Looking for an unique present or a new piece of art for the home? Alex Hughes aka Stitch City is having a 20% off sale on all embroidery in her Etsy store. Alex's collection is full of one of a kind beautiful bespoke pieces so this is your chance to own something really special. The sale will run until the 27th of May.
I caught up with Alex to find out when she started working with embroidery.
When did your love of embroidery start? Who inspired you?
I started embroidery in 2007 during my foundation Art & Design course. I knew I wanted to study illustration but I was never strong at drawing, and I was never really a fan of working digitally. I did a couple of small embroidery projects and they got good feedback, and so I went on from there. It was only later on in university that it became a proper obsession! I remember reading the books Illustration Play and The New Artisans at about this time and found the artists featured really inspiring, it helped me realise what is possible!
What has been your hardest project to date?
Some of my London Map wall hangings which are currently on sale, were complicated because of the scale of them and level of detail. They required a lot of patience to design as well as finish. Some of my custom pieces that I have made for people have also been really difficult to figure out, especially if the customer wants a lot of features and illustrations added, or large amounts of type. It can be really challenging to figure out how to fit everything in. But all the more rewarding when the work is done!
What has been your favourite?
I really loved making the "Wales - Natural Forms" map, which you can now get as a cushion or a wall hanging in the shop. I love how that one turned out. It may be the only piece of work I've made which I don't wish I could go back and make better!
Do you have any favourite stitch artists?
Tilleke Schwartz was a huge early inspiration for me, even though her work is totally different to mine, I really liked the visual diary style of it, and the use of lots of random type.
I follow a bunch of talented embroidery/textile folks on instagram; Tessa Perlow, Sarah K Benning, Lora Avedian, there are probably LOADS more, I am a fan of anyone who stitches! I highly recommend the "Mr X Stitch" instagram account for daily inspirations!
To browse the Stitch City collection, visit Alex's Etsy shop. Find out more about Alex and see further examples of her work on her directory page.
Since I started Little Otter Events, I have met so many talented makers and I love following them on social media and seeing their latest work.
Last year, Cardiff based Elena Floarea came along to our Rhiwbina and Penarth events selling her range of beautiful French macarons. Elena is an amazing baker and creates some truly stunning cakes. Recently I met up with Elena to find out where this talent came from and if she has always enjoyed baking....Introducing Elena...
When did you start baking?
I started when I was 16. I went to a culinary college and at the end of the course I won a french patisserie contest. The prize was an apprenticeship in France with one of the best French pastry chefs there was that year.
That’s when I fell in love with baking and creating delicious cakes and macarons.
Who was your biggest influence?
My mum always encouraged me to reach as high as I can. I went to France to complete the apprenticeship I’ve won because she encouraged and supported me. I was only 18 so she was my rock, helping me increase my confidence.
Where did you study?
I studied for my Culinary diploma at a college in Bucharest. Then in France I’ve received a french patisserie diploma for completing my apprenticeship and also been offered a 1.5 year contract with a popular french patisserie in France.
When did you start your own business?
I set up Lolo’s Cake Away in 2015.
Where do you get your creative ideas from?
I use a lot Pinterest for inspiration! I’m also part of many cake and wedding groups on Facebook where I can follow trends and see what people like most. Then combined with my knowledge and experience acquired over the last 12 years I try to get something different to ensure our customers like the suggested design.
What is the inspiration behind Lolo's Cake Away?
‘Lolo’ comes from Lawrence which is my partner and our gorgeous son Lawson (Lo-Lo). I was in my second year of uni studying Business Management at Cardiff Uni when my partner said he would help me set up the business and follow my dream. It was one of the best days ever and I went for it! Three years later Lolo’s Cake Away is a recognisable brand in Cardiff.
I’m also trying to make Majestic Macarons the best macaron business in Wales. We’re growing every day and maybe one day we will have a shop where we can combine cakes by Lolo’s Cake Away and delicious macarons by Majestic Macarons.
Do you have a favourite flavour cake/macaron?
I have quite a few favourites. However, Ferrero Rocher macarons are my no. 1 favourite ! I’ve mistakenly ate some from my order and realised I had to make some more
And my second favourite is pistachios macarons. It always reminds me of my trips to the Parisian patisseries in France.
As you can see I find it difficult to choose one favourite only! Guess I really love my job!
What is the longest time you have ever spent creating a cake?
One week was the longest time I’ve spent on making and creating a cake. It was for a four tier wedding cake with cascading roses in pink and yellow.
I loved the end result and the hard work definitely paid off! Sugar Flowers are very time consuming but when they’re finished they look so amazing it is worth all the time in the world.
The bride and groom were over the moon and I’ve receive so many compliments on design and skill.
Thanks so much Elena!
Elena's creations are absolutely amazing - she is on social media and regularly posts up photos of her latest work.
She is very kindly offering friends of Little Otter Events a 20% discount - so if you have a birthday, wedding or special occasion coming up, get in touch with Elena to discuss your ideas.
What an amazing maker! I want to get married all over again just so Elena can make me a cake!
The last few months of the school year always seem to zip by and I can't quite believe how quickly the end of term has come around again. My eldest daughter is leaving her primary school to start high school in September so I know that her last week will be an emotional affair which I am not ready for!
She has been lucky enough to have two excellent teachers in her final year and as the year ends, we are looking for extra special teachers' gifts to say thanks for all the care and support that they have shown her.
If you, too, are looking for some gift inspiration, have a browse through this collection of inexpensive presents for teachers from our talented Directory makers. Links to makers contact details are given in the descriptions.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Ceramic brooch, £6.50 plus postage, Love & Lovelier
Sterling silver and Liberty print friendship bracelet, £15 plus postage, Lou Gray Jewellery.
Notebook, £12, Seascape Curiosities.
French macarons gift box, mixed flavours, £15.99, Majestic Macarons
Fabric pin cushion, £4.50, Stitch City
Mexican oilcloth purses, various prices, Tommelise Danish Design
Teacher notepad, £5 plus postage, oh!Susannah
Classic bara brith delivered to your door! £15.99 baked by Mel
Chunky knitted bangle in ochre, green and white. £10 plus postage. p&d designs
Ceramic triangle ear studs, £17.99 plus postage, Ruby Anne Jewellery
Ceramic dish, £10 plus postage, Love & Lovelier
Cardiff central map notebook, £7 plus postage, Stitch City
Seahorse purse, £16 plus postage, Seascape Curiosities
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
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.