Friday, 30 December 2016

2016 what a year !

Well its nearly over and what a year it turned out to be, a real rollercoaster not to be too clichéd about it. I thought I'd take a few moments to reflect and look forward to 2017.

Here are my highlights.

I started teaching workshops for the fantastic Make at Monteray
This led to teaching a  taster workshop at The Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey which was a great experience.
I signed up for business mentoring with the fabulous Creative Business Network
This helped me to organise my thoughts and push myself in a new direction. I also launched my newsletter.
I rethought my pricing structure and began to produce larger, more 3d work based on British butterflies.
I exhibited work at two new shows to me, Nourish Festival and later Wonderworks. Rethinking my products and display has been really worthwhile.
My husband and I had a fantastic, inspiring holiday to China and Japan. This was to celebrate a milestone birthday. In my personal life I took on a new role as a carer and had to learn to balance this with work. It's made me more determined to create as I now realise what a vital part of my life it is.

So thank you to everyone who supports me, by reading my blog, liking my posts, retweeting my tweets, buying my work and listening to my insecurities. Here's hoping for a kinder 2017.

Happy New Year !

I have brand, new workshops coming for 2017 including this one at Make at Monteray

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Japan, an insprational holiday.

My hubby and I both celebrated a milestone birthday this year and our 15 year wedding anniversary, so instead of a party we decided to treat ourselves to a fantastic holiday. It has taken me a little while to digest the trip and also other life events have got in the way, but here we go.

 We started in China, Richard's choice, and then spent 9 days in Japan. It has always been a dream of mine to visit, I love Japanese art and design, I'm also attracted to the ethos and approach to life of the people.
I was not disappointed, everything was so efficient and well thought out. Arriving at Tokyo Station one of the biggest in the world was amazing, despite thousands of people there was no aggression, no litter and no threat, unlike the feelings I get when I travel to London.
Even the pavements were beautiful each district having its own emblem on occasional stones.

I felt at home almost immediately, and oh so much to see. Tokyo is not a walkable city, it is vast and each area has its own characteristics some ultra modern, others traditional. Fantastic shop displays, eccentric cafes and sublime temples to name a few.

We travelled on to Mount Fuji, unfortunately shrouded in mist, to stay at a traditional rayokan inn. We dressed in kimono, slept on futons and had the most exquisite meal in our room. I could have stayed for ever.

Next the bullet train to Kyoto, another mix of the ancient and modern, with some of the loveliest temples and old architecture.

I also found a wonderful fabric shop called Nomura Tailor and my first branch of Tokyu Hands, a totally brilliant lifestyle, arts and crafts store. I poured over all 5 floors, my hubby is very patient, squealing with delight at the diversity of the products. The Japanese have a wonderful appreciation for hand made.  The store also  have their own café too where I indulged my new passion for anything with green, matcha,tea. Yummy

Reluctantly we left Kyoto, on a bullet train, to Hiroshima. It was somewhere I felt I needed to visit even though  I was slightly dreading what I might find. Yes the atomic bomb sites are deeply moving but the city is friendly, lively and just wonderful. A real life affirming experience. Beautiful carp swam in the moat of the castle and this gorgeous butterfly landed close by, I took it as I sign I was meant to be here.

So what did I bring back from Japan, apart from books and beautiful fabrics, more importantly  I had reaffirmed something about myself and my work. I have always been attracted to the preciseness of Japanese art the clean lines,  elegance and the sometimes eccentricity. In my work I love to be very neat with definite lines, a feeling of quality but I also like to be quirky. I discovered chirimen fabric, a supple crepe with gorgeous texture and colour , it is used to create kimono braids and decorations. This has already found its way into my work with my new Japanese Monarchs. I am currently creating a new sketchbook and my ideas are brimming over.

I hope you get the sense of how much I love this country, its kind, polite people and its endless sources of artistic inspiration. I cannot wait to return and spend more time in this place where I instantly felt at home.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Balancing The Books !

I’ve been putting off writing this for quite a while; I’ve tidied my sock drawer, alphabetised the cd collection and written my Christmas cards, okay the last one is untrue but it gives you an idea of how difficult this is to write.

I have recently taken a step back from stitching and taken a close look at my ‘business’. You see I even find it problematic to call it that, but with the help of the wonderful  Creative Business Network I felt it was time to investigate my earnings and try and separate my love of creating from the need to pay bills.

Embroidery is everything to me, the creative process feeds my soul and without it I feel unfulfilled. But there is something about this creativity lark that seems to make me want to apologise for trying to make a living and worse still undervalue what I do. Guiding me through the process of unpicking costings, Helen at The Creative Business Network was a fresh pair of eyes who ultimately helped me to work out my bottom line. I had a few shocks along the way, perhaps the greatest being that I was paying myself about £3 an hour for some of my pieces.

Why do we find it so difficult to ask for our worth? Why the lack of confidence in our work? I’m sure not everyone has this but I know a lot of my creative friends do. This idea that someone will accuse us of not being worth it, tap us on the shoulder and call us a fake? It’s even got a name ‘imposter syndrome’.  I’ve had a few incidents that have exposed this raw nerve; once at a craft event when an incredulous woman asked me three times how much something was and then brought her family and friends back to my pitch to once again express her astonishment at the ‘huge ‘price tag. It was a brooch for £20 that took me over 2 hours to make. I didn’t respond I just stood there and smiled.
It’s funny isn’t it that those events stay so vivid in the mind whereas all the lovely things that are said get filed away.
So what I am trying to say is I am going to adjust my prices not because I want that holiday in the Maldives or that 3rd luxury yacht but because I’m worth it. I trained for 5 years at Art College and university, I have practised my art and my heart and soul goes into what I do. I am working on confidence and being able to say I’m proud of my work and I’m good at what I do.
I also have incredibly tidy drawers!
The price increase will come into effect on the 1st September, but I will continue to make items to suit a range of pockets.
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Thursday, 9 June 2016

A Butterfly fit for a Queen ?

As you may know I live in a small village on the edge of Exmoor. To celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday it was decided to put on an art exhibition inspired by Her Majesty. I'm not really into portraits or landscapes but I suddenly had a brainwave.
It was mainly thanks to Women's' Hour, a regular companion, that I found out about an amazing lady called Maria Merian. She was an entomologist and artist who travelled from her home in Germany to Suriname in 1699, whilst in South America she studied the native plants and animals. She was one of the first scientists to understand the transformation of caterpillar into butterfly.
Her work was later published in a volume called Metamorphosis Insectorum Suriname. Her original drawings were acquired by George the 3rd and now form part of the Royal Collection. They are currently on display at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace. So there's my Royal connection.
I choose the Blue Morpho, using Maria's drawing as inspiration, the first stage was to draw a simplified pattern.
This was then cut out in layers of silk and the raw edges bound with satin stitch. I layered black and white silk and cut through the layers to create the markings on the wing edge.
Next the whole butterfly was covered in a layer of shot organza and the veins on the wings were outlined in free motion embroidery.
I then cut sections away and stitched in a contrasting colour.
I added another layer of organza to achieve real depth in the wings, with lots of free motion embroidery in a variety of coloured threads.
The final stage was hand beading to represent the way light reflects on the iridescent wings.
And here we have the finished piece all ready to show over the weekend. I hope Her Majesty approves!

Monday, 7 March 2016

Hatching a Peacock Butterfly.

All new pieces begin with inspiration, a photograph or a suggestion from a lovely customer. This one began with a determination to create more British butterflies, one of my favourites is the Peacock or Inachis io.
So after initial sketches I make an outline drawing the actual size of the finished piece. This was to be one of my biggest ever, with a wingspan of just over 25cm.

I then break down the main areas of colour and decide on the silks I will use. The areas are then traced and cut out, using Bondaweb I fuse the separate pieces together.
 The next stage is to stitch over all the raw edges with satin stitch, a close zig zag.
Next to add more colour I place over a layer of shot organza, I love this fabric as you can different effects when you move it in the light. Great to suggest the iridescence of butterfly wings.
I stitch in the main vein structures of the wings and enclose areas where I am going to cut out the organza. This is called reverse applique.
 The darker areas are where the organza remains.
I then start to suggest the subtle qualities of the wing colour with free motion embroidery. This one has three different stages in the stitching.
Finally I start to add micro sequins and beads, these catch the light and shimmer beautifully. I also add hemp sting antennae, these have been painted to suggest a variation in colour.
I then add a ring to the back so he can flutter beautifully up your wall or perch on a picture frame.
Available in my Etsy store very soon

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Hats off to 2016 !

Happy New Year everyone.
I love hats and always have, as a little girl I would enjoy dressing up in my Granny's collection. My passion for vintage fashion began at university and I longed to wear a 1920's cloche hat. Unfortunately, I have a huge head, hat size seven and three quarters( I blame my Dad) so these beautiful creations just wouldn't fit me. I collected a variety of styles made from felt, straw and velvet, dating from the 1900's to the 50's and not one would go near my enormous bonce !
The answer came to me with the fashion in the late 80's for soft fabric headgear, I would make my own. I drafted my own patterns and when I had perfected the fit I made them in corduroy, tweed, cotton and linen. As an extra touch many of them had appliqued and embroidered details.
They started out just being for me and then friends asked if they could have one, eventually I ended up making them commercially. Every Saturday I had a stall at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, this was brilliant until the IRA put a stop to proceedings with a terrible bomb that ripped the heart out of the city centre.
So many years have passed, my passion for hats is undiminished, I started making hair adornments featuring my butterfly 'hatchlings' about 4 years ago.

 A hatchling hair adornment.
These are still popular for ladies who shy away for a complete hat.
A couple of years ago I noticed the work of milliner Karen Geraghty, on Face Book, her business name is Mind Your Bonce. Her hats are so beautiful and combine references to vintage fashion with wonderfully, witty touches. We started conversing and this led to a collaboration on a couple of autumn/winter hats. One featured a tweedy moth and the other a wool Monarch butterfly.
Later we created two spring/summer hats featuring a dragonfly and a silk butterfly.

The really lovely thing was meeting Karen and her husband in the queue at last year's Liberty Open Call.
Finally this December I had a lovely commission to create a cocktail hat for a Christmas wedding. The customer sent me details of her outfit and I knew she had a love of butterflies, so once again with the help of Karen, the Monarch hat was born.
My passion for hats continues and who knows where it will take me next; the best thing is that the cocktail hat design fits anyone even big heads !