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Sydenham Visual Arts Trail 2015

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Sydenham Visual Artists Trail runs as part of Sydenham Arts Festival – a two week celebration of the Arts in and around Londons fabulous SE26 that runs every July. This year there are over 150 Artists taking part in Open houses across the Sydenham, Penge, Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park area. I’m only one of them!
You can meander through Sydenham using our handy Map of Artists available in shops around Sydenham but especially at our wonderful Kirkdale Bookshop.
The Visual Artists Trail runs this weekend 11am – 5pm on Saturday 4th July and Sunday 5th July and the following weekend 11th and 12th July where I will join forces with Twisted Vintage Jewellery. We promise to create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere for you to browse, chat or purchase at your leisure with a refreshing glass of Pimms should you desire. What a lovely way to spend your weekend!

Quilt of Wonder will be on display at The Calabash of Culture from Sunday 5th July 2015 as part of 'Art' on the High Street

Quilt of Wonder will be on display at The Calabash of Culture from Sunday 5th July 2015 as part of ‘Art’ on the High Street

All information including venue details available here.

Did I mention Pimms?

Come. x

Say ‘CHEESE!’

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Say ‘CHEESE!’

I sat at my kitchen table, wearing stained sweatpants, an old T-shirt and raggedy headscarf and idly watched Georgia, my designated make-up artiste of the evening, prepare the tools of her trade. I pondered the mammoth task she had before her.

Ah! Such optimism in youth.

kitchen table takeover in full effect

kitchen table takeover in full effect

Georgia produced all manner of pretty confection (including a bag of cutesy baby pink cotton wool pads I coveted) then set about my face. No mean feat as I was so excited I couldn’t keep my mouth shut! No change there then.

Erm...excuse me? Where are my minions?

Erm…excuse me? Where are my minions?

Various Reddskin creations and different ‘looks’ were experimented with. I even managed to rope/con my youngest diva into taking behind-the-scenes photos with my own groovy new camera. It all went rather smoothly and photographer Kim was graciously patient with me as I posed and tried not to giggle.

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

I should probably explain…

Nubian Nights Out are a ” group of young professionals working in various creative industries including, fashion, photography, music, film and PR”.  In December 2014 they founded their collective  “looking to connect with like-minded people interested in learning more about Black history and identity”. They are a dynamic bunch of people who have already put on several events through their meet up group

Freestyle Locs styling

Freestyle Locs styling

Kim and Georgia have been spending most, if not all, of their spare time (they both work in demanding jobs) running around London photographing many women from a range of backgrounds. Images highlighting the diversity of Women of Colour not seen enough in mainstream media. It’s SUCH an exciting project so I felt honoured when founder member, Relle, who I had the pleasure of working with at Forest Hill Fashion Week, approached me to participate.

Then I thought “Free Make-over? Where do I sign?”

Ready for my close-up.

Ready for my close-up.

This photoshoot is part of a series that will form the basis for their launch exhibition celebrating Women of Colour. The exhibition will launch on 23.07.15 and run for two days for public viewing at a boutique gallery in South London.

Cheshire Cate has nothing on me!

Cheshire Cat has nothing on me!

NNO are currently also fundraising to produce a book of the event. You can read more about these exciting plans and donate here. Every little helps I promise you!

Support us by sharing:

Facebook Nubian Nights Out

Twitter @NubianNightsOut

Remember…you heard it here first.

Photo credits: Maheni Short.

Can Craft improve health and well-being?

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Can Craft improve health and well-being?

*blinks in the sunlight*

Well HELLO there! It HAS been a while!

I’d really like to report back  that I’ve been super busy making and selling and being uber-productive. But the truth is that I’ve been stepping down, having a ponder, making things for me and learning to simply ‘be’.

More on that later.

Fair warning as Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close this post WILL actually touch on mental health. Mine. So if that makes you a little uncomfortable then now’s the time to go and make a cuppa.

Still here? Oh. Good!

A few months ago a respected friend, Momtaz aka @TheCraftcafe , asked me to guest on her, then new, weekly show on One Harmony Radio who are a community internet radio station based in Brockley, SE London. At the time I was in, shall we say, a ‘difficult place’. I had been off work for months and the doctors had been chucking scary words like ‘Anxiety’ and ‘Depression’ in my direction. Frankly I was in a bit of a state about it all. Talking sense? To an actual person? Over the airwaves? Not uppermost in my thoughts.

But I had HOPE (wonderful stuff. I highly recommend). So we made a flexible plan and, several weeks later, I found myself sitting in front of a microphone at an unheard of hour on a Saturday morning.

Momtaz introduced me as her ‘Best Dressed guest ever!’ thereby cleverly ensuring that I would be putty in her hands for the duration of her show. Good one, Momtaz. Although it was nerve-racking, (watching Momtaz in action was like an masterclass in Radio to me. So effortless!), the topic is so close to my heart that I found it easy to chat and open up. The hardest part was shutting up when the little coloured lights were on/off/whatever they do. Flash?

Me being all 'best dressed' 'n' sh*t

Me being all ‘best dressed’ ‘n’ sh*t

I learned to sew in my teens thanks to the patience and expertise of my mum. Newly single and working to a tight budget she would turn her creative hand to most things out of necessity. I liked it. Loved it, in fact. Now my mum ‘persuades’ me to sew everything for her. Fair enough.

Throughout my life the Arts, in a variety of forms, have always been my place of solace. My natural home. I became a kick-ass (not literally. Illegal apparently) dance teacher and always marveled at my students ability to create and express themselves regardless of ability, age or gender. When, after a pesky injury,  I began to focus more on my sewing skillset it never occurred to me that the same wouldn’t apply. People are often surprised that I taught boys to sew. ‘SACRE BLEU!!’ they exclaim. (French-speaking of course….with a flair for melodrama). Craft knows no gender. Fact. It’s SO much more than the activity. It’s that feeling of pride, of making something from practically nothing. Learning a new skill or perfecting a new one. That feeling of worth and achievement. It can’t be beaten! One of my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE things is to show others how and then watch them run away with it. (not literally because that’s dangerous) To those of you who say ‘Oh I’m no good at *insert suitably creative activity here*” I say ‘Pah’! And ‘Try!’. And other (clean) one syllable expressions.

The advice for the millions (yep. Worth keeping in mind next time you feel like you’re on your own) of people out there experiencing Anxiety or Depression is well documented. And a great deal of it involves getting out and ‘doing’ things. In the spirit of ‘doing’ you can’t go far wrong with trying a new skill. Can you see where I’m going here? My experience has always been that when the going got tough (seriously resisting the urge to embed THAT Billy Ocean tune into this post) if I could get to my sewing machine, or pick up a crochet hook or teach myself to knit half a sock *glances feebly at half knitted sock* then I’d be moving in the right direction. UP (in case you hadn’t figured it out).

IMG_20150319_241959795

It might work for you.

Back to Radioland. So Momtaz and I chatted and I made a bit of sense (allegedly) and we how we laughed and Momtaz played some FAB-ulous music (what happened to PM Dawn? Anyone?) and before we knew it the show was over! *sniff*

At time of writing I am still a Work in Progress. But aren’t we all? I’ve made some positive and life-shifting changes (to put it mildly). But I know I won’t be giving up sewing (or teaching others to sew) anytime soon.

Of course now I also want to be a DJ….

Hats off!

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Why hats? I have NO idea. I think that, as usual, I wanted to set myself a challenge…push a few boundaries. I don’t know whether I had heard of Katty Janneh or whether I was browsing for courses. But either way suddenly all roads seemed to lead to Katty. I was powerless to resist!

Lets be clear here. I knew (know) nothing about hat making and, if I’m honest, I completely underestimated the time and effort it takes to make just one simple creation. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.

Katty Janneh is a extremely talented milliner who makes fabulous bespoke creations and whose stockists include Selfridges in Londinium.

Katty was uber-organised and spent time and effort compiling a list of items to purchase and bring along to the first session. So, naturally, I spent 4 weeks ignoring it and only looked on the day. BIG mistake. Already at the bottom of the class and I hadn’t even started yet!

Magic sinamay bias

Magic sinamay bias

Luckily Katty is an accommodating soul with a generous spirit (I’ll have my payment in cash please) and magicked up some sinamay; a natural fibre from the Philippines, to make a fascinator from. There were some techniques, like attaching the wire to help keep its shape, that made me swear under my breath.

And there were sublime parts where Katty showed me how to make sinamay bias strip. Seriously cool! Anyway I’m pretty darn proud of my first attempt!

Veil and flowers - fabulous fascinator!

Veil and flowers – fabulous fascinator!

Katty is an amenable soul with a wonderful sense of humour. Lets face it, you’d have to have a huge one of those to teach a gaggle of women with a mixture of abilities and personalities. Katty is definitely a natural.

So for my next trick, I decided a hot pink trilby would be the way forward. Clearly, subtlety has never been my forté.

I purchased a parisal cone (check me out with my millinery jargon!) then had to treat it with a concoction that looked suspiciously like skimmed milk although I’m assured that it wasn’t. Next I had to wrap cling film around a wooden block in the shape of my hat and stretch the cone over it, pinning in place as I went.

Trilby of a thousand pins

Trilby of a thousand pins

Now, I consider myself as having decent upper body strength. Pah! Katty came along – removed most of my pins (that had taken eons to push in!), re-stretched a portion of my Trilby-to-be with the combined strength of the Williams sisters and reattached the pins with a “now do the rest like that!” flourish. She is GOOD. *completely impressed face*

I have always respected creatives. Obviously. Having a vision and making it REAL is a skill that many, sadly, find hard to appreciate. But I now have a new found REEEEE-spect for milliners. Hats off to you all!

One hot pink trilby to GEAUX!

One hot pink trilby to GEAUX!

And thank YOU, Katty, for putting up with me and allowing me to enrol on the second millinery course! This time it’s bright red wool. I can’t wait!

Have you taken up a new hobby or challenge recently?

Reduce, Reuse, Re…what ARE you wearing?

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Over the past few months I have met some really interesting crafty (verb not adjective) people. This year I have made a concious decision to seek out new creative ventures whenever time allows. So when I stumbled across Penelope Else asking for local people with sewing skills for a new venture she was starting I emailed her straight away.

Frockcycle is an event that takes place at Canvas and Cream, a brand spanking new Art gallery slash workshop space slash restaurant in Forest Hill, Sarf East Londinium. The main premise is to up-cycle your old unwanted items of clothing in to fashion desirables with a fresh eye and a handy pair of scissors. All you need is enthusiasm – no previous sewing experience is necessary! Penny runs the show – the first part has involved trying clothes on upside down or backwards – mad fun!

Helpers are on hand to transform the clothes into new fashionable creations. If you need extra crafty items then Pascale from local ‘purveyors of craft haberdashery and history’ Stag and Bow, is there with her array of goodies. Oh and did I mention that you can buy cake and there’s a bar? Perfect.

During the last session Paulina Palian brought along a pair of bright orange trousers and an old orange vest then practically grabbed and pointed me in their direction.

Happy feet!

She knew full well that I wouldn’t be able to resist their vibrant colours (clever woman that). It was her suggestion that I play with the idea of combining them both to make a bolero jacket. In between helping clients I started the venture but ended up taking it home where it sat on my mannequin for a week whilst I pondered and got on with the business of ‘life’. Once I’d started again, after a lot of pinning and tacking it finally began to take shape.

See what I did there?

When 2 become 1.

I added some vibrant African batik cotton with a golden overlay to the edge.

That’s better!

I used the same fabric to create a semi-Cape effect to the back of the jacket.

Super cape in the making!

Next I cut the sleeves, added elastic and pushed them up my arms. Now I was on a roll! Finally I cut a length and sewed it just inside the pockets for a little definition – although sadly my photos haven’t picked this up *tiny sob*.

Avec orange necklace accessory

I was so pleased with my efforts I test drove the outfit the very next day!

Superwoman and her cape!

Tah-Daaaaah!

Your turn!

The next Frockcyle event is on Sunday 28th July. You can book here. Come along, bring your old fashion faux-pas, meet some new interesting people and most of all have some FUN!

Do YOU have any fashion regret-tables?

Or have you turned an unwanted item into an object of desire?

Oh go on, DO tell!

Me? Panic? Never!

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I woke up early on the morning of Saturday 16th July with that unmistakable feeling of mild hysteria. This accompanied  by a fatigue that only a week of late night sewing, early starts and full-time working can produce effectively (although, carers of small humans, I salute you).

My first Reddskinbags Open House complete with covered £1 shop scrapbook.

My first Open House with Sydenham Arts Festival was imminent! It’s not that I hadn’t held an Open house before – my first one in March last year was a modest affair that I had agonised over for weeks.

Too many questions…Would I have enough stock? (Yes)

Would anybody turn up? (Yes. Lots. In fact they stayed  long after I ‘shut’ shop)

Should I serve alcohol? (No. Well, yes. Afterwards. So *that’s* why they were reluctant to leave!)

THIS Open House was different because I had been invited to participate and I couldn’t quell the feeling that I had entered a special club. Perhaps I would get a badge? (P’rhaps not).

Applique 'Pod' in black denim.

Sydenham Artists are a long standing and talented bunch of creators. I relished the thought of being part of a wider artistic community but…would I fit in? It was also different on another important level.

My solo Open Houses have started at 3pm until 7pm. This has given me enough time in the morning to complete a ritual that involves lots of tweaking, tea, panic (there’s a theme here) and a very calm and organised teenager who eventually takes over.

In contrast, Sydenham Open Houses start at 11am (!) and finish at 5pm and runs over the weekend! That’s two consecutive days, people! Lawdy! Anyway some of you will know that the weekend before it had all gone a bit Pete Tong so some of the same questions were going through my tired little head – mainly – Would anyone turn up?

In the midst of my mental mayhem, the organiser Annabel turned up to do a Risk Assessment. As I answered the questionnaire – under ‘pets’ I wrote ‘two goldfish’. I don’t think that’s what they meant – Annabel whizzed around my house adding black and yellow hazard tape to steps and a liability poster for insurance purposes. You know the ‘if you slip and fall don’t say I didn’t warn you – Have a nice day!’ kind that really welcomes you inside. Annabel was upbeat and optimistic, giving me lots of encouragement as she left.

Then it started to rain. Heavily. In fact I may even have shaken my fist skywards at this point.

Welcome to my shop!

So I wasn’t expecting anyone to bother if I’m brutally honest. What with the rain and the mixed up dates and an uncharacteristic peppering of realism/pessimism….and I mentioned the rain, right?

As I popped a mellow Dwele CD in to the player and pressed ‘play’, I jumped out of my skin (metaphorically, you understand…yuck) when the doorbell went at a quarter past eleven! One friendly face after another started to arrive.

Upcycled bags of 'lustiness

I made tea and we chatted and I sold some bags. I should confess here that it was my mother, on an impromptu weekend visit, who sold the first bag enthusing about one I’d made for her to an unsuspecting client. (I mention mum in passing ,but she deserves an entire blogpost or two. Hold tight)

Then the Pimms came out courtesy of a worryingly proficient teen and the next thing  I knew it was almost 5pm! Not only had I survived but I’d had a good time too! The next day was just as much fun with a similar mix of visitors, less rain and more Pimms. WIN!

Another happy customer!

So what did I learn? The list is a long one but…

I learnt that rain doesn’t necessarily stop play.

I learnt that it’s not just my friends and family who love what I do.

…and I learnt that yellow and black tape isn’t easily removed from pvc door frames.

😉

When life gives you lemons…

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…ask for salt and tequila!

My mother is the Queen of lemonade makers. Not literally, you understand. I’ve never tasted my mum’s lemonade… although she does make a mean Ginger beer – the real Bajan knock-you-out-just-smelling-it stuff too! (great for colds apparently…with Bajan rum) What I mean is that I remember her turning every day disasters (in my eyes) into masterpieces. Mistress pieces. Whatever. The most memorable occasion involved her baking a cake. I was excited about this particular cake. Not because it was a special occasion but because it was…well it was CAKE! I was around nine or ten so cake baking was the pinnacle of my social calendar. Girls Brigade was yet to feature so heavily in my life. Anyway I digress. So mum took this cake gingerly from the oven and we both inhaled its gorgeous aroma deeply… then watched with barely concealed disappointment as it deflated in slow motion. Mum barely missed a beat. Whilst I sobbed inwardly she disappeared into the cupboard, opened an emergency tin of fruit salad (always the emergency tin), emptied it unceremoniously into the steaming concave vessel and ‘Viola’! Fruit Flan!

My daughters have inherited my mums talents in different ways. My youngest is a lover of all things baking and whips up madeira cake when she is bored. I may never let her leave.

My eldest has the ability to add a silver lining to anything. One memorable Family Come Dine With Me moment looked set to be ruined when youngest’s chocolate mousse would not set. Disaster? Mais non! Eldest whisked our guests and me into the living room whilst she helped her little sister in the kitchen quickly rectify the situation. The result? Crepes aux chocolate – pancakes with chocolate sauce to you. Delicious!

Tonight the Lemonade making mantle was passed on to me and I was truly put to the test. I was privileged enough to be asked for the first time to participate in Sydenham Arts Festival – a local event that showcases Arts and artistes. I offered my home and my creations as part of the Visual Arts Trail which this year takes place over two middle weeks of July. I chose the final weekend – Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th July – as I had also committed to another local event, Forest Fest on 2nd July and I wanted to have enough time to prepare.

When the brochures arrived I could barely contain my excitement! Even noticing that my business name was spelt incorrectly failed to completely dampen my spirits – I was IN the brochure ! Anyway, I pondered, it was far too late to change it. It was only this evening, with three short days to go, that I double checked my entry and noticed the glaring error! My Open House dates were wrong! According to the brochure I would be welcoming clients THIS weekend!

What to do?

I started and restarted an email but I repeatedly failed to express my upset and panic. I called some contact numbers but they were all out. I needed an actual solution. So I got off my backside and went to the pub. No not to drown my sorrows! It just so happened that the organisers were holding a Q & A session at the local pub. I was able to meet with the people who’d made the mistake, discuss options, come up with some damage limitation strategies and hear their (numerous and effusive) apologies. Not exactly ideal I know but at least I had done something! I left an hour later feeling a little better and a lot more hopeful. The world wasn’t going to end after all.

So I’ve added the event (with the correct dates) to my Facebook page, created a event, mentioned it on Twitter, and blogged about it. Anyone who turns up THIS Saturday or Sunday won’t see any bags apart from the ones under my eyes (sorry). What they will find is a busily optimistic handbag designer with a conciliatory drink in one hand, a reddskinbags discount voucher in the other hand and a hopeful smile on my face. It’s the best I can do – the only way I know how – with what I’ve been given.

Wish me luck!

JACK MONROE

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