedin, very reasonably priced, called Nova Cafe. It's right next door to the cinema, in the Octagon. You have to try the slow cooked lamb... and the caramelised banana creme brulee was amazing.
Last stop of the trip was Kaikoura and ironically (we stayed there the longest), our most modest accommodation (although not the cheapest). The Bella Vista was a perfectly acceptable motel, with really nice service in the office (they let me on their computer to check in and print our boarding passes) but overcrowded rooms and very expensive Internet. We were tripping over the suitcases for 4 days. The motel was also quite a way out of the centre of town, so for the first time, we had to drive in every time we wanted a meal. Luckily, there is so much to do in Kaikoura, we didn't need to spend a lot of time sitting around our tiny room. And that's where I'll leave things for now - I'll review the attractions next post.

Sunday, 16 January 2011


Since I've got back in the habit of posting here, I thought I might write some reviews of the various accommodation and attractions/tours we struck while travelling in New Zealand. Since our trip didn't really start till we flew into Christchurch from Auckland, I'm going to start with our accommodation in Lake Tekapo. We found all our accommodation using You can now book a few months ahead on wotif, rather than just 2 weeks. I suspect that means the deals aren't quite as good as they used to be, but it's very handy to have one central site, with photos, ratings and discounted deals.
In Lake Tekapo, we stayed at Lakeview Tekapo. This is a very new business, with only 3 apartments, with the latest gadgets (pincodes instead of door keys), beautiful decor and a star viewing window above the bed. Our hosts were extremely friendly and helpful, and co-incidentally, used to own the Christchurch motel that we stayed in last year. While we enjoyed eating out at the great restaurants in Lake Tekapo, the rooms do have a well equipped kitchenette. We were thoroughly spoiled regarding our accommodation at this early stage of our trip - it set the bar pretty high! I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this venue, or stay there again - it was fantastic.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

A fun few days.

Last Wednesday we spent quite a bit of time at the Otago Museum in Dunedin, where they have a great Butterfly house (pictured above). It was quite cold in Dunedin today, and I wasn't really dressed for it, so the warmth in the Butterfly house was quite welcome!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Catlins

Yesterday we spent the day on a self driving tour the of The Catlins - the coastal area at the very tip of south island. It's a beautiful area, and we were lucky enough to get up close and personal with a couple of rare Yellow Eyed Penguins, and some sea lions (or fur seals - not 100% sure which). It was exhausting, and we missed a site or two that could only be viewed at low tide (Cathedral caves will have to be on the agenda next time) but it was a fantastic day.
The view at Curio Bay, our first stop, where many of the rocks are actually fossilised trees!
A view of the fossilised forest - that diagonal line in the foreground is a fallen log.
A Yellow Eyed Penguin (the rarest in the world) on the rocks at Curio Bay
A Sealion on the beach at Surat Bay.
Purakaunui Falls
Nugget Point