Monday, 2 April 2018

Tutorials

A few months ago I made the decision to remove my PDF tutorials from my website.

Why did I do this?

There are several reasons:

Firstly, I felt that the tutorials were a little outdated; I produced them years ago and the photos were taken at what is now considered a very low-res. I was no longer happy with the tutorials and the presentation of them.

Secondly, I just do not have the time anymore to offer email advice and assistance to everyone who writes to me with regards to issues they're having with a tutorial.

Thirdly, I got disillusioned with the whole lampwork-PDF-tutorials-as-a-thing thing. I used to charge for them, and then I didn't. (A few years back, HMRC were talking about having to pay a tax on digital downloads and I couldn't be arsed with extra admin, so I made them free.)  Some folk sell their tutorials for crazy money. Some people write tutorials for free so magazines can publish them and take the financial rewards for them. (THIS IS NOT OK.) In the past I have written tutorials for magazines where I have been paid, but nowhere near enough. So basically, the whole tutorial thing had started to bug me.

Lastly, I got a tad peeved with people just expecting stuff for free. People email me or leave comments asking me how I make particular beads, and suggesting I write more tutorials or make videos for this bead or that bead, or showing a certain technique. A few years back I added a PayPal donation button to my tutorials page and in the whole time it was there, and out of the thousands upon thousands of visitors to that page, only two people used it.

I intend to re-photograph and update my tutorials at some point. I don't know when that will be because my university work has taken over my life right now and bead tutorial photography is not a quick and easy thing to do properly, but when I do it, I will probably sell the tutorials as some kind of combined eBook or something, perhaps with some new ones added in. In the meantime, the tutorials are not available on my website, or by email.

I know that me making the tutorials unavailable has annoyed some people (they wrote and told me so) and fair enough - I can be annoying, but ultimately, these are my beads and my work, and this is my business. With my beads I have always done what I feel is right for me personally. I don't expect everyone to understand this, but thank you to those who do.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Runblog 3: Moved

Alright? If on the off-chance you're here looking for another Runblog post, I do have one for you but it's not here; it's on my new running-based blog, Laura Can Run. Head on over there if you fancy it. You can subscribe by email too, if you like.

I'll be back to beads here just as soon as I have some. The second year of my degree starts tomorrow and I have a lot to do. I don't foresee that many beads happening over the next three months but I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Runblog 2: Shut up, brain


I made a conscious effort to not overdo the running this week. My thigh occasionally does a little groan at me, normally when I'm doing something running-unrelated, reminding me that it was pretty knackered only a couple of weeks ago, so I make a point of listening to those groans and taking it a bit easier and so far, so good. I've been doing daily squats and assorted leg strengthening exercises and I think that's been helping a lot.

I did a 5km run on Monday and that was a tad tough. I knew my body was capable of it but my brain was telling me that it wasn't. I was all "We've done this many times, you daft brain. My legs and I can do this just fine, thank you very much for asking!" but my brain was telling me and my legs that we couldn't go on and that it would just be better for all of us if we stopped running, walked home and had a nice rest. I told my brain to shut its filthy piehole, and my legs and I completed the run. I also faffed about trying to do one of those running action shots. I propped my phone up against a post, set the self timer thing and ran past it. I managed to capture my leg. Still, my leg was running so I reckon the photo qualifies as a running action shot. (And don't be looking at my VPL; my Runderwear makes my arse look like a joint of pork.)

My mudguards for my bike arrived so I fitted them and went out to test them in the rain on Wednesday.

Post-cycling selfie

There was no grubby-buttocking incident this time, so that was a fiver well spent. I timed the ride wrong, though, and I got caught up in the school-home-time cycling traffic alongside the busway. I was bombing along on my bike amongst schoolyouths bombing along on their bikes and there was a moment where I felt like some kind of geriatric Goonie.

To date, bar parkruns, I've done all of my running alongside the busway. It's straight, flat and smooth, and I only ever have to cross one road. Apparently varying your route is a good thing to do so on Friday I planned a run somewhere that wasn't the busway.

Post-run selfie

I have no sense of direction. At all. The part of my brain that does directions and maps is just utterly useless; somehow my brain can remember the names of the entire Lockhead family from the terrible '90s BBC soap Eldorado, but it is incapable of working out how to get to a place. I studied Google Maps and worked out a route that was about 3.5km – a loop, all run on paths that I walk on a very regular basis going to the shops and the library and such. Except for one bit. There was one tiny bit that I didn't know but after looking at the map about fifteen times before leaving the house, I was confident I'd logged it it my head, but nope, I got to that bit and instantly my brain became all befuddled and I ended up doing a three minute scurry-about, trying to correct my route like a malfunctioning sat nav device. The stupid thing was, I was only five minutes from home! Eventually I sort of got my bearings and headed in the general direction of where I wanted to be and I ended up on a green, amongst children's boingy playground equipment, but I kept on running and sure enough I ended up on the right road and I was able to complete the run and make it home. I honestly shouldn't be allowed out without a helper.

I've not done a parkrun yet this year. Cambridge parkrun is in a country park so the route is muddy and there are lots of tree roots to dodge. When it's been raining there are puddles too, and sections of the route become mighty slopslippy.  I had to do a bit of tree root and puddle jumping on my last parkrun and I'm pretty sure that's how I twanged my groin, so I decided that I wouldn't run there again until the weather improves a bit. I know that's a bit runner wimpish of me, but I just don't want to risk injuring myself again. However, with my self-imposed parkrun hiatus, I was getting such parkrun ennui on Saturdays. Every Saturday my Instagram and Strava feeds light up with lovely parkrun photos and I was missing it so I decided to volunteer and yesterday I donned a hi-vis vest and did a bit of marshalling.

Probably one selfie too many

I was positioned at the point where the parkrunners head off on the final straight of the course, up towards the finish funnel. The runners have to go past this point three times before they can head off towards the finish so I was doing a mix of cheering people on as they completed each lap, and spurring on the just-about-to-finishers. I absolutely bloody loved it! Everyone talks about the parkrun atmosphere and I thought I'd experienced it as a runner, but nope, the volunteering was where I really grasped what they're all on about. I have never clapped and cheered so much in my whole life and every time a runner panted, "Thank you, marshal!" at me I got such a lovely feeling. Some fella high-fived me as he ran by and another gent shouted, "Thank you, marshal, lovely hat!" each time he went past me. A lovely lady came up to me after her run and said that my encouragement had really helped her at a point where she was flagging. That was so good! All I'd done was stand there clapping and shouting stuff like "Excellent running skills!" and "I love your leggings!" and "Keep going, you're doing fab!" and here was this lady telling me how that had actually worked. Magical. I had such a big grin for hours afterwards. After we packed up I put my name down for marshalling again next week so I will try and come up with some more things to shout – something better than the nonsensical "Yeah, you're doing a good!" that my mouth said to someone at one point yesterday morning.

Next week I'm going to do three runs with one of them being a 6km one, and hopefully none of them will involve me acting like lost idiot.


This week's runstats
Number of runs: 2
Total distance run: 8.8km (4.56 miles)
Standout running tune of the week: Cliff Richard - Wired For Sound

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Runblog 1: On my bike

I mentioned that I was going to do a weekly running blog post so here I am doing that very thing which I'm calling my 'runblog'. How imaginative.

Yesterday I did my first run of the year. Hurrah! Oddly, I was sort of nervous about doing it. I was all "What if I've lost fitness?" and "What if I can't run and I have to walk because my body has forgotten how to run?" about it , but I gave myself a good talking-to, and after a twenty minute warm-up, I got my arse out of the door and into the rain. I walked to my usual starting point and Weezer's Feels Like Summer started playing as I broke into a run. This made me grin (because it's January and it was pissing with rain) but I grinned even more when I ran past a flock of geese in a very muddy field.

Look at them all having muddy funtimes

This particular bunch of sky-honkers fly over our house most Saturday mornings and I love hearing them. They live at the lake over the road from this field and yesterday it was like they were at some kind of goose day spa, thoroughly enjoying a therapeutic mud treatment.

Anyway, I set out with the intention of running a slow, easy mile and that way if my groin was playing me up I would just swear a bit and walk home. I ended up running two miles and I could have gone further but I didn't want to push my thigh luck. Running deliberately slowly is difficult. I'm not a fast runner at all, but making a conscious effort to run at a slower pace than usual is quite tricky and I actually ended up running faster than I did on my last parkrun. Ah well. It was just so wonderful to be back out there running. I've missed it so much and I ran most of the way with a stoopid smile on my face. This was partly due to my new Tikiboo nebula leggings. They're just so utterly cosmic!

I am in love with my nebula leggings

They are beautifully made too. They have a zippered back bumpocket (useful for stashing keys and fruit pastilles) and they also have a waist drawstring which guards against cases of baggy gusset syndrome. Nobody wants a baggy gusset when they're running. Or at any time, really.

I got home and did a long cool-down and a bit of foam rolling on my thigh. This is quite awkward and it looks very wrong, like I'm trying to hump a big grey sausage, but it really works. In case you're not aware, foam rolling is a way of doing a sort of deep tissue massage. You put the foam roller on the floor, and under the bit of you that want massaged, and then you put your weight on the roller and move slowly over it, back and forth, concentrating on any niggly bits. (Yeah, actually this does sound like I was trying to hump a big grey sausage, doesn't it?) Foam rolling can be a tad painful but at the same time it's really nice. It's particularly lovely on aching calf muscles. I've just got a smooth roller but you can get textured lumpy ones that really scrumble your bodymeats.

I want to do some form of cross-training on my non-running days. Until now that has been walking, which is great, but I do it anyway because I don't drive, so it doesn't ever feel like I'm actually doing a thing, if that makes sense. Ideally, I'd like to go swimming but the nearest pool is in town and that is just a hassle. And besides, I loathe swimming pools. Not the swimming  – the swimming is great – but I can't bear the rigmarole of it. You have to pack things and take shampoo and stuff. And then you have to stand in puddles in the changing room and you drop things in puddles and have to faff with lockers and keys. Then you go and swim and while doing so you try not to think of the other people's wee, arse particles, snot, germs and foot badness you're bobbing about in, let alone accidentally swallowing. On top of this, I end up performing an are-my-tits-still-in-my-cossie check and a pull-cossie-out-of-front-or-rear-crevice manoeuvre every two minutes. When you're done with the actual exercise you have to negotiate the changing rooms again but this time it's worse because you are wet. And cold. And oh god, look, there's the token unashamedly naked woman, leg up on the bench, towelling her undercarriage, but don't look at her, don't look, oh you looked at her and you made eye contact and why can't she just do the remove-cossie-and-put-underwear-on-under-the-towel thing that most of us perfected in the the gym changing rooms at school? Christ, it's stressful. And you will undoubtedly put a freshly-socked foot into a puddle. Then you have to battle for mirror space in the hairdrying area which is far too muggy because of all the hairdryers huffing hot air about, and there will be a couple of women applying a full face of make-up and spritzing hairspray and bodyspray all over the show, when all you want to do is get one tiny glimpse in a mirror to make sure you look borderline presentable and get the hell out of there.

So yeah, swimming is out.

That leaves the gym (just NO never) or cycling. So cycling is what I decided on. I've got a secondhand mountain bike which is a bit shit, but it's purple (and that goes a long way in my world) and it's got a lot of gears and it works and I'm not Bradley Wiggins so who cares? I pumped up its tyres, dusted off its cobwebs and squirted a bit of WD40 about, and pootled off. It was icy cold, snowing and therefore wet, but I just can't ever resist snow and I'd made up my mind to go out in it, and going out in it is what I did.

Wet and cold in my Guy Martin Proper hat that my dad gave me as a "well done on your running" gift

I cycled along my normal running route and most of the time I was thinking to myself "This is actually quite a long way and you normally run this, you weirdo" which made me feel proud of how far I've come (literally) since September, but it also made me think about how amazing anyone who runs long distances is. And I don't mean marathons or ultras – those people are incredible – I mean further than six miles, which seems like such a long way to me right now. I was going to do two circuits of my route which would have been about 10km but by about 6km it was snowing really hard and I couldn't feel my face so I decided to go home. My bike doesn't have mudguards so I ended up with a very soggy and mud-splattered bottom, and it took me about two hours to warm up afterwards. I really enjoyed the cycling and have now ordered a set of mudguards to try and minimise the grubby-buttocking that future wet bike rides will throw at me.

Because this past week has been full of me not running, I've been reading about running. Lots. I read No Run Intended and Run Intended by Hannah Phillips, both of which were amusing, entertaining and very inspiring - great stuff! I also read Your Pace or Mine? by Lisa Jackson, which was really good too. I'm partway through the audiobook of Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer which is incredible. Kathrine was the first woman to officially finish the Boston Marathon and flip me, she is one heck of a woman. I little-bit love her and I've not even finished listening to the book yet. I also got myself a copy of Build Your Running Body which is so good. Every time I pick it up I learn something new.

One last thing: I've started an Instagram account for my running. I wanted a place where I could ramble on about it without feeling bad for non-runner people. As I said in my last running post, I know how infuriating social media running posts can be. If you'd like to have a look, the account is lauracanrun and apparently I still can, even after almost a month off.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Beads, beads, beads

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

I've not got a lot to say, really. My groin is still injured, and I'm increasingly pissed off about not being able to go for a run, so I thought I'd post photos of the beads I've made over the past few days. There are the 'Magma' beads up there and then there are these 'Mango & Blueberry' ones...

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

...and then 'Minimalist Mango'...

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

...and these 'Cornflower' ones...

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

... and I had a big Lonelies jar sort out today and I ended up with three strands of assorted beads.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

Some of these beads are in the shop as I type, so if any of them tickle your bead fancy, do take a look.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

One of those tedious running posts

My running diary

This is my running diary. I bought it to keep a record of my running progress. Sure, my Garmin watch and app, and Strava take care of that for me in a digital format but I wanted a physical thing that I can actually fill in, with a pen. I'm also hoping that writing in it every day will help to improve my ever-crappening handwriting. These days I only ever write shopping lists, greetings cards, bead package address labels, and terrible, awful illegible notes for essays, and the latter have got so bad that I now make notes on my laptop so I don't have to spend ten minutes trying to decipher what the hell I've written.

So far my diary is full of me moaning to myself about not being able to run, along with a record of what exercises I'm doing each day to fix my banjaxed groin. It has one date in it, though – a race date! My first one. Me doing an actual running race! It's the Supernova 5K in London in March. The race is at the Olympic Park and it's run at dusk. Everyone gets given a head torch and you wear neon clothing and lights about your person. I've seen some photos from previous events and it looks very pretty and a lot of fun. Chris and I are going to make me some form of neon tutu that will be lit up with little LEDs, and I'm going to get some trainer lights and wear some of those glow stick bracelet things. I'm a bit excited, can you tell? I'm pretty confident that I wont have a repeat of my first running-in-a-tutu experience. I did a Christmas parkrun in December and the Facebook page said to wear a festive outfit, so I did. 

Me, the Christmas tutu tit

Yeah, you know when Bridget Jones turns up to the tarts and vicars party dressed as a sexy bunny but when she gets there nobody else is in fancy dress? Well, that happened. There were 460 runners in normal running gear, with a handful of them wearing a Santa or an elf hat (lazy festive outfit cop-out) and then me in a red tutu, long striped socks and Father Christmas deely boppers, and two six year olds dressed as an elf and Mrs Christmas. I decided to just style my way through it, and I stood in the queue, warming up like normal, but looking and feeling like a complete tit.

Tutu and trainers
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fashion

I ran the whole 5K in my tutu and socks because they said festive outfit and festive outfit is what they got. So yeah, hopefully everyone (well, everyone except the inevitable snooty super-serious runners) at Supernova will embrace the light-up dress code and I won't be the solitary tutu tit again.

Anyway, I think I'm going to do one post a week here about running. Maybe on a Sunday. Runday. Sunday Runday. Or something. That way I will limit my rabbiting on about running to one easily-avoidable post for all the people, who like me six months ago, do not want to read about running. I always scrolled right on by all those tedious route maps and times that people posted on Facebook and Twitter. Now I actively seek them out, following other running people and bookmarking websites and blog posts about injuries, exercises, fartlek (I know), nutrition and just about anything I can read about running. I've just finished listening to the audiobook of Christopher McDougall's Born To Run which was so good even a non-runner would find it interesting.

See? I think I could easily waffle on about running for one blog post a week. I do have beads to show you today, though. They are these 'Purquoise' ones. And yes, I know I've named umpteen sets of beads 'Purquoise' over the years but I've become lazy with bead-naming. Simple as that.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

The beads are in the shop as I type. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to squeeze my exercise ball betwixt my ankles and knees in an attempt to mend this sodding groin injury. Have a good Saturday!

Friday, 12 January 2018

Standard January sky

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

Isn't January just the worst month? It's long and nothingy and it promises everything yet delivers nothing. Nobody has any money because they spent it all on food and other people at Christmas. (Yes, I grow increasingly Scrooge-like with every passing December.) Then there are the resolutions. Everybody starts a January full of plans to do this, do that, lose weight, get fit, give up this, or take up that, but by the middle of the month most people are all "Ah yeah, I remember now, shiny new years are pretty much like all the other years" and most of their plans dwindle away. Until next year. This is why I don't make resolutions. I never keep them so why make them, break them and therefore disappoint myself? If you want to do something, don't be worrying about the date – just do it.

My main issue with January is the sky, though. It doesn't do anything. Right now, the sky here is just shades of pale grey. Hang on, I'll show you...

Standard January sky

See? No glimmer of sun, no actual moody clouds, no rain, no nothing. Just dismal, light grey blandness. Standard January sky. I spend a lot of my day looking out of my shed window at the sky, while waiting for glass to melt or for beads to round up, and looking out at that particular flavour of sky is depressing. I'd rather it rained than do nothing; at least if it's raining it's actually doing something.

Standard January sky is a nightmare for taking bead photos. I've not used an actual 'proper' camera for taking bead pictures for about eighteen months now. I use my iPhone. It's less faff – no cables, no memory card, no batteries – but I can't use it with a daylight lamp as it makes the camera 'strobe', so I rely on daylight for bead photography. It's great when it's a nice day but the nothingy January sky is an arse-pain for taking nice bead photos.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

I had a right old struggle this morning taking pictures of the 'Garnet & Grey' beads above and at the top of this post. The beads are a rich, deep garnet red in real life but no matter where I went to take their photo – the lounge window sill, outside on the garden table, down on the lounge floor next to the back door – I couldn't capture their true richness and niceness. Thanks, standard January sky, you big pillock! Ah well, I just hope the buyer of them does that "They're so much nicer in real life" thing.