Two Tone in the Emporia Window

This week we’ve been busy installing a rather unusual window display at the shop, courtesy of local artist and crafter Mandy Munroe. Featuring a very fishy theme, this fantastic installation has been curated by Mandy herself who has been at the forefront of gathering the talents of local crafters, including knitters, crocheters and sewers, into making a variety of different fish themed articles, all in the name of the Create Platform. And we think it looks brilliant!

The story behind our amazing installation comes from the Legacy of Two Tone,  Ashford’s moat famous fish (a mirror carp) who lived in Conningbrook Lake for around 45 years, and was seen as a major catch in the fishing/angling community. Given his significant life span, he grew into quite a substantial fish and was known by anglers around the world for his size and unmistakable colour; he was the biggest freshwater fish in the UK and became incredibly famous on the international angling scene.  Sadly he died in 2010, but has now been immortalised in wool in the Emporia windows for the next two weeks.

And what has that got to do with the Create festival I hear you cry! Well, 2 Tone, or Two Tone, is a music genre that created in the UK in the late 70s by fusing elements of ska, punk, rocksteady, reggae and New Wave, and one of this year’s acts to showcase their spectacular musical talent at Create is the legendary ska band, The Selector. So bringing together theme of the music alongside the famous fish, a crafty band of Ashfordians have been getting knitty and sewing up a storm in order to create our incredible display.

The window features a whole range of different fish and pond themed items that have been made especially for our window installation, the highlight of which is of course Two Tone himself, shown on his ska themed quilt (sewn by Mandy herself); he is surrounded by loads of his fishy friends, and a variety of other amazing hand sewn and knitted creations. Check out those cute knitted pebbles and stones! And how fantastic are the shimmering pieces of pond weed? And don’t miss those adorable jellyfish, who’ve clearly come to visit Two Tone on their summer holiday.

We have a huge long list of people to thank, which you can see in full below, but we think the best way to thank everyone who got involved is to come along and see the installation in person. It looks truly amazing and is testament to the fabulous devotion to craft that so many of you have.

And if you missed out on making some fish for the window and feel left out, then you can still get your hands on our Two Tone knitting patterns which will allow you to create as many mini fish as you like!

Mandy Munroe and Emporia Fabric and Craft would like to thank these people for making such a special window:

– Members of The Little Teapot Knit and Natter group, Hamstreet Knit and Natter,  The Library Knitting group and Ewe-Nique created fish, weed and pebbles.
– Mersham Brownies mastered finger knitting and produced lots of pond weed.
– Wood n Ware very kindly crafted the hull of the boat and members of Artvark stitched some of the fish as well as contributing to the Two Tone Trail.
– Special thanks go to Carol, Christine, Tracey, Wendy, Julie, Janet, Stephanie, Abi, Elaine and Linda alongside some other secret stitchers who all contributed.
– The Official Two Tone Knitting Pattern was designed specially for this project by  Nicky Triggs, Two Tone knitter extraordinaire, along with the beginner friendly Easy Fish pattern which she kindly made available to community groups.

You can also see more beautiful fish in shop windows around town, inspired by Two Tone, Ashford’s famous fish, coloured and designed by various community groups including schools and nurseries.  And don’t forget the Create Festival itself which takes place from 12 midday on Saturday 22nd July 2017 at Victoria Park, Ashford. 

Interview with Scott of IGotBigBulbs

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This week we have a quick chat with one of our latest crafters, Scott of IGotBigBulbs – a unique lighting and design company. Here he talks about how he came to be inspired by the concept of big light bulbs, how he works with his family and what he does in his spare time.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Scott Rivolta, I run a lighting design and distribution company.

How did you come to start your business?
I stumbled onto this path some 18 months ago while updating the lighting in our kitchen at home.  My wife spotted a rather large light bulb online, which she decided should be the centrepiece – the only problem being it was seemingly only available in Australia or the US!  Having tracked down the manufacturer, we imported two (one of which broke in transit) and showed the local lighting shops that had inspired us.  They confirmed they had seen nothing similar on the UK market and would be interested in stocking the bulb. We were up and running!

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How did you get into crafting?
I started to offer the bulbs to smaller local interiors shops rather than just specialist lighting shops, and much as they loved them they needed a way of showing them off.  I wanted something quite different and unique way of doing this, and when an oak offcut in the garden grabbed my attention as a potential lamp base, we crafted our first product.

Who and what inspires you to create?
I’ve never been a fan of mass produced products – much to my wife’s frustration we are constantly waiting for “something different, unique or relevant”, which rarely comes along. My father-in-law is a carpenter/furniture maker and my wife’s an artist – they are the talent within the team, I just push things along.

What would you be doing with your time if you weren’t making your lighting designs?
Relaxing! Time is something I’m short of as I’m involved with various other businesses and have a three acre smallholding with pigs and lambs. I hope to spend three weeks in Spain this August – I think it’s important to reward yourself, even more so with your family, for all your hard work during the year.

What five things would you say were essential when you set up your craft business?
THICK SKIN – not everyone will like your designs and crafting is very personal, however in my experience shops are generally supportive because your designs are just that, personal, unique and well made.
PERSEVERANCE – be prepared to put the hours in showing your product. Knock on lots of doors, shops want exciting new products.
PASSION – it shines out of you and makes selling your product so much simpler.
STICK TO SOMETHING YOU ENJOY DOING – with crafting it’s normally a natural progression, as a hobby becomes a business. Making money is the cherry on top!
Having said that, PROFESSIONALISM is key, no matter how small you are, start good habits early. Don’t underestimate your costs or undersell yourself, and stick to your margins.

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Name three of your most popular designs.
The Oak Cube lamp base has proved the most popular to date.  It’s smaller, less expensive and probably the easiest impulse shopping choice –  they are generally bought in pairs as bedroom reading lamps. The Hemp Pendant has been a hit commercially in pubs and restaurants, as well as domestically – three bespoke handmade pendants to hang above the kitchen table or island fits in with current trends.  Similarly, The Hemp Snake at three metres or a bespoke  length loops over a bracket to create a very special wall light.

What’s new with your craft for 2017? Tell us about some of the exciting things we can expect to see from you in the shop this year.
Having established our small business, I’m now looking to produce more unique product. Display cases for collectibles are very much on-trend, so why not showcase our beautiful filament bulbs!?  The Vetrina Cubo is our latest addition to the range, which we stock in five inch cubes or make bespoke to order; the Vetrina Grande houses our Big Globe light bulb, making a statement lamp which will take centre stage in any room.

Thanks Scott! We currently feature a wide range of Big Bulb designs in store – pop in and take a look at some unique and stylish new lighting designs. Prices range from £9.00 to £117.00 for individual bulb, wooden or rope light fixtures, and combinations of both.

Fill your Stockings with Christmas Crafts

 

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We are so lucky to have a fabulous collection of local crafters fill up some of the nooks and crannies in our shop, and what better time to take a closer look at them than just before Christmas! With just over a week left, there’s still plenty of time to take some extra care with your presents and buy some unique, handmade gifts that will make the recipient feel even more special on Christmas morning.

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R&R
Richardson & Richardson have been with us for ages, providing the people of Ashford with their amazing laser cut jewellery and cards. For anyone with a passion for anything sci-fi, geeky or just plain out there, we have a fantastic selection of their amazing designs. Featuring pieces inspired by the likes of Harry Potter, David Bowie’s Labyrinth, and Jurassic Park, you can get necklaces, earrings and broochs, which will no doubt gladden the heart of some of your film fan friends or relatives. Similar themes also include unicorns, Christmas crackers, woodland animals, knitting, gothic scenes, and your favourite tipples all transformed into funky jewellery. Prices range from £10.00 – £20.00.

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R.J. Laurenson
Beautiful ceramic pieces inspired by the British countryside, Rachele has transformed her passion for hares, horses, butterflies and stags into gorgeously coloured tableware. Each piece has been layered with different prints of leaves, colour and animal designs creating an intricate and unique pattern. She has created coasters, trivets, over sized cups and saucers, as well as hanging hearts in both big and small. Prices range from £3.00 – £30.00.

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POLLEN
The creator of POLLEN may well have moved to Australia, but she’s still supplying us with her amazing coloured wooden necklaces. Bright, beautiful and funky, these coloured beads come in a range of sizes and arrangements, and make for some seriously striking jewellery. Treat someone you know who likes things a little different from the norm. Prices range from £16.00 – £20.00.

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Rosanna Clare
Rosanna Clare works with recycled leather and wood to create yet more intriguing crafts: trinket trays, tasseled keyrings, purses, sketchbook covers, earrings, necklaces, rings and cufflinks are all part of her range. Using bright colours and simple designs, Rosanna makes the most of her materials to bring out the best in them. Treat yourself or the man in your life to something stylish and creative. Prices range from £8.00 – £18.00.

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HairyHand
Funky designs on t shirts and hoodies, for both kids and adults, HairyHand brings his humorous, tongue in cheek style to Emporia. Bag yourself one of these limited edition graphic pieces for anyone you know that appreciates witty designs on their fashion.

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And if you’re looking for crafty stocking fillers, don’t forget our gorgeous range of fabrics can be presented in the very dainty packages of fat quarter bundles; plus we’ve got embroidery threads, pompom makers, wool needles, sewing scissors, hand sewing needles, rotary cutters, mats, rulers and our brand new sewing baskets if you know someone who would love to receive some crafty equipment under the tree.

There’s still plenty of shopping time left to get sorted before the big day itself, and don’t forget we’re open late on Thursday 22nd December for the Christmas Market which is happening right next door in Park Mall – come and see us during the day or between 5pm – 7pm next week.

Three Days at the Wealden Times Midwinter Fair

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This week we are coming to you live from the Hop Farm at Paddock Wood as we host our stall at the Wealden Times Midwinter Fair! Surrounded by a whole host of fabulous other Kent based (and some further afield) businesses, there are Christmas trees, decorations, and a wonderful scent of orange and cinnamon from a stall just behind us – it is basically Christmas gift shopping heaven.

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Fat quarters all tied up like miniature presents

 

We set up our stall on Wednesday this week and the hordes of Kent descended on us for the first time yesterday morning, at 9m sharp – no waiting around for these ladies, they mean business – and we’ve been rushed off our feet ever since!

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Traditional gurning selfie

Here we are in our stand which is located in the green marquee, at precisely G34 – we’ve crammed our space full of quilts, cushions, Amelie dresses and reversible dresses, plus Christmas skirts for that extra festive touch. And this week we’ve launched our very exciting pattern kits! Perfect to give as presents to those crafty types, the kits come with enough fabric to make any size of either the Amelie or the reversible dress, plus the pattern and extras. The fabric included in both these kits is exclusive to the kit package, making them even more special. Beautiful soft lavender and blues for the reversible dress, and a bright wintery green with springtime flowers for the Amelie dress – these two are sure to be waiting under the Christmas tree for plenty of lucky sewers.

Happy & Glorious and their peacock themed stall

As if that wasn’t enough to entice you to venture out to the show for the last day tomorrow, we’re also lucky enough to have a couple of our local business friends with us too! The lovely Happy & Glorious (our real life shop neighbour) is our Wealden Times Fair neighbour too! Here’s Kate and all those beautiful gifts at her fabulously dressed stall – just look at those peacocks! Kate is selling a whole range of British made products from ceramics and prints to silver jewellery and scented candles, and she’s just over the way from us on stand G15.

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Gorgeous prints from Fable & Base

Also just down the road from us in the red tent is our lovely friend Francesca from Fable & Base. Francesca runs her amazing printed fabric company in Whitstable, where she produces some truly fantastic, unique designs using old fashioned printing methods. Whether you want a bespoke print or fancy having a go and designing and hand printing your own pieces,  Fable & Base has the answer for amazing locally produced upholstery fabrics. And soon you’ll be able to get your hands on some of Francesca’s amazing designs as she will be stocking them at Emporia Fabric & Craft!

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It’s not all glamour – Clair had to sit on the floor to eat her soup…

The Wealden Times Midwinter Fair runs for one more day at The Hop Farm at Paddock Wood, from 9am – 4.30pm, so if you want to get your hands on some of our lovely crafts as gifts in time for the festive season, you know where to find us!

Interview with Scott Randall of Hairyhand

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This week we take a little time to talk to Scott, the man behind the creative Hairyhand label, who has recently stocked up the Emporia rails with a range of printed children and adult’s clothes. Have a read and see just what inspires Scott, how his career developed and why he would be spending his days sat in a wood cabin if he wasn’t out there being creative.

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Scott Randall aka Hairyhand Creative Agency, Creative Director, Art Director, Designer & Illustrator, Commercial Artist, and ‘Hairyhand’ is me as a solo designer/crafter/artist, all my personal stuff. Whereas Hairyhand Creative Agency produces ‘Creative’ for clients who require marketing services, so that can be any aspect of Branding, Advertising etc.

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How did you get into illustrating?
I developed the ability to draw and model make when i was at primary school and I suppose the drive to create stuff has always been there.

Who and what inspires you to create?
I suppose having a creative brain I have a natural desire to ‘create’. Also, you could say that ‘problems’ inspire me to create.

Which crafters/artists/designers do you most admire?
Hard to say as it feels like my brain is totally saturated with work from the last 20 years, but I would say that I admire anyone who can come up with new ideas that actually work. A lot of my creative thinking has been greatly influenced by a creative agency called MotherLondon. I was also inspired by the work of Dan Flavin, a while back. He did lots of installations with neon tubes. And you could say that the stencil designs on my t-shirts are inspired by the likes of Banksy.

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When did you decide to make the leap from making for friends and family to creating your own business?
I made the leap in 2008. I was unemployed having taken a year out from work to get married and start a family, so needed to earn some money. I was aware that advertising is apparently a ‘young man’s game’ and at the tender age of 33/34, it would be tough, so rather than wait for someone to employ me, I decide to work for myself.

What five things would you say were essential when you set up your business?
A business plan – I regret not creating one, but at the time it seemed like I had to just get on and do. Funding.
Drive and determination. Ability.

Name three of your most popular designs.
Commercially, I suppose the Wonderbra advert I created as part of One Minute briefs – that got me a Chip Shop Awards nomination. The Chevy Guevara, Washroom Antics and the Evel Kenieval t-shirt designs are popular.

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If you weren’t a designer/creative/artist what would you be doing with your time?
Chopping wood, living in a wood cabin.

Do you run any workshops or take part in any groups?
No, but I’m thinking of running some sort of design/advertising workshops, although I need to decide exactly how they would work. Every now and then I or the agency takes part in OneMinuteBriefs which is a great way to generate content for social channels. Every day a brief is set by @OneMinuteBriefs to advertise a random, generic product e.g. umbrellas or coffee. You’re then meant to come up with an idea to advertise it in just one minute. This can be an advert for a poster of any type of marketing execution. But the truth is, even though it can be done, I don’t think anyone actually spends just a minute.

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What’s new with your craft for 2016/17? Tell us about some of the exciting things we can expect to see from you in the shop this year and next.
I’m looking at getting a series of limited edition prints produced for some new/some existing t-shirt designs. I’m looking at turning the Chevy Design into a print, there’s also another design that’s not been published yet called Dinner’s Ready (Hi Honey, I’m Home) that I ‘m looking at getting turned into a print.

Thanks Scott! You can get your hands on Scott’s funky merchandise at Emporia now, with more exciting prints and designs coming soon.

Interview with Jenni Rogers

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This week we take some time to talk to one of our newer crafters, Jenni Rogers, who makes the most stunning silver jewellery. Having spent large amounts of her time travelling the globe and discovering new ways of life, Jenni settled on a career in jewellery making with silver and precious stones after she had her daughter. Take a look at her fantastic designs and read about how she goes about making them:

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jenni Rogers and I make jewellery for living.

How did you get into crafting?
My partner and I went travelling and ended up in Nepal where we got really sick. After a year in Asia I would have thought our tummies would have been up to the local food, but no! So we spent a few weeks sitting in a garden chilling and buying lapis, turquoise and Tigers eye and experimenting with making jewellery. Years later I started making Swarovski jewellery and taught myself the basics. From there I went on an adult education course a few hours a week and learnt silversmithing techniques.

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Who and what inspires you to make your designs?
Me, really – when I sit down and look at the metals, that’s when I start feeling inspired. And, of course the stones I use.

When did you decide to make the leap from making for friends and family to creating your own business?
It just happened, there was no decision really. I just started selling to mates, then went to a local fete and put my duvet cover on a table and got it all out (how bad is that?!) and it just progressed naturally.

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What five things would you say were essential when you set up your craft business?
Well, with anything you do, you have to have passion: there’s no point in doing something day in day out unless you’re passionate about what you’re doing. Cash, determination, and being prepared to work seven days a week. I can’t think of a fifth!

Which crafters/artists/designers do you most admire?
Anyone who makes anything beautiful to the eye. If you smile when you see the craft, whatever it may be, it’s done its job.

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Name three of your most popular designs.
Small pendants, hammered bangles and reticulated rings. I personally love the stone necklaces which encorporate things like African opal, turquoise, ruby and sapphire.

If you weren’t a jeweller what would you be doing with your time?
No idea! Before I started making jewellery I was packing parachutes for a living at Headcorn airfield, where I also ran a veggie cafe later on. I then went travelling the world with my partner Chris who is a skydiving instructor. I was getting pretty fed up with that and was booked on a course to go and train with Monty Roberts on a horse whispering course, when I found out I was pregnant when we were in Malaysia and it all stopped. When my daughter was three I started making jewellery again, she’s now 15.

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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 at the Emporia this year.
I’ve been working on some poppy seed head designs recently, which I’m going to turn into cufflinks, rings, earrings and pendants. I plan on using some uncut sapphires and using natural casting techniques this year too. I’ve also been experimenting with merchandising so you can expect to see my market stalls looking a little different this year too.

Jenni’s beautiful silver jewellery has been on sale at Emporia for just over a month now and already it’s proving extremely popular with our customers. If you haven’t been in to take a look in person, then now is the time to do so, and if you’ve already seen what’s on display, then fear not as new pieces will be arriving in April.

Interview with Cocoa Belle

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This week we take the time to meet another of our newest crafters, and this time it’s Katie from Cocoa Belle of Folkestone. Just in time for Easter, this talented chocolatier has filled several of our shelves with her imaginative and delicious chocolate based treats. Take a look at her interview to see what it takes to make be in charge of a deliciously creative business.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Katie and I am a chocolatier and run Cocoa Belle, making handmade chocolates in Kent.

How did you get into crafting?
From a young age I was always in the kitchen and reading cookery books, and in 2010 I started a cake making business making celebration and wedding cakes whilst working full time. It was when I was making cakes and sometimes working with chocolate that I fell in love with it. In January 2015 I completed a three month chocolate training programme and shortly after left my day job and set up Cocoa Belle!

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Who and what inspires you to create?
I get my inspiration mainly from what I like to eat or drink and try and work this into my chocolate creations. My other love in life is travel and some of my chocolates are inspired by my adventures abroad. I once tried mango with lime, chilli powder and parmesan cheese – and it worked! One day I will make a chocolate version. I also listen to my customers about what they want and am always willing to give new ideas a try.

Which crafters/artists/designers do you most admire?
None chocolate related, but I really admire people who can paint. I have come across many really talented painters since Cocoa Belle started.

When did you decide to make the leap from making for friends and family to creating your own business?
I made the leap in April 2015 and it was the scariest and most exciting thing I have done. Every day brings a new challenge.

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What five things would you say were essential when you set up your craft business?
Support – Someone needs to be able to give you the confidence in what you’re doing and push you further. Having your own business also takes up a lot of your time. Your friends and family need to support you in every way.

Self-belief – If you don’t believe in yourself, that will come across when you are trying to sell your product.

Passion – I work very long hours at key times of the year and wake up early and stand in the freezing cold and rain every weekend at markets. If it wasn’t for the fact I love what I do, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Hard Work – Its not just making the product, it’s also creating good packaging, selling, doing the accounts, stock control, marketing, meeting with stockists, and quite often waking up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea.

Confidence – You need to be able to sell your product and to do that you need to talk to people. I often see people at craft fairs who don’t talk to customers at their stall, and so they don’t sell anything despite it being a great product. People like to know about the producer as well as the item.

Name three of your most popular designs.
The Lemon and Lime bar. Most people tell me they are unsure the flavours will work before they try it, but it’s very citrusy and refreshing, and it’s by far my best seller. The Rose Bar – turkish delight in bar without the squidginess – and the Salted Caramel Discs – the sweetness of the chocolate followed by the salt that melts on your tongue – ate also very popular.

If you weren’t a chocolatier, what would you be doing with your time?
I would be doing something creative and most likely with food. Or travelling the world.

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Do you run any workshops or take part in any groups?
I run several workshops for both adults and children. The children’s ones are generally for birthday parties where they make chocolate pizzas. For adults I regularly run chocolate truffle workshops or one to one tuition, as well as hen party chocolate making sessions and corporate workshops.

What’s new with your craft for 2016? Tell us about some of the exciting things we can expect to see from you at the Emporia this year.
I am working on a new range of chocolate bars with more unusual flavours – watch this space for things like salt and pepper, wasabi, and strawberry and pink pepppercorn.

And if you would like to try some of Katie’s amazing chocolate combos for yourself, you can get your hands on her Easter eggs, flavoured bars, and fresh chocolate truffles now. Plus, there will be a special chocolate tasting session taking place at Emporia on Wednesday 23rd March around lunchtime – keep your eyes on our Facebook page for timings – so pop in and try out her amazing flavour combinations and see if you can’t satisfy your Easter egg cravings all in one.