30 Jun 2009

Fabulous Flickr Finds!

Well after a long weekend away in London I have managed to finally get back onto a computer. The first thing I did when I got back on-line was to go on a quick tour of all my regular sites and groups and when I logged on the the Autonomous Artisans Flickr group, I was so wowed by the items I saw I just knew today on the blog would be a Flickr finds day. We have a very nature inspires collection today.

CHICKENS! Yes I know, I have a one track mind right now, but chickens are in my thoughts at the moment. These wooden hand painted chooks from HalfanAcre are chickentastic! My favourite of this flock is the orange one top left.

Just how pretty is this polymer clay heart covered in tiny flowers? It must have taken ages to cut and shape all those beautiful teeny little petals on each of the flowers. I'm not sure I would have the patience Chili Crab so obviously has. It's fantastic!

Now My Grandfather used to be a budgerigar breeder for many years and this gocco print budgie gave me flashbacks to my childhood stood in a shed full of these flapping multicoloured birds. Annaklara has captured the essence of the birds perfectly.

The name of this brooch Walkinginthewoodsllc says it all really "Impressions of Nature". I love the colours and the impression of the plant in the star. It's such a simple design, but that's the beauty of it.

This stain glassed table top from Zeba collection features one of my favourite flowers, the Iris. Not only because the plants are so beautiful but also because one of my favourite aunts is called Iris. The shimmering colours in the glass used to make the table top really do evoke an image of a beautiful iris flower at the edge of a lake. Fantastic work!

The flickr group is always opening my eyes to more and more beautiful handmade items. I am so glad I started it. If you make handmade goods and would like to share them with our group, please do come along and join the group. We would love to see your work.

Written by Lynne of PiratePixieCrew and Hyperloop Hoops

28 Jun 2009

Artisan of the Week, Peter of Celtsmith

I'm so excited to share the work of our artisan of the week with you. I loved so many pieces in Peter of Celtsmith Artfire, Dawanda and Etsy shops that it took me an age to whittle it down to five, so be sure to visit all his shops to see much more of Peters work. His work is truly beautiful. Now whilst you read this I'll be figuring out which one piece I'd like to give a home to, as I'm pretty much banned from shopping this month, but one pretty torc wouldn't hurt would it Mr Bank Manager?

1. Could you please introduce us to who you are and what you do?
O.K. I will come clean from the start. I am an old guy, I have been making jewellery out of old cutlery and wire of all sorts since the 1960's. Back when I had kids to feed I made whatever the people were buying whether I liked it of not. Bracelets, brooches, anklets tiaras etc etc. anything to keep house and home together. Now the kids all have lives of their own I can make what I like, not what I have to.
That's why I love Artfire and Etsy. Because of them I can go into my studio and make whatever I feel moved to do then find a buyer. Where its at for me right now, is channelling the work of my ancient European ancestors, the Celts

2. What led you to take up your craft?
Once a long long time ago I saw someone make jump rings by winding a wire round a rod and cutting the rings off. It sounds so simple but it opened a door and I went in.

3. Which part of your work do you most enjoy?
The exciting part is experimenting with techniques to work out how those clever ancestors got results. They had the most basic equipment but produced works of art. Asking the question, then solving the problem, that's what I like.

4. Which part do you find hardest?
The rare occasion when I have to make a lot of things all the same.

5. Where do you hope to be in 1 year's time?
In my studio

6. What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Sleep on it. That is to say don't shoot from the hip, think first.

7. Could you name artisans sites/shops would you recommend are worth a visit?
I never log on to Artfire or Etsy without touring some shops. There are endless surprises and starting points.

8. What is your favourite sandwich filling?
Baked beans, yes yucky I know but whenever, as a kid, I complained about the endless Cheese sandwiches in my lunch box my mum would put in baked beans the next day. Back to cheese after that. So bean always lift my spirits.

Thank you for being part of our blog Peter. Your work is stunningly gorgeous. I love the unique recycled cutlery pieces... Dear reader if you see one of the cutlery pieces you like be sure to snap it up fast as many are one off and would be almost impossible to replicate, so don't miss out... and as the daughter of a Welsh man the celtic influences on your work appeal to me greatly. It's great to see the flashes from the long gone past in your work. Check out his shops dear reader, you're in for a treat!

Written by Lynne of the PiratePixieCrew and Hyperloop Hoops

26 Jun 2009

Googly eyes!

Googly eyed monsters have always thrilled me. I think it stems from my love of Jim Henson and his work. I think Jim was a genius. Some just saw him as an entertainer but I think he was much deeper than that. He took the normal and mundane and turned that on it's head. Today I thought I'd go and search out some googly eyed handmade goodies to share with you, so you can see why I love them so.

This gorgeous handmade"Googly-Eyed Boy Bear" from hasenpfeffer has eyes that make you want to look after him. This range of bears has clothes to go with them, so he can play dress up.

VeryHappyEverything's Quintopus pendant is wiggly and adorable. I love his swirly whirly eyes and the fact one is much bigger than the other. My doodles always have one eye bigger than the other.

These Mary Jane shoes from Emandsprout will make walking about so much more fun. Their large mouths and huge eyes are monster-ish, but not scary.Some monsters can be friends!

Wendy's Whimsical Designs' froggy cards are great! Note cards are great for just jotting joyful friendly messages to loved ones. Anyone receiving one of these frog would be so happy.

StaceyRebecca definitely has a great sense of imagination and to me that's a fantastic thing. This googly eyed "Microwave of DOOM" finger puppet is a good example of her sense of fun and visualization of the usual in an unusual way.

I'm glad that even though Jim Henson is no longer with us, we still have people in the world that can create a little of that genius. I'm glad we still have googly eyed creations. I'm glad we still have people that can see the purpose in silliness.

Written by Lynne of PiratePixieCrew and Hyperloop Hoops

25 Jun 2009

Chez poulet

So I've been out and watered the veg this morning and the space for our chicken coop next to them is still empty. Why? Because I can't decide what style of chicken house to use. Do I want to build one for myself, to a design of my own, or would it be better to start out with a hen house someone else, who has kept chickens for ages, has designed and built? I want any chickens we re-home to be as happy as possible and I'm not sure my woodwork skills will be good enough to make the perfect hen mansion, but then again the commercially available ones within our price range don't really inspire me either. I've been searching on-line for days for that perfect hen house and I'd like to share some of the more bazaar and grand ones with you.

Just how grand is this chicken Gazebo from Henspa? I'm not sure how practical it is as a day to day chicken house although it does have some very interesting design features. I would like my chickens to have more outdoor space to scratch and peck in.

This beautiful handmade chicken house with integrated run offers better outside space and the roof covering not only gives the chicken protection from the elements, but it can also help prevent them getting Avian flu. This was built by someone called Lee. Sadly I don't have a full name to credit for this beautiful creation

This lovely chicken house from Forsham Cottage Arks meant to home chickens in an orchard is very well designed as all the sides open up for cleaning and because it is on wheels it's easy to move about to make sure the chickens don't over graze and scratch one area. Sadly too large for my purposes and quite a bit outside my budget.

Now if you have Chickens that have delusions of grandeur and money is no object you can get a custom mansion built by The Hen House Garden Company. This Queen Anne style beauty is just an example of what they can make. Now if only I had a limitless bank account...

I'm loving this recycled car hen house made by Michael Thompson. It just goes to show, with a bit of imagination and some DIY skills you can create a happy home for your chickens out of the most unlikely raw materials. Michael, you are a very resourceful man and have inspired me to have a go myself.

I'm going to do a bit of a search through Freecycle to see what weird and wonderful things people in my area are needing to give away and work out if I can make a chicken dezrez from any of it. I might put out some feelers through The Free Economy Community to see if someone with good carpentry skills would be willing to take me on as an apprentice for a while in return for all the woolly goods they could ever need, hula hooping lessons and of course fresh eggs when ever they wanted any.

Written by Lynne of PiratePixieCrew and Hyperloop Hoops

24 Jun 2009

Stay away from my Jam Wasp!

For breakfast this morning I had gluten free toast and some delicious raspberry jam whilst sitting on the low wall around the edge of our lawn in the garden. As I was sipping my cup of Ceylon tea a wasp came a sniffing around. It's the first one I have seen this year. They are amazing creatures, but I really don't want them on my toast, so I encouraged it to go about it's life somewhere else by breaking off the piece of toast it was on and dropping it in the hedge. I'm not surprised it wanted my jam, because it was delicious. Lets see some goods from others that are obviously jam lovers.

Miss Pickles Press is spreading the love with her jam jar labels that she sill customise for you, so that your home made jams will look extra special. Handmade jam is perfect to give as a gift and they will be even more impressive with these labels on them.

bovinebubbles' white peach and vanilla bean jam is a flavour I've not tried before but it sounds scrummy. The colour is so enticing and the description of "Sweet and sinful!" makes me want to try some.

Just how beautiful is this jar of sweet dandelion jelly from Swan Mountains Soaps? It looks as golden as honey, another of my favourites. This is a limited edition so get in their fast and order yours, before they all get snapped up.

Lavender Fields 4 Ever's D'Anjou Pear Butter has that beautiful amber colour that reminds me of warm autumn evenings. As a lover of pears I think this spread would be right up my street. Mmmmm an upside down pear cake with this butter melted over it....

... oops sorry I'll stop day dreaming about cakes and tell you about Lemon Bird's Cherry and organic star anise jam. What better way is there to extend the cherry season? Spicing it up with some star anise too is just a stroke of genius!

Handmade jam is always so much more yummy that mass produced, but not everyone has the time or skill to make it. Thankfully there are lots of talented handmade jam makers out there. Handmade jam is a bit like fine wine, each batch of jam comes out slightly different so savour the fine handmade vintages on offer.

Written by Lynne of PiratePixieCrew and Hyperloop Hoops

23 Jun 2009

Coriandr Express Jewellers

For 6 weeks now I have been the driver of the Coriandr Express train, a group promotion by 20 sellers from the Coriandr market place site. We are hoping our little train will increase peoples awareness of the Coriandr site and of each of our shops on the site. To spread the word about the train I thought today I'd pick out some items from our Jewellers riding on the Coriandr Express to share with you. Remember to check through their shops for more pieces.

CeeGee Jewellery created this piece from a stunningly beautiful lampwork bead. The swirls, bubbles and colour combinations draw you in to look more closely. It almost looks like there is a whole other universe in this one bead.

Lej Jewellery has created a necklace with a real vintage feel to it. The cream and brown cameo is so pretty. I love the young ladies hair style. The chain which the pendant hangs on suits it perfectly and is accented with small lilac glass pearls which make it seem even more sumptuous

Sweet Treat quite obviously has a passion for beads and colour. Her shop is full of beautifully beaded items. I picked the necklace above to show you because of the blue floral cloisonne bead. The technique they use to make these enamel beads is amazing especially when you think about how tiny the bead is.

Kitty Ballistic made these beautiful blown glass beads earrings. The spirals in the glass are really attractive. I like the simplicity of them. They are so Elegant. They would look great with a very posh frock or equally so with jeans and a T-shirt.

Debbs Elliman fuses glass to make pretty pendants, brooches, buttons and cuff links. This black and gold pendant really makes great use of the contrast of the strong colours and the shine of the glass and the satin sheen of the gold. It's very striking.

If you are looking for Jewellery check out the range of handcrafted jewellery you can find on Coriandr, there is a great mixture to choose from.

Written by Lynne of PiratePixieCrew and Hyperloop Hoops

22 Jun 2009

Hug Me (part2)

As promised, in the first Hug Me article, I bring you more beautiful handmade cuddly toys. All of the below plushies just make me go into snuggle mode. As the summer is here we will have to hang up our Mexican hammock in the garden so I can spend a happy afternoon curled up in it, with a good book and one, or all of these scrummy handmade soft toys.

Charlie the super hero looks to me like he can give fabulous hugs. Tullykatalley has made him with long outstretched arms, which are just perfect for giving giant hugs. Judging by his huge smile he's a very happy fellow. I wonder what story book he's like to be reading with me.

Reeneegurumi's Geoffry the lion looks like he needs some cuddles. He looks a little lost. Could it be he wants someone to read him a story? Perhaps he'd like to hear some of The Lion, witch and the wardrobe. He might want to take his charming striped cardigan off when he is in the hammock as it's quite warm in the sunshine.

Bunnies Inc.'s zombie bunny might be a bit of a biter, but even zombies need a squishy hug sometimes. I think as long as you don't let him nibble your brain everything will be fine. I'm guessing he's going to like reading a scary horror book... ewww not my kind of thing.

Odd Sox's sad little plushie is just looking for a home where he can be loved. Maybe an afternoon reading comic books with me in a hammock with a bunch of other cuddly friends would make him happy. Could you put a smile on his face by giving him a forever home filled with love?

I think Frute Juce's Panda Pops has already climbed up the tree to tie the hammock to. He is very eager to have hugs and stories. I wonder if he has a copy of "Panda big, panda small" to read us all. Whatever book he chooses I think he would be fantastic to have a cwtch with.

Don't spend your day alone when you can have a handmade cuddly friend to keep you company. They will brighten your day and make everything you do so much more fun as you'll have someone to share it with.

Written by Lynne of PiratePixieCrew and Hyperloop Hoops

21 Jun 2009

Artisan of the Week, Leslie of Comfortable Shoes

Yippee it's Sunday and I get to introduce you to another fabulous artisan of the week. This week we are going all book worm on you with Leslie of Comfortable Shoes. This lady has been creating handmade books and journals for over 10 years and really knows what she is doing. Her Artfire and Etsy shops are full of fantastic goods and I wanted to find out a bit more about the lady that created them so I invited Leslie to join in with the blog.

1. Could you please introduce us to who you are and what you do?
Hi my name is Leslie and I make books. I make books out of old advertising posters that are hard to recycle in traditional methods. They make great tough books covers though! I call it UPcycling! I've been making books for close to 10 years now. I also make some traditional leather covered books in the style of Moleskines.

2. What led you to take up your craft?
I used to be into 'zines so I think my interest is a direct result of the bindings I saw in 'zines. BUT I taught myself how to make books after looking for a sketchbook with just the right paper for a decent price and I couldn't find one. So I picked up a bunch of books on the subject and started in. I love making books.

3. Which part of your work do you most enjoy?
I've been able to see a few of my customers in person. The look of joy when they open their notebook or journal is pretty great. I also really enjoy it when I pull a book out of the press for the first time and feel the leather and see a well crafted product.

4. Which part do you find hardest?
Finding enough time in the day/ week to do what I love.

5. Where do you hope to be in 1 year’s time?
Hmm. I hope to still be making books in my spare time.

6. What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Keep on keepin' on. Stick to it, work hard and keep doing the things you enjoy.

7. Could you name artisans sites/shops would you recommend are worth a visit?
Of course. I love a lot of them. Girlscantell makes great screen printed stuff, abitabite for funny cat toys (NSFW), MyHandBoundBooks , GoodKarma, Brainscan for good coffee and 'zines!

8. What is your favourite sandwich filling?
Sheesh this is a hard one for me... I like sandwiches... right now it's tuna salad with fuji apple and dried cranbarried with pecans and just a dash of dill... hmm no it's chicken salad with grapes and celery... no Italian cold cuts or or or a really good grilled cheese. Yeah that's it. Washed down with an icy glass of sweet tea.

Thank you Leslie for coming on to our blog. I adore your books. They are so individual and well made. So readers if you have been inspired by this interview to get your hands on one of Leslie's books check out both her shops and her blog to keep up with what's going on in the Comfortable Shoes world.

20 Jun 2009

Shop Critique, Toil & Trouble

This Saturday is the start of a new feature here on Autonomous Artisans. I have offered to write critiques for peoples handmade shops. These will not be scathing nit picking reviews, more just picking out the things people do very well and a gentle nudge to let them know the things that they aren't yet getting quite right. Please go to the persons shop that is being critiqued in the article and leave them some helpful, constructive comments here about their shops. Remember that all these shops have humans behind them that have feelings, so please don't be heartless and cold in your comments, be encouraging and helpful.

Our first brave volunteer is Toil & trouble, who has a knitwear and felt goods shop on Etsy.

When I opened up her shop the first thing I noticed was the banner. The bright colours are perfect and they suit the goods you find in the shop perfectly. I love the font, but I did find it a little hard to read as it blends a little into the busy grass background. That can be easily cured in photoshop, leaving the font more readable and the background intact. Aislin if you need help with that contact me and I can help you sort it out.

Next I noticed the Featured items that Etsy allows you to have at the top of your shop. I love the way they tone well together. It gives an over all coordinated feel to the shop. Also what is great about the items you have chosen to feature is the fact that they are of a variety of prices. If all you feature is high end goods it may put some people off looking further. The mixture is great. Remember to change them regularly to give all of your goods a feature. I would suggest once or twice a week.

The categories are used well, so that shoppers can quickly find what they are looking for. I particularly like the category "Newest" as it encourages returning visitors to the shop to see what you have just listed. I think I would change the name to "New Arrivals" or "New Designs" to denote just what you get when you click on it, because I wasn't quite sure.

Now onto Photographs. Your photos are well staged, which I like very much. They show all angles of the items and details and close ups. The majority are crisp and in sharp focus, but one or two of them are a little out of focus. Not by much, but they could be slightly crisper. You can achieve this by using the macro setting on your camera when you take close ups and using a tripod to avoid hand shake.

This one is beautifully crisp...

this one is very close but not quite in focus.

The only thing I would add is to tell you that by having your items modelled on living breathing humans can put some people off buying. I personally don't mind it for goods like yours, but some people really do and it would prevent them from feeling like they can purchase from you, because they feel that the goods are already used if they have been worn at all. For them it appears to be a question of hygiene. This isn't really a criticism of your photographs, it's just a heads up of how some people feel.

Your descriptions of your goods are wonderful. They give all the details about the item for sale and they do it in an enthusiastic way. Enthusiasm is catching and it makes buyers more keen to own the goods. The only thing that would improve them is if you could put dimensions on every item and put them in both inches and centimetres. On most listings you already have inches, but remember some people don't really use inches any more and can visualise sizes better with measurements in centimetres.

I like your profile. It gives an insight into who you are and it is a light hearted read so your customers will feel like they know who they are purchasing from. That's very important on-line as they don't get to meet you in the flesh as they would in a bricks and mortar shop. It gives them a little more confidence to hand over their money.

Your shop policies are written in a factual but friendly way. The only thing I would add is to tell international buyers what method you use to ship the goods to them.

Your Feedback from customers is so glowing it shows me and all other visitors to your shop that you make great goods and have great customer services, so you are obviously getting that side of things completely right.

Over all I think you have a fantastic shop and think you will do very well with your gorgeous handmade goods! All you need to do now is promote, promote and promote a little more. Thank you for being our first volunteer. I hope it wasn't too painful.

Written by Lynne of Pirate Pixie Crew and Hyperloop Hoops

19 Jun 2009

Thank You Sponsors!

Over on the right of our box we have some Project Wonderful advertising boxes and to say a big thank you to the people that place ad's there I like to feature some of the goods in those peoples shops on our blog. It's a really easy thing to do because so many talented artisans place adverts there.

I utterly adore this quilt from Kims Crafty Apple. The design is stunning and the fabrics used are just perfect. This woman's shop is full of fantastic goods. Take a look and see for yourself.

Vagabond Jewelry always makes me gasp with delight and to see her advert on my blog just put a huge grin on my face. I would love to own this Oberon mask. I think it is gorgeous.

I'm always heartened to see artists adverting on the blog and Art by Arlene Babad has placed an ad here regularly. Check out her shop and see just how talented she is.

Lollyphile is a new comer to advertising on our blog, but a most welcome one. This company's hand made lollipops are not the normal flavours. These ones are Maple Bacon... Jon is drooling over these.

This Years Girl's prints are delicious to the eye. I love this one above. The clouds and the girls hair show so much movement. Look through the rest of her shop to see more amazing prints.

So please remember to click on the adverts on the right of our blog. You will get to see so many amazing shops and goods. You'll be glad you did.

Written by Lynne of PiratePixieCrew and Hyperloop Hoops

18 Jun 2009

I won some wool!

Last week I found out I had won some wool from the lovely Tomato Tea. She was running a blog give away for some stunningly beautiful hand dyed wool, so I commented on the blog post and the random number generator picked me. How fabulous is that!?

The yarn is gorgeous as you can see from the photo above. It has such a beautiful mix of colours.

I decided as soon as I found out I'd won that I would make something from it that I could sell and donate the money from it to the Macmillan Fund. This organisation make life a whole lot better for so many people.

So yesterday I hand knitted this little Pirate Pixie Crew hat from the yarn.

I'm not sure if I should just price the hat and sell it in one of my shops with all the info on the charity the money will go to or auction the hat to try and get a little more cash for the charity. What do you think? What's the best way to be sure to get the most money I can for the Macmillan Charity?

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