But where can I buy all the pretty???

Visit Vagabond Romantics shop now to browse and buy altered art, wearable collage, and lovingly curated craft materials unearthed from the farthest reaches of granny's attic.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Introducing Reliquaries - our New Collection

Siren Reliquary brooch/pendant
One of my biggest struggles as an artist is discipline. Not just the discipline to run a business when I'd rather just be making pretty things (though that is certainly an ongoing battle) but also the discipline to stay focused on a particular idea for long enough to fully develop it. I am constantly distracted by new ideas that I MUST GET OUT OF MY HEAD AND PLAY WITH BEFORE I EXPLODE!!!!

Lately I have been feeling a bit unmotivated - the Welsh winter is moving in fast, the days are short, the studio is cold, and the only thing I really want to do is knit. Except I may finally be getting my mojo back, thanks to a short course I did through WEA Cymru a couple of weeks ago. It was an introduction to jewellery making using upcycled materials and, by the tutor's own admission, pitched at a much more basic level than my experience. However, I've always said that a good student who wants to learn can pick up skills in any circumstances, and that was certainly the case here. Namely, I learned a really rough and ready yet surprisingly effective mosaic technique which can be used with, amongst other things, the lids of tin cans and bottle tops. I knew there was a reason I never throw away a jar lid.....
Niche Reliquary brooch - the piece that started it all

I loved the statement brooch I created on the day, inspired by Medieval niches and grottos, and I've been toying with the idea ever since. Currently I only have works in various stages of progress, but I'm confident it's the start of a whole new direction, a collection I'll be calling "Reliquaries: Precious gems to wear and display". And already my brain is racing ahead of my hands.

Please peruse, comment, etc - these would be perfect for a personalised piece of jewellery or art incorporating small family heirlooms or sentimental pieces like broken jewellery. As always, I'm happy to discuss commissions.
Angel Reliquary - this is my current favourite and likely to be adorning my coat all winter!

Buddha Reliquary is designed to be a small but elaborate wall hanging,
currently I am adding an elaborate lotus border in full bloom

Starburst Reliquary earrings - probably the most glamorous bottle
tops you will ever see - aside from the rest of the VR collection, that is!

Friday 30 October 2015

Baby It's Cold Outside

A small selection of my Colinette yarn stash
The nights are well and truly drawn in, I'm feeling the chill in the air, and that can only mean one thing: time to knit!! Specifically, I've acquired two new settees in a neutral beige faux suede that are way too plain to grace my vibrant Mexican-themed living room and I've been dreaming of knitting another throw from Colinette's Arizona Dream pattern book for ages.

Yesterday was beautifully crisp and autumnal the perfect excuse for a crafty (get it?) little road trip. Mid Wales may seem remote, but if you are American and laugh in the face of distance like I do, it's amazing where you can go in a ninety-minute drive. We hit the invaluable resource that is Scrappies for some Christmas craft supplies and finished up at my spiritual home, the Colinette mill shop.

Is this heaven? No, it's Colinette's sale room. Oh wait, same difference.
It's been a busy week, so today I have rewarded myself with a long lie in followed by a leisurely afternoon surrounded by gorgeous colour. I've even mastered a new stitch: broomstick lace, which is far more impressive than the effort warrants. I predict a flurry of lacy scarves for Christmas. But only if I finish my throw in time.

Colinette's Sonoran pattern throw in Lone Star colourway,
knitted from the Arizona Dream kit by my own pudgy hands

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Art vs Craft

Fam, Mixed Media Art
Doll Assemblage, 2015
Yesterday I mentioned making the transition from craft to fine art and promised to write more about it, and I know you've all been waiting on the edge of your seats! I thought it was also appropriate to include an image of "Fam" ("Mother"), the other assemblage piece I submitted for exhibition and which was rejected despite being, to my mind, the stronger piece of work. I'm not saying that has anything to do with the ideas I'm about to discuss, you can draw your own conclusions.

I recall a meeting I attended several years ago with a group of woman makers who wanted to form an arts collective. We stumbled at the starting blocks because no one could agree on how to define ourselves. The three options were crafters, artists, or makers. This provoked a surprisingly heated discussion which I've never forgotten. Personally I was fine with any terminology, though I preferred "makers" as it takes in any creative practice and does not have the perceived exclusion that the term "artist" carries for some, nor the uncomfortable associations with grannies selling acrylic knitted baby clothes in church halls that "crafter" is still often associated with. But one participant had trained at art college and was hostile to the idea of being relegated to a "mere crafter", and others didn't want the more highbrow "art" label attached to their lighthearted creations. It was something of a defining moment for me.

What is art, and what differentiates it from craft? Arguably less and less these days as contemporary artists embrace traditional craft skills and galleries support conceptual craft. So let's make it personal. I never felt comfortable calling myself an artist because I felt Art (note the capital A) should innovate and challenge, it should involve some new process or idea, or it should be made with a clear aim in mind. All I've ever wanted is to enjoy the creative process, to play and experiment and make things that I love and that other people might love too. I've never felt moved to try and make statements or set out to innovate - I take the position that being creative means trying something new, so if I've never eg drawn a horse, drawing a horse is creative enough to satisfy me.

For the last ten years, I have run art history workshops for children, and for the last few of those years, I was incredibly fortunate to work in a particular primary school where many children attended the workshops with great dedication, and several of those challenged me and informed my practice in ways they could never have known. I was constantly pushed to discuss more contemporary art and more women artists, and this meant educating myself. Because of the interests of the children, I began to research women artists in particular. I had a passing knowledge of Kiki Smith and Louise Bourgeois. I was already a huge fan of Cindy Sherman. But I "discovered" Carmen Herrera, Yayoi Kusama, Christo's long-unacknowledged partner Jeanne-Claude. And I began to see artists like Georgia O'Keeffe, Mary Cassatt, and Yoko Ono in an entirely different light as I learned about their lives and the experiences that informed their work. And the more I learned, the more I fell in love with all these incredible women.

One of the artists I researched was Grandma Moses, an American folk art legend who shot to international stardom when she took up painting at the age of 78. What fascinated me about Grandma Moses was the story that at gallery openings, there would be a table display of her baking and preserves, because in her mind, there was no distinction between her domestic skills and her artwork. And therein, I believe, lies the answer to the question of what differentiates art from craft.

Two anecdotes I'll share and I'll try to keep them short (although you can already see this is entirely contrary to my nature). The first involves reknowned burlesque performer, teacher and scholar, Dr Gypsy Charms of the Academy of Burlesque and Cabaret. Holding forth to a group of students in the pub one evening after class, Miss Charms was asked what the difference is between a burlesque performer and a stripper. She spent some time discussing the historical context of burlesque as an art form, but in the end, she finally said it mostly boils down to the audience. That is, the difference is in the intent of the performer. Are you simply aiming to give your audience bare flesh, or do they want the art of the tease, the story, the big reveal?

The second anecdote is really paraphrasing a fascinating observation from Michael Pollan's excellent book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, which is divided into four sections corresponding to the four classic elements with each one relating to a cooking process (ie: fire=roasting, water=boiling/stewing, air=baking, and earth=fermentation). Pollan starts with roasting because this is the most basic, primal cooking process. It calls to mind "cavemen", the discovery of fire, sacrificial rituals and the hunt. It's only when humans become more technologically advanced that they are able to create the cooking implements that allow them to stew and boil in a pot. At this point, Pollan suggests, cooking is transported from a spectacle to a mundane task, from the campfire to the kitchen, and the cooking duties change hands from men to women. Even today, women are usually the home cooks responsible for preparing the family meals, stuck in the kitchen with a boiling pot that, as if by alchemy, transforms plain ingredients into delicious food. And yet, when there is a celebration - a feast - who is at the forefront? Whether it's flipping burgers on the grill or carving the turkey, when we think of men cooking in the home, more often than not it's part of the elaborate spectacle of a "special" meal, and the daily drudgery is left to the ladies. And what about celebrity chefs and cookery programmes? Once again, when cooking becomes a spectacle, it is often dominated by men. (NB I know this does not represent every household or indeed every cook, but it is the stereotype for a reason - these generalisations, whilst by definition not showing the entire picture, still account for many households)

So we find ourselves back at art and craft. We know that, broadly speaking, craft objects are functional and are more associated with women. And that's where it all comes together: the cookery, the intent, the concepts. For me, the biggest difference between art and craft is the historical, cultural gender gap in the makers and what their intent was. Men got to be Artists, with the intent that their work would be on display in a gallery, revered by the public. Women crafters concerned themselves with beautifying their immediate environment, with making their homes more pleasant places to be, with demonstrating their love for their families by using the simplest materials to transform the functional components of daily life and elevate them into little works of art. The only consideration of the audience was that the work was done out of love, but these creations were not for strangers to admire in a gallery nor to make any statement. They were a quiet, modest way to make the world a better place. And personally I don't aspire to anything greater than that.

Monday 26 October 2015

Inspired by Wales

It's a long journey, especially when you're a self-taught dropout, from being a "crafter" or a "maker" to an "artist". There are issues with all these terms and how they're perceived that would be interesting to discuss in another post (makes mental note...). I have been experimenting with the arts for my entire life, but only recently feel I have begun to truly cross the line into fine art.

To that end, I have applied for an open exhibition at a lovely local gallery. The theme is "Inspired by Wales" which is something that could be said of most of my work only insofar as I am often creating pieces with found objects from the region (which is a genuine treasure trove for the artist working in assemblage). But I know where my artistic interests lie at the moment, and it was immediately clear how I could incorporate a Welsh slant into them.

I very pleased to say that the mixed media and found object assemblage pictured here has made it through to the final round of judging, which happens this afternoon. Needless to say, my fingers are firmly crossed.

An Apothecarial Guide to the Landscape of Wales, Mixed Media Assemblage, 2015
The details, of course, do not come through in the photo. The cabinet itself I had to buy new but treated with paint effects to suggest aged wood and added antique bronze hardware. The image which forms the backdrop was rescued from the bin and kindly donated by a local hotel. The 17 bottles that form the contents were all excavated from a nearby smallholding. And the contents were scavenged by myself over the period of a couple of weeks and include wool plucked from fences, the most delicate seashells I have ever seen, rainwater from a hilltop, fresh forest air, a handwritten Welsh language poem, chips of slate and coal, and more. It was a beautiful project to work on, grounding me more firmly in my new home and connecting with the varied landscape around me. I hope to do several variations which could be more focused on particular environments or specific sites, and in doing so, to root myself further into the Wild West (of Wales).

Monday 5 October 2015

In Praise of Yarn

The "Wall of Wool" at Vagabond Romantics HQ
I have a lot of yarn.

I mean, seriously.

Some of my stash (but by no means all) can be seen in the photo to the left. 

I collect yarn from charity shops, independent wool shops, mill shops, trade fairs and of course online. Sometimes I want unusual textures, other times I lust after the unmistakeable palette and understated luxury of Noro, other times all I care about is how soft the fibres are.

Colinette's Tao silk yarn, with it's rich painterly hand-dyed colours, soft-as-air fibres and enviable drape, has almost everything I want from a yarn - if only I could afford it! I once found a tangled 500g hank of seconds in a nearby market for a knockdown price, and the silk feels so gorgeous in the hand that even the hours it took to unsnarl it and roll it into a ball felt decadent (but not as decadent as the oversized boxy garter stitch jumper I eventually knitted with it)

Drops do a gorgeous cotton viscose that has a convincingly silky lustre, a nice drape, an extremely reasonable price, and a delicious range of colours that run the gamut from subtle vintage shades to the rich jewel tones of a spice market. It's become my go-to yarn for most projects thanks to all of the above. It was also the yarn I used as the base for my "Lucy" knitted cuffs that were recently voted "Make of the Week" on the Wool Warehouse Facebook page. We intend to be listing a few of these lush little gems as autumn progresses, so do keep an eye on the shop if you fancy one (or a pair)!

And of course there's recycled sari silk yarn, which is becoming more and more widely available. Often there's an added bonus that it is spun by women's cooperatives from the silk threads that collect on the floors of fabric mills, or indeed scrap strips of sari fabric itself make an unusual ribbon-style yarn which may even include the odd sequinned motif or bit of beadwork. I have a terrible time resisting this and came away from Wonderwool 2015 with bags of it, but can rarely bring myself to knit with it because it is simply too beautiful as it is. I have, however, worn an untwisted skein as a rather dramatic necklace, and many compliments I received on it, too.

You may be wondering what the point of all these ramblings are and the answer is, I don't think there is one. I just felt like sharing my enthusiasm for yarns and fibres, and to encourage you to pick up a ball to play with next time you're in a wool shop and something catches your eye. You don't have to be able to knit or crochet, there are so many ways of playing and experimenting with it, and nothing quite like the tactile quality of working with fibres.

Wednesday 30 September 2015

Sweetheart Pincushions

I found the largest of these three cups in a charity shop sometime back. The gilding was rubbed, the flower was missing a couple of petals, and there was no maker's mark. But even though it had seen better days, it was far too baroque a confection to resist.

Quite by chance I turned up the two smaller gold cups - this time in near perfect condition - at a table top sale soon after.

I had no idea what I'd do with any of these, but I knew they were destined for something special. Like many makers, I avoid using my favourite materials. Especially when, as was the case here, I know I'm not likely to find replacements! So I bided my time, waiting to be inspired with the perfect idea for these little beauties.

In the end, I realised they had to be pincushions. But not just any pincushions, hand-felted merino wool cushions that would coordinate with the cups and echo their lavish designs, recalling the heavily beaded and embroidered pieces that used to be given as gifts to a sweetheart. Pincushions that would be functional, yes, but also be tiny objets d'art in their own right.

Above you can see the results and judge for yourself whether I did my cups justice. In each case, the felted interior was beaded and appliqued with a variety of haberdashery, lace and crystals. Personally, I love them. And someone must agree, as the two smaller versions will soon be winging their way to America as very indulgent little Christmas gifts, where I hope they will be very much loved.

As for the original larger cup, it is currently for sale. It's still my favourite of the three but I do think it's missing one thing. There's a plain white scroll draped down one side just begging for an inscription (available at no extra charge!). Personally, I'd go for "prick". But that's just me....

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Where's all your stock gone?

Trying to earn a living as a creative is difficult. Not only is it an uphill struggle to convince many people of the value of handmade and compete against cheap, mass-produced imports, but very few of us actually have good heads for business. I can happily work 14-hour days making pretty things but ask me to photograph those things and write a brief description for my etsy shop and.....eeurrrgh. Suffice to say that the twelve items I have listed are but a drop in the bucket. Hardly even a drop, really, and it's a big bucket.

Thanks to my amazing new business coach, I am making more time for things like admin, marketing, etc, so I plan to gradually work through my stock and eventually get everything listed. But it's a gargantuan task, so in the meantime please always feel free to contact me directly, whether it's to discuss a commission or to follow up on an item you've seen here, in person, or on my Facebook page but NOT in my shop. 

Monday 21 September 2015

Make of the Week

I'm very excited to have had this new purple cuff named "Make of the Week" by my favourite online wool retailer, Wool Warehouse. I'm just putting the finishing touches on its sister (I like to make cuffs in pairs that coordinate rather than match) and they are both stunning, though I say it myself. I am planning to list them in the etsy shop but having a hard time letting go.

When Vagabond Romantics was still just a growing idea in my jumbled brain, one of the projects I wanted to explore was luxurious high end accessories that featured truly beautiful yarns, and cuffs were perfect for that. So I knitted a bunch of them, before getting distracted by other things and never got round to embellishing them! I think this may inspire me to come back to those "blank" cuffs I knitted last year and "collage" them, like this one, with bits and bobs from my stash of buttons, beads, ribbons, lace, flowers and broken jewellery.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Celebrating 100 Years of the Women's Institute

The Women's Institute was initially formed to "revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War". Since then, it has grown to become the largest women's voluntary organisation in the UK, with about 212,000 members. Its modern remit is to provide educational opportunities, a chance to socialise, and a political voice to women in communities that can often be isolated. I joined my local chapter last year to help me meet some locals, and I love being part of a large group of women who are campaigning to shape the future of our country and communities.

2015 marks the centenary of the WI, and tonight we're celebrating with a night of "Puddings, Poetry and Prose". I'll be wearing this "Chatelaine" necklace, which I created with centuries of resourceful domestic goddesses in mind. I love the way crafting links me to countless female forebears who created beautiful work, not for recognition, but simply to make the world around them a nicer place to be.

Chatelaine necklace- available to buy in any colourway here

Sunday 13 September 2015

Mad Hatter's Tea Party & Upcycled Millinery

This afternoon I am going to a Mad Hatter's Tea Party with some local WI members (yes, I belong to theWI and it's awesome). There is a category for "Best Upcycled Hat" which, since I have been creating upcycled hats for almost a decade, I intend to win. I'm even providing extras for the other women who, you know, have families and full time jobs and spend their lives doing things other than meticulously hand-sewing beads onto giant textile cupcakes at 3am. Because yes, the idea for the cake hat was a last minute thing that prevented me sleeping until I had done it. Oh the fun of being a creative type. 

This is the subtlest of the three, very like what I used to make but far more detailed embellishment.
It will be for sale in the etsy shop soon as probably not getting worn today.

This is my take on a Victorian Riding Hat and very romantic it is too. It
doesn't necessarily stand up to scrutiny so will be living in my studio, but
I already have a request from friend to wear it today.
And this is the silly bit of fun that kept me up all night - giant cupcake on a "plate"
complete with doily,  serviette and fork. Wish me luck, I will certainly look mad as a hatter!

Thursday 10 September 2015

Small is Beautiful

Two festivals in as many weekends is heavy going for me in my advancing years, but so glad I signed up for Small is Beautiful at Machynlleth's own Centre for Alternative Technology (which is actually one year older than I am). Not only did it finally give me a chance to get round the CAT site (including the much anticipated funicular railway ride), but I got to meet some amazing people and it was all in support of a very worthwhile cause.

My own work has incorporated upcycling right from the start (though the term wasn't in regular use back then!) and it's always a pleasure to meet people who share your ethics and understand your artistic vision, which this festival had in spades (spades covered in healthy, well fertilised soil from organic allotments, no doubt!)
View from the funicular railway, poetically expressed
by the operator as "a different painting every day"
 The sun shone all weekend, much gorgeous food was consumed from the Green Goat Cafe, friendly locals were recruited to attend my new weekly drop-in craft socials, talked business with Accidental Republic, met a lovely American man who is going to change my life (but not in the way you think!), heard the divine Josie Long exclaim over my work, discovered some exciting new music (including Shareefa Energy and the RU1-Fam collective, both of whom are now proud owners of some Vagabond Romantics work), and and I also sold some stuff....about the only thing I didn't do was actually get to see any of the festival! Oh well, that's just how it goes. Still, it was the prettiest journey to work ever, as you can see.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

A Dismal Day at the Seaside

Sometimes an opportunity comes along that's so singular, you just have to grab it with both hands. When I found out Dismaland, the Banksy-spearheaded art installation/"bemusement park" was only going to be three hours' drive from VR home base, I knew what I had to do next. I was going to Dismaland.

I realise this is a bit of a departure from the usual for Vagabond Romantics, but I couldn't resist sharing a few highlights. Despite the best efforts of all involved, neither buying tickets nor entering the park were as traumatic as they might have been. If you are planning to go - and you should if you could - I'd simply advise to be on the official website when the next lot of tickets are released, and don't bother turning up early for your time slot. Here are a few of my highlights.

A worrying passenger rests on the otherwise-normal carousel
Darren Cullen's loan shop for the under-12s was, conceptually speaking, my favourite 
Gotta be a dream job
The Astronauts' Caravan by Tim Hunkin and Andy Plant
Banksy's Boat Pond was the most emotionally charged artwork, no doubt for many others as well as myself
Water Cannon Creak (complete with fountain and slide) by Banksy
And last but not least, dodging with death, it's Banksy's Grim Reaper
Banksy is already being criticised for capitalising on the very values he claims to parody, and it's not an unfair point. But that very confusion has got people talking about art, and anything that gets the wider public visiting exhibitions gets our grateful acknowledgement, and despite its name, Dismaland is a hell of a lot more fun than most traditional galleries.

Monday 31 August 2015

Steampunk Weekend in Photos (sort of)

 One of the drawbacks to running a stall at an event is that you often don't get to see much of the event. So these are by no means an exhaustive representation of the First Annual Llandrindod Wells Steampunk Weekend, merely a small sampling of a few of the glorious characters who passed through the craft tent and made my day a bit brighter in spite of the Welsh showers.

Michael and Marie Powell, the Vice-Chair and Administrator (respectively) of the festival.
The parrot  was nameless and it's unclear whether it was attending in an official capacity
Kolonel Mustard, one of many dashing dandies who attended the festival. One of the great joys of the event was seeing so many well-groomed and dapper gentlemen. Because let's face it, a woman who wants to look fabulous is spoilt for choice, but balancing sartorial elegance and individual eccentricities is a much trickier affair for men. 
I didn't catch the names of these women, but I simply had to
capture their hats on film, and we did have a lovely wee chat too!

Again, don't have a name for this striking couple but aren't they gorgeous? The gent reminded me a bit of Nathan Fillion but I didn't dare say it lest his glamourous lady friend mistake an innocent comment for a pass and take offence.

I initially addressed this formidable lady as "Your Majesty" only to be corrected. It turns out this particular Bert and Vicky (although indeed re-enactors) weren't attending in an official capacity. I rather cheekily pulled out my camera and snapped away as we talked (and very engaging conversationalists they were, too) so apologies if they don't like this image, but I think it is all the more wonderful for capturing "Albert" mid-sentence and HRH looking on in apparent disapproval. 

And last but not least, the wandering minstrels (or should that be Wandering Minstrels?! Again, I never caught a name!) who intermittently appeared to entertain us with Victorian ditties. If only they had asked me to give up the day job and go on tour with them, I'd have spent the next few years as a groupie, following them in whatever the steampunk equivalent of a VW microbus is... a steam engine? Perhaps a hot air balloon. With plenty of champagne.

Sunday 30 August 2015

On Steampunk

Disclaimer: I make no claims as to actually living the steampunk lifestyle myself, I am merely an interested observer and admirer of the aesthetic. The thoughts expressed here are merely my own ramblings and should absolutely not be taken as being in any way authoritative on the subject!

Now that that's out of the way....

I attended the my first steampunk event yesterday and just had to write and share some of my thoughts, along with a selection of images of some of the best dressed folk to be seen in Wales this weekend.

When I first began creating altered art, a common comment I heard was "That's very steampunk" - though that was never my aim. Twenty years spent living with a software developer has made me a kind of geek-by-proxy, but I don't do sci-fi,  and I'm reluctant to adopt the aesthetic of a movement that I don't consider myself to be a part of. For me, it was more about creating work that counterbalanced the decidedly feminine glamour of my Burlesque Period.

In preparation for the event this weekend and for the first time, I've been actively aiming to create Steampunk work. But what does "steampunk" really mean?

For me - and judging by the costumes on show yesterday, this seems to be a fair observation - there are a few items that immediately flag something up as steampunk:
1. Gears
2. Goggles
3. Clocks
and of course, the colour brown. And also grey. Corsets pretty much de rigueur for the ladies, extravagant facial hair for the gents and hats all around. But when the term was first coined in the late 80s, it referred to a genre of fiction that incorporates a sort of future reality as the Victorians might have imagined it.

So how does that translate to art? It can be a little tricky - there are only so many gears one can incorporate before it starts feeling like a cheap attempt to co-opt someone else's subculture to make a quick buck. But I found that in some ways, it really didn't matter what found or created objects I used in my own work, because everything ended up looking great with the judicious use of paint effects to mimic an oily, aged industrial look. My favourite piece incorporates a mixture of mainly scrap wood and waste materials, found objects and moulded clay to create a fantastical panel which one woman likened to the drawings of Heath Robinson. It was much admired, and very gratifying to hear surly adolescent boys exclaim "That's so cool!" and grown men linger over it - a refreshing change for my work to transcend the gender divide!

I wanted to make sure I fully appreciated the origins, aesthetic and scope steampunk before opting in to an event, so tried to do my homework responsibly, and judging by the public reaction to my work, I guess I did okay. It's kind of difficult to pin down a complete culture which has evolved from a niche literary genre, but in the end I found that's also because steampunk has grown to be such an all-encompassing and inclusive movement that it really transcends any simple definitions. And that is a very modern thing indeed.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Festivals ahoy!

The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler, but here at Vagabond Romantics I have never been busier! It seems festival season is upon us. It's a far cry from our home of the past 20 years in Edinburgh, but this rural area seems to average a festival every fortnight or so!

Very excited to be running a stall at two intriguing upcoming events. This Friday and Saturday I will be in the picturesque spa town of Llandrindod Wells for their annual Victorian Festival and first ever Steampunk Weekend. I can't wait to don my glad rags and take in the atmosphere - and hopefully sell a few of these goodies as well!
The very next weekend I'll be a bit closer to home at the Small is Beautiful Festival at Machynlleth's own iconic Centre for Alternative Technology, showcasing my upcycled work in the name of Zero Carbon Britain. And of course proving once again that green can be glamorous. I'm looking forward to meeting some fantastic people dedicated to real change, and hoping to sneak off long enough to see one of my favourite performers, Josie Long (enthusiastic recipient of a custom-made Vagabond Romantics necklace - yes, I'm a fangirl).

If you're in the area or looking for a good weekend out, check out these events - and do pop by and say hello! I am much faster at making than I am at admin, so there's always far more work to see IRL than online....

Friday 5 June 2015

A Room of One's Own

It’s an exciting time here at Vagabond Romantics HQ. After nearly 8 months in beautiful rural Wales I am finally starting to feel like I’m putting down roots. And accordingly, I am leaving my adorable 19th Century weaver’s cottage for bigger and brighter pastures. Just down the road.

Moving house is always fraught but this transition had more than its fair share of drama. Having fallen in love with a countryside idyll complete with adjacent waterfall only to have it snatched away, I am now staying in the bustling market town of Machynlleth to a larger and slightly more modern (Georgian era) flat. I will grieve for my original slat floors, oak beams and cosy woodburner, but consolation comes in the form of a self contained office.

That’s right, very soon Vagabond Romantics will be opening its doors to the public as a gallery, workshop space and craft salon!!! And it’s possible that I literally could not be more excited about it. The office is comfy and wonderfully light with a view over Mach’s town centre and iconic stone clock tower. It’s the perfect space for everything from workshops to sales to open studio evenings and crafting with friends over a glass of wine of an evening, and my commute is down the stairs! There is even an antique shop on the ground floor who will be keeping an eye out for quirky bits and pieces I can use in my art.

Our online presence is likely to remain low key until I have a chance to unpack and settle in, but expect Vagabond Romantics to hit the internet like a tonne of exceedingly glamorous bricks in the near future. And if you happen to live local to Machynlleth, look out for our grand opening event coming soon!

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Market debut

Today is Vagabond Romantics' first outing at the local market in the old Welsh capital of Machynlleth. I'm sharing a stall with a local beekeeper who is also debuting his new mead - I'm hoping I will be so busy with customers that I won't have too much time for sampling!

As well as my own altered art and wearable collage, I will be selling a carefully curated range of craft materials including colour-coordinated bead boxes and "Bags of Inspiration". These are themed (eg, How Does Your Garden Grow?, Nautical but Nice, Steampunk, Nostalgic Childhood) and offer a range of 50+ items including craft papers, card blanks, mini-envelopes and tags, ephemera, found objects and embellishments combining the new, the vintage, and the hand-decorated. They are perfect to get you started on your own altered art project, or for all sorts of cardmaking, papercraft, decoupage, scrapbooking, and mixed media work!

Thursday 15 January 2015

Forgotten treasures...

Even as a little girl growing up in smalltown America, I was already nostalgic. I fantasised about a history more interesting and distant than my own. I dreamed of a rambling family home with a dusty attic full of long forgotten treasures. With my work I have begun to piece together the precious objects I believe I could have found there.

I am a daydreamer, my mentor is the magpie, my talent lies in imagining possibilities and unleashing the hidden potential of objects around us, from discarded curtain rings to a tattered book, from a battered suitcase to a torn dress. My work is an old-fashioned response to an ever more challenging world, an alchemical process that transforms the forsaken into heirlooms of the future and hopefully in the process surrounds us with beauty and creates a new sense of occasion that is often lost in our hectic, on-demand world.

Vagabonds live a carefree, often nomadic life, Romantics long for adventure and shape the world with their idealism. Vagabond Romantics, then, signifies the many journeys that are woven together into the fabric of our lives, our memories, and our dreams.