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.
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.
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
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.