Friday 31 January 2014

Ceramics in Handmade Happiness

Colourful mugs by Kate Hackett; blue painted mugs by Jacqui Watkins; dog on porcelain mug by Ali Cooper; hearts by Eve Deary and knitted key rings by Sue Inglis.
Samantha Robertson's work
Ali Cooper's stoneware with 24 carat gold decoration.
 Handmade Happiness has a range of ceramics - porcelain, white earthenware, stoneware by four local potters - Roly Phillips work - larger vessels inspired by the colours of the sea, are not pictured above. Kate Hackett who makes the colourful flower and fruit decorated pieces is coming in today with fresh pieces for spring. (I love her mug, top middle of the first picture with its colourful heart.) A special mug or bowl makes a nice Valentines present...

Pam Dew, a textile artist who specialises in patchwork and applique came in with her newest cushion this week. I love it - it's of chickens - and I'll take a picture of it today for the next post.

Already its the last day of January. Winter is rushing out the door. I have a big bunch of daffodils on my desk in the shop, a reminder that spring is on its way. The milder winter has been good for the shop - when there's snow on the ground there's no-one about. 
Yesterday it was interesting to speak to a customer who has had a shop in another town for 13 years. She says last year 2013 was the hardest year she's known. I reckon if we can survive that we can survive anything! 

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Felted Hearts

Three hearts made with my felt, red cashmere offcut and red blanket
...together with a lavender filled red cashmere heart by me all on Kate Box's lovely blanket.
Kate Box's knitted blanket - showing the fab colour combination
Late yesterday in the shop I had some fun on the embellisher using scraps and a handful of 'silk waste'. I was making silver coloured charm bracelets yesterday and I think I could make a smaller felted heart like these stuffed and stitched as a central charm on a bracelet or as a necklace on its own on a coloured string. Even as earrings if they don't prove too fiddly to do...

The red cashmere heart (thank you Shauna) stuffed with lavender smells gorgeous. I didn't know whether to give it a hanging loop or not. But actually I like the idea of putting it in a drawer just as it is to scent and (supposedly) to repel moths.

I look forward to making some more hearts today in the shop. Wednesdays are usually the quietest day of the week.

On Monday I completed and sent my tax return! Yay! Such a good feeling to know that it's done for another year. So as promised I will give a free workshop next Wednesday(ie a week today) from 2pm in the shop. The topic is 'free knitting' and to take part you already have to know how to knit. Bring the yarns and needles you want to use and I will bring some wool and needles for sharing too. The idea is to create a crazy patchwork by using different colours and knitting stitches and to knit from the base or side of your work to make the piece look truly your own. This workshop is a lot of fun and what you make could become a cushion cover or throw or bag or just a piece of artwork. You be the judge.

Monday 27 January 2014

The collage of Life

Valentine's card by Jenny Stacy
and another collaged heart card by Jenny Stacy
 I forgot that I collaged the kitchen wall of our dully decorated rented Paris house. Reading an old diary from the early eighties reminds me of things like that. It was lovely exploring that city. We set up house there when Amy was just 6 weeks old and Tim a little boy so the diaries are largely domestic - shopping, cleaning, eating, playing with and caring for children. 

When Tim started school there (at 3) Amy and I were able to 'lick windows' as the French call window shopping. It was in Paris that I first dreamed of having a shop of my own. One particular shop, la drougerie on rue du Jour was my paradise on earth. It sells beads, buttons, wools, and ribbons all gorgeously displayed.  I could see a British version being appreciated by British women back home. I clung on to that dream and haven't abandoned it even now. I have a lovely shop that sells creative peoples' work. One day I hope to also sell distinctive, unusual and beautiful beads, buttons, wools and ribbons. Watch this space!  

Saturday 25 January 2014

Softest baby blankets

Knitted blanket by Kate Box
If you're wondering why the photo today is of a better quality than usual it's because I didn't take it! Kate Box sent me two photos, one of which I've managed to send into the ether between email and Picasa and can't retrieve and this one.  This blanket which feels as soft as cashmere but is actually made with lambswool is in colours for a girl. Kate's other new blanket has navy and grey and pale blue in it - colours for a boy. 

I wonder if it's politically correct to say that. This is for a boy and this is for a girl. I imagine a baby doesn't mind what colours it's wrapped in or what colours it wears come to that but it must be at least mildly annoying for the mother if people keep guessing its sex wrongly judging by the colours it wears. 

I love Kate's designs. If I could afford to I'd buy both blankets to wrap my grandchild-to-be!

Talking of cashmere, Shauna Richardson delivered six more of her fabulous cashmere cardigans to Handmade Happiness yesterday. These are made with 100% cashmere, super soft and pretty. Sizes 12 to 14.  

Shauna generously gave me her cashmere offcuts to make with. These would make great baby toys - teddies, rabbits or mice and also serve as blankets in a toy's bed. Bed in a matchbox I'm thinking. Also cashmere hearts stuffed with lavender for Valentines, that would be nice too.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Colour and scent for a winter's day

I love the smell of these wafting through the house
 People often comment on the 'nice smell' in Handmade Happiness. It smells warm and cosy thanks to a fig candle from True Grace. In the summer I occasionally burn one that smells of flowers or the sea shore. But the best smell is from fresh picked flowers and I look forward to always having those in the shop once the weather improves instead of a candle. My garden is good at producing roses and I love, love, love sweetpeas for their colours and scent.

Of all the senses smell sometimes gets forgotten. Then a lady often of 'a certain age' passes in the street and you appreciate a waft of expensive perfume. Young men at night often overdo it and smell like they've splashed the whole bottle on themselves. But they do smell nice and I guess it gives them confidence.  

Certain smells take you back to a time and a place. My mother bending over my bed to kiss me goodnight in party clothes and jewellery always used Madame Rochas perfume - I don't think you can buy it any more. And doesn't your sense of smell get heightened when visiting a different country? The glorious smell of hot croissants passing Paris bakeries and the strong lavender smell of l'Occitane shops which are now in many High Streets over here.

Kate Box bought in two new knitted baby blankets yesterday. One in colours for boys and one in colours for girls. They are the softest feel you can imagine. Pictures to come. 

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Watch this programme!

A freshly made Valentine's card by Jenny Stacy
Vintage inspired Valentine's by Jenny Stacy
 Last night I thoroughly enjoyed a new tv series called The Great Interior Design Challenge.
It's on every night for two weeks on BBC2. The idea is to take three similar houses - last night they were Edwardian houses in Muswell Hill, London and get three assorted people to transform the same room - last night master bedrooms. 

It was fascinating to see how creative people can be when given a limited budget and limited time. It's that competitive adrenilin that gets ideas buzzing! Different rooms, different competitors, different style of houses every night. My idea of bliss! I think the programme will be very successful both here and in America. Whether your style is vintage, French country or contemporary there are ideas and rooms to suit everyone on this show!

Do you like yoga? For the first time in years I did half an hour of yoga this morning after my back gave me a wake up call at the weekend. And I feel good.  I remember getting weird aches and pains once before and it turned out to be nothing more than caffeine withdrawal as I'd suddenly decided to stop drinking coffee. I'm wondering whether trying to give up sugar as I currently am could have a similar effect on the body?

 Have you noticed how sugar has suddenly become the number one topic in the media? Sometimes carbs are the no-nos, sometimes saturated fat, now it's sugar. Yoga gets you to listen to what your body wants and doesn't want so maybe we should let our own individual bodies decide what is right for us as individuals? Agree? By the way if anyone can recommend a yoga class in Petersfield I would be grateful.

Sunday 19 January 2014

New pieces from Ali Cooper

Mugs and jugs by Ali Cooper in the window of Handmade Happiness pictured with birds by Michelle Green and bunny by Sue Inglis.
Bunny mug by Ali Cooper
Ali Cooper brought new pieces to Handmade Happiness on Friday. Porcelain hand thrown ceramics and some stoneware decorated with 24 carat gold lustre.

I feel sorry for anyone that suffers with a bad back. Yesterday I woke with back pain - not something I usually get and I crept around all day feeling sorry for myself. I hope none of the customers guessed I was feeling fragile. But today it's still hurting and you know how you get to a certain age and think, this is it, I'm falling apart, and you can't imagine being pain free again. I don't like taking pills but if I'm to drive to East Grinstead today to see my mum I shall have to take a pill... also the boiler is not working. That's two old boilers on the blink!

Enough moaning. You know we were talking about baby clothes? My daughter was lucky to find a brand new baby sleeping bag, white with faint blue stripes by Caramel baby and child in a charity shop together with one of Caramel's linen romper suits. Surely this is the ideal compromise - to find unworn luxury baby goods at charity shop prices!

Friday 17 January 2014

Looking forward

Valentine's card by Jenny Stacy
Another Valentine's card by Jenny Stacy
Buttons before holes by Jenny Stacy
 What I'd like to be doing in the shop right now is making Valentine's cards and buttons. What I'm actually doing in the shop right now is sorting out tax before the dreaded January 31st deadline. But once I finish the tax thing I'll feel I have permission to be more creative!

Attention basket makers and dressmakers! I'd like to sell handmade baskets in the shop and natural fabrics (pure cotton/ silk/wool) handmade clothes for women/ children/babies. If you live locally to Petersfield and make these things come and see me! I'm pursuing all things handmade that are either beautiful or useful or ideally, both. Handmade wooden toys is something else I'd like to stock. Also I haven't found anyone locally knitting baby clothes  in cotton yarn or wool yarn. Again if you or someone you know makes beautiful things and would consider selling them I would like to meet them!

Now in it's third year Handmade Happiness gets better and better. I was thrilled to bits this week when a customer said she'd come down from London on the train especially to buy presents at Handmade Happiness because she 'knew she'd find what she wanted there'. She did and then left to catch her train back to London again. I honestly never thought anything like that would happen...

This time last year I did a workshop on 'Free Knitting' ie making a random patchwork of knitting (and crochet if you want) by knitting on the side and base of your work in different colours and stitches to create a really interesting arty piece. I'll do another to celebrate finishing the tax return in early February. Any takers? 

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Displaying art in nature

Stones found on Cornwall's beaches at Ruth Ellacott's house
Same stones, different angle. The rug is one of many rag rugs made by Ruth and for sale in Handmade Happiness.
On Monday I went to Chichester to have coffee with my friend Anne, visit Ruth Ellacott and to look at baby clothes in the shops. 

I've written before about Ruth's house. I love the fact that art is everywhere you look. Not just the obvious paintings and etchings, the unusual pottery mugs and colourful jewellery but the bowls of stones, the rows of blue green ancient glass bottles lined up in the window, the shards of sea-washed patterned porcelain and smooth sea glass. Everywhere I put my eye there is something to wonder at and exclaim over! Her house is an inspiration. I was pleased to hear that this year Ruth will be taking part in the Chichester art trail. Not unfortunately in her house but in a church hall along with two other artists.

I looked in several shops that sold baby clothes and sorry but I was disappointed. Maybe I'm a bit old fashioned but I'd rather a tiny baby was a soft white bundle, comfortable and secure. I don't want to see slogans written across his/her clothes. Nor do I want to see bright colours.

 I remember my mother making little nightdresses for my first baby and I was touched that she'd taken the trouble to make them. Now I'm thinking of making little nighties myself. Brushed cotton with a drawstring hem maybe. White but perhaps little rosebuds on the fabric or tiny little cars?  Am I describing something that is actually for sale in one of the shops I didn't go in? Or am I just hopelessly out of touch with what mothers today want? I have started knitting a white cardigan buttoned up to the neck with a simple moss stitch border. It's  in  a soft pure wool that's machine washable - 'Superwash wool' - some things do change for the better!

Monday 13 January 2014

New things and makers' energy

Zipped, lined purses by Carol Smith
Wrapped fabric earrings by Carol Smith
Carol Smith who writes the blog came in on Saturday with these useful little zipped purses she makes. I particularly like the patchwork ones and I'm hoping she'll bring in some more shaped to hold i-phones. Carol was wearing some very unusual earrings and it was fun talking about other possible uses for her wrapped fabric beads. 

I like it when makers come into the shop. In fact I'm beginning to think there may be a strange link between the frequency of  their visits and the number of their things sold. 
Quality will always sell but for some reason makers who visit regularly to bring in fresh things they've made, to fiddle with their display or just to have a chat bring with them an energy that seems to have a good effect on their sales.

Handmade Happiness started out with the work of just five local makers. At the latest count there is now work from 49 makers for sale. And the people that take the most interest in how their work is selling -guess what? have the most sales. Is there such a thing as 'transferred energy'? 

I find the same thing happens when I re-arrange an area. To some extent this may be to do with changing what is in the eye-line of the customer. But I can't help wondering if it has something to do with re-energising a spot. I was never any good at science at school but perhaps someone can tell me whether this is a known phenomena?

Saturday 11 January 2014

Making buttons this morning

Handmade buttons by Jenny Stacy about to go into the oven

Apologies, first of all for the state of the baking tray. I only use it for Fimo and years of baked on paint and Fimo mean it is never camera ready! In fact if I'd known I was going to photograph buttons on it I would have given it a good scrub. The buttons will look a million times better in the shop against a clean white cloth! I'll just fetch them out of the oven now.

The worst thing about making buttons is softening the clay. That always takes longer than I think it's going to. So I softened clay last night ready to make buttons this morning. I have a dwindling number of buttons in the shop so I'm pleased to have made 44 more to boost supplies. They are all machine washable and cost £1 each. I have a request for brown ones and I'll do those next. I just feel in the mood for lots of colour right now.

I taught myself to make buttons about 20 years ago after seeing some beads made from Fimo in America. I wished later that I'd bought some but I still had the picture in my head and I was fascinated by them. Since then I've made and sold beads and buttons and given many workshops on how to make them. Buttons like those above are ideal for hand knitted jackets and cardigans, as decoration on cushions and quilts or to fasten bags of all sizes, make into jewellery or just to have as useful decoration in a glass jar.  

Thursday 9 January 2014

Keeping warm and dry

Handmade Happiness' window this week
I put some big woolly scarves and knitted socks in the window this week. Just looking at them makes you feel warmer! What would be even more weather appropriate would be to have some big handmade umbrellas in the window. Now there's a thought:

You could buy an umbrella from the 99p shop and strip off the fabric. Then using the opened wires as your framework you could crochet between them; or you could knit panels or sew in handmade felt - nuno felt would maybe look good; or how about weaving? Would weaving work if the wires are the base you weave between? Actually I think you'd need to keep the boring black umbrella fabric on because it would provide the right tension. If you sewed into it and used it as the base you could cut some or all of it off once you'd applied your surface.

This handmade umbrella could never be closed nor would it be any use as rain protection but as amusing window display to bring a smile to passers by, yes, it would do nicely.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Talking patchwork

Close up of Ruth Ellacott's big square patchwork hanging in the shop
I've never tried patchwork but I'm fascinated by it.  How do people get it so neat and even? This large unlined square mat is backed by a sheet and would, I think, make a brilliant play mat for a baby. Because Ruth Ellacott is an artist she lays out the colours and patterns just so. She also makes the rag rugs I sell in the shop and she does beautiful botanical paintings.

I saw a dress made from pieces of knitted sweaters patchworked together. It looked lovely and warm. Upcycling at its best. What Americans call a jumper (pinafore) made of jumpers.

I'd also like a tea cosy made of Victorian style crazy patchwork. A bit of velvet, a bit of embroidery and nice fabrics all randomly stitched together in un-neat patchwork and then padded and lined. I'd be more capable of that 'crazy' kind of patchwork. It reminds me of the free knitting and crochet I do where the piece grows patchwork style when you knit into the sides or base of your piece in different colours and stitches. Lovely stuff.

Pam Dew does fabric patchwork. Last year she made a wonderful Amish pattern patchwork quilt single bed size for a customer. Can you remember the picture of it? Traditionally women would have used every scrap of saved fabric from worn out clothes to use again in quilts for the family. Now when patchwork has become more of an art form than a necessity women will buy the fabric they need. But I prefer the idea that every piece has a story.  A bit of baby's first dress here and her Dad's worn out shirt there. A lovely thing to look at to bring back memories as we get older.

Sunday 5 January 2014

Turning old magazines into carrier bags

Ready to be filled with shop purchases
More waiting for handles to be attached
Yesterday was a bit quiet in the shop what with the rain and it being January so I made carrier bags. I've always made these out of old magazines. Five pages for one of these and just one page for a folded little bag that practically every purchase goes in. It means I don't have to buy bags and people like the look of them and the fact that it's recycling.

 My preferred magazines are Vogue or Harpers for the carriers and Country Living or Country Homes and Interiors for the little bags. Certain lovely customers have been bringing in their old magazines for me to use so I always have a good supply. And if I ever get a World of Interiors magazine (which has thicker paper than other magazines and beautiful pictures) I can use the pages for both carriers and small bags.

I took out a lot of the Christmas decorations yesterday. Monday is the deadline for removing Christmas displays as you know. But I am a bit confused as to what to celebrate next shopwise. A friend who had a shop in Chichester advises not to celebrate spring too soon (which had been my intention) but to have a couple of months with a winter theme. She reckons fresh spring displays will look a bit jaded by the time March and April come around. Maybe she's right. But I do find spring flowers a lot more inspiring than winter frosts.

Friday 3 January 2014

In the mood for making

Notebooks by Christian Lacroix
New Year new start on making fresh things to sell. Recently I have made a bit of this and a bit of that, all kinds of things that I think will sell. But looking back at past notebooks I am reminded that what sells best of all for me and what I enjoy making most is jewellery. Unusual, quirky pieces that say something about the woman who wears them. I am determined to keep more of a 'finger on the pulse' of fashion and to observe and research  what women really want (which is not necessarily anything to do with fashion.) 

Wednesday 1 January 2014

May all your dreams come true...!

Liberty prints
It's 2014!
A great and special year for you. Gather up your confidence and make this the year that all your dreams come true. 

When I was young I used to think that if I waited patiently good luck and opportunity would fall into my lap. Now I know that life is what you mould it to be. You make things happen in your life by your own actions. And if you don't wave your own flag and chase your own goals nobody is going to notice you. Sorry but that's the truth. Take it from an old timer like me who, God willing, will become a grandmother in 2014.