Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Craft in Focus Sevenoaks November 2012

In just ten days I shall be exhibiting for the first time in Sevenoaks School with Craft in Focus.  I've been to this event as a visitor a couple of times before and loved the atmosphere.

There are around 60 stands at this event which gives you a chance to meet and talk to all the exhibitors.  There's also a lovely cafe area with homemade food so you can ponder your potential purchases over coffee and cake before making your final choice.  I was delighted to find out that Craft in Focus had given me the opportunity to show my wares here and am looking forward to getting to meet a whole new set of customers.

For me, preparation for an event like this is not just about designing and making but also about trying to get to know an area before setting out my stall.  Fortunately Sevenoaks is only about 35 minutes away from Epsom where I live and is home to several lovely National Trust properties which are a perfect starting point to exploring this area.  

We've been to Emmett's Garden a few times because it's open to dogs and has the most amazing views over the Weald of Kent.  

Not too far away is Chartwell with equally stimulating views making it easy to understand why Churchill wanted to settle here and  found the landscape so inspiring. Right in the centre of town is Knole House, birthplace of Vita Sackville West.  According to Wikpedia, it's a calendar house having 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards. It's set in a 1,000 acre deer park.  We've not been there yet but I'm interested to explore it.

On Saturday I went over to distribute my remaining flyers and some special offer tickets for the event.  On the way I was wondering whether there were indeed seven oaks in this town.  There were none immediately obvious but I noticed on my car park ticket that the trees were depicted so I guessed they must have existed at one time.  The best information I've been able to find is on a website devoted to the White Hart Inn http://www.brunningandprice.co.uk/whitehart/history/.  

It says that the name "Sevenoaks" originated from the Saxon word 'Seouenaca', a name given in about 800 A.D. to a small chapel near seven oaks in Knole Park.  The town has apparently had more than one group of seven oaks planted over the years, some have been felled, some blown down in the hurricane of 1987 but currently has two 'sets', one near the White Hart and the other on the Vine cricket ground.  The strange thing about the latter is that it's really a group of eight after seven were replaced after the hurricane despite the fact one had been left standing.  Does anyone know why this happened?

It was great to find that many of the shops around the town were already displaying posters for the event but I did leave some leaflets at Puddleducks http://www.puddleducksquilts.co.uk the quilt fabric shop at the northern end of the town where I just had to buy a few fat quarters to add to my  stock, including some very pretty lavender coloured fabric which will be used for my textile greetings cards. 

I also found a  really lovely independent shop called Lady Butterworth's http://www.ladybutterworths.co.uk right in the centre of town which had some lovely gifts and encouraged Sarah the owner to come along to the Craft in Focus fair to see if any of us can add to her repertoire.

My final port of call on Saturday was at Kentish Craft Fairs Harvest Fair http://www.kentishcraftsfairs.co.uk in Riverhead organised by the amazing Helen Cook.  Because she too had high quality handmade items (as well as locally produced food) I was tempted to part with some cash and treated myself to a beautiful glass plaque by Ann from SandGlassFusion http://www.sandglassfusion.co.uk  (an early birthday present for me),  some seriously cute Christmas cards based on illustrations by John Butler from Little Blue Zebra http://littlebluezebra.com and some gorgeous handmade soap from Fentons of Kent http://www.fentonsofkent.co.uk which I can't wait to use - the fragrance of the Gardeners' Soap is really uplifting.  

Remember that every purchase you make from a stall at a 'handmade only' event not only helps to support a small business but to keep alive the amazing creative talent we have in this country and helps these skills to be passed on to others.  So come along to Sevenoaks School on 2nd November (after 12 noon) or at the weekend when we'll be open from 10-5.  Find out about the passion behind the creations and buy from the best.  I've kept back a few tickets which entitle you to bring a friend for free so if you would like one just email your address to alison@lavender-heart.co.uk and I'll pop one in the post to you.
Looking forward to seeing you there.

Lots of love as always

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Ally Pally Inspirations

Today, with less than three weeks to go to my first major event of the Christmas season what I should have been doing is spending the day making, labelling and packing but instead I somehow found myself driving round the North Circular this morning on my way to the best source materials show for knitters and stitchers in the South East, the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. To be honest, it wasn't totally about spending money on new supplies (no, really!) but the day out gave me a chance to regroup myself (if that's possible) and some new ideas to think about on the way back.

My first port of call was Blooming Felt http://www.bloomingfelt.co.uk.  I've probably said this before but Sarah, the entrepreneurial owner of this company is a personal inspiration to me.  She's built a very well known and successful business in the craft world and I hang on her every word!  

Today she inspired me with some lovely felt ball flowers which I think may appear in some of my mini pictures

and a rather disjointed (literally) person for whom I have some knitty ideas.  (You'll just have to wait a bit for these - a 2013 project).

But I was also on the lookout for a little present for me and Sarah suggested this little kit

which was fortunately marked

I was also lucky enough to snap up the last few of these ceramic buttons which sent me whizzing round to the Alpaca Select stall http://www.alpacaselect.co.uk for some matching yarn.  More knitted corsages on the way!

I find that alpaca yarn is some of the loveliest to work with and this company has a gorgeous range of plain and variegated colours in both pure alpaca and 50% alpaca/50% acrylic.  They're both beautifully soft.

I can never visit this show without calling at the Black Sheep stall.  They always have amazing bargains but you have to be prepared to rummage around on the floor!  Today I was good and limited myself to one purchase which was some pale pink Rowan Siena 4ply.  I have decided, after years of not knitting garments to have a go at a lacy jumper pattern.  If it turns out OK you may see it here, if not, forget I ever mentioned it!  I'll only need a few of the 10 balls in the bag so thinking about what to do with the rest was one of the topics in my mind as I was queuing at Hangar Lane on my return journey.

The stitching part of the show for me was a hunt for some different fabrics and for this I went first to The Village Haberdashery http://www.thevillagehaberdashery.co.uk.  I've been following them on Facebook and joined their survey panel as it gives me a chance to give some feedback on new stock.  Everyone at the stall was really lovely and I picked up three really interesting prints.  Keep up the good work girls!

Of course, I can't resist a bargain and at the New Threads Quilt stall I picked up six lovely fat quarters and owner Meg very kindly helped me to find the perfect thimble for my very sore finger.  Phew!  Find her on-line here http://www.new-threads.com and near Andover which fortunately for me is on the way to my favourite hotel in Somerset.

And finally I found  three pretty ditsy prints at the Fabrics Galore (https://www.facebook.com/fabricsgalorelondon) stand which will be the perfect backdrop for some textile cards I have in mind.

Craft for me is also about trying out new pieces of kit and I found three items to make fabric roses, bows and flowers. Sometimes these things do not work quite as well as they appear to but I'll roadtest these and let you see the results.

I was just about to leave but realised this show wasn't all about spending money so took a wander into the hall showcasing the talents of textile designers.  And who did I find but Clare Beaton!  If you have or have had a young child but you don't know her beautiful illustrations you've missed out and should remedy this situation immediately!  When my daughter was very young I bought her Clare Beaton books as a keepsake because I so loved the textile illustrations. Today I saw some of the original sewn work for these illustrations which have so inspired me and, even more importantly, had the chance to meet Clare herself.  You can find out more about her at http://www.clarebeaton.com.  I bought these lovely Christmas cards as a final reminder of a fantastic and inspirational day out.

Back to work now.

Love as always
Alison xx

Monday, 24 September 2012

Personal Best

In my last post I applauded the value of team spirit. Today I'm celebrating 'Personal Best'.

I knew when I booked tickets for the Paralympics that I would find the experience emotional: just the thought of seeing athletes perform right in front of us sent shivers down my spine but I wasn't prepared for the tears flowing when a runner from Africa came last in his heat.

You've probably read about the Djibouti runner who took 11 minutes 23.5 seconds to run 1500m.  The press coverage variously described him as 'struggling', 'disabled', 'adrift' but that's not what I saw.  We were unaware he had injured his foot because from the outset he appeared to run the race in his own way: steadily, one stride at a time, focussed until he reached the finish line. Other athletes passed him but he did not even glance at them, 80,000 people roared at him in a rolling Mexican wave of cheering but he ignored them.  He had a goal and he reached it but he reached it in his own way.  The results board showed it was his season's best performance. Without a doubt he achieved a personal best.

Since then I've cheered on lots of other performers: the Weirwolf, Ellie Simmmonds, Jonnie Peacock - willing them on, yelling at the TV but as brilliant and exciting as our Paralympians were it was this guy's run which made me the most emotional. It was not because I felt sorry for him but rather, I think, because I admired his ability to be able to keep striving towards his goal despite being so far behind; at not being fazed by having to take the race at a different pace to everyone else and doing this in front of the world.  Despite coming last, he got there.  It was fantastic, too, to see Andy Murray achieve a personal best by winning the US Open to add to his Olympic Gold.  He has also had to strive, to give his all under intense pressure and in front of the world.

These performances affected me because I think they tapped into my own emotional engagement in my work. I share their desire to reach a goal (successful business), I like to work in my own way (just me, making what I like, selling to people I like, in environments which support me, alongside 'colleagues' from other disciplines who are equally passionate about what they do); I don't mind if the success takes a while to achieve (as long as I've not compromised my principles and done my best) and in doing all this I've represented myself in the best way for me.  And in a (very) small way, I'm making a contribution to my country.

The last four years have been increasingly difficult for many of us in the crafting community. Many local craft-based events have not been sustainable due to low visitor numbers; personal spending has been down; profit has been hard to come by.  But difficult times are good for entrepreneurs!  Personally I've had to take the risk of going to major shows where visitor numbers are high; I have learned to network which has led to new friendships and connections; I've created new outlets online and I've had to pluck up the courage to approach retailers to stock my products.  Now I feel as though I'm slowly approaching that final bend in the race and going into the home straight within sight of my goals.

In my continued aim to support and connect with the best in my field I've recently found the following sites which I think perfectly illustrate the notion of 'personal best' in the craft community.  Have a look and you'll see what I mean.

Planet Penny  http://www.facebook.com/PlanetPenny

Penny has a fabulous collection of cotton yarn in an amazing set of colours - I've been trying to hold off buying some because I already have an enormous stash but I'm going to give in and buy a pack for my birthday in November.  Her patterns and designs are just so cute and she has a blog which is well worth reading too.  

LubyLoo  http://www.facebook.com/pages/LubyLoo/163319957088937

What drew me to Lucy's work was the fineness of the stitching, the attention to detail in each piece and the delicacy of the colours.  If my 'little one' was approaching her 6th rather than her16th birthday I would have loved to buy her a birthday badge!

Sew Sweet http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sew-Sweet/157239311000016

I found this lovely page courtesy of Colour-full-felt who invite their customers to share pictures of their makes.  It was these little chaps which did it for me.  The simplicity of the design and the complementary colours make it a true winner.  I keep thinking I've spent all year sewing to sell - maybe I should buy a kit to make as a present to myself.

Polka  https://www.facebook.com/polka8

This site attracted me because of the brilliant fabrics and the fabulous effect created by the layering of the embellishments, the mixing of different textures and the incredible colours in Andrea's products.  She's just set up a notonthehighstreet.com shop, another great window for handmade.

Lovehearts  https://www.facebook.com/lovehearts2010

It's easy to know why I like this site - because I love hearts too!  Lots of crafters use hearts but I think these wallhangings are just gorgeous and make the loveliest presents. It would really show someone you love them if you give one as a gift but wouldn't it make you smile every time you saw it if you had one in your own home?

What unites these five fantastic pages and the businesses they represent is that in each case you have a sense of the person behind it; the detail and care which goes into each product is of the highest order and that what they make is the absolutely best product they could possibly give you.  You just know you wouldn't be disappointed in anything you buy from them.

I am looking forward to showcasing some of my personal best products at the following events this coming autumn. I have some special offer/discount tickets for the Craft in Focus events and will have some available for the Sparkle event in due course.  Just drop me an email - alison@lavender-heart.co.uk - with your address if you would like one.

2nd-4th November - Craft in Focus Contemporary Craft Fair at Sevenoaks School, Kent.
16th-18th November - Sparkle Contemporary Craft & Gourmet Food Fair at the Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington, Surrey.
21st-25th November - Craft in Focus Christmas Contemporary Craft Fair at RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey.
7th-8th December Hi-Life at Tingle Creek, Sandown Park Racecourse, Surrey.

More details of these are on the Where to Find Me page of www.lavender-heart.co.uk.

Lots of love as always

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Team Spirit

I have to confess I've been glued to the Olympics.  We've been lucky enough to go to two events (tennis and hockey) but have watched the TV every day and have found ourselves drawn to sports which we would never have otherwise seen - the rowing and beach volleyball have really wowed us - and I continued to watch and cheer the tennis last weekend.  On Sunday watching Andy Murray and Laura Robson play together what struck me was the importance of team spirit - on the face of it they were very different, male and female, experienced or not - but they played to their strengths together, there was a connectedness which brought a fantastic result.

When I worked in the City my final job in the bank was as part of a small team and I think we worked very well together - we were able to bounce ideas off each other, trust each other completely, had mutual respect and together we gave more than any of us would have done as individual employees.  Now I work alone and I miss those aspects of my previous working life so this year I decided I should make more effort to recreate that environment, even if only virtually!

As you know, I recently created a shop on Etsy (Aliscrafty) http://www.etsy.com/shop/Aliscrafty.  A brilliant environment for selling and very easy to use but it's big and .... a little bit scary for a newbie.  So I joined a team: the Crafty Folk team to be precise because someone I follow and admire was in it http://www.etsy.com/shop/accidentalvix. Vicky makes gorgeous baby gifts amongst other things.

Excellent!  Newsletters, information and encouragement were instant: treasuries, favouriting, listing, linking - gradually the mists are clearing.  And I found Pat!  Now Pat is a talented crafter.  Here's her shop so you can check it out for yourself http://www.etsy.com/shop/PatsParaphernalia.  She makes buttons.  Lovely buttons and I use those.  So I made a connection, bought some of her stock and she made me some special buttons just for me.  They've just arrived and here they are:

Pat's based in Scotland - where I also found Beth Sutherland, yarn specialist extraordinaire www.lusciouslittlesomethings.com.  She hand dyes gorgeous yarns and fabric so I dared to ask if she would dye some specially for me to use for my knitted and felt Christmas decorations - Gingie and Flippo.  I like to use something different each year for their jumpers and scarves but was struggling to find the right yarn for 2012.  Her Autumnal colourway seemed perfect and 500g of lusciousness arrived a couple of weeks ago and my needles are now busy making little clothes for my felty folk.

Gingie 2012
Gingie bunting

Flippo 2012

So that brings me neatly to felt.  For a while now I've sourced my felt from Colour-Full-Felt www.colour-full-felt.co.uk.  They have an amazing range of colours (70+) and sell it in handy squares or by the metre so it's been perfect for covering my display boards as well as creating dozens of gingerbread men and penguins, not to mention bunting and bunnies.  They recently joined Facebook so we were able to 'like' each other - albeit virtually - share information and pictures of items made with their felt.

Talking of sharing pictures, my good friend Angela Jenkinson of Fired Creations http://www.firedcreations.co.uk/ alerted me just after my attendance at the Contemporary Craft Fair at Wisley in May to a picture of my sunhats on a blog -  http://annabelleserendipity.blogspot.co.uk  -  the lovely Annabelle had visited the fair and posted several pictures of the stands which caught her eye.  I've followed her ever since and love reading about her finds and visits.  Take a look - it's a lovely read.

I'm hoping to meet Annabelle in person when I'm back at Wisley in November (21st-25th) at another fair organised by the fantastic team at Craft in Focus and I've also been lucky enough to secure a stand at their Sevenoaks fair at the beginning of that month.  Their fairs are top quality and for handmade items only http://www.craftinfocus.com.  As a team they showed their mettle in May when the monsoon season began in Britain - despite this being the initial state of the site they carried on and the visitors still poured in (sorry for the pun!). Just the kind of team you want on your side.  Have a look at their Facebook page to see the end result.  This was one of my favourite stalls.

On my side too is another lovely friend and fellow crafty person, Ann, whom I met at a local fair some time ago.  She's kindly distributing leaflets for the Craft in Focus Sevenoaks fair for me as she's going to several fairs in the area between now and November.  Thanks Ann, you're a star!

So my connections and my 'team' are growing.  We can't all meet face to face but the spirit of cooperation is there and thriving and will help us all in the long run.

Lots of love as always
PS That team spirit has just resulted in my first ever Etsy sale - how good is that?

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Language of Flowers

During one of my many hours crafting in front of the TV last year an interesting segment grabbed my attention on the Alan Titchmarsh show (yes, I know, daytime TV!).  His resident florist was talking about the Victorians' interest in the meaning assigned to flowers and he showed how different messages could be conveyed depending on the components of a bouquet.  This piqued my interest because I love puzzles and things with hidden meanings so I bought a copy of The Language of Flowers by Mandy Kirkby and the novel of the same name by Vanessa Diffenbaugh to investigate further.  My first dip into Mandy Kirkby's book quite surprised me - who would think that Basil indicated Hate or Marigold stood for grief? So in this post I thought I would explore some of these meanings and (being someone never to do things by halves) at the same time create my first Etsy Treasury!  My fledgling Etsy shop Aliscrafty needs to pique some interest itself so here goes to kill two birds with one stone.


Original Watercolour Sun Flowers Card - Gift BoxedThis represents false riches which seems odd considering how we value both the oil and the seeds but this stems from Spaniards arriving in Peru being dazzled by the Inca sunflower jewellery and then disappointed when they realised fields of sunflowers weren't also made from the precious metal.  In my treasury this is represented by Aunty Joan's sunflower card.  Her shop has lots of other goodies here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/AuntyJoanCrafts


20% OFF SALE Blue Dandelion Card, BlankThe meaning of dandelion is rustic oracle, apparently a reference to the fact that many meanings for this humble flower have been woven into folklore, including: the size of stalk a child picks will indicate how much he'll grow that year; and if you blow on a dandelion seed head and some seeds remain you're not lucky in love.  Mmm - not sure about those.  I'd rather have this pretty card with seeds intact from Etsy shop Lilly's Night Garden.  More beautiful handmade cards to be found here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/lillysnightgarden


Original watercolour painting 'Bluebell Woods'The bluebell is a symbol of constancy.  There's nothing like seeing that blue haze in the woodlands in spring.  This painting by Geannette Backer has captured it beautifully.  Her Etsy shop is full of equally lovely watercolours.  It's here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/lavendergeorge


CIJ Azaleas Watercolors Art Original Pink GiftThe azalea represents fragile and ephemeral passion.  I think this picture from Handmade Exclusives in South Carolina has this in abundance.  If you love this too have a look at their Etsy shop here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/HandmadeExclusives


Pure Luxury Handmade Oat SoapIn Mandy Kirkby's book oats are described as the witching soul of music.  There's no explanation of this interpretation although I've tried other sources and found the same meaning.  It sounds enchanting so I had to include it and in my treasury it's represented by Gemma Grice's luxury oat soap.  Like mine her shop is relatively new.  See what else she has to offer here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/buggalugbubbles


Red Poppy CorsageThe poppy's meaning is fantastic extravagance.  Mandy Kirkby quotes John Ruskin: 'It is an intensely simple, intensely floral, flower.  All silk and flame, a scarlet cup ... like a burning coal fallen from Heaven's altars.'  This one's from Laura Smith's Etsy shop.  She has other floral loveliness here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/madebylolly


Hollyhocks - botanical flower Limited Edition Giclee fine art printThe hollyhock stands for ambition, something we all need to have for success and Etsians have in abundance.  I just love the colours in this gorgeous print from Michele Webber.  It happens it would go perfectly in my bedroom and may well be on my birthday list.  If like me you love Michele's style then take a look at her Etsy shop here:http://www.etsy.com/shop/michelewebber.


Pressed Daisy Hair Pins Bobby Pin Set of 2 - DAISYIt is not surprising that this simple flower stands for innocence.  Daisies seem to have been particularly prolific this year truly looking like 'Embroiderers of the carpet earth' (by John Clare and quoted by Mandy Kirkby).  Wouldn't these look beautiful in your hair?  There's lots more real flower jewellery from one of my favourite shops here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/WishesontheWind


Hand Screen Printed Modern Chrysanthemum Cards - Set of 6I had to include this because it's my birth flower - to me it smells of autumn.  It stands for truth.  I love this modern handmade interpretation of this complex looking flower in these cards.  Other colourways can be found in Sara Elliott's shop here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/FrecklesandWit


Camellia Lampwork Focal Bead SRAThe meaning of camellia is My Destiny is in Your Hands which I think would make a good motto for those who sell on Etsy!  Because it blooms during the dark months of the year it is known as the Empress of Winter and is striking for the delicacy of the petals against the shining evergreen leaves.  This beautiful glass bead by Amber Boorman has captured it perfectly for me.  Find more of her handmade lampwork beads in her shop here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/LarksongStudio


Chamomile Egg CosyChamomile is a survivor - no trampling feet, human or cattle, stop its progress, it adapts and keeps going.  Its meaning reflects this: Energy in Adversity.  It's been another tough year so far in the UK so this tiny flower stands for what we need too.  I think the simplicity of this handmade egg cosy encapsulates this idea.  Sharon Goodwin has other items in this range in her shop here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/sewsillylily


Pure linen flax paper, 8 x 10 inchesAnother simple flower with a lovely colour, flax stands for 'I feel your kindness' - another lovely thought.  It's also a very useful plant as this high quality handmade paper shows.  Find more at http://www.etsy.com/shop/papermaker


Angelica Fine Art Print from The Exuberant Garden hardcover bookAnother concept embraced by all handmade artists and crafters, angelica stands for inspiration, without which the amazing array of beautiful items available would not exist.  This print of angelica by another Alison (in New York) comes from a book 'The Exuberant Garden' - I love her style.  Find her shop here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/aleebird


Aster Floral Brooch Knitted CorsageWhen I was a child I used to plant asters in my patch of garden and I still love the intensity of their petals.  Fellow knitter Pat has nailed this for me with her aster corsage.  They stand for patience, something all crafty folk need.  There are lots of other lovely items in her shop (I may have to buy some of the beads when I'm done here).  Take a look here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ShooglyBeads

Lily of the Valley

Lily-Of-The-Valley CardThis sweet plant with its old-fashioned scent thrives in a cool, damp environment so it should have been doing really well in Britain this year!  Because it is at its peak in May its meaning is Return of Happiness.  This card from botanical artist Charlotte Linder captures it perfectly.  Find more artistic beauty in her shop here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheBotanicalConcept.


Allium Gift Wrap - great for scrapbooking, crafting or just wrapping presentsThis exuberant flower stands, not surprisingly, for prosperity, something I wish for all my fellow Etsians. So I'm ending this blog and my first Treasury with this fabulous wrapping paper from Jane Crick.  It also appears on a card (another birthday hint!).  Find more of her designs at http://www.etsy.com/shop/JaneCrick

I hope you enjoy this collection and like me you are tempted to find out more - it's a fascinating subject.  Do explore the shops I've shown - they're all amazing and if, after that, you have a little time left, take a look at mine http://www.etsy.com/shop/Aliscrafty!

Love as always