If you have been along to a Little Otter Events market in the past five years, you will have no doubt discovered the work of Whitchurch based maker Lydia Niziblian. Lydia's work is always popular at our events and it is easy to see why - she creates such beautiful unique pieces and is continuously coming up with new ranges, and learning new techniques to expand her knowledge as a maker.
She has recently added stunning jewellery made with a technique called Keum-boo. I asked Lydia to write a guestblog to explain the ancient technique and to introduce us to her new range.....over to you Lyd...
One of my favourite things about making jewellery is its therapeutic qualities. I often find myself making according to my mood. At one end there is hammering and forming heavy jewellery which can really release some tension! At the other end of the scale there are some very delicate, almost Zen like practices. My favourite of these is keum-boo. Keum-boo (pronounced kum boo) is an ancient gilding technique originating in Korea. I first started using the process a little over 5 years ago, and it’s become a firm favourite.
Keum-boo (meaning ͞attached gold͟) is the application of thin 24ct gold foil to the surface of metal; in this case silver. Sterling silver must be prepared by repeatedly heating the silver, quenching it, and soaking it in jewellers’ pickle. Pickle covers a variety of available mild acid solutions, although a mix of distilled vinegar and salt work as well! Some people like to brush it with a brass brush in soapy water between repetitions. After numerous soakings, the silver takes on a white appearance. This means a layer of fine silver has been brought to the surface. Now you can apply the gold foil using a combination of heat and pressure. I prefer the piece of jewellery to be pretty much finished; all soldering finished and settings in place.
Some folk use a hot plate; I prefer a butane torch as I find I get a little more control. Using a steel or agate burnisher, you tack and rub the foil into place. How the piece is finished can vary tremendously; I like to either brush the piece with a brass brush, or oxidise or patinate it for contrast.
You can treat yourself (or a lucky friend!) by using code LITTLEOTTER at checkout in my shop to get 25% off any of my ready-made jewellery until June 1st*
*offer excludes made to order items and gift vouchers
If you fancy learning a new skill or are looking for a fun evening activity to do with friends, why not book on to a ceramic workshop with Aquila Cook from Love & Lovelier.
Quil has two new workshops coming up in June:
- mini bunting on June 6th at Cobbles, Ogmore on Sea and
- a ceramic coaster workshop on 11th June at Umber and Sienna, Taffs Well.
Links to the event pages can be found at the bottom of this blog.
I have been along to two of Quil's workshops at Umber & Sienna in Taffs Well, and had a great time. Quil is lovely and the atmosphere is relaxed so there's no need to worry if you have never done anything like this before. (Rachel from Umber&Sienna makes amazing brownies and a mean coffee too!)
I asked Quil to tell us a bit more about her workshops and her inspiration behind the themes...
When did you hold your first workshop?
It was about four years ago and it was making ceramic hearts to hang on the Christmas tree. It was so lovely to see everyone designing their own personalised decorations.
What do you enjoy most about running them?
It is wonderful when someone who is a self-proclaimed 'non-creative' makes something they are proud of.
How do you come up with ideas for your workshop themes?
Most of the workshops I run are making things that I make anyway. Like the mini bunting for example - it's one of my best sellers. But I mix it up with some other ceramic makes that I think people will enjoy having a go at. If I see something on Pinterest that I think people would be able to make in one sitting then I have a go myself and take it from there.
Do you have any favourite venues to hold them?
Until recently all my workshops have been at Umber & Sienna in Taffs Well, which is nice because it's in the woods and feels cosy and out of way (plus they do amazing brownies!) But I'm starting doing them a bit further afield now in The Little Welsh Dresser in Llandeilo, and Cobbles Kitchen in Ogmore by Sea. I also like coming to someone's house and doing a workshop at their kitchen table. Those ones tend to end up with a bit of relaxed party feel!
Do you need any experience to come along?
Absolutely no experience is needed! In fact I'd say anyone over the age of 8 would make something they'd be happy with. All the techniques are simple and I guide you through all the way. I have lots of stamps so no drawing ability is needed either.
Have you been on any workshops yourself?
Well actually yes, I love learning a new skill as much as the next person. I've been to upholstery classes, and most recently I learnt to 'throw' pots at the Cardiff Pottery Studios.
Quil is holding two workshops in June:
Mini bunting ceramic workshop at Cobbles Kitchen, Ogmore on Sea on June 6th.
Ceramic coaster workshop at Umber & Sienna, Taffs Well on June 11th.
Get booking and let me know if you do go along, and please share your creations to the Little Otter page. I'd love to see them!
The ever popular Cowbridge Food Festival returns this weekend, and promises to be the best one yet with over a hundred exhibition stands spread across three sites. Friend of Little Otter Events, Melanie Constantinou aka Baked by Mel will be there selling her amazing array of home bakes.
I had a chat with Mel about this year's festival and asked her for her highlights from over the years.
When did you first start attending Cowbridge Food Festival Mel?
My first ever Cowbridge Food Festival was in 2013… the end of October and the weather was absolutely shocking! Brrrrr… cold, wet and windy, the trinity of weather-misery! I was part of the Fringe Festival held in the Old Hall gardens and supported by Cywain. Despite the conditions the fellow stallholders and lovely customers made it an enjoyable and successful event. In fact it’s where I was introduced to Barnaby Hibbert of The Gallery, Barry. He liked my bara brith and I supplied it to his restaurant where he served it on the cheeseboard. If you have never tried bara brith with cheese I suggest you give it a go, especially as I now make a walnut & ale version. It’s a little less sweet than the original so it really makes an excellent cheese-companion, though I like them both to be honest.
What do you like best about the event?
As I live in Llantwit which is only a few miles away its truly a local event for me. This means I get to see lots of familiar faces during the festival and it makes it such a lovely sociable occasion! I love saying hello to friends old and new… so it’s a wonderful, bubbly atmosphere, which suits me down to the ground! It can be a bit lonely being a home baker. There’s just me, nobody for tea breaks or to organise a Christmas do!! When I get to Cowbridge Food Festival and people come to see me on the stall, its like, hellooooooo!!!
What are your festival highlights from over the years?
I think it would have to be in 2015. I had won a 2-star award for my bara brith recipe the previous august and launched my online shop during my first appearance at Abergavenny Food Festival of 2014. It led me to have the bara brith stocked in London’s Fortnum & Mason so when I had a stall at Cowbridge 2015 I had lots of customers coming to offer their congratulations and say how pleased they were for me. It was incredibly touching and I felt very thankful.
Do you have favourite makers that attend?
Ooooh… now that’s a tough one!! Honestly it’s quite hard to say because there are truly so many excellent producers. If I have to name names I would say the Hangfire girls (love them) and Samosaco… if you haven’t tried an onion bhajee scotch egg now’s your chance!! Naturally, I also have a bit of a thing for the greek souvlaki and also a tipple with Tomos a Lilford. I must also mention Artisan Cakes which is run by my friend Myfanwy. I got a lot of love for her and I really think she is the Mary Berry of the Vale. On top of all the market stalls and demo’s, the producers and street food we also have great food coming out of the pubs and restaurants. I hope this year is as popular as ever and everyone enjoys it as much as I do!
Thanks Mel and have a fabulous weekend!
Cowbridge Food Festival returns this weekend Sunday 27th and Monday 28th May. For ticket information and the run down on who will be there, visit the Cowbridge Food Festival website.
I am still smiling when thinking about the Royal Wedding last Saturday between Prince Harry and Megan Markle. Wasn't it a beautiful day! So inclusive and joyful. And having watched Prince Harry at his Mother's funeral all those years ago, I felt so happy to see him look so happy.
More details have emerged from The Royal Wedding reception at Frogmore House where the guests were served amongst other sweet treats, champagne and pistachio macarons. If you are planning a wedding, macarons are definitely a popular choice as they are available in so many flavours and colours and can fit around any theme.
I asked Elena Floarea of Cardiff-based Majestic Macarons what the most popular colours are this year...
Elena explained, "The most popular colour this year so far has been the white and blush pink macarons and also the rose gold macarons . 90% of orders that are placed are for wedding favours and the other 10% of orders are for macaron towers."
As well as being given as favours, there are so many beautiful ways that macarons can be incorporated in to a wedding cake design too. Here are some recent examples of Elena's work....
So pretty......with a selection of macarons nestled amongst the gypsophila and roses.
Classic and simple....the macarons matched the colour of the brides floral bouquet.
Calling all brides! Elena is offering friends of Little Otter Events a 20% discount as well so get in touch with her asap if you'd like to take up this offer.
Our talented group of designer makers have been busy behind the scenes working on new additions to their ranges. I am always blown away with their creativeness and originality. Roll on payday!
Here's a selection of some of the amazing products released this month....links are in the descriptions.
Emerald, Oxidised Silver & Keum-Boo Square Pendant, £125.00, Lydia Niziblian Jewellery
Organic cotton bibs, Zac & Bella.
Stitched Recycled Vintage Badges, Embroidered Abstract Patterns. £1.20, Stitch City
Fingerprints/hand/footprints in sterling silver, 9ct yellow gold and 9ct rose gold, price on application, Lou Gray Jewellery
New card range, oh! Susannah
Insect prints, Seascape Curiosities
Pretty pink purse, Tommelise Danish Design
Coral pink chunky bangle, p&d designs
Diolch ceramic love spoon, Love & Lovelier
Royal wedding fever has hit the UK this week ahead of the wedding of Prince Harry to Megan Markle this Saturday 19th May. Even if you aren’t a royalist, this weekend provides the perfect excuse to get together with family and friends to join in the celebrations.
There has been lots of speculation as to what food will be served at the Windsor Castle reception this weekend. We know that Megan and Harry will be having a lemon and elderflower cake decorated with edible flowers - so chic. But I wonder if the very stylish MM will have chosen to feature the popular choice of many modern brides - macaron favours.
I caught up with Elena Floarea of Cardiff-based Majestic Macarons to find out more about the macaron and its history - it turns out that it was originally created for a royal wedding!
Elena explained, “Created for a royal wedding back in the 16th century in Italy, a macaron is a sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food colouring.
“The macaron was introduced by the chef of Catherine de Medicis in 1533 at the time of her marriage to the Duc d'Orleans. Catherine de' Medici, daughter of Lorenzo II de' Medici and of Madeleine de La Tour d'Auvergne, was an Italian noblewoman who was queen of France from 1547 until 1559, by marriage to King Henry II."
“The term "macaron" has the same origin as that the word "macaroni" -- both mean "fine dough". And originally the macaron was like a cookie in size. But only at the beginning of the 20th century did the macaron become a “double-decker” affair.”
Ladurée, the famous Parisian pastry shop could very well be most associated with the modern-style macarons today. The shop was founded in 1862, but it was not until the early twentieth century that Pierre Desfontaines, grandson of Louis Ernest Ladurée, had the idea of piping ganache on a shell and topping it with another. So the modern day macaron was born presented with a ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two such cookies.
Over the last fifteen years, the popularity of the macaron has travelled across the Channel. In 2005, Laduree opened a store in London’s Harrods, and positioned the macaron as a luxury confectionery.
Today macarons have become a popular sweet to appear on afternoon tea menus across the UK and they are very popular at wedding receptions and other parties. But what is it about this little sweet treat that appeals to so many people?
Elena explained, “With such an amazing range of colours and flavours available, the macaron can be perfectly tailored to suit any wedding colour scheme or favourite flavour of the recipient. Apparently Megan is a big fan of green so will we be seeing any green pistachio macarons on the table this weekend?”
I can’t wait to find out and will be watching from the sofa this weekend. I might even put the bunting out!
** If you are planning a wedding or party and want to include macarons, Elena Floarea of Majestic Macarons is offering Little Otter Friends 20% discount. Visit Elena's directory page to get in touch. **
At this time of year, my thoughts turn to holiday destinations and where we are going to escape to this summer. I love planning a week away and discovering new places. In a couple of weeks time, we are off to the South of France with friends and I cannot wait!
With all this talk of travel, who better to catch up with than Penarth based maker Alex Hughes of Stitch City who is a cartophile (a person with an interest in maps). Alex creates beautiful stationery from old maps and also recreates maps using embroidery.
I started by asking Alex where her love of maps came from....
"I can't really remember where my love of maps came from, I've always been obsessed with them. I remember a book I had when I was a small kid, about different countries of the world. Each page featured a different map of a country and talked about different cultures, clothing and food. I remember being particularly fascinated by flags (my favourite when I was tiny was Uruguay because... well look it up, it’s pretty cool!)
"Many years later, when I knew I was going to London to study my degree in Illustration, I became obsessed with the Underground map and the London A-Z. I loved looking through for interesting landmarks, parks and museums that I might soon visit. It was the A - Z map that really heightened my excitement for moving away and when I got there it was my constant companion, guiding me around the city. It was only in my second year in London, during a project working with paper ephemera and bookbinding, that I got hold of some beautiful vintage maps of Europe and I really began to use maps in my work.
"Working with maps these days is still fascinating, but more from the standpoint of finding out what they mean to other people. I have made custom maps for people celebrating a first date, a proposal, wedding or anniversary, or the life of a close family member. I love how personal they can be, they evoke strong memories in people and it's always interesting to me to find out the story behind a project; what a specific place, street, park or footpath, means to someone whether it’s an old home or much-loved holiday destination."
I love holidaying in the UK. We are so spoilt with the beautiful scenery, especially in Wales. What is your favourite UK holiday destination?
In recent years my partner and I have been going with some friends to stay in a chalet in Ullswater in the Lake District. We usually go in spring so there is still snow on some of the higher peaks that surround the lake, like Helvellyn which is nearby. It's a great place for walking, driving and relaxing. Last year I went canoeing on Ullswater for the first time which was brilliant, I can't wait to go back.
What is your favourite day trip?
It's been years since I lived in London and I'm a bit less of a fan these days of the noise, crowds and expense of it! But it still makes for a great occasional day trip. I love to go on my own, early in the morning and just get lost for the day, wandering through the parks or going to see an exhibition. My favourite place to visit is the V & A, which always has interesting shows on and is so huge that it's always possible to find a quiet, previously unexplored corner.
You are lucky enough to be based in the beautiful town of Penarth. But if you could live anywhere other than Penarth, where would you live?
Well I do love Penarth! But if important things like jobs and money didn't matter, I would love to go somewhere out in the Welsh countryside in Ceredigion or Gwynedd. It’s a really wild part of the country with spectacular mountains and beautiful lakes, forests and coastlines. I was lucky enough to visit Portmerion last year and that was a really lovely experience, and I'm heading back to North Wales this summer. This time we’re going to Denbighshire, which I have never visited before and am really looking forward to exploring!
Thanks Alex and happy travels.
To find out more about Alex and her work, please visit her page on the Little Otter Events directory.
Do you have any travel plans this year? We love to know where you are off to - let us know in the comments below.
Since creating Little Otter Events in 2013 and organising the first Rhiwbina's Handmade Market, I have been lucky enough to meet loads of amazing talented people, many of whom I am now proud to call my friends including Rhiwbina based photographer Marie Palbom. I met Marie through a friend of a friend and we immediately hit it off - she is such a lovely person and fun to be around and we soon found lots of common interests and passions.
I love photography and Marie is one of the best photographers around. She has a wonderful relaxed style to her photographs and really captures the essence of a person, and the atmosphere of an event. She shot a session with my family up at Forest Fawr and created some amazing timeless images for us of our two daughters Awen and Tirion.
I caught up with Marie recently to ask her more about her love of photography...
Marie, I am so impressed that you are a self taught photographer! When did you start taking photos and why do you love photography?
I started when I was about 13 years old and have loved it ever since! I love being able to capture a moment in life and a true emotion. Sometimes you take a photo and you just can't stop looking at it - it draws you in and I just love chasing that feeling.
Do you have a favourite thing to shoot?
My favourite thing to photograph is people. Getting to know the person in front of me and get to create a photo they'll love and get a truly personal portrait of them. I love using just natural light - it just gives a much more personal feeling to the photo and not having lots of equipment around me, make it a lot less intimidating for the person that's being photographed.
I am always trying to improve my photography. Any tips for new photographers?
Think about the light! It's the most basic thing for photography. The light will determine the mood of the photo so take a moment and think if you should move to the shade or move your subject (product or person) closer to a window for some lovely natural light.
Instagram is of course a fabulous platform isn't it to learn about photography and discover new ideas. Who are your instagram favourites?
Here are my favourite people to follow on social media for lovely pics:
I'm a big lover of Instagram so people I love and follow here are: https://www.instagram.com/forestandfieldphotography/
https://www.instagram.com/lamblovesfox/ (this one not just for the stunning photos but also for my other love; amazing natural kids clothes!)
To find out more about Marie and to get in touch with her, visit her page on our directory website.
My garden is full of pink flowers at the moment, and it is a real joy to see all the cherry trees laden with pink blossom in Rhiwbina. Pink is such a happy colour and it is a shame that most people think pink is only for girls. Right up until the 1930s, boys were dressed in pink and girls in blue. Men wore red as it was considered to be a strong colour (used in uniforms), and so pink was seen as a variation of this colour for 'small men'.
Do you have any pink in your wardrobe? Let me know about your favourite item in the comments below!
Here is a pink collection from our directory makers. If you are on the look out for a gift or a card for a pink loving friend, we have it covered!
Bespoke pink dot oilcloth bag, made to order, Tommelise Danish Design
Pink tourmaline and sterling silver stacking ring set, £40, Lydia Niziblian Jewellery
Pink geo harem leggings, £12.50, Zac & Bella
Pretty pink and red fabric knot bracelet, £14.50, p&d designs
Unicorn French macarons, Majestic Macarons
Penblwydd Hapus, cute cupcake card, £2.50, oh! Susannah
April Liddell. Founder of Little Otter Markets. Lives a crafty life. Loves going for walks with her dog Betsi, listening to music, and eating chelsea buns.