Tagged: craft

Video: How (and Why) I Weave Chainmail

anodised-aluminium-necklacesHere’s a video by Alex Carter (Lexica Films) explaining a little about the anodised aluminium necklaces I’m offering as a reward for supporters of  Ten Little Astronauts, as well as a rare opportunity to see how they’re made! There’s also a little more information going in this Shed post on Unbound’s site too.

If these catch your eye at all (or you’re looking for an extra-special Christmas gift for someone), do consider putting in a pledge for the book. The entire necklace reward level (which also includes signed copies of Ten Little Astronauts and Face of Glass, all the ebooks I’ve ever released, and an audio collection of my most popular fiction) is actually going for less than the usual cost of the necklace alone. That’s £50 worth of book rewards, plus a £90 necklace, for £75.

If that’s not good enough for you, Unbound are also running a promotion at the moment that gives 20% off your first pledge: the code is snowman16, and naturally it’s best used for a big reward like this. There’s little point using it to shave £2 off an ebook when you could be getting £15 off a huge bundle of stuff! To use that offer, just hit the “Pledge £75” option under “Anodised Aluminium Necklace” on the book page and enter the promotional code when prompted.

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Multicoloured Mug and Daily Deviation

Flash Fiction Month is proving a challenge this year, largely because I’m also sinking a lot of time into my Creative Writing dissertation. It’s a little strange having to come up with a tiny story every day while also chipping away at an umpteen-thousand word project. Still, it’s manageable, and I feel as though I’ve done some good work on both.

I was pleasantly surprised recently to discover that The Fermi Pair o’ Socks had been featured as a Daily Deviation over on deviantART, meaning that it was displayed prominently in a few places around the site: kind of a day in the spotlight. That’s happened with a few of my other stories before, and it’s always good to know they’re reaching new people: especially when they’re stories from Flash Fiction Month that might encourage other writers to get involved with the event. It was also quite a boost to have that story featured in particular, as it was the first time this month that I’d just had to take an idea and run with it, rather than writing a story I’d either had in mind for a while or piecing something together specifically for a challenge.

The way stories come together over the course of these events has always interested me. Each one of my Flash Fiction Month anthologies includes a statistical analysis at the end looking at how various things (though mostly word count) changed over the course of the month. Recently, that got me thinking about different ways to display that sort of information, and that led up to this:

FFM Colour Bands (very large)

You may have noticed this image in my Flash Fiction Day post last month, where it was included pretty much just to add colour. However, there’s more to it than that. Each band of colour—orange, red, and purple—represents one Flash Fiction Month event: 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively. In turn, each of those bands is made up of 31 lines of colour, each one representing a single story. The strength of the line represents the length of that story, with the maximum 1,000 words being a bold coloured line and the minimum 55 words being almost white. You can see at a glance how the stories from 2013 (the red band) were typically longer than the stories from 2012 (the orange band), especially towards the end of the month.

I’ve since started using this as the header for my email newsletter, where, again, it’s nice to be able to throw in some bright colour. However, I also figured I’d take the opportunity to stick it on a mug, just because I can.

Mug TwirlUnfortunately the mug is possessed, so it does this whenever I set it down.

It took a little bit of work to stop the bleed area from chopping off the lines at the edges, but actually wasn’t too hard to set up. I kind of wonder what other things I could represent graphically in this way, and how else I might use the images I get out of them. I don’t really draw or paint, so it’s interesting to have a go at doing something visual like this.

Book Fair Goodies

Book Fair GoodiesWith the Hampshire Writers’ Society Gala Evening just a week away, my table space is more or less sorted. I’ve got multiple copies of all my paperbacks, with the Flash Fiction Month anthologies all lined up on one display and all the Face of Glass copies on another. You wouldn’t think that hours of experience selling handmade jewellery or shelving videogames would ever help with preparation for a literary event, but actually putting these displays together felt like a little of both!

In addition to the paperbacks, I’ve also assembled some new discs. The Face of Glass CDs aren’t actually new: I tend to have them on hand at craft events. However, most of the ones here are freshly assembled as my original batch had been whittled down to the last two.

Face of Glass Case

These Face of Glass discs contain both the ebook itself in multiple formats, and audio recordings of The Three Tales from the novel. I’ve now assembled a desktop computer that makes burning the discs considerably simpler, and (though a somewhat smaller investment) I’ve got a set of scalpels and a cutting mat that make for some very neat case inserts.

Face of Glass Disc

The process of putting together these ebook CDs is now straightforward enough that I’ve also brought out a very small number of Flash Fiction Month discs. The ebooks are still free to download, but I figure that for anybody who wants a token physical version the disc could be a fun option. The colour scheme of the covers looks pretty good laid out this way, and the clear clamshell cases do a good job of showing it off.

FFM Discs

ObsidianI’ve still got a few more bits and bobs I’d like to sort out, but with the books on hand and the discs put together, I think the display is just about ready to go. I’m even planning to bring along a couple of chunks of raw obsidian to place alongside Face of Glass, since it’s always interesting to be able to connect the imaginary world of a book to something more tangible. I had the larger of the two stones on hand most of the time I was first writing Face of Glass, and though most of the actual research into Stone Age cultures came through books, museums or the internet, having that one bit of black glass to hand was useful too. It’s a fascinating material, both beautiful and practical, and seen in person it’s not hard to imagine why it developed ritual significance.

If you’re interested in turning up, the Gala Evening starts at 6pm on the 9th of June, in the Stripe Building at the University of Winchester. Further information is available on the Hampshire Writers’ Society events page. Their website also lists all the authors who’ll be at the members’ Book Fair alongside me.

Further Adventures in Jewellery Making

Well, technically the adventures were mostly had once I actually turned up at another craft event and started talking to people, but I have new photos of shiny things to share so I figure that counts for something. While my last attempt at running a craft stall was at an exhibition organised by an art and craft society I’ve been a member of for a while now, this one was at a local garden centre so I got to meet some new craftspeople as well as just talk to everyone who stopped by my table.

The success I had at the last event let me branch out into slightly fancier materials for this one--including these sterling silver and cubic zirconia earrings.

The success I had at the last event let me branch out into slightly fancier materials for this one–including these sterling silver and cubic zirconia earrings.

I also started experimenting with square profile wire, which makes for a very interesting mirrored effect.

I also started experimenting with square profile wire, which makes for a very interesting mirrored effect.

Things were also different for me specifically. While I came to the last one really hoping just to sell and advertise my books, with the jewellery as something of a sideline, this time it was all about the jewellery, and I made much more of an effort with the display.

This lovingly spraypainted papier-mâché hand does a great job of showing off rings or dangly bracelets when standing up, but also helps give shape to the more solid sheet-weave bracelets I do.

This lovingly spraypainted papier-mâché hand does a great job of showing off rings or dangly bracelets when standing upright, but also helps give shape to the more solid sheet-weave bracelets I do.

While the hand above was bought from a craft shop–and I’m pretty sure is intended for just this kind of purpose–I also stumbled across a great way of displaying necklaces and earrings: anything that looks best dangling, rather than draped. The display stand below is actually a circle of black card fixed to a stainless steel chafing dish. The “dish” itself is in this case actually more like a thick wire frame, so it’s possible to either poke earrings through the card or to hang them from pins pushed into it.

Trailing Vine Bracelet (hanging)

Remember the Trailing Vine Bracelet from my last craft update? Well, here it is hanging in a more natural position.

Despite being at the kind of big retail venue you’d expect people to visit casually on a weekend–compared to the last sale, which was in a village hall–the craft fair wasn’t enormously busy. I sold enough jewellery to cover the cost of the table, which I figure is an automatic win for me, but didn’t make a whole lot beyond that. Still, the opportunity to talk to the other people running tables there made the day well worthwhile. The woman right next to me was selling small bags of interesting buttons alongside her handmade things, so I picked up a couple of choice wooden ones with the intention of working them into earrings.

And what do you know--it worked!

And what do you know–it worked!

Handily, the holes in these buttons were spaced exactly the right distance from the edge to provide a snug fit for the very largest of my bright aluminium rings. Matching the crazy design with an equally crazy weave of chain–Rhinos Snorting Drano–seemed like an obvious move, and it’s one that I think paid off. Apparently the woman selling the buttons thought so too, because she gave me a couple more to work with–of a style that, she explained, wasn’t selling all that well. She said she’d be interested in seeing if I could do anything with them.

I’ll be honest, my first thought was that I probably couldn’t. Not only were the buttons…well, not the sort of thing I’d usually think to bolt into jewellery (and seriously, I’ve considered using cows’ teeth), they weren’t even physically well suited to it. There was absolutely no way I’d be able to just hook a ring into these ones and get it to look right. But I fiddled around a bit, found myself a way of adding a wire loop to the top of each button, and–bizarrely–they also seem to work!

Full Persian Cat Earrings! Get it?

Full Persian Cat Earrings! Get it?

Though–in my opinion–these grumpy cat buttons don’t look like much as buttons, they really come to life when they’re dangling on the end of chain earrings. They’re pretty cute! The fact that “Persian” is both a weave of chain and a breed of cat is also quite amusing to me, though I can’t help but feel that the funniest thing is the amount of work that goes into turning them into earrings in the first place. The length of wire goes through both button holes (kind of like a staple), and the lower end hooks up and over the upper end, which in turn folds up to form the loop above the cat’s head. The result isn’t as neat as anything you’d expect from a purpose-made bead, but overall I think they have a lot of character.

Since these were actually the third pair of button earrings I ended up making that day, the woman at the other stall extremely kindly–and totally out of the blue–gave me a whole bunch more buttons. Including loads and loads of these little cats.

Full Persian Cat Earrings (mismatched)

Did I mention that they come in a variety of colours?

I really wasn’t expecting that. Given that a lot of the other craftspeople seemed to be doing this at least semi-professionally, I would have understood if they were just focused on doing their own thing, but actually everyone was really approachable and had lots of advice and anecdotes to share.

This seems like a good time to mention that this new earring stand allows me to take photos using a tripod, which makes them just so much clearer. Before I’d be happy as long as the chain looked reasonably crisp at a glance. Now you can zoom in to see teeny-tiny details. For example, did you spot that this second pair of cats have pupils while the first pair doesn’t? I’ve literally just noticed that myself. Didn’t even realise it while I was making the things.

Anyway, all in all I feel like this was another good event. It was a fun day, I made a bunch of totally unique earrings, and as an added bonus I heard about a couple more upcoming craft sales, so if all goes well I could be doing this again within the next few days.

Earring Display

Here’s the full batch of button earrings. The display I actually had on the table was neater, I promise!

In other news, I’m now totally enrolled on my Master’s Creative Writing course, I’ve been to a couple of welcome events–was pleased to find that some of the other students write in very similar genres–and am due to actually get started early next week. Beyond writing a ton of stuff for the course itself, I’m not sure how that’ll affect my creative output, but overall I’m expecting it to make a massive difference. I’m keen to build on what I already know, but at the same time to try some totally new things, so I’ll see how it goes. They gave each of us a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, so in the immediate future I’m hoping that’ll help me find an agent, since that was pretty much the main goal I walked away with at the end of the Winchester Writers’ Festival.

So, lots going on and lots still to come. At this point I’m not certain exactly what I’ll be doing even two weeks from now–it’ll largely depend what the course demands, and what I can manage to work around that–but it’s bound to be good and include lots of writing so that’s alright.

I Do Jewellery Now!

Flash Fiction Month may be over, but I’ve been busy ever since. I’m a member of a local arts and crafts society, and when one of the other members suggested that I sell my books at an upcoming tabletop sale, I thought “Why not?” But then it proved impractical to order in paperbacks, and I’m reluctant to encourage people to pay for my flash fiction collections since the ebooks are free, so it was pretty much just Face of Glass on disc. I actually feel like I’ve put together something really good–you get multiple ebook formats on the same disc as the audio of the three tales–but with a six foot table you really need to be selling more than just one thing.

Face of Glass CD ExteriorFace of Glass CD Interior

So I dusted off my tools and put in a couple of orders for some shiny new materials and I spent a week or two weaving bracelets. If I’m honest, it really was more about making the table look good–and not just showing up at a craft sale with a bunch of identical (if carefully produced) CDs like some kind of weirdo–than it was about making something I actually expected to sell. Still, I was pretty happy with the results.

This one has actually been sold, but the buyer wants a different kind of clasp.

This one has actually been sold, but the buyer wants a different kind of clasp so I’ve still got it for now.

I’ve been focusing on writing for the last couple of years–the last five or so if you count academic work–but before that I actually did quite a bit of jewellery. I had some in a local shop for quite a while, but despite having my work (more or less) available on the high street it didn’t do tremendously well. I sold a handful of things, and it brought in a bit of money, but the jewellery was most useful as an option for unique Christmas and birthday presents. I hate getting people chocolate or anything else you have once and then it’s gone, but it’s a nightmare trying to find something else different year after year.

Trailing Vine Necklace

Fun fact: I originally got into jewellery by making armour. The “leaves” of this trailing vine necklace are more commonly used in scale armour.

Long story short, I went in on Saturday morning thinking that if I made my money back on the table, I’d be happy. And I did! Plus a fair bit more. By the end of Saturday, as far as I was concerned, Saturday had been a roaring success. I’d made a little money, I’d got my books in front of a crowd for a whole day, and the jewellery had attracted a lot of attention. I was looking forward to more of the same the next day, but at that point Sunday was a bonus.

I came up with the idea of weaving a handful of brightly coloured anodised aluminium links into some items. It's subtle, but it makes a massive difference.

I came up with the idea of weaving a handful of brightly coloured anodised aluminium links into some items. It’s subtle, but it livens up the whole thing.

Sunday was not a bonus. Sunday was three times as busy. A lot more people stopped by my table and a lot more took an interest in the actual process of making the stuff. There were more kids around on Sunday, which definitely helped–they were really keen to find out more about how everything was put together and how long it took, and once I was talking to them more people came to listen. There was actually a bit of a crowd at one point!

The swirling sections of this chain are known as "Mobius Roses," so the clasp was an obvious match.

The swirling sections of this chain are known as “Mobius roses,” so the clasp was an obvious match.

But while the event was already a success just in terms of being a fun weekend with lots of interesting people, it turned out to be a very good move financially as well! It’s definitely not enough money to let me quit my day job, but since I don’t have a day job it’s pretty much the best thing I’ve got going on at the moment. It seems as though there are a lot of craft sales coming up nearby, and if this one is anything to go by then my main problem will be making things faster than people buy them! Admittedly that’s mostly down to the fact that these bracelets each take hours to make, but I feel like this is still a good position to be in. It’s got the added bonus of being something I can do in my own time, so I’ll be able to keep it up (or stop suddenly without seriously annoying an employer) while studying for my MA over the next year.

So it looks like I’ll be doing this again pretty soon, and I may even open up an online shop at some point. In the meantime, if you see anything you like then just let me know!