Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Silent nights, busy days

I cannot believe that it is already Christmas Eve! I have been a bit quiet, but for a reason ...

We opened a shop!

I cannot believe it, I still have to pinch myself every now and then, but yea. A real brick and mortar shop. Let me give you a bit of back ground ...

A couple of weeks ago (roughly 5 or 6!) we were invited to a house party. At the party the host mentioned to me that he had a shop available in his business property, and would I be interested to have my own shop from which I could work, etc.? Truthfully, I pushed all thoughts about it into some nondescript file in my brain, as I thought the whole idea just not plausible. I mean - we are in the midst of a world wide economic recession, job losses everywhere, and people are down-sizing and no impulse spending is happening.

About a week later I got a phone call. "Please look at the shop. I get lots of phone calls daily about the shop, but I want you to have it." I cave in and drove to the city centre. Long Street is one of the busiest streets in our city. Bars, restaurants, backpackers and shops. Lots and lots of them in the aptly named street. On my way back to my studio I phoned a friend. Can I come and chat to her about an opportunity? I convinced her 50%. Promised to take her the next day to the shop so we could have a look-see. Am I mad, or is it a viable concept?

My concept: A shop that sells an eclectic mix of art and craft. Stuff not found elsewhere in the city. Stuff that we like.

But the place looked like a dump. Vertical potholes scattered the walls, stencilled graffiti littered everywhere, the roof a mix of dark blue with white streaks. The floor is covered with a hideous red and yellow patterned plastic.

After a few discussions with the landlord, we decided to renovate the shop ourselves. A 3rd partner joined the venture, and we set about the great clean-up. A handy-man painted the ceiling and repaired and painted the high walls for us, while us girls tackled the lower areas. 7 days later, too many pots of paint and a huge bag of filler we could finally remove the plastic that covered the terracotta tiled floor. I sighed in tiredness. More cleaning and scrubbing awaited us. While we renovated the shop, we slowly started to move furniture into it. The back of the shop would be my studio. Shelves and display units were painted a uniform white and everyone brought what he had from home. Finally we were able to install some lights, and suddenly we were ready to unpack our stock - a Hodge podge of art and craft work.

This is our 3rd week trading and the day before Christmas. With no budget, no loans from banks, Nada, we started slow. There is no money for marketing. We hoped that our location would bring feet into the shop. And it did. The week before we officially opened, frantically unpacking stock we had people begging to see the stuff. And we made sales!

Slowly sales increased every day. 'Window shoppers' came back a day or 2 later to purchase items that they saw, and I am slowly becoming less pessimistic about this folly. We made contact with our fellow shopkeepers in the street. The car guards knows us. The policing service that ensures safety in the street had meetings with us. Suddenly I am a Long Street regular. Even the 'Bergies' (homeless people) that frequent Long Street greets and chats to me as if I am an old timer.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wine, anyone?

With a new and exiting market that starts this Friday, I needed to come up with some new ideas for my beads. A resourceful person made a suggestion, and this is the result:

Ceramic exhibition

This past Sunday (wow, almost a week ago!) the local branch of Ceramics South Africa held their annual exhibition. It was a juried event with only limited works showed. I swollowed my fears, and entered some work. I had hoped to get at least one piece accepted, but to my utmost amazement both entries were accepted!

So Sunday night we attended the opening, and I must admit that I was amazed by the beautiful work that I saw. Our region really have a lot of amazing artists. A small catalogue was available showing one entry of each participant, and I was quite chuffed to see my work in it too!

Friday, October 30, 2009

A busy month

Wow, am I glad that this month is almost over! 3 Exhibitions in one month is a definite no-no. On the 7th an exhibition started at the Art B gallery in Bellville, showcasing 5 jewellers. I was the only one that incorporated glass into my work.

A week later I arrived in Bloemfontein, almost a 1000 km from Cape Town, where I shared exhibition space with a pewter artist at a beautiful house museum. I took my trusty little Hot Head with me, and did live demonstrations to the visitors. I had forgotten how beautiful Bloemfontein was!

And yesterday I entered some teapots for the regional Ceramic SA exhibition. To my relief I was informed today that both pieces were accepted! The exhibition will start on the 15th of November at the Ceramics Museum in Durbanville.

I will try and post some pictures as soon as I can of my entries.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Trade show

Here is some belated images of the trade show where I showcased some of my work. The Cape Craft and Design Institute had hosted it and invited buyers, exporters and interior designers in the city to attend it. We each got a 2 x 1 meter booth, that we had to decorate ourselves. This created a bit of a problem for me, as I wanted to create little islands of interest, vs a table of mixed work. I wanted to showcase each work as an individual focus. But budget restraints had to ensure that I created something long lasting and effective.

I had some bedside tables that I bought from crafters that sell them on the street corners of our cities. These wooden and wicker furniture is made from scrap pieces of wood and it gives unemployed people the opportunity to earn a living working for themselves. By buying it from them, I feel that I contribute to preventing poverty in my country and hopefully help reduce crime at the same time.

After a few measurements, I took the beloveds utility and went shopping for super wood. At a nominal cost, they cut the pieces to size for me, and back home. A neighbor was supposed to help me, but never pitched. So a mad dash of me finishing off last minute work and pots of wood glue, filler and sanding blocks got all finished. I made tiny little floating shelves that were fitted onto a back board. Since these slide onto the wooden blocks that is screwed onto the board, I could remove them for easy storage once the trade show is over. I painted everything white.

Setting up was a breeze. A final touch-up with the paint roller, and I could arrange all my pieces on the stand. A set of spotlight created focus on the individual shelves, highlighting the work. I could store all my bags and what not in the shelves, thus keeping everything nice and tidy.

Yesterday we had a meeting at the CCDI where some prizes were handed over to the exhibitors. There were 5 prizes in total, and to my utmost surprise I took home 2! The exhibitors had to choose the best stand, and my peers awarded me with this prize. I also got a silver (2nd) award for the best stand as chosen by the organisers and visitors.

I was very satisfied with the outcome of the trade show, as I have made some valuable contact with buyers and exporters.

Here is some new work that I delivered to one of the galleries that visited the trade show:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

And the winner is:

Aww, this was so difficult to make a choice as I got to know some of you guys quite well here and on the glass forums. If I could, I would have loved to gift each and every one of you with a candle stick to play with, but alas, it is just not possible :-(

Anyway, to be fair I decided to do a random picking of the winner ...

So, a warm congratulations to Julie Haveland Beer.

I have contacted you already Julie, and will get the parcel out as soon as you have confirmed your address.

Thank your for everyone that took part in this and for visiting my blog!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Gift time!

I am so excited about my candle sticks, and want to share it with you wonderful guys! So, here is the deal:

Comment about the candle stick, what you plan to do with it, what colours your beads will be, what ever. I will keep this open for about 48 hours, and then make my choice of who gets it!
I will publish the winner in a new post, and request the winner to supply me with their postal information. Easy peasy, right?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Helter skelter minds and a full week

These last few weeks have not been easy on me ... I do not want to bore you with the gory details, so let's just stick to me and my tears equaled the amount of rain we had in the same time frame here in the Western Cape, lol.

In between this there was lots of hours spent working as a RN at the various hospitals and clinics, and the new Candle Stick range that I started to play with.

These and some of my other glass and ceramics were submitted to a panel last week for consideration to partake in a Trade Exhibition, hosted by the Cape Craft and Design Institute. Gosh, I really love these people!

On Monday I got the E-mail telling me that my work has been selected for the show. I got word last week through the grapevine that over a 100 crafters applied for it, and they were only choosing 20 for the show. So, the selection was really tough and I know that there is a lot of art and craft happening in our city that is WAY better than me ...

The retail industry, media and other key role players is invited to the 3-day event. All is organised very professionally, with professional set builders that will assist us with the building of our stalls. Furthermore, I am expected to attend a workshop in Displaying and Styling next week with a local design guru, Leonard Shapiro ( Due to other obligations, I have been unable to attend a set of workshops lead by him during the previous weekends, so this is my opportunity to get some of his genius to rub off on me!

The down and out of this trade show is that I have the opportunity to make direct sales, but also have the chance to get orders from retailers! And if my stand is nice enough and sales worth mentioning, I could be lucky enough to win a spot at a huge trade Expo in 2010 in Johannesburg!

But this week is spent studying. It is the second month of our Entrepreneurial Marketing course, and the homework keeps me busy till the wee hours of the morning every day. The focus this week is on business practices and stuff like how to draft a good business plan. Horrible details about invoicing, quotes, pricing of your work got thrown on us today, ugh! Stuff that will give any decent artist nightmares for life!

I still have lots of homework to do tonight, so bye for now!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Candle Power!

In between a kiln that threw a tantrum and numerous ER shifts I have been able to make some beads and assemble them. I have shown some images of the one bead set in a previous post, here is it as I visualised it ...

Then a playful gather of bright coloured disks interspersed with tiny black disks. I made the beads on purpose slightly 'wonky' and added some dots to some of them to give it a bit of variety. My love for form and precision was seriously tested with this set! But I love the playfulness of it, and would assume that it would really look good with a candle lit in it.
Lastly a white set. I used a bit of the lightest grey transparent glass with it to create patterns on the beads. It is interspersed with transparent grey disks, giving it more dimension in the stark white colour range.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bumpy jewels

I have been working way too many hours as a RN these past few weeks, but it was all done for a good reason, ;-)

Luckily I was able to squeeze some torch time in and gave up on a lot of sleep. The problem is that I have just too much ideas racing through my mind coupled with some other day to day issues. But when that torch is lit, a peace overcomes me and I can go into a sort of a hypnosis that is just glass and heat.

These are some images of my 'trance' beads. Please note, these are 'honkers'. I am talking easily 30 mm wide (hole to hole) and more width wise ... But what a ball these were to make! One set was just normal Moretti colours with lenses of the softest hues of corresponding transparent colours, the other set is a mix of silvered glass that was laying around my work table. the lenses on them were a very pale blue transparent. And a close-up of one of the silvered glass beads. I just love the way the dark Ivory went all crazy with little mosaic like patterns.

Enjoy! These are all for a submission next week to be part of an exhibition/sales opportunity, and will be converted into candle sticks ...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Something new

I have been quiet for a while, but believe me, I am busy!

Here is some images of my new design, I hope you like it! This one and it's mate will stay with me. The ceramic base and top part is hand build and a bit on the wonky side. I have since made some mould to be able to replicate the design evenly. I will add different coloured ceramic bits to future candle sticks to compliment the glass beads. I also plan on making them in different heights.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Student life, and travelling by train ...

I started with my year long course, that is focused on the Entrepreneur in the Craft sector, this past week. It's like being back in school with homework and sticking up my hand in class when I want to ask a question ... But at the same time a lot of fun and totally eye opening. We get horrible (LOL) assignments, like having to make contact with NGO's and Government agencies that deals with the craft sector. And all assignment content have to deal with each student's own emerging business. The biggest advantage is that I have to do 'stuff' that I knew for years that I had to do, but always shrunk away from. I mean - it is much more fun to be creative, right? If there were good fairy godmothers out there who could take all that I made and turned it into hard cash, I would not need this course, but of course the fairy godmothers were just stories made up by Hans Christian Anderson ...

So now I have some appointments set up with said Government agencies, got information about a workshop on Exporting products in 2 weeks, and more local selling opportunities.

And I also made contact with the most amazing bunch of people. Fellow students, most in their thirties and older, all trying to make their business as successful as possible in the present economic climate.

To avoid the dreaded rush hour traffic, I have opted to use the train service this week. Monday I could not use the train, as my darling Father came to Cape Town for a visit to his mother and sister, and I offered to collect him at the airport after class. But since Tuesday I was doing the commuting thing by train. Quite fearful of being robbed, thrown off the train by hooligans, and what not, I parked my car in the lot and asked for a ticket. The price was SO good compared to the petrol that my car would have used and the price for a parking spot. Actually it was cheaper to use the train than to park my car in the lot close to the CCDI!

Today some of the other students were also using the train, and since we travelled in the same direction, travel together. The only snag was that they travelled 3rd class. Originally in the bad old days of Apartheid this was the coach used by any person of colour. And us whities never set foot in it. And here is me, virgin train commuter pulled between fear of the unknown and sitting with my new friends. I decided to be brave, and took the 3rd class coach, never mind the fact that my round ticket was 1st class ...

While sitting on the train (it just left the main station) I noticed a woman throwing her empty tin of soda and pie papers on the floor. She saw my expression, and responded that there was no bin on the train. I asked her why she did not keep it till she got of the train and then deposit it in a bin. Before it became ugly my friends interjected and asked her if she threw things around on the ground at home. 'No', she replied. But why here? 'This creates a job for someone ...' was her laconic reply . I got up, and fetched the rolling tin and scrunched up oily paper.

We started to chat, and I told her that I was so proud of my country, how this is an offense and that you could get a fine overseas, and how I see the reaction of foreign tourists when they see such stuff happening. And since the tourist market is a huge segment of my income, I want them happy and in a spending mood. Not disgusted by our poor manners.

Later she moved closer to us, and started asking us questions. I could see that she was intrigued by our little collective of different cultures. Then one of my friends got up and left the train. At the next stop a bunch of young (about 8 - 13 year old) glue sniffing kids entered the train. Sniffing glue out of empty chips packets. And sat next to me. Believe me, I was holding onto my bag as if it was gonna fly away any minute. I moved over to the seat with my friends, and just stared at these sad street kids. Wise beyond their years, high as a kite.

Suddenly some men walked towards the kids and grabbed them, removing the crisp bags filled with glue from their pockets. A scuffle broke out and I was petrified. Most times these kids have weapons on them, even illegal fire arms. At the next stop they broke free and ran off the train. My friend also got off, but he told me to stay put. Told me not to be afraid, there are good people in the couch that will help me if there is a problem. So I sat, chatting to my new friend, the dropper of garbage, till we reached my stop ...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New Artifire articles

Hi all!
I have started to stock up my Artfire shop. Over the next few days I will add more ceramic and Lampwork articles. Please visit it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


This past weekend I attended the Decorex show. What a week it has been! I am still pooped and tired. Sleep is sort of priority number one in my life at the moment.

I did some stand duty, and extended my hours myself, as it is really important to have direct contact with the people. (Even though I hated every moment, lol) Ran out of business cards on the first day, and brought much more the next few days. The response to my work was totally unexpected. I sold some pieces, I got some custom orders and made lots of contacts with both local shop owners and international buyers. What I also found interesting was just the rub-off of creativity from other artists.

I am ready to expand the range and started to play with a new idea yesterday. Unfortunately my regulator packed up yet again - had it for about 6 weeks, and it is making a weird noise. Weird noises is not good if it is attached to an Oxygen tank, I think ... So I am back on the Hot Head for the time being, till I can get the regulator sorted out. I just do not have the energy to travel about 50 km to the supplier, as yet.

Now I need to start adding stuff to my Artfire store. I have also been invited to a wine auction in 2 weeks, where I will be able to show my work off. This is in a very upmarket little town that is on the outskirts of Cape Town.

Time to lit the torch ... Have a good day!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fear for getting it right

These past few weeks was just outright horrible for me. Few hours sleep per day, stressing about the upcoming Expo and that crawling fear for the unknown. 'What if' was on my thoughts the whole time. What if people really hate what I did? What if they like it so much that I have a gazillion orders, and cannot fulfill them? What if they are just bleh about it? Or those, 'I did not even notice it ...' type of reference to my work.

On the one hand I am really glad that I opted out of the dedicated stand on the CCDI's stand. To be standing there listing to others discussing my work would be to painful. I have handed my babies over to a pet shop owner, who is displaying them in the shop window. I have no control over who will buy them, or what will happen to them.

But it is also with a slight sadness that I realise that I have lost the opportunity to interact directly with customers, explaining to them about the hours spent at the torch melting the glass, telling them anecdotes about the glass industry, etc.

Good thing is that I got an order for a set of my cluster rings. Something that I have yet had to develop into a range. So Sunday when I go to do stand duty I will get some bucks ...

I also met John Bauer who did not realise that I was the creator of the bead cups. We had a long discussion about glass, ceramics, and other stuff.

It was good to spend the morning with Ingrid. I would most probably have been to nervous to enter the hall by myself. And she is a talker. She forced me to chat to strangers about my work.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lessons in Drawing

Yesterday I started with a drawing course at the CCDI, and hopefully over the next 11 weeks I will learn a bit about making pictures. The aim of the course is to give crafters the ability to make better drawings of products during the conceptualization stage while developing new stuff. Now, I have not drawn pictures for at least 25 years, and were quite petrified of what my stick sketches would look like ...

Our little group of 12 were sitting around huge tables, excitement and fear hanging cloud like over the room. Wire workers, potters, seamstresses, a nice bunch of variety is represented.

Anyway, here is some photos of my first drawings. Today's lesson was just a general lesson, getting us used to drawing, and focusing our attention on becoming aware of translating a 3D image to a 2D medium. We had to do a blind drawing first. I was not allowed to look at the paper, but rather just on the flower in the vase.

The second exercises was a continuous line drawing. At least we were allowed to look at the page this time, but oh boy was it difficult to keep that pencil glued to the page!

The last one is supposed to be an enlargement. Something that I could not do as a child in art class, and obviously still cannot do today!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

a Loooong weekend

This past weekend was long. Friday and Monday were public holidays in South Africa, but not in the Grieguszies household. Both me and Leo were busy in our studios from about 09 am till 12 pm every day. I used a whole bottle of oxygen during the course of the the last 5 days!!!

Yesterday was the birthday of the Dearly Beloved. And when I arrived home after a day in the city, I rushed to get some foodies ready for our visitors. My hart se punt was impressed with what I achieved ...

Tuesday morning saw me getting up at the crack of dawn to attend a workshop on pricing of products. All I can say was that it was one of the best I have ever attended. Costing of labour, materials, too much to mention. This morning I was ready with measuring tools to calculate my expenses, writing every thing down in my bid to have correct calculations. On some articles I was under pricing myself, others a bit too much ...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

My baby has arrived!

Last week I got my first teapot back from the kiln. As much as I wanted this first baby to be mine and only mine, I had to let her go, all dressed up in red with tiny white flowers. She is now with the rest of her brothers and sisters at the CCDI in their Gift Shop. I will miss her, but have already made some more ...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Almost there ...

I just have to show you what I have been up to today ...

On Sunday I casted my long awaiting teapot. My goodness, how long has it been now? Weeks? Nah, rather months! After lots of quibbles and discussions about the shape that I created on the wheel, Leo capitulated, and casted my teapot. But before he did that, we had to determine whether the size globe that I created was indeed gonna give me 1,2 liters of tea ...

That is another story on it's own. I have a mental block against maths, and luckily Leo had some graphs that could help us calculate the shrinkage and eventual size of he vessel. We were spot on! After a final tweak to the shape by Leo the casting process started. In the meantime I was still perfecting the spout. And the piepie that will house the one end of the beaded handle. Oh, and we nearly forgot about the lid! 11 pieces or plaster later, and I am casting teapot after teapot, carefully wrapping pieces in plastic till I have all the parts of my puzzle together. Then the assembly starts. Wow! Do you know how difficult it is to assemble a teapot?

I insisted on having a pot with a strainer in the spout. So that difficulty became my baby. But then - I always go for the just outside my knowledge stuff. I need to learn while playing, have sleepless nights about the wild horses I choose to ride.
I cannot wait for the beginning of next week when I can assemble the first teapot with my lampworked beads. There is lots and lots of beads laying around in my studio just waiting for the opportunity - but before that happens I will need to learn yet something new ... Later more about that, lol.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Perfect round bead again and again ...

I had posted this tutorial some time last year on Lampwork Etc, and decided that it was time that it was moved to my Blog! This is just a small tutorial how I am able to achieve the same sized round beads again and again ... If you use the standard information to make a round bead, you really need to melt the dinges out of the glass for it to spread on the mandrel enough to make a round bead vs. a doughnut shaped bead. This is where frustration lead me. I normally never use any tools while making a bead, no marver, etc. except for my mashers when I want a round or tube shape.

My tools that I use is just a parallel masher, my trusty surgical scalpel and my torch. AND the bottom part of a brass press!

Step 1:Make a small disk on your mandrel. I normally do about 3 - 4 windings of fairly thin glass.

Step 2:Melt the disk into a small doughnut, allow the glass to melt well onto the mandrel to set a nice footprint.

Step 3:Take your mashers and press lightly, turn the mandrel 180 degrees, and press the same amount, so you end up with a square/rectangular bead. By pressing the same weight, you will spread your glass evenly on the mandrel, to secure an even footprint. Then I normally turn the mandrel about 90 degrees and press again, turn 180 degrees and turn. if the glass is still soft enough, I will continue to press and turn, take the mandrel back into the flame to heat up the gather a bit, and press, turn, press, you get the idea ...

Step 4:Now to make sure that your footprint is wide enough, I place the mandrel over the base plate of a press and measure one of the hollows that I would like my round bead to be. If I need to get the footprint a bit wider, I repeat the press process for a bit, measuring it every now and then. After a few beads, I can eyeball the width quite easily so that I do not really need to measure and press the whole time.

Step 5:Now I need to load more glass onto the footprint bead. Again, rather start with to little, rather than too much glass. (it's much easier to add than remove glass!)

Step 6:Melt it in. You will notice that your footprint is now slightly narrower than it was when you had placed the original footprint down. I loose about 2 mm in width doing this. Eyeball the top and bottom curve of your bead. If it is too narrow, you will have sharp edges on you bead holes. If you have too much of a curve, you will end up with a not round bead, but lovely dimples. I aim to get somewhere between these 2 extremes.

Step 7:Now you have a neat round bead that you will be able to reproduce time and again. Remember that when you add glass for decoration, you might loose your neat roundness, so start with a bit of a not 100% round bead before adding decorations, should you aim for round!

Step 8: Pop bead into the kiln!

Problem solving:Should you have difficulty to obtain neat edges in step 3 and 4, use a sharp knife/blade and cut about 1,5 mm from the edge of the undercut to push the glass to the edge and level to the rest of the footprint. If you do this closer to the edge of the glass footprint, you will end up with an uneven edge again!