Saturday, 31 March 2012

Ready set grow

This Saturday I thought I'd share a sneak peak of our allotment. It's not going to win awards but we are hoping to make more progress this year in turning our plot into a productive and attractive allotment.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Fuelled by Tea

I spent most of yesterday cutting straight lines, very, very slowly to try and make sure that the template design for a commissioned series of cards is as perfect as possible. Work like this requires a lot of concentration and it is both mentally and physically tiring (not that I am complaining!). In such circumstances I resort to good old fashioned British tea breaks to keep me focused. I find that stopping fairly regularly helps prevent me from losing focus and making a mistake or suffering from cramp in my hands.

So in honour of tea (aka British rocket fuel!) I thought it would be nice to feature some of the various paraphernalia that goes along with a cuppa.

1: This upcycled tea pot from Esther Coombs on Etsy caught my eye. I really like that she has made a very uninspiring and outdated floral teapot and brought bang up to the minute with a hand drawn tower block design.

2. These stunning hand thrown porcelain mugs are made by Dave Green Ceramics (found on Folksy). They actually leave me lost for words I think they are so beautiful.

3. This mug from Caractacus Pots (found on Folksy) is impressed with the pattern of cable arran knitting. White on white and textured ceramics are key trends this year - so this mug is very appropriate. I really like functional art and I definitely think this mug fits into that category. I'm sure it would feel lovely to hold as well.

4.Sometimes you need things that make you feel special. Drinking tea from this beautifully decorated tea cup and saucer would certainly do that. Yvonne Ellen has a fabulous Folksy shop featuring a number of beautiful and unique hand decorated vintage cups and saucers. I struggled to limit myself to just one.

5. I'm sure we had a very similar spoon to this at my parents house which was used to scoop leaf tea into the teapot. (Leaf tea is the norm for my parents and a much enjoyed luxury for me when I visit!) This lovely spoon is from fannyandlil on Etsy

6. I have a weakness for tea caddies (not a sentence you often read, but true all the same!). Being the Diamond Jubilee year this lovely caddy from emmalovesxxx on Etsy seemed very topical. I love the colours.

7. Simple, beautiful. This dish is one of a number made by Little Bobbins on Etsy.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Frame it!

One of the joys and challenges of working with paper cuts is that you have to create a design that links together. This means that you need to use your imagination to link aspects of the design without it looking forced or odd. A really good method is to use a decorative border. I cannot get frames and borders out of my head at the minute - I think because they will probably be integral to my animal fair cut.

So today I thought I would show some examples of paper cutting artists' work who use frames really well.

Image - Made by Julene
Julene Harrison is seriously talented. I heartily recommend taking a look at her site if you would like to spend an hour or so drooling at her beautiful work. One of the things I most admire about her typography work is the clever way she links things together and encloses the design in a gorgeous border. It doesn't look forced, it is an integral part of the design and adds to the image.

Image - Rob Ryan
Rob Ryan is perhaps one of the most well known paper cutting artists. I thought this piece was a really good example of how a frame doesn't have to seem like a frame. In this piece the heart blossoms organically into the birds and branches border. It doesn't look like a border and yet it is serving that function - the heart couldn't be in the picture without it. Genius. Again if you want to spend hours drooling here's the link

Image - Suzy Taylor

This is a recent commission done by Suzy Taylor. Here the tree and grass bank merge with the border. Its seamless but vital. Check out Suzy's blog for more paper cutting loveliness and great explanations of little devices she uses to keep a piece as one. (Look at the stars in the river)

All three of these artists are hugely inspirational for me. I love that all 3 are UK artists who have gone out there and shown how fantastic paper cuts can be. Who inspires you?

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Local Loveliness- Interview with Emma from Hapitat

You may remember that I recently visited the MK Handmade and Vintage Extravaganza at Centre MK. I had the opportunity to speak to a number of extremely talented people who kindly agreed to do interviews for this blog. Well we are kicking off in style with an interview with Emma Read who is the talent behind Hapitat. Emma creates beautiful floral headpieces, fabric flower bouquets and much much more! So without further ado - here is the interview:

Tell us a bit more about yourself!

I was bought up in a sleepy village in Hampshire, I studied Art and Design when I left school, and planned to go to University to do a degree in Art, but I got scouted by a model agency, and decided to put my art on hold for a year to model in London. A year turned into about 10 in the Big Smoke, but when our little boy came along, we decided to move out to Buckinghamshire to be close to my husband’s family.
 I found I had more time to myself as our boy grew up, and that’s when my creativity started up again.
I was invited to Ascot for a hen weekend. I had a vision of what I wanted to wear on my head, a huge flower headpiece, but couldn’t find anything big enough, so I set to work making my own.  Using some leftover silk from the dress my sister made me for my wedding, I created a huge silk flower. The comments on race day where amazing, so when I got home I set to work creating more. I found inspiration from my collection of vintage fabric lace and netting, I set up a shop on Etsy and my first customer was Courtney love Cobain. Since then the customers have been flooding in.

When I saw your stall at MK Handmade and Vintage fair I was blown away by the attention to detail and luscious materials that you use to create your products. It’s probably unfair to ask but do you have a favourite material?

I absolutely love working with all vintage fabrics. Each piece is unique, whether it be faded by the sun over the years or slightly frayed, I just love working with it. Each piece has a story to tell. New fabric can be great too, but vintage is the one for me. Call me weird, but I even love the smell of it. It reminds me of when I was growing up,.My Mum and Dad did a lot of amateur dramatics and they borrowed clothes from an old lady who had a massive collection in an old barn,. My Mum would take my sister and me, we would run around trying on top hats and feather cancan dresses- a little girls dream giant dressing up box. I think that’s where my love of vintage really stemmed from.

You’ve recently had your items featured at the national wedding show and by Etsy France. Tell us more…

I was contacted by Etsy admin a few weeks ago. They said two of my huge silk flower headpieces had been selected by the National Wedding Show to appear on the catwalk. I was so excited, but also nervous. Shipping my beloved flowers off to be borrowed and having worked in catwalk shows I know how clothes and accessories can be flung around in the mad rush, but I’m very please to say, they arrived back to me in perfect condition this morning. The response has been amazing. Etsy said they had literally 100’s of people enquiring where they could buy my headpieces for their wedding.
I also sent a similar ivory headpiece to Paris for Etsy France’s first press day. They are recreating an apartment of a young family and are filling it with handmade Etsy goodies, one area is dedicated to a wedding and that’s where my headpiece comes in. Apparently it’s going to have huge press coverage, so I’m looking forward to hearing feedback from that.

One of the products that really caught my eye was your Indian headdress. Can you tell us more about the inspiration for the piece?

The Indian headdresses have been a really big seller especially in the run up to the  UK festival season, but I’ve also sold a lot to US customers. I believe their festival season has already started.
I just love dressing up, and the festivals are an ideal opportunity to let go of your inhibitions. I don’t take things seriously at the best of times, but this is a good excuse to just go utterly mad. I often team my headdress with gold hot pants and leopard print leggings. I think we all have an inner child and it’s good to let it out every now and again.
The vintage leather I’ve used is from a collection I’ve had for years. I just love the look of vintage leather. It can be distressed by hand, but it never looks the same as real battered vintage leather. Some of the vintage trim I’ve used was bought from an Etsy seller in Texas. I started off using recycled feathers, but I’ve recently been buying luxurious German cockerel feathers from a supplier in Wales. The natural iridescent colours are just so pretty and they create a very striking result.

What is your favourite part of the creative process?

I get very excited by fabrics, as you have probably already gathered. I think I get most excited when different textures and colours really work together. I have so much fabric I’m forever finding new combinations, and when I come across a bag of fabric I’d forgotten about in my attic, I’m almost falling down the stairs rushing to get started (and yes I have a bruised bottom, where I have fallen a few times)

Can you name three major influences on your products?

As I mentioned before, the amateur dramatic wardrobe/dressing up dream when I was a child.

The huge collection of vintage fabric and lace in my attic that I have acquired over the years is an enormous influence.

Nature all around influences me, especially this time of year when the new blossom and shoots are coming out through the entwining tangled plants that winter left behind. I’m always a bit sad when it all needs tidying up. I love natures beautiful mess.

Can you name three things about where you live that benefit/inspire you and your work?

The charity shops and car boots around here are great. I’m always picking up vintage fabric, lace and old vintage clothing and hats that I can recycle into something beautiful.
I love the peace and quiet of the countryside, spending time searching for fairies at the bottom of my garden or by the riverbank with my children help inspire me too.
I don’t drive but I manage to find everything I need right on my doorstep.

You’ re committed to recycling – what sparked that passion? Does it have particular delights or challenges?

My family have always recycled and have been very eco friendly since I can first remember. My grandmother was thrifty during the war. They didn’t have a lot of money and that rubbed off on my Mother. Nothing was ever wasted and they were taught to make and do. My Mum made all our clothes and grew their own produce and we were bought up around jumble sales and craft fairs.

I don’t find that recycling hinders me, I find it’s more of a challenge than just buying something new from a fabric shop, that’s what makes it so exciting.

I noticed that you have been creating flowers with new materials – plastic bags! Is this something we can expect to see more of?

I’m always looking to recycle different materials to work with. I discovered that you can iron plastic bags together in layers between greaseproof paper and it makes it sewable and less flimsy and crinkly. I think I’ll be using this at the summer festival where I run Hapitat flower workshops and teach people how they can make flowers out of just about anything.

What else can we look forward to from you in 2012?

My little girl is still quite young (16 months) so she takes up a lot of my time, but I’m going to continue with my online Etsy shop and Hapitat website, as well as doing my craft stall every 3 months  at MK Handmade and Vintage Fairs in Middleton Hall Central Milton Keynes.  I’ve been approached by few local boutiques’ that would like to stock some of my flower headpieces. I’m also hoping to be getting a lot of giant flower headpiece orders from brides who saw them at the National wedding show.

Emma will be at the next Handmade and Vintage Extravaganza at Centre MK on 26th/27th May but if you can't make it then or can't wait that long then you can find her here:


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

An American treat

A while ago I did a swap with a fellow Etsy seller Emily who runs Love and Laughter. We swapped two of my cards for a fabric stationery wrap made by Emily. Here is one of my cards in its new home with Emily's treasures.

Somewhere along the line the postal service intervened and I've had to wait quite a while for my swap to arrive. But it has finally arrived - hooray! And it is certainly a treat! A very big thank you to Emily. And if you'd like one of your very own then check out Emily's shop here

I absolutely love the fabric. It is so bright and cheery and something that I will enjoy looking at as well as using.

The stationery wrap looks absolutely beautiful when tied together and I think it will be secure enough to wrap my knives in (with guards on!)

There are three handy pocket so plenty of room for everything.

A truly scrummy Tuesday treat!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Interview with Christine from Meanglean

Image - Meanglean
It was a tiny little chicken that led me to discover the fabulous Meanglean Etsy store.  I blogged about this fabulous little toy and how much it made me smile. (Check out the smile chicken post). Christine who is the fabulous owner of Meanglean very kindly agreed to do an interview and let us know more about how she finds, curates and relates to the items in her magnificent emporium.

You say you tend to gravitate towards small shiny things do you have a particular favourite type of a vintage item?

Yes, anything that will fire up my imagination, either because I have no idea what it is and find it curious, or when I see it I can sense that there is a story within, with any luck a piece of history. Also I love miniatures, particularly if they have the potential to be used for any other creative endeavour, like altered arts, jewellery assemblage and so forth. Mostly, I'll look at something and think: Somebody somewhere needs this precise little weird thing.

Image - Meanglean
One of the things I found so appealing about your vintage store was the vast range of items 1970s nylon pants to a hand carved south American donkey. Are there certain things you look for when choosing pieces? Colour, origin, back story, etc?

One of the exciting aspects of the search for items is the randomness of it all. I have to keep an open mind because I never know what I am going to stumble upon. I am immediately attracted to certain materials; bone, wood, brass, enamels and mother of pearl just to mention a few. Of course the main factor is charm and the more specific these things are the better, when I find something that had a function I didn't even know existed, that's like hitting the jackpot. There is a lot of learning in this process of rummaging through old stuff that is endlessly satisfying.

Images - Meanglean

It's mean to ask but...! Can you pick three favourite items currently in your shop and tell us why you like them so much?

Uhh, that is a tough one. I have these colourful paper ephemera packs:

Image - Meanglean

They are prize cards from Horticultural shows, mostly poultry from the 1930s in England, I find them absolutely stunning and it is such fun to imagine all the buzzing and bidding that went on.

Another item I love is this little badge from the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing:

Image - Meanglean

The badge depicts the Three Graces who in ancient Greek mythology represent the personifications of charm, beauty and creativity. The ISTD's chief objective is "to educate the public in the art of dancing in all its forms" What it represents is so beautiful. I have become a great lover of society badges like this, they are such great story tellers and, sometimes, quite funny because they can take themselves so seriously.

And I also choose this silver filigree ring with turquoise stones that I picked up from a flea market in Lisbon:

Image - Meanglean

I have my own collection of these that I have accumulated over the years, all from the same place.
Other than their evident beauty, what fascinates me about them is that each one is a love story, possibly of heartbreak since they have been disposed of. I don't know if this tradition was more universal, but in Portugal these rings were gifts of woe, if a girl agreed to become a young man's girlfriend then she would wear a ring like this as a sign of commitment. A pre engagement ring if you like. When I was a teenager this tradition still existed, although the rings had been reduced to very simple and thin bands very similar to the standard wedding ring, difference being they were worn on the right hand.

Tell us about some of the things you have crafted with your vintage finds.

Most of the objects I craft end up as gifts. It is too hard to be objective and put a value on them so, this way, I can still think that they are within reach. However, there are these two I can share with you, both are entirely made of things I have found and both were made when I was feeling quite lonely and isolated, which can happen very easily when working from home and, I guess, anyone can relate to:

Starry Night Necklace - Meanglean

I wish I was Outside necklace - Meanglean

Name three major influence on your collections.

I'll start big, with Space the Universe and Everything in it.
I am a bit of a sci fi geek as well as a lover of science and philosophy audio books. Often I will be working to the sound of Carl Sagan or Allan Watts expanding on the great mysteries, of course this seeps into my crafty works and also, on how I perceive the delicate existence of my vintage finds.  To me, it is no small miracle that they have survived till today and are up there for anyone who wants them.

There is also film. Cinema is always on my mind.
Old objects usually strike me as potential great props, or perfect Mcguffins. Lately I have been finding myself more and more drawn to stop motion animation and video art, so anything that has wire inside or any movable parts or is see through can lend it self to these genres.

Last but not least, I am very much influenced by the people in my life, most of them related to the arts one way or another.  Through them I become aware of stuff I have never considered before, and this opens up all sorts of possibilities and new ways of expression.

One example is street artist Donk:

I find his work so very beautiful and inspiring, I love all the quasi religious quality to his iconography and his use of words always make me smile. This form of free art is something that only recently entered my consciousness. Donk has influenced me to venture out of my comfort zone. To go out there and stick up some things of my own. For that I am so very grateful, it's an amazing gift.

If you were to put together a treasury collection inspired by your background in film and theatre, which play or movie would you choose and which items would you include?

Well, Two films that came to mind when I thought of this were; Disney's Fantasia and Barbarella.
Both are a feast to the eyes and the more I thought about it the less I was able to choose, so here they are:

'Fantasia - Music, Magic and Glitter' by Meanglean

Celebrating films I love

Glitter Fall Fallin...
SALE Dramatic Party...
south storm & full ...
Valentine Headband,...
Purple Glitter 0 ga...
Original 5-frame 35...
POW Glitter Fascina...
Mickey Mouse in Fan...
White, Silver or Bl...
The Light Before Th...
Labradorite Necklac...
Be In Luv w/Music 6...
Summer Storm (100x7...
Angel Dreamy Misty ...
The Etude Music Mag...
Hot Pink Elephants ...

'Barbarella's Quarters' by Meanglean

Celebrating films I love

Supernova Aurora Bo...
Space City vinyl wa...
Space Case - Metall...
Electric Space Heat...
Glass Lampwork Retr...
Lost in Space Leggi...
Vintage 60s Translu...
Vintage French 60s ...
60s Clear Space Age...
1970s Space Age Sil...
Size 6 Vintage 60s ...
Space Shuttle Atlan...
Hubble Deep Field P...
Wings money clip
New Age MitLits for...
Mixed Metal Quartz ...

How do you keep on top of your compulsive hoarding? Is it hard to let go of pieces you have found?

It all takes a lot of negotiating.
All the things you see in the shop are there because I fell in love with them, right from the moment I picked them up. They live with me for a while, I photograph them, process the images, do a bit of research and then try to verbalize why I find them so awesome. So there is a whole relationship I have with these items. Sometimes I will sell something I quite like very quickly and that can make me feel like I haven't had enough time with them. I am learning to be more strategic about it. Now I tend to put off posting items till I am satisfied they have told me all their secrets.

 On the other hand, I have come to make peace with and appreciate the fact that my surroundings are always changing. I am constantly redecorating and my favourites are where I can see them. This is an opportunity to reorganize all the stuff, because it can get quite mad, and reassess some of the things that don't feel right for the shop. I am getting better at disposing of them.

Also, one of the many reasons why I am on Etsy, is that the people there tend to be incredibly generous and open. Often buyers will write to me explaining what they are going to do with something they have bought. That is always surprising.

As an example, I had these novelty Key rings shaped like a toilet, they were so naff, their only saving grace was being so perfect in their minuteness and so colourful:

Image - Meanglean

A french lady got in touch explaining that she was a teacher for children with special needs and she wanted a few of these to make it easier for the kids to express when they needed to go to the loo. She bought the whole lot.

Without revealing your trade secrets are there particular places you go hunting for your vintage treasures?

I travel a fair bit through European cities and the first thing I will research before going there, are their flea markets. It is something I have always done, it is a great way to get to know the place because quite often they will be off the beaten track. Also, It is curious to see how different people get rid of different stuff, so you never know what curiosities you might find.
 One of my favourite such experiences was when my previous job took me to Moscow, on one of my outings I managed to get lost and, totally serendipitously, came upon a huge market.
 The front section was loads of neat and charming stalls selling mostly souvenirs, but hidden at the far back was a field where people had blankets on the floor, these were all old people making an extra something out of junk, none of which spoke any English and I only know how to say thank you in Russian, so there was a lot of writing numbers down on pieces of paper, gesticulating and laughter. It was great, I love haggling and being challenged in this way, providing it is all in good spirits. I came away with some pretty good treasures
 Here in England, there are a few auctions, markets and charity shops I return to time and again, but I am constantly searching for new car boot sales, the further away from the main cities the better.

Image - Meanglean

Vintage means different things to different people. We value it for different reasons. What is the value of vintage for you?

Well, The charming factor I mentioned before, comes mostly from the fact that something about an object has become obsolete. Either their function is better served now if made from new materials and with a new design, or it has ceased to exist altogether. Also if something was manufactured in European countries, especially Western Europe, they have that vintage value. We don't manufacture things here anymore. I am very partial to old toys that have stamped :Made in France/England/Germany/Spain and of course Japan. That makes them very very special.

Image - Meanglean

 What can we look forward to seeing in Meanglean in the coming months?

Travelling back in time. The more I search and learn, the more attuned I am to finding older things and all the stories they have to tell. The big plan for this summer is a road trip through Eastern Europe, I expect to find all sorts of exciting stuff!

Check out video’s from Meanglean here

Visit the fabulous Meanglean Etsy shop here:

New items are added all the time like this one!:

extendable opening for a clutch purse - meanglean

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