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.
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
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.
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.