Thursday, 27 December 2012

New Fan, New Aches but No Toxic Gases

Well I finally got the new fan installed on boxing day. The original plan was for a day off (I've heard of those) and go out, but it seems it's business as usual when OH got called to work instead, so I figured I might as well use the time productively.

I was going to get a boxed acoustic fan, to keep down some of the noise, and know they are quite popular with many lampworkers, although I wanted something with a bit more power. I'd almost settled on one when I came across some reviews on a hydroponics forum, for which many of these fans are made. The reviews were good, but many of the mentioned a TD-Silent being the best and most reliable they'd come across. Price-wise they seemed pretty good for the money too, the one I wanted only had a 19db level too, so took a deep breath and placed my order.

I didn't quite expect something that looked like it had fallen off a military jet! I didn't get around to taking a picture, so here's a quite You-Tube link for those considering one! TD-Silent video

 The one I got has a massive 200mm intake and outlet, so the first job was stripping out the old fan, which it turns out might have needed a bit of a clean!

Old fan from the original cooker hood
 I've kept and used the switches from the original unit, it wasn't until the new fan turned up that I found it has two speed so needed more switches to control it. At the same time I took out the lights (which were in the wrong place so never used) in the cooker hood and just about anything that might block the airflow.

Straight up and into the outside world for you Mr nasty toxic carbon monoxide!

From there it was time to seal up the sides of the chimney. Originally I'd intended to use a big 200mm pipe I'd bought for the job, but since the old cooker extractor had a nice chimney that was nearly the same size I figured it would do just as well. A quick trim of some spare aluminium sheet, then a little duct tape to seal any gaps and holes and the job was nearly done. Or so I thought! A joist was in the way so everything came down so I could move the whole canopy over just 3 inches!

Shiny! There really is only one exit, but the mirror inside of the chimney makes it look like three!
After another hour or so of clambering around in dark and dirty, and very uncomfortable, spots to get a small bend of flexible tube attached and sealed, the job was really finished. It's not a very tidy or as neat looking as I'd wanted (I went a bit overboard with the duct tape!) and needs a bit of trunking to hide away the leads. It is quiet though, and a quick test with an incense stick showed even on low power it whisked it away with no problems. On high power I barely even saw the smoke leave the incense stick, it was just gone! Not as quiet as I thought, there is quite a rush of noise from the air moving, however when stepping just a few feet away I could hardly hear it, a huge improvement on the low rumble the old one used to generate.

Needs a bit of a clean, but despite the bodging it has nearly doubled the amount of air this old cooker extractor hood can remove
I'd expected it to take two days to get everything in place, so was pleased to get it done, despite the odd set-back, in a day. However today I've woken up with so many aching muscles and bruises I've got hardly anything done, thus getting chance to sit and blog, so maybe my original schedule was right after all!

I still am not sure if I'll be back to Greenwich between now and new year, I am sure I'll get around to a break sometime in the next few weeks if not! I hope you have all head a great Xmas, and may I be the first to wish you all a happy 2013!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Put a chimney on it

I can't believe I've not even got Xmas over with, and I am already planning next year!

Ducting (centre) and one of the pair of Oxycons I use behind (right). Top left is one of the kilns I use.
The last few weeks have been quite busy, and I've still hardly managed to get my Etsy shop up and running again, but, fingers crossed, I hope to start working on that again in the dark days of winter. I am not sure if I will take a few weekends off in January yet, even if I do there won't be any let up as I've signed up for another big sci-fi festival in March!
I am getting used to the bench looking this untidy!

 This time it's Birmingham NEC on 16 &17th March for the joint MCM Expo & Memorabilia festival. If that goes well I'll hope to book for the one later in the year as well, not to forget the two London MCM shows as well! I'm already confirmed for the 24-26th May. Plus of course most weekends at Greenwich, which as you may/maynot have heard is now NOT being redeveloped, instead they are going to repair the roof and fix some of the cobbles to make them a little bit easier to walk and stand on - especially good for those who get to stand there for 9 hours or so!

Amongst all this I also need to do some work on the workshop space. Yesterday I took delivery of a new oxycon (for those who don't know what that is, it's an ex-medical oxygen concentrator that takes oxygen out of the air to help boost the flame I use.) After a few initial problems once I got it up and running I realised just how wheezy the oldest one I use had become, I use two paired together, already I am noticing how much hotter the flame is.

 The other job is also to upgrade the extractor fan as I've never been very happy with how well it works. I already have one part of the new chimney, a 200mm diameter steel pipe and connectors, and  I am just waiting for the fan and final parts. At the same time as installing that I'll take the opportunity to have a bit of a spring clean, put up a few shelves for jars of powered and crushed glass, and maybe even organise some better racking for glass rods.

Somewhere amongst all this I'll be trying to get plenty of new pendants and marbles made for the Expos, Etsy shop and Greenwich stall, plus I have a few sculpture projects I've been wanting to find time to have a go at. They say there is no rest for the wicked, but I certainly don't remember ever being so wicked to have earnt so much to do!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Where's my workbench?

The apple loving demon from 'Deathnote' with friend! Note the girl with an axe strolling past in the background!
Well once again the MCM Expo at the Excel centre was mad, busy, slightly crazy, hard work, stressful, but fun! There were a few more problems this time than May, not helped by it being so packed, but I'm not going to dwell on those because it still remains one of the events we enjoy doing the most! It was ultra packed on Saturday, and I didn't really get a chance to take many pictures, but here are a few to give you a flavour of the event. The Expo's video team were around and about, they even filmed my aliens, so they might appear on the next Expo Youtube trailer! A big thank you to everyone who came and saw us, and thank you to all the lovely comments on facebook, emails and Twitter. I haven't hesitated to book already for the next one in May so we can come and see you all again!

My next problem now is trying to get equipment back to Greenwich, and getting back to normal, along with making new stuff ready for the run up to Xmas! And before the Expo I didn't think I had enough hours in the day!

Getting Aliens ready for the show
I'm slowly running through the lists of things to do as well, so this all means my Etsy shop might have to stay closed a little longer whilst I catch up with myself. However I made many more alien specimens than planned, so I think some of these might be in the shop very soon, and maybe even one or two at Greenwich as well.

Shakey picture of the Aliens, the top picture of 5 Martians shortly afterwards found a new home

Metaloides space lobster framed

Safe here from 'The Walking Dead' This was taken in a nearby bar on Sunday night where we stopped to grab dinner!
Along with all this I have come away wanting to re-visit some ideas I'd not had a chance to play with, and to make some very new products ready for next May and to go into my Etsy shop. One in particular I'd started on a few weeks ago, which got put on hold as I had to put together new stands, organise supplies and so on, I am really keen to get back to. The first trials worked really well, but along with lack of time I have another problem. I can't find my workbench! It's buried under the debris of weeks of pre-event chaos!

Monday, 15 October 2012

When I grow up, I want to be a Mad Scientist

Blue Lobster-Octopus thing.....
As I try to get ready for the next big sci-fi Expo, with one eye on getting ready for xmas too, panic is setting in that I'm not making enough. So as I work later, the music is getting louder and faster! Amongst this I'm playing alot of 'Rob Zombie' and many of the songs have lots of sound dubs from old horror films, all of which takes me back to when I was young, and was allowed to stay up on Friday or Saturday nights to watch horror films - of which I thought at the time the Hammer horrors were the best!

This also reminded me of the great school playground debate of  'what do you want to be when you grow up?' I thought I wanted to be a scientist, but part of me knew that still wasn't quite right.

Different angle of 'Blue Thing'
Modern scientists wear white coats, work in big bright clean laboratories, and work in big teams on complex little bits of science written up in learned publications no-one can understand. I couldn't quite put my finger on it at the time, but I knew that wasn't the type of scientist that I wanted to be. I wanted to be more like my hero's at the time; Peter Cushing or one of the 50's black and white scientists dashing around in the dead of night. I wanted to be the sort of scientist that works in a tweed waistcoat and cravat, whose laboratory is a dark dusty basement of a castle, whose colleague is called 'Igor' and helps dig up supplies from the graveyard next door, and communicates discoveries by wildly shouting 'It's alive! It's aliiiiivvvee!!!!' Yes, I wanted to be a mad scientist.
Body parts or the blue lobster before being grafted onto the body

seroastrumare duotripodes, which means 'two legged star-seaweed' all mounted up ready to go to the Expo
Of course most people don't then grow up to be firemen, policemen etc, and certainly not to be a mad Victorian scientist, and so I went and did more (mostly) sensible things. I guess this is what drew me originally to the SteamPunk genre, but it's only now that I am starting to really fulfil my childhood ambitions of creating insane creatures.

A new Red Star Spiral
 I do indeed have frock coat, cravat, waistcoat etc, but tend not to wear them whilst working as they are rather hot to work in! However if I was in a draughty farmhouse, castle, lighthouse, windmill etc, then it might well be worth me taking that up as work attire. Of course, what I really lack right now, is an abandoned castle/lighthouse/farmhouse/windmill to continue my experiments creating life from glass, re-creating creatures that may have swum alien seas or ancient Martian canals.

Queue mad laughter.... a sneak preview of some new limbs I have made for an even larger, even madder creation...
So, if you have a property that matches this description, ideally in Suffolk or North Essex, and it's at a very, very, very low rent, then I'd be delighted to hear from you! Of course if it's not too close to any villages with pitchfork totting locals who could rally into a lynch mob that would be even better.....

Isolated lighthouse at Orford Ness, an ideal location?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

56 Hours a Week?

I am, apparently, no good at relaxing. Case in point; here I am typing up my blog rather than the soak in the bath I'd planned for this evening!

Gold and Silver Fumed Dip Pen
Here at HQ, and with some of the other traders at Greenwich, I've some interesting conversations about how many hours a week that I work. For me, I don't feel that I do enough hours, and if I stop to watch something on TV my brain niggles at me reminding me of jobs that need to be done, even when I've done all that I can that day. This all started with a random OH comment when I complained how tired I was, 'but you only work two days a week!'

That had me counting up how many hours I might be working, the Greenwich days are certainly some of the longest, mostly I'll be there at 8am to set up and won't finish packing up till about 6.30pm, so a long 10 1/2hour day of which I'd do two or three a week depending on if I add in an extra Friday. (I am currently shuffling around my days, missing the odd Sunday and doing Fridays instead.) This also doesn't include the two or three hour traveling to and from there each day.

Now of course the rest of the time is back at HQ making things to sell, of which can be a more interesting and relaxed schedule. There are a few long breaks in the day, so I can understand why she thinks I'm a slacker! I might work from 9.30 till 12 and take a break for lunch, then a short burst till about 2 for a tea break; OH works nights so this is often when she's up and a chance for a quick catch up then back to the torch until 4.30-5ish. Then after 6 when OH goes off to work it's back to the torch for another two or three hours, followed by some admin, putting things together etc which can take up up to anywhere between 9.30 and 11.30. Admittedly there are a few stops to make tea, and Monday tends to be a late start if I've done a three day weekend, but it wasn't till I stopped to total up my hours that I realised how much I was doing. Even on my more 'slacking days' I might do 4 1/2 hour on a weekday, but more likely up to 7 or 9! Estimating it conservatively at 7 hours a weekday makes 35hours, plus a 21 on top from the weekend and it's up to 56 hours. This puts my guesstimate of 54-60 hours a week not too far wrong.

Now I did originally make Monday mornings an easier day, and I used to have Wednesday nights from 9 as my night off, but post Olympics that schedule seemed to evaporate. This probably explains why I woke up this morning feeling so rubbish, and spent a larger part of the morning slumped on the sofa. So, I've decided I need to re-institute my Wednesday nights off, so I can at least time my downtime rather than having my body decide when to stop.

Green swirl dip pen
So, it's time for a long soak.... although I still have some Etsy photos I really must do....... and I did want to get some more torch work done......  I can see this taking break thing being really hard to schedule in! But then if I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't do it. Maybe there's a lesson here for company bosses; if more 'real' jobs were done by people that enjoyed doing them (or made more enjoyable and less 'arghh!') then no one would mind putting the extra work in.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Tiny Marbles, Big Horizons

In the midst of getting my Etsy shop back and alive with new glass in it, I've had a lot of interest in very small galaxy marbles. These days I try to avoid making really big or really little marbles; it doesn't matter how big I make a marble I always get people asking if I can make them even bigger. I not sure if they even want to buy them, I think people just want to see football sized marbles! I used to try and pump them up as much as I could, often loosing some of the nice optical illusions and depth because I pushed them too far. Not to mention the hours twirling a hot heavy marble trying to get it into shape!

I've also try to avoid doing small ones, unless it's a quick test of a new colour or technique, when they start getting under about 20mm they become really tricky to hold and shape well. And to be blunt, despite the work involved, because of the small size people expect them to be sold for pennies. So these days I try to go for a comfortable balance between sizes, going often for the size the marble wants to be.

Then about a month ago I had an interesting enquiry from a chap who was re-creating the 'Men In Black' Orion's Belt prop. For those few people who haven't seen the movie, it's a little metal pendant that hangs from a cat's (a cat called Orion) collar, inside which is a little marble which contains an entire miniature galaxy. Well, it is a sci-fi/fantasy film!

I've had a few requests like this in the past, but what has made this different is that he's been using 3D printing techniques to produce it. As yet I've not seen the kit or bits, but I've had several enquires asking for marbles 18mm or smaller!

Setting to work to make some I soon realised why I try not to work at this scale, to start with I couldn't make anything smaller than 20mm, but a few more fails and I was starting to get the hang of the smaller ones. The next problem has been trying to get the detail into them. Many of the colours I use don't work when thinned down this small. Some of the colours just vanished, others just refused to play. I had this problem before with opaque reds in flower marbles which go from vibrant colour to a mud red when they thin out. Even the dichoric glass became a problem as it's really a very thin metal coating on sheets of 3-5mm glass. This needs to have another layer of glass locked over it, sometimes 2 or 3 layers in a sandwich, so suddenly there is 6-10mm of glass. It doesn't sound much, but throw in backing colours that add up to 3mm of glass at the base, and that it's only at the extreme equator of the marble that's the thickest part and suddenly every mm counts!

They are getting better, and more detailed, as I find tricks and colours that let me get around these problems. I don't think I am ever going to ever exactly copy the CGI created original, which I know it what the people making these props really want! In the meantime it's been quite interesting to make them at such extremes, and they've seemed to go down well with marble and glass collectors too.

 While all this has been going on I've had to drastically increase my shipping charges to USA & Canada, so that I can send parcels tracked and signed for, as I've had an awful run of packages not turning up. One of these was a commission for tiny marbles as well, which were even smaller and a nightmare to make. A compensation claim from Royal Mail can take months, (and I've had them wanting to prove how much it costs in materials to make) but it's letting down customers I hate most. I'm not using small envelopes anymore either, larger ones stops them being slipped into pockets, and gives more room for all the Post Office stickers! I once had a parcel from the USA with 14 USPS and PO stickers on it, so I've no idea how many end up on the ones I send to USA!

I'm going to try and add a few more, but I will have to stop adding to my Etsy shop for a while. Along with the run up to Xmas I have the MCM Expo at the end of October which I am frantically getting ready for, plus being at Greenwich! I may not be at Greenwich on some Sundays to give me chance to get ready, but I will try and make Saturdays (and possibly some Fridays too so I can avoid travelling to London during rail engineering works!)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Is Groundhog day over?

The workbench is more of a disaster area than usual! There's no time for tidying!
Yesterday was the end of a very long week for me. During the Olympic and Paralympic periods Greenwich market has been opening for longer hours, to help people stay longer in Greenwich to relieve congestion on the tubes and trains at the end of the events (more on that in my earlier posts.)

After a very quiet period between the end of the Olympics and start of the Paralympics I decided it would be good to try and do a few more days. Originally I'd intended on doing Friday to Sunday, or skip Sunday and come back on Monday for the day (an extra day added during the events,) but I ended up doing five days in a row! No sooner that I was up I was on my way to Greenwich (luckily I can stay over nearby to save such long train travel) to be there between 8-8.30, grabbing breakfast along the way. The hours were trimmed back during the Paralympics, to a 7pm finish, but even then it doesn't mean finishing packing away to gone 8-8.30pm, in time to grab a bite to eat if I hadn't managed to eat at the stall, before heading off for an early night! A few hours later and the alarm was off again; what day is it? Sunday, Friday? It started blurring by the time it got to Tuesday, the last day of the Paralympics in Greenwich.

I have been really surprised on how inconsistent the days have been, it's been really hard to plan for, days I expect it to be quiet have been busy, and vice versa, days when there have been lots of people I've hardly sold anything; it's been impossible to know what days to turn up and which ones to stay in the workshop! A lot of new stuff has had to be put on hold that I'd really like to work on.

The only thing I am sure of is that my feet still ache 24hrs later!

I really must sort out the debris, and empty those dump jars of grot glass!
Now that's over it's time to start again! It's only a few weeks to the end of October and the next big MCM Expo, I have lots of ideas for new alien specimens, a backlog of marbles I've been asked for, plus it's now barely two days before I need to be back for the next weekend in Greenwich. I'm also hoping to sneak an odd day off too, maybe a Sunday, which I am sure my feet will be very grateful for!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

My (Cockney) Zombie Girlfriend

Other peoples ambitions and obsessions often seem strange. Climbing very cold, dangerous mountains, wanting to get a hole in one in golf, winning a chili-dog eating competition, or being a zombie extra in a film. I think you see where this is going!

Yes, my OH (Other Half) had an ambition to be in a zombie film, if not as a main character then as a walk-on (or should that be stumble along?) zombie. Last year she had the opportunity when along the zombie grapevine she heard they were asking for volunteers to shuffle along to docklands for a few days shooting the climax scene of 'Cockneys vs Zombies.'

So it was with great excitement she spent three days trying to eat some British veteran actors, whilst covered in a lot of fake blood, while they in turn shot at her! I met her in our local Essex pub, she'd stayed covered in fake blood and zombie makeup on the train home, and certianly looked like she'd been in a car accident! Yeh, strange what some people have an ambition to do. She certainly enjoyed it, and has been eagerly awaiting the release so we can go play 'spot the zombie,' and last Thursday managed to swipe some of the very last tickets left for the premier in Empire Leicester Square as part of their 'Frightfest' season.

I won't give too many spoilers away, but I must admit I wasn't expecting too much but was pleasantly surprised. Certainly not a film that took itself seriously, and it was great fun because of that, at the Q&A the director and writer said they'd made it for a 'Frightfest' audience, putting in as much gore, jokes and bad taste as they could get away with. Mixed in with that was an impressive cast; to be honest you have to see it just to see Richard Briers playing a geriatric peeping tom machine gunning down the undead. Richard Briers, zimmerframe, machine gun; not three things you'd ever expect to see put together. However it was Alan Ford who played the action hero, (most people will remember him from 'Snatch' where he played the nasty villain who fed people to his pigs) who despite being 75(ish) was racing around sorting out zombies in a way that would put Bruce Willis to shame!

Of course the highlight for us was the dockland scene, where I tried picking Ellie out of the crowd, and she'd even managed to get a frame all to herself, of which she was quite chuffed! Blink and you might miss the lone female zombie shuffling along the dockside, but that was definitely her! I'd recognise that bunches hairstyle anywhere!

At the end there was time for a quick Q&A, and in the distance queueing to ask questions of the directors and actors I recognised a familiar hairstyle again. A sensible question then I suddenly heard 'Would Mr Ford prefer to be eaten by Zombies or Pigs?' She's found loads of reviews that have used her question, quoting it as 'the perfect Frightfest question.' They'll be no living with her now!

Oh, and apparently Alan Ford would prefer to be eaten by pigs.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Neil Armstrong, the last pioneer?

I was going to post about a recent trip, but in light of Neil Armstrong passing away this weekend I thought I'd share some thoughts, and some things that I've read in the press that have made me wonder if we've reached the pinnacle of our civilisation and are now on the slide down the other side?
On the Moon, photo courtesy of NASA

I was checking up on Twitter news on Sunday morning with my first coffee of the day when I learned that Mr Armstrong had passed away. I also learnt way too much about half baked sloppy press at the same time. Ed Yong (Edyong209) had collected together some rather appalling instances, I thing they've been corrected but if you plough through his twitter feed he's recorded photo's of the various pages and web articles. NBC, who as an American website should have know better, listed him as Neil Young; a Dutch paper claimed he was the first man to walk on Earth; and even the UK slipped up saying he was the first US woman in space. I believe the correct Internet hash tag here is #palmface.

I can't say any of my reading got any better when I found out there were people asking who he was, someone who decades before had the entire world gathered around TV sets to see grainy pictures of him stepping down onto the dusty moon surface. But then, as others pointed out, nobody born since 1935 has walked on the moon. Very soon there will be nobody alive who has been there, and there doesn't seem any real will to go back. 'We have enough problems down here to deal with,' is what most people will say.

I don't know if that's right or wrong, but these large scale projects do bring benefits that are unexpected, in this case Velcro, and seeing how small an isolated how vulnerable home really is. Today people wonder what's the point of the CERN collider, but I only recently learnt that off-shoots of this technology resulted in MIR scanners. The Earth is not flat, and neither is science; A sometimes takes mankind to K while on the way to B. Right now I'm reading Iain M. Banks sci-fi novels, who have civilisations which have 'Sublimed,' and have gone from technological zeniths and have withdrawn back into their own society and given up. Some days I do wonder if we're doing the same.

Despite the inventions, the real outcome of the space race was to prove what amazing things man can do if he really tries, if real will is put behind in. What is also impressive is the man who got to make that boot print was refreshingly dignified and down-to-earth, and not big headed about it. Maybe if he boasted and hyped himself as much as people-who-kick-a-football for a living people under 18 may well know his name, but despite the odd reprint I'd hope his name is being learnt in 200 years time.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

You are now leaving Essex....but probably not Suffolk

 Normally I'd not dare to take a day off when I need to get glass made for the weekend, but after the disastrous weekend due to the 'barrier fiasco' a few weeks ago, I had lots of glass unsold, and had made more than I needed, so we decided on a day out to clear our heads.

The original aim was the seaside, and we weren't planning to go far, but then I remembered we'd talked about going up to Southwold, via the little village of Blythburgh. It was a lovely sunny day, so we plugged in the postcode for the car park of the Whitehart Inn (because that's the only postcode I could find!) and hit the road.

The Angel Of the East
Now it occurs to me that I don't see that many people from Suffolk, certainly not when I'm on the stall in London. Originally I'd have said it's because it's not a very heavily populated area, but I now think it's more a case of why would they want to go anywhere else! Having no real itinerary it was no problem when a mis-hearing of the sat nav and we turned into Saxmundham. I'd been through it on the train, and not thought much of what I'd seen, but it's certainly a lovely place and stuffed full of artists! The book shop sold art supplies, a sculptor had a shop, I even nearly tripped over a young lady in an alcove sitting on the floor sketching the street! I was quite pleasantly surprised how vibrant and busy the high street there is, having a much greater range of shops than ours for what appeared a quieter area. Ok, it might have been a bit tatty at the edges, but I'd rather see open shops selling local goods than just estate agents and charity shops such as our commuter belt one has become.

We'd originally thought to stop there for lunch, but pressed on to Blythburgh and the pubs postcode, which turned out to be another piece of inspired good fortune. Now I must confess not to be very keen on Adnams beers, and lately my experiences of eating out has been rather 'unimpressive.' I decided to go for a snack, a fish finger sandwich! Expecting no more than a certain frozen food Captain's fare, I figured I'd get some chips too!

How over impressed was I! First to be sat in a beer garden with some dayglo budgies in an aviary one side, and at the other a HUGE expanse of reeds, marsh, estuary, wild birds, and achingly lovely scenery.  I'd have taken a picture, but not only would it not have done it justice, but my grub had turned up, and I'd have taken a picture of that too if I hadn't been enjoying eating it so much! I certianly didn't need the chips! The fingers were very much home made, and the last time I'd had fish that fresh and well cooked it had been in Whitby in a shop 50 yards from the fish dock. And it was no bread crumbs either, but a very light tempura style batter. I am assured OH's ploughmans was of an equal standard, but I was rather too taken with my increadiable sandwich to note more than the enormous hunk of cheese that had come with it.

From there it was time for a walk around the lovely little village, which has the 'Angel Of The East' village sign which is worth visiting just for itself! Sadly the church was shut, so from then we had a long drive around a few surrouding villages to scout the area for other places to return for a closer visit. We'd almost forgot the seaside until we saw signs for Aldeburgh so headed for the seaside.
Yes, a real red telephone box in Bythburgh! We checked, inside it was clean and fully working!

Again this is another town full of art, lots of galleries this time, and even the Suffolk crafts guild had their own exhibition space. The shingle beach wasn't so great for walking on, but I certainly noted a huge lack of litter compared to many that I'd been on. In fact the only clutter on the beach was so picturesque it was worthy of a few snaps! There were even little huts selling fresh fish, and even dressed crabs and lobsters direct from the fishermen.

Eventually we ended up at Woodbridge, which has a lovely harbour and estuary location. A lot of shops had closed by the time we reached here, so we had a quick look around the town (certainly one worth coming back too, and soon!) and then hesitated on spending out more on dinner. I'm glad we did, it seems Suffolk folk really know how to cook, and we had pizzas that knock socks off anything I've had for... well, since I don't know when!

Working fishing beach at Aldeburgh

The coast here really is clear - of people and litter!
So from there, rather tired but refreshed, we headed home, already planning in our minds to go back. I can see why you never meet many Suffolk folk now, they already have enough wonderful views, villages, walks, food and art, not to want, or even need, to leave.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Giant Meercats, Chameleons - all in an average Greenwich day

I seemed to have been living in Greenwich last week, no sooner than I'd left on Monday night than I was back Thursday morning for another mammoth day. It was really busy, as it was the last day of the Equestrian events, and everyone seemed in great spirits that day. Instead to trekking home I decided to stay on for Friday, a much quieter day as there were no events that day, and then back yet again for a very long Saturday.

There has been a great buzz this week, the atmosphere has been terrific. I only regret not skipping the Friday to be there on Sunday as well, as I didn't realise the pentathlon final was on that day in Greenwich.

Click to expand picture - Frank the Chameleon has a day out in Greenwich Market

Saturday turned out to be more entertaining than I'd expected! For most of the week a Hurdy-Gurdy player has been in and around the market. For those who don't know what that is, it's a very odd Elizabethan musical instrument, which has a small keyboard as well as strings. The last time I'd head one being played it wasn't very good (think cats in a bad temper) but this guy was excellent, and I actually quite liked his playing. There's a photo over on Greenwich Market's Facebook Page if you want to see more.

 Having been to a few medieval banquets where the mead was flowing a little too freely I can see how this might have gone down well in 'ye ages gone by.' I've looked at old instruments like this a little more sideways ever since listening to Emilie Autumn's 'Face the wall' (which is an instrumental electric violin song, played by a violin virtuoso who dropped out of the classical world to do more alternative performing.) I never really 'got' violin solos till then, but hearing that I could see how in Bach's day this instrument and style of playing might have seemed revolutionary. It was the rock and roll of the day. Maybe it's my ear, or way I listened to it, but I couldn't fail to notice some of those Hurdy-Gurdy melodies weren't far away from rave & electronic dance music of today. Maybe it is just me, maybe it's because I've spent way too many hours working this week, but looks like I'm not alone in thinking this is an instrument that more could be done with. Elizabethan Star Wars anyone?

Darth Vader vs The Hurdy-Gurdy

So after that if I told you I saw two giant meercats wandering around the market, you'd probably not believe me? I was certainly surprised as I looked up from popping a pendant in a bag for a customer to find a meercat had crept behind my stall and was staring at me!

I've seen them in the market before, they create such a buzz when they come along, and have got the movements down so well too! They are always a pleasure to see, and often have lots of children and adults with cameras stalking behind them!

Then late afternoon there seemed a large crowd gathering besides Ng Jewellery's stall a few stalls away. I looked over and wondered why someone was carrying a model chameleon on her arm. Of course, it wasn't a model, but the real thing! Because the weather was so nice, the lady owner of 'Frank' had taken him out for a walk. She explained chameleons don't really walk much, there like standing still waiting for food to walk past them, but the sunshine and fresh air was good for him. As long as he stayed green, which meant he was happy, and didn't turn grey which meant he was unhappy, he seemed unbothered about lots of oooing strangers stroking him and taking photos. Now I lived very close to Camden Market for many years, and I saw some strange and interesting sights, but certainly never quite so much as you get to see on an average sunny day in Greenwich!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Is it over yet?

Glass Aliens on the Stall at Greenwich
Well, that was another very long week! I am pleased to report that the barriers in Church Street in Greenwich were certainly missing when I returned on Saturday, although the portico end still has a massive wall in place which I think can't be removed as it stops what little traffic dares enter Greenwich from driving into people! However Saturday wasn't such a great day for me, but Sunday was fantastic - and completely opposite what alot of the other traders experienced! It can be a very freaky market like that.

Along with lots of people in maroon Olympic uniforms wandering around I've spotted the athlete support teams as well buying presents to take home, and they seem to come in waves of nationalities; last Monday it was lots of the Korean team, followed by USA, this Sunday it was lots of Canadians including one lady whom had 'Athlete' on her Olympic I.D. card although I failed to ask what event she was in. I was back on Monday too, and had the very proud parents of USA Javelin thrower Kara Patterson who came to buy gifts, and explained how they get no funding, just whatever sponsorship they can find and she'd be training for 12 years to get there! (You can find out more here Kara Patterson) It didn't look like she's dones so well this time, unlike the UK Equestrian team, and there were some very jolly and contented people who'd been watching the event coming through late in the evening.

 Because of last weeks 'upsets' I've been doing some extra days, as I'd made extra glass in case it was busy. Shifting the opening hours to 12-8pm hasn't quite worked as alot of people haven't realise and are turning up between 10 and 12 to shop, so like alot of other traders I've been turning up early. It is making for some very long, long days though. I am itching to get back to doing some more glass aliens, as I want to make some for the MCM Expo in October, but I'm really starting to flag at the extra days and hours now. I'm back on Thursday for the last Equestrian day, and maybe on Saturday too, (I haven't decided about Friday yet) but I suspect I might take a rare Sunday off, as the pace is starting to get to me. My feet at least would be grateful if I do!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

How to Kill a Market Pt2 - A glimmer of hope?

Firstly a big thank you to all the messages of support over the past few days following my last entry, it's really appreciated! I now find out I'm not alone as being affected by the olympics, and many small artisans businesses are struggling when we were told that we would be thriving.

However I've got a small glimmer of hope this morning as some of the press, (such as greenwich-traders-win-concession-over-their-great-barrier-grief ), are reporting that LOCOG are backing down and are going to remove 'some' barriers. I've just seen a tweet from the official Greenwich Market feed 'Shop Greenwich' that the barriers are being taken down. Phew, but I'm still crossing my fingers as it may not help with some of the over-zealous officals and wardens. It's going to be 'seeing is believing' for me when I'm back this Saturday.

I think this is both thanks to the managers and staff at the market, who were passionate in harrasing LOCOG to save the market from disaster, as well as all the people who've been tweeting, blogging, phoning, complaining and generally making pests of themselves to embarress LOCOG into action. It's incrediably sad that it was necessary to do this in the first place, and that they didn't go ahead with their original plan to make the shops and stalls of Greenwich a vital part of their plan to help everything run smoothly. I notice in other reports complaints about long queues at the venues for food and drink, (doubtless overpriced) and how so much of the official merchandise is imported. not-made-in-britain-how-the-olympics-got-outsourced-overseas Last week at the market I had a choice, with no queuing, of Chicken Katsu curry, or Portuguase cod, black olive and potato stew, and even roast beef dinner with yorkshire pud, before chatting with neighbouring stalls who makes their own leather belts, a silversmith, dress designer, potter.... shall I go on? And they all make it in the UK.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

How to Kill a Market Pt1

If you have already read this and think traders in Greenwich are just moaning, and not getting into the Olympic spirit, then I am here to tell you that's really not so.

Before the Olympics we were told by the that the Market and shops in Greenwich were vital in helping absorb people leaving the equestrian events to stop the train stations being overwhelmed by so many people trying to get trains when the events finished at the end of the day. The market had to change layout and reduce stalls to make it more 'permeable' to visitors so it could soak up more people. The trading hours were changed from 10-5.30 to 12-8pm, with many traders still getting there early to be set up by 11am, all to help keep people in the town. I even agreed to set up my stall outside in the street to help showcase the market.

Showcasing the market, but no one allowed to come and look. Note the lack of people, this was taken at 12.41 when the high street pavements are normally packed

And so at the end of the event everyone was marched past. Barriers remained in place. Normal shoppers avoided the area because we've had bizarre announcements on the buses from Boris Johnson telling people that London is going to a terrible place to travel. I spoke to one stall holder on Monday who'd come from London Bridge (there had been warnings on all the news reports the night before to avoid it as it was a 'hotspot' and would be packed) who told me he'd had an entire train carriage to himself.

I was outside on Saturday, and before we'd even started setting up officials came an complained the stalls were about 14inches too close to the barriers - which were some 4ft away from where we were. Not that anyone over on the distant pavement could get to us if they did see us. If people did want to investigate and try and go through the few gaps in the barriers officials stood in the gaps pointing which giant foam 'pointing finger/hands' to direct people to the stations - where doubtless they all then had to queue for ages anyway in an ever growing crowd. So I spend a depressing day trying to keep my stall clean as the wind blew dust and dirt onto everything whilst thousands of people ten feet away streamed past.

I know there have been official complained to ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) and LOCOG (whatever that's supposed to stand for!) but I don't know if there will be anything fixed quickly. If nothing changes quickly I really may have to close completely for the next six weeks until the Olympics and ParaOlympics are over, and find some temporary work stacking shelves so I can at least pay my bills. Yes, it really is that bad.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The man from the Olympics says 'Yes'

On the front door mat this morning came a letter and license from the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) which allows me to trade in Church Street in Greenwich. Normally I'd be in the main market, but to raise the profile of the market they want a few traders to be in this road which is being closed off to traffic, as a sort of sample of what's on offer to all the people walking from Greenwich Train station going to the Equestrian events.

I still don't know how this is going to work, or even which days I'll be there, but could be interesting! The market is having a slightly different layout during the Olympics to allow more people access, which might also mean less stalls. I'll certainly be doing some odd days, maybe not even weekends, although I do plan to be at the market on Saturday 28th July, as well as Sunday, and an extra Monday too on the 30th! The hours are going to be long too, starting at 12 miday (although I hope to be there a couple of hours before if I can) till 8pm. I'm still a little worried as I don't know if anyone going to the Olympics will be in the mood to shop, but fingers crossed! At least I have a license and won't be hauled away for selling glass!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Where was I?

I've been doing the odd extra Friday at Greenwich market, partly because of the upcoming Olympics and not knowing how busy that will be, and also to see if it's possible to drop Sundays and do Fridays instead. It's a much more laid back atmosphere, so I've been able to get away to chat to other stall holders and, most importantly, have a chance to get some yummy Chicken Katsu Curry from the Teriyaki stall, rather than wilted sandwiches!

This extra day, and trying to make extra stuff in advance of everything coming up in the next few months has sadly meant lots of projects have had to take a back seat. I've seen quite a few things of late that have me mulling over new ideas, but first I need to stop saying 'yes' to commissions. They start off simply then just go off the rails! I feel really guilty when they don't work out, at least if I stick to my own mad musing when they don't go as I plan then I don't feel I'm letting someone down. Right now I have a head full of half formulated ideas, drawers full of half finished bits, and no idea when I can tackle them. This also includes a collaboration with another artists which I haven't had chance to work on, which reminds me - if anyone has any old 1950-1970's chunky ex GPO telephone relays I'd love to hear from you. I used to have a boxful, and remember every electronics surplus place I went into had piles of them gathering dust in a corner, but I guess they're all melted down for scrap metal now.

Throw into this a general uncertainess about how the Olympics is really going to effect me, it's either going to have Greenwich packed with shopping Olympics tourists, or avoided like a plague house as it's right on the doorstep of the Equestrian events. I am still waiting to even find out what days I'm going to be there, which I hope to know within the next few days. Oh, and the markets open from noon till 8pm, so lucky my body clock gave up being in sync years ago!

One of the few things I've been able to do is to pop a few of the new little bottles necklaces into my Etsy shop. I was planning to list more, but someone seems to stole some hours in the day again....

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The problem with blogs

The problem with doing a blog, I find, is when you forget to do any blogging for a while. That, along with some PC problems a while back has left me a bit lacking in the blog department. I'm not even sure if blogging has fallen out of fashion either? These days I'm using my Facebook page more as an outlet to tell about new projects, glass, and ideas. (It's if you haven't subscribed to it yet)

The big news is the Alien parasites and pathogen project which actually started well over a year ago, checking back my records I see it was the end of 2010, but is only just coming to fruition. These stemmed from some rather overly delicate pendants I was starting to make, I wanted to explore them as an idea but had so many people worried about wearing anything with even chunky parts sticking out in case they broke them I realised I couldn't make them as spiky pendants. Then last summer I had a customer who bought three of my non-spiky space pendants as he liked them so much he wanted to mount them in a frame. Doh! Why didn't I think of that!

However everything else seemed to get in the way of just being creative, so it's only been the past few months I've managed to get a few odd hours to begin work on them  As soon as I did I quickly found I had more ideas than time, glass, and nice expensive box frames! Although they are quite time consuming to make, they are very satisfying to work on, even though it's still lampwork it's really refreshing to have a break from the usual stuff I make for the stall and to go off onto a tangent like this. I'm hoping to get some more of these made ready for May......... but that's another story for next time (can't tell you everything straightaway, else they'll be nothing for the next blog instalment!)

Monday, 2 January 2012

Back to Blog!

You may have wondered where I've been (or maybe not!) Between having problems logging into blogger and all the craziness of the Xmas season of making enough glass for the stall I've barely been on line for ages.
I really don't know where the last few months have gone, the workshop is in more than a mess than usual. I didn't expect December to be quite so crazy, which I am more than grateful for as I expect January to a quiet and lean month. I normally get through one 6kg gas bottle in a month, I got through two and the remains of a third in one month!
However I am taking the time to give myself a little rest, and catch up on some neglected projects. One of this is a Steampunk radio project, of which I finally got around to putting together. (If you check back through the blog there is mentions of the brass plate and the long valve over a year ago!)
It's pretty much done, expect for the internal lights which will shine up through holes underneath the valves to make them glow. I'll make a video when I get that done, as I also have some circuitry that will make the lights flash and pulse.
I wanted to make as many of the parts myself, and not just 'spray it brass and stick cogs all over it' - Steampunk should be so much more than that! That's probably a rant for another time, but I did use just three parts from watches. Two are the brass end caps on the horizontal red/green valve, I think they are the cases from watch springs. The third one is the tiny silver cap on the blue/green valve which is actually a winding knob. Apart from the switches, which will work the circuits, I made everything else.
The wood case is actually scraps of skirting board, the brass plate was in the off-cuts at my local model making shop, which I added a fancy paint effect to. All the little brass & copper rivets I made from tubing offcuts - bead makers will know the Impress bead liner, which usually adds silver cores to charm bracelet beads, and makes rather fun custom shapes for the valves! Add in a few bits of copper wire, lacquer, and two sturdy brass chandelier couplers, and it's nearly done!
I must admit it's not exactly how I'd orginally planned it, some bits I didn't use at the last moment, and added ones I didn't expect to, but I'm quite pleased with how it's come out. I already have another one in mind, which is going to take a bit more research, and will be mostly clear glass, and hopefully quite a size!