Punches and ambitions

It’s a process that is as frustrating as it is satisfying, I find. I suspect it’s because I’m still very much in the learning stages but also a perfectionist, so it’s like a scalpel to my eyeballs when a stone isn’t perfectly set or a bezel setting tilts ever so slightly, even when you might not even see it unless you really look for it. Scratches that don’t show up until you’ve used the finest micro mesh cloth mean that you have to go right back to coarse sandpaper and start all over but it’s so lovely when you’re finally done and have a shiny, even and smooth piece that you’ve put so much work into. The only thing I don’t like is not having more time to dedicate to it, but with flexible “day job” employers I know that if/when I’ve built a little income stream there is scope to cut down hours and I’d love it if I could eventually split my time between metal and words – that’s Nirvana right now the way I see it.

2018 has started out fine. I say ‘fine’ rather than ‘amazing’ because nothing much has changed from 2017. Sure, I have to be obnoxious and admit life is pretty damn awesome for the most part and I can’t really think of anything I need to complain about, but it did get a little “samey” there for a while. I slipped into a comfortable existence where my whole life felt a bit like a SPA weekend. Nothing much to worry about, not much effort to be made and as for ambitions those became ‘mañana, mañana’. I mean, that was the very reason why I quite randomly embarked on a whole new thing and did a course in jewellery design to learn how to work with precious metals. My hope was that it’d get me fired up and back to Ambitious and Driven Anna, and so far it has worked. It’s never a good thing to scrutinise what you do for a living and discover that… ..meh. So hopefully it’ll keep on fuelling my creativity and eventually also steer me back to the writing that I completely abandoned. Really loving making rings with semi precious stones but pendants are fun too – next on my tool wish list are metal forming tools and so my next investment ahead of a dremel is a doming block with punches.

‘Fine’ also means life outside of work goes on much as before. B has a demanding job and travels even more than before. Perhaps not more often but due to his position many of his trips are now further afield and last a little longer. There are shorter ones of course, yesterday he returned from a couple of days in Prague and next week he’ll be in Milan – as always I hate not being with him and pine for him when he’s not home, but to be honest, after his month long trip to New Zealand last October anything shorter than a week seems like nothing. Monkey is at his new school and seems to have settled in really well. Unlike his mother, he’s an extrovert and full of beans (well, I’m full of beans, but tend to keep my beans to myself and tend to prefer my own company) so made friends quickly and never stressed over being the new kid. Thank God for that. He’s also starting to more and more resemble something out of Only Fools and Horses – always wheeling and dealing, always has several little money making schemes on the go, most lately involving buying cheap fake designer belts from Camden market that he then sells at a profit (declaring that they are fakes of course or I’d have to interfere) and yesterday he told me he is going to make some sort of Bitcoin investments, put £20 towards something in the hope it’ll yield a return. I have no idea what any of that means so suggested he speaks to B before parting with any money. He’s a funny little thing.

These days Monkey is with us all the time, which is a dream come true in lots of ways even though there is pain and difficult stuff at the very root of it – as much as I agree with Monkey and am on his side, it’s heartbreaking that he doesn’t want to stay with his dad. But I’ll leave all of that out of here, despite being relatively anonymous online I still feel it’s too private. B and I still have the freedom to do our random trips away given the older two boys can easily come and stay to make sure Monkey doesn’t burn the house down and I’ve booked a romantic weekend away for B’s birthday – CAN. NOT. WAIT. How I’ll be able to keep schtum for another three months I don’t know, plus B is the nosiest person on the planet so I now have all sorts of locks and security measures in place to make sure he doesn’t successfully snoop and find out. All I can say is that it’ll be magníficio!

So ‘fine’ simply means it’s all good and that life just continues to head in a really fantastic direction, albeit at a slightly slower pace than I’d like – if I had my way there would be a heated shed in the garden where I could set up a proper workshop but all in good time… ‘Fine’ means steady progress to freakin’ awesome!

My next step is to get going on some more necklaces that a local boutique has said they’d be happy to have and also cobble together a webshop. This is good, better than ‘fine’, given I always need to have something on the go. It’s when I don’t that it all turns into SPA weekend existence, and let’s face it, I’m not a SPA kinda gal.

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Side-steps and topaz

I did write a review of 2017 but it was at 3am on New Year’s Day and perhaps not at my full faculties so I removed it. I suppose it was a weird and wonderful year. Married my best friend and discovered a new passion, the former not just the highlight of the year but of my life alongside the Arrival of the Chimp, the latter a much needed vitamin injection that, just like I’d hoped, has triggered my creativity again. Stones still fall out but each piece is a little better than the last and I suppose the beauty of learning as you go along is that you discover all the little ways of correcting mistakes and the more you make, the more creative all those ways are. I love it. Not ready to out-do Tiffany’s just yet, but really chuffed with where it’s all going.

Perhaps this new passion and my love for making things with my hands, as well as wordsmithing, is not particularly surprising given I come from a family that on both sides is jam packed with artists, sculptors, poets, authors, painters and every variety of creative folk you could imagine – our cupboards are full of table cloths sown and embroidered by my grandmothers, knitted jumpers, hats, gloves and socks, crocheted bed spreads… Not to mention my parents’ houses that have countless wooden furniture made by generations gone. Well, my stepdad – a brilliant carpenter – is still around, but it seems handicraft and workmanship is increasingly a thing of the past and therefore it feels even more precious to me. My brother D also seems to, like me, have it in his blood, and his latest passion is making hunting knives complete with the leather sheaths that are anything but plain. He is quite simply nothing short of amazing. But yes, it’s very much in our DNA.

So I’m making use of the late afternoons from when I get home around 3.30pm to around 6pm. On the one hand the process drives me insane – you cannot rush it – yet at the same time the process is what I love the most. You cannot side-step annealing the metal when you have worked it too much and it’s too hard to manipulate without softening it again. You cannot take a short cut through letting soldered pieces soak in the acid. Sure, you could do all this like most do – mass production and from moulds, everything automated down to stone setting – but that’s not what I want. Every single piece is handmade from scratch and therefore, even if I am making five silver rings all the same size and same thickness wire and all with the same type of stone, no two pieces are identical. And I love that. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I’m sure, but it’s definitely mine.

Tonight I’m finishing off two rings and will – if there is enough time – saw, file and anneal the silver for another four pendants, I have a couple of ideas I’m keen to try out. Soldering the delicate bezel cups to the pendant itself is a painstaking process as the cups will melt quite literally a fraction of a second after the solder does, but I am loving the results and the two rose quartz pendants I made yesterday morning I think look really nice. I think against tanned skin (as opposed to someone as pasty pale as I am right now in the middle of winter) they will look amazing. The pendant with the orange topaz however, I think will look its best against skin even paler than mine.

Still have some vouchers for the precious metal and stone supplier that B got me for Christmas but will use up the stash I already have, which should be enough for another ten rings (if I waste NOTHING!) and probably also another ten pendants.