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.

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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!

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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.

 

 

 

 

Hearts galore!

I have had such fun during the past week.  Bead presses are a wonderful way to get some variety into one’s range of bead shapes and its been fun this last week to make a few from each bead press – I purchased 5 bead presses – and to make them up into some bracelets which are totally different from anything we have made to date.

The bead presses are made of brass and come in two halves. The bottom has pins to enable one to fit the top of the press exactly onto the bottom to get a perfect shape. It takes a bit of practice to be able to wind exactly the right amount of glass onto the steel mandrel before inserting the glass into the press and pressing. Too little glass and the shape lacks some form; too much glass and it oozes in the middle and gives an ugly ridge around the bead and spoils the footprint (the holes on either side of the bead).

I love the 5 Zoozii’s presses which I purchased in December. I have the Itty Bitty Trio’s. There are two of them which gives me 6 shapes of very tiny beads to use in bracelets. The shell duo gives two different sizes of shells with the hole running from top to bottom and the heart duo gives two dainty flat hearts suitable for bracelets. The one I have probably used the most however is the Nugget press which gives three different sizes of nuggets – they look a lot like curved pillows.

Now I am after some lentil presses and will most likely go for the straight sided lentil, which, as I have read on the internet, is an easier shape to wear than the curved lentil. I will go Zoozii’s again as I have really enjoyed the accuracy and ease of use of their presses.

I don’t have photos on this blog but you can see the different bead shapes if you go onto our STUDIO44MAURITIUS Facebook page or our website https://www.studio44mauritius.com.

Its quite daunting when the first presses arrive. One tends to think “Oh my gosh, will I be able to manage this?” But, after making plasticine molds using each shape in the presses, I got used to the feel of them and realized that it would simply be a case of PPP -practice, practice, practice, just like everything else in lamp working. I was pleasantly surprised as to how quickly I got the hang of it.

One problem with using brass presses is that the glass is “shocked” by being pressed and it introduces enormous stress into the glass which can result in the bead breaking into pieces when one takes it out of the mold. The secret is to reheat the glass immediately it has been pressed so that the strain is removed an then to “anneal” it in the tip of the flame for about 4 seconds so that the outside of the bead stays warm and it cools slowly from the inside out.

The other day I was using the baby square mold on the Itty Bitty and I took it a pressed bead out of the mold and it broke and flew all over the place – in fact it simply exploded. Not realizing that one piece had descended onto my chair between my legs, I suddenly felt some heat on my leg and looked down to see the towel which I use to cover my chair was burning! That certainly made me move quickly! After 8 years of lamp working and many many burn marks on my lower arms, I now wear a long sleeved blouse made of pure cotton and it helps because the glass does not stick to the cotton when it flies all over the place and I don’t get burnt any longer. If one heats a glass rod too quickly when getting the glass to the molten stage in order to wind it around the stainless steel rod (called a mandrel), the rod tends to shock and little pieces of glass can fly all over the place. I even had a piece on my lip one day!

It was a thrill yesterday morning to open the kiln (the oven I use to anneal the beads) and to take out a dozen beautiful little hearts which will go into bracelets for Mothers’ Day which is on Sunday 31st May here in Mauritius.

Wishing everyone a Happy Mothers’ Day here in Mauritius. I know that South Africa and Australia have already celebrated this important day. Mothers are such extraordinary human beings and I know that this year I will dearly miss my mother who sadly passed away on 26th January this year. She was 97 years old and had a wonderful life but sadly since her 97th birthday on 24th August last year, her health declined very fast. She was a kind, loving, generous and loved by everybody. She was one of those souls who loved to render service and help especially when people were alone and did not have someone to help them. She taught me the important values in life and above all to show respect, tolerance and unconditional love to everyone. God Bless you Mom. You were the best!

Oh Gaia, how you torment me!

Have you ever tried to get a silver glass to do its thing and it simply refuses. Gaia is one of the Double Helix colours which I purchased at least one year ago, but have simply never had the time to sit down and play with in the flame. I get some reduction from it, but not what I would expect. Reduction colours are those which need a more gas rich flame to bring out the metallic lustre of rainbow colours. I read somewhere yesterday that the glass needs to be cooled and then brought back to red hot to do the trick. I shall have to try this tomorrow. However Triton still remains my favourite. So easy to reduce and so,reliable – like a loyal friend who never lets me down. Do you have any favourite reduction colours?

The art of pressing glass ……

Much has been written about the subject on various social media sites. There are many very kind lampworkers ready to share both their mistakes and their successes. I recently purchased 5 new molds from one of the big names in bead presses. Unfortunately they were not posted to me when they should have been as the lady did not follow up on my payment. By the time the presses eventually arrived about two months late, I had missed the chance to try out the new shapes at all the Christmas fairs. Then in January my dear mother passed away and I went back to South Africa for two weeks.

on my return the presses seemed to eye me from my workbench and dare me to start experimenting with them. Needless to say I was a bit terrified of making an unholy mess of molten glass. I started with the smallest of the molds and was pleasantly surprised at how well I managed.  If like myself, you are dying to try them out, a good book to get you started is Lori Greenberg’s “Hot Off The Press”. Although it is written for Universal Bead Press Tools, I found that the principles are the same and it was a great help to me.

Her idea of using modelling clay to accurately establish the amount of glass required is excellent. I purchased a pack of plasticine and proceeded to make a perfect example of each mold.

After ten days I have now produced enough beads to make a few bracelets which we completed today and I shall post the photos with comments tomorrow.

Once getting over the disappointment of quite a few beads which cracked in the flame / cooling in the vermiculite / or in the kiln itself, I seem to have solved that problem.

The weather here in Mauritius is very wet since Saturday and we are having floods in some parts of the island. The rain is currently battering the roof and I am off to have a lovely hot shower and heat a tasty chicken casserole for our dinner – a perfect meal for a cold night.

Until tomorrow ….

How many days to Christmas?

The weeks are flying by and I can hardly believe that its Friday again! Now that we are almost at the end of October, my thoughts automatically turn to Christmas shopping; Christmas cakes and puddings and lots of fun and merriment with friends and family. The Festive Season tends to come and go so quickly and we are left with lots of lovely memories, but also the bills to pay for the pleasure of spoiling our friends and family. With the financial crisis still affecting most families, I think its time that we were more practical and settle upon simple gifts – quality but at an easily affordable price.

Therefore this year I am busy with a range of gifts which will please the eye and the pocket of the giver. Gifts don’t have to be expensive. The point of our gift is to say “You are special to me and I thought about you”. We tend to think that we have to buy something expensive to prove that we love someone. Sometimes its the most simple, but very practical item, which will please the most.

So, its back to the flame to make lots of pretty beads to embellish those special gifts which will be available at Studio44Mauritius for this year’s Festive Season. Talk to you soon.

We’re launching a new range

Hot off the press! We are launching our upmarket range of silver plated jewelry with fused Italian glass cabochons. The new range includes two sizes of adjustable rings, 3 styles of bracelets, tie pins, money clips, clip on earrings, charm bracelets etc. The pictures will appear in batches on our Facebook page STUDIO44MAURITIUS. Some items will be added to our website https://www.studio44mauritius.com.

It has been an exciting month designing the new items and waiting for our local manufacturing jeweller to produce the silver plated parts so that we can add the glass to them. Its been a lot of fun making elements at the torch for Jean Claude to combine with other pieces of glass (all top quality Italian glass). Its always a WOW!!! moment when one opens the fusing kiln to see exactly what has transpired in there overnight. As we have gone along, day by day, we have put new ideas together and especially the last batch which came out of the kiln two days ago, are really spectacular.

Here are some photos to whet your appetite …

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Let’s get blogging about my passion – beadmaking

After a lovely three day break at the beach, I am ready tomorrow to start on a new range of jewelry. My handcrafted lamp worked beads will be the main feature in each piece which is unique and never duplicated. Hot glass is such a fascinating medium to work in. With the beautiful new silver glass available now, and the extended range of colors, it is truly a bead artists dream come true. Talk to you again soon, with some photos for your comments.

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