Wednesday, 31 January 2018

A Week In Work - Hours Here and There.

Following on from my last blog post, there hasn't actually been a whole day in which I have sat down and worked on the box continuously. I haven't been very well, which is par for the course for me, but even less well than usual as I have chronic bronchitis. I also finally was diagnosed as going through the menopause this week so it has been a bit up and down as far as health has gone.

I managed to do 4 hours on the box on Friday of last week and 2 on Sunday of this week though. On Monday I did about three hours and on Tuesday only about 2. A final 2 hours today (Wednesday) and the beading part of the box is finished! So up to this part of the process I have already spent approximately 41 hours on the box. It isn't finished yet, however, because the final processes also take not only time to make, but drying time in between processes, although I do not count the drying times in the final count.

So without further ado, here is the beaded box so far!

Front of the box

Right side of the box if facing towards it.

Left side of the box if facing towards it.

Beading on the back of the box.

The final processes to get the box ready to go into the shop are all about tidying up the loose ends. As you can see from the picture on the back there is still a lot of bare box left and that looks unprofessional. The thing that needs doing next is that my hubby and business partner will sand down the drawers and drawer frames a bit to ensure a perfect fit even after painting and varnishing. That done, I will be painting every part of the box that you can still see wood on, except the base, in a design that will look like the branches of the tree. Once the paint is dry, the varnishing starts and every part of the box except the base needs at least 2 if not 3 coats of varnish to protect it. That done I will stick a large square of green felt to the base and when it is dry I will trim it to size so it looks nice and tidy.

In between each of the coats of paint and varnish, the piece needs to be left to dry for several hours, or overnight, but because there are many parts to this I can work on different bits and then leave them to dry whilst working on other bits. 

For example, I can paint the base coat on the inside and outer edges of each drawer one at a time and then leave them to dry whilst I paint the back with its base coat. But it is still going to take several more days to finish, with large periods of time when I cannot work on it because too much of it is wet.

So what do I do next then, whilst these drying periods are happening?

Decide what I will be working on next of course! More about that in the next post.

Meantime have a lovely day and enjoy many

Bright Blessings.

Nici xxx

Friday, 26 January 2018

A Week In Work - Day 3

I am starting to think that a week was a bit optimitistic!

 So Wednesday turned out to be a write off in terms of work on the jewellery box. After the dodgy morning, the interview at the college turned out to be a joke and by the time we got back it was too late, and I was in too much of a state to work. I decided to take the rest of the day off and played a bit of Minecraft but couldn't even settle to that so I watched Scorpion on Netflix which was amazing. That is one of the best shows I have ever seen, it plays on the emotions like a death ride roller coaster, is full of amazing science and the characters are just so relateable, especially to a geek like me. I got a quite early night and woke up early Thursday morning full of beans and anxious to get on.

Thursday was a much more productive day, I did 7 hours all told before collapsing into a horrible heap and reading myself to sleep. No Scorpion yesterday, I was far too tired.

I didn't even manage to finish the front of the box, which proved trickier than anticipated due to making sure that none of the beads overlapped and prevented the drawers from opening and closing, which I why I am not sure that I am going to be able to finish the whole piece right up to listing in 7 days. But I still have 4 days left, although today will be a half a day due to Slimming World this morning. Still here is a quick picture of the front of the box so that you can see what I mean,

I am very happy with how the beaks turned out.

I did manage to finish all the beaks on the front of the box as you can see and all the owls are done and attached to the side of the box now, so it is literally just finishing the foliage in terms of beading.

I wanted to explain a little about the beading process today, to show how complicated and fiddly that actually is. First of all the beads I use are never uniform in size and within just one colour tub I can have beads from 1 mm to 3 mm in either size or width. The beads are not sorted out in any way other than colour so when I am working on a piece, I tip the colour that I am using into an old ice-cream tub lid (with a white bottom to show the colours better) and then have to find the right beads for the job from within that lid. It is like doing a jigsaw puzzle only extremely tiny and while I have a craft lamp to see with, I do not use any kind of magnification at this stage (though I will have to eventually as the eyes get old and decrepit!).

I made this picture extra large so you can see how tiny the beads are in relation to the tweezers and small owl.

The tub that you see these silver beads in is actually the lid of a packet of laughing cow cheese triangles because I have a lot of silver beads and this means that I can spread them out better to check sizes. Over time I have developed an eye for which size and shape bead will go in which gap and this helps a lot. My daughter told me over Christmas that she is never playing the game Operation with me, because if I can pick up these teeny tiny beads with these tweezers I will be able to trounce her at the game :D. She was playing it with other family members and I think it increased her appreciation of exactly how much skill is involved in micro mosaicing!

The top of the box is now completely beaded, so now I just have the front, both sides and the painting, varnishing and felting the bottom to do. Not too much then. Although in fairness the sides will be much easier because it is just filling in foliage with only a little fiddly work to do on the back and the edge of the front. The front edges will be done first though probably while I do the front itself. 

I will be mostly focusing on individual colours now though, which means that I will do say, all the brown leaves at one go, then all the yellow and so on, so I will be building up the front and sides all at once. Because of this, future pictures will not be of completed sides so much as what I have managed to get done as a whole. For a while this will seem like progress is a little slow until I get to the point when it is all nearly done at once.

So to just give you a finished preview, here is the top of the jewellery box completed except for the varnishing.

One side completely beaded!

I am really happy with the result, so without further ado, I am off to get beading and I will keep you posted when there is progress to report.

Bright Blessings, Nici xxx

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

A Week In Work - Day 2

It Never Rains But It Snores!

Well since I live in the UK that is a barefaced, outright lie because it always rains and it was doing that when I awoke, very late yesterday morning. According to my hubby, who was playing Minecraft in the room as I slept it was also a little windy in the room as well, but that is Slimming World for you, all that fresh fruit and vegetables. Apparently there was a lot of snoring going on as well so it's a good job he loves me. Mind you, whenever I am working on the mini mosaics, he starts singing one line from Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini on a never ending loop, so it's a good job that I love him too!

As you can see, presumably, I am writing this on the Wednesday morning rather than the Tuesday evening at the end of the working day. This is because I over slept yesterday, not waking up until 11.30 and then not starting work until 12.15. Subsequently, because I really want to get this jewellery box finished by the end of the week if I can, I stayed working on the mosaic side of things until gone seven, by which point I was in a ton of pain and too dizzy to focus. So this morning has been allocated to computer work, my favourite - not!

I don't mind talking to you of course.

So the main thing that I have done this morning - after getting up at 9 with a bit of a shaky start caused by an upset stomach, is to set up a new desktop on my laptop specifically for Mostly Micro Mosaics. I have set up some bookmarks for this side of the business and transferred all the photos from the other desktop onto this one.

Now I just need to finish setting up bookmarks for all the other parts of social media and I am good to go, who needs a new computer anyway - oh wait, me as it happens! I also need a new mouse as mine chose this morning to die on me.

Ah well, the joy of self employment right?

So moving briskly on, yesterday was a very productive day as far as the jewellery box went. I got all three owls of one side stuck on and started work on the last three for the other side. I built the beaks on two of the drawers and nearly finished the third one, they look really good in my opinion.

Two and a bit beaks done.

I didn't take so many pictures yesterday but will do a lot more today. I have to take my son to his college interview in a bit, but when I get home it's all systems go with photographing and beading again.

I reached a conclusion about how to do the finishing off of the back and the inside of the draws. I am going to paint them with acrylic paint to look like the branches of the tree and them varnish them with the special acrylic varnish that I am using these days to varnish all of my new makes.

As you can see from the picture above, I also almost finished the beading for the top of the box. I didn't quite get it done because I was also focusing on the beaks for the drawers and the last of the small owls, but despite that it is nearly finished on top of the box and is looking good. I have my concerns as to whether I will get it completely finished by Sunday, but I do know that once all the beaks and owls are finished and I can really crack on with the foliage, it will become a bit easier.

Just a few small sections to finish on top.

Today, Wednesday I will be concentrating on finishing the top, finishing off the last beak and the last three owls (one of which is already started) and working on the front of the drawers and the box frame if I have time.

Of course getting the beads on is only part of the process. After that I still have to do the painting, then varnish the whole box (which will be done in stages to let the varnish dry). I may varnish the front of the drawers as soon as they are done while I get on with other parts of the box, or at least get the painting inside them done and drying. Once painted and varnished I will finish the box off by glueing a felt square to the bottom to protect which ever surface it will end up on. 

Then comes the fun part. I need to get a selection of photographs, that show the box as good as it is. This is a problem because I find it very hard to take pictures that show my work as well as it looks in real life, but as this is the only way potential customers can see it, I have to get it right. Then I need to list it on my Etsy and tell as much of the world about it as I can get to listen!

So a busy few days coming up, but at least I am showing how complicated the processes are. My biggest challenge will be finding a price that reflects what people may be prepared to pay for a jewellery box but also covers the costs of making it. Since I estimate that it will take me about 45 hours from start to finish, this is a tricky process as I doubt very much that people will pay £450 for a jewellery box, even one as lovely as this.

If you have any thoughts on pricing or any other part of the process, drop a message in the comments box below!

Bright Blessings, Nici xxx

Monday, 22 January 2018

A Week in Work, Day 1

I wanted to show you all a bit of how my working week would go, at least in terms of mosaicing, not all the other stuff I have to do, that would just bore you to tears.

This week I am going to be focusing on one slightly larger project instead of lots of smaller ones, and this project is a small chest of drawers jewellery box. In the world of micro mosaicing you have to bare in mind that small is relative, because the size of the beads mean that even small jewellery boxes are big projects.

To put it into perspective, I spent last week working on what I call mini micro mosaics. How can a mosaic be even more mini than micro you ask? Well some of the things that I was beading last week are barely bigger than a ten pence piece and so do not have a lot of surface area to cover. This brings it's own set of challenges as the pieces are hard to hold and bead at the same time.

This weeks project is a wooden box, more or less 9.5 centimetres on every side. It has three little drawers in it to put jewellery in and I had designed an owl theme to go on it several weeks ago.

A blank jeweller box, pre design.

I should tell you a little bit at this point about my Granny. Probably not what you expected to read given that linking from micro mosaicing to Grannies is not a natural segue, but in terms of owls, Granny is my big inspiration. She passed away several years ago, but for the entire time I knew her, she was crazy about owls and I find myself mosaicing them so often that I am obliged to point out that wherever she is now, she may be influencing me in my choice of subject matter. Grandad was a bird lover too, but I have no idea if that included owls because anything owlish that came into their house was automatically Granny's. They were both amazing people and I owe most of who I am today to their love and inspiration, so thank you, both of you, in whichever afterlife you reside.

So back to the box. I had this idea of owls in the branches of Autumn clad trees, some sat right out in plain sight and others peering through the branches. I am definitely more of a Spring and Autumn girl, disliking the extremes of weather in Winter and Summer, although I live in England so it is mostly rain whatever time of year it is! In Spring and Autumn though it is a lot more colourful rain, or at least things to see through the rain and so this box has been inspired by Granny and the gorgeous array of colours that you find in the Autumnal canopy over here.

I have to say that this project is a combination of mini micro mosaicing and regular micro mosaicing though, because the owls themselves are small die cut wooden blanks that once beaded are being glued to the box before the leaves are added afterwards. I like the idea that this will bring some sort of 3D texture to the box rather than every thing being on the same level.

Some half finished smaller owls.

On the drawers of the box I am using the knobs with which you open the drawers as beaks and have put eyes of the owls that will be peeping through the foliage.

The pupils of the eyes are black sequins.

On top of the box is one big owl and two smaller ones and the two sides will have three smaller ones randomly placed. The only beading that I will do on the back of the box is around the edges and I will fill the inset back board in with either material or paint, I haven't decided yet. Inside the drawers will be lined with material and the outside edges of the drawers will be painted too.

Today, Monday the 22nd of January 2018, I made pretty good progress. Four of the smaller owls are now done with the beading, I stuck the big owl and two smaller ones on the top of the box and did the eyes on the drawers. I am really excited with how they have come out. There is an awesome feeling in having an image in your mind, one that only you can see, and then being able to produce that image onto your canvas of choice so that everyone else can see it. It must be the same sort of feeling that artists and sculptors have when they see a blank canvas or a piece of un-worked wood or marble.

I also started on some of the foliage, which led to more inspiration, often these projects lead me along by the hand, taking my original ideas and running with them. In this case it was about the size of the beads used for the leaves. The first beads I used were bright red and relatively large compared to some of the other beads I have in my arsenal. This led me to think that changing the size of the beads I use will also add texture to the piece. My biggest regret of the day was reaching the time that I am scheduled to stop mosaicing and go onto the other more boring parts of the job!

Top of the box

The bigger owl just had gaps around the central eye piece so I beaded inside them with very tiny beads so that they were more or less the same colour as the closed in wooden parts of the smaller owl eyes. The two little owls may look a bit lopsided at the moment and my child critics called me out on that, asking whether that was a mistake. I don't think you are ever going to find an owl home like this in which the owls sit in straight lines though, so I stand by my guns, confident that full foliage will make the whole thing look fine.

A birds eye view

I am quite thrilled with how the owls eyes that are peeking out of the foliage on the drawers came out, I think they look friendly and fun owls, what you can see of them! I managed to finish the other two smaller owls pictured above with the silver as well, so it was quite a productive beading time today, even if I could have done more if time permitted. I need to get up earlier in the morning I think.

So tomorrow's plans are to do four more small owls, these have only been coloured in and have no beads on them yet, so I at least want to get the cream and brown bits done if possible. I want to glue the two other completed owls onto one side so I don't accidentally lose them and then I wish to get more of the foliage on the top and front done. I will show you how I get on tomorrow evening!

Bright Blessings, Nici xxx

Thursday, 4 January 2018

OMG Help!

At the beginning of 2018 I have decided to take a much more structured approach to my work, including using my blog to keep an eye on what I am doing.

It's the 4th of January and already I have freaked myself out. I separated my work into things I want to achieve this year and things that could be put off until the following year. Then I made a spreadsheet of all the items that I want to do this year and that is when I started panicking. I have been looking at my in-store data analytics and it seems that most of the searches that lead people into my shop is either for trinket boxes or coasters and I do seem to sell more of them than anything else. Come the beginning of February all of my Christmas decorations will leave the shop, ready to be re-listed in September of this year again. So I really need to stock things up so that the shop doesn't appear empty.

I have several trinket boxes designed and ready to go and 3 more emojinal coasters which I can work on, but looking at the spread sheet, the majority of blanks I have are either bag charms (81), fridge magnets (72), jewellery (38), seasonal items (75) and buttons and embellishments (56).

Now I am in a dilemma. Do I focus on getting the smaller items mentioned above done and in the shop or do I focus on bigger items and then do the smaller stuff?

If I do the bigger stuff can I also be whittling down the smaller stuff as I go?

How long is it going to take to get all of this coloured in and ready to bead?

Do I start beading now and colour as I go?

Oh so many decisions and this was supposed to help me calm down and focus!

I think the best thing that I can do is get on with the design and colouring in for the time being and get as much as I can ready to bead. Then have several projects on the go at once, including a trinket box, a coaster and several of the smaller items. I know that I don't have to do all of this in 2018, but I already have a large tub of things that I am not even tackling this year as well!

My New Year's resolution for this side of my business is to not buy anymore blanks until I have made and sold a good number of the ones I already have.

This brings another problem though, where am I going to store all the finished items? I really need a workshop with a dedicated photography area, a dedicated post and packing area, a warehouse area for stock made, packaged for the most part and ready to go, a place to store all of my materials and a place to work. The chances of getting this altogether seem so slim as to be non-existent though.

So how do you tackle projects like these and retain your sanity?

Bit by bit would be the sensible answer. So rather than waffling on here, I will get colouring, get planning and get ready to go.

Next time I write I will have pictures to put in as well, some of the new designs hopefully.

Also this year I wish to take Mostly Micro Mosaics out into the local community. My lovely Slimming World consultant let me take my mosaics to a couple of her groups and I got a lot of praise for the things I do, so I really want to get them out and about. I have ordered new business cards and self addressed labels as a start and Jess is going to help me work out how to get public liability insurance so that I can go to craft fairs and exhibitions. I also want this year to start putting together packs for people to have a go at home, both individually and in parties. I want to go to people's houses and do Tupperware style mosaic parties and to try to put some workshops together to teach what I know.

So a busy year which will only happen if I get started on it. Wish me luck!

Nici xxx