Reinventing our businesses

Its been quite an experience this Covid-19. I think it has made us appreciate the small things in life and people who we share it with. Its made us get back to basics and realize that we can do without some of the things that became a habit, which were not adding value to our health or daily lives.

As far as businesses are concerned, it has been difficult. Take for example our business STUDIO 44 MAURITIUS. We rely to a large extent on tourists to make a success of our shop in Calodyne. The tourists stopped on the day before lockdown, the 20th March. From then until 5th June which I think is the date on which restrictions were lifted and we were allowed to move around freely, we have lost a lot of business. Unfortunately things like rental and other costs will still have to be borne by the company. It will take a while to get over this and get back to where we were. That applies to all business, whether large or small.

I hope and pray that the people of Mauritius will support local artisans and crafters in Mauritius. If its made in Mauritius, it means that there is more than one person relying on the income from that product. You can help the island by buying locally manufactured products.

Businesses will also have to reinvent themselves. Jean Claude and I have some new ideas focussed on the recycling of glass. I will share these exciting ideas as and when we launch the products. It will help to use the many bottles which go into the rubbish dumps. If anyone has one of those beautiful blue gin bottles or those square rum bottles or anything similar, we would be most grateful to have them. We can use any unusual shaped or unusual colored bottle for our new production lines. We have a good stock of the ordinary wine bottles already so are unable to accept those, unless they are of an unusual color.

We see many restaurants battling to keep afloat and with the hotels now also offering take-aways this means that the restaurants have more competition than usual. They also have staff who are perhaps the breadwinners in the family. Lets support them too.

I think that it will be in the months to come – July, August and September that we will see many businesses closing down unable to cope any longer. It is so terribly sad to see something that someone has worked hard to build up, being cut down by Covid-19.

Lets all try to help one another as much as we can. One can never know the pain and hardship someone is going through – many people smile and say “I am fine” whereas they are wondering where their next meal will come from, or if there will in fact be one at all.

We have re-launched our Studio 44 Craft Academy and are enjoying teaching once again. If you are interested, you can find details on our Studio 44 Mauritius Facebook page. We have 6 different courses to choose from, working with different mediums. We believe that it would be a shame for all the knowledge that we have gained over the past 30 years working in glass, not to be passed on to as many people as possible.

Take care, stay safe and have a happy day!

 

Advertisement

11 months left …

Well, 2018 has come and one month has already passed us by. It has been a turbulent start with 3 cyclones in the Indian Ocean in 3 weeks and then one week of torrential rains in Mauritius which caused more flooding and hardship to many of our poorest citizens, who have built their houses in lower lying areas. At least the sun has come out again, although the humidity is almost unbearable and the mosquitoes are making up for  time lost.

We had a wonderful break at the seaside, although we did not have much sun, but sat for days watching the rain fall and with the third cyclone named Berguitta we were not sure if we were in for a really big one. Luckily it weakened from an Intense Tropical Cyclone down to a Severe Tropical Storm and although it went south with the centre just off our east coast, there was not all that much damage to buildings, except for flooding, but many trees fell down as the earth was completely saturated once the winds arrived.

Not being able to lie on the beach and get a good tan, we read lots of books, played cards and did some gardening.

Its strange though how the weather affects us. I have not been able to really get going yet this year. I have so many ideas for new creations, but with the unsettled, hot, humid weather I just don’t have much energy to start on new projects.

I was lucky to be able to purchase a collection of African Trade Beads from a lady who lived in Africa where she managed to buy some really beautiful beads. These 15th to 16th century trade beads which were made from Murano glass will be combined with my 21st century beads made from Italian glass manufactured in Murano. So, it will be a merger of the old and the new. It will take me a few weeks to make a stock of suitable beads to go with these beautifully patterned trade beads and I am busy designing the finished necklaces.

Browsing through the fashion colors, jewelry and trends for 2018 today, I believe its going to be a year filled with fun and color! Fringes, plaids, frills, feathers, etc and the beautiful palette of colors we have to work with is really exciting and I am looking forward to seeing what designers create.

Well, I hope this year to blog on a regular basis. However, being just my husband and I each with our own studio and the showroom to look after, there is sometimes just not the time available to write, as much as I love doing my little blog.

Take care and until next time keep smiling and be grateful for your blessings.

Four months later …..

Well, its almost four months to the day since we moved our home to Calodyne and moved our business into the building in front of the house. We are now just past the restaurant At Linda’s Place in Calodyne and just after the nursery school.

If you haven’t tried the food at Linda’s then you are missing a treat. She is an excellent cook and will take good care of you whether you eat in the restaurant or order take-away or ask her to do the catering for a dinner or event. She is a kind, generous person and has become a good friend.

So wonderful to go 10 steps from the front door of the house into the studio and be saved the 30 minute drive on tiny winding roads from Roches Noires to Calodyne twice a day. The advantages of living and working on one property definitely outweigh the disadvantages. At the moment we are busy with new designs and increasing stock levels and its great to be able to start early and work late without thinking of the drive home with the oncoming headlights on bright!!! Why don’t drivers here appreciate the danger of blinding oncoming traffic? Is it a lack of appreciation or is it just selfishness? Anyway, we count our blessings every day.

I find frankly that whether one lives on the same premises or far away from the studio one’s thoughts and conversations are unavoidably on “what’s the priority for tomorrow?” or “I have just had an idea for a new design”. We are a husband and wife team and do everything ourselves. Once the business grows, we may employ someone to help us.

We have had to establish a garden from scratch and it is progressing well. With all the rain we had in July and August the grass has taken and the newly created and planted beds are showing new growth. The Barberton daisies are happy in their new home, having been planted originally in a bed without sufficient sunlight, and we should have our second flower open tomorrow. Amazing to see how plant growth is stimulated in spring.

We are also living a healthier happier life and getting rid of some excess kilos. Being able to prepare healthy salads for lunch and using the time previously spent driving to take long walks after work.

Luckily we have an excellent costing and inventory program – of course, that is IF one does not get over excited (as I often tend to do) and move new designs from my creation table directly into the showroom. With the end of the year stocktake done in June, I am really trying hard to be disciplined and keep the figures up to date!

We are both grateful to be able to follow our passion and do what we love most. An added bonus is to meet so many lovely people from all over the world. And its very encouraging when they enjoy the bead making demonstrations and remark on the relaxed, happy atmosphere in the studio.

We now both have large, airy and well organized working areas and the showroom is really attractive with plenty of space to show everything to advantage. It took us a whole month to get the electrical wiring completely redone; to dismantle our showroom cabinets in the old shop and move and modify them to fit the new shop. And thank goodness I had my good friend Patricia to help with the unpacking of the stock onto the shelves. What would I have done without her!!! Physical and moral support and lots of good laughs amid the groans about our aching backs.

The new showroom is on a sharp bend and therefore affords a fantastic view of our display windows.  Its impossible not to see us and we have many locals and tourists alike who come in to see what we do. The whole shopfront affords ample parking for cars and tourist vans alike. We hope more of them will stop so that people can experience the wonderful world of creating with glass!

We are currently introducing RHODIUM finishes to our range. Working with our local manufacturing jeweler we are now adding a rhodium coating to our silver plated range. Rhodium holds the distinction of being the world’s most expensive precious metal. It is about as nonreactive as gold. Some of the most expensive consumer items in the world are made from Rhodium.

Discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston, who isolated it from platinum. He was also the discoverer of palladium.

Rhodium costs about six times as much as gold by weight. 80 per cent of the world’s rhodium comes from South Africa and world production of the metal is only about 20 tons per year. Rhodium plated jewelry should be cleaned with a mixture of mild liquid shampoo and a little water. Never use chemical cleaners on rhodium plated items, or ultrasonic cleaners that utilize chemicals. Do not use polishing cloths intended for use on gold or silver jewelry.

It is the answer for those who are allergic to silver!

Well, this coming week is going to be really busy! Lots of beads to make! Lots of making up of jewelry designs to do!

Have a great week everyone. Whatever you do, enjoy it!

I tried to post a photo of our new shop. You can see it on our STUDIO44MAURITIUS Facebook page or on our website http://www.studio44mauritius.com.

 

 

Another great week!

Well its been an exciting week. We have met so many wonderful people from central Europe, United Kingdom and France. Thats one thing I love about our studio. Visitors just love to see how I make the glass beads, one by one, in the flame and I get so much pleasure out of sharing this passion of mine for working with glass.

I have also felt very creative this week and quite a few new designs are now on display. First thing in the morning and the late afternoons are the time I love to sit down and play around with threading materials and my boxes of beads and give birth to something totally different.

IMG_9389.jpgThis week we have launched our new range of recycled glass bracelets. With all the bottles out there and the threat to the environment, we felt that we should do our part to try to convert them to something useful and pretty. So we have duplicated our normal “pebble” shape beads and instead of making them in Italian glass, we have used recycled glass. Its difficult to work with and I had to find the trick to getting a quality bead, but with patience and perseverance – Aries loves a challenge and this sun sign just refuses to give up!!! I am pleased with the result and thrilled that we can do something to help the planet.

The number of empty bottles on this small island is astronomical. All those tourists quenching their thirst after a hot day on the beach!IMG_9459.jpgI have also been playing around with double flowers. The two bottom ones are examples of that technique. I have just never seemed to have the time to try to make those beautiful encased multi-petal flowers. One of these days I will go to the next step and do some beads with flowers with four layers of petals, one on top of the other.

IMG_9563.jpg

Jean Claude has made some beautiful pendants using different colors. He plays around with the pieces of glass and fuses them in the kiln. We have threaded these onto matching ribbon and they make a pretty display in the showroom. Each one is unique and made with lots of love.

The weather in Mauritius is glorious at the moment. Beautiful sunshine, warm days with a fresh breeze and cool evenings. I spent most of the day in the garden today, planting the new beds we have created. Its been a lot of work creating a garden from nothing. I am eager to see the Barberton daisies which we transplanted today into a bed with more sun, burst into flower. I think we have found the ideal place for them.

With two newly made beds just begging for plants I cannot wait for that trip to the nursery to see what is available. We have two excellent nurseries fairly close by but of course we are unable to leave the shop during the day, so I am going to have to wait until next weekend to have the pleasure of chosing plants. In the meantime I have been reading up about suitable plants for morning sun and afternoon shade.

We have great plans for the back garden for vegetables, granadilla vines, herbs and fruit trees. There are already two mango trees, four banana plants and a 20 year old litchi tree. I can hardly wait for December to see if the crop will be good this year. We love litchis but tend not to buy them as they have increased from Rs1 to Rs4 each. And then they are often picked too soon because of the birds and bats. There is nothing like picking fruit from the tree and eating it fresh.

My mother grew up on a small holding in Parys in South Africa and as a young girl she used to come home from school, take a knife from the kitchen and go into the orchard and pick and eat as much fruit as she wanted. I think this is why she had such a beautiful skin and was so healthy until 6 months before she died from old age at 96 years old. I miss her every day – her laughter, her smiles and her happy disposition.

I find gardening very relaxing and also good exercise. Its a different way of creating something beautiful which everyone can enjoy. With bead making one has to wait until the the next day when bead has gone through the annealing program in the kiln to know if its a success or not. Likewise with gardening there is also a wait for plants to flower and bear fruit. It teaches us patience and perseverance.

Tomorrow it going to be exciting as I have been asked to do a special project which I will post a photograph of next week. Its for a very special lady and is something which I have never worked on before. I made the beads on Saturday morning but they had to cool in the vermiculite. I hope to have a nice surprise when I take them out to anneal in the kiln and they are going to be such fun to make up. I will leave you in suspense until next week.

Have a great week and keep smiling!

.

 

 

 

 

 

Renewal …..

As in nature, we have to continually renew, innovate and explore new possibilities. Change is the only thing we can be 100% sure of in this life and we must embrace changes as they occur with confidence and positivity, realising that it is a chance to grow our business and develop new skills on a personal level. This year has been such a year for Jean Claude and I. At times very stressful and frightening, but things are gradually falling into place and new opportunities are opening up for us.

Between May 2016 and May 2017 we will have split our studio into two locations. The beadmaking studio cum showroom where I work and the other location which is the hot glass studio cum craft academy where Jean Claude is based. We now occupy two different locations in St Francois, Calodyne.

In November we will start building a cosy little cottage for ourselves at Roches Noires – somewhere we can truly call our own and have a small vegetable patch and some pretty flower beds once again. Jean Claude is working on ideas for a water feature and I look forward to hanging some bird feeders for the cardinals and other local birds.  Living currently in an upstairs apartment, we both miss the feel of walking on soft green grass and enjoying a braai in the garden on a Sunday.

Now that the showroom is established we are focussing our attention on the Studio 44 Craft Academy  which is situated 5 minutes walk down the road from the showroom. Jean Claude has found the ideal place to house his glass kilns and have plenty of room for teaching some new crafts. He is back in full production of his beautiful glass bowls, plates, etcetera and will shortly be posting details of the craft courses he will be offering on our Studio 44 MAURITIUS Facebook page. The academy is on the street level at the rear of the same building as Linda’s Restaurant which is in the basement and at present you will see only their sign on top of the building if you look south at the intersection where Intermart Supermarket is situated. Our Craft Academy signs are not up yet -the contact number is Jean Claude’s mobile 59368660. You can also email him on contact@studio44mauritius.com.

Creativity exists in each one of us – we just need to give it a chance to express itself.  With his 20 years of experience in glass and other crafts and the idea to make the classes relaxed and enjoyable, we would like participants to come away with practical and useful items they have had fun creating and can proudly say “I made it myself!”

Well, I am writing this from my comfortable recliner on the balcony, having been housebound with flu for the last two days. Turning a negative into a positive, we have a long overdue blog to post! We must never cease to count our blessings every day. With the world in terrible turmoil, let’s say THANK YOU for the peaceful life we enjoy in MAURITIUS – our beautiful tropical island. Well, perhaps not so tropical at the moment but Spring is not far off!

 

At last ……. Whew!!!

Its been both exciting and exhausting fitting out and moving into our new shop …

At last, the last box is unpacked, the floor is swept and its time to get back to work again. Its been both exciting and exhausting fitting out and moving into our new shop at Calodyne in the north of Mauritius. Its a 25 minute drive from our old studio at Roches Noires, where we live, and I must say that its quite nice to separate home from work.

From just a shell when we first looked at the shop, its is now fitted out with lovely showcases, some of which were modified and moved from the old studio; lights and plugs have been installed; a new toilet; a kitchenette/bead washing and cleaning area and its very comfortable.

Unfortunately Jean Claude cannot fit his big fusing kilns or cutting table or all his glass painting equipment into our new shop, so he will be working from the old studio when necessary.

Its great to have our stock control and our costing in the same place as our stock at last which makes for much easier and quicker costing for new designs and easier stock control.

All in all, we are very happy and relaxed. The only item which needs to be completed is the connection for my oxygen to the two torches. We have now been waiting for one month for this to be done and today is supposed to be the magic day !!! Lets hope it comes true!!!

I will post two photographs of the new shop. The first will show where it is in relation to Intermart Supermarket and the second will show the front of the shop. Its very convenient for people living in this area as there is not much here in the way of a place to buy good quality gifts for occasions – birthday, wedding, anniversary. We are proud to have been awarded the much coveted trademark “made in moris” which guarantees both the quality of our products and the percentage of local content.

Hope to see you for a visit if you are in the area at any time. We would love to have your feedback on what we have done and perhaps even how we can improve the set-up.

Enjoy your week!

 

 

 

 

 

The disappearing blog ?

The Festive Season is over and its time to be creative in 2016!

Well, perhaps my laptop is a safer bet when it comes to writing blogs. I just completed a long blog this morning and tapped the incorrect icon on my iPad and whoosh it has disappeared into the ether!!! Infuriating to say the least. So, let me have another go ….

Thank goodness the Festive Season is over. I ate far too much of the nice fattening goodies and have gained 3 1/2 kilos. So, this morning it was down to serious business with brown toast and an egg for breakfast.

The weather here at Roches Noires on the north east coast of Mauritius is beautiful today. Jean Claude, my husband, enjoyed an hour long walk along the coastal road, bordered on one side by beach bungalows such as ours and on the other side by a forest. I did 40 minutes of cycling on my exercise bike – hope the message got through to the fat cells that their lives are going to be short-lived. This year I made a Christmas Pudding – my big sister’s recipe, crammed with whole cherries, fruits and nuts. Eaten with a brandy sauce – yes, lots of brandy please! – it is hard to resist. One piece of that each day is probably sufficient to put on weight. Well, sad to say it almost finished. Perhaps I will leave the rest to Jean Claude to enjoy.

The thing I enjoy most on the exercise bike – after all who likes to exercise!?! – is that I can read my digital lamp working magazines whilst I cycle. I am usually sad to hear the ring of the timer saying I have completed the course.

Its really hot in Mauritius at the moment. Luckily on our coast we get the breeze. On the west of the island they are just melting in the hot, humid, sticky conditions.

I started recently playing around with silver glass and silver itself. One of our new additions to the range is a 3 piece choker which sits beautifully on the neck. I do a focal bead with silver glass and silver and just the one bead with silver spacers on either side is very pretty. You can see some of them on our Facebook page and also our website. https://www.studio44mauritius.com. Facebook STUDIO44MAURITIUS.

With the start of a new year – its always exciting isn’t it? – I have been thinking of new designs and new products to design in our silver-plated upmarket range of jewelry. I love working with wire and this year I must really try out some new earing designs using silver plated wire. Or, perhaps even go the whole hog and buy some silver wire to try out the tourist market and see if they are willing to pay for silver.

We had so many shows in November and December that we were exhausted by 24th and have taken it a bit easy since then. Lots of reading, relaxing, swimming in our beautiful crystal clear lagoon and yes, unfortunately eating lots of good things too. Well, I think its good to have a break from routine. It kinda charges our batteries and get us in the mood for the new year.

I certainly am ready for some exciting projects this year. We need to find export markets for our products; find one or two more select stores in Mauritius in the south and the north of the island to stock our products; and I need to discipline myself to be serious about my blog and post something interesting every week. There is so much to learn with Pinterest, Instagram, twitter, etc and its not always possible to find the time to learn how to better connect with the world digitally.

I thank you for reading my blog and wish you and yours every success and happiness in 2016.

 

 

 

 

New meaning to the term CHOKE HOLD!

Exciting jewelry trends for the new season – I am off to my torch to lamp work!

Its interesting to browse through the sites to see the jewelry trends for the new season. The new CHOKE HOLD designs will hopefully not have the same effect on the wearers! Some of them are so wide that only those women with beautiful long necks will be able to carry off the look. Perhaps to make a statement at a gala event or on the red carpet? Chanel has a beautiful wide bead choker in blue and grey beads. The Christian Dior asymmetrical chain choker is also interesting. It gives me an idea for chain with a nice focal bead on one side. 

I’ve been busy lamp working some intricate bicone beads with matching spacers, for our recently launched 3-piece chokers. The first batch of chokers sold out very quickly and the beads on the new batch will be in the new season’s colors.

I love the versatile single-earring trend. Whether asymmetrical in shape or length, the beauty is in the irregularity. I have a client who has been doing this for years – she is usually ahead of the trend! I love making earrings with silver-plated wire and my lamp worked beads and crystals, so this is exciting.

The richly hued brass, the metal of the moment, goes beautifully with the Africa animal beads I love to make.  Now I need to find some interesting brass pieces. Lately I have been considering starting to do the metal work myself. The new magazine, Artisan Jewellery Times http://www.artisanjewelrytimes.com has tempted me. It would be nice to design the piece from scratch, instead of relying on what is available commercially.

I am designing some wire wound rings to showcase my beads in which I use silver foil, murrini and silver reactive glass. They take a while to make but with the different layers and elements are fascinating.

For those addicted to seed beading, the chunky, earthy pieces ideal for retro-fit babes are a dream come true. There is so much one can do with seed beads.

The bracelet by Derek Lam on the harpersbazaar.com site is particularly interesting. Its a simple bangle with a very large bead hanging on it. My creative juices are flowing and I have a couple of versions in the pipeline with different materials.

I am also pleased to see the return of the charm bracelet. We have silver-plated ones with a nice variety of charms typical to Mauritius. It bring back vivid memories of sitting on the couch as a little girl holding my older sister’s heavy silver charm bracelet. That was a treat for me. The charms were so beautifully crafted.

Well, there is lots to plan so I had better get started!

Until next time

Spring, please come quickly ………

After an unusually cold winter in Mauritius – cold, rainy and windy – I look forward to the first signs of Spring. Yes, its still at least 4 weeks away, but its a good time to look at the spring colors and think about designing some jewelry to go with those lovely pastel colors. I cannot wait to pack away my warm winter woollies, used during my recent visit to South Africa and used again after my return in early July and to shop for some light filmy dresses in the new colors.

From the top ten color trends for Spring revealed by Pantone to the other colors predicted for spring and summer, ideas are starting to develop for some new color combinations. With Aquamarine, Scuba Blue, Lucite Green, Classic Blue, Toasted Almond, Strawberry Ice, a lovely warm Tangerine,  Custard good enough to eat and the rich Marsala and Glacier Gray there is much fun to be had!

Others have mentioned Dusk Blue, Tree Top, Woodbine, Sandstone, Titanium and Lavender Herb.

On the ecolorworld.com (Albena Radeva) site the trends for summer are the rainforest’s vivid colors with a photo of the feathers of a brightly colored parrot clearly conveying the tropical feeling. To summarize, its a combination of luscious greens, bright corals and fuchsias, bright turquoise and earthy brown, which, as Albena suggests, binds the colors to give a more organic appeal. I really love the Colour Combinations Inspiration Board on this site and I am now a “Follower”. I look forward to future posts.

As a lampworker, I am inspired firstly by color. In the morning when I sit down at my torch, unless I am making beads for a specific order, my inspiration comes from the beautiful colors of Italian glass rods in my stack. I will look at the colors and one or two will attract my attention. That is my starting point. The design comes afterwards and develops as I work the colors in the flame. Sometimes I will have an idea from the colors what I am going to do, and once I start melting the glass, that idea changes completely. People often ask me where all my designs come from. When one follows bead making sites, one is obliged to pick up ideas. The way a dot has been placed, the way a flower petal has been formed, or just a combination of two colors can lead to a completely different design. As it is unethical to copy another bead makers work, one has to come up with one’s own designs and style. Although, as you can imagine its not impossible for two people to make the same bead at the same time. It happened to me recently. I made a new design and a few days later on one of the bead making sites, saw exactly the same thing posted by someone else. And it was not a design which I had ever seen before. I had not posted a photo of mine, so there could not have been any copying there. Its inevitable that once in a while this will happen. The bead making community is a very friendly and helpful one. Its rather like belonging to a worldwide family with the same passion. And its a real treat to see the incredible beads produced by the top artists!

So, I now have some searching to do for some new glass colors which will hopefully echo the colors for Spring and Summer.

Talk to you again soon. Enjoy the weekend.

Beads for Africa …

image

Yes, these are actually going to Africa on our newly designed swizzle sticks with the big five. They were lots of fun to make and exciting to take out of the kiln this morning. We love to innovate. It’s important, in my opinion, to ensure that there is always something new to see in the showroom or on our on-line shop.

%d bloggers like this: