Just a very quick post to share a link to the Midlands Rat Club 16th Birthday Show photos taken last weekend. Enjoy.
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.
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.
Once again I’ve inflicted a new colouring book upon the world. This is getting to be a habit. This one is full of snowflakes, which was the book I did alongside my fanciful rats just to give me a break from drawing ratties all the time.
Mostly in order to see how it works, I’ve set up an Amazon giveaway for Simply Snowflakes. It will only work for those with a US postal address, but it looks like a useful way of promoting my books and hopefully it will give the book an initial boost to get it going.
I’m still in that parallel universe where my books are selling really well. In fact, Fanciful Rats is now outselling the original Butterflies book, although there’s a split between the .co.uk and .com sites, with Butterflies and Fanciful Rats selling well in the UK, but only Fanciful Rats doing well in the US. I think that probably emphasises the importance of networking, because the Butterflies book was shared mostly by my own friends spreading the word on facebook whereas Fanciful Rats was shared more widely through rat forums and groups.
The latest news on the book front is that I’m currently drawing a book of bunnies, alongside a book of patterns as a break. It’s going to be a while before I get all thirty bunny pictures done as I’m still learning how bunny shapes go.
The latest rat news is that I’ve yet again mated up one of my girls, Crystal Tips this time, so I’m now waiting to see if she will give me a litter of little ratlets. We’ll see.
The Fanciful Rats colouring book went live late last Sunday and is selling better than I anticipated, although presumably mostly to people I know. I’m really pleased with the way it turned out, albeit a little nervous that it won’t be to everyone’s taste. There are only so many ways you can draw a rat to colour in without drawing patterns all over him or her.
This is my sample image from the book. There are a lot of different styles in this book, so it was hard to choose which image to represent them all. If you know of any groups or forums that would like this, I would appreciate it very much if you would share it.
It looks as if the theme of the next colouring book will be…
Wait for it…
It’s probably not going to be the most profitable of subjects, as the market will presumably the subset of people who both like rats and enjoy colouring. But the rat community have been so supportive of the butterflies book that I’ve put the intended next topic on hold and switched to ratties. I have a good collection of rat drawings to start things off, and it’s beginning to looks as if it’s not as hard to decorate ratties as I thought it would be.
That’s the title of my new book. The phrase is something of a family joke, because many years ago, whilst running a ratabilia stall at a local rat show, there was a small girl with an enormous pet rat who repeatedly came up to us to say ‘I love rats, I do’. Ever since then, whenever the rats have done something particularly cute, silly or gross, we’ve come out with the phrase.
I knew that this book should be a children’s book, but it’s taken me a very long time to put it together. First of all, it needed pictures, so I bought some graphics software and a graphics tablet to plug into my pc, and set about learning to draw. Well as I’ve said on here before, it turns out that the best way around my colour-blindness is to draw directly onto the photographs. Smudge painting. Even cheating like that, it’s taken me several months to gather the right photos and turn them into images that work with the book and that feel good enough to inflict on the public. Then there was the text. It took a couple of false starts to begin moulding it into something I felt right about. Somehow I hit upon a look and a style that suited the topic, and off I went. It felt as if the images were taking forever to produce, and then suddenly they were all finished and it was just the text that needed a final polish. The typeface was a particularly happy find. It’s opendyslexic alta, which is very easy to read and suited the style of the book beautifully.
So now I’m watching the first few purchases and waiting to see how the reviews go, if any come along.
Time to start work on the next book, I guess.
We went to our local rat show last Sunday. It was the club’s 14th birthday, and I’ve been going to the shows almost from the beginning. The Midlands Rat Club is a very pet oriented and family friendly club, but we do enjoy showing our rats as well.
It’s taken me a few days to arrange all the photos for the club website, but I think they’re all in now. I’ve also put together a video of the show.