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.
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 first met Aquila Cook from Love and Lovelier back in 2013 when she applied for a stall at the very first Little Otter Market in Rhiwbina. Shortly after that, I booked on to one of Quil's workshops and had a go at making my own ceramic Christmas decorations. The workshop was a lot of fun and provided me with a chance to get to know Quil better.
Quil is amazing. Not only has she created a successful business from scratch but she has done this whilst looking after her two daughters Sasha and Erin, who both have Cystic Fibrosis. It is a daily struggle for her juggling their care and her business but she never lets this show on market days and her professionalism is flawless.
Ahead of Mothers' Day on Sunday 31st March, I asked Quil to share with us her journey in to motherhood and to talk about the challenges she has faced....
I became a Mum when I was 27 in 2006 - that took a bit of working out! We were living in Lanzarote at the time and the whole process of pregnancy and birth in a foreign country was not one I'd like to repeat EVER! So Erin who is now 12 was born in Lanzarote and then almost four years later Sasha was born in Wales.
I was about 20 weeks pregnant with Sasha when we found out that Erin has Cystic Fibrosis. In Wales CF is tested for in the 'heel prick' test in newborns. But every country tests for different things depending on what they feel is most prevalent, so it was un-diagnosed for three and a half years in Erin. CF is genetic, so there was a a 1in4 chance that Sasha would also have it. When she was tested after birth we found out she too has CF.
Prior to having Sasha I had a well-paid (but boring and un-inspiring) office job. I never went back after my maternity leave. I started a evening course in Ceramics just to get out of the house for an evening, and after a while I started looking for somewhere to sell my pieces, and Love & Lovelier has taken off from there.
CF is tough because there is a heavy load of daily medication and physio that needs to be adhered to. Erin takes about 40 tablets and 5 nebulised medicines a day, and Sasha has about 25 tablets and 3 nebulised medicines. Also Erin has regular in-stays in hospital for IV antibiotics. Each stay lasts about two weeks and they are every three months at the moment. Try holding down a regular job with all that going on! I've made L&L fit round this crazy life but it's still tough at times. There simply isn't enough of me to go round sometimes.
The best thing about motherhood is seeing your kids blossom into their own characters. Erin's really emotional and gets really excited about things and equally quickly gets anxious and worried. There are no grey areas with her. She is so kind and can't stand any kind of meanness or cruelty at all. Sasha is hilarious and will definitely be treading her own path. She doesn't care what others think of her and takes it all in her stride.
Advice for new Mums: whatever you think it's going to be like, it'll be much better and much worse. Get ready for a roller-coaster ride! You'll get through the bad times and wonder what all the fuss is about in the good times.
To find out how to get in touch with Quil, please visit her directory page where you will find all her contact details and more examples of her work.
Nothing makes you truly appreciate everything that your Mum has done for you than becoming a parent yourself. All the heartache, the worry, and sleepless nights...not to mention the physical drain of pregnancy and labour. Mums are amazing aren't they. I am so grateful to my Mum Anne and my Dad Alex for being such loving parents, and every day, I thank my lucky stars that I have two wonderful daughters Awen and Tirion.
I realise that, sadly, not everyone is in the same situation - some friends have tragically lost their Mums far too young or are estranged from them; others have problematic relationships with their Mothers. Some friends desperately want to become mothers but have not been able too. So I know that Mothers' Day can be a terribly difficult date in the calendar and I send lots of love to anyone feeling low at this time of year.
If you are looking for a gift for your Mum - or a female friend who deserves spoiling - and you didn't manage to shop at our recent Mothers Day special - fear not! As I have put together a list of present ideas from our talented directory makers. (Links are given underneath the photos to take you to the maker's page.)
And starting tomorrow, I will introduce you to some of our makers who happen to be Mums themselves as they share their experiences and thoughts of the crazy ride that is motherhood.
Back tomorrow and in the meantime, have a browse......
New little Mini Ziptop bag from Lynda Shell Textiles. £45. Perfect for a small spring/summer bag when you don’t want to be weighed down with a huge heavy bag! They will fit in your purse, phone keys and a few small essentials. Available in colours: natural, wine and mid blue.
Penarth - Framed Textile Illustration, 10 Inch Wooden Embroidery Hoop from Stitch City. £60.00 plus delivery.
Welsh Mother's Day Card, Sul y Mamau, Mam Arbennig - Lovely Mum - in a zesty orange design by oh! Susannah. £2.50
Mummy's Bestie matching set from Zac and Bella. From £20.
Ceramic art dish from Love & Lovelier. £14.
Electric blue and gold design on pale grey suede clutch bag from Seascape Curiosities.
Ribbon and metal disc bracelet and earrings set from p&d Designs.
Orla Keily oilcloth accessories from Tommelise Danish Design.
Sterling silver necklace featuring the word ‘love’ from Lou Gray Jewellery. The text is hand drawn, laser cut and finished with a delicate silver belcher chain necklace. The total necklace length is approximately 16". £45
Gold French macaron favours from Majestic Macarons and Cakes. Gluten free. 12 luxury treats in gold, vanilla flavour. £24 plus delivery
Beautiful handmade cushions from The Pocket Pirate. £45. Made from reclaimed upholstery fabric for an individual, hardwearing cushion cover – no two are the same! Zipped at the edge for easy removal of the internal duck down pillow.
This year's Penarth's Handmade Market on Sunday 18th November promises to be a Christmas cracker of an event with ten makers joining us for the very first time at Little Otter Markets.
From jewellery to ceramics, homewares to accessories, these makers will be showcasing some amazing work and if you are struggling to find presents for those hard to buy for relatives, come along in November.
I don't know about you but I love to get out of storage all of my scarves once the cold weather arrives, and there is always room for one more in my collection. So I am very excited to welcome on board Karen Vosmer aka the Artisan Scarf Lady. I asked Karen to tell us a little bit about herself and her work....over to Karen.
"My name is Karen Vosmer, and I am a Textile Artist living in Wales. I dye and felt, quality one-off scarves, accessories and other products using fine merino wool and silks. I love to “play with colour” and describe creating a felt scarf as “painting with wool”. "
"My current work for Christmas - inline with current fashion trends - includes wool felt neck collars in warm purples, mustard, teal and reds. I am also making silk roses and wool felt brooches.
How do you spend Christmas?
Relaxing with family, and playing games with my Son and Mum :)
Any worst Christmas "pressies"?
I won two prizes in last year's Christmas Raffle - A £5 voucher for the local Butcher - I am Vegetarian; and a gift box of beauty products - I only use natural skin Products!
What is your favourite Christmas song?
Band Aid - "Do they know it's Christmas"
Come and meet Karen at Penarth's Handmade Market on Sunday 18th November, 11-4pm in the Paget Rooms, Penarth. For more information on the event, visit our PHM page.
Barry based Paula of p& d designs has become a familiar face at Little Otter Events, showcasing her beautiful range of textile jewellery and accessories. I caught up with Paula to discover what is on her studio table at the moment and how her preparation for the busy Christmas season is going...
How was your summer Paula?
I had a great summer. Being my own boss means that I pretty much do the bare minimum work wise through the school holidays as I'm looking after my boys full time, which can be difficult trying to juggle things but I also appreciate how lucky that makes me. We hung out at the beach, went camping with friends and family and generally spent as much time outdoors as possible.
What were your highlights?
Probably our camping holiday in Cornwall, even despite the fact that we had poor weather! I grew up there so it will always have a special place in my heart. Also my husband & I both turned 40(eeek!) so we had quite a few celebrations with family and friends.
How did it go at the Norwegian Church? Will you be back there in October?
It went really well and we've had some very positive comments from customers. The church always attracts such a lovely diverse mix of overseas and local visitors so it's a pleasure chatting to different people when taking my turn to man the shop. Yes, I'll be back in October, the shop will be open from Monday 8th until Sunday 21st and then again from mid November right up until the 23rd December.
What are you working on at the moment/any new products?
So many things! I'm busy making stock for my Winter markets and growing my new Contrast Collection.
How is your Christmas season shaping up? What events are you doing?
I'm thrilled to be back at Penarth and Rhiwbina's Handmade Markets, along with both the Cardiff Etsy Team's event at The Tramshed and the Hereford Etsy Team's market at The Left Bank. I've also got applications for stalls out with other events and pop up shops so it's certainly going to be a busy one, but that's all good!
What are you looking forward to this Christmas?
I love seeing everyone's new products and displays at the Christmas markets but once all of the above events are over and done with, I can't wait to have fun with my boys and relax with the family, G&T firmly in hand!
Come and meet Paula at Penarth's Handmade Market on Sunday 18th November and Rhiwbina's Handmade Market on Sunday 25th November. For contact details, visit the p&d designs directory page.
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!
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
The fabulous Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey, Devon returns this weekend opening today, Friday 8th June and running until Sunday 10th.
If you have chance to go, you will not be disappointed as it is a fantastic event with over 200 makers selling their high quality handmade goods to the public. As well as stalls, there are demonstrations and workshops to get involved in. Bovey Tracey is a pretty little town to visit too, with lots of independent shops and a fantastic makers guild with exhibition space.
I asked Alys Wall AKA The Pocket Pirate, who has attended the festival previously, to choose her top six makers who are exhibiting this weekend....over to Alys...
Dovile’s fluid, elegant hand-carved pieces caught my eye immediately. Each item has wonderful movement to it. I love the fact that each piece evolves organically as she works on it, so is completely unique.
It is a real skill to make something that is both functional and beautiful - Lomas Furniture has truly mastered this.
Esther’s candid stories unfold softly through her beautiful illustrations, tugging at our own experiences. You won’t be able to resist.
Anya’s playful creatures belong to that place at the edge of our vision, where we are sure we saw our favourite toy move…
Manda’s characterful and beautifully handmade soft animals and children’s clothes are always displayed so artfully you will want to take up residence on her stand.
Look out for Andrew's ash splint basket combined with its hand-stitched leather lid - a thing of quiet, dependable beauty that you will suddenly NEED.
For more information on The Contemporary Craft Festival, visit www.craftsatboveytracey.co.uk or visit their facebook page.
Thanks Alys! Find out more about Alys, and her inspiration over on the Little Otter Events blog.
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.