Sunday, 22 January 2017

Past = Future


I've never been a planner. I'm not one of those people with a grand life plan in which certain targets have to be achieved within a particular timescale. This is partly because this involves being super-organised, and I'm just not, and partly because nobody knows what life has in store and what is, or isn't, around the next corner that could throw your carefully-made plans into disarray.

I've always kind of bimbled along, doing life as it happens, the way I want to do it, rather than adhering to the 'norm'. Why do things because others do them, or because I feel I should do them? I've never wanted children. I just don't. I've got nothing against kids, but having my own is just not for me. I don't drink. I've got no problem if you do; it's just I hate the taste and effects of booze and would rather have a cup of tea or an orange squash. I don't drive a car. Being behind the wheel of one makes me so nervous and anxious it's not worth my stress and worry. I never went to university. I was going to; I had a place to study graphic design at the University of Portsmouth but when the time came it just didn't feel right and I started a mailing and print finishing business with my mum instead.

I've only just got married. Chris and I have been together for ten years and we got wed in November. Again, it wasn't your 'normal' wedding because neither of us wanted to do that. We didn't want fuss and fanfare. I wore blue, we had thirteen guests, a civil ceremony that involved the Terry & June theme tune, a meal at Jamie's Italian, no speeches or toasts, and then drinks back at the Premier Inn bar. And it was lovely. (This paragraph was mainly my way of telling you that I finally got married.)

We got married, see?

What I'm saying, in a long-winded way, is that I wait for stuff to happen in its own time, rather than trying to make it happen. I quite enjoy letting my life meander and unfold, letting one thing lead to another, a bit like listening to one artist or band, reading and learning about them and seeing which artist or band that leads me to listening to next. I've always been the same with my beads. I started off faffing with seed beads, reading bead books and magazines, then reading about how glass beads are made, then slowly gathering kit and glass and knowledge and skills, learning from the glass and my mistakes, growing my collection of tools and equipment as I went. I'm still learning from the glass and my mistakes, and I can't ever see that changing. Just this week I had an "A-ha!" moment (not in the Morten Harket or Alan Partridge sense) when an encasing technique that has long eluded me clicked into place.

And so to my impending degree course in Archaeology. I've always loved history. When it came to choosing my GCSE subjects, History was one of my second choices but ultimately ended up being the subject I enjoyed the most, even more than art. I did an Art History A-level at college which combined two things I love but that is where my formal history education stopped. I've always been partial to historical telly programmes and books. I love finding out how we got to where we are today. The history behind everyday objects—basic things like cooking pots and clothing fasteners and buckles—really fascinates me. I've forever been interested in our language and how the words we use today link back to our past too.

I've lived in Cambridge for over six years. We live here because Chris has a very good job here and as long as I have a shed, I can work anywhere. Cambridge is great; it's a lovely city and I like living in it. However, Chris aside, I have no family or friends here, so I don't see many people on a day-to-day basis which is sort of fine for me because I like my own company, and seventy-eight percent of humans irk me anyway, so it's OK. Last year I realised that I spend far too much time on social media talking to people in a virtual sense. That's great and it has its place, but I find that social media is becoming more poisonous and real-life-affecting with every Facebook check, browse of Twitter, or scroll through Instagram. I don't want to read constant, long, angry rants about Trump or whichever person has done or said a bad thing. I get it; you're a decent human being with good morals – if you weren't, I probably wouldn't be following you on social media. I also don't need to know that someone is having their second coffee of the day and to see a photo of a Starbucks cup to prove it. Anyway, in short, I find myself annoyed by social media more often than I am entertained by it. That video of the cat being dragged around a house in a cardboard box to a jaunty Japanese pop song, whilst wearing a hat made out of its own fur, though? That's FINE.

So yes, I'd reached a point where the internet was giving me rage and annoyance on far too regular a basis, and Chris aside, Diane and Karen who work at the local Post Office were the real life people I spoke to the most. Nothing against Diane and Karen, I mean they're just lovely, but I needed to do something about my lack of interaction with other actual people. So I Googled about for local history groups. How better to learn about the place in which you find yourself living, than to discuss it with other people? In searching for local history groups I stumbled upon a very local (like a seven minute walk away local) community archaeology group. It reminded me of seeing the ad for the 'make your own glass beads' lampwork kit in the back of Bead & Button all those years ago and I was all "What? I can actually make beads? In my home? Me?" Yeah, it was like that but "What? I can actually dig up olden stuff? Without qualifications or having to apply to Tony Robinson? Me?" instead. So I emailed them and went along and joined the group.

Well, that was it.

Those archaeology people are my people! Once a month we meet up and drink tea and talk about historical stuff. And in between those meetings we go to talks by other people who like and know history. And sometimes we go to see people who've dug up stuff. And sometimes we get to do the actual digging-up of stuff!

There it was. Years and years of bimbling along through life not knowing that archaeology was a thing for me but suddenly realising it is. It really is. All those television programmes, books, looking-up of things, and that need to know how and why we are the us that we are (that makes sense in my head) all coming together and making an electrical brain circuit of BINGO!

My first dig at the Leper Chapel in Cambridge. I helped to unearth a medieval trackway. Those light patches of stone are the track. Lots of trowel and brush action required.

After a few months of group meetings and talks, and after my first archaeological dig in a field next to a medieval leper chapel, I decided I needed to learn more. Properly learn. And so I applied to study for a BA in Archaeology at the University of Leicester. It's a full-time distance learning course which incorporates a few weeks of practical experience. I'm fully aware that doing the course alongside my beads is going to be hard work (people love pointing that out to me) but I'll be studying a subject that fascinates me and that I love, which is more than can be said for the degree course I didn't do when I was eighteen, and I've never been one to shy away from a challenge or hard work, so I shall see how it goes and adjust and re-jig my other life stuff accordingly.

Does this mean that I'll eventually give up the beads? I don't know. Nobody does. Like everything I've ever done since the age of eighteen, I shall see where it takes me. If I get a good degree, maybe I'll go part-time with the beads and get a part-time job in one of Cambridge's many museums. Or maybe I'll get into development-led archaeology for a living. Or perhaps archaeology will just end up being A Thing That I Know A Lot About. Who knows? As the first four paragraphs of this blog post demonstrate, I am one of life's bimblers. For the next three years I'll be bimbling with a purpose. I don't know for sure where I'm going with the archaeology but I'll know I've got there when I get there and when I am there, I'll let you know.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

A few changes

Lampwork glass 'Stormcloud' beads by Laura Sparling

Hello, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year etc!

I'm just doing a quick post to let you know about a couple of bead tweaks I'm making. In February I am starting a full-time distance learning degree in Archaeology with the University of Leicester. This means I will have to make a couple of Beads By Laura changes. (I will explain this archaeology development in a separate blog post.)

Firstly, I am not offering tuition for the foreseeable future. I am teaching at MangoBeads at the end of this month (and there are a couple of places left) but after that, I am taking zero tuition bookings.

Secondly, I am cutting back on the amount of bead 'sets' I make. There will still be sets but I am going to sell some beads as singles. That way I can make a bunch of beads in one design and you can buy one, a pair, or several of them. And if you're thinking "No way am I paying a couple of quid for one bead and then £1.99 postage on top!" then panic not; I am now offering FREE Royal Mail 2nd Class postage to UK addresses.

It's going to take me a while to get into a routine; I have an idea in my head of how studying for a degree alongside running a business might work, but until I actually start doing it, I shan't know for certain. The best way to keep updated with beads is to regularly check this here website, or to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also sign up to my mailing list for sort-of-monthly updates and discount codes.

The photo at the top of this post is of some 'Stormcloud' beads which are currently available as singles. There are a few other beads for sale too. All of them can be found in my shop.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Boo!

Lampwork blown glass hollow ghost bead by Laura Sparling

I've only got a couple of these Halloweenish ghosts left now but I thought I'd show you them anyway.

Lampwork blown glass hollow ghost beads by Laura Sparling

The ghosts are blown hollows made in translucent white glass.

Lampwork blown glass hollow ghost bead by Laura Sparling

They're weighted nicely so they hang really well on a chain.

Lampwork blown glass hollow ghost bead necklace by Laura Sparling

I have just two ghost necklaces left in the shop as I type this. Those are £15.00 each and are available here.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Little Somethings

Lampwork glass and sterling silver necklace by Laura Sparling

I'm calling these my 'Little Something' necklaces as they are just that – a little something extra to complement an outfit, or a little something as a gift, either to yourself or someone else.

Lampwork glass and sterling silver necklace by Laura Sparling

Each one consists of three of my lampwork beads—one decorated and two plain spacers—threaded onto a sterling silver rolo link chain.

Lampwork glass and sterling silver necklace by Laura Sparling

The beads slide up and down the chain, which is great for jewellery twiddler-fondlers, but whilst the necklace is being worn the beads naturally sit in their little trio.

Lampwork glass and sterling silver necklace by Laura Sparling

My Little Something necklaces are £13.00 each and I'll be adding them to my website on a fairly regular basis, so do check there often for new styles.

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

I've also got some Luminobeads in the shop. I was feeling mighty autumnal when I made these so that's why they're made in rich copper and amber shades.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The CiM testing continues

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling, made with CiM 'Painted Hills'

I'm still trying out the new Creation is Messy colours and I'm writing about them. Recent additions to the Tumblr are Painted Hills, which is pictured above, and there's also:

Denim

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling, made with CiM 'Denim'

Quetzal

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling, made with CiM 'Quetzal'

and Class M Planet

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling, made with CiM 'Class M Planet'

I've still got a few more colours to test yet. I hope people find the posts useful.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

CiM Testing

Lampwork glass beads made in Creation is Messy 'Aloha'

I'm working my way through a bundle of new Creation is Messy glass colours, writing up my findings and thoughts as I do so. The first four testing posts are over on my Tumblr. The colours I've twiddled with so far are:

Bashful

Lampwork glass beads made in Creation is Messy 'Bashful'

Mockingbird

Lampwork glass beads made in Creation is Messy 'Mockingbird'

Envy

Lampwork glass beads made in Creation is Messy 'Envy'

and Aloha.

Lampwork glass beads made in Creation is Messy 'Aloha'

All of the test findings can be found on my Tumblr blog, which is also where I keep a record of the glasses I use for all my beads.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion clock, taken with my iPhone

This past week I've spent my evenings putting dandelion clock seeds into beads in order to make my Wishful necklaces. It's very time consuming. I sit there with the telly on, tray of dandelion clocks and beads 'pon my lap, and with a pair of tweezers I pluck a seed from a clock and then add it to a glass bubble, carefully feeding it through the 3mm hole. I keep on doing this until the glass bubble is full of dandelion fluffs.

Dandelion seed, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens
Dandelion seed, or 'fluff' as I like to call it

Blown lampwork glass hollow beads by Laura Sparling
Blown glass beads, wet from their bath

Blown lampwork glass bead and dandelion seed pendants by Laura Sparling
Beads, filled with seeds and made into pendants

Because I handle every dandelion seed separately, I've noticed how much they vary. Not all dandelions are equal. Obviously they are different sizes which means that the seeds from one clock head can be shorter or longer than the seeds from another. The fluffiness of the fluffs is also determined by when the dandelion was picked and how long it has had to dry out. The colour of the seedy bit of the seeds also seems to be affected by this. The older the seed, the darker the seedy bit is.

Dandelion clock seeds, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens

I've become a bit of a dandelion weirdo. I reckon this could be the thing that gives me 'local character' status. I'll be known as 'Dandelion Woman' or 'Her, You Know, Her, Who Picks Dandelions'. I'm constantly scanning grass verges and patches for dandelion clocks. I never leave the house without my dandelion collecting pot and as soon as I see a fluffy lollipop I dash over and pluck it.

Dandelion flower, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens

In my head I have a map of where the big yellow in-bloom dandelions are because I know that in a week or so they will have transformed into clocks and then I can go back to collect them. I don't pick all of them; I always leave a couple there so their seeds can do the nature thing and float away to create new dandelions.

Now, in the style of a Year 7 science project about dandelions, here are some fun dandelion facts for you:

  • The name 'dandelion' comes from the French 'dent di lion' which means 'lion's tooth' and this refers to the jagged leaves of the plant
  • Dandelion seeds can be carried on the wind for as far as five miles
  • In Victorian times, dandelions were grown by rich people and the plants would be eaten in salads and sandwiches
  • Dandelions are rich in calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C
  • The roots of a dandelion can grow up to half a metre long
  • The leaves of the dandelion plant can be used to make purple dye
  • Dandelion tea can be used as a mild laxative but don't be drinking it if you have gallbladder issues as it can also increase the flow of bile
  • Dandelions are food for the caterpillars of several types of butterfly and moth
  • Dandelions open at about five o'clock in the morning and close at about eight o'clock at night, hence the term 'clock'; they were once used as indicators of time

And of course, as with many flowers there are many myths and meanings and old wives' tales surrounding them:

  • When you blow a dandelion clock the number of seeds left represent how many children you will have
  • Another theory states that the number of seeds remaining post-puff indicate how many years you have left to live
  • Dreaming of dandelions represents happy unions
  • Some people think that the dandelion represents celestial bodies; the yellow flower is the sun, the seed head is the moon and the seeds are the stars
  • Dandelions in a wedding bouquet will bring good luck
  • Burying a dandelion in the north-west corner outside your house is said to bring favour and fortune
  • Dandelion root tea can aid psychic abilities and prophetic dreaming
  • In Victorian flower language, dandelions represent faithfulness, happiness and love's oracle
  • You should make a wish before you blow the seeds off a dandelion clock

A lot of those are probably twaddle and I reckon if you bury a dandelion anywhere you'll just end up with lots more dandelions as opposed to favour and fortune. Actually, I am going to do that. Not the burying-it-to-bring-me-favour-and-fortune thing, but in order to intentionally grow dandelions. Most people try and get rid of them but no, I'm going to grow me some so that I can have a good supply for my necklaces. Right now I have enlisted friends and family for dandelion-picking duties and my necklaces contain Hampshire, Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire dandelion seeds.

Blown lampwork glass bead and dandelion seed necklace by Laura Sparling

There you go. More than you ever wanted or needed to know about Taraxacum officinale - the common dandelion. I've come to love these flowers. They're absolutely fascinating and I refuse to call them weeds. Hurrah for the dandelions!

Dandelion clock, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens

Oh, and if you'd like to order you very own Wishful necklace, please head right this way.