Blog, book review, Book Reviews

The Mindful Maker

35 creative Fabric Projects to Focus the Mind and soothe the soul

by Clare Youngs

Published by Cico Books £12.99

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.

Squeezy Kitty

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.

Indigo woven mat

         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.‘

Latch hook pillow

         When 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.

         Clare 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.

         The 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 so.

Embroidered Shirt

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)

Photography by Joanna Henderson © CICO Books

Blog, Meet the Maker

Meet the hooked rug designer maker, Debbie Siniska

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.

Debbie at work in her studio

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 purest form. 

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.

How do you get your commissions?

People see my work at shows and commission me.  I also get commissions via my website . http://www.debbiesiniska.co.uk

One of my most recent largest commissions was a 7’ x 4’; Treescape, which I made for a friend of mine who had just retired

What is a typical day for you?

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!

Felted boots

Can you describe your creative process?

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 piece does!

I do love hares, the green man, birds, fishes, plantlife, sky, trees – lots of my inspiration comes from nature, of course.

Hare inspired chair cover

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 challenges?

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.

Green Man rag rug being made on the loom

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. 

Debbie’s mantle piece full of her work and inspiration

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.

Bloomsbury Acrobat rag rug inspired by door panel by Duncan Grant 1913/14

Have you 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.

Wren

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.  

Thank you very much

Makes, Uncategorized

Oxfam urges shoppers not to buy new clothes for a month. So this September I show you how to up cycle, preloved garments, starting with a Smoking Cap.

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.

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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.

jacket

You will need

Old lined jacket

Tape measure

Pen and paper

Sewing machine

Pins

Thread

Scissors

Thin wadding

Calico

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.

hat pattern

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.

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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 crownpin top side.jpg

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

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outside cap. Sew a tassel into the centre of the cap.

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Blog, Makes

Make a recycled Appliquéd picnic blanket.

This project was originally in Coast magazine.

Those 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.

Finished blanket

         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

Pencil

Dressmaking pins

Dressmaking scissors

Paper scissors

2 x woolen blankets or 2 pieces of 160 x 160cm woolen fabric

Dylon Jeans Blue machine dye (optional)

Tapestry yarn or an odd ball of wool (we used pale blue)

Tapestry needle

How to make

Step 1

Find some 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.

Blog, Exhibitions

Installations made from recycled waste featured at Maison des Metallos during Paris Design Week

As part of Paris Design week the Maison des métallos held 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

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The work below is made from different coloured rubber gloves

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This hanging is made from the bases of drinks cans

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Dadave makes art works from recycled computer components.

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Blog, Makes, Uncategorized

Jam Jar Christmas Lanterns

This project is recycling at its simplest.

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You will need

Corrugated card

Rustoleum metallic spray paints in gold and copper

Some glue dots

Ikea LED nightlights

Jam jars

Instructions

1.Gather together your materials.  1 night light for each jar.

Step1

2.Rip the corrugated card into strips

Step 2

3.In a well ventilated, space, spray the strips copper colour and gold. Leave to dry

Step3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Place the cardboard strips round the jar, stick with a glue dot. You may want to place two different colour cuffs round the jar.

Step 4

Tip:

If you want to use these as night lights in the garden make a thin wire loop round the jar neck and a hanging loop from that. Being LED’s they won’t blow out.

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Uncategorized

Recycled Kitchen stool

STOOL.jpg

This has to be one of the best value and easiest makeovers there is. I bought the stool in a junk shop for £7 and gave it a new lease of life.

You will need

A stool

Spray paint in orange

Piece of gift wrap, choose one printed on thick paper

Sand paper

PVA glue

Paint brush

 Instructions

1.Choose the steps

2.Sand the metal parts of the stool to remove any flakey bits of paint

3 Cover the wooden parts of the stool and in an outdoor space, spray the metal parts of the chair. Leave to dry. Re spray as necessary.

4 Choose a piece of substantial wrapping paper. The one shown here came from Dulwich Picture Gallery.

  1. Lay the stool on top of the reverse side of the paper and draw round the shape.
  2. Stick the paper onto the wooden steps with PVA and leave to dry
  3. Water down PVA and paint a protective coat over the paper. It will look milky to begin with but as it dries will become clear.

STOOL DETAILkitchen stool

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