Rats thoughts

I opened my online shop two years ago. I think I last listed an item about 18 months ago. I felt like a very little fish in such a big pond and didn't feel like anything I could make to sell would stand out enough to sell. So I closed up the shop and disappeared having only gotten the tiniest of toes wet in the world of selling crafts. The crazy thing is that I am desperate to sell crafts, I long to get the email telling me that someone wants to buy something from me, I want to spent time thoughtfully wrapping products, then lovingly taking them to the post office - setting them free into the world, hopefully to be loved and enjoyed.

I just don't know what to make.

I've read so many articles and books about creating a consistent brand, ensuring that your products make sense as a collection and are not just examples of all the things you like to make. I couldn't really find a theme except that this was stuff I liked to make, mainly textiles based, that I thought was cute or cool, or things that friends and family would say "that is so lovely, you should sell that". So I didn't even bother listing things. I have a sad box stuffed with sock monkeys that might have been loved by someone. Another full of tape measure brooches that I really like, but there are already a million on Etsy and Folksy and mine aren't that different. There are zip purses and pencil cases and coiled bowls and hamma coasters and probably more things that I don't remember now. But there was no story, no consistency of brand or product. So I stopped.

Then today something happened.

I had an idea.

All of last year, and this year I have been making things for college. Not for assessment but actually for college - brush rolls; file rolls; bookbinding tool cases; sketchbooks; a waterproof tote bag for my A3 sketchbook; diaries with built in sketchbooks; camera cases and the list goes on. And that's my plan. I am going to sell cute, useful things for art students or students in general. Hopefully just in time for all of those friends and families of the impossible-to-buy-for art student to stumble across for Christmas present joy.

I'm going to be posting some WIP's here, and brainstorming new ideas so if you are on the look out for  gifts for the crafter in your life please stay tuned!


Books to make me smile

Like most people I know, I love reading. However my tastes generally run to easier reads than BorderlineStraggler. While he is in bed reading the Marquis de Sade, or a little light Kafka, I am more likely to be buried in a trashy detective novel or a Margaret Atwood. Though some might say my fondness for vampire teen fiction is a secret which shouldn't be shared it is my love of books written about knitting shops which I blush most furiously at.

Yes you read that right, fiction books set in yarn shops. I know, who knew that was even a genre. Now I'm not completely narrow-minded, I will also enjoy a book set in a vintage clothes shop, or even a record shop, but my most favourite are craft shop centred books. I harbour a not-so-secret desire to run a craft shop/cafe/workshop space, and these books draw me in to the trials and joys of running a shop, and used to be the perfect escape when I worked in university admin ad my dreams of a crafty life seemed very far away. Here are my favourites of the genre which you will find me buried in whenever real life is getting all a bit much.

'Diva's Don't Knit' and the sequel 'Needles and Pearls' are set in a seaside town, where Jo Mackenzie runs McKnits the local yarn shop. Gil McNeil's style is easy and charming. As I read I imagine myself running my hands over the wooden shelves ad trying to stop enthusiastic but misguided staff from mixing up the acrylic with beautiful silks and merino yarns.

I was given this book by a woman in a knitting group I used to attend, it was hidden in the box of  'teaching yarn', and I was intrigued. 'The Friday Night Knitting Club' is set in New York and is a big brick of a book, perfect for getting lost in on a particularly grim weekend. There are many main characters and initially we follow their stories through the Friday night club, though later in the novel we follow then outside the store and into their diverse and complicated lives.

I have to admit to having been disappointed by the sequel 'Knit Two', having loved this twists and turns of this book so much I think my expectations were just a little too high.

So if you are crafty inclined and in need of some trashy escapism, give one of these a go and before you know it you'll be jacking in your job to open a yarn store.


Llantarnam Grange

Last Thursday we went on a college trip to Wales. Despite having lived 8 miles from the border for the last year, our trips to Wales have been very few and far between. Until about a month ago all of my spare time was taken up with college work or travelling to see BorderlineStraggler. Well it is time to change all that, and yesterday was my first cultural trip over the border.

There were two galleries on the itinerary: Craft in the Bay in Cardiff and Llantarnam Grange. I knew a bit about Craft in the Bay and I was looking forward to the Momentum show, which focused on the use of new technologies in craft. I am very passionate about the debates surrounding the use of technology in craft, and I was looking forward to discussing the ideas that the pieces would provoke. As we are doing a project on a National Trust property I had it in my mind that Llanatarnam would be another NT property that we would be visiting for supporting research.

How wrong I was. Llantarnam Grange is a regional hub for applied arts in Wales. It is in a converted 19th century Victorian manor house and the original features that have been retained in the space lend a lot of charm to the bright modern gallery spaces.
The current exhibition being shown is 'Portal 2011 - featuring the work of this years top UK graduates in the applied arts'. Several of the exhibitors are graduates from my course and it was inspiring to see work that I had seen created in the studios at college in a professional gallery.

The exhibition space is divided into two rooms each showing work in a range of materials. Some of the pieces were really pushing the boundaries of applied arts, while others were what could be considered more 'traditional'. Lynette Miller created an installation, showing her pieces, and a recreation of the space in which the work was created. She had a botanical focus and she had used the plants she was drawing to create the inks she drew them with. This integration of her subject matter into the drawings was thought provoking, and offered an interesting idea in terms of representing the process of making as being as key as the created object.  
Anna Watson made a series of simple, tiny houses in metal and wood. I was very taken with these little houses and the places they led my imagination. I particularly liked this piece which was displayed away from the rest, almost begging to be picked up and explored (don't worry - I didn't).

In the second room I was completely charmed by Elle Plummer's  presentation of her work. Now I am a sucker for file card drawers, wooden filling cabinets, plan chests as those who visit my house will attest so to see them used in the display of this literary themed jewellery was wonderful. Again this unusual presentation encouraged the viewer to peer in at the work and interact with it in a different way.

Not only was the work at Portal 2011 excellent, we were given a tour of the gallery by David, a member of the exhibition's team, who was able to offer all sorts of interesting and useful advice for working with galleries as artists. 

And finally the tea room deserves a special mention. Vintage china, gorgeous (reasonably priced!) cake, tea cosies. Perfect. 

illustration wars commence

I am an art student, but because I have never done any formal art training before starting my degree there are a lot of things that I don't know about, not how to use watercolours, or that if you colour wash your sketchbook pages they are instantly less scary and much more interesting, and a million other things everyone else in my class takes for granted. I spent a lot of last year bemoaning my lack of knowledge and feeling very out of my depth, this year I am embracing it.

Inspired by Kim of art equals happy post BordelineStraggler and I sat down on Sunday night to illustrate a film. We picked a film, got a pile of art supplies, our kitchen timer and began.

The rules were simple, at any point in the film either of us could pause the film and we would have two minutes to draw the image on the screen. As you can see there had been a glass of wine before which meant we started of very giggly and I think this lack of seriousness really helped me relax enough to get into this task.

And by the end of it I was in heaven! This was so much fun. And a great exercise for drawing things I would never get to in real life - how often am I going to sit down and draw a car flying into a helicopter? well before last night never, since last night the chances have certainly improved.

Here are a selection of our drawings - we ended up doing 11 each before it got too late to carry on:


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