Hello folks, thanks for dropping by. This week, with a few days off from the day job, I had time to try everything my heart desired - I whacked copper into kingdom come with hammers, soldered wires onto the hammered jewellery, embellished a pendant with wire work and then hung it on a beaded necklace. I've said this before, and I'll say it again - it gives me so much pleasure to make my own components, much more than using shop bought.
The Copper Beech or Sylvatica Purpurea
Last week I played with hammers and fire, and boy, was that addictive. I had a few days off work and caught up with all the chores I had set aside for this week, all the time champing at the bit to get back to the conservatory and play with fire again. I cannot trust myself to use a torch in my craft room - for one thing I share it with Michael and our sizeable collection of books and waving a torch about in it would not be the sensible thing to do.
I made this leaf following a YouTube tutorial by Nicole Hanna, who apart from being a whiz with wire is one of the most generous people I know. She gives of her knowledge so freely and is extremely helpful to newbies in the wire world.
I set an aventurine onto the leaf in a fine silver bezel wire - I only melted one bezel, so that was pretty good going as this is only the first time I've attempted soldering a cabochon since I went to a class with Anna Mazon over a year ago.
The hardest task so far was cutting the copper sheet with the shears without injuring my fingers with the cut edges of the sheet of copper, and filing the edges of the leaf once I'd finished forming it. My hands looked as rough as a bear's backside by the time I had finished, but at least I hadn't cut or burned myself, or the house down.
The next step was to decide whether I'd done enough and use the leaf as a simple pendant, or to carry on embellishing it - and of course there was no contest. Given the chance I embellish anything that is stationary long enough for me to attack it with frills and furbelows.
I once again took a leaf out of Nicole's book and embellished one edge with copper wire work, and then antiqued the piece with Liver of Sulfur and shone it till it gleamed, with steel wool. When I was done, the piece resembled a leaf from the copper beech tree in my neighbourhood. The simplest thing to do would be to hang it from a jump ring as in the picture, but I decided to try and put it on a horizontal slant.
A string of green turquoise slab nuggets were pressed into action and Sylvatica, named after the copper beech appeared.
And I was hooked!
I made a pair of earrings - the copper sheet was fold formed into little half hoops, and I then soldered a sterling silver wire to one end and a jump ring to the other to make a flamboyant, but very light pair of earrings that resembled Fulani earrings from Mali, on a smaller scale, of course.
I made a couple of other little bits but they have yet to be refined and made up - as I said the worst part of this is filing the really sharp edges that appear when the metal is bashed repeatedly with a hammer.
My website is still playing the Scarlet Pimpernel, now you see it, now you don't - the good folks at Weebly are supposedly looking into it, but nothing has changed so far and I am fed up talking to them. I get a new person each time and have to begin the story all over - they don't seem to have any notes, or previous history they can look up - oh, for some continuity of care! I now know how patients must feel and yet I appreciate why I cannot deal with the same person each time. However, at least I have notes that I can refer to beforehand when I see my patients.
That's me for this week folks, have a lovely week and I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hello folks, nice to see you again. We've been lucky with the weather, especially since I'd booked a few days off from the day job. With no plans to go anywhere or do anything apart from waking up late and following whatever whim came to mind, I found that the sun had decided to stay on and join the party.
I decided that it was finally time to try a bit of metal-smithing. I had been putting the day off through procrastination, taking classes, watching You tube videos, and buying supplies until I realised that I had run out of excuses not to give it a go. The weather was warm, but not too warm, I had every single hammer I could possibly need and then some, and now I had the time. So that was it then, no more wasting time. I set up all the stuff I needed in the conservatory and got to work.
Michael has this penchant for wandering around junk/antique shops and charity shops. He often comes home brandishing some find or the other and when I look askance at his offering, 'it's only twenty pence, he/she wanted a tenner, but I got the price right down', he says. It would appear that really, we live in a glorified junk yard - most of the stuff in our house supposedly costs only twenty pence! He came home with a rusty cobblers anvil a couple of years ago, the metal so pitted, scarred and misshapen that I banished it to the conservatory - well, actually I said 'get it out of the house, it's an eyesore'. He obviously didn't chuck it away and sanded all the rust off it to make it a useable tool. This was the anvil I used, so his purchase came good in the end - thank you Michael.
Fold forming is a new system of metal forging developed by Charles Lewton - Brain in the 80's. It relies on the natural characteristics of metal, which actually seems to move when it is forged. It is folded, repeatedly forged and annealed, and eventually unfolded; at which stage it generally has a dramatic new three-dimensional form. .He creates beautiful structural forms and I fell in love with the shapes he made with a piece of metal and a hammer. How I will use these shapes in jewellery is yet to be seen, but the videos I have watched inspired me to at least give it a go.
The Ruger Fold
The Ruger Fold is created from a long narrow piece of metal, which is forged until the two ends cross over one another. I started to hammer the copper sheet, over and over but absolutely nothing happened. I thought I was doing so well, but I was achieving diddly squat. I took a short break and went back to the computer to see what Mr L-Brain had to say about it and found this. He recommends forging it 'heartily' and I realised that I'd been striking it like a girl, a girl who generally makes polymer clay roses and sweet peas! I decided to up my game and strike like a bloke - you know the ones in the Coca Cola ads, in a vest, with rippling muscles and oiled bodies, doing manly things, thirsty things - that's how I needed to work, not like a little girly girl.
If I had anger issues, I swear it would have done me a lot of good. I might tell some people in my family to take it up and whack the bejeezus out of a sheet of copper instead of taking pot shots at people - it beats meditation for the ill tempered person. A few good strikes with the hammer and the copper curved into a crescent like a good'un. The muscles in my right arm were well developed by the time I was done, bye bye bingo wings - problem - I am not ambidextrous so the other arm is just as flabby as when I started out.
This was the second piece I forged - I love the shape of the leaf. You can see my Joyce Chen scissors in the picture - as I dropped out of jewellery school because I couldn't use the saw, these scissors turned out to be invaluable. I had got used to the butane torch by this time and decided to try a bit of soldering - I've had the supplies for a while, but not got around to using them. This seemed as good a time as any.
And that's as far as I've got folks, I now have to find a way to turn these two leaves into jewellery, but there's a lot of finishing work to be done first.
After this masculine pursuit, I thought I'd go back and try a bit of gender reaffirmation, so flowers it had to be. A string of pretty peach quartz needles tinged gently with a pearly silver jumped out of my stash and I made up a simple necklace with a few brushed silver flowers. When I had finished I thought it needed a bit more to give it some 'oomph'. Pale green peridot, steel blue shell pearls and a pack of orange coral beads were pressed into action until I was satisfied.
That's me for this week folks. I shall no doubt spend a lot more time on my leaves and will have something to show you next week. Have a fabulous week, and I shall catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hello everyone, I'm glad you could join me today. We are bang in the middle of summer and at last the sun was shamed into showing his face - but who knows what next week will bring? Rather than worry about what is to come I decided to make the best of what we have and spent every day of the week splashing paint onto my garden furniture until it was all painted a uniform shade of sunlight yellow.
I'll bet you're thinking what on earth I was doing painting the furniture a 'Hi-Vis' colour. Well hold on, and I'll tell you. There is a method to my madness, I promise.
We were about to have a retractable poly tunnel like pool cover installed and I wanted to draw the eye away from what I thought would be an eyesore in our little garden. We needed the cover though, cleaning the pool was becoming increasingly a chore as the trees in the surrounding properties shed their leaves and seeds by the lorry load on a daily basis. It was quickly becoming a nuisance rather than a pleasure and something needed to be done, and quick.
This was the end result, and I think the two go well together. We will be able to extend the number of days we can use the pool and reduce the heating bills besides keeping it clean.
I bought a string of coral fossil slab nuggets - I'm not usually one for beige and brown, but these beads are so pretty I couldn't resist them.
Corals are invertebrates that are made up of colonies of tiny polyps, which secrete calcium carbonate to form an outer skeleton. We only get to see the exoskeleton part of the organism, eventually left behind once the coral dies, and turn these into pretty beads and jewellery. Most coral is beige, cream, yellow or black and very occasionally pink or red. .
Millions of years ago, coral lived in warm shallow water. Over time, as plates below the ocean floor shifted, the coral became buried under layers and layers of sediments. As the temperature and pressure changed, the coral eventually fossilised and turned into rock. Fossil corals are actually natural stones that formed when ancient corals were replaced by agate, their hard skeletons fossilising when they were saturated with silica rich water bubbling from limestone. Coral remains were gradually replaced with agate, a variety of naturally occurring chalcedony, or micro crystalline quartz. The fossilised coral typically appears as small flower-like patterns in the stone. You can read more here, if you are interested.
Hand carved bovine bone flowers, copper spacers and a pop of colour with turquoise beads were added to the piece ( I simply couldn't resist adding a bit of colour to what would otherwise be a very sombre necklace) and I think the necklace is very fetching. A couple of copper beads were left over and I added some bone flowers to make little earrings to match. As the necklace is pretty striking, all it needed was an unobtrusive pair of earrings.
That's me for this week folks. Next week I have a bit of time off and hope to play with a bit of fold forming and metal smithing. I will probably end up with lumps of twisted misshapen metal, or I might surprise us all and make something really interesting - who knows? I will keep you posted, as usual.
Have a fabulous week and I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hello folks, how lucky I am that we can meet like this today - and I mean this quite literally!! I'm sure you've noticed that my blog posts have all suddenly gone pale this week. I've had so much trouble with my website over the last couple of weeks, I was almost ready to throw in the towel and go to another web host. Weebly, the people I am currently with suddenly decided to update their software and it no longer supported some of the changes I had made which were working perfectly before they tinkered with it. My site suddenly disappeared from view and no matter how many times I refreshed it, I could not see any of the content. I couldn't think what happened and eventually, over a number of emails, late night phone calls to the USA and a bit of hissing and spitting and lot of alterations, I finally ended up with this new look website and blog.
The problem here is that I am a one woman show - apart from designing and making the jewellery having sourced the components, I take my own pictures, edit them and upload them onto the Caprilicious website, writing descriptions of each piece along the way. However, I am semi computer literate and mainly self taught. What they say about the maternal proclivities of 'Necessity' is quite true.
I changed the 'theme' of my website thrice in the last week, which meant that all the headers and fonts disappeared each time and yet another phone call had to be made. I now know the number to the Weebly help line off by heart and can recite it in my sleep. Hissing and spitting, and of course swearing under my breath, I repeated the boring task of uploading all the pictures onto the headers over and over until soon, I was no longer doing it under my breath and the air was blue around me. I used the word for intercourse more times than the good ladies in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I arrived at the point where I have a website and a blog and could spend a couple of enjoyable hours making up a necklace that I had designed in my minds eye while lying in bed last night.
Xanadu is the summer capital of the Mongol warrior Kubla Khan in a poem written by Coleridge - he thought it up one night whilst lying in an opium fuelled stupor - I thought it a fitting name for a necklace I conjured up in bed while lying in a Weebly induced coma! Xanadu was thought to be a luxorious place of great beauty, riches and contentment. I bought the sterling silver pendant while in Jaipur a year and a half ago and it is so pretty, I've been sitting on it like Gollum and his 'pretties'. Only recently I decided it would be a shame to hoard it and brought it out of my stash to turn it into a piece of jewellery.
I added slices of bamboo coral, turquoise beads, silver beads and some pretty blue brass beadcaps to make Xanadu. It is longer than I usually make, about 25" long, and meant to be worn over an outfit with a high neckline. I love the combination of coral, turquoise and silver and the little silver box clasp finishes the piece perfectly.
Last weekend, I spent the days scrubbing my cast aluminium garden furniture with bleach, pressure washing them and sanding down all the paintwork - I used my Dremel here and was so pleased that at last I had a multipurpose piece of kit that actually worked well for me. Mike and I painted the table with some trepidation, I had chosen such a bright colour, but I think it looks good. We have done bits of the chairs, and will have them done by the end of this week, I hope.
I don't mind admitting that I am exhausted this week folks, I've had a busy time at the day job, as well as the mind numbing evenings with Weebly to contend with. I hope that this will be an end to my tale of woe. I apologise for crying on your shoulders, but Hey! what are friends for?? I'm going to settle down this weekend with a good book and a cuppa tea, I think I deserve a rest!
That's me for this week, take good care of yourselves and do keep your fingers crossed for me and the Caprilicious website. I'll catch you next week, same time, same place
Hiya folks, how's tricks? We've just had our summer, I think - a whole scorching week of it, and now it's gone, all gone! Ah well, at least we've got a holiday in the South of France to look forward to later on in the year. It was almost a tropical heatwave and fabulous while it lasted.
While we sizzled and roasted, I made floral jewellery - I seem to make flowers when I am cold, and also when it is warm - I have yet to get used to the fact that I like making flowers. This is very strange to me, because I like to wear chunky jewellery and tribal artefacts myself. When I am inspired to make jewellery however, out come the flowers and I just can't understand it
I made two of these necklaces, and one of them went to the Mitchell art gallery in Warwick. Wire, semi precious gemstones, lucite leaves, crystals and little Czech glass flowers were all used in these necklaces and they do look very summery and pretty.
This is Poppy, with the petal shaped bamboo coral beads that I really love and buy regularly in many colours. The beads satisfy my requirement for irregular shapes, lots of colour and interesting jewellery. Combined with blue black oil - slick rainbow peacock pearls, they make a striking necklace and the floral shell clasp complements it.
A Posy of Sweetpeas
A client who returns to Caprilicious time and time again asked for some sweetpea earrings, 'in as many colours as they come', she said. We settled on six colours and I set about making them up for her. As I was making a job lot, I threw in a few pendants as well.
I think it’s important to step away from my bead addiction from time to time and dabble in another creative endeavour. This weekend, I have decided to take on a project in the garden - I plan to renovate the cast aluminium set of garden furniture.
Just now our 10 year old furniture is a faded drab green, covered with algae from being outdoors all winter, and has bits of flaky paint coming away from it. I plan to sand down and repaint the six chaire and table with a bright signal yellow - when Mike heard my plans he sighed, 'they will be visible in the dark from outer space' he said.
I've had my way of course, and have gathered together all the supplies - this weekend, I shall hopefully make inroads into my new pet project. I hope this exercise will expand my aesthetic and artistic muscles and that will overflow into other areas. Although painting furniture is not a particularly artistic endeavour, the colour I have chosen I believe, will elevate the project from the mundane. Only time will tell, and I will have some pictures for you next week.
Have a fabulous weekend and I will catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hello folks, hope you are well this fine morning. The sun is shining and all's well with the world - well not all, given recent events in the UK, but it feels like it in the sunshine. Those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere know the importance of going out in the sunshine and basking in the rays - we see the sun so little. I've was out in the garden, weeding and sorting out the pot plants, spraying the roses and generally getting my hands dirty.
Between times, I embarked on my most ambitious project yet. A client in India handed me an old necklace of her's to remake - two strands of lovely jet beads with a few tarnished diamante spacers, and when I told her I was planning to make a soutache pendant in blue, she said she'd prefer green. So I picked a couple of colour treated green solar quartz cabochons out from my stash and started to think about what I was going to do with them.
The jet beads were so shiny and beautiful, it had to be an evening necklace. I decided to add diamante chain, and a couple of beetle wings to the mix with no idea about what I was going to do with them. I fixed the cabochons and wings onto Lacy's Stiff Stuff which is a felted stiff card for beading and set out to put them all into beaded bezels - by now I had decided that it would be a two part pendant, with the wings flanking the oval stone,
I beaded away well into the night every evening after work. It was like watching a story unfold as I really had no set plan - the whole thing was evolving as I went along and I was keen to see how the piece would look at the end. I made the bottom part of the pendant first and embellished it with beads and soutache braids that accentuated the green of the cabochon and the jet beads in the necklace.
And then came the top - the cabochon was vaguely teardrop shaped and I had to decide which way it was going to hang - with the pointy end or the broader end, and place the ends of the soutache braid accordingly. Decisions, decisions!
At last it was time to see how the two went together, and hey presto, it was a good fit. My only criticism was it looked a bit top heavy, so I had to come up with some way to increase the bulk of the lower half.
I added another row of Japanese Miyuki square glass beads and edged the top part of the piece with green crystals, as by this time I had decided that this pendant required, nay, deserved, a tasseled fringe.
This piece was becoming a tour de force - and I toiled over the tiny beads every night, only stopped by the fact that I ran out of the pale green crystal beads and had to order some more, praying that the colour would match the ones I had already used. If they didn't, I was getting ready mentally to cut the fringe out and start again with the new string of beads as nothing was going to stop this baby from being a beauty.
Fortunately for me, the colours matched and I finished the fringe off - all I needed was four more beads, wouldn't it have been such a shame if I had to start over for the want of four beads? That'll teach me to count my beads before I start! For one reason and another, work was ever so busy but this pendant occupied my evenings so gainfully that the week flew by.
The back was lined with blue felt to add colour between the Miyuki squares and the whole thing backed with black ultrasuede. And finally, it was time to join up the two halves of the pendant.
I strung the jet beads simply, using little green seed beads as spacers, and an extension chain with a Baroque crystal on the end and it was done.
Ta Dah!! - The final reveal
Would you agree that it is fit for a princess?? I certainly think so and hope that Omana, for whom it is designed, agrees with me. I hope she feels like a princess when she wears it - I know there's nothing like it in Bangalore where she lives and she should certainly have all eyes on her at whatever event she decides to wear it to Here she is in another piece by Caprilicious. I can so see her in this necklace, can you??
That's me for this week folks, have a fabulous week and I'll catch you next weekend, same time, same place. Until then
Good day good people, and thanks for joining me today. I write to you on a rainy summer's day, having been on a long weekend break in Amsterdam. It was raining when we left the UK and raining when we got back, and has done so steadily ever since. Oh, well, at least we got some Vitamin D, albeit for only a few days in Holland.
Amsterdam is built around a number of canals and although not the most beautiful place to visit like Paris or Vienna with their grand buildings, boulevards and parks, has a unique charm of it's own. I found the canal boats on which people had made their permanent homes extremely quaint and interesting. The city has become so overcrowded that people living on these permanently moored boats have built extensions, connected them to the mains for electricity, gas and more recently, the sewers, and have settled down to a life on water. They have built little gardens with pot plants and garden ornaments, and sit on deckchairs in their gardens seemingly oblivious of the tourists who gawp at them as they walk past.
The bicycle is ubiquitous in Amsterdam and one has to skip nimbly out of the way to escape the ignominy of being run over by one, and to avoid being sworn at in Double Dutch. Worn out bicycles are apparently recovered from the canals at a rate of fifty a day.
This is a combination of a bicycle, shopping trolley and stroller - I thought it was a joke contraption until I saw a woman riding one with a child strapped into the seat!
As the sun's warmth got stronger, people came out of the woodwork like roaches, shedding their clothes and lying on the banks of the canals and in the green spaces of the city.
We found ourselves in Amsterdam just as the Red Light District had put on a free Jazz Festival. The girls remained behind their glass windows, and the rest of us jived to the sounds of the trumpets and saxophones played on every street corner. We went from one street party to another, having a grand old time till the wee hours of the morning. This is a little video clip I shot using my new phone, I uploaded it to YouTube so that I could share it with you. I feel rather grand now that I have my own YouTube channel!!
The famous Bulldog Cafe, named after the owners dog, now deceased
We walked and walked until our little legs wouldn't carry us any further, stopped at kerbside cafes, and took taxis on to the next point we wanted to visit. We managed to cover a fair bit of ground in that way, spending as little as possible on taxis and had time to pursue our favourite activity - people watching, eavesdropping on snatches of conversation and making up stories about them. I bet the stories we made up were much more interesting than reality.
I hope you have enjoyed my little glimpse into Amsterdam - I'm sure you are wondering where the pictures of the Rembrandt museum and the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum are among others that are glaringly absent from this album - well, we got so carried away by the jazz that we spent a lot of time in the Red Light District, walking along the canals, and cafe hopping that we had no time to go to the museums on a three day visit. Perhaps we will go again, Amsterdam is only 55 minutes away from Birmingham airport. This is my fifth visit to Amsterdam over the years and each time I have discovered different delights - Mike however has never been and was simply entranced by the relaxed way of life along the waterways. Wilfred, our cat was certainly pleased to see us back so soon from our Adventure in Waterworld.
That's me for this week, folks. Take care of yourselves, and I'll catch you next week, same time, same place.
Hello folks, how are you today? This part of the year is so rejuvenating, with the greenery breaking out, lengthening daylight hours, increasing warmth and sunlight.
I've had a hectic time at the day job, but haven't slacked of on the Caprilicious front, having promised a soutache cuff bracelet to a customer in the US of A. I've made one of these before, but the one on my books is meant for a narrow wrist and I promised to make a slightly larger one for her after the handmade fair.
I Love Manchester
I thought I'd play the song that has become the anthem for Manchester - Don't look back in Anger by Oasis - my blood runs cold at the thought of all those kids at a concert, and now lying silent and still. RIP
This necklace belongs to one of my customers in India - she liked the colour enhanced agate leaves I had used in one of my pieces and asked if I could remake this necklace using a few of them. It has taken me forever to get to this task, but now that I have a bit of free time I thought I'd make it up this week.
I restrung all the beads on beading wire and added the leaves and a pretty clasp and made the necklace in the draped 'messy' look that is all the rage these days. I hope she likes it. She loved the tourmaline necklace I made for her last week.
The rest of the week was spent taking pictures of the earrings I made earlier - it is hard work as each pair is photographed in three different ways, a collage is made of the edited and cropped photographs and only then is the photograph ready to be uploaded onto the website. I have about 100 photographs taken and edited, which have yielded about twenty collages. I will post a few on here - theres more work to be done next week, and I haven't yet described them, or loaded them onto the website!
These are just a few of the photographs I took and put together. You can imagine why I'd have trigger finger by this time, and there are quite a few to go still! As I said, I have yet to upload them onto the website and Facebook, so there's a mammoth task ahead of me. In the meantime, we go to Amsterdam for a long weekend break and I will have loads of pictures to show you next week.
Have a lovely week and I'll catch you next week, same time, same place.
Hello folks, thanks for joining me today. It has suddenly gone all sunny and warm on us here in the UK, but since Monday is a Bank Holiday I can almost guarantee that it won't last. After the debacle of the Handmade Fair I decided to take it easy - one of my oldest friends was visiting me from Vancouver and I had the pleasure of having her and others who live in the UK come and stay. It was fabulous to catch up and discuss old times and find that although so many years had passed since we last met (about 40 to be precise) we had not changed fundamentally. The weekend flew by and her visit was over too soon, unfortunately. Now that we've met up, we've pledged not to leave it so long again.
I spent some time taking photographs of the creations I had left over from the Fair. I had made some necklaces using a technique taught by Loretta Lam. The beads and pods are made from a very light clay - Ultralight - which handles like marshmallow when uncured and is very light when it comes out of the oven. The beads are cured and then a veneer and embellishments are applied in stages. They float when placed in water and are light and easy to wear.
As you can probably see, the embellishments and veneers have been applied so that the necklaces are reversible. The technique is labour intensive but interesting and the necklaces are chunky but light, different and most definitely fun.
This necklace was literally made from left overs - a veneer from a class I took in March, canes from last year, a sunflower from a tutorial written for Bead and Jewellery magazine and some orphan beads in my collection of beads that I made earlier on and didn't use up. The lady pounced on it, and tried it on - that was it, love at first sight! She refused to take it off, bought a pair of earrings to go with it and wore it around the show. I hope she gets a lot of enjoyment from it, bless her cotton socks!
I was given carte blanche to modify this necklace into something a bit more sophisticated by a client in India. She came to my show, made a few purchases and came back for more - on the second day, she carried a bag of beads which she trusted me to take back to the UK and modify in my own time, at my own pace and to my own design. Now that's a whole bowl of trust! And I mean to deliver to all her expectations, of course.
These are rather beautiful tourmaline beads, but strung together on cheap thread, with an adjustable gold thread 'clasp' and don't look terribly special.
I added rice pearls in a random manner to bring a bit of brightness to the necklace, and a beautiful diamante clasp to one side to take the degree of sophistication up a notch and I hope you'll agree that it makes the necklace fit for a queen. The lady I am designing for is sophisticated, smart and smouldering with a distinctive style of her own. Her style is certainly unique and she dresses like a diva with well thought out, dramatic accessories. I think this one will suit her personality down to the ground.
I spent the rest of the week at a conference in Leeds related to the day job and am due to be involved in some very interesting and exciting developments.
Have a lovely week, and I'll catch you next weekend, same time, same place.
Hello folks, how are you today? It has been a week since The Handmade Fair and fortunately I had some time off from work to recover. It was one hell of an experience, and I thought I'd write about my time adventure honestly, so that anyone thinking about exhibiting there in future can read about it.
If I had found this blog post by Jes Hooper before I paid to show at The Handmade Fair, I might have had fair warning of what was to come. Unfortunately I only read it a week before I was due to exhibit and although this brought my enthusiasm levels down to a trickle, I was prepared to give the Kirstie Allsopp machinery the benefit of the doubt. Well, at that point I had no other choice.!
After all, Jes' blog was about Hampton Court in 2016, right? And surely the organisers would have taken his comments on board, right? His experience must have been almost universal across all the vendors, so surely they would have paid attention and sorted it out, right?
This was the quotation in the original blurb :-
1.5m x 2m @ £567.00 +VAT
1.5 x 3m @ £805.50 +VAT
2m x 2m @ £756.00 +VAT
2m x 3m @ £1,130.00 + VAT4.00 +VAT
I was being very careful with my outlay (sensibly, as it turned out) so I rented the smallest space available, and had been warned that Wifi, power and 'furniture' would be extra. In the event, Wifi and power added another £120 and I also had to buy public liability insurance, so the grand total was about £800. We also had to factor in the daily drive to Ragley Hall which is about 35 minutes from us and petrol costs.
Included in the costs were :-
Back in January, when I saw the ad for exhibitor applications I was about to get on a plane to India, and sent in a link to my website. When I got back I was pleased to hear that the organisers thought Caprilicious was a good fit and my application had been accepted! Oh joy!
I spoke to the organisers and asked if anyone had actually looked at my website, and why they thought it would be a good fit, and all the right noises were made. So, I went ahead with the deposit and started to whip myself into a frenzy of excitement. New creations rolled off the press and I didn't bother to put them on the website as they were earmarked for the Fair.
A while later I got the show manual, detailing all the other costs. I had to work through it to decide that I didn't really need any 'furniture'. The paperwork said if I wanted to paint the walls another colour, I could pay extra; I could paint them myself, but would have to pay to have them repainted at the end of show, I could have Wifi, I could have power, I needed to fill a risk assessment form, I needed to provide a declaration, I needed to buy public liability insurance for up to 5 million pounds - the list went on and on and at first it seemed like they were going to even charge me for the very air we breathed, and rain was an optional extra too - someone must have paid for it, as we had plenty!
I had to read the paperwork over and over, and finally found the relevant bits and paid for them within the multiple deadlines specified. I was approached by Mollie Makes who were sponsoring the event, as well as the makers of the Annual asking if I would pay for an advertisement, but I had to decline as there was no budget for this.
We were allowed to set up a day before the show, so Mike and I drove down and were a bit taken aback by the stark reality of the tiny space. I immediately revised my plan for setting up and put more on the walls as I realised there would be very little space on the table - indeed it was fractionally too big and had to be put in on the slant. I put a couple of little tables out in front with a cloth over them to increase the space available to me. I decided to take the jewellery in in the morning, as I had not purchased 'security shutters' - which turned out to be a sheet of cloth stretched out over two wooden poles with padlocks on them! That would have cost us approximately100£!
We set out nice and early on Friday morning and my friend Gabbie agreed to meet us at the fair to help set up. The traffic had other ideas, with three separate mile long traffic jams, and we were late.
Oh jeez, what a to do - the car wasn't allowed near the marquee as we were half an hour past the deadline, the security guys at the gate were rude and obstructive, I was nearly in tears and just about ready to turn around and leave when I found Freya, one of the organisers - she was cool and collected, got one of the men to help me carry all the gear in, and we set up in twenty five minutes flat. I had no clue where anything was in my boxes as by then my head was all over the place, and without the assistance of my three trusty helpmates would have been completely lost. As it was, we got the last tweak in place and moved the boxes out of the aisle just as they declared the fair open.
And suddenly, there she was! Kirstie Allsopp, who opened the Fair, glided down the aisle like a regal swan, surrounded by minders, minions and cameras. 'Any minute now, she's going to wave like the Queen Mum', I said to Mike.
She stopped at prescribed points smiling widely at the cameras and continued along her way out of the marquee. And that was the last we saw of her. She went off to do some talks in the auditorium but was gone as far as we were concerned! If anyone was hoping for a bit of celebrity endorsement, they weren't in luck. The same thing happened with Liz Earle the next day - she was around for even less time than Kirstie, and we never even caught a glimpse of Patrick Grant although we were assured that he was around. I certainly wouldn't recognise him if he bit me on the ankle.
Kirstie's input at the Shopping Village was so minimal, it was almost unnoticeable and all the stall holders who had come to 'Kirstie Allsopps Handmade Fair' were more than a bit disgruntled. However, in the official photographs released later on it appears as if she was everywhere like a rash, smiling and waving and having a great old time with her public - these will undoubtedly be in the sales pitch for next year and a whole load of new exhibitors will fall for it. A few people who had booked into her talks in the afternoon waited to see her, but the exhibitors, who had also come a long way to meet their idol who was after all the big draw, were very disappointed. Of course we did not expect her to stop at every stall, but a hello and a stop and chat at various points through the day would not have gone amiss. Everyone felt very let down and deflated by her non appearance.
Indeed, she could have done with taking a few lessons from the Queen Mum on how to be gracious!
What annoyed us exhbitors, and some members of the public most (if one reads the Facebook feed) was that some vendors were reselling pre bought items. There was a lady two doors down from me selling silver jewellery - it was so obviously made in India and was as handmade as if someone bought a meal home from a restaurant and claimed that it was handmade in a kitchen by the chef.
There were people selling raincoats from Ireland, and tagua nut jewellery from Columbia, Himalayan Salt lamps to name but a few items which were obviously made elsewhere and bought in by the dozen as well as people reselling handmade items that they had bought from others. If one looks at the foreword of the annual, the goods for sale ought to have 'been lovingly made by the exhibitors', but many of them simply weren't. It irked us artisans who had worked our fingers to the bone to have to share space with these people.
It became obvious that as space remained vacant, the organisers had filled it with just about anybody who was willing to stump up the cash rather than reduce the size of the shopping tent. I do know that people on Etsy in the UK were being contacted by the Handmade Fair Company and given a load of flannel, telling them how wonderful their products were and asking if they were interested in signing up at the last minute. It is of course initially exciting and flattering to receive an unsolicited email such as this, but these people were smart and consulted one another before signing on the dotted line. Fortunately (for them) they had read Jes' blog, and that put them on guard. A link was posted in the thread of the Etsy vendor's conversation - which is how I found it, alas, only too late!
I spoke to other exhibitors who were all uniformly annoyed about the same things as I was - the etiquette of not moaning about the show seemed to have evaporated by the end of Day 2. Everyone had something to say about Kirsties vanishing act and the preponderance of non handmade items.
The other gripe was the £6 parking charge levied on the visitors - this meant that they all arrived as early as they could, to spend the maximum time possible before they went to the talks and demos - I was surprised at the number of people who walked in at 930 am.
However, this meant that everyone was exhausted by 4 o'clock and went home. The exhibitors were left with very few people in the grounds after that, and we twiddled our thumbs till six o clock closing time. Perhaps the parking charge should have been halved after lunch and people who didn't want to come to the talks/demos could have dropped in then, just to visit the shopping village.
There were also simply too many jewellery stalls which made me think that the curating of the show could have been managed better - I counted at least ten stalls selling jewellery - if properly curated, there should not have been more than 3 - 4 stalls selling similar items as this is not fair to anyone.
I met a lot of folk and spoke to hundreds of browsers. For an introvert, that is a major achievement in itself! I speak to a load of people in my day job as a doctor, but that is a very artificial situation. Here, I present my very soul on a plate and ask for peoples indulgence, whereas as anyone (including me) who has visited a hospital knows, a doctor - patient conversation is a completely different kettle of fish.
Almost everyone who stopped by, whether they bought my jewellery or not, thought it was fabulous and colourful. Some of them even went so far as to say that mine was the best jewellery stall in the place, mainly due to the colourful display (I bet they say that to all the boys!).
People said that my jewellery had the WOW factor, that it spoke to them, that they were drawn to my stand like magpies - however, the sales did not overtly reflect this. Perhaps Caprilicious was not right for the Handmade fair and a bit too colourful and 'in-your-face' for middle Englanders.
Perhaps London is where I will find a larger concentration of Caprilicious Women - the things people admire and comment on is not always the same as what they buy. It may also be that the people there were just researching ideas for their own crafting endeavours, in which case I wish them well. They might have done better to look on Pinterest than wasting their money coming out to the fair.
The other jewellery exhibitors were mainly selling tiny silver pieces, which though undoubtedly attractive, do not make for an extremely colourful display. Some people even stopped by to say that even though they didn't wear jewellery, they wanted to tell me how attractive they found my display. This was heartening as I had spent a lot of time researching it and had worked hard at being creative in putting it together in such a tiny space.
I handed out a lot of business cards - some people were a bit overwhelmed by the number of stalls and were exhausted by the time they had been around once. I might have done better to pick a stall near an exit - walking down a long aisle to come back to me once they had been around all the stalls must have been exhausting for them and I'm sure I missed a few sales through that. However two people have already contacted me and bought jewellery online, so the business cards are already working their magic.
Some of my pieces are hard to photograph and it may be difficult to imagine what they would look like when worn - they need to be handled and tried on first. I sold quite a few of those to ladies who seemed delighted with their purchases and walked away wearing what they bought. Some of my chunkier pieces have sat on my books for a while and were snapped up at the fair by ladies who loved them. I would be the first to admit that they can sometimes be a bit daunting, but I love creating them and wear them quite happily myself.
The Handmade Fair company sent a young girl who had only been working for them for a couple of months to ask us if we wanted to register for next years show. We were offered a 'loyalty discount' if we booked straight away with an option to cancel by June. The exhibitors next to me pulled out this years paperwork and found that the price quoted was exactly the same, there was no discount - unless of course next years price has gone up, which would be disgraceful!
Some people signed up as they found it too awkward to speak their mind knowing that they could cancel once they went back home, but others, like me, said thanks but no thanks straight out. I explained the reasons for my decision that I have enumerated here - it wasn't her fault, poor girl. She said 'Kirstie isn't here because she had filming commitments', but I wasn't having any of it - Kirstie had a commitment to the Handmade Fair and should have been around to make sure that it went well. Throwing us a few minutes of her time just wasn't good enough. Unfortunately this experience has put me off large scale exhibitions that are commercially run to line someone elses pockets. There was no thought to the care and attention given to producing our exhibits and we were pitted against people who were reselling someone elses assembly line goods.
I've had a week off to recover. My oldest friend, whom I've known since I was four is coming to stay from Canada and as I haven't seen her since we left school in 1976 I am very excited. A few more friends from school will be joining us so I shall be very busy this weekend. One of them had me create the jade and silver necklace and earrings in the picture above for her, but then asked me for studs as well, so this is what I came up with during the course of the week. I hope she likes them, I actually prefer the original ones. What do you think??
Have a great week and I shall catch you next week, same place, same time
I'm Neena Shilvock. and I'm crazily addicted to jewellery. I've been designing and making quirky and interesting statement necklaces for the last five years and my passion hasn't cooled off one little bit - in fact it has got worse, such that I'm even dreaming jewellery.
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I would love to hear from you - please leave a comment on the blog or send an email to jewellerybycaprilicious(at)gmail.com
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