Crocheting

Whilst in Washington I attempted to do a few rows of Andi’s crochet project.  Actually I found it really rather addictive and so rewarding when it looks great.  Sadly I clearly needed a little more practice as I dropped a few stitches on Andi’s piece – but hey she’ll know the bit I ‘helped’ with!

So I decided that I’d try to crochet a small blanket for Andi.  Either as a throw over for a bed or to snuggle up with on the sofa.   First things first was to find some wool and crochet needle.  I found a wonderful little shop nearby StitchUp and naively went in to source supplies.  I left with a bag of wool and a new crochet hook… a little nervous as I can’t remember how to do it.

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YouTube.  I found a fabulous channel Bella Coco and managed to get to grips with creating granny squares in about 15 minutes!

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Another YouTube Video to find out how to do the outer edge.

IMG_8694And finally another video to learn how to join them together.

IMG_8693And the finished present for my lovely friend Andi.

IMG_8699Can’t explain just how proud I felt when I wrapped up a parcel for Washington with my handmade blanket.  Between the folds I snuck in a few extra little gifts for both Andi and Sam.  Homemade card, decoupaged heart, British chocolate and sweets, crazy mini tic-tac boxes that I thought Sam would love and finally a bracelet each for Andi & Sam from the wonderful company Rebel Rocks.

10422531_10152792599246814_8336563909036861021_nLoved the message I received from Andi and Sam when the package arrived in Washington.  “Received a wonderful package from @annagoanna1 !!!! Kept digging hoping to find Anna in there! What a great day!”

There’s something so very special about making gifts for people.  Made with love and care.

Golfing… again

After dusting down the golf sticks, cleaning up the golf shoes and finding my glove, I’m back.

Well when I say ‘back’, I mean I’m attempting again to learn golf.  A friend’s girlfriend has decided to learn at the course across the road from me and I’ve joined her for beginner lessons.

So we’ve finished the series of 4 beginner lessons and are now on our way to an ‘improver’ course which starts in a few weeks.  I was actually surprised how much I remembered and am still able to hit the ball – and for it to be roughly where I was aiming for it to go!  I’m loving it.

Another local friend has also joined the golfing revolution and is taking the beginners course now with the hope of finishing that course and joining us on the improver course.  Hehehe soon there will the three novice golfers out on the course!  Watch out world.

Visiting Andi and Washington DC

It’s difficult to describe my trip to Washington DC without gushing too much so I’ll try to make it brief (ish).

It wasn’t about visiting Washington DC.   Exploring the City during my trip was a bonus but it was more about who I was exploring with.

My trip was booked over 9 months ago.  The reason was to see a very dear friend of mine.  A friend who I had (until this trip) only met in person once at the C4YW Conference in Orlando.  But someone who I consider to be one of my best friends.

New Years Eve 2013/2014 I had been driving up to visit friends Nr Cambridge.  My phone beeped to say I’d got a Messenger message from Andi.  I glanced at the message and knew I had to pull over to read it in full.  Andi told me that she had just seen the oncologist who had told her that her recent breathlessness was because she now had a metastases of Phyllodes in her lung.  We exchanged several messages and agreed that as soon as I got home tomorrow we’d Skype or Facetime.  In the meantime I knew I had to do some research into spindle cell sarcoma mets to lungs (preferably from a phyllodes tumour, if the research existed).  One thing I was sure about though was what the oncologist wasn’t taking into consideration was the strength with which Andi has dealt with cancer for many years.  Andi was first diagnosed many years ago and has had continued recurrences and many many surgeries.  There was a point in 2013 when she was ‘growing’ new tumours at a rate of approximately 1 every 6 weeks!  Every time they’d appear, she’d face it head on, deal with it, the surgery and the ‘fear’ and pick herself up, put on a fabulous pair of shoes, lipstick and a smile and be back out before anyone knew she’d been in hospital… some occasions having surgery between dropping her daughter at school and collecting her at the end of the day!

As soon as I got home, I got the laptop fired up and spent an age looking through research papers and medical journals. Pah!  Found it.

My message “Re the 1 yr!   Soooo not happy about them saying that.. all the info I’ve looked at for spindle cell sarcoma mets in lungs is 80% 5 year survival after resection.  And that means you’re in the 80% of the 80% with a 126 year survival!!!   I mean who am I going to have to misbehave with when I’m really old and cantankerous?  YOU!!!!”

Shortly after New Year, Andi spent a great deal of time in and out of hospital receiving treatment.  Through it all, Andi faced it head on and to most people ‘watching’ you would assume everything was a breeze.  But there were truly rough days and only Andi (and her family) probably know the full extent.  However what fabulous and amazing people like Andi have in spades, is friends.  She had lots of visitors who stayed with her, looked after her and her family, shopped, cooked, cleaned and kept her company.  Our friend Trish, turned up and surprised her on her first day of chemo in the hospital – there’s a great video of Andi’s utter surprise and delight at such an amazing gesture for Trish to do this.  I hated being in the UK.  Too far to turn up briefly and I wasn’t sure that this Brit who’d only met personally once was the right person to be there to take care of things for an extended time.  All I could do was send cards, chat online and make sure she knew I cared.

In August last year Andi was over the worst of the chemo but still had some way to go… and British Airways kindly sent me an email with suggested flight destinations, including to Washington DC.  Well what’s a girl to do?

I found flights that worked and messaged Andi to check she’d be at home over the Easter break.  If I’m honest I didn’t give her much chance to say ‘No’ as the flights were booked very quickly!  For the intervening 8 months friends on Facebook will have been a little confused about several posts that simply have countdown numbers in them – 135days, 4hrs, 13mins and 44seconds etc.  But these countdowns were the exact timing until I touched down in Washington DC and knew that shortly after we’d meet again.

I loved our countdown.  I also loved the excitement that this brought with it.  The evening before I flew out was the first time I thought, eek what happens if we don’t get on?  (Turns out Andi had the same thought).

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I walked through the gates at the airport to be greeted by Andi and her fabulous daughter, Sam and two mahoosive hugs.  And then the laughter started!  For my entire trip we laughed.  Laughed until we cried (or as one of us put it, “peed, just a little”!).

Here’s a few photo highlights from my trip:

DSCN1830 We took a trip into Washington DC to do some site seeing…  Love this picture of Andi and Samantha.   So cute.

Washington9Washington10Incredible iconic buildings in Washington DC.  Stunning city with some truly inspiring monuments.  The respect and acknowledgement to ancestors who have fought for the US is heartfelt and real.

Washington6Washington5DSCN1844Such a special bond between Mum and Daughter.

Washington4We came across a park with some art and sculpture… errr anyone explain the one on the right?  No?

I was also taken to the place ‘where my people first landed’, Jamestown.

Washington7Samantha was somewhat bemused that I knew little of our British history in the US but I don’t recall being taught much about it at school.  Were we?

And Williamsburg where the whole town has been ‘preserved’.  History scenes were acted out in the streets and you could visit the stores who were still making hats (milliners) bakery (breads), silversmith etc using the original tools and working as they would have in the past.

WashingtonBUT as I said earlier, we didn’t stop laughing all week… on our tourist days we were also giggling at so very much.

Washington1Cheeeeter!  (Andi and Sam will get that!)

We found a maze and some stunning gardens.  What a shame I didn’t capture our, ahem, hide and seek on video!

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We also discovered that Andi has a little difficulty working hand-dryers.  Sadly we didn’t get her ‘air stewardess’ impression on video.  We did wonder what it’d do to your face in a highspeed hand dryer.

During my stay we had a LOT of games of Clue (the US version of Cluedo.  Samantha insists that anyone playing this game has to play in a British accent and was delighted that a real Brit was going to play.

Andi in her best English accent.  The call of the Peacock also came in very handy when I got separated from them in a Smithsonian Museum.  I heard the call from a long way away and ignoring all the people looking oddly at me & Andi, knew it was for me!

Andi’s husband Lane was on tour with the Washington Capital Ice Hockey team and only got home on the evening of PJEaster (Easter Day in PJs).  Poor chap returned to find us 3 in our PJs, playing Clue, hair unwashed, no makeup and giggling like a bunch of crazies at daft and silly stuff.  Only 10 minutes before he walked through the door, Andi had been tapping her forehead with the end of the pencil thinking is it Peacock or Plum in the Library?  Only she missed and tapped the pencil into her eye.  Sam and I couldn’t stop laughing and told her in no uncertain terms that it was self-inflicted!

A bandage (err headband) was found.  Andi put this over her eye, glasses and pencil propped into the bandage and continued playing.  Well actually I think we were still laughing at her when Lane walked in!

Andi ClueOn the Monday, Lane wasn’t working so the four of us headed in to Georgetown for a wander and lunch.  We found a fabulous spot by the river.

DSCN1897How fabulous is this family?

DSCN1895Oh and me and Andi.

After lunch we headed to Iwo Jima Marine War Memorial.Washington8And then on to see where Lane spends his time with the Washington Capitals, coaching them utterly brilliantly.

Washington3In the training room!

Samantha, the uber fabulous gymnast

and Lane

My final day, we went along to watch Washington Capitals training session.  What an amazing experience as a newbie to understanding the sport.   Incredibly fast and so skilled.  I loved that anyone can attend training sessions and see their sporting heroes working so hard.  If only we did this for our sports in the UK, youngsters wouldn’t assume you can rock up on a Saturday and earn a fortune without knowing about the many many training hours our sportsmen and women put in.

I was so very very sad to be heading off to catch a plane home.  I wanted to put Andi, Lane and Samantha in my pocket and bring them home with me.  It was so very weird being on a plane and not laughing and giggling or doing silly stuff.

Ooh and here’s your bonus video of Samantha singing.  That child has such a beautiful voice.

What an amazing trip.  Amazing in so very many ways.  To be part of such a close and incredibly supportive family for just a short moment in time.  We all know that laughter is the best medicine.. we filled our bathroom medicine cabinets this week.  Loved my time in Washington DC but most of all loved my time with the family.

CharlieChaplin Laughter

Decoupage reindeer heads with Kaffe Fassett material

As you know I fell in love with the material of Kaffe Fassett at the Handmade Fair.

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What I probably haven’t confessed to is that I’ve been purchasing small pieces of his material with a little project in mind.  Although I did confess to the project in my Affordable Art Fair post.

Finally all the pieces have come together.  I first practiced with a heart.

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Then I sourced the papier mache heads, glue and together with the pieces of material and YouTube, I’ve been busy decoupaging.  How fabulous is this method of crafting.  For the most part everyone said to use paper and looked at me very oddly when I suggested material.  So I wasn’t quite sure what would happen if I used material.  In fact I suspect it’s easier as it stretches beautifully around corners and edges.

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This fine fellow looks amazing on my living room wall.

But I felt he needed a girlfriend….

IMG_8288 IMG_8290Great fun making them and easy to do.  Perfect crafting with small people or to make something colourful and fun for yourself.

Update on the red and black glass piece

My previous post showed you the story of my ‘drop’ glass piece and keeping our fingers crossed as the kiln cooled down.

My task today was to carefully finish the edge neatly so that it was even and with no sharp edges.   I used lots of different machines to finish the piece.  Great experience and I’m sure in time I’ll get more confident.  At the moment I’m very cautious and I’m sure in some instances this hesitancy isn’t good for the glass work.

So here it is, the finished piece.

RedandBlackGlassLike it?

Yet more glass…

Two weeks ago I decided to experiment with some float glass.  Cutting and shaping different pieces and then layering them up.

Float Glass piecesI positioned them carefully and left them to be fired flat.  Last week, I spent some time shaping and finishing the edges of the flat piece.  Then once again, fingers crossed, I positioned the piece on to a ‘wave’ slump mold and left it to our wonderful technicians.

Today I collected my piece.  I love my wave!

Float wave

Rachmaninoff: Inside Out at The Royal Festival Hall

Beautiful concert this evening.  The London Philharmonic Orchestra were, as ever, enthralling, engaging and amazing.  There is something so incredible that transports you to another world whilst the Orchestra plays.  We were treated to Mozart Symphony No. 36 (Linz) which is always criticized as being written in haste but I certainly didn’t get that impression when I listened to it tonight.

Followed by the young player, Dmitry Mayboroda, performing Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto.  My Oh My can that boy move up and down the ivories at speed!  Incredible performance.  We were treated to a couple of additional pieces as he was called back more than once, for encores!

The concert finished with an old favourite, Dvořák Symphony No. 8.  I remember listening to this many times as Mum had a recording of it.  Envoked some wonderful memories.

The Royal Festival Hall is also becoming one of my favourite classical venues.  From the outside a fairly non-descript concrete lump.  Inside it’s a jewel of Scandinavian design, wood and simplicity.  The seats comfortable and from every seat a view of the stage.  Certainly somewhere I would happily (and do) buy the cheap seats and still feel like I’m ‘in’ the best seats.

All in all, another truly great concert.

Update on my glass making

I’d best first tell you about my disasters of last Saturday.  Having spent an age crafting, cutting, shaping, etching the wax model.

The next step is to create a plaster mold.  No mean feat for a small object but something of this size it’s a huge task.  I found the right plastic edging and clipped it together, using clay, I set the plastic edging to the board and hoped it’d take the weight of the massive amount of liquid plaster and flint.  And it probably would have done absolutely fine had I not heard someone suggest I move the clip out of the way.  Quick as a flash I did and quicker than I could imagine the plastic edging slipped closely followed by a fair bit of the 8 litres of liquid plaster!

IMG_8204Thank heavens for sensible people in the room who quickly were able to stem the flow and save the day.  What an idiot I am.  All week I’ve had nightmares about it and honestly I have no idea if the plaster mold has really worked at this point.

But the glass must go on.  The next step was steaming out the wax from the plaster mold.  It’s a little Heath Robinson but it works (top right).  As there are some very thin pieces of wax, I steamed it for quite some time to get right up into the plaster mold.

IMG_8257Today’s step was to finish steaming out the wax.  Then select the glass (Gaffer) and, in my case, liquid enamel.  Clean each piece of glass and then position the pieces with the enamel into the mold for firing.  Fingers crossed, one more time, that the firing goes well.

Another small piece that I started last week and finished this week was a small ‘wonky’ bowl with some small hearts and a ribbon stand.  Below is a picture of the wax mold and then after the firing whilst it was still in the plaster mold.

IMG_8255A fair bit of cold working on the saw to remove the base, lathe, flatbed, hand lapping and engraving inside and out.

IMG_8256I’m quite pleased with how it’s worked out.  It’ll be a beautiful birthday present for someone special very soon.

I also was able to fuse some pieces of glass that I cut a couple of years ago, following my course with David Mitchell.  It was fired first flat (fusing) and then fired again this week in a slump.  I’ve learned more in that I need to be more careful when using ‘batt wash’.  Batt wash is used over ceramic molds before firing and needs to be approximately 7 layers, straight across, diagonally, and again.  What I learned was that I should made each layer thinner and with more care… there’s a few small blobs on this piece because of it!

IMG_8252IMG_0205Here’s the finished article.

Affordable Art Fair Battersea

I remain someone who loves to attend the AAF in Battersea. Once again I managed to get ‘free-Friday’ tickets and this year took my Godmother with me. Our taste in art is quite different. Mine brighter and more tactile – a usual need for colour and touch! Hers more classical and some would say, refined. But that’s the beautiful thing about the Affordable Art Fairs around the World. There is something for everyone and as pieces get bought up and replaced with others, each row of small galleries changes with every walk by.

Here’s a few pics of some pieces that I loved from today:

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Acrylic resin, marble and glass.

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Several pieces of interest and ones that I’d love to copy.

Top left to right

  • Already some of you know about my wish to create a reindeer head and cover with my Kaffe Fassett fabric pieces that I’ve collected.
  • Geometric pieces in a box frame – again you know I’m almost there with collecting pieces for this and some of you may well have seen the piece I made for MC & Chris as a wedding present using the London A-Z and Melbourne Melway maps.
  • Interesting textures and it should still have been wet paint!  Gloss with drips on aluminium sheet.
  • I loved the far-right picture with old postcards and small ceramic shoes and personal items.

Bottom left to right

  • Bottom left carved stone, I’d love to make in glass.
  • The mini-picture frames within a picture frame was a gorgeous way of collecting old pictures together for display.
  • Adored how the people and trees were affixed at an angle to the background picture giving the illusion of movement as the light changed and the shadow became longer/shorter.
  • Enjoyed the colour and simple design.  Would look fab in my garden!

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Although the top two images are from a ceramic bowl, I enjoyed the engraved lines of dots on the bowl.  Certainly something that I could replicate on the inside of a glass bowl.

Bullseye stringer glass and on the right fused squares – certainly both I’ve already created and this has inspired me to spend a little longer on coldworking and finishing the pieces.

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I loved the washed pieces of glass collected on beaches.  The roughness of the pieces and then uniformly placed to form a 3D picture.

Bottom right were some amazing pieces made in ceramic but also I’d like to replicate in glass.

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Some great glass ideas.  The first piece is a very similar shape to the one I’ve already molded in wax and awaits me tomorrow to take to the next process.  Certainly food for thought although I think I know what I’m going to do.

The piece in the middle has given me an idea on finishing my ‘dropped’ glass that was this week fired for the second time.

The bowls on the top right were blown glass but then sandblasted techniques to create the pattern/engraving.  Something we’ll be covering in our glass course, I hope.

I also loved the tower blocks of glass.  So simple yet beautifully effective sculptures.

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Oddly I dreamt about a piece just like these two last night.  Certainly given me another method of creating my ‘dream’ piece.

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Button obsession again.  This artist used clock and watch parts as well as butterflies.  I’d love to use buttons.  Interesting way to suspend and layer the parts to create a picture behind.

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Oh and there did appear to be a LOT of bulldogs at the AAF Battersea.  Many in ceramic, some in stone, bronze and, of course, paintings too.  I took these pics for my lovely friend Trish – aren’t they top dogs?

More glass (without the bubbles please)…

Following my two day 1:1 studio course I did in 2013 with the wonderful artist David Mitchell in Cambridge I have been super keen to continue working with glass.  As Cambridge isn’t exactly next door, I needed to find a college, studio or individual that would help me learn more, guide me (a little bit) and help me fire and coldwork pieces in their kiln and studio.  Of course I was happy to pay but I couldn’t find anyone or anywhere!  Many many hours of searching, stalking artists, posting on art forums and generally making a nuisance of myself and two year’s later, I found somewhere that I can go to make more glass ‘stuff’.  I didn’t exactly sit and wait for it though.  I invested in some glass, glass cutting boards, goggles and cutters and practiced cutting pieces of glass in my shed.

It has been a frustrating two years and I thought I’d end up with a shed full of cut pieces of glass and yet nothing finished…

.. until now!

Richmond Adult Community College have added a new art wing to their College in Richmond.  They were apparently previously in a Nissan hut in Twickenham but clearly at that time without much awareness about publicising their classes as I didn’t find them in my many many page searches of Google!

So I’ve signed up to three courses and already started two of them.

Cast a Glass Vessel (short course) – Learn how to make a model in wax to be cast in glass
•    To create a refractory mould for glass casting
•    Using wax to creating textures and patterns
•    You will gain basic techniques in finishing your cast glass

This is a piece that I’ve made so far.

Wax mould

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IMG_8094IMG_8093I quite love the way it is “just a vessel”.  It doesn’t have a purpose nor does it stand up or be level (deliberately!).  I adore the mottling of purples with a slight hint of blue within.  It’s far from perfect but I did it!  I think it’s done but I may just put a hole in the bottom and fit it with a small light…  I’m thinking about it.

Next up is a larger vessel that I’ve already created in wax and have a couple of weeks to finish the carving, then cast it in plaster and then into glass.  I’ve several ideas floating around in my head for a design and I’m excited to see what I finally decide to do.

Studio Glass (16 week course) – A practical introduction to kiln formed studio glass, covering the ancient techniques of fusing, slumping, open-mould and lost wax casting. You will be set short projects and encouraged to adopt an experimental approach. You will be taught through demonstration, group and individual instruction and you will learn from hands on experience. You will discover the potential of the medium through looking at both contemporary and historical works

The story so far:

IMG_8154Top left – practice cuts in glass to get circles, straight lines and shapes.
Top right – after first firing to fuse the glass together
Bottom – We created ‘cut-out’ shapes and prepared them for a ‘drop’ in the next firing.  This picture was taken as we ‘collectively’ chose it was time to stop the firing process and cool down the kiln pieces.  Hopefully we stopped it in time so that none of the pieces continued for the glass to melt and drop further.  Also it’s quite an art (thank heavens for Sally, our technician) to bring the glass down in temperature in such a way that it doesn’t crack.  Next week we’ll see the pieces out of the kiln and having returned to their final colour.  Fingers crossed.  I think I’d like to finish my piece by finishing off the edges and then mounting it onto a melted glass piece stand.  We’ll see!

Glass Casting (short course) – A practical and intense introduction to casting glass using the lost wax and open casting process. You will be taught how to model wax, make refractory moulds and prepare your glass for casting in the kiln. You will be set a short project and encouraged to adopt an experimental approach. You will be taught through demonstration, group and individual instruction and you will learn from hands on experience. You will discover the potential of the medium through looking at both contemporary and historical works.

Not started yet!

I’m so enjoying working with glass.  Once again I realise that I can be totally absorbed by this medium.  It’s unpredictability as to how it will fuse, slump or drop gives me a sense of excitement and thrill as to what it will become when the pieces I’ve chosen and placed take on a new form.  Honestly I can’t believe how quickly each class session flies by.