current art adventures
One of my favourite makers recently is Susan Horth, who constructs exquisite animal and insect sculptures and jewellery pieces from woven wire and bead jewels. Each piece is stunningly detailed and surprisingly life-like. They seem so precious and intricate that time can easily slip away whilst you gaze at them. I am particularly fond of the little bee and lizard brooches.
The studio has been a flurry of activity this week, working late into the night to send off orders to their new homes across the world. This week heralded our final posting dates for most of the world, bar Western Europe (which is Tuesday 11th December) and the UK (Tuesday 18th December), and all orders placed from now on should arrive in the new year.
Since I also work part-time at a lovely craft shop and art space in the heart of the Cotswolds, my evenings have been spent catching up on orders, and days off have been at the heat press and the sewing machine, pressing totes and stitching lavender bags, pencil cases and felt pouches for pocket mirrors. Feeling festive midweek, I decided to make roast chestnuts but had a minor accident when one rolled away whilst I was attempting to piece the skins, which resulted in plaster-covered fingers and general fumbling when it came to using my sewing machine again! All seems healed now though, and I’m back on full form for the sewing in the week ahead! Every spare moment is geared towards making, packing orders or answering enquiries and updating sites. Although it is exhausting, it is also exulting.
My lunchtime post office trips have been taking considerably longer than usual, as I waddle in with bags of packets and parcels under both arms. It seems that the post office has become a gathering place for creative entrepreneurs, and I’ve come to recognize regular customers who seem to be on the same time table as me, also laden with bags of posting. With nods of recognition and semi-awkward grins all around, we acknowledge that we are major contributors to the queue, and share a desire to sincerely apologise to the people behind us, particularly the poor guys at the very back who only came in to buy one stamp. Last Monday I spent a full 55 minutes at the counter, much to the dismay of the patient folk in the queue behind me!
If you are looking for colourful and quirkily designed home wares, I wholeheartedly recommend taking a browse through the delightful products by Lush Designs. Their screen printed lampshades are one of my favourite things to ogle at when I am in need of healthy dose of pretty things. Naturally I was drawn to the fox design, but after some thought I decided that I preferred it in the cream and pale grey to darker tones because of how the colours of a lampshade can affect the light in the room. The colours of all the designs are so beautiful and well combined that they seem to make my mouth water. The cotton napkins adorned with root vegetable screen prints are a prime example, with their exquisite array of purples, oranges and blues!
This past week has flown by in a flurry of new products and exciting orders, so that my update on my first craft stall seems to have taken a back seat. As I blogged last week about the preparations for my stall at the Made Market on Saturday, I have had many messages asking me how it went and asking for photographs of my stall. I have already posted a few on the Mystic Moose facebook page, but I felt a blog post was needed as well!
All the planning and foraging for display parts paid off, and I was delighted with the way the stall looked. By painting some of the wooden display boxes, which were all different kinds of wood, it gave a more cohesive look and made the products the focal point. Using upturned wine crates added height and depth to the display, and the mixture of large and smaller items drew customers in for a closer look. My one improvement for next time will be the find a better way of hanging the tote bags – I used hooks attached to the edge of the table, which worked really well, but because there were so many designs I felt it looked a little messy!
I arrived with much more stock than I needed, and two boxes of totes sat under the stall waiting to replenish displays. Even through one never get used, I felt reassured by its presence, and would definitely bring more than needed again. As long as it can fit under the table, the worse that can happen is you turn up looking like you’re moving in!
I used the stall as an opportunity to launch a few new product lines; lavender bags, shrink plastic badges and new padded make-up bags. All three were very well received and have been launched in my etsy shop this week!
Selling fabric and paper crafts, and having an outdoor stall means the slightest breeze can cause chaos, which is where gaffa tape comes in. Honestly, my stall was held together with gaffa tape. I picked a spot that was relatively sheltered, but to be on the safe side I used it to tape tablecloths down, the hooks to the side of the stall, bags to their stands, price signs in their places, and to tape string around display boxes to keep cards from fluttering away. I used nearly a whole role, and gave some to my neighbouring crafters. I would recommend taking an emergency role of gaffa tape to anyone doing a stall.
Some things to bring next time:
More change – especially £5 notes!
Table clamps to save some of the gaffa tape.
A calculator – I had one perching on top of my bag before I left, but it must have fallen out!
Another calculator – in case the one you planned to bring goes missing.
A bottle of water, or a flask to tea.
Paper bags for customer’s purchases.
A card machine.
The wonderful thing about craft fairs is getting to meet your customers face-to-face. Selling predominantly online means you have some lovely email exchanges, but you never get the casual light heartedness of a conversation. You also have the opportunity to mingle with crafty peers, and meet some truly talented folk!
It is with great excitement that I inform the lovely readers of this blog, and the wonderful fans of Mystic Moose, that the time has come for our first craft fair! If you are in the Cotswolds on Saturday 11th August, then pop along to Gloucester Folk Museum for the MADEmarket, an exciting new series of craft fairs in the local area!
I am a great advocator of buying beautiful handcrafted delights and vintage trinkets whilst browsing stalls at craft fairs, but I have never been a seller at one of these events. The thought had always seemed a little daunting, mainly because of the amount of stock I would need to make in preparation. I usually keep about ten of each item and design in my stock cupboard and make more when they sell, but for a craft stall, particularly with the smaller and less expensive items, I would need much more than this or the stall would look rather empty. Having read many articles on the matter, it seemed it was far better to overestimate and arrive laden with too much stuff, and hide it under the table ready to replenish the displays, than to bring the right amount of stock and have a stall that is half empty!
Having thoroughly raided my belongings for all interesting boxes, containers and knickknacks, I have begun to sort the ones that may be of some use. A small set of shelves lying flat on its back can hold a variety of pencil cases, a wine box tipped on its side becomes both a shelf for a cotton tote bag and a display box, an empty tea chest given to me last Christmas becomes a handy container for pocket mirrors and badges.
My only problem is all of these items are made from different coloured wood and materials, and when placed together, despite making an interesting, efficient and varied display, they look inconsistent. I’ve resigned to painting them all matt white (bar a few lovely old items made from wood), with the hopes of bringing attention to the products they hold. I know from experience that having different materials to create levels or backdrops can be distracting if they lack a consistent style or colour scheme. I remember stalls I have seen that unitised wicker boxes, antique wooden wine crates, painted white benches, plywood card stands and chequered fabric covered blocks, which all looked lovely individually, but they lacked cohesion when arranged together on a stall. I guess such details are not really noticeable to the average craft-browser, who may not think twice about the design and would hopefully be gazing longingly at a beautifully handmade craft item, it is something I have noticed whilst scrutinising fairs for ideas and inspiration for my stall.
Ultimately, I guess much of the display is dependent on personal taste, alongside the style of your brand. The best stalls I have seen have used backdrops made of one or two materials, such as the aged wooden crates and some white washed furniture items. Such stalls lured me in, especially if they had smaller items that enticed me to peer closer. Whilst rummaging for display boxes, I found an old fold-up table which, with the legs removed, became a lovely screen backdrop for part of the stall, which can also be used to hang some smaller items from.
For the last month or so I have had several product lines that I wanted to make but never found the time. The craft fair is a perfect opportunity to make some of these smaller items and get a feel for how popular they are and whether it is worth making more. If all goes to plan, the below items should be available to sale online by the end of next week!
On the top of my new products list is our lovely new badges. There are two kinds – large button badges, made using my badge and mirror making machine, and the shaped ones made from exciting shrink plastic! I am very happy with these shrink wrap badges, although they can be time consuming to cut out, bake and varnish.
I also have been making lavender bags, which have filled my studio with a delicious scent. They are filled with French lavender, with a heat pressed image on the front and a twine tag for hanging in wardrobes. I have been hesitant to make them because I was uncertain about whether I could export lavender to the USA and Canada, so when I start selling them online, I will only be shipping these within the UK and Europe for the time being.
And not forgetting Make-up bags, filled with wadding to protect their contents! I planned to launch these when I started to making pencil cases, but they spent longer in the development stage than I initially thought, whilst I found the right material to use as padding. (No photos for these as yet, but expect many more to come after the stall!)
This craft fair, alongside spending many hours developing exciting new crafty products for my shop, is part of my excuse for my lack in internet presence over the last month. Blog posts I have intended to write haven’t had the time to manifest, or are waiting to evolve from hastily scribbled blurbs in sketchbooks whilst travelling on public transport. With less than a week to go, I still have many more pencil cases to sew, mirrors and badges to press, and a little bit of painting to do, but all is going exceptionally well!
A few more lovely things I’ve been looking at recently:
Between Folks: British Butterflies is just beautiful. Take a look at some of the other works in this series.
These delightful chicken footstools from The City Girl Farm. I also love the design of the website.
Mystic Moose’s new Folksy shop!
Oh Comely magazine. Who couldn’t love such a delightful collection of charming articles? I can lose myself for hours in these stories.
It is no secret that I have a great fondness for foxes, and regular readers may remember several posts outlining or illustrating various reasons for this. Although it has been many months since I have mentioned them, do not assume that this is because I no longer think of them; it is merely because I cannot seem to find the time to make as many declarations of my love as I would like!
I have, however, been taking quite a few country walks recently, and these have given me some lovely quiet moments with a sketchbook. In true British summer style, the weather has been a little intermittent in the last few weeks, pouring with rain one moment and overflowing with warm sunshine the next, but on the dry occasions I have taken a few art essentials with me on my wanderings. There are some lovely worn footpaths which trace lines across fields of long grass and it is not uncommon to spot wild rabbits and deer in-between the occasional dog walker.
I quite often find a seat on a dry-stone wall or patch of mossy grass and fill a few pages with doodles and thoughts. The process verges on therapeutic, and these quiet moments are wonderful for planning new designs for my shop. Last week was perhaps a more obvious example of this, when I caught sight of a red fox along the edge of the wood across the field from me. Without my glasses on she looked like an orange smudge in the distance, but she slid into focus once I had retrieved them from my bag.
Perhaps she wasn’t used to humans, or perhaps she didn’t see or smell me sat upwind, or perhaps she simply did not care that I was there, but she came towards me in an unconcerned trot.
It was one of those instances when you daren’t move for fear or spoiling it, so I sat very still as she approached. She was a healthy fox, unlike the ones that has moved into my garden some years ago who had been covered in mange. She had a sleek coat, and a thick tail, although she was a little smaller than I had expected so I wondered if she were young, or if it were just because she was a vixen? I briefly wondered what she was doing out, being a nocturnal animal, but then decided it was relatively early in the morning and she may be on her way home for bed.
When she was about five meters away she caught sight of me and froze. We had one of those frozen and assessing moments, that seem to last longer when you’re involved in them than they do to those on the outside. Then she turned tail and melted into the shadows of the wood.
I had been thinking of heading back to my studio at that point, but instead I rummaged in my bag for my flask – for I sometimes bring a flask of tea with me on these occasions, never knowing if I will stay out longer. It is a lovely mustard coloured flask that came with a picnic set I got last winter in the sales, and I am very fond of it. Settling down with a cup of tea, I began another series of drawing of foxes. But once I had finished a few, I moved on to rabbits, who had been frolicking on the other side of the field during my drawing, and then an Eurasian Eagle Owl, which I had not seen, but had been on my mind a lot these days.
When the weather began to turn, I packed up my sketchbook and pencils and continued my walk home. Back at the studio, over another cuppa (raspberry and Echinacea herbal tea, this time, my favourite right now,) I coloured my drawings and scanned them in for preparation to transfer them onto tote bags for my etsy shop.