For the love of silver…for the love of life!!

Archive for February, 2010

Now is the Time to Say Goodbye!

Thing-a-Day. Last Day. Day 28

So that is it for another year….personally, my second year of participating in Thing-a-Day. I can proudly say that I have posted the full 28 ‘things’, on time, for both 2009 and 2010. It isn’t easy but it is well worth the effort for the feeling of satisfaction and achievement at the end of the month. February is always a really dull and drab month for those of us who suffer winter weather around this time and having this challenge helps to focus the attention on being upbeat and creative!

Personally, I didn’t manage to do everything I had in my mind to do, but there is no rule that says I can’t go on in the same creative spirit for the next 365 days! …Having said that, don’t go looking at my blog every day expecting there to be something new!! My ancient frame can’t keep up that sort of pace!! However, as usual, there has been a great deal of inspiring creative art of all kinds by all the contributors to Thing-a-Day which will keep me buzzing for a while yet! I would particularly like to thank Isolde for her ‘zentangle‘ on the 26th which introduced me to a new art form that I had never heard of before – and which inspired my final ‘thing’ for Thing-a-Day 2010. It is a great way to loosen up and get into a creative frame of mind and is a totally stress free and relaxing activity as there is no such thing as ‘doing it wrong’! Feeling stressed??? Pop on a bit of relaxing music and get doodling!! I think there are recommended pens for zentangling and, as I only had a fairly thick one to hand, my first attempt above is a bit chunky! but I think I will invest in something a bit more sophisticated and put a bit of time and effort into developing this art!

One thing that springs to mind is combining this with the making of photopolymer plates – which was something I was going to do during this year’s TaD but it never quite got off the ground – perhaps that was a touch of serendipity, for now I have a potential endless source of design ideas to try it out with!! That will definitely be reported on in my blog over the next few weeks!! And who knows – it might even end up as a complete new range of silver jewellery!! What fun!!!

So I shall be sad to see the end of TaD 2010 – but hey!…it is only 365 days to go until Thing-a-Day 2011!! So bye-bye all thing-a-dayers! Keep busy and happy – and see you all again next year!

Final Flourish!

Thing-a-Day. Day 27

Well, I have finished all the bits and pieces for the floral arrangement on the Mother’s Day cake today.

I now have 12 yellow sugarpaste roses with leaves, 50 white sugarpaste filler flowers, and a couple of dozen purple sprays of sugarpaste flowers. I will only be using a few of these for this cake though and I will carefully put the others into storage – keeping them cool and dry – so that I will have some nice flowers on hand should I get an order for a cake with a floral arrangement at short notice, because, as you have seen, making these flowers takes a very long time and cannot be hurried!!

I have no idea what I shall do for tomorrow’s ‘thing’…the last one for 2010!! Where has this month gone to?!! There has been some great stuff on Thing-a-Day this year – and a lot of inspirational ideas – thanks everybody!

See you all tomorrow for the big Good-bye!!


Thing-a-Day – Day 26

Ooooo…What a fiddle! I have been trying to get these little purple sugarpaste flowers done today. I like to have these in my arrangements because they add a bit of height and stop all the flowers having the same sort of profile. They are very forgiving to make compared to most things made with sugar flower paste. This paste is a product that dries very quickly and is prone to crack if you try to rearrange parts of the flower you have been making when once it has started to dry. With these little flowers…and boy!…they are really small to work with!… there are parts of the process where you need to leave them to dry out, so you can keep doing little bits and then leave them to dry while doing other things – like attending to the needs of a little boy (my grandson) …or even the considerably bigger boy (my son) who has been kind enough to keep him entertained for much of the day despite it being his day off!!

These flowers range from 1.4cm (1/2 inch) to 0.7cm (1/4 inch) and are made from 3 slightly different shades of purple with the largest being the palest and the smallest the darkest. They are cut with little tiny cutters and then cupped with a ball tool before being pierced in the centre with a dressmaker’s pin. They can then be left to dry and go hard. Meanwhile I have cut some white flower stamens and ‘dyed’ them yellow with ‘petal dust’ (a very fine edible colouring pigment). Then, when I had some time, I was able to post the end of the stamens through the little hole in the dried flowers and add a little dab of confectioner’s ‘glue’ to attach the flowers to the stamens. You do end up just a bit cross-eyed after a while!

When the glue has securely attached the petal to the stamen each little flower can be wired together into a little spray with the smallest flower at the top and the bigger ones added below it. Finally – if any areas of yellow stamen ‘stalk’ are still showing beneath the flower, these need a dab of green food dye painted onto them so that they blend nicely into the rest of the green stem.

A lot of faffing and fiddling – but I think it is worth it! The photo at the top of this write-up shows a little group of all the flower types I have made over the last couple of days and I am happy that they will look lovely and fresh and springlike for the top of the Mother’s Day cake I have been asked to make. I still have the leaves to make and wire into clusters…I might do that tomorrow…or move on to something else for the last 2 days of Thing-a-Day…we’ll see!!

Heavenly Roses

Day 25

I’ve had very little time today… very busy baking cakes!! And my grandchildren are just about to arrive for their tea!!

I have managed to get a bit more done for my sugarpaste roses. They now have their calyxes and are ready for wiring into an arrangement. I didn’t quite manage to get the leaves done so I’m hoping that the rather ‘arty’ bit of photography will make up for this omission!! I’ve still got more flowers to make and hopefully will get a bit more done tomorrow… although I have my youngest grandson with me all day so I never quite know how that will pan out!!

A Dozen Yellow Roses

Day 24

Today I made a bunch of yellow roses….4 full bloom, 4 partly open and 4 buds.

They are just so satisfying to make…almost a miraculous transformation from flat flower paste to a glorious rose! Ok – so it wouldn’t fool a rose gardener, but on top of a cake on the head table they can look totally stunning!

They are a bit more labour intensive than the ‘just-a-minute’ filler flowers I made yesterday. The full dozen took me just about 2 hours – and that is without adding the calyxes or binding the wires with florists tape.

1. I build my roses onto wires which are customised with a teardrop shaped lump of dried sugarpaste on one end. This makes the finished roses big and fat!
2. After colouring and rolling out my flower paste to almost tissue thickness I cut out 5 petal flower shapes. This is a quicker way of adding petals than cutting them out and adding them individually.
3. Using a special ball tool I thin out the paste around the edges and develop the cup shaped petals.
4. I apply a little confectioners glue to the ‘bud’ and thread the petals onto the wire and then glue them to the bud, covering it completely and interleaving them to make a swirl, like real rose petals.
5. It is then a case of adding more and more layers of petals until it reaches the desired fullness.
6. It is important to take care where the petals are positioned and to shape them gently into a rose shaped arrangement.

Tomorrow I will make the calyxes and some leaves to give the full rose effect.

Just-a-Minute Flowers

Day 23

In the space of 24 hours I have received requests for a cake for Mother’s Day and an order for a wedding cake…both of which will require some sugarpaste flowers. As it is spring time – well, almost! – I am looking at doing a little arrangement in ‘spring coloured’ flowers for the Mother’s Day cake. In my mind that conjures up the colours of snow drops, crocuses and daffodils. As for the wedding cake, I am awaiting confirmation of colours but I will need certain ‘filler’ type flowers for the arrangements. So today – and probably for the next couple of days – I will be making some flowers for Thing-a-Day.

Whenever I make sugarpaste flowers I always make some extra to requirements because they are rather fragile and accidents do happen – so I like to have some spare to replace any damaged ones. This means that I have a random collection of odd colours and shapes of flowers in storage – and as they pretty much last for ever if kept in dry conditions I can look at examples of most colour combination to help me plan arrangements.

The photo on the left is a selection of colour samples and varieties of ‘spring like’ flowers that I am thinking of making up in the next few days. But today I am making a batch of my ‘just-a-minute’ filler flowers which are pretty much just that! They are the easiest of flowers to make and take less than a minute for me to make each one, and being white and fairly small, they fit into any arrangement, filling up little gaps and adding a little lift to the colours of the rest of the arrangement. Practically all of my floral arrangements contain some of these and, as it can sometimes be a few months between orders for floral decorations, it is a nice way to get me back into the swing of flower making!

On the right of the photo I have shown a step by step guide to making these flowers.
1. Pinch off a small piece of flower paste and roll into a ball.
2. Roll slightly off centre to create a teardrop shape.
3 Using an appropriate tool, push the point into the fat end of the teardrop and rotate it make a little cup shape.
4. Using a fine pair of scissors cut 5 incisions into the edge of the cup shape.
5. Pinch each ‘petal’ between index finger and thumb an rub gently as though spreading the edge of the petal across the edge of your index finger. This lengthens and thins out the petals.
6. Insert a piece of florists wire into the throat of the flower and push it through until the end of the wire nestles just beneath the petals. Gently roll the base of the flower between index finger and thumb to ensure there is good contact between the flower and the wire.

Then leave them to dry! When they are dry and securely stuck to the wire I usually cover the wire in florists tape which I take up over the back of the flower to make a rudimentary calyx, and I will dust a little fresh green petal dust into the heart of the flower. Then it is ready!!

Hmmmm….which ones should I make tomorrow??

Better Late than Never!

Day 22

During Thing-a-Day 2009, I promised my six year old granddaughter that I would make her a tiara if she helped me to sort out my bead box… Terrible woman that I am, I have not fulfilled that promise to her up until today!! Well, you know how it is…sometimes life gets in the way of the best intentions.

My granddaughter is a real girlie girl. She loves all things pink and sparkly – so predictably she focused on sorting out all the pink pearly beads and all the ‘diamonds’ in my box of beads from broken up jewellery. Nothing in the box is ‘real’ or of any intrinsic value – all the ‘good’ stuff is carefully stored – but I find these plastic and base metal beads have uses in all sorts of art and craft applications. So I was quite happy to use them in practicing the art of tiara making.

I have used the silver plated braided wire that I made earlier this month (Day 13) and added a selection of the beads that she sorted out for me. I have spent much of the afternoon grovelling on the floor trying to find all the beads I have dropped and, predictably, my fingers are rather sore but I think I have done a reasonable job in making a tiara fit for a little princess that will see rather more play times than royal occasions!

I hope she will like it – and forgive me for taking so long in making it for her!

Really Tight!

Day 21

I have never been known for throwing things away that may still have some useful life left in them. My parents, who had lived through WWII, had the motto, ‘Make do and mend’, and I am proud to say that I have taken up the banner!

Take for example my laundry basket… I bought it when I got married; a good, solid, fashionably brown, plastic basket. Not only has it served me well transporting my wet washing to the washing line and the dry washing back indoors and storing it until it got ironed, but it has also served as a plaything for my four children. All of them have had enormous fun sitting inside it as toddlers and being picked up and carried around in it. It has been used as a cage and a carriage for make-believe and been filled and emptied of all sorts of strange collections. So, I suppose, it is not surprising that over the last couple of years the handles have been breaking off – and now are finally gone. And – when I say that my youngest child started at University last year and my oldest celebrates her 27th birthday next month – I guess you could be excused for thinking that the time has come for me to buy a new laundry basket! But no…there are many more years of usefulness in it yet!

A couple of weeks ago I discovered a book on knot making in a Charity Shop and bought it because I thought some of the knots illustrated could be used in jewellery making…but looking through it this morning I realised that it held the key to rejuvenating my laundry basket!!

One of the knots – a Braid Knot – seemed to fit the bill, especially when it said that it could be used to replace a broken handle on a suitcase! Why not fix a broken handle on a laundry basket??

Using a spool of hemp garden twine I plaited three lengths together to make it a little thicker. I then went on to create a Braid Knot – which basically is a three strand plait which is executed in the middle of a single length of cord – all very clever stuff! It meant that I had a thick, braided ‘handle’ and a thinner cord either end for attaching it to the laundry basket. Just to finish them off and make them more secure, I have bound the ends of the braid handles to the remaining stumps of the old basket handles and then ‘massaged in’ a trail of hot glue gun glue into the braid to make it stiffer and more wear and tear resistant!

I’m quite happy with the results – more functional than beautiful – and I’m not sure my repair will make the basket last another 29 years! – but it makes me smile!! And I’m sure my parents would be very impressed with my resourcefulness!!

My Party Piece!

Day 20

It has taken me a great deal longer than half an hour to finish Joshua’s Cake…and I’m sure I will still be fiddling with it right up until the time I have to deliver it…but there was no way I could fit in another creative enterprise while I had this on the go.

So here it is…designed to be free standing on the Birthday Party table but can be laid flat to cut. He looks his best when viewed at table level – which is just as well really as I am sure my harshest critics will be just about that height!! Not all the party goers will be the same age as Joshua – I am told that there will be children there right up to ten or eleven years old who I think might appreciate it a little more than Joshua will!!

I hope they enjoy it anyway!

This photo gives a rather better idea of how it looks as you can see that the bridge wall has some depth to it. The whole of this cake is edible…except for the cake board of course!! but everything else is either sponge cake or icing.

Job well done…time to put my feet up I think!!

Tunnel Vision!

Day 19

Following on from my ‘thing’ for yesterday – I am proceeding with the birthday cake I have to deliver tomorrow. Having my grandson here is proving to be a bit of a hindrance but I have made a start and I will just have to get up very early tomorrow morning to finish things off.

I am working from a picture from a colouring book page. It is based on a character from a children’s television programme currently popular here in the UK…Chuggington…and the character is called Brewster (although this picture has called him Bastian!)

Although I am making the cake based on a large rectangle, I am building a ‘Brewster’ face out of cake to feature on it. The photo on the right shows the cake base that I have carved out of a piece of madeira sponge cake and I will build up the character on this using sugarpaste icing.

I have spent much of today mixing the coloured pastes to create the appropriate colours needed for the decoration and working it into the sugarpaste icing. This is very time consuming but now it is done I can go ‘full steam ahead’ first thing tomorrow!!

I have also covered the main piece of cake in icing and started the decoration…and tried it for size on yesterday’s customised cakeboard…

I hope you can see what I am up to now…

I have put the first layer of blue icing onto Brewster as well, as this will keep the cake fresh and stop it from drying out over night…but I’m not showing that to you yet as it looks like some hideous blue monster at the moment!!!

Hopefully – I will be able to pull it all together for tomorrow! It is a bit of a risk posting this process on Thing-a-Day for all to see!!! I must be mad!!

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