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:

Sue 1

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!

Sue 5

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.

Sue 3

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 

 

 

 

 

“Probably the thing I enjoy most is playing” Liz Samways talks jewellery and printmaking

Liz Samways’ work will be familiar to those of you who’ve been coming to craft fairs at HEART for a while. A jeweller and print maker, her work reflects her love of landscape and the natural world.   We caught up with her to find out how she got started and her practice.

I’ve always wanted to be a jeweller, ever since visiting Camden Market in my teens and seeing all the jeweller types who had lifestyles which seemed very exotic. While I was doing my ‘real’ jobs it was always there in the background. When my youngest child had gone to nursery I thought I would give it a go professionally.

Liz Samways Headshot Cropped B&W
Before then I had studies History of Art as my first degree, worked in industrical canteens, factories, Asprey on Bond Street, an Estate Agency, in sales and marketing for Royal Mail, and then retrained in horticulture and garden design and as an ESOL teacher. Quite a list!

To a certain extent I’m self taught, but I did evening classes at Leeds College of Art and Swarthmore with Roger Barnes, during the mid-nineties for jewellery, more recently weekend workshops for printmaking. There’s also been a lot of helpful friends offering technical advice and suggestions along the way.

My first makers’ fair was back in 2011. It was quite a landmark, taking my work out there to the public. Since then, there’s been many more memorable moments: getting my work accepted ito the Craft & Design Gallery in Leeds, where for years I had admired other people’s work, and later being invited to take part in their “Walk In The Park” exhibition. Driving over the hills from Skipton back to Leeds after my first “Art In The Pen” event, having met loads of enthusiastic customers, having fellow makers as good friends, and realising I had finally become the sort of person I’d seen at events when I went as a customer; and my first trade fair which was incredibly daunting, but with a lot of help and advice from other makers I managed it and did well.

liz-samways-lunar-enamelled-pendant_1_orig

The most important consideration for me, when designing a piece of jewellery, is wearability! Will the piece stay the ‘right way up’ for instance, in the case of bangles or stud earrings, ….how will it wear over time? Will it feel comfortable on the body? Also, Will it look good up close and from a distance? Is it something I haven’t seen before? Can I see my customer (we should all have one in our mind’s eye) wearing it? And of course, very importantly, is it within my technical capabilities?!

I use engraving, etching and rolling to make the textures in the metals I use, then cut and solder to layer together. Although I do work things out in sketchbooks, I find a lot ends up as lists of words! (working out technical details and the order in which to work). I hardly ever sketch out a finished design which I work towards, it’s usually a more random process. Often I just have bits of cut up and textured metal around me and I play around putting shapes together till something looks good – I maintain that this is a legitimate design technique as I learnt it through my garden design training! To finish the piece and add the darkness I like, I use traditional patination techniques, selectively polished for contrast, and sealed with a wax.

liz-samways-patina-pendant_3
For the enamelling I use a small kiln and build up layers and layers of colour in various combinations, remembering to make notes as, although I use a lot of different colours, they come from a fairly limited and subtle palette so it’s easy to forget what I’ve used! I work in much the same way as I build layers of ink in prints, through overlapping, masking, and sometimes adding in other elements such as metal leaf or wire.

Probably the thing I enjoy most is playing around! The fact that inspiration is everywhere and I have a legitimate business reason for experimenting with shapes and textures, learning new techniques and meeting lots of other creative people.
The thing I’m not so keen on is juggling orders and the logistics of producing several pieces at the same time, though my experience working in various factories in my youth comes in surprisingly handy when planning my working processes.

liz-samways-block-1
I started off because I’m a terrible magpie and I wanted to make things for myself. It was later that it developed into something I thought I could make a successful business out of. I love working in print and jewellery because there are so many ways they influence each other, and I constantly have ideas working both ways. I love the unpredictability of the surfaces involved in both processes.