Friday, 9 December 2011

'Tis The Season II

Today, I popped into my shop at Botany Bay, Chorley to add a bit of Christmas cheer to my display with a new range of Christmas cards and miniature gift bags. Shortly to be available on Folksy, the card range is a blend of red, green, white, tartans and wooden decoupage and the gift bags are designed to perfectly wrap your small gifts such as jewellery, charms and stocking fillers.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Here are some pictures of my new range celebrating warmth and fuzziness shortly to be available in my shop.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Tis The Season...

I've just finished this commission of some festive gift bags for a customer and I'm about to put some more of them in my shop. I'm really pleased with them. The brief was one large size and one small, a bit of colour and a bit of humour. The big one £8.50 measures 40cm x 25cm so it's big enough for a bottle and the small one measures 20cm x 16cm £6.00 - nice for little trinkets. Both are made of hessian and felt, are hand printed with a festive message and tie at the neck with a ribbon.

Merry Christmas! xxx

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Hot Shots

I have a new range of designs for celebrating weddings and love. I have created them especially for a photo shoot to be directed this weekend by the lovely Natalie of Sweetness & Light Photography in Bolton and I'm very excited to see the results of her work.

It's been a few months since I've come up with anything new due to commitments with the launch of BOYGIRLBOY but I'm back and feeling inspired.

I think my favourite is LOVE BIRDS (above). If you look closely, you can see the birds singing away.

Commissions coming next: A new wedding dedication pillow and a selection of Christmas gift bags. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A Nice Nod From Business Boom Bolton

It's always a pleasure to be recognised in your own back yard which is why I was very proud to read an article about my exploits on the excellent Business Boom Bolton blog today. Business Boom is a central hub supporting and promoting local creative businesses and they contacted me last week because they found my shop on Folksy and were interested in promoting me. I sent them some quotes and images and voila! Hot off the press. I'm very grateful. It was particularly good to read because they were also kind enough to give a mention to my BOYGIRLBOY exploits as well. Thanks very much indeed! 

A little bit of a big shameless plug

I've been very quiet recently because I've been hatching a new arm of the business and now I can say that I am happy to present BOYGIRLBOY - Bespoke Framed Seating Plans creating custom designed plans and matching guestbook signature frames for wedding and formal dinners. The idea grew out of my own wedding four years ago when I wanted to set up my seating plan as an enduring keepsake to hang at home after the big day and I couldn't find a company doing it the way I wanted it. I have just published a press release on a new blog Fear not, I have not given up on my beloved cushions but I have had to spend some serious time getting it all set up. Shortly, I will be turning my attention to produce for's lovely Christmas shop. More on that shortly. In the meantime, I will be heading down to London to officially launch BOYGIRLBOY at the National Wedding Show. More on that soon. Wish me luck and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011


 Even for me, it's been one hell of a couple of weeks. In the main comprising a lot of mechanical failure as well as some really exciting opportunities, lots more followers on Twitter and even a few more followers on Facebook (tricky getting people to click that little 'like' box). So where to start? Well, I was very happy that my own space on lovely online emporium From The Wilde went live on Monday. It's especially nice as From The Wilde also displays the collections of some other artists whose work I already know and absolutely love such as Poppy Treffry, Sophia Victoria Joy and Warbeck & Cox and a whole host of other amazing artists whose work I am less familiar with and am looking forward to getting to know better. All very inspiring stuff and I am brimming with pride.  
  I have also managed to produce two new designs in the face of considerable odds. Not only did my sewing machine peg out last week but this weekend, my beloved and much used MAC laptop ran up the curtain to join the choir invisible as well. All I can say is thank goodness for a creative mother-in-law with an available (and far superior) machine and the computer back up system or I would currently be experiencing the frustration and personal anguish of a sex addicted cyclist at a keys-in-the-bowl party.
  The first in my new 'Edibles' collection "Eat Me /Drink Me" (pictured above) is a double-sided offering, handprinted and finished in a blend of cranberry and black ink on my customary hessian. It is a homage to the fabled size-altering consumables Alice encounters down the rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland. The second "Let Them Eat Cake" (below) references the infamous comeback usually falsely credited to Queen Marie Antoinette of France but that mostly now sums up our cultural leanings towards comfort food and indulgence. 

 That's two down and there's a few more in the pipeline. Or should that read 'piping' line? Forgive me. I'm a bit giddy. It's a rare occurance.
  Now back to my new home at From The Wilde. For starters, it's worth mentioning that, as part of their 1st anniversary celebration at the beginning of July, From the Wilde is offering 15% off all purchases. Simply enter coupon code 2222 at the checkout. Secondly, I've been wandering its galleries and here is my pick of the lovely creations I've found so far. 
Doorstop  Warbeck & Cox  £30

Bebe Blouse Trefall Design  £18

Lavender Soap Sarah Harper Handmade £2.29
Victorian Wooden Tray West Egg Interiors  £45.00
  There we go, just a small selection from the vast array of beautiful items on offer but inspiration enough to motivate me for the enormous amount of catching up I have to do if I want to make a decent show at the Monton Village Festival this weekend where my cushions will be on sale all day. Pray for good weather and low winds so we can keep control of the gazebo. There's just enough time for one more thing before I go. 
 This week's list, in deference to France's doomed Queen, is about the hallowed and elusive art of the 'comeback' or for most of us, myself included, what we would say to people who offend or annoy us if we had the time to come up with something really witty and clever that negates the insulting effect of the original insult. Get it right, and in most cases, you'll trump the argument. On some rare occasions, it will lead directly down the path to madame la guillotine. Perhaps you have one you don't see here. Feel free to add it to the collection. Here are some of my favourites. I've never managed to use any of them (not quick enough) but there's still time:

The Best Comebacks
  1. Dismissive: "A thought crossed your mind? That must have been a very long and lonely journey."
  2. Very dismissive: "I'm busy right now. Do you mind if I completely ignore you tomorrow?"
  3. Mega dismissive: "There you go confusing me with someone who gives a damn."
  4. Superior and patronising: "I sincerely hope you were able to get a full refund from the charm school."
  5. Harmlessly witty: "I'd like to help you out. Which way did you come in?"
  6. Just plain rude: "I am really trying to see things from your point of view but I can't get my head that far up my b*m."
  7. Anecdote 1 - Sharp as a razor from the Master of the comeback himself: Nancy Astor, the American socialite, becoming frustrated with an increasingly drunk and beligerent Winston Churchill at a dinner party exclaimed: "Mr Churchill, if you were my husband, I’d put poison in your coffee.” to which he replied "Madam, if  you were my wife, I'd drink it". 
  8. Anecdote 2 (and my personal favourite): A woman reporter was interviewing Australian General Peter John Cosgrove about planned activities for a number of young boys who were visiting his Army base including, amongst other things, shooting practice. When she suggested that, in doing so, he would be equipping the youngsters to become violent killers he replied, "Well Ma'am, you are equipped  to become a prostitute, but you're not one, are you?" 
Touche. Now back to the sewing machine.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Dad's The Word

  Just in case you haven't been anywhere near a shop in the last month or so, it's Father's Day next Sunday (the 19th not the 26th as I thought up until yesterday). I had been thinking about these designs (left - now available at my shop on Folksy.Com) for a while but hadn't got my act together because I had assumed I had buckets of time. I really must start checking things more. As you can see, my proverbial 'act' was then in fact 'got together' PDQ when I realised my mistake.
  Working in this industry is all about a whole heap of deadlines many of which are holidays and special occasions. Father's Day is the last one for a while I think (unless you celebrated Bastille or Independence Day). You can never be too prepared apparently.  I am reliably informed that I should already be doing more than just 'thinking' about Christmas.
  Father's Day is a tough one because many men are hard to buy presents for. None of the men in my family ever seem to get over-excited enough by anything to the extent that it can be termed a 'pastime' and, when they do, they are not natural activities to accessorise (golf club covers anyone...good grief no.) As my father honestly explained the last time I complained about not having any inspiration in this regard, the sort of things he wants, I can't afford to buy him. I imagine he probably wants his own personal golf club or ownership of the MCC, in which case, he's absolutely right. My dad is probably an extreme example as he really is almost impossible to find a present for. Most desperate attempts have ended in disappointment and, in some cases, offense (a walking stick at 45 and a golf caddy at 62 must have made him wonder whether we all thought there was something wrong with his legs). So he has had to content himself with the customary annual hardbacks, socks and golfballs while the quest to find the perfect present goes on. I have had one instance of success and that was when I made him a cushion for Christmas about ten years ago. To my knowledge, he still perches it on his stomach every time he settles in front of the television in his den. I don't think that it is a cushion he necessarily would have chosen for himself (dalmation spots and black velvet anyone?) but it is unique among my other gifts in that he actually uses it and I don't find it still in the packaging (sometimes in the same room) when I tip up for Christmas the following year! I like to think it was because I made it. ; )
  So for Father's Day I have designed some cushions for other people's fathers (my own can't stand the occasion...or says he can't). I know men don't 'do' cushions as such but hopefully these are masculine and funky enough to grace the private comfort areas of a few dads about the place who 'really don't want anything' but might like it because it reminds them of a relationship they are (hopefully) at least passingly enthusiastic about.
  I've done a quick search of some of my favourite sites and come up with some other ideas that I think might pass muster for those who aren't averse to the idea of a present next Sunday (and who already have a cushion to hug in front of the telly ;0) ). Starchild Shoes are best known for baby slippers but I really like their Union Jack men's slippers on For the sporty parent, I really like this 3-D soap from Soaps By Laura on Folksy and I think this tape dispenser from Georgeous Gifts is particularly original for the home office as is this cardboard shed by Paperpod on WowThankYou.Com although there might be severe competition for residence from the actual offspring themselves. It's obviously the thought that counts.
  No post about Father's Day would be complete with a list about fatherhood. So here's mine. This is my:

7 Factoids You Didn't Know You Wanted to Know About Fathers
  1. A popular story circulating on the Internet (a few people have been using the cut and paste function so it's hard to know the true source) claims that it was Sonnora Dodd from Washington who had the idea for a "Father's Day" while attending a service for Mother's Day in 1909. You see? And I would have put money on it being a man's idea.
  2. Father's Day is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday in June in the following countries as well as the UK and the USA: India, Canada, China, France, Greece, Japan and Hong Kong. It has been claimed that Father's Day makes up the fifth-largest card-sending holiday in the world by Hallmark Cards who have no identifiable interest in the accuracy of that statistic whatsoever. Honest. 
  3. A poll by search engine MSN in 2007 placed Baywatch actor and Germany's national mascot, David Hasselhof, as the most 'searched for' Dad on the Internet. Father to two girls, Hasselhoff rewrote the book on emabarrassing Dad things to do by falling off the wagon so spectacularly that the girls videoed him unable to stand up and posted it on Youtube to shock him into going to rehab. It worked and Hasselhoff later defended their actions. For the record, other embarrassing things that dad's do include dancing at a child's birthday party, wearing jeans after the age of 50 and driving a Passat.
  4. Still on the subject of the embarrassing things that fathers do, Dale Price of Somewheresville, USA clearly didn't think that calling his son Rain was going far enough when it came to shaming his only child. When little Rain was old enough to go to school on the bus, he decided to mark the occasion by waving him off every morning...wearing different fancy dress. Costumes to date have included a clown, the Roman god Neptune, a pirate complete with an artificial leg (which is real by the way), Ariel the mermaid and (in a bid for The Turner Prize no doubt) a man reading the newspaper while on the toilet. Presumably, if he hasn't already, he will shortly be snapped portraying a man who needs a divorce lawyer and a good psychiatrist.
  5. In a week where a twelve year-old was named runner up for singing in the Britain's Got Talent competition, it is perhaps fitting to note the achievements of another young British teenager. In 1998, 12 year-old Sean Stewart became Britain's youngest father - a record that he still holds (although he is no longer 12 of course). He was allowed to take the day off school to be at his 16 year-old girlfriend's side during the birth of their baby son. Apparently taking the concept of coursework to a whole new level, the girlfriend Emma, was in the middle of her GCSE's at the time of delivery and one of her subjects was 'Childcare'. This no doubt came in useful when Sean and son were fighting over the X-Box or needed a time out on the naughty step. For the sake of balance, the UK's oldest recorded dad is 79 year-old Raymond Calvert who described the baby boy he had with his 25 year-old wife in July last year as 'his little miracle'.
  6. According to records, the most prolific father in history was Russian Feodor Vassilyev whose first wife gave birth to 69 live children. All but two survived infancy. During the course of 40 years, she gave birth to 16 sets of twins, 7 sets of triplets, and 4 sets of quadruplets giving women everywhere a genuine reason to be grateful for the invention and development of the modern television set. When his wife finally pegged out in 1965, Vassilyev remarried and fathered another 20 children with his new wife. What a guy!
  7. Jim Bob Duggar and his wife, Michelle, have turned their procreative activities into the subject of a spirotual website. The husband and wife team, again from Somewheresville USA, host the site about their growing family of children whose names all begin with the letter 'J'. A counter on their homepage proudly proclaims the total so far as "19 kids and counting". The eldest, Joshua, is now 23 while the youngest, Josie, is currently 18 months-old. In between, there are 17 children with names as exotic as Jessa and Jinger who all have their own profile page that includes details of each child's favourite Bible verse, Bible character and hymn. Joshua has a wife, Anna, who clearly wasn't entering into the spirit of things at all when they named their daughter... McKenzie. There weren't any names beginning with the letter 'J' left anyway.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Botany Bay Bound

This is going to be a very exciting week. First, my mum's coming to stay (which is exciting in itself) and secondly, I am opening my first 'shop' space at the Botany Bay mill near Preston. It's a five storey department store in a beautiful old cotton mill that's sandwiched between the Liverpool and Leeds Canal and the M61 motorway and set against a backdrop of rolling Lancashire hills. Have a look here: My space is to be on the second floor where I can sell some of my homewares and painted furniture. The best thing about it is finally being able to do the furniture which was my reason for setting up in the first place. The only thing standing in the way was a distinct absence of space chez nous. Now hopefully I will be able to produce pieces on a demand basis and take them straight to the shop floor. I'll be heading down there on Wednesday armed to the teeth with emulsion and polyfiller to sort out the space itself and will then hopefully be open for business in time for the bank holiday weekend. I will also be stocking a couple of my new hessian cushion designs for the first time (below) and adding them to my current inventory on Folksy and Etsy.

 In spare moments, I have been having a good dig around on Blogger and Twitter to see what everybody else is up to and I found the button (bottom right) from a really interesting blog called All About The Boys in support of shopping from independent retailers. I also started following Poppy Loves which provides really inspiring and entertaining commentary on "all yummy things". I just can't believe how much great alternative stuff there is out there and it's particularly encouraging when you see how much overpriced, mass produced c**p you find on the high street. 
  In all the excitement I've lost track of current affairs but I note that Russell Brand has been thrown out of Japan on account of previous bad behaviour which puts me in mind of a list about events and ideas that have been about as welcome as swimming gala at a sewage works. The definition of (un)popularity is quite broad ranging but, in the context of entertainment, it is probably best when seen to be synonymous with ideas of the anti-social and unusual. So here goes...

 My Top Factoids About Unpopularity
  1. Aeroplane neighbours: In a 2009 poll, Katie Price and Osama Bin Laden were voted the least popular people to sit next to on an aeroplane. I'm saying nothing.
  2. Academy Award Winners: Opinions about movies are always a subjective but some of them receive inexplicable acclaim that never really gets explained. This was definitively illustrated by in 1998 when James Cameron's Titanic won Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars. This cringefest of iffy special effects, blatant anachronisms, factual inaccuracies and unintentionally hilarious set pieces that plays fast and loose with one of the worst human tragedies of the past century was not only an incredible missed opportunity, it also facilitated the double tragedy of affording James Cameron so much Hollywood clout that he was allowed to spend the next 10 years perfecting yet another self-indulgent assault on the senses, Avatar. Cheers Oscar.
  3. Music. Strangely, the sort of tunes that make us want to tear out our own teeth often become inexplicably popular. Good examples from the last 30 years include the obvious contenders "Agadoo" by Black Lace, Los Del Rio's "Macarena" and "Asereje" by Spanish group Las Ketchup (I'm seeing a bit of pattern here). But spare a thought for some lesser known yet hilariously awful songs like David Hasselhoff's classic "Jump In My Car" and "I wanna Love You Tender" by Finnish duo Danny & Armi. Featuring a video that quite brilliantly attempts to cash in (there's no way you can use the word parody in the context of this song) on the recent box office success of both Star Wars and Grease at the same time, it contains some of the most fantastically bizarre and scene-stealing choreography ever committed to film and is well worth a look.
  4. Art. In 1987, photographer Andres Serrano took the (some might say egregiously dodgy) step of combining self-expression with religious iconography and consequently earned himself a whole heap of contempt. His piece, entitled Piss Christ, featured an image of a small crucifix suspended in a tank of the artist's own urine. Serrano received hate mail and death threats and, on the plus side, global credibility as an artist which many of his detractors probably view as a pretty cheap trick particularly when since the piece sold at auction in 1999 for $162,000.
  5. Literature. Generally, banned books are more unpopular with the prevailing powers than they are with the individual but plenty cause upset in both camps. In any event, the act of banning a text usually makes everyone desperate to get their hands on a copy - often only to then wonder what all the fuss was about. Mein Kampf is understandably banned in most European countries and Russia to this day. How to Make Disposable Silencers (1984) is similarly ostracsised in Australia (although you can probably get all the info you need on the Internet nowadays and save yourself a tenner). Paul M. Handley must be kicking himself that it didn't occur to him to choose a more deferential title for his biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand The King Never Smiles. It was banned because criticising the King is illegal in Thailand which goes to show that research can only get you so far.
  6. And finally, Names: The most popular boy's first name in the world today: Mohammed. The most unpopular?: Adolf (probably) but the last 100 years has seen many once popular names 'fall' from popularity. Herbert and Edna top the poll both falling almost 1000 popularity places in the space of a century. Elizabeth remains the most stable girls name falling only 3 places from 6th to 9th position. No prizes for guessing why. God Bless You Ma'am!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

New designs at Capesthorne Hall

This post features photographic highlights from this weekend's three day event beginning with my pitch in the marquee nicely framed with my own bunting which proved popular. 
Even though it was a relatively quiet weekend, certain of my new designs were popular with customers and in particular my "Kate & Wills" Royal Wedding pin cushions with Friday's celebrations still very fresh in everyone's mind.

I have developed designs for two different types of apron. The cook's apron (blue with pinstripe details - below) comes in two colours and the pinny (bottom) will soon have an aqua/coffee version and most probably a pocket thanks to feedback from customers. Thanks also to my lovely mum for modelling them and showing them off so beautifully.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Royal Wedding Weekend

We're in Cheshire this weekend for the Capesthorne Hall Craft & Food Fair and the weather has been absolutely glorious. With one day still to go however, footfall has been (I'm told) uncharacteristically low and there have been grumblings of overall disappointment from the exhibitors. Shame really. It seems a lot of people have taken advantage of the double bank holiday and gone otherwheres.

  That said, we've had a really good time and made a few sales. The atmosphere is very jovial and the setting is beautiful. An 18th century Jacobean-style family seat set in 100 acres of park, lakes and woodland. As you might expect, there has been a good deal of chatter about the Royal Wedding on Friday which was executed, in my view, with a great deal of class. My "Kate & Wills" souvenir pin cushions have been very popular. I've received a lot of positive comment about my hand printed hessian sofa pillows and vintage cook's aprons. And there's something very civilised about sitting in a big white marquee with a cannister of tea, some cheese sandwiches and the aroma of a British summer's day in the countryside in your nostrils. 
  Very nice too. Cheers!