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Yard sale…or quarts into pint pots

 

Our recent move to the lovely Vale of the White Horse has presented a challenge on the Karyn’s [re]Kreations front: We have downsized considerably, and the two spaces that will serve as studio and workshop currenty look like cluttered storage units with no space to work. As a result, I’m getting absolutely nothing kreative done. We’ve sold/given away some items already, but the one-by-one approach is too slow. Hence the yard sale.

Surplus curtains, furniture and decor items are up for sale. Some of my less frequently used power tools are available (planer, band saw…). Several of my kreations – including toys, jewellery, bath oils/salts and ornaments – will be on offer at clearance prices. I’m having a rifle through my stashes of fabric, yarn and crafting supplies, and will be looking to whittle them down to something more manageable in the space available to me.

Regrettably, I am not yet set up to accept card payments, so it will be cash only.

How to find us: Our post code is SN7 7RP. We’re just a couple of doors down from the lovely Fox & Hounds pub, where you can enjoy lunch or a cheeky pint or two to make a real outing of it. You’ll have no trouble spotting Barney, my faithful, battered blue van parked out front.

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Rebranding, hard launching and all that malarkey

For the past couple of years or so, Karyn’s Kreations has been a sort of semi-hobby, but plans are now afoot to make it ‘proper’.

So I’ve been in discussions with various advisers (an ongoing process) and Mr Namasi and I are looking at our options.

I don’t want to lose the personal touch – the investment of myself into each and every piece. I don’t want the pieces themselves to become disconnected from their own stories. Their own histories. So I am exploring a way to incorporate my gift for narrative into the business, to make sure those stories are told. More of that anon.

I’m planning a rebrand. There are quite a few businesses called Karyn’s Kreations out there. So that clearly needs to be revisited. And so I thought: mostly I remake stuff out of reclaimed material, revisiting it and giving it a renewed lease on life. That’s a lot ‘re’, right there. On top of that, the business was born out of my hobbies, my recreation. So I thought, how about Karyn’s reKreations?

What do you think?

I’m also busy building a proper website, so that potential customers are able to find and buy my pieces online.

You’ll probably notice those changes over the next while. The look and feel of the spaces I occupy online may be a bit fluid for a period. But fret not. I’m still the same friendly Upsycho I always was, making the pieces you’ve come to expect. I’m still accepting commissions. I’m still offering crafting lessons.

Hopefully it will become easier for you to access them. Once all my ducks are in a row and all my pigs in one pen, there’ll be a ‘hard launch’ with a prize and everything. So watch this space.

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Link love digest: week 4

These digests have been all I’ve done on this blog so far this year, I know. There’s a good reason for it: I am currently up to my eyeballs helping a friend launch her business. Once that is up and running, I should be in a better position to share with you other thoughts and news about this world of making, crafting, remaking and recrafting that we share.

So… to the round up of this week’s link love shares. As ever, if you know any of the people whose work I’m featuring, please let them know. These are not people I know, they are chosen purely because I like their work. You will see that I have used the bios from their shops to let them tell their own stories. Sometimes, crafters choose not to share any bio information. But I still like their work.

Charlotte’s work

Charlotte Banks
No. 48 on Folksy

I know absolutely nothing about Charlotte, apart from her work, which speaks for itself. She has no bio information in her shop. But please don’t let that put you off paying a visit. I choose my featured crafters based on what they produce, not what they say about themselves.

Debbie Lane
Steambear & Co

Debbie’s work

I started out by making sock desk toys for friends and family. Nothing brightens up a boring desk, than a sock Bunny!!

My kids are my greatest inspiration and the best critics too! Making toys for them and the delight on their faces and how much I enjoyed making them, lead me to setting up my own business.

My creations are all original designs by me, individually made, making each unique in their own way! Giving each their own personality.

I also put my creations through the CE Self Certification. Took time, patience, sweat and tears (from burning your toy creations) but I can now safely say they are all CE certified and suitable from birth.

Debi’s work

Debi Cummins
DeCumi Designs

Animal, Wildlife and Nature Jewellery made from Eco friendly 90% recycled aluminium.

Denise Fitzgerald
Salvij

Denise’s work

I love reading everyone’s inspiring shop stories. One day I would like mine to talk about how my Etsy shop did so well that my husband and I were able to quit our day jobs and treasure hunt and sell on Etsy full time. But until that day…My story is more about a crafty pursuit that allows me a creative outlet.

So many ordinary things can be repurposed to become extraordinary. My passion is finding new ways to repurpose previous treasures…seeing the new in the old. I have had many crafty adventures which not only leave me with fun works of art (wearable usually) but also A LOT of excess supplies from my “upcycling adventures”. My shop is collection of random supplies (because if 1 is good, 50 is better) and some of the treasures I have made with them. I enjoy the search…so if you are looking for a salvaged item – drop me a note. I may not have it, but chances are I know where to find 1 (or 50). 

Martine Brumwell
Maisy Muffin Ragdolls

Martine’s work

I’ve always loved making things and I’ve been fascinated with textiles since I was really small. I could knit and sew before I went to school and, when I was young, I often disappeared for hours and then reappeared with something I had created from materials around the house.

When I grew up I became a teacher and developed another love – writing.

My rag doll making started as a hobby a few years ago and soon became an obsession. Now I make two dressable character rag dolls called Maisy and Mo, little cotton mice, who live in railway stations, called Little Nippers and the Rag Bag Pirates, who are a very silly bunch. I also write stories about these little characters because I love reading stories to young children and seeing how they get totally absorbed so that the characters become their friends and they themselves become part of the story.

I work in a lovely sewing room, which is full of light and overlooks the garden. In the Winter months, it is really cosy in there with lots of fairy lights – a lovely workshop, in which to create my little characters and write my stories.

Nothing appeals to me more than an art or craft item that has been lovingly created, with lots of attention to detail. (I always feel that part of the creator has gone into creating something when it is carefully and lovingly made.)

My toys are all made of top quality100% cotton fabric and are CE safe

Garret Hicks
Garrett’s Metal Art

Garrett’s work

I’ve always loved making things. Seeing something and saying… “I could make that!”

I work in the heating and cooling trade fabricating duct work and fitting of all kinds Commercial and residential. My sons friend introduced me to a auto cad program were I can draw anything I like. We generate lots of scrap metal at work and I always wanted to recycle it into beautiful art. That’s when I started making it into “Garrett’s Metal Art “
 

Shani Mifano
Imelda Shoes

Shani’s work

If I ever come-a-cross a support group for shoeaholics, I would be the first one to confess: Hi my name is Shani Mifano and I am an addict to shoes. LOVE SHOES. Can’t imagine my life without them.

My love story with shoes started when I was a toddler, about 3 years old. I used to sketch shoes all day long, that is why my mom gave me the nickname “Imelda”.
I grew up and tried a different direction – I went to Avni institute in Tel-Aviv to study graphic design. I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, but It just wasn’t enough.

In 2007 My friend and I started to design and create leather goods. After a while, I went back to my first and mythological love – shoes. I started an internship with an experienced senior shoemaker, learned the craft from the beginning, and all the secrets of making shoes the traditional way. It was a blast, I simply enjoyed every second of it.

In the last 7 years I have been working with my husband, we have been creating and designing shoes and bags under our own brand named, Imelda Shoes. I think you all can guess how I came out with that name =)

Our studio specialized in leather, and it’s known for it’s unexpected unique combination of leather textures and patterns. Our shoes are stylish, urban, feminine and very comfy. All of our products are hand made, from premium materials, polished and fine.


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Ask the audience

The title of this post is drawn from a popular TV quiz programme in which contestants have the option to ask the studio audience how they would answer the current question. Contestants then have the right to go with the flow, or ignore popular opinion and choose a different answer. A lot money rides on getting it right.

==oOo==

It is said (in a widely contested quote) that if Henry Ford had canvassed people on whether he should build a motor car, they would have said they needed a faster horse.

It seems to me that large corporations spend a lot of money finding out what customers want, and then an even larger sum of money convincing them that they desperately need a product that the corporation produces.

So how much is about listening to your market, and how much is about leading it? If you only listen, you’ll produce things that people are already somewhat familiar with. If you allow your creativity free rein and produce something completely innovative and different, you might never persuade people to buy it.

Now I’m not a corporation. I’m just me. As a result, I’m even more directly dependent on people liking the stuff I make enough to buy it. And I don’t have a massive budget to spend on market research. I am restricted to straw polls, and reactions to the products I have already made. I am also under some pressure to produce something different and/or original, because I can’t compete on price with the mass produced output of the larger corporations.

It’s a fine line: it has to be desirable and different, but still mainstream enough to attract a buyer.

Flowering chive

I recently completed a cross stitch of a flowering chive. I had bought the kit from a charity shop (I have a weakness for botanical art). It was far more complex than any of the other cross stitches I have done recently (see below), so it took quite a while to complete. Then came the challenging question: what to do with it?

People don’t tend to buy framed tapestries/cross stitch panels any more. I know this, because I have bought several discarded ones from charity shops, with a view to upcycling them. They are currently quite popular upcycled as cushions, bags, clothing, seat covers, etc.

So I posted a picture of the completed panel on my Facebook page and asked my followers what they would like to see done with it. There were some creative suggestions that I would really have liked to try, but I had to be conscious of what would find a buyer.

The most popular suggestion was a cushion cover. So I decided to go with that, but I avoided the obvious approach and went with something asymmetrical with just a touch of the bohemian about it.

Completed cushion cover

Of course, now comes the real litmus test. Will it find a buyer? Did I make the right decision in listening to the audience?

I have bought several miniature cross stitch kits, as well as already completed tapestries and cross stitches, as I mentioned, and I’m having fun turning them into useful items. I haven’t yet gone with an item of clothing, but I think that might be next on the agenda.

Jute carrier bag

Cotton book bag

Tea cosy (commissioned item)

Craft bag

I’d be interested to hear from other independent makers, artisans and crafters how they manage the balancing act. Have you found the magic silver bullet?

Note: at the time of writing, some of the items pictured in this post are still for sale. Please contact the author with any enquiries.

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There might be a short (or long) hiatus

The last couple of days have been very difficult for me. The brief version is that I have lost my beloved workshop space. You know the cliche ‘it never rains, but it pours’? This wouldn’t happen while everything else was hunky dory. Oh no! It has to happen while we’re trying to sell our house, and while Mr Namasi is trying to find work (in a less than ideal job market) before his notice period comes to an end, following the demise of the business he has been working for. And while I am waiting to find out whether ‘the big C’ has taken up residence in my body.

Thanks purely to the good grace of a friend, I have somewhere to store my tools and equipment on a temporary basis, but I no longer have a space in which to use them.

Before I was offered the space, I used to work in my garage at home. The resultant mess and clutter, was an ongoing problem – especially once we had put the house on the market.

Then a friend took out a longish lease on a shop space with an attached house and outbuilding (which consisted of a vestibule and two ‘rooms’).

She set up a business in the shop (unrelated to me) and employed a manager, who was to live in the house with her family.

My friend offered me the use of the larger room in the outbuilding as a workshop. The vestibule and the smaller room served as overflow storage space for the shop and the house.

My special place

I cannot begin to tell you how delighted I was with the arrangement. Of course, it wasn’t perfect: I had a working space, but nowhere separate to store my finished pieces, which didn’t benefit from the sawdust generated by the work on new pieces. But that was a problem for another day. I pottered away happily in my workshop, even when the light was poor, even when it became so cold that I had to wear double layer jacket to keep warm.

Sadly, things turned sour. I won’t go into detail, because there may well be legal proceedings and I may be called upon to give evidence. Suffice to say, my friend and I are still solid – in fact, it is she who has offered me the use of her garage to store my kit. But the tenant of the house has determined that the space I have been using as a workshop is in fact part and parcel of her tenancy agreement, and required me to move out.

So today, we have hired a van and will be moving what we can into our friend’s garage. On (ugh) Black Friday. In between doing a delivery run of this lovely piece, which found a happy home, and my husband attending interviews and and and.

Of course, I still have a studio at home, where I can do sewing and beading and all manner of other handcrafts, and I will focus on those for the time being.

Eventually.

When I have picked myself up off the floor.

Bear with me.

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On appearing in print

One of my kreations is featured in the December issue of Reloved Magazine, in the section called Creative Hub. I am disproportionately excited about this.

During my time at drama school and ‘on the boards’, I was mentioned and pictured in various local and national newspapers.

That’s me in front on the right

I later appeared in people’s living rooms across the (South African) nation every Saturday, during my time as a (rather poor) TV presenter.

Presenter of Lekker Ligte Liedjies

Then, during my quarter of a century as a Learning and Development (L&D) professional, I had several articles published in various sector publications. I was never one of the movers and shakers, but many movers and shakers knew my name – I was even on hugging terms with some of them. I wrote a blog then, too, which was occasionally cited by other bloggers.

In comparison, my tiny little feature in Reloved is very small potatoes. But somehow, I feel just as excited about it as any of the above. I’m not sure why that should be the case, but what the heck. Much delighted squealing and hopping from foot to foot chez Romeis when I saw my mooring rope Christmas tree in print.

Note: at the time of writing, this item is still for sale, please contact the author for further information.

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The creative umm err OR from hmm to tada

Madeleine’s collar

For an eclectic collection of reasons, ranging from practical to deeply personal, I have been away from my workshop for the past week or so, working from home in my studio.

This has meant a shift from power tools to fine handwork. I guess my sewing machine is a power tool, so I haven’t been entirely without them.

It has also meant a shift in output from items made of wood and metal to items made of fabric, thread and beads.

The immersion in a different set of skills with different materials has resulted in some new ideas, which I hope will see the light of day soon. I’ve found myself rethinking my plans for some of the items in my workshop. Some bits of work were going to become one thing and will now (probably) become another. Just because of the shift in focus.

I haven’t deliberately been thinking about this or that piece of wood. It’s just that while one part of my mind is focused on the task (quite literally) at hand, another part of my mind wanders off of its own accord. There is no guarantee that it won’t come back empty handed. In fact, there’s no guarantee that it will come back at all, but that’s another story.

I was recently asked to describe my creative process for a feature in a magazine (more of that anon). I have to say I felt like an utter fraud. I don’t think my journey from hmm to tada really deserves the word ‘process’. That sounds altogether too organised.

The sort of work I do at home is far more likely to have a process behind it, because it often involves patterns. I’ll think of a piece of fabric in my stash and ferret out a pattern that will be suitable. Or I’ll come across a beading/cross stitch pattern and dig out the materials I’ll need to complete it. Following the pattern is like following a process. Of course, I deviate. A lot. Because that’s just kind of who I am.

For example, I bought a series of Mouseloft cross stitch miniatures. Once I had completed them all, I turned them into a sort of patchwork carrier bag.

Mouseloft miniatures carrier bag

I liked the finished result, so I took a couple of MJ Hummel cross stitch panels, and turned them into a carrier bag, too.

MJ Hummel carrier bag
Skirt tote bag

But that’s not always how it works. I came across a skirt I have (ahem) outgrown. It has a beautiful applique design on it, and I wondered if I could turn that into a bag, too, since I seemed to be on a bit of a roll with bags. I could and I did.

Sometimes it’s just a case of needs must. Some time ago, I was making a necklace for my son’s fiancee to wear for the wedding (which, in the end, never took place, but that’s beside the point). But it transpired, she didn’t want to wear necklace for perfectly acceptable reasons of her own. So I set the piece aside.

A few days ago, I came across the various bits of it that had been completed, and thought I might as well finish it. Sadly, somehow, I had lost some of the beads called for in the pattern. So I had to innovate. The finished product (at the top of this post) looks somewhat different from the original design, but I like to think it works.

Do you have a creative process? Do you plot and plan? Or do you fly a bit more by the seat of your pants?

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Fly tipping in reverse… or why the Upsycho needs a van

Since moving into full time Upcycler mode, I have developed a distinct tic. Every time we drive past a skip, I practically give myself whiplash, trying to see if there’s anything useful being chucked out. There often is, but sadly, I can’t usually fit it into my car. I drive a great big monster of a Volvo S80, but its boot (trunk) is smaller than most and its back seat doesn’t go flat. Both for the same reason: there is a built-in fridge in my car where the middle back seat should be. Go figure.

A while back, I was taking Jess for a walk, when I spotted a broken pine TV stand on top of the bins (trash cans) of a house not far from mine. I helped myself to it, popping a note through the letter box, in case they hadn’t meant to chuck it out. It became two dog beds.

Two dog beds

In the summer, I took my Mom birding at a local sanctuary, and we spotted a pile of trash dumped by the side of the access road. It included two plastic crates that I was sure I could use, but my Mom was so horrified at the mere suggestion, that I didn’t retrieve them. I’m so sorry I didn’t, because they would have made great dog beds and plastic is a terrible product to send to landfill because it doesn’t biodegrade.

Last month, for several days in a row, I saw a very nice armchair dumped by the side of the road on my way to work. Sadly, I just knew it wouldn’t fit in the car. A real pity, because it was crying out for an Upsycho makeover. Eventually, the council must have removed it because it (and the rest of the junk dumped with it by a fly-tipper) disappeared.

Two weeks ago, I spotted a tea trolley, dumped on the exit ramp from the local Sainsbury. It was a blind bend with no safe place to stop, so I promised myself that I would go there on foot next time I visited the store, and retrieve it. Someone beat me to it. I hope it was someone who was able to do something useful with it.

Just a few days ago, I spotted a metal item sticking out of the undergrowth beside the A509. It was during rush hour traffic, so I had a full second or two to take in some sort of square section frame and circles. I went back yesterday to investigate.

Half buried in the undergrowth

I dragged it out of the undergrowth and across the road to my car. Such a simple sentence to type. Not such a simple thing to do. The road had been deserted when I crossed it empty handed. But now that I was trying to make it back across the road, carrying two unwieldy metal structures, everybody seemed to want to travel to or from Isham! Finally getting across the road to a clear patch, I laid them down to see what they were.

My hard-won treasures

I hadn’t anticipated that right-angled assembly and I had no tools with me to take them apart. Getting them into the car was no mean feat.

Getting them into the car was no mean feat
My Volvo S80 was not designed to do duty as a workhorse

Getting them to my workshop was the easy bit. Once there, I stood them upright and inspected them. I was quite surprised at how tall they are. Over two metres. Perhaps 220cm. One section is bent (top left of the picture below), and there is some rust to remove. Other than that, the frames are in pretty good nick. Obviously that fabric will have to go, but I have plenty in the stash to replace it with.

Over 2m tall!

What I don’t understand is why someone dumped them where they did. It can be a dangerous stretch of road. Plus, they could just as easily have taken them to our recycling plant, which has a special section for metal waste. People are weird.

Watch this space to see what becomes of my fly-tip-retrieval.

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Thinking about value

Wall art from reclaimed wood

As an upcycler/restorer, I make pieces out of things that other people were planning to throw away. Pallets that were to be consigned to the fire, have become wall art, or dog beds. Items of furniture that had been damaged by damp, have gained a new lease on life.

Before
After

I am also commissioned to restore things. Patio sets for two different clients, a candelabra for another, tables, counter tops… all manner of things. Even a picture. Fret not, it’s not the art work I’m restoring, or we might have a repeat of this!

Failed restoration

What I have discovered is that there is no predicting what has value to people.

In the book version of the Harry Potter series, there is a very touching insight into Neville Longbottom that wasn’t included in the movies. Having been tortured by Voldemort’s bunch, his parents reside permanently in a mental hospital. Neville and his grandmother visit them there. Each time, as they leave, Neville’s mother presses a shiny sweet wrapper into his hand, with the air of someone bestowing a gift of great value. Neville treasures those wrappers – not for what they are, but for what they represent.

Just because an antique dealer would turn his/her nose up at a reproduction table with a plywood top, is not to say that it doesn’t have great sentimental value to someone who grew up seeing that table every time they went to visit Granny and Grampa. Just because it would be cheaper to chuck out a little patio set and buy a new one made of PVC, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth restoring to the person who bought it with their very first pay cheque. Just because a picture is a print in a damaged frame, doesn’t mean it isn’t the most precious piece of art to someone for whom it brings back memories of a late, much loved relative.

It is up to me to see these things through the eyes of the owners. The people to whom these things are so valuable that they are prepared to pay me (or someone like me) to do everything I can to extend its life and to make it look pretty again. It is up to me to handle them like the treasures they are.

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Working with other materials

For the most part, as you may have noticed, I work with wood (or facsimiles thereof like MDF, laminates and laminated chipboard). But I also work with other materials. I have a studio at home, where I carry out handcrafts that don’t involve power tools: sewing, beading, decopodging…that kind of thing.

Tray table – before

In the typical manner of a creative person, I tend to start out with one goal in mind, and wind up in a slightly different place, as inspiration moulds the project organically. So I seldom work entirely within my comfort zone, and most projects stretch me at least a little. Oddly enough (or perhaps not), this is exactly the approach I employed when I used to design learning solutions in my previous life.

Then from time to time, I am given the opportunity to explore new territory.

I was recently commissioned to restore a metal patio set that had seen better days. A two-seater bench and a little tray table. It had great sentimental value to its owner. I knew that I could strip it and sand it back by hand, before painting it again. And I knew it would be a long, slow process.

Two seater – before

At the same time, I was also given a candelabra made of twisted iron rods. The cups for the candles had pretty much rusted away, and the client gave me carte blanche to let my imagination run riot. Once again, this would involve stripping and repainting.

First things first, though – those rusted candleholders had to come off. This sort of work gives me time to think, so it is during the purely manual parts of a project that inspiration tends to strike. It dawned on me – maybe I could have the rust sandblasted off instead.

I found a local sandblasting firm and approached them. For them it was a small project – they usually work on huge pieces, but they were keen on the idea and agreed to do the work for me. They sanded and primed all three pieces.

Screw-in eyes

In the workshop next door to the sandblasting firm, is a metalworker. He works on Rolls Royces and vintage lorries. But he was happy, too, to weld screw-in eyes onto the candelabra for me (he also made a new drip tray for our gas barbecue, but that’s another story). I think the work felt like a holiday to him.

During conversations with the sandblasting man, we discovered that we could form a mutually beneficial relationship in respect of some of the stuff he throws away. I will save him the trouble of disposing of it, and it will provide me with the basis of some interesting pieces going forward.

Once that was done, I painted all three pieces in accordance with the clients’ instructions, and reunited them with their happy owners.

Patio set – after
Candelabra turned lantern tree

The point I’m making is that it’s worth having a go. It’s worth talking to other local tradespeople and crafters. It’s worth asking. People can always say no, but often I find people enjoy the opportunity to do something different. Especially if they get to be a little creative in the process.

So you’ve never tried x thing before. Give it a shot. You might surprise yourself. And you might make some interesting new acquaintances into the bargain.