Welcome to the blog for Ali's Craft Studio by Alison Lloyd. I am a crafter of peelable stained glass designs & handpainted keyrings and I look forward to sharing with you my news direct from Kent (the Garden of England)

Make sure you visit the shop at www.studiocrafts.net to purchase your own handmade decorations to bring fun and colour into every corner of your home

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Whooosh!

Well, there goes Christmas for another year.   We spend so long building up to Christmas Day and the big family dinner and then in a blink of an eye, whooosh it is all over!   Next up is the passing of one year and the start of a fresh, new one.

So, hands up - who is still eating turkey in various guises??   I have to confess that I always get a turkey which is way bigger than it really needs to be (I have that recurring nightmare of running out of food - like that is likely to happen!) and by this stage I am beginning to feel that if I never see another turkey in my life, it will be too soon.   However, there will be frozen turkey for some time to come lurking in every corner of the freezer ready to remind me of the gargantuan beast that was Tarquin the 2011 Turkey (hubby and I always call our Christmas turkey Tarquin - don't ask!)

Not Tarquin but probably a close relative...
What I don't understand is why we all buy enough food to feed a small country and spend hours queuing in supermarket aisles waiting for a free checkout when these days the shops are only closed for one day.   Anyone would think that there was a law saying that we were all banned from further food shopping for a month.   Yet, year after year, there we all are - planning a meal with sufficient food to feed an army.  If you think about it all Christmas dinner is is a Sunday roast with hats!  Every year, I vow not to go so mad but every year there I am with the piled high trolley - I can't help myself - its like food shopping tourettes!!

So, here are some of my observations about Christmas...

  1. Why haven't there been any decent Christmas songs that have come out since the 80s? It just isn't Christmas until we have blasted out the old classics from Slade, Wizzard, Wham!, Jona Louie, etc.
  2. Why is it that we eat stuff at Christmas that we simply don't at any other time of year even though it is all still available to buy?  We don't go so mad at New Year. You don't see the same queues and piled high trolleys then and yet most people do something to celebrate - does everyone really go out to eat for New Year or are they simply so stuffed from Christmas that they make do with a smaller feast?
  3. Sitting around the table in cheap, brightly coloured, ill-fitting paper crowns is an absurd thought at any other time of year yet there we all are with bits of fuscia and yellow tissue paper around our heads eating Christmas dinner.  I think it should be a requirement to wear silly hats at the dinner table!  (Come on, get with me on this - we mustn't take ourselves so seriously!  Live a little...)
  4. Sweets apparently don't have the same number of calories at Christmas so you can get away with eating more of them (OK not strictly true but wouldn't it be great if it was!)
  5. Cats just look really confused when humans are sitting around in silly hats playing games and getting more raucous by the minute - to be honest, their routine doesn't change : sleep - poop - sleep - eat - wash - sleep - sleep - poop - wash - eat - sleep (you get the idea)
  6. The house seems warmer at Christmas with a lovely tree in the corner of the room, lights and decorations bringing such colour and warmth to the whole place. OK folks, get ready for the Tip of the Week (nay, month!)...
    Plan ahead now and buy yourself some wonderfully colourful peelable decorations from Ali's Craft Studio Shop to put up after the Christmas decorations are taken down & stop everything looking so bare and dull!  You can even change them throughout the year and have a different look each season!! (Ahem, can you say 'shameless blatant plug'??)
  7. Whilst alcohol is admittedly consumed in epic proportions chez Ali's Craft Studio during the festivities, I am convinced that the number of empty bottles queuing up to be taken to the bottle bank are actually taking part in some experimental overnight breeding program.  It is the only logical explanation - surely we haven't emptied them all!
  8. Buyer Beware - boxes of wine which look amazingly cheap are that cheap for a reason - lesson learned!  (Oh, well at least we theoretically never ran out of red wine and what is left can be used for cooking - or maybe clearing drains???)  
    Tip of the Week 2 (courtesy of Mum!) - Add a generous splash of brandy to your glass of aforementioned wishy-washy drain cleaner red wine...  Instant Sangria!  OlĂ©!
  9. Long shelf lives on food items are a godsend - I used a Christmas pudding and crackers bought in 2010 this year and already have the Brandy Sauce, gravy and stuffing well covered for 2012!
  10. Post-Christmas sales just don't have the thrill they had in the past - there are sales on every week nowadays and that big excitement I remember as a kid going out to the shops in January (or Boxing Day if you were in the market for new furniture - oooh,  remember the big MFI sale adverts and how exciting that was??) is, in my opinion, a big loss.

So there you are, a few of my views of the madness and mayhem that happens each year at Christmas - I would love to hear your own thoughts and experiences...

I hope you all had a wonderful time over the festive break and would like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers and followers for making 2011 such a great year with your amazing comments - I love to read them and it does make me feel less like I am talking to myself!

Have a wonderful New Year's eve whatever you are doing - hubby and I are planning a lovely, romantic evening in so that we can start 2012 in the right way and not get ripped off doing so - I hope that we will all be safe, healthy and with the ones we love as we wave goodbye to, what has been for many, a challenging 12 months and say hello to what I hope will be a very successful year.


Right, I'm off to stock up the food and drink cupboards ready for Saturday evening (after all, I don't want to run out of food!) I am praying there isn't a big queue at the supermarket as I have only just recovered from the stress of last week and still have a ton of new turkey recipe ideas to find so that I can do something creative with what is left of this year's feast....  Oh the pressure!  I need a drink....

Monday, 19 December 2011

And So This is Christmas...

... And what have you done?

Well, I have finally finished the craft fair and markets for the year and after just about thawing out now from being on a very cold Bromley High Street last Friday and Saturday, I am happy that the cold hasn't brought on a relapse of my Winter cold!

Christmas is fast approaching and I am now feeling a little more relaxed now that the tree is up and glistening and twinkling in the corner of the living room and the freezer and fridge are stocked ready to be raided over the festive period.   A couple of orders picked up at the weekend need to be done but fortunately these are not for Christmas presents so the pressure is off a little as I am hearing the postal service is particularly slow at the moment which bearing in mind the volume of post which must be winging its way across the country at this time of year isn't really surprising!

So, I have managed to resist turning the house into an offshoot of Santa's Grotto (hubby is good at reigning me in and putting the lid back on the decorations box just in time!) and the cats are slowly getting used to the plethora of cute Christmas animals and toys which seem to pop up at this time of year.  The tree is certainly holding a great fascination with all the shiny 'toys' which dangle and can be batted with a paw to make them jangle.   Blinky has decided that he is 'Guardian of The Tree' and spends quite a bit of time lying under it in a protective pose.

January is a quiter time for me for fairs (although I have just booked on at the end of January - can't stay away for too long, you know!) so I am hoping to have lots of new designs and themes for 2012, of course if there is anything you would like to see/purchase, please let me know - I am always happy to get feedback and suggestions!

So may I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very

and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.


I probably won't be blogging much over the Christmas period as I busy myself on Christmas morning basting a huge turkey every 20 minutes, trying not to murder the sprouts and other veggies and sharing far too many bottles a glass of the sparkly stuff with family whilst unwrapping presents and singing along to many a corny Christmas ditty and playing lots of games which don't see the light of day at any other time of year (such a shame - I love playing games like charades, quizzes, scrabble, the logo game, cranium and anything else you throw at me!)

Don't forget to head on over to Handmade Monday to see how everyone else is doing at this busy time and maybe find some great new shops for next year.

See you all in 2012...


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Silence is Golden...

Hubby and I have had our usual November colds - we seem to get the same colds at the same time each year (possibly linked to a couple of cold and damp fair venues in close succession??) and, as usual, this means that hubby has had a little peace and quiet over the last couple of days when my voice took a brief sabbatical!

Not too much of a problem when I am on my own creating (apart from not being able to shout at the cats...) but yesterday was a market day.   It definitely makes selling a problem when no-one can hear you! Cue Superhubby who came along to help and in the end we had a great day - a little windy and cold with some fun and merriment for all caused by my attempts to make myself heard but all-in-all not too drastic and my voice actually came back by time we were heading home (hurrah!)

Snow, snow and more snow
our little car is buried!
Now is the start of the countdown to Christmas and I have five more visits to Bromley Market - weather depending, to fit in before preparing our own home for the season.  I love this time of year - seeing the Christmas lights go up to brighten the early dark nights definitely takes the edge off of the chill in the air, although it is fortunately still very mild for the time of year (not that it felt that mild freezing our whatsits off yesterday!
Icicles over the studio

I am seriously hoping and praying that the snow holds off this year - it can snow on Christmas Eve night for a couple of days if it really, really wants to (see, I think I am being more than generous!)

Last year was more than enough to last us for a while and I will be very happy not to have a repeat of the snowy scenes in 2010, thank you very much!

Anyway, today is Handmade Monday and whilst I haven't been creating any brand new designs to show off this week, there have been plenty of orders to complete and restocking to do to cover the rest of the season

Christmas is such a great excuse to let out your inner child and have fun recreating Santa's Grotto in your own home - perfect for big kids like me!   I love the fun animals and snowmen, santas, bells, candles, wreaths, trees and lights and secretly wish they could be around all year!  It is also one of the best excuses I know to bling out and cover everything with glitter!

Bells


 
Bling
and Angels
I am pleased that the large tree has proved to be popular and I will certainly be looking at creating more large designs for 2012.  Watch this space!

All my Christmas designs can be reused year after year if stored properly and are available at the Ali's Craft Studio shop - go on... treat yourself this year to some extra festiveness!

Head on over to Handmade Monday to see what everyone has been up to...

Monday, 14 November 2011

Mid November - Already?!

Can you believe it, it is mid-November already!   It only seems five minutes since we were all talking about the summer and outdoor events.   The weather is still being kind and I am seriously praying that the Snow Gods have booked their holidays somewhere else this year as hubby and I are still trying to catch up after all the snow-related disruption at the end of 2010/beginning of 2011!

Christmas events are now in full swing and after another great weekend, it seems that the Christmas shoppers are out already and planning ahead (which is something I have never been good at when it comes to Christmas presents!)

I am pleased to say that the extra large Christmas Trees are proving very popular and I already have a number of orders finished and on the way to their new homes with more still to complete.   One happy customer also ordered an extra large Santa to go with the tree so expect to see that in the shop sometime soon too (although if I am being 100% honest, it will be likely to be more for the 2012 Christmas season than for the 2011 one!)

Extra Large Decorated Christmas Tree
I love Christmas and the fact that people just seem to be generally more friendly and family-orientated at this time of year (sad that it doesn't last for 12 months!) and with one of the movie channels now dedicating itself to 24-hour Christmas films and the odd one thrown into the mix on the other channels too, I am in corny-snow-covered-movie heaven!!   It certainly beats making snowflakes and Santas in blazing summer heat which quite frankly, just feels wrong.   Hubby is very happy that he is out at work all day and doesn't have to suffer the sugar-shock of all these (if I am honest - really rubbish) films.  But I love 'em!  There are absolute classics like 'Its a Wonderful Life' and, of course, 'The Muppets Christmas Carol' (not so much a classic but one of my faves!) which have to be seen at least once every year but most are pretty bad (in a good way).

So, the first film of the day is already half way through whilst I am writing this and a quick trip to get my errands done in the high street when it has finished will set me up just right for the next one and some copious decoration making!

Christmas Corner Decoration
If you are in the Maidstone area next weekend, we are at the wonderful festive fair at Leeds Castle on Saturday and Sunday - please make sure to come and say hello!

Anyway, time is moving quickly and there are trees and Christmas decorations a-plenty to be made...  

Do head on over to Handmade Monday to see what everyone else has been up to - and maybe find some gifts along the way!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween - now whats next?

Today is Halloween but I suspect that we managed to miss most of the 'trick or treaters' who may have ventured out in slightly damp, drizzly weather on Saturday and Sunday evening when we were travelling back from shows.   I have, however, got my pumpkin bag stocked with sweeties by the door just incase (I'm sure we'll find a good use for any left overs....!)   We are fortunate where we live that there are very few kids who come a-knocking and those who do are lovely and usually have gone to great efforts with their scary costumes.

Happy Halloween...
Decorations available online here
So, another month gone (who stole October???) and Christmas is looming very large on the horizon.   I heard today that October is officially the warmest on record and I couldn't quite believe it on Saturday on my outdoor market stall as I stood with rolled up sleeves and sunglasses that the clocks were due to go back that evening and welcome in the start of dark nights, winter woollies and Christmas decorations.

The extra hour in bed was very welcome yesterday with an early start required to get to our fair however with two cats who don't have alarm clocks and British Summer Time settings, actually sleeping for another hour wasn't really an option.   And today, my inner clock still wasn't working properly and I woke at 5am and could not get back to sleep again.

So here I am, up and about for ages - confusing the cats even more - but hopefully I will get a good run on my orders gathered over the weekend both at shows and online.

One of the many new decorations I have in my shop for Christmas this year is this Extra Large Christmas Tree 

A real statement piece, it is 14.5 inches at its widest point and 21.5 inches tall and I very much anticipate that our front door will be graced by one this Christmas (if I actually have time to make myself one!)   So far, they have proved very popular and I plan to add some other larger designs in coming seasons/years.   The main reason I don't have more on display is simply due to space - they are too big to transport in our standard boxes and our little car simply won't accommodate larger boxes!

So with many orders to complete and lots of stock to make before my big Christmas shows which start on Saturday at Fort Purbrook, Portsmouth I am hoping to get a good head start due to my day starting earlier than normal (hmm, lets see how that works out!)

Today is also Handmade Monday so make sure you head on over to see what lots of other lovely crafters have been up to this week...

Monday, 10 October 2011

Great Weekend

Wow how lucky were we this past weekend!  The Autumn Countryside show at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum in Singleton, near Chichester was fantastic.   Alongside displays by birds of prey, gundogs and plenty of stalls offering everything from clothing to the best stained glass window clings (tee hee) many exhibitors were demonstrating the countryside crafts which are at risk of dying out and it was great to see youngsters really enjoying making their own woven wicker toys - what a wonderful way to keep these crafts alive and hopefully encourage a whole new generation to take an interest.

Birds of Prey - the peelable variety!
Whats more, we were blessed with warm weather, lots of beautiful sunshine on Sunday and lots of visitors (many with a myriad of absolutely gorgeous doggies to say hello to!)   The only fly in the ointment was the blustery winds which hit the back of our gazebo like a freight train every now and again just to keep us on our toes but fortunately didn't cause any problems.

This was our last outdoor show of the year - well apart from the numerous visits to Bromley Market between now and Christmas (which fortunately have the stalls provided) and October is always a risky month as far as weather is concerned but for once the Weather Gods were on our side!

Our Christmas decorations are now fully integrated into our stall and whilst the hotter weather doesn't exactly bring forth thoughts of snowmen and winter wonderlands, it really isn't that long away and my Christmas fairs start in earnest in a couple of weeks at Lancing College.  

Lancing College - come and see us on 22nd & 23rd October
Next weekend is going to be filled with stock building ahead of some big shows before the end of the year and I am sure Santa, holly, candles, snowmen and various animals will feature heavily.

I am hoping to also have some new designs for Christmas 2011 so pop along next week to see how this is going...

Of course it is Monday so head on over to Handmade Monday to see what everyone else has been up to.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Batton Down The Hatches!

Its here - the last outdoor show of our increasingly long season is upon us this weekend.   We will be at the Autumn Countryside Show at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum in Singleton, near Chichester on both Saturday and Sunday.  We always look forward to this show - firstly because it is a great venue and always seems to be well attended and secondly because it is the last time this year that we have to build our gazebo and tables before starting to set up our display (which takes us forever!)

The one thing which won't surprise you is that I have been on major 'weather watch' over the past week.   The winds are increasing and the rain is looming ominously on the horizon (really not a good combination for an outdoor show!) so I am expecting some fun and games this weekend.  But, unless something major happens, we will be open for business!

Open for business - whatever the weather!
I can't believe how quickly this year is flying by - this show marks the end of the summer season and the beginning of the busy run up to Christmas!   Then we start it all over again!!

Gluttens for punishment - maybe.... but I wouldn't change it for the world!

If you are in the area, do come along to the Autumn Countryside Show and say hello and maybe pick up some Christmas gifts and decorations at the same time.   If you can't make it to the show, my online shop is always open for business.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Time Traveller?

I love Doctor Who - from childhood memories of hiding behind cushions (if I can't see the monsters then they can't see me) in the Tom Baker/Jon Pertwee era and, now I am a little older and braver, chuckling at the 'grown ups jokes' in the newer Christopher Ecclestone/David Tennant/Matt Smith era this show is a great 'lose yourself for an hour' time in front of the TV on a Saturday evening (or whenever I get to watch it on SKY+).   I have never been one of these people who think that time travel may become a reality (if it does, I am definitely using it to get some help working out what fairs are worth getting out of bed for and what to make each week to satisfy the visitors at each one - and maybe a quick peek at the lottery numbers for the following week!) but recently I am starting to think that maybe I actually have travelled back in time.  Not by much, just a few months - here we are in October but a look out the window and stroll outside and you would be more than a little forgiven for thinking it was perhaps July or August.   Bright sunshine, cloudless blue skies and pavement-melting temperatures!  So, time travel may be a possibility... (Ha - bet you wondered where that was heading didn't ya!)

Riverside in July October!
There are many positives surrounding unexpected good weather - smiling happy people, fresh air, no need for artificially heated rooms and generally feeling much healthier.   However, there are some potential pitfalls - and having booked a fair yesterday taking place in a dimly lit church, the potential for a very quiet day was more than a little concerning - after all, who was going to leave this beautiful weather outside and go indoors to a small fair in a dark church?  I resigned myself to the fact that it wasn't going to be a very good day but at least I would have a stunning stained glass window to look at...

How wrong I was!   Whilst the show was never exactly packed out, the visitors came and seemed to be ready to buy their Christmas decorations and early Christmas presents and we ended up having a great day.   Whats more, with a 3.30pm finish, we also arrived home with the whole evening ahead of us - a complete luxury!

Thursday was another luxury - our tenth wedding anniversary - so a day off was planned and we decided to head down to the coast on the train.   We started out by going to Arundel for lunch - somewhere we have driven past many times on the way to fairs but never been able to stop.  A riverside cafe was the setting and a quick walk around before heading back for our next train, this time to Portsmouth Harbour and a trip up to the top of the Spinaker Tower where the most amazing views awaited us from the viewing area 100ft in the air.   The lift takes less than a minute but you actually don't feel like you are moving at all.   The photo on the right was taken from Gosport Harbour opposite and shows the amazing structure and cloudless blue sky!   

Spinaker Tower - Portsmouth
We had already decided that we wanted to have our evening meal at a lovely restaurant in Brighton (we went there last year for our anniversary!) so with a little time to kill before our train from Portsmouth to Brighton, a quick trip on the ferry over to Gosport added an extra bit of fun for the day and gave us these amazing views of Portsmouth Harbour opposite.   With this beautiful weather, we couldn't have had a better day out anywhere in the world!

Despite not remembering the name of the restaurant in Brighton (!!) we vaguely remembered that it was close to the theatres so headed in the general direction - after a quick visit to the obligatory amusement arcade, of course!

Finally, we found the restaurant - it is called 'Cote Brasserie' if you are interested (and I can come back to this post when we can't remember next year!!) and it serves the most amazing food at very reasonable prices.  Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

It was a long but really enjoyable day and made even more special by the fact that these days off are pretty few and far between at the moment so it is an absolute joy for us both to spend the day together just relaxing and enjoying ourselves.  And to cap it all, we were treated to the most beautiful sunset too (believe me the photo doesn't do it any justice at all!).

Sunset over Brighton beach
So, Christmas selling has very much started and with some really big shows coming up, I am trying to build up a good stock of both new and very popular designs.  One of the newbies for this year is this quirky Santa and Rudolf design which I hope will become a new bestseller!

New for Ali's Craft Studio 2011 - Santa and Rudolf - a new bestseller??
One thing I have noticed  in the years I have been selling is the dilemma of a customer buying a design as a present and struggling to decide upon the right design/colour to suit someone elses taste.  So, on went the  thinking cap and I am now selling Gift Vouchers   They can be spent online, at craft fairs or used for mail order sales so the location of the recipient is not an issue.  They are available in any denomination of £5.00 increments and are valid for 12 months after purchase.   Gift Vouchers are available now from our stall at fairs or online here

I have some really busy weeks ahead but have managed to factor in a weekend without fairs to try to do some additional stock building which hopefully will cut down on the number of customer orders required to complete in the lead up to the Christmas break.  Of course, personalised and bespoke orders will still be plentiful but I might be able to stay one step ahead on the regular stuff (wishful thinking??)

Christmas orders have already started coming in and I am able to take orders up until the beginning of December however, after the terrible winter weather and postal problems last year, I really recommend any orders should be placed as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

So, whilst I will try to blog regularly, please forgive me if I appear a little neglectful - I promise it isn't personal!   In the meantime, head on over to Handmade Monday to see what everyone else is up to this week - I bet it isn't just me who is already on the Christmas treadmill!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Boring? I think so...

You may be sad (or possibly thrilled) to hear that this is going to be a short (and therefore probably a pretty boring) blog post today...

Due to 'unforseen circumstances' this weekend ended up being without me being at a fair so I am in 'mega create' mode.   With orders to finish and some big fairs coming up the extra time is actually quite helpful as I am not only trying to make up lots of my existing designs but also make some new designs ready for Christmas so that customers who come to see me year after year have some new things to choose from.

So whilst I have been really busy, I actually don't have much finished to show for my efforts - infact yesterday was one of those really frustrating days where I was busy all day but didn't seem to get anywhere!

However, after too many missed 'Handmade Mondays' recently, I wanted to make sure that I joined in and after lots of head scratching and thinking about what I could share, I suddenly remembered my post a few weeks ago about the customer who ordered a specific tortoise design in memory of a beloved pet who passed away unexpectedly at an early age.   So, as promised (albeit a little late!) here is the finished design which I am thrilled to say the customer was really happy with...

I love the fact that handmade not only means that an item is created with love but it is also so personal.   The yellow dot on the head was a unique mark on their much-missed pet and only a handmade item could possibly include this small but special feature which was one of the things they said made him stand out and told them that this little chap was to be the new member of their family.

If you want to read some more exciting tales of crafters and their creations - head on over to Handmade Monday - you won't be disappointed!

So with my humblest apologies for such a boring post... I'm off to see if I can break the world record for the most new items created in a week!!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Lock, Stock and Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel! (OK, not really but it sounded good!!)

Hi Folks

Eek!
I'm almost out of the
oh-so-popular Butterfly Sets!
Yes, I know...  I said I would blog more and I have been very lax!   However, I have a good excuse...   Last weekend was absolutely manic and now my stock is ridiculously low on many of my 'bread and butter' items.   So I have been frantically making up new stuff but with a stack of orders to complete too, there are only so many hours in the day to get everything finished!

Last weekend was different in that hubby couldn't work with me on Sunday due to commitments in his own work so my Mum was really kind and travelled all the way from Yorkshire to come and help for the weekend (I knew it was likely to be a busy show and there is no way I can do this type of show on my own!)   I am so grateful that she did this (thanks Mum xx) and after going up to London on Thursday to meet her train we had a lovely lunch (waaay too much food!) before heading home.

It was great to see Mum and have some help with packaging up the 100 or so new things I had been manically making during the week before (it would have taken me forever on my own) and her help was invaluable on Sunday when hubby was absent.   As anyone who has done a show will know, customers don't spread themselves out over the day - they all decide to come at once so you can be sitting around talking to no-one for ages then suddenly you can't cope with the number of people who have appeared!

So, I am now working on more planes (yep, just when I thought I had finished... six more were ordered last weekend!  Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled but my eyes had only just started recovering from the last lot!)  and building up my stock with both the most popular designs which have fallen very low and, of course, Christmas designs - it may seem like a long way away but for me, the season has already started and with some big shows coming up I should see a lot of Christmas designs heading to new homes.

So, for now I will say cheerio and head off into the studio to my planes, Santas, snowmen and other festive goodies.  Is is just me who wants to put Christmas films on the telly and play my crimbo CDs to get into the right mood??  I guess playing Christmas carols at this time of year would be bad luck so better not tempt fate!

Have a great weekend everyone & happy crafting!

Monday, 5 September 2011

M.I.A?? I'm Back...

Good morning blogging family

Yes I am still on this planet after being missing in action for a couple of weeks (although a quick look at the date of my last blog post shows that it has infact been almost a month - eek!)

I would love to say that I have been travelling the globe on a relaxing Summer holiday but if I did, I would be lying - August is quite simply a chaotic month for me with some of the bigger shows all in a row.

From steam shows to airshows, we have seen lots of different types of transportation over the past month and met some wonderful people (many of whom were suitable blackened by soot after working on their beautifully maintained old steam engines).

Fortunately the weather gods have been reasonably kind and Shoreham Airshow this year did not see a repeat of the terrible cloudy, windy, wet conditions which put the kaibosh on all the flying in 2010.   Sadly, for the second year we missed out on the opportunity to see the wonderful Vulcan as it was grounded with a fuel leak but the rest of the show went ahead as planned and a last minute replacement flight was added to fill the void left by the Vulcan.  The organisers of this show really do a sterling job and the craft tent at the show (organised by the wonderful Woodland Crafts) is always a fun place to be.

The Vulcan - absent on the day but still present as a peelable decoration!
So, my month has been filled with fulfilling orders of more planes than I care to remember - it took a full 2 weeks to complete them due to all the fine detail required and to say that I now feel 'all planed out' is an understatement!

I am also now introducing Christmas designs onto the stall as some of the locations of fairs won't be visited again this year so I have been trying to make up some more Christmas stock (not the easiest of tasks when you are melting under the summer sun!)

This next weekend sees us at the Laughton Country Show, nr Ringmer, East Sussex and designs like the ever-popular Nativity Panel will be there to ease people into the Festive spirit (albeit a little early but the way this year is flying by...)

I have also been working on an idea for 2011 to help out all my customers who spend ages trying to decide on a gift for a friend or family member (always difficult to put yourself in someone else's shoes) and will do a separate blog about this shortly...

Hope you have all had a great month - I promise not to be away for so long in future and will be having a good look around all the blogs I have missed in the next few days.

To see what some amazing crafters have been up to this week, do head on over to Handmade Monday and get the opportunity to visit some terrific blogs.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Letter to the Weather Gods - part 2!

Dear Weather Gods (again)

Oh Ha Ha Ha - you do make me laugh!!   What part of the five-days-yours-two-days-mine deal did you not understand??  This weekend we had a wonderful corner position in our gazebo - lots of wonderful exposure from two sides to the visitors to the show and what did you do??   You blew and pee'd on us!!

Today, when I am tucked up in my cosy studio working on orders, I almost need sunglasses to block out the bright sunshine you have bestowed upon us (OK it is still windy but that is still a 50% improvement!!)

Now, I am not an aggressive person and I know we all have jobs to do but please, give me a break would'ya! Two days... TWO DAYS - that is all I am asking for.  So, here's the deal - I have a two day outdoor event coming up next weekend, that is Saturday AND Sunday (at the place you had a hissy fit last time - I'm sure you remember it - I certainly do!) please can you bring the sunshine (fluffy white clouds too if you really want to, I don't mind) and cool it on the rain and wind - and that includes overnight when the gazebo will be braving the elements on its little lonesome.

There is a list of fairs on my website - please can you study it and make sure that you save the decent weather days for all those listed there...

OK - you play along and I will remain upbeat and calm (and if you are really good, I might even buy you a nice present for Christmas!)

Thanking you in anticipation....

Signed
The lady who is finding it really difficult to keep smiling through your fun and games.
---------------------------
Ahhh, that feels better!   Well as you can probably tell from the above, this weekend's fair - the Lingfield Steam and Country Show - was plagued with windy weather with some really heavy showers thrown in for good measure.   Today, is beautifully sunny!  Go figure!

Fortunately, the visitors were there and thanks to a lot of repeat customers (which is great) and some new customers (which is even better) we still had a good weekend, albeit a little stressful with tables blown over at one point (hubby fortunately was looking the right way at the time and caught the gridwall before it landed on him unexpectedly!) and the 'rain cover' extension to our gazebo had to be taken down early to avoid it being blown apart.  This left our tables exposed so thanks to some help from our neighbouring stall, we managed to move these to a sheltered position inside the now-reduced-in-size gazebo.

Anyone who has done outdoor shows will know how stressful it can be with the weather (Wendy, I know you are with me on this one!) as it can affect everything from your stock, visitor numbers, sales and your temperament.  However, I decided a long time ago that there is no point getting upset about things you have no control over (apart from writing long letters - see above!) so hubby and I still managed to laugh and giggle our way through the day and had a long drink when we got home to celebrate our survival!!

One of the advantages to a customer buying handmade from me is that it means that I can usually help with any design request.   One of the things I have been really pleased to do this past week was to keep alive the memory of a beloved pet tortoise who had recently unexpectedly passed away at a very young age.   As this was an unusual breed with unusual colouring, etc. there was little chance of a factory made item being available and I was thrilled to receive a phone call of thanks from my customer when she received it along with information of another few items she plans to order from me next time I see her.  I will try to post a photo of the tortoise in an upcoming post (it is still sitting on my camera at the moment!).

I have been persuaded by Hubby at recent shows to give my WWII planes more exposure on the stall (they are very fiddly to make!), and have found at fairs that they do bring lots of attention and orders both from young people and older generations who had a direct link with the aircraft - some flew the Lancasters and Spitfires and some built them.  I love talking to these inspirational people as they are always so proud to have been around these machines and speak so lovingly about them and I am happy to play a small part in bringing back the happier memories through my work.

Avro Lancaster Bomber

Supermarine Spitfire
I have a total of six different aircraft to choose from at the moment (plus patterns for many more) and I hope to create one of the Concorde (at Hubby's request - can you tell he is an aircraft fanatic!) before we go to Shoreham Airshow in a couple of weeks so if you know anyone, young or old, who may like one of these - they can be ordered online now - they are great as unique Christmas gifts! (Yes, I said the 'c' word again!)

Anyway, I'm off now to make a lot of planes to cover the orders from this weekend so please do go along and check out Handmade Monday at Wendy's blog.

See you all soon.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Handmade Monday #27 - Glowing in the Dark...

Handmade Monday rolls around again and I am pleased to say that hubby and I survived the 'Greenhouse' yesterday and came out unscathed!   It was very, very hot still but there were more clouds around so this helped it to not be quite as unbearable as it was there last month.  I am fully booked for all the weekends in August (plus Bank Holiday Monday) so I won't be back there until the end of September which means the temperature should be much more pleasant (keep an eye out for 'it was so cold' posts!!)

As a result of the more comfortable atmosphere, we had a great day and met some wonderful new and regular customers.   However, after being really pleased to have completely finished all my orders, I now have five pages of orders to complete this week!!  I love the fact that as a maker of handmade work, I can adapt colours and designs to suit a customer's specific needs - OK, they may cost a little more than mass produced stuff but you simply don't get this personal detail on factory made, shop bought items.

Last week I mentioned the Glow in the Dark stuff I have been making in readiness for Halloween (which, bearing in mind it is August already will be here quicker than I care to think about!!).  These are now available in my online shop and I have shown a couple of them here (click on link below each photo to be taken to the shop page for each one):

This is going to be a very short post as I have tons of orders to get started on plus lots of stock to try to make up ready for the Lingfield Steam & Country Show this coming weekend.  I guess this week is also going to be full of making steam engines...

Head on over to 1st Unique Gifts blog to see what everyone else has been up to this week & have a great one yourself.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

I heard the words...

I have been basking in sunlight today at Bromley Market - unusually there was very little wind so it was a lovely day without any heart stopping moments.

But...  today I heard the six dreaded words....
(Brace yourselves)

"When we get back from holiday..."

Oh those words are awful for a stallholder to hear and enough to make the hardiest of souls sob quietly into their thermos.  Sadly I have a feeling that I will hear them many more times over the next few weeks!  Often the only people who aren't on holiday are the ones (like me) who simply can't afford it and unfortunately they are also less likely to spend at your stall too.   Fortunately, I did have a good day but could have really done without that reminder of what may lie ahead next month...

Oh well, tomorrow is inside in the 'greenhouse' shopping centre - prepare for major sweaty knees syndrome!!
Bromley Market - a fun and sunny day without the usual wind!
The greenhouse cometh!
Hope you have all had a great day...

Friday, 29 July 2011

I won! Yay me!!

Well this week has been full of surprises...

On Monday I received an e-mail saying that I had won a blog jewellery giveaway being held by Frances at Polly Polkadot - I was really thrilled as her jewellery is so beautiful.   I had to choose from three colour options (which was the hardest part!!) and decided upon lilac.

Today's postie brought my gift and it is even more beautiful in real life than I could have expected and the colour is gorgeous with pinkish and purplish tones (I wasn't really sure what it was going to be as 'lilac' covers a multitude of differing colours!)

So, here is my necklace and earrings set - thank you again Frances - if you get chance, please go over to her blog and see more of her wonderful work.  One of my favourite photos ever is on this post here (it makes me smile and chuckle every time I see it!!)
So, all I need now is a nice place to go out and wear my lovely new pieces....  Hmm, must drop some hints to hubby!!  

Hey, perhaps this week will end on a win too...  Now, where is that lottery ticket??

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Handmade Monday & A Weekend Off (Almost!)

Good morning everyone - another week crossed off the calendar and therefore another chance to visit Handmade Monday and see what everyone has been busying themselves with this past week.   Do make sure you go and check the links on Wendy's Blog.


As I mentioned in my last post, this weekend was a rare thing - a whole weekend without fairs.   This only happens a couple of times a year apart from the 'down' time just after Christmas and the early part of the year before the fairs season starts.


Saturday was Hubby's birthday and we decided to let the train take the strain and head up to London with family and partake in one of the fabulous burgers at the original Hard Rock Cafe (celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year).   Arriving at Charing Cross station, we walked to Covent Garden and had a stroll around the market stalls there (I was one of those annoying customers who didn't buy anything!!), enjoyed one of the famous street performers and then walked the 'short' (ha ha!) distance to the restaurant.   Amazing how places are much further than you think and I think it is safe to say that we were all very hot and very knackered by the time we finally caught glimpse of that famous logo and sign outside the restaurant looking as welcome as an oasis in the middle of a desert!
A welcome sight at the end of
one hell of a long walk!


Then came the big test - a one and a half hour wait for a table was ahead of us!  Do we wait?  We were all getting pretty hungry and desperately needed to sit down.   Fortunately a check with the nice lady on the door about the range of their 'pagers' (these are really amazing and flash and vibrate to tell you when your table is ready!) told us that the pub around the corner was within range and therefore a stool and a pint was in order to wait it out.


A party of guys arrived celebrating a birthday complete with their colourful floral lei garlands around their necks and hats (lots of fun was ahead I am sure as the day/night progressed!)  unfortunately, I never did get chance to find out why two of them arrived with a fresh crusty loaf of bread which ended up being torn in half and taken with them to their next stop...


Our pager eventually flashed and vibrated to tell us that our table was ready and we sat surrounded by the memorabilia and sounds of the wonderful musical talents of today and yesterday.  If you haven't been, it is well worth a visit - the prices are a little high but more than made up for in quantity (I couldn't finish mine!) and thanks to my letting slip that it was hubby's birthday, the whole restaurant was encouraged to join in a chorus of 'Happy Birthday' as he was given an ice cream dessert complete with a single candle to blow out and make a wish.


The one down side of this restaurant (if you can call it a downside) is that the food is so good you tend to overeat and we all suffered, I can tell you, from 'mega-fullitis' that feeling that you are about to explode at any moment.   Just the thought of food was enough to make us all cringe and we all ended up going to bed pretty early to try to sleep it off!


Ghost with Pumpkin - Available now
You will be pleased to know that this week hasn't all been about over indulgence - some crafting has been taking place too.   I have a couple of orders to complete so these have taken precedence but fortunately are almost ready to be posted out.   I have also been looking at the 'Glow in the Dark' range that I have and decided that these paints definitely lend themselves to ghosts and ghoulies ready for Halloween so have a couple of new designs in progress of ghosts, witches, bats and general spooky things with glow in the dark elements to them  (no photos of the new designs yet - sorry, but here is an existing one of a ghost and pumpkin to keep you going until I have them!)     Hopefully these will prove to be popular although the glow properties are pretty much impossible to show at a fair as you need almost complete darkness to see properly.


I have also outlined a few of my most popular Christmas designs to try to get ahead for the festive season (which if the beginning of the year is anything to go by will be upon us waaay too soon!)


Hope you have had a good week and able to enjoy some sunny weather in the next few days, especially if you now have the kids at home for the holidays.  I haven't had the whole weekend off and today was back at work trying to create lots of new stock both of new designs or existing, popular ones to build up my stock ready for some big shows coming up in the next month & hope to show you the ghosts and ghoulies in my next post...

Monday, 18 July 2011

Huh? An open letter to the Weather Gods

OK, I'm confused.  Please can we just take a moment and check our calendars.... mine says July...  now, I know that I'm not always successful and flipping the calendar over on the first day of the month but either I have been asleep for longer than I thought and we are actually now experiencing that wonderfully colourful of seasons - autumn - or something has gone terribly wrong.  Can I just check again, really - this is JULY!  The middle of summer when we should be basking in sun, wearing strappy tees and flip flops!  Not thermal socks, long sleeves, sweaters and rainproofs!!

What is going on at chez weather gods?  Have they gone away for the month (to somewhere sunny perhaps? If so, ha-bloody-ha chaps, very funny!!) and forgotten about us here in Blighty?  No really, they are having a laugh but I, for one, am not laughing! So here is an open letter to them from me....  

Dear Weather Gods

I get it, you are powerful, out of our control and telling us not to get too complacent and quit whining about being too hot and there not being enough rain when you send us lovely sunny weather.   Well I've got  the message so pleeeease can we have a bit of sun back?  Its July, not December and the time we laughingly refer to as summer.  Please, please, pretty please, give us a bit of a break.  You send sun to other people on a regular basis - have we upset you somehow?   

There are plenty of months in the year for you to send all this rain and wind and actually if you really insist on messing up our seasons then hey, I'm a reasonable person - Monday to Friday is a great time for you to knock your socks off with these extreme weather tricks but there are only two days for me to get out there and sell to the crowds at shows so that is when the sun needs to make an appearance please and the wind can have some well deserved rest.   Its a good deal - five days for you, just the two for me (or three if it is a Bank Holiday - four at Easter!)  I realise that you were having a laugh at our expense when you sent enough sunshine yesterday to dry everything off before the rain came again.   However, I am grateful that you did allow enough sun at the end of the afternoon to give most things enough of a chance to dry off before we packed away.

So, I encourage you to accept this very biased-in-your-favour-deal, it has huge benefits including the fact that everyone would love you again - and everyone wants to be loved, don't they?

In anxious anticipation

Love from
The person who came home yesterday very tired, wet, windswept and aching from having to hang on to my gazebo and dry off the table during the brief breaks in the weather only for it to rain cats and dogs again!  (Seriously, that really wasn't funny - now quit it!)

So, as the above will tell you, yesterday was an adventure and a tale of British Summertime weather!   We were down at the wonderful Weald & Downland Open Air Museum for their annual Rare Breeds show complete with cattle, sheep, ducks, chickens, bunnies and all other wonderful (and noisy!) animals for everyone to get close to and, in the case of smaller animals, even buy and take home with them.   What is normally a non-stop, crowded day was sadly affected by the worst weather we have ever had to put up with at a show.  
Strutting Chicken - perfect for all budding farmers!
When hubby and I arrived to set up at 8am, we actually got back in the car because it was raining so badly that we decided to wait until the worst had passed - and it was around that point we came to the conclusion that it is a good thing that we get on so well as we were likely to only have ourselves to talk to...  Eventually, the rain eased for a short spell and we managed to get the gazebo up and the tables in place.   The next downpour made it very clear that our normal table layout simply wouldn't work - people needed to be able to get under cover to stand and look at our display for any length of time so a quick re-jig was required which left us with very little room behind the stall to stack our boxes and have somewhere to sit and warm up with a cuppa and wait out the extremely heavy rain showers.

The show opened and....

...people came - in numbers!   

Admittedly not in numbers anywhere close to the normal footfall for this show but it was impressive considering the disgusting weather conditions.   We were very surprised and suddenly our anticipating £0 takings turned into making a profit! (Small, but a profit nonetheless and in the circumstances every £1 felt as good as £10!)    

There were some breaks in the horrendous weather just long enough to show us what we were missing before the black clouds loomed again and the heavens opened.   The ducks were happy and loving it but I think they were probably on their own!

Next weekend is a rarity - a whole weekend without fairs!   It is hubby's birthday on Saturday so a nice day off is planned to enjoy and have nice food.

I have been adding more rainbow designs to my Rainbow Collection on the Ali's Craft Studio website as I have been asked for rainbows on their own so these are my latest - simple but very effective...

Full Rainbow
Corner - Available as a single or pair
So, here are some things I learned this weekend:
  1. Animal people are a hardy lot and it seemed it would take more than some rain and windy weather to keep them away. 
  2. Keep Laughing! Otherwise you will cry!
  3. No matter how much you plan ahead, there is always some curve ball heading your way
  4. Plastic sheets to cover your tables are a godsend
  5. Gazebos are not waterproof in heavy rain you need to prepare yourself for getting very damp and cold.  No matter where you stand, a drip is heading your way
  6. Horse fence poles are brilliant for stopping your gazebo sides turning into sails
  7. A hot shower is absolute heaven after a day of bad weather
  8. There is nothing you can do to stop the weather - what will be will be!
  9. You can only get so wet - once you reach that stage there really isn't any point worrying about it (the umbrella we had was actually used to protect our display rather than us - we were the only stall were the gridwall had its own brolly!)
  10. The summer in the UK is full of fun and games - every day being hot and sunny would just be boring.   I'm happy for it to be boring for the rest of the summer now!
As you will see when you head over to Wendy's blog for today's Handmade Monday offerings, not everyone was as lucky as us yesterday - at least our gazebo stayed upright and we only got wet and windblown by the weather.

Have a great week - I'm off to repackage some stuff which got wet yesterday before sitting down and outlining a few Christmas designs (yes, I really said the 'C' word - in July - mind you it doesn't feel as odd today as when it is really hot!) as frighteningly it won't be that long before we start displaying and selling ready for the festive season.

Just before I sign off - I turned on 'Most Haunted' on TV this morning only to find they were investigating the same place as we were yesterday at our fair!    
Hey, maybe some of the hardy 'I don't care about the weather' folk we saw were really 'ghosties from another time' ....  oooh, spooky!   

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Trying a new way to blog

Technology moves so quickly - it is hard to keep up but here I am writing a blog on my mobile phone!  Hopefully all will work properly and it won't just be me who ever sees this!
Anyway this is a very short post to test it out...
Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice...

Well, that is what girls are supposed to like which is a dream for a crafter who is trying to get into other people's heads and make things they will want to buy, but boys can be so difficult.   Fairies, butterflies, flowers and glittery things just don't cut it!


I could make decorations til the cows come home for females of all ages (including a decoration of a cow for that matter!) but for the boys and men, the creative juices tend to dry up a little and I can more often than not be found scratching my head before deciding to make another butterfly as my brain hurts from thinking too much!   Now the more mature guys are a little easier, they actually go full circle and start to like the butterflies (I think they are just agreeing with their better halves!) and, for the more forthright, birds and dogs often seem to hit the mark but the younger generation are a bit of a nightmare.


Therefore, the pretty, glittery stuff has taken a bit of a back seat recently whilst I am on the hunt for less girly designs to work with.   The latest addition to the Ali's Craft Studio stable is a (not so) cute Gecko in either green or black & yellow - you would be amazed by how often I have been asked for Geckos recently so by popular demand, here they are...


Oh aren't they lovable!
They are now available in my online shop here and are already proving popular at the fairs.  I plan to add a snake to this sometime soon and will look for more slippery so-and-sos to join the menagerie!  Of course, boys wouldn't be boys without one (or more) of the following:




 even better to have a glow-in-the-dark version


or a pirate ship (featuring skull and crossbones flag) - starting to see a theme here!


See, sugar and spice and all things nice just isn't for the boys!!  (Well, most of them anyway - I do occasionally get boys oohing and ahhing over flowers and 'pretty' things but they are the exception rather than the rule!) 

See what everyone else has been up to and the wonderful creations they have been making over at Handmade Monday.  

Next weekend is an animal filled day of fun at the Rare Breeds show in Singleton, near Chichester so I am looking forward to that and will report back next week on what I hope to be a busy and sales-filled (rain-free) day!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Busy Weekend, Handmade Monday and Sunshine...

Well here we are again, the Monday after a busy weekend.  It really is frightening how quickly the weeks are flying by and before we know it the schools will have broken up for the long summer holiday and then it is September and Christmas!

Fortunately, the glorious weather at the moment lets us know that Christmas is still a long way away yet and this weekend was beautifully hot (almost too hot at times) and we were at a free community festival weekend in Kent where the people came out in force to enjoy the funfair, music, dancing and free entertainment on offer.   We were inside one of the craft tents and had a great weekend with lots of new and repeat customers.  It was lovely to also meet Terry from Aviya Glass who, until now, I have only 'met' virtually - she lives locally to the show and it is great to put faces to names!

No mud on offer this weekend (apart from the bits still clinging on to some of my boxes and banners!) which we are still regarding as a luxury whenever we see solid, dry ground!  Oh, and incase you are wondering, both pairs of trousers and one pair of shoes have now been 'de-mudded' - just one more pair of shoes to go!  The first pair tired me out so much with beating, scrubbing and getting generally soaked by the hose being used to try to 'waterblast' the mud into submission, I couldn't quite bear to attempt the other pair straight after.   They will be this weeks exciting job!   It was definitely more 'hammer and chisel' than brushing required...

I haven't had much time to do new designs this past week as I was preparing for the weekend and making up orders from the last couple of shows however one I have managed to make up (which sold pretty quickly at the weekend) is this beautifully colourful Tulips Frame. 

Tulips in a Frame - wonderfully colourful
(will be added to website shortly...)
This is going to be a quick post as I have a lot of stock to make this week ready for the next show at the weekend (already praying that the thunderstorms forecast for the mid-end of this week decide to give way to sunshine for Saturday!!) and I also have some website management to get on with - lots of new designs over the past couple of weeks which haven't yet made it over to the website shop, then I still have to head into town to go to the bank, the supermarket, etc...  So many things, so little time!

Make sure you head on over to Wendy's blog to see what everyone has been busying themselves with this week - it never ceases to amaze me how talented the crafters are who join in every week.

Right then, its off to work we go (are you are all singing 'Hi-Ho!' in your heads now... or is it just me?)