Saturday, 23 November 2013

The final countdown

Well, I've thought and pondered and cogitated and considered, and I have decided. I am closing Pretty Things at the end of December and will no longer be selling jewellery. 

This isn't an easy decision but I really think it's the only thing I can do.  There are just too many obstacles. I haven't got the money to put into it; I work in the public sector and we've had a pay freeze since  2009 but sadly my rent, travel costs, utilities etc have not been frozen. Higher bills = less money for beads. 

And then there's the availability of fairs and markets. There are no fairs local to me which means I have to travel, and that puts my costs up. That's if I can get to the venue by public transport, which isn't that wonderful where I live. I've lost two of my very best fairs when the organisers moved away and no-one else took them up. I've tried to find others but it seems everyone is selling jewellery these days and the best fairs will already have their quota of jewellery stalls.

The cost of materials has rocketed too. Jewellery making is a very popular hobby now. I attended a bead show in October and noticed that a lot of sellers have half-size strands of beads, but sold for what used to be the price of a full strand. And don't let me start on the price of silver!! I spent hardly any money at that show - £4 on some velvet flowers as a gift for a friend, £5 on a strand of lepidolite (which turned out to be appalling quality and pretty much unusable) and I also bought a cabochon as another gift. That's it! I just couldn't find anything I wanted to spend my money on. That's not normal!

So, all things considered, I think it is time to call it a day. I still love making jewellery, but the point of Pretty Things was that it was supposed to be self-financing and above all fun. It never was self-financing but now it's not even so much fun any more.

Anyone know any good macrame tutes? :)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

I'm not indecisive, I just can't make my mind up.

I've spent the last few weeks thinking about whether I want to carry on with Pretty Things, but I still can't make my mind up one way or another. 

I've been making jewellery for years, and set up Pretty Things about six and a bit years ago. I knew my target customer and I knew that I wanted to make jewellery that anyone could wear, that was a bit different but not over the top, and that people could afford without selling their first born and mortgaging the cat. I still hold true to that ethos but I'm finding it less fun than it was. 

It's harder to find unusual beads, every bead seller seems to sell the same things but just at different prices. For example, at a bead show at Sandown Park racecourse last weekend, I saw exactly the same crystals on three different stalls and varying in price from £1.75 to £3.20. Every stall seemed to be awash with either crystals or with the same cuts and types of semi-precious stones. I want good quality, unusual beads that you don't find everywhere, but with the exception of handmade lampwork beads, there just isn't that much choice these days. 

 There is also a dearth of places to sell my work. I have my website, Pretty Things jewellery, my Facebook page and I have had shops on the likes of Folksy and Misi, but online sales are poor. I love face-to-face selling at markets and fairs, and do well when people can see and touch my jewellery. I live in a village in Surrey and suitable fairs are few and far between in this area. Travel costs are expensive and add to overheads, and I don't want to increase my prices - Pretty Things is based upon the principle that people should be able to afford my work and I won't change that. 

So - it's harder to find the good quality, unusual raw materials that I want. Sterling prices are through the roof, but I don't want to downgrade to silver plated findings. Markets are either the boot-fair bargain-basement type or the retro-styled-yummy-mummy-hessian-and-twine type, neither of which are really suitable for my jewellery. I have nothing against either of those two extremes, but there doesn't seem to be a middle ground any more.

So on the one hand, it seems I am talking myself into giving up. But then I remember how much I love having stalls at fairs, the anticipation of setting up, of people oohing and aahing over my jewellery and the thrill of knowing that someone likes it enough to part with their money for it. 

So what do I do? Carry on as I am, searching (usually in vain) for the unusual beads and findings that I want, and for good quality local fairs and markets,  or give it up altogether?  Any ideas?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Every Little Helps

Thank you for your message about last week's blog posting about the badgers. The fight against the cull goes on. Sometimes we are optimistic and then a few hours later in crashing despair. 

Sooz [of the blog Sooz in the Shed] asked what people can do to help, and I posted a few links. The big thing is to get out into the cull zones in Gloucestershire & Somerset, and join a badger patrol. The patrols are law abiding and peaceful, and simply walk along public footpaths wearing hi-vis vests so that other people know they are there. The shooters cannot shoot if there are members of the public within a mile of the shoot location.  Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP, accused anti-cull protesters of dumping a dead badger on his doorstep [as if!!] and called anti-cull protesters 'scroungers' and 'malingerers'. An article in the Daily Telegraph on 9 September said : 

In a blog for The Western Daily Press, the great-great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria, said he was surprised the protesters got up early enough to deliver the corpse.
“I thought most of them were in the habit of lying in bed until the pubs open, or until the postman arrives with the benefit cheque (or do such things get paid straight into their accounts these days?)
“Either way, since they are all malingerers and scroungers there is no real incentive to leap out of bed as soon as the dawn chorus strikes up,” he wrote. 

Nice attitude for an elected Member of Parliament to express in public. this links shows that his very biased opinion is way wide of the mark :

More people are always needed. If you can get to Gloucestershire or Somerset and want to help, have a look here : 

Stop The Cull 

Brian May's Save Me organisation 

Badger Army 

If you can't get there please consider making a donation to help with the costs of maintaining a presence and saving badgers. The donations go towards things like petrol money, torches, batteries, whistles and so on.

Somerset Against The Badger Cull

Fuel Fund

Camp Badger

Other things being done by ordinary people like you & me include asking difficult questions of the Government ministers who authorised and support the cull. One such protester went to see Owen Patterson, MP, the Secretary of State for the Environment and the main man authorising and encouraging the cull. She reports that she asked him why nothing is being done about vigilantes leaving badgers maimed but not killed. The reply? 'Not my problem'. 

You can write to your MP and ask them to oppose the cull. You can ask them to sign early Day Motion 299, which opposes the cull. You can ask them to lobby for the cull to be stopped. If, like I do, you have a Tory MP then you are unlikely to get a positive response, but you have to keep at it. They have to be told just how unpopular this cull is making them. Maybe someone will see sense if they realise that their comfortable lifestyle is at risk.

Other people are making things to sell to raise money - Badger Auction
- and one of my beadie friends has recently had a destash to sell beads to raise money. 

You can leaflet your local area - speak to The Badger Trust for leaflets.

Lots of protesters are going to the Tory Party Conference in Manchester on 29 September to protest about the cull.

The anti-cull supporters come from everywhere and from all walks of life. Despite what Mr Liddell-Grainger thinks, they are using their annual leave to go to the zones, they are giving up their weekends and they are using their evenings to write and lobby. They are just ordinary people doing what they believe is right. In short, they are the embodiment of Call-Me-Dave Cameron's  Big Society. They are you & me.

PS - I forgot - if you want to know why we're doing this, have a look here This is a link to Simon King's live webcam. Around 8.30 each night, a bunch of badgers come for a feed. It's wonderful.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

All human life is here (and some non-human too)

Thank you so much for all your kind messages after my last blog post. The badgers are in my thoughts constantly and it is good to know that other people feel as strongly about the cull as I do. 

A couple of people asked me why I am so against the cull. It's not just an issue that animals are being cruelly slaughtered, although that is a massive part of it. It is also that the cull hangs upon the thinnest of threads and is based upon bad science, ignorance and a total lack of reason. 

Politicians spent £50 million on a ten-year study to see whether culling badgers would have any effect on the rates of bovine TB. The conclusion, by the government's own scientists, was that it would not. That's fifty million pounds of our money. And it found that slaughtering badgers would not reduce bTB rates. In fact, it may even increase bTB, as badgers from the cull zones scatter around the country. 

Even those in favour of the cull say that at best - at best - after slaughtering 70% of our badgers, bTB rates would reduce by 16%. I'm sorry Mr Cameron, but that's not a good enough reason to slaughter a protected animal. Oh yes - didn't I mention that? Badgers are protected! They are supposed to be protected by the same people authorising their slaughter.

bTB rates are FALLING. bTB rates have been falling for 6 years without the need to kill badgers.   But this government ignores all reason and logic. 

And so the slaughter has begun. It is supposed to be independently monitored. By three monitors for Gloucestershire and three for Somerset. When there are dozens of shooting groups - how can three people monitor dozens of groups effectively?

They are not allowed to use dogs, other than to track, and those dogs must be muzzled. Yet there are numerous reports of dogs being used to 'finish off' wounded badgers - or in plain English, when a badger has been shot but not killed outright, dogs are used to rip it to shreds. That is illegal. It has been reported but nothing is done. Defra denies the use of dogs altogether in spite of the witnesses. 

This is a bad, bad business. It is being led by vested interests and by the National Farmers Union who have enormous influence with the Government despite representing only 18% of farmers. Yes, you read that right, and it's not a typo. 18%. 72% of farmers are not in the NFU. When have the Tories ever listened to a union, let alone one that represents less than a fifth of the industry? those vested interests maybe? Well, the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is pushing hard for the cull, is the brother-in-law of one of the biggest landowners in the Gloucestershire cull zone. The brother-in-law is also massively in favour of the cull. Surely that's a conflict of interest?

The anti-cull movement has support from every section of society, that Big Society that Mr Cameron thinks is so important. The petition set up by Brian May closed on Saturday after gathering 303,572 signatures. It's the biggest e-petition ever, and what Mr Cameron & Mr Clegg ought to realise is that there are 303, 572 people in this country who will never again vote for their parties. Given that they had to cobble together this coalition just to grab power for themselves, can they afford to lose that many votes? 

Anti-cull supporters are from all walks of life. Teenagers and pensioners, teachers and engineers, scientists and rock stars, middle class and working class, there is even a very strong anti-cull movement within the Tory party itself. One very brave 94 year old lady has this week gone on hunger strike to express her anger about the cull. 'Camp Badger' has been established in both Gloucestershire & Somerset, with protestors camping out, patrolling the footpaths in the cull zones and trying by peaceful and lawful means to disrupt the shoots. Wounded badger patrols go out every night in high-vis vets to look for badgers shot but not killed. There have been protest marches, protest songs, letters to MPs, letters to the media - this is a huge movement.

So why won't Mr Cameron listen to us all and call off the cull?

The science does not support the cull. 

The public do not support the cull. 

Farmers do not support the cull.

Vets do not support the cull. 

This country is supposed to be a democracy. Of the people, for the people, by the people, all that sort of thing. The people have spoken - we do not want the cull.  The Government is pressing on in the face of overwhelming opposition and overwhelming evidence. Mr Cameron, you do not represent me and you do not speak for me. Your pig-headedness and arrogance have made this law-abiding middle-aged woman, and hundreds of thousands like me, into a political activist. Your hands, and those of your Secretary of State for the Environment, will be forever bloodstained.

Friday, 23 August 2013

That final straw

What picture pops into your mind when you hear the term 'animal rights activist'? Some young, pierced & tattooed wastrel with dreadlocks? Someone who needs to get a bath and a proper job and stop messing around with protests and placards and stuff? 

How about a frumpy, dumpy, middle-aged woman who makes jewellery in her spare time? Not quite the stereotype, is it? But I have now joined the Hunt Saboteurs Association, and in the eyes of some of the redtop tabloid media, that makes me a lefty animal rights campaigner.

I never set out with the intention of joining the sabs. I've always had an interest in animals and wildlife and have always hated hunting and animal cruelty. As you will know if you have read my earlier posts in this blog, some friends & I went on the Stop The Badger Cull march in London on 1 June, and ever since then I have become more and more concerned and worried about the way this country is treating its wildlife. I've written to my MP about it [not that it did any good and he is still gung-ho for the cull] and I've emailed the Prime Minister's office, with the same result - nothing. I've tried talking to the NFU, but they just banned me from their Facebook page.  I read the news about the cull and try to publicise it as widely as possible. 

All pretty tame stuff, huh? So what was this 'final straw' that turned me into a raving lefty activist?  It was seeing pictures of unspeakable cruelty towards crows on a farm in England that also has a business running shoots. I can't begin to tell you how horrific this act was, and how deeply upset it made me.  I find it unbearable that anyone could inflict pain and torture on a defenceless bird in this way, and all to protect a bunch of other birds so they could be slaughtered by men with big guns. And so I gave the sabs my money and I joined them. 

I may not be able to get out into the field but I can support those who can. And I can continue to write to my MP and his colleagues to try to get across the disgust and revulsion felt by me and by hundreds of thousands of others to the wanton destruction of British wildlife. I don't expect the PM to listen - after all, he's upset that his bad back stops him going out slaughtering deer on his Scottish holiday - but that doesn't mean I shouldn't tell him anyway. 

Being against the cull does not mean that I don't care about the bovine TB, the cows that are slaughtered and the distress of farmers losing their animals.  But slaughtering the badgers in reprisal will not stop bTB. they're not even going to test the badgers they kill, to see whether they were carriers. There are no badgers on the Isle of Man, but they do have bTB - so how can that be? And there are badgers in Scotland, but the cattle there are bTB free. In Wales they vaccinate and don't slaughter badgers. There are alternatives but in England the Government and some of the farmers will not even consider them. bTB rates have been falling this year and have fallen again this month, without the cull - why not try to see what caused the drop, and work with that?

The petition against the cull is now the largest e-petition ever. Have you signed yet? If not, here's the link

And if even frumpy middle-aged women are joining the sabs, things are much, much worse than the government realise. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Hot town, summer in the city .......

I'm sorry I haven't posted anything for a couple of weeks. I'm really not good in the hot weather, I tend to just shut down until it gets a bit cooler. I'm from a small seaside town in Ireland so I'm more suited to mists and fine rain, and warm scarves and chunky boots, not baking sunshine and flimsy summer frocks. I find the heat makes it very uncomfortable to bead, too. I can't concentrate if it's all stuffy and humid, and anything I do make usually turns out to be a bit of a dog's dinner.  

Far and away the worst part of the hot weather is having to go to work. The trains are unbearable, especially South West Trains in the evening rush hour. What do you do, SWT, have individual heaters on the seats? I try to get Southern trains instead because the journey may be a bit longer but some of the trains have air conditioning, which is gorgeous, and even the older trains have better ventilation. I think the managing directors of train companies should be forced to travel to and from work on their own trains, just to see how bad it is for the passengers. 

Oh, the passengers .... the trouble with public transport is that they let the public on it.  I get a very early train in the morning, before the main rush, and we have several regulars who work on their laptops, tapping away like little woodpeckers. And on the evening trains at the moment we have The Family Day Trippers.  When did it become acceptable for small children to sit when adults are standing? it's not unusual to see one family group occupying 8 or more seats, usually two adults and the rest are children, whilst adults have to stand. I do occasionally use a walking stick and just once in a while it would be nice to be offered a seat, instead of having to stand up while small children climb all over the seats, swing off the hand rails and generally cause mayhem. When I was a child, I would always be told to 'stand up and let that lady sit down'; why doesn't that happen now? And why on earth do they think it's acceptable to block the doors with empty buggies?

Enough whingeing. I haven't got a great deal to show you this week, because all I've been doing when I do finally get home from work is lie down in a darkened bath until sundown, but here are some pics of my current stock. 

This amethyst necklace has three larger amethysts as focals, which are the last of a string that my friend brought me back from Japan several years ago. The small rondelles are a lovely pale violet shade, then you get the big hit of purple from the focals. 

 I make a lot of these simple pearl earrings. This pair features more beads from Japan, this time some gorgeous gleaming pearls. I've teamed them with some sleek silver collars to make classically simple earrings for a bride or for day to evening wear. They look equally good with a work suit as they do with jeans or a party dress.

I really like these earrings. Silver coloured celticy hexagons are teamed with blue-green crystals that flash with peacock colours. Not much else to say really!

 I can't remember where I got these pinky-yellow beads, or the big silver beads either for that matter. I know I've had them both for a while but they suddenly just came together in these earrings. 

 These gorgeous oatmeal coloured jasper coins and the little stripey nuggets were part of my winnings in a sweepstake on my favourite beading forum, Bead Buddies. The coins are very tactile, lovely and smooth to play with.

This bracelet is an adaptation of double needle right angle weave and is made with peacock coloured seed beads and crystals. It's most likely a one-off because I can't quite remember how I made it!

Halfway through August; soon be autumn :-) Berries and crunchy leaves and frosty mornings ... can't wait!!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The glorious Gorgeous Gerties

Sorry I haven't updated my blog for a couple of weeks. Blame this hot weather. I don't do heat, I'm strictly a mist and frost and cool soft rain sort of girl. 

Anyhoo, in my last blog entry I mentioned Gorgeous Gerties and said I would tell you about it next time. Well, this is next time :-) 

My friend Tally and I have this daydream where we worked out what we would do if we won the lottery. As well as buying a house in the middle of nowhere [but on a Sainsbury's delivery route!] and taking in lots of abandoned animals, we decided we would open a shop that sold beads and other craft supplies, and where craftspeople could sell their work. We would also have a cafe - not a coffee shop but a traditional English Tea Shoppe, with tasty home-made cakes and scones and things. Well, part one of the plan is still there, but someone has only gone and done the second part of the plan, and that someone is Gorgeous Gerties. 

Gorgeous Gerties is a very special place in Dorking, Surrey. Dorking is a pretty little town snuggled at the base of Box Hill which used to be famous for West Street, a street full of antiques shops. Sadly, the recession has done for a lot of the antiques shops, and there were a lot of empty shops on West Street. Now one of those shops has been brought back to life as Gorgeous Gerties, a traditional Tea Shoppe but also a place where craftspeople can rent a space to sell their work. 

The building housing Gerties dates from the 15th century, and is a lovely higgeldy-piggledy space of polished floorboards and unexpected patches of sunlight. There is a cafe selling the most delicious cakes [the apple and blackberry cake is seriously yummy] and a variety of teas and coffees, as well as things like jacket potatoes. The tea comes in bone china cups and saucers, and you can have a proper afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones and cake for only £9.95. We know our Californian friend would love that and we can't wait for her to come over on holiday.

As you walk around the building, you see so many wonderful things for sale.  Cushions and bunting, jewellery and cards, clothes, vintage linens lovingly restored, and old furniture brought back to life. And possibly best of all, the Olde Worlde Sweet Shop, with sweeties like sherbert pips, aniseed balls, pineapple cubes and the best bon-bons ever.

There's a lovely atmosphere, with good music playing and lots to see and do. There is a whole series of workshops from furniture painting and crochet to jewellery making and free machine embroidery. I'm just waiting for payday so I can book onto a workshop to learn how to make a silver flower.You can hire a sewing machine for only £3.50 an hour, which seems very reasonable, or there's a free Craft Club every second Tuesday where you can just take in your work and join in with other crafters.

It's lovely to see the old building being put to such a wonderful use. If you can get to Dorking, it is very well worth a visit, but leave some of the apple & blackberry cake for me :-)

Their website is and their Facebook page is