Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The inevitable 'It's Hot!' post

Oh yes. It's mighty hot. Like too hot.

I don't do hot. I wasn't designed for it. I get very stressed (just ask Chris about my sandwich shop strop on Saturday) and I tend to do everything at a quarter of the normal speed in an attempt to stay as cool as I can.

Yesterday's train journey home from Cambridge was horrid. I was prepared for the mugginess and general sauna-type conditions of the London Underground and I made sure I had a bottle of water with me before I descended the steps at Kings Cross. But within about five minutes of stepping onto the tube train I got that horrible woozy, sounds-like-you're-in-a-swimming-pool, eyes-have-gone-blobby, just-about-to-faint feeling. I drank my whole bottle of water and got off the train at the next stop for some fresh(er) air. When I eventually got to Paddington I downed another bottle of water and an orange juice and I started to feel a bit better. I got on the train home but the flipping thing overheated and broke down at Reading. So did the passengers. There was a tonne of jostling, hot angry people trying to figure out where they had to go to catch a train to get them to wherever they had to be. Ah, the joy of trains.

It's mega warm again today but it's not really sunny. The thermometer currently says it's 32.4°C out there. As you can imagine, I'm not melting glass. Instead I've been to Tesco where I contemplated buying a paddling pool. For me. Yes, I'm thirty one years old but I tell you, I was so close to putting that paddling pool in my trolley. The thought of lounging about in all that cool water was very inviting but then I got a mental image of myself not fitting into the pool and kind of being splayed out in it, legs, arms and head dangling over the edges. And of course, paddling pools also involve swimsuits. Those factors quickly changed my mind so I left the pool on the shelf. I think it was for the best.

Tell you what though, I'm seriously considering a severe haircut. I still haven't been to a hairdresser which means that it's almost a year since my hair had any kind of professional help. Yesterday, what with all the stress, sweat and humidity, I looked like Brian May. And that's not good. May takes curly hairness to a whole new level.

Sir Brian Of The May(That's not me, that actually is Brian May but my hair was looking something like that.)

Must. Find. Salon. Quick!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009


Lampwork Glass Poppy BeadsHere are the beads that I was excited about earlier!

On the train home from Cambridge last time I looked up from my book and outside were the most amazing fields of beautiful poppies. Just carpets of red as far as the eye could see. I knew right there and then that I would have to make some poppy beads.

So here they are. I was going for that kind of painterly, Impressionistic look. I wanted to convey the fragile, floatiness that poppies have. I decided on a clear base bead as I love the way the red shows through from one side of the bead to the other.

Lampwork Glass Poppy BeadsI'm really chuffed with them - they pretty much match the bead vision I had in my mind.

These will be for sale on my website at 8.30pm tonight.

Oooh oooh oooh!

I've got that I've-got-some-exciting-beads-cooking-in-the-kiln feeling!

Just had to share that with you. I'll share pictures of said beads later today .....

Monday, 22 June 2009

Call For Cupcakes

Hey Beadheads! I've a quick favour to ask of you. If you've made anything with any of my Cupcake beads, please could you possibly email me some photos of your work?
Thank you!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Want to melt glass with me?

I taught some lessons at the start of the year and I said that they would be the only ones I would be teaching in 2009.

I said this because Chris and I were supposed to be getting a place together - I mean, we should be living together right now if we had got our arses in gear and done what we said we were going to do. But we didn't. It's tricky trying to sort out all that serious grown-up stuff when you only see each other every weekend. And the fact that we're not actual serious grown-ups doesn't help either. So, we're going to do the moving-in thing at the start of 2010 instead. And we will - we've bought a casserole dish together now for the Chris & Laura Box so we'll have to see it through ..... ;o)

Anyway, all that aside, I thought that once our Summer (ha ha) is over, I would begin teaching again. It's a tad warm to be melting glass next to a torch and kiln when it's hot and muggy outside. I do that and it's not great. So with that in mind I will be teaching every Tuesday from September 1st through to and including November 24th.

The lessons will be shorter than last time. The one-to-one lessons will run for five hours from 10.00am to 3.00pm. We can change those times if it suits you better. I'll provide tea, coffee and biscuits but unless you're up for a cheese and salad cream sandwich for lunch (my fave) you may want to bring a packed lunch with you. I do appreciate that not everyone likes cheese and salad cream sandwiches.

I will teach you what you want to learn, be it basic beginner beadmaking or more advanced techniques such as stringer application and encasing etc. You will be making beads on my Carlisle Mini CC torch in my light and airy conservatory ‘studio’ in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. I’ll also provide lesson notes and lots of beadmaking books for you to look at.

Each lesson will cost £130.00. I will need a 50% deposit (non-refundable) at the time of booking to secure your place with the balance payable on the day of your lesson. I accept payment by PayPal or cheque. Please email me for further information, to book a class or to enquire about available dates.

Thank you!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Please can I have my blog back, Mister G?

Lampwork Glass BeadsThe relief! I have missed the internet. Almost three days without it was crazy-making. I knew I was addicted to it but cor blimey, I didn't realise just how much I use it. I really did feel like Alex Drake trapped back in 1982. I could see my blog on my phone but I couldn't get to it. The frustration!

But thanks to my other half, you 'Beadmaidens' (and Beadfellas - I know there's a few) weren't left without a blog to read. Mister G seems to have caused quite a stir! It would appear that you all want him to do the occasional guest post and I think that would be brilliant. His 'Sock Of The Day' feature had me crying with laughter! I've been telling Chris to write his own blog for ages because he has me in stitches with his hilarious television and movie rants. I really think he could be the next
Charlie Brooker. I'll pester ask Chris and see what he thinks about maybe posting something here every once in a while.

I haven't quite forgiven Chris for putting that terrible fairground-mirror style photo of me up, though. Oh, and his Mum emailed to comment on his blogging debut :

"Mr G, you're not the blog saviour, you're just a very naughty boy. Laura has my permission to kill you for the photo, and as your mother I must admit that you can't spell."

But apart from that I think he did a stellar job with the blogging! Thank you, Mister G!

So without being able to access the interwebs I've been knitting socks and making beads. I've just been taking photos of those polka dotty ones up there. Goodness knows what the neighbours think. I mean, I go out, put some paper on the patio, spend ages arranging a pile of beads and then I lie down on the patio like some kind of commando photographer and take about a bazillion pictures, swearing when the sun goes in or when the wind blows my carefully-arranged-paper-and-bead-set-up across the garden. I
t's worth it all for a nice photo, though.

I know I owe many of you an email and I will sort that out throughout the day.

Enjoy the rest of your Friday!

I'm on my way .....

..... I've just got to clean a few beads to photograph and then I will write a proper post.

Then I have to get my blog back to 'normal'. Someone has been in and moved a few things .....

Back soon! (And this actually is Laura typing this.)

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

still no net

Imagine a world with out the interwebs. A world where email, blogs and forums have yet to replace letters newspapers and shouting. No tweets, no YouTube no catching up on that episode of Come Dine With Me on your BBC Iplayers, if you set the Betamax timer wrong then that's it! It's gone for good, you'll never know if it was the camp one or the old one that won.

It is in this bleak Ashes To Ashes world that our heroine Laura Sparling finds herself trapped. Not by a traffic accident or a bullet to the head but a simple modem failure. Not back in time, not in a coma but getting madder by second about the lack of connection. Luckliy she looks good in leggings;)

All of which is a very long winded way of saying. Laura's internet is still down so you are stuck with me for the time being. Disappointing I know but Sparling should be back tomorrow. Meanwhile I'm sitting in. Like on Adam and Joe's 6 music show when they are away and someone mildly disappointing covers for them.

In that spirit I feel I should continue Laura's regular features. Where A and J have Text The Nation and Song Wars this blog has freshly baked beads and sock updates so here goes...
First off just to show that I didn't change the logo for nothing...Beads By Chris...

I'll admit they are not exactly freshly baked. I made these last year at the flame off when Laura gave me an impromptu lesson. As you can see the results were... lumpy. Still I think they would make a nice pendant for someone you barely tolerate or two earrings for someone with one ear... A niche market I know but one I am hoping to tap into.

Next a brief sock update. Todays sock is black and bought from Marks and Spencer's. I keep telling Laura that they sell socks in shops now so there's no need to make your own but she says I'm missing the point...

If there's a silver lining to all this it's that it has given Laura time to concentrate on making beads which she will post as soon as she is able. She asked me to say "sorry for the disruption and to thank Mel for the present and Helen for the lovely card. I will email and thank them properly soon as I have interwebular capabilities".... I think you can tell that was Laura speaking through me... I'd never say "lovely";)

Bye for now and thanks for reading

Mister G

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

technical difficulties

hello Beadmaidens... Chris here, Laura's man friend. I know you've stopped by looking for another post about socks or a bead update but sadly Laura's Internet connection is down. So she won't be able to post or email until tomorrow evening when she assures me she will have some new beads to show... and probably some socks.

Mister G

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Beads ..... and another button

Etched Lampwork Glass BeadsI'm on a Luminobead kick at the moment! These 'Springtime' ones are made in a variety of pretty colours. I do love the 'glowing' effect.

Lampwork Glass ButtonAnd above is another button. This one is a kind of irregular triangle shape. It has a clear centre with a black surround. I spent far too long on this button but I had a vision in my head and I wanted to make it a buttony reality. And I did.

That lace knitting

Lace KnittingI thought I'd show you a photo of the lace knitting that I'm working on. It makes me swear quite a bit but I won't be beaten by it. I have to knit this in peace and quiet and when I'm in the zone it goes well. I find that I make mistakes the second I'm distracted. All you need to do is forget to do a yarn over and your stitch count goes all haywire!

It's a scarfy/stoley thing knitted in laceweight yarn - the one in this post. I'm not sure who it will be for. I might keep it for me or it may go into The Christmas Present Box. All I know for certain is that I wanted to knit this particular pattern.

This photo was taken a week-or-so ago. It's now twice as long as this.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009


Lampwork Glass BeadsCor blimey!

What a mad couple of hours I've just had. I watched Come Dine With Me, got dinner, washed up, fixed a mistake in my knitting (again - and no, I didn't throw it in the bin), cleaned beads, etched some beads, strung beads, photographed beads, edited the bead photos, updated my website (half an hour later than planned), sold some beads (those 'Zing' ones up there were first to go) and now I'm a-blogging.

Time for a cup of tea, methinks.

I made more buttons! Oh how I love these babies. They are so ..... nice! I'm going to have to knit something to put one of these on. This etched one is called 'Hailstones'.

Lampwork Glass ButtonRight. I'm going to knit for a bit now. I'm working on even more socks! Then I shall go to bed and hope that the neighbourhood cats let me get some sleep tonight. There were two cats outside in the back garden last night who decided to spend most of the night shouting and fighting. One of them was Buster's girlfriend. She was scrapping with a pretty pale ginger cat. They were doing that thing where they face each other, noses about an inch apart, and they just shout and wail. It's like they're trying to see who can shout the loudest. Why on Earth do cats sound like they're speaking in tongues when they fight? They make bizarre noises that they never make at any other time. And what was Buster doing while these ladycats were outside fighting over him? He was asleep on the sofa. I know that to be true because I came downstairs at 5.30am to see if he was involved in any way. Cats. Crazy animals but I love them!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

'Strawberry Creme'

Lampwork Glass BeadsAs you can see, I'm still enjoying making Laurabeads! These ones are rich chocolate brown and pale pink. Such a lovely colour combination.

Lampwork Glass BeadsI'd just like to say a big thank you to everyone who has left comments and written emails regarding my Going Back blog post that I wrote the other day. Your words, support and encouragement mean so much.

Buttons By Laura

Lampwork Glass ButtonThis is my first ever lampwork button. It's not perfectly round - more ovalish, but it's a totally usable button nonetheless. I enjoyed making it and I'm going to make more.

Why buttons?

Well, once upon a time, way back (a whole five-and-a-bit years ago) when I was just starting out on this whole beadmaking adventure, my Mum was flicking through one of my bead books. Her eyes lit up when she saw that it was possible to make glass buttons. She said 'Does this mean that if you start making beads and get good at it then you can make me glass buttons for my knitting to match my wool?' and I said 'Yes, but let me have a go at making a bead first, Mum!'

I always meant to have a go at making buttons for Mum but I never got around to it.

I've since followed in Mum's footsteps and have become an avid knitter like she was and I can now see the appeal of handmade, unique glass buttons for embellishing knitted projects. So today, for some reason, I got the urge to have a go at making a button. I wanted to make a nice two-hole button. I didn't want to make one with a loop on the back because lampworked buttons are just not dainty things and I was worried that a button with a loop would droop down too much and be way too bulky for affixing to knitted fabric.

Trouble was, I didn't have a button mandrel. So I had a think and a ponder and then I fashioned a button tool of my own and it did the job! I then set about creating this turquoise and chocolate spotty button and I'm pretty pleased with it. I'll definitely be making more. Each button will be unique but they'd be great for chunky cardigans and bag closures. Lovely knitting deserves lovely buttons!

Sadly, seeing as she died three years ago, I'm a little tiny bit late with the whole making-buttons-for-Mum thing! But hey, maybe I'll knit something and use the button myself.

Another Bracelet of Joy

Bracelet By Joy Funnell(See what I did there with the title of this post?)

Anyway ..... Joy Funnell sent me a photo of another one of her marvellous bracelets. This one uses some of my pale grey Roly Poly lentils and Joy has made some silver lentils of her own that echo the design of mine. How clever is that? I think the bracelet is really lovely - it reminds me of moonlight. Make sure you check out Joy's blog and website for more jewellery goodness.

I'll be back later - I've got two more posts for you today but right now, Come Dine With Me is on and I have to watch. I'm a major CDWM addict .....

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Going Back

Lampwork Beads By Laura SparlingThese 'Retro' beads have an apt name. Not only are the colours and designs quite groovy in a retro sense, they also made me go back in time. Not in a time travel kind of way but in a revisiting-beads-gone-by manner.

I've been stressing about my beadmaking lately. A lot. I've had tears, tantrums, strops, moods and at one point - a very low point - I even thought about giving up and packing the lampwork in.

You see, it's tricky being a one-woman business. I don't see anybody, I don't really get face-to-face feedback about my work and sometimes it's very hard to keep myself motivated. Of course, those things are my choice. I'm a bit of a hermit, really. I've always liked my own company and even when I was at school and the teacher would tell us to work in pairs I would always ask if I could work on my own. I think it's the perfectionist streak in me, and possibly a little bit of a control freak too. I could get feedback about my work but I don't do fairs or shows or forums but when it comes down to it, I just don't want to do those things.

This past week has been hard. We're in the midst of this 'credit crunch' (hate that flipping phrase) and I'm aware that people don't have the money to spend on beads like they did a couple of years ago. That made me think 'Hmmm. Should I be making cheaper-to-buy beads?' and I tried that. They sold and everything but to be honest, I hated making them because they weren't the beads that I wanted to be making. I hit on a good idea with the Cupcake beads and I sold over four hundred of those in three months. Excellent and everything but the bottom line was I was breaking my own rule and was, in effect, taking commissions and special orders. It wasn't until I'd finished making them that I realised what a massive amount of pressure I'd put myself under.

I was on the phone to Chris the other night, moaning about beads and how I wanted to give them up and get a 'proper' job and he gave me an excellent piece of advice. (He's good at that - I don't know what I'd do without him!) Chris told me that this weekend I should 'make beads for fun'. I did that on Saturday morning and came up with the Monochrome beads from the last post. Although I felt ten times better while making them I knew that my relationship with lampwork was still on the rocks.

Then last night, I took my knitting upstairs to get a few rows worked before I went to sleep. I'm working on a complex lace pattern at the moment and I need peace and quiet (no television to distract my eyes) or I muck it up. (If I have to rip back any more stitches I swear I will just throw the project in the bin!) So I snuggled down with my knitting and put my iPod on. I recently discovered Brenda Dayne's
'Cast On' podcast and it is amazing - knitting stuff, cool tunes and Radio 4 type articles all rolled into one. Last night I was listening to Episode 72 and one part of it really hit home. Brenda was saying how she almost gave up podcasting at the end of last year because she wasn't really enjoying it anymore. She said so many things that struck chords with me. Brenda was talking about feedback and comments that people left on her blog about her podcast and how most of the comments were great, positive and really lovely. But it was the very few negative comments that really stuck in her head. She also said that she found that she was making the podcast more for her audience than she was for herself. She'd fallen into the trap of giving people what she thought they wanted as opposed to what she wanted to give them.

And I stopped knitting and I thought 'I've done the exact same thing.'

People send me the loveliest emails about my work. All you fab blog readers leave me excellent comments. And I love that. But I realised that about two years ago I let one person's 'constructive criticism' about my work really get to me. Those beads up there at the top of the post are my most favourite type of beads to make. They relax me. Each one takes me almost half an hour to complete but I get totally absorbed in the whole process of making them. It's the rhythmic, equal placing of the dots, the smooth application of the stringer, the slow melting-in of the dots. I love the whole process of it. They're real in-the-zone beads. But someone once said that they were too 'fussy' and all that intricate detail restricted them too much as a jewellery designer when it came to incorporating them into jewellery. That's a totally reasonable observation and one person's opinion but heck, it got to me something chronic and from that day on I felt I shouldn't make that type of bead anymore. The same thing happened when a couple of people said they didn't like raised bumps on beads. I went through a long phase of doing sans-bumpy-bit beads even though I loved to make textured beads. And a couple of people suggested I make more flatter beads and less round ones.

While I was listening to Brenda last night it dawned on me that for the last couple of years I've completely discounted all the super-positive feedback and instead let about five 'negative' comments influence what beads I create. I realised that I'd lost my way. I was making what I thought other people wanted me to make rather than making the beads that I wanted to make.

This morning I woke up and I thought about the podcast and I remembered what Chris had said about making beads for fun.

That's what I did today.

I picked out my 'Chris Colours', pulled a load of stringer and made my favourite beads.

And for the first time in absolutely ages I got into that happy bead place.

And it was ace!

I can't give up the beadmaking. Beads are part of who I am. For a while I just kind of forgot how well beads and I work together. I just have to make what I want to make. It's that simple. It may sound selfish, I know, but I like those 'fussy' designs and the roundness of round beads. Beads want to be round - it's science. Turning molten glass will pull itself into a ball. Complex dots and lines are what I do. They're my thing.

While I'm being all sentimental I'm just going to take this moment to say a heartfelt 'thank you' to all my customers and blog readers. Without customers I wouldn't have a business and without blog readers I'd have even less people to talk to! Your support means a heck of a lot to me. And thank you too for reading this far and for hanging in there recently while I went off the beadmaking rails. I know that a lot of you knew something was wrong and so did I. Now I've figured out exactly what the problem is I can sort it out.

How am I going to do that?

I'm going back.

Back to my beloved dots and and lines.
Back to making beads for fun.
Back to Beads By Laura.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Never gets boring

Monochrome Lampwork Glass BeadsBlack, white and clear - possibly the three best glass 'colours' (or not) in all the world. In my opinion.

This bunch of nine beads are all different. Some are encased, some aren't. I had an absolute ball creating them! I never tire of making monochrome beads. These would look wonderful on a charm bracelet, don't you think?

My favourite one is the cased white bead with the black polka dots. Maybe someday I'll make a set of those ..... when I have hours to spare. Jet black dots have to be melted in soooo slowly you wouldn't believe. If you rush it you'll just end up with a feathery ugly mess. Worth the extra time spent, though.

It's a rainy day here. the guinea pigs are grumpy because they're stuck in their hutch. Martha has squeaked at me every time I've opened the back door today. She'll cheer up and forgive me when I take their lettuce, carrot and apple out to them later!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Lonely Heart

Lampwork Glass Heart BeadThis poor little heart trio wants a home. She's the only one left from the four sets I had for sale the other day. I've just been taking photos of the trio in the sunshine so you can really see the pink prettiness. (NOW SOLD! Thanks Mel.)

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Shiny shiny polka dots

Lampwork Glass Polka Dot BeadsI love polka dots. I mean I actually really do love them!

I was in a gift shop in Abingdon buying a pressie for a friend the other week and I got into a conversation about polka dots with the shop assistant. She loves them too and we agreed that they're definitely happy and smile-inducing.

Two timeless colour combinations here - classic black and white and yummy turquoise on chocolate. The latter two colours together always remind me of Chris's flat as he has lots of brown and turquoise things. Although, it has to be said, more and more red and white things are sneaking into his flat. Can't think how or why .....

Heart Trios

Lampwork Glass Heart BeadsI did have these hearts up for sale as one group but I decided to split them into trios. They're available over at my website as I type.

Cor blimey - what a warm few days we've had! Doesn't really make for a comfortable lampworking experience, I can tell you.

I thought I'd show you a photo of the socks that I made for my Grandma's birthday. My Uncle paid for the yarn and I got to knit the socks. Bonus!

Handmade Rivulets SocksThe socks are knitted with Wild Fire Fibres Manyana in Ocean View and the pattern is Wendy D. Johnson's 'Rivulets' one. Really pretty - will be making more of these.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Millvina Dean

Millvina DeanIt was sad to read the news yesterday that Millvina Dean has died. She was the last survivor of the sinking of RMS Titanic.

I grew up in Southampton which is rich in maritime history and it is especially famous for its links with the Titanic. When I was at school I took part in a drama production called 'The Titanic Experience'. It was a bit of a success and we did three versions of it over the years and we eventually ended up performing it at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. I remember the show fondly and it was so wonderful to be part of it.

Millvina lived in Southampton and she came to see the show a couple of times. She was a lovely lady and very interesting to talk to. She was only a small baby when she was on board the Titanic. Millvina was placed in a sack and passed to her mother who was waiting in a lifeboat. Her father went down with the ship. So sad.

The 1994 newspaper photo above shows me and some other members of the cast with Millvina. Yes, that's a sixteen year old me on the right. I would have loved to have been wearing Andrea's swanky costume but alas, I played the part of Third Class Passenger Narrator. If you click the photo you can read the article that went with it.