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I’m not a big fan of inspirational quotes. They mostly make my teeth itch, not sure way. Maybe it’s a stiff upper lip thing, or maybe it’s just that they’re mostly trite nonsense.  But when I saw this in an advert for Not on the Hight Street, I said YES with every fibre of my being.

Partly it’s because I have a very soft spot for Ferris Bueller. I was introduced to him by an American childhood friend who aged 11, I was sure I was going to marry.  By the time I was 16, and we were watching this film, I was still harbouring an unrequited crush, and a combination of this and the achingly cool, only slightly older than me, Ferris made a kind of perfect storm of favourite filmness.  But you know what?  Ferris was right.

I have no idea what our purpose on this earth is, or whether there’s anything else afterwards, but I do know that I don’t want to lie on my death bed regretting that life passed me by.  The best way I know of slowing it down is to grasp every opportunity that comes. OK maybe not EVERY opportunity. I have absolutely no desire to jump out of an aeroplane, but I do want to fill my days with things that are interesting, lovely, exciting, make me think, add in some way to the greater good or are just plain fun.  The more you can cram in, the more time you seem to have.

As well as that, I also want to be present in the moment, not always rushing onto the next thing and wishing my life away.  If you’re having a cup of coffee, make it a really good cup. Appreciate the small things and each day can be crammed with a series of tiny pleasures. This morning I heard a woodpecker while I walked the dog in the blinding winter sun on a frosty common.  Today is already a good day.

Enjoy life. And listen to Ferris.

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. There’s something about them that makes my childish brain want to do the exact opposite.   Instead I like to write a list of things I’d like to aim to do during the year, no pressure, just a go-to selection of activities for times when we’re a bit stuck in a rut.  The children have contributed too.

Of course seizing moments has to play a big part too.  Last year we had some brilliant experiences like being on Newsnight and meeting a real life spaceman.  Life without being open to new experiences isn’t properly worth living.

So here’s my list so far…

  • Plan a skiiing trip
  • Plan a long trip for the summer holidays
  • Tate Britain
  • Tate Modern
  • 19 Princelet St
  • Ragged School Museum
  • Geocaching
  • Downe House
  • Kew Palace and Gardens
  • Cutty Sark
  • Paul Smith Exhibition at Design Museum
  • Go Ape
  • Lazer Quest
  • Swim in Hampstead Ponds
  • Long walk based on one of locations in Wild Swim book
  • Lots of other long walks
  • Sam Wannamaker’s Jacobean Theatre
  • Polka Theatre
  • The Globe
  • Ice Skating
  • Climbing
  • Swim in new Streatham pool
  • Camping

What should I add?

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I made this for myself, back when I was just starting out on this making jewellery lark, and I love it.  It’s very simple, just three sterling silver tags, rounded edges, stamped with my children’s names in two millimetre high capital letters.  I wear it most days and I’m happy to say that I’ve made a few for other people now.

Someone asked me the other day if I’d teach them how to make their own name tag necklace, they wanted to have their own, but also wanted to learn some new skills and for it to be extra special, because they’d had a hand in it.  So this is what I came up with…

Silver tag necklace workshop

Would you like to learn some traditional silversmithing skills and make your own lovely personalised name tag necklace?

I will teach you how to:

  • cut your silver tags using a piercing saw
  • drill holes with a handheld bow drill
  • file and sand your tags to make them smooth
  • stamp names using metal letter punches

You’ll come away with the satisfaction of having made a beautiful piece of jewellery for yourself, or a brilliant present for someone else.

The workshop will last for three and a half hours, including a break for coffee and homemade cake.  Cost £90 including a ready made sterling silver snake chain and all materials.  Dates to be confirmed and it would be in London.

Interested?

There’s a lot I don’t like about Christmas.

But before you dismiss me as a modern day Scrooge and click onto the next post, please hear me out.  I’m as festive as the next person come December. I love giving presents to my loved ones, watching my children act out the birth of Christ in dressing gowns and tea towels and singing the songs of my childhood in a candlelit church.  I love Christmas, but there’s a lot about it I don’t like.

I don’t like people talking about it in October when the leaves are still on the trees.  I don’t like how it seems to be mostly about spending money. I don’t like that there’s a huge pressure to do it exactly right. Whatever right is. And most of all I hate chocolate advent calendars.

I’m not particularly religious and I’m not a dentist, but to me they epitomise everything that is awful about Christmas.  They are almost always decorated with branded images that bear zero relation to anything festive, it’s just a case of mega companies cashing in.  I’ve seen Simpsons, Hello Kitty and The Stig calendars, without so much as a sprig of holly. They imply that children should get some kind of daily reward just because Jesus was born; they shouldn’t, Christmas isn’t about rewards and this is yet another thing giving children a nasty sense of entitlement.  And the chocolate is hideous, it’s not chocolate it’s brown fat with flavourings and piles of cheap sugar.  It’s completely wrong that we feed it to children and nothing will convince me otherwise.

There are so many things that are magical about Christmas, but chocolate advent calendars aren’t one of them.  And now I’m off to buy a pretty glittery card one with pictures of bells and toy drums inside the doors…

My eldest child loves art. They all do actually, but for a long time, drawing, particularly drawing comics, has been her hobby of choice. She wants to be an illustrator when she grows up. Visiting the Harry Potter Studios at the weekend and seeing all the amazing jobs possible for artists in the film industry, has only strengthened her resolve.

At parents evening recently her art teacher, a gentle, inspiring woman, said that she’s really good, and we should encourage her all we can.

We were discussing Christmas presents yesterday and she suggested a subscription to a magazine, with comic strips, or about art. Like the Beano, except that her younger brother already has one of those.  She’s loved our subscription to Anorak, which has just run out and I highly recommend, but I think she’s growing out of it a little, so I said I’d investigate and see what I could find. I must admit that I was slightly despairing of finding anything without pop stars inside or cheap lipstick attached to the front. These things have their place, but they’re not for an annual subscription from your Granny.

Well one tweet later and I’m excited. So many ideas, some of which are right up her street.  I decided that a blog post was the only way forward, as I can’t be the only parent of an art loving pre-teen looking for inspiration beyond something with One Direction on the cover.

The top recommendation from @keris has to be The Phoenix, which I’d never heard of but have discovered is raved about by lots. And having looked at their website, I can see why. It’s a proper, old fashioned, comic, no adverts just lots of imaginative strips with fab illustrations in lots of different styles, a bit funny, a bit silly. Just as it should be.

The aforementioned Anorak are bringing out a new magazine in 2014, called TeePee which is going to be written by teenagers for teenagers. We love what they do, so I’m excited about seeing what they come up with.

Suggested by @nurturestore and slightly different, is Comic Life, which is a template app, allowing you to create your own comics easily. It looks like it could be a lot of fun, so I’m going to investigate it further.

Unsurprisingly, there are people who blog just about comics, one of whom was particularly helpful, @louiestowell.  Her blog, Stowell’s Cosmology has a fab list of comics for kids. I know that she must be good at this as Asterix tops the list. I think that Asterix books are about as good as it gets, which reminds me, I must add the new book, Asterix and the Picts to my Christmas shopping list.

Louie pointed by to Comics and Cola, which has a fabulous list of comics for kids, most of which I’d never heard of but many of which look absolutely brilliant. I know the children would love loads of these including Guinea PI (about a private investigator guinea pig!) the Hawaiian Shark King and Good Dog Bad Dog. You really can’t go wrong with anthropomorphising animals.

I do love twitter at moments like these. I went from thinking the publishing world was a dull place, determined to push crop tops and fake fame on my impressionable 11 year old, to being truly inspired and excited about exploring all new artistic avenues together.

Happy days.

I was a late convert, didn’t used to see the point, but as if often the way with converts, I’m now something of a zealot.

We didn’t listen to it when i was growing up, we were a Radio 2 and LBC household, so I never got into the habit.  I used to think it was just interminable news and slightly dodgy plays.  At least that’s what it always seemed to be whenever I turned it on.  A friend, whose taste I trust, kept nagging me to listen, telling me I’d really like it.  At first I brushed her off, so she started recommending specific programmes, which actually sounded quite interesting.  I found iPlayer on the computer, and had a listen.

What I discovered, was a world full of fascinating human stories.  Once I’d listened to one programme that I loved, an episode of Lives in a Landscape, I needed to hear more.  I spent hours hopping from programme one to another, trying things, discarding some and gobbling others, in the manner of a post-rationing child with a box of chocolates.  Eventually I sorted the series I liked from the things I didn’t.  And there were lots I liked.

I  can’t imagine my days without it.  It keeps me company when I’m working, informs me, challenges me, make me feel clever just for having it on. When I have to go without for a few days I miss it, and I fall gratefully on iPlayer as soon as I am home again.  It has filled a hole in my life that I didn’t know was there.  I truly love it.

Now I’m just trying to work out who is who in the Archers…

 

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As well as not blogging, I’ve not been paying much attention to my fledgling jewellery business.  I’ve made a few things when people have asked me to, including cute little Cairn Terrier necklace and some dolphin earrings for my neighbour’s mum, but I’ve not updated my Etsy shop or even made much new.  After a lovely summer break spent romping on hillsides, it’s been hard to get back into it. Plus there always seems to be something more urgent to do, like take the dog to the vet or the children to the dentist.

A few weeks ago, friends started asking me if I was going to take a stall at the school Christmas shopping evening again. I was quite successful last year, sold a couple of things, got some commissions and outed myself to the school community as a jewellery maker.  But I think I was maybe selling the wrong stuff, everything was expensive.  You don’t go to a Christmas shopping fair expecting to spend lots on jewellery for yourself.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t spend £60 or £80 a pop on presents for friends.

So I decided that I would take a table at the event, but sell cheaper stuff.  And to do that, I have starting thinking differently.  I can’t sell what I’ve made in the past more cheaply, because the hours that I put into each individual piece make that untenable.  But what I can do is design something and get copies made.  Which is where Mr. Fox comes in.

I made him from scratch.  Spent ages perfecting a drawing of him first.  I gave up art before I got to O’Level stage, and drawing isn’t my forte, but I usually get there in the end. Then I stuck a tracing of that drawing directly onto the silver and cut him out by hand, using a fret saw and such a tiny blade that you need very good eyesight to see the teeth.  I made a pretty little flat ring from a thin as anything strip of sheet silver and soldered the two together. Much filing, sanding and polishing later and you end up with one of the above.  If I sold it as is, I’d have to charge at least £60.

But I’m not going to do that.  I’m going to take him to a casting place and get a mould made.  They can then make exact copies, incorporating every single feature and imperfection, and all I’ll have to do is tidy them up and polish them.  I’ll spend maybe an hour on each one instead of five.  And I can bring the price right down to £25.  What do you reckon?

 

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