Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ripper Street - Dead(head)Wood in London?

Am I the only person in the Universe who thinks Ripper Street is a big pile of steaming horse doo?

As I adore a bit of Victoriana, have a guilty obsession with everything Ripper related and also love a good Western (did this many Londoners really carry guns back then?), surely I should love this show?

Eeerrrrrrrrr........... NO.

It feels like the script writer had a cynical checklist of every element of "Victorian London" (they shoehorned the Elephant Man in last night fer crying out loud!) that they copied from Wikipedia, then peopled it with over blown stereotypes and decided to have a fist fight and/or a shooting in every episode. It feels about as period evoking as "From Hell", the Johnny Depp as Abberline travesty that mangled Alan Moore's graphic novel. I have watched 4 instalments now (obviously 3 last year and last nights serving of caackka) and each time I found myself drifting off into mentally compiling shopping lists and cleaning out kitchen drawers, somewhere past 10 minutes in, then jolting back into the room just before the end credits as some kind of street law gets sanctioned by a jowly Matthew McFadden. Mainly because my TV tuned body clock knows it's almost time for a cup of tea.

Utter drivel and not even entertaining. I get the impression it has been tailored to BBC America (the token Yank reminds me of a pissed off Derren Brown rather unsettlingly and I keep hoping it will all have turned out to be a trick and the cast will be eaten by Zombies... no such Luck). Well, I don't care if everyone else raves about it, I can't bear to watch another minute... In fact I might have to dust off my Deadwood box set and immerse myself some quality Victorian squalor!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

but I LOVE Bloggers!!!

 I have to wonder, in a rather cynical way, if tiresome Martha Stewart didn't have that little mini-rant against us Bloggers the other day to try and up her media profile? You know, in that, no publicity is bad publicity, kind of way that Miley Cyrus seems to be going for? MS used to have things all her own way, at least in the States. I used to hear people raving about her and feel we were kind of left out this side of the pond. Then, through the power of the internet, I finally got to see what she was all about.... and was a little underwhelmed to be honest. Occasionally some nice ideas, but, honestly... nothing that revelatory.

Here in the UK we have always had that do-it-yerself, make do and mend attitude that comes from generations of kids learning to make things from old fairy liquid bottles via that stalwart of children's TV: Blue Peter. Want to know how to make anything crafty, well, there was probably a village fete in the next few weeks or you could ask the Jam & Jerusalem ladies... then blogging happened and now none of us needs the kind of self-procalimed "Expert" Martha puts so much faith in anymore (so b*gger off, Kirstie Allsopp, stick to flogging houses!)

I particularly don't want Martha's advice when I'm pretty sure she has an army of hidden and unacknowledged designers coming up with everything behind the scenes. As a freelancer I sometimes get paid to design things that hit the shops with some celebrity or other's name on it, I have friends who also do this. Our work isn't acknowledged, we just get paid to do the work and make the currently bankable celeb look good... they have a "Public Profile" and I do not. I guess it's just the same as all those Celeb autobiographies out in the shops which are actually written by someone whose name will never appear on the credits, what a devious and deceitful world we live in these days.

Blogs have kind of skewed that money making world order though. If I want to know what craft products are good value for money I trawl the blogs, looking for recommendations from people I know use those products everyday. Like me they are "real people" and don't have a bankable "Public Profile" so they aren't being paid to endorse these products. They ACTUALLY use them, so have a valid opinion. Real people are the real experts. I have learned so much from blogs over the last few years and, like many others, I have also felt the support of an unseen community when I have had problems and been physically unable to get out in the real world. I don't remember Martha or Kirstie Bl**dy Allsopp sending me well wishes when I was out of action for months on end!

Lordy, give me a stay at home Mum who just happens to paint in her spare time and wants to rave on about the fact that she finally found a brand of paint brush which didn't shed hairs all over her canvas like a demented Persian Cat. So what if she isn't a trained writer - so what if she doesn't have a degree in Paint Brush reviewing....  and probably does have a lovely Persian Cat she will share pictures of. If I take recommendations from my friends then why wouldn't I listen to a lady half way across the world who tells funny stories, gripes about stuff that bothers her and shares the occasional recipe (Georgina, where are you?) and does really cool paintings she sells on etsy? It's just the big virtual, pan global version of gossiping over the garden fence... and long may it continue!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Martha Stewart hates us!!!

I can't upload a video here so please head over to Danita's blog to view the self-opininated ex-Jail-Bird Martha Stewart agreeing with an interviewer that Bloggers (social media... that's you and me, honey!) are "poor taste" and goes on to stick the boot in and dismiss bloggers with the statement "They are not the experts!"

She seems to have a big problem with people sharing recipe's in particular because they either haven't been tested by The Experts or  have been STOLEN from those self same Experts. Just a few beats earlier Stewart was crowing how Twitter (errrr, isn't that social media, Martha?) has been a wonderful TOOL for her company.

It's nice to know that Social Media is only acceptable to the likes of professional "home-maker" Martha Stewart when she can work it in her favour. On the subject of Recipes though, aren't all the best recipe's handed down from your granny? Isn't that where most tried and tested meals come from originally, even when modified by a chef... and who more qualified to test those recipes? You and I, and generations of other hungry people before us!

Martha, who has built her empire teaching your granny how to suck eggs US housewives how to do lot's of home styling, often based on well tried "down the generations" tips and crafting know how, seems to think that her customers (for that is who those pesky Bloggers actually are) should all shut up and sit around waiting to pay for her to tell them things. She is after all an EXPERT!!!!

I also notice that the previously Tax Evading Martha states she admires Amazon, I'm not surprised, they also seem very reluctant to pay their taxes ;o)


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Witch Doll

Just finished a new doll, her name is Phoebe and she is a witch again, my last before Halloween. In the shop now :o)


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

curvy figure!

OK, I admit it I have curves in all the right wrong places... mainly in my spine right now.

Yesterday I bent over to pick up a towel off the bathroom floor and felt that sickening sliding sensation then a pin  sharp "ouch" in my side... I took a few deep breaths and mentally crossed my fingers that I could make it up right. 1, 2, 3.... oooohhh, so good so far... oooo... oh HELL...

I got about halfway to upright then my spine just suddenly twisted to my left and now I look like a Jack in The Box that got stuck half way out! Hope this sorts itself out soon, I have too much to do ;o)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sad but True... part two

I forgot to link to the blog I am quoting from (sorry Sarah!) so HERE is the link to The Faerie Factory blog.

Reason Number 2: This is something I already knew a little about when I started making craft items because of my background in commercial toy design but even I wasn't prepared for the far reaching scope of it: "to continue to sell faeries I need to CE mark them. The ethos of the Factory was always to reuse and recycle, unfortunately CE marking would mean using only new materials, and it is also a lengthy, costly and time consuming process."

Let that one really sink in because here is the statement from the man at Trading Standards that caused that horrible realisation: “Having taken some advice on this matter it is felt that your product though decorative does have an attraction to children and would certainly have a toy element also.” 


Basically, if you live in the UK (or anywhere in the EU as the E in CE Mark stands for 'European') and make hand made items for Children then since 1995 you need to have a CE mark on them and comply to all of Trading Standards strict rules and testing regulations. You cannot use recycled materials, and you cannot make "one of a kind" items because you have to send a prototype to be tested before you can sell a new item.


I make dolls, and in my past professional life I have designed plushy dolls for companies that went on sale at High Street retailers nationwide. I made prototypes but they were mass produced in the Far East and for each new design a production sample had to be sent for testing and meet really stringent fire and safety standards. You have to be able to trace the origins of every single component used to make each item back to the original manufacturer to ensure that THEY all meet the regulations too. Then there are a whole other set of rules about the kind of labelling every product has to feature, it has to be firmly stitched into a seam so that it isn't removed or lost after purchase too.

Surely making One of a Kind dolls for the Adult Collectors market is exempt from all those rules? The answer is... kind of...and... Kind of not! My dolls are created for adult collectors and use wire and small parts which could pose a choking threat to small children. I clearly label them as such BUT if one of my dolls LOOKS AS THOUGH IT MIGHT APPEAL to a child then all bets are off.... it would need the CE mark and to comply to Trading Standard rules! That used to be easy with goth items but I imagine Monster High dolls have queered that pitch now too!


US doll and toy makers are not subject to these rules (they don't seem to have any rules for handmade OOAK toys that I know of) so I guess a lot of new UK crafters and artists look to the US for inspiration and don't realise that they have just wandered innocently into a potential minefield. What is the likelihood of getting caught? I simply don't know and hope I never find out. If you have any concerns that what you are making and selling might fall foul of these regulations then I suggest a quick phone call to your local Trading Standards Agency for a copy of those regulations. Yes, they do have LOCAl offices, yes, they are out patrolling craft venues every now and then. 

A fellow doll maker paid me the ultimate compliment the other day, she said she thought my doll's had the "loveliest adult looking faces" and I just hope Trading Standards agree. ;o)

Some links to check out if you make anything that could be considered as having play function or
would appeal to a child:

http://areathriftyone.blogspot.co.uk/2008/05/selling-your-handmade-plushsoft-toys-in.html

 http://ukhandmade.co.uk/content/business-ce-testing-sock-problem

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/tradingstandards/product-safety/toy-producers.htm

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sad but True

I read a really sad post on a UK blog called The Faerie Factory today. The writer, a rag doll & craft maker closing down her blog and ceasing to trade for two quite distinct reasons that I am going to cover in two posts:

Reason number 1, I think we all know this feeling from time to time: "In recent weeks I have realised how much time is taken making and preparing for fairs for very little financial reward. As much as I enjoy creating it has become more and more like a production line with all the stress and pressure that entails.

I wish that new craft hobbyists and those in a rush to open their etsy shop would finally realise that Time really IS Money! It is so easy, you begin to make a few crafty items from old buttons and bits of lace and ribbon you have had lying round the place for years... you buy a few supplies from a hobby shop and sit there making cute things while you watch TV. People like them, they want to buy: Hurrah!!! What the hell, they cost you hardly anything to make -but hey, you are new at this and maybe you don't feel that confident in your abilities yet - so you price really low and bask in the glow of selling things to people who really appreciate the amount of love that has gone into making them. You feel really fulfilled and now you are part of the whole crafty artisan movement that has been gaining momentum over the last decade....

ERRRRRRRR, hold up! I hate to burst your bubble, I really do, but take a step back to the price you just put on your work... it doesn't matter that the buttons and ribbons etc, were free. If you come to make more, you will need to buy, how much will that cost you? How much did the supplies you bought at the hobby shop cost you and how many items did they go on to make? How much did the electricity that burned the light you used to sew by cost while you were making... and lastly, probably most importantly: what price do you put on your time. Think about that one hard. The minimum hourly wage in Britain is just over £6. How many could you make in an hour? Lets take all your costs away and see what we are left with... Oooops!

Think long and hard about how you price your hand made items, if you put time and effort into them then don't sell yourself short, and remember, if you get successful you will hit a real dilemma... you won't have enough time to make enough of "The Item" to fulfill demand by yourself so will have to get others to help you make them... that's a whole new can of worms! THINK before you open an etsy shop, think long and hard because as a wise lady told me a long time ago "price too high and you can always have a sale or reduce at a later date, price too low and and you will soon find that when you need to put your prices UP you will lose goodwill"


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Vintage & Artisans Fayre

I am looking forward to visiting the next Vintage & Artisans Fayre at Jackson's Boutique Garden Centre in Trelawnyd, near Dyserth on the 19th & 20th of October. It's just a 20 minute drive along the A55 from Chester and probably a similar distance from Llandudno if you find yourself along the coast.

The venue is set in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty with quite breathtaking views across rolling hills over to the North Wales coast.  Not only does the Fayre promise a lively selection of Vintage treasures, contemporary Arts & Crafts, shabby Chic finds and Artisinal foods but the Garden Centre in itself is well worth a visit. Somewhere you can easily while away a few hours and then dine on fresh local produce in their sweet little cafe.

The next fair after that is on the 16th and 17th of November and will be full of Christmas gifts and goodies. I hope I might be exhibiting my dolls there too, fingers crossed ;o) See you there if you are in the area.

Here are some pics from one of the events over the Summer: