Jewellery and bujutsu?


This blog is about two important parts of my life: martial arts (under the Dentokan umbrella) and making jewellery.

Please join in - there'll be ponderings on processes, and pictures of processes (maybe not in my gi, though...) but in both jewells and bujutsu I've got sooo much to learn, and waffle on about.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Getting pictures right - all the software

Hello crafters,

It might be useful/interesting for me to list the processes I go though before posting a pic on my Picasa galleries or on Folksy. It might be pitiful. It certainly isn't as good as it can be. But here it is:

1) Go get husband's camera from drawer downstairs. It has anti-handshake magic. Thank you Cannon Ixus

2) Peer out window to look for sun. Look left, look right, as it must be somewhere...

3) If adequate sun found, quickly set up enormous (about 1m sq) 'mini' light tent. It's good quality for the money and plenty of it (Hama mini photo-studio). Squeeze my fabric down the back to give my 1970s sci-fi look, which I feel balances the earthy hessian

4) Set up extra day-light lights around tent

5) Put dogs on bed and give them a meaningful look, which they understand to mean, 'this is work, and I am the pack leader. Do not move from your current positions'.

note/ Dogs are clean, non shedding, non sneezifying beasts, and support UK crafting.

6) Set up shot. Lie on belly a) to steady camera and b) cos the tent is so big it can only go on the floor. Be careful to adopt a position that does not disturb dogs, who are now laying on the floor with good view of proceedings.

7) Take many pictures

8) Download and winnow away the husking rubbish (out of focus shots etc)

9) Cup of tea

10) Use Cannon Zoombrowser (free with camera and downloadable online)  software to crop photos. It allows you to do this by pixels, which is really handy as you can get an exact square. I also tweak contrast, saturation and light to make sure the pic is as clear as possible. I started by upping the light too much, which lost colour and looked anemic. I'm use contrast more now - and I mean only 1-3 steps up or down - because that achieves clearness without losing colour (to my eyes).I save the edited pics with 'sq_' prefix in 'Folksy ready' folder. I am a bit of a nerd.

note/ Folksy squares off non-square pics when they are uploaded, and it's not guaranteed that the best bits will remain. Your Folksy shop looks smart because of the squareness, but it's best to crop oneself before uploading

11) Use Faststone (freeware) to resize if necessary and to add a watermark. It is really easy to use and enables users to change batches of pics at once: batch renaming, cropping, watermarking, resizing and so on. I use Inkscape (freeware of course) to create the logos and lettering which make up the watermark (and headers, avatars pics etc etc)

note/ Following a helpful Folksy post about copyright I've added '© Cat McCracken Jewellery' to the logo. To get a © symbol (such fun I did it again) put the number lock on, hold down 'alt' and, using the number keyboard on the right, type in 0169. 'Tidy', says my inner welshwoman (really).

12) Use Gimp (Freeware? Yes, of course) to edit out any dust particles. Very quick and easy.

13) Check photos. Get rid of any stragglers not spotted before

14) Cup of tea

Commission sent, received and liked!

It's a little nerve wracking to make something to order, especially if contact is online only. But I've just finished a set for a lady in Bucks, following email communication only and it has gone very well.

* has cup of tea and helps self to a smile *

The necklace, earring and bracelet set is to be worn at a wedding, and is called Alice. There is a wee teapot charm amongst the bracelet beads ... so you see the connection?

It's based on an earlier necklace, called Space and used
the same satin wave beads with swarovski, grey silver foil and general pattern. The bracelet used 70 wrapped beads so is wonderfully shaky and jangly.

Feedback from the lovely lady included 'really listened to what I wanted', and 'professionally made and finished'. Wonderful to hear. She is also going to spread the word if and when she gets the chance at the wedding. Marvelous!

One lesson from email commissions - descriptions, questions and 'through the process' pics took longer than I imagined to carry out. Therefore profit dropped. But overall, a good experience!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Karate Graded

Five hour grading, sensei with clipboards. Quite intense. However, only two trips to the loo and only twenty press-ups, and fun kumite. I love kumite, but am looking forward to a time when my brain keeps up with my body. That is to say, one day I am sure I won't labour to plan, execute and get out before missing a chance to do. Sometimes, rarely, it happens, and it feels good, but still too often my opponent sees that my lumbering old brain is slowing me down and pops me one in the chops (preferably with control...).  All good learning.

The upshot is that we all passed, so phew for that. Wish I had some photos for you. Visualise white gis, determined expressions and just a little sweat.

Ooh, and some blood. I got a impressive (looking) wound on my arm - with blood, mind - but carried on to do two more rounds. Huh! my bad self (I paraphrase)! That's veterans for ya. I've got a strips on it and a plaster now...sensible.

There were some brilliant performances yesterday, and no doubt some aching bits and bobs today. Onward and upward for us all.Chip, chip, chip.

Soon, some thoughts on the process of learning martial arts.

katatsuburi soro-soro nobore fuji no yama

little snail
inch by inch, climb
Mount Fuji! 

Thank you 'haiku guy' site for collating lots of Issa haiku. This one is probably well-known, although I have only just found it...

Friday, 26 March 2010

Trembling karate legs - grading approaches

Oh, sweet blimey cakes. With several of my karate kyu-mates, I am being graded on Saturday. Aim: 2nd kyu. To those confused, and mildly amused, by the coloured belt system, this means we are hoping to get two large steps closer to black belt / 1st Dan / shodan (or 'beginning level').

My favourite bugei book is Sword and Brush, by Dave Lowry. In it he explains that the kanji for 'dan' means 'to carve steps up the cliff'. I'd previously visualised my progress as a climber in mountainous territory ... and me still in the NT carpark, lacing up my boots. 'Carving out steps' captures the exhaustion, attention to detail and inability to see the submit....but, as my sensei says, it's fortunate that we enjoy boredom and pain. Anyway, so that's how it feels trying to reach the first dan (let alone move on from there) - when I will be, I hope, ready to start learning karate! *bow*

Oxidisation with eggs

My skin is sensitive so I don't fancy using something from a bottle which requires me to wear gloves. Also, I haven't had eggs for a while. So, I hard boiled three big ones, left one in a well-sealed plastic container with some bits and bobs and sat down to enjoy the other two. Eggs taste good.

Hypothosis: Certain base metals, when sealed in a container with a cooked (large and free-range) egg, will oxidise and change appearance.

Method: On my first trial I left some silver-plated beads, some 'silver-plated' charms and some ready-hammered copper pieces which just looked too eager in their raw, shiny state.

Results: After about one hour the exposed surface of dimple beads was green/grey, and the copper had patches of dark brown. No change to the charms. After about one afternoon the copper was blackened fairly consistently over surface, the dimple beads still looked alarming and there was no change to the charms.

Conclusion: The charms were silvertone, and not silver-plated. Bad show. The copper did very well, but my method when trying to oxidise silver-plate needed refining.

As you can see, the copper has a little more about it - this pic was taken after brushing and polishing some of the 'eggsidisation' off.

Note: the next day I tried brass. After about 2 hours it had darkened nicely.

Having enjoyed my two eggs during the previous day's experiment I decided to boil an extra three - THREE - for myself to eat. Result: I no longer like the idea of eating eggs.