Thursday, 6 June 2013

it's been a while

Goodness, I hadn't realised that it had been quite that long since my last post!
I will update with new garden photos shortly as it doesn't look like that anymore, I'm pleased to say. Nor does the dog, she has one less leg than she had due to an osteosarcoma but does very well on three.
I've also taken rather an extended break from silversmithing but intend to gradually ease back in now that the metal prices look more optimistic. For small designer makers such an increase in the price of your raw material can be disasterous as well as make you more ingenious.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Up the garden path

We've now lived in this house for almost 2 years and we bought full in the knowledge that the garden, as well as the house, needed some very serious grunt work to get it into shape. Our last house had been the same and took 4 years but was significantly smaller. What we learnt from the last house was invaluable for tackling this one - plan, don't rush, divide and conquer.

This is the garden when we moved in - the copper beech was just breaking bud and we estimated was older than the house as it had had the crown removed (rather badly) some time ago but the trunk was massive. it may be 150 years old or thereabouts. what this image doesn't show is the dense 'forest' behind the beech tree that goes on for another 200 ft, the area the estate agent hilariously referred to as the 'secret garden'. it was not secret, you knew it was there alright you just couldn't get in without becoming completely snared by brambletrees. What it also doesn't show is the soil type, which is sandy loam (on the edge of the green sands of west norfolk). Our last garden was cambridge clay so this was going to be a whole new gardening challenge! OH was definitely daunted by the prospect of taking on such a large and overgrown garden, but it was also a fantastic opportunity as it was keeping the price of the house down as well as it looked so bad.

So, over the past 18 months we've mowed, weeded, broken 2 shredders, lost numerous secateurs to undergrowth, bent the root loppers & had professionals in to take out 11 60ft leylandiis that had overstayed their welcome by 15 years. They were shading everything as well as sucking the ground dry. They are now being burnt with great glee.

All this effort resulted in a garden that looked hideous. Much worse than the dark jungle we bought. For instance, this is the before image at the very back of the garden (there's our Crawley Beauty 125 year old apple tree in there somewhere), leylandiis and overgrown shrubs everywhere.

This is the same place the leylandii were removed & shrubs around taken out. The Voss's laburnum will be going too, soon.

After today's digging (the bottle dump was found on the other side of the apple tree. The fence in the image is our rear boundary fence, we used to dream of being able to touch that fence!) the other side of the apple tree looks like this.
 Where the mattock stands there was a 3ft high ridge of dumped compost which has developed into some fantastic soil. This whole area including the apple tree and 20ft back down from there will be the kitchen garden. As the garden is taken down to the bare bones I can finally see how the plan will work, where the greenhouse will go in this year and the shed. I also need to get the asparagus bed planned asap!

We must give thanks to these sterling hardworkers who have blazed a weed free trail for us everytime we've uncovered a new area. They will be going back in on the area above to deal with the inevitable weed seedlings in 2 weeks, after they've trimmed the grass off the next section to the left of the apple tree.

Hopefully it won't be 18 months before the next garden progress blog!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

favourite beaches

there's such an advantage to living near the norfolk coast, and that is easy access to beaches out of season when the hoards of tourists, their cars and caravans have gone.

our favourite out of season beaches are old hunstanton and sheringham. when you have a dog that loves swimming as much as ours does, no matter what the weather or temperature, you have to be not to far from the sea otherwise much sulking ensues. she wants to get in for a swim as quickly as possible and then you're allowed to go for a walk. because of that, we bought a tide clock so we can time our visits to both much better. if it's approaching or close to low tide, then we go to sheringham (more beach, less pebbleridge). if it's around high tide we go to old hunny (less miles of beach & much more sea). it's an organised affair going to the beach these days.

yesterday afternoon at old hunny was lovely. very very cold wind but beautiful.

the textures of the sand with the retreating tide inspire my retreating tide pattern jewellery. old hunny sands at this time of year have such complex ripples, which must be due to being a beach quite far within a wide estuary, complicated drifts.

a happy and exhausted dog afterwards makes for a perfect end to a saturday.

the sunset was also rather nice.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Landscape East - finished jewellery images

Following on from yesterday's technical posting - Celia has posted the finished works on her blog here  if you would like to see how they've turned out.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

it's been busy

life in the studio has been very busy over the past few months.

I have started a very interesting collaboration with the suffolk designer, illustrator, henkeeper & gardener Celia Hart (, turning her lovely designs into wearable jewellery. the first pieces will be on sale on Celia's pretty stall at the Saffron Walden Art Fair this weekend. Celia has an excellent article on her blog about our collaboration if you want to know more.

I thought I'd show the process of turning Celia's print designs into pieces of jewellery so here are some images I took last Friday. etching is a hazardous occupation due to handling acids so I like to do the etching all at once to reduce exposure.

this is a shot of the blanks for leaf doodle and sleeping hare prepped for etching.

the black is stop out varnish painted on by hand.

the clear shiny areas are sticky backed plastic, with the shapes I want pierced out very carefully.

the combination of the two means that only the areas I want to be eaten away by the acid will be exposed. the other areas are not, so will stay 'raised' in the final piece. as with printing, it means you have to think carefully about which bits are cut out.

Once the varnish has set (they are cured under a bench lamp, which is what's happening above) they are lowered into the acid, which is diluted 60% nitric acid. In my recent previous life I was a research scientist and have a healthy respect for nasty chemicals so I wear PPE and use as little acid as I can get away with. I also have a great little slide bath with lid that's perfect for etching as it's very stable, resistant to acid, and is deep and small. ideal for small pieces.

this is a shot of the bath in action. the acid is a hazy green blue when it's been used due to soluble copper nitrate in the presence of silver nitrate. sterling silver is 7.5% copper.

pieces stay in the etch until I'm happy with the depth of cut. I regularly flush the surfaces with a small bulb pipette to keep the etching surface clear of salts to improve the etch, but I actually want the rough texture so don't go overboard.

once I'm happy with the etch depth, they're hoiked out, washed thoroughly and either painted again for a second etch or cleaned polished and turned into jewellery.

this is Celia hart's flying hare design after it's second etch and initial clean up. lots of work to do on it but it looks great at this stage.
more images soon of final pieces from this Landscape East collection.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

rainy sunday

the gaps betwen the showers today are a bit short for anything to be done usefully outside.

we have attacked the enormous patch of nightshade in what will be the kitchen garden (eventually). Both OH and I had thought that we had some old potato tubers growing through but they turned into nasty looking massive plants only bearing greenyblack berries. they've spread like wildfire and need attention before they drop all their seeds this winter. most of them are now out but we will keep an eye out for 'potato' plants over the coming months.

Friday, 24 September 2010

like set stones

the high winds today have brought down the conkers from the highest branches of the trees (I know that because our local trees were denuded of conkers in the reachable branches some weeks ago by kids). the ones just smashed to the ground showed the most beautiful contrast between the glowing chestnut conker itself and the fluffy pure white interior so I brought some back home to photograph before they browned. oxidation doesn't seem to take very long though as you can see, this conker was freshly opened by me before the image was taken and already it's gone brown on the edges.
they really glisten at this early stage.

now I just need to find someone to play conkers with!