an ode to escapism in spring

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As I sink deeper and deeper into my imagination, away from the uncertainty of this world..  life and all its meaning is clearer, exciting, magical. Full of spirit and colour. Full of animals allowed to be. A lamb resting upon her mothers back. Birds up above, dancing, joyously flitting through the warm spring skies. Occasional shade brought by the passing clouds. The golden yellow light of the sun, reflecting off the cool river. The pleasant splash of water as it hops over a rock. The rock, so grounded, in absolute harmony with mother nature, allowing the fast pace of life to leap over him as he watches and enjoys every ripple. Happy being a place for the resident heron to stand, while she precariously feeds herself from the abundance within the depth of the fresh river. Her feet cold, gripping upon the smooth rock. And the rock keeps still, he doesn’t dare to move, not even an inch, grounded, stable and supportive. And above and below him life continues as it has and always will do, while the water smoothes his skin and his crystals sparkle in the light.

Sometimes I wonder about the personalities of everything around me, the little lambs leaping like puppies around their tired mothers, the jackdaw pecking frantically at the bird feeder before she’s disturbed, the tiny bug racing away from me as I gently weed. The trees I touch as I pass through the woods, their soft moss. The stones who hold me safely as I cross the river.

When Ted sees a daffodil he tells me “that one’s watching the river” or “that one’s watching the holly tree” or “that one has a friend now”. In his little world the daffodils have identities and their own busy lives unique to one another. As we watch the daffodils for the extraordinary length of time that only a toddler can observe for, mere adults have long since lost that ability to get lost in a flower, I begin to imagine their lives too. Fleeting yearly visits really, a speck of time where they bloom so brightly. Yellow, reminding us that sunshine is on its way. Watching the dog walkers, the bees, enjoying the care of the admiring florist, ending their days under the light of the moon or in the family home, appreciated by all who gather around them at dinner. Before they sink back into the ground and rest until next year.

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I made this collection of daffodil wall flowers earlier this year. It seems a shame to waste them now. I have a few letterbox sized boxes they can fit in and suitable stamps and so I’ve just added them to my website should you wish for a little taste of spring upon your walls. As always 10% of all sales will be going to Pesticide Action Network UK.

Thank-you for reading,

Write again soon,

Marie

x

Imagine if… thoughts on suffering in response to the coronavirus.

Imagine if we come out of this with our hearts opened. Our hearts opened to more than just our tiny network of family and friends. Imagine if we start to truly care about those who aren’t our ‘family’. If we start to give them some of our money perhaps, offer help, buy them food, support people in our communities and on the other side of the world.

Imagine if we start to respect our planet. “Doing our bit” is no longer good enough. We need to do more than our share, we need to hold our planet in the highest reverence. All our actions should be preceded with “is this helpful or is this harmful”.

Imagine if we come out of this with compassion for animals, for birds, for insects. Not just for our pets who are fortunate to be dogs and cats instead of pigs and sheep. But for the animals who give their lives in the most sickening of ways so that we can drink their babies milk, eat their meat and wear their skin. Imagine at the bare minimum if before we sipped that milky coffee we held a moment of reverence for the life that animal endured and her numerous calves taken from her at birth.

I’m sorry to be so forthright in an already tumultuous time. But if the Coronavirus has taught me anything it is teaching me to no longer hide in the shadows, trying to please anyone and everyone. Its teaching me to educate myself on the abhorrent ways we/I treat and have treated the planet and one another. And to work out how I can help rather than cause further harm. It’s teaching me that within us there is both light and dark, and we can choose how much of each we want in our lives and in the lives of others.

As the reality of the next few weeks is made clear, what the NHS staff will be witnessing, there are no words for. But there’s no space for fear in my heart, it is full to the brim of love for them, risking their lives to save others. I used to work for the NHS up until 12 years ago and as they have asked for old staff to return I have sent off my form and will wait to hear if I can be of use. No it won’t be pleasant work but I feel young, healthy and full of energy that I can give. This virus is teaching me that I am more than my little, small life… mother of 2 beings, wife, daughter, designer-maker.. I am a being capable of the most extraordinary of things. I can reduce suffering in the world within minutes by opting for oat milk over cows milk, I can donate money to charity, I can pop a few tins in the food bank box in the supermarket, I can support a small business, I can grow flowers for the bees, I can be a good friend, a kind mother, smile and be courteous to the person behind the till who has likely just witnessed the worst of us and probably needs cheering up. I have so much to give, there are so many ways I can help. Before the virus outbreak gosh I was doing very little, just thinking about my own tiny world and forgetting about my capacity to make changes for the greater good.

Many people are going to die. They will die on the wards without their family beside them. I am not trying to invoke fear in you, the opposite in fact. People and animals suffer all over the world at the hands of others all the time. That isn’t new. The virus is just putting worldwide suffering at the forefront of our consciousness. And rightly so. Because then we can decide if we are going to do something about it or not. NHS staff will work beyond the brink of exhaustion to save as many lives as they can. The least we can do now is try to reduce the spread by isolating and practising social distancing. We can leave food on the shop shelves so that they have something nutritious to eat when they finish their unimaginably long shift. And we can think about the part we want to play in our world.

And now we have a decision to make. We can either sit tight in our comfortable homes, riding it out, waiting for the storm to pass and come out of it exactly the same as we were. Or we can come out of this as more thoughtful, compassionate and kind beings to more than just our family, to more than just humans, with a respect for our planet that so lovingly gives us air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat.

Please if you can, spend time sitting with just yourself. Breathe in and out. As you breathe in know the world is nourishing you, as you breathe out you are nourishing it. The air you breathe came from another animal or human on the other side of the planet a mere few days ago. We are all connected. We are not separate. In this quiet space where you let your thoughts pass by, feel that energy inside of you. The energy that can change the world, a ripple at a time. The energy that fills your heart with so much love you wonder if your lifetime is enough to share it. The energy that makes you feel like the empowered spirit I know you are, not can be. You are. Imagine if you realised it. What a world it would be.

Sending you all love while we navigate this turbulent time. I set my intention here and now to be a different person in 3 months time. I won’t come out of this the same, I will grow and help others to grow too. My heart is full of grief and love at the same time. Grief for the effects of the virus and love that the planet is getting a moment to breathe. The duality of our world has never been so apparent. Loss is only loss because of love, anger is only anger because of passion and frustration is only frustration because of the desire to act in line with your truest nature, which is only love.

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These animal and bird earrings were supposed to be finished, beautifully photographed and backed upon gold embossed cards by now. (How laughable my obsession with control and schedules is now). I’d designed them earlier this year before the outbreak in reaction to our/my mindless treatment of animals and the planet. And 10% of the full sales were to go to Anima International . I don’t have the beautiful photographs, or the gold embossed cards (yet, they’re on their way) but they are ready non the less. They are available now and 10% of all full sales will go to Anima International. I’ve put a 2 week wait which I’ll try really hard to stick to but please be patient if I don’t or let me know if you ideally do need them for a certain date.

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And as I have brought up animal cruelty in farming I wouldn’t want to leave you in the lurch without providing you with a go to next step. I will try and write another blog soon about how I became vegan and any hurdles. But should you wish to know more about where your animal meat/fish/dairy is coming from then there’s lots of info to be found online. Some of it is shocking and you may not feel like you can delve into it yet. I still struggle with it and learn new things all the time as well as educate myself on the arguments against veganism to try and keep an open mind. I feel compassion for all those involved in the meat industry and I’d love a solution one day that supports animal welfare and the welfare of people who’s lives depend on the animal meat/fish and dairy industry income.

A good place to head to next is the Vegan Society . It has recipes, nutritional advice and facts about farming industries that are a little easier on the heart. I don’t follow many chefs as it can become overwhelming but my current favourites are: Anna Jones, (veggie and vegan – I just use the vegan recipes), Bosh and Aine Carlin.

Love to you all and I’ll write again soon,

Marie

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How to stay calm this Christmas season (or in life generally!)

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I am the type of person who is prone to worry, anxiety and stress. I already have the kind of mind that moves at a speed too fast for my body. I am sure thats the reason why I require at least 8 hours sleep a night, 9 is ideal (yet somewhat impossible with a toddler who loves watching the sunrise).

Since I had my son 2 years ago I’ve had to take control of the worrisome trait to my character so that I can keep my head above water and enjoy my time with him and my time working. It was either that or live a life of exhaustion, crankiness and stress. Over the past few months I’ve written lists of what works for me and trialled different things with the only aim of enjoying the days, hours and minutes of my life.

I’ve managed to keep afloat using these techniques for the most part this year but December brings a new level of stressors to the mix. Financial, family and friends obligations, work gets mega busy and did I mention financial?! I can feel that familiar stressy voice poking me, trying to lead me back into it’s grasp. Trying to get my heart to freeze with worry and my mind to begin its 101 countdown of reasons why I should P A N I C . But I won’t let it. Instead I’m going to stick to my tried and tested formula, keep my mind and soul relaxed, my body nourished and glide through December calmly and productively, enjoying the glorious build up to Christmas.

I’d like to say that I know I am privileged. I have a caring and healthy family, a roof over my head and money to buy nourishing food. So I know that my suggestions only go so far to some people. I also know that when I am able to keep myself calm and grounded, I am kinder to everyone I come across.. my family, the cashier, the big issue seller. It’s the perfect time of year to care for yourself so that you can care for others.

So without further ado I’d love to share with you what works for me in case it works for you too. The more happier people on the planet there are, the happier the planet will be. And that can only start with you.. Simple :)

1. Begin your morning with a mediation. ***wait don’t go*** I know I know, you don’t have time… it’s not your thing.. been there. Our lives are so hectic and pressured, full of other peoples values, beliefs, requests, its hard to remember who we really are. When you meditate (and you practise, it’s hard to still the mind at first), you stop all the external voices getting in for maybe a second at first, several seconds, then minutes. It helps you ground yourself, work problems out without having to think them through, it’s more than just a few minutes of peace, it’s time truly with yourself being calm and being quiet. The simplest way I’ve found to slot it into my life is to set my alarm 10 minutes before my toddler tends to wake. I have my ear phones in my phone all ready by my bed, a guided meditation set up. All I have to do is stick my ear phones in and lie back in bed. I’m also trying to do the same as I get back into bed at night, or when I treat myself to a hot bath once the toddler is tucked up. If you’re opting for a guided meditation it’s quite a personal choice really. I like this one by Marianne Williamson, it energises and relaxes me at the same time. But if you want to hunt for one you like youtube has trillions. I can also recommend these by Ceinwyn Thomas at Hebden Bridge Therapy Centre. I’ve treated myself to her amazing reflexology in the past and she has a hypnotic, soothing voice. For £8 (not an ad!) you get 3 guided meditations. I use the 10 min one generally but a couple of times a week do the longer 25 minute ones too.

2. Reading. I love nothing more than curling up in front of the fire under a blanket with a good book. Or even better in bed at 8pm, cosy with the bedside lamp on. Reading the kind of book that reminds me that magic exists. Its so tempting to stick the tv on and loose your evening to it. I’m not saying thats worthless, I crave tv when I’m really tired, well I crave a good film (Harry Potter is my go to choice!). But an evening reading energises me, it opens up my world and is an easy way to never stop learning. At the minute I’m joyfully hooked to ‘Women who run with the wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. A book about the knowing of a woman’s soul. Its amazing.

3. Eating well. We all know how easy it is to grab food on the go, pre packed sandwiches with questionable nutritional value, salty and sweet snacks. I am far from perfect but this Autumn I have been making up batches of soups, dahls and kitchari. They are cheap, nutritious, warming and delicious and they keep my energy levels up and bring me out of any tiredness. I eat all my meals at home but if you have a microwave at work I can’t recommend a hot lunch enough. I have toasted flatbreads or rice or both with dahls and kitchari and they keep me really full. I settle any sweet cravings with these banana and date cookie bites and this coconut latte. (Notes: Add any veg you like to mix up the dahl and kitchari. The cookies are especially delicious warm and so easy to make. I use any milk I have in for the latte – often soy or oat and I don’t froth it because I’m lazy and its still delicious! I use date syrup instead of honey as I’m vegan but you could use any syrup or sugar. I buy my tulsi tea from the Singing leaf via Valley Organics here in Hebden Bridge but I’m sure most health shops would sell it).

4. Exercise. I’m not necessarily talking about joining a gym, running, fast paced exercise. That may be your thing which is great but it doesn’t work for me. I start it and quit very quickly. I quit especially quick if theres any sort of strict routine associated with it, like a class at the same time every week or I announce I’m going to run twice a week. I thought I was lazy but I’ve finally worked out that if I keep it loose, relaxed and not in the slightest bit intensive I end up with a really lovely seasonal exercise program. It helps that I have a dog so that gets me out for a 30 minute minimum walk in the woods, up the hills and along the rivers every day. The effects of being out in nature don’t need to be shared here, and when I can team my walk up with quiet moments of reflection and clearing my mind I have the best 30 minutes of my day. I used to go to a lovely yoga class here in Hebden Bridge but didn’t stick to it but now I have joined Gaia and it has tonnes of yoga programs for different levels too (plus meditations). I squeeze in a couple of times a week, sometimes more and sometimes less. I love ‘deeper wisdom through yoga’ and ‘here comes the sun’ by Steph Schwartz and ‘balancing into bountiful energy’ by kreg weiss. I pay a monthly fee but if you didn’t want to sign up to anything just yet there are lots of free yoga videos on youtube too. This is about as energetic as I get through Winter. In the summer I was enjoying a walk up the hill to Pecket Well and a run back down twice a week in the evening sunshine and by the time it warms up I know I’ll be itching to do that again. Anyway in a long winded way I’m saying to find exercise that works for you, its not a one size fits all. Our bodies differ, our energy levels differ, some people are refreshed by a 10 mile run, others with a walk in the woods and a mindful stretch. Know your own body, mind and its needs and find a joyful way to exercise it. It loves to move, its muscles to be put to use, the tendons to stretch, the neck and back to stretch..

5. Mindful moments. This one is definately one in progress for me at the minute. The word ‘mindful’ can seem so vague and hard to apply to daily life and then theres remembering to be mindful. Here are a few ways I am trying to apply it at the minute. Firstly when I am brushing my teeth I am standing still, I’m not racing around the house toothbrush in my mouth, tidying with my spare hand. In between toddler demands I catch a couple of seconds of mindfulness, concentrating on my breathing only. Secondly when I’m in the shower instead of allowing my mind to race with the to dos for the day I spend those minutes thinking of things I am grateful for and thinking about how those wonderful things make me feel. thirdly when I’m washing up instead of rushing the task thinking about what needs doing next, I concentrate on my breathing and gratefully enjoy the hot water on my hands. Finally if I catch sight of a bird out the window, or a rustling tree, I treat myself by encouraging myself to watch it, not thinking about anything else. These 4 things give me only seconds/minutes of mindful moments but they make a difference to all the tasks that follow them throughout the day.

6. See your friends. I’m not talking about tonnes of social engagements and expensive activities. I’m talking about something relaxed like a coffee with a good friend. My favourite social meet up recently was a walk in the woods with a good friend and both our toddlers. It didn’t cost a thing, we were out in nature and we chatted about our lives, hopes and dreams freely with only the trees listening in. You might be a social butterfly who enjoys company regularly or you might be like me who loves a quiet meet up a couple of times a month with one or two really good friends. We all have differing levels of hermit needs! But I do know that the company of someone who has your best interests at heart is a precious jewel to be appreciated and treasured.

So thats my 2 pence worth. Hope it helps. I by no means live a perfect lifestyle where I adhere to every word I just wrote. I dip in and out of things, my life like yours ebbs and flows. But these are the things I keep coming back to time and again. They are optional tools and not a ‘you must do all these otherwise you will fail!’ I’m not particularly close to a life of perfection, I’m not even sure what that would look like. I’m not actually sure I want to. For now I’m enjoying the chaos of working everything out, step by step.

Wishing you a calm (ish) December,

Marie

x

 

diy make a porcelain owl christmas gift workshop

marie_013There’s nothing like a handmade gift for your friends and family (or for yourself!)

Come to my hillside home in beautiful Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire and make your own petite owl on a branch wall piece. I will teach you how to mould a branch out of porcelain clay, make your little owl and finally some tiny stars and a moon. You will be able to decorate your wall piece during the day with tools to add pattern and glazes to add colour.

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A light vegan lunch and cake is included with copious amounts of tea. Oh and a beautiful view of pretty Hebden Bridge while you craft.

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Later I will fire your piece in my kiln, add gold to the stars and moon and add these to your finished piece as well as a small hook for hanging then post it back to you a week later (£5 cost or you are welcome to pick it up) in plenty of time to get it up on your walls for the festive period or have it ready to be a very special christmas gift.

The one day workshop will run from 10am to 3pm. Whilst we’ll be making with porcelain clay I’ll also have air dry clay available for you to try and I’ll give you air dry clay tips so that you can continue crafting at home and fill your house with nature inspired wall art!

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The cost of this workshop is £65 per person.

For bookings of 2 or more it is £55 per person.
For bookings of 4 or more it is £50 per person.
For bookings of 8 or more it is £45 per person.

Please bring an extra £5 on the day if you would like your finished piece posting to you. Alternatively you are very welcome to pick it up. I am a short walk from Hebden Bridge train station and there is also plenty of parking nearby.

To book please follow one of these links:

For Saturday 23rd November 2019

For Saturday 7th December 2019

Hope to see you there and to spend the day crafting with you,

Marie x

 


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Ceramic workshops for hen parties in Hebden Bridge.

This year I am offering workshops for that extra special hen do. Perfect for the bride-to-be and her nearest and dearest who love craft, delicious food and relaxing in the countryside with fresh coffee and scrumptious cake.

I hold the workshops from my home where I live perched on the hillside above the small but very creative town of Hebden Bridge which is nestled in a beautiful valley in West Yorkshire. As the hillside is so steep, houses were built on top of one another to make best use of the land. It means you get to sit, relax and enjoy your workshop with wonderful views of our little valley. I can also travel to where you are staying and bring the workshop to you!

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 The workshop!

The workshop begins at 12pm and we finish around 3pm. Lunch is served at 12pm, closely followed by cake. All the food served is vegan and nutritious but totally delicious and homemade. Here’s an example of the menu:

  • Kale, sun-dried tomato, glazed carrot and hummus sandwiches.
  • Carrot and almond salad.
  • Cauliflower, walnut and olive salad.
  • Tahini and pea hummus.
  • Vanilla and caramel sponge cake.
  • Peanut butter and chocolate fudge.

The menu can be made completely nut-free and gluten free options are available at your request. Any other dietary requirements can also be accommodated. Delicious fresh coffee, a selection of teas, cold drinks and fresh lemon water are served throughout the day.

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We begin the workshop after lunch with a demonstration where I show you how to make your pieces.

You can choose to make one of the following:

  • Use fresh flowers to press into clay and create a collection of porcelain nature vessels. We will decorate them with pastel colours and translucent glaze. You will have time to make some for yourself and also one for the bride from each of you as a reminder of her wonderful hen do with her favourite people.
  • Create little floral or leaf porcelain earrings. Once they are made and fired in my kiln, I’ll attach the sterling silver backs and post them out to a member of your group.

We use a smooth porcelain clay which is wonderfully therapeutic to handle, as well as colourful glazes to decorate each piece. I fire them in my kiln and post them out to one chosen address.

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Getting here and prices:

Hebden Bridge has excellent train links to Leeds and Manchester as well as being less than an hours drive from both. My home is situated a 20 minute walk from the station where you pass plenty of wonderfully independent bars, pubs and shops. If I am too far away for you I can replicate the day wherever you are.

The total cost for the hen do workshop is £65 per person for a booking of 8+. Or £55 per person for a booking of 10+. This also includes a gift for the bride-to-be of a pair of my porcelain earrings (which the organiser can choose from here..).

There will be an extra charge if I am travelling to you and the cost will depend on the distance. Protective sheeting for your chosen venue will be provided and left clean and sparkling!

Enquire here with your chosen date, estimated number of hens and I’ll get back to you within 24 hours. And see below for a few more pics of my workshop in action..

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Thanks for reading and get in touch if you would like any further information on my hen do workshop here.. 

 

 

 

the handmade process

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I thought I’d share with you how I make my jewellery and bridal accessories. I remember first working with clay when I was in high school, I made a vase and painted it with acrylic paint. Prior to that I would spend days in the summer holidays making cups out of mud in my parents back garden. Little did I know that these first encounters would stay with me into my 20s. I didn’t work with clay again until I went back into education to a college to do my art foundation in my mid 20s. I loved it and was hooked. From that I went to University and worked with clay pretty much everyday for 3 years until leaving 4 years ago and setting up Marie Canning.

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Each of my pieces is handmade. I use porcelain, a very fine and smooth white clay. I make the intricate porcelain flowers by forming each petal with my hands and attaching them together using liquid clay. If its a coloured flower I delicately stain the porcelain first. Once the flowers have been hand built I load them into my small kiln and they fire for a day. Then I can add the coloured and translucent glazes, which I only add in small amounts as I love the matt effect of porcelain. Once they have been fired for yet another day I paint on the gold lustre again in tiny amounts so not to overpower the piece, then its back into the kiln for a third and final day.

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To finish each piece I either set the flower in sterling silver or gold to make the jewellery or I wire them together to make the hair accessories. To make the hair accessories I wire each flower one by one so it can take hours just to put a halo together.

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It really is a long and labourious process but so worth the hours when I see the end result. I put my all into each and every flower, the small details are so important to me and I want it to be a piece you will always treasure.

 


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“It all began with a cup of tea”

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I first came across the incredible wire designs by Helaina Sharpley at my first Contemporary Craft Fair at Bovey Tracey, Devon, 3 years ago now. I was drawn into her detailed wirework world and the old-world warming feel.

Helaina started her journey studying a BA in Design Crafts at Hereford College of Art and Design. Tea became an obsession there and she particularly loved the elegance of Edwardian Architecture. It was here, where her love of tea and the Edwardian way of life connected, this became the main feature in her work. She began working with wire when her college teacher asked her to create something 3D in wire and since, she has developed her process and now exhibits and does commissioned work throughout the UK and internationally.

I was delighted when Helaina answered some of my questions despite her busy making life. I wanted to know all about her studio life, her inspiration and plans for the future.

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“I start my day with 2 cups of tea of course! I also try and make a list of things to do for the week/day, so I have a plan! I have a studio at The West Yorkshire Print Workshop. It’s a converted Victorian school building and I’m lucky enough to have a large, light and airy studio near the gallery space. There are also 11 studios and open access printmaking facilities for the members to use 7 days a week. It’s a great resource and artists’ community in a beautiful semi rural setting”.

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“I wouldn’t describe setting up my business as difficult. It has been hard work, but enjoyable hard work – striving to become a full time wirework artist (which I have been for about 9 years). The first time I did the British Craft Trade Fair (in 2007) was a great confidence boost. I had graduated the year before and had work in a couple of galleries, but BCTF introduced me to lots of buyers from galleries and shops. I took orders, and won two awards, which made me believe that I should definitely continue making!”

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“I try to not compare myself to others and remember I’m doing this for me – as long as I’m doing what I want, it doesn’t matter whether someone else is seemingly more successful or having a better time being an artist/maker!”

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“I suppose I do look like ‘a creative.’ I wear colourful clothes (the opposite to my work!) And my house is rather full (I’m a bit of a hoarder) of tea pots, tea cups, cake stands, books. I think it’s very hard to separate yourself from your work, as essentially I am my wirework – I only make things I like (Victorian and Edwardian architecture, tea cups etc.) And I suppose, for example, my work influences the books I buy, but the books I buy inspire my work.”

“I have a lot of books, that I like to flick through when I need inspiration. I like everything related to the Victorian and Edwardian era – the posters, fonts, architecture, dress, etiquette. Once I’ve found an image, I do a drawing or two – change the perspective, create a composition, then this drawing is a template for the wirework.”

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“Having a studio definitely disciplines me, as in I leave and go to work at least 5 days a week (most weeks.) I don’t think I’d have continued for so long if I’d been working from home, as I’m so easily distracted! I also just want to do the best I can, and every time I achieve something (for example, being accepted to an art fair or getting a new good gallery) it makes me want to achieve the next goal.”

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“In the past few months I’ve been using my spare (sunny) time to make my garden more bee friendly! It’s not a very big (or tidy) garden, but it now has a lot of flowers and quite a lot of bees! I also like to bake when I’m in the mood (or I find it helps to lift my mood.) I own a tandem bicycle with my partner, so every now and again we go for a cycle (with a planned tea and cake stop obviously!)”

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“In 10 years, I’d like to be making larger scale commissioned work, for private and public settings. I’d love to make a full cityscape!”

 

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“My advice for new startups and students is to find a support network (whether that’s a studio setting, or local creative networking events, or through twitter etc.) Having people to share problems and successes has helped me get through tricky times and has given me confidence to do new things too.”

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http://www.helainasharpley-wirework-artist.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/helainasharpley

http://www.linkedin.com/in/helainasharpley

Daisy Sheldon Embroidery

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I came across the embroidered designs of Daisy Sheldon at the Most Curious Wedding Fair in March this year. I felt I could identify with her beautifully light and delicate patterns and her airy colour palette. Daisy works from her studio in the Cotswolds using traditional embroidery techniques and exquisite fabrics, specialising in bespoke bridal and lingerie pieces. Since graduating from Manchester School of Art she has provided a bespoke service and worked with various renowned designers and companies, such as Phillipa Lepley Bridal Couture, Karen Nicol and the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

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Daisy kindly answered some of my questions about her business, inspirations and aspirations for the future,

“My workspace is usually tidy (tidy home, tidy mind!) which I find helps me be creative and produce ideas, like a blank canvas! I come from a family of collectors and we have always surrounded ourselves with an eclectic cabinet of curiosities. So my workspace is full of vintage object trouves and textiles, from vintage sewing ephemera lined up along the top of my fireplace to old tins on shelves and letterpress trays hung on the walls, housing all of my embroidery threads.”

“I love health, fitness and wellbeing. So I usually go to the gym most mornings before I start work to do a workout session, which makes me feel energised and sets me up for the working day. I also cant live without my breakfast of homemade green juice and porridge topped with berries! Then the first thing I do in the studio is check and repond to my emails and consult my diary with the list of things to be done for the day. I love a to do list, ticking things off is the best feeling!”

Daisy 3

“I guess the hardest part is that you run everything yourself and self teach along the way. So you need to put lots of different hats on, from accounting, to dealing with customers and being creative and designing. As a creative, things like numbers and accounting don’t come very naturally to me. But it has made me learn so much and I feel I have gained skills I didn’t have previously, which has made me grow as more of a rounded person.”

“My most recent success has been working for Walt Disney on their Hamberg, Sydney and London productions for their new stage show Aladdin. It has been hugely exciting and quite a contrast to the usual delicate lace I make – I used over 100,000 metres of gold thread to create the bold cording embroidery for the jackets, boleros and harem trousers for the characters in the show. It was a really thrilling project and hugely rewarding going to see the show in London and see all of the hard work that all those involved had put into the set, costumes and acting. A truly magical experience!”

Daisy 1

“I am passionate about British design and production and strive to source materials locally and from around the UK. It is of huge importance to me that the products are made here in Britain, valuing British craftsmanship and traditional techniques. I use old, specialist embroidery machines, including the Cornely, a beautiful 1920’s machine which creates a decorative chain stitch and the Irish, a freehand embroidery machine which ‘draws’ with stitch, as well as embellishing with hand stitching and beading. I am proud of carrying the banner for a craft that could creep into decline and keeping alive British craftsmanship.”

Daisy 8

Daisy 12

“My most important value would be kindness. It costs nothing to show this to any human or animal. I adore this quote by Etienne de Grellet,

“I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Daisy 2

“I am a huge fan of old and vintage things. I adore wearing vintage pieces, such as old embroidered belts, silk scarves and 1920’s beaded bags, I feel they add something special and unique to any outfit.
The space around me is full of what my family call ‘Piff Paff’ with  vintage hand painted lucite boxes, victorian wedding gifts and small, glass fronted cupboards housing fawn figurines; mostly objects with no function or particular value, but are aesthetically pleasing. I follow a plant based diet, so love being creative with cooking and trying out of the ordinary ingredients and finding new ways of doing things. Some of my favourite dishes include ‘Nice cream’ made from frozen bananas, yummy chocolate desserts made from tofu and cakes using sweet potatoes or avocados!”

Daisy 10

Daisy 7

“I am a perfectionist, so I always strive to improve and better myself, which I find motivates me. I am lucky, because I adore my job and it never feels like work, so I always wake up excited to get on with the day ahead. Natural forms are a huge inspiration. My father is a keen gardener and plants beautiful displays of flowers in the garden. I love examining the flowers, the form of their petals or the way a stem grows. My surroundings and collection of old and vintage things are like a museum archive of inspiration to me. I often look at my Japanese art books and old textiles I have collected, as well as visiting museums and galleries. As a result, I feel my work encapsulates vintage inspiration with contemporary design.”

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Daisy 11

Daisy 5

“I love scouring flea markets and vintage fairs for treasures. I love visiting new places and experiencing different cultures. Seeing my friends and family – they are hugely important to me and going for adventures on my vintage style shopper bike!”

Daisy 6

“I aspire to have created collections of wedding veils that really explore the boundaries of conventional bridal wear and are more like wearing a piece of art. I hope to extend this onto clothing and create embellished dresses that each tell their own story.”

“My advice is to find your unique style, experiment and try new and different ways of doing things. Something that really resonated with me was an amazing book called ‘What Do You Do with an Idea?’ by Kobi Yamada. It tells the story of a brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. Perfect for anyone who has ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. A must read!”

See more of Daisy’s creations here:

http://www.daisysheldon.co.uk/

https://www.instagram.com/daisysheldonembroidery/

https://www.facebook.com/daisysheldonembroidery?ref=hl

https://uk.pinterest.com/daisysheldon/

https://twitter.com/daisy_sheldon

If I could do it all again…

marie_009

Its been 4 years since I finished my design degree and at least 3 years of that was a  S T E E P  learning curve – I’m still constantly learning but have reached a time of ‘flow’ I’d call it. Thats not to say there aren’t highs and lows regularly, its just I don’t get too carried away with either and have reached a point of equilibrium. So there’s been a bit of space in my brain to reminisce over the past few years. And as us humans do – I’ve been thinking about the stuff I’ve done wrong more than what I’ve done right. So I thought I would turn around any negativity into a positive for other new creative startups especially those embarking upon their new career this summer.

A little bit about me – I trained and worked in the NHS for 3 and a half years before leaving my stable job to travel the world. I returned and had signed up to do an art foundation course as I’d already decided I wasn’t ever going to return to the nhs and wanted to do something creative. During my art foundation I fell in love with ceramics and signed up for the 3DD degree at Manchester School of Art. Straight after finishing my uni course I found a studio in Liverpool and Marie Canning began…kind of..

So if I could do it all again…

  • I would think of myself as a business. Sounds simple now but as great as my experience at university was (and I really am very grateful for that time exploring the material, working on my imagination, gaining skills), the amount of business stuff you learn is minimal considering you will spend half your time doing marketing, pricing, networking, accounting, etc etc. It took me a long time to stop thinking that I was on an airy-fairy journey waiting to be discovered…really I was (am) a tiny fish in a truly enormous pond of incredible creatives and no one will know who you are until you get yourself out there. Use social media, research trade shows, attend creative business courses, look at how other businesses you identify with connect with the world. I can recommend the Crafts Council Hothouse scheme and it’s where I began learning about how to run a successful business.
  • I would consider my business as a brand. Linking on from above I wish I’d considered the term ‘brand’ more at the start of my business. Write down on a big sheet of paper what you consider you brand to be. For me I would use words like, natural, floral-inspired, country-living, pastels, craftmanship, small details, understated, personal, delicate. Visualise those words and make sure you are showing your coherant brand through your website, photographs and social media. Everything shown to the public from your weekend hobby to your packaging should link up. For example I love exploring the countryside where I live, I photograph and share nature images with lots of light, my model photos are bright and airy and have alot of negative space, my photographer uses fresh flowers into my still life shots, my packaging is minimally decorated and I have an eco policy on my website. For me getting a professional website created was a turning point. Before then I had built my own on a free platform which certainly served its purpose to a point. But it reached the stage where the rest of my branding was ahead of my website. Research a web designer – see whose other websites they have created and if you can identify with those. Expect this to be a large expense but discuss with them the option of spreading the cost out over a few months. My website designer was happy with this and it really made a difference. Make sure you are getting a website you can alter to a large extent yourself – you are going to want to change it regularly and you don’t want to pay for the web designer to do this in a few months time. With mine I can change most of the images, text and add elements to it. It is just the layout that is set in stone.
  • I would share my journey. Now I don’t know about you but I still can’t write the all important ‘artist statement’. And god knows I have tried…for years…but I can’t put a successful group of words together within 100 words that means anything important or describes my thoughts in a way that I can be happy with. Of course I have had numerous statements and I have sent them to galleries, pasted them on my wall at shows and put them on my website. Galleries and boutiques will always want this or something concise which describes your work and I do my best to provide that but I’ve realised that really, people want to see and read your journey more so. A 100 word paragraph in your ‘about’ page isn’t enough. It needs to be an ongoing conversation, an interaction with the people who are investing their valuable time following your blog, scrolling through your instagram. They want to see what inspires you, how you create your work, glimpses into the real you. So be yourself and be prepared to share, you’ll be surprised at how interesting you really are.
  • I would take my time. I spent so much time worrying early on in my journey about absolutely everything to the point where I worked myself up and became exhausted and miserable. You are not going to achieve what you want to in the first 6 months, year, 5 years….you need to be prepared for this…everything will take longer than you think. You’ll be surprised at the amount of knock backs you can receive and equally surprised when a gallery/stockist/buyer invests in you. Expect more of the former! So don’t rush, spend an extra fifteen mins on your social media post and respond to those who give you their time to comment. Spend time connecting with galleries/stockists and building up a relationship, read other blogs and connect with other creatives. This leads me onto the dreaded ‘money’ topic….your biggest creative drain will be financially. You can’t create, engage, think clearly if you are constantly worrying about how you’re going to pay that bill or dreading that miserable lettuce sandwich in your bag for lunch! You need a balance between living your life and having money to invest in your business for materials or so that you can work your other job for 5 hours less that week. You will need that part time job for longer than you think and you may need to say no to expensive things your other friends are doing. Remember this isn’t going to last forever and *that* dress you *need* you will have forgotten about in a month if you just.stop.looking.at.the.website (that ones for me!).
  • I would find a great photographer. After buying an expensive camera and not putting in the effort to learn how to use it properly (because believe me that isn’t as easy as you think and people spend years doing that) I realised I needed to outsource this. You need amazing photos for everything…for show applications, social media, for line-sheets, your website, to put into your email when you are in contact with someone important… And they need to be truly amazing so you need to find a photographer who gets you and your work. Research them – do they use lighting in the way you would like, have they photographed fine jewellery/models before, what is the quality of their other images. Obviously you might know a great photographer in your studio and do swaps but be wary of cheap deals, you will get what you pay for and expect to pay the going rate if you want good images. This may be your very most important of investments. I also think I want the photographer to feel like they are being payed properly because surely only then are they going to want to invest the time into editing them into the most wonderful pictures. It is fantastic that we can take good photos on our phones now but my professional images teamed with a professional website have been crucial to business growth.
  • I would see my friends. You need your friends and they want to see you. You don’t need to spend money to have a great time with them and believe me they will be the greatest support in ways you can’t begin to believe. In the first year the thought of socialising was too much and so I didn’t do it enough. My friends were so supportive but friendship is a two way thing and you need to be there for them too. So don’t bail when they invite you round for dinner because you’re too tired and stressed, I guarantee you will feel better if you see them or have a chat on the phone than if you don’t. We are social creatures and we need our nearest and dearest.
  • I would say no. Now you may be reading this and have lots of opportunities thrown at you at the minute or very few. But believe me at some point if you continue with your business you will receive lots of emails and calls from varying people offering you stands at shows, offering you space advertising in well known magazines, offering you a spot in a group exhibition or requesting to be a stockist. The former two will not be free and neither is your time! So you are going to have to learn what to say no to. There’s also so many fairs and trade shows out there and it’s difficult to know which/if any you should apply for. I didn’t visit alot of fairs at first before applying and so ended up at events really not right for my business….I should have said no to alot of stuff! Of course you can never really know how a show is going to go for you but visit and see if you feel the other exhibitors are a similar standard to you, are there names you recognise, is it busy, has it been well publicised. When you do find the best match and you get a place don’t plan how you’re going to spend all your sales just yet. You are a new designer-maker, your creations might not be that great yet and no one knows who you are. Use it as a market research opportunity above all else. You will get to meet other really great designer-makers and visitors. Listen to what visitors say about your work and take notes of thoughts you have during the show. Invite galleries/boutiques you have researched, follow up conversations via email after the event, keep the conversation going. Galleries/boutiques/buyers who you’ve chatted to might not invest now but they will keep an eye on you and possibly invest in the future if you stay in contact..how else will they remember you when they do have a new budget to spend.
  • I wouldn’t listen. Ok so thats a little drastic…but I have been given some really rubbish advice over the years and naively taken it as gospel truth. The same goes for reading my advice – take from it what you need to and pick out what is relevant for you. Your business is hopefully not quite like anyone elses and therefore you will need to tailor all advice given to you. The same goes for receiving knock backs and positive feedback – don’t let the former break you and don’t let the latter give you a big head. Obviously take it all on board to a certain extent for the purposes of reflection but do what you can to stay modest yet confident.
  • I would network. Don’t be afraid of this like I was. It doesn’t have to mean attending events and making terrible small talk. Believe me, put me in a room full of strangers and you can guarantee that if I do muster the courage to talk to anyone I will be the one saying weird, cringeworthy stuff that has come from nowhere! The pressure and embarrassment is too much for some of us and realistically although we might improve a little, we might never be that immensely skilled public speaker we think we should be. So think about how you can network in a way that is comfortable and effective for you and your business. Comment well on other blogs, begin conversations via email or the post, use social media to ask questions and to engage your audience. Set up one to one meet ups rather than attending groups. Include relevant info on your website, have written info/images available to hand to interested press/stockists at shows. I’ve attended a few Crafts Council conferences and workshops and I find those are pretty good as you’re never the centre of attention and you can chat to others if you want to but you can just listen to the speakers and hide in a corner/the toilets at break time if you want to. Nobody’s looking at you, they’re too caught up in their own fear of saying something silly to someone important. In the early years, if you can, join a group studio. You might only be able to afford a tiny space but you will be surrounded by other creatives. And they might be painters, woodworkers, photographers, fashion designers and more often than not they will help you at some point. Working alongside other creatives of differing disciplines means you’ll learn things you wouldn’t learn from say another jewellery designer. Equally as important you will see what not to do through their mistakes and they will gain the same from you. They may become your important network without you even trying as the relationships are more organic. They will drink coffee with you on that day every few weeks when you wonder what you are doing with your life playing with clay.

I hope at least some of this is helpful – writing it has really just opened up a can of worms so there may be a part two coming! Please do leave comments I would love to know what you would have done differently with your business too. Here’s a few links that spring to mind as being helpful organisations and please share any you can think of in the comments section:

http://www.thewomensorganisation.org.uk/

https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/

http://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/what-we-do/business-workshops-and-masterclasses/

https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/starting-a-new-business

http://www.thedesigntrust.co.uk/

Thanks for reading,

Marie x