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!