Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Crafting friends

Last week I talked about a certain section of the crafting community who put down other crafters because they are 'hobbyists' or who use commercially-made components in their work. So in redress, this week I would like to talk about the other side of the coin, the craftspeople I know who are supportive and inclusive and give constructive, positive feed back. By that I don't mean that they just say 'ooh lovely' to everything, but that they always find something good (and truthful) to say about others work. They don't feel the need to be negative just to make themselves look good. 

First up is the amazing Sooz, who runs my favourite beading forum Bead Buddies and who encouraged me to start this blog. She has a bead shop, The Bead Shed, but she also crochets, knits, cooks, tie-dyes, she's a lampworker, she teaches beading and she's had tutorials published in magazines  ... this woman can turn her hand to anything. You can find some of her work on her blog, Soozintheshed, here http://soozintheshed.blogspot.co.uk/ This is one of my favourite pieces of her recent work, a sparkly crochet shawl. 

My very good friend Tan Grey of Tan Grey Glass has picked me up many a time when I've been ready to give it all up. She encourages and inspires her fellow crafters, and she is always the first to give praise for a job well done . She is a truly inspired artist who makes the most beautiful things from recycled glass. She lives in Cornwall and her work is as fresh as a sea breeze. She has an Etsy shop Tan Grey Glass where she sells her work. It's hard to choose a favourite from her current shop items, but this piece just edges it I think. It's made from recycled glass that Tan has hand-painted and fired.

I really don't know where I would have been this last year without the support of my friend Gail. She has supported me through a difficult time with  her professional expertise and has been a total godsend. Added to that she's a very clever beader, who makes gorgeous work like this 'rockpool cuff'. How beautiful is this? 

I am a huge admirer of the work of George Harper East, who is an amazing silversmith and chain maille worker. George is another talented crafter who gives advice and support to fellow craftspeople and helps them improve their skills. Her website is here http://www.mizgeorge.co.uk.  Because she is a jewellery maker herself she knows the kind of things that jewellery makers want. Look at this clever bead cap and headpin set she has made, to use with a lentil-shaped bead - how clever is that? 

I've only recently become addicted to Facebook and realised what a useful site it is for crafters. One of my new Facebook friends is Lucy, of Lucy Made Me.  She makes beautiful things with fabric, like these stunning cushions - my favourite is the blue one second from the end on the right.

She sells her work in Gorgeous Gerties in Dorking (I'll tell you all about Gerties next week, it needs a post all to itself!) where she has a pretty stand full of all kinds of cheerful things to brighten your home. We met there one Saturday when we were shopping and she was restocking her stand.  I know from her Facebook page that she regularly promotes the work of her fellow craftspeople and helps to publicise them.

And isn't that they way it should be? There are enough people out there putting us down - I'm sure we've all heard the comments when we sell at craft fairs; the 'my daughter makes jewellery/cards/scarves exactly like that', the 'why bother, you can buy it in [insert name of high street bargain shop] for less', the 'why waste your money on home made tat' - and we don't need other craftspeople to do it too. The craftspeople I've talked about here, and all the other lovely people who support and encourage their fellow crafters, know that you don't need to make others look small to try to make yourself look good. We are stronger together. United we stand, and all that.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Is it dog eat dog in the world of crafting?

This may be a bit of a rantette today, so apologies if it gets a bit that way. 

I'm not normally the most tolerant of people at the best of times and I'm getting really sick of the way parts of the crafting world seem to be getting very 'us and them'. In my wanderings around the interwebs, I see forum posts and conversations about craft and whether one craft is better than another, whether levels of craft are better than another or whether 'career' crafters are better than those of us who pursue craft as a hobby. 

Let me explain what I mean. I am a 'hobby' crafter. I have a day job that pays the bills and I sell my jewellery to make money to buy more supplies. The idea is that it will be a self-financing hobby although I do tend to have more in the 'outgoings' column than the 'incoming'.  I am fully legal - I am registered with HMRC, do my tax returns, have my insurance, meet the Distance Selling Regulations and so on. Some full-time craftspeople don't like people like me, they see us as dilettantes, playing at it, undermining their efforts to make a living, and generally Not A Good Thing. We hobby crafters don't understand business, we set unrealistic prices that undermine career crafters, we don't even try to make a profit, we Just Don't Get It.

Other sections of the crafting community think that only something made entirely from hand can be called handmade; that means no bought-in components, only handmade beads, handmade clasps, everything (Not sure what you would do about wire or thread, but that was the idea anyway). There was a very nasty reorganisation on one of the UK selling websites a couple of years ago when people even had their shops closed because their things were not handmade 'enough'.   It pitted sellers against each other and I believe it made some people think that they were better than others. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't like the 'lick & stick' type of craft, where someone sticks a self-adhesive butterfly on a bit of card or hangs a charm on a bought-in chain and calls it handmade. But to me, handmade crafts are a very Good Thing. It's special to be able to say 'I did that' - yes, even if it is just stringing some commercially-made beads and a clasp onto a bit of tigertail. It was just a pile of beads and a length of wire, but I thought about it, I decided on a design and I physically made a bracelet  from those materials. 

I think what I'm trying to say is that nobody has the right to put anyone else down. I sell my work in church halls and school fetes, and I enjoy it. I can't afford the fees for the big marquee-based events, or the big 02 thing coming up later in the year. That doesn't make me or my work any less worthy than that of the people who can afford those things and I'm fed up of being put down by people who think they are a cut above. The craft world doesn't need any Hyacinth Buckets, thank you very much. 

Enough rant. Have a guinea pig. 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Trouble with technology

Today being Sunday, I was planning a nice restful day before going back to the day job tomorrow.  Do a bit of laundry, clean out the guinea pigs and bunny, that sort of thing, then a nice restful afternoon updating one of my online shops. 

Well,all went to plan apart from the 'updating the shop' idea. Bit of a glitch with the technology, and I couldn't upload any photos, which is a bit of a problem when customers need to see what I'm selling. So, as I can't do that, I thought I would show some of my newly made items here instead. 

These first earrings have some lovely agate oval beads. I'm not normally keen on shades of brown, but these are lovely, very tactile and some gorgeous nutty brown colours in them.

 I made this bracelet at a recent fair, when it was very quiet. It has pale frosted pink crystals with tiny silver-lined seed beads and round AB crystals to catch the light. The clasp is a beaded loop with a little enamelled pansy button. It looks like a bracelet for a bride or bridesmaid, so it will be going in the new bridal section on my website.

This is another piece for the new bridal section. This is a necklace of pretty silver grey freshwater pearls, with a platinum-plated pendant and a heart shaped toggle clasp. 

 I'd had these silver diamond shaped beads for ages and couldn't decide what to do with them, then one day they just decided that they would like to be earrings please, preferably with some pretty glass drops. So here they are.

 This bracelet might still go into the bridal section, I can't decide. It's tiny glass pearls with rose quartz chips and a lovely focal that was brought back for me from Japan. My friend was going on holiday so I gave her some money and asked her to see what she could find me. Trouble is, I love what she bought so much I don't want to use any of them!

 This necklace is totally one of a kind. The green beads were part of my winnings in a competition on the Bead Buddies forum, so I can't get any more because I don't know where they came from. Lovely sea green beads and focal, with silver glass diamonds.

 These beads are just divine. They are hand made lampworked beads, made by my friend Tan Grey, then etched to give them a lovely opaque look. The green has to be seen in real life, it is amazingly vibrant and zesty. When beads are this gorgeous all they need is a bit of silver to show them off.

While I'm here I'd like to give you an update about the badgers. There was a debate in Parliament on Wednesday, 'That this house believes that the badger cull should not go ahead'. It was straight after Prime Minister's Questions. The house was full for PMQ then as soon as that was over, the vast majority of the MPs disappeared, only to reappear when it came time to vote - having heard nothing of the debate at all. The Government had a three-line whip, which basically tells their MPs 'You MUST turn up and you MUST vote as we tell you'. So, having heard none of the debate, the Conservative & Lib Dem MPs voted against the motion - the final figures were 250 in favour of the motion [that is, against the cull] and 299 against [that is, in favour of the cull]. The last vote last autumn, when MPs were given a free vote, was 149 against the cull and only 28 in favour.

I don't know what upsets me more - that the cull will go ahead or that the MPs employed to run the country will vote on important motions without even bothering to listen to the arguments. Bit scary, isn't it? 

Please sign the e-petition against the cull. There are 248, 497 signatures so far, the biggest e-petition there has ever been. They have to listen to that - don't they?   http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257

I'm still arguing with my [Tory, in favour of the cull] MP. I don't mind him being misguided but choosing to be ignorant of the facts is a step too far. 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

A nice stroll through central London

Today we (and several thousand others) went to London to register our protest against the imminent culling of thousands of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

Marchers were asked to wear black & white, and to wear badger masks which are available to download from the  website. We chose this one and then had to find something to tie it on with. I tried Stretch Magic :-) but didn't have enough, so in the end we used shirring elastic.

 We met up with some friends at the railway station and strolled across Vauxhall Bridge, past the top-secret MI5 building. Or is it MI6? I forget. Anyway there were shedloads of cameras pointing down at us so we smiled nicely. The tide was just starting to turn and a couple of Ducks were struggling to get across the river - have you seen these? They're really cool amphibious vehicles that were used in the D-Day landings. They do tours round London and then suddenly take to the water. They looked a little low in the water to us! This is one of the Ducks we saw today - the pic is from the londonducktours.co.uk website.

We were quite early but there were already loads of people about, mostly having tea in the tea tent in the garden at Tate Britain, so we got some drinks and had a bit of a sit down. The tea tent staff seemed a bit bemused by the large number of customers, let alone that they were dressed as badgers, I don't think they're usually that busy on a Saturday morning - and that was before everyone else arrived!  There were all sorts of people there - the popular image of animal rights people are the young, dreadlocked 'crusty' types, with tattoos and nose rings. There were a few people like that but there were also families with kids, with their faces painted with the black & white badger stripes, some older people with walking sticks and those triangular zimmer frame walkers,  young couples, all kinds of people. People had come on public transport and on special coaches organised from places like Bristol and Manchester and Leeds. One lady had come over from Belgium, just for the march.

We saw one very smart lady with a gorgeous cream fitted jacket and very smart black trousers, and several people with fab purple DMs. One woman was wearing a white tutu and a black basque - she looked great!! Lots of cute dogs too, including a Jack Russell that was having a ride on his human's shoulders, and a teeny chihuahua. Lots of people had placards and banners, almost everyone had masks, and there were loads of badger hats and hand puppets and soft toys. We shared a table with a lady who explained she was part of a group who protest the live animal exports at Dover, and she told us about the times she has been kept in police cells for breaching the peace. She looked as though she should be shopping at Waitrose, not on a demo! She was a very smart lady about our age, beautifully dressed and with a smart hairdo. It sounded so strange to hear her talk about cells and bail and stuff!

The route of the march had been changed because of another rally being held that day [and who seem to have got all the news coverage] so we couldn't go to Downing Street to hand in the petition to No 10. A delegation went to do that before the march began, including Brian May and Virginia McKenna, and another delegation went with Bill Oddie to Defra.

Shortly before we were due to move off, we had a few speeches. People collected outside Tate Britain, and we heard from the organisers, and then from some of the groups that make up Team Badger. The crowd was really getting behind them, clapping and blowing those vuvuzela things. Then from the right hand side of the crowd the cheers started, getting louder and sweeping across the crowd as people realised that Brian May had arrived. He gave a great speech and really got people going, he would be fab as a motivational speaker. Virginia McKenna said a few words too - such an elegant lady. And then we were off.

We walked along the embankment for a while then turned down Horseferry Road. We were supposed to go past the Houses of Parliament but had been diverted. We had people in badger suits and fox suits, people with drums and people with megaphones to get the community chanting going. There is a song to go with the campaign too - you can fine it here  Badger Boys

We had a few police officers walking along the route, including one who looked as though he was wearing his big brother's uniform! I know he'll grow into it but it must have been at least two sizes too big for him. There was one WPC who got a bit stroppy if we tried to walk on the footpath but other than that they were very friendly. One officer told a bloke in front of me that they estimated 4-5,000 people had attended. The BBC put it at 2000. I think it was probably somewhere between the two :-)

We snuck off just before the very end, to try to avoid the crowds around the bus stops and things, but the buses had been re-routed because of that other march, so we ended up walking over Westminster Bridge to Waterloo station and the train home. It was lovely to see so many people coming together to try to save this beautiful wild animal. There is an Opposition Day Debate in Parliament on Wednesday to try to stop the cull. Did you know that the last time it was debated the vote was 147 against, 28 for? A massive defeat for the Government but they went ahead anyway.  Democracy in action?