Saturday, May 22

a wee break

from the laptop!

i'm having a self-imposed laptop ban so that i can spend more time at the 'felt mine' (as m calls it!), got loads to do and then there's the housework and gardening that's building up too, i'm sure the ironing pile is about to topple and if that happens i'll be suffocated in my bed!

hope you all have a lovely week or two and the sun is shining where you are :)

Wednesday, May 19

baby news from my brother

well after my success posting a video yesterday, i thought i would try a sound file today but somehow i can't seem to get it to work?!

i got an email in work from my brother and it was a sound file of his baby's heartbeat!

when my brother and his partner went for their most recent scan, j managed to record the sound of their daughter's heartbeat on his phone. this is just the most precious sound i think i've ever heard. cue lots of tears all round and my male boss looking bemused!

i know women have been having babies since time began and women have babies every single day but when it happens for someone you love, it seems very different, like this is the first, the only baby ever to have been conceived.

i can't wait to meet my niece when she's born in august, well, i say 'niece' ... j was told it was 90% certainty their baby is a girl but so were their friends who were surprised but delighted by twin boys!

Tuesday, May 18

white cottage soundscape

i've never uploaded video to my blog before, so hopefully this'll work ... this is a wee video clip that m made as we were leaving the cottage in peebles, as a momento of our idyllic week, hopefully you have the speakers turned up so you can hear the wonderful sounds.

meet a maker monday

well, a little like my life right now, this feature is all over the place! supposedly a weekly feature every monday but hey, better late than never :)

this week, we meet amy from amyorangejuice ...

Please introduce yourself …
I am Amy McCarthy a stained glass and mixed media artist living in Devon. I make bespoke stained glass windows for commission and sell my items in several art galleries and shops in the South West. I am also an exhibiting mixed media artist working with found objects, waste glass and old and broken costume jewellery. I am also a mum of 2 small children, which means I am very busy and always trying to fit the 2 areas of my life around each other!

How would you describe your work / style?
I tend to make bold, stylized designs often bordering on abstraction. I am very inspired by Art Deco, textile patterns and prints and the beautiful Devon landscape around me. Especially the coast, much of my work has a seaside theme.

Who, or what, inspires you?
I am inspired by the sea, the countryside, my children's amazing expressionist paintings and often found items and old rubbish others would throw away.

Do you sell your work? If so, what helped you decide to start selling your work?
Yes I sell my work. Although I have an art degree I never thought I could make my career from my art (lack of self confidence) then I needed to make money but did not want to put my baby into childcare and it all started from there. Also I am a member of the TRAIL collective and they have boosted my confidence no end by being so generous and open to new exhibitors.

Where can I buy your work?
Otterton Mill Gallery, Otterton, Devon
Spinnakers Art Gallery, Crediton, Devon
MADE, Fore St, Sidmouth, Devon
Pooplefords, Newton Poppleford, Devon
Quayside Crafts, Exeter Quay, Devon

Do you have a website or blog address?
How did you learn your craft? How long have you been creating?
I have always been creative since a small child and originally wanted to be a fashion designer, I studied art at Leeds University and have tried my hand at many things, but stained glass and recycled collage art are where I am happiest. In 2003 did evening classes in stained glass techniques for 2 years and I have been in love with it ever since.

Is there any other craft skill you would like to learn?
Would love to find the time and space to start doing some polymer clay and woodcut printing. Kids do leave home eventually, don't they???

Anything exciting planned for 2010 you’d like to share?
I had 2 art exhibitions in March. From March until April, I was one of 4 artists in the Otterton Mill Recycling Exhibition, which is my biggest break and I am in the midst of creating a series of Junk Plankton, from waste glass, broken costume jewellery and found items.

And I also exhibited two pieces at the TRAIL inside exhibition, The Ariel Centre, Totnes, Devon. These comprise a panel with 8 Junk Plankton mosaics and a huge stained glass boat mobile with 45 boats!

In July I am planning to take part in TRAIL outdoor sculpture trail in Teignmouth and I am hoping to make a giant kaleidoscope out of waste glass and old tin cans!

Have you had any work featured in magazines/books/galleries?
See above, I wish for books and mags!

Has your work won any prizes/competitions?
Not since winning the college prize for effort and achievement for being the first person to get an A at A Level textiles and that was a loooooooooooooooong time ago!

If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be …
I spent 10 years working as a specialist mental health worker with homeless people, so that probably.

I couldn’t do this if it wasn’t for …
My amazing husband, who not only is my biggest fan but puts up with endless bits of glass, driftwood and rubbish hanging around the house!

What do you do to relax?
Whats that? Work from home mum with 2 little ones Ha, ha!

Marmite … love it or hate it?

How do you keep motivated?
My constant stream of ideas, which keep me up late into the night and the feeling when someone really likes something I have made for them.

What do you wish you’d known when you first started out?
To be selective about where you sell your stuff and ask the price you need to get, not what you think they want to hear.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Don’t think this kind of thing is ever going to make you rich! But you will be happy and fulfilled.

thanks for taking time to chat amy, your stained glass is gorgeous, especially those hearts you've just finished, and i really enjoyed seeing your recycled collage art. great advice too - not rich, but happy and fulfilled (with an understanding other-half!).

Saturday, May 15

how lovely is the sky today?

but i'm safely tucked away in the house, hiding from the horrid effects of hayfever! i'm starting to miss getting out in the garden, everything is finally starting to grow now and i've got lots of seeds to get started. i've always thought i should start a campaign to have gardeners exempted from suffering with hayfever!

still, it's a good excuse to get lots of felting done :)

hope the sun is shining where you are.

home-smoked cheese!!!

thursday afternoon in work i got a call from m, which went along the lines of ...

m: do we have any tin cans?
me: think there's some in the recycling bin, why?
m: do we have a soldering iron?
me: (getting slightly concerned) why?
m: no reason, just wondering
me: what are you doing ... ?
m: nothing. how about a blow torch, do we have one of those?
me: honey, why would you need any of those things, what are you doing?
m: if it works, you'll have a surprise when you come home, bye.
me: be careful .......

of course this lead to great amounts of discussion with my work-mates as to what he could actually be doing. none of which put my mind at rest!

how surprised was i to get home and find out that m had been smoking cheese all afternoon :)))))))

anyone who knows me will know that i could no more live without cheese than i could oxygen. being veggie i think it's an important source of vital vitamins and minerals (or at least, that's my excuse for eating it at least once per day!). the lady in our local deli has got to know us quite well now and she also shares my assertion that there is no meal (at any time of the day) that can't be improved by adding cheese.

our poor old rosemary bush hadn't fared too well during the winter so m chopped it down and used the twigs to make rosemary-smoked cheddar. the pic i took is a little blurry as i was shaking with excitement at the thought of wolfing down the lot! and being the classy little eater that i am, my first meal with it was chips and cheese! heaven :)

Sunday, May 9

meet a maker monday

this week i'm a little early! so, grab a cuppa, put your feet up and lets meet gemma from sugar&rhubarb ...

Please introduce yourself …Hi, I’m Gemma and I’m the owner and designer of homemade goodies and Ninja Kitties sold by Sugar&Rhubarb.

How would you describe your work / style?Ooh I’d probably have to say shabbychic and most importantly fun. Everything I make I secretly want in my own home, I wouldn’t dream of selling something that I didn’t 100% love. Whenever I sell something I want the buyer to open it and be as excited about it as I am; so there’s a lot of care and attention to detail put into each item.

Do you sell your work? If so, what helped you decide to start selling your work?When I first started to learn to sew I used to give most of my products away to family and friends. Then I started to come up with so many ideas, and my skills grew that I thought people might actually want to buy some of my work – thankfully I was right! I was nervous to start with, there’s always that moment of self doubt when you think people won’t like your style or products, but with lots of support from friends and family I managed to get over it and set up my folksy shop. Since then, there’s been no looking back. I keep a notebook with me and I’m always jotting down new designs and ideas, it’s wonderful to be part of that whole process and seeing the final product sell from its inception.

Where can I buy your work?Here at Sugar&Rhubarb we love folksy and this is our main outlet. We also have smaller shops on DaWanda and Etsy: People can also come to us with custom requests through our website

Do you have a website or blog address?Our website is and we also have a facebook group. Plus our popular softie Ninja Kitty also documents his plans for world domination on his own blog

Is there any other craft skill you would like to learn?I’d love to learn to screenprint. I’ve got so many ideas for cute posters and when I finally find some time I hope to learn and start creating some designs. I have so many prints in my house (I love Bold & Noble) that it would be nice to have some of my own hanging up next to them.

Anything exciting planned for 2010 you’d like to share?We’re hoping to keep on growing, attract local shops into stocking our items and hit those all important craft fairs.

If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be …
Baking cupcakes until the cows come home.

I couldn’t do this if it wasn’t for …
My sewing machine, the support of friends, family and all those other fabulous folksy sellers.

Describe your perfect day.
Eating a bacon sandwich with a giant cup of sugary tea, and then head to the sewing machine for some craft time.

What do you do to relax?
Update my blog, surf other blogs and shops I love, sew and maybe watch a bit of Glee or some other new series on the TV.

Marmite … love it or hate it?
Love it, but hate marmite ricecakes….. eugh!

What animal would you be, and why?
A meerkat, weirdly cute and always looking out for what’s coming next.

What’s your weakness?
Yumyums…… especially Waitrose ones.

How do you keep motivated?
Sales are the thing that keep me most motivated – the thought that someone else actually likes what I’m doing. But mainly coming up with new ideas to make in the future, the day when that notebook is empty is the day when all motivation will be gone – it’s not happened yet, so fingers crossed!

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Don’t be scared- you’ve got nothing to lose! Start small on places like and then market yourself like you’ve never done before – be shameless!

thanks for chatting gemma, your work is beautiful and ninjakitty is fab! lovely to come across another simon's cat fan!

Monday, May 3

meet a maker monday

being the inquisitive little feltmaker that i am, i thought it might be interesting to hear about other maker's stories. so a little while ago i asked if anyone would be interested in being interviewed for my blog. i was hoping to make it a monthly feature but have been so overwhelmed by responses that it is now a weekly feature!

so, grab a cuppa, put your feet up and lets meet sue from homespunwithlove ...

Please introduce yourself …I’m Sue to friends, but still am called Susan by family.

I live and work in Nuneaton, North Warwickshire with my husband, 20 year old daughter and Ellie the cat. Used to be a secondary teacher, before becoming self employed – altering wedding and prom dresses. Still do that but went back to college working with disabled students. My craft sewing is purely for relaxation and pleasure – if I make some pennies too that’s a bonus.

How would you describe your work / style?
I call my craft ‘Homespunwithlove’
- all things inspired by and hand made with beautiful homespun and vintage materials - fabric/lace/buttons etc.”

Who, or what, inspires you?I have always had a passion for sewn items and stitchery.

As the name suggests I was inspired by the wide range of sewn crafts and supplies readily available in craft stores in the States and Australia. I’m like a child loose in a sweet shop in these stores. Just wish they were closer to home – not quite the same as shopping on the internet. Also have always loved the homespun style of fabrics especially the woven checks

Do you sell your work? If so, what helped you decide to start selling your work?Yes - there is only so much you can make for yourself and family and friends. It was a case of selling in order to enable my hobby to continue.

Where can I buy your work?homespunwithlove folksy shop
Goldstraws, Warwick

I will also be exhibiting at the following craft fairs in 2010
Victoria Hall, Oakham – Sat 16th Oct
Hinchingbrooke House, Huntingdon, Oct 9th and 10th
Hanger One, Sywell, Northants, Nov 20th and 21st
Do you have a website or blog address?Not at present other than the Folksy shop. Keep thinking about running my own blog, but shyness and computer technical know how, or rather a lack of it prevents me.

How did you learn your craft? How long have you been creating?Yes, somebody out there does or rather did make those items as demonstrated on Blue Peter. I always had a buzz from making things by hand right from a young age, I always loved toys that encouraged me to make something. Couldn’t afford an extensive wardrobe for ‘Tressy’ (who’s hair incidently no longer grows – she had a hair cut) so designed and made my own. Loved sewing at school, or rather dressmaking as it was in those days. Eventually trained as a needlework/Home Economics teacher – that dates me.

Is there any other craft skill you would like to learn?I think I would like to give needle felting a go.

Kirsty Allsop’s Xmas TV series has also inspired me to give soap making a go – one day!

Anything exciting planned for 2010 you’d like to share?Nothing this year, but hoping to visit brother in Australia in 2011.

Have you had any work featured in magazines/books/galleries?I sell my work in a local art and craft shop in Warwick.

Has your work won any prizes/competitions?Several years ago I entered a patchwork quilt and cross stitch sampler into a local Arts Festival – both won first prize in their categories.

If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be …Wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

Describe your perfect day.Not having to go to work.

Hubby prepares breakfast – in bed of course, lunch and tea, while I can be left to be creative in my sewing room undisturbed. Cat keeping me company, snoring peacefully beside me.

Describe your proudest moment.The birth of my daughter, Jessica

What do you do to relax?Wish I knew the meaning of the word. Always busy, busy, busy.

Marmite … love it or hate it?Hate it.

What animal would you be, and why?I’ve always said I’d like to be my cat – talk about the life of luxury.

What’s your weakness?Chocolate.

thanks for taking the time to chat sue, your work is really beautiful. your perfect day sounds like my idea of bliss too! nice to know that we weren't the only ones wrestling with cereal packets and double sided sticky tape ... ahhhh, blue peter :)

Saturday, May 1

oh and also this weekend ...

celebrate international dawn chorus day at rspb loch of kinnordy nature reserve

sunday 2nd may is international dawn chorus day, so why not go along to listen to the sounds of spring, learn more about the reserve, and have a sociable breakfast in the hide?

dawn is a great time to get a feel for what is around the reserve as male birds sing to let their neighbours know that they survived the night and ‘no, they can’t have anymore space!' the reserve is full of the sounds of spring, with redshank, lapwing and water rail all making their distinctive calls from time to time so there is plenty for folk to hear.

staff and volunteers are going to be on hand during the day to help visitors appreciate all of the activity taking place at this busy time of year: more birds are returning from africa including sedge warbler, willow warbler, blackcap and whitethroat; ducks (shoveler, gadwall, mallard) are now settling to nest and pairs may be seen with the male ‘on guard’ while the female feeds in a brief rest from incubation. lucky visitors may also catch sight of the osprey fishing on the reserve.

the event starts at 6am and tickets are £3 for adults; £1 for children and free for rspb members.

loch of kinnordy is one mile outside of kirriemuir on the b951, kirkton of kingoldrum road. the reserve is open daily from dawn to dusk and entry is free, although non-members are asked to pay £1 for use of the car park. there are three hides on site which means visitors can enjoy a number of viewpoints across the loch.

fife open studios

is also on this weekend!

from 1st to 3rd may, 60 artists, designers and makers will be opening up their studios to visitors.

my friend l and i went last year and had a great few days out, it was a fantastic way to explore an area which is right on our doorstep but which neither of us were familiar with and it was a lovely opportunity to meet and chat with artists and designer-makers, there's also work for sale and most folk are happy to accept commissions, so remember your purse!

there's an exciting range of work to see from: paint; pencil; charcoal; textiles; glass; mixed media; metal; ceramics and photography plus jewellery, furniture and sculpture.

i'm going to give myself the morning off on monday so i'm really looking forward to finally getting the chance to see aileen's new studio and gallery ... the green door craft studio

you can read all about it here: fife open studios

photo (c)aileen clarke crafts

first craft fair of the year

which has come around very quickly! i never seem to have enough time to make everything i want to but maybe i'm just trying to fit too much in?

if you're free, why not pop out to comrie croft who are hosting their first arts and craft fair from 10am to 4pm on sunday 2nd may.

comrie croft is an award-winning hostel, with eco camping, swedish k├ątas, and is also a great mountain-biking destination.

you can find more information here: comrie croft website

the address is braincroft, crieff, perthshire, ph7 4jz.

look forward to seeing you there.