Origin

I was lucky enough to win a ticket, courtesy of Liberty, to the private view last night of Origin, the contemporary craft fair organised by the Crafts Council. It was a wonderful collection of 200 makers from every discipline – and a glass of something bubbly and delicious canapés helped things along!

There did seem to be an awful lot of jewellery (I’m not really a jewellery person, much to ESP’s relief!), but naturally I was mostly drawn to the textiles, though there were some fascinating lighting displays as well. Favourites below.

I’ve mentioned Michelle Griffiths before, so it was great to meet her in person. Her pure, pollen-inspired forms are rooted in shibori techniques of stitching and pleating, but she does use dye as well. She showed me a beautiful indigo shibori piece with a pattern based on a spectogram of a blackbird’s song. And she also makes lovely heat-set “bubble wrap”.

More shibori – Anne Selby makes the most amazing sculptural pleated scarves using the arashi shibori method. This is not just pleating – it’s double pleating and layering, steaming, discharging and redyeing that produces such exquisite pieces.

Johannes Hemann, storm series from Victor Hunt on Vimeo.

And now for something completely different. Johannes Hermann‘s “Storm Series” consists of lamp shades and other objects that look like organic crystal growths. He makes them by using a fan to blow granules of styrofoam or other light plastic around a heated box. The combination of heat and wind causes the granules to clump together. Fascinating!

I guess you could call Jasmin Giles‘ work jewellery, but it’s more like wearable art. She combines knitting with glass, wax and resin to create bold statement pieces. Not something you’d probably wear to the office, but certainly wonderfully eye catching.

Joanne Bowles works in metal and ceramics – her work has a very Japanese feel. I love the contrast between the linear ridges of the metal basket and the smooth translucence of the bowl.

Gill Wilson works with paper, forming pulp into large-scale multi-layered geometric structures encased in clear perspex cases. Like Michelle Griffiths, she has trained in Japan, and some of that aesthetic purity comes through here.

Rachel Gornall combines layers, colour and stitch to produce textile artworks that remind me of stained glass windows – beautiful!

Finally, Claudia Phipps works in real glass. She was exhibiting glass wings, based on patterns from dragonflies and lacewings, cutting the holes using waterjets. It’s inspired me to think about felting a scarf in a similar shape.

Origin is on from 22 to 28 September, at Old Spitalfields Market, London E1 6EW, 11am-7pm. Admission £10.

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Unsuccessful Spitalfields stall

Sadly, our first stall at Spitalfields was not a success – neither Tess nor I sold a single item!

You can’t say we didn’t try. Tess painted a beautiful banner backdrop and provided some lovely purple velvet covering for the table. The colours and textures of her hats and bags and my scarves and eyeglass cases made an eye-catching display, I thought.  Sadly, the buying public just didn’t seem interested.

My fellow stallholder, Tess, in front of our first stall at Spitalfields market

Of course, maybe our products weren’t good enough, or maybe they were overpriced. However, we concluded that there were probably two main reasons:

1. The type of market – Friday at Spitalfields is advertised as a fashion market, with stallholders varying “from designers and artists to resellers with an eye for the undiscovered and new”. There were a few other stalls besides us selling hand-made items like jewellery, hair ornaments, and brooches. But most of the other stalls were selling cheap fashion – the one next to us was hawking dresses for £10 (and attracted more interest from shoppers). We met and talked to an artist from Norfolk, Annette Rolston, who was offering beautiful linoprint silk scarves and prints – she didn’t sell anything either. She was firmly of the view that this was not a fashion and crafts market, but a general market that attracted people looking for cheap deals.

Too expensive for bargain hunters?

2. Not many visitors – We weren’t expecting Friday to be as busy as Sunday – after all, one of the reasons we decided to try out Friday was because the stall cost £30 rather than the £95 it costs on Sundays! But the number of visitors was extremely low. The lady who was running the stall behind us, selling sunglasses, said that footfall has really dropped off over the past couple of months, and that more people are just messing around, trying stuff on but then not buying. Another stallholder who was selling appliquéd brooches, which cost only £3, also said that people were picking up each one, examining them carefully, and then walking off, only to come back a while later to buy. Obviously the decision to spend £3 needs careful thought! Annette had also signed up for the Sunday market, so it will be interesting to hear whether business was any brisker today than on Friday.

But we’re not giving up just yet. For our next retail appearances we’re splitting up: I’m going to try the Tip Top Table Sale at the White Lion in Streatham on Sunday 1 May. And Tess will be at the Sheep and Wool Fair at Spitalfields City Farm on 15 May.

Tess also has her own Flat Sheep blog.

Scarves

The exciting – and rather scary – news is that I and Tess, a fellow student on the creative and experimental textiles course at Morley College are going to try selling of our stuff at a stall at Spitalfields Market. We’re going for a Friday, as it’s cheaper than a Sunday, so we won’t waste too much money if nobody buys anything.

This has thrown me into a panic about having enough stuff to sell. Tess makes beautiful felt hats and bags and has been planning to do a stall for a while, so she’s built up a bit of stock. We agree that our styles are different, so it doesn’t matter if we both make the same kinds of items, as long as our prices are comparable. But I thought I’d try to make some scarves, to add a bit of variety.

The problem with making felt scarves at home rather than at college is that they require a lot of space, especially as you have to make them longer to allow for shrinkage. Working on my dining room table (the largest area available) means lots of folding over bubble wrap, pulling corners here, rolling edges there – all while trying to avoid pools of soapy water dripping onto the floor.

The other issue is seasonality – with the weather getting warmer, people won’t want to buy thick heavy scarves. So I made a couple of lighter ones in network felt (below), the blue one with silk threads running across some of the holes. I’m not sure it was that successful – it probably needs more silk to avoid simply looking messy.

I also really liked the pleated nuno net scarf I made using the ‘cooked shibori’ technique of tying it up and steaming it. So I made a couple of larger shawls at home and tied them up and steamed them in the tea urn at college.

The next challenge is whether I can do this ‘cooked shibori’ technique at home, as term has now finished. I don’t have access to a tea urn, so will have to improvise somehow.

Alternatively, we can just sell bags and hats.

Bargain silk scarves

On an outing to Spitalfields market in east London yesterday, I came across a stall heaped with scarves of every shape, pattern and colour – for £1 each. Some were of pure silk – just what I need for my felting.

Silk scarves
Bargain silk scarves

Some of these I will use as a base for nuno felting; others I’ll cut into strips or other shapes for adding texture and colour to felt. What a great find!