About Me

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North Somerset, United Kingdom
My parents were worried when I ran around with scissors – now I play with fire and (intentionally) break glass! Based in the beautiful South West of England, close to the sea and often the scene of beautiful sunsets, I am inspired by the countryside around. Working with sea glass collected from remote beaches, soda lime glass from Murano, Italy, Europe, USA and beyond, I create artisan beads, for use in my own jewellery or for you to enjoy in your own creations. But I couldn’t stop there; continuing the theme from round rods to flat sheets, mostly from the USA, I break large sheets of transparent, opaque, multi-coloured and dichroic glass into much smaller pieces to make a kiln-formed range of bright, colourful jewellery and home decoration. Each piece I make is individually designed around the shape, size and beauty of the materials and intended to be unique, wearable, usable and affordable. All my glass work is kiln annealed for strength and durability and designed to give pleasure for years to come.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Pretty boxes for your pressies

Working at craft fairs every weekend from September to Christmas means a bit of forward planning is required when it comes to the all important Christmas shopping. I can't bear the crowds on Christmas Eve! This year I started earlier than normal and bought most of my presents on-line. Where would I be without Etsy, Folksy and Amazon?!

Wrapping presents has never been my strong point - despite once having a Christmas holiday job working in John Lewis as a gift wrapper. It seemed so much easier when I was 18. Or perhaps it's because JL provided endless sizes and shapes of box in which to wrap difficult shaped items, many colours of ribbon and ready made bows, and fantastic bags to carry it all home in.

This year I wanted to make my Christmas as 'handmade' as possible - be it my hands or someone else's. So I started making my own boxes. One of my challenges was a box suitable for gift wrapping my sea glass bottle stoppers which I sell at fairs and I started making pillow boxes for this. Sometimes the pieces of sea glass are just a bit big for the pillow boxes so I turned to wedge boxes, stocking up on beautiful double sided pearlescent card stock at a local store.

I've thoroughly enjoyed making these so I made a few for you too. If you'd like them. These are a handy size for small gifts (from necklace to diamonds) or chocolates and, so that you can decorate them to your own theme, I've included ribbons but left plain for you to decorate. They'd look wonderful used as place markers for Christmas parties or dinner, perhaps holding chocolates, something scented or a cigar for your guests. They are made from 240gsm card
stock so are tough enough be filled with light things
and hung from the Christmas tree
(assuming your tree is big enough).

I'm selling these in packs of 2, scored and ready to be folded in a with card and ribbons in a variety of colours. The pastel pearlescent card subtly changes colour as the light falls on it so they look really pretty. The packs are mixed colours but if you have any special requests then get in touch and I'm sure something can be worked out for you.

These boxes are available from my Etsy and Folksy stores.

My stores will close around 10pm tonight (UK time) and re-open by Monday morning, perhaps sooner if I get back from my Sunday fair as a civilised hour. I'm at the Green Dragon Hotel in the city of Hereford tomorrow and at the Chase Hotel, Ross on Wye on Sunday. If you are in the area come and say hi.

Last stop on the Hestercombe tour

is the formal garden, designed by Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll.

Entrance to the formal garden, whichever way you come, is through some fabulous gates

these also lead through to steps taking you to the top terrace

with fine views of the house.

Along the side walls are round windows, with glimpses of the land beyond

and a clear unobstructed view of the Somerset skyline from the house

This stream, man made, is fed from a beautiful water feature - I'd love this one in my garden!

and dotted around all the stone terraces and paths are old mill stones, the centre of which has been filled with stacked flower pots - I remember seeing this as a suggestion for a patio on a gardening programme years ago - time-wise somewhere between crazy paving and decking crazes in the UK!

I rather like them. The old mill is being restored as a visitor centre and another cafe (oh good, more coffee and cakes!), to be open by Easter next year.

In the formal garden there is also a beautiful Orangery

When we visited earlier in the year the oranges and lemons were outside enjoying the summer, now they are indoors. The Orangery brings back memories for me, of being at boarding school in a minor stately home and having lessons in an Orangery. I didn't appreciate it then.

Wouldn't this be a wonderful venue for a wedding?

So at the end of my walk, I crossed the front of the house and walked up th stone steps back towards the main entrance, shop and restaurant

clutching the leaves I had collected along the way

My plan was to stick these to a silk screen and devore some velvet scarves using the leaves as a template. Sadly, by the time I got home and loaded the car for Sunday's craft fair, it was too late to start work again and they are now beautifully dried, but unusable for screen printing.

Just another excuse to go again and enjoy a day at Hestercombe.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Beat the post strikes and find me at........

This weekend you will find us at the Green Dragon Hotel in Hereford on Saturday and the Chase Hotel in Ross on Wye on Sunday. Why pay postage costs and worry about deliveries when you can come and meet us at fairs? You also get to see the entire range - something that you cannot do through my on-line shops as I don't have the time to list every single thing I have.

If you come, meet and purchase from me at either of these fairs, let me know you've read this blog post and I'll add a little something extra to your bag of goodies.

Meanwhile, my Etsy and Folksy shops will be closed for the duration, from Friday evening to Monday morning UK time. If you are contemplating anything in my shops, beware, it may sell at one of these fairs. With everything being handmade and no two patterns repeated as far as possible there is every chance I won't have exactly what you wanted later.

I look forward to meeting some of my on-line customers and blog readers there.

Around and about - the buildings at Hestercombe

The Hestercombe estate is home the admin centre of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue so not open to the public, but the surrounding estate is open to all who care to pay the entrance fee. We've only been a couple of times so are still to learn everything of its history - there's lots more to see and explore.

Around the grounds are various incongruous buildings.

The mausoleum I have already mentioned, with its skull and grave markers.

Nestling by the path is a chinese pagoda, a welcome place to sit and enjoy the view.

By another path, hidden in the trees is the witches house; made from wood and thatch, there are carved emblems of mice, snakes and cats.

Up on the hill is a temple - every home should have one!

and near to the formal garden is a folly, newly restored with oak woodwork

and beautifu, views through the leaded windows over the surrounding countryside.

Our last stop will be the Edwardian Formal Garden created by Sir Edwin Lutyens, probably the most famous British architect since Sir Christopher Wren, Lutyens also designed the Cenotaph in Whitehall, the British Embassy in Washington and the vast imperial city of New Delhi in India.

The planting scheme was designed by Gertrude Jekyll whose influence on garden planting has been enormous. Her use in borders of graduated colour and planting in drifts has dominated garden design throughout the last hundred years.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Of walks and water - Hestercombe

Near to the formal gardens at Hestercombe there is a large lake, fed from a larger lake higher up the estate and a leat and waterfall. On the lower lake there is a solitary swan, I guess he or she must have lost their mate. He has a couple of ducks for company but seems to spend most of his time ewither swimming around in peaceful solitude or chasing off the ducks. I don't know what I thought swans ate, but this one eats grass. Perhaps he thinks he's a sheep or cow.

The lower part of the lake feeds a boggy area, I suspect once a mill pond. To get there the water passes under a culvert and falls to a waterfall before going under the path to the boggy area.

Because I am writing this as the walk, the photo of the bottom waterfall follows later. Believe me it will be worth the wait!

Following the path around from the bottom lake gives a beautiful vista of a tall waterfall

Beneath this is a stream which trips and falls towards the bottom lake from the top feeder lake.

As the path reaches the top lake, it forks to go higher into the estate or, as in our case, across the front of the top lake, returning down the other side of the stream. The feed from the take to the stream is bridged

and the yew tree by the bridge is where we saw the tiny Horseshoe bat, mentioned in the June blog about Hestercombe. No swans on this lake, just curious ducks.

We followed the path back down towards our starting point, alongside us ran a small leat (artificial water course)

brick lined and sided, fallen leaves bobbins along. The end of the leat

passes under a small culvert and feeds the tall waterfall shown earlier - now seen from above

- I couldn't see the waterfall because it was underneath the overhang, and I wasn't about to lean further over the wall!

The path soon brought me back down to the bottom lake where I forked off to join the path to the formal gardens, passing on my way the decorative waterfall feeding the boggy area from the bottom lake - I hope you think it was worth the wait!

I liked the way the light was playing on the roof of the culvert - hard to show in a photograph.

So where next? Formal garden or buildings in the grounds. This really is a place where you could spend all day wandering and hardly seeing a soul.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

A visit to Hesterbombe - these look like 'fun guys'

So this is England in the Fall, not quite New England, but I'm not lucky enough to be able to go there this year (or any other for that matter). The leaves are turning gorgeous shades of gold and it's fun to walk through deep piles of leaves making that swishing sound as you go. I'd forgotten that delight from being a child again.

As we were walking around we came across a lot of fungi. A few I know the names of, most I don't, and I wouldn't trust myself to know the deadly from the delicious.

This one was growing on an old tree stump, I presume it is a sort of bracket fungus, so called because it looks like a bracket on a wall.

Shaggy Inkcap, because it's shaggy and the black liquid that this mushroom releases after being picked was once used as ink

It can be eaten, but is poisonous when consumed with alcohol – hence another common name, tippler's bane.

Next up we discovered some Fly Agaric - how suitable for Halloween! I always thought this was poisonous but apparently deaths are rare and it is widely eaten in Eastern Europe. It is best known though for its hallucinogenic properties!

Then we found some small puffballs. I prefer them when they are large and ripe, a quick touch on the top usually generates 'puffs' of spores being released. These are good to eat - assuming you are sure of what you are picking!

I don't know what the next ones are. They look a bit like Cep, but since I wasn't collecting them and wouldn't harvest my own to eat without an expert in tow, I'll just enjoy their beauty.

All this talk of food, between Nature Boy (husband is a total Townie, trees are trees and all mushrooms come from Tesco) had us heading back to the restaurant for coffee and cakes. You'll notice, if you read my blog often, coffee and cakes is a recurring theme!

Monday, 2 November 2009

A grand day out - Hestercombe Gardens near Taunton

Last Saturday we had a rare day off for this time of year. Having joined Friends of Hestercombe earlier in the year we thought we perhaps ought to at least visit periodically and, glorious weather, off we went. We weren't disappointed. Back in June I blogged about the bats and our first visit, we didn't see bats this time but with the change of season the gardens felt totally different.

I took rather a lot of photos so think I'll spread this out over several days, with different aspects of the gardens each day. It'll take me that long to sort out my photographs!

First up, Saturday was Halloween. It was also the end of the half-term holiday so the gardens had been decked out with suitable ghoulish goings on so that the children could follow a path and have something of interest to look at around every corner.

There were certainly plenty like this fellow around.

And for the real ghosts and things that go bump in the night there was the mausoleum!

.... with it's grave markers and Gothic skull hanging from the entrance. I walked in and around this in June and don't remember it looking anywhere near as impressive or scary close up!

More later.

Only the lonelies (this time apologies to Roy Orbison)

I love blog give-aways (and it's time I had another, me thinks, so will add to the 'LOTTD' (list of things to do). I also love lamp work beads which I incorporate in my sea glass jewellery from time to time.

Laura at Beads by Laura was offering some of her 'lonelies' in her give-away and imagine my surprise when I won them! I am so excited. At the moment they are by my computer and I am still at the stage where I keep taking them out and looking at them but I am hoping to start work with them very soon.

Laura's beads are stunning so pop along to her shop and dream of what you could do with them. Have a look at her blog too, where she shows pictures of what's up and coming.

I'll post pictures later of the finished results (if they do the beads justice!).