Friday, 29 July 2011

Bonjour mes amis!

Bonjour.....I am back after a fantastic anniversary break in the city of love...Paris. And what an amazing city it is. Thank you for all your kind anniversary wishes you sent, my Hb and I had a ball there. 30 years...where does it go?! I have taken SO many photos that I could not possibly share them all so I have decided to make 3 posts out of our trip which I would love to share with you all over the next couple of weeks.

Our trip started with an amazing journey on Eurostar. I have been to Europe via "Le Shuttle" (the train which takes your and your car) a couple of times but this was my first Eurostar experience and it certainly will not be the last. It is THE way to travel from where I live to Paris. We are lucky enough to be able to get to St Pancras directly from our local train station so we just wheeled our cases to the station, hopped on the 1st Capitol Connect train and arrived at St Pancras in 40 minutes. The conversion of the old St Pancras station is incredible and it is truly world class now.

We enjoyed wandering around before we checked in for our train departure. The concourse is dotted with shops (including CK no less)and has stunning architecture and sculptures.

How apt is this piece for the start of a romantic journey...if you look at the man standing in the door way to the right  behind it you can see just how large it is. It is called The meeting place and together with another sculpture....

of John Betjeman, (who was very involved in saving the old station) they make your visit even more delightful.

Once we had checked in we sat in the departure lounge and sampled the coffee and pastries of my favourite coffee house, Cafe Nero

When our train was ready to board we all travelled up the escalator and onto the platform.We then made our way to our carriage and seats.

My Hb had paid for an upgrade so that we could travel in style for our special trip and we had great seats with an unobstructed view out of the window.

We were served a really tasty light lunch (much better than airline type food) and after just 2 1/2 hours we arrived at our destination. It was such an easy, hassle free way to travel to Paris.  At the Gard de Nord we caught a taxi to our hotel, checked in and quickly unpacked, as we still had a whole afternoon ahead. Our hotel over looked a beautiful park and we were able to stroll around in the sunshine.

Here a few photos taken near our hotel

The next day we decided to hit the shops and wandered up towards the Arc de Triomphe. Printemps and the Galleries Lafayette, both shown below, were huge department stores with wonderful Art Nouveau  buildings which house them.

We walked all the way up to the Arc de Triomphe

and then decided our feet needed a slight rest (we must have walked far more than our daily 10.000 steps) so we took the metro
back to our lovely hotel. We decided on an early evening meal as we had a great treat pre booked for the next day (Sunday) - to visit Versailles. Now that warrants a whole post of its own and I shall be back to share with you the opulence of this incredible estate. It really was quite breathtaking.

Back soon,

Bye for now,

Jane x
P.S Don't forget to enter my Giveaway before 8th August. The post is here and you could win a pair of silver alabaster earrings to celebrate my 1st Bloggerversary. Everyone is welcome to enter. Good luck!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

My 1st bloggerversary (or my blogging 1st birthday!)

As you are aware at the moment I am actually away enjoying my 30th Wedding Anniversary celebrations in Paris. If the wonders of technology work this post should automatically load and appear on 26th July. Today is a very memorable day as it is exactly a year since I launched my very first post Well I am stunned that here I am a year on from when I wrote that very first blog post. It seems such a very long time ago rather than 12 months. I think what happens is that such a lot gets packed into those 12 months. Life is very full and such fun sharing it with everyone.

I look at my very first post and smile when I read my first words, they are as true now as ever. Life indeed has it's ups and downs, it is real life, but there is nothing better than realising there is a world wide blogging community out there which I feel such a bond to. People who neither read nor write blogs really don't seem to "get it". There is such palpable friendship out there from people I have mostly never met but I have so enjoyed getting to know via my blog.

I think blogging has really re taught me to enjoy the simple things of life. I even wrote a post about that some time ago here and I think it rang true with lots of people. I find myself looking at flowers in my garden, my Billy purring or sleeping, and the outside world in a way I don't think I ever did before. Although I am a really busy person and do cram a lot into my day I now always have time  to stop and observe these tiny pleasures in life. I also get such a buzz sharing my crafts with people who are so far away they could never possibly see them in real life.

So this post is dedicated to all of you out there, whether you are followers or not, whether you are a first time visitor or a seasoned veteran visitor . There is simply one thing I want to say.....

"Thank you". 

You have made this such a fun year. We have shared the autumn fruits, the snow, Christmas, the 1st signs of spring, tennis, summer holidays, silver smithing, card making and so much more and I have had a ball knowing you are all out there.To thank you I am having a 1st bloggerversary giveaway. To read all about it please read this post. If you would like the chance to win those earrings please add a comment to this (today's) post and I will draw a name out of the hat on my return. The last day for entering will be Monday 8th August. Good luck!

There is only one picture for this post, it's from my garden and features my darling Billy in the sunshine.

Happy days, Thank you again everyone for making it such a fun year. Sending you all some sunshine :0)

Bye for now,

Jane x

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Further adventures with silver metal clay

Last week I took some time off work to attend the 3 day Silver Metal Clay course which I booked many months ago. I have been on 2 metal clay courses in the last year and used my skills to make my daughter's engagement keepsake pendant.
 11 ladies arrived on the Monday morning keen to further (or begin) their creativity.

 I really do find this medium so fascinating to work with. Once you master how to handle the clay (it does take some getting used to) there is so much freedom in working with it. My traditional silver smithing skills further help me. As a refresher, to those of you who are not familiar with metal clay, there are 2 main makers, both Japanese, who produce the brands "PMC" and "Art Clay". I have worked with both but I do prefer the slow dry version of Art Clay although both brands are very similar. Metal clay is almost pure silver, 999 parts as opposed to 925 found in sterling silver. It is held in a binder and once fired to burn off the binder, using a kiln or hand torch, it becomes solid 999 silver. It really is almost magical the way it changes its form during the firing process.

Each day we worked on a different project, 2 were set projects and the last day it was possible to work on something different if we did not want to work on the one suggested. The projects were; pendant making, bead making and ring making. As I have already attended a 1 day ring making course I decided that I would try my hand at making my own toggle clasps to use in my jewellery making.

Day 1
We had a demo from Liz our tutor after which we were given a piece of Fimo clay to roll out some design ideas. Metal clay is very expensive and you need to make your errors using Fimo.Once we were happy with our Fimo designs it was time to cut out the real thing. I decided that I wanted to use my heart cutters again which I used for my daughter's engagement cake and pendant.

After embossing the clay with a pattern and cutting them out they were left to dry. Once dry  I had to file smooth all the edges of the components. Once smooth I assembled them using metal clay paste (similar to the slip you use in pottery) and got them  ready for drying on the hot plate.This is the stage when the clay is very fragile and easy to break if too much pressure is applied.

Here they are assembled and ready to be dried again. I set a tiny cubic zirconia in the centre of the small heart of the pendant on the left.

I had a small piece of clay spare so I also cut out a tiny daisy design and set a cubic zirconia  in the centre.I then fixed the small daisy on to the larger one to give a "3 D" effect.

Day 2
The set project for this day was to make 2 styles of bead; a lentil and a rolled bead. The lentil bead was quite difficult to make.

I conditioned and rolled out the clay

Next I chose an embossing pad, I used a seashell design and I rolled this design into the clay...

which left this pretty pattern.

Next I used 2 round cutters to cut out the 2 sides of the beads which I then left to dry on a former (or in this case the backs of 2 same sized measuring spoons).

Once dry I carefully filed the 2 halves smooth and after checking the fit I made a hole in each end and sandwiched them together.

This is the other style of  bead.
They were fun to make, a triangle of clay was rolled out and textured and then I wound it carefully around a cocktail stick. The edges were sealed and and left to dry.

Day 3
Rather than the set project of ring making I chose to have a "play" at making some toggle clasps. I first came up with 2 designs which again I practiced making using Fimo clay. Once I was happy I made them up in metal clay.

Here are the front components prior to filing and assembling.

The toggle part was very fiddly as first I had to cut out the shape and before the clay hardened (it hardens in a matter of minutes)...................

.....I had to fix in 1/2 jump rings to the back. You can see this in the toggle on the far side of the photo.Eveything was again sanded when dry and the clasp and toggle assembled by adding the little daisies.

I am sure you are now what did they all look like finished........

..........well here they all are having been fired, brass filed, tumble polished and burnished.

It's incredible the way the finished pieces turn out and yes they really are solid almost pure silver! I am particularly pleased with the toggles as I hope to develop these and use them in the bridal jewellery for my daughter's wedding next July.

I hope you enjoyed this post and if you are interested I have decided for the very 1st time to sell one of my PMC pieces. You will find the heart pendant in the centre of the photo above for sale here in my Etsy shop. Enjoy!

I am off to Paris on Friday,  I will be back the following Wednesday (27th July).

DON'T FORGET...I am launching my giveaway post for my 1st Bloggerversary whilst I am away. All being well if the "scheduler" works! Put the date in your diaries, Wednesday 26th July. You could win my alabaster earrings.

 I will be back that same week with some photos from the city of  L*O*V*E where my dear Hb and I will be celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary. I will raise a glass to you all - cheers to all, my blogging friends :0)

Back soon,

Bye for now,

Jane x

Friday, 15 July 2011

Holiday jewellery making

Hello! I have been away for a few days staying with my daughter in Essex. It's been a busy week after my 3 day metal clay course but such fun and beats working. Today we went to Mersea, renowned for its oysters. I have taken some photos and will write a post re that, hopefully next week, as it was such a great place and their oysters are out of this world.The sun shone and we even walked on the beach collecting shells...bliss!

Today though I am finally getting round to telling you about my holiday jewellery makes. First of all I know you wanted to see what I made with my alabaster beads in this post which I bought in Volterra. I bought 5 beads, 4 for 2 pairs of earring and one to make a new charm for my holiday bracelet.

So here are the earrings.

 I used pretty silver plated bead caps, together with some Swarovski bicones, sterling silver daisy spacer beads and finished them off with some sterling silver ear wires. They are a great neutral colour to wear and look good during the day or for an evening outfit.

I also have a holiday charm bracelet I made a few years back using bronze links I bought and put together. I like using bronze and copper in my jewellery making, bronze also looks good on summer skin.
Here is my existing bracelet.
There are charms on here I bought in Sicily, Italy and Rhodes and also a couple of summery beads I added bead caps to and wire wrapped.

Here is one of the alabaster beads. I added copper bead caps and wired it up with bronze wire.

I also bought a fun enameled lucky chili pepper in San Gimignano and a silver charm from the Cathedral in Sienna.

I added all these to my bracelet...
And this is how my bracelet looks now, it's filling up isn't it?

So I can now hear you asking what happened to the other 2 alabaster beads. Well, when I  made up the 2nd pair of earrings, which I was going to sell in my Etsy shop I was disappointed to find after making them that one of the beads has a very slightly misaligned hole. I know a lot of people would not even mention or notice it, but my quality control is very strict and I do not feel I could sell it. Instead I have made up a very different pair of earrings for my shop, take a peep here. I have been working on a commission and made up these at the same time with some lovely one of a kind floral glass lampwork beads.

Now there is a happy ending to this as I decided I will instead offer these earrings as a giveaway  for my 1st Bloggerversary which is coming up on 26th July. I will be in Paris at the time but I will schedule it to post that day.
Anyone who enters a comment on that post will be put into my draw. So put the date in your diary.
I am sure you now want to see them.....
They are almost identical to mine but these have 3 sterling silver daisy spacers if you look closely!

 In the meantime I will be back with hopefully a couple of posts before I go to Paris, yes I must definitely share my metal clay work too. Must dash, off to dancing's the quick step and boy is it quick!
Have a lovely weekend everyone and thanks as always for visiting me here. It's always lovely to have your visits and read your kind comments.

Bye for now,

Jane x

Monday, 11 July 2011

Final Tales from Tuscany, Sienna and the Medieval Pageant at San Gimignano

After my  interlude with my visit to Wimbledon and my little giveaway,  here are the last of my tales from Tuscany. For my final post I would love to share with you 2 visits, firstly to Sienna.

Sienna is a World Heritage site and famous for its Palio horse race which takes place in the historic Piazzo del Campo shown above. Our destination when we arrived there was  the famous clock tower, which only allows 30 people up at a time. On our visit in to Sienna in 2009 the queue was too vast to join so we decided this time to go first thing in the morning. Our plan paid off and when we arrived there were only about 20 people waiting at the entrance.

There were 400  stone steps ahead of us so all bags had to be left at the entrance in lockers and then after buying our tickets we were able to start the long climb.

As we climbed higher and higher there were small openings in the wall where we could start to see just how high we were going.

At the summit were the original bells, thankfully now silenced, I think we would have been deafened had they not been. It was quite windy here and there was a protective wall but over the edge the view was stunning........................

How great is that view down into the Piazzo del Campo?
Here are another 2 views.
You are only allowed at the summit for a limited time and then had to take the 400 steps back down. Boy did we know we had calf muscles at the end of that day, we certainly did our recommended daily dose of 10,000 steps!
After some lunch we visited the beautiful Cathedral. The building of this magnificent structure began in the c12 and it was completed by 1380 and in it's time was the largest cathedral in the world. Both the outside and inside of this cathedral are stunning.

Inside the Cathedral is also a library where the walls and ceiling are completed covered by more exquisite paintings.
The photo below is unbelievable the ceiling! Imagine how hard that would have been to paint.
We really enjoyed our day in this stunning ancient city.

Towards the end of our holiday we were lucky enough to find that San Gimignano was holding its annual Medieval Pageant. We made our way in early on the Sunday and took up our places to watch the parade. Many of the residents of the city dressed up in Medieval costume to act their parts out.

We were also treated to the spectacle of flag throwing..something I have never seen before.

It was a really great end to our holiday.I hope you enjoyed reading my tales from Tuscany. If you ever get the chance do try to visit...Italy is a great country and Tuscany is quite unique.

Coming up very soon I have another treat in store as my Hb and I are celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary in no less than the city of love....yes Paris and as a special treat we are travelling there on Eurostar. I have been to France via the shuttle (underground tunnel) when we took the car but  never by Eurostar. I visited St Pancras where the train starts when it first opened, even  the station is stunning. I will obviously take my trusty camera with me. Our seats are booked and our hotel room awaits...only 2 more weeks to go.

This week I am really lucky as I have taken some time off work to attend a 3 day precious metal clay course. Today we made a pendant and will be making a bead tomorrow. I will at some stage write a post and show my handiwork but in the meantime I will be back very soon with some more news about my alabaster beads...;0)

Bye for now,

Jane x