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.

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.