Monday 27 September 2010


I had great plans to visit Origin on Friday but was a bit poorly during the night and so ended up spending a day on the sofa instead. Then I saw what a wonderful time Ali and Alice had there on Saturday and an email from Alice prompted me into going today and I was so glad I did. It was brilliant! There was so much wonderful jewellery, ceramics and textiles from a myriad of talented designers it was hard to single out favourites... but I've tried! All of the following were more than happy to chat about their work and were friendly and interesting. Do take a look at their websites if you have time.

Abigail Brown makes wonderful stitched birds - quirky, colourful and fun. She was also absolutely delightful, immediately asked me if I sew and was very interested in my degree.

Some of my favourite work was from Betty Pepper, a combination of book art and jewellery and I really wished I had a spare few hundred pounds!

There was more cut out paper from Claire Brewster who painstakingly cuts out these birds by hand from old maps.

A delightful combination of collected items, text, embroidery and books from Becky Adams who was also willing to chat to me for ages.

And last but not least there was more printing, paper cuts, books and embroidery from Sarah Morpeth. I confess I gave in to temptation and treated myself to one of Sarah's tiny books called Butterfly - mostly because I've been doing some paper cuts myself as I've researched lace and floral embroidery. You can just see a glimpse if you look carefully. There was definitely a theme to the things that caught my eye and I love the combination of paper, text, embroidery and books... the birds just happened to be a coincidence!

But now I've got some catching up to do. If the light improves tomorrow I may take some pics and add a few more of these to my Etsy shop as a day on the sofa on Friday and a couple of hours on the train today meant I got some embroidery done, but do contact me directly if you would like a particular colour (slightly cheaper that way).

Meanwhile life is busy... I'm teaching tomorrow, have to pack for a few days away in Devon with the West Country Embroiderers on Wednesday, not to mention degree work and a certain young man's 18th birthday at the weekend so I may be AWOL for a while. See you when I come back!

Thursday 23 September 2010

Me Again

Just to say I've taken the plunge and reopened my etsy shop, listing three of the brooches, which come in under £10 each. Perfectly understand if they are beyond your budget, but I think you probably understand where I'm coming from after my last post.

And I did promise someone could win one of these little brooches for leaving me a comment on my survey, so I did a bit of a quick draw of names from a hat and picked out Killiecrankie. A brooch will be on its way to Tasmania in the morning!


Well first of all, thank you for your responses to my little "survey" as I really did value reading everyone's opinion. The results were interesting to say the least and I felt they warranted a reply from me. I do think I may have been a little misleading when I said "I cannot charge a realistic price for the amount of work invested and I don't really mind because they have been a pleasure to make". So perhaps I should elaborate.

The process of making these brooches starts with the purchase of the white fabric. This is then printed with handmade print blocks (made by me) using a good quality fabric paint. This is left to dry before ironing to heat set the paint and then it is dyed with procion dyes, left to dry again before washing out the excess dye. This part of the process alone takes two days. The components of the brooches have to be bought and then assembled and finally the hand embroidery and the putting it all together completes the process... a pleasurable process. And no, I cannot expect a realistic price but I do expect a fair price.

So given that the materials cost more than £1 per brooch and each one probably takes about an hour to complete, what is a fair price? This is after all, part of how I earn my living and as Jackie pointed out if I sell my work at £3.50 I am earning a maximum £2.50 an hour... which is really not worth my while no matter how pleasurable the experience.

There is also the the whole design process involved which evolved from hours of research into buttons... these brooches have a story which is also an important consideration. Chrissie pointed me in the direction of an open letter from Mary Portas who address this point more eloquently than I can and she also speaks about valuing our work. These are handcrafted, unique items made with skill. We should not as artist/makers undervalue these skills or our time because not only are we undervaluing ourselves but we undervalue other artist/makers too. I don't really want to enter the whole gender debate here but I do also feel it has a lot to do with undervaluing ourselves as women, especially when engaged in what is percieved to be domestic pursuits.

And so you might ask, why I wanted your opinion if I had already decided that the price I was going to ask would be nearer £10 than £5. I suppose I wanted reassurance that to charge £7-£8 wasn't unreasonable and some of you confirmed this... thank you. For those of you who felt I should be selling for under £5, well I'm sorry but I value what I do more than that so there won't be bargain brooches appearing on Etsy. And as a comparision can I share this little brooch available from one of our leading departments stores. Very pretty, but plastic and mass produced selling for £6... food for thought!

And while I am on my soap box and talking about valuing things, if you value the arts do take time to stop by this website - Save the Arts. In times of economic hardship and cuts it is understandable to want to put education, health and care for the elderly top of our priorities. Yet cuts in the arts effect us all. This is not just about opera or ballet or pickled sharks... it is about our fabulous free museums and wonderful artistic heritage. Proposed cuts of 25 - 30% could cause lasting damage. Off my soap box now... normal blogging will be resumed soon!

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Buttons, Badges or Brooches?

You may recall (or not, in which case you won't know what I'm on about) that I recently enquired if anyone knew of a supplier of self cover buttons that had brooch backs rather than button shanks. Despite several helpful suggestions my research proved fruitless and it would appear such items do not exist. So it was either a case of buying a professional badgemaking machine which would involve me selling thousands of badges and a full time career in badge making before I saw a return on my investment or trying a little ingenuity...

I bought a box of 3.8cm self cover buttons and discovered that I could remove the wire that serves as a button shank.

I then set about glueing some brooch backs onto the backs of the buttons... a slow and boring process using epoxy resin glue (I don't want them to come apart)

The next stage was to take some of my printed and dyed jersey fabric samples that were left over from my fashion module and embroider little spider web wheels in variagated threads (also hand dyed but not by me)

This was the part I enjoyed best.

They were then cut out, gathered up and used to cover the buttons. The brooch backs were then simply pressed into place... no expensive machinery required.

And these are the first five off this rather slow production line and I confess I'm ridiculously pleased with them for something so simple. Fun little brooches for brightening up a tee shirt... or hat... or bag.

So I'm now packaging them up with a view to selling them before embarking on some different colours. But as ever there is the dilemma of what to charge. They are just a simple little badge but on the other hand they are hand embroidered onto fabric that I have printed and then dyed myself. I know that I cannot charge a realistic price for the amount of work invested and I don't really mind because they have been a pleasure to make.

So what do I charge? Would you buy them? How much would you pay? Be brave and leave me a comment and I'll consider it a survey. I promise... there will be no obligation to buy (well not much anyway). I might even give one away to one lucky commenter (or unlucky depending on your point of view!)

Sunday 19 September 2010

Harvest Fair

Yesterday was the Harvest Fair and Horticultural Show in our village. The sun shone and it felt like the entire village turned out to enjoy the day. Four years ago I entered a couple of items into the "Homecrafts" section of the show and due to the fact that there weren't very many entries I ended up winning the "Ladies Cup" for getting the most points in that section. Now for me it was all a bit of a laugh and a huge joke that I actually won the cup but there are one or two people in the village who take it very seriously and one in particular who was very frosty with me for several months! As a result I've not entered since. But I was inspired by Silverpebble's recent efforts and pulled together a few bits early yesterday morning... this year the competition was tough with lots of entries.

But I managed a third for a jar of my Gooseberry Jam (the Plum remained unplaced!)

Another third for a handmade card (I confess... there were only three entries in this category so I did in fact come last!)

My Glutney Chutney managed a second place...

As did my washed and worn quilt... which was a bit of a surprise as I'd also put in a couple of machine embroidered pieces that I rather liked but were obviously not to the judges taste.

My Victoria sponge managed a second place too despite the rather dark brown crisp edge on one side... skillfully covered with a liberal sprinkling of caster sugar.

And my scones gained a FIRST place! But then the recipe was based on Alice's perfect scones so they couldn't fail really. The result of which was I managed to gain top points in the Homecrafts section once again and the Ladies cup is now gracing my mantlepiece... which probably means pistols at dawn with certain members of my community! I'm not sure I dare enter next year... although I really think it is time for a man to win the Ladies cup!

Meanwhile if you fancy afternoon tea, I can offer you prize winning Victoria sponge...

Or prize winning Fruit Scones with jam... only Plum I'm afraid.

Saturday 18 September 2010

500 and still going!

I had another enjoyable day teaching at ArtVanGo this week. As ever, a delightful group of ladies including one complete beginner were taking my Razzle Dazzle - Shimmering Sheers Class

They started the morning by making sparkly organza bags and then in the afternoon made flowers from layers of sheer fabrics. It was only when I was taking photographs that we realised they looked lovely together.

They were very quick at packing up and putting their efforts away but these were three I snapped before they got hidden.

Including this one below from the lady who had never done machine embroidery before... she has only had her machine for a couple of months! Didn't they do well! The next class at ArtVanGo is on Thursday 28th October... Razzle Dazzle - Constructed Fabrics. Still some places available if you would like to join us.

There was something else I was going to mention today... ah yes.. 500 blog posts over here on Fan My Flame and so the third and final part of my giveaway. I bet most of you had forogotten that you even left a comment on this post. Extra names were added to those already in the bowl.

And a third winner was picked out... Pebbledash, who I think said she would like a pin cushion. Well done Diana, if you drop me an email with your address I'll get that off to you next week.

I must dash now... it's our village show today so I'm off to see if I'm a winner!

Friday 17 September 2010


Don't you love it when seemingly separate bits of your life suddenly seem to pull together? The latest book I am reading is The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. Like her last novel, The Poisonwood Bible it has taken me a couple of weeks to get going with it but now I'm really enjoying the story of Harrison Shepherd who is working in the household of Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in 1935. It is a tale of art and revolution, but I particularly like the vivid descriptions of Frida Kahlo.

During the summer I borrowed the DVD Frida from Silverpebble (still got it Emma!) and was totally absorbed with the life story of this amazing, colourful woman. I had studied some of her work during my last degree module when I was looking at the work of women artists during the 20th century, so was interested to see the film interpretation of her life. I was not disappointed - it was a brilliant and entertaining film.

And in the last couple of weeks I have begun research on gender specific textiles for my next module and one of my sketchbook pages has focused on colourful garments such as traditional Mexican dress... and of course, that led to Frida Kahlo.

She seems to be popping up everywhere, in all sorts of ways and so I can see this might become the focus of my research.

There is something very joyous about such a mass of glorious colours worn together.

And something quite joyous about separate elements of one's life tying in together... like puzzle pieces slotting together.

Next post is my 500th so I will pick the winner of the final giveaway. Still time to add your name to the hat if it's not already there... leave a comment here.

Monday 13 September 2010

Seasonal Cooking

It's that time of year when everything seems to ripen at once. This is the result of the tomato harvest in our garden this weekend, having already used about 3 kg in the previous couple of weeks.

In an attempt to use some up I thought I would make some chilli jam... the perfect accompaniment to fishcakes... although I rather like it in my cheese sandwiches.

Still plenty left, so I made some roasted tomato soup for lunch yesterday, as well as giving away a bagful and finally I seemed to have reduced the supply of tomatoes in the house. That is, until I picked another couple of kilos last night!

There was also another gift of cooking apples.

Which was the perfect excuse to go on a long walk foraging the hedgerows

And then, inspired by The Great British Bake Off I made two batches of Spiced Apple Muffins (froze one batch and ate the other!

And best of all an apple and blackberry crumble.

I think that using up seasonal gluts is my favourite type of cooking, which is just as well really as I've now got several kilos of plums and damsons (picked while we were looking for blackberries) to deal with today.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Little Boots

It's not been all cooking round here this week. In between some serious cutting and sticking (this is degree level cutting and sticking you understand!) there has also been some knitting.

I recently made a pair of these little booties (pattern HERE) for my friend's new grandson... he was seven weeks premature and I didn't think his tiny feet would ever fit into them. But they did and were much admired and I was asked if I could make some for another friend's grandaughter.

And so this little project has kept me busy this week.

What is interesting is that my "cutting and sticking" research has been about gender specific textiles and here am I merrily churning out blue boots for a boy and pink for a girl. Food for thought! (Although to be fair I was asked to make pink ones)