Chestnut Centre – Otter, Owl and Widlife Park

Even though I live on the Wirral, I have a lot of friends and family who live in different parts of the country which means that I spend a lot of weekends out of the year taking trips to visit them which keeps me very busy. This last weekend, I took a short trip up the M56 to Manchester to visit my friend from uni, Stu.

Before the weekend we had decided to go and check out the Chestnut Centre in Derbyshire. Set up in 1984 by the Heap family, the Chestnut Centre is a small wildlife park specialising in otters, owls and deer. My mum’s favourite animals are otters so I have spent many an hour staring at these little creatures in zoos over the years; so I was quite excited to see the different species they had at the centre.

Otter at the Chestnut Centre

Eurasian Otter enjoying some lunch

As we drove up the weather wasn’t looking too good at all, you could barely see the hills in the distance because of the heavy clouds but we put our coats and boots on and thought we’d just go with it anyway. Little did we know that by the end of the trail we would be absolutely drenched! Oh well, at least the otters were enjoying the weather!

By the time we arrived, it was nearly feeding time for the animals; perfect timing! We headed down the track from the restaurant/gift shop where we paid our entrance fee (£7.95 which I didn’t think was too bad) and ventured to the first animal on the feeding list, the pine martin. Now, apparently pine martins are very shy and solitary creatures so probably not the best to try and spot at a wildlife park but never mind! When we did spot him, he was actually very cute; he just didn’t want to come and say hello!

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Otter enjoying the wet weather

The next animal to see were thepolecats which look very similar to ferrets. Like the pine martin, they were being fed small chicks which was not pleasant but I guess part of the ‘circle of life’. I tried to get some photos but was struggling with my camera as by this point it was pouring down and all my camera could focus on was the rain!

After the polecats were a number of different otters, the animals I’d been looking forward to most. These included North American river otters, Eurasion otters and giant otters. My favourite had to be one of the asian short clawed otters, Pickwick. He was only a young otter and was very vocal as soon as we all got the enclosure. The keeper told us that his mum had left him and one of the keepers had been looking after him in her kitchen along with her Labrador puppy. As he had been socialised in this way, he wasn’t afraid of people and or to make some noise to tell us he was hungry! He was adorable!

Asian short clawed otter

Pickwick, the Asian short clawed otter

After feeding time, we were getting a bit soggy from all the rain and my hands were freezing despite the thick gloves I had on; so me and Stu skipped the deer feeding and took a walk around the owl enclosures followed by a quick stop to see the Scottish wildcat before heading back for a hot lunch at the restaurant. A hot jacket potato was just the trick to warm me up!

Overall, despite the horrendous rain, Chestnut Centre was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours; I think if the weather was better we probably would have spent longer there but that couldn’t be helped. The scenery around the centre is beautiful, the keepers very knowledgeable and the animals fascinating. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

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Jewellery Tools – Drill Bits

So as I mentioned in my New Year’s post, my brother in law Matt, gave me a gift of a jewellery tool shopping spree for my 30th birthday present. As I started to touch up on my jewellery making skills last year, using YouTube and jewellery books, I realised that you need so many different tools for even the smallest of projects! At the beginning of 2015 I set up my spare bedroom as a jewellery workshop but quickly realised that even after buying soldering equipment to add to my tools from uni; I still didn’t have everything I thought I needed for creating my latest jewellery collection. With my funds from Matt I managed to add to my tool collection with a large doming block set, rawhide hammer, ring clamp and a toggle clamp. Thanks to my uni friend Stu and his birthday present to me, I also added a ring mandrel to my workshop. I did well with all these birthday presents!

One thing I have always been unsure of though when it comes to buying jewellery tools is what type of drill is best to use with precious metals. One of my favourite things to do in jewellery making is piercing work and I love to spend time with my piercing saw at the bench. Before you can start actually sawing you need to drill holes to enable you to insert the saw blade into the metal and cut out your design. The ideal drill to use and something I used at university is a pendant drill; although this is pretty expensive and can be hundreds of pounds to buy which is currently out of my price range! As I was a bit anxious to use a large rotary tool for drilling I was contemplating buying a hand drill however I was unsure that this would have enough power to drill into thick pieces of metal.

 

Swiss Shank Drill Bits

Drill bits for drilling precious metal

As I wasn’t sure what drill type to go for I asked some advice from a fellow jewellery maker who I became friends with on Facebook, Meg Darlington-Myatt. Her jewellery, featured on http://www.megdarlington.co.uk, includes sea glass and ceramics with sterling silver and it is clear she uses a drill for a lot of her work so I knew she would have some good advice! She told me to stick to using a rotary tool, which I have been using for polishing, and to buy some Malliefer Swiss Shank Drill Bits from Cookson Gold at http://www.cooksongold.com. She advised that these have a thicker shank than most drill bits which makes it easier to get them central in the collet of your rotary tool and it also means that they are less likely to snap.

I went ahead and purchased the set from Cookson Gold which features 12 drill bits ranging from 0.5mm up to 1.6mm for a price of £21.59. I thought this seemed steep at the time but after using them I can see that they are high quality bits and well worth the money. They are easy to change in the rotary tool and there is no messing about with getting it central as it is central as soon as it is inserted. I was a bit anxious to get started but once I had drilled my first hole I was at ease as the drill bits are extremely smooth and work through the metal well. Great advice and a great buy!

Creative Inspiration – St David’s Cathedral

A few summers ago, me and my sister joined a couple of our best friends and their extended family on their annual trip to St David’s in Pembrokeshire. Although the weather wasn’t the best we had a great week enjoying the beautiful scenery and lots of fun, family activities as well as some much needed rest from work. Go karting was a highlight of mine even if my little arms were aching for days after!

St Davids Cathedral

St David’s Cathedral

One of the major attractions to see in the small city of St Davids is the 6th century monastery of St David’s Cathedral. Although I’m not a religious person I have always been fascinated by the architecture and Design of churches and cathedrals. They are usually beautiful buildings and often very decorative; providing a lot of creative inspiration. When I’m on holiday, I can often be found taking pictures of doors, tiled floors and windows and this was no different in St Davids. My sister always laughs at me for this as most of my holiday snaps don’t feature any people!

Cathedral Ceiling

St David’s Cathedral Ceiling

In jewellery Design I am always drawn towards large round pendants and the design and decoration in St David’s cathedral ceiling and windows are great inspiration for this type of jewellery. After deciding to make more precious metal jewellery this year, my first collection is going to based on inspiration taken from St Davids and other cathedrals that I have visited recently including Chester and Lincoln Cathedral; both stunning buildings.

Cathedral Window

One of the windows of St David’s Cathedral

My favourite part of these types of building are the stained glass windows. Bright in colour and intricate in Design they are beautiful pieces of art and when the sun is shining through them they can create some amazing patterns and colours on the wall and floors. I personally prefer the more abstract glass designs however the figurative designs can also be interesting if they are telling a story. For my jewellery collection I will be creating a number of pieces that are inspired by windows and will be aiming to create my own intricate pierced designs.

Cathedral Window

St David’s Cathedral Window

Cathedral floor tiles

Gorgeous floor tiles in the cathedral

New Year, New Lalou

30TH

Happy New Year Everyone! It may seem a little late to be sending New Year wishes but better late than never! Hopefully you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year and are ready for what exciting things 2016 may bring.

I had a lovely Christmas this year with the family and as well as having a great Christmas I celebrated the big 3-0! It all seemed a bit scary to start with, at the beginning of the year but as the big birthday drew near I was quite excited to be celebrating another important birthday. I had a brilliant day and felt absolutely spoilt rotten by my friends and family. I got loads of great gifts and spent the evening watching the Bodyguard at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. It was amazing and Alexandra Burke as the Whitney Houston character was fantastic!

My present from my brother in law is a shopping spree for jewellery tools which I am very excited about; I have been researching what I would like for days! This year I have decided to spend a lot more time re-learning jewellery making techniques using precious metals so this is perfect way to help me add to my jewellery tool collection (it seems you can never have enough!) The aim for 2016 is to work on my skills at my jewellery bench and design a full collection of jewellery pieces using precious metal.

It’s been a while since I sat down with a sketch book and designed jewellery on paper rather than creating by experimenting with materials. It will be a nice change to get back to the way I was designing while I was at uni and I am excited about the potential for Lalou Designs in 2016.

Wedding Dress Keepsake Jewellery

For those of you who are married, your wedding day was probably one of the most important days of your life and one of your most treasured memories. A huge part of a wedding, for a bride, is her wedding dress and I am currently carrying out market research into what brides do with their dress after the big day. If you are married or have been married I would really appreciate it if you could fill in my survey which will help me with future jewellery development. Once you have completed the survey, comment with your email and name and I will enter you into a prize draw to win a piece of Lalou Designs jewellery.

Follow this link to fill out the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PFZVNPL

Inspired by Disney

Walt Disney World

Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World

Since as far back as I can remember I have always been a huge Disney fan and at times it seems like I have a slight addiction to Disney; especially Walt Disney World, having visited it 7 times! I was lucky to grow up in the Disney Renaissance period when they were making some of their most successful movies including Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and The Beast and of course, my favourite, The Little Mermaid. Disney were at their creative peak in the 90’s, when I was a child, and I think this is probably why I fell in love with their films, songs and characters and am still influenced by them today.

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse

When I turned 16 and was old enough to get my first Saturday job I remember telling my Mum, ‘I am only going to work if I can work at Disney’ and that’s exactly what I did! I got my first weekend job as a Cast Member in The Disney Store in Cheltenham which unfortunately like so many other stores has now closed. I had some great times working at The Disney Store with some of the best people and I think this added to my love of Disney; even if we did have to listen to the same laser disc of songs on a constant repeat!

Main Street

Dancers in Main Street USA

My favourite place in the world has to be World Disney World in Florida. It may sound silly but as soon as I hit Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom I feel like I am at home. Disney World (and Disneyland Paris) has so many great memories for me from holidays I have spent there with both family and friends and it will always have a special part in my heart. (Grab the sentimental sick bucket now!)

Enchanted Rose Necklace

Beauty and the Beast inspired necklace by Lalou Designs

When creating jewellery I am often inspired by Disney films and characters and I love to make jewellery that has a feel of Disney magic without having the Disney logos and artwork emblazoned on it. I try to create pieces, such as my Enchanted Rose Necklace that can portray the essence of the film/character it is inspired by; in this case Belle from Beauty and the Beast but can equally simply seem like a gorgeous piece of jewellery for those who are not particularly Disney fans.

Princess Key Necklace

Snow White Key Necklace by Lalou Designs

A big trend at the Disney parks is something called ‘DisneyBounding’ where fans dress up as contemporary versions of their favourite characters. This idea was created by fashionista Leslie Kay with her popular tumblr, ‘DisneyBound’ which has mood boards of fashion that can be worn to make you look like your Disney alias. My Disney inspired jewellery is perfect for this idea as it contemporary and just has that hint of Disney magic. My princess key necklaces would look stunning as part of a ‘DisneyBound’ outfit and I am hoping to create more jewellery in the future to fit in with this theme.

Have any of you done any DisneyBounding?

Ariel DisneyBound

Ariel DisneyBound courtesy of http://disneybound.tumblr.com/

Ness Gardens – Artists and Makers Christmas Fair

artists and makers at ness

So I got an email yesterday to tell me that I had been selected to sell my Jewellery at the artists and makers Christmas fair at Ness Gardens. Woo hoo! It’s been a while since I have taken my Jewellery to a fair so I am pretty excited and as it is on the 29th November it should be fairly festive which will get me and the visitors into the Christmas spirit.

Set in the Hulme Conservatory at the visitor centre of Ness Gardens there will be beautiful views of the 64 acre gardens which will be a gorgeous backdrop to the event. It is free admission to the fair itself and Ness Gardens are kindly offering 2 for 1 tickets to the gardens after any purchase from one of the stallholders which is another incentive to buy some goodies for Christmas presents.

Japanese floral jewellery

Floral Textile Jewellery

Many of the Jewellery pieces I will be selling include floral patterns which will fit in nicely with the surroundings of Ness Gardens; something to remind you of your day out at the gardens. I will let you know more details nearer the time of the fair; for now I will get making and organising for the event. Hope to see you there!