Interview with Rachele Laurenson

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This week we take a closer look at the gorgeous ceramic art of another of our crafters, R. J. Laurenson. Here she talks about how she gets inspiration from the Kent countryside, why she loves working with textiles and how having a baby gave her the chance to get up to some serious craft.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Rachele Laurenson, and I am a mixed media artist and a part time art teacher in secondary education.

How did you get into crafting?
I fell back into art after my daughter was born and her grandmother kindly agreed to baby sit for me to attend Adult Education. It started with French classes for a year and then I decided to do pottery. It was love at first touch! I spent many years making pots and progressed to the sculpture classes where we would have models to work from. I took my portfolio to the University of Kent and was accepted as a mature student on their Fine Art degree course. From there I fell into teaching but have always tried to keep up my own practice.

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Who and what inspire you to create?
I am inspired by my surroundings; I live in a little village at the bottom of the North Downs, so I create lots of my art based on nature and local wildlife. I dabble with different mediums: ceramics, textiles, maps and stitch and always try to create layers in my work.

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Which crafters/artists/designers do you most admire?
I love Grayson Perry, who I was lucky enough to meet at the British Museum! I admire artists who are confident of their ability. I am very self-critical and feel like I am a ‘jack of all trades and master of none.’

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When did you decide to make the leap from making for friends and family to creating your own business?
I haven’t fully made the leap yet. I exhibit with fellow artists biannually at the Horsebridge Gallery in Whitstable. It is always a tremendous success and inspires me to produce more art. I attend several markets and discovered Emporia through one in Ashford, which is how my ceramics came into the shop. I still really enjoy my teaching and love that I can have both sides of an art practice

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Name three of your most popular designs.
At the moment my ceramic tiles and plates are most popular. I use layers of stencilling and bright food-safe glazes with images of hares, horses, butterflies and birds over the top. They are unique, affordable pieces that are only made in limited quantities and are ideal as presents. When I do exhibitions, I sell a lot of textile pieces, which use old map. They are sentimental and nostalgic and people love seeing their local area exhibited in a gallery; I think it gives them a personal connection to the work. I have also been commissioned to make personal sculptures and ceramics for customers.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing with your time?
I love playing tennis and pottering around the house working on projects that I usually don’t finish.

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What’s new with your craft for 2016? Tell us about some of the exciting things we can expect to see from you in the shop or at the Emporia market this year.
I am planning on continuing to create new ceramic designs and I have a market coming up in September at Hever Castle. Now that I am on summer holidays, I am looking forward to getting back into my workshop and spending some time on creating some new clay sculptures.

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New Crafts on Sale at Emporia

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Over the last couple of weeks we’ve gradually been introducing a fantastic range of lovely new crafts and gifts onto the Emporia shelves, and now we’re seriously in the run up to Christmas, what better time is there to show off these gorgeous new things to you our avid followers? So if you’re on the look out for different and independently made local crafts to give your friends, family and children this year, Emporia is the place to start your shopping.

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Fink Clothing Co.
The Fink designs and and prints are made by the super talented Hannah Rushforth who has the enviable inclusion on her CV of having worked on the kid’s TV show Art Attack! when she was younger. Now working as a freelance arts project manager, she also produces an amazing range of screen printed t shirts, sweat shirts, baby vests and paper prints. And she promises more Star Wars inspired ideas will soon be hitting our shelves soon!

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P O L L E N
Gorgeous colours and tactile textures at the heart of P O L L E N jewellery – hand painted and finished baubles strung on coloured thongs can be paired with intricately woven beaded bracelets, making simple but striking additions to anyone’s wardrobe. Go for a multitude of spheres or choose a statement pair, either way these necklaces are destined to be filling up lots of lucky lady’s Christmas stockings.

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R.J. Laurenson
We haven’t had any ceramics on sale at Emporia for a long time, so these beautiful natural designs by R. J. Laurenson are a breath of fresh air to us. Covered with leaping and boxing hares, singing birds, leaves and floral patterns, these coasters and trivets have already garnered great praise from plenty of Emporia customers. And given that they are both dishwasher safe and food safe, we can see lots of people taking these home for Christmas this year.

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Peas in a Pod
Funky, funny and cute designs from Emma of Peas in a Pod come in all shapes and sizes, from cards and plates to badges and tea towels. We all know someone who can use a plate that bears the legend Eat Me, or a cushion covered in bottoms, so now you know where to look! Tea towels covered with cartoon macarons, notebooks proclaiming they are full of Incredibly Marvellous Stuff, and dinky badges covered with funny little Christmas puddings – take your pick and make one of your friends laugh every time they use your gift.

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Rose Hill Designs
Rose Hill creates portraits of a different kind – she has spent years making the coolest pet portraits in the world, and now even sells her wares in Harrods! So we are super flattered that she has decided to let us get our mitts on some of her amazing cards just in time for the festive period. Choose from frowny dogs wearing specs and surprised cats in bowties, or funky pictures of camper vans and rock n roll style celebs.

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Kim’s Kushions
At this time of year we all start to think about spending more time on our sofas, so what could be more inviting than a selection of plump down-filled cushions to lounge about on? These gorgeous designs are created by Jandi of Kim’s Kushions, which she makes using classic prints from the likes of Liberty and Cath Kidson. Soft and squishy as well as incredibly stylish, these cushions would make a fantastic addition to any living room.

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Black Rabbit
Another well renowned crafter from Kent, we’re very excited to have cards made by Black Rabbit of Margate join our throng. Selling her designs all over the world in places as far flung as Japan and America, Black Rabbit cards feature a range of different animals and different objects, including one of the designs on a badge – perfect for those of us who resent not getting badges on our cards once we’re older than 11.

All these delightful designers are now represented in the shop, with a variety of their ranges on sale direct from us, but since they’re an amicable bunch, many of them will make special creations just for you – so if you see something you like, but you fancy it in another colour or a different size, then they might just be able to help you out.

And of course, we’ve still got plenty of fabulous crafts from the likes of Richardson & Richardson, Aye Aye Clothing, Lucy Alice Designs, Lotte Jamieson Crafts and Pickles Accessories.

Mother’s Day at Emporia

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It comes around every year at about this time and even though we know it’s coming (and some of us are actually mothers ourselves), we still manage to forget about it until the very last minute, and have to scrabble about panicking over what “thoughtful” gift we can buy at the supermarket on the way. We are, of course, talking about Mother’s Day, which takes place this Sunday, 30th March 2014. So if you haven’t booked the fancy hotel for afternoon tea, or ordered her a ginormous bunch of flowers, like every other advert on telly seems to suggest that’s all mothers ever want, then you should perhaps consider something a little bit more personal.

Lots of mums love receiving handmade gifts for special occasions, but even if you don’t have the time to whip up something using some of our gorgeous fabrics, you could always bend the rules a little and get her something handmade, just not by you.

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These unusual tealights and candle holders come from Terre et Lumiere, a ceramic designer based in Rochester, and would make the ideal gift for someone who appreciates organic and natural forms in delicate materials. (The tea light holder with a double frill costs £18.50.) Crafty mums will be extra pleased with these Stitch Kits from Nancy Nicholson of Tenterden, so she can embroider herself or someone else a little bird or a teapot design in retro colours.

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Mums who are always in need of somewhere to put all their stuff would definitely appreciate one of Aye Aye’s makeup bags (£7.00 each), available in a choice of funky and floral designs; or why not get her a tote bag from Pink Gecko designs (£18.00) in a very summery print, which fastens with a simple magnetic clasp – great for the town, the beach or just carrying your knitting wherever you go.

More decorative wear for the body comes in the form of the delightful applique t shirts from Pickles at £12.00 each – mixing up different fabrics and buttons, these large scale flowers transform an ordinary t shirt into something special. Or for mothers with an eye for fabulous hair, go for the fabric hair flower clips (£7.00) from Aye Aye , perfect for pairing with sunglasses and some spring sunshine.

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And if all that loveliness hasn’t inspired you (or your mother is simply too tricky to buy for) you can always book her a place on one of courses so that she can create something special for herself, or you can get her Emporia Fabric and Crafts gift vouchers, available in any denomination you can think of.

So all that’s left to say, is happy Mother’s Day mums! We hope you have a smashing day. And if you don’t get the lovely treat you were hoping for, just pop into the shop and pick yourself out something super-duper. After all, mother knows best.