Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Stitching at Liberty, a wonderful evening !

I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to write down my thoughts about my recent trip to Liberty.

It all started with an email a few weeks ago asking me if I’d be interested in giving a demonstration in the beautiful haberdashery department. About twice a year, I think, the store hosts a Lotto evening with entertainment throughout the store and a chance to win discounts on purchases through a scratch card system.

After thinking for all of three seconds, I booked my train and accepted the invitation. For those of you who have read my blog before you know my love of Liberty and that having my work in the store is the greatest achievement in my embroidery career. So actually stitching within those beautiful walls was yet another dream come true.

I decided to work on a Purple Emperor butterfly, in iconic Tana lawn prints, purple is also such a Liberty colour.

Along with the butterfly I took my threads, beads and needle felting equipment, sketchbooks and patterns so people could see my processes.


The day dawned and I made my way to the station, I was fortunate that my hubby had work in the city on the same day so he came with me. It was just as well as I was also delivering a new order to the store, comprising of seven framed pieces, so the help was greatly appreciated.

As I entered the store I noticed a board with all the details of the day’s events, my name was on it. I was so thrilled.
The staff in the haberdashery are so lovely, especially Rachel who went out of her way to make me feel welcome. I was there with Alice Garrett of Alice Caroline and Petra Boase. We set up and got chatting, only to discover that Petra and I did the same degree course in Manchester, one year apart. It was brilliant reminiscing and made the evening just speed by.
I had to get to grips with a Janome machine, we eventually made friends though I won’t be swapping my Bernina. It was so nice to chat with customers and explain the process of making the butterflies.

The evening went really quickly, the store was buzzing with customers, live music and flowing Prosecco. I had a surprise visit from one of my dearest friends too, so that made it special. Having Richard, my husband, with me too was just perfect he is a constant support to me. It was such a lovely experience, with some retail therapy thrown in, and the chance to see behind the scenes, I will never forget it.
The Purple Emperor is now finished, I’ve named him Arthur after the original Mr Liberty. Thank you to my very special friend, Linda, for the suggestion.
I think I’ll hang on to Arthur, stitched within the walls of Liberty he is a very unique hatchling indeed.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Beautiful Madeira

Hello everyone, I'm just back from a week's holiday on the gorgeous island of Madeira.
What an inspiration, the island is so rich in flora that at every turn you see colourful bursts of beauty.

Bird of Paradise flowers are so abundant they almost become mainstream and banks of blue Agapanthus line the roads.
Madeira belongs to Portugal but has strong ties with the UK  so there's an influence of English style in the formal gardens.
I spotted my first ever Monarch butterfly in the centre of Funchal, the capital, they are so big and quite difficult to photograph.
Madeira has a fairly mountainous terrain and some lovely steep hills to conquer. The landscape is dotted with 'levadas' irrigation channels which are now popular walks. Some are fairly gentle and shady whereas others are craggy and precipitous.
This beautiful Madeiran Spotted Wood was nestling on an Agapanthus leaf , found during our levada walk in Paradise Valley.
As you climb higher the landscape changes and becomes less verdant but very dramatic. Here we are at 1,000 metres overlooking the Nuns' Valley.
The air scented with Eucalyptus and Pine trees.  
We walked with a local guide who was so informative about the plants and their uses, pointing out Poinsettias, Hollyhocks, Dragon Trees.........
At the end of the walk he presented me with a little selection of bulbs and seeds,
'The British brought a lot of plants to my island, now you can take some back!'
So I will always have a small piece of Madeira in my garden.
In my next blog I'll show you the beautiful embroidery I discovered on my travels.

Monday, 14 August 2017

They've Landed !

As you may know from my previous posts the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, creatively, happened this year. My work is for sale in Liberty of London. If you read my blog you will know that my love of all things Liberty began at the age of 7.

Well at the end of last month I finally got to see them in the 'flesh' or should that be fabric, in their new home. Lovely friends beat me to it and sent me pictures of them, but nothing could compare to the feeling of seeing them myself.

It started with this sign, proclaiming the new Haberdashery, its wonderful to see a department like this developing. I remember seeing the outrage on social media when John Lewis threatened that their habby would be going.
I felt like a child creeping downstairs on Christmas morning to unwrap their presents, except in reverse as I ascended the amazing wooden staircase towards the third floor. My heart was beating so fast and the emotion rising as I got nearer.

I walked through the door and there they were, sitting against a pale grey wall. It was so difficult to take it all in.

Inevitably, I burst into tears and my lovely hubby took a picture !

The haberdashery is glorious, with wonderful vintage tables displaying beautiful notions and materials. There are also work tables, the walls are lined with inspirational mood boards too.
I would highly recommend a visit, there is so much to see and I bet you won't be able to leave empty handed.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Contemporary Craft Festival 2017

Well it's almost a month since The Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey and I think it has taken me most of this time to reflect on what taking part meant to me.

It is one of the most prestigious Craft events and the one I had aspired to ever since my first visit four years ago. 


I applied last September, I think, and just after Christmas found out I was on the reserve list. The weeks ticked by and not wishing to tempt fate, I decided this was not my year. 

Last year I was lucky to attend running a taster workshop for the fabulous Make at Monteray, http://www.make-at-monteray.co.uk/ it was a good experience and gave me the chance to marvel at the wonderful work on display. 
 Anyway back to this year, with just 10 days to go I had a phone call from the organiser Sarah James to say they had a space due to illness. I went into a flat spin and asked for a few hours to think about it. My first thought was to ring my lovely mentor Helen Bottrill of The Creative Business Network. http://www.thecreativebusinessnetwork.com/
She was brilliant, told me to make lists of what I could achieve in the time and prioritise. 
And so I agreed sent off my stand fee and stitched like a thing possessed.
For those ten days I worked 12 to 14 hour days, in between caring for my Mum and general life stuff. I neglect my husband who one night, as I came out of the workroom at 11o'clock, declared  'I wish I was a moth!'.
I didn't have much time to think about my stand so I decided to let the work speak for itself and keep it simple. 
The set up day came and with it torrential rain, the mud outside the marquees was moderate Glastonbury level, everyone was friendly though nerves were jingling.

My wonderful husband helped me set up and remained patient when I kept changing my mind over the display. 
So before the four o'clock deadline everything was set , Mr E and I retreated to the Devon Guild cafe for a sandwich. 
I was surrounded by fantastically supportive and amazingly talented people. My immediate neighbour was Jane Sedgwick who creates beautiful striking jewellery. I treated myself to a couple of her gorgeous pieces.
In retrospect I was in awe of the whole event, constantly questioning whether I should really be there. I received amazing comments and so much positivity, sales were good and I had a couple of commissions and exciting leads.
I did enjoy the event; I wish my silly head could have let me enjoy it more at the time, take more photos and speak to more people. 
I was also so fortunate to be able to stay with my lovely friend Linda aka Liberty Linda Lou and her husband who were just brilliant and so kind. 
So there we go my first big Craft event, I learnt so much and in the words of T.S.Elliot
'Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go' 

Friday, 2 June 2017

News and more news !

Hello everyone, well May was certainly a busy month with lots of exciting new opportunities.

Firstly, I am delighted to say that my work is now part of the beautiful website

It is a celebration of everything handmade and you can easily lose an hour or too looking at the beautiful creations available. My butterflies are fluttering their way onto the site.
The team, headed by Katie, are just fabulous and you really feel their passion for hand made and supporting makers.

A couple of weeks ago I had a phone call from the lovely Sarah James, of The Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey, offering me a last minute place at the event. I had been on the reserve list, I had a little think and then realised I couldn't let this amazing opportunity go. So since then I've been stitching non-stop. I realised I'd got to a slight obsessional level when my husband said he wished he was a moth !

So that's all for now, my Bernina is calling !

Friday, 5 May 2017

Beautiful Boxes and Fauxdermy

I was looking for a way to display my butterflies that was a little bit different to usual framing. The vintage entomology displays in places like the Natural History Museum have always fascinated me, even though the rows and rows of impaled insects are rather unsettling. Obviously most of these collections were sourced in less enlightened days, when conservation wasn't on the radar. Today's specimens are, on the whole, from sustainable stock.

Well mine definitely are, a new version of taxidermy; I've heard it called Fauxdermy or very creatively Craftydermy.

I began to look at specialist suppliers and found a great variety of options, though none of them quite fitted the bill. Then late one evening I decided to pop 'entomology boxes' into a search on a well known internet site and up came 'Antique Butterfly Drawers used at the Natural History Museum to house Rothschild collection of British Butterflies'. I was amazed and thrilled to find out that every so often the museum sells of some of its older display pieces, these were perfect.

My finger hovered over the quantity button and there were 25 available.
I bought the lot and was thrilled when they arrived. They have so much character, some have labels or handwritten notes on the drawer face. I cleaned the glass, so beautiful with tiny bubbles showing how old it is, and waxed the wooden edges and lid. They also have a distinctive smell of moth balls when you lift the lid, reminding me of my Gran's wardrobe.
They are perfect and set off my work beautifully, I add vintage maps depicting the habitat of the specimens and small stitched labels with their Latin name.
Here are some of the boxes on display at The Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey.

The Rothschild collection has been partly digitised and is available to view here.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Dreams can come true !

2017 has got off to a very exciting start, in fact probably the most exciting thing that has ever happened in my creative life.

It all began on a Saturday December at a craft fair in Chagford, Devon. It had been a really great day, it was an incredibly busy I was feeling very positive about my work and the way ideas had been developing. Then in came a lady busting with positive energy, I hadn't met her before in person but I had received a lovely email from her after she read my blog on my love for Liberty fabrics and how I used them in my work.

Her name is Linda Bassett, her Instagram handle is Liberty Lindy Lou   https://www.instagram.com/libertylindylou/?hl=en
She is incredibly passionate about all things Liberty and stitch related. Her feed is very inspirational and well worth a look. Linda developed a great relationship with Ed Burstall the American MD of the store, and continued to have strong connections with the buying team after he left.

We managed to have a lovely conversation, over my stall in between customers. Linda took a few photos and said she would send them to Liberty. I was thrilled but at the same time I didn't dare believe that anything would happen.

I have loved the Liberty brand ever since visiting for the first time with my Mum at the age of 7. I clearly remember the beautiful wooden staircases, the amazing colourful scarves and the sense of history that seemed to ooze from the walls. Mum bought me a lovely gold box containing a foam bath oil and soap, but the best thing was the black and white picture of the store on the lid.
Today it is full of tiny scraps of Liberty fabric.
My Liberty box

My passion continued as a student when I became a regular visitor to the Manchester branch of the store, especially at sale time.
I had also, a few years ago, taken my wearable butterflies to the Open Call at the store, a fantastic and positive experience. The process was filmed for the Channel 4 documentary but unfortunately I ended up on the cutting room floor.

Three Liberty Peacocks
So I continued to work with these beautiful fabrics and decided to work on a bigger scale and create British butterflies and moths.
Anyway back to this December, the day after the Chagford Fair an email arrived from Liberty, asking me for details about my butterflies. I think I almost stopped breathing I was just so determined to get this right. A week of emails between myself and Julie Hassan, the senior buyer for home, led to an appointment to go to London to take samples.
I had about three weeks to make new pieces and prepare myself, all the time pinching myself that this was really happening.

The day arrived, I had planned it down to the finest detail train times, parking, tube routes nothing left to chance. As you might expect I was incredibly nervous, I had a little time to kill when I arrived in Regent's Street so I lapped the store and found a little café for a cup of chamomile tea.


After entering the Liberty office building I waited a few minutes and was called to take the lift to the third floor. Here I was met by Julie, she put me at ease straight away. She was so easy to talk to and very encouraging, her buying experience meant she knew exactly what would work and how the pieces would be presented. I think I was maybe there for about 45 minutes and then emerged onto Kingly Street, excited and emotional. I rang my sister and we both burst into tears.
A dream come true is an understatement, my work will be stocked by Liberty of London! I owe so much to Linda and I cannot thank her enough.  
I will write about the new pieces I created for my first order in my next blog!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Workshops 2017. Get crafty.

Hello everyone, I've been mapping out my new year and thought I'd let you know about the workshops I have planned for 2017.
I have some lovely new venues and a combination of hand and machine stitching.
Workshops are great fun and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to teach some fantastic talented students, who very often inspire me.
My first career was as a Primary school teacher so I love the process of presenting a group with the same project and seeing all the different ways it can be interpreted.

 My first workshop is on Saturday 25th March at The Magpies Nest, Bideford. This is hand stitching on silk applique creating this cute Blue Tit in a hoop. More details https://www.facebook.com/TheMagpiesNestBideford/?fref=ts
Next I'm back at the fantastic Make at Monteray. 25th April.
This is a machine applique and embroidery workshop, the idea being to learn new techniques and gain confidence with your machine. You will produce a lovely butterfly cushion in your choice of colours.
In May 20th,  I'm back with the members of Exeter's Embroiderer's Guild, this time with a landscape workshop. As an added bonus we will be joined by members of the Young Embroiderer's Guild, which will be great. https://exeterembroiderersguild.org/
Blue Tit Brooch

Poppy Brooch
In October 4th, I will be in Barnstaple, with the members of the West Country Embroiderers. This is a new workshop making a bird and a poppy brooch.  http://www.westcountryembroiderers.co.uk/

So if you interested please click on the links or contact me directly on mail@heatheremb.co.uk 
It would be lovely to see you.