Craftsmanship begins at Home

A few years back, I realised the path I was on was neither for me nor leading me anywhere worthwhile. Being practically minded I decided to retrain in alternative medicine and spent the second year trying to make sense of Chinese Medicine. Unfortunately, I did not complete the course, but I learnt so much from the Chinese way of thinking that it was worth it nonetheless.

One thing however never ceased to amaze me. How could people derive an

Japanese collection
New arrival: Japanese collection

entire system of medicine based on forces that cannot be seen, and whose influences are so subtle? Amazing. The same sense of amazement overtook me while visiting the Belleek Pottery factory. The clay is a finely balanced composite of elements sourced from all over the world. Before being fired, at the right temperature, it is incredibly brittle. Who came up with this? The theory of trial and error leaves me cold but I do not have an alternative explanation.

The amazement is equally matched by a great sense of regret. Apparently, nowadays, some craft schools teach the art of design but not the practical skill of making. Perplexing! Who will carry the flame?

Red chyogami - Collection
New arrival: Sketchbook, Journal or Photo album in passion red…

But in talking about my own experience, the long historical chain of human ingenuity stopped at my parents’ generation. I am of the 1972 vintage. By the way, apparently, that year, you had to be a heady wine if you wanted to age gracefully. Emmmm…

Anyway, at that time, the “emancipation” of women was in full swing and the modern woman was free from the sink, mending, cooking and washing all day. Having a career was then a real possibility. Many of the women who had missed the boat, and could merely dream of an office job, maybe put their own dreams on the shoulders of their daughters. Practical home-making skills were passe, a definite sign of lack of ambition, if not backwardness (the smart robot and powdered food  were born, remember?).

Photo Album - Katazone Circles - Back
New arrival: Bold and modern!

So it is only when I had my first child that I suddenly copped-on that your food is your health, that health is nurtured rather than coerced with pills and that DIY skills are empowering. Worse again, when expecting my eldest, I bought an amazingly cute pair of booties for her, never realising they were in fact dolls shoes. She was born particularly small, yet there was still no hope for the booties to fit. No way, not a chance. I was totally clueless about all that matters in life.

I recently watched a TED video, entitled “Craftsmanship begins at home”, where a gentleman shared his journey in making blue grass violins. There is nothing heady, but he emphasises how the little things, similar to good habits, shape good craftmanship. Give yourself time and if you make a mistake, do not do it again. It is not rocket science.

By rushing from A to Z, we no longer take the time. Resilience is undermined by instant gratification. Know-how is redundant in the face of opinion. Skill development is cheapened by technology and ready made solutions. I wonder whether the line of human ingenuity has been further weakened.

Sketchbook - Flower Katazome - Front
Decorative Japanese paper and stitching on Coptic exposed spine

For me, feminism dis-empowered me as a mother. I started on a very child centered, expert- guided, emotionally absorbing and ultimately expensive form of parenting. To move away from this unsatisfactory state of affairs, I had to unlearn the faff and learn quickly about the real stuff. Very uncomfortable! Today, after a drastic life review and simplification, the kids are pretty much free range, much more inquisitive and I think more confident. They are also quite crafty. And so I agree with this gentleman, that craftmanship begins at home. It is a mindset above and beyond a skill. To illustrate this, apparently, the Japanese technique of marbled paper is called Sumiganashi, and the most important skills is a perfectly still mind! To achieve this, you need to have your house in order…

So we now have nearly traveled full circle. To complete the journey, I feel it is necessary to put your mind at ease. My first born is very much still kicking 18 years later, on the whole seemingly unscathed.

And her shoes fit her.

(But then, at this age, she does her own shopping, nothing to do with me…)


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  • Etsy seller? Why not joint the craic?

RIP Etsy – Do you Believe in Afterlife? (I do)

I have attended quite a few fairs recently, a new experience for me. I have to admit enjoying the rides so far. Mainly because I feel like I’m learning tons, meeting many interesting and helpful people, really enjoying the diversity, and the humanity. It may sound silly but diversity and humanity are something I found lacking in my previous life as a professional whatever.

Continue reading “RIP Etsy – Do you Believe in Afterlife? (I do)”

Making is Connecting

I always took pride in making things. Yet, a comment stopped me in my tracks a few years back: “Why do you play ‘poor’?” For me, the pleasures and sense of achievement in creating something were completely unrelated to poverty. Funnily, another comment stated that I must be pretty well off to be able to afford wasting time making things. I am neither. But I guess that having read about the social history of Ireland, it sheds some light on the origin of these mindsets.

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November Events

Hey! Did you see us at one of the fair or pop-up and wonder where to see us again?

Well, well, well:

– 12th Nov: Kilmore Christmas Fair, now in its 18th edition, food, fun and gifts Autumn Bridal Bouquet - Halloween Paper Flower Bouquetfor all!

– 19th Nov: Strandhill People Market, with live music, fabulous crafts, and lovely people!

Finally, join us on Sunday 26th, at the Glasshouse in Sligo, for the Christmas Craft Fair!

There will be specific reminders as we go along!

And since it is Halloween, here is the latest not-so-scary paper flower bouquet!

Wabi-Sabi does not go with Sushi

Last July, with some trepidation and much gusto, Huga was born. I will admit that since the learning curve has been steep. It is obviously a good idea to do your market research beforehand but in a world where everything essential has been done, made and created it is difficult to come up with a new concept, especially if you make handmade books and other paper-based wonders… Anyway, true to myself, I (and my hubby) put a hand-made website together and a first collection launched. The website now has 103 revisions and collections are more adventurous. But it is all a journey, so what…

Continue reading “Wabi-Sabi does not go with Sushi”

Huga Returns to Cavan

From bespoke order to retail: A lot happened this month!

A new pop-up display in Lough Key further promoted the Inside [Craft] network, the next one will be in Longford so keep in touch, more details to come…

New marbled collection
New marbled collection

We are delighted to be part of Anne and Claire Godwin’s new venture: The Little Craft Room in Virginia, where plenty of handmade gifts and treats are now available! We wish them the very best ! Like their page for the best kick-start!

There is nothing more exciting than designing a bespoke order for an enthusiastic crafter. A bespoke album is in the making for a Minnesota quilter and here is her feedback so far: “This is even more beautiful than I could have imagined–and I have a good imagination! The little scissors on the spine is inspired. To me it says “quilting” and more “making” and its heavier shape does echo the light-as-air shape of the dragonflies. ” … that made my day! (Pic to come)

Meet us at the Slieve Russell Autumn Fair this coming Sunday with (I quote) : “30 tables featuring a wide range of handmade goods, craft supplies and quality giftware such as jewellery, candles, art, hair accessories, greeting cards, knitting & crochet, skincare, local honey, glassware, journals, wooden boxes and lamps, jams & relishes, mead, beads, craft stamps and more…” The weather promises to be awful so no excuse, come and support your local crafters…

Next month

Hopefully, we will have an update as per the next Longford pop-up soon. But you can also meet us at the Strandhill People Market, in Sligo, on the 22nd of October. A vibrant place where food, crafts and banta collide in style! Again you can like their page to show support!


Crafter’s Typology

As mentioned before, “the crafter”, their habitat, ecosystem and mindset are the focus of this blog. It looks like they have attracted the attention of other people also. Let’s quickly see what they had to say.

BOP Consulting in 2012, in a report called “Craft in an Age of Change”, defined a crafter’s typology in terms of the somewhat narrow parameters of level of qualification and career commitment. Hence, you could be a craft careerist (trained, committed), an artisan (untrained, committed), a returner (trained and repentant) or a career changer (untrained and inexperienced). This classification leaves me somewhat perplexed.

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Roscommon Cultural night for the Next Pop-Up!

Well, we enjoyed the pop up event in Virginia. But it is now gone only to resurface in Lough Key, Roscommon, to grace the coming Cultural night on the 22 of September!

Lough Key used to be part of the Rockingham Estate. It is however named after the mythical figure Ce. He was a druid of the god Nuada, and died reaching for a valley of beautiful flowers. Apparently the lake burst out as his grave was dug. I was told small independent monastic communities used to live in some of the islands. I am fascinated by those communities able to build houses, boats, rear animal, grow food and able to preserve them. None of these achievements can be “thrown from a distance”. Those are skilled activities, unforgiving if got wrong.

The same fascination goes for the bygone “lady of the house”, for who managing a house was not far from managing a business. Visiting Omagh American Park once, I remember a guide making a derogatory comment about the girls doing their apprenticeship in the “big house” on how to run a house. Instead they should be going to school and broaden their mind about the wonders of the Limpopo river. Housecrafts should be celebrated,  so should rearing, feeding and caring for a healthy family… Too often, these excellent skills are poo-pooed for some flashy career title whilst the essential gets neglected. Craft for life!

Meet Us Again

Anyway, I am losing my way here: the next pop-up is on the 22nd of September in Lough Key, starting with the Cultural night and ending on the 24th before heading to new horizons…

When Huga met Virginia

Belgian Blue Bull at Virginia Show that Huga attended
Belgian Blue

Today I attended the Virginia Show in Cavan, a celebration of farming and rural life, a bustling occasion to display your pride and joy be it your cow, your tractor or a shapely egg! I love those occasions and wish I could attend them more often. I have to admit having a particular liking for bulls, fascinating huge beast not to be triffled with. And when a farmer combs, curls, polishes his pet Belgian Blue (and the tail that has to be fluffled up), it sends me into fits of giggles! Simple joy, hey!…

Judging at Virginia Show where Huga attended the Inside Craft pop up
Judging at Virginia Show

Oftentimes, people ask me: “What does Huga mean?”. Well it has a lot in common with Virginia Agricultural Show, albeit nothing with Belgian Blue, thankfully. Huga, comes from the Danish word Hygge, meaning wellbeing, light-heartedness, fun, conviviality, heart warming. It has a ring of togetherness. A bit like a mug of chocolate by the fire, a soft stretched out jumper or exchanging knock-knock jokes. Well, okay I saw no farmers indulging in such behaviour but the sense of community was palpable. People enjoyed a serious yet friendly competition. It looked like everybody knows each other. It oozed hard work, fun, generated plenty of oooh and aah, smiles and everybody found something to their tastes. The do felt cosy and comfy, despite the mud. But there you are: I like the fact it is muddy, hard work and possibly uncompromising. Because in many way, I think craft is the same. Craft, like farming, are often portrayed as some romantic activities. The reality is: It is hard work, it is messy, it is also fun and along the way you meet very interesting people. It makes life more vibrant.

But I guess, to be truthful,  that to be able to display a prize winning beast or a well crafted item,  requires many hours of lonely hard work. Also it can be hard to break into a cosy established community and the effort to get to know somebody can be easily overriden by the comfort of what one already has. I do not have a farming background so I can only be an observer in Virginia, and maybe I prefer it this way. One can get too entangled in a social web. Not everybody is like that though and depression can be rife among crafters and farmers. I do not mind the isolation but also do like, for however a fleeting moment, to come out from my cave and share a sense of solidarity and connection with fellow crafters at pop-up events. We all know the Huganess of craft and its demands, but it is in the blood, like farming. I like that… even more than the Belgian Blue….

(If you are a crafter, please share your lifestyle experience)

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