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Let There Be Light!

As some of you may be aware, I have started making bags, pouches and jewellery from Chain Mail*.

Due to the nature of the items, and the prevailing conditions, I have been struggling to take good photographs of said items. So I have eventually relented and invested in a Light Box (and when I say “invested”, it was £11 from Amazon).

“So, is it any good?” I hear you ask. Well, let me explain …

A bag containing my new light box

I opened the familiar Amazon parcel to find this little bag. Apparently the light-box is “portable”, and can be repackaged. It looks quite nice, anyway. So I emptied the contents, to see what I had bought.

My first reaction was one of disappointment. Cheap plastic tat. The background cloths were as cheap as the reviews I’d read mentioned. Not smooth at all. But there were several of them, and two USB leads, for the LED strip lights. (EDIT: on closer inspection, the USB leads are a 1-to-2, only requiring a single USB port to power both LED strips. I consider this a very good feature.

So, it is what it is.

To be honest, for £11, including next-day delivery, what did I expect?

So, on with the Unboxing. Or more accurately, the assembly:

Following the clear, concise instructions .. a ha, ha ha, ha ha!

Eventually, I got it folded the right way, and the little tabs correctly inserted in the right place! It did feel kinda flimsy while putting it together, but I think the plastic will hold up to a little manhandling.

As you can see, there is a circular flap in the roof, so that one can take photographs from directly above. This was actually a selling point, over some of the other options in this price range.

Once assembled, it was actually reasonably rigid, and the background cloth easy to fit, and swap.

The LED lights are quite bright, but do not glare or shine too much. There is plenty of room to place, and manipulate, a piece of jewellery, or small sheet of mail. The cloth has a minor crease in, and does not lie flat, but this can be worked around (I’ll probably be using other backgrounds anyway).

A quick snap with my phone (Samsung Galaxy 7 Edge) shows that the lighting makes a big difference.

I can now look at better positioning, cropping etc.

Even the Black rings show up well, with enough contrast between the rings, but no glare.

The background material is not great, but is good enough for now.

A sheet of pastel green A4 paper just fits nicely inside the box, so this could be a good way to go. Although I may use a different colour for this piece. It looks like it is picking up a lot of green reflection, although I think it is just the colours not meshing well.

More research needed.

I did de-assemble it, and try to squeeze it back into it’s travel-bag. The results were mixed. Probably good enough, if I’m careful with it.

So, overall, after a very quick test, I would say that this was £11 well spent! It works, the photographs are a lot better than previous attempts, and I hope they will be good enough to put in my Online Store!

If you are interested in ordering, or finding more information, I bought it from here:

So, until my next post: Farewell, dear readers, and #StaySafe!

“Chain Mail”. The origin of the term “Mail” (or you may prefer the French spelling “Maille”) refers to a piece of armour (usually of linked rings), from the Latin for Mesh. Over the years, this has been corrupted to Chain Mail, and I use this term to avoid confusion with Postal Mail, or even Gender. Once this has been established, I tend to lapse back to “mail”.

The Onward March of Progress

How Two Generations Have Changed The World

My grandparents lived in back-to-back housing, with outside toilets, and no hot water.

The height of technology available to them was the Wireless. No, not “Wifi Internet Connection“. Radio. The BBC News Broadcast.

When one says “Almost 100 years ago …”, it is easy to think “oh, back in the Olden Days“, but my grandparents, that I knew and loved, lived through that.Image result for 1920s housing derby terraces

Although Electricity Suppliers were available, they were expensive and diverse, and it was not until 1935 the the National Grid was created, and it was unreliable until the ’60s. Houses were lit by gas, or candles, and most household tasks, such as laundry and cleaning were done by hand. There were no Automatic Washing Machines, or Dishwashers, or even Vacuum Cleaners.

Penicillin was not invented until 1928, and took years to be available to the general public. “The Youth of Today” do not realise what a Big Thing this is. Infections that we now think of as minor were considered Killers. My own father spent time as a child in an Isolation Hospital with Scarlet Fever.

So, your web-page is taking an extra 5 seconds to load? Cry me a river!

Managing Expectations

Everyone sees the world through their own experiences.

A public Telephone Box

My dad regales anyone who will listen with his tale of my nephew (his grandson. Now in his early 20s) asking what my dad’s first mobile phone was like, when he was a kid … cue “When I were a lad ...” Pythonesque rant. He had to walk down the street to a public telephone box. (For our younger readers, this is a Land Line, shared with everyone, situated at the Village Green. You  had to pre-pay shilling coins. People did not have their own land-line! ) But I digress. This is “New-Fangled Gadgets”

While I bemoaned my parents’ frugality (read: stinginess) regarding a VHS recorder, today’s hard-done-by children are rationed Mobile Phone credit and have curfews on their games consoles.

The youth of today have grown up with microprocessor technology. My niece had a mobile phone in her cot on Day One (playing soothing womb-sounds). Why would she not think everyone did?

Even those of us who remember dial-up internet (and its interminable screeching) now get frustrated at a 5-second delay on web-pages loading, or ‘buffering’ on our Netflix movies.

Time moves ever on, and we judge our relative position against those around us, not those who came before.

Next Generation

While my grandparents would be astounded at the technological accomplishments that we have made, and the ready availability of such, my generation will likely be just as amazed at what the next advancements will be.

Image from

A 1950s television.

From the 4″-9″ TV sets used to view the coronation of King George in 1937 to the 49″+ sets now used to watch ‘celebrities’ eating bugs, we have come a long way. Where next? There is talk of home projectors, or even Active Wallpaper, able to turn an entire wall of your living-room into a video display.

Our current Super-Fast broadband will be the poor-man’s speed of the 2020s. But what will this mean? Comparing to previous technology, we struggled to stream video, yet now it is expected, and even my parents have upgraded so that they can both be watching different programs (What? TWO computers? Are these people Aristocrats, or Merchant-Princes? Actually, they also have a laptop AND an iPad!) without buffering. They also both have mobile phones, which, in my opinion, are the major step forwards, and where the advancements will come.

On The Move

Imagine, if you can, dear reader, a time when all of the peoples of the world will carry a device that links them to every other person on the planet. At the touch of a button, they can call forth any piece of information from the Global Databases, read any book ever written, watch any movie ever made, or listen to any music ever recorded. The latest news from even the furthest reaches of the world are broadcast immediately to all of these devices. All of the Academic courses, History, Geography, Mathematics, Philosophy, the Arts, are there in your hand, and even Teachers available to discuss with.

That time, my friends, is upon us!

Related image

Alcatel Pixi 3. £20. All the phone you need.

Even my dad’s most basic of mobile ‘phone’s is capable of full internet access, and although its on-board processor is limited, it can off-load much of the work to online servers, storing photos and documents in The Cloud, utilising the network of “4G” Mobile Masts around the country.

The communicators, and even ‘tri-corders’ that Captain Kirk relied upon so much pale besides our “Phones”.

I have friends who no longer even use a Home Computer, their phones and tablets providing all of the functionality they need to survive a Modern Lifestyle, and the next generation will consider our desktop PCs quite quaint!

There may  be black-spots, and no-signal zones, but these are disappearing fast. Optical Fibre connections are being rolled out to even the most remote locations. Soon there will be no place without constant, reliable connection to the Global Village!

When the youngest of our families become grandparents, what marvels will the new generation be privy to?


It is my opinion that:

  1. The Internet, mobile phones, etc are a natural progression from Marconi’s initial radio experiments, and Shokley et al‘s transistors.
  2. We are still in the early days. Compare to other technologies in our homes: TV is nearly 100 years old. Radio even older. Electric lighting 150 years. We have a long way to go before Instant Global Communication is considered a mature technology, and it’s social effects (little touched upon here) are fully felt.


SketchUp Three (Part Two) – Adding Details



If you’ve been following this series (Part OnePart TwoPart Three), you should now have a framework of a house. Now we shall add some extra features, and introduce some new techniques.

So, open up your House file, and also the blueprint you are working from, and we’ll jump in!


To get into the house, we are going to need some doorways. My research tells me that an average door is 36″ by 80″ (about 1m wide, 2m tall). On my blueprint, the front door is about two feet from the left corner, so lets start marking out these measurements:

Guide Lines

Guide Lines

Snap Effect in Action!

Snap Effect in Action!

Now draw a Rectangle for the doorway, and use the Push/Pull to create the doorway! The Snap-Effect will keep you lined up properly:

Now that we know how to make a doorway (Draw Guidelines using Measuring Tool, then Push/Pull to create gap), we should make all of our doorways.

By now, we will have covered our Scene in guidelines, and rather than helping, they will be getting in the way! We could go round and delete them one-by-one, but there is an easier way! The “Delete Guides” entry on the Edit Menu!

Delete The Guidelines

Delete The Guidelines



OK, that’s the doors … we need to do the same for the windows! For the purposes of this tutorial (and simplicity!), I will be having all of the windows start three feet from the floor, and the tops be level with the top of the doors (80″, remember? This is 6′ 8″, or about 2 meters in new money). Again, put some guides in place. I’m making the front window 6′ wide, placed approximately halfway between the door and the right corner. Then draw the rectangle, and Push/Pull it. Again, continue around the house, putting all of the windows in place.

Doors and Windows

Doors and Windows

Actual Doors and Windows

Now, we want to put the actual doors and windows in place! Now, we can design our own furniture, and we already have most of the tools to do so (Draw a rectangle 6′ 8″ x 3’6″, Push/Pull to 1″ thick, BAM! Door!). Or we can rely on the kindness of strangers!

The SketchUp Warehouse is a repository where anyone can upload their creations, for other people to use. Maybe you will upload something there one day? For now, head to the File Menu -> 3D Models -> Get Models …   This will open the Warehouse, and allow you to select items to insert into your scene! Enter a search term (e.g. “Door”) into the Search Box at the top, press Enter, and Presto! Doors appear! Take some time to browse around, see what people have uploaded. If you find a design that you like, select it, and you will be taken to it’s Page, where you have the options to view a 3D render of it (note: can take a little while to load), or to download it into your Scene. Scrolling down should reveal other items, including collections and models that this item has been used in. I’ll not get into the complicated sections for now: Find a door you like (I’ve chosen “Flush Door” by user: “Luncai”), hit Download, and load it directly into your model.

You will notice that the door is now free-floating, and you can move it around. Find some free space, and click. Note: Do not try to place it in a doorway yet! Drop it near the house, and we’ll come back to  it …

Interlude …

Rainbows From A Car

My Dad, being the hero that he has always been, took me to pick my car up from its MOT and service the other day. The weather could not make up its mind, and the clear skies kept giving way to showers. While this made driving a little more awkward, it did give rise to a rainbow!

Caught without my camera, I pulled out my trusty mobile phone, and snapped a few shots.
As we were travelling at 50-60mph along winding country roads, and shooting through car windows (usually kept spotlessly clean, but see aforementioned weather), I was quite impressed with the results:

Blurred Rainbow

Rainbow Blur

I thought this would be as good as I could get, given that we were on a schedule, and Dad is not one for stopping the car for me to take photos. Especially if it would make us late (Dad’s definition of late is “less than ten minutes early”, whereas Mum defines “early” as “no more than ten minutes late”!).

So I was quite pleased to get these:

Rainbow and Hedge

Captured Rainbow

Rainbow Behind Tree

Rainbow Behind Tree

And this one was the best, I think:

Partial Rainbow

Partial Rainbow

All things considered, not a bad haul!

We didn’t find the pot of gold, but my car passed its MOT with only minor work, so I guess that counts!



New Artists!

The Crystal Cave now has more Artists!

Firstly, I would like to welcome Dark Flights Art aboard! She has brought a range of Pewter jewellery, including Lion and Unicorn pendants, and a Griffin lapel badge!

Dark Flights Art

Also joining us is Drawn To Paint Nature, with paintings inspired by the natural world around us. WIth both prints and originals available, I’m sure you’ll find something you like!

Drawn To Paint Nature

Coming soon, we will also have Cloud Lines range of Clear Conscience clothing, made from upcycled materials.

So, remember to drop in at The Crystal Cave, and see what’s new!

He Waits. That’s What He Does.

And I tell you what; tick followed tock followed tick followed tock followed tick …

The website is up, the shop is open, products stacked neatly on the (virtual) shelves.
I’ve tested the site, run Checking Tools over it, hand-checked the links.
I’ve let everyone I can think of know about it, and done as much SEO as I can (without spending my first year’s takings on a ‘professional’).

And now I wait …

… and wait …

Hopefully my next post will be “HELP! Too busy! Too many orders!”. Hopefully. Not holding my breath.
Just waiting.

Hi Everyone From Melissa Lawrence

Hi everyone. This is just a quick post to say “Hi”, introduce myself and to let you know that I hope to be blogging at greater length in the future. Some of my exclusive, handmade greetings cards (Melissa Lawrence Designs) are already for sale on so thanks to the wizard for including my work! I look forward to sharing some crafty thoughts with you in the future.

Playing in The Traffic

Or, to be more accurate, Playing in the Lack of Traffic.

Getting a website seen is a long, arduous job. Firstly, the pit-falls of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Are my meta-tags appropriate? Do I have enough keywords in my Content? Or too many? What are people actually searching for? Is it worth paying a professional SEO company to optimize the site?

Getting other websites to link to me should bring a few page-hits. But are those sites going to see me as competition? Or irrelevant to their visitors? How much should I be spamming other webmasters requesting reciprocal links? Do I want my site to be crammed full of links to other people?

The old adage “build it, and they will come” seems like a slow process, and relies upon people knowing that I have built it.

Freebies, cut-price deals, unique products, competitions and other such offers only work if people know they are there. I can’t just walk into the middle of “the internet” and shout about my wares:
“Roll Up! Roll Up! New, interesting art and craft from UKs best designers and Artists! You, madam! You look like someone who appreciates Art! have you seen Dark Flight’s latest designs? Sir, I bet you have a birthday or anniversary approaching! Can I tempt you with something from Melissa Lawrence? Ladies, I just know that you will love Cloud Line’s new Caterpillar Hugs!”.

But there is no “passing traffic” that just happens to wander past a website. No busy street to set up my stall on. The equivalents are places like eBay and Etsy, where an overcrowded market competes ruthlessly for attention, and it becomes very difficult to be heard.

I feel caught in a Catch 22 situation, starved of traffic as I am not yet well-known enough for anyone (Search Engines, other websites, word-of-mouth recommendations) to send visitors my way, and without that traffic, I will struggle to become well-known. It only needs a small breakthrough to start the snowball rolling, but I am struggling to reach that point.

So, another weekend of looking for ways to publicise The Crystal Wizard. Ho Hum.
As always, constructive advice always appreciated.


Just as I was preparing to set up the Crystal Cave shop, I come down with a cold! 🙁

Absolutely full of cold, groggy, sore throat. I’m trying to keep focussed, but its hard work!

Can’t stop, though! No Rest For The Wizard!

So, what are the next stages? I’ve got the Cave up and running, so its getting artists/suppliers on board, next. Need to get details of their work to publish in the shop, and agree pricing structures. I’ll be using PayPal, at least to begin with, and they take a cut, so need to make sure that is covered, and a bit left for me! (Much as I enjoy working in the Crystal Cave, I DO have bills to pay!).

Could do with some better artwork both for the main website, and the shop. I’m struggling with the PrestaShop Themes, seems very difficult to do minor editing, so I’m relying on finding a suitable Template. Something in pink/purple. Ah, the joys of trawling through site after site, checking their Templates, searching for one that looks right!

And then making sure the shop is configured correctly, and payments will work.

I think I need more Magic Potion (or Lemsip!)