Friday, 30 January 2015

photography at Bristol Folk House {Pt 3}

Shutter speed was the name of the game this morning, and our first stop was at the fountain on College Green - a perfect test subject.  Using shutter priority (S on my camera) it was a matter of juggling a fast enough shutter speed to 'freeze' the water with getting enough light into the camera to get the picture.  I struggled to get the focus right - to get enough light into the camera I had to switch to manual mode (where you set the shutter speed and aperture), and I got muddled and thought I had to use manual focus too, which I didn't.   Blame the brain cloud.  Anyway, while the top two pictures have droplets of water in sharp focus towards the back of the shot, the bottom two were focused at the front of the image but not as sharp.  Ah well.

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This was back in shutter priority mode, using a slow shutter speed to catch the motion of the water.  I had the opposite issue with light this time - because the shutter was open for a longer period there was to much light getting in,  leaving me with white out images - as you can see on the bottom left! 

Again, switching to full manual mode gave me the control I needed to keep the aperture small enough not to white out the whole image (small size aperture = big number f stop - I used f11.  This is also why the background is in focus).  I like the top right picture - the lines created as the water moved look like fireworks. 

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Thursday, 29 January 2015

SLD and sleep

A difficult night last night - poor Smiler was up three times.  He managed the day in school today but I'm expecting him to be exhausted by the time he gets home.

Sleeping problems are common in children with severe learning disabilities (SLD), and Smiler has certainly had his fair share.  When he was little he often had seizures at night, so got very little good quality rest.  He would wake often, and couldn't understand why we were less than thrilled to be summoned to his bed every couple of hours during the night.  We found a way through that, and each sleep crisis that followed, but this time around I don't really know where to start. 

Smiler is thirteen now, and he wakes screaming in the night - sometimes thrashing around, his skin damp with sweat; sometimes still, as though frozen in place, eyes closed.  Because of how distressed he gets, we've been wondering if he's having nightmares, or maybe just remembering some of his more difficult days.  If you talk to him in the morning he doesn't seem to remember having been awake, which makes it kinda tricky to try and explain dreams to him! 

With Smiler's understanding on par with a two year old, where do you even begin?  Maybe he thinks they're real - maybe he thinks some days he can fly, and can't work out why he can't do it all the time.  And wonders why we don't mention it.  

So, fingers crossed that he sleeps better tonight (and then I get to as well!), and this passes soon.  All we can offer in the meantime is a calm voice in the darkness and a gentle touch.

Any thoughts, ideas?  Has your child been through this too?

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

a project in progress :: framed glass pendants 3

This is a perfect opportunity to show why it is so important to play around and experiment before you use your fancy glass - because sometimes what you learn from a test run is that you're doing it all wrong...

Squares and rectangles

There were two sides to this experimental fusing: first, what size do I need to cut the glass to to get cabs which fit in the frames; and second, does it make any difference if the base was coloured and the cap clear, or vice versa.  I have brilliantly found the size not to cut the glass to - that is, the size I thought would work.  All the cabs were too big to fit in the frames, by at least a couple of millimetres.  The other observation I made is that in a full fuse the corners pull in, so end up softly curved.   Looks lovely, but this will leave a gap in the frame at each corner, which I don't like.  I think this will probably mean that I will opt not to fuse individual squares or rectangles, and instead cut them from a larger piece and fire polish.

The cab that I didn't take the corners off of for comparison for the oval frame actually fits perfectly (width wise) into the rectangle frames, but if I put it in you can see the mismatch on the corners.  This does mean I know that if I were to fuse an individual cab for these 25mm wide rectangles I would need to use 22mm wide lay-ups.

In regards to whether it makes a difference which way around the coloured layer and clear layer are, I think the coloured base with clear cap gives a more even finish,  as the other way around left the corners a little pale - particularly visible on the green cabs - the bottom row had the clear on the base.

Next:  experiment with cutting the large pieces to size - see a completely different approach below.

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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

stars of glass

These wire wrapped fused glass stars have been hugely popular in my Folksy shop - they're really lovely to hang in a window as the light shines through and you get multicoloured slivers of light dancing around the room.

I started off making a Frozen Ice Star, for a friend whose son particularly enjoyed the film.  He was very clear that there should be no pink though, so I picked out the other colours that were all over the posters and the books and the clothes and the pencil cases and the jigsaws and the magazines and the wellies. 

I worked out about how big I wanted the final piece to be, then cut a few long triangles out of each colour glass, and rearranged them on the kiln shelf until they looked about right.  I didn't want the star to be completely flat as I thought it would look more spiky and icy if each individual piece could still be seen, so instead of a full fuse (up to 804°C) I instead ran (what I think of as) a contour fuse programme (up to 798°C).  

Once the star had cooled I wrapped it with silver plated wire to make it easier to hang, and a star was born...

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Sunday, 25 January 2015

silent sunday

It's Silent Sunday

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a project in progress :: framed glass pendants 2

Having got hold of a range of sized and shaped pendant tray frames, the next step in the process of developing these pendants is working out how to shape and fuse the glass to fit them (then called cabachons, or cabs), and how doing this differently will create a variety of effects.  The best way to do this is to experiment, but I am not a patient person, so I want to do this in the least separate firings that I can.  The only way to do that, however, is to be organised - another virtue I'm seriously lacking, so I'll just have to see how it goes.

Squares and rectangles

The square and rectangular pieces should be the easiest to shape, but measuring, cutting and breaking the glass will all need to be done really carefully.  I'm going to start with two layers of 3mm bullseye glass, cut to the measurements I've taken of the interior dimensions of the frames.  The more accurately the pieces are cut the better they should fit the frames, and the easier it will be to replicate for future pendants.  

This means I'll have lay ups of 25mm by 50mm for the larger rectangle (yellow), 25mm by 35mm (green) for the other, and 35mm square for the square (turquoise), logically enough.  As you can see, I've positioned two versions for each size - one with a coloured base (bottom layer)and clear cap (top layer), the other with a clear base and coloured cap.  This is just so I can decide whether one way looks better than the other - but when I'm making them properly I will probably use opalescent (opaque) glass for the bases so you don't see the base tray and glue through it.  

Friday, 23 January 2015

photography at Bristol Folk House {Pt 2}

Last week was all about the apertures, so we popped down to College Green to practice with Graham on hand if we needed any advice.  With Bristol Cathedral in spitting distance I focused on ... a feather and some bike gears.  See how I concentrated on keeping this magnificent piece of architecture at the preferred level of blurry-ness in the background?

Here's the feather taken in aperture priority mode (A on my dial) with a low f number on the left (small f number = small area in focus) and a higher one on the right.  A chained up bike caught my attention too - all the oil and spokes remind me of the cranes outside M-Shed.  

A few other random shots that I liked the look of when I went through them this afternoon...

 ...and on to the next brain twister - shutter speed!

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

wherefore art thou house?

We've been trying to work out what we want (and or) need in a new home.  Right now we're renting a three bedroom bungalow (level throughout), and there seems to be a definite shortage of four bedroom wheelchair accessible places in the areas we're looking.

Our area is defined by distance to the site of Smiler's school, which is co-located with the secondary school Noah attends (and where Petal will be going from September) - Mr Manley wants to be able to walk Smiler in, and while Noah and Petal may well chose to cycle, walking would still be an option for them.  We found some promising roads, but they turned out to be (just) over the boundary into South Glos, and having to start from scratch for Smiler is just too complex, as he has pretty high level medical, educational and social care needs.  

This is a four bedroom bungalow on one of those roads - doesn't it look lovely?  I'm actually not sure about the 'bungalow' description, since two of the bedrooms are upstairs, but in terms of suitability this would mean Noah and Petal would have bedrooms upstairs, away from Smiler, and we would be on the same level as him.  Full bathroom on the ground floor so no need to build one on, big enough hall and doorways so Smiler could still get around mostly independently if he was using a walking frame or wheelchair.  Gorgeous bay windows, garden, parking (next to the house, so we wouldn't have any problem getting a charger for the car fitted), but it's in South Glos.  Bugger.  To be honest, this is also at the very top end of our potential budget, so we still might end up fifty grand short.  Ah well.  Didn't really want it anyway.  Honest.

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

a project in progress :: framed glass pendants

The novelty of getting things in the post has never quite worn off for me, but this week I received a bunch of different findings for a new (to me!) venture in glass - framed fused glass pendants.

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Fused glass pendants can look incredible, but there are a limited range of ways you can turn a piece into a pendant.  You can drill a hole; you can include a void to use for hanging in the design; you can fuse a piece of fibre paper or string carefully positioned to leave a hole you can thread through; or you can glue a bail to the back.

First up - drilling holes!  I've always struggled with drilling holes in glass.  Although I have a dremel complete with flexi shaft, if I'm drilling a pendant this is usually 6 mm thick, so needs to be done in water (well, just at the surface of water) to prevent the drill bit from getting too hot and burning out, or getting clogged with glass dust, which (because of the admittedly nonsensical layout of my room) means I have to climb over the bed with a pyrex casserole dish lid in my hand, full of water and a soggy cloth, and then half an hour later climb back with the water now full of teeny tiny glass shards.  Not a lot of fun, and that's if you can ignore the whole water plus electricity thing.  As well as that, the glass can crack, the drill bits are expensive and it's very very noisy.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Word of the Week

It is aaaaages since I joined in with this link run over at the Reading Residence, but I'm tagging along any way.

My word of week is anticipation.

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1. the act of anticipating; expectation, premonition, or foresight

Sourced from the free dictionary

• • • • •

Anticipation of the whole house thing, anticipation of the first session on the photography course I'd booked in a brave moment, anticipation of opening the huge box of glassy goodies from Warm Glass that I ordered before christmas but had promised myself I would wait to open til I'd tidied my desk.  And right now I'm anticipating a big glass of pineapple juice with a bit of rum and some peach schnapps too.  It's been that kind of a day. 

• • • • •

photography at Bristol Folk House

I love my camera, but do wonder if I've been getting the most out of it, so booked a course at Bristol Folk House with a tutor that was highly recommended - Graham Parish of Shutterbugs.  Of course with impeccable timing our laptop has died, so I have no way of getting new photos from my camera onto here, but I'm working on a plan!

Situations like this scare me - I wonder if everyone else in there knows the subject back to front, and I'll not only look like an idiot but also gain absolutely nothing from course, apart from a renewed lack of faith in my abilities.  I worry that the tutor will go too fast and I won't be able to keep up.  I worry my not top-of-the-range camera will be out of place.  I worry that I'll ask a question and everyone will laugh.  I worry that I won't remember anyone's name and will offend them.  I worry everyone else will know what all the buttons on their cameras do.  I worry that I have to give at least a brief brain cloud explanation to the tutor in case I have a seizure while I'm there.  I worry, basically.

But the tutor was friendly and approachable, and clearly knew his stuff.  The others in the group have differing levels of experience but are happy to chat and share.  A range of cameras in the room, some more fancy than others but lots of 'oh, I don't know what that button does' and 'ah, I didn't know mine could do that'.  One of the others taking the course turned out to be Rachel who I've been chatting with for ages on twitter, which was a lovely surprise (when I got home, since neither of us identified ourselves at the time...) as well as the lovely Kim from Kim Thompson Designs (she makes beautiful jewellery and teaches others to make it too, amongst other things) who recognised me from a presentation I gave on Personal Budgets and Participation last week! 

Knowing the difficulties that I now have in retaining information, I'm going to use abstractLucas as a place to gather together my thoughts on the course and the things I'm learning, using my own photos as examples.   Hopefully this will enable me to remember and apply the principles discussed, but also act as a refresher for me as and when needed!  Although the aim will be to share the photos I take each week, technological issues are preventing that right now,  so I'll use some old ones for the time being.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

choice and control ~ a letter to the People Directorate

I read it in the minutes of meetings, in letters, on the council website.  I hear it tossed casually into conversations with little thought as to the meaning - not just what it means right now, but what it ought to mean, what it has the potential to mean - one day.  Choice and control.  They're buzz words, a convenient shorthand for 'those in the know', and oft referenced as aims of the Personal Budget (PB) system.  You know what they mean today, to you, but how often do you give any thought to what they mean to parent carers?  
We have a child who is, and may well always be, different. Not better than other children, not worse, but different.  By extension, our family is different too.  This child and their differences become a defining feature for all of us, a reference point to the outside world.  "Who's Claire?" "You know, the one with the weird sister".  Maybe since a diagnosis, maybe since a meeting, maybe since birth, maybe even before the phrase 'choice and control' had been significant, some families have been different.  Most parents get so accustomed to arranging their lives around (and including) the needs of their children that we simply cannot comprehend any other way, and this principle still applies when your child has a disability - choice and control seem like lovely ideas, but not really related to everyday life.

Every ordinary thing that you do as a family is impacted when there is a child or young person with additional needs in the mix.  Going shopping, going on holiday, enjoying a meal, watching a film at the cinema, going swimming, arranging a birthday party - very little can be done on the spur of the moment, everything has to be considered in relation to those needs, researched and discussed and researched a bit more.  Take the example of choosing a new car - is the boot big enough for the wheelchair?  Is it big enough for the next wheelchair he'll get in a few years when he's grown?  If the chair is in the boot, does that mean you can't fit any shopping bags in?  Sliding doors? How high does he have to step up to get in?  Are the back windows electric?  Can you operate them from the front?  Can you prevent them from bring operated from the back?  It might sound like an unimportant detail, but not if you have a child who can't be relied upon to follow instructions about having windows open or closed, or if you have to regularly pull over, get out of the car, walk around, open the door, and wind the window.  You don't clock the restrictions necessarily, they're just there, factored into everything, and you work around them - you don't have any other option.  You can't imagine any other way. 

Generally speaking parent carers recognise and respect the fact that for the professionals involved with our children, this is your job,  but sometimes it can feel as though that only goes one way.  We don't get to walk away, we don't get days off, this is our life.  Daytime, nighttime, weekends, holidays - constantly on shift.  Even if our child is elsewhere - at school for example - there can be a phone call at any moment and we have to drop everything, no matter how important what we're doing is, no matter how many weeks ago it was planned,  no matter how inconvenient it is for other people, we have to go.  Whether we want to or not.  This is our reality.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

houses and money and houses

Things finally seem to be moving in regards to Pam's estate - according to an email from the executor yesterday the furniture is being taken to auction next week, and the house is being put on the market "later next week", which I took to mean 'by the end of next week'.  He's also been able to give us an approximate range of how much we might be getting, which turns out to be at the upper end of what we'd guesstimated!  Mr Manley and I agree that PDR (no permission from him to use his name so not putting it in, and Cyril always referred to him by his initials anyway!) is likely to have been fairly conservative with his figures, so it all looks good!

Mr Manley is still very resistant to counting chickens, but even the lowest figure from PDR combined with our savings means we are realistically in the market for a house something like this ...

Now I can legitimately spend a couple of hours a day on Rightmove, scrutinising floorplans and descriptions, right?

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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Dream house

The flip side to losing Pam, as emotional as that has been, is that once the estate is wound up we'll be moving house.  Separate bedrooms for Noah and Petal, probably upstairs so Smiler doesn't attempt to destroy them on a regular basis; a shower with a bit more oomph than the dribble we have now; a kitchen with more worksurface!  Most importantly, a house that is closer to school than we are right now - the journey to school at the moment takes between 45 minutes and an hour,  but of course you have to leave an hour in case you hit traffic.   And in September Petal will be starting at secondary, so it will be all three of them in the car.  Since I still can't drive (bloody brain cloud) Mr Manley had to do it all - and since it's there and back again,  he can be driving up to four hours a day, just doing the school run.  Ideally we'd like to be in walking distance, even if it's a bit further out Petal and Noah could cycle, and maybe Smiler could go on the school bus. 

It sounds a little heartless to be thinking like this about losing someone, but I know Pam (and Cyril) would be pleased that they were able to make a difference.  Noah will be 12 in March, and Petal 11 in June, so getting to an age where sharing with a sibling of the opposite gender is ... awkward?  Irritating?  For me, certainly - their ceaseless squabbling is getting on my nerves!  But I'm hoping that having some space of their own will (slightly) ease the pressure on their relationship with one another.  We'll see!

Although right now there's frustration at not knowing how much money we'll have or when we'll have it, it kind of feels a bit distant - as though it'll never actually happen.  So Mr Manley and I are playing dream house.  Looking at rightmove, scrutinising the photos, discussing hypothetically how we would manage, whether we'd have to extend to get a downstairs bedroom and bathroom for Smiler...

Ah well - one day.  In a way it's a really exciting start to the new year - who knows where we'll be living by the end of it! 

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