Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Local Loveliness Extravaganza!

I am so excited about the MK Handmade and Vintage Extravaganza this weekend. I'm really looking forward to catching up with Ava and Arthur, Hapitat, Paul's Pickles and many more. I'm also hoping to meet some new sellers like these fab people.

Absolutely Stationery

Curbi Studio Arts and Crafts

Lil' Mischief
There will be a round up next week along with interviews over the coming weeks. It's such a great weekend - if you are anywhere within 50 miles of MK make the effort to come along - you won't be disappointed.

For more details check out the MK Handmade and Vintage site or Facebook Page

Monday, 21 May 2012

Truly Marvellous Monday

This morning I found out that my darling sister has given birth to a little baby girl. What news can be more marvellous than that? So in honour of my new niece I thought you might like to see her card.

I wanted a design that subtly reflected a family unit. So on the left you have a tree adorned with stars to represent the dad.

On the right a tree adorned with hearts represents the mum. And in the middle sheltering between the two parents is the tiny sapling representing the new baby.

Here's hoping you also have a Marvellous Monday!

Here's hoping you have an equally Marvellous Monday!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Fabulous Fair Isle

Early in 2011 my sister and her family moved onto Fair Isle, Shetland to take up the positions of Warden and Administrator of Fair Isle Bird Observatory.  The realisation of a long held dream to live and work in the Shetland Islands.

We visited them in August and that’s when my own relationship with the island began. Fair Isle was the inspiration behind my “Shipping Forecast” piece (now available to buy on Etsy) and also the inspiration for some exciting work you’ll get to see later in the year.

As year round residents of this beautiful island I thought it best to let my sister and her husband share the highlights of this island with everybody, through their words and pictures.

Why did you want to move to Fair Isle?

We have always loved Shetland and were looking for a way to move up to the Islands.  For birders [which they are] running the Bird Observatory is a dream job.

What are the highlights of Island life?

It is a truly beautiful place to live, with a wonderful community. I feel so lucky to be part of that. There aren’t many places in the UK where you feel so completely at home and safe, and it is a great place for a family.

I love going down to North Haven Beach when the sea is so calm you can see the sand on the bottom of the seabed and the water is a beautiful bluey-green. It is so still, with the sea birds wheeling over your head and the seals coming right in close to the shore. It is so calm and peaceful and you have the beach to yourself – not just at 5 in the morning but perhaps 11am.

Bright sunny spring mornings watching the sunrise coming up over Sheep Rock

Late at night as the moon is just coming up, you can look out of the kitchen window and Sheep Rock is outlined in silver moonlight; the sky is so bright because the stars on Fair Isle are amazing and everywhere is bathed in this incredible silver light.

We were struck by just how much you could interact with the wildlife on the island

Part of the Bird Observatory’s role is to monitor bird populations and study migration. People can see a whole variety of birds up close when they are brought into the Observatory ringing room to be ringed before being released as well as the Storm Petrels ringing in late summer.

We have a large population of Skuas on the island and you can’t help to notice them as they whistle over your head protecting their territories!

If you go up on to Buness you can get really close to the puffins

Photo credit - Henry from Auld Haa Fair Isle

The seals are pretty inquisitive too.

The waters around Fair Isle and Shetland can be good for seeing a range of cetaceans, including Killer Whales during the summer, porpoise when the fish move into inshore waters, several species of Dolphin passing through and if you take a trip on the Good Shepherd larger species of whale such as Minke can be sighted reasonably regularly.

How much of the island are people allowed to explore?

Scotland’s outdoor access code allows people the opportunity to explore vast areas of the countryside. Here on Fair Isle pretty much the only places out of bounds are people’s private back gardens and crops.

What does Fair Isle have to offer its visitors?

People come for one thing and go away interested in a whole lot more. Visitors in the summer are often not ‘birders’ but get a lot from the experience of being on the island. Being on Fair Isle you get to do lots of other things you didn’t imagine when you came.

Image - South light Tommy Hyndman
Whatever period of history you might be interested in Fair Isle has played its part, whether you want to discover more about the Bronze age settlements and burnt mounds, the Spanish Sailors shipwrecked during the Armada, the ruined mill, the beacon warning system, the Stevenson Lighthouses or the World War 2 radar station and plane wreckage.

Perhaps you just want to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the island carpeted in flowers.

Even though the island only has a population of around 65-70 people there are still lots of skilled crafts people on the island.

We have skilled boat builders, artists, knitters, designer/makers and musicians.
Fair isle knitwear
Exclusively Fair isle Knitwear

 Fair Isle made in Fair Isle

Tommy Hyndman

Shetland Bunting

For more details check out the Fair Isle Crafts page here

Tell us more about the musicians

During the season we have a fortnightly music event on a Thursday night at the Bird Observatory.  Nearly the whole island attends and we are treated to sessions from Lise Sinclair, Fridarey and other local music.

Lise has produced a new CD with fellow Northern Isles musicians inspired by George Mackay Brown’s book “A Time to Keep” (you can find out more and watch a video here).

Fridarey have also produced CDs including “Across the Waters” and treat us to a selection of old Shetland and Fair Isle songs.

Fair Isle is a very special place, with a wonderful atmosphere and community. We can’t wait to go back for another visit in August. If you’d like to discover Fair Isle for yourself why not take a trip. Follow the links below to find out more about accommodation and some of the islanders blogs.

If you are into birds then the Fair Isle Warden's Diary is for you. And of course whether you want to look at bird or not you can stay at the lovely Observatory where my sister will take very good care of you - check out the site for more details

Tommy Hyndman writes a great blog which captures so much of island life. He also runs a guesthouse Auld Haa on the island too so you can go visit. (my especial thanks to Tommy who hopefully won't mind me shamelessly using some images from his site!)

You can also stay at these lovely places.

South Light

Upper Leogh

And finally for an amazing gallery of images take a look at Dave Wheeler's site here

Friday, 18 May 2012

Dream displays

A couple of weekends ago I attended the Kimpton May Festival and had a stall at their craft market. I was really keen to try out new stock and test out my display concept for the year.

A lot of my work is inspired by nature so it seemed right to reflect that in the display. I sourced some great glassware to showcase pieces and spent about a week painting various bits of furniture to create a cohesive look.

I tried to do a lot of research about how to create a successful display so thought that today I'd share what I learnt and tips that I found useful.

Try to use different heights in your display and add props where appropriate.

Over the course of the weekend I filled the jars and bird cage with papercut birds and butterflies in bright colours. (forgot to take a photo though!)

Make your display stands work for you. I used drawers, cupboards and shelves that could all happily be used in my office as well as craft fairs. They also are great for transporting your stock to and from a craft fair! This cabinet was made by my dad when he was at school - I just painted it with blackboard paint.

I painted everything black so that my items would stand out against it but also you wouldn't see any marks and scratches the stands might pick up.

Don't lay everything flat on the table. By propping things up people will be able to see your lovely goodies from a distance and so are more likely to come across and take a closer look.

Make sure you price everything clearly. People don't always want to ask the price.

I tried to display my cards in their various categories so that people could easily find what they were looking for.

Each craft fair is an opportunity to learn more about what people like and aren't so keen on and how to improve your display. I will definitely be tweaking my stall ready for my next event at the beginning of June. If you are in Potton on the 2nd June come down and say hi - otherwise check the blog for pictures of my tweaks!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Interview with Trish Middleton

As I have probably said many, many times before, one of the things that I love about Etsy is the possibility it provides to stumble across someone who is creating truly beautiful and amazing work. Without the magic of the Internet you would probably never see their work and be able to share it with others.  Earlier this month I stumbled upon Trish Middleton's collage cards and got in touch with her to ask if she'd do an interview for this blog. Here it is....

1.Tell us a bit more about yourselfI live in the countryside with my partner and little girl Maia. We moved here last year which was a huge change from town life but we’ve all embraced the change, fresh air and everything else that comes with country living! I feel my creativity is at my best for years since moving here and daily walks on the beach help also!
I love art and design and cannot imagine doing anything else in my working life!  My background is in textile design specializing in weaving but have dabbled in many different art mediums and currently am loving collage.
I was made redundant after having my little girl and found myself panicking as to what to do next and realized that it was probably the best thing that happened to me as now I could have full control over my own artwork and design. So here I am, slowly building my own business and hope that it will be successful.

2. You mention that in the past you have done lots of designing for other people but are now designing for yourself.  Can you tell us more about your design background?

As I mentioned, my background is in textile design but since leaving college, I worked mainly in the interior design industry but also worked for a while in the costume jewellery business. I’ve gained valuable experience working for other people in business but you never have total control over a design so I’m happy now that I have,  although I always value other people’s opinions, after al,l I need to know what the customer wants!
I’ve also done quite a few commissions particularly with my felt work with which I worked for a few years. I made art work combining felt, copper wire, fabric and stitching. Since moving, I just don’t have the space and can’t seem to find the time with all the renovations, work, daily life and of course looking after my beautiful bundle of joy! I do intend to get back to this also at some stage.
I believe that we can never stop learning new techniques in art and design and whatever suits you and makes you happy at any stage in your life – go for it!

3.What are the highlights of being a designer/maker?

Sometimes I used to wish that I would be happy in a 9 to 5 job whenever I had a creative block! But nothing compares to the self- satisfaction of creating something.
I also love the freedom of using your own mind and having full control over what you do. And nothing compares to that feeling of someone buying something that you’ve put your heart and soul into!
 I also love when creative minds come together and share their thoughts and work – it’s good to share views and ideas - it opens up new possibilities and avenues to explore.

4. Your collage work is amazing. Is this a medium you have a particular passion for? What do you like about it?

Thank you for your compliment (I hope many others will think the same!) and may I return it! – I’ve seen your work!! Funnily enough, collage was something that in earlier years I would have found difficult to understand! But then I came across artist, Jonathan Yeo and my world changed. He is an all- rounder, an amazing artist in every medium but I was drawn to his collages and suddenly I started to take interest. He’s arty, gutsy and expresses his mind regardless of what others think. I’m a huge fan!
In my art work, I love the thinking process, the thrawling through magazine images (ahem! – it’s part of my workJ)!, taking photos and trying to image them all together to make that perfect design. I just love the process.

5. The four cards you have listed on Etsy all have a Nature theme. What does nature mean to you and your work?

I love nature. I grew up on a farm, couldn’t wait to move on, moved to the city, then to a town and funnily enough have ended up back in the place I spent so much of my youth trying to get out of as have many of my friends! My house is filled with plants and flowers, and I have started to grow my own vegetables! If I had my own way, I’d have much much more but I’m not sure whether my partner and daughter want to live in the botanic gardens!!
I have a lot more designs done and must put them on my blog Trish Middleton Design on Blogger. I haven’t put them on Etsy yet as I wanted to see how the 1st few designs were received.
I do intend to expand into other themes rather than all nature based cards but just can’t seem to tear myself away from them yet- I guess it’s where my life is at the moment!

6. Which part of the creative process do you particularly enjoy - and why?

I just love that eureka moment when you get an idea and think ‘YES’ that’ll work! And of course when the final product is to your satisfaction! I can be very self- critical so at that moment when I like my own work, I’m extremely pleased!

7. What's the view from your workspace like?

The view from my work space at the moment is my back garden because I’m working from my kitchen table  which is a little bit of a pain but I am in the process of getting my own space decorated. I just can’t wait! The decorating process is slow on our house and of course we always find other things to spend money on so I’ve kinda been left on the back burner, but fingers crossed that I’ll get my space very soon!!!

8. What inspires you?
Life, human-nature, wild life, music. Anything that you have to think about and anything that gives you peace of mind! My daughter inspires me – I cannot believe how imaginative, creative, intelligent and fun loving our little monsters are!!! They are also so confident and trusting! Why can’t these qualities last a life time?  I have learnt a lot from her so far.  It’s amazing!

9. I really like the textures you used in your work - particularly on the squirrel. Do you spend hours searching for particular textures or create pieces around material that you have found?

 Yes. It can take quite a while to find the texture required for a collage but I love thrawling through magazines and take lots and lots of photographs. I also find a lot of inspiration in fabrics. Thank you for liking the squirrel – it’s one of my favorites too but some people find the hair a little scary!! That’s what I love about it!
Mostly, I create the image, silhouette or cut out 1st and then I look for images to suit my needs but sometimes a photograph will inspire an image in my mind!  There’s pattern and texture everywhere you look!

10. What can we look forward to from Trish Middleton Design in 2012?

A lot more designs! New inspiration. I hope to sell in exclusive shops around Ireland and exhibit more collages! I’m very new to this online technology so please be patient with me. I need to organize my time better to be able to update my blog on a daily basis and of course sell more! Thank you to everyone for their support! Trish x x

You can visit Trish's Etsy shop by clicking here

or her Facebook page by clicking here

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Sisters are doin' it for themselves

So today is the launch of our village ladies night! Inspired by the amazing work of the Women's Institute and desperate to create an event we could walk to, we've decided to start our own.

Each month we'll meet in the village pub - The Sun to enjoy a glass of wine, some nibbles and the chance to try something new or have a good old chinwag.  I was inspired to kickstart the process by the SconeRoses WI which recently started in Bedford as well as these other amazing groups Shoreditch Sisterhood, Borough Belles

In my experience people are desperate to reconnect with "traditional" crafts and "domestic goddess" skills, they just might not have the time to do a full course or practise every week. I was determined to get the women in my village into our pub, to connect with each other and to promote the many local skilled people we have. People can't support your business if they don't know about you!

Today I'm running a workshop called Fab Florals DIY. People bring along a bunch of flowers from the supermarket and container/s from home and I'll show them how to create something unique, pretty and quick. The idea being that they will then have the skills to recreate this arranagement when they are entertaining or the mother in law is coming to visit. I'll post the results later in the week.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

(Rose)Mary had a little lamb....

After a several months of cake baking for the farmer Terry, I plucked up the courage to ask a favour - could we come and feed the lambs? Terry who is a generous and generally wonderful chap said that of course we could. So on Monday we were treated to an hour and a half of pure delight on the farm.

(My apologies for the very bright sheeps eyes in the photos)

This is the first shed you come to on the farm (and I must confess I thought the only shed). Terry quickly pulled out two lambs and handed us a bottle. My little boy was a little unsure so just watched whilst I fed the lamb.

Those lambs that are already used to the bottle quickly come straight up to Terry - they weren't so sure about me. As Terry talked to us we learnt that each lamb has its own little character and quirks just like a new born baby and so some need to be coaxed to feed whilst others pretty much try and swallow the bottle. Terry sounded like a midwife as he talked me through the various ways to encourage the lamb to suckle.

We went further into the sheds and met more and more ewes, rams and lambs.  I went into a pen with a ewe and two lambs who had never had a bottle before. The ewe stomped her feet and suddenly seemed very, very big.She did make me nervous but hopefully I will get more confident and be able to go into pens without upsetting the ewe.  Terry is so close to his sheep that he gave a few of them cuddles as we went round! I absolutely loved it and am really hoping I will be able to help Terry out with bottle feeding next year.

The highlight for my little boy was undoubtedly the tractors - he got to sit in and "drive" two with the promise of a trip round the field in a couple of months. He loved seeing all the machines and the sights and smells of the farm. Terry might have a couple of new apprentices next year!

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