With Mindfulness being so much of the
current zeitgeist and crafting snapping, close behind, on its heels, this book
is both brilliantly timed in its publication date and at the same time utterly engaging.
Having interviewed Clare for my Meet the Makers series I knew this book would be a treat to read and to use. Clare is a ‘one off’ an original, her ideas are fun, her designs good and she comes up with items you actually want to create.
As Clare says in her introduction
‘Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword
in recent years. There has been much talk about slowing down, enjoying the
moment, and leading a less stressful life. Let’s face it life can be pretty
hectic. The day to day whirlwind of work, families, household chores, and
keeping up a social life while rushing around needing to do things and be
places can take a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. At the same time,
we are being bombarded by constant imagery, messages and content from our
digital devices-we need time out. Taking up a craft can be one way of relieving
that stress and tension.‘
you make something your mind is focused, and often the action you are doing is
repetitive, which is soothing –almost meditative-pushing out any negative
thoughts you may have. It is all about getting the flow. This is the perfect
state between concentration and action. When you are there in the zone, the
everyday world drops away and any stress and worries along with it.
is a believer in making new things from old, using what you have and adapting
old fabrics to counteract a throwaway society, and all her designs have a
Scandinavian-inspired, modern aesthetic.
book includes machine sewing, punch needling, embroidery, weaving, macramé,
printing and much more. Many of the projects can be carried with you when you
are travelling. This is a great way to keep calm when all around you are less
There is a chapter on the Mindful home that includes a throw, a mat, bowls, a lamp and a quilt. There are thoughtful gifts and tactile gifts for children and some wonderful inventive wall art. The book is beautifully illustrated by Clare’s husband, Ian and shot by Joanna Henderson. As I was about to review this book and my daughter saw it on my desk she said she wanted it. So my advice is buy 2 copies one for you, and one for your daughter!
The Mindful Maker by Clare Youngs, published by CICO Books (£12.99)
As Charleston, the Bloomsbury home of art and crafts, holds the exhibition ‘Post impressionism living Omega Workshops’ 14 Sept 2019- 19th January 2020 . I interviewed one of the designers selling in their shop, Debbie Siniska.
I know you as a Hooked rug
maker, Can you tell me did you train in textiles?
No, I’m self taught
Did you go to art school and
what did you study? If not what did you
do when you left school?
I used to practice drawing at life class,
but never went to college. I did a City and Guilds in Feltmaking. My very first job when I left school was for
Barclays bank in a tying pool, it was deathly boring
Rug hooking is a very old
rural craft born out of necessity. What
got you into hooked rugs and why?
I was interested in learning to weave, but
that didn’t quite do it for me. One day whilst foraging for fabrics, I came
across some old hand tools, and began to make hooky mats, its recycling in its
Have you ever worked for
anyone else, or done any collaborations? If so, with whom?
I have been part of Creative Partnerships,
a government initiative, in schools. I
was also sponsored by Brighton and Hove City Council and Kent County Council,
with the War on Waste team, to take my ‘Creativity in Schools’ textile eco-art project
into primary schools in Brighton and Hove, and in Kent, which was
televised on local TV, and culminated in
a public exhibition of children’s work in Brighton.
One of my most recent largest commissions
was a 7’ x 4’; Treescape, which I made for a friend of mine who had just
What is a typical day for
No two days are the same for me – If I am
teaching at a school that day, the morning will sometimes be prep – I often
have work on the frame, so I may do a couple of hours in the workroom. I have to attend to emails and also spend a
lot of time searching for teaching opportunities, and contacting galleries. If
there is hand stitching to do or assembling prints and cards, I can work
listening to great music or watching a film.
What do you love most about
what you do?
Making, and watching pieces come to life on
the frame. I love hand stitching and
working with colour.
What do you dislike most
about what you do?
I don’t really dislike any of it, It’s all your own work and it’s what you make of it!
What made you want to start
your own creative business?
I couldn’t work for anyone else – if I
wasn’t following my own creative passions, what was the point of anything. Being true to my own instinctive creativity
is what keeps me going. Sometimes its not all about the money!
Can you describe your
For my own work, I get an idea, an image in
my mind, anything can inspire me, music, nature, colour, texture, stories,
bonfires and people. This idea stays
with me, and I start to search for textiles in the colours I need – I wait and
watch for an image to come to me, then I will set my frame up and chalk out my
design. If I am working on a green man,
or animal, I always begin with the eyes. If they work, then the rest of the
I do love hares, the green man, birds,
fishes, plantlife, sky, trees – lots of my inspiration comes from nature, of
If I am commissioned, I have already spoken
at length with the client, and if we agree, I can begin with confidence that I
can create what they are asking for. The
best commission is from someone who likes my work and trusts my judgement!
What are your biggest
Working to commission is always a bit nerve
racking – talking about your work to 250
people, while you are being filmed, that’s quite challenging. Making decisions about a certain colourway,
when nothing is working, and putting the right price on a piece of work, when
its taken a month to create! Working on your own, in your studio, making all
the decisions is hard sometimes. Lastly,
trying to find time to experiment and go off on a tangent, a rare thing for me.
In what way has social media
impacted on your work
I am on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/debbiesiniska/this helps me chart my pieces of work, and I get feedback from other artisans that I follow – and sometimes I get commissions/sales from Instagram. I advertise workshops, and of course it’s a great way to see what other people are doing.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field today?
Starting out, starts with learning your particular craft, and having a passion for it – go to textile shows and events, and talk to the makers. Don’t be put off by mistakes, see a project through even if you don’t think it’s working – because it just might. Sometimes great things happen when you least expect them.
Compared with when you started, do you think it is
easier for designers to set up on their own nowadays or more difficult? Why?
Everybody’s doing the ‘creative thing’ these days – I try to be true to my ideas when I work, and not be too influenced. Sometimes people cannot tell the difference between mass produced or hand-made, and won’t pay the price for pure artisan hand-made piece of work. There is a certain saturation point and seeking of approval that comes with social media. In the end it all becomes a blur. Creating/designing something new is becoming harder and harder.
One of the reasons I am interviewing
successful women who are over forty is that they have often had to take a
career break, or had to slow down to deal with child care and or aged parents.
Have you ever had to deal with either of these of issues and did it impact on
your creative life or business?
As a mum I had to care for both my parents, whilst
running my shop and working as a maker, and teacher. At times, it was
impossible to keep focused and find the momentum to continue creatively.
Have you exhibited? If so, where?
I have been featured in the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph newspapers, My work has been exhibited in the V&A, I appeared on channel 4 TV with Kirstie Alsopp, on her Homemade Home series 2. I created several Bloomsbury rag rugs for the Tate Gallery shop in London to accompany an exhibition of Bloomsbury art.
I was commissioned by Charleston Farmhouse, home of the literary and art group of the 1920’s and open to the public, to create a facsimile of an old Bloomsbury style rag rug, that now lies in Maynard Keynes bedroom in the house. I take part in Brighton Open Houses, and am part of the Heritage Crafts Association.
written or contributed to any books if so which ones ?
I self published my books Rag Rugs Old into New. Most recently I contributed projects to ‘Craft’ by Dorling Kidersley, and have also had projects in several other project based ‘how to’ books in the past. I created projects for two craft magazines, and was sponsored by a couple of beadwork companies.
What are you currently working on?
My next two shows coming up this month, and in
November. I also have three commissions that I am currently working on.
What is next?
I want to exhibit with my daughter, who is a painter,
and do a ‘makers’ book for kids.
Do you teach or run workshops?
If so where and to whom?
I run my own textile workshops in East Sussex, and I occasionally teach for the National Trust and in adult residential colleges, including West Dean College near Chichester. I also teach in schools, and sometimes visit a school for a day for arts week/green week/eco week. I currently run Eco Art Club, at two primary schools in East Sussex. I have done, and will be doing many one day workshops for the WI, these are great fun, and I get asked to talk/teach for the Spinners, Weavers and Dyers and Embroidery Groups.
Second Hand September aims to raise awareness of fashion’s environmental impact
Create a twenty first century version of a nineteenth century, Smoking Cap from an up-cycled 1980’s jacket. I made this for my brother who loved wearing smoking caps. Here it is modelled by the beautiful Elsa.
The embroidery on the Jacket was beautiful but the style was somehow lacking. So I chose to turn it into, what used to be called, a Smoking Cap. This is in essence a pill box shaped hat often with a central tassel.
You will need
Old lined jacket
Pen and paper
Optional a tassel
Instructions .We made a pattern with the crown, top of the hat having a 18cm diameter. The brim of the hat is 8cm deep x 59.5 cm long including the seam allowances. Cut a paper pattern and then cut a calico pattern and sew the calico brim onto the calico top. Try it on for size and adjust as needed. It should be a little bigger than the finished hat, as the finished hat as a layer of wadding in it.
Cut the jacket into pieces and then lay the pattern pieces on them so they use up the best parts of the pattern. Pin and cut out the pattern pieces. Remember to add more seam allowance if you need to make a join.
Cut the interfacing so that it is slightly smaller than the pattern pieces. Pin it onto the wrong side of the hat’s crown and brimSew the wadding onto the brim. Pin the crown onto the brim, and sew them together, including the wadding around the crown
Using the jacket lining, make a lining for the hat as you did the one from calico. With wrong sides together, and the bottom edges turned under to neaten, sew the lining into the
outside cap. Sew a tassel into the centre of the cap.
who live on the Coast are probably more aware than most, of the changing
seasons. The skies are overcast and dark, the sea becomes rough and the sea
gulls soar and wheel on the updrafts. With this image in mind I have designed
an appliqued blanket. I have kept with the dark almost monochrome, but with
suggestions of seasonal colours. The method of making is very easy and the end
result has a Hygge Scandinavian feel.
I made this blanket out of two old
woolen blankets purchased in a charity shop. They are easy to come by and often
thin enough to use as a double thickness. If you don’t want to use old woolen
blankets buy 160 cm woolen fabric that is 160cm wide. You will need two pieces
in two different colours.
If using old blankets, clean by washing
on a wool wash. You can dye them, as I did one of ours, in a washing machine.
We dyed it Jeans blue. The blanket must be made out of wool or another natural
fiber for the dye to take. If you dye a blanket in the machine it will felt a
little. Once the blankets are washed dyed and dry, then cut them so they are
the same size as one another.
What you need
Tracing paper or baking parchment
x woolen blankets or 2 pieces of 160 x 160cm woolen fabric
Jeans Blue machine dye (optional)
yarn or an odd ball of wool (we used pale blue)
How to make
copyright free images of flying seagulls on the internet, scan to enlarge and
print them out. Draw onto tracing paper and cut out using paper scissors. Or
just copy the bird shapes shown here.
Pin the paper
seagull onto the darker blanket. Being very careful to keep the shape, cut out
the gull. You will need to repeat this with the other gulls depending on how
many you want.
Pin the darker
blanket on top of the lighter one. Round each edge, pin one blanket onto the
other. Pin round the gull shape holes.
Using running stitch, sew round the edge of each gull.
Make sure the blankets haven’t stretched. If they have cut away any overlaps. Using blanket stitch, 1cm deep x 1cm wide, sew one blanket onto the other all the way round the edge.
As part of Paris Design week the Maison des métallosheld an exhibition of recycled art. The first exhibitor is Sophie Helene. She uses recycled plastic and netting to create her installations many of which are photographed in natural surroundings. The piece above is made from cartridge wrappings.
The work below is made from piecing together Tetrapac that have been opened up and flattened
The work below is made from different coloured rubber gloves
This hanging is made from the bases of drinks cans
Dadave makes art works from recycled computer components.