Tag Archives: inspiration

#threaduary : an everyday stitch project to help creative block

what is threaduary?

  • primarily an instagram project although it can be shared anywhere
  • a daily stitching project, a time to experiment or finish off that 'thing' you've been meaning to for ages, an excuse to take some time to make something and to feel really good about it
  • you can make anything you like, set yourself a goal, a realistic goal. It could be a full project that you want to do a little of each day, it could be experimenting in a style or material you've not tried before ,or even a new subject.
  • post a photo  of your project or inspiration each day using the hashtag #threaduary and tag me (@marnalunt) in it so I can see what you're up to.

In October I took part in #stitchtober which I saw Adam Pritchett doing on Instagram, this was a variation on #inktober created by Jake Parker.

I was feeling pretty crap at the time and felt I needed a focus of some sort to help me out of my personal rut. It was great, I decided that I enjoyed stitching botanicals and had not really had the chance to play with full thread painting only using botanicals as a subject.

So, why not use this as a way to play? I did the full 31 images but I didn't stress too much if I missed a few days or wanted to go out and miss a day. I caught up with it because I really wanted to finish 31 images but really it didn't matter if I didn't want to catch up. There were no rules and it was refreshing that it was my own determination and excitement that made me finish the project. I always set off with the best intentions and then quickly lose patience and skip off in another direction. Finishing it gave me a real sense of achievement that I was much in need of at the time. It's actually an awful lot of work doing a whole completed flower each day. One flower might take three hours another might take eight, so it might be useful to set a time limit during the day. 

During this month ff stitching I had a lot of time to think. And as an artist I find I spend a lot of  time thinking and considering and researching , sometimes I think more than I make. When I don't have time to do this thinking and considering I often end up getting creatively stuck very quickly or end up spending more time figuring things out in the middle of the project because I didn't think first! Having said that sometimes you can think too much and then you never make anything. Oh the hard life of an artist!

Anyway we all know how rubbish the winter months can feel. We want to hide away, curl up and wait for spring. But a great way to keep ourselves going is to make stuff, make stuff that makes us feel good. These winter months are slow, we have no money or inclination to shop till we drop, the days are short and gloomy, but they are a great time to experiment before life gets busy again.

I want to use this month coming (February) to play, practice and see what floats my boat. In January I seem to always revert to drawing, everything stems from drawing to me and it's important for me to practise that everyday. So this January I have concentrated on drawing flowers because I always go back to flowers. No matter what I feel flowers will always see me right, and if nothing else it s a great excuse to have some bright blooms in the house. An unending source of inspiration.

My aim and reason for making #threaduary is this.
  • An excuse to experiment... try out new base materials leatherette, neoprene, weights of cloth.
  • By daily practise I'm interested to see how my work develops throughout the month.
  • If I want to miss a day I can, as long as it is to do something that makes me happy and good for my mental health.
  • My chosen subject is seasonal botanicals, drawn from life rather than photos. So I'm limited to what is in the florist (usually spring blooms at this time of year). 

That's all. The more complicated you make it the more likely you are to fail and this is about making you feel good, as soon as it doesn't make you feel good why do it? So it would be great if you wanted to join in and have a go at stitching something each day of the month. But if you just want to follow the hashtag and see whats going on that'll be fab too. You can follow the hashtag on Instagram or just follow me and then you'll see it too.

What to expect to see from me during this month.
  • Daily photos of the work I produce.
  • A weekly blog with a round up of all the daily instagram posts, how I felt about making them and what I learned.
  • In the weekly blog one free design will be included for you to print and use yourself, either as a colouring page or a guide/outline to stitch yourself. The design will be from one of the pictures I have stitched that week.

A big thank you to.....

DMC have very kindly given me the threads to use in this project, they aren't paying me to do the project, it's all me. It's not a sponsorship or all that malarky but I haven't often used their threads for a full on project and as part of the experimental nature of this project I wanted to use just one brand. I thought it would also make it easier for those of you who wanted to join in to know exactly what colours I use. I reached out to them and asked if they would send me some threads that I can use and they said yes. They have been very kind to do this as I asked for a lot because I use so many bloody colours, I have to say I have always seen how much they support embroidery artists and I do think its a great attitude and thats why I thought I'd get in touch in the first place. So go have a look at them, they have tonnes of free patterns, you could use some for your #threaduary project, how ace would that be? 

the art of making

The Art of Making

First published May 20, 2016 

This year has been quite a corker, it’s my 40th birthday in August and it has spurred me on to really take stock and enjoy life more so you will have seen I’m a little quieter on the old posting thing. I’ve been branching out on a few new projects (one of which you will see on the tellybox in the coming months) mainly around teaching and inspiring people to get involved with using their hands to make things to bring wellbeing and calm into their lives, I’m very passionate about this subject, and you’ll know why from my last post.

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ARTISTS
The way I see it is that you (and me) buy professional beautiful works of art from us makers/crafters/artists whatever you want to call us. It not only helps small businesses and the economy but it keeps true traditional artistry alive when done at its best. It creates jobs, keeps individuality and personality and independence on the high street alive so we’re not taken over by discount stores and the mass produced often unethically sourced crap.

I want to spread my love of making to everyone, that doesn’t mean copying others, by the way, undercutting them and then just selling stuff themselves. That’s not really what this whole craft revolution should be about.

Artists aren’t doing it to make a quick buck, they very rarely live in big houses and go on fancy holidays and shop at Harvey Nicks, they get by usually on a lower than minimum wage and work all hours because they LOVE with a deep passion what they do. They train for years, they learn business skills, legal skills, marketing strategies on top of the artistic skills, techniques and raw talent they have. We need to create and we’re more than happy to do that and suffer the consequences of riches and fancy cars. We make it look easy because we’re THAT good because we are trained professionals. Our soul, personality, and essence is contained in each little piece of joy that we produce.  The creative process is about making something truly yours, (not a copy or an imitation) that’s the whole point, making something that shows the world who YOU are, not showing together yet another knock-off, we have enough cheap imported tat to do that, we don’t need more devaluing our skills and expertise.

Hope + Elvis + Marna (low res)-189

COPYING?

I’m often asked ‘Aren’t you worried doing workshops that you’ll just be showing everyone how to steal your work?’
Well you know what, there will always be people in this world that are selfish and after an easy buck I can’t stop that, I can’t change their inner thinking as nice as it would be. What I teach in my workshops and retreats is the skill to make something that brings you joy. I have a definite style, it comes from deep within me, I can’t teach that. I can tell you how I see things, the colours, textures, and processes I use to achieve my work but I don’t know what I’m going to produce from one moment to the next so I can’t see someone else doing that, being able to preempt my next move or read my mind. I will always move forward and have new ideas because I am a creative and an artist and me, just me. I teach you how amazing it is to make something that came out of your very own brain and out through your hands and into something that is ALL YOURS.


So create for yourself? yes yes yes. Create as a business? yes yes yes but do your research first.
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MAKING A BUSINESS WORK

I am saddened when I see people try to obviously emulate my style especially when they under charge and make me look like I’m ripping people off, which by the way I would never do!! But I do value my experience, my talent and my time. I charge based on costs and time and experience, I am happy to be transparent about my costs if anyone has a problem with it. People rarely have a problem with it though because they do value creativity and the importance of it.
I have tailored my business to work in this new way because when I started out as Little A Designs (now trading under my own name) I was copied to such a huge extent I was personally and creatively broken. My logo was taken, imitated and my brand devalued, my website design was stolen, even the words I’d written from the heart were copied and pasted into other peoples websites, my designs were ripped off and undercut, everything I cared about and showed the world was taken. So I had to rethink. I had to make something even more me. To separate myself in some way from what others could emulate.
I guess in hindsight this was the best thing for me because I am now in a very happy, a lot prouder and calm work wise. I know what works for me and my family life, what I can give to people mentally and still have the energy to live and have fun. My style has evolved and now is a better representation of me than it ever has been.
Lucky me for learning all this so soon into my career. But sadly it’s not the case for everyone.
drawing the details

A NEW OUTLOOK

Two dear friends have been copied extensively in recently months and I’ll tell you what it feels like, firstly, pretty shitty.  You feel isolated, you feel violated and sick and frightened that people will not realise how hard you have worked and how precious those original ideas you created are to you. You can feel paranoid and angry but more than anything you feel really hurt. I felt personally invaded. And I wanted to give up. But then I reminded myself why I was doing this whole thing in the first place. I picked myself up after a little cry and got busy being better.
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INSPIRATION

All ideas are inspired from somewhere, there is always a source for all our ideas whether it be a past master artist, the landscape, a sculpture or everyday object but what makes artists really great is the way in which their own mind interprets that inspiration and makes these evolved ideas solidly their own. I don’t just mean altering it a little, I mean finding a new take on it, problem solving, experimentation and enjoying the simple art of making something new. If you want to set up a business to sell your art it’s not just the piece of work you need to be able to make,  you need a business plan, you need to know how to cost your work competitively but realistically, you need to know the legalities of copyright infringement, tax, accounting, this makes you a business and a valid artist and not a just a hobbyist.

These are important facts that many don’t consider when they see something on Facebook, Etsy, Instagram or at a craft fair when they see some work and think ‘well I can do that’. But if you have already thought of all those considerations then FANTASTIC! Research that someones not already doing it (because even if you haven’t copied them, there may be someone out there doing the same thing as you, in which case if they got there first it’s their Intellectual Property and as much as you may not like it you’re just going to have to come up with a way of doing it differently).

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THE JOY OF MAKING

All that being said ( I got a bit carried away there, it’s not quite what I intended to go on about but it’s out there now, haha) making things with your hands is the best feeling in the world and anyone can do it. And I want everyone to do it!! Go to workshops, learn from true artisans, have a go, let go of your insecurities and experience a new skill.

In todays society we are always on the go. I know I am rarely without my precious phone in my hand. We never stop working, we never stop comparing, we just never stop and we become exhausted and lost in the cyber world. So now, more than ever, is the time we are all looking for something else to do with our hands, something constructive, a new skill that takes us back to a quieter time where we can relax with simple repetitive movements. There has been a resurgence in the creative arts recently and it is now a scientific fact that sewing, knitting, crochet are great stress relievers and act as a form of therapy.

Embroidery was used to help treat shell shock in soldiers that fought in the Great War. This is exactly one of the reasons I transferred my skills from painting to embroidery. To provide myself with an outlet that would sooth my heart. I had only ever tried the odd piece of cross stitch as a child and so have completely retrained my self and learnt embroidery from nothing. Yes I have a basic knowledge of  perspective, proportion etc but these are not things I concentrate on or impact my stitched work at all. So what I’m saying is that you can do it too! Regardless of any previous artistic capabilities.

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THERAPY

The reason I feel so passionately about this is that, art and embroidery saved me from severe mental health issues, it continues to save me as I go through issues with chronic pain, it has given me a sense of self, independence and belief as a mother and carer of a child with complex needs, I don’t want to be defined by my disabilities. Being creative is an essential therapy for me every single day. It is quite often not important what the finished piece looks like, it is the journey it takes me on that is rewarding. But obviously if it happens to look great then thats even better. My creativity and personality is what defines me.

I believe that embroidery can be as all consuming as you want, you can use a pattern you’ve bought in a book or magazine, and turn off your mind from the business of the outside world or you can immerse yourself in a complex design that makes you problem solve and challenge yourself.

Its so easy to get started now too, you’ve got nothing to lose, creativity can be shown in so many ways, through music, writing, embroidery, paper cutting, card making, the list is endless. There are no rules to follow. You can make it up as you go along. Don’t expect immediate perfection, an artist trains every day, like an athlete. You wouldn’t run a marathon without training, so be kind to  yourself & celebrate each step. The secret is never compare yourself to others, make what makes you feel good.

‘To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it’

Kurt Vonnegut

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Photo credit: Eve Photography
Venue: Hope & Elvis
Flowers: Kirsty from Darling & Green
Tutor: Marna Lunt “Spring florals in stitch’ one day workshop

To book onto one of my courses if this has got your creative juices bubbling pop over to my website and have a look whats on offer.

 

kirsty elson driftwood boat

Kirsty Elson ~ Kirsty Elson Designs

Name:Kirsty Elson

Company:Kirsty Elson Designs

Website:www.kirstyelsondesigns.co.uk

(first published Feb 23, 2013)

Kirsty Elson (aka the stealthy wood nicker, I’ve just named her that she may not like it)

Sum up your business in a sentence.Unique driftwood sculpture from Cornwall

When did you start your business?2004 – though it was very part-time in the early days.

What & who inspires you? The Cornish environment and anything coastal.

What sets you apart from others? I often use found materials, so each piece is one of a kind.

What did you do before setting up your business? I had a pretty crummy job photographing babies and children, then I started a family.

The best part of your day/ running your own business. Getting home after school drop-off, putting the radio on and knowing I have about 6 hours of creating ahead of me!

Why did you start your business? At first it was a way to earn a bit of money and still be a stay at home mum. I never really dreamed it would work out so well.

Your favourite product & why. It changes all the time. Usually it is the most recent creation which is my favourite.

Your greatest business tip. Have a unique product and get your pricing right!

Your favourite colour. Red.

Star sign. Sagittarius.

Your biggest weaknessFacebook probably!

Your biggest success. Firstly being accepted for the Contemporary Craft Festival last year – I was so thrilled – and then the show itself was amazing! Things stepped up a gear after that.

Funniest moment. I am frequently discovering yesterday’s knickers poking out of the leg of my jeans – hopefully before anyone else has noticed! 

Favourite quote.Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it – Confucius

Favourite motto.Why do housework when I could be making?!

Favourite artist. Alfred Wallis, Elaine Pamphilon.

Favourite season. Spring.

Business dream. Fairly modest: just to be able to keep on doing what I do. I have no desire to conquer the world or anything!

Favourite flower. Sweet peas.

What are you listening to right now. I am revisiting Marvin Gaye. He was a genius.

Your simple pleasure.Walking on the beach and “treasure hunting” with my family.

What’s your brew. Cup of tea please!

There’s not much more I can add about Kirsty because I am so sure you will all be very well aware of her work, other than I have had the pleasure of getting to know Kirsty recently and she’s a joy.

history of the thimble

An Unexpected History of the Thimble

As part of this month’s blog feature ‘Into the Sewing Box’ we’re delving back into our haberdashery baskets and unearthing a truly wonderful and ever so curious history of the thimble. Considered a trusty accomplice to the embroiderer; a body guard for delicate fingers that sew. Whether your thimble is a triumphant win from a Christmas cracker, your lucky token during a game of Monopoly or a proudly inherited thimble to add to your sewing stash, the thimble is believed to date back to the Roman era… but it has certainly influenced some rather curious parts of our history!

Found on thimblecollector.blogspot.fr
Found on thimblecollector.blogspot.fr

Deriving from the simple name “thumb-bell”, the shapes and materials have evolved over time alongside the name, affectionately adapted, now known as the thimble. The thimble can be made from leather, rubber, wood or china – reminding me of my Grandma’s rather kitsch collection of china thimbles adorned with Your Majesty’s face. It’s main purpose is to, of course, help delicate fingers push needle and thread through fabric or leather, an imperative aid for avid sewers. But you’ll never guess the wild side of the thimble….

Dating back to the 1800’s the thimble was not only a sewing box staple but a drinking buddy, helpfully measuring out spirits – explaining where the phrase ‘just a thimbeful’ must come from. Although it has made me ponder the size of said thimbles, or do we have bigger drinking habits?? Hmmm.

IF
Found on antiquetrader.com

For those who think that embroidery isn’t sexy, exciting or controversial enough, think again! Ladies of the night tapped their fingers against windows whilst wearing thimbles to gently make their presence known. Whereas school mistresses used the thimble-knocking technique as a form of punishment against the head’s of misbehaving rogues.

Upcycled Thimble Pincushion. Found on sewmanyways.blogspot.co.uk
Upcycled Thimble Pincushion. Found on sewmanyways.blogspot.co.uk

Similar to that of the pincushion, during eras of the 19th century the thimble became a symbol of status often opulantly decorated and created from precious metals such as silver. However a silver thimble could often not be used, as the needle would pierce through the metal, a clever chap called Charles Horner solved this problem by lining the inside with steel!

Back in the Pride and Prejudice era a thimble would be given as a token of romance or love, and would be a popular gift to commemorate an important life event. If we think back to Peter Pan, the thimble was given as a gift because Peter believed that a thimble was a kiss! BUT as we discovered in the last ‘Into the Sewing Box’ blog there were plenty of superstitious sewing folk about, and their beliefs didn’t just stop at the pincushion. If a woman were to receive three or more thimbles as a gift, it was believed that she would never marry – although she would have a rather marvelous sewing stash!

Brooch by Textile Artist Hen's Teeth.
Brooch by Textile Artist Hen’s Teeth.

Just like the history of the pincushion, the story of the thimble is in fact a fascinating tale, something so small that often lies in the bottom of our sewing baskets has played a part in very curious parts of history! So next time you delve into your sewing basket to finish off your sewing project, you’ll never quite look at a thimble in the same way again!

Ranjit Baki ~ Eclectic Tea

Name: Ranjit Baki

Company: Eclectic Tea

Website: www.eclectictea.co.uk

Ranjit
Ranjit

Sum up your business in a sentence.  Hand painted ceramics for children, the home and as gift ideas.

When did you start your business and why? I started Eclectic Tea in 2008 after I had my first baby and gave up the London rat race to raise her. The reasons for the birth of Eclectic Tea were based on a very strong need I had for a separate identity to being mum. Although I valued this new role immensely, I suddenly felt I had become ‘invisible’ to the outside world – something I wasn’t prepared for or expected.  Playing with clay has been a part of my life ever since I can remember and whilst other children grew out of turning it into wonky pots, I carried on. I was the only child at school who would spend pocket money on ceramic trinkets rather than sweets.

I’ve always doodled.  I was forever getting into trouble at school for scribbling drawings on desks and my exercise books. In the end  I was given a huge pad to ‘scribble’ in by my English teacher.

So with this in mind and with a deep breath I took the plunge.

Christmas products
Christmas products

What & who inspires you? The eclectic fabric of my family inspires me as it’s a source of lots of ideas. I was born in the UK but my parents are from northern India and my husband’s family is from the Shetlands, England, Italy and Syria. A lot of my designs are based on things I love about Blighty which draw on my own memories growing up and from the precious years spent with my husbands beloved Grandma Isabella, who was the best cook and baker in the world.

The illustrations for my children’s ceramics are inspired by the make belief land I lived in as a child, through the books I devoured.  Both my mum and grandma are illiterate and although my dad is bi-lingual, he was a very traditional Asian father who didn’t really encourage reading.  I had an aunt who was a librarian and she used to take me to the local library every Saturday where I would be left for hours surrounded by Roald Dahl, his partner in crime Quentin Blake, Dorothy Edwards and many more. It was love at first sight and I learned to read very quickly which fuelled my imagination throughout my life.

What sets you apart from others?  The signature look of all the Eclectic Tea ranges is a very fresh white base glaze. The majority of ceramic artists and studios who work with earthenware will use a dipping glaze that is applied over the artwork which gives the piece a smooth glassy look. This is a much quicker and cheaper method. The glaze I use costs far more and it has to be applied in several coats by hand to each piece. However, the effect allows the coloured glaze work to really ‘pop’ off the piece and you can feel all the bumps and grooves of the brush stokes, which is lovely.

Children's range
Children’s range

What did you do before setting up your business?  Ha, I think the question should be ‘what didn’t’ I do!’ I left the Midlands for London 16 years ago to study Law at Uni. I had no intention of becoming a lawyer but my parents would not support me taking my love of art to degree level. From their traditional view point, such a hedonistic subject wouldn’t have made me good ‘marriage material’ for a nice respectable Indian family (I never married into one of those either!). So law it was, to pacify them and leave home for adventure.

The few years after Uni were spent ‘ blagging’ my way into jobs that I had no previous experience of including being the PA to the head of Christian Dior London (that was not a dissimilar experience to the Devil Wears Prada!). I ventured into aromatherapy for a while and worked at the Mandarin Oriental Spa in Knightsbridge, where we dealt with the rich and shameless including many celebrities from  A to Z – I’ll write a book about that one day as it was certainly an eye opener for a young lass of 24.  I’ve been a PA to board directors when I can hardly type and I’ve been in HR where each day I thought they had made a mistake putting me in charge of a team of people when I could hardly look after myself. However, I do believe that the various life experiences these and other jobs gave me were leading me to where I am now, as without them I don’t think I would have been able to deal with the challenges of running a business.

The best part of your day/ running your own business.  The best part of running my own business is the sheer freedom I have in the direction I take both at a business and artistic level. I think one of the reasons I couldn’t stick at anything in my previous life was due to feeling ‘caged’ by other peoples rules. Eclectic Tea is me, myself and I and I am far more creatively productive being my own boss.

Lifestyle country range
Lifestyle country range

Your favourite product & why. Most artists/designers will say it’s the project they are currently working on and I’m afraid I’m no exception, namely because of the adrenaline rush new projects give me. I’m currently making lots of brooches and buttons and having lots of fun experimenting with different techniques.

Your greatest business tip. Listen to your gut instinct and you won’t stray far from your chosen path.

Your favourite colour. Red

Star sign. Leo

Your biggest weakness. Impatience

Your biggest success. Being part of a loving little family of my own who accept me just the way I am.

Funniest moment. Christmas is always a mega busy time for Eclectic Tea where I’m normally working flat out. One of my biggest sellers are the baubles. I was expecting a large delivery of bauble bisque and when the delivery came I didn’t check the boxes assuming it was all as expected. My hallway and dining room were rammed to the rafters with these boxes. The following morning I could hear my girls laughing and squealing so I knew they were ‘helping’ by unpacking my order. I came downstairs to find my house was filled with ceramic frogs – all 500 of them. No sign of a single bauble.  I had been sent the wrong delivery.  To make matters more confusing they were labelled as ‘frisky frogs’. God only knows why, they were the ugliest things I had ever seen.  I suddenly felt like I’d stepped into a scene from Only Fools and Horses!

frisky frog
frisky frog

Favourite quote. “There are several ways you can blow off parts of your life. One of them is to not save documents on the computer; another is in a ceramics kiln” – Bob Nichols.

Favourite motto. When life gives you lemons, slice those suckers up and find some tequila.

Favourite artist. Ooh that’s a hard one. I don’t have one favourite artist but my favourite painting is ‘The lady with a mirror’ by Raja Ravi Varma. It reminds me of my own grandma.

Favourite season. Spring (when we used to have seasons).

Business dream. If you had asked me that when I started, my answer would have been to become the next Emma Bridgewater and possible world dominationJ   However, I’ve mellowed (with old age) and my goals are very different. Along the way I discovered I am happiest and take the most pleasure from my craft when life is kept simple. I have worked extremely hard to build up the business to a stage where I can make enough money to take the financial pressure off my husband being the sole earner, whilst looking after my children at the same time. My dream is for this to continue, for Eclectic Tea to carry on making my customers smile and to keep feeling that ‘buzz’ every time I open my kiln.

Ranjit with Editor of Country Living at Harrogate Christmas Fair
Ranjit with Editor of Country Living at Harrogate Christmas Fair

Favorite flower. Big colourful gerbera daisies.

What are you listening to right now. My kids screaming at each other and the planes thundering overhead (we live on a Heathrow flight path).

Your simple pleasure. Lazy Sunday morning tea and toast, whilst reading the Sunday papers. Something I took for granted before my children arrived. Now it’s a luxuryJ

What’s your brew. Goldfish bowl of red wine.

Tell us a joke. 

What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?

Nacho cheese.

I know, I know. Sorry

I’ve been lucky enough to meet Ranjit on several occasions and shes just fab! So full of fun and so so kind, her work completely mirrors herself, bright and cheerful, unique and top quality. It’s a joy to meet such a creative and enthusiastic maker and I can’t recommend her highly enough. Also she has a gorgeous new range of buttons that you will soon see appearing on my work but I have given so many of her pieces as gifts and kept many too, they are magic. Thanks Ranjit for sharing a bit of yourself with us and I should groan at your joke but actually I’m keeping it for myself;)

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Metamorphosis Part One

I haven’t written for a while, sorry about that. This year has been a year of changes for me so far and I’m spending a lot of time thinking, learning, researching and basically hiding out in my own world trying to assess what’s going on or what I want to go on in the world of Little a and Marna Lunt. I’ve been experimenting with new styles and working on my brand and really just sorting my head and thoughts out. Asking those difficult questions, what exactly do I want to do? Do I want to mainly be a stay at home mum that sews when I can? Do I want to make this business something more than I have now, with a proper plan, working hours and a firm future? How serious am I really? And do I have the focus and support to do what I think I might be able to do? Where am I mentally, what capacity do I have left for work after my own issues and then Arthur’s considerations? These questions have been there buzzing around my brain from the start but in truth I have half heartedly answered them and been so vague, trying to fool myself I have been more savvy than I know is true. I fudge my spread sheets and answers to make myself feel better with my own personal spin and  justifications and choose to listen to what I want gaining the wrong sort of encouragement. We are all guilty of a lack of confidence and burying our heads in the sand at times and that’s really not the end of the world, as long as you know when to face reality. But I’ve really been trying this last few months to be true to what I want to do, to try and resist the things that are just easy and not gambling with taking that big step forward. I am lucky to have a wonderful husband who questions me and makes me think about my goals and my family, he does it in a loving way and an intelligent way. He lets me skip off down into Marna La La land but is quick to stop me when I’m going too far. I also have a couple of extremely good friends in business who have become a great support to me & who have taught me masses of life lessons. I have attended a few workshops and courses which have really spurred me on and have had a fabulously positive affect on me and I have met up with a few great business ladies and had meetings that have given me a solid and excited outlook.

So changes are a foot in the Lunt household and it’s an exciting time. You won’t see them immediately but they will trickle in bit by bit. Sorry about my quietness that will change in the coming months and by the middle of the year I hope to be a frequent blogger and see you more in this medium and world. I may have a new name, I may have a some new products to show you, we’ll wait and see but it will definitely be an interesting journey that I hope to share with you, showing you my new skills.

A little exercise I was set this week in one of my courses was a mood board of what I want  my blog to be. So I set myself up with a fabric backdrop and went exploring in my studio. I don’t have the tech skill to produce amazing graphics so I thought lets find some real stuff I can display. I was looking for a little bit of everything that I thought I want to show about myself. Colours I love, textures, things I own. General things I have lying around that make me smile and inspire me. This is what I can up with.

Thanks for listening and I hope you liked looking at my little experiment with table top styling. I loved doing it so much, I think there are going to be many more to follow. I’ll be back soon to show you my fab outing to London this weekend and about my amazing photography course adventure. Toodles and kisses.

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Jenny Arnott ~ Jenny Arnott Textiles

Name Jenny Arnott

Company Jenny Arnott Textiles

Website not on the high street/jennyarnott, facebook/jennyarnott

Jenny

Sum up your business in a sentence Personalised cards and embroidered textile gifts, all handmade in my colourful studio in Somerset.

Jenny’s beautiful studio as featured in Mollie Makes

When did you start your business? I officially became self employed a couple of days after my Not on the High Street shop opened in 2010 when I got my first order!

What and who inspires you? I find inspiration from all kinds of places and often new ideas or designs will ping into my head at any time of the day or night. In the past my designs have included all sorts of random things such as flamingos, Russian dolls, hot air balloons, boats, robots and telephone boxes! I have made a conscious decision this year though to try and design for specific audiences and occasions instead. For example when dreaming up new ideas, in the back of my mind I’m now always thinking ‘who’s going to buy this, ‘what will they use it for’, ‘will it be given as a gift’, ‘what occasion will it be bought for’ etc etc. I’ve found this more focused way of working has massively increased my sales and has really been the key to growing my business this year.

What sets you apart from others? I put a huge amount of care and effort into each and every order, right down to the packaging. Every order is wrapped in turquoise tissue paper and I also like to write a little thank you card with each purchase – hopefully it makes it a pleasure for the person to unwrap and also shows my appreciation that they have spent their hard earned money with me. I think people are really starting to appreciate the level of personalised service they get from buying direct from independent designer-makers rather than from mass market supermarkets or manufacturers which is great.

What did you do before setting up your business? I trained in printed textiles at Winchester School of Art and I absolutely loved every minute of it, from dyeing all my own fabrics and mixing the inks, to designing my screens, exposing them, then the actual printing… I designed for the home furnishings market mainly as I’ve never been very interested in fashion. A lot of my designs were also on a large scale which is kind of funny now as much of my current work is really tiny! Anyway after I graduated, it just wasn’t feasible to continue screen printing because of the expensive equipment and all the space I would need. So I started doing bits and pieces of freelance design work and I also began working in the home furnishings department at Laura Ashley. It was mainly sales but I also did some visual merchandising, and learnt things like curtain estimation which was really useful as I then was able to make all my own curtains for the house! I always knew though that I wanted to work for myself so I started making things on my days off and slowly began building up a range and a website. My ‘big break’ was really being accepted to join Not on the High Street as it gave me the structure and support I needed to get my online shop off the ground.

The best part of your day/running your business Although most of my days are spent making up orders, I love ‘designing days’ the best, when I can work on prototypes for new products or designs. I can often have an idea in my head for weeks or months before I actually get the chance to make up a sample. Though things sometimes don’t work out as I imagined so many designs are scrapped if I think they are too complicated and time consuming to make, or if they are just not ‘saleable’ enough. The best moments though are when an idea or design just ‘works’, it is a great feeling!

Why did you start your business? I wanted the lifestyle of being able to work from home doing something creative, especially now that we are living in rural Somerset. I have never wanted to live or work in a big city, especially if I had to commute – I did some design placements in London after my degree and I just hated all the travelling.

Your favourite product and why? I think my favourite product would probably be my ‘bunting’ embroidered card, mainly because the design itself is so versatile it can be personalised for so many different occasions including birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. The design is one of my most time consuming to sew but I find doing the freehand embroidery quite relaxing!

Your greatest business tip? Don’t be afraid to let your business evolve and change with time, it is often a huge learning curve! Before I first launched my website and online shops, I put so much work into designing and making a whole range of products from printed canvases to badges to lavender bags and cushions and I naively thought that this was set in stone and was how my collection would stay forever (or at least a good few years anyway.) But actually in the end I have now almost completely changed my entire range since those early days. Without actually doing it though, I had no idea really what would end up working, what would sell well, what new ideas I would come up with etc… it really has been an ongoing trial and error process.

Favourite colour  Mmmmm…. Probably turquoise… or red. In fact, turquoise and red together!

Star sign Virgo 

Your biggest weakness Worrying and caring too much about what other people think of me.

Your biggest success  I think just realising how far I have come and what I have actually achieved in the last few years. It started off quite slowly but this year things have really taken off! I’m really happy with the level of orders coming though and my Facebook and Twitter pages are growing steadily as well. When I first started out, it definitely felt like a bit of an uphill struggle at times, when sales were quite thin on the ground and I almost didn’t know where to start with trying to promote myself or get my products seen. Although no one actually said it to me at the time, I did have the feeling that even some of my friends and family back then thought that maybe I should give up on it all and go back to a normal 9-5 job… I’m so glad I didn’t!!!

Favourite quote The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They make the best of everything they have.

Favourite artist I’ve not really got one favourite, though there are lots of designer-makers and artists that I have ‘met’ through facebook whom I greatly admire. I do also have a soft spot for Mackenzie Thorpe’s work too!

Business dream  I don’t really have a super ambitious business dream, just really to keep being able to earn a living from my work, but also to make sure that I have a good balance between work and home life, and that I get to take more time off to spend with all the people I love. It is a tricky balance to get right and anyone who is self employed will know what I mean – there is always the temptation to be checking emails or doing bits and bobs but you also need to have some downtime to relax and do other things too. I’ve been trying hard to follow my own advice over the last few weeks and to have at least a couple of hours each day where my laptop and sewing machine are both turned off!

Favourite season Definitely Spring… when the days start getting longer and lighter again. I also love warm Summer days but the last few years I’ve suffered really badly with hay fever which has kind of put me off!

Favourite flower  I love the smell of fresh flowers… some of my favourites are tulips, roses and sweet peas.

What are you listening to right now Nothing right at this minute as I can’t concentrate on writing if there is music on. I tend to listen to Radio One during the day when I’m sewing though, or else I listen to my CDs – at the moment I’m loving songs by Bastille, Ellie Goulding and Rihanna, to name a few!

Your simple pleasure Warming up my heated slippers at the end of the day and snuggling up on the couch with a blanket…. My heated slippers are definitely one of the best presents I’ve ever been given, and I use them pretty much every day. For a girl who has eternally cold feet, they’re ace!

Your brew I don’t drink tea or coffee but I do love hot milk! I really should be more careful though – last week I spilt a cup all over my laptop. Unfortunately it didn’t end very well and I’ve just had to shell out for a brand new keyboard!

I hope you liked seeing the bright and joyful Jenny makes, and can see the fabulous quality and love she puts in. I’ve recently bought a christening card for my niece from her and it is stunning, a keep sake that they’ll keep and treasure and s perfectly made. Jenny is a great person to follow as not only is her work fab but she is a kind and fun soul that I truly enjoy spending lots of time talking to, inspiring and positive. Thanks Jenny for everything. xx

Andrea Berry ~ Polka

Name: Andrea Berry

Company: Polka

Website: facebook.com/polka8 . Notonthehighstreet.com/polka

The fabulously smiley and colourful Andrea.

Sum up your business in one sentence: A collection of bold, bright and colourful handmade accessories.

When did you start your business: I have always sewn things since I was at School really, but started making things to sell around the beginning of 2009. I started out doing textile pictures, layers of fabrics with buttons. I progressed onto making bags and brooches and once I set up my facebook page I started selling lots. I also joined folksy around the same time and then notonthehighsteet in September 2009.

What and who inspires you: I absolutely love buying fabric, one of my favourite things is to look on my list of fabric websites and get really inspired by new designs, colours, patterns. I love fashion too! In fact if I wasn’t doing this my dream job would be a fashion buyer. I get a real buzz seeing all the latest trends and colours. When I first starting selling my wares I was really inspired by Becky from Dots and Spots. I love her style and her business has gone from strength to strength, she started out on her kitchen table and now has a warehouse!!.

Love this shopper, Andrea’s colour ans style are unmissable.

What sets you apart from others: I like to think my style is unique and very me!, I love using bold clashing colours, I don’t really do beige!

What did you do before setting up your business: Well  I’ve  been a manager at The Little Chef,  worked in an office! And until last year worked in the evenings at Morrisons. All mundane ( to me) jobs to pay the mortgage.  I had Maisy then Ewan so was a full time Mummy while they were little but once they were at School I was really itching to work from home and do something creative. I had studied printmaking at Edinburgh college of Art many moons ago and I loved doing photography so was desperate to be creative again.

The best part of your day/ running your business: After the mayhem of the school run I love coming home, switching on the computer and setting up my sewing machine to work on my order list. I have to admit I do have facebook on pretty much all day!. I have a lovely group of friends on here ( you know who you are!) who also work from home running their own craft business, I love that we chat through the day usually around teabreak time, its like having workmates!. No two days are the same, I’ll be working on brooches one day and then maybe a lovely intricate handbag the next.

A flower brooch that look stunning on bags, jackets, notebook, laptop covers, and the list goes on.

Why did you start your business: I wanted to be creative again and to be flexible so I could work round the children. My kids are older now so it gives me more time to do this full time while they play out after School ( they play out alot!).

Your favourite product and why: My very fantastic and robust sewing machine. Its a Husqvarna Viking and its brilliant. Its on every day so gets alot of abuse!

Your greatest business tip: Write lots of lists!! I do lists for everything, it keeps me focused as I’m easily distracted. I have a monthly order list on my page and when I’m really manic busy I break the day into an hour by hour list!. Also do what you love doing and don’t worry about what people think or if people will like it. I’m always trying new designs some work and some don’t. If your selling your products online make sure your photos are absolutely perfect. You don’t need an expensive camera or even any other kit, I always take my photos outside in natural light and just make sure they are 100% in focus. Also have a play around with different backgrounds to see what suits your product. I personally love bright backgrounds and recently have been experimenting with different props to create a look.

Business Dream: To actually get a website of my own , I have been saying I will do it for over a year now but never get enough time to sit down and sort it!

Your favourite colour: Oh crikey thats a really hard question! If you know my work you’ll see I love all colours!. One of my favourites is cerise pink and I love teal blue oh and I love lime green and navy and orange, see told you it was hard!

Star Sign: Virgo, a total contradiction! Apart from list making I’m pretty unorganised!,very emotional I cry at Ice age and any other kids film with the token sad bit in it! and I am pretty messy, maybe I need a different star sign!

Your biggest weakness: I have alot so here goes, red wine, white chocolate, salted pistachio nuts, a very large collection of shoes ( I just cant stop buying them!) a very large collection of dresses ( ditto shoes!), big chunky necklaces, again a huge collection! Can you see a pattern here, yes I’m a shopaholic!!.

Gorgeous glasses and phone cases.

Biggest Success: When I applied and was accepted to be on the notonthehighstreet website. I was so thrilled when I was accepted as I think its a lovely looking site. My page on facebook is going from strength to strength and since September 2011 I have had a flurry of orders on there, its my busiest outlet and I’m really proud that I have built it up on my own, well not just on my own I have fellow crafters who share me quite often too!. My biggest success on there was my Christmas market night back in November. I made a tonne of things and they all sold out within half an hour! It was very exciting

Funniest moment: Well lets just say its a good job I work on my own and at home as I’m the clumsiest person ever, just call me Frank Spencer ,you would laugh hard at the things I’ve done!. I have had a few Frank Spencer moments in public too. I tried on some rollerblades in a big sports shop once and me being all cocky said “ yeah yeah I can easily still do these”! next thing I’m flat on my bottom, legs in the air and dress… well it was perfect You’ve been framed material!. Another time I was going through the automatic doors in BHS! When they shut, I was one side and my bag got stuck on the other side!. I could go on theres plenty more, and now your probably thinking “ wow how does this girl operate a sewing machine”!

Favourite quote: I’m a huge fan of gangster, horror and any other scary violent film, I know and here I am sitting here sewing pretty,girly bags all day!. So it was hard to find a quote without any fruity language so here goes!

“ In a word pleasure, its like my pleasure in other peoples leisure” Trainspotting

“I’ll get you and it will look like a bloody accident” The cat in the hat

“ Eyes on the prize Violet, eyes on the prize” Charlie and the chocolate factory

Whoops more than one quote there, one of my other weaknesses I cant just pick one answer!

Favourite Artist: I absolutely love the work of Alberto Giacometti, his drawings and his sculptures, I love his scruffy manic way of sketching and his thin spindly men. Antony Gormley is another favourite Sculptor as is Barbara Hepworth, I’ve spent a lovely day down in St Ives looking at her amazing work in the beautiful gardens of her museum. I love Andy Warhol, his screen prints of Marilyn Monroe and Mao  are amazing, the colours just jump out at you. Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon are also favourites, the detail in Freuds portraits is outstanding and I love Francis Bacon, his work is quite disturbing and always reminds me of the film Jacobs Ladder. And finally I adore Edgar Degas, I could look at his numerous ballet paintings for hours.

Favourite season: Summer! I just love hot sunny days even better if I’m in my favourite place, St Ives!

Favourite flower: Gerbera daisy

What are you listening to right now: During the day I usually have radio 1 on. The music is a bit repetitive but I do love Scott Mills, bring back Mark and Lard is all I can say!. I also love The Lumineers, Kasabian, The Kaiser Chiefs, Scissor Sisters etc etc basically I love all sorts.

Your simple pleasure: I love shopping with my Mum, we’ll go to Derby or Burton and we can shop till we drop and never run out of things to say! I do like to chat!. I love going to St Ives and mooching round the gorgeous little shops and galleries, I’ve been going on holiday there for over 20 years and just love it. I love going in the sea even though its freezing! I just cant resist the lure of a crashing wave. I also love fabric shopping, I could spend a whole day looking at all the gorgeous websites, one of my favourite designers is Michael Miller and I use his fabric alot.

Whats your brew: Tea, teabag then 2 sugars then milk then hot water and brew to nearly workman strength!

Angie Spurgeon ~ Artwork by Angie

Name:  Angie Spurgeon
Company: Artwork By Angie
Introducing the beautiful Angie Spurgeon
Sum up your business in a sentence.  I draw pretty pictures and design gorgeous graphics.  I’m a freelance illustrator and graphic designer.
The stunning christmas warp designs that should be found under every tree, and she’s only gone and used ribbons from my website;) You can buy cards and tags to match this new and stunning range.
When did you start your business?  I’ve been freelancing as a graphic designer since 2005.  Initially, I only took on very occasional projects to keep my hand in as in those early days I was very busy looking after my babies (I’m a mum of 2 girls).  When my youngest daughter began nursery in the summer of 2010, I set to work and designed my first range of illustrative prints and greetings cards called ‘The Birds and the Bees’ and then launched the Artwork By Angie website and blog, shortly followed by a Folksy shop and Facebook page. I’ve been lucky enough to be very busy with all sorts of projects ever since.  I absolutely love it, I get to create pretty imagery and stretch my skills and imagination on a daily basis.
What & who inspires you?  Mainly my children! I’m inspired by a wide variety of things and people, which I think is healthy as the wider your frame of reference the more unique your take on things will be.  I love nature and live near the beautiful Quantock Hills in Somerset – it’s hard not to be inspired with that on your doorstep! I admire courageous people who go for it in life while smiling in the face of adversity.  When it comes to my doodles, I’ve always loved illustrated children’s books and as a child Pat Hutchin’s book ‘Rosie’s Walk’ made a very big lasting impression on me, it is so beautifully illustrated.  Looking at the pictures in books like that made me want to be an illustrator when I grew up.  The great thing about being a mum is you get a chance to indulge in all those types of lovely books again!. Thanks to all this social media stuff, I find new inspirations to fall in love with on a daily basis. It is a fact that I am completely addicted to pinterest.
I adore this print, I have it on my mantelpiece at home and look at it everyday. You can get this print in lots of colour ways and with varying number of babies.
What did you do before setting up your business? I studied Graphic Design (illustration) at the University of Plymouth then headed straight to London in search of fame and fortune – but instead began a 12 year career in client services for a few advertising agencies in London and Bristol.  Looking back, working in advertising was a great way to learn all the skills I needed to set myself up in business whilst still being in a creative world.  I was very lucky to get trained by some of the best brains in the advertising industry and I’m finding all their advice is coming in very useful now.  I’m also able to use all of that experience to help the small businesses I design for, by passing some of that knowledge and expertise on.
The best part of your day/ running your own business.
I’d say it is knowing that I can just get on with doing the best job possible for my customers without having to deal with any office politics. The actual doing the drawings part is what I enjoy best – I feel privileged to be able to make a living doing what I love. There’s also the satisfaction you get when you start to see your business grow and your reputation flourish, as you know that it is the result of all your own hard work and effort.
A stunning range of christmas cards.
Why did you start your business? I wanted to try and make a living out of what makes me happiest whilst slotting it around raising my children.  I also wanted to be an example and hopefully inspire my daughters by showing them that you don’t have to totally rely on others to make your way in the world and to always follow your dreams.  If it all goes wrong, at least I had a go and I’d rather my children saw that as they’ll learn from it.
Your favourite product & why.  My simple black fibre tip pen.  With a humble pen I can make all sorts of magic happen.
I’m putting my order for these in now so I can do my christmas thank you cards. Perfect for all year round. Hmmm now just let me see who deserves one……….
Your greatest business tip.   Always do the best job you can with honesty and integrity.  Work hard, be nice to people and know that you’re only ever as good as the last job you did.  It’s all about the quality of the work so try to let the work speak for itself.  The thing you learn quickly as an ad agent is generally people know a good thing when they see it and can quickly see through any hollow hype.  Word of mouth has always been and always will be the best form of marketing.  It’s best achieved through doing great work and delivering fantastic service.  Having something unique to offer is essential too, it sets you apart making it easier for others to understand what your business is about and identify with your brand….it’s all very basic really, but even big companies forget this stuff and then wonder why their business is failing.
Your favourite colour. Turquoise
Star sign. Aries
Your biggest weakness.  Worrying too much….and Fry’s Turkish Delight
Your biggest success.  My children.  Sorry, I’m repeating myself a little but I’m a proud mum and not ashamed of that!  I’m also very proud of establishing my little business in the midst of the worst recession in history whilst working from a little corner of our bedroom during those hours when my children are at school or in bed.  As any mum running a business from home knows, it’s a very delicate balancing act. Getting my designs stocked by the National Trust feels pretty amazing too – it’s one of those dream stockists I’ve had in mind for a long time.  To see my cards in their shops with my own eyes felt incredible.
Angies ranges of cards can be found in National Trust properties all over the country.
 
Favourite artist.  David Hockney – you can’t beat a home grown living master.  His recent ‘Bigger Picture’ works are wonderful.  He’s created some great iPad paintings which have gained mixed reviews, but I love him for validating digital art as a medium.
Favourite season. Spring.  It’s all about new beginnings and the promise of good things to come.
A stunning print by Angie and available to buy on from her website.
Business dream. To continue being able to spend my days illustrating and designing for a living.  I have so many ideas for new designs and where I want my designs to go (there are lots more dream stockists on my wish list!).  This past year I’ve been doing lots of collaborative work with other designer makers which I’ve completely enjoyed and would love to do more of as you get to bounce great ideas around and help bring other people’s ideas to life whilst sprinkling a few of my own little quirks into the mix.  I chose the name ‘Artwork By Angie’ for my website as that is basically all I want it to be about – my artwork as illustrations, originals or digital artwork for graphics – either as commissioned pieces, licensed ranges or prints to be sold from my online shops.  The thing about designing for print is there are so many different formats that it can take, my dream is to see my designs in all sorts of formats licensed out and available in as many places as possible.  Well you’ve got to dream big haven’t you?
More delights from www.artworkbyangie.com

What sets you apart from others?: I’ve always had a very colourful imagination, a good level of humour and have achieved broad experience on the commercial side of the creative world so am able to create and market new designs. As well as having a degree in Graphic Design, I have a post grad qualification in marketing which means I can look at a business and quickly identify its strengths, uniqueness and how it should be communicating that with the correct audience – then I’m able to conceptualise all of that in a visual way. To put it simply, I’m fairly versatile.

Funniest Moment: Whilst thinking about the answer to this I’ve realised most of my funniest moments involve being roped into Karaoke for some reason, which is strange as I’m not keen on Karaoke and do my best to avoid it at all costs. Once upon a time I was seriously offered a job as DJ on a night out when a friend dragged me on stage to do a duet with them. Let’s get this clear, I am no singer so I got the microphone and started holding it out and encouraged others to do the singing for me.  I was told by the organisers they liked the way ‘I was working the crowd’ and would I consider working with them!   I really can’t see myself as a Karaoke DJ somehow – the thought of it still makes me chuckle!

Favourite quote: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” (good old Dr. Seuss – I told you I love kids books!).

Favourite Motto: Enjoy Yourself (it’s later than you think)

Favourite Flower: all spring flowers such as primroses, tulips, hyacinths, narcissus  muscari and blossoms – I love all their cheerful sugary colours which pop up after all the cold, dark dreariness of winter.  I also love alliums and plant loads near my window so I can enjoy looking at their bright purple pom poms.

What are you listening to right now: I find it hard to work without something playing in the background and often listen to Radio 6.   I’m a wordy type and love the lyrics of Ray Davies, John Lennon, Morrissey and Ian Dury to name a few (I could fill your blog on my love of music alone!).  I have very eclectic music taste and love particular songs more than specific groups or artists – but rock and roll always does it for me.  The reality these days is more often than not I’m listening to a Disney Princess soundtrack thanks to my girls!

Your simple pleasure. Going swimming or for a nice long walk ideally with friends or family to chat to whilst walking.

What’s your brew. A strong builder’s brew, splash of milk, no sugar and preferably brewed in the pot with a cosy on top!

I think you’ll agree that Angie’s work is full of colour fun and has a very recognisable style.  When I started my business Angie is one of the first ladies I worked with. She has produced my logo and nearly all my artwork. I have worked with her so much that she knows instantly what I want and need. Little a certainly wouldn’t be where it is today without the stunning professionalism and friendship gained from Angie. I really don’t need most of the stuff I get from Angie, I often try and find excuses just to use her because of the fun and inspiration she brings. I wish massive luck and hugs and know 2013 will bring so pretty incredible things.