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.
This Easter, I spent time down in Saundersfoot with my family and our dog Betsi. Our family life has definitely changed for the better since she joined us and it was lovely to see so many families on the beach, enjoying playing with their pooches.
Cardiff-based jewellery designer Lou Gray increased the size of her family with the addition of Marley, an almost 2 yr old Australian Labradoodle. As it is National Pet Month, I asked Lou to tell us a bit about how she has found dog ownership to be.
When did you first get Marley?
She came home to us when she was 10 weeks old from a local breeder.
How has she fitted in to family life?
Marley is definitely one of the family! She wants to be involved with everything that’s going on in the house - we include her in as many outings and trips as we can as she loves nothing more than being out and about with us all.
What are their favourite foods?
She’s super fussy, but will never turn her nose up at a bit of chicken or peanut butter stuffed toy!
What's been the biggest challenge?
Her extreme bounciness. I’m sure she has some kangaroo genes...
What is naughtiest/most embarrassing thing your pet has done? This list for Betsi is very long......
See above 🙈. I’m developing a thicker skin!!
Any advice for anyone looking to get a pet?
She’s changed my life for the better and I can’t imagine not living with a dog now. Obviously do plenty of research...and don’t underestimate the time and financial commitment.
As part of Lou's beautiful jewellery collection, Lou creates print jewellery so that you can keep your loved ones close to your heart and she tells me that she can do this from paw prints as well as human prints! So if you fancy getting a totally unique piece of jewellery that reminds you of your special furry friend, please get in touch with Lou.
From 1st April until 6th May 2019, it's National Pet Month which is an annual campaign raising awareness of responsible pet ownership through educational campaigns, and encouraging fundraising for the nation’s needy pets.
To celebrate this special month, I asked our directory makers to introduce their own adorable pets and to tell us a little bit about their experience of pet ownership.
First up is Cardiff-based Maker Lynda Shell and her adorable puppy Stanley...
Please give details of your pet - name, breed, age.
Stanley, Italian Spinone, age 9months old
When did you first get him and where from?
We got Stanley last August, all the way from Harrogate.
How has he fitted in to family life?
He has fitted in perfectly! It's like he’s always been here.
What is his favourite foods?
What's been the biggest challenge?
Being so big, stopping him from just helping himself to anything and everything on the kitchen worktops has been a real challenge! We’re nearly there!
What is naughtiest/most embarrassing thing your pet has done?
Definitely when he pooped in a friends garden and proceeded to wipe his bot along their cream tiled floor leaving a nice brown smear! As if that wasn’t bag enough we were all eating at the time !!
Any advice for anyone looking to buy a pet?
Do your research! Any pet is a big commitment but the rewards are worth it.
If you have fallen in love with Stanley - I know I have - you can follow his adventures on Lynda's instagram feed.
To discover Lynda Shell Textiles and find out more about the maker behind the brand, visit Lynda's Directory page.
*** To find out more about National Pet Month and how to get involved, please visit the charity's website.
Textile Designer Lynda Shell has become a regular face at Little Otter Markets showcasing her fantastic collection of bags and accessories. Lynda's journey began at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, in 2001 where she studied BA (Hons) Contemporary Textile Practice. She then went on to establish her own successful business, becoming a Member of the Makers Guild in Wales, whilst looking after her growing family.
Ahead of Mothers' Day on Sunday 31st March, I asked Lynda to tell us a little bit about her family and how she has found motherhood...
When did you become a Mum? Hattie was born in 1996 and is now 23, Freddie was born in 2007 now age 12 - so a big 11 year gap!
How has motherhood been for you?
I have loved being a mother, it is both the hardest and the most rewarding thing I have ever done.
Was it what you expected?
To be honest I didn’t have any preconceived expectations of motherhood I have always just gone with the flow.
What have been your biggest challenges?
I don’t think I have had one big challenge, every stage of a child’s development into adulthood and beyond brings a new challenge to face, you just deal with them as best you can and move on.
How do you find juggling family life and your own business?
Well it's not always easy but I somehow make it work. I think it's good for my children to see me work hard at something I feel passionate about, hopefully it will inspire them to do the same.
What advice would you give to a new Mum?
Trust your natural instincts to guide you, there are no hard and fast rules to being a mother, just do what feels right for you.
What do you enjoy the most about being a Mum?
The smiles, the laughs and the cuddles for sure!
To see more examples of Lynda's work, and to find out how to get in touch with her, please visit Lynda's directory page.
I've been a big fan of the work of Nicky Barter of The Catkin Boutique ever since she joined us for the first ever Rhiwbina's Handmade Market way back in 2013.
Nicky designs and makes jewellery and prints from original animal illustrations. She loves to make items that are cute, quirky and that have a sense of fun. She designs and makes jewellery, totes and scarves from original illustrations, taking her inspiration from nature especially animals.
I asked Nicky how she spends Christmas and what she is looking forward to this festive season...
Nicky will be joining us at both our Christmas events this November:
Penarth's Handmade Market on Sunday 18th November at the Paget Rooms, Penarth and
Rhiwbina's Handmade Market on Sunday 25th November in the Memorial Hall, Rhiwbina.
Both events are open 11-4pm, £1.50 entry fee adults, kids free entry.
This Saturday 14th July, I am honoured to be having a stall promoting our Christmas markets and selling work from our directory makers at a very special event - Rachel's Day.
Rachel's Day is in memory of Rachel Day who very sadly died of Sepsis last summer. Rachel was just 29 years old, and fit and healthy when she contracted the deadly infection. This Saturday's event is organised by her friends and family as they aim to raise awareness of the disease and raise vital funds.
As well as working at Llanishen Leisure Centre, Rachel used to walk dogs for Cardiff company Friends for Pets, and so when she sadly passed away, her friends thought that it would be a fitting tribute to organise a charity day, involving a dog walk here in Rhiwbina.
Last year's event was a huge success and raised over £4000. This money has paid for the ‘Sepsis 6 Pathway’ scheme at Wales’ largest hospital. It means that anyone who goes into the Heath hospital in Cardiff with a fever or signs of an infection will be checked for ‘red flag’ symptoms of sepsis.
I caught up with Catherine Clarke, one of the organisers of Rachel's Day to find out what they had planned for this year...
Catherine, what does this year's event involve?
"This year at Rachel’s Day we have various types of stalls selling food, cakes, crafts and your good old fashioned village fete stalls. These include Tombola, Raffle, Kids Tombola & a Doggy tombola especially for the dogs only! We also have a signed blues rugby shirt up for grabs with a silent bids table!
"For the children we have the kids tombola, Lob the gob (throwing a rugby ball through a hole!), a face painter, crazy golf and Vale Owls are bringing some of their beautiful birds. Rachel loves dogs but she also loves Owls!
"We have a bar that will be selling beverages and cocktails including Rachel’s Delight a cocktail named in memory of Rachel. 10% of the takings from this will go towards Rachel’s Day Sepsis Fund. We also have live music from The Big what?! Band and Al Moses."
"Friends for Pets will be giving away 200 goody bags and Georgina Flambert photography will be doing portraits of families and their dogs which you can purchase, with money to go to the charity. K8’s short bark n sides a local groomer are actually closing their shop for the day to come and spend it with us! They are offering to clips dogs nails for £5 and give all proceeds to the charity. We also have bandanas for the dogs to wear."
Do you need a dog to come along and enjoy the day?
"With so much going on you don’t need a dog to enjoy the day. It’s just as much for the people as it is for them. The walk will take place at 1pm to and around Caedelyn Park. You can join in if you want but it’s not necessary and you don’t need a dog to join in the walk. Registration will take place from 12 pm. There is no entry fee for this year though donations will be grateful received.
"With the weather the way it has been we never thought we would have to worry about it being too hot! We are taking every precaution to ensure the safety and welfare of the dogs. We have onsite canine first aiders, plenty of water, wet towels, shaded area and a much shorter route around Parc Y Pentre if needed."
What are you looking forward to the most?
"What we loved the most from last year was the sight of a sea of people and dogs walking to the park and then seeing all the dogs run around playing! It made all the hard work worth while seeing people and their best friends smiling and happy. We will look forward to that again this year for sure!"
What are you hoping to achieve from the day?
"Obviously the importance of doing this event again is to further our quest in raising awareness about Sepsis. We are passionate that the money raised is spent in Wales and the family have various ideas of how to spend it. One idea is helping to provide assistance dogs for those who have suffered life changing disabilities through Sepsis. Ultimately we never want another family to have suffered like the Day family have or another to endure what Rachel did!"
Thanks so much Catherine and well done to you and the team on all your hard work organising what promises to be a fabulous day here in Rhiwbina.
I hope that you can all come along and support it and please come and see me on my stall and say hi!
Here is some more information on Sepsis:
There are around 150,000 cases of sepsis each year in the UK, with an estimated 44,000 deaths - more than breast cancer and bowel cancer combined.
In Wales, that equates to around 8,000 cases and 2,500 deaths each year.
It is a life-threatening illness, caused by the body overreacting to an infection.
The body’s immune system goes into overdrive, setting off a series of reactions that can lead to widespread swelling and blood clotting.
Symptoms usually develop quickly and include a fever or high temperature (over 38C), chills, a fast heartbeat and fast breathing.
What should you do?
Seek medical help urgently if you develop any or one of the following:
Slurred speech or confusion
Extreme shivering or muscle pain
Passing no urine (in a day)
It feels like your going to die
Skin mottled or discoloured.
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!
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.
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. **
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.