Category Archives: Lightbulb Moments

lou tonkin artist

Lou Tonkin ~ Lightbulb Moment

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Lou Tonkin

(First published Oct 3, 2015)
For this month’s LightBulb we meet textile artist and printmaker Lou Tonkin, based on the charming Cornish coast; Lou is a sustainable warrior, combining eco-friendly materials with her textile pieces. Inspired by her feathered friends, and studies of local wildlife and insects she creates felted treats from recycled wools, finished with lashings of embroidery! From mixed media textile pieces, to needle cases, purses and even rescuing old jumpers! Her works are such a delight.

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This is a fascinating story where we discover Lou’s ‘lightbulb moment’, we follow her journey; transforming from an art college pupil to an established British textile artist. As a big admirer of Lou’s work I know you’re going to love this blog post!

I’m Lou Tonkin, a textile artist and print maker from West Cornwall now living on the very beautiful south coast of Cornwall, in a very pretty village called Gorran Haven. As an artist I have my own work space at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, about 3 miles from my home which is one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever been and what’ more, I’m lucky enough to go there EVERY day.

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My light bulb moment was less of a moment and more of a movement. I studied illustration originally at art college but somewhere around the second year I lost my way a bit…. I struggled to fit in. I’ve always been fairly shy; but at college this made things feel quite lonely, I lost concentration on my studies and I found any creativity a real mountain to climb.

It was at around this point that I saw a ‘room to let’ sign on the college notice board, something about it appealed to me. It was advertised as ‘one man & his dog’; as someone living in a busy house at the time it sounded ever so relaxing. I knocked on the door just out of curiosity but found myself moving in by the end of the week- cutting out the middle bits, the ‘man’ was my now husband, time tripped by & found myself expecting a baby – my wonderful Ned!

As a Cornish girl with a fighting spirit it changed everything for me, I had found the best reason of all to be creative; it wasn’t a paper degree or the intellectual study it was something much more practical – the need to provide for my family. I worked hard! I was stitching a skirt for a commission even when in labour with my second child; time flew by and I found myself as the mother of the three most wonderful, inspiring people I have ever met. We moved a lot in those very early years, this is where I collected memories and skills. I worked constantly, and made incredible friends who all inspired me in their different ways, I so enjoyed inspiring them with my love of making -using whatever we had at the time; I felt that this was a time where I grew as a textile artist.

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We have had a small holding; experienced a lot of places, travelled a lot and generally squeezed everything we could into life. My husband was offered a job back in Cornwall about 5 years ago, so we now find ourselves a little more settled with the children starting secondary school and needing a little more stability.

With all of these moves I found I had a real talent for connecting people through my creative drive; I found my confidence and I use it wherever I can to help teach my skills to those who might need them, like people from our local homeless shelter.

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I am passionate about sourcing and using sustainable materials; I can’t help but want to share the joy of it with others. I started a Project a few years ago called ‘The Cornish Wool Project’ talking directly to local farmers to ensure the materials being used for my products & artworks were as local as possible but also to show the value in the materials close to us. And… things get even better…. I am even luckier this year because Heligan have agreed to let me advertise for other makers to join me in my workshop, where I have started up a group selling the products we make in the Heligan shop under a ‘Handmade at Heligan’ brand. The Handmade at Heligan group already produce wool, twine and bagged wool packs specifically for makers or for garden projects from the Heligan estate; all of which are now for sale. It’s the start of a whole new exciting adventure championing the use of traditional crafts as something to be appreciated with real value.

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It’s safe to say I LOVE my job! Everyone I have the opportunity of working with is incredibly, amazingly, wonderful. I so enjoy the prints I get to carve; which are based on my surrounding environment, and the artworks I get to create use local sustainable materials. Teaching workshops are always a joy, they give me a good excuse to travel the length and breadth of the country. Meeting people every day in a very public environment is fantastic; it’s a good way of reflecting on my work. Each day brings new excitement and is always different to the last.

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One of the best parts is having a creative home so that I can invite people to visit – like lovely Marna who visited me at Heligan last year with her beautiful family. I enjoy where I work too, as the beautiful surroundings inspire me to keep creating. Visitors are always welcome, but if you can’t make it to Heligan though I do try to keep up to date with my making stuff on my social media pages look for me as:

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Facebook: Lou Tonkin- Art & Graft (Graft not craft)

Instagram: @loutonkin

It’s safe to say that Lou’s enthusiasm for making and creating is certainly contagious; Lou’s lightbulb moment has been a fascinating read. To discover more about Lou or to drop by her shop visit www.loutonkin.com where you can arrange a commission!

Thanks for reading the latest Lightbulb post, make sure your eyes peeled for the next instalment, in the meantime you can keep up to date with latest adventures over on Little A Design’s Facebook page or you can subscribe to the newsletter for more crafty news too!

Poppy Treffry ~ Lightbulb Moment

Poppy Treffry & Marna Lunt

I remember the first time I ever saw Poppys work. That’s a sign of someone a bit special. I was on holiday in Cornwall soon after having Arthur and we went to the Eden project and I treated myself to a little badge with a pea on it. Her designs stuck with me as being a bright, joyful, simple and beautfiul product and design, she was a breath of fresh air. I never thought for one minute I would be writing a blog with her work on it after meeting her and exhibiting at the same fairs as her. I was in new mum mode thinking of soecial needs and never thinking I would create again. But her work brought happiness to me and I’m sure subconsiously that when I started making cushions, her use of applique was in the back of my mind.

I met Poppy for the first time last year and I think she’s wonderful. I wish I lived closer so I could have pasty chats with her and laugh and generally be inspried by the clever lady. I will stop gushing now but some people you meet really touch you and make you realise that success can come to kind honest hardworking and thoughtful people, you dont have to be cut throat business people and it gives me faith that one day I can do the good things she has done.

Anyway enough of all this waffle, heres Poppy’s lightbulb moment.
Poppy treffry interview on the marna lunt blog

I had not so much a light bulb moment as a light bulb week when my company came into being back in 2003. But first I should scroll back to a couple of important experiences that really informed what I ended up doing.
At my interview for my textiles degree in 1996 the tutor asked me what I wanted to do after I finished and I replied “Travel and see the world”
“What if you get offered a job with Louis Vuitton?” he asked
“Still travel” I said
I didn’t get offered a job with Louis Vuitton (or anyone!) instead I found various jobs (including sharpening pencils in the poshest boys school in England!) and saved all my pennies and applied for voluntary work overseas.

Guatemala images by Poppy Treffy

In 2001, I finally got offered a one-year voluntary placement working with a women’s craft cooperative, deep in the jungle in Guatemala. A bit of organising later (ditching no-good boyfriends, parting from beloved flatmate etc) I was on an open top motorized canoe traveling up narrowing tributaries with steep sided, tree draped cliffs on either side, egrets posing at the water’s edge, river spray splashing on my face…

Poppy treffry interview on marna lunt blog

…To find a dusty little shop selling a few hand made paper gifts to whoever happened to pop by – not many did!

Guatemala products

Although I’d never run a business, had never had any confidence in promoting or selling my own work, spoke only a smattering of Spanish and had just arrived – I knew I was going to absolutely love turning these products into something that would sell, and turning the business into something that would make a proper difference to the lives of the women involved.

Poppy's colleges

I stayed almost three years, living in a straw hut, eating rice and beans three times a day, designing, selling, putting in systems, training and helping to increase the turnover by ten fold.

Lovely sketch book pages by poppy More amazing sketch book pages by poppy

Scroll forward to 2003 and I’m back on Bodmin moor. I won’t go in to the details but I could no longer stay in Guatemala so Cornwall was the only other place I could think of to go. Back home to Mum and Dad…

Whilst casting around desperately for a direction to go in, clinging onto the last of my savings and feeling like a women on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I got out my Granddad’s old Singer sewing machine and began making bags. I didn’t sell them, didn’t even show them to anybody, I just made them and timed myself, and made more and piled them up, and made more.

Poppy treffy interview on marna lunt blog

Eventually a friend took them into a gallery and the gallery sold them all in a week. A lady who was just setting up as a crafts advisor for Cornwall saw them in the gallery and called me into her office on the Tuesday to say she could advise me how to set up and run my business, and apply for funding to help with this (all for free). On the Thursday I found a shared workshop advertised in the paper for twelve quid a week and was shown around it by a lovely young man. And on the Friday I was offered an interview for a well paid, interesting but part time job – perfect for paying the bills whilst I got the business off the ground.

I got the job… and some time later I also got the lovely young man!

There have been light bulb moments ever since and the business has grown and grown with more and more women involved. A friend from my volunteering days remarked recently that my business is basically run in exactly the same way as I worked in the jungle. I think he’s right, I care about how things are made and by whom, and I care that the work is benefitting them and that they enjoy doing what they do.

It’s the light bulb moments though that keep it interesting, and having a funny, clever and supportive team around me to share them with.

Sketch books Product range Beginnings How the business has grown! Poppy amd her work force and friends Poppy

Poppys work is still and has been the inspiration for a whole movement of free hand stitching, her infectious spirit is a joy to be around and comes through in her work. To buy and find more out about Poppy pop over to her website (its a corker), www.poppytreffry.co.uk

I hope you loved reading and learning about Poppy as much as I did, I’ll be back with another fab artist in the coming weeks. Join the newsletter or subscribe to make sure you dont miss out on all the latest as well as offers and free tutorials which will be coming bery soon. Take care. Xx

 

Jane Foster Designs – Lightbulb Moment

jane foster designs

Good morning. This weekend I have been very excited and grateful to have the fabulous Jane Foster telling us about her start with her company. Jane is a bit of a superstar, I first met her last year although knew of her way before that. I spent a glorious day at the Mollie Makes Handmade Awards with Jane as we had both been chosen as a finalists in the Established Business Award (Jane rightfully won) and we had such fun and chatted all day. It was fab and I really made a great new friend, she’s joy and so so genuinely lovely to be around. I know how crazily busy she is so to make the time to do this is really kind. Thanks Jane, now lets hear from her.

If you just click on the link the lovely interview will magically appear. xx

Jane Foster Interview

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