Act On Hope

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” Christopher Reeve

Yellow flowers in the sun

The world seems in many ways to be an uncontrollable skip fire. There are swathes of people who seem to think the humanity of others is up for debate, that other humans are a resource to enslave and exploit and that some amounts of money are just too much to save life. Nature rages at us for our neglect and abuse and ideologies seem to steer the most vulnerable closer to her wrath.

The social media form, which promised so much in bringing people closer together, has become its own hellscape which, instead of just reflecting the experiences of people in the world, has started to define the world in the image of the most provocative and damaged voices. Untruths run amok from there into our daily lives, into governance and into cruel consequences.

Even the most hopeful amongst us is starting to wilt under this heat and as we start to harden into husks, in need of some refreshment from the constant radiation of this world. 

But these battered optimists are the place where the fightback must start, for those who still have the luxury of hope must recognize this privilege and get back up. We must go to help. Too many are living without hope.

To the hopeful – Do not be overwhelmed. Grace has given you the ability to see injustice, unfairness and cruelty and still feel. To feel pain for others is a gift. It empowers you to act when it is not in your own interest – a gift to the world. It is the best of humanity. Where you are not burdened by the weight of your own pain, you must seek to lighten the load of others. Compassion must not be a quality only to have. It is a thing to do.

Take your feelings out into the world and make change. Get angry, get sad, but most of all act. Stand beside those who stand alone, raise up those voices that speak their truth and seek to salve those in need of healing.

It is your time to make a difference, no matter how small a way it might be. Speak the truth – do not deal in euphemisms or lies – be honest. Hear the same and repeat it. Bring beauty to those who are on the front lines of struggle and remind them of why they fight. Be just in your dealings with all. Create. Feed. Clothe. Support. Cheer. Do.

Act on hope. To make things better we must act.

To those without hope – we are coming – we just got lost along the way.

Getting over myself and getting into the right mindset


I’m trying to overcome a fear, a fear of failure.

It is a fear that I’ve quite literally allowed to sabotage any sense of making an effort to excel and I’ve realised that now is the time to deal with it so I can succeed.

This academic year I have committed to study to qualify to become a gemmologist. Gemstones, geology and jewellery have been things that have fascinated me since a child – my magpie self has always been drawn to shiny things from being a small child in every shop of every museum I’d ever been to. It’s an interest I’ve come back to again and again.

I’m serious about this course of study – it has a future attached to it – so naturally I want to do well. I look at the award ceremonies of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain – Gem-A – and see smiling graduate students holding certificates with distinction grades and prizes and I hope one day that could be me.

Now the course has started and I’m finding that the work is much harder than I expected. A distance learning course might be imagined to be somewhat wishy-washy and vague – but this course of study (as my tutor and the materials remind me frequently) needs to be maintained to deadline for the best chance of success.

Now gemmology (people keep looking at me and asking “crystals?” Like it has the wiff of incense about it and therefore presumably not a thing in their view) is very much a science discipline. It draws together strands of chemistry, physics and geology. There are instruments that need mastering and concepts behind how those instruments work that need understanding. This is hard work and, I’ll be very honest, it has left me terrified.

Growing up, I was surrounded by a myth of effortless capability, an intelligence so great that applied study was redundant. My mother, a complex and wickedly intelligent woman, had been a prodigious student as a child, picking up education, toying with it in a louche fashion then going on to gain success. Choosing to do what interested her and succeeding at it with the minimum of effort. She was a very young mother so I was there, growing up and observing throughout her picking up her studies again going to university and then law school.

Even in the face of seeing her studying at home and at the library for hours, somehow I had embedded into my consciousness the idea of not needing to work to be a prodigy meant that there was no point me working. If I couldn’t just do it naturally – what was the point?

At school I wasn’t a committed student – school reports would lament that I had the capacity if only I would put in the effort – but there was always something more interesting to do, something more interesting to daydream about. Studying was something I found very hard to do. The information wasn’t going in so, why bother. I didn’t give it effort and prizes seemed so remote for me I didn’t even give them a thought.

I started a Chemistry degree on leaving school but, my interest was so, so very limited that I had no desire to study. I failed to show up for anything but the basic levels of lectures and lab sessions and when it came to exams this showed. It felt futile as the information just didn’t seem to settle into my brain. So why bother.

I’ve finished paying for that short term, but expensive, foray into disinterest, but the sense of failure still carried with me.

Nevertheless I found careers in which I could manage without a degree, without an area of study that requires hefty application of theoretical knowledge. Practically based jobs where a minimal theoretical groundwork was needed before experiential learning took over.

I’ve done professional examinations and, yes, a lot of the information I’ve absorbed by exposure to the material and taking it in without any real effort. It’s part of what I am accustomed to doing day to day, so of course I carry a passable ability when it comes to exams in the subject, so I’ve passed but have never distinguished myself in academia.

Since I had my eldest daughter, I tried to study for an Open University degree, but found my inability to apply myself hindered me at every turn. I did it because I felt I should. I felt like something was missing – people assumed I had a degree – so to overcome the embarrassing explanations I tried. I came away with a diploma in higher education (using up some of the credits I managed to collect during my earlier failed time at university the first time – not a complete bust hey!) but decided not to complete to degree level as the marks I’d obtained at level three meant that the degree I would’ve been able to obtain limited to a 2:2, I felt like I would just be a failure that had invested more time in a doomed enterprise.

So, that brings us to now and I am at the beginning of a putative career in gemmology – but I have started and the work is HARD. Up to now my academic transcript, in as much or little as it is, has been guided by so many “shoulds” instead of actual desire, so failure has been easy to take on the chin. Right now, however I am at risk of being exposed. This is my passion and what happens if I fail?

Yes, I have excuses. Plenty. I am a mother of four children, three under three. I can chalk this one up to not having enough time, little space in my life to study, blah, blah, blah.


Now is the time for application, to do this thing.

I’m a term in and have manged every assignment, sometimes by the skin of my teeth, but I’m putting the time in. Snatched moments are having to do, but I am doing it. I’m producing notes, notes of notes, finding extra reading. Doing, for the first time in my life, the extra reading. Picking up extra lectures instead of just skirting through the bare minimum.

I know how privileged I have been to be able to keep failing, but now I’m appreciating that and I’m stopping, now.

I need to succeed. So I’m willing to work hard for it. Finally.


New Leaf: The Gemstone Detective

New on Just Real Ruby – New Leaf – a series of book reviews featuring on tomes that appeal to me and my interests.

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Gemstone Detective – Buying Gemstones and Jewellery in the USA by Kim Rix GG (GIA)

ISBN 978-1-912635-72-6 – £14.99 – Filament Publishing

Please note: I received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The latest book in a series of Gemstone Detective titles: Buying Gemstones and Jewellery in the USA is a practical purchasing guide for tourists visiting the states with an interest in where their jewels come from and how to dodge imitations and stay within customs rules and local laws when buying.

The USA is a massive country and a huge gemstone market, so it is understandable that the author has focused on some of the most abundant states for gemstone experiences – Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Arkansas, North Carolina and New York State. The guide includes one of the world’s most famous gem fairs, gemstone and mineral museums, popular shopping hotspots, two mining areas and lots of ‘dig-your-own’ tourist experiences.

The guide sets out important information for non-expert gem buyers. The author’s expertise is translated well into bullet points which highlight the “need to knows” and the “nice to knows”. Information is presented clearly and concisely.

As someone who has recently embarked on the study of gemmology this book serves as both a tantalising brochure of the possibilities of travelling to the United States to explore the treasure trove of gemstone adventures on offer and as a template for thought processes on evaluating stones.

Kim Rix’s book is an ideal blend of travel anecdotes, subject expertise and invaluable information, which one might only expect to be upstaged by traveling alongside Kim herself.

I was given an e-copy of this book for the purposes of this review – but I’ve since bought a copy of one of Kim’s other titles from the series. I’ve found the books are ideally sized for stowing in hand luggage to while away flight time with.

I could imagine happily devouring this on a flight to a holiday destination – it’s packed with information and reads nicely without requiring focussed concentration – but even as someone not on my way there right now I enjoyed this book. I’ll be investing in further titles from the Gemstone Detective soon.


Twelve Ways of #Craftmas: A Loving Footprint

Born out of a loathing for the corporate exploitation of Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

I don’t want to be rich, or famous, just able to hold my own, and others if needed. I want to be a part of a community not in need of one – I want to help others through art – I see a future finally.”


For artist Vanessa Wigmore hopes to put her talents to work to build a better life for herself and to make something more for those around her – and she has found that her art, which she pursued for her own sense of creativity has become the means by which she can generate good will.

Having struggled with her health her confidence was low, but art became her refuge. She found it granted her a new optimism.

She explained: “I feel like there is hope, when all was lost I discovered other people liked my art and friends were requesting my pictures of elephants and other animals. Paid work was impossible for me as the Multiple Sclerosis fatigue and depression kicked in. I felt useless and I couldn’t see a way out of having to rely on the government for the rest of my life.”

But expressing herself through art has allowed Vanessa to come back to life and discover more about who she is, with a way of being both part of the world and to be independent.

I’m a funny, tenacious, caring soul,” she added. “One who wants to leave a loving footprint on this earth through creation, kindness and love. When I’m mixing the colours I am in the moment, it’s healthy.”

When she began her journey Vanessa found herself inspired by the photographs British astronaut Tim Peake took of London from space and she started trying to recreate the stunning light effects over the capital in mixed media on canvas. Her piece ‘London At Night’ was built up from bits and pieces Vanessa had gathered, seeing her work hours with a glue gun, crystals and mica flakes to recreate the original photographs accurately. The piece now lives with a journalist in London.

From such satellite inspired works Vanessa found herself drawn into resin art, committing herself to a world of explosive colour and ethereal textures. But the medium posed a problem due to the cost of materials – so Vanessa found herself relying on her community around her.

Vanessa said: “I was given a box of perspex off cuts by a friend who explained they had belonged to an artist/designer who his widow had kept, due to her pride that he had worked in London with top designers.

“I was trying to achieve modern abstract resin wall art and this was a turning point for me, it gave me the finish I wanted and the ability to wall mount it fairly flush.”

The piece led to Vanessa growing in confidence and started to see her works become popular with the buying public and she made sure that the kindness she had received was repaid.

She added: “About 8 months later I did a stall at the local fair and did amazingly well, this lady was a part of that. I knew she would be there so I gave her this piece, so she always had a part of remembering him.”

Now Vanessa hopes that she will be able to bring her creativity to the wider world and that her passion for art will sustain both it and her into the future.


For more information on buying Vanessa’s art visit her Twitter account.

Twelve Ways of #Craftmas: Have Tools, Will Travel

Born out of a loathing for the corporate exploitation of Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

I love it when learners push themselves and create something that they initially didn’t feel they could achieve.”


Silver jewellery maker, designer and tutor Beccy Gillatt has a passion for kindling creativity in others. So much so that her Christmas offerings are as much her skills in encouraging new talent as they are the fine jewellery she makes.

She added: “I also love doing the one off sessions where everyone goes home really pleased with their sparkly piece of jewellery having never made anything like that before.”

Beccy first began teaching jewellery making when she was on her masters at the Royal College of Art and loved it so much she has been doing it ever since.

Trained at Bath College and Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College (where her love for silverwork was born), Beccy first found her passion for metalwork at her father’s side.

She said: “My father is an engineer and can mend, build, construct and repair most things. When I was young he used to do repair work for a jewellers in Frome, Somerset.He was often tinkering away in his loft workshop doing wax carving, casting and refining gold. He inspired me to create, make and mend, and he continues to do so.”

Now Beccy’s teaching draws on the same well of inspiration as her own creativity.

I find inspiration in everything around from the shape of leaves to the intricacies of patterns in feathers and architecture to the construction of large machinery,” she said. “I enjoy printing images for learners to be inspired by and try to encourage getting everyone to put pencil to paper and develop their own ideas from the things that inspire them.”


Recently Beccy has set up a jewellery teaching workshop in Yardley Arts, in Yardley Hastings, Northamptonshire and splits her teaching time between there and her home workshop, where she offers one to one tutoring and sessions for couples to work together on projects such as wedding rings. On occasion she runs workshops in galleries and at venues chosen by customers for teaching parties and events – which she can organise for different groups.

I have tools and will travel!” added Beccy.

To book onto Beccy’s courses visit her website for listings – prices start from £35 for an evening workshop and go up to £70 for a full day workshop. The website also showcases her two jewellery ranges – Accentswhich features simple, designs in stainless steel and silver – and the delicate Flow range of fine silver filigree wires in teardrop frames.

Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Beccy recommends:

So hard to pick just one craftsperson as most of my friends are creatives and all make amazing work. Here’s just a few – Ruth Tomlinson jewellery, Hannah Louise Lamb Jewellery, Heather O’Connor, Katherine Richmond and Gareth Neal.”


Twelve Ways of #Craftmas: That Little Cheeky Flare

Born out of a loathing for the corporate exploitation of Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

“Being able to laugh is really important to me,”

Artist illustrator Georgina Elizabeth, a mother of two girls and based in SE London, creates in a way that is true to how she lives her life.

“So I tend to put a little cheeky flare on most things I do and my eldest daughter has a wicked sense of humour and is one of my biggest critics in a positive way”

Originally from Hackney, Georgina Elizabeth has delighted in scribbling and doodling since childhood. She went on to study creative subjects at both college and university.

When she started working as a care manager for people with additional needs and mental health, the extreme demands of the job, which saw her working with both adults and children, led to her using her art as a way to relax and unwind.

Sharing her works on social media she found they attracted the attention of buyers and her creativity became more than just a place to relax.

Drawing from the well of life experiences and the loveseat has for her daughters she has developed a distinctive style of art, which bursts with life and light and evolves with time and passion.

She added: “At the moment  I’ve gone back to using epoxy resin as a finish for my painting and heavily embellishing paintings, which is something I’m having a lot of fun with. I like the different texture and dimensions it give to a painting.”

Family life, as well as driving her forward in her creativity, has provided opportunities for unexpected creative projects.

“Each year my daughters primary school gives them the opportunity to design their own cards and have them printed,” she explained.

“Last year I missed the deadline so ended up letting my youngest daughter use my Wacom tablet to design her own and I sent them off to print so she didn’t miss out,  she loved them as did the kids at school and a few of the parents. This year my daughter actually asked me if I could design the cards myself. It started as a joke.”

Having just created an illustrated book for her partner on their anniversary, she was inspired to take old family photos of both girls and made illustrations of them adding some fun text like ‘Santa’s not real’ or ‘ I’m ok with the naughty list’.

She added: “The kids loved them – so our kitsch personalised Christmas cards were born!”

To purchase Georgina Elizabeth’s work you can find her at her Deptford Foundry studio or in Truman Brewery, Shoreditch, in the New Year.

* Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Georgina Elizabeth recommends:

“I’m absolutely in love with Catherine’s work, she little makes the best Christmas decorations  and little crafty gifts, she specialises in calligraphy signs, and has an office in SE London you can find her on insta @alleycatdesignsuk”

Twelve Ways of #Craftmas: Jewelled Forests

Born out of a loathing for the corporate exploitation of Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

“With painting and drawing I was never entirely happy with the end result but there’s something about wire trees ….. sometimes it just takes a smidge of a movement and you go from something a bit ‘meh’ to something so pretty.”

Twysted Roots is a collection of beautiful bonsai tree sculptures created by business owner Clair, using wire and glass seed beads, and sometimes incorporating other elements such as Murano glass beads, lampwork beads and gemstones.

The creation of the sculptures, which happens on a sofa in Clair’s home, went from being a hobby to distract her to an award winning business in the space of three years.

Moving to Cornwall from Scotland six years ago Clair found herself isolated and in need of a creative distraction to help her deal with a new home, caring responsibilities and being away from friends and family.

She explained: “After moving from Scotland I found myself without any kind of support system which I really struggled with. No friends and routine was out the window. Being a carer, options were limited so in the quiet times I started to revisit things I used to love doing such as painting and playing guitar.”

The solitude however proved productive as it pushed Clair into exploring: “It was after restringing my guitar and winding the old strings together, I thought ‘hey, doing wall decor with wire would be fun to try!’ so I took to Pinterest for some inspiration. I started just playing around with wire and decided I wasn’t very good so I found some wire trees and decided to try that. And I was hooked. The rest as they say, is history!”

Inspired by trees around her, which sees her capturing photos of interesting ones encountered on her travels, and the colours and materials at her disposal Clair has been able to create a range of unique ready made trees available to click and buy, as well as allowing her to offer bespoke trees to customers. Although she has received a late diagnosis for autism and has general anxiety disorder, Clair has found her business has been able to fit into her life as it is.

“I don’t sleep much which goes in my favour for running a small business.” she explained. “It means I can work late into the night when all is quiet, and catch up on things I’ve not done during the day.

“I live a quiet life and the majority of my socialising is done online. It’s been great meeting other small business owners since starting my own business. I never imagined that there would be such a supportive online community; there’s a lot of empathy because we all struggle at times. Running a business can be lonely, but far less so when you know some like minded people.”

Clair is pleased that she has been able to create a creative business for herself – not just for the financial element. She added: “It’s such an awesome feeling to be able to create something you love and have huge passion for.”

To buy Clair’s gorgeous little trees visit

* Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Clair recommends: “I’m going to choose an artist I’ve collaborated with previously who makes the most beautiful animal figurines. You can find her via Instagram as @whimsycalling or her website Be prepared to fall in love!”

Twelve ways of #Craftmas: Iconic Nature

Born out of a loathing for the corporate exploitation of Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

 “I am absolutely obsessed with trees and woods. I would live there if I could – but I didn’t want to just ‘copy’ them or use a very realistic way of painting. They are exhilarating, enchanting, dreamy, living and breathing things, green cathedrals, but how could I translate that?”

As a child starting out on her creative journey, Katherine found support and encouragement in her family, with treasured, early memories of a handmade chalkboard and collection of chalks in a tin being presented to her by her Grandfather, amidst the chaos of her huge family celebration of her fourth birthday.

School teachers nurtured her blossoming talent and Katherine found herself on the art course of her dreams at the tender age of 17. Much to her dismay her art started to feel flat. Struggling with mental ill health at the time, she found herself dropping out of the course. Initially she set aside art all together and sought new paths. An ill-fated career change into secretarial work ended when a kindly boss recognised it was not where she belonged and talked her into returning to university in her twenties.

It wasn’t until she settled into university life on a religious studies course, found her faith and met the man who would become her husband, that Katherine grew in confidence enough to take up drawing again.

She explained: “When I became Orthodox, shortly after we met, I began to look at icons – properly look at them. What strange pictures, not at all how I had been trained, but compelling. When our priest had a visiting iconographer give a teaching session, I didn’t really ‘get’ why one of the fifty eyes I drew was right and the others were not! I wasn’t completely discouraged and found a teacher in England, way down south, who did week long residential courses twice a year.”

She added: “Thanks to my husband’s support, I was able to go and that was it – just like joining the Church – it just clicked for me. Here was a kind of art that was still demanding and creative, but gave my work a longer, deeper meaning.”

Katherine refined her craft, becoming highly skilled in icons, but until last year she struggled with branching out beyond religious works.

But this changed: “I was led to a Russian iconographer working in Brussels, who I’ve been learning from for a couple of years now, and she has been instrumental in teaching me that everything can be painted as an icon. So I began painting trees, then carvings, with symbols or just pleasing shapes. I am still painting icons of saints – I have six tiny ones and a large one in my studio right now – but I’m so happy to share the way I see trees with other people now.

Katherine Sanders

I am actually inspired for the first time and have the confidence to try things, and keep going when it gets challenging. Maybe it’s being older, but I feel more free to be creative than ever before.”

For more information visit: 

  • Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Katherine recommends: One of my other hobbies is doll making – I’m experimenting with cloth dolls, stuffed and sculpted with wool (yes, I have another shop on Etsy called Katherine & Kitty, after my daughter and I) – but my big influence in doll making is a wonderful Mexican lady who lives in Canada called Fabiola Perez – her blog, Fig & Me, is a very free, imaginative space to explore crafting, being out in the wilds and making things that everyone loves to hold. She is such a generous and creative person, I was able to do a workshop with her last year and it really inspired me.

Twelve Ways of #Craftmas: Whit Cin Go Rang?

Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

Wan day a’d love tae make a livin oot certoons!”

If you REALLY follow cartoonist Red Raiph on Twitter you know to read the Tweets out loud.

You’ll also know Raiph is one of the joyful lights in the dark of the social media site, with Christmas being a particular highlight each year – look out for #raiphsadventcalandurand #chrismaswaeraiph  – now Tweeting.

Ah’v been makin mischief on Twitter fur aboot 7 year noo,” Raiph said. “My livetweets, #nativerty an #hawalleen, is world famous!”

I luv ma stuff acos it cheer folk up, an I just stertit tae draw an write tae gie folk a laff!”

From just wanting to give people a laugh, Raiph has developed his creativity into his cartoons, which now feature on a range of gifts, and his writing – which often has those south of Scotland scratching their heads.

A also write mad wee books in Scots an creatively spelt English, known is raiphspeak,” he added.

Born in The Gorbals, Glasgow, Raiph grew up with a love of cartoons. Christmas always saw the arrival of a new Oor Wullie or The Broons annual, which led to him realise that cartoons were something that he could aspire to doing for himself.

Certoons Huv aways been ma favrit hing,” he said. “A loved em, bit ma favrit wis Dennis the Menace, acos the wee certoon strips wurnae aw polished! Embdy cud draw like at – even me! A hink they changed the artist tae make it mair neat lookin. A preffered the auld scribbly wans.” 

Raiph’s political cartoons, offering his own wry take on the events of recent times, have thrust him to the forefront of Scottish independence campaign and even led to him becoming the star cartoonist of the SNP’s magazine.  

Of course, as with much of his work, there are golden reasons why Raiph does the things he does, in the unique way that is unmistakably his.

“A try tae draw in a way to show folk ye dinnae huv tae be perfect, jus draw.” explained Raiph. “Ye’ll mibbe improve, bit ye’ll surely huv fun! A luv tae draw the certoons, wae me, Wee Vinny, Kurt, Demi and wee Steve the dug. Tae remind folk a happier, dafter times, an a wee break fae ma political stuff.”

So where can we get our hands on Raiph’s work?

Ye cin buy stuff fae me on Twitter or ma books is on Amazon,” said Raiph. “I also huv a wee spreadshirt shoap, Raiph’s Shoap, where ma drawins is on T-shirts, posters, bags, badges an mugs!”

  • Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Raiph recommends: “Ma amazin pal, @irmatharn, makes haun made ukuleles. She hus a wee Etsy shoap PipsUkes!”

Twelve Ways of #Craftmas: The Weird And Fun Thing

Born out of a loathing for the corporate exploitation of Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

I make jellyfish on the train, I make squid in the car on the way to the shops, I make mermen in cafes.”


North Lincolnshire-based Jules, of Black Fox By The Sea, makes marine magic with her crochet hook – weaving stunning sea creatures and creating fantastical beasts of myth and legend.

I grew up knitting and crocheting,” she explained. “And made many dreadful misshapen scarves, and things made out of rectangles of knitting when I’d run out of wool or the inclination to keep knitting. I studied sculpture at Sheffield University, and when I returned to knitting and crochet and finally mastered my first pair of gloves I realised it was a media I could sculpt in too.”

A frequent visitor to The Deep conservation aquarium in Hull, Jules found herself inspired by the creatures within to pick up her hook.

She said: “I’ve always loved jellyfish and octopus, so I thought I’d try making some. After that I started making other things – centaurs, mermen, fauns, and the mermen became very popular with friends and people who saw pictures posted of them online. After I started supplying a shop in Whitby called Artemis and the Mermaid, it seemed daft not to have an Etsy.”

Her iconic pieces are her jellyfish – symbolic of a special bond she shares with her child.

My son is 5 and has special needs and limited speech and language,” said Jules. “Jellyfish are something we both love to watch, and of all the things I make they are his favourite. He can name every part of the jellyfish (bell, lobe, arms, tentacles), and knows the name of more varieties than I can count!”

The pair enjoy spending time together watching David Attenborough documentaries on the BBC, which in turn sparks new ideas – “Sometimes, when we’re watching I’ll see a ball of wool and think ‘that would make a great…’!”

Television has also inspired other works – a love of the Terry Pratchett series Good Omens even inspired a range of merman versions of the main characters – as Jules believes: “Sometimes you just gotta do the weird and fun thing” – creating a playful form of fan art.

A loud and proud Gypsy, Jules is a fierce activitst for her community and spends a fair amount of time online promoting GRT and human rights, animal welfare, environmental , LGBT+ and mental health issues. “My mother despairs,” added Jules.

Jules of Black Fox By The Sea

To buy Jules’ fantastical works visit her Etsy : by December 19 (UK) or December 11 to the rest of the world. Jules also supplies Artemis and the Mermaid in Whitby ( and Airy Fairy in Sheffield (

* Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Jules recommends: The lovely Pip runs Molipola prints, a fellow self-employed mum trying to balance life and running a small business. She is a passionate supporter of independant artists and her instagram is a delight to see. She shares her successes and her failures, and makes trying to do new and scary things far less scary. You can find here work on Etsy and herself on IG