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Friday 29 June 2012


Alexandra Beech on Becoming the Person I am happy to be

How nice to be a guest blogger.  It is lovely to be in someone else's space and having a natter.

As you read this I am a bit older than when I was writing it, as it was my birthday yesterday the 28th June.  I am now 44 and I don’t feel embarrassed about sharing that with you as I feel I am in that happy place where I never expected to be.

It is not that I have had a bad life. On the contrary I had a happy childhood and averagely happy adulthood so far.   It has been pretty...average.   I met my husband in my thirties, and had a child at 35.  That was better than averagely happy.  From then on I have been on the path to who I really am.

I do not want you to read this and think ‘uo oh- she is wittering on about herself’.  Well, ok yes I am a bit. But I am more talking about how you should feel confident in being you.

It has taken me some 40 years to be happy being the odd person I am.  Happy enough to wear yellow t-shirts and dye my hair a vibrant red and happy enough to say – yes I am self-employed and I sew, I make buttons.

I work with children (when I am not making buttons).  You can see their fear of being different but their desire to be who they are.  I remember that, do you?  I try to explain that it is ok to be different, to stand out, that the people who do are the ones who become something in the world.

My daughter is a huge Tintin fan, and this year she dressed as Snowy, Tintin’s dog. I made the costume and she was so very happy to wear it.  Of course, some children laughed and she was in tears.  I felt terrible and I blogged about it, and received lots of lovely support from my readers and crafty friends. I tried to tell my daughter that she looked great and that other children might be jealous, and pick on anyone that looked a bit different than the usual Disney Princess.  Now, a few months later she is talking about next year’s competition. She wants to be Captain Haddock (complete with beard).  I asked her if she would worry about people saying anything because she was not dressed as a pretty girl. ‘No,’ she replied ‘it is good to be something different’.    Of course I was pleased and I hope that her confidence in herself is growing so that she can cope with outside knocks, and that it will not take her 30 years to be happy with who she is.

Until recently, if someone asked me what I do,  I was really embarrassed and used to laugh and mutter something about sewing, blah, blah.  I am confident to answer now that I sew, I make buttons and accessories.  I mean if I am embarrassed about it for goodness sake, why should someone else be interested in what I do?  It has also helped greatly to have the support of like-minded people that I have met in the crafting world, through Etsy, Folksy, forums like Crafteroo and Popular Crafts, and on Facebook and Twitter.  Also, I have become better known and have had tutorials and been featured in a couple of magazines.  I have even made buttons for the film industry (details to be released later but it is all rather exciting!).  It is a circle of confidence: - I become happy and confident - I am proud of my work and want to show it - I become better known - I become happier and confident, etc

So this is what I want to say – dye your red red and.., no not that.  Be yourself, you are great!
Twitter: @bigbluebed

Wednesday 27 June 2012


Hi everyone

A little sun, a little rain, lots of wind - summer?

We had a couple of power cuts on Sunday morning.  Nothing out of the ordinary really - we have overhead power cables and the cuts are something we have got used to.  However, late Sunday afternoon just as I was about to print off a whole load of work, my computer and printer stopped!  Despite re-setting everything, it happened about 3 more times over the next couple of hours.  By a process of elimination we think we have narrowed it down to the timer in the conservatory that manages the fish-pond pump.  Our biggest concern was ensuring the fish had sufficient air, but we managed to solve that problem.  We could have done with some heavy rain to put some bubbles into the pond - possibly the one and only time I will wish for rain!

Hard to believe but we are still going through the 'big clear-out' - everything takes so long because of all the excuses I can think of not to sort through and throw things away.  However, have got together a box of books, other stuff and towels which will be delivered to the RSPCA at Chobham tomorrow.  I am always surprised at the things I have kept, no genuine reason for keeping them and I do wonder what was going through my mind at the time.  Oh well, my chuck-outs could be someone else's prized possessions.

As I mentioned in my Sunday/Monday post, I am looking for guest bloggers for July and later on too, so do get in touch if you would like to join in:  Don't forget to check out the previous guest posts - they are all great and include some brilliant pictures too.

A mini-post today, off to work in the garden - although we had sun and blue skies when I first got up, it has now clouded over so need to get out there quickly just in case the weather changes.

Enjoy the rest of the week everyone - don't forget to check out my Friday Guest Blog post and I will be back with my Handmade Monday post on Sunday.


Sunday 24 June 2012


Hi everyone

I know I begin most of my blog posts with either a weather forecast or a comment about the weather, and this one is no different!  I AM FED UP WITH THE RAIN!  Sorry for the capitals, but just wanted to make sure the Weather Gods hear my request.  Is it really just my imagination (I feel a song coming on) or were the summers of my childhood (yes, OK a long time ago) warm, full of sunshine and lasted longer than 2 or 3 days?  I am sure every day of the school holidays was wall-to-wall sunshine - or is it age playing a trick on my memory?  I know I am lucky, no floods ruining my home and treasured possessions and I cannot begin to imagine what this must feel like, but like most of us I do need some sunshine.

Did you read Badger Boo Media Hound's latest guest blog post?  If you don't shed a tear or two, you are very hard-hearted - so nip over when you have finished reading my post and see what he has to say.  I am in need of guest posters for July, so come on you Handmade Mondayers, please get in touch and join the growing group of Guest Bloggers.  It would be lovely to have you take part.  You can contact me on and a reminder just in case: 600 - 800 words, lots of pics, and all of your links (Twitter, Facebook, etc).  Your choice of topic can be craft or non-craft related, a bit of unashamed business promotion, talking about a place you love, a hobby, at pet or something that you feel you would like to write about.

My missing piece of pottery is still missing; I was advised that at another centre, a student's work turned up after it had been missing for three months!  Perhaps the person who took it decided they didn't really like it after all.  Oh well, I have enrolled on next term's course, so perhaps sometime in October I should have my fourth serviette holder back.  The course tutor has suggested I make another one to complete the set, but as the first batch were stamped and rolled, it is slightly difficult for a very amateur potter to get everything just right the second time around.  I shall have to ponder on this a while.

I have been busy this week making stock for my wall at Bourne Mill and here are pics of a few of my makes:

Don't forget to visit the blogs taking part in Handmade Monday to see what everyone has been up to in the last week.

As part of the Open Studios Event, I attended an Introduction to Wirework course yesterday run by Julie Holt at the Surrey Jewellery School.  An intense 2.5 hours during which I learned lots of easy techniques to make jewellery findings, and also made three pairs of earrings.  The session was a fantastic bargain at £15 - a special price for the Open Studios event.  Here are photographs of 2 of my makes:

The Open Studios event finishes today, although there are a couple of dates next month to catch up on visits.  I really recommend you try to see some of the great work of the artists who are taking part and also look out next year for the short courses some of the artists run - such great value.  Julie has lots of short courses on offer and I am considering doing one or two over the next few months.  Whilst I don't necessarily think I will branch out into the world of making/selling my own jewellery (too much competition really) I would like to make things that can embellish either my cards, gift bags or wreaths with.

The sun is out, the rain has actually stopped (perhaps the weather Gods have heard my plea?) and although it is very windy, I am going to do some gardening.  At this time of year, it is a case of grabbing time in the garden whenever possible as everything grows very, very quickly.

Finally I want to share with you my good fortune.  I received an email in the week advising me that Mr A N Other had arrived in Heathrow with $4,000,000.  Unfortunately, Mr Other was unable to leave with this money unless he paid a release fee.  Sadly, he was unable to do this and the sender of the email has given me a chance in a lifetime opportunity to share the $4,000,000 with him on a 60 (in my favour) - 40 basis.  All I have to do is transfer £1,700 and $2,400,000 will be mine.  As you can imagine I have been very busy checking in handbags, behind sofa cushions, emptying jars, raiding the cats' piggy banks' in an effort to raise the £1,700!!

Have a good week everyone, don't forget to check out the Handmade Monday blogs, my guest post and do please get in touch if you would like to be a guest blogger in July.

'See' you on Wednesday


Friday 22 June 2012


Hello all *waves paw* it's me again, Badger Boo Media Hound.  So pleased to be invited back for another Guest blogger, thank you so much Jill.

Good golly gosh this has been a hard one to decide what to write abouts, I have so many stories and daft adventures, but my puppy mind is a total blank, because at the time of writing this, daddy is most unwell at the people vets...

So I thinks I will tell you abouts the worst night of my little life EVER!

Things have been very hectic at home, as daddy had to go and visit the people vets for a simple operation, all went well and he came home, I was so pleased to see him, but had to be very gentle as he was a bit fragile.

That evening we curled up on the bed together and I watched over him whilst he had a sleep.  I'm also known as "Nurse Badger" as I spend a lot of time looking after my mummy with her hurty joints.

He wasn't sleeping very well and was groaning a lot, so I went downstairs to see if mummy was about to come and check up on him, somehow my doggy senses told me there was something not quite right going on.  Mummy had nodded off downstairs, so I jumped onto the sofa and started walking all over her and licking her face, it's the best way to wake her up, but she really, really hates it BOL.  I then dashed upstairs knowing she would follow because *whispers behind paw* she always needs a wee when she wakes up, but shhh I never told you that...

As I reached the top of the stairs daddy started to call out to mummy in a horrid scary voice I've never heard before, I jumped onto the bed to check on him, but he pushed me off, I was shocked!  That had never happened before!  Then mummy came in and she was talking a strange voice too.  I decided to retreat to my own bed as I was feeling very scared, my people were acting very strange and didn't want to know me!

So I lay there, all curled up sobbing inside as I was so frightened, watching what was going on.  Mummy made daddy take some medicine, and then made a phone call, which was odd as she never ever phones people on that phone, and it was very late too.  She was still talking in an odd voice, and daddy was still making lots of noise, and I was starting to shake with fear by this time!

Mummy then came towards me, I stood wanting a cuddle but she shut the door on me, I was trapped in my bedroom!  That door has never been shut with me on the inside in my life, it was dark, I was scared and started to howl, thinking I must have been shut in by accident.

Then I heard strangers in the house, OMP what was I to do?  My people were acting strange, I was trapped and now we had strangers in the house I hadn't check out!!!!  I barked and swore as loudly as I could and scratching at the door to be let out, it seemed like I was doing it for hours before mummy came to let me out.  Then I got a massive shock as daddy was gone and so were the strangers, I charged around the house looking for him but to no avail, suddenly I realised they had all gone out the front door.  I went to mummy, who picked me up, then she started to cry into my fluffy coat and tried to calm me down.

Daddy had been taken back to the people vets in a big yellow thing called an am-ber-lance, not sure what one of them is though.

Mummy then said I must stay at home on my own to look after the house, as she had to go and see daddy at the people vets and might be gone a long time.  I didn't want to stay on my own, but I was as brave as I could be and finally went to sleep.

When mummy came back, she said we wouldn't be seeing daddy for a few days as he had developed a complication and had to live at the people vets.  As I hadn't been allowed to say goodbye and got very stressed, I went on Hunger Strike for a few days until mummy finally bribed me with some rice pudding, yum yum yum

Please remember when you are in a stressful situation, it affects us pets too.  More so because we don't know what is happening and really don't understand what is going on.

Hopefully by the time you read this daddy will be at home and well on his way to recovery.

Hope you enjoyed this snapshot of my life?

My adventures can be followed in three places:

1)  My facebook group which has been going for several years now, and has 900 members.  You are welcome to join us and share your own Daft Adventures, or just read other peoples.

2)  My Blog which I started in March of this year, and seems to be very popular too.

3)  My Fan Page

Wednesday 20 June 2012


Hello everyone

Yes, I know my title is not quite the correct one for the tune of a similar name, but it seems appropriate for the weather.  The sun has been shining for a few days, the roses everywhere look gorgeous and the odd glass of wine in the garden in the evening helps the title to become almost correct.  Sadly, I understand from the cheerful weather forecaster on the BBC we return to, what he called, normal weather from tomorrow: rain and low temperatures.  Is rain and low temperature now classed as normal for June?

I want to spend as much time in the garden today as possible, the grass (I would love to call it a lawn, but sadly it only pretends to be a lawn) needs cutting (Richard's job for this afternoon), there are plants to be dug up and moved, new plants to be planted and hopefully my order from Crocus will arrive today.  

I have another quirky card order to make and will work on that this evening and memory permitting, I will post the pic on my weekend blog.  I am also making stock for Bourne Mill, and (sorry to mention the word) beginning to make stock for Christmas too.

A short blog post - off to hoe, dig, plant and, as always, weed.  A photograph of Jazz and Daisy in the garden yesterday - Daisy is by the pond and to the left of her I have just spotted a crop of those pesky Mare's Tails!  Jazz is being Jazz - his life is a mix of lounging and even more lounging.

Enjoy the sun everyone, let's hope the forecasters are wrong and we have good weather for the rest of this week.  Don't forget to come back on Friday for another great guest blog post.  I will be back with my Sunday/Monday post.


Sunday 17 June 2012


Hi everyone

I am an early riser.  As much as I try to turn over and grab another 40 winks, I rarely do because of two reasons: cats! Sitting on, purring loudly in my ear, walking across my pillow, sitting on my head!  Not completely their fault this morning though as just after 5.00 am the sun was shining and it was lovely to watch it move up the garden (better than watching a rain cloud move up the garden!).  In the summer (well someone told me this was summer and hard though it may be I am trying to believe them) I don't mind getting up early because it really is the best part of the day.

Did you read my guest blog post this week?  Sources of Inspiration by Linda Kirkbridge is a great post and I really recommend you read it as I am sure it will give you ideas and make you remember things you have used to inspire your work and may have forgotten.  Thank you Linda, and thank you to those who have commented - always very much appreciated.

I am always on the look out for great bloggers to join in the Friday Guest Blog spot, so if you feel a blog post coming on, do get in touch:  If you are wondering about starting your own blog, how about giving it a whirl as a guest blogger first of all?

In my Wednesday post I mentioned about a sneaky envelope remover striking my card wall at Bourne Mill.  Surprise, surprise could it be the same person who removed one of my pottery makes?  My second pottery makes consisted of four serviette rings and a matching small vase.  Before half-term they were ready for biscuit firing and last week I went to collect them to find one serviette ring had gone missing.  Everyone helped in the hunt-a-serviette-ring task, but we couldn't find it.  Perhaps someone has picked it up by mistake, or perhaps it was so good a famous potter has decided to clone it!  Whatever the reason, I am not happy about it - a missing envelope I can deal with, but a piece of pottery?  However, the good news from my pottery class is that I was able to bring my first piece home following is high firing activity (here is a pic) and I have enrolled for both the morning and afternoon session in September:

I know we shouldn't blow our own trumpets and I am not really going to, but I am pleased(ish) with my first effort.  It looks like a first time pot, but hey, that's what it is and it works for me.  I meant to take a photograph last night with a candle in it, but (as always) forgot and took one against a dark background this morning and it just isn't the same.  I haven't been anywhere near clay for a very, very long time, so feel that this is so far, so good.  This time next year I could be making the tea set to go with the thrones my brother-in-law made for the Queen - so watch this space.

It is Open Studios time and I visited my pottery tutor's studio.  Her name is Jean Tolkovsky and you can see some of her work here.  As it says in the Open Studios brochure: many new pieces in ceramics and mixed media.  Quirky jugs, birds, figures and outdoor objects, in a lovely garden setting.  The photographs on the link do not do Jean's work justice - they are much better in 'real life'.  The Open Studios are 'open' until 24 June and then again on 20 - 22 July and if you live in or around Surrey or are visiting this area, I do recommend you visit as many of the artists as possible.  As a bonus, if you visit more than 4 studios, you will be entered into a prize draw to win £100 to spend at one of the studios.

I am a big fan of garden decoration - some plants are very sculptural but some areas need just that little extra something.  I couldn't resist buying the mother Guinea Fowl and chick from Jean and here they are residing next to my pond:

Some of the artists are running workshops and I have enrolled on the Discover Wirework course that is running on Saturday, 23 June.  This is a 2-hour session which will cover making the 'bits' needed to join the jools and beads together!  No, it doesn't say that in the book, but it sounds good.  About 2 years ago, I decided I would make jewellery - bought loads of beads, fixings, etc, etc and made one necklace and a bracelet and then..................nothing more.  I thought it would be a nice idea to re-introduce myself to this craft and it may be that next Handmade Monday, I will have a piece of jewellery to show.

The weather has been lovely today and I have spent a lot of time in the garden.  As we all know, weeds love rain and coupled with reasonable soil temperature they have been growing at a very speedy rate.  We have a major problem with Mare's Tail and if you are familiar with them you will know that eradicating them is hard work - if you pull one up, in a few days time you will have a crop of them.   We have some growing around the pond (not by choice of course) and because of this we cannot use weed-killer on them, so it is a constant pulling and digging up battle to keep them under control.  However, the nice things that come out of rain and warmth are the gorgeous roses that are currently bursting out into flower.  We have a beautiful rambler called Seagull - masses of flowers and the perfume is absolutely gorgeous.  Like all ramblers, it is very hardy and very easy to propagate - in fact many friends and neighbours have the off-spring of this plant growing in their gardens.  Wouldn't it be lovely to click on this pick of Seagull and be able to smell the perfume?

Another pic taken today is of one of my favourites, Heucheras; this one is a deep, dark red colour.  I just nipped out to check the name and discovered that the label has disappeared - seems to be my week for losing things!  I used to pride myself on remembering the names and variety of plants I had in my garden, but these days I keep the label and place it very close to the plant.  Perhaps I need to re-think this.

I spent Friday with my sister doing one of our favourite activities: shopping.  I am a shoe and bag nutter and as we went to an outlet centre, I managed to snap up some great bargains.  I also bought some large fabric flowers which are really meant to be worn in one's hair or as a brooch.  I am going to use them in my crafting for adding to my willow wreaths - still working on the first one, so don't forget to come back next week and check.

Last but certainly not least, I want to tell you about Blogpinner.  Blogpinner is the brain-child of Mammasaurus and you may remember that earlier this year I guest-posted on her blog.  Click on the previous link to read about Blogpinner, but just to whet your appetite Annie (Mammasaurus) says: wouldn't it be cool if there was a sort of Pinterest but just for sharing and organising blog posts.   I think it is a great idea and signed up first thing this morning (you can see the button to the right of this post and it would be lovely if you followed me on there as well as here).  I am in the process of adding my blog posts to my board, and at the same time I am adding the guest posts that my lovely Friday Bloggers have produced.  so, come along and be a blogpinner - there are some great bloggers on there already, including the lovely Badger Boo.

No new makes for Handmade Monday as still have lots of 'work in progress' but I did post some pics of the mini-cards I have made on my mid-week blog.  Don't forget to whizz over and look at the other Handmade Monday bloggers work - and read their posts.  I love 'em coz it is a great way of catching up with everyone and finding out what they have been up to this week.

Enjoy the rest of the week, I will be back on Wednesday with my mid-week ramblings, and don't forget to read last week's Guest Post and make a big note in your diary to come back on Friday and read this week's one - you will love it.


Thursday 14 June 2012


Sources of inspiration

By Linda Kirkbride  MA       

Gaining inspiration sounds an easy thing but having spent years teaching at various levels I’m not sure it is. I remember times when someone just didn’t know how to start, or where they might find ideas. I know I’ve been in that situation myself and I can still wonder what to do, my mind seemingly emptyLuckily however, I know how to start my ‘starting’. I am grateful that I was shown how I could do it and have modified this start to something that works for me. It’s an enjoyable activity and can be seen as the play time before the final piece.

My view is that there is no ‘supposed’ to. It really does need to be what works for you. There is no right or wrong in art. You may not like what you have achieved but what you’ve done is not wrong. Visual images are all subjective and having run a gallery for some years and seen at this at first hand, it is rare that two people like the same thing. I know when I was teaching, and experienced it myself when I was younger, pupils used to think that they had to get their ideas and techniques off the top of their heads. They wouldn’t think that in Maths, they’d think they had to be taught basics and steps in techniques. But in art ?  

So for anyone who would like some ideas, I’m writing about what works for me and there might be just a little something in there that might help to inspire you.  You could buy a book on the subject, In fact I stocked books like these, but surprisingly enough I never used them.

I took a graphics degree which is out of date now as everything we did by hand is now done with a computer. We were given briefs to go off and complete. No-one mentioned how to go about finding inspiration and it wasn’t until years later when I did a City & Guilds in Creative Embroidery that I was given ideas to use and not assume everything came off the top of our heads. City and Guilds Creative Embroidery’s motto was ‘don’t throw things away they might come in useful as an idea’. My best one was not throwing away sweet wrappers (just eat the sweets!) as they were useful for texture and colour and could be stitched over.

Another useful idea was to write a ‘could do’ list. Brain storm ideas like, I could make, I could stitch, I could tear it in half, I could turn it upside down, I could add different colours, I could layer thisand so on. When I taught this in class it was amazing what ideas a group could come up with. Your first idea may be the best but its always worth exploring others. You may never use any of the ideas on your could do list but you will know that what you are doing is exactly what you wanted.

To show how a simple idea can be developed a long way I used a letter or a number.
One can make patterns, turn it upside down, alternate, only use half of the pattern and repeat. I kept a copy of one girls work and have shown you here. She used the no 5 and kept turning and repeating the pattern until it totally changed. The more she did the more she wanted to develop it. She had never shown any interest in the class until that point!

Obviously this was good for designing but we need to think a little about where we are going with an idea, what are you trying to find? Plus are you trying to find an idea for a representation or a concept. Is it a pattern or are we looking to develop an idea for our own individuality.

Another idea, obvious to some, is Research’. That always makes me think of trawling through written information but for our work it’s much more fun. Maybe the better word here is collect. I collect torn out sections of magazines, tiny pictures, postcards, groups of words that I like, photographs, pieces of colour, pieces of metal, shells, buttons, pebbles, feathers, fibres, materials and books. I have images of other peoples’ work that I likeI have traditional sketch books, scrapbooks, self-made sketchbooks. Don’t forget that sketchbooks can be made out of anything, cardboard, packaging, magazines, and papers. Anything flat that you can draw on,stick things on, add things in. You can go back years later and add new items into them. And of course you tie it all together with string, wool, your own made cords ties or tassels.

I taught this idea of homemade books to 6th formers who moaned that they couldn’t afford a ‘proper’ sketchbook. They were stunned when I said that that was no excuse.
Remember its your own, like your diary you can make it however you like. In my smallest sketchbook I put things like fluff from tumble dryer and bits of metal from car salvage. All to give me some ideas for texture, pictures of painted doors to give me paint effects.

Another way of having fun with this is to go somewhere completely different and see what you can find. I spent an amazing afternoon in a car breakers yard, all sorts of colours from burnt out cars, rusted parts, shapes from inside engines, springs, all of which resulted in two stitched wall panels. Another place for shapes and patterns was on a farm where galvanised panels were stacked up, old machinery left in a pile, patterns in the ploughed fields and of course the animals.

I’ve included a photo of shelving in a cupboard showing just some of the sketchbooks I have. Many of them go back a long times so if you are stuck for ideas just start flicking through your books and look for any themes that you notice or colour combinations. An example of how useful this can be was at the beginning of my 2nd year fine art degree. I had visited Lord Leighton’s house in London and was taken with how plain the outside was compared to the lavish inside and had added into my sketchbook various drawings photos, cards etc. I had also drawn and photographed the flowers of my magnolia tree and saw a similarity between the plain exterior and the exotic interior. This led me to a theme that ran through my work for many years which I was lucky to have exhibited both nationally and internationally.

So use all your collection, you will find you have a style, you will have regular ideas, themes and colours that run through your work. Sometimes I spend time going back through my books and files of cuttings and piles of materials just thinking,  ‘I could do….. ‘

Another idea we were given to help get into our work was, if you’re a bit stuck or unsure,  make use of a technique that you like and play with it, not necessarily pushing any boundaries but confirming to yourself what you like doing. Ive often used this when working for a final show or piece and I want to make sure my technique is OK. I use a small project alongside the main work which has been fun and with no pressure, giving my brain time to settle and think for the main piece. I stitched a wall hanging out of vets bills and snack packets for my dogs with pictures on, what for? Because I could!   

And why did I need to keep that box of sweet wrappers ? That ended up being a bra for Breast Cancer charity event. That project has multiplied into various other bras which have become popular. I’m now making one for a Services charity. I’m waiting for all sorts of oddments from some army friends for this one.

I have used similar ideas as a business plan for a bank ! From my collection of cuttings and sketchbooks I was able to put together a plan that I could talk through visually rather than just a wordy document. It must have worked as from that I built and ran a gallery. However moving onto more up to date ideas we have Pinterest where you can upload and build together boards of inspiration.  

So if like me you find an empty desk or brand new sketchbook daunting just look around your space, tear out an image stick it into that book and start playing. 

By Linda Kirkbride  MA       @lindakirkbride1

Wednesday 13 June 2012


Hi everyone

Sunshine and no rain, how wonderful.  It may only last today, but it is very welcome.  Garden, here I come - as long as I can avoid the mud and flood at the bottom of the garden!  I recently planted lots of shrubs in what we call our front-front garden (it is the 'bit' on the other side of the front wall) and as it is very dry there (trees sucking all the moisture out) and the rain has helped them settle in well.  Amazingly the lilies in the pond are doing well too - you would think they have enough water and nutrients (from the fish) to not need rainwater, but clearly they benefit from it too.  Have just heard on the news that some water companies are lifting the hosepipe ban - just when the last thing you need to do is water your garden!

I did a big spring-clean on my wall at Bourne Mill yesterday - the card packets do get dusty.  I was amazed to find that some 'person' had taken a card out of its packet and pinched the envelope!  I hadn't realised my envelopes were so sought after, clearly collector's items!  The good news is that my cards are selling well  there; I added some new stock, so fingers crossed they will also do well.  I moved everything around and previous experience has shown that this often increases sales - regular visitors think lots of new stock has been added, but there is also the chance they may see cards they missed before.

The weather has meant that I have been able to do a lot of card-making this week and I have concentrated mainly on my mini-cards (always popular at events) and here are a few of my recent makes:

I have concentrated on Christmas ones as I know my supply of them is very low and surprisingly at the last event I took part in people were keen to start buying their Christmas cards/gift tags early.

I know that lots of my blog readers/followers enjoy the guest blogger spot on Friday and I really appreciate everyone who has taken part so far.  Perhaps it is the holiday seasons (er, with all this rain?) but volunteers seem to be few and far between.  I don't really want to stop the guest spot because I hope the blogger does well, and I know I have acquired new followers, so if you would like to join in please do get in touch:  I am looking for posts of approximately 60-0 - 800 words, plenty of photographs, links to your business, etc.  You are welcome to choose your topic and you know from previous posts that the posts have been varied, information, great fun and very helpful.  It doesn't have to be craft-related, although posts about the craft industry are very welcome.

Enjoy the rest of the week and don't forget to come back on Friday to read this week's guest blog spot.


Sunday 10 June 2012


Hi everyone

I know in this country we seem to be obsessed with the weather and can talk about it for hours without drawing breath, but I really do think we have had enough rain.  Yes, I know we need it, but this is June, supposedly summer, not spring, autumn or winter, so please renew the washer in the rain tap, because it is leaking!

This week has been rather like Mastermind (no, not incredibly brilliant and intelligent) but rather as in the phrase 'I've started so I'll finish' except mine has been 'I've started but I haven't finished'.  I suppose the 4-day Bank Holiday threw everything out of sync (although not being a wage slave means I don't get Bank Holidays as such, just keep on crafting), then the loss of my friend's 21-year old cat, Carmen, meant a break in the making routine ( it was a very sad time as we had only celebrated her 21st birthday last month).  I  just haven't been able to catch up this week at all.

I made the two rush birthday cards I had orders for and again forgot to photograph them.  I keep doing (or rather not doing) this and think I need to produce a check-list to follow when making things and add a photograph will be in capital letters near to the end of the list.

Thank you Jan of Handcrafted by Picto for being my latest guest blogger.  It is a great post and certainly has made me think about what  I could/need to do with my business.  I love the variety of blog posts I have on my Friday spot - lots of great ideas and lovely stories too.  

If you would like to be a guest blogger, please do get in touch:  Your post needs to be appx 600 - 800 words, lots of pictures and don't forget to include links to your blog, website,Twitter and Facebook addresses - and a link back to your post on here in your own blog would be lovely please.  I re-tweet the post on Fridays and Saturdays (sometimes on Sundays), and I have some lovely fellow tweeters who always RT my blog posts (thank you Dawn, Badger Boo and Lesley).

A thank you to all of my new blog followers - it's great to have you following and I love reading your blogs too.  Also thank you to everyone who comments on my posts - I love the fact that you spend time here and your comments are great, so please do carry on commenting (now, was that a film??).

My Handmade Monday makes this week are work-in-progress items.  The first two wreaths are almost complete, just needing the back to be finished off.  Before I add more to my 'forgotten' list, do nip over to Handmade Monday to read the other blog contributors posts and take a look at their lovely work.

Wreath made with red and white heart-patterned material, splashed in places with white sequin-decorated netting

Wreath made with pink and white gingham fabric

I made this wreath with red and white star-patterned paper napkins.  Some time ago I saw a blog post about it and thought it was a good idea - I am not completely convinced I like it, but it was worth a try 

Each week I try to make a few more mini-cards (they always sell well at events) and these are some I am working on at the moment.

When I met up with Caroline a few weeks ago, she told me about iZettle and as their website says: iZettle's first service includes a free iPhone and iPad app and a mini chip-card reader that lets anyone take secure card payments any time, anywhere.  I registered on the website and received my card-reader about 10 days ago.  I haven't tested it yet, but it will certainly be good to take to events.  I know that not everyone carries cash when they go out shopping and it is so easy to lose out on sales because of not having a card machine (which I can't really justify).  Many thanks for the info Caroline, I hadn't read about this so would have missed out.

My pottery tutor is taking part in the Open Studios Event and I am off to a private viewing with my fellow pottery course potters (that sounds so professional - I wish).  She has bought in one or two pieces she has made to demonstrate styles to us and I have to say they are fabulous and I know will take years for me to get anywhere near her expertise.  Still, I can hope.

Fingers crossed for some sunshine, enjoy this week everyone and I will be back on Wednesday with my mid-week musings.


Friday 8 June 2012


Hello everyone, I'm Jill's guest blogger this week so let me start with a short introduction.  I'm Jan from  Handcrafted by Picto 

I love painting and all sorts of crafts, I 'play' around with wood, fabric, paper, clay and all manner of other mediums. I am originally from Merseyside but have lived the rural life in Suffolk for more than 20 years. I occasionally show my art work in local galleries and recently entered a couple of photographs into an exhibition and I'm pleased to say that I made my first photograph sale (I'm especially pleased as it's my first ever photographic exhibition).

I have a Folksy Shop  and a Wow Thank You Shop where I sell my 'makes', my most popular items are Name Plaques and Fairy Doors, I have a facebook page where you can see a wider range of my crafts in the photograph albums.

I thought I'd talk a bit about selling my wares in a bricks and mortar shop, when I first decided to try this I asked advice from people who have already gone down this route, I searched the Internet for information and read anything I could on the subject. I found out that having products a bricks and mortar shop can be a minefield, there is so much to think about and so much to decide. Do I try the Sale or Return route or do I try Wholesale? Do you rent a shelf? Do I keep everything semi informal or do I have a cast iron contract? Most people will have their own preference, what is right for one person may not be right for the next but it's a good idea to set up some sort of agreement or contract, this is a business transaction after all.

Some things to consider (in no particular order) are:
  • Pricing. Start with what you want for your product, the shop can then add their own mark-up or they may have a set commission.
  • Promotion. Where and how will your items be displayed.
  • Loss or Damage. Who is responsible for loss, theft, or damage.
  • Statement of Ownership. Make sure that the shop cannot claim the goods as assets if they get into financial difficulties.
  • Time Limit. Agree a time scale for changing any unsold items.
  • Payment. How and when.
  • Product. Are you putting the right product in the right type of shop?
  • Location. Is it a local shop you can pop in to or do you have to send items in the post or travel great distances.

OK so do you remember that I said I sought advice? Yes, well, the first time I had anything in a real, walk in shop was against every piece of advice I'd been given or read about. As a trial I asked a friend, who owns a local gift shop, if I could place some of my paintings and plaques in the shop to see what kind of reception they would receive. We didn't have any contract, either written or verbal, the whole thing was done on trust. The items I chose for the shop done well and I was asked to do a few more. One of the reasons that they were successful was they suited the type of shop. Oshuns Emporium sells lots of crystals, essential oils, incense and all manner of eco-friendly and handmade items, so my Green Man paintings, toadstool and nature paintings have done well there.

The second shop I approached sold baby clothes and nursery furniture so the items I chose for that shop were mainly Name Plaques, Art Holders and Bunting. I got lots of new orders and even though the shop has now closed I still get orders from 'repeat' customers.

I then moved on to a larger shop with more exposure Cavern 4 is a great Art Shop in Bury St Edmunds, I approached them one day while out shopping, I didn't have any items with me but made an enquiry and left a business card. I contacted them a few days later and we set up an appointment, I took along a selection of items which were all accepted. Because this shop is used to dealing with Sale or Return items they had an agreement form already in place that was very fair to both parties.

Cavern 4 is part of Workwise whose aim is to provide work based training for adults with mental health and physical disabilities. They encourage self esteem and independence through work.

I have set up meetings with another couple of outlets and will be keeping my fingers crossed for successful replies.

Sale or Return has worked well for me, I find it gives me flexibility and is another way to get my work 'out there'. 

If you already sell in a shop I'd like to wish you Good Luck with all your endeavours and if you don't I like to say, give it a go, it could be just your thing.

Thank you for reading of my personal experience and a BIG Thank you to Jill for allowing me to take part in her Guest Blogger Spot.

I also blog over at Handcrafted by Picto, I hope you can pop over and say hello.

Wednesday 6 June 2012


Hi everyone

Hard to believe it is June (of the Flaming June variety??) as it is so cold, as well as wet.  I think in the UK we are so used to Bank Holidays being wet that nothing stopped the celebrations going ahead.  Our BBQ went ahead as planned and the only rain we had was at about 4.00 pm - after that we were able to eat outside.  A really nice day and although cool the sun came out around 7.00 pm so we moved down the garden as the sun travelled down.  I hope everyone enjoyed the celebrations and I am sure they will continue until long after the Olympics have finished too.

You may recall that on 1 May we celebrated the 21st birthday of a friend's cat?  Very sad to report that Carmen, the lovely 21-year old black cat, died on Tuesday.  Over the last few days, she went quickly down hill and she passed away peacefully in her home - much nicer than going to the vets.  Her house-pal, Shadow - the cat who had to have one of his front legs amputated - is very, very lost at the moment.  As those of you with pets know, it is very hard to lose them..They are such an important part of our lives and although we do get used to them not being around, it takes a very long time for that to happen.

Hard to believe this week is almost half over - the last few days seem to have rushed by and as much as I have promised myself not to sit and watch the various celebrations on the television, it has been hard not to.  I completed one of my rush cards without photographing it!  I had promised to add it to my Handmade Monday post at the weekend, and forgot!  I like to take pics of the cards I make so that I can add them to my website and also leaflets to hand out at events to show the different styles of work that I do.  I really do need some memory training!

Quick update on questions posed on recent blog posts: Shadow is doing very well.  He has adapted amazingly well to losing a leg and he nips around well.  He gets tired, which is understandable, but he is now out and about in the garden.  He doesn't travel far, which is good news.  Highland Monkey asked me how long it took the Royal Thrones to be made by my brother-in-law's company and apparently they began work on them in February and I know they were almost completed around about mid-May.  They do look lovely and if a new home is needed for them, I think my summerhouse would set them off very well.

I am looking for guest bloggers for my Friday spot, so do get in touch if you would like to join in:  All topics welcome; approximately 600 - 800 words, lots of pics and all links to Twitter, Facebook, website, etc should be included too.

I have to finish off my second rush card, and take a photograph this time!  I hope you enjoy the rest of this week - it's half-term so let's hope the weather improves.


Sunday 3 June 2012


Hi everyone

Half-way through an amazing weekend for the UK - wish the weather had been as enthusiastic as everyone taking part, but it wouldn't be England if it wasn't wet, would it?  Today has been an incredibly long day for the Queen and still more entertainment to go, followed by lighting a beacon at 10.30 pm - think she deserves a bit of a lie-in tomorrow.

It has been a bit hush-hush up to about 2 - 3 weeks ago, but my brother-in-law's family business (Albert E Chapman)  made the thrones for the Royal Barge.  As you can imagine, this has been very exciting for everyone involved and the finished thrones looks fantastic.  They have had numerous newspapers and television crews visiting the company during the last few weeks and there are various articles, reviews and photographs throughout the internet.  Unfortunately the ones I have are all copyrighted, so I cannot include them in my post, but if you managed to watch the programme on BBC this afternoon, you will have seen some fantastic shots of the thrones and the surrounding banquettes.   The company has had the prestige of Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers for many years so they are very familiar with working in the Royal Palaces. 

The weather was pretty bad at times, but it certainly didn't dampen (forgive the pun) anyone's spirits - such a great pageant.  Everyone that has worked on the Royal Barge was invited to a viewing area set up on the Millennium Bridge.  Now, I wonder if the Queen would like to change her Christmas card-maker this year???

We had planned to celebrate the Jubilee with a group of our neighbours by having a BBQ in our garden today - however, as the weather forecast was so grim we agreed during last week to move it to tomorrow as the forecast looked much better - maybe not much sun, but it should be dry.  I hope so, as we have had many 'happy' BBQs in wet and windy weather, so could do without another one.  Please Mr Sunshine, shine tomorrow afternoon and evening.

As promised, at long last, a photograph of my first pot - it has been biscuit-fired (not too sure what that is at the moment, but reading up about pottery as we speak).  In my session last week I glazed it with a semi-matt white glaze.  I decided I didn't want a strong colour for this first one but not too sure if I have gone a bit crazy with the glaze.  Unfortunately, I may not know for many weeks how it will turn out as I have to wait until there is a kiln full of similar temperature items.  It could be next term - good job I plan to re-enrol.

Thank you everyone who suggested a glue-gun and Pinflair in respect of my question last week for glueing my hearts to the willow wreath.  I purchased a Dremel Glue Gun and will finish off my wreath during the coming week and post the final pic next Handmade Monday.

I have 'rush' orders for a couple of cards - the usual mix of interesting and unusual - both needed by Wednesday.  I will photograph them once finished and post the pics on here next weekend.  To give you an idea one is for a person who supports Chelsea football club, likes a particular local pub, is a Chaplain at a local school and the list goes on.  The other is perhaps a little easier - I wish.  Watch this space.

I recently made two baby fabric items using the same method as I have for my wreaths.  Both are made with 2" squares of material fixed with glue into polystyrene balls and each one has a ribbon attached: blue for a boy and pink for a girl.  As those of you who have carried out this work know, the hardest work is involved in cutting up the squares.

A big thank you to Badger Boo for a great Friday Guest blog post - he really is a lovely dog and writes a very good story.  If you haven't had the chance to read it yet, please do - he loves comments and will reply to all of them.  If you would like to join Badger Boo and be one of my guest bloggers, please do get in touch:  As always I don't mind what the topic of your post is: your business, anything craft-related, running a business, hobbies, holidays. etc.  It is a great way for both you and I to gain new followers and some good promotion if you are in business.

The forecast for tomorrow looks good - no rain from early morning onwards, so perhaps our BBQ will be completed without the use of umbrellas.  I hope so.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the Jubilee Bank Holiday and I will be back on  Wednesday with my mid-week blog and don;t forget to visit my fellow bloggers on Handmade Monday.  Lovely blogs and lovely work to see.