Making time for clay




Forty something years ago I took an after school pottery class during which I produced a caterpillar, above, and a tortoise which was broken so long ago. 50p a week on Wednesday evenings. The class lasted for two school terms, I think, before being discontinued, I really can’t remember the reason, but I remember the disappointment.

Ten or twelve years ago I was running a home business selling ratabilia – pet rat based crafts – small sculptures cast from polymer clay originals, pyrography, stickers. That was such fun, but it just didn’t earn me a living. Somehow I moved away from the making as well as the business.

For the past eight years I’ve been breeding pet rats, with the real goal being to make healthier and longer lived pet rats. That has been so much fun, but it’s so intense that it becomes a second job and uses up so much time and energy.

Now I feel the need to change focus. There are things I need to do apart from rats, and that keeping so many rats holds me back from. Having parents in their eighties with health problems really concentrates the mind on the time you have left and what you want to achieve from it.

One of the things that I’ve always promised myself is that when I have the time and money to do so, I would get back to real, fire-in-a-kiln type clay. Well, I still don’t have the money, and I still don’t really have the time, but if I pull back from the ratties a little I believe I can make the time.

Step one was the enrolment on the pottery class. That begins next week, and I imagine will cover pinch pots, coil building, all the beginning beginners stuff. That’s what I need. But what I can do in the meantime is play with the polymer clay and the air drying clay. My drawings for colouring books are serving as a significant inspiration in this, so I’ve been trying to make relief tiles. It’s getting somewhere, but not exactly there yet.


Bit of a busy week


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Monday was the first day back at work after trying to cover a colleague’s work as well as my own and failing miserably. Thankfully she wasn’t too narked about the huge pile of work on her desk.

Tuesday was the day Dad went into the nursing home, so I had a day off work. Although we did our best to prepare him, his short-term memory isn’t really up to the job any longer.

Wednesday back to work again, trying to catch up again/still. Mum visited Dad with my sister in law and he seemed fairly happy. Shopping with Mum in the evening and she seemed fairly chipper.

Thursday and Mum is upset because Dad has been pleading to come home. It’s just not a possibility because both agencies have been struggling to meet his needs.

Friday morning shopping for the rat show on Saturday, as I and my wonderful other half are doing the catering. Friday afternoon visiting Dad with my mum, and upsetting again as he still wants to go home, and thinks someone has been trying to steal his watch.

Saturday with a full day at the rat show,  elected treasurer in the morning and kitchening all afternoon, then on to a birthday party in the evening. Can hardly put a thought together by the end. The ratties missed coming out to play today. A friend at the show gave me a bag of modelling stuff – wax, plasticine and air drying clay, plus some useful tools. Thanks Coypu.

Sunday morning awoke with an after-show headache despite not drinking the day before. I seem to use up two day’s worth of energy at a show. Sunday afternoon my daughter and I took mum in her wheelchair to visit Dad and he is actually happy watching the birds on his bird table out of his window, a robin, a blackbird and a pigeon. The squirrels are chasing one another round on the lawn outside his room. He seems far more lucid than he was in his last days at home.

Monday morning a visit to the dentist. It shouldn’t have taken that long, but 40 minutes walk each way and a half hour wait after the appointment time and there went most of the morning. Monday afternoon updating the rat club website and sorting out the show accounts ready to pay in. A little bit of work on the next colouring book. Monday evening a quick play with the air drying clay to try making a dish, then getting the ratties out to play as usual.

Tomorrow there’s a doctor’s appointment before work, because I have a dead leg. I’ve had no feeling down the front of my right leg for a week now, but I think it’s just alternative sciatica because I have the usual sore spot on my back as well. Back at work for the day, then meeting friends for a meal in the evening. That’ll be the ratties’ second evening with no playtime in a week. Bad, bad mummy.

Need a holiday.

Ooh, I didn’t show you the thingy from the weekend before this. Here you go. A bit mucky because I used a laser printed transfer and I’m a messy worker.


Stuff happening



A few things that I need to talk about. First of all, I’ve decided that it’s time to quit breeding rats. It’s been fun, but I’ve been keeping ratties for almost sixteen years now, breeding for eight, and we really could do with a holiday. My lines will continue through Lovecraft and Black Lupin Studs, plus others via third parties, so it’s not a total dead end.

My dad is going into a nursing home soon, which will be a great relief to my mum who is struggling with the full time carer role at 81 years old. Dad is not going to be happy – it’s like sending a three year old away from everything he’s ever known. 55 years of marriage and total dependency on my mum. But despite both myself and sister in law spending a good chunk of our time with them, and over £100 of care agency a day, we aren’t managing the level of care that he needs and my mum is visibly losing strength. Dad is so dependent and trying so hard, and he’s always been such a good man and a good husband and father, and now we’re planning to send him away. Incredible guilt trips all round that we aren’t coping. Buggrit. I don’t often swear, but just buggrit. So very scary what dementia can do.

So,  I’ve enrolled on the pottery course I’ve been coveting, alongside my daughter who actually volunteered to accompany me. Although I’ve played with polymer clay and air drying clay, I haven’t touched the real thing since school. Am currently obsessing over pottery videos and websites. I’ve discovered that my stash of Super Sculpey is completely unusable after ten years of storage, although the Fimo isn’t too bad and just needs a lot of working. I would love to be able to produce some of my drawings as relief pictures in clay. I just love this video  and maybe I could do something similar with animal drawings. Then there’s the potential for pots with animals on. Pots in animal shapes. Rat head shaped ocarinas? So many ideas in my head! Bwah!

The pottery course doesn’t actually begin until 25th April, but I’ve got a pile of air-drying clay so time to play. Here are last weekend’s and this weekend’s attempts. Usual topic. Just playing with pinch pots so far and I need so much more practice. The ears aren’t right yet.


Take care folks. xx


Strange Reactions

What a strange weekend. What a strange me.

I discovered on Thursday evening that my dad’s dementia has reached a stage where he can’t always work out who I am. Prompting him doesn’t help because he can’t hold onto the thought. He knew that he knew me, but thought maybe I was Mum’s sister. (Mum has never had a sister). We hoped he might just be having a bad day, but the weekend has proved us wrong. Mum has admitted she thinks she’s lost him now. I can’t tell you how much I feel for her.

My reaction – dye my hair purple again. Spend nearly all my free time this weekend drawing and ignoring the housework. Enquire about enrolment on a pottery course. None of which actually helps my parents at all, but somehow helps me.

Shoulder rat



I took eight of my rats to help with a rat promotion stand at the National Exhibition Centre last Saturday. We saw an incredible number of people, many of whom had had rats in the past or were considering them as pets. The idea was to offer people the opportunity to stroke or even hold a rat, so we all took as many rats along as possible because they do get very tired at these events. Six of my rats took it fairly well, they allowed the visitors to stroke or hold them, but they were glad to return to their cage. Hickory didn’t get taken out much because he was determined to get onto the floor, which I didn’t feel was such a great idea. The big surprise was my one year old blue agouti boy, Grundy. He decided it was his mission to visit every shoulder in the building. People only had to put their arm out to stroke him and he was suddenly sitting on their shoulder. Several times he shoulder surfed from person to person, making it hard to keep track of him. Somehow he must have known which people to trust, because not once did he cross to someone who panicked at his presence. He even made a couple of fairly long jumps to reach his targets. It was a complete revelation to me to see this side of his character and he spend most of the day out meeting people, hiding in the rat pouch when he had had enough but then emerging again when he realised I was talking to someone new that needed to be ratified. I’m so glad I chose his group to take along.


Ich lerne Deutsch


Heya again,

It’s probably the fifth or sixth time I’ve begun learning German in the past 30 or so years, ever since meine Schwiegerschwester married her German husband. Each time I begin and then after a few months or weeks the effort peters out. The latest episode was triggered by picking up the Duolingo app for my Kindle Fire. Maybe the convenience of being able to carry it around with me will keep me going this time? That and the fact that my hubby and daughter are learning with me. It’s been almost two weeks this time, and I can now say ‘The cow hears the dog’. Loving the fact that cow is kuh. Hah! That’s the way my (Suffolk bred) dad has always said it.


Annette   🙂

Brandywine Stud


I’ve been keeping rats as pets since 2001 and breeding rats under the name of ‘Brandywine Stud’ since 2008. The name was chosen because of its link with the Brandywine Bridge in The Hobbit, as my little ratty friends always seem like little hobbit people to me and they certainly have the requisite hairy feet. I think, though, that my breeding phase is coming to a close. I’m not going to say that I will never breed another litter, but there are more demands on my time at the moment and, dare I say it, I feel it’s time to give myself the option of going on holiday once in a while. My standards of record keeping and updating have been slipping for a while now, and although I still make time for each cage of rats to come out to play every day, it’s increasingly difficult to fit my parents, adult children, other family, book creation, crochet, crafts, reading, computer, housework and my job around them. Time to ease off for a while. I never want to be without ratties in my life, but maybe just a couple of cages.

And more sleep.

Paint-box baby blanket


This is something I finished a few weeks ago, but I haven’t got around to showing it off here yet. It’s for a friend who is expecting a baby boy next month, crocheted in Caron Simply Soft wool and using solid granny squares because I didn’t want it to have any finger traps. I wanted it to be mainly white because she is using mostly grey and white as her colour theme, but also with some added colour. It’s turned out quite heavy, more a pram blanket than a wrap-a-newborn blanket, but I love the feel of the soft wool and the white is a lovely bright contrast to the colours, which are mostly wools that I already had for other projects. The edges are a bit wibbly, I probably gained some stitches on the way round, but I am pleased with it.


Doodle Artist – Guinea Pigs


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Let’s see if we can keep blogging for a while this time, shall we?

I’ve been prompted to revisit my much neglected blog by the publication last week of my most recent colouring book, Doodle Artist Guinea Pigs. It was a lovely book to draw. I began by being uncertain how to give character to pictures of guinea pigs, which have always seemed to me to be little round balls of fluff with a leg at each corner, but I soon realised from the lovely source photos from Warren Photographic that each guinea pig has a character all of its own, and they were a joy to draw.


The book is beginning to sell well in the UK and Europe now, but has not left the starting blocks in the US. I’m hoping that eventually the guinea pig forums will discover it and it will take off.

Run, little piggies, run!