A Hen Party Beside the Seaside

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Back in January, I was honoured and terrified in equal measures to be asked to organise my friend’s hen party in Brighton.  Brighton is fast becoming the capital city of hen parties and I was slightly dreading becoming one of the groups  that I have spent several soggy Saturdays in Little Beach Boutique slightly smirking at- groups walking past in the rain with banners, inflatable penises and learner plates flapping around in the Brighton Breeze.

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I was spoiled for choice over what to plan for Kim – I could have taken my pick of the numerous burlesque lessons, ‘Beyonce’ boot camps, buff butlers and craft mornings to choose from – and that’s not to the exclusion of the kayaking that floated through my mind, or a morning learning to wind-surf in Hove lagoon.

But, mindfully aware of people’s budgets, and under a strict brief of no strippers or dance lessons, much to my relief, I decided to make the most of what we have to offer in our amazing city and show off what I love about this place.

So, we hired a house in the gorgeous Clifton Hill area, with plenty of space for a party on Friday night and views of the sea as soon as we walked outside.  We made cocktails, played games, danced and gossiped for the first night, then made our way to Hove the next day for a morning of pampering at Real Beauty with Allie – a new salon on First Avenue.
Allie was amazing –  we all had fabulous massages and some had their nails done- perfect for the ‘morning after’ and, as the weather let us down, we had our intended picnic of coffee and pastries in the relaxing surrounds of her salon instead.  We had a gorgeous lunch in the Bandstand Cafe – really good value and tasty snacks in what is, to me, the most beautiful building in Brighton.

Obviously we had a bracing walk on the beach  – no hen party would be complete without being ill-equipped and under-dressed for the weather – despite it being May Bank Holiday.

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We had drinks, told stories about Kim and wrote ‘wishes and words of wisdom’ in a a jar of pebbles from the beach before going to her favourite restaurant in Brighton – Oki-Nami. She loves Japanese food and it didn’t disappoint; as always, it was so friendly – and delicious.  They’ve got a contained conservatory area there which was perfect for a big group like our’s.

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And the master stroke for the evening was taking a gamble of one of Brighton’s newest clubs – The Funfair Club,  decked out in all that is nostalgic, eccentric and fabulous about Brighton.  We were able to book a booth for free entry before we arrived and had the mirrored room – a perfect size for our group to spread out and relax in, but near enough to the dance floor so we could make the most of the music, which, I might add, was a triumph!  A mixture of anything from Amy Winehouse to the Strokes, from Whitney Houston to Pulp,  I think it’s a testament to how much a danced, laughed and sang along that I have lost my voice for the last few days!

On Sunday, we had our day on the beach, as the sun came out and so did the rest of Brighton.  It was the first weekend of the Brighton Festival, and festival fever was in full force, with the seafront bursting with people eating, drinking, dancing and sunbathing.  Brighton at it’s best!

Of course, I should have known better, as while the others went home, I decided to go to the Mesmerist for some live music and dancing…no Brighton weekend would be complete without it!

As a lover of craft – the hen party wouldn’t have been complete without a few personal touches, so here are a few ideas…

  • Personalised Tea-light holders; stamped with the names of all the hens – something for everybody to take home. You could do this for photo frames or keyrings as well.

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  • A jar of pebbles of ‘Wisdom and Wishes’ for their life together, labelled with the initials of the couple – a perfect Brighton keepsake – people loved writing down their pearls of wisdom on these!

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  • I also bought a Polaroid camera – there are no re-takes with one of these! And a memory book so that we could stick them in and make an instant keepsake for Kim, with personal messages from each hen written underneath.

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  • Personalised Party Bags for each hen as they arrived, complete with pick and mix and a hen-do survival kit!

And of course-the groom’s head on a stick…why should he miss out?…

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Treatments: Real Beauty with Allie – www.facebook.com/Realbeautywithallie
Restaurant: www.okinami.com
Dancing: www.funfairclub.com
Gifts:  www.littlebeachboutique.com

Blogging from her gift shop, Little Beach Boutique, Suzanne writes about art, craft and making glass, running a small business and living by the sea.

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Making images in glass using silkscreens – a little tutorial

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I’ve been asked by lots of visitors to Little Beach Boutique how I make the glass silk screen coasters that have been new to the shop this year, so I thought I would show you here, with the aid of a few photos, which I hope will help.

Using silk-screens is a great way to add a personal touch to your fused glass – you can create a silk-screens from your own drawings and have a completely unique range.  All you need is a bit of inspiration – and living by the sea gives me plenty of that.

So, for my recent range of Brighton-inspired coasters, I have made silk-screens from my favourite landmarks, first taking images of Brighton Pier, the Royal Pavilion and the West Pier and drawing them onto acetate paper.

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I bought some blank silk screens from a local supplier which I found online. To transfer the image onto the stretched silk, you need a dark-room to expose them, which, like most people, I don’t have.  So, my hand-drawn images were sent with the screens to a local screen-printing workshop who do it for between £12-14.  Much cheaper than building a dark room.

After a few days I had my silk-screens with the images that can be used again and again…

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Ready for printing,  the next step is to choose and cut the piece of glass you require, depending on what you are making, and lay it under the screen.  I usually choose 2mm enamel glass for the base.

TOP TIP – smooth down the edges and corners of each piece of glass or it will slice the silk immediately!  I have bought a grinder for this purpose – they are frequently used by stained-glass artists and can be bought via a stained-glass supplier online.  It was a bit of an outgoing to start with (£80-£100) but definitely worth it, as it saved me the pain of destroying my silk-screens every time I went near them!

So – mix the enamel powder of your choice with an oil-based medium.  It needs to be a treacle-consistency.  Spoon it over the top of your image, before pressing over the full image with a ‘squeegy’, which is tool not dissimilar to what you use for wall-papering.  This squeezes the enamel through the holes in the screen and transfers the image onto the glass below.

Repeat this process 2-3 times to ensure an even coverage, like this …

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Make sure the whole of your image has been evenly transferred with enamel, lift the screen carefully…

Et voila!

…A piece of glass with Brighton Pier on it…

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Let the enamel dry before dusting with a layer of fine crystal clear glass powder and cover with a layer of clear sheet glass.  The layer of powder prevents bubbles from surfacing, which can happen frequently when fusing two pieces of glass. I have chosen to use a 2mm piece of ‘driftwood grey’ enamel glass under a 3mm piece of clear base tekta glass.

I fire my coasters to 773*C – that seems like enough for a lovely smooth edge and soft corners, while maintaining the shape.

Open the kiln, take them out and fire up the kettle as you now have some fabulous coasters!

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So, your shopping list:

2mm opalescent glass

3mm tekta base glass

Fine Crystal Clear powder

Enamel

Oil Based mixing medium

A squeegy

A silk-screen

and some of your favourite images…

I hope this has been helpful.  You can find the whole range of glass coasters and dishes here http://littlebeachboutique.com/collections/handmade-glass

Do contact me if you would like to know more, at littlebeachboutique@googlemail.com

Enjoy!

 Suzanne x

Blogging from her gift shop, Little Beach Boutique, Suzanne writes about art, craft and making glass, running a small business and living by the sea.

Ten Lessons Learned from Self-Employment

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It’s a year ago today that I left my relatively 9-5 job to become self-employed.  As a public sector worker, I had been under a seemingly infinite redundancy notice and I decided to take the plunge into the world of self-employment.
The word ‘plunge’ seems about apt for what felt like a massive launch out of my comfort zone. For the first two months, when I said ‘self-employed’, I would use my index-fingers to illustrate apostrophes, as, perhaps, what I had really intended to convey was that I saw myself as ‘un-employed’.

My ‘self-employment’ involved making making kiln-formed glass which I would sell in my shop on the beach – Little Beach Boutique. So, this meant making a living from my own creativity and learning to run a business in the meantime.  But for the first month or so, it did nothing but rain and I would make endless pieces of glass which filled a shop that nobody came into.  I would open up when everyone else around me knew better, just to feel like I had gone ‘to work’, and any sense of inspiration or motivation, or opportunities to learn how to run a business seemed to be rapidly waning.

I hadn’t realised until April 2012 that self-employment was a very different kind of ‘work’ to any that I had known. Nobody was checking what time I rolled in, whether I took an extended lunch or accounting for what I had achieved during the day.  But instead of feeling total relief and possibility at being self-determining, I found myself with endless unfilled, unstructured hours ahead of me and it was my ‘job’ to fill them with something meaningful that would eventually generate an income. I felt totally rudderless.

Suddenly, it was me that I was responsible to, and I turned out to be a pretty harsh boss. Most days I felt like I had achieved nothing, and ideas, incentive and money all started to dry up.

It seemed I had no idea how isolating self-employment could be. I needed someone to bounce ideas off or to be able to fish for a subtle ego stroke when I felt self-critical.

So most days I would fluctuate between panic and despair at having left a fairly well-paid, albeit unpredictable, job in a profession that gave me structure, identity – and, above all, a team of people around me, to go into one that depended on self-motivation and creativity when I seemed to be losing both.

And all during a double-dip recession which meant that:

a- I couldn’t have picked a harder time to make a living from craft & retail

b – it would be hard to get back into work even if I had wanted to!

But something changed a couple of months in.  I got into a routine of sorts and started to let go of the self-doubt. Things did improve, people came into the shop – and bought glass – and I found some momentum, learned when to let go and adapted to having a working life that wasn’t built around the same structure as before.  I started to accept that self-employment is also unpredictable – some days would be really, really good, and some would be bad.

I can see that those days of what felt like wading through a fog of listlessness and uncertainty whilst trying to establish a new routine and come up with ideas were part of a process that I just needed to adapt to. The one variable that seemed to effect the business the most – the weather – was something that was totally out of my control and I surrendered to it.   I realised that being my own-worst critic wasn’t going to win me any awards and things started to shift.

So, I thought I’d write down a few lessons that I have learnt to anybody who might find/have found themselves in a similar situation – basically shrouded in self-doubt at having made the same decision!

 1 – Stay positive about what you do, even if others aren’t.  Especially if others aren’t.

2 – Find a peer group so you’re not alone.  There are so many forums and networking opportunities out there for people who work on their own, in any profession.
3 – Take the bad with the good.  One bad day doesn’t have to generate a bad week.
4 – Be a fair boss to yourself – imagine how you would talk to an employee and question whether you would treat them in the same way that you can talk to yourself.
5 –  Turn off the ten o’clock news. We are in the midst of a long and relentless recession and doesn’t the press love to focus on it? But the circumstances can generate new opportunities for people to do things their way, and in many ways, the time has never been better to start again.
6 – Walk away temporarily.  Don’t keep at something if it isn’t working.  Take a break, do something else, find a distraction then come back to it.
7 – Absorb yourself in what you love.  If your hobby has become your income – remember not to lose the joy it used to give you – look for new ways of finding it – or a new hobby!
8 – Talk. Don’t be a martyr to your own cause.  Mostly, people want you to do well, so don’t be proud and put on a brave face.  It’s amazing the ideas people can come up with when you start  to talk.
9 – Accept yourself and your way of working.  The same routine every day doesn’t suit everyone.  Some days might be really productive, but if you devour a whole box-set and a pack of macaroons in an afternoon, perhaps that is just part of your (ok, my) ‘process’!
10 – As mum would say, everything is a ‘learning curve’ and self-employment has been my steepest one yet.  But the challenge also has massive rewards and a sense of achievement can be found in many places – even if that is just ‘sticking it out’ a while longer!

Things can just take their time.
This little necklace I made pretty much summed it up…

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I’d love to hear your thoughts if you want to add to this list.  Bye for now!

Blogging from her gift shop, Little Beach Boutique, Suzanne writes about art, craft and making glass, running a small business and living by the sea.

Warm felt slippers for cold winter feet

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In 2009 I visited Nepal for the first time. I had decided to take a few months to travel and volunteer, and instantly fell in love with the place – it became home for a while, and I have gone back every year since.

During one of my visits, I met Ramji, a local business man, who makes felt slippers from his home workshop in the Kathmandu Valley.  I was just about to open Little Beach Boutique and thought the slippers he made were the cutest thing I had ever seen and would be a perfect addition to the shop.  Each pair is made with natural wool, made by hand from start to finish and dried naturally in the sun.

I soon put in an order for some slippers – sheep, tigers and mice, and on recent visits, we have been coming up with ideas together.  In January, I returned to go trekking, and we came up with some new designs – donkeys, cows, dogs and cats.

They took a while to arrive this time, as it has been a long, cold winter in Nepal and there haven’t been many warm sunny days.  But last friday, after going home from the shop early, feeling frozen by our relentless winter, they had arrived – so I put on a pair instantly! Happy feet…

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So now I don’t really mind if the cold continues for a while, as I have these to choose from…
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Blogging from her gift shop, Little Beach Boutique, Suzanne writes about art, craft and making glass, running a small business and living by the sea.

Making Waves with Glass

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I’ve always loved making things.  When I was younger, my best friend and I used to get the train to Brighton to scour flea markets for discarded necklaces and solitary earrings that we could break up and re-form, and scan each tiny wooden tray in the bead shop on Sydney Street with a basket to fill with charms, wires and findings.  We’d sell our eclectic creations to the people on our road and give the money we made to various good causes.  I’ve still got the letters from local charities thanking us for the ‘generous’ sums of up to about £7.00 which raised on their behalf!

I first tried my hand at fusing glass a few years ago after doing a weekend workshop at the Open Studios on Brighton Beach.  After renting a studio space for a few months, I bought myself a kiln and turned my spare room into a space in which I could tinker to my heart’s content.  I’d put different items in the kiln to see what happened.  I’m certainly no scientist, but I can appreciate whatever alchemy occurs when the lid is closed and the heat is turned up. When glass melts and re-forms, something entirely new happens.  Colours transform and merge, shapes soften and bubbles appear, rusty coppers turn a sheer blue.

Quite naturally, the glass I started making seemed to be a reflection of my surroundings -frothy blue waves, though, in reality they are often a lot more grey in Brighton!

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The piece above is made with two sheets of 3 mm Clear Base , 2mm Bullseye Turquoise Glass, White Opal Stringers, White Opalescent Medium Frit, Copper Leaf and Bicarbonate of Soda.

Lay 2-3 sheets of copper foil onto a sheet of clear base glass, overlapping if you want darker blue in some places.  Scatter small amounts of bicarbonate of soda on to the foil -use no more than a couple of pen-tip sizes in any one place, or the bubble could burst!  Lay the second piece of clear glass on top,  making sure the edges meet.

Cut waves & arcs into Turquoise Glass and lay on top on the clear glass in your chosen arrangement.  Then scatter generously with Frit and Stringers.  Fire to a maximum of 780*C.  Bullseye have a great firing schedule on their website http://www.bullseyeglass.com.

Enjoy!

Blogging from her gift shop, Little Beach Boutique, Suzanne writes about art, craft and making glass, running a small business and living by the sea.

First Post from Little Beach Boutique

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I thought it was a good time to start a blog today. Spring is in the air and crisp sun shines on Brighton Beach. The first school groups of the year are pacing the pebbles with ice cream, teasing the seagulls with their discarded cones and packed sandwiches and are daring each other to dip a toe in the sea. The carousel has just been reassembled after a winter of attentive maintenance. It always signifies the start of summer and it always seems to rain when they do it.

I’m sitting in my shop in the Artist’s Quarter on Brighton Beach. It’s a former fisherman’s arch that I opened as a shop with my friend Alice nearly two years ago. I am a crafter- a glass maker mainly. It happened quite accidentally. For years I worked as a support worker for women fleeing domestic violence and abuse. Glass was a lovely distraction and suddenly it seemed an option to turn my hand to it full time.

So for nearly a year now, I have been self-employed as a shop-keeper and glass maker. I had my doubts at first about the sanity of the decision to walk away from a reliable income to pursue a career based on a hobby, almost totally reliant one the the most unpredictable of forces – the weather – to bring footfall, during a period of seemingly endless economic gloom. But a year later I am sitting here looking out from my shop onto the beach on this spring day thinking it was exactly the right thing to do.

The shop is called Little Beach Boutique. I’ll be writing all about it in this blog, alongside all the things I love about living in Brighton and being by the sea.

View our gorgeous range of products and buy online at our website

www.littlebeachboutique.com