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Moving to new ‘premises’

I have migrated my blog posts over to this site. It’s still very much under construction, but the idea is that it will eventually become something of a catch all: a space where my pieces can be purchased directly, as well as a contact point for commission work and enquiries, and the place where the narrative can be found.

With regard to more physical premises, I am exploring some leads for brick and mortar spaces that might be interested in stocking my finished pieces.

I am also looking into markets and fayres. This research is still very much in the early stages. I did take a long shot on a local Christmas market, where I displayed some of my smaller ticket items. That experience taught me unequivocally that any market which includes a bric a brac stall is not a suitable place for handmade pieces. I might post more about that at a later date. For now, if you happen to know of a market where there is likely to be an appetite for the sort of things I produce, please let me know.

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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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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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You know the expression, change is the only constant?

I started this blog to explore the journey in my life-after-learning. Okay, I haven’t actually stopped learning – far from it. I hope I never do. But I’m no longer working as a learning professional.

Working as an upsycho was the ‘next chapter’ of the title. And that is fun, exciting, challenging, interesting…and not terribly lucrative.

But there are other kinds of new chapters in our lives, too.

Mr Namasi and I are fairly new inductees to the Empty Nest Club. The doors to the bedrooms that used to be occupied by our sons now remain (almost) permanently closed. The need for two fridges and an upright freezer has evaporated like the morning mist. The need for two bathrooms, likewise.

The company my husband works for is being wound down as we speak. So he’s hitting the ‘want ads’ as they call them in the movies.

And finally, we’re foreigners in a post-Brexit-referendum UK (he’s a Swede and I’m some other kind of vegetable). At this stage it’s unclear what that will mean for us in the medium-to-long term, and things seem to swing from ominous to business-as-usual on a daily basis.

All the factors taken together made us decide that it was time to up roots and downsize. So we’ve put our house on the market (here, in case you’re interested). We think we’ll probably rent for a while, until we know which way is up and how many beans make five. Maybe a nice rural cottage with a big outbuilding. Maybe a park home. Who knows?

So much shifting sand. So much uncertainty. And yet…

We’ve hit bumpy patches before, but our sons were still dependents, living at home. The stress and anxiety nearly did me in.This time it’s different.

We’ve always had this little thing we say to each other when we set off somewhere on our own: just the twosies of us. And here we are, facing challenges on every side, just the twosies of us. And because it is just the two of us, it’s so much less stressful. Our sons have jobs and homes. They’ll be okay. If we wind up sleeping on camp beds in someone’s garage for a few weeks, it’ll be okay. If we have to move to the EU, it’ll be okay. We’ll figure it out. As we used to say in South Africa ‘alles sal regkom’ (it will all work out).

So your friendly upsycho is being uncharacteristically UN-psycho about the whole thing.

For now.

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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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My new workshop

My pallet riches

Your friendly upsycho is feeling rather ridiculously pleased with a couple of recent developments. First: I got a workshop. A place where I can keep my growing collection of power tools, and make as much noise and mess as necessary to produce my kreations. It also provides me with the space I need to store all my pallets, raw materials and half-finished projects without posing threat to life, limb and Mr Namasi’s patience.

My workshop shares premises with a dog grooming parlour, and the owner of the business has kindly afforded me some space within the store to display some of my kreations. So, if you’re a local person, bring your best friend in to Top Dogs Professional Grooming Service in Birchfield Road East (opposite the Co-op), Northampton, and take a look at some of my bits and pieces on display there. You can wait while your dog is groomed, or pop out for a bit of a grooming yourself – there’s a barber shop two doors down, and a beauty salon across the road.

Table saw
Band saw

I’m also rather pleased to have acquired – for little more than a song – a table saw and a band saw from a lovely bloke who just wanted his garage space back. He delivered them, set them up, demonstrated them and then insisted on watching me use them, to make sure that I had absorbed enough from his demo to keep all my fingers.

The table saw in particular has been an absolute godsend, as I tackle the pallets and crates that have long awaited my attention.

Some examples of the sort of things I have been producing:

A headboard, made out of upcycled bed slats and painted to match an existing mural (also my handiwork).

Rich colours

A couple of small dog beds made out of an upcycled TV stand (with a few added bits).

Small dog beds for little best friends

A giant dog bed, made out of a pallet and some decking boards

Giant dog bed for a very large best friend

This is a very bed-centric selection of items, I notice. Perhaps this is because I’m feeling a little under the weather today. But I have made some non-bed items:

Funky shelf unit

Rack for dog-walking accessories

I have also worked in mediums other than wood, but more of that another day.
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Scars and the tales they tell

I recently acquired three Ercol red dot children’s chairs. They had been bought new by a family with two sons (no-one is quite sure why three chairs for two boys) who are now men with families of their own.

Both parents have subsequently died and the sons are busy disposing of their parents’ belongings. The chairs formed an integral part of their childhood memories, and the plan was the sand them down, restore them and use them in their own homes. But their own children have outgrown kiddy chairs, and with full time jobs, homes to run, families to raise and lives to lead, finding the time was proving too difficult. So they decided to sell the chairs to someone who would take the time to restore them.

That someone proved to be me.

The chairs show clear signs of having survived the childhoods of two rambunctious boys and their various friends. Presumably the grandchildren used them, too, when they went to visit. There are scratches in the wood, some of which probably deserve the word ‘gouges’; the points of the various bits are chipped; they are long overdue for an oiling. Everything you would expect from a piece of furniture half a century (or so) old.

So there I stood, sandpaper in hand, with a decision to make: before I apply lashings of nourishing and preserving oil, do I sand the beautiful elm wood right down until it is blemish free and perfect…and ever so slightly differently shaped from the original? Or do I sand away the worst of the damage, to leave some of the history while removing the risk of splinters for the next little person to sit in the chairs?

I went with column B. The chairs have had their own story. I hope their stories will continue for several decades yet. I don’t know how each of the scratches and chips was caused, but I do know that each one has been part of the journey. If you want a blemish-free piece of furniture, you buy a new one. If you want a piece of history, you want it have evidence of said history.

Or so I think, anyway.

It put me in mind of an incident that happened when my niece was a little girl. She was in my Mom’s bedroom as my Mom was getting dressed and she asked with a gasp of pure admiration, “Granny, how did you get those pretty finsil (silver) lines on your bum?” Said niece is now a gown woman in her thirties. She almost certainly has ‘pretty finsil lines’ of her own, and no doubt she hates them as much as my mother hated hers back then. We’re raised with the idea that we’re to go through life’s storms without collecting evidence of the battles we’ve won (or at least survived). Those stretch marks which bear evidence to the fact that we carried the next generation within ourselves for a time. Those wrinkles that declare that we have been around since before the current norm was the norm…and we’re still standing.

More recently: my son was features on the front page of an ice hockey match programme for this weekend. I WhatsApped a copy to my family abroad. Both my mother and my sister – who haven’t seen my son in years (such is the reality of living on different continents) remarked on the scar in the middle of my son’s forehead. They remember that scar. They remember how he got it: flying at mach 1 into a doorpost. They have seen it featured in every single photograph of my son for the past 20 years and change since he acquired it. It’s part of him. It’s part of his story. They know how it epitomises the no-holds-barred approach my son still has to life – that he lives at full tilt, with no sense of self-preservation, and saves nothing for the swim back (if you can name the movie from which that reference is drawn, you get extra brownie points).

Vintage is in. You only need to look at an events calendar, or a TV schedule to see how sought after it is. We want things with a past, a history. We want things that look as if they have a tale to tell. Perhaps it’s time to adopt the same attitude towards ourselves?

Anyhoo, before I wax too philosophical, let me end this particular anecdote with before and after pictures. The chairs have been uploaded to my Folksy shop.

Before

Sanded and oiled