For the love of wood

Gavin Edwards is another newcomer to Design@HEART, bringing his interesting and original wood work.  He has had many careers, and his current one draws on all the others, as he tells us in this latest blog.  

Working with wood is my latest career choice, having previously worked as a Cartographer, Field Archaeologist, Archaeological Curator and finally as Museum Collections Manager.  An unconventional background perhaps, but I have always enjoyed working with wood, so I didn’t want to feel that I never had the opportunity to explore where my love of wood might take me.

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My experiences as an archaeologist, as well as working with museum collections, has made me appreciate just how much human material culture and technological development has relied on the physical properties of wood. Indeed, our relationship with trees stretches back to the very origins of our own species, but there is so much more to wood than just its physical properties. There is an intrinsic beauty about its internal structuring, the natural grain and colour, which is something I always hope to enhance and take advantage of through the use of very simple and structured forms.

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I like to use a wide range of native and non-native woods, birch plywood and reclaimed wood to create what I refer to as decorative wall panels rather than ‘wall art’. In most cases the design element of my work is driven by the same desire to highlight and show off the character and quality of the wood, and on occasions it can be an unusual feature in a piece of wood that is the inspiration for the design of the finished piece.

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Bringing out the very best qualities of the wood is achieved by hand sanding down all the surfaces to a very fine level and then applying a hard clear wax finish before further applications of a semi solid wax finish. I do not use varnishes as I want these items to develop their own history by accumulating the dents and scratches of time, which are more easily ‘soften’ by additional applications of wax finish. Again it is the quality and appearance of the wood that matters most, which is why I prefer to use simple forms. The only time I use stains or paint, is when making the baseboards which are measured up and made to support the other pieces of wood that have already been cut and arranged to create the overall design.

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The basic layout and design of some of my pieces can be repeated, but the appearance of each completed one will always be unique due to variations in the wood itself and the hand-crafted nature of its construction.

Heart of Glass

Sarah Wade of Garage Glass Studio is back this December with her charming fused glass products.  We asked her about her making process and how she got started.

My interest in fused glass developed from my interest in stained glass which I did as a hobby for a number of years. At one course I went on there was a kiln and we had a go at fusing glass. I was hooked, and ever since I have been fascinated with the things you can do with glass and a kiln.

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Warm glass or kiln-formed glass is the working of glass by heating it in a kiln. The processes used depend on the temperature reached and range from fusing and slumping to casting but doesn’t go much above 800 degrees centigrade. This differs from hot glass, where the artist works with molten glass with a temperature around 1000 degrees.

For the first few years my interest had to remain a hobby as I had a day job as an accountant, but four years ago I gave up that job and soon afterwards Garage Glass Studio was born. I have two small kilns in our garage and the glass is created there, hence the name.

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I did a City and Guilds level 3 in decorative glass course at night school, and I have been on a number of courses to learn specific techniques of glass making, but other than that I am self taught, adapting techniques I have learnt to create the images that I want to make, and learning how glass performs at different temperatures. I am particularly fascinated by the effects are created through the reactions between the chemicals in different glasses as they heat up.

 

Most of the inspiration for my work comes from the world around me, from the animals and plants that I see in the countryside in West Yorkshire. I love taking my wares to craft fairs and sharing it with people. It feels great when they look at your table and smile.

 

Firing up the kiln

If you have visited Design@HEART before you may well have seen Lindsay Thomas’s work.  Lindsay is a potter, producing eyecatching home decorations using the ancient method of Raku, and incorporating her other love of textiles into her new work.  Here she is talking about her work and methods:

I have been making pots since 1995. I started by attending an evening class and enjoyed it so much I carried on. I was fortunate enough to use an inheritance from my father with which I bought a kiln.

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I was also able to attend two courses that influenced my work and inspired me to try to sell my work. The first course was a weekend in the wilds of Wales with Annie Horner where I learnt to build and fire a Raku kiln and I use this process in my work still.  The second was a week’s course with Peter Beard, an amazing potter who taught me to refine my work and encouraged me to go out and try and sell my work.

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As I loved the Raku process I used this and made work influenced by ancient standing stones and ancient rock art from Ilkley moor. My first selling event was Potfest in the Pens 2000, a show which I have attended every year since. I work from my little studio in my cellar and Raku firing my work in my homemade kiln outside in the garage with my husband being my extra pair of hands.

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Over the years my work has gone through various influences, the main one being natural forms and pebbles found in the beach. The beach theme expanded to beach huts and camper vans and I now include found object found in the beach such as driftwood.

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The Raku process is an ancient Japanese process used to make tea bowls. The work is made, bisque fired, glazed, and then fired again in my Raku Kiln. The Raku kiln is fired to 960degrees then the pots are taken out when red hot and placed in sawdust. This causes a reduction in heat and makes the glaze crackle and any unglazed part turns black.  The pots are then placed in water and cleaned up.

My other love is textiles and my new work is earthenware decorated with oxides and transparent glaze. I use hand dyed yarn by Jean Wildish at Wild Wood Wool to sew rock art designs into the pots.

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Sarah Dunton

Sarah Dunton’s work went down very well last Christmas, so we’re having her back!  Here she is talking about her work:

I am a painter, potter and plant grower – and maker of small objects. I always drew as a child, and went on to study fine art at Leeds University.

My influences and inspirations are manifold, ranging from medieval art with its sturdy practicality, glorious disregard for proportion and delight in decoration, to the 20th century painters Paul Klee and Marc Chagall, whose work is often dreamlike.

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I learnt etching at Leeds, Morley College and Sir John Cass College in London and , much more recently, pottery at Swarthmore College.

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My work is derived from memory of things observed – I try to create calm-inducing and/or tactile work, which usually includes portrayals of birds and plants and occasionally people in their own worlds.

“Everything begins with a pencil!”

One of many new faces at Design@HEART this December is Shaun Vickers, artist and illustrator.  Here, we have a look at his background and his current work, which is sure to strike a chord with many of our shoppers. 

Shaun has always worked within the creative sector, initially trained in Graphic Design in Leicester he was soon illustrating with an airbrush for Athena poster shops back in the 80’s which set him on a path within the greeting card and publishing industry, having successfully freelanced for many years, Shaun joined several top card and publishing companies as Design Manager, Creative Manager through to Art Director overseeing many successful design teams and creating award winning ranges for many high street retailers and grocers.

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Now working from his attic studio in the village of Baildon with expansive views over Baildon Moor, alongside rescued cat ‘Ozzy’ they get wonderful views of nature and life passing by.

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This new venture as ‘Fine Art by Shaun’ allows him the freedom to create his own work without any restrictions, despite being proficient in all medium’s the humble pencil has long been his medium of choice as it allows fine detail to be achieved and the final image to be constructed in a steady controlled manner.

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With a love of all things Nature and Wildlife and given the resurgence of the focus on nature conservation and awareness, pet owner Shaun thought it the right time to marry subject matter with traditional working. To strip the image of colour and focus on the detail and character of the subject matter is really important, as the work continues to evolve so does the variety of situations, poses and formatting for each piece. Whilst he’s passionate about the work he does, his commercial background also focuses on the fact the work has a relevant  appeal and value to the wider public and so mixes pet and equine commissions with the larger wildlife pieces to sell as originals, prints and cards. As well as illustrating all things nature he also works on pet and equine portrait commissions

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This year has seen Shaun exhibit at several town halls and galleries for the first time with his own work, still experimenting with subject matter and formats it’s been a good grounding for the future direction for his next set of illustrations. This year has also seen him showcase his work in all manner of forms at country and craft shows in Yorkshire and his native Leicestershire, meeting new customers, and engaging with other stall holders and building up relationships and friendships through the unique band of ‘Creative Makers’, “I’m really excited for the challenge and opportunities that lie ahead and I’m very much looking forward to attending Decembers Christmas Craft event at Design @ Heart 8th December…see you all there!”

Favourite quote:

“Everything begins with a pencil!”

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Everyone Loves Bags!

Sue Turrill of Nuthatch Designs will be back at Design@HEART this December with her beautiful tweed bags.  Here she is talking about her work:

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When I was a small child I would spend weeks in the summer with my two siblings staying with our Grandmother and her two sisters.  That was when I really started creating things, using embroidery, sewing and knitting.  I remember spending hours with my Great Aunt Mary embroidering daisies around the edges of tray cloths, and I loved it.  Even from a young age needlecraft for me has always been a way of relaxing whilst producing something unique and useful.

I’ve since wanted to combine traditional methods I’d learnt with modern ways of life.  Everyone has some sort of electronic device and it seemed the obvious choice to incorporate my designs with natural fabrics to produce unique covers and cases to protect them.  Shortly after starting my business a good friend of mine said “why don’t you make bags? Everyone loves bags?”.  So after a bit of thinking I decided to give bags a go as well.  She was right of course and I love making them too!

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Natural fabrics are important to me as they combine durability with practicality meaning they will last but can also be recycled into something new in time.  I love the tactile nature of wool and the properties it has for retaining shape and repelling dirt. I’m sure my love of natural fabrics is in part linked to my love of nature.  I’ve always been drawn to wildlife and the countryside so the imagery I create on the smaller purses represents this part of my life,and it’s also why my shop name is Nuthatch Designs – it’s just my favourite bird.

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Wherever possible I try to champion British manufactured natural fabrics, and design and handmake the bags and cases I sell.   I absolutely love the heritage wool fabric Harris Tweed which is only produced under licence in the Outer Hebrides and now includes many brighter modern colourways from upcoming young weavers. In themselves they are a thing of beauty and I feel very lucky to be able to use them.

Nuthatch Designs will be at Design@HEART on Saturday 8th December at the HEART Centre, Bennett Road, Leeds LS6 3HN 

 

 

 

 

Mei Tai, Bei Dai or Mei Dai? However you spell it, Tag Togs is the place to get them!

Amanda Green of Tag Togs is taking over the blog today to talk about her business making babywear and accessories.  

From a young age I have always sewn things, when I was very young I use to get any scraps of fabric from my mums sewing projects and cut and hand sew them into clothes for my Sindy and Barbie dolls. My mum and nan then taught me how to sew and I started making clothes for myself, I did sewing at school for GCSE and A’Level before it all got grouped in with other design things, I helped make clothes for the school theatre productions, and so it seemed like a natural progression to go to uni and do a textile based degree. The sewing stopped there, the degree I did was technology based with a lot of practical but no sewing. I picked sewing back up about 10 years later when I worked as a factory manager for a pillow and mattress protector manufacturer, the ladies who did all the sewing showed me how to make the products. Now I have moved onto babywear which is a bit more fiddly than making a mattress protector, but it is a lot of fun especially when I go fabric shopping, there is too much choice!

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I started my business after my first child in 2009, the company I worked for closed down, we made mattress protectors and pillows and I ran the business for the owner, once it had closed I decided to start my own business up doing the same thing. This has now progressed onto my babywear brand. I started making the baby carriers in 2013 when my second child was about 6 months old.

I originally went to uni and did a textile technology degree, this included spinning, weaving, CAD, dying and finishing and factory management, I think all these elements of my degree and experience in various companies have helped me to run my own business.
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I have a unit in Milnsbridge, Huddersfield which is great although not ideal, the unit is set out in small offices, I would ideally like one large room with all my sewing machines in together, I am looking at re-designing the layout of the unit which will mean knocking down walls, this is something I am putting off at the moment – the mess!!

The type of baby carrier I make is called a Mei Tai or Bei Dai or Mei Dai. It has a main panel which holds the baby and 2 shoulder straps and a waist strap which ties the carrier to the parent/carer. The carrier can be personalised with a patterned accent panel on the front and the back so this would then make it a completely reversible carrier. I also make baby bags or babywearing bags , and baby clothes which co-ordinate and match the carriers.

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I love being in control of my work hours, (to a certain degree), one of the reasons I wanted to have my own business was to be my own boss and enable me to spend time with my children and attend school events, which is not always possible when you work for someone else.

There’s some aspects of it though, that I’d happily hand over. I find the marketing difficult, I would love someone to come and do all of that bit for me. It can also be a bit lonely sometimes, especially when you need to bounce ideas off someone or ask for someones opinion.

I would like to get my babywear into a few more shops, currently I have some products in 2 local craft shops and would like to increase this and go a bit further afield.

Amanda will be at Design@HEART on this coming Saturday 9th June at Headingley HEART Centre, Bennett Road, Leeds LS6 3HN

A Passion for Pattern

Preeti Gupta is bringing Pattern Passion back to Design@HEART next week and we can’t wait to see what new designs she’s got in store.  She’s taken over the blog this week to tell us more about her company and work.

Pattern Passion is the home of hand painted and hand drawn patterns inspired by nature which I create lovingly in my studio in Leeds. These designs are digitally printed onto luxury silks to adorn elegant and unique womenswear, scarves, cushions, purses, wristlets and men’s accessories. Great quality digital printing allows all the patterns to capture the original concept and artwork in the finest detail and always retain the handmade natural element. I strive to bring the finest unique wearable and decorative art. Some of the latest additions to my range of products are super soft silk scrunchies, silk headbands, square and long scarves, wristlets, coasters  and ties adorned with new hand painted patterns.

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As far as my memory can take me I have always been a nature lover and always will be. It doesn’t cease to amaze me and inspire. As a child I was naturally drawn to nature. I could sit for hours in silent wonder, literally watching the flowers grow. Little did I know then that I was serving my apprenticeship for my future career.  All artists have many inspirations and mine first came in that garden. My first designs were inspired by that cacophony of colour, so bright, so raw, so vibrant. I have always enjoyed drawing and painting. I grew up to pursue medical profession but realised very soon that my happiness lay in anything to do with painting and drawing. This led me to take up textile design studies in India which I thoroughly enjoyed and practiced for a few years before coming to UK. My inquisitiveness led me to take up BA Honours in Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds College of Art which was a very enjoyable creative journey. After working for a few high street retailers such as Dorma furnishings, M&S, John Lewis I decided to launch my own brand; Pattern Passion.

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I have a little studio at home where I begin with painting or drawing loads of motifs. After that I work on the computer to play around with the painted motifs and create some repeat patterns out of them. These are sent out for digital printing onto silks and then made into various products.

I really enjoy the creative side of my work. I derive a lot of joy, peace and satisfaction from creating my artwork and products. The whole process from research to completion is thoroughly enjoyable. I also find the interaction and connection with my customers very rewarding.

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The biggest challenge of running a micro business for me is managing everything alone. Sometimes I feel it’s a bit of a juggle doing everything yourself. It’s about finding the balance between creating, marketing, selling and also having a life.  In a few years’ time I would like Pattern Passion to be known as a brand that can be trusted for great designs and quality. I would love to see it in some top design led shops.

My inspiration is the beautiful Yorkshire countryside

Artist Lucy Tomlinson takes over the blog today to talk about her first forays into art and how she came to be a professional artist.

I am a self-taught artist, living in Rawdon, and surrounded by the beautiful Yorkshire Countryside, which is where I get most of my inspiration, particularly when out walking my dog, Jasper.

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After giving up work when my children were born, I discovered after lots of art and crafts sessions and one in particular, a children’s watercolour session at our local café, that I was in fact quite arty! I have always found it difficult to find art for my own house, so I decided to try and create my own.  A few hours later and I had produced a colourful hare, which is still framed in my lounge.

I was hooked and any spare time was spent painting in watercolour, most commonly wildlife, hares, bees and flowers.  I love to paint them in different colours to their natural state.

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I then decided to get some of my images printed by a local company to make notebooks and cards.

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Around this time, I was also training to be Teaching Assistant after trying to get back to work whilst still being able to be at home for my children.  I had previously volunteered at school for many years so it seemed like natural progression.  I finished my training and immediately got a part time position at my local primary school, however, after a year my hours were cut due to financial constraints.  I decided to embrace the situation and put all my efforts into my artwork.

I also got the bug for Abstract Acrylic Pour Paintings. They are just fabulous to do and so addictive.  Due to the process and the many ways or “pouring” each one is completely unique. My studio (kitchen and dining room) are full of them, either drying, waiting to be varnished or the finished item and I often post videos of the process on my Instagram site.

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I opened my Etsy shop and contacted lots of local businesses, a few of which now have my work in.  I have done craft fairs and met many other arty people. I have displayed my work in a shop in Leeds and am about to have my abstract acrylic pours in a gallery/framers in Otley.   I also have lots of plans for other products with my artwork on.

Lucy will be at Design@HEART on Saturday 9th June at  HEART Centre, Bennett Road, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3HN

I never intended this to be something for other people to see

Photographer Kelly Marsh takes over the blog this week, ahead of her first appearance at Design@HEART in June.

I’m a self-taught photographer. I never intended this to be something for other people to see. It’s always been something I have primarily done for myself.  But then it turned into a business!  I guess you could say that it really took off for me when I was joking about holding a gallery show for my birthday and then suddenly people were encouraging me and I ended up getting fully funded on Kickstarter to put on a show which I did in October.

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I take photos because it works as a kind of mindfulness meditation for me allowing me to refocus on the world rather than myself. I‘ve been diagnosed with acute anxiety and I find that when I take photos my mind is quietened and I am able to just enjoy what I am doing. This means that a lot of the time I can’t remember where I last put my phone but I can tell you the location (as far as I ever knew it) and what I was doing there for every photo I have ever taken.

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My workspace can be anywhere. If the weather is bad outside I will take pictures indoors, of my home or my clothes – whatever has caught my eye at the time. A lot of my photos and my inspiration is centred on nature. As an engineer I spent a lot of time learning about how nature has optimised itself to be strong and durable and I’m always fascinated about how this contrasts with how beautiful nature is at the same time. I also love a good steam train!

I think one of the things I love most about doing this is that I love finding common ground with people. Even if people don’t come and buy something they will often comment on my pictures, telling me which are their favourites or memories they have associated with what I have taken. Sometimes I get to learn a cool bit of history about Leeds or a cool place to go shoot too.

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The best bit of the whole process is the show. I’ll have an exhibition in HEART Centre at the time of the fair and its going to be 20 photos. It’s super stressful at the moment trying to plan out everything that I want to include and what I want to say but I know as soon as it goes up on the wall I’ll feel really happy to share my perspective with people.

My all time fan is my partner. He is always pushing me to share my photos and is my biggest supporter. If I am struggling with anything he is the one I turn to for advice. He does the framing for me, because I can’t get the prints in straight. He also bought a whole bunch of my photos and put them all round the house!

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There’s some projects that I would like to do that will require a lot of planning and a space to display them once they are done. I’d like to do a project focusing on mental health and highlighting the difference between how we feel and how we are perceived. I’d also like to do a set of photos around female beauty and what it means to be a woman but these will require me to get a lot of practice in photographing people. I’m hoping to start the planning and practice in the new year after I have finished my PhD. As for the business side of things- I’m hoping to have sold enough images that I could buy a wide angled or macro lens for my camera.

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Kelly will be at Design@HEART on Saturday 9th June.  She sells various different sized prints, framed or unframed and is also happy to take commissions based on a specific theme. Don’t forget to check out the exhibition of her full exhibition while you are in HEART.