Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Book Review - The Art of Forgotten Things

Imaged reproduced from Interweave website

The Art of Forgtotten Things – Creating Jewellery from Objects with a Past
By Melanie Doerman
ISBN 978-1-59668-548-2

If anything with capture the zeitgeist of today, it is All Things Vintage.

In this book, Melanie Doerman takes found objects and builds them into beautiful necklaces and bracelets using beading and mixed media techniques.  For anyone interested in creating unique pieces that hark back to days past, this book is an excellent buy.

However, if you don’t possess a lot of found objects, there is a very helpful list of ‘Treasures to Collect’ which is a good starting place for building up a collection.  It is also worth checking out Tim Holtz’s vintage-inspired findings in his Idea-ology range.  You could pick up many items that have the Vintage feel about them, so I wouldn’t be put off if you are starting out without a stash in place.

Reproduced from the book The Art of Forgotten Things for promorional purposes.  Author Melanie Doerman and Photography by Joe Coca
But back to the book, which centres around some beadweaving techniques and focuses them on creating vintage-looking pieces. In the first section, techniques are explained with illustrations every step of the way.  These are very clear and written instructions are also given (with a key of what terminology is being used).  Many different ways of using Peyote Stitch are shown with accompanying photographs to show a finished piece.  This is handy, as you can see how a technique will look, and how it is best used (it might be on a chain, or the edging to a brooch).  The further along you get, wire is introduced and combined with what you have seen so far, building on the techniques and giving a good view of how a piece is built up.

Reproduced from the book The Art of Forgotten Things for promorional purposes.  Author Melanie Doerman and Photography by Joe Coca
Once all the techniques have been covered, it’s time to move onto the Projects.  The photos here of finished pieces are beautiful and really capture what the book is about.  Each project is explained step-by-step with a list of suggested materials and diagrams to illustrate.  But some thought has been given to this, as there are also sections of the book given over to teaching the reader how to approach the creative side of jewellery making, and choosing materials according to how they stand out, or how much you love them.  This is an excellent way of giving the reader the confidence to make pieces that are meaningful to them.  The variety of projects is good, with very different looks and some unusual materials , and the ‘chain’ (usually fabric) is chosen well for each.  Some of the jewellery further on in the book uses a lot heavier beading, so there is a progression you can follow as you become more competent with some of the techniques. 

Reproduced from the book The Art of Forgotten Things for promorional purposes.  Author Melanie Doerman and Photography by Joe Coca

Now I just need to dig out my box of trinkets and silk scraps and make use of them.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Book Review - Clever Crocheted Accessories

Clever Crocheted Accessories - edited by Brett Bara
Published by Interweave
ISBN 978-1-59668-827-8

Reproduced from the Interweave website for promotional purposes

I loved this book.  It is a collection of crochet designs by a group of different designers, all rounded up by editor Brett Bara.  As a result you get a wide and varied range of patterns numbering 25, which is impressive and great value for money.  What makes it such a good buy is that you have hats (for men and women), accessories to wear (scarves, gloves, socks and necklaces), items of clothing (cowls, shawls, capelet) and bags, purses and clutches.  So somewhere in there you will find a simple design of what you want to make.

For me, my favourite had to be the beret, as shown on the cover.  My sister, an avid knitter, had discovered a yarn shop while we were on holiday, so I took the book along and asked for some advice.  I came away with some Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk yarn in a beautiful coral colour and set about making it.  After a first attempt which came up much smaller than I was expecting (not concentrating on reading the pattern properly), my daughter had a lovely beret, and I started my 2nd attempt. This was much more successful, and although I am not a hat person, I was really impressed with how good it looked for a simple pattern.

Saturday Beret from Clever Crocheted Accessories

View from the top
I am also making a start on one of the bags, the Amazing Motif Bag.  I have yarn in 3 different colours, and so far I have done the flowers for one colour.  They are all still attached on one long piece as had I cut them all up separately as I was doing them, they'd be scattered around the house, like the little green stones in James and the Giant Peach that escape when he drops them and wreak havoc with the peach tree. 

The bag should look like this when it is finished:

Picture taken from the book Clever Crocheted Accessories for promotional purposes.  Design of bag by Regina Rioux
When I have finished those two projects, I quite fancy the Beaded Cocktail ring.  Or even the Kings County Pork Pie Hat.  Although I am not sure my husband is quite ready to embrace my crocheting on that level.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Book Review - Stitch Savvy by Deborah Moebes

ISBN 978-1-4402-2947-3
Stitch Savvy by Deborah Moebes

This book is a fresh and modern overview of the approaches to sewing that are gripping us all at the moment.  It tackles sewing in all major areas and comes from the point of view of the author, using her experience as a sewing teacher, namely that very few people want to learn how to sew everything.  They may want to sew a quilt, or a bag or a wall hanging, but don’t necessarily want to go through the motions of learning the A-Z in order to get there.

This book is great for those people and it is a refreshing approach. You can jump straight in and find what you want to know and get on and try it out.

 The book is split into 5 main sections - Home Decor, Patchwork & Quilting, Bags, Sewing for Children and Clothing and there are 5 projects for each. Each project has full illustrated instructions that are easily followed and split into sections so that each stage is clearly defined.

Photo reproduced from Stitch Savvy for demonstration of the tips given in the book.  All photography by Bangwallop Photography and text by the author.

There are snippets of information that give extra help with relevant techniques, such as piping for cushions, using a walking-foot for machine sewing. These are useful for giving you that extra bit of help where you might need it.

Photo reproduced from Stitch Savvy for demonstration of the tips given in the book.  All photography by Bangwallop Photography and text by the author.
There is enough variety in each section that you can find something you want, and then possibly more to take it further.  This is the other appealing aspect of the book – it helps you take your sewing to the next stage.  There are plenty of tips and hints of how to tackle each kind of project, be it looking at colour combinations, hanging a quilt or making a dress, each being characteristic to that project.

What I liked about the book was that there was enough information to get you through a project.  You will find plenty of books on each subject should you wish to undertake any further extensive research on your chosen subject, but if you are someone just wanting to make a simple quilt, or a bag, you will have everything you need.  The instructions given are easy to follow and there are photographs for each step to guide you.  And all the patterns are in PDF format on a disk at the back of the book.

Great projects, good variety of techniques and a very relaxed delivery.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

School for Creative Startups Showcase

And so on from Wool House to the School for Creative Startups (I know, I promised to do this ages ago, but it is worth the wait).  I have reviewed a book for June's Workshop on the Web by Doug Richard, formerly an investor on Dragon's Den, and entrepreneur, which ties into the course he runs at Somerset House called School for Creative Startups.  The book "How to Start a Creative Business - The Jargon-free Guide for Creative Entrepreneurs" is something I am very interested in reading, as I would, one-day, like to run my own creative business.  What is interesting about the premise of the book and course, is that it gives "creatives" sound business advice on how to approach setting up for themselves.

Creative people aren't always credited with being business-minded and it can be an issue to start and business and not be able to fulfil your potential if you are slightly woolly in the grass roots.   That is what is so good about the book.  It provides you with exactly the kind of information you should acquaint yourself with when planning your business, but not in a business-manual kind of way.  It is totally accessible for people who are doing what they love and taking it one step further.  But it will also clarify what you are doing and the issues you need to be mindful of in order to succeed.

The book is divided into 10 sections.: The Proposition, The Customer and the Market, The Competition, The Industry, The Channel, The Relationship, The Pricing Model, The Key Partner, The Asset and The Key Competency.  These all sound quite daunting and corporate, but actually, once you start reading them, they make good sense.  I found that I was thinking of a lot of things that I hadn't really considered before (the order of the chapters is key - you really need to work through one at a time and then move onto the next).  Areas such as doing Market Research to find out why people are buying your product and which ones (if you provide more than one) so you don't waste time producing something that customers don't want.  Also identifying your target customer and gearing marketing considerations in that direction.

Coupled with the event that was on at Somerset House in March, I found that this and the book together provided an excellent starting point, should you not be disposed to do the course.  When I went to the Showcase for Creative Startups, I was struck by how many people commented on how the course was great for motivating and pushing them to make decisions, rather than bowing to procrastination.  A lot of the business decisions had to be made by them and then they had to go out and make it work.  This was not something they had a lot of hand-holding for - it was up to them to get on and do it.  It made me think that if you want to get out and run a business, you might need to just knuckle down and get it done.  If you need to find a factory in China to make your products, you could start by Googling it!  Yes, that was how some of the people we spoke to had got things moving.  By the mighty Google.

Some of the Alumni we met on the day were lovely.  I particularly enjoyed the work of Brompton Finch, who used a love of flowers as a starting point for an interiors company.  They use digital photography which is then manipulated and printed as wonderful fabric.
I love this footstool.  The picture doesn't do the design or colours justice.

Brompton Finch
I would certainly check out their website:

We also spoke to the lovely Tina of Tobyboo who creates wonderful machine embroidery of London landmarks and has them printed onto china, fabric, and sticky tape amongst other things.  I loved her thread drawing done on the sewing machine, and she spent a lot of time talking to us about the course and what she had achieved by doing it.  I am definitely keeping an eye out for what's new here.
The Freak Show circus figures.  These showed wonderful machining skills!

All in all, it was a really inspiring day, and I will be going through the book and adopting  the advice given (maybe whilst sitting in the sunshine, while it lasts).  The Showcase in on in May next year, so I am definitely going to go along.  There are workshops and talks that are all included in the entry price, and covers all areas of business - from pricing to starting up a crafts business, to cashflow.  It will certainly get you moving with any of your creative ideas!