Monday, 11 July 2016

Love Lydiard Craft Fair 2016

Well what a funny old day at Lydiard Park this year! The weather was not on our side although it could always be worse! Luckily I was in exactly the same spot as last year and knew all too well how strongly the wind swirled and gusted around the gardens (even though it's walled!). So I managed to secure the sides onto my gazebo first thing and luckily didn't loose any stock or any of the display. There were several heavy showers in the morning too so it was a nervy day from the get go.
I had a new display set-up and also launched my latest summer turquoise collection:

The Graceful Deviant display at Lydiard Park, Swindon

It was soon noticeable that the footfall was well down on last year - a possible consequence of the weather combined with a lack of advertising following on from the continued financial issues the council is having with running the house and gardens and trying to find investment partners.
That said, I had a very busy day meeting lots of new customers and making sales that equaled last year. It was great to see Salamander Arts returning again with their gorgeous ceramics:

Julie & Theresa from Salamander Arts
A new trader this year was Little Miss Cake Maker who made Lydiard Park & Swindon's magic roundabout cupcakes!

Enjoying a magic roundabout cupcake to the live music in the gardens!
Due to the awful winds it was very difficult to leave the stall and see much of the other traders so I really hope it runs again next year and we have a much calmer day!
I'm not booked into any other trading events until November now - more on that decision to come. The next blog post I write will also have to address Brexit and what it means for me and the business. Not something I relish as I don't believe politics and silversmithing should really mix but it was inevitable. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Where did I go?!

It has been a rather chaotic start to the year and I can't quite believe that we are half way through!
As a brief catch up my partner and I now own our property that we were renting and are thoroughly enjoying finally getting to put our stamp on it. We don't move swiftly though as we do enjoy carefully considering all our options and sourcing unusual/not-on-the-highstreet items! As a consequence this has meant some disruption and made it less inviting for me to try and work in a studio packed with 'spare' stuff whilst we try to work out what we want to keep and what will go on Gumtree!
It's funny that the longer I've spent away from the bench, the harder it is to get back in to. The passion starts to dwindle as new creative outlets appear. I'm hopeful that the Love Lydiard event in Swindon on the 2nd of July will now start to refocus me as it was very successful last year.
We also managed to get away to Lisbon (all be it very last minute!) as my partner had to go for business. I only had two and a bit days to keep myself occupied, the rest of the week was all our own time - here are a few highlights:

Lisbon 2016 - the castle, the monastery and the botanical gardens.

I've also managed several other trips this year including Beaulieu Motor Museum, Dublin, JapDay at Castle Combe and a couple of visits to the south coast. But in amongst that I've also been quite unwell too with a bit of a bad back making it hard to sit for any length of time and also being poisoned by mushrooms! Who knew! I'm one of a small handful of people who react to lentanin - a substance found in raw or undercooked shiitake mushrooms and although it manifests as a rash, I also felt really weak. It probably wasn't helped by having to take lots of antihistamines and steroids - soooo sleepy! So that was another fortnight I barely remember doing anything. To say I haven't gotten into the swing of things this year would be fair!

Onwards and upwards! All social media platforms will be going through a bit of a tidy up/clear out so that I can refine my style (how do you like the new blog facelift?!) and I'm back at it in the studio.
My new venture Metal Mountain Jewellery has had some sales and very positive feedback so make sure you come and find me on Facebook and Instagram to follow a little more of my travels and outdoor inspiration!
I know us creatives types do go through periods where the motivation for what we 'should' be doing just aren't there and I realise from the outside looking in it must be frustrating as you don't see new work coming out and must wonder if we just fell off the face of the Earth! So if you are reading this I thank you for continuing to hang around to see what happens next. Sometimes it just doesn't happen as fast as anyone would like, you and me included!
Until next time :)

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year......'s time for a change!

Firstly, an apology needs to be made for neglecting the blog a little over the last few months! It has been an extremely busy December which saw Graceful Deviant selling in Bath during the Christmas market they hold annually along with improved internet sales and some different selling venues throughout the year.

So this post isn't really to speak about my silversmithing journey other than to say that there are a few New Year resolutions! The first being that there will be a new illustration each month that will be transformed into my jewellery along with a lot more one-off stone pendants. The second is that Instagram will be used solely for studio behind-the-scenes shots so that you can see before, during and after photographs. Lastly, I'm going to try and select slightly fewer events to attend but choose larger ones as regular fairs didn't seem to work out quite so well.

But the main news for 2016 will be from The Blue Starfish point of view as I have been realising some valuable lessons over this past year of market and fair selling. Ultimately it boils down to the fact that my jewellery making designs and materials have not progressed as much as they potentially could have done and with the surge in people beginning to make their own jewellery mine just doesn't cut the mustard any longer!
And that's ok! I had been trying for a while to incorporate more handmade elements and artisan beads but the jewellery still wasn't attracting the eyeballs when out and about at fairs and so I guess the design element is still 'simple' or too 'commercial' looking.

Having said all of that I don't want to stop having a second jewellery line (especially as I have a huuuuggggee stash of gorgeous beads) plus Graceful Deviant is quite monochrome so it gives me a chance to explore colours and different metals. With that in mind I have decided to have a complete clear out of The Blue Starfish side of the studio and restock with some simple basics - copper and brass sheet, artisan glass and some precious metal clays.

Most importantly comes a rebrand. I have thought long and hard about this but as soon as I'd made my decision I was filled with excitement and itching to get started so I know it is the right thing to do.

-> So, The Blue Starfish will cease trading at the end of January 2016 <-

What will follow is a brand new website filled with new designs that have a rustic, earthy element but most importantly, a more handmade element. It will launch as 'Metal Mountain Jewellery'.

The decision to change the name has also been heavily influenced by the fact that I am consistently being mistaken for an eBay store called Blue Starfish Design who claim to hand make sterling silver and copper jewellery for very small prices. I certainly don't want to be associated with eBay wholesalers! Did I say that 'out loud'?! It appears I did :)

The launch date for Metal Mountain Jewellery is yet to be decided as time is required for design and development along with sourcing some new artisans that I'd like to incorporate. That said, the domain name and website building is already underway and I am very excited about being able to bring something different to my markets and fairs.

I hope you are all looking forward to 2016 and it would be great to have you on board to keep following my handmade journey :)

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Venetian Delights!

....and a shake up for Graceful Deviant!

Having had a mammoth lack of motivation following my Canadian road trip (holiday blues doesn't quite cover it!) I was surprised by my boyfriend with a trip to Venice for our anniversary!
It was exactly what I needed to grab some inspiration and yet again, some awesome handmade goodies! On the morning we were due to fly home we took a boat over to the island of Murano, renowned for its glass making. I was in heaven and could quite easily spend a few days let alone a few hours especially as you could walk into factories and watch the makers creating their beautiful masterpieces. Here's some of my haul!

Silver lined glass drops, hollow formed beads and traditional millifiore rounds
Say 'hello' to my little friend!
Plus I had to get a little addition for my Christmas travel tree!
This stunning glass sculpture also makes a great pit stop for the birds!

So one of the reasons I think I was finding motivation difficult was because I was finding my work heading in too many directions and this was the case for both Graceful Deviant and The Blue Starfish. For Graceful Deviant it became simple - create work in collections. I have previously asked my Facebook following how they prefer to shop and the overriding feeling was by type, i.e necklace, earrings etc. So nothing changed on the website in terms of how you could search. But I have increasingly felt that for some it may look too diverse and so rather than change to shopping by collection only, the choice will be available! Having had a think on collection titles this is what will be available so far:

Plus there will be an additional 'Simply Silver' and 'Simply Gemstones' coming soon too as I seem to have underestimated the demand for things like simple hammered silver rings or just one gemstone as a pendant!
For The Blue Starfish jewellery I couldn't quite put my finger on exactly what my direction was after having recently tried my hand at a lot of new techniques which didn't seem to 'fit' my look.
It was only after seeing a lot of talk about autumn and the seasons combined with a comment a customer made to me at a handmade fair that I realised where I stood! The comment (and thinking back I get a few along these lines) was that the colours I use are so bright and complimentary. That's when I understood what my niche was - great colour combos that didn't necessarily follow the seasonal or high street trends! So that is what I will strive to continue!
The next blog post will feature a lot of new work for The Blue Starfish so I hope to see you then :)

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Never miss an opportunity.... buy handmade!

I'M BACK!!! For those of you who were unaware I'd even left, I've been travelling Canada for the last month! To be more precise it was a road trip around Western Canada starting and finishing in Vancouver and taking in the glorious Rockies. In a nutshell it went something like this:

HIghlights from The Rockies roadtrip 2015!
Highlights from The Rockies Road Trip 2015!

If you'd like to read more about what I got up to on my adventure I have a travel blog here. The last couple of days still need to be written up but consisted mainly of lazing on the beach and shopping for goodies!
One of the many goodies that I wanted to share with you is this stunning silver bangle I picked up in Vancouver.
Hummingbird bangle handmade by Robert (Bob) Cross
My road trip buddy and I first discovered The Silver Gallery in the gas town district of Vancouver on our first visit to the city and fell in love with pretty much everything!!! We left empty handed though as we were so overwhelmed with the choice of native artists styles and meaning behind each creature portrayed on the many bangles, rings and pendants. So, instead, we spent the rest of our trip researching the symbolism, discovering more about the culture during trips to museums and figuring out what type of jewellery we might want. I was instantly drawn to the hummingbird after reading that they help you focus on the positive in life, that despite their size they travel vast distances and that they can hover in one place, fly sideways, backwards and forwards. They teach us to look back to our past, but not to dwell, instead to move forward. 
I also loved reading a legend from the Kwakwaka'wakw says that Dzunuk'wa (the mythic guardian of the mountains and Wild Women of the Woods) loved this little bird so much, she let him nest in her hair, in return the hummingbird looked like a jewel pinned in her hair.
After narrowing it down to a bangle I then kept my eyes peeled each and every time we stumbled upon a jewellery shop but I never quite found the right one as I knew I wanted the engraved pattern to be symmetrical and meet in the middle.

The two hummingbirds meet in the middle with their beaks in a flower
 So after 2 weeks on the road we returned to Vancouver and headed straight for the Silver Gallery but it was closed!! Eventually we called in on our last full day before flying home and I chatted with the store manager about what I was after and she showed me some skinny bangles (as that's what I thought I wanted!) but we both realised they weren't quite right and so she showed me the Robert Cross bangle I ended up buying. It was over double my budget but the step up in craftsmanship and skill was clear to see and I just knew it was the one!!!

Sometimes pieces of jewellery just speak to you and I don't often buy jewellery for myself (you can probably imagine the 'ooo, did you make that yourself?!' comments you get regularly!) but when I do, I love supporting other handmade artists and this was a prime opportunity to snap something up that I probably won't stumble upon again.
Plus, after googling the artists name and seeing photographs of how these work of silver are produced, I was blown away!

Pyrography pendant handmade by Tiny Timber Designs
Another sweet little purchase I made was this wooden pendant burnt with mountain and forest details by Tiny Timber Designs.
It's handmade in British Columbia using reclaimed wood which is sliced to shape and then the design is burnt into the surface. I found this hanging up on the desk in the Kamloops visitor centre - again, just something I knew I'd never find elsewhere and so had to purchase as a little memento of my time in the Rockies!

I did come back with a few stones that are patiently waiting to be set and turned into new pieces. They include Canadian jade, howlite, sodalite and aventurine - quite earthy colours as I'm thinking of a botanical theme for my next collection release.

The Graceful Deviant website is now up and running again with all stock levels updated as is The Blue Starfish website although it looks a bit bare after a successful sale before I went away!! So I will keep you all posted with new items as soon as they are added.

If you have any stories behind jewellery you've bought or been given I'd love to hear them! Feel free to share below!

Until next time......