Friday, 28 May 2010

Hooray for UK Handmade

I am thrilled to have been asked by UK Handmade Blog editor Kirsten Miller (Quernus Crafts) to write a piece about craft fairs and arts markets from the organiser's point of view. 
I think UK Handmade is a fabulous website because it works hard to promote hand made artisans and crafters.  The on-line magazine is a brilliant read, the blog is very informative and there is also a Forum to share your work with other makers.  I have started a group on the Forum called Craft Fairs and Hand Made Markets so, if you are attending an event and want to share please join the group. 
I also wrote 10 Top Tips for Craft Fair Traders which you will find here. I have tried to take a different angle rather than saying "bring a pen, money, table cloth etc" that I hope will make traders better business people and get those all-important sales. 

Friday, 14 May 2010

Coasters Commission

Glass production has been quite slow recently because I have been concentrating on some new designs for Swanky Maison and, as I have such a small kiln, one dish takes three days to fire.
However, I was lucky enough to receive a commission from Michelle of The Crafty Canuk to create a set of coaster for her new kitchen.  Michelle has designed her kitchen with a retro style and she wanted the coasters to reflect that.  I played around with several designs but wasn't happy with them at first.  Then I remembered a dish that I had designed using squares of bright opal glass - I still use the image as my avatar on Folksy so I played around with coloured squares in lime, orange and white on black. 

Lime green opal glass looks horrible before it's fired - the sort of pastel green that you used to see in hospital corridors - but, once "cured" in the kiln it is so sharp and limey it zings against the  orange.  I don't like totally symmetrical designs (I Iearned all about balancing colours and patterns from my quilt making days) so I added a random orange square to throw the design off-balance a little bit. 

Of course it wasn't all plain sailing - when is it ever? Six coasters, two firings and a fire polish for each, kiln breakdown half way through production, one coaster slipped whilst firing and then I misplaced one just before I posted them out..... but I got there in the end. Michelle was EXTREMELY patient and I hope they look good in her kitchen.


Here's the one that went wrong - I said a few bad words when I opened the kiln and saw it had slipped. Hey ho! Time to get the hammer out and make some frit!

Here are the coasters in Michelle's new kitchen

If you would like to commission a set of coasters or glass dishes or fishes plase contact me on Folksy.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Stitches through Time

My friend Eileen and I were looking through a photo album and reminiscing about our Silsden Quilt Group that we used to attend when the children were small. Not an organised group - more a collection of friends with a love of sewing and a need to spend an evening away from the family! 

We were looking at the photographs of our only exhibition, Stitches Through Time, which was held at The Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales in 2000. 

This was an idea that three of us had to show a history of quilting in Yorkshire and how quiltmaking has changed from a practical necessity to a past time and also how quiltmaking has had a revival in the past twenty years. 

We placed an advert in the Craven Herald requesting the loan of old quilts and we had a great response. We travelled around North Yorkshire collecting up quilts from farms, houses and an antiques dealer. Each quilt was loaned to us on trust so it was a huge responsibility.  and there were some beauties! One quilt from Settle still had the original backing papers attached -  which were the original hand written milk bills dating back to the 1920s.  Another quilt was a fine example of Victorian applique from Long Preston and a crazy patchwork of velvet, silk and embroidery came from Embsay.  We even had some adventures whilst collecting the quilts including, getting lost, entering the smelliest house on earth and being chased by a herd of cows! 

We had a great time setting up the exhibition with a lot of help from Fiona and Debbie at the Countryside Museum with the old quilts were hung from the walls of the gallery and our quilts displayed on the boards.  We had a table to sell small quilts and to demonstrate our sewing skills and Eileen researched the tradition of quilt making in Yorkshire. (There isn't much. Unlike Durham and Wales there isn't a particular style of quilting in Yorkshire - most quilts were made just for practicality rather than heritage). 

Although there were just three of us exhibiting at the museum (Eileen, Jane and myself) we each have a distinctive style and colour palette which made for an exciting and contrasting show. Eileen likes earthy tones, using yellows, russets and blues and her quilts explore and rework the American tradition of machine pieced and hand quilting.
Jane has a fascination for tribal and ethnic designs with a vibrant palette of blues, purples, sea greens and jades. She loves African applique and batik fabrics. 
I was taught American machine piecing from Eileen and my colour schemes are more "in-yer-face". I love Japanese indigo-dyed fabric and clashing colours.

Jane, Eileen and Jo

So here we all are at the preview evening of the exhibition. (This photo was taken 10 years ago!) The exhibition plus the daily 3 hour round trip to Hawes left us exhausted and we haven't repeated the  experience.  But we had a fantastic time - quiting, talking to people about quilting and selling our smaller quilts. Since then we have continued to sew separately (Eileen won an award at the Quilter's Guild the following year) and the skills we learned 10 years ago have stayed with us today. 

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