Thursday, 24 March 2011

Busy, Busy!

So busy, that's how it's been, and that's why I haven't posted anything since my blog after Moscow. I've been making the prize beads for the GBUK competition and more jewellery to send off to Cooper Gallery in Barnsley.

I remember writing about the prize beads before. The idea then was to make them of a design from my book, and I already had half of the planned number of beads made (even with my oxycon playing up all along!). I thought that a set of beads would probably be better than one focal: I make various types of focals, and people like different things. But with a set, even if the person who wins them doesn't like them, she or he can always make a couple of pieces of jewellery and sell them and get some money - an incentive to participate in the next year's competition!

When I got back from Moscow I found out that I had been awarded the Dan Klein Travel Bursary by the Contemporary Glass Society (CGS) worth £500. It was amazing news! I planned to go to Japan to learn how to make tonbodama, traditional japanese glass beads, in order to write a book on the methods and designs associated with them. A couple of days later we saw the terrible events in Japan... But I'm still determined to go there this coming summer.

So Rod suggested that I make tonbodama beads as a prize for this year's GBUK Bead and Jewellery Competition taking place at Flame Off (8t-9th April). What a great idea! The only thing is, it takes me about 40 minutes to make one of these beads. The most difficult part is to make the shape. When I wrote a tutorial for the book, it simply read "Make a barrel-shaped bead". Of course, to make a nice plump barrel-shaped bead, with "dimples", with a slight curve... is a tutorial in itself. I should actually write one with step-by-step pix, as I have by now figured out how to make this shape quicker, but still it takes time. Then, there is the division of the surface of the bead into three parts for three flowers. The next thing is to make sure there aren't any signs of pulling left - so you need to flame-polish really well. The last difficult bit for me is right at the very end: to reduce the accent dots of the Iris Dark Blue reduction frit stringer, because if you leave them just a touch longer in the flame, the beautiful porcelain white surface of the bead goes yellow or even brown-black within a tenth of a second, and the whole bead goes to the bin!

But here they are, sent off and received safely yesterday by Charlotte, our Chairwoman:

I have to say that I've improved, and now it takes me about 30 minutes to make one.

I've also sent off my entry to the bead competition, but although I'm really excited about the bead I've made I am not allowed to blog about it, so it'll have to wait until the middle of April!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

From Russia With Love!

Helloooooo, I'm back!

This was Moscow a couple of weeks ago, out of the window of my parents' flat:

As you can see, it was all covered in snow. Actually, this was when the snow started melting! My parents' apartment looks out to a kindergarten, it's a shame it was a bit too early when I was taking this pic, as you can't see the kiddies - they are so funny in the snow! The problem is, they just have a good time and enjoy themselves - winter is a wonderful time, you don't get mucky, just a little wet, but it's not a problem, you go inside and put your coats, hats, gloves and boots on the radiator - until the afternoon. This kindergarten looks lovely in the evening, when the street lights are on, it all looks so mysterious... Twilight used to be my fave time of day.
Apparently, the week I arrived was the coldest they had for the whole winter, temperatures going down to -25C during the day and below 30 at night. I was lucky I'd taken a proper winter coat with me, but I forgot to take a hat and I had to borrow my mum's spare pair of fur boots, as my Doc Martins just weren't cut for that sort of temperature. When you live in England, you tend to forget how cold it is out there in the world and what people have to cope with every day.

And this is the road to Domodedovo, where I landed and where I was taking off:

Domodedovo is OK, nobody can enter without their documents being checked first, so no problem.
I've had a good trip, with most of the things done on my little list. I've seen my relatives, I've been to a 55th birthday party (this is the pension age for women in Russia, so a lot of women have a celebration), I nearly met with one of my old classmates - we'll try again next time!- and I talked to a couple of Russian publishers regarding my book which I am translating into Russian. It's all been very positive indeed.
I came home and there was some amazing news waiting for me! But I have to stop now and I'll talk about it all in my next blog.