British Craft Trade Fair 2016

Newlands Valley blossom

I feel as though I’ve been caught in a time warp, it doesn’t seem possible that just a week ago I was setting off across the country, full of nerves and excitement, my poor old car packed to the roof with work and stand props. The British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate has been a background preoccupation and worry for the past 2 years  (ever since I had to postpone taking part due to the house trauma) and it seems unreal that it’s now over and actually the real work is only just beginning. I imagine I’m feeling a little bit like a couple returning from their expensive wedding and honeymoon; so much planning and heaps of money just for one special event but it’s what happens next that really matters. I had a fantastic time pretending to be Agatha Christie in the Old Swan but it feels so good to be back on the mountain after an emotional return to North Yorkshire. We are a little behind with the seasons, Hawthorne and Sycamore buds are still only just emerging, Daffodils are at their Wordsworthian peak with Bluebell spears poised to take their place. It all has the air of something about to burst… a little sunny nudge and the whole thing will be freewheeling towards summer abundance.

setting up at British Craft Trade Fair

There is so much I want to say about the experience of BCTF, I haven’t yet worked out exactly how much it cost but I will let you know in a future post because I think might be really useful if anyone was thinking of doing a trade show. I really wish I had done it sooner… within a year or two of graduating, mostly because it has been a really useful lesson in planning, pricing, logistics and PR. It was a massive relief that the calico panels fitted the space (after a tiny adjustment to the wooden rods with a borrowed hacksaw) and everything looked almost as I had imagined it. I was envious of some of the more minimalist stands, they looked so slick and professional but overall I was very happy and relieved. It took 3 hours to set up and one to break it all down again!

Kim Tillyer stand N27 British Trade Craft Fair 2016

My glamorous and wonderful assistant Sara was totally invaluable. I really couldn’t have done it without her (partly because my hips kept seizing up so I could hardly move after 7 hours of standing with a clip board). Sara kept me straight when I drifted in to typical artist “down talk”, reminding me that the work was was unique and perfectionist not experimental and “hit and miss”; she also correctly predicted the winner of the “Wow Factor” award, another CCAD graduate Joanna Coupland .We met so many interesting people and agreed that being a buyer or a trend forecaster must be a great job.

Sara Tillyer Smith at British Trade Craft Fair

The list of artists and makers that we met and whose work we fell in love with is too long to mention, I’ll list a few at the end, but the whole event reinforced my passionate belief that the skills and talents of these people should be celebrated and nurtured. Many artists and makers rely on the sale of cards for example, while they wait for the bigger pieces to sell, galleries too, which is why the Just a Card campaign is such a good idea. We don’t need a world full of mass produced cheap crap, we need fewer but more beautifully made things and an education system that values the arts and the contribution art and craft makes to society.

greetings card display

The wall I was most pleased with was my card wall with embroidered details and a quote from Haruki Murakami. I love receiving real handwritten letters (nice ones not upsetting ones) and it seems that the greetings card is not dead; people still spend money on lovely cards to keep or send.  I was hoping the show would push me in one direction or another but in the end there was interest in ALL the products from original framed pieces to mugs and velvet cushions so after this I’m off to continue following up the contacts I made, evaluating all the feedback and making a start on some new cyanotypes and drawings.

witchmountain stand N27

Thank you so much to everyone who visited the stand or sent good wishes from afar. It’s been wonderful to meet so many people and talk non stop for 4 days – a complete contrast to where I sit now, listening to the buzzards circling above the valley… and an owl just then… oh and the sun is just breaking through.

Some of my my lovely stand neighbours :

Melissa Yarlett– gorgeous jewellery inspired by mosses and lichens             Stephanie Hopkins – copper bowls and jewellery ( award winner at the show)  Holly Argyll – Bright, quirky illustrations on textiles and giftware                       Katie Edwards – Fellow member of Cumbria Printmakers

“Hang up your chairs to better sweep, Clear the floor to dance…”

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It is a lovely feeling to clear the table and tidy up at the end of a long project. Apart from a few last minute finishing off jobs, yet another lost delivery (hint to van  drivers…use a map not satnav when looking for barns in the middle of nowhere) and a painfully slow internet, I’m all packed and ready to set up for BCTF on Saturday. Ok, we have run out of heating oil, I melted my printer, blew up the hoover and the power’s due to go off at any minute but it still feels good to be able to say, “I’m ready… as ready as I’ll ever be”. The kettle is on the stove and I’m going to have a gallon of tea and maybe even make some scones for old times sake (before the power goes off!).

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On Friday I’ll be heading back to North Yorkshire for the first time in over a year, hoping it feels more friendly than when I left it. It will also be the first time I’ve spent much time in Harrogate since I lived there when I first left home, for a rather disastrous foundation year at Harrogate School of Art. Sara is coming up to be my assistant so we are combining it with a kind of belated/early birthday treat and staying in the hotel that Agatha Christie stayed in when she went missing in 1926. Originally I was going to camp in the van on the showground but decided to make a holiday of it. I hope they let me in with a ruck sack as I seem to have mislaid all my monogrammed luggage and hatboxes.

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Preparing for this event has been an all consuming preoccupation since I first had to postpone taking part last year but, even if it’s not a huge financial success, I do feel as though I’ve learnt so much from it already and it has certainly focused the way I work. No doubt I will come back next week with plenty of new ideas and information and it will certainly make a change from sitting here watching the woodpeckers and chatting to the cat. One of the things I’ve discovered is that many of the odd things I have needed can be found and supplied by small quirky, local shops and businesses and I’ve really made an effort to do this, particularly following the floods of 2015.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m currently multi tasking by sitting on hold to an EE call centre who are trying to work out why the internet keeps going off… they don’t believe me when I tell them it’s because the wire from Braithwaite keeps getting wet.  I will let you know how BCTF went next time I write and if  you’re visiting the show don’t forget I’ll be on stand N27…also Good Luck to all the other amazing artists and crafts people taking part, I hope it’s a big success.

 

 

 

 

Are we there yet?

Crummock  Water from Low Fell

Well on Tuesday I bought a beautiful fountain pen in Cockermouth and I’ve just spent ages uploading all these pictures for you but suddenly I’m lost for words again; I’m drinking tea and looking at that big sky. Im sorry to tell you this, now that it’s the Easter holidays and it’s raining again, but last week was probably the most perfect week ever in the Lake District. Sara and I wore our little legs even shorter with some wonderful adventures… it’s much easier to walk further when you have a companion to share sandwiches with at the top. We discussed the amazing human ability to forget how it felt to be exhausted to pieces once faced with the view from the summit … a bit like childbirth! We also talked about the contrast between Sara’s city life in Bristol and our love of this special landscape; both feeling a little discontented … what is it you miss out on in each place? Could you swap city life for a rural one or vice versa?

the summit of Hindscarth

I loved taking a week away from normal concerns and BCTF panic, to enjoy just being here in the Lake District, feeling lucky despite all the bad luck and upheaval. We climbed three Fells, Hindscarth, Maidenmoor and Low Fell, used my birthday voucher to have a swim and fantastic bone crunching massage at Armathwaite Hall (where we also spotted the Alpacaly alpacas  doing rolypoly’s under the trees)  and cycled to Keswick on unsuitable bicycles to do the shopping (so much more stylish to cycle in the sunshine with a dress on and an aubergine in your basket than to charge around in lycra with serious intent).

colourofspring copyAnd now it’s back to work with less than three weeks before Harrogate and the trade fair. Luckily the sun left as soon as Sara went back to Bristol and even more luckily I was able to find almost all of the hooks and bits and bobs that I need for my stand when I went to Cockermouth… I’d searched in the giant B&Q in Penrith and various other shops until eventually finding the perfect things in the wonderful JB Banks  .It may seem like an odd recommendation but if you’re ever in the Lakes don’t miss this shop; it’s fabulous and has a museum at the back which I keep forgetting to look in.

Spring in Newlands Valley

So Spring has sprung, the air smells good and all is well… ah, apart from the fact that I smashed one of my vases while trying to photograph it today, I have a sore thumb from folding and stapling catalogues, all the printing I did yesterday went wrong and the cat has taken to sleeping up a 7 foot holly tree, perched on a twig like the Cheshire cat (only with a resentful look instead of a grin). I think I’m making her nervous.

preparations for BCTF

The next three weeks are going to be hectic for me and very different as today is also Rupert’s last day working at Carlton Outdoor Education Centre. For the past year he has driven to the North East at the crack of dawn every Monday and pretty much lived in the van all week; but he’s got a new job here now, within cycling distance, so life should be easier for him and I’ll have to become a little less feral and learn to live with people again! (I talk so little during the week that I almost forget how at the weekends and a whole day of talking gives me hiccups so Harrogate should be fun!). Fingers crossed for more days like last week’s to share.

Derwentwater from Maidenmoor

Here I am heading up the valley on a small bicycle with the sun in my eyes. And here is a quote that I think is relevant to the whole BCTF preparation process, because whatever happens I have learnt a lot and after all, thats what we’re here for isn’t it, to learn and experience and breathe in the air? Have a very happy Easter.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway

cycling in Newlands Valley

Reading:  Various terms and conditions and a Maigret mystery. Listening to: David Grey “Sell Sell Sell” Watching:- Rare that I watch TV but “The A Word” was filmed right here and it’s pretty good so far.

Owls, Elusive Muses and Velvet Magpies

summit of Low Fell

I got side tracked and didn’t write last week so now I’m all out of sorts, with the rambling left overs of what I had planned to say floating just out of reach. Failing to write a few words once a week has made me even more impressed by my good friend Susie’s wonderful blog which she has been writing every day for nearly a year; it’s called “Why Today is Brilliant” and must take ages to research let alone write! As for me, I have been thinking a lot about how the creative urge can be captured, tamed and made to keep more sociable hours. I’ve had several interesting discussions lately about sleeping patterns and daily routines. It seems that many of the most creative people I know keep very strange hours and also struggle with periods of frustrating inertia when inspiration and motivation refuse to co-operate.To completely contradict myself, the most amazingly inspirational artist I know keeps very regular hours and has pretty much painted 9-5, 5 days a week, for the past 60 odd years, so it could just be that I lack gumption and good self discipline. Either way, I often find myself at my most productive late at night which, according to my brother would have made me a rubbish cave man.

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These are the kind of things I muse on as I wander about lost in thought; often planning out a whole blog post in my head only to lose the thread before I can trap it. Last week I could have written pages on the overcoming of fear (I’d climbed up the scary rocks on Robinson alone and without my magic “sticky” trainers, celebrating with hot Ribena and feeling as intrepid as anything), I imagined a whole piece on the sensory delights of walking slowly, mindfully I suppose… the sounds of boots in sucking mud, half frozen grass crackling, metallic ringing of rock and shale, a thousand different water sounds, the smell of approaching rain ( do Cumbrians have 50 words for rain like the Inuits do for snow..?) .

Anyway, that was last week; this week I slept like a bear, had no energy to walk except for my weekly volunteering at Calvert Trust and couldn’t be roused before 10 – but I feel like I’m getting somewhere in the evenings. Listening to Pilgrim on BBCiPlayer I’ve been cobbling my stand design together for BCTF and embroidering notebooks, making velvet cushions, trying to work out how to display things and putting together a trade catalogue.

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At times it feels ridiculous and self indulgent; the annoying devil on my shoulder ( sitting on the big pile of chips) keeps muttering about “real jobs”, bills and pension plans but today I collected some card samples from Temporary Measure and I have to say they looked great, really professional and even I have to concede that I’m my own worst enemy. If only self confidence shouted as loudly as that little devil!

card samples

So there you go; despite a week in which I’ve felt incredibly lazy and unproductive because I got up late and didn’t walk miles everyday, I’ve actually achieved quite a lot and this is the point… not everyone is a morning lark, not everyone fits in to the neat slots expected by the modern world and being an owl is nothing to be ashamed of so long as things get done. Which are you an owl or a lark?

velvet cushion

Reading: Last weekend’s newspapers and a knitting pattern. Listening to: Pilgrim, a radio drama by Sebastian Baczkiewicz

 

 

 

 

…that which cannot remain silent”

the view from Snab Bank, Newlands Valley

I’ve shut myself in the small room with the high window so as not to be distracted from writing to you; I can spend hours, lost in thought just looking out of the window at the birds or the mountains so I’m trying to be more disciplined this week.There’s so much to do. I’m cozy under a blanket with a hot water bottle  because it’s freezing and blowing a gale outside… and inside actually, through every gap in the ancient stonework. This building never lets you forget it was a barn!  Lately though there have been several perfect days when it hasn’t rained and the snow on the mountain tops was pristine and dazzling; I love the way the snow highlights all the details of the fells and in different ways depending on the direction of the wind, it messes with perspective and distance too so that the same view is endlessly interesting. On a good day those mountains are almost as orange as my homemade marmalade with hints of dark chocolate and icing sugar…

Marmalade "Shelfie"

I felt a bit bad after my last writing; someone pointed out (in a very kind and honest way) that I’d made “The Last of England”  sound depressing and because I already felt a bit low it made me really sad and worried that I sound like Eeyore the entire time! It was an interesting discussion and at least two important things emerged, 1. Art in whatever form it takes, from painting to music and writing, is hugely personal and emotive which is why it’s so important and vital to us as humans. The fact that a painting or a song can evoke diverse and often overwhelming, emotions (and often not those intended or felt by the artist) is pretty wonderful I think; “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”                                                                         2. It’s very easy to assume everyone knows what you’re talking about and feels the same way. I’ve been writing this blog for 7 years now and I do forget that I’m not talking to an old friend over a cup of tea and a cake…some of you have been here from the start but some of you may have just stumbled through the door right now and have no idea who I am or what the backstory is, so you shuffle back out awkwardly refusing all offers of cake. I’ve always been aware of this but as BCTF approaches I decided I should reinstate my website at www.witchmountain.co.uk  so that prospective buyers and stockists aren’t confused (or put off)  by occasional emotional outpourings about evictions, politics, creative block or the loneliness of a person in beautiful exile.

I hope always to write honestly and openly though, I can’t see the point if you sugar coat everything, delicious as that may be.

Bear necklace

Well today I tried to re-photograph some things for Etsy and also for the trade catalogue which I’m currently putting together. It’s been so dark lately that alot of my pictures had an unhealthy sodium yellow tint. Hurray for sunlight but not so hurray for the iPhone camera and an out of date browser (that can’t be updated because my computer is old which is pretty disgusting built in obsolescence if you ask me). My plans and preparations continue with some fairly expensive mistakes ( a metre of velvet that didn’t print properly and which I’d not left big enough seam margins on) and the realisation that if you want to present good , well finished work there is a high rate of wastage and “failure” initially. I remember reading about ceramicist Clare Humphry ,whose work I loved in the gallery, she says the results of firing are so unpredictable that only a small proportion of bowls came out as she had wanted and was happy with and this must be the same for many makers and artists. Quality control is a good thing…its just a shame it costs so much (and another reason why the value of a handmade object is so hard to put a price on)!

floral necklace

Anyway, it’s time to tend to the stove now and possibly do a bit of jumping around to warm up and increase my woeful daily step count on my Fitbit. Sara and I both have one as we thought it would encourage us to get more active if we challenged each other… instead we are in denial, rarely reaching 10,ooo steps and still less able to resist toast and butter. I think music is the answer, I just discovered one of my favourite bands, Blue Aeroplanes, is still around after all so I’m off to play it loud and dance like nobody’s watching (sorry cat) whilst waiting for  some thick, fresh bread to toast…

sketchbooks

Reading: “Murder on the Home Front” by Molly Lefebure ( who lived here ) lent to me by our rather lovely log man, Tim.

Listening to:Colour Me”  and “Tolerance” Blue Aeroplanes . “Colour me with burnt sienna, show me where my heart is…”

 

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The Last of Yorkshire…

 

The Last of England - Ford Madox Brown

Yesterday was the anniversary of the momentous day when we finally said goodbye to North Yorkshire and, with a heavy heart, headed in to the unknown -Cumbria. Me and the cat journeyed West with the last of the moving boxes crammed into the trusty old Golf, and while Cat seemed quite content watching the windscreen wipers ( yes it was raining ) I was travelling with very mixed feelings…until we reached that magical stretch of the A66 when the mountains suddenly appear, all majestic and snow topped, telling me to snap out of it. Anyway, a year has passed, this picture has been on my mind “The Last of England” by Pre-Raphaelite, Ford Madox Brown, mostly because of the title and the sentiment- the look of massive resentment and resignation on their faces… I haven’t set foot in North Yorkshire since but maybe it’s time I did, to acclimatise before I go to Harrogate in April!

Map jigsaw, meanding the A591

We have celebrated this weekend with a retro Black Forest Gateau, a trip to Cockermouth (more cake) and finally fixing the road to Grasmere … sorry only kidding, just the jigsaw version which Rupert finished at last (it’s kept him busy and driven him mad every weekend since Christmas). There is going to be a bus to Grasmere soon though, over a temporary bridge and I can’t wait to visit again.

bear necklace by Kim Tillyer

This morning after nailing up a new bird house and hanging up a selection of nuts and seeds to attract some feathery friends, I put all your names in a mug and asked Rupert to pick one… so the winner of  my anniversary giveaway is Lucy McLaurin! Congratulations to you and thank you every one else for your comments. If you send me your address Lucy I’ll go to the post office this week. I’ll also be adding these new bear necklaces and some design samples to my Etsy shop later… I’d love to know what you think. The necklaces are a new and improved version of some I used to make a few years ago, these have sterling silver chains and findings and I’ve been doing rigorous testing (scrubbing with hot water, soap and a washing-up scourer) to make sure they’re robust enough to be sent out in to the world.

Mug design

Well, its a little chilly on this side of the room so I’m going to say goodbye for now and head over to the stove to have a think about more designs… perhaps Spring, Summer and Autumn to go with these wintery bears.

Bear mugs by Kim Tillyer

Reading: ” The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd” James Rebanks (for historical reasons I’m nervous about sheep farmers but I was given this for Christmas and it is actually quite lovely with some great thoughts on the landscape and education and the importance of “running free”)                                                   Listening To: Lost and Found” Steve Mason ( The video is filmed in Snowdonia but it reminds me so much of here and driving in the rain and certain times and friends from the past)

Catching the Sky

blue sky in Keswick

Today the wind dropped and the day was reasonably dry and warm so I’ve just come in from an hour of stick collecting and branch cutting (laying a hedge to let in more light hopefully). Today is Imbolc… the first day of spring, Groundhog Day or St. Brigid’s Day and so, good weather and wood collecting are not necessarily a good thing. The Cailleach collects the rest of her winter fire wood at Imbolc if she intends to make the season last a good while longer (bad weather on this day was seen as a sign that the Cailleach was asleep and that winter would soon be over). Anyway, it was good to be busy outside, it was still light at five, the snowdrops have emerged and as you can see I’ve been catching blue sky in bottles this week to save for a rainy day!

bird house in Buttermere

On Sunday I discovered this little home in a tree on the side of Buttermere; I’m not sure if it had been washed there by the floods or if it fell from higher up but it looked rather sad and in need of a new roof. We walked around the lake, which I’d never done before. The path goes through a tunnel in the rock at one point and it was all very quiet and beautiful; a dusting of snow on the tops and the lake very still and green with orange bracken slopes, bright green moss and young silver birches with pink and white bark –  quite a colour scheme despite the late winter gloom.

Meanwhile in my “studio” the colour scheme is very blue and white as I continue to plan what to take to BCFT in April. I bought some lovely Pink Pig sketchbooks and have been printing and embroidering covers for them on heavy calico. I was so pleased and flattered when they were spotted by the company on Twitter; they were really complimentary which is always such a nice thing when you’re working in isolation in a barn and have no one to get feedback from except the cat!

a busy desk

The days are racing on and by the time I’ve finished typing this it will already be almost halfway through another week and only four days before I pick a winner for the giveaway in the last post… so if you haven’t left a comment there’s still time and if you have then thank you ( and good luck).

embroidered sketchbooks

This is only a short offering today, I have to try and finish designing the catalogue and price list I’m making so that I can post it out to the galleries who have already requested one. I have to continue with product development and working out prices and terms and conditions and how to stick my stand together and most importantly I have to feed the stove because its getting dark and cold now and I need a cozy nest to work or I just huddle and go sleepy like a bear in a cave hoping to hibernate. The wind is picking up again so maybe the Cailleach is stirring…

Buttermere tunnel