Category Archives: Arts & Crafts

An Interview With Author Linda Finlay

It was quite a coincidence that over the last couple of weeks I have read two historical novels based on the young Queen Victoria – one was a moth eared paperback I spotted at my mother-in-law’s by Jean Plaidy (made a change from the kindle & it was enjoyable); the other was a first novel by author Linda Finlay,  a historical saga published by Penguin, that I downloaded, called The Royal Lacemaker.  This novel was equally enjoyable and highly recommended – perfect for fans of Jean Plaidy, Dilly Court and Katie Flynn. So I am really chuffed to welcome to the blog this week the delightful author herself and chat about her book, lace making and of course, her views on fashion! Hi Linda!image

Hi! I’m Linda Finlay, an image consultant and novelist with an avid interest in people, what they wear and what makes them tick.

Congratulations on publishing your first novel, a historical saga called The Royal Lacemaker. Where did you get inspiration from to write this novel?

Thank you. The past few months have been very exciting. The inspiration for The Royal Lacemaker came on a visit to Beer in Devon where I saw the sign for Ye Olde Lace Shop. Naturally I had to investigate and so my story was born.

Your novel follows the fortunes of a 17 year old orphan girl and the choices she must make when she becomes part of a secret commission to produce the Honiton lace for the wedding dress of Queen Victoria.  I hear you were taught lace making too – was the incentive to do so linked to getting a sense of reality to the story or was it something you’ve always wanted to do and now with your novel in place you was able to indulge yourself?

Research took me to All Hallows Museum in Honiton where I watched a demonstration of lace making. It looked such an intricate craft I had to try it for myself. I like to think my experience added authenticity to the story as I find it hard to believe women used to make lace in their cottages to supplement their incomes, along with the household chores and bringing up their children.

imageAs I’m somebody who cannot knit or crochet and can barely sew despite 3 years of needlework lessons at school, I really admire you! Was lace making hard to learn?

Although I love knitting, sewing is not my forte. Luckily I found a very patient teacher in Colyford, who along with her team of lovely ladies, kept my lace making on track. It really is as hard to go back and re work the lace as I indicated in The Royal Lacemaker. However, if I managed to make lace, you certainly can too!

Ha, ha … we’ll see! Swiftly changing the subject, what made you realise that you wanted to write books? Did you like story writing as a young girl?

I have always loved writing stories. Along with sport it was the only thing I was really any good at in school. Frequently I would lose myself in a story rather than tackle the other subjects I was meant to be concentrating on.

Apart from being an author, you are also an image consultant. What do you like best about both of your jobs?

I love people and helping them to make the best of themselves. It is rewarding to see a client leave my studio confident and smiling. I always try to champion my characters by making the timid grow stronger throughout my stories.

I know that this book has just been published, but have you started to think of ideas for your next novel? Would you stick to the same genre or would you try something different?

My next novel, The Girl With The Red Ribbon will be published in the Spring. It is about lunar gardening and millinery. Quite diverse subjects that are brought together by a common theme. I am now on my third novel.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite book or authors?

I love historical romance and stories that teach something of the period without being heavy handed. I find it satisfying to learn through an entertaining story. Phillippa Gregory is particularly good at this.

imageObviously living in Devon played a big part in the formation of your novel. If you could visit any place in the world to set your next novel in, which place would you love to venture to?

It would have to be the Norwegian fjords. My imagination could run riot there!

When you’re not writing or running your image consultancy, what hobbies/past times do you enjoy?

I love walking the coastal paths and exploring little villages and bays. A story always seems to pop into my head though, so I don’t really switch off – unless I’m shopping with clients of course. Then it’s clothes, boots, shoes and accessories all the way.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I love separates. Pencil skirts, polos, embellished shirts and shaggy gilets with ankle boots and opaques are this seasons must wears for me.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Wallis, Next, Very are all superb for topping up on seasonal fashions. They are always on trend with reasonable prices that don’t break the bank.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A faux fur jacket and faux leather pencil skirt are on my wish list, along with more ankle boots of course.

Boots or Shoes?

Both! They are my absolute must haves and a girl can never have too many! After all they update an outfit instantly.

Links:

amazon.co.uk/Royal Lacemaker – Linda Finlay

amazon.com/The Royal Lacemaker by Linda Finlay

Thank you very much Linda – I can’t wait to read your next novels.  After reading The Lace Maker,  I was partaking in a quiz when a question came up : “What craft uses bobbins and pillows?”  I was so pleased that I knew the answer (Lacemaking) which I wouldn’t have had a clue a month or so ago. So, there you go, not only a good feel good read but educational too! Check the book out and let me know what you thought of the book too! I’d be interested to know!

Linda x

Photos have been published with kind permission of Linda Finlay

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An Interview With Kara, The Fairy Maker

Christmas Time is certainly a magical time… twinkling of fairy lights, Santa & his gang of reindeers, a snowy scene, the majesty of the Christmas story, the nativity plays, the Christmas songs, the parties …. and as this is the last blogpost before Christmas Day, my interview tonight is with somebody who is totally magical – The Fairy Maker!  Welcome Kara…image

Hi! My name is Kara and I live in London with my husband and our three children. I am the owner and creator of The Fairy Maker, we make one of a kind fantasy creations which the customer designs.

Your beautiful unique and bespoke fairies, angels and dragons are certainly very collectable. What made you start up your business? Have you always done that line of work?

I started sculpting many years ago, but gave it up due to family and getting a new job, I only made them for friends and family. It was the guys I worked with who told me I should start up a Facebook page and show off my work, I didn’t think anyone would be interested but after a year of not having the confidence to click publish one night I decided to go for it. I was 4 months away from giving birth, some people move house or get a puppy, I decided to start a business ! I didn’t expect it to be capable of being a full time business, but it has and its great as I get to do something I love so much.

imageThe fairies are bespoke handmade pieces, so each is totally unique. The owner can design their own piece by picking a sculpture – adding hair (can be real) – picking colours,clothes and optional extras. What was the most unique fairy/angel/critter that has been requested?

I have a few customers who are very detailed in their requests, many have spent months designing their FairyJar. It’s nice to be able to make those ideas come to life. I have a lot of requests asking if I am able to add real hair to the fairies, a lot of the time it’s hair from a late loved one or the first lock of their child’s hair, I get so nervous doing those as I know how sentimental it is to the customer and how valuable the hair is to them.

imageI have just finished reading the Eragon series and so I was drawn to the cute Eragon Dragon Critter Jars on your site. What other books have influenced your choice of mini sculptures?

I have a wonderful book called Dragonology, I love how it is written and the illustrations are beautifully done, I like my critters to have that cuteness to them.

Aah… my sons have that book, Dragonology! We love the illustrations in it too…I personally adore the “Small Caitlin” (Collector’s Edition) – so cute! What’s your favourite sculpture?

imageToo many to list !!! but I did have a sculpt which was initially in my bin fairy box (the box rejects for whatever reason end up) I got her out for training purposes to teach how to wig them, but after I added the hair this fairy which I had previously discarded many months before had transformed into such an amazing looking fairy I came very close to keeping her for myself. I love how it’s even a surprise to me how they will look once completed.

Prices for each item includes the jar, decorations, fairy/angel wings, plaque, postage within the UK, and a signed certificate from you, the artist – they look very intricate – how long does it take to produce each fairy?

imageAll depends on the size, some can take a few days others can take a few weeks, there is a lot of drying times between stages too and then there is bad sculpting days when nothing ever seems to work how I want it to, which is normally in the summer, summer is not good weather for sculpting.

Have you any plans to extend your range?

I have a list of LOADS of new ideas, boy fairies are first on my list as I have had so many requests for them. I have been wanting to invent some new critters too. We are also in the middle of getting a book published to compliment the FairyJars, hopefully next year we will be able to have more news on this.

imageCongratulations on being awarded one of the runners up for Mum Entrepreneur of the Year on This Morning TV based on your fairy jars and artwork as well as being a Mumpreneur Magazine 2014 finalist! The accolades are well deserved! Being UK based, do you ship overseas at all or have any plans to sell globally?

Thank you, still can’t believe how lucky I was to get to the finals ! I do ship globally but we would like to expand more on this , the shipping costs can work out a fair bit of money due to the weight and the insurance which is a bit of a pain, we do have other options like baskets instead of jars to help reduce the shipping costs but people seem to prefer the glass displays.

imagePersonal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

The older I got and the more kids I have I tend to choose comfort over fashion, anything which is quick to put on and covers the sins of flabby bits ! Elasticated trousers have become my best friend when it comes to clothes. I still have bags of trendy size 12 clothes in the loft, I really need to come to terms that I will never fit into them and throw them out.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a Primarni girl (Primark) if I go out to look for something that’s where I aim to visit first, but I tend to do my online clothes shopping in Next.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A big quilted long winter coat, I heard we may be in for some rough weather this winter so want to be prepared this year ! Every winter I see them and now I want one I don’t seem to find any I like!

Boots or Shoes?

BOOTS ! And the reason why is because the only skinny part of my body is my ankles and my wrists. When I wear boots it evens me up a bit.

imageLinks you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about you and your fairies!
www.thefairymaker.com – web site which has prices and options
www.thefairymaker.co.uk – Facebook, has latest updates and photos

It’s been brilliant chatting to you Kara!  I look forward to seeing more of your work in 2015 as I find the fairies simply adorable! Wishing you all a magical Christmas!

Linda x

All photos have been published with the kind permission of Kara, The Fairy Maker

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An Interview With Barbara Lea Pottery

This week I’m interviewing a lovely lady whose business is a real family affair and she makes the most exquisite figurines… If you’re looking for gift ideas that would be cherished, then take a peek at what this lady can do! Hi Barbara, welcome to the blog:20131206-131920.jpg

Hi I’m Barbara from Barbara Lea Pottery, based on the Fylde Coast. I make handcrafted figurines and gifts and am helped by my lovely family, husband Allan,  son Adam and daughter Clare.  

You started trading in 1989 and your beautiful unique and bespoke figurines are certainly very collectable. What made you start up your business? Have you always done that line of work?

That’s a good question!  My first career I trained for was a cook/baker, then I was a singer, but I have always loved art, painting,  photography etc… but it was only after I had my first child that I decided I needed an outlet and signed up at a local pottery evening course and loved it ! Although everyone there were making pots the tutor didn’t mind that I did my own thing and made figures.  I had a good reaction from family and friends so decided to jump in the deep end and invest in a kiln and trade fair! I never looked back. 

20131206-132011.jpgThe figurines are bespoke handmade pieces, so each is totally unique. What inspires each sculpture?

I have always been inspired by people’s attitudes and stances, there’s just something special about capturing a moment, whether it be in clay, paint or photography.  In my work I endeavour to capture the spirit of children and family.  Just observing my family and friends is all the motivation and inspiration I need, in fact each child range is named after a member of the family!

Your elegant collection of figurines include depictions of mother & child, brides/bridesmaids, father & son etc. What type of figurine seems to be the most popular?

As we can incorporate wedding colours and add names, dates etc..our wedding  range is the most popular, bridegrooms, bridesmaids and pageboys gifts, even the cutesy Bride and Groom customers sometimes buy for cake toppers! But a close second is the `Mother & Baby’.

20131206-131932.jpgI personally adore the Winter Ladies Collection – they are so cute! What’s your favourite figurine style?

This is a difficult one! Erm,  well I always love the latest design I’m working on at the time, probably because its fresh and I’m excited to see how the piece will be received, but I suppose the design I enjoy the most is the `Three Sisters’.

Each item is crafted in white earthenware, then painted in a cream glaze with touches of colour  – they look very intricate – how long does it take to produce a figurine?

Well each piece is different, I tend to start a few pieces at the same time,but from starting all pieces to completion is approx 10 days. After I have made them, it usually takes approx, 4 /5 days to dry out, then into the kiln to bake, when cool, glazed, then back into the kiln.  

20131206-132001.jpgHave you any plans to extend your range? 

Yes, I have a few new ranges that will be going on the website in the New Year. One is a little boy range called Lewis. Also a range called `Cherish You Angels’, I have had numerous commissions for angels over the past few years so have designed the new range, it has took me a while to get them just right, but I’m now happy with the range now.

Have you ever been asked to produce any unusual figurines?

Well I haven’t had that many unusual requests but I did have a commission from a rock band, who wanted themselves depicted in clay, that was fun!

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Well if you popped around for a brew, you would find me in Jeans and Jumper! I know, not very exciting, but when you are working with clay, you have to be practical and warm!!

20131206-131942.jpgDo you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Oh dear, well I have to admit I am a lazy shopper, I do a lot of online shopping, the sites I tend to use are `Very’ and `Next’.                                                                                                                                                                                                

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wishlist?

Well at the moment I have my eye on some blue DM’s , been hinting for a Christmas pressy, but if not,present to self!

Boots or Shoes?

Definitely boots! Love them and have many pairs. Plus love the fact I can wear high boots but never feel I’m teetering!!  

Links you would like to share eg website/Facebook/Twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Barbara Lea Pottery:    

                                                                                                                                                                                 www.barbaraleapottery.com .  

twitter barbaraleapottery . 

www.facebook.com/barbaraleapottery

www.etsy.com/shop/barbaraleapottery  

Thank you very much indeed for chatting to us Barbara, and I wish you continuing success in the future – you are one inspiring lady!

Linda x

Photo credits: The photos have been published with kind permission from Clare Peace.

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Paisley Love – An Interview With Aasen Stephenson

424300_335863973131091_188850434499113_1092796_744810175_nThis week I’m interviewing the totally awesome Aasen Stephenson – the fabulous tattooist/engraver whose talents grace the leather of the fabulous Jeffery-West shoes – ahead of the upcoming Jeffery West event at Selfridges in London (15 – 21  April) where Aasen will be showcasing his talents in store and if you pop in and buy a pair of the equally fabulous Jeffery – West shoes, he will engrave them for you there and then.  How cool is that?! Aasen will be in the store from 12pm – 7pm from the 17 – 21 April.   So, let’s meet this guy! Hi Aasen, welcome to the blog! Please introduce yourself:

My name is Aasen Stephenson and I am a designer/maker based in Northampton.
Your engraving on Jeffery West shoes is exquisite – where do you get your inspiration from?
Exquisite! Thank you!  You mean the inspiration for the designs I do on the shoes?.. these come from the customer ideally..but if they get stuck I’m there to help with anything and steer them the right way if I can.. but I have done some of my own designs.. engraving using a tattoo gun .. well it’s easy to just do classic tattoo designs onto the shoe..which look great I mean..but for me I always try and think of ideas that could sit on the shoe and look part of the shoe rather than something thats been stuck on if that makes sense?.. the skull paisley design is a popular design is one I have done…most of my designs I guess are inspired from the arts and crafts movement..William Morris etc… I use it alot with my papercut work..so it was just a natural step to use my designs and just engrave them instead…46347_10152161519945048_1609820002_n
Your paper cuts are also totally awesome – have you had any requests for strange/unusual designs?
Thank you.. yeah the papercutting has taken me to some great places..that’s what I love about it..it’s so simple..yet you can do so much with it.. a little while ago I cut a piece for someone ‘Will you marry me ?’ he hid it along a walk he had planned and  proposed to his  girlfriend with it…  I have cut big wedding pieces…and verses for funerals..and lots of designs for babies…so births, deaths and marriages..I cover it all! Ha ha… I have also cut paper dresses… book designs..record designs.. magazine pages..portraits… I am always trying to push what you can do with it.. I love the medium..As for weird and the strange..I guess anything you give the customer a free reign with ..well it can end up being crazy…I’ve had some great poems I’ve had to cut ..usually from men to their loved ones.. some crazy stuff  they write!….
71702_10152551787530048_1167069703_nTo date, what has been the most popular engraving/tattooing you’ve done?
Hmmm ..well most people stick to their names on the shoe..it’s a safe bet and you can keep it small… but on the other end of the scale the paisley design covers the whole shoe and has been really popular…wedding dates have always been popular too  I guess….
What’s your favourite artwork/engraving to create?
Well, I love it when a customer has their own ideas..and come in with a particular logo they want doing.. and are so excited..I guess for some people it’s like getting that tattoo they have always wanted..but been too scared..I guess with the shoe tattoo it puts them through the same process… but not getting it done on their skin…487858_10152634990065048_1036444508_n
Jeffery- West footwear are simply the one of the best designers/manufacturers of men’s shoes in the world, if not the best – so tell me, what’s your favourite Jeffery- West footwear?
Bloody hell ,where do I start?.. it’s hard to look around the store and find something I don’t like! The new collection is amazing! I’d wear them all..but I guess my favourite from the new collection is the Marriot Balmoral boot…and the monk strap and triple strap…shoe
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Well, I’m always in the studio at the moment working and with a new baby its rare I find time to get out and put something smart on..  so at the moment it’s skinny jeans..some JW shoes..and usually a band t shirt I guess…
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 
I love shopping… and love to look around Westwood or other designer shops…but always love vintage shops and charity shops and markets… you never know what you will find… thats why I love it…
Boots or Shoes?
I love them both… sorry it’s a poor answer..but it depends on the outfit… I love a good pair of boots…. but then a nice pair of shoes can look great… ha!
Links you would like to share:
I’d love everyone to check out Deathhouse on Facebook, www.aasen.co.uk… and of course check out Jeffery West!
Thank you Aasen – you definitely have a great talent and I’m so pleased to have interviewed you!  I look forward to seeing lots more of your designs in the future …
Linda x
Photos published with kind permission from Aasen Stephenson.
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