Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Artisans & Markets

On Saturday there was an Artisan Market in the Village Hall across the road from my house, which I've spent the last couple of months organising. It was the second one I have organised (the first being before Christmas) and I loved every single minute of the planning.

Organising stuff is something I've always been part of. When I left college I worked voluntarily for an Arts Centre (see previous post) running the galleries and studios. It was fab but I had to go get a proper job eventually to actually earn some money. Then after a series of temp jobs I ended up as a Conference and Banqueting Co-ordinator for a hotel organising weddings and parties and conferences and the like. It was fab but then I ended up getting pregnant and having a baby. Then I went to work in a Theatre bar and restaurant organising people and functions. It was fab but then we moved to Devon. So, I've always been an organiser. And I LOVE it. I love organising parties, and functions, and events, and people and everything. It's a shame my house and business is so unorganised, but on the whole I am a bloody great organiser.

Anna Rayment (www.annarayment.co.uk)

Kindred Rose (www.kindredrose.co.uk)

Little Burrow Designs (folksy.com/shops/LittleBurrowDesigns)

So... I organised an Artisan Market. It was running alongside a village festival which included food, drink, music, stalls and various fun stuff. It was exciting and the first of its kind up here on our lovely little hill. I contacted some of my lovely crafty friends and producers and got them involved. I put up posters everywhere, I promoted it through a facebook page (here) and generally got 'on the case'. 

Dottie Doodle (folksy.com/shops/dottiedoodle)

Treespeake (www.treespeake.co.uk)

Revintage Jewelry (revintagejewellery.com)

Up early on Saturday (4am to be exact, worrying about everything and also suffering from hideous headache and sore throat), setting up the hall, flowers in vases, signs up, stallholders being directed, kettle on, cakes cut, meeting and greeting, it was great! The hall looked fab, the stalls looked great, and there was a real buzz about the place.

Frandie Macaron (www.frandiemacaron.co.uk)

Ross Prints (www.etsy.com/shop/RossPrints)

Just Claire Doorstops (facebook.com)

Everyone had a great day, we did loads of networking, chatting, drooling over each others bits and bobs, bouncing ideas off each other and generally having fun. However, the turnout was not as good as I'd hoped. At Christmas it was SO busy throughout the whole day, all the stallholders did really well and it was a massive success. However, having one on a bank holiday weekend at the start of a half term probably wasn't the best plan. But, it was a great day and we had lots of fun, and made some new friends. I came away inspired again. (Which as you know from my previous post hasn't been the case recently.)

Vintage Rose (www.vintagerose.co.uk)

The festival went on throughout the afternoon and the evening and was just wonderful. 

Live music playing while the sun set and we drank local bitter and laughed and chatted with friends. 

Overall, a beautiful day.

So, to summarise, I want to do it again. I want to be organising again. More markets, more stuff, more creativity. I've decided I need to surround myself with it all as it is something I adore doing. I just need to figure out how. So... watch this space!

Sunday, 19 May 2013


In bed poorly probably means I am not in the best space to write a new blog post but I've had all this going round in my head for quite a while I thought it was as good a time as any to get it down on paper (as it were!)

To cut a long story short, I feel lost in my work. Lost in direction. I'm not quite sure what I am doing or where I am going and I have been feeling that way for quite a while now. Initially I put it down to grief, or depression (for those of you who don't know, my Dad died suddenly 18 months ago and I have been struggling to deal with it) but even now, more balanced on my anti-depressants I am still lost and still questioning what it is I want to be doing. And alongside that, I still don't believe in myself and my work either. 

I love sewing, and I love making and I love getting one of those ideas that I just need to drop everything to try out. And I love it when I've dropped everything, tried out that idea and it's worked. It's a good feeling. I feel lucky that I am able to do what it is I love doing but I just don't want to feel as if I am wasting this opportunity by not achieving my best.

I have a steady income of work, mostly personalised cushions or bespoke commissions, and as much as I love the fact I can create what people want, and feel so completely proud that they are happy with what I produce, I still feel like I am missing something. I feel as if I haven't found my 'thing' yet, almost as if I haven't found the direction I want to be going in. I'm not totally satisfied.

Although, the more new stuff I try, the more I feel I am losing even more direction and my portfolio of work seems cluttered and disjointed. I am just not sure which way I need to be going, and I'm not quite sure how to get on that path.

I have spoken with some of my creative friends about how I am feeling, and I have discovered that it isn't just me who feels this way. We all lose our direction at times, question what it is we are doing, and whether it is any good or not. It always surprises me, as I look at everyone else, and they always seem so 'sorted', so good and so focused. But it isn't always the case. We just do a good job of faking it!

And yet, when I speak to friends about their doubts I can always guide them in the right direction, or give them that push that they need. I can see where they need to be going, or help them see what they are doing *is* worth it. Why can't I do that for myself?

But, also I keep asking myself, does it really matter? Does it matter that I haven't found my way yet? Surely the whole process of being creative is to question and learn and discover? I guess it is healthy to be constantly striving to be better otherwise you are just kidding yourself. 

I think what I need to be doing is just to keep trying, keep working and keep questioning because I think that is the only way I can grow. And through growing I can find who it is I am, and what it is I want to achieve.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Breathing new life...

Last Friday morning I met up with two of my favourite girlfriends at a local cafe. 

It is a new establishment, just opened in my local town of Cullompton. For those of you not familiar with this area, Cullompton is an old market town, which in it's heyday I can imagine being full of life and energy but sadly, as with so many small towns, it has become tired and run down and dated. It is such a shame and to be honest, I very rarely go there any more. So, when my friend suggested we meet at the new cafe I was a wee bit disappointed...

However, we arrived and I was beyond surprised! This completely beautiful shop front, which I had never really noticed before, was once a bakers, and held inside the most wonderful little cafe.

Mismatched tables and chairs, wood & brick, quirky handwritten blackboards, beautiful old black and white pictures of Cullompton on the walls, a comfy area in the back with sofas and boxes of toys for the kids and a real comforting nostalgia feeling throughout.

I think the first 5 minutes I was standing inside looking gob smacked and am sure the lovely ladies behind the counter thought we were quite mad. Believe me when I say it is the most unlikely town to have such a gorgeous place.

But I am so so pleased. How long we have been saying that Cullompton could be such a popular market town again, if someone just started breathing life back into it. I spend so much of my time in Honiton, which, again, is an old market town but it always bustling, popular and addictive. This is exactly what Cullompton needs to become. And maybe this could be the start of it?

Anyway, we spent a very happy couple of hours supping tea, and guzzling sausage sarnies and beautiful cakes. And whilst doing so putting the world to rights. There is nothing better than spending time with those you love and having that opportunity to just relax.

It is fair to say that last week was a bit of a crap one for me and I was in dire need of time with friends. I could start telling you what was wrong but I think that needs a whole new blog post in itself!! Spending time with them sorted me right out, and helped me air some stuff I'd been thinking about all week, good and bad. I needed that time with them, and that comforting little cafe gave me exactly what I needed.

Not only do I feel that that lovely little place is breathing new life into our town, but last Friday morning it also breathed new life into me. 

I am going back there again tomorrow...

The cafe is called The Bakehouse and the website is currently under construction but you can find it here: www.thebakehousecullompton.co.uk

Monday, 13 May 2013

Chocolate Yums...

I thought I'd just do a little blog post for a very quick and simple recipe that is completely lush for both kids and adults. My daughter made some of these yesterday and I've been finding it really hard not to guzzle them all down today...

 I call it a recipe, however, it's more like a couple of instructions you need to follow.

Chocolate Yums...

Here's what you need:

Chocolate (we used both dark and white but you can use either, both or milk too. I bought ours from Lidl as it's 35p a big bar and it's delicious! But obviously you can use whatever quality of chocolate you like...)

A selection of nuts (eg pistachio, almond, walnut, cashew etc. For ours we used pistachio and cashew)

Dried fruit - we used cranberries but you could use raisins, sultanas, cherries etc...  

Any other toppings that would go with chocolate - the baking area in supermarkets have all sorts of goodies. We had silver balls, chocolate chips and even found some popping candy! A friend has used tiny fudge pieces before or you could use tiny marshmallows too...

First, chop or crush up all your toppings and have them ready to use. For ease, we put them all in separate saucers.

Then, cut up a load of squares out of greaseproof pager, approx 3in sq.

Next, melt your chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, stirring to get rid of all lumps and chunks.

Once it is melted take a spoonful of chocolate and form a little round flat on a square of your greaseproof pager. It's a bit fiddly...

Then sprinkle a selection of toppings onto the chocolate flat and wait for it to set. I pop them on a tray in the fridge once we've made them all.

Repeat until you have used all your chocolate up and once set, serve to your friends and family and watch them 'oooh' and 'ahhh' over your handiwork!!

These can also make a perfect Thank You gift, maybe for a teacher at the end of term? Present them in an old cake or sweetie tin found in a charity shop or car boot and line it with tissue paper. Also, it's probably best to keep them on the greaseproof paper to limit the chance of them melting.

There you have it - Chocolate Yums!! If anyone would like to send me any for testing please feel free ;) or if you have any genius topping ideas I'd love to hear them!


Sunday, 12 May 2013

The magic of bluebells...

Today we went on a walk. That is a feat in itself at the moment, with a young boy who just wants to play on the computer and a pre-teenage girl who just wants to be on her own in her room. But I was determined. I wanted to go to the bluebell wood. 

The bluebells have started appearing in the garden and the hedgerows all around us and I have such an affinity with those beautiful purpley-blue bell-type flowers. I have always loved them. When we got married they were in flower. When my daughter was tiny we always went on holiday when they were out and we took numerous ethereal photos of her in her blue dress wandering wide eyed through the carpets of blue. I know I am not alone when I say there is magic to be had wandering through them. Anyway, so there I was this morning, shaking the kids awake because I wanted to go to the bluebell wood, knowing that they would be ready and in flower and waiting for us. Being met with such lethargy I was expecting a quick wander, bit of a moan and then back home.

But once we were there the magic took hold.

Blue all around us. Pathways through the flowers. Hills and dips, trees and hideaways, and the kids became children again.

We went to Blackbury Camp, an old iron age fort which is well known and loved by families and dog walkers in the area. There were many people around, all with their cameras out and smiles on their faces. Not just me that saw the magic then.

We walked round for a good hour and a half, and it was beautiful.

Jumping from logs, and making adventure paths through the woods, it was just lovely to see the kids enjoying themselves.

Lauren is 11 and about to start her SATS tomorrow. She has been nervous and rather stressed out about it all, as well as feeling knackered with the amount of pressure that has been put on them. So I really wanted to give her a stress free day today, and I knew some fresh air would do her (and the rest of us) the world of good. She is a typical pre-teen girl, who isn't really interested in family things any more and it takes quite a lot of effort to get her involved in what we are doing. But what I saw in her today was so refreshing and made me remember the child she is again. 

Playing with her brother and creating routes for them to run down and jump over, races to win, it reminded me that even though she puts on this act, she is still a child and I love it when she loses that self conscious attitude and forgets she is supposed to be looking 'cool' and just plays like a kid again.

And Eli, well, what can I say about my boy?! Well, he's not the most adventurous of boys and would rather be indoors doing some maths than outside in the woods. But again, the magic overtook him and he forgot about his numbers and he forgot he didn't like mud and running and falling over and he just let go. 

It was wonderful.

And the bluebells worked their magic again.