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 !

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Solder Stitch and Turn 3rd 4th & 5th December 2015.

I'm sitting here with a cup of coffee building up the strength and enthusiasm to load my car. It's that time of the year; lots of events to prepare for, lugging boxes in and out of unknown premises, wondering if anything will sell. Will my stand be in a corner, next to the loo, in the dark ? It's all those uncertainties that making taking part in any show quite stressful.
However this one will be different, with this one I have support. Not just my lovely long suffering hubby, but two makers who have become very dear friends since I met them at a show over 5 years ago. We hit it off immediately, shared the same sense of humour and had the same worries about exhibiting our work.
 Big shows can be very expensive, you don't really have any control about so many things, where you are, foot fall etc. So one day  we decided to do it ourselves on a small scale of course but we loved the idea that we could hold the purse strings for advertising, choose the location and get exactly what we expected.
So Solder, Stitch and Turn was born, this was my husband's brainwave. Solder is Karen Adams who makes the most exquisite silver jewellery, Stitch is me and Turn the very talented Sandra Adams who works in wood.


 & Turn
Our first venture was an exhibition in Dulverton in Somerset, the space looked beautiful, we laughed and chatted for a whole week, sold work ( always a bonus) gained confidence and made plans for world domination !
We also shared a venue for Art Trek. North Devon.

A year ago Solder, Stitch & Turn at Christmas was born. We decided to create our own gallery space in an Industrial unit in South Molton, a local market town. Again my husband came to the rescue, he's quite integral to this post, he owns premises which are used for fork lift truck training. It is lovely and light will loads of space. It was a great success, again filled with fun and at one point we had a queue !
So I think I'd better end this blog and get busy packing my work, I'm so looking forward to the next three days. We have learnt so much about publicity, signage, organisation, finance, cake making ( well not the last one for me). This year we are also demonstrating our making too, if you in the area please pop in and say hello. You are sure to get a very warm, happy welcome !

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Festive Designs

For me Christmas began in August, well thinking about this year's designs at any rate.
Every year I like to create new products in embroidery and a special card to send to friends and family.
The robin is a perennial favourite, there's just something about this cheeky little bird that people love.

Last year I created a hand embroidered hoop featuring this lovely creature, so this was my starting point for 2015's designs too.
I wanted to create a product with a double function, so the robin linen heart was born.
Frosted holly and red berry holly.

Ivy heart.
Traditional Holly heart .
These linen hearts are scented with a gorgeous winter spice oil, so the smell of oranges, cinnamon and spices fills the air.  The robin is a detachable brooch made in wool and silk. The heart is pure linen embroidered and beaded. The heart hangs from a yummy velvet ribbon too.

The little robins are also available separately.
I next developed a series of linen tree hearts, these are such fun to make. They have silk applique, embroidery and tiny details of beads. I especially love the tiny faux pearls sewn around the edge. In this range are mistletoe, holly and a robin. They come in a branded envelope, so they make a great gift, easy to post too !!

The same designs are also made in a smaller size as a brooch. These make a subtle festive statement.

I hope you like my new designs, they are being added to my Etsy shop as you read or contact me through Face Book or email. Prices range from £12 to £22 plus postage.
Here's last year's best seller too, I've hatched a new batch as I love them so much !

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Lucky Cats ! Maneki Neko.

As you may, or may not know,  I am a member of a Face Book group called The Arts and Crafts Emporium. This is a fantastically supportive collective of artists and designer/makers who,once a month, create work towards a common theme. This can be anything from Home & Garden to Fairy Tales and beyond. For this month's event the eclectic title is Coffee, Cakes and Kittens. I was a bit stumped until suddenly I had a light bulb moment. I looked over at the chest of drawers in my bedroom and a favourite collection caught my eye and imagination.
My lovely lucky cats, gathered from China town, charity shops and friends. I thought this would be perfect and as I drew and designed I decided I wanted to know more about the significance of the cute felines.
When we want to know something what do we do ?  We look to a well known search engine and it came up trumps with a blog all about the varieties of Maneki Neko or Lucky Cat.
The origin is primarily Japanese, but the cat has been adopted as a good luck figure in China especially for businesses. The meanings of the different colours have developed and changed over time, but to summarise; a white cat is for purity and happiness, gold for wealth and prosperity, green is for success in education, pink for romance, red to protect from illness, black to ward of evil and a three colour cat is traditionally for general good luck.
The raised paw invites money and good fortune and the cat's bib, collar and bell are for protection. Some cats carry a golden coin, or koban, this again relates to wealth.
I find the whole tradition fascinating ,  so my new cat design was born. The brooches are around 7cm, made in pure silk very appropriate for a Chinese cat don't you think ? They have lots of embroidered details and are finished with hand beading and a tiny golden bell.
 White for purity and happiness.
 Gold for prosperity and wealth.
Green for academic success.

The cats will go on sale on September 13th at the Face Book event and afterwards in my Etsy shop or by ordering directly.