Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Seeing things anew

As one gets older it is easy to slip into thinking that life holds nothing new, that one won't recapture that thrill of seeing, hearing, watching something for the first time. I'm a keen theatre goer- especially Shakespeare- and I often think how wonderful it would be to go back and see plays for the first time again, not knowing how it turns out. Some plays I know so well after seeing them many times or studying/acting in them at school that I can recite them in my head as I'm seeing them on the stage and I notice where the cuts and changes have been made in the text and this can make a poor production even worse. I've seen some very disappointing productions this year, disappointing for all sorts of reasons. Some plays I have vowed never to see again as I've seen so many bad productions of them over the years I really don't want to see any more. MacBeth is one such- I've seen two really wonderful productions and most of the rest have been some of the worst evenings I've spent at the theatre. I broke my MacBeth rule this year as it was the opening season for the RSC at their new wasn't the worst I've seen, (a real humdinger at the Old Vic many years back) but it was desperately bad. But then, I also broke my 'never, ever again' rule for the Merchant of Venice ( one good production, one almost good, the rest intolerably bad) for the same RSC-related reason, coupled with the casting of Patrick Stewart as Shylock. This was a fabulously enjoyable production, I know now I really don't need to do the Merchant again- I've seen a wonderful production, I know the chances of another are slim.
One play that constantly delights and interests, is Hamlet. Seen double figures worth of Hamlets over the years- two were real turkeys on a monumental scale, some were interesting but not particularly good, others have been fabulously good. Until today my top 3 were David Tennant for the RSC, Kenneth Branagh , also RSC and ( years ago now) Robert Lindsay in a tiny tent for the Manchester Exchange. A pretty hard trio to beat. Today I went to see Hamlet at the Young Vic. Michael Sheen. I wasn't at all sure about Michael Sheen. I went with two theatre going chums- between us we have notched up over 30 Hamlets and the oldest of us has experienced some 60 plus years of theatre going. We all agreed that, despite knowing the text so well, despite knowing the story so well, despite seeing so many fine performances, Mr Sheen was simply the best Hamlet we had ever seen and that the play felt as if it was our first time of seeing it- fresh, new, exciting- but true to the text and with no messing around. It is a production that has polarised audiences- quite a few people left at the interval. But for me- oh the pleasure of discovering that, after all this time, after all the productions I have seen or been in, there it was, brand new, as fresh as the first time I saw it: exciting, deeply moving and thoroughly, thoroughly absorbing. Catch it if you can...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Here we go...

Festive Open Studio starts here. First block of days this week, more in two weeks. I'm just waiting for the blizzards to far, it has been fine...fingers crossed...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Lightening the gloom

Since November arrived the sun has gone into hiding. Ah! November 1st! Time for my annual holiday!
I live about 15 minutes walk from the Thames and the air is always damp ( except when a brisk easterly wind howls up the valley) but this November it has excelled itself. The garden is dripping wet, the river is almost permanently hugged by a layer of fog, the other side of the valley has been invisible most mornings and for much of this week, gone all day.Currently, it is raining.
So, what can bring a glow to the heart in gloomy weather? Wool.

Knitting with one of my favourite wools, Twilleys Freedom Spirit- lovely soft wool, beautiful colours and nice random effects when it is knitted up into small items.

They don't seem to do as many colours as they did when I last stocked up, so I'm very glad I bought it when I did ( stash justification-oh yes!) . A lacy scarf and fingerless gloves for my daughter and some more for a friend and oh, what a surprise, I have a few more colourways and left-over bits to get out and stroke and ponder over. I quite fancy trying a bit of fairisle with this stuff, just to see how it turns out.

More wool, but this time, fabric. A patchworking chum passed on some little squares of gentleman's suiting that she had been given, which will go rather nicely with some woolly tweedy fabric I've been thinking of making another waistcoat with- I think some patched panels...I am pondering lining it with this 'typewriter' letters fabric to continue the ' suit for the office' feel of the waistcoat, or it may become something altogether different, half the fun is working out what to do with such treasures.

But before these woolly delights can be fully indulged in, I have a rather exciting patchwork project that has to be finished. It is particularly exciting as it is one of my own designs and it is going to become rather more public than currently....more about that when the time is right. I must go and get on with it. Deadlines to meet....but before I go, a peek at some jolly Christmas brooches, coming to my various shops after Open Studio later this week.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The difficulty of knowing what to do....

Any of you who make and sell stuff will be familiar with 'the difficulty of knowing what to do' when it comes to selling the things you have made. Online shops- yes, they are useful and do sell some stuff , it takes time to build custom, but I am yet to be convinced that etsy and folksy are indeed the wondrous market places they would like us to believe they are. I am a little cynical perhaps, but all an umbrella organisation needs is lots of people to sell very little and it makes lots from those many tiny sales...not so good from the seller's point of view. Folksy seems to be making much more of an effort to be seller friendly and to woo purchasers, but I find etsy's constant encouragements to spend hours marketing, networking etc through them a tad unconvincing and annoying. And then there is the knotty question of Fairs. Which Fairs are worth it and which just aren't? Large two or three day fairs require a huge investment -financial and in time- to build sufficient stock and as for the stall rental,well, name your price.

I had the unfortunate experience of trying out a local "craft' Christmas Fair yesterday.The organisers ( a local school who, in theory, should have been running a well publicised, smoothly organised and well-attended event) just wanted to take their stall hire money and clearly, couldn't care less beyond that- you can see from the photo above that there was scarcely enough room for stall holders to stand behind their stalls, let alone move around behind them and that, I fear, was the least of it. I won't be back with them, and neither will any of the other stall holders I spoke to yesterday. Fair and Event organisers do seem to forget that stall holders always exchange information on what's worth doing and what isn't and that makers are trying to make a living, they aren't there for charitable purposes.

I want to sell my stuff myself if I can, I got fed up years ago with galleries and shops wanting to knock my prices down to rock bottom so they could charge up to a whacking 100% commission on sales ( L*****y of London, I'm thinking of you...). To an extent all online market places and event organisers have makers over a barrel- you have to sell somewhere- but finding the RIGHT somewhere doesn't get any easier with the passing of the years! In case you are wondering, I managed to make a massive 50p profit yesterday....I know, 50p...many stall holders weren't so lucky, but the school made at least £1,000 from our rental and probably half as much again from the value of the free raffle ( most certainly NOT voluntary) donations. Cynical? Me?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Welcome the visitors from Sunny Southern climes

Something has arrived through the gloom and fog of the past week, despite the grey outside, today we are feeling more cheery inside as we have visitors from Spain.

Visitors from Spain who come to us via Holland.

So, out with Autumn, much though I love my toadstools and leaves, their time is up.

Make way for Sint-

-and his Piets!

Anyone who has lived in Holland for any time will have experienced the amazement of a Dutch Christmas -Sint parades, Swartz Piets, peppernoten, sacks for the removal of naughty children and chocolate letters. We loved it so much we still get Sint and the Piets out and I have some oranje decorations to make them feel more at home on my English mantlepiece.

If you want to know more, have a listen to David Sedaris on the subject of the mystery of traditional Dutch Christmas festivities to a foreigner: once experienced, never forgotten.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Gift Tags and Decorations

Felt gift tags and to make and to give.

The card for the gift tags is made in the UK from recycled paper and some of them have added grass cuttings, which give a bit of texture with little flecks of dull green.

Hand printed and punched then the felt decoration is added- embroidered and decorated with a jolly hanging ribbon.

Perfect for a special gift or as a stocking filler on its you can see I got a bit carried away and made several different designs, all in my webshop- I have a Christmas Fair next week so won't be listing on etsy/folksy until after that is over.

I promised some more colourful decorations and here they are. Embellished with lustrous sequins and in really bright colours, I really must make myself some of these too!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Getting messy

Nothing quite as much fun as getting messy with paint and glitter glue, printing up some cards while the Archers Omnibus rolls by in the background.

Ever since my daughter alerted me to the wonderful Adam and Joe version of an episode of the Archers with everything taken out except the sighs I've been noticing the gargantuan amount of sighing on the programme and by the end of this week's particularly angst-ridden episode, I was almost weeping with laughter and having to be very careful to not make my prints go wobbly...between the sighing and the thought of the piggy football I needed great self-control.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Its that time again....

The time for frantic making and doing so that all is ready for Christmas Stalls, Open Studio et al.This year I am very much hoping the 'the curse of Open Studio' has lifted and perhaps it won't be either -7 ( max) outside or a howling blizzard within moments of my opening for business!

First off the production line are decorations. I love making these, rooting through my stash of things that might come in handy and putting together ideas: I only make small numbers of each design as I prefer it that way and I have to say it is fun stitching away with sparkly bits, but doing the same thing over and over again isn't quite so much fun! They can be used as decorations or as gift tags and with a new kitten in the house, I shall be making some of these un-smashable decorations for myself this year.

First off the kitchen table production line this year are in traditional colours with a folky feel.

All now available either in my webshop, my etsy shop or at folksy. But I feel some rather brighter colours coming on, so watch this space...