Monday, 29 September 2014

Greek Obsession

 Well, we are into autumn now and getting ready for the Christmas fairs. We have just returned from a wonderful week in Corfu. I think it is one of my favourite places I have ever been. I have totally fallen in love with the stunning Corfu Town. I spent hours here looking through all the gorgeous little shops and admiring all the old buildings. The Old Fortress is just spectacular and a week just wasn't enough to see all the things Corfu Town has to offer, never mind the rest of this beautiful island.

 One of my favourite places was the gorgeous Achilleion Palace, Gastouri. It was built in the late nineteenth century by Elisabeth of Bavaria and Empress of Austria (known as Sisi). She built this breathtaking summer palace as her retreat on Corfu and it was owned by her and her descendants until the end of WW1, when it was given to the Greek state as part of the Treaty of Versailles.
The palace was rented by a German consortium from the '60s until the early '90s.....the downstairs being a museum and the first floor being a casino. In fact, the 1981 movie For Your 
Eyes Only was filmed here. The casino scene takes place it what was then Corfu's casino and the outdoor restaurant scene where Bond dines with Kristatos takes place at the back of the building (pictured below with the black and white tiles, yellow walls and stunning columns and statues). There is also a scene from the Balcony Terrace (where James is standing) where Bond and Melina look out over Corfu bay. In the 33 years since the film was made, the trees and bushes have overgrown so the view isn't as great as that in the film, but it's still totally stunning.

I loved the Achilleion Palace so much that I think it is in my top 2 buildings of the world, along the the Tower of London. I love Corfu so much that I want to live there....I have been dreaming of a little house and shop on the beach ever since......maybe one day.....

 Anyway, back to reality and the Christmas fairs. I have been very busy making lots of stock for my Christmas fairs. The blue and white beads on this necklace have been inspired by traditional Greek design (as seen on Dexter's collar below). I am really pleased with how this design has turned much so that I made a little cat brooch from the same clay cane that I made.

Anyway, I suppose I had better get on with listing my new stock in my Poppy Designs Etsy Shop shop and making more creations for the Christmas shows. I am doing 2 new shows, the big ICHF ones in Glasgow and Birmingham and the Knutsford Christmas Market, which was a huge success for us last year.

I think I will just pop over to Handmade Harbour to see what everyone else has been up to this Handmade Monday......then get on with my work! Will leave you with a few photos of my latest designs  xxxx

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

September Already!

Oh my goodness, how is it September already???? It's been an extremely busy summer here at Poppy Designs. We have done 2 big shows : Stonor Park and Penshurst Place, which we have waited ages to get into. I am delighted to say that they have been a huge success. I would have been so disappointed if we hadn't done well as I have waited so long to be able to do them both.  The picture at the top of this blog post is of our stall at Stonor Park. I have been trying for ages to make my stall look more interesting so I can capture people's attention. Selling handmade jewellery is so competitive at the moment that you have to stand out from the crowd, so I have been working hard on creating my display. It seems to be paying off at the moment, but I still have improvements to make to the layout......and to make it look Christmassy for the festive season.  It will all have to wait though as I am exhausted after 2 big fairs back to back (and non stop making in between). 

A well deserved rest with my 2 girls 

 In other news, I am still as obsessed as ever with my cats : Poppy, Dexter and Maisie. I have been following them around with my camera and managed to get this shot of Dexter in the poppies. I love this picture, in fact I loved it so much I had it put on a mug! He looks so handsome.....he's come such a long way since we rescued him on New Year's Day 2013.

So handsome

Anyway, I am going to catch up with the gang over at Handmade Harbour and see what's been going on for Handmade Monday and have a coffee in my Dexter mug......and start thinking about the Christmas Fairs    xxx

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Handmade Monday : Woodlands Inspired Jewellery

'After the Rain' Charm Bracelet and Earrings

Sunday evenings always seem to come round so fast! I feel like I have had quite a productive weekend though, so it's not all bad. I spent all day yesterday creating some pieces for my new 'Woodlands' inspired range of charm bracelets and earrings. I found these gorgeous little copper pine cones and the idea spiralled from there. I also have some really pretty glass ladybirds which I am busy creating pieces with to add to the collection. I've made several bracelets over the last couple of days and I'm really pleased with how they've turned out. As you can see from the picture below, my black and white rescue boy Dexter got in on the action when I was trying to photograph the bracelets this morning. He is absolutely fascinated with jewellery making and sits with me for hours whilst I make things, sometimes he can be more of a hindrance than a help though. He stole some of my sari silk earlier this week and ran off into the garden with it in his mouth! Needless to say, I won't be using it to make jewellery now, so it's now 'his'. 

Dexter and my charm bracelets
Jewellery-making tuxedo cat
I'm very busy creating at the moment as I have a couple of big fairs coming up.....Stonor Park in Henley on Thames August Bank Holiday weekend and then Penshurst Place a couple of weeks later. I was on the waiting list (I've been trying to get into these fairs for a few years now) and have finally got in! Of course, now though I am in a bit of a panic trying to get enough stock made with 6 weeks to go. Despite the panic, I am very excited and cannot wait. It's my first fair of the year as I have been very selective about the events I am doing and decided to go for fewer high quality events. 

 On that note I suppose I had better get on with finishing off a few pairs of earrings....and of course popping over to Handmade Harbour to see what everyone else has been up to for Handmade Monday.

Woodlands Inspired Earrings

Woodlands Inspired Earrings

Monday, 23 June 2014

Handmade Monday : Poppies In The Garden

 Well, it's another beautiful day here in Manchester. It has been particularly lovely all weekend. On Saturday we visited the lovely Arley Hall for the Garden Festival. I couldn't resist buying some (more) poppies for my garden which we planted on Saturday evening when we got home. There were some wonderful stalls at the show and we even had a quick whizz around the crafts marquee which was pretty crowded so we didn't manage to get much of a look. All in all we were very for the list next year I think.

Yesterday morning was spent in the garden with my cats and my camera. I only intended to pop out for a morning coffee on my bench, but before I knew it, it was lunchtime! I am only really learning how to use my camera. It was a birthday present a few years ago and to be honest it is far too complicated for me, I don't really understand how to use it properly at all and most of my photos have been cats or jewellery! I decided to have a go at flowers and here are some of the results.

 I had to take quite a lot of photos of the bee and the poppy, it was really hard to catch the bee without getting him out of focus.

The little ladybird was really cute. I had to save him from Maisie (my tortoiseshell tabby). I saw her intensely interested in something and before I realised what was going on she was whacking the poor little creature with her paw. I managed to save him and set him
free.  I do wish cats wouldn't hurt the wildlife! I suppose it is their nature but I really don't like it. My three cats all have little bells on their collars and are only allowed out under supervision - we live next to a really busy road and I am worried about one of them getting run over. So far they have stayed in the garden, thank goodness.
 One thing I haven't done much of lately is make jewellery! I have just found out that we have been accepted to do the ICHF fairs at Stonor Park and Penshurst Place this August and September! I have been waiting years to get in to do these fairs and finally they have had a cancellation and I have a place! I am literally bursting with excitement. I have heard such wonderful things about these fairs and I cannot wait to take part. I am doing three more fairs with them later in the year, the Christmas ones, so I need to get busy making stock. I have loads of ideas for nature and animal related themes (one of the reasons I was out with my camera yesterday) so I need to get busy bringing my ideas to life.

I suppose on that note I should get on with some work! I will leave you with some more garden photos and some pictures of my latest creations and pop by Handmade Monday.....then get on with some creating!

Blue flower bracelet with matching earrings

Little bird necklace

Squirrel earrings

Dexter in the garden.

Maisie in the shade.

Poppy on the prowl. 

More poppies!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Katharine of Aragon and Ludlow Castle

Well, I have had a very busy week since the last Handmade Monday! I spent a long weekend in beautiful Suffolk visiting my friend and his partner who have bought a lovely little cottage in the countryside. I am a total convert....I absolutely loved it. What a beautiful part of England and such a well kept secret. I now feel totally refreshed after a weekend of relaxation and peace and quiet. My home......under the flight path to Manchester Airport and near the West Coast Mainline seems REALLY noisy now in comparison. 

On the way home we called in at Peterborough Cathedral to break up the journey and I visited the final resting place of Katharine of Aragon. I have long been interested in Medieval and Tudor history and have had more time lately to read more about it. I think Henry VIII and his wives are really interesting and I would love to visit more parts of the country associated with them and their story. I was surprised to find that Mary, Queen of Scots had been buried here for a while too. Her body was moved to Westminster Abbey on the orders of her son, James I when he became King. She had lain in Peterborough Cathedral since her execution at nearby Fotheringhay Castle. 

Former grave of Mary, Queen of Scots

Earlier in the week I had been down to Ross on Wye with my Dad.....another beautiful part of the country. He is interested in old cars so we went to the old car auction to hvae a look. He particularly like the car pictured below :

 On the way home we called in at Medieval Ludlow......which I absolutely loved. There isn't much left of the castle (where interestingly enough Prince Arthur, the first husband of Katharine of Aragon,  died after they had only been married 4 months) but there is an interesting audio tour available. The town itself was beautiful....medieval and Tudor buildings everywhere and a beautiful church too. They had a market on in the market place and it had lots of lovely stalls selling handmade things and home grown plants, vegetables etc. Not a tat stall in sight!

Ludlow Castle

Ludlow Castle

Me at Ludlow Castle! 
 With all this touring England I haven't done much making this week, although I did make a 'Hummingbird' in a recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery - not actual hummingbirds - and some courgette and carrot muffins so I will claim those as my makes for this week. I have had a lovely delivery of findings and inspiration packs so I will get playing with them. I think I will have a piece of that cake and a coffee and check out the other blogs on Handmade Harbour to see what everyone else has been up to for Handmade Monday.

Cake makes!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Handmade Monday : Vintage Jewellery and Birds.

Flower Vintage Charm Bracelet

Flower Vintage and Copper Earrings

Well, it's been a rainy few days here in other words, perfect jewellery making weather! It's been quite a while since I made any beaded jewellery as I have been distracted with my love of polymer clay and doing up my house. I thought it was time for a challenge so I decided to have a look around online and came across Bead Me Up Buttercup and Smitten Beads on Facebook. I  totally fell in love with Angela's (at Bead Me Up Buttercup) polymer clay vintage birds and the 'Inspiration Packs' that both ladies offered, so I decided to buy some of the little birds and an Inspiration Pack from each shop. (An Inspiration Pack is a selection of beads and findings). The bracelet and earrings at the top of this post is what I created using the Inspiration Packs. The photo immediately below is the parcel which arrived from Bead Me Up Buttercup on Wednesday morning. 

Don't you just love opening parcels?

It took me hours of thinking and playing around with various pieces until I decided what to do with the polymer clay birds. So far I have only come up with designs for the yellow, pink and lilac ones. I am so worried I haven't done them justice. 'Vintage' is a bit of a new style for me but I am really enjoying creating pieces in vintage style. There is so much inspiration everywhere and it seems really on trend at the moment. Here are some pictures of my first go with the little polymer clay birds :

Summer Flowers Bracelet and Matching Vintage Lemon Bird Earrings

Summer Flowers Bracelet with Lilac Cream Washed Bird

Vintage Hot Pink Cream Washed Bird Earrings with Swarovski Crystals

 I have bought some cute mini bird houses (some wood and some papier mache) so my challenge for this week is to decorate them. I haven't done much decoupage before but I have bought some beautiful papers on eBay and been admiring them for a few weeks now, too scared to actually have a go. I think it is time to bite the bullet and have a go.....hopefully I will have a couple ready in time for next week's Handmade Monday. I had best get a move on and start actually doing something as I have a few things planned for this week.

On Wednesday I am going to Ross on Wye with my Dad. He is going to an old car auction (old cars are his passion) and he suggested I go with him for a bit of a change of scenery. (I have been ill lately (again) with this wretched lupus which springs up every now and then to torture me! ). I am not sure the old car auction is really my thing but I will have a stroll around the town and maybe take some photos, get some inspiration etc. At the weekend I am heading down to Suffolk to visit a very dear friend of mine who has moved down there. We used to volunteer at Samaritans together until I went to uni in Sheffield and he moved down south! lol! I'm really excited about visiting him and seeing a new part of the UK. I have never been to Suffolk before and I am hoping to maybe pay a visit to Peterborough Cathedral to see the resting place of Catherine of Aragon en route. Since I have been ill I have really got into Tudor and Medieval history so it seems a perfect opportunity to explore!

Anyway, I can hear the buzzer going on my oven....I have had a go at baking a fruit loaf.....and got a very fed up Maisie pestering for food (my cats are not enjoying this rain and are bored to tears in the house) so I will leave you with a few pics and wish you all a Happy Handmade Monday. I will be back with a piece of fruit loaf and a coffee to see what Wendy and all the others have been up to over at Handmade Harbour.......bye for now xxxx

Little Maisie.....fed up with the rain

Me, attempting to model my latest creation and take a photo at the same time!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Sunday

Polymer clay pendants

Happy Easter everybody!!!! I am having a lazy morning writing my blog in bed with a cup of coffee and what is left of the Easter egg I couldn't wait until today to open. It looks like a beautiful day outside and I cannot wait to get up and get out into the sunshine. I wonder if it is going to be a nice enough day for a barbecue.....I love barbecues, I would have one every day if I could. 

I have had a lovely week enjoying fresh air in the garden (planting poppies and violas) and creating these polymer clay pendants. I cannot take the credit for this design as it was originally demonstrated by the fabulous Rachel Norris on Jewellery Maker. These are my versions of her design. Rachel demonstrated the version with the wire butterfly....I struggled with the wire butterfly, I am not a naturally gifted wire worker, so decided to change my version to flowers. I made polymer clay poppies and pansies to incorporate into my designs. The photo above is of the pendants straight out of the oven. I still have to sand and varnish them at this stage.  I really enjoyed making them, this is my first batch, but I think there is room for improvement. I am going to try and make the flowers a little smaller in the next batch and create a wider range of shapes and sizes. 

This is a photo of my desk with all the clay prepared to make the flowers so there is no excuse not to get on with more creations!

Anyway, I will keep this post short and sweet. I am just about to head over to see Wendy and the others over at Handmade Monday, then it's time to enjoy the sunshine........

Monday, 14 April 2014

Handmade Monday and the Poppy Necklace

Not only did I wake up to a beautiful sunny day here in Manchester but also to a sale in my Etsy shop. It's always lovely to wake up to a sale but I am especially pleased with this one as I have sold one of my favourite ever designs : the poppies necklace. I made these poppy beads a few weeks ago from polymer clay and I am really proud of them. I adore poppies, they are my favourite flower not least because my Nana's name was Poppy. I also named my cat Poppy and my business too is Poppy Designs. It is safe to say, I love poppies! It's always fantastic when someone chooses to spend their hard earned money on something I have created, but somehow it seems even more special when someone buys a design I am especially proud of. I am usually very self-critical about my work but I just love my flower beads. 

Pansies heart pendant necklace made using the same technique as the poppies. 

Polymer clay pieces freshly baked. 

I have spent the weekend creating more poppy-themed pieces as I was so pleased with how well the poppies turned out. I have combined my 2 great loves, poppies and cats to create some of the pieces pictured above......freshly out of the oven. I am just loving experimenting with different ideas and hoping to do really well online this spring/summer as I don't have any fairs booked until Christmas.

I create jewellery from a wide range of media. I think polymer clay is my favourite but I also create things using semi-precious gemstones, Murano glass, jewel enamel and a few pieces of wirework. I wouldn't consider myself to be a wirework artist and it is something I find quite difficult but I do enjoy seeing other people's creations. I find wire hard to work with, not least due to the fact that I find it hard to grip the pliers for long periods of time and lack strength in my wrists probably because of my arthritis. I made a couple of gemstone bracelets just for some variety which I have pictured below. The technique involves plaiting 3 strands of bracelets together and I really like how they have turned out.

Haematite and labradorite plaited 3 strand bracelet

Fluorite and crackled quartz plaited 3 strand bracelet.
Anyway, I suppose I better get sanding and varnishing my latest polymer clay makes.....I will just drop by Handmade Monday at Handmade Harbour and see what Wendy and the others have been up to and then I will get sanding those beads!