One of the improvements I’ve made in the New Year is a little redesign of the pocket mirrors I make to sell in my etsy shop. The mirrors are hand pressed in my studio, with a glass mirror and metal body. Until recently the metal body was covered in a sheet of illustrated paper and a protective sheet of mylar, but now they are covered with fabric illustrations. I transfer the image onto the fabric using a heat press, in the same way I transfer images onto my tote bags, which gives a beautifully bright and crisp image on un-dyed natural cotton. These fabric images are cut out and the mirror is constructed and sealed. The pocket mirrors comes complete with a lovely blue or pink hand stitched felt pouch with delicate off-white lace detail.
The last few weeks has brought with it a few birthdays for some lovely Sagittarian friends. Even though we may not live nearby any more, having moved to various parts of the country to pursue our dreams, we try to send tokens and cards through the post at regular intervals, and birthdays are one occasion which can’t be missed! I am a firm believer in card-giving, especially when it means you can support smaller companies and independent artists. One of my favourite illustrators in recent months is the independent greeting card company called Alice Palace.
With December approaching fast, I feel the need to share these wonderful advent calendars by Sally Swannel. These flat-pack wonders are assembled to create a free-standing three-dimensional house, complete with chimney and dorm windows, with 24 numbered advent windows on all sides. They are relatively easy to assemble too; we did add a tiny bit of double sided tape on a few of the tabs to make it more secure, but it was more for peace-of-mind than any physical need for it as the slot and tab design holds the house together very well!
I also adore the miniature advent cards, which come with an envelope, perfect for giving and receiving. I enjoy these traditional picture advents like these so much more than chocolate ones!
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!
I have recently stumbled across the beautiful jewellery of Rachel Eardley. Each piece is constructed from vintage coins, with painstakingly cut out figures and details used to adorn necklaces, rings, pins, cufflinks and bracelets. Examining her work has made me look at some of these coins in a completely new light; the little hares, dogs and horses which cover some of the Irish coins are my favourite, along with the intricate bird on the Fathings. There is something wonderful about transforming outdated coinage into something charmingly decorative and functional. The thing that really completes these lovely creations, is the boxes they are displayed in; each piece comes in a beautifully hand illustrated craft box, detailed with drawing and dates of the specific coins used.
It has been many years since I’ve had a back-to-school spending spree, indulging new pens and accessories for the new term, but towards the end of every August I still have an urge to purchase beautiful stationary sets and fresh notepads to jot down thoughts and ideas. I’ve spent much of last week making more Hedgehogs Ate My Homework tote bags and pencil cases, which have been very popular recently with September approaching, and it has only emphasised my want of lovely new paper goods and lunch boxes! So I am sharing a few of my favourite back to school crafts and products which were are never too old to ogle at!
Back to School Einstein Journal by Happy Dappy Bits
Me & You Pencils by knot & bow
Sunshine Cuffs by Inner Wild
Dragon Scales Jotter by wit and whistle
2013 Letterpress Calender from 1canoe2
Ball of Yarn Stamp by hoffee and anuffin
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!
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.
After many weeks with long hours in front of the computer, I am so pleased that the Mystic Moose website for my craft shop is finally up and running. It was a wonderful place to put all the lovely photographs of totes that never quite reach the etsy listing photos – usually because they are too detailed or busy for the thumbnails. It links to my etsy shop, since that is the only place I sell my things online at the moment, but I really enjoyed making and designing the site, and will sell things from it directly someday soon!
On the theme of lovely new things, I have also branched out from the cotton tote bags I sell in my shop. For the last few weeks I have been perfecting my designs for pencil cases and purses, heat pressing my illustrations onto un-dyed cotton and sewing them in my studio. I had a huge delivery of zips at the end of last week, but couldn’t start immediately because I was searching for the zipper foot for my sewing machine. Even though I used the normal foot for the trail runs, and it looked okay, I felt it was important to take extra care when making something I was planning on selling. I visited my local sewing shop hoping to by a new zipper foot, but they had sold out of that morning. Eventually I found it last night when I crawled into the attic to look in the box the sewing machine originally came in. The box now holds a collection of beloved children’s books I can’t seem to let go of, and right at the bottom of the box, nestled between The Lorax and The Cat Who Walked By Himself, was the zipper foot. It was still in its plastic zipper bag with a needle threader, and apparently had been left behind in my excitement to use my new sewing machine two years ago.
After that little adventure, the pencil-case-making road had few bumps, and it wasn’t long before I had quite a selection to choose from. Not using a pattern or instructions meant that it was an interesting learning experience, working out how to have all the seams on the inside and yet leave a space to turn it inside out. I tried various places for this visible seam, including along the zip and on the bottom of the lining, but eventually settled on the side of the lining since it is least visible, and it meant I could sew in a lovely little Mystic Moose tag. I altered designs that are currently used on my totes, such as the typewriter, and the vintage map hearts, but I have some new designs floating about in my head right now.
I am hoping to order my new business cards soon, but I’ve been waiting for the perfect photograph of my products, and this wider range of sizes should making interesting compositions more exciting!
Also, don’t forget to enter the Mystic Moose giveaway over at Lazy Explorers! You could win your favourite Mystic Moose cotton tote, and the winner will be chosen on 13th June 2012, so head over to find out how to enter! This giveway is now closed, and the winner can be found here.
I am delighted to announce that the lovely Chloe from Lazy Explorers is hosting a Mystic Moose giveaway! Which is your favourite cotton tote from Mystic Moose? You can have up to four entries per person, and be in with a chance to win the tote of your choice!
Take a peek at her latest blog post to read an interview with me about Mystic Moose, and make sure to comment on her post once you have entered. (The rest of her blog is full of beautiful and inspiring things and is well worth a read as well, so make sure you wander through!) The lucky winner will be chosen on 13th June 2012 over at Lazy Explorers.