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Thursday, 1 December 2022

Handmade Christmas Decorations Containing Pet Fur

This is likely to be my last blog post before Christmas and most likely the last post of 2022, so I thought that I would continue with the Christmas theme. Following on from a recent post I made about my custom-made Christmas snowflake decorations that I recently made, I have been contacted by several people since who have asked me if I could put cremated ashes and/or hair or fur from a loved one or pet within the hanging decorations.

I was contacted by a previous customer Sarah who wanted me to set the fur from her very much missed pet Hugo within a couple of resin snowflake decorations, and these are the decorations I made for her.

The first custom made hanging snowflake decoration that I made for her containing Hugo’s fur containing a small amount of glitter and is personalised with Hugo’s name.

Personalised Christmas decoration containing pet hair
Personalised pet hair Christmas decoration

And the second snowflake decoration I made for her contains the pet fur, glitter dust and a small amount of blue glitter.

Christmas decoration containing pet fur
Christmas decoration containing pet fur

After receiving her snowflake decorations containing Hugo’s fur, this is the lovely message that Sarah sent to me:

“Wow what can I say? Thank you so much for my stunning Xmas decorations! I absolutely love them. They’re beautiful (and I love the pretty packaging too, what a lovely touch.)

I am honestly thrilled with how they’ve turned out, they will be the highlight of my Xmas tree every year from now on. They are truly gorgeous. I’m so grateful to you for the lovely things you’ve created for me with Hugo’s fur, keepsakes that I will treasure forever and look at with great love and affection.

I am sure we will be doing business again soon and wish you all the very, very best.

Sarah”

I was thrilled to hear that my Christmas decorations containing Hugo’s fur will be on display, hanging from her Christmas tree every year.

Take care and I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and New Year.

Mick

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Handmade Christmas Decoration Photography Tips

I blogged recently about some custom-made Christmas decorations that I made and that, at the time it was a great excuse to get more creative with my photography. I initially photographed the resin snowflake decorations against quite a plain background. This really do not do them justice and I wanted something that would make the decorations look more Christmassy and bring the snowflakes to life.

Next, I thought about photographing the snowflakes hanging from a Christmas tree, or even having the tree as a backdrop to the decoration. But laziness got the better of me and the thought of having to get our artificial tree out of the garage and assembling it in October made me look for alternative solutions.

The following are some of the backgrounds that I experimented with in photographing the Christmas decorations. Let me know which is your favourite!

The first photo has the Christmas decoration set against a background of an open fire, giving a warming and certainly Christmassy feel to the photograph.

Handmade Xmas decoration - Photography tips
Handmade Xmas decoration - Photography tips

The second photo has the Christmas decoration set against a more colourful background of multicoloured flames.

Colourful Xmas decoration background
Colourful Xmas decoration background

And lastly the hanging handmade Christmas decoration is set against a closer view of the fireplace, giving the impression of warmth, without it being immediately obvious that it is an open fire.

Artistic photography of Christmas decorations
Artistic photography of Christmas decorations

Can you guess how I created these effects for the photographs? Read on to find out…


How the artistic background to the decoration was created?

OK, I must admit that I did not really photograph the handmade decorations against a real fireplace. Firstly, I searched through YouTube videos on our TV for ‘fireplace’ and I was amazed by the variety of videos, some many hours long, and very relaxing they are too! So, I selected a few and paused the video at a good moment to take the photo.

Then I began to assemble my photography ‘rig’.  I taped a bamboo cane to our clothes horse and hung the Christmas decoration from it in front of the TV. 

Setup used to photograph the handmade decorations
Setup used to photograph the handmade decorations

I attached my camera to a tripod in front of the hanging decoration and took the pictures. Cool tip eh! Thanks to YouTube, a clothes horse, bamboo cane and a good dose of imagination I think I have created to interesting and Christmassy backgrounds to the photographs.

Mick

Friday, 14 October 2022

Custom Made and Personalised Christmas Snowflake Decorations

I realise it is only October but after what we have all been through the last couple of years, I wanted to get into the Christmas spirit early this year! It has been great fun making these resin hanging Christmas snowflake decorations over the last couple of weeks. Making these decorations has also given me an opportunity to be more creative with my photography! These snowflake hanging decorations that can either be hung from a tree or as a standalone decoration. They can be coloured with any colour, glitter added, personalised with names, and can also include personal items such as a loved one’s ashes or lock of hair.

The first custom made snowflake Christmas decoration I made was this clear snowflake containing iridescent glitter and glitter dust, it really sparkles nicely when it catches the light.

Custom Personalised Christmas Snowflake Decoration
Custom Christmas Snowflake Decoration

The second hanging Christmas decoration is the same as the one above, but this example is further personalised with a name floating inside the snowflake.

Personalised Christmas Snowflake Decoration
Personalised Christmas Snowflake Decoration

The third custom hanging decoration is again a clear resin snowflake. This snowflake has a different shape to the previous examples and contains these gorgeous polymer clay snowflake sprinkles in tones of blue and white. Again, I have added a sprinkle of glitter dust to the resin to provide that sparkle.

Memorial Christmas Decoration with Ashes
Memorial Christmas Decoration with Ashes

I can personalise these hanging Christmas snowflake decorations to any requirement, including the use of any combination of colours and glitter, personalised with names/year etc. Like my keepsake jewellery, I can even incorporate a loved one’s ashes or lock of hair into the Christmas decorations, providing a lovely way of having a loved one with you at Christmas time.

As well as having fun making these resin Christmas decorations I have also been experimenting with my photography. It really did not do the decorations justice having them photographed against a plain background and I hope you like the effect that I achieved. Can you guess how I did this?

Mick

Friday, 23 September 2022

Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Coin Paperweight

I was working on this paperweight containing a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee coin when we heard the awful news of the passing of our Queen. It was extremely poignant to continue working on the paperweight over the last couple of weeks, and I finally managed to finish making the paperweight a couple of days before the Queen's funeral.

I was contacted a few weeks ago by a gentleman who wanted me to encase a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee £5 coin inside a resin paperweight, and further personalised with a message. This would then be given to the gentlemen's work colleague as a surprise gift. I purchased the commemorative Platinum Jubilee £5 coin from The Royal Mint and encased it within a resin dome shaped paperweight. I set the side of the coin displaying Her Majesty the Queen on horseback facing upwards within the paperweight and added silver lettering for a message around the circumference; here is the finished paperweight.

Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Coin Paperweight
Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Coin Paperweight

One of my earliest memories I have of the Queen was receiving a Silver Jubilee crown coin when I was at Battling Brook primary school, Hinckley in 1977. I am not sure if this was a nationwide thing, but I remember that the commemorative coins were given to every child at the school by the Battling Brook primary school parents/teachers association. I still have the commemorative crown coin today (pictured below), note that the date on the attached note is 28th May 1977. Now this was not the day when the nation celebrated the silver Jubilee (I think that was on 7th June 1977). Saturday 28th May 1977 is a week or so earlier, which perhaps coincided with the Battling Brook School Spring/Summer fete at the time, and the coins were given to the school children at the fete?

Silver Jubilee coin from Battling Brook School
Silver Jubilee coin from Battling Brook School

Many thanks for reading about my memories and I would love to hear about your earliest memories of Queen Elizabeth II.

Mick

Friday, 12 August 2022

Preserving artificial fabric flowers within paperweights

I was contacted recently by a lady who wanted me to preserve flowers that were displayed at her sister’s funeral within paperweights. Sadly, she was unable to dry the flowers in time, but then decided as an alternative that she would prefer artificial fabric / silk flowers to be preserved within the paperweights. The paperweights containing the flowers would then be given to her family members and would then be a lovely reminder of the flowers used at her sister’s funeral.

She sent me a large bouquet of both Carnation and Freesia flowers and asked me to produce four paperweights containing a mixture of the fabric flowers. Unfortunately, the Carnation flowers were far too big for the paperweights, so I had to disassemble the flowers and create miniature versions of the Carnations from some of the smaller petals. I think they looked lovely and were a better size when placed adjacent to the Freesia flowers.

Fabric Carnation and Freesia flower bouquet
Fabric Carnation and Freesia flower bouquet

I cast the fabric Carnation and Freesia flowers into a domed shaped resin paperweight and the results were stunning. The resin really does enhance the colour of the flowers and the silk flowers also look less 'artificial' once viewed inside the paperweight.

Paperweight containing fabric / silk flowers
Fabric flowers preserved in a paperweight

Gill received her paperweights and sent me the following message: "Paper weights all arrived safely, beautifully packaged! Thank you. I love them! I 'm sure my niece's will be pleased with them as reminder of flowers at their Mums funeral. Thank you for the leaflet, a lovely selection of ideas. Many thanks for all your help".

I am so glad that I was able to help Gill and her family by preserving the silk flowers into remembrance paperweights that they can cherish forever.

Mick

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Football ground turf paperweight

Two and a half years ago I made a paperweight containing a piece of turf from Hampden Park. The small piece of turf was gathered by a Hibernian FC fan, following their momentous Scottish Cup win. You can read about the paperweight that I made for him to preserve the piece of turf here: paperweight containing turf

Recently, I was contacted by a fan of Tonbridge Angels FC who play at Longmead Stadium in Tonbridge, Kent. He stated that Tonbridge Angels FC is installing an artificial pitch over the summer to replace the turf pitch that they have used since the early 1980s. The club invited their fans at the end of their last home match to take sections of the pitch as souvenirs to remember the good times of the club playing on the pitch, which had included several promotions and reaching the First-Round proper of the FA Cup in 2020-21 for the first time in many, many decades! 

The Angels fan was able to obtain a small section of the pitch and was looking at how best to preserve it. He had planted a larger section of the turf within his garden, however, was also considering preserving a small piece of turf within a paperweight or something similar.

Knowing how well the turf is preserved within a resin paperweight, I offered to help. The Angels fan sent me a couple of small pieces of the Longmead Stadium turf to be preserved within two paperweights. The following photo is an initial design for the paperweights. The piece of turf would be set within the centre of a square resin paperweight with text 'Tonbridge Angels FC' and 'Tonbridge Angels FC', printed in the Tonbridge Angels FC blue colour above and below the piece of turf.

Longmead Stadium Turf Paperweight Design
Longmead Stadium Turf Paperweight Design

And here is one of the finished paperweights containing the piece of turf from the club. One benefit of having a square resin paperweight is that it can either be displayed on its flat base or upright.

Football Ground Turf Paperweight
Football Ground Turf Paperweight

With more and more football clubs installing artificial pitches at their grounds, it is really good to see that some of these clubs are offering their fans pieces of turf in this way. After all, there is so much history and memories that have taken place on these pitches. I feel honoured to be able to preserve these memories for the fans.

Many thanks for reading about how I preserved a piece of the Longmead Stadium turf within a resin paperweight.

Mick

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Converting our shed into a bar

Well, it is more of a summerhouse than a shed, but we affectionately call it the ‘shed’ (so not to sound too posh). We purchased this summerhouse during Spring 2016, and I began work to convert it into a family bar over the summer months.

Construction of our home-made bar

The basic structure for the bar was to install a length of shelving around two internal sides of the summerhouse with a central island that drinks could be served from.

Summerhouse to bar conversion
Summerhouse to bar conversion

So off I went to B&Q and purchased shelving, and various pieces of wood for the central island/bar. The shelving was quite straight forward to install. The vertical support struts to the Summerhouse making convenient locations to attach the shelf supports. The following picture is taken internally to show how the shelving was attached.

Bar conversion - internal structure
Bar conversion - internal structure

The central island was achieved by firstly constructing a wooden frame which was clad with pine cladding. I extended the above shelving to form the bar surface and additionally to form an overhead beam. I also included a pine turned newel post to complete the look of the bar area, as well as providing some support. All very straightforward to make, and it took me a couple of weeks off and on to convert the summerhouse into a working bar.

Decorating the home-made bar

Now the fun stuff starts, decorating the bar! Firstly, for the optics, I purchased a wall mounted spirit drinks dispenser from Amazon and a lovely bar mirror, advertising my favourite tipple, Newcastle Brown Ale. I also sourced bar drip towels, bar mats and a Carling ice bucket amongst other things.

Home-made bar - decorations
Home-made bar - decorations

My greatest expense by far was an Angram beer pump, complete with beer tap and engine that I purchased directly from the manufacturers.

Home-made bar - Angram beer pump
Home-made bar - Angram beer pump

I asked a fellow crafter to make me a bar-sign to hang on the outside of the bar, and he did a fantastic job! The sign read 'The Cluley Tavern Est 2016'.

'The Cluley Tavern' home bar sign
'The Cluley Tavern' home bar sign

Connecting a bag of Ale to the pump

I managed to get some real ale from my local micro-brewery 'The Elliswood Brewery', and the Ale was supplied to me as a bag in a box, with the Ale was aptly named 'Just One More'!

Elliswood Brewery Real Ale
Elliswood Brewery Real Ale

I removed the bag of Ale from its box and placed it within a cool box, drilled a hole into the cool box lid and fed the hose from the beer pump to the bag of ale.

Real Ale bag connected to beer pump
Real Ale bag connected to beer pump

Several ice packs were placed around the bag of Ale, and I even included a simple temperature monitor so that I could ensure the temperature of the Ale remained suitable. 

The grand opening of our garden bar

I arranged July 10th to be the Grand opening of our bar and invited close family to attend. My Mum and Dad were asked to perform the task of cutting of the ribbon, I even tied balloons to the corners of the shed, I mean bar!

The garden bar grand opening
The garden bar grand opening

Everyone had an enjoyable time, and it really did feel like a real bar inside the shed, and I had fun pulling pints!

Home-made bar - me pulling pints
Home-made bar - me pulling pints

Many thanks for reading about our home-made family bar and if you want any information about how I made the bar, please ask in the comments below.

Mick