Thursday, 31 January 2013

Ediacara

   I'm really quite excited. As some of you well know, I love fossils. I do. I think there's something so ridiculously amazing about these remnants of creatures that lived millions of years ago. I have a small but lovely fossil collection of my own, my favourite piece being the fossilised eggshell fragment, which was also the first thing Seeg ever gave me. It is just a small piece of an enormous Titanosaur egg, and if you hold it horizontally, you can even see the slight curvature. But what I love the most about it is the simple fact that it used to be an egg. Whether it contained a fertilised embryo or not is just part of the mystery. The egg may not have even hatched. I just find it remarkable that something so delicate and important to life has managed to last so long.

   I decided that I wanted to take this passion further, and develop it into something other people would like. And so I decided that jewellery was obvious. But I've seen fossil jewellery. 90% of the time it's just the fossil drilled and strung onto a chain or fixed to a ring base - and that really is fine. The simplicity does appeal to me and many others. But what I wanted to do was more showy, and it's what I've done.

   They differ to my usual products massively, which is why they've been put in a new shop section, and named differently. Ediacara. The word 'Ediacara' is the name of a geological time period - one of the first - and comes from the Ediacaran Hills in Southern Australia, where there is a fossil sea bed. That fossil bed contains fossils of some the earliest known multi-cellular life, as well as the first creatures, that we know of, to be able to move, rather than being rooted to the seabed. I find that just astounding, and the word itself is not too shabby.

   The new shop section is appropriately named within Peaches and Pebbles, and products from within Ediacara and the rest of Peaches and Pebbles can be purchased together. The prices of Ediacara are somewhat...different...to my other products. This is due to the nature of the items involved, but quality and everything else has been increased to match, including sterling silver rings and chains, free recorded delivery within the UK, and recorded delivery for the rest of the world, too, as standard.

   I'll stop babbling now, and show you the first of the products to be listed. I hope you like them, because I bloody love them.




   There are other pieces listed at the moment, too, and more to come! I'm so pleased
with how they all turned out, and they all mean so much to me!


PLEASE NOTE:
50% off coupons cannot be
applied to Ediacara purchases!



Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Pinterest - Guest Pinners

 
   I've not tried this before, but I thought why the hell not? I've been bumbling about on pinterest for some time now, and I often see "guest pinners" pinning really amazing things on other people's boards. I usually end up repinning some of it myself, but my pinterest feels like a very one-sided operation with little to no look-in from anyone else. I know for a fact that I'd love to be asked to be a guest pinner.

   And so, I figured, since it certainly doesn't cost anything, that I could create a guest-pinner board, and each week or so have a new guest pinner. There would be regulations, however:
1.   The guest pinner can pin blog posts, websites, products and tutorials, but they must not pin their own. One or two wouldn't hurt, certainly, but only pinning their own is a waste of everyone's time, because they probably won't pay much attention. Pinterest is a visual platform, so lots of different colours, image types, and different contents are what make Pinterest work.
2.   The guest pinner would also need to pin a minimum number of things over a certain number of days - I wouldn't want my guest pinner to pin 3 things on the first day, two of them links perhaps to their own stuff, and then never post anything again. The week would be wasted. As a guideline I would ask for a minimum of 5-7 pins every other day.
3.   Because of the minimum number of pins, I would also suggest that if you wanted to be a guest pinner, you make sure you have content ready to pin before it's your turn. I know for a fact that if I asked someone to be a guest pinner today and started my turn tomorrow, I'd have little to nothing to pin but my own content, and that of friends. If I had a week or two to prepare, however, I would certainly have the time to find content and meet the minimum quota.
4.   The guest pinner can choose to pin for either 7 days, pinning every day, or 10 days, pinning every day, or every other day. This is so that people who do not pin as frequently have time to collect pins, and people who do pin frequently can do so at their leisure.
5.   Religious, political, nudity or animal cruelty pins are not allowed and will be deleted immediately.
6.   Most of the people who follow me on pinterest follow me for the pins in the craft section, so I would assume that crafts would be the best thing to pin. Crafts include but are not limited to the following:

• Recipes
• Make up/Nail art
• Artwork (no nudity)
• How-tos (the more original, pretty, and unusual the better - we want to stand out, afterall!)
• Cute ideas (kids birthdays and things like that)


    Because this blog is small, I will ask you all - if anyone is interested - to send me an email with your name and an example link you would pin so I can get a feel of what you would contribute. This is the board.





Monday, 28 January 2013

Creative Writing Tips: Viewpoints


Applies to all fictional writing

Looking at:
Protagonist and your own Opinions
Support your characters - even the villain


   Personally I'm not a fan of things written in the first person. There's a little too much assumption, a few too many confused thoughts, things like reactions go by unnoticed - it's just a mess. I'm not a fan. I usually stick with third person. I find it easier to switch viewpoints that way, but the purpose of this segment can easily be applied to both first and third person, and genres beyond fantasy.
   Viewpoints are very important. You can follow a single character's thoughts and feelings, but it won't give the story enough depth. You will probably find yourself trying to write from the view of a character other than your lead, such as the villain, or a subprotagonist, and it is extremely important at these points to be versatile.

   You will probably also find that your lead protagonist has a lot of similarities to yourself. You'll follow them closer than any other character, and while it could be accidental or intentional, you may well relate better to them than anyone else in your work. At these points your protagonist will probably also share the same opinions as yourself (a habit you won't want to get into). While it will make it easier to write and easier to explain the reasoning behind such opinions, when you switch viewpoints to someone else, they cannot carry the same personality, viewpoints, opinions and train of thought as everyone else. As such it's best to try to keep your own viewpoints completely out of the equation.
   You don't want your characters to all become the same person. I've read books that I'm still quite fond of, but I noticed while reading that a lot of their characters all sort of bonded into one individual, with the same ideas, same train of thought - even the same humour. I still love the books, but it was a big flaw. If it weren't for the intricacy or genius of the stories themselves, it would have caused me to put the books back down.
   Remember that some opinions may be shared by characters, others may differ slightly, and others may be complete opposites. Even the protagonist and their best friend are likely to agree on one thing and not another - the protagonist and the antagonist could also agree on a few things. They don't have to be complete opposites. But even if some things are agreed upon, they may not have the same motives, regardless of who it is, and will probably also have different trains of thought.
   Keep in mind how different individuals can be who agree on things. Sometimes I can agree on something with Seeg, but we have very different ideas on why we agree on it, and how we got to that point. I'll give a really poor example here, but it avoids arguments on religion and politics: we both love pizza, we really do, but I love cheese and tomato with thick crust, while he loves meaty ones with crispy crusts - we both love pizza, but not for the same reasons. Told you it was a poor example.

   Viewpoints can help to convey the truth behind happenings, characters' own paranoia and whether or not the antagonist is succeeding with their plan on a more mental or disruptive level. Viewpoints can bring things to the reader's attention that other characters may not have noticed. For example, if Character 1 were to tell Character 2 some great news, C2 may well not notice any look of uncertainty on C1's face, while C3, also present while the information is passed and perhaps less affected by the news, would notice it. More viewpoints are like having more eyes, more trains of thought - more points of view.
   Sometimes it's used to replay the same scene. First you might see a person murdered in C1's view. They may not have seen the killer, but they heard the scream and found the body. You can replay the scene for C2, who may not have seen the killer, but they too heard the scream, and when they got to the body, found C1 covered in their blood, and jump to conclusions. Replay again, and C3 sees the killer and knows C1 did nothing - but they may or may not be a good person themselves, and so may or may not correct C2. Replay again and C4 is the killer.
   Alternatively, you could replay a scene all four were present for, but that would mean replaying even the exact scenery over again. In these cases it's best to only revisit the scene several times if you have a damn good reason - each character notices something different, but important. Perhaps C1 hears words of someone else echo in his mind which suddenly become significant, C2 sees something on the ground or some kind of a trail or clue to something, C3 knows who is behind it or has suspicions, but none of this information is shared among the three of them for one reason or another. The scene may also not be revisited consecutively. The scene could take place in chapter 3, it's revisited in chapter 5 and then again in chapter 10.
   If you replay your scenes, they must only be replayed for good reasons to avoid boredom, and the further you space out these replayings, the more significant the scene seems, so if it isn't the most important thing, but still important, don't space it out too far, but if it's basically the pivotal point in the book that causes all of the events, but appears very soon in the book, then by all means, replay it across twenty chapters, but don't bore your readers.

   As I've said before, while viewpoints can be used to point out things otherwise not noticed, they will also portray different character's ideas and impressions. As such, you will have to remain neutral. You're the story teller, the narrator, not a character yourself. You must leave your opinions and thoughts out of it, and be able to give other characters opposing thoughts. Even if you absolutely despise your villain, even if he is the most wretched individual you could possibly concoct, while you are writing from his point of view, you cannot write with an untrusting tone. He believes that what he's doing is right, and that it makes sense, and that has to come across in the narrative. Don't make him a big fat doody head with onion ears just because you want the readers to hate him - let them come to their own conclusions, show them why they should hate him with his own personality - or perhaps you want them to like him just to make the story more interesting. Either way, you must be able to support both the protagonist and the antagonist. This applies to first person, too.

   A note on first person, however: first person is more difficult if you're trying to follow other individuals. This is another reason why I prefer third person. Whenever I've seen first person it's only ever been from the point of view of one person, except one book. I don't remember what it was called or who it was by, but I explicitly remember that it was split down the middle. Every chapter alternated between two individuals, one was the protagonist, the other was the antagonist. I thought it was quite clever. Unfortunately, it's a little more difficult to make the switch stand out, because a character isn't likely to proclaim their name as often as a third person narrative would. But when the chapters alternated, the protagonist's chapters were written normally, while the antagonist's were written in italics. It made the difference much more obvious, though I'm not sure it is necessarily something that would be encouraged by a professional, a teacher or whatnot. But either way, I read the book, I enjoyed it, even if I don't remember what it was called.






Sunday, 27 January 2013

100 Sales & Agencies

   It has finally happened. I hit 100 sales the other day. It's such a wonderful feeling - Etsy isn't something I want to do with my entire life, but considering that it's all I can do while I'm caring full-time for my mother, it's really quite amazing.
   The money is always a big help - it goes towards games and books for "research" into current fantasy, and it also helps me to make more products and carry my dreams of writing further.



   I've also decided that I'm going to attempt to send my trilogy out to agencies again. I tried this before, but I left out the part that it was a trilogy. So as far as they were concerned, I was sending them a single book with a slow beginning, and an unfinished synopsis. I don't think this particularly helped me, but I did it because a lot of people said it would be better than telling them that it was a trilogy. I disagree with this now, and have decided to try again. This time, however, I am sending out the synopsis for the first book, AND a synopsis for the full trilogy. I'm not sending any chapters, because they have already read the first three, so I am asking them to let me know if they would prefer to reread the first three chapters, or prefer a consecutive three chapters from elsewhere in the book.
   So far, the first book is complete, and I'm one third, or perhaps one quarter, the way through the second. The third is still being planned.
   However, through my eagerness to get my career off the ground, I put my trilogy to one side some months ago and began work on a stand-alone book that may help. I am only a small way in at the moment, but it's going well, and I've rediscovered my passion.

   I realise that it will take me some time to get where I want to be - though in truth all I want is a career in writing, to be able to support myself and my family with that alone; I don't need to be a millionaire, not at all. In fact, I'm not even sure I'd want that.

   I'm still working on the 'Writing Tips' posts. I have one that still needs completing, while the remaining few are still scheduled to post. If anyone has any topic they'd like covered in a post, then there is a contact button at the bottom of the collective page. Use that and let me know! I don't bite, and quite enjoy writing them!


   I hope you're all well. The snow has cleared up over here. It's been a bit hectic since England is so completely not used to snow, but we've managed! :D



Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Currently

Watching: Naruto Shippuuden. I always thought anime looked stupid - but then, as you know, Seeg convinced me to watch Bleach, and I actually loved it. Naruto specifically always looked really stupid - the kid has whiskers. But it's actually a brilliant and clever program, and a damn good reason why he has whiskers. It has me laughing, it has me crying, it has me angry, and it has me happy. I love it. We finished all of Naruto in December, so we immediately moved onto Shippuuden. I have suspicions about characters and the way the plot may unfold, but if there's one thing I've learned about anime, it's that you almost never see things coming. Bleach had the best villain I've ever seen in any tv show, movie, or book. That pretty much drummed in that things are never quite what they seem in these sorts of things.

Thinking about: My writing. I've started to put more work in lately, and I think it's paying off. I'll be honest, though: I don't know if what I'm writing is actually any good. I need to sit down and read through the last 4 chapters I've written as if it were a book written by someone else. If it's not good enough then I need to go back and try again. But I'm feeling positive!

Listening to: Soundtracks. Specifically the Morrowind one I bought from DirectSong the other day, and The Hobbit that Seeg bought recently, too. They are amazing soundtracks. Over the last few years I've grown to prefer soundtracks over the radio - call me an old woman but I really don't like what counts as "music" these days. Heartfelt lyrics seem to be a thing of the past as far as the charts go, and if there are any heartfelt lyrics then they're covers. Otherwise it's all balls and rude boys. Even musicians I used to like have been struck off of my playlist with the shit that they bring out these days. I'm quite happy with my game and movie soundtracks, thank you.

Excited about: My new products. I had wanted to open a new shop for it, but Seeg talked me around. Another shop means more work, and more work means even less time to do the things I want to (ie: play games, watch movies, be lazy and write). Instead, I'm opening a new "shop" within Peaches and Pebbles. Think of it like a Starbucks within a bookshop. The new "shop" will have its own section within Peaches and Pebbles, and it will have its own name. Products purchased from it will have its own packaging, and its own business cards. It's still jewellery, which is part of the reason I've decided to keep it in Peaches and Pebbles, but it's different as far as what I usually do goes - but it's still unique. Long story short, I'm very excited about it!

Reading: The Exiled Queen/The Ruby Knight. The reason I've listed 2 is because I started reading both series (The Seven Realms/The Elenium) around the same time. I got the first book of The Elenium (The Diamond Throne) and read that, but I also bought The Demon King of another series while reading it. Once I finished The Diamond Throne, I moved onto a different series. That series was much more exciting, and so I've stuck to it, but because the 4th book of The Seven Realms has no release date for the UK yet, despite being released in the US in October last year, once I finish what I have, I'll surely return to The Ruby Knight.
...Did everyone follow that?

Playing: Mass Effect. It's one of my favourite games, but I've never played it. I like to watch games. I see them as sort of really long films. Obviously this doesn't work for all games, it needs to have a good story. But the main reason I never played it is simply because I can't shoot - I like to be very precise with my aim, which slows me down a lot, and if the target is moving then I have no chance. So, games that are based around gun fights are not games I can play. But I decided I was never going to learn to shoot if I didn't try. So I picked it up and gave it a go - and I enjoyed it. I'm still not much use at shooting, but the game forces you to have 2 NPCs with you, so fortunately, the shooting is not all down to me. The story is wonderful, though - I watched Seeg play through all three games and it quickly hit my list of favourite games, and now I'm playing it too. I always felt a bit silly wearing my Garrus t-shirt without having played the game myself. I figure that once I finish the trilogy, I'm entitled to buy a hoody :D

Worrying about: My future. I know I said a couple of days ago that I'm feeling more positive, and I am! But that doesn't change the fact that the only thing I want to do with my life is left in the hands of other people, who work based upon opinion rather than on any academic achievements. On one hand, that's good - I can get where I want to without having to go back to school for 6 years. On the other hand, it's bad, because, well, opinions. I understand the reason for it - afterall, agents make no money until a book gets published, distributed, and subsequently sold. But that doesn't make it any easier. But I realise that the only thing I can do is keep plugging away at it - I'll never get there if I give up, right?


How is everyone else? Anything exciting you're looking forward to? Anything you're worrying about? Or are you listening to/playing something awesome? I really would love to know!



Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Valentine's Monster - At Last!

   My initial plan for this monster didn't work out, despite suggestions from friends. I was ready to give up to be honest, but Seeg saved the day with a simple suggestion: a heart.
   And so now I give to you the new Valentine's Day monster. Only 6 exist, and, unfortuantely, the international deadline (that means everyone outside of the UK) is fast approaching. And they also won't be available after the 28th of February.

   If you live overseas, please purchase before the 24th of January to ensure that you receive your monster in time for Valentine's Day. Orders placed after this date may not arrive on time.
   If you live in the UK then purchase by the 6th of February to ensure you receive it in time.






Oh No Rachio - Packaging Review

   Well, as you know, I love packaging, and branding. I don't go through the effort of holding back excitement to photograph the package rather than tear into it for nothing. So it irritates me to no end when I purchase things and receive them just thrown into an envelope. I expect it, of course, from Amazon and places like that, but when it comes to handmade items - pieces that have had love and time go into them - I expect a little more.

   And I got "a little more" today.
   I have had my eye on a cupcake stand by OhNoRachio for a couple of months now. I just fell in love with the simplistic design, and I'd been wanting a stand for individual cupcakes for some time. A week ago, I scraped up the last of my Christmas money and bought it.




   It took some time to ship - I hadn't realised that her products were made to order. But that was fine by me, because I knew that it was being made specially. So I waited as patiently as an impatient person can, and finally my package arrived - while I was out looking at archaeopteryx skeletons. The one day I finally go out and do something! Sod's law. So I had the package redelivered and it arrived (again) today.
   Well, I said that I don't like it when people just toss the product into an envelope, but addresses on the package are not something I usually think about. A nice bit of decoration on the front of the envelope is delightful - I cover mine in washi tape, isavirtue uses lovely embossing powders to make her "do not bend"s stand out nicely, and so on - and can really make the package - but a hand written address with hand drawn decoration, well, that's not something just everyone does.




   It was the design on the cake stand that I loved, so including the design on the front of the package with a lovely white hand written address really made the package stand out. Yes, I peeled the redelivery sticker off of the package.
   It was so simple, but just about every package I receive have printed addresses. Like I said, the address isn't something I think about. Personally I hand-write all of mine because my printer is unreliable, and most people I correspond with by mail hand write them, too, but it's not too common to receive a package with purchased goods with a handwritten address.

   Perhaps I'm just easy to please.

   From the address alone I could tell care and considerarion had gone into the packing, and I was right. I cut open the envelope and found my product wrapped in gold tissue paper, and a hand written letter - well, it was certainly longer than a note!
   Products wrapped nicely with a business card is satisfying enough, but to receive a proper note, personalised, written by hand, thanking me for my purchase, is something I don't expect. Well, I'd love to receive more - I always include a handwritten note, myself - a note at least saying thank you would be polite, but I really feel that I was treated specially. I wasn't, of course, but I feel it, and that's important.




   I write these posts to publicly thank the sellers who put effort into their work, but I also write them through hopes of helping sellers who don't know where to start, and to give them ideas for their own packaging.
   The best part of receiving products wrapped in tissue paper is that I can reuse it to wrap my own products in (unless the tissue paper has obvious branding or some sort of specifics to the shop on it), which helps the environment. Or just to use in personal crafts. This gold paper will be saved for my 100th sale - which is only 3 sales away! It's certainly fitting.

   Thank you Rachel, for a wonderful product, and for putting time into your packaging. Let this post show it isn't for nothing!



Monday, 14 January 2013

January So Far

   I wasn't feeling too positive at the start of this year. I don't like the number 2013, it's ugly in number and colour. And I turned 22 on the 9th - while that number is beautiful, it did make me negative.
   I'm sure a lot of us get this way when our birthday arrives around this age. When you're young you don't care about the future, but once you get to the age when you really should be employed with some sort of future in front of you, it makes you wonder what you're doing wrong when there isn't.
   Despite the fact that I've been getting older all year, like every other person on the face of the planet, once that number finally changed I couldn't help feeling disappointed with myself.
   I'd not been writing anywhere near as much as I should have been over 2012, and I'd been rejected by all the agencies I'd tried - while this wasn't surprising, in fact it was quite expected, it still knocked my confidence. I began to think I'd never get anywhere, and it's those rejections that I think put a dampener on my writing last year.
   Writing is the only thing I want to do with my life. Sure, when I hit 40, if I've not gotten anywhere, I might just say sod it and self publish, and perhaps I'll go back to school and get somewhere in paleontology. If none of it works out, I'd also be kind of happy to start dog walking again, too. But writing is what I really want.

   Then a couple of days ago, after the best sleep I'd had in a long time, I woke up feeling motivated. I had expected the feeling to pass within a couple of hours, but no such thing happened. I was motivated to distance myself from chocolate, to switch on my little Dell Inspiron Mini and start writing, and to make a lot of new jewellery. This has lasted every day since then.
   A few years ago I set myself a target of writing 10 pages a week, minimum of 2 pages a day Monday to Friday - it doesn't sound like much, but if I keep a steady rhythm, that's 520 pages at the end of the year - a very decent sized book. During the first year of this goal, I wrote 100 pages more than I needed to, and certainly finished what I wanted, though a lot of it ended up rewritten in the end. But after that first year, it started to decline, to the point that I did next to nothing last year. I wrote 7 pages in two days this weekend, and I really believe I can get back on track.

   I also have some ideas for new jewellery - it was enough to make a whole new shop, but I've decided against it to keep the views coming into Peaches and Pebbles. Instead it will have it's own shop section, titled what the shop would have been called, and a domain name redirecting to the section to help advertise the jewellery in relevant places. I don't like to disclose too much in case my ideas get stolen - that's why you'll never ever find out the names or any other pieces of information of any of the works I want to publish until they are actually published. Either way, the first of the jewellery will be up within the next few weeks!

   I'm quite excited about my plans, and I hope they work out. I have some ideas for new projects that may or may not turn into tutorials - I'll be honest: if I can make money off of them, they won't be tutorials ;P


   Now, a question for the artists among you:
   Does anyone know any good brands of pens to use for pen and wash drawings?
It's a medium of art I did quite well with in school, and really quite enjoyed. I wanted
to try to pick it back up again, so I'd appreciate some help!



Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Dinosaur Dig Fossil Bone Bed Cake Tutorial


    Well, it's my birthday tomorrow. I am excited, of course, I always am. Seeg has bought me a few things he's quite excited about, I have a package from Vicky which I have yet to open, and I happen to know that a box from UKGE.co.uk has turned up for my dad. So I'm quite excited!
   But onto the point of this post: my cake. I love cake. Who doesn't? Saying that, I once knew a strange girl who didn't like chocolate or pizza. Strange. But anyway: I recently found a lovely box mix.

    First of all, let me defend myself: my cakes never work. My little ones do, but I cannot make a normal sized cake. Any time I try, it burns on the outside and is still runny on the inside. I've tried altering the recipe with less moisture, I've tried different oven gas marks, and I've tried different pans, but it just never works. So when I saw this box mix in Tesco, and decided that the cake on the box looked good enough to trick myself into trying it, I couldn't help it. I picked it up, along with the icing that was alongside it, and made it that afternoon. I had nothing much to do that day anyway. The cake came out amazingly. It had cooked all the way through, it came out of the pan perfectly (usually, if I do manage to make a cake successfully, it won't come out of the pan in one piece), and when we had it that night (and the nights to follow) it was so scrumptiously moist and stayed that way for a long while - in short, it was bloody wonderful. And so, I decided to use it for my own cake. I don't care if it's cheating, it's so delicious, so easy, and actually works (and has done each of the three times I've made it in total), that I will bloody well stick with it.

   So that was what I decided to have as my birthday cake. BUT! As lots of you know very well, I love dinosaurs. I love history and science, especially natural history. I had an idea some time ago about making a dinosaur skeleton out of royal icing, using similar methods to that of a royal icing tiara, but I never had the opportunity to try it out. But here was my chance. I'd tried to make a tiara before but the icing was too runny, through fault of my own, but I knew that the sugar I had bought that time was suitable. So I hunted it down and bought it again (Squire's Kitchen, though the packaging had changed), and I made sure to follow the instructions this time, but to also make it on the stiffer side. It worked very well, and though I only mixed up a small amount of what was in the packet, I ended up with far too much. But anyway!

   I found myself a dinosaur skeleton. Initially I was looking for an illustration because it would be less detailed and easier to follow. I didn't know what I wanted. In my head it was always a brontosaurus with a nice big rib cage, but when I thought about what dinosaur I liked, I was drawn to ceratosaurs and other big hunters. In the end, I decided to go with a raptor, because somehow I'd forgotten about them. So I had a look for a good picture, and after dismissing most of the illustrations, I happily accepted the picture shown to the left. I actually decided then that having a real fossil as a base would be more realistic than a raptor in mid-run.



   The materials used, half of which are not shown above because I was eager to start:
Royal Icing  ♦  Piping bag (I used disposable with no nozzle fittings)
Grease-proof/wax paper  ♦  a Print out of the fossil, appropriately sized ♦ a Clean paintbrush
Tape to fix the GP paper to the print out  ♦  a Bottle I ended up not using


1.   First of all I fixed some grease-proof paper over the print out, taping it in place on the back. I then mixed up my royal icing to a nice stiff consistancy. It's better it be too thick than too thin - you can add more water, but you only have as much icing as you purchased. Thick icing will give you much more controlled piping. Try to buy a good brand of royal icing. You could always use gum paste and a clay gun, but I don't like the look of gum paste, it's too thick and shiney. Of course, it's hardier and less likely to break.

2.   Once my icing was ready, I took one of my plastic, disposable piping bags and cut off the tip. You want a nice, fine line of icing. It may be that your icing is too thick to squeeze through, in which case you'll want to cut the hole slightly bigger. Don't cut off too much because you can't add it back on. Of course, I payed £2.50 for 100 bags, so I could easily have just tried again, though transferring icing from one bag to another can be messy work.

3.   Once you're satisfied the the icing line is the right thickness, begin. I started out very fine and ended up cutting a little more off. I started on the head, and traced the outline first before filling it in. It was surprisingly easy! Just be sure to get the outline of the sensory holes (eyes, ears, nose and so on) before filling it in. Once you've done it, either let it set before adding more layers, or just go for it. If your icing is a bit too thin, then it may start to spread out if you add too much. Of course, you can generally tell if that is the case from just doing the outlines. I built up 3-4 layers of icing without letting it dry. I was too eager. But nothing bad came of it.


   The teeth were a nightmare, but do be aware that, if your icing is thick enough, you can easily wipe mistakes away with a fine tool - the tip of a knife would give fair precision without disrupting the rest of the piece. I only gave the teeth one layer to begin with because of how small they were.

4.   Continue on with the rest of the body. I ended up keeping my laptop open next to me with the picture I'd printed open on it. This allowed me to see important details that were occasionally hidden by shadow cast by the rest of the icing. For example, the tail of a raptor is generally rigid, apart from a few vertebrae at the base that allowed for movement to aid balance and/or attack (I'm not sure which, if either). This meant that while I was making obvious vertebrae images along the spine and base of the tail, it was not a mistake to stop adding them on the tail itself.


   Here is the finished dinosaur. All parts of the picture beneath have been covered. I'm not too happy with the pelvis, it's a bit lumpy, but for some reason I just couldn't figure out how to flatten it out. Let it set for a day or so. The internet said a tiara would take about 2 hours, but the packaging didn't say anything except how to store unused icing. I didn't want it to still be remotely wet when I went to put it on the cake so I made this on a Saturday, and removed it on the Tuesday, so it got about 3-4 days to dry. To be honest, it was fine on Sunday, but my cake wasn't ready yet :P

   I had baked and frosted my cake on Monday, leaving it until Tuesday to apply the dinosaur bones. This gave the frosting on the cake a chance to set a little, which would reduce the mess - even if only slightly - that was sure to come when placing the broken bones back down. The last thing I want is for my unrealistically white bones to get chocolatey!
   If you need it to be in one piece, then if it breaks, lay it out upside down and put a little bit more royal icing on the back, like a glue. It'll hold it together, hopefully long enough to move it.

   As for why there is a bottle in the picture:
   I had wanted to have 3D ribs - I planned to mark out the rib cage on the edge of a bottle to make them round, so that they could give the fossil more dimension. Not all fossils are 3D mind you, a lot are flattened by the pressure of the rocks, so having a flat ribcage like above is no problem. I had to scrap the idea of a rounded ribcage, however, when I picked my dino. Those ribs are far too short and narrow to work out well, so I ended up not doing it.

   Once my frosting had set overnight, I was happy to move the dinosaur from the paper to the cake. It did indeed break when I tried removing it from the paper, but luckily I could remove the original picture from beneath the GP paper, so I used that as a guide.
   I cut the rough shape of the fossil image out and placed it gently on the cake to figure out where to place things. I did it perhaps a little too low down, but I'm still happy with it. I placed the skull down first - surprisingly enough, the spine only broke in about 3 places, I think, but just about every toe, and half the ribs, all broke as I had expected. Luckily, the frosting had set very well, so I was able to faff about and fiddle with the toes while getting them in the right place. There are a few visible breaks in the bones, but a lot of fossils are cracked and broken when found, and others break between death and fossilisation, and where the bone has turned to rock, it's held back together. So I'm not bothered by the breaks.



   Next I added few more bits and pieces - I used embroidery thread and tooth picks to make a sort of fence, and once I had made my dinosaur, I also made a "hammer", "chisel" and "brush". I coloured these in with what I had lying around (silver lustre dust + water, a black pen - edible, of course - and some peach and white lustre dust with water), and I put that on the cake afterwards to fill it up a little more. Here is the finished piece - my Theobrama Cacao Veloxis:






UPDATE:

This cake was featured in the 33rd issue of Deposits magazine!




Monday, 7 January 2013

Dragon Heartache

   As most of you surely know, I love dragons. And most things fantasy, but dragons for the most part. I love how possible they could be. Look at dinosaurs! Obviously I "know" they're not real, but still. Have you watched The Last Dragon? It seriously makes you wonder!

   But anyway. Every now and then I stumble across something on Etsy that just makes my heart ache because of the sheer price of something so ridiculously wonderful, and I know I could never afford it. They are almost always dragons, but sometimes they are other wonderful fantasy pieces. I decided, after seeing some more wonderful pieces yesterday, to just share them with you all, simply because I truly love them.





















Valentine's Products

   It's a bit late, but I was delaying this post until my Valentine's monster was done, but it's taking a little longer than I thought to complete it. Hopefully it'll be ready in a day or two, so I'll update you all then!

   For now, these are my valentine products. The heart jar was around last year, but my pink foxes are a new addition! These are all limited, and there are purchasing deadlines set: for the US and other countries, orders must be placed by the 24th of January, and for the UK, they must be placed by the 6th of February. Any orders placed after this date may not arrive in time, and international buyers cannot rely on special delivery, because the few times I've used it it's just taken just as long to arrive.



I'll make an update when the monster is ready!