Sunday 1 December 2013

December 2013

November has been one of my busiest months in my new studio or any studio ever for that matter! But I seem to have lost my blog somewhere in draftworld ... Nevermind. I have been to Harry Potter at the Warner Brothers Studios at Leavesdon - maybe it was whisked away to a parallel world via Diagon Alley.
I have been listening to some very beautiful and I suppose rather old fashioned music by today's general standards, as I have worked in my studio into the night -
Richard Addinsell - The Isle of Apples
I love Richard Addinsell - here is a link for anyone who wishes to know more about this man and his life and work - Richard Addinsell link
No home of my own as yet but I am on the lookout. I also found some time at the end of last month to go to stay with my daughter in London for some mother/daughter time and to discover a bit more of my capital. I tend to regard London as my comfortable and sustaining mother city and other places - Paris, Venice etc as my favourite aunts and uncles - more unconventional and less predictable.
The National Portrait Gallery is providing me with a wealth of insight and inspiration, not only into the lives of others and into history in so many ways but also into my love of jewellery. There is a beautiful portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst that was painted in 1927 by Georgina Agnes Brackenbury.
I think that her brooch could be translated into papier-mâché very well. I have devised a series of pieces of jewellery based on those worn by iconic women. Emmeline Pankhurst gave me the idea. Now I am on the lookout for other pieces. Part of my research may well have to, most certainly will have to include visiting galleries to find original material.
The machinations of my Blogger world are beyond me sometimes - why does this picture refuse to rest happily where I place it? Why does it insist on being extra large and in the centre when I urged it into a modest left hand position? Perhaps because it is linked to Mrs Pankhurst.... After much experimenting I found that if I set the position and then copy/delete/paste where I want it to go it stayed there. This is quite a discovery after years of photos refusing my directions!
Back to the National Portrait Gallery and the bracelet worn by Jenny Lind.
Elizabeth Parcells in the style of Jenny Lind - known as the Swedish Nightingale. 
Frida  by Maira Kalman - the necklace.
From right to left - Chastity, Beauty and Love.

I have been making some lapel pins - as a tribute to Coco Chanel who was aware of their charm a long time ago.
Mine are quite simple - made from papier mâché that I have gilded and scorched. The backs are smoothed over with Milliput
Then I have gilded them as the gold leaf adheres perfectly to newly applied Milliput as it is an epoxy paste. One of its official uses is to mend broken pottery and it dries to the hardness of ceramic so a perfect addition for strength and durability. It also thoroughly and firmly embeds the disc of the stick pin. The surface is brushed with either epoxy resin or matte acrylic varnish. The pins are about 3cm in diameter and 5cm in length. I shall be sending them out to galleries in the January and have put some for sale in  my Etsy Shop
The photographs are looking rather dismal - i-phone and light box + photo-shop should work better than this. The finished pieces are really quite white apart from beautiful and quite subtle variations in scorching with a soldering iron. 
Earlier this month I went to see an exhibition at the V&A on the history of pearls
You know how when one is at an exhibition one often finds oneself in a a sort of a ruck of a few people with whom one seems to effortlessly travel the prescribed exhibits whilst pretending not to notice each other. There must be a word for these companions ... in the absence of which "excoms" will do. Well my excoms for the duration were Gilbert and George as in Gilbert and George
Delightful and always immaculate and honed to perfection. I came away feeling rather disenchanted with wealth and the pearl industry and in particular the resemblance of latter day mass produced pearls to ball-bearings. 
I have some lovely irregular shaped pearls to add to some pieces to make necklaces that I think will work well. 
Keshi pearls 
Natural white keshi and bronze fresh-water pearls between fragments of 18th century clay pipe stems that I have found on the river bed of the Thames at low tide on one of my mud-larking forays, make a necklace, whilst picking out the shifts of colour and contrasting textures of one of my scorched and gilded papier-mâché pendants.
I have also made some smaller fragments with papier-mâché by pressing air dried papier-mâché clay into a mould that I made from an Edwardian serving spoon using Siligum - made by Pebeo

The photograph is pretty dreadful but you can see what I mean regarding the transferred image. The backs are again strengthened with Milliput and I have embedded a silver lined transparent glass bugle bead into so that the stainless steel wire can be threaded through. The backs are then  if you would like to see how I make them - gilded with silver leaf. I have grouped three keshi pearls between pairs of my iridescent papier-mâché beads - 
Below is one of my many YouTube video tutorials - this one explaining how to make the iridescent papier-mâché beads.

Friday 25 October 2013

New Studio - hurray!

October music - listen here
I am now the happy occupier of Studio 11 in the North Wing
of Seale-Hayne in Devon.

Everything is pretty well worn and in need of TLC but that's OK because I always love a challenge and this is pure delight. I am not actually in the main building but in one of the small rooms that run alongside of the North Wing. They used to be used for storage and as mail rooms I believe. This place has a history! I have a white painted brick walls and a very large pin-board.
My window faces north and is ideal in terms of light but not so sure about its capacity for ventilation. I will see next summer. I have a feeling it will be fine as all the doors are generally left open for wheel chair access so there will be a through breeze I imagine. I shall see if I can sow wild flower seeds on the grassy bank.
I now have an enormous radiator and a section of the old Victorian pipes that convey hot water from room to room. There is a 'drying room' where all the pipes do a convoluted dance around the walls to provide enough hot air to dry things - wet overalls from children's adventure camps and hopefully papier-mâché.
Being an ex-mailing room, I now am the proud possessor of a fantastic range of shelves. Thank goodness everything is painted white to start of with. It really only needs sprucing up and it will be fine. I shall more than likely separate a section that will be for Bella as she will come to the studio with me on most days. She loves warmth and will curl up and sleep. Dogs actually do need a lot more sleep than we imagine. At this stage I am thinking that I will paint the radiator but I am so keen to start making and painting for my work that I fear that thought will dissolve into nothingness quite soon.
My front door, also waiting to be painted - and it will always be open to visitors - or nearly always open at least. When I am working with resin it will have to be closed and that means fairly frequently in fact as I will try to develop a routine of sorts whereby I am dividing my time between the various processes that are involved. I have 4 quite distinct ranges of jewellery at present, 3 of which involve resin plus in my mind I am imagining a 5th that is entirely made of resin as I want to make rough cut diamonds and other precious and semi-precious faux stones to sit alongside the papier-mâché pearls.
Manifestations of art and affection.
I now finally have the opportunity to 'rationalise' all of my bits and bobs etc into the plastic boxes that I've been gradually buying and filling and that believe it or not that all fit in. Serendipity at play once again. the door has had a couple of coats of paint too. As I move in so the space is rapidly decreasing.
I've put a very temporary table in - it's looking rather like a school Nature Table. I've brought in a large bunch of lilies to counter-act the smell of paint and to inspire the senses. I've yet to make a trip over to the barn and retrieve some of my studio paraphernalia that has been stored along with all my other belongings since the beginning of the year.
There is alas only room for one work bench but my rationalised boxing system will come in useful from now on. My usual working method is to focus on work and leave tidying up until I reach some kind of critical fever pitch. I have absolutely no objection to creative chaos. Others tend to look on aghast long before I start to tidy up.
Pinning work in progress, at least that's the idea right now but it's a pin-board, a reference point and I can easily see it becoming a scrap-board for all sorts of things that need to be kept within sight. In fact my perfect studio would be entirely walled with white pin-boards.
More work in progress - this is my papier-mâché jewellery that resembles enamel - coated with resin - youtube tutorial part 1.
Fine white papier-mâché clay in the process of being made into various components for jewellery pieces. Some will be rings, brooches, pendants and lapel pins, whilst some groups of them will be made up into corsages, boutonnières and necklaces. Maybe even tiaras and bouquets. I have a few video tutorials on making them on YouTube
stage 1 of making 'flowers'  stage 2 of making 'flowers' 
Earrings etc of varying sizes drying out, prior to being soaked in epoxy resin - just enough to harden without glazing. Apologies for this dull photograph but it gives the impression! I've posted a tutorial on YouTube about making pressed earrings - in which I'm using the base of a fir cone and a Silligum (epoxy resin compound) mold. This product makes lovely impressions. Of course you can make up your own papier-mâché paste and there are  tutorials here -
These pieces are made by pressing the air drying papier-mâché clay onto the back of a spoon - in effect - a negative mold.
To make the earrings above, I've used an old Edwardian serving spoon as a mold.
This is the 'positive' side of the spoon - molds or moulds, depending on your preference, can be taken from either side for differing effects.
The Silligum mold ready to use. It will last indefinitely -
Leaving Seale-Hayne at the end of a another perfect day. I really do feel so grateful to have my studio here. It's strange because Seal-Hayne has only belonged to Hannah's for the last three years and before that it lay empty for quite a while. Before that it belonged to Plymouth University who somehow or other got around the original rules link of the trust created by Charles Seale-Hayne - 1833 - 1903 - this is his portrait by
Arthur Hacker. I am very fond of and grateful to Charles Seale-Hayne and feel that his legacy has been trampled upon by Plymouth University who carefully sold off some of the most valuable assets. The Old Seale-Hayneians are still pursuing this anomaly with solicitors in London. I feel it deserves prominence. I can only put in a link as unusually their page can't be copied but do take a look - it is outrageous - LINK
My point here however is that I have longed to have a studio in a place that was reminiscent of an Oxford or Cambridge University quad, a place that was also reminiscent of Art School and a place that above all was caring, open and honest. Whilst I was waiting for my ideal place it was coming into being.
© Robert Reginald Williams/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)

Friday 20 September 2013


Well, I have been house sitting in an old barn conversation and looking after an lovely 18 year old arthritic cat for the past few weeks. Peace and quiet but virtually no bandwidth. Certainly not enough for uploading photos etc for my blog. Also helping my son with his house renovations - discovering original features and eradicating modern abominations in a traditional country cottage. Going to be lots of before and after pictures. I love before and after pictures. I have also been having a thorough health check after having cancer in 1999 and so far so good as all scans and tests have come back as negative - that for me is a big positive! So on with the show and the next 30 years. I will begin blogging again just as soon as I move on and I move into my new studio. Life is never dull. 
Meanwhile do take a look at Mélanie Bourlon's inspiring work with papier mâché in this video. 

As soon as I have a studio I will be working in 3D and have space for my easel. Many more video tutorials to come.
I have updated Etsy Shop and am adding new work as it is available. 
And meanwhile take a look at some clever work with film - 

Sunday 2 June 2013

June 2013

The long, late and rather chilly Spring here in Cornwall has meant that we have strange and wonderful mixes of trees and flowers all out in abundance at the same time. And the sun is now shining so once again we are living in paradise.
Yesterday I  worked on a table in the old greenhouse at Potager  - making necklaces, brooches and rings from found fragments - pottery shards, old metal washers rescued from the pavements, wonderful sea washed stones, shells and glass frsm beach-combing forays, fragments of clay pipes from explorations of the Thames foreshore at low tide, together with my own experiments with papier-mache - an ever evolving adventure - as is this life! I met so many interesting people there. The sun shone all day long and birds sang - everything was intensified under the glass to Mediterranean temperatures and I felt I was in my element - bliss.

I find the occasional large piece of mother of pearl whilst mudlarking and add them to necklaces sometimes. This one together with some fragments of mother of pearl and a few mother of pearl beads that I have re-used from an old discarded necklace. The clay pipe stems always add so much by virtue of their history as they have been washed by countless tides ebbing and flowing up and down the River Thames for centuries and who knows who last smoked a leisurely pipe whilst sitting on the Thames Embankment?

Sometimes I add semi-precious stone beads that accentuate or compliment the pipe stem fragments. 
Whilst working on my table at Potager Garden - people wander into the old greenhouse and sit down with me and chat. Today I met someone who sold up and lived on a barge whilst holding down a 9-5 job on her own. She also reminded me of the canals of France and the possibility of mooching down there! Then another lovely woman came along and sat down and told me of something called where you can stay for free after a nominal joining fee - '800 wine-growers, 800 farmers and market gardeners, 150 craftsmen and motor home owners await your visit. You will discover the hidden secrets of France when camping on their properties.' Mind you I would need a bijoux style motor home. But I had just been thinking about that possibility the day before - a studio on wheels with room enough to sleep. Perfect timing. 

The skies are Cerulean blue and the trees are bright green with an occasional cloud drifting by -
Solitude - I am a natural introvert or at least I am quite content to spend considerable swathes of time alone. This is where I find inspiration and seem to be able to access the world of imagination so easily. An interesting TED talk around this subject.
The sunny weather has taken me out to beach-comb and make jewellery with my finds. Also adding things that I find along the way in shops and on line.

What can I say? I am making lots of jewellery - all my mudlarking and beach-combing pieces have been snapped up by galleries. I have got a pretty good balance of work and forays out into undiscovered - at least by me - places down here. 

Now in Devon working on papier-mache work that I have completely run out of. Will have to return shortly to resin them in my resin cabinet that is currently sharing my digs - that is small bedroom! It really is like a Tardis. It is quite amazing just how little floor space I need. To be honest I would relish more of it - may be when I go to Oxford. I reckon on another couple of months here and then it will be time for the next stage of my journey. Meanwhile I am still finding new galleries and exploring.
 Porthleven - walking along the cliff tops.
 Early June - thrift.
 Port Issac

Back to Devon for a couple of days and up onto Dartmoor with Bella.

 A heart shaped rose bush - Topsham.
 Renovation - Topsham.
 Exhibition poster - Topsham.
 Down to Durgan beach with Bella.

A few new pieces of jewellery using found objects. Delft fragment and clay pipe with mother of pearl and moonstone.
Fragments of clay pipe that almost reassemble to make a complete pipe - as a necklace.
A sliver of smooth Cornish slate from the beach with small quartz heart shaped stone ditto + old washer from the street + silver leaf and epoxy paste.
 Papier mache clay and resin ring with gold + silver leaf.
Black plastic - sea washed beach find with added silver leaf. Reminding me of the legend of St Pirin I am working on some Cornish slate with crosses.
St Michaels Mount Marazion looking pretty and wonderful as I walk to Out of the Blue to stock up my work.
Old boat in Newlyn harbour. Alas the wonderful Badcocks Gallery is no longer in Newlyn but is still on line.
House sign of copper daffodils in Mousehole on my way to see if I can exhibit with Julia Mills in her lovely little gallery. It's a yes.
Sparrows singing overhead on mathematically spaced wires of communication.
Next to Penzance to top up my work at The Alverton Gallery.
Friday night I had literally no sleep what so ever as revellers stumbled homewards in full song from the first night of the sea shanty festival. Not quite sure why stopping just outside my window is on the itinery but it certainly is. So I am now packing my car and leaving the high life behind for a few nights of peace and quiet and the option of a dawn chorus in Devon with my son. I can take care of my now potted garden - repotting and feeding. Only lost a standard gooseberry and one old rose so all is good. If I can keep them happy and alive Then I will have the makings of a new garden when I find another home.
Now to London and a few days with my daughter and naturally another spot of mudlarking -
This is Tilly the tug boat - the hard working little red tug as seen from the Millennium Footbridge as the tide rises after a good days mudlarking and I make my way to the Tate with mudlarking finds in the form of new friends for lunch. 

Thames Tug Boats Reclaim, Recovery, Resource and Redoubt - this is Resource.
Old oyster shells - quite different to todays oyster shells - these to be made into jewellery.
Shards of beautiful iridescent old glass - hundreds of years old - ever so slightly tweeked in photoshop but only just enough to show their true colours.
 My last find of the day just as I was about to leave
Decorated clay pipe bowl - 99% are quite plain so this is a delightful find.
An assortment of mainly blue and white pottery shards to be sorted out - there are millions of them in layers of silt to a depth of many feet along the foreshore. Now are they shards or are they sherds? I quote -Definition of Sherd-n also Shard-n :  A fragment of broken earthenware. spec. in Archaeol., a piece of broken pottery. Phrase: to break, etc. into sherds : to reduce to fragments, break beyond repair.

Simply put, if you break a plant pot tomorrow you will have to clean up all the broken shards of pot. Come and dig up broken pots on an archaeological excavation and these then become potsherds.
Fragments of mother of pearl - perfect for jewellery - well mine at least.
Necklace incorporating old clay pipe stems.  Smokers would buy a pipe of tobacco and then throw the pipe - once smoked - into the river. Hundreds of years later they have broken into fragments and have absorbed the blue grey colour of the river clay and become smooth and beautifully interesting fragments of social history.
A day in Chelsea as it was raining - so walking and taking note of hidden places behind the Kings Road.
An espresso macchiato at The Botanist catching the reflected light through rain splattered windows onto my shiny metal table. I even went so far as to record 30 seconds of the whirring fan slicing through the air with the background noise of customers chatting. Every now and then I video 60 seconds of peace - birdsong, water etc - I will put them together as an hour of '60 seconds of tranquility for stressful times' I imagine New York cab drivers zoning out in congested traffic listening to a blackbird singing its heart out after a rain storm on Dartmoor! The whirring fan was anything but peaceful so will not make it into the sound library.

 Chelsea pensioners defying the rain.

 Foxgloves and roses in Paultons Square.

 The largest rose covered tree around the block.

A visit to my favourite art shop - Green and Stone 
to buy deep coppery bronze flakes for decorating the backs of the pendants and pins that I will be making from the shards of thick iridescent. A note here from Julia at - 'As I understand it the older the glass the more iridescent it becomes, so probably at least 400 years old, but I haven’t done my research here.' 
I have just finished using the last of my boxes of pebeo gold flakes so was delighted to find them.
Also a meter of delicate translucent paper - it is actually white though you would be hard pressed to believe me from my rather dodgy iphone photo. It has all sorts of definitions printed all over. I think a meter will last me for a decade as I only want to add the merest of scraps here and there now and again - perhaps. But it was too promising to not take a little away with me to my Tardis.
And finally sort of Cheshire cat made from slices of corrugated brown cardboard. 

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