Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Craftfulness

Mend yourself by making things

By Rosemary Davidson and Arzu Tahsin

Published by Quercus books

As somebody who is a craft author and maker of many years, when I saw the title and strap line of this book it resonated with me. 

In the introduction the authors, both makers, describe how they realized that craft is their therapy.

‘ Working with my hands to make a thing-whether it’s a sketchbook or a piece of weaving or drawing –fulfils some essential function of me. It feels predestined, it’s a part of my DNA. I can’t imagine not having a project on the go. There would be a hole in my life, a sense that there is something I should be doing. When I’m making I am focused, resolved, connected to the work I am shaping. Afterwards I feel refreshed, invigorated even, and always more energetic for what is going on around me. I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as I’m making, I can do all the other things being alive requires of me. I equate my daily craft practice with, if anything, meditation.” Azru Tahsin, editor, crafter and one of the authors of this book.

         The co-author Rosemary Davidson describes being surround with materials from which to make as a small child. Her grandmother was a seamstress and so Rosemary had access to beads feather and threads from a very early age.

“When I’m making I have room to think. And to do my daydreaming.” she says.

         Neither woman wishes to set up a business crafting things so they wondered why do they craft. This book comes up with some very plausible of the answers.

         ‘ We make things because we enjoy it and because our crafts make us feel better. It is when we return to our sewing, knitting, bookbinding or weaving that we achieve moments of calm. When our energy is low, making something energizes us. Making reaches into the place where ideas are sparked and where problems are resolved.’

          The authors admit that they are not craft experts, or feel particularly ‘artistic’ in the conventional sense of the word. They both work as freelance editors, but it is by being menders, dabblers and gung-ho experimenters that they are convinced there are health benefits to be had by practicing as often as possible a craft that inspires and challenges.

‘Through making and mending things, we contend that you are also potentially making and mending yourself’.

 The book is divided into three sections. The first, and for me the most fascinating part, explores what is meant by creativity and the importance of craft in our lives. The authors explore the latest research on how working with your hands and making things can have a huge impact on your mental well-being and happiness.

         The second section of the book deals with how to deal with negativity, how to stretch your imagination and flex your fingers.   The final part of the book has a projects section that gives techniques for a number of crafts including weaving on a frame, knitting, drawing making a simple clay pot and darning and mending. There is lots of helpful advise including inspirational web sites and a recommended reading list.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Mending Matters Stitch, Patch, and Repair Your Favourite Denim and More

By Katrina Rodabaugh

Photographed by Karen Pearson

Published by Abrams, New York

Dear reader you may find it strange that I am reviewing a second book on what is ostensibly mending or even another book on blue mending. Okay I admit it, as always it is the blue that draws me in, as do the beautiful worn denims. However this book is about much more than just mending. It comes out of the Slow Fashion movement that is very strong in America and growing in momentum on this side of the pond. 

         Included are the practical elements, you are shown the basic techniques, exterior and interior patches, hand stitches improvised darning and weaving. It is also interwoven with the philosophy and stories behind the Slow Fashion movement.

         It was in 2013 that Katrina, a fibre artist, started an art project called Make Thrift and Mend- where she vowed not to buy any new clothes for an entire year. It grew out of three influences: the first being the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that killed 1100 workers and injured another 2500. The second an interview with Elizabeth Cline author of Overdressed: The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion. The third was a blog written by slow fashion designer Natalie Chanin, in which she advocated slow design.

As Katrina launched her new project she researched everything she could on sustainable fashion and the people who practice it. During that first year Katrina fell in love with mending, which she transformed into an art form as she realized the opportunities to consider patches and stitches as design elements. Katrina approaches mending with the same design considerations she uses in her art work- line, shape, scale, texture and colour. –she fuses embroidery and basic stitches to create strangely beautiful and eco friendly  garments that have been well- worn and are still well-loved.

The book has quotes from artists and designers who work using textiles in an ethical and eco friendly manner.

         “I’m excited for Mending Matters and for Katrina’s work that offers new directions within the sustainable fashion community. It creates solutions, draws on handcraft heritage, and widens opportunities to connect Slow Fashion through simple stitchings “

Foreward by Natalie Chanin founder and creative director of Alabama Chanin.

 What I wear : by Samantha Hoyt Lindgren  from A Gathering of Stitches

“Making my own clothing makes me happy. This is not to say that I am always successful in my makes. But more often than not, and with greater regularity these days, I make items of clothing that I wear and cherish. In a changeable world this gives me great satisfaction and some peace.”

         From Jessica Lewis Stevens from Sugar Workshop On using natural dyes. 

          “When we dye our wool and cotton and linen with plants, we can mark the way the goldenrod covered everything in sight this year or the good health of the tall oaks that dropped basketful of tannin-rich acorns. We can put colour by for winter, wear medicine on our backs. We can harvest the colours around us and in  making them part of our wardrobes they can hold our stories and come back to us.”

         I am writing this during Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and one of the biggest opportunities in Slow Fashion is mindfulness.

As Katrina says ‘Most women are oversaturated by a fashion industry telling us how to look, dress, eat, diet, hide, reveal, boost, or otherwise mute our bodies. By being more mindful, time can be taken out to think what it is you really want. The confidence in your personal style is actually counterculture to fashion trends.

 I try to remind my students that the point is not to have a perfect closet filled with perfect garments, but to cultivate mindfulness- mendfullness –and make deliberate choices, focus on what you can do to make a positive impact, and gain a deeper understanding of your true preference and style.’

         Mendfulness is ultimately about healing. It’s about healing what we intuit to be broken in the fast-fashion industry but also in our individual experiences of clothing. We can learn to create antidotes to the damages of scrutinizing body image, low self-esteem, and general scarcity that comes with the never ending never ending need to ‘fix’ something in ourselves through our wardrobes”

After describing how when she was a child, her family spent Sunday evenings darning, by India Flint prophet of bloom

“ My darning is still from perfect…it’s now loud and proud, big patches that glow happily from leaf prints, as every time I mend , I re-dye the garment. Refreshing in a eucalyptus bath reinforces the cloth with a layer of colour, sanitizes and gives things a lovely fragrance. It’s a practice that connects me firmly to the land where I live and it makes me very happy”

This book is a joy to read and to hold. Buy it.

book review, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Silver Clay Workshop

Getting Started in Silver Clay Jewellery by Melanie Blaikie

9781784944803 FINAL

Ever since I attended a workshop given by Emma Mitchell from Silver Pebble Design, I have been interested in silver clay jewellery making. I love the technique and the easy way that you can make something incredibly beautiful in a matter of no time. The only down side is that I  thought that as a technique it was rather limited, the Silver Clay Workshop shows otherwise.

3-INITIAL-PENDANT1-W

This book is a proper ‘how to’ manual explaining, with step-by-step photography, how to use different techniques. Each project is graded A,B or C, in terms of difficulty so the reader is aware of what standard of craftsmanship is required before embarking on a project.

17-SYRINGED-RING-STONE

 

The different types of silver clay are described and the way to use them. You can purchase it in clay form in a syringe or as a paper. It is all too easy to start on a new craft, spend a fortune on tools and equipment and then end up abandoning it after just a few attempts. What is great about this craft is that the outlay for the first eight projects in this book is really very little. Most of the tools and equipment can be found round the house. I love the fact you can even make rings with silver clay and you can add precious stones. If you want to start a new craft and achieve great results quickly then this is the book for you. Melanie Blakie runs her own workshops and courses and all information can be found on her website http://www.silverclayworkshop.co.uk/

19C

Silver Clay Workshop, Melanie Blaikie, GMC, £16.99, availble from https://thegmcgroup.com

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Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Making Concrete Pots, bowls, and Platters by Hester van Overbeek

Hester van Overbeek is a very creative designer who is always aware of the Zeitgeist and so it is with her inspiring book Making Concrete Pots, Bowls, and Platters.

This is the perfect book for summer as its attractively styled images show. If you are going to be mucking about with concrete it is best to be in a warmish climate and have an outdoor space in which to work. The fire bowl would create a perfect atmosphere on a summer evening, and if you are entertaining there’s a cheese board that can double up as a sharing platter.

The book has clear step-by-step instructions for all the projects. The most difficult aspect of using concrete is the weight of it and carrying it home from the builders yard. Take a quick look around your house, or a trip to a thrift store to come up with solutions for moulds or you can cast in sand.

The project top of our list is the garden planter, currently succulents are on everyone’s agenda and the texture of the grey concrete against the fleshy leaves would be perfect.

With 35 projects to choose from this informative book is for anyone wanting to make highly desirable, simple, contemporary makes for the home and garden.

Making Concrete Pots, Bowls, & Platters by Hester van Overbeek,

Published by CICO Books (£12.99)

Photography by James Gardiner © CICO Books