Friday, 21 November 2014

A LUSH bit of Christmas Art!

LUSH have been for a long time one of our favourite hand made companies! Back in the 1990's a really good friend introduced me to them; then known as  Cosmetics To Go; by way of a catalogue packed with amazing natural and eco friendly products from lipstick to baby shampoos. 
The fact that they were around then was a surprise as it wasn't really the "IN" thing.

But things were slowly changing and consumers were looking for a healthier body and not just a sane mind and spirit! Luckily LUSH are still here which I think is a sign of their visionary powers! They started off small but retained their ethics and a philosophy -which many people now share!- but now have shops all over the world... see, you can be a "hand made"company and not have to sell your soul to the corporate devil to achieve success!

One of my fave LUSH scents... The Smell of Weather Turning. A beautiful and original perfume...smells of fires and damp forests.
As a green baby- thank you mum for always looking out for natural alternatives!- this company was naturally one I'd be attracted to and I'm still a fan!
They are a great success story and I love how they keep up with trends and are forever evolving remarkably without ever losing their soul... or ethics. 

Fresh faced and clean! Fresh face masks for lots of skin types... just don't attempt to eat them!

So this Christmas they've teamed up with a few talented designers like Jonathan Kenyon, Creative Director of Vault49, a New York design studio that specialises in creating branding, advertising, design and art to offer something new. Check out his "White Christmas Packaging", it's Nordic Pop/ German Techno meets a snow boarding Santa!
We love LUSH products and we love the fact that they've collaborated with so many renown and amazing artists... who knows maybe one day they might even work with us! 
HUM a crafters hand cream to help soothe the "crochet claw"? Now there's a good idea... Just putting it out there lovely creative head of Lush products!

LUSH interview with Vault49 on designing White Christmas packaging -

If you'd like to read more about the collaborations please follow the links:

For further info and products please visit:



If you would like to win a copy of the LUSH graphic Novel On the trail of Sandalwood smugglers just answer the following question in the comments. We have two copies to giveaway so enter as many times as you like but please keep to one entry on each platform (Twitter, Face Book and Instagram).
If you are answering below we ask that you provide an email address so we can contact you.

What was their company name before they became LUSH fresh hand made cosmetics?

*The winners will be picked at random from all entries on Sunday the 7th of December 2014.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Origami Home by Mark Bolitho

This has to be by far one of my favourite books that I've reviewed this year!
When this landed on my desk I was left in awe because as a child I was obsessed with making furniture and accessories for my doll's house.

Origami expert Mark Bolitho does just that! Not that it's for dolls' houses but it does lend itself very well for this but this publication is perfect for lovers of design and interiors too.
His little folded art works are absolutely beautiful and you can make things like recliner chairs, coffee tables, potted flowers and even pets.
They are amazing just as they are and you really don't need a doll house to make the projects. Though I'm gutted that this book wasn't around when I was a kid as my Barbie would have had the swankiest pad on the street!

Mark Bolitho has been Chairman of the British Origami Society for 35 years and though he had a successful career as an accountant he traded in the paper work for paper folding and we're honestly pleased that he has made that choice.
Working for clients like the BBC and Hewlett Packard have undoubtedly brought  his art of paper folding to the general public prompting further projects with many others in  Japan, Canada, France and Sweden to name but a few.
The popularity of origami isn't looking to fade anytime soon and so it shouldn't... with amazing talent like his and great books like this one then it can only grow.
Author of several books including the aptly named Creaselightning (which is also his web site name) we tip our folded paper hats to him not only for his artistic talent but you know us... we also love a good pun!

The BIG Lottery Fund and the BBC challenged villages across the UK to come up with ideas for new businesses! ©BBC/TBLF

With over 30 project explained step by step including how to furnish each individual room (or sets as Mark refers to them) with a selection of sweet, quirky and fun projects we're sure it'll leave you inspired to make your own.

Everything is covered here from the living room, loft room to even a terrace. He also shows us how to select colours and patterns to construct your ideal set and a huge plus point is that he has also added a few pages of very nicely explained basic instructions with detailed diagrams so you don't feel overwhelmed before you tackle the projects.

The book is divided by rooms and there's a great mix of styles of furniture from Shaker to mid century which will please just about anyone.
An added bonus is the handy pocket in the back cover which is filled with an amazing array of origami paper sheets... flowers, geometrics, you name it. It's there!

Though the little me would have imploded with excitement a more mature guerrilla has sat down and though loudly quietly squealed at every page I am now beginning to construct a Standard Lamp to gift to another excitable little girl who has room in her doll's house for some great hand made origami treats! 

A great gift for any origami fan or even novice and especially for those, like me, who despite their age still love making miniature furniture. The mix of furniture designs, along with the unique and fun presentation style, will ensure that The Origami Home appeals to anyone with a love for design and interiors, as well as paper folding enthusiasts!

Available via Jacqui Small Publishing... we hope you'll enjoy it as much as we did!

To order The Origami Home at the special offer price of £16 including UK P&P, telephone 01903 828503 or email, quoting the offer code APG267 and the book ISBN 9781909342514. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Christmas hand made gift directory...

As you know receiving hand made is wonderful but gifting it is even better!
So every year I take it upon my self to come up with a massive array and selection of various projects that I hope to make.
All you need to do is check out my Pinterest board "Hohoho Holly molly time to make". Packed full of ideas and good intentions though the title pretty much sums it all as it implies a need to hurry and get making!
Truth be known that I usually leave it until there's hardly anytime time to make anything! Come mid December the panic sets in and rather then hitting the High Street I opt for a little bit of Hand Made retail instead.
Really, there is no need to panic! Next year I'll start early...oh, OK, right...that's what I said last year!

If you're anything like me then don't fret, there are lots of ways to buy hand made so no excuses and no panic attacks...
there's a whole host of on line shops and communities like Etsy and Folksy but to name a few plus numerous fairs -come December and there seems to be one every day!- popping up all over town! And it's not just in London. Everywhere seems to have at least one or two but hey... that's a good thing right?

So here's my top Christmas craft crushes which I think you might like too... I personally think they'll be perfect Christmas gifts for all : Man, woman and child! Enjoy!

  • For the twitcher, classy birds or lovers of nature: Yvonne Ellen set of four plates...

available to purchase via Etsy
  • For your beautiful kiddo, niece or nephew a great vintage inspired design. Mind you I could just about squeeze my head into this! Bauble hat by Ampersandcommodities....

Via Etsy

  • For your little foxes or even for a big nature lover! These are not just for kids... Little fox by Jane Foster!

Via Etsy

  • For every cycling dude or lady dude -and no beard or moustache required as you'll look too cool for school as you peddle alongside the gentry! Leather jacket optional. Petrol Gage Bike Bell by Beachy Toes...

Via Etsy

  • For a bright fashion lover of any age! Pretty awesome don't you think? Knitted necklace by Rhea Clements. Available in a great selection of colours ....

  • As you know I love a good biscuit so if you have a friend with a sweet tooth then this is perfect! Biscuits...well cushions really, by Nikki Williams...

Via Nikki's on line shop

  • For those who'd like to make their gifts. These bright and fun fabrics would make amazing cushions, totes, tablet covers, clothing and even a tent! Beautiful fabric by Rachel Powell so you can make something nice to give...

Available via Rachels' shop

  • For the crafter meets activist (yes, that's right a Craftivist!) what better gift then a book? Check out  "Craftivism: The art of craft and activism" by the wonderfully talented and god mother of craftivism Betsy Greer. Balaclavas not included but you can knit your own...

Available on line or ask your favourite book shop to stock it!

  • And for that bloke who loves the outdoors and has just about everything! Hand made mountain range wallet by Trelabela...

Available via Etsy

  • For that man who's good with his hands... oh you know I love a man who knits! Nelson Collar kit by Wool & The Gang!

Via the Wool & The Gang website

  • A years subscription of this great magazine, The Simple Things, which anyone will love... lots of great articles and not just stories about crafts either, though there's lots to keep your hands busy! From nature, manly pursuits, recipes, family projects -yes and some crafty tutorials too!- to mindful & ethical shopping. It's got it all!

Via website

  • And finally because I'm a sucker for anything with animals on it here's a great gift for any nature fiend and Christmas lover though I suspect these would happily hang around the house all year long! A set of 4 tree decorations by the fabulous Abigail Brown. Also check out her dolls... totally amazing!

Available via Only Tiny

I hope you like my choices... and I hope that you'll agree that buying hand made from small independents and designer makers is the way to go! Together we can share with the world the value of craft, well designed and well made goods.
This year don't buy mass produced and if you can't buy hand made... Make it yourself!!!


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Selling, why it's important to be the FACE of your hand made brand!

Many designer makers struggle with the whole face to face selling thing at markets and fairs. I know it's tricky, you don't want to be so friendly that you come across as desperate but you also don't want to be sitting there with your head buried in a book trying not to make eye contact for fear of blushing! But Christmas is coming and for most marketeers this is the busiest and potentially the most lucrative time of the year.

So you might ask "Why is it important to speak to people, won't they just buy because they like the stock rather then me and my personality?"
Well... No, not necessarily! Money's tight and people who buy hand made not only like to buy these goods because of their artisan origins but because they also like to know their provenance and who's behind the creative process. And that's where you come in!

From my many years of experience both selling at and organising market events I found that though some people were comfortable with selling their wears many more would rather just be in their studio behind their sewing machines or potters wheels and leave the selling to someone else!
But why is it important to address the "business side" of  a small designer maker company? Well simply because if you want to make the rent you're going to have to learn to wear more then just the designer hat and face your deepest darkest fears! OK, maybe deepest, darkest fears is a slight exaggeration... but I've seen many a talented maker crumble as soon as a potential buyer asked them a question about their stock! But face to face selling doesn't have to be a scary monster (cue David Bowie! I know you're singing it... don't deny it!)

So who better then you to be the friendly face of your hand made brand? The answer is simple:
You are the person who made it and know everything about each product, each stitch, each hour spent making -while in fact you should have been sleeping!- and only you can convey all the magic and wonder that lead you to creating what you have!
So the fact is that you are the best person to sell what you make and no, it's not scary...  because it's part of your job! 

If you're putting your name, your efforts and are proudly selling something you've made then your face should be the strongest and most important weapon in your PR arsenal. Get behind what you make and being "personable" is what it's all about in the hand made business!
Here are a few tips and pointers that I found helpful:
  • Always acknowledge people when they come to your stall. A friendly "hello" works better then a head nod!
  • Provide outstanding costumer service, like being ready to answer or advise on any product or anything which can help your customer to buy from you!
  • Be prepared to share your company philosophy.
  • Know what makes your products different and special from everything else on the market. Share it with your shoppers without sounding cocky!
  • Be truthful. Don't make claims you can't back and always provide the best product you can make.
  • Use examples of happy customers who've returned after purchasing your products, any positive feedback or any other great truthful examples you can use relevant to you and your product!
  • Be confident and show you know your products inside and out!
  • Always thank people even if they didn't buy anything but take this opportunity to give them your business card for future purchases. 
  • Have a website! The nature of fairs has changed quite a lot and no longer are sales just made on the day so have an on line presence where clients can contact you or even order directly from you.
  • Look into accepting other forms of payment and not just cash. Though cheques are rare some people still use them. Also a PayPal hand set or WiFi card readers can prove to be a great investment and help you make even more sales! 
  • Have a great looking stall. Take time to consider your display and make it enticing and gorgeous!

The reality is that you are not just competing with the "big boys" on the High Street you're also competing with lots of other great makers who not only create amazing goods but are also blessed with the gift of the gab.
I can tell you that I do know a few people who make great things and sell enough to make a living from it because more then anything else they have charm, charisma and know how to engage with their clientele without being pushy which then leads to sales.
It's not that their products are better but rather then cower behind their stalls in fear of rejection they take a positive step to engage with the consumer.
What makes these makers successful is that they genuinely believe in their products and they know how to sell it plus they are outgoing when it comes to connecting with people!

But I'm not talking about hard sell tactics or any of that "The Apprentice" style bolshy, overly spun egocentric salespeople jargon. In fact the only commonality with that is the absolute confidence you should deploy in your sales pitch!
You can't just have amazing products you also need to know how to schmooze, make people feel valued -yes, you need them. That's the truth of the matter! In order to make a living from your craft you need people to buy from you!- and to a certain degree make them want what you're selling even if they're not quite sure they want or need it yet! Though I don't mean in any way that you should "pull the wool over anyone's eyes" as it's about being genuinely engaged and proud of your work and making it something other will love too!

OK, I agree, It's not easy... but it needn't be forced or fake either. A bit of confidence and practise goes a long way in setting you on your successful journey!

As mentioned above:
Know your stuff... that's your stock, your ethos/ethics, materials and your philosophy inside out
but also know when to step back or when to go in to seal the deal!
Don't be too overly familiar but always show an interest in your customers needs.
Do ask questions but keep them relative to the products... you don't want to ask if that beautiful body moisturiser you've made is going to be used in any saucy shenanigans but you can ask them something personal like their skin type for example or if they are looking for a moisturiser for everyday use! Keep it friendly, simple but know the boundaries.

It's not enough to just have a nice looking stall or great quality products either, it's about engaging your buyers and making them feel like they are being looked after. Unlike the High street you can afford to go the extra mile and give outstanding one to one customer service.
I found that this is pretty much one of the great things that attracts people into buying hand made!

Though you will find that you will spend most of the day repeating yourself  that you'll also find that it's not a bad thing! Your homing in on your interpersonal skills. With time it'll come naturally and you'll sound relaxed and sure of your company and your product. If you find it helpful write down a few cheat cards with major points that you want to convey... this way if you feel overwhelmed you'll have your notes there to help you.

I guess in a way that's part of the secret of being a good seller, knowing and believing in your product but also believing in yourself and putting your name behind your work in such a way that it becomes something people will want to be part of.
You can call it buying into a "lifestyle" if you will... I know, I know, it's a term most people are fed up with -a bit like Shabby Chic!- and I don't like it that much either but in this case it illustrates the point!

So practise, practise, practise and practise some more. Though you can use your friends and family as guinea pigs the best way to learn is to get out there and interact with complete strangers! Be friendly, approachable and confident...
and even if you get your tongue into a tangle and think you sound like a fool the chances are that you don't sound like one at all, but most of all don't forget that if people are there it's a sign that they are fans of the entire hand made movement... So remain calm, smile, treat your customers well, be genuine, be confident and work it!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Craftacular mid term entertainment for your little angels!

The mid term holidays are swiftly creeping up and we know just how hard it can be to keep kids busy and entertained especially with the cooler and wetter weather on the horizon!
Though the truth is that when you're a kid you don't really care that it's raining outside and no matter how hard it buckets down you look forward to jumping in the puddles!
BUT sometimes it's the grown ups that for whatever reason need to be kept in doors so finding something which will keep those little bundles of joy entertained while mum and/or dad get to work is sometimes not that easy to find.
But there is something we think might just help and we'd like to share it with you...

We were invited to look at and review two new books from Quarto Publishing Group (UK) by author Miri Flower, "The Pencil book" and "The Paint Book".  Miri is a prolific craft blogger and has won awards for her online publication including the Sainsbury's Bank "Best family blog" award.  You can visit her craft blog which features many more ideas and projects.

The first title is "The Pencil Book" which features lots of great projects which as the name implies can be done by using pencils.
The great thing is that it can be achieved by anyone though I would say that I felt the projects were aimed at younger kids rather then teenagers. All projects are well explained and photographed nicely leaving the maker and the parent(s) happy and confident to just go for it.

Ranging from ideas like recreate your own masterpiece, making paper mosaic to making an actual pencil holder out of coloured pencils!

The second book is "The Paint Book".
Again it's a book which requires little crafty expertise so anyone can learn without feeling uneasy or overwhelmed. As you can guess by the title it's exploring projects mainly through the medium of paint.
All projects are well explained and I do like the way the author has chosen projects that are suitable for both sexes.
I get the feeling that she's tried and tested these projects quite a few times on her own kids and that both she and they really do enjoy making them! 

I also love that all the materials and tools are either inexpensive to buy, easily available or things you can find at home.
Funnily enough most of the projects on both books are things I remember making as a child.
I remember the times I used to sit at my little desk in my bedroom painting with my fingers or the afternoons spent with my cousin over summer holidays at my granny's stamping potatoes to make patterns or writing secret letters with lemon juice to the cute boy next door! It was all good fun!!!

Basically these two books are packed with lots of interesting projects and I think it will keep your wee ones happy plus there are also a few projects like "make your own leaf bunting" which will require some outdoor fun too!

I have to say that though at the moment no kids were involved in this review I look forward to taking these with me over Christmas to France and using the nieces and nephews as guinea pigs. I'm sure my mother in law will be super excited too at the prospect of having all six of them quietly making for at least an hour!!! It's tough and I admire all mums and dads who can get their kids away from the telly or the PlayStation and happily making some creative crafts!

Well done Miri... we give these two books a very big paint smeared thumbs up!

To order The Paint Book and The Pencil Book together at the special offer price of £16 including UK P&P, telephone 01903 828503 or email, quoting the offer code APG227 and the book ISBNs 9780711235830 and 9780711235847.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Kitchenalia... The perfect inspiration for sorting out your own kitchen!

I love being in the kitchen, mainly because I find cooking a therapeutic pursuit rather then a chore plus I love the way it allows me to experiment with recipes through creative thinking and trial and error!
Decorating is a bit like that... follow a few simple rules and you can get the right look for you and your home... and if it doesn't quite work out just tweak and adjust!

Kitchenalia from Jacqui Small  publishers is one of those books that I found really hard to put down. I found myself cooing  over most of the kitchens which didn't help me make up my mind as to which style I prefer for my own!

It's hard... there are so many great looking styles and even though I thought I knew what I wanted this book has completely transformed my view of "my ideal kitchen"... and that's not a bad thing but it means it's back to square one!

It actually made me rethink a few points like usability, theme and even down to the utensils and furniture I would add to mine!

Though this book offers a few pointers and rules to follow it's also free and easy when it comes to mixing and matching. It provides plenty of inspiration without being dictatorial or insanely scary...
yes, all the looks in this book can be achieved without turning you into an undecided mess! I guess once you've figured out what overall look you want then the rest is simple.

The author Vinny Lee is a master of crossing over styles and making them work demonstrating just how easy it is to add personal style to your own kitchen.

I like the way it's categorised into two large sections to allow easy reference. A variety of sub sections showcase key styles and themes through The Kitchenalia Kitchens which include numerous styles from retro kitchens, collector's kitchens to reclaimed kitchens. The Kitchenalia Elements presents all other extras including crockery, storage, furniture to lighting!

I get the sense that Vinny Lee knows her stuff and her CV is proof of that! She writes regularly for The Times, House & Garden magazine -amongst other international magazines- and is also the interiors editor for the Sunday Express magazine.

What I do also love is the vast array of styles and the fluidity of the book as a whole. The photography is beautiful to say the least and it doesn't alienate readers into thinking it's unachievable and that it's all taken out of a show home. The very opposite, as I can actually imagine myself cooking in any of the kitchens featured in this book without feeling like an extra in a period film!
It doesn't look like a film set or an anachronism to the past! It's neither contrived nor fake but updated to cater for our hunger for great timeless retro design!

There's lots of handy info and tips on how to get the look without having to raid a bank to create your dream space!
If you're minimally crafty there's a plethora of ideas and inspirations that tap into up cycling and scavenging -Who doesn't love a good skip dive?- so you can add a few key pieces that will transform any dream into a reality.
Thank you Vinny for instilling that confidence and for letting us in on a few trade secrets too!

At present my kitchen is a pea green ode to the 1980's. It wasn't my choice but I've learnt to live with it.... but I won't have to for very long! It's a mish-mash of bad choices and very little original features though I do have a few possessions that will fit in perfectly with my new kitchen look just as soon as I get to grips with the enormity of the task.
In one hand I'll be clutching a copy of Kitchenalia, and in the other the wall paper stripper plus the belief that I can do this. I know I can!

Craft Guerrilla reader offer:
To order Kitchenalia at the discounted price of £25.00 including p&p* (RRP: £30.00), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG221.
*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.