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.”

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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.

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Jules of Black Fox By The Sea


To buy Jules’ fantastical works visit her Etsy : https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Blackfoxbytheseaorders by December 19 (UK) or December 11 to the rest of the world. Jules also supplies Artemis and the Mermaid in Whitby (https://www.facebook.com/artemis.mermaid.whitby/) and Airy Fairy in Sheffield (https://www.airyfairy.org/)

* 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 https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/molipola and herself on IG https://www.instagram.com/molipolaprints/

Twelve ways of #Craftmas: Bound in Memory

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!

One of the biggest joys of my working life is the relationship I build with my customers, often over the course of many years.”

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Artisan book maker Susan Green is in the business of binding memory to something beautiful, largely in the leaves of the books she binds.

Scrapbooks for newly weds, sketch books for artists and guest books and memory books all mean her works become part of the fabric of people’s lives, much to her satisfaction

She adds: “It’ pretty incredible to make a useful and beautiful product that wouldn’t exist without the work of my hands.” 

Working from her studio in Dorset, alongside her studio dog, The Littlest Greyhound, Susan now sells her work worldwide, having started her craft and business in an unusual way.

I began bookbinding in 2008 after a chance encounter with a library book,” Susan explained. “I hadn’t had any art, craft or design training, but I started making and a year later went into business. So I’m a self-taught bookbinder who now teaches others to make books too!”

Despite coming to the medium by chance, Susan is the consummate artisan, drawing inspiration from a creative hero whilst keeping an eye on the ever-changing world of design.

William Morris is a huge inspiration to me,” said Susan. “His work ethic (he was self-taught in many respects), his love of writing, travel and art – as well as designing and making – and his colour palettes, too. Also, I follow a lot of different creatives on Instagram to refresh my eyes, and am endlessly inspired by their colour palettes, whether they work in interiors, textiles or illustration. My studio is full of materials, work in progress and has a pin board with inspiration and a plan for the year.”

Susan works on bespoke projects throughout the year, but also has a wide range of ready to ship items – including her new collection of Marbled Notebooks with labels – presented as gift sets with the stationery lover-who-already-has-everything in mind.

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Marbled Notebooks

Having reached a level of excellence which has seen her become an associate member of Designer Book Binders and a member of the Heritage Crafts Association, Susan also exhibits her work and offers bookbinding courses to help sustain her craft into the future. She also works hard to ensure her products reach high environmental and ethical standards, seeking to incorporate sustainable, natural materials in her designs.

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Susan Green

Buy Susan’s work at www.boundbyhand.co.uk – Christmas postal deadline is December 22 for the UK.

  • Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Susan recommends:

I recently saw Green Spiral Willow’s work at Walford Mill Crafts in Wimborne, Dorset and was totally blown away by the way the maker combines found driftwood with willow basketry to create sculptural pieces and useful objects.”

Twelve ways of #Craftmas: The Screw It Moment

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!

It may sound cheesy but I love everything I make.”

Jules, of Hook Frog, has a real passion for her yarn creations, in what ever form they emerge. A newcomer to selling her craft wares, she has already proved herself prolific in the number and range of items she produces.


“From pot holders to face scrubbies, hoodies, caridgans, hats, cloves, scarves, bunnies, blankets, cartoon characters & slippers,” she adds. “I honestly enjoy designing and freehanding stuff – I designed & made a blanket of Claptrap (a character from Borderlands), a Tetris pillow & I am mid making a cartoon character for my sister in law for Christmas.”


A background in computing and technology has proved the ideal starting point for this crafter – the mathematics and calculation inherent in crocheting mean her brain is ideally suited to working from patterns and working freehand. However Jules never imagined that she would find joy in craft – preferring gaming and gadgets for a long time.


She explained: “A couple of years ago I hit a ‘screw it’ moment in my life and ended up with three awesome tattoos and the last year or so decided to shave my head (again) and also wear dreads. I started making my own dreads. Then at the end of 2018 a work colleague was giving away some yarn & I thought it would be great for making some dreads. Unfortunately – or fortunately – she also gave me some fibre fill.

So I start to look at some dreadlock making videos on YouTube and in the list was a crochet video and, well, that’s when it happened. I was literally hooked – pun intended. I have a bag full of wonky rectangles that I made those first few weeks and now I have a sofa of animals, cushions and a stack of scarves, hats and all sorts.”


Jules has drawn inspiration from gaming, from the internet and taking on board ideas from various fandoms popular with people she knows. Seeing the pieces Jules produced, friends and colleagues started making requests for custom items – particularly children’s toys – and Hook Frog was born. Now she is striking out into sales and hopes that she can produce so much more, with plans to establish her own website in the coming months.

To buy from Jules contact her via Instagram – @hookfrogdblcrochet and Twitter – @hookfrog.

  • Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Jules recommends: Niknaks Hereford – hand painted glasses (on Facebook as Niknaks Hereford); Happy Berry Crochet – I made my first Amigurami patterns with her and her tutorials are fab (happyberry.co.uk)

Twelve Ways of #Craftmas: The Colour of Stories

 

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 read an awful lot, and sometimes when I’m picturing a scene I start to think about how different features could be represented in colour.”

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“Juno”

Art began as therapy to Suzanne, of Pop Paints, as she faced battles with the education system to ensure that the special educational needs of her child were met, but flourished into a business. The qualified lecturer had always been crafty from childhood but a need for a distraction revived her creative side.

I had what I called my ‘making things box’,” Suzanne said. “Which was a shoebox that I put scraps of interesting paper, toilet roll tubes and stickers in for creating my masterpieces. My fondest memories are of sitting around the kitchen table with my Nan and Mum to make Christmas cards. We’d all be covered in glitter, and my Nan would teach me how to make papercuts or create 3D effects or lay out the most beautiful lettering.”

The comfort from this memory of making went on to play an important role in her life.

She said: “Life with a child with special needs can be chaotic and when I was trying to work, attend school meetings and keep up with planning and marking, my mental health really suffered. Fluid art was initially a therapeutic tool for me because it allows me to switch off and focus solely on colour and movement; then the more I was creating, the more I was being told I should sell my work. It was a daunting prospect but I’m really glad that I had supportive people around me when I took that step.”  

Suzanne finds inspiration from all around her and sees her experimenting with odd items around the house to create different effects – whether it be toys, packaging or even kitchen utensils. “Sometimes it works,” she said. “But sometimes it creates total disasters.”

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Suzanne, of Pop Paints

Initially starting her creative business on the kitchen table, Suzanne now works in a quiet corner of the house – safe from the disturbances of family life.

Suzanne’s works are magical, dreamlike paintings, often echoing the images of deep space more familiar to astronomers. She said: “I tend to love my brightest, most colourful paintings but I get most positive feedback for my beach scenes and dark space pieces. I find it hard to choose a favourite but I do love a piece called Juno, which is named after the Queen of the gods in Roman mythology and is in my Night Sky series.” 

Suzanne’s pieces are available to buy through her Facebook page, Pop Paints.

* Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Suzanne recommends: Rinske Douna, a Swedish artist whose work inspires and astounds. She can be found at www.rinskedouna.com

Twelve ways of #Craftmas: Hooked on Helping

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!

It was coming up to Christmas and I was seeing a lot of social media posts asking for warm clothing – I couldn’t afford to donate much money but I had a stash of yarn so started to make items that I could parcel up and send off. It kind of snowballed from there.”

Kaz Molloy is an occasional vendor of crochet goods, but a full time creator of winter warmers for those in need. For her crafting has been a lifesaver for her and has turned into a series of good deeds with untold value.

Originally from Birmingham, Kaz has lived on the Isle of Bute, of the west coast of Scotland for 17 years. Over the years she has dabbled in card making, sewing, jewellery making and decoupage – but has found a love of crochet which unleashed her creativity.

Since a diagnosis of womb cancer at the end of 2009 her life has changed a lot. “I’ve been left with long term side effects of the treatment so am virtually housebound,” Kaz explained. “My crafting has been the only thing that has kept me sane – well, almost!”

Just over a year ago she found her own way into craft activism. As she started to make items such as wristwarmers for the homeless her efforts resonated with friends and Facebook followers and the balls of donated yarn started rolling in. Sitting in an armchair by her kitchen window Kaz kept making more and more and parcelled them up and posted them to homeless outreach groups across the UK.

Since I started doing this last October, she recalled. “I’ve sent out 51 parcels which included 363 pairs of wristwarmers and 73 scarves.”

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Kaz Molloy

Kaz added: “I put the same amount of effort into my scarves as I would if I was making them to sell. Just because someone is homeless doesn’t mean they should have to make do with inferior items.  All my items are made with love and hopefully the bright colours will bring a smile to the face of the person who receives it.”

Although Kaz rarely sells her wares she will be at a Christmas Craft Fair in the Isle of Bute Discovery Centre today, November 30, between 11am and 4pm and some items are occasionally listed on her Facebook page. She also has a blog page where you can follow her activities.

Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Kaz recommends:

Felt Isle is a friend on Bute who does fab felt textile work. Rowanberrybute is another who knits lovely items. Off island there is Rowanberry Designs who makes the most amazing lampwork glass beads and Connor Viking Blacksmith.

 

Grief Stalked Me

Two years ago I wrote this, running to recovery after two pregnancy losses.

Two years further down the road, blessed as I am, I still carry the memories of being the quarry.

I did build on this, in a positive way with Bringing Change

“Grief Stalks Me

“I’m having to run at the moment. I’ve made a commitment, despite being awful at it. The only bonus and problem is that it gives me time to think. The thinking generated this:



“I run, 

Grief stalks me in the trees, 

Camouflaged against the leaf line,

Hits my heart with dart.

I drop,

Paralysed and stymied 

Gasping for air 

Reaching for memory.

I get up, 

And run again, 

She still lurks within the bowed branches,

Waits for me to pass through shade, her arrows steadied and waiting.

I run, Grief stalks me.”

The House Is Ashes – Now What?

Now we’ve burnt down the house – how do we clean this mess up?

 

Malene Thyssen, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Malene

For too long those of us with the privilege to have not needed to struggle for shelter, for food, for enjoyment in in life, have lived in a world where we believed everything was fine. Even as the house started to burn down around us, we were able to convince ourselves that the fire was a blip, a anomaly.

 

Newsflash for those slow on the uptake – this isn’t an anomaly – this is the new normal.

 

We may now be in the cinders of what is left of our house and we need to take a careful and hard look at ourselves as to how the blaze began. Where did this come from? How did it take so viciously? It burned so quickly and from nowhere it seems.

 

Another bulletin – just in – it came from somewhere. It came from the heart of neglect and it was a slow burn which reached the gas cannisters in a moment of opportunity.

 

There have been people left behind for so long, there have been those cast outside for want of the material, for the want of education which elevates, for a culture which has promoted expertise as a further layer of snobbery rather than a resource for all to use and benefit from. The sneering elements of our social groupings have come to the fore as critics or, worse still, as exploiters of this neglect. Meanwhile we, those who have the advantages of security, have expectation of more whilst giving less. As we give less, we struggle to find ways to occupy ourselves, to make ourselves sedated against the outside and its suffering, its horror.

 

Anyone who has worked in the public sector knows this suffering, this horror – in the United Kingdom alone. Teachers, police officers, NHS staff and council workers are amongst those on the front lines and see what neglect truly means. What it means to our children, to our elderly, to our vulnerable. Bearing witness to this causes damage which manifests in different ways, we need to acknowledge this and show support so it becomes a motivation to be better rather than to become a hardened shell of bitterness and complacency. More than this, we need to alleviate their workloads by carrying the burden of making change which raises more people up than just a select few.

 

Personally I will not engage in the political about this, in terms of party political activism, and I will remain on the outside. That is for others to pursue and I wish them well in good intention. My activism will be on the home front and I will fight each little battle my own way.

 

It is going to take more effort though than tossing cans in a food bank collection, reducing our waste and putting money to a collection – these small duties should be the minimum – we have got to make actual connections with people in their lives in a meaningful way and whether they deserve it or not. There is no deserving poor – there are people trying to live their lives with their own choices – poverty is a social state not a moral punishment and without choice there is no freedom.

 

We have made it to higher ground, in our resources and our advantages, we must bring everyone along with us.

 

• I know so many work in so many different ways to do what I am calling out for – please give them a shout out here or Tweet me. Lets bring some good news, like a light in the darkness.