Monday, 30 April 2012

Guestspot by Butterscotch and Beesting

A slight deviation from the normal interview, today's post is by the delightful Camilla from Butterscotch and Beesting....

A lot of my weekends are spent at craft fairs and markets, either working or noseying around. But the craft fairs I go to now are nothing like those of my childhood (and there were many, many craft fairs in my childhood) where my mum [] would try to sell her Modernist ceramics in a room full of knitted tea cosies and floral embroidery. 

It’s not that you wouldn’t find knitted tea cosies at today’s craft fairs (or that there’s anything wrong with them; I’m a bit of a fan actually), but you’re more likely to see an illustrated ode to the Arran-sweatered teapot than the real article. Like this one by Chasing The Crayon…

White Rabbit Has Breakfast by Chasing the Crayon

Now it seems, rather than being the black sheep in a family of art galleries and design shops, today’s craft fairs and markets showcase the work of a new breed of ‘crafters’ who don’t take much notice of those distinctions. Their work crosses the divide of art, design, making and craftsmanship. So, for example, an original illustration might end up as a series of prints, fabrics, ceramics, wallpaper, badges. Knowing how to do that, how to interpret designs for different products, is a skill in itself.

So long live the reign of new craft fair, and those makers/designers/artists/illustrators/printmakers/sewers/ceramicists/jewelers/knitters/crafters who work crazy hours to get everything ready, squeeze it all into boxes and suitcases, spend ages setting up their stall, struggle with pricing, suffer cold toes, forget to eat lunch, and carry it all back again at the end of the day.

Here are just some of the work of those people I’ve met in my past few months on the craft fair trail…

Yas Ming Ceramics

Jane Elliot / Leaf City Press

Anna Wiscombe

James Green Printworks

Ketchup on Everything

I Wish I Was A…

James Ward

And here are just two of the best of the new(ish) breed of craft fairs:

Do take the time to hop on over to Camilla's fabulous blog and her Etsy shop. You are in for a treat!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Beautiful specimens

A very early start for me today as I was going to the wholesaler to get flowers for tomorrow's demonstration at Tea for Eve. I was just about awake by the time I got to the wholesaler's at 6am! After much deliberating and cogitation I picked the flowers and headed for the tills. On my way I had to go through the sundries section. Glass ware is my weakness and I must confess dear reader that I succumbed.

Straight in front of me was a fabulous display of apothecary and bell jars. It was a little hallelujah moment because I have been on the hunt for these for ages. I'll show you why next week but for now feast your eyes on these lovely inspirational images.

Image - Andy Paiko

Image- International Visuals

Image - sweetpealondon

Image - Camille Styles

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Tea for Eve

A winning combination in my book! This Friday I am very pleased to announce that I will be taking part in a Tea for Eve event to raise funds for the ovarian cancer charity 'The Eve Appeal'.

As well as the opportunity to purchase my lovely handmade cards, and watch me doing my floristry tricks with demonstrations throughout the day, there'll be the opportunity to see these lovely people as well:

Jo’s brand new collection of clothes including Miss and Lady Captain amongst others
fabulous accessories by Hot Tomato, Blaze and One Button
Delicious home made jams and chutneys from Humber Jams

And best of all 10% of all proceeds will go to the charity

So if you're up for tea, cake, pretty things and the chance to shop in a beautiful house in a beautiful village come along and bring your friends!

Here's the when and where bit:

When: Friday 27 April 9:30am to 4pm
Where: The Stables, Tithe Barn, Felmersham, Beds MK43 7HN.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Dragon Fruit Sculpture Tutorial

In honour of St George's Day we had a knights and dragons themed party for our son and his friends 1st birthday on Sunday.  As promised here is an in depth tutorial. I wanted to make something a little bit different so thought I'd give water melon carving a go. Here's how to do it if you fancy giving it a try.

And here's a close up

Monday, 23 April 2012

Inspirational Hockney

Thanks to a very very kind and generous friend of my aunt's I was able to go to the David Hockney exhibition (which has just finished) at the Royal Academy. I went with my very dear friend Amy and as you may have gathered from her guest post here yesterday - we had a fabulous time.

I was really hoping to share some of my favourite pictures from the exhibition with you but copyright (which is there for a reason) isn't playing ball. So because I am desperate to talk about David Hockney (who is marvellous!) I thought perhaps I could direct you to his site so you can see the pictures here and also bring to your attention a site I came across which features a walk around the various places that Hockney features here.

My husband has a great talent for landscape photography and seeing the innovative way that Hockney has captured landscape has inspired me to commission some local landscape collages. I'll post the results.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Guest Post: Country Mice In The Big Smoke!

Good morning! Today's post is a guest post, giving Rosie a well-earned day off and me a chance to sat hello! My name's Amy and Rosie is one of my oldest friends. I blog at Hey, Nice Cardigan... (I dedicated a post to my lovely friend here the other week) and help Rosie out a bit with the busy business of running her business (too many 'businesses' is there? Nah!).

Since we are both currently stay-at-home mums (my first boy was born a week before her second last year) we hang out with our babies a lot these days . While we see each other pretty regularly, it is very unusual for us to do anything without our little boys in tow, so our recent inspiration gathering trip to London was the biggest treat! 

 We both live in Bedfordshire these days, and love our small towns and relatively quiet countryside location. However, in our past lives (read: before children!) we both used to spend quite a lot of time in London, for work and for fun, so we were shocked at how much we felt like a pair of country mice in the big city when we stepped off the train!

London is such an incredible city and there is so much inspiration just waiting in every shop window, museum and street scene. We were officially going to see the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy (now closed), but we found design inspiration everywhere we went. I was designated official photographer since I am a tragic iPhone photography addict! Rosie and I thought you might like to share some of the lovely things we saw on our travels.

The photo above is from the exhibition, a little sneaky since I'm not sure whether they allowed photography in the gallery... These images were all created by Hockney on an iPad. I was really inspired by the way that he has embraced this new technology so readily, while many artists might dismiss it as not being a valid artistic medium. The paintings and photo montages were so beautiful, I absolutely love his use of colour and it was a rare treat to be able to see Hockney's iconic Californian paintings along with his recent works inspired by his Yorkshire home.

These pictures show a rather less highbrow side to our trip, the shops! The shop displays in central London are like miniature works of art in themselves, and so inspiring. This spring's pretty pastel trend really can be seen everywhere you look at the moment, and I love these fresh feminine shades, they feel so fresh and springy.

We both had a TINY splurge in Anthropologie, which is really one of the loveliest shops there is ad has only come over to the UK from the USA a couple of years ago. Helpfully - or expensively! - it is a one stop shop for everything you would ever need to live the Anthro lifestyle, from clothing to homewares. We both bought some pretty door handles in the sale as a small gesture towards this in our own homes! It is really worth a visit just to look at the beautiful shop.

 We had always planned to go to Liberty as part of our trip, so that Rosie could do a bit of research in their stationery department. If you have never been, Liberty is the most amazing shop, not only because it sells beautiful fabric, fashion, home wares and all sorts of pretty things, but for the building itself. From their website: "Liberty is one of the last great emporiums for innovative and eclectic design. Situated in the heart of London since 1875, it remains to this day the destination of choice for the savvy and sophisticated shopper."

It is such an iconic London shop, and a little like visiting a beautiful National Trust house that also happens to sell amazing design. My Mum, who has taught textiles and art and design for most of her life, has always loved Liberty, and taken us since my sisters and I were little girls so it is always a special place to go for me.

The queues for the Hockney exhibition were pretty ridiculous, but luckily we had advance tickets so we got to bypass the long wait and go straight in. Before I had my baby I worked in museums and went to lots of exhibitions but it had been a long time since I last went to a big show like this in London. The museums and galleries are so fantastic, I can never believe that you can just get on a train and go and see these incredible works of art and historic artefacts, many of them for free. Although it seems distant sometimes, in fact we only live an hour's train ride out of London, and we are so lucky to have this vibrant, beautiful city practically on our doorstep.

Having children is wonderful, but it takes over your life and changes it forever, and it can seem incredible the freedom that you took for granted before they came along. It was so good for us two mummies to have a day to remember those old days and have a bit of "me time" to catch up properly and get inspired.

Its been great to meet you and share our trip, I'm hoping Rosie will have me back some time! I also have a not-so-secret secret plan to convince her to collaborate on a tutorial or two to share some of her amazing floristry skills - blogging buddies are the best!

Have a great Sunday,

Amy Xxx

Let's be friends! You can follow me and my blog (Hey, Nice Cardigan...) on Twitter, Facebook, Bloglovin'Instagram and Pinterest

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Office makeover

It is a very slow process but I am trying to make my workspace look like an office/studio rather than a back bedroom! Space is at a premium and I need to make the most of the storage I have.

I know lots of people have started to use blackboard paint on furniture - so I've joined the crowd.  The idea is that my storage can also act as my to do list planner!

So here is the before and after:

You may notice a little flash of bubblegum pink. I've painted the insides of the cupboards in a bubblegum pink gloss paint and will soon be decorating them with decoupage.  I wanted to have a nice mix of professional business like and creative goes wild.  I find bright colours really inspirational and uplifting so thought it would be good to make the inside of the cupboards into something fun.

On a recent trip to London I treated myself to a gorgeous selection of door knobs from Anthologie

This is my understated splash of colour for the outside of the cupboard doors.

And they really stand out against the blackboard paint. Each door knob has a different shape, textrue and colour mix. Perfect for indecisive creative types!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Photo wizardry

Whilst I am certainly no expert when it comes to photography, I have been working hard to get to grips with editing software to make my product photos look more appealing. During the winter especially it has been really hard to take photos in good natural light and even this week the gloomy skies have hampered my efforts.

This is where photo editing software can really help. I have been using Picasa and GIMP, both free to download and well worth a try.

So today's focus is on the difference editing your photos can make.

Here's the beginning, middle and end pictures!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Magical menagerie

Last Friday we went along to the Natural History Museum at Tring. I have very fond memories of visiting the museum when I was a little girl but hadn't been for a long time. It seemed like a perfect family day out and a great source of inspiration for me (in preparation for my Animal Fair pieces). Plus it is free entry!

The museum is made up of animals collected by Lord Rothschild. Unlike the majority of his family who are in the financial world, he chose to follow his passion for zoology.

This picture of him tells a 1000 words:

The family gifted the museum and its collections to the nation a long time ago but the Natural History Museum have transformed the place since my last visit as a little girl. I am thrilled that they have managed to keep the feeling of a victorian collector's curiosity whilst making the displays accessible and appealing to children. Lots of interactive games and information along with the sheer delight of looking at a mandrill's brightly coloured bottom!

The exhibits are displayed in very low light and there is glass everywhere so it was quite difficult to get good pictures but here are a selection of the best ones.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Vintage local loveliness

Today's local loveliness interview features two very lovely ladies who are vintage clothing aficionados. Together Abi and Emma form 'Before We Were Friends'. Their beautiful treasure trove of a stall caught my eye at the MK Handmade and Vintage Weekend and I had to find out more. A big thank you to Catrin Arwel the talented photographer who provided some of the images for this post.

1. Tell us a bit more about yourselves

'Before We Were Friends' was born about 14 months ago, out of a mutual love of all things vintage and two ever expanding vintage clothing collections! We both have busy careers in the Performing Arts in various guises and have worked in theatre, dance, film and TV in various corners of the world for the last 10 years.  With so many costumes and experiences along the way, we have both always enjoyed developing our own sense of style and expressing ourselves with our wardrobes.

We studied at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, but were in different year groups, so we only really knew each other to say hello and have a quick chat. A few years later, our paths crossed at an audition, neither of us ended up in the show but we did end up with the seed of a new friendship and blossom it has! We have so many people and places in common but get confused with the chronology of when we knew each other and when we didn’t, hence our name 'Before we were Friends'! Whenever one of us was telling the other a story we would say 'was that before we were friends?!' It became our little joke. We were searching for a name for our Vintage Clothing Company and Emma suddenly said 'I've got it!' We think it's perfect. 

2. Give us the story behind your playing card business cards (which I love by the way!)

We were looking for an economical and unique way to price our items.  We knew we wanted something recycled and environmentally friendly but with a vintage design flare.  Packs of playing cards seemed the best choice!  Old cards are easy to source and come in endless designs and colours. We soon decided to hand-make our business cards using the same idea!  To be honest hand-making them is quite time consuming but we have had such lovely feedback about them that we have decided to stick with it (although Abi needs a little work on her handwriting)! They have proved to be quite the conversation starter!

3. When I met you at MK handmade and Vintage fair, several things about your stall really stood out, grabbed my attention and made me come and chat to you.  In particular a polka dot dress prominently displayed. Would you say that vintage pieces a more likely to create a lasting impression.

There's no doubt about it!  The polka dot dress you mentioned, we fondly refer to as 'The Bumblebird' - a yellow with black polka dotted stunner of a dress! It’s a hybrid of a bumble bee and a ladybird! Come to think of it, we often name our items. I think that's because vintage clothing naturally exudes character.  Vintage clothing so often uses patterns and textures that we don't see as much in today’s fashion. So Vintage inevitably stands out from the crowd. There is nothing more satisfying than putting a few vintage pieces together; that you know no one else will be wearing.  Fashion can be so diluted in today's 'disposable' society and we see the high-street full of clothing that replicates vintage styles.  It's much more thrilling to have the real thing! Plus, the quality and detail of a vintage piece is almost always superior. It's much more personal; a way of expressing who you are and what YOUR slant on a current trend is.

4. Vintage means different things to different people - what does it mean to you?

The word ‘Vintage’ is banded around a lot these days, causing much confusion. From our point of view, as lovers and sellers of vintage fashion, it is an original item from a bygone era that exudes style and design, therefore never going out of fashion. Officially, (I just googled it, so it must be true?!) ‘Vintage’ clothing is anything that was made at least 20 years previously. So, yes, the 90’s are rapidly being considered vintage….  Although we’re not sure the stripy legging and DM’s look of ’93 will be having a resurgence quite yet?!

Personally, we do have an issue with the word being misused. You hear some people looking at 80’s clothing and claiming ‘it’s not real vintage’ and then see a 50’s style Primark dress being sold on Ebay as Vintage. So many high street shops use the word to describe their brand spanking new clothing or furnishing’s that are in fact ‘Vintage style’ or ‘Retro’, which means something else entirely.
We are careful to source genuine vintage. A lot of the time you can tell a piece must be of a certain age simply by the label stating ‘Made in Great Britain’.

5. Can you name 3 major influences on your vintage collections?

The two major influences are of course us! We source what we love. It’s as simple as that. This can of course cause problems, as we end up wanting to keep everything.

Abi: I love the feminine timeless images of the 30’s and 40’s screen sirens. My wedding dress was heavily influenced by that look.  Alongside the obvious elegance of those fashions, there was also a ‘there is a war on’ practicality about clothing, making it wearable but still undeniably feminine. In my teens I was very into the bohemian 70’s look, I still dig a pair of high wasted flairs! That’s the great thing about vintage clothing; there is something for every mood and stage of your life.

Emma:  Being honest I’m not sure my choices are influenced by a particular decade at all.  I tend to think about CONTEXT when sourcing items.  It may sound silly but I instantly build a picture in my head of who could wear that item, what with and in what situation?  I often say to myself “ooo yummy mummy does a bbq with friends dress” or “trendy 20 something layers chunky cardigan over floral dress for effortless beer garden chic!”  This is all in my head you understand!  I actually bought a divine pair of jade green heels in Las Vegas once and was convinced they would look great with jeans whilst hoovering!!! True story and no I didn’t!  Anyway, on a serious note, one of the great things about the different influences that Abi and I migrate towards is that we tend to buy very different items which really helps us cater for our varied customers.  There should be something for everyone!
6. Do you follow certain curation themes or rules?

‘Wearable and Affordable’ are our rules of thumb. We don’t want people to be intimidated by Vintage fashion, just see how it will work for them. We of course have some more ‘outlandish’ pieces in our collection, just waiting for their new owner to discover and fall in love with them.
We tend to keep our eyes and ears to the ground about what is big in the fashion world and see what is being worn by everyone around us. The resurgence of 90’s grunge means our shirts have been doing very well of late. Lots of young women are sporting denim cut off shorts with a tucked in shirt. Try it for yourself!

7. Does where you live influence which items you choose – perhaps it provides particular inspiration, maybe it is a great source for or people are particularly keen to buy a certain type of item for example.

We are learning to tailor our stock to the markets we are visiting.  There are some sales where people are more comfortable buying vintage and know what they like. Others, where people don't feel as brave and that's where accessories tend to sell best.  A belt or clutch is not as bigger commitment as an 80's jumpsuit!  Having said that, vintage items are so unique and specific to a person's taste that there is no rhyme or reason to it.  Sometimes it's just about waiting for the right person to come along. We sold a dress to a lady in Ecuador from Brixton market once! A few photo messages from her friends through the wonders of modern technology and she was the proud owner of a phenomenal cerise 60's mini for her friend’s wedding. We were as thrilled as she was…. 'Before We Were Friends' goes global! Seeing someone ‘discover’ an item on the stall, makes those cold early morning set up’s all worthwhile!

8. I love that on your Facebook page you have some fabulous photos of people wearing vintage items, showing how they can be worn in an up to date and stylish way today. If you were giving advice to a first time vintage clothes buyer what sort of thing would you recommend they look for?

Definitely start with accessories.  Bags, belts and scarves.  It's an easy way to integrate something vintage and unique to your style.  There is nothing better than a vintage scarf to give a twist to a modern outfit. They are so versatile and come in such gorgeous colours and patterns.  If you've got one of those in your bag you have a belt, a head scarf, a neck scarf and something to pep up a handbag! It's easy to start there and become braver as you become more familiar with what is available and what suits you.   
A certain decade’s shapes and styles often appeal to certain people or body shapes. Do you usually opt for the cinched in waist with a feminine touch when choosing modern clothes?  Then perhaps look at clothes from the 50's. Are you less curvy but with a pair of killer legs?  Then the 60's mini shift dress trends may be more your thing. There really is something for everyone and how far you take it is entirely up to you. The same rules apply to buying vintage as modern clothes; choose clothes that flatter YOUR body shape, that make you feel confident and express who you are.

9. How do you use vintage fashion items in a modern wardrobe?

Abi is the dress fiend!  She has a vintage dress for every occasion, whilst I (Emma) tend to opt for vintage shirts and blouses that can easily be paired with skinnies or skirts.

It’s all about WEARABLE vintage for us. There’s no point spending your hard earned cash on something you love but are not going to be able to wear (believe us, we have done it!). Both of us mix vintage pieces with modern clothing, creating a fun and personal look. By teaming a vintage dress with a contemporary blazer/leather jacket or adding vintage accessories or a hair style to a high street dress, you avoid looking like you are in 'in costume' but will exude creativity and individualism.  You just have to find what makes you feel great.

10. What can we look forward to seeing from Before We Were Friends this year?

As well as our regular markets and sales, our ‘Before We Were Friends’ Parties are really taking off! They have proved really popular for Birthdays and Hen Do’s. As our business is based on friendship, we love being surrounded by wonderful groups of friends enjoying one another’s company. We offer any combination of ‘vintage dress up’s’, make overs, photo and video shoots and if that isn’t enough we draw on our other passion and offer dance classes in every and any style, to a song of your choice and with plenty of love and laughter.
These events have proved so popular, there is a ‘Before we Were Friends’ Tea Dance ‘on the cards’ (pun intended!) with all the splendour of a ‘B4WWF’ party, but on a larger scale.
Keep an eye on our Facebook page for details of our future sales, events and of course, get in touch should you fancy a party of your own!

I do hope this interview has inspired you to add a touch of vintage style to your wardrobe (or enlarge your collection!).  Do take a look at Before We Were Friends on Facebook, and visit them at the next MK Handmade and Vintage Weekend in May.
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