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“Henna art in high demand” Jen of ‘Jen’s Henna’

16 Mar

The kind of crafts I love, are ones that are both inexpensive and bring people together – two things that epitomise the ancient art of henna tattooing.

hand henna, henna tattooing,

Once used in ancient Egypt and India to adorn brides with elaborate floral patterns and motifs, it’s now more widely used amongst men and women at times of celebration.

The sciencey bit: Henna leaves alone won’t stain the skin. It’s only once the leaves have been sifted in to a powder, treated with a mild acid and worked in to a paste that it can form an almost instant stain upon contact with skin – growing darker the longer it is left.

I spoke to a talented young lady who’s busy sharing her passion for henna tattoing in both London and Cambridge! Jen of ‘Jen’s Henna‘ told me about how she got started, and  increasing interest and demand for henna at kids parties, hen do’s and for brides to be.

1. Tell us about how you got in to the art of henna?

I’ve been interested in henna since I was young – I remember once occasion when I was on a beach on holiday and saw someone doing amazing designs, I thought, I’ve got to learn to do that! I’ve always loved drawing patterns and so henna feels like quite a natural interest. I got hold of a henna kit when I was 17 and started practicing on myself and on friends. I’m completely self-taught, and so it was only after graduating from University and wondering what to do next that I started doing henna for money.

interview picture me

2. What’s your proudest henna project to date?

It’s hard to pinpoint a particular project but some the work I’m most proud of has come from when customers have brought their own ideas and asked me to translate them into henna art. I feel most confident doing my own designs, but some of my best work comes from being challenged to create something completely new.

interview picture 2

3. What inspires your work?

My work is inspired by henna designs from all around the world. Different countries and areas of the world have their own styles and I try to learn from all of these.  I particularly like the floral and paisley designs of India and Pakistan, as well as the straight and symmetrical patterns of Morocco and North Africa. Continue reading


Events: Walthamstow Wire Workshops & Jewellery Making

15 Apr

Last month I chanced upon a special kind of craft fair, showcasing the work of crafty men and women who make beautiful one-off jewellery and accessory pieces. The interesting thing about these folks is their fusion of traditional celtic-style stones and modern methods of handicraft.

Birgit Barret - Walthamstow Jewellery Group

They’re all member’s of Walthamstow Jewellery Group, headed up by the charming German expat Birgit Barret. For those unfamiliar with Stow, it’s a borough in north east London, a cosmopolis of all interests, generations and cultures, and home to famous English textile designer and writer William Morris.

Student of Craft

Ouzha, from Walthamstow has been with the group for 6 months, and says her passion is all down to her teacher; “you name it and she teaches it Birgit has taught me so many things like wire crochet, ring making and wire wrap.

She adds: “My real passion now is crochet jewellery, I’m really going to get in to it. It looks great, if you have little gemstones, you just put it in to the wire threads in the necklace and it looks stunning, plus you can adjust it to suit your size, or make a range of sizes if you’re selling your pieces.”

I ask Ouzha what this shift back to the handmade way of life is all about; “You go to to shops nowadays and everything’s mass produced, I think it’s a case of, you know what you like.” The office worker also finds it a calming experience, “when I’m at work and I’m stressed, I just take my crochet on my lunch break and I’m on my way. Also it’s a nice social gathering, because you’ll go to a class and you’ll meet like-minded people.”

The Teacher

The creative guru shares her home with frame making entrepreneurial husband and dog, Rusty. She’s no begginer in the crafting world, and started back in her teens; “I sort of forgot about it, then picked it up again seven years ago – I got interested in beds & crystals and wanted to wear them.”

Like many successful creative professionals she told me her crafting business grew by mistake; “two yrs ago, people ask me if I teach, I thought, what is there to teach? So I looked in to it and started a little class in my front room. I converted that and now I’m running classes in the evening every week.

” I also host two daytime workshops and classes on Saturdays, plus fayres and whatever I can fit in.”

Crafty Tuck Shop Continue reading

Early Learning Centre: Rorschach Psychological Assessment Art

11 Nov

Inspiration: For weeks upon end I kept visualising creating some kind of art with paint, repitition and some element of fading.

Like most other unreasonable women the name of a product is a major factor in the buying process. A prime example of this is make-up, and brands like Topshop make-up and Barry M cosmetics have got this art down to a ‘T’.

Another influence to this piece were the pictures used in psychological assessments – which I have since found out (thank-you Google) are named after Swiss psychologist Mr Hermann Rorschach; appropriately named ‘the Rorscharch test’ or simply the inkblot test, designed to reveal the details of our subconscious (see below).

The Rorschach test

The names I gave each finger print stain are pretty self explanatory, but I just wonder what they say about me. Do let me know what you see through your own eyes in these ‘inkblots’.

Project: Whip up some simple paint, one part poster paint powder, the other simply water. Place on a flat surface (a plastic plate works well) dip your finger in and press down on five different points along in a line on some paper. Place pressure on different parts of your finger each time, then leave to dry and write down the first thing that comes to mind.

TOPTIPS: When choosing paints, keep in mind that bolder colours tend to be the best for inkblot tests, evoking passion and emotion the most.

Shedding Some Thoughts

11 Oct

I’ve felt a significant change in the air of late. The days seem to drag, it seems strange, unnatural even to be waking up to darkness each day. The summer sun has closed its shutters, while autumn’s claws claim the pavements.

In the political arena we are seeing much promise from mp’s of late. Just last week – the main party conferences came to a close, with new hopes and plans to be delivered pending their victory. For the most part audiences were shown old policies with the dust blown off, but still there is the illusion of new things.

Over the weekend lots of families the world over saw in the holiest few days of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur – a chance for growth and reflection. A chance to sit back and consider what it is exactly one wants to be remembered for.

The monumental event that stirred up all this contemplation was the clear out and demolition of our garden shed. Something that has existed since we had moved in to this house 13 years ago, in my mind it symbolises the acceptance of new things.

Here were some viewpoints from the day:


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Sniffing Out the Crafters at Glastonbury 2011 – Green Crafts Village

23 Aug

Music, drinking, nudity, tents, hippies, druggies, oh, and arts and crafts.

Where did I encounter all of these wonderful things and more?…At the annual Glastonbury festival on Worthy Farm, Somerset.

The area that I just couldn’t help but explore was of course the Green Crafts Village in the heart of the festival. Full of woodcarvers, jewellery makers and sculptors who used clay or even mud as their material.

Glastonbury Green Crafts Village – clay

One of the many wood carving stalls was Spinney Hollow – even the name conjures up images of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales like The Tinder Box or The Wood Nymph.

However Spinney Hollow couldn’t be any further from sinister. Kate from SH would describe it as; “a sustainable, low impact woodland specialising in traditional craft courses and outdoor art events.”

Traditional is certainly a word I would use to describe the vast array of crafting stalls that are championing historic British crafting techniques. They all seemed to bring the crafts in to a modern setting with innovative combinations of old and modern methods. One example of this was the use of hammering tools against everyday utensils like forks and spoons to craft bracelets and necklaces.

Glastonbury forks and spoons jewellery craft

One stall that went even further was Miss Katie Cupcake who was bang on-trend with her kitsch meets heritage inspired jewellery. A favourite item of mine was in fact by a friend of Katie’s ‘Paul’ who creates show stopping headbands with bright red patent cherries as big as your fist.

Miss Katie Cupcake stall helper at Glastonbury 2011

Glastonbury is a festival that has changed dramatically over time, the very first festivals took place each summer from 1914 to 1925 in Somerset, simply a ‘series of cultural events’ that took place.

Glastonbury Green Crafts clay dinosaur

The seventies gave birth to the type of music festival that still exists today, however one distinct fact has changed – it is no longer a secret, and what once costed a pound is now closer to £200.

Despite all the changes, the fact remains that Glasto is a festival centred around community, good music, rock, pop, soul, funk, progressive, ambient, house, r&b, classical, acoustic and so many more. It’s all there to be enjoyed with a glass of country cider and your arm around a good friend – I’d recommend it to everyone.

Ella Darlington Glastonbury Helium Fields – Stone circle

It’s ‘All Bless’ on the eastern front – statement jewellery with a conscience

3 Aug

Last Saturday during a jaunt around the capitals’ trendy London Fields district I stumbled across Netil market, a hidden haven of vintage art books, retro clothing, live music and character-filled jewels.

Netil Market 'not another chuffin' market'

The ‘All Bless’ ladies, Gen, Anne and Lita are the faces behind the new hippie inspired jewellery brand with a heart, their mixture of Swarovski crystals, precious & semi-precious stones and forraged materials – come together to create statement pieces that look pretty – and make you feel good.

All Bless jewels

One particular range that caught my eye, were the leather feathers. Anne assures me: “We make sure that it’s all recycled or second hand.” Adding “we also make sure there’s no child labour involved.”

All Bless leather feather earrings

The name sums up what the team is all about. ‘Bless’, ‘a street term that states that everything is cool, everything is good’, and ‘All’ to symbolise ‘the collective of three designers.’

To look at the owners, you’d assume they’d been at this jewellery making game for a long time. However it is ‘a hobby’ for both Gen, who actually works in advertising and Anne works in Marketing.

Anne & Gen 'All Bless'

The jewels themselves live up to their unique label, whereby each item is a one off: “That Agate over there was sourced from a particular location, and once it’s gone it’s gone – then we find a new stone that inspires us.

“That’s the exciting bit really.”

The ‘All Bless‘ family is dreaming up an earthy taupe on silver colour scheme for autumn/winter, Anne explains; “We love working with lots of different textures and creating really individual pieces.”

Personally I’m looking forward to investing in some more leather feather earrings you can choose to rock a bohemian vibe and buy one for £7 or stick to symmetry and get two for £12. The talented craftswomen are able to fashion pieces to your exacting standards and tastes – and use both silver and gold plated metals.

All Bless leather feather earring - in turquoise leather, red cow fur, & glass beads - Ella Darlington

Stay glued to the All Bless Twitter page for regular product posts and where to find the stall each weekend.

Netil Market

Beautiful spectrum fine line doodles

2 May

Dazzlin' Diamonds on the reverse

Isn’t it nice when the post isn’t all doom and gloom – this visual feast arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago from my friend who’s an illustrator.

Obviously I cannot take credit for this piece, but I have been meaning to deliver a post about the gorgeous fine line waves that covered and carressed the envelope…her penwomanship isn’t bad either. I think I have a slight obsession with beautiful handwriting.

Sara Keating

This style of repetitive line drawing is proving very popular at the moment, fineliner never exactly went away – it’s always been there in book illustrations, but illustration students are finding new and exciting ways to make the method more contemporary, just like this fine liner pin-up piece by Hannah Stouffer, and this gorgeous Sylvanian family-style cat illustration by Matthew Green.

Here are a few other innovative stationary pieces that have caught my eye recently:

Simple and cost effective, Ready Made blog‘s invites are perfect for birthdays or wedding invitations. The yellow sashes give it that design edge that make the piece trully chic.

This beautiful ‘Spring bird’ note piece by O-Check deisgn graphics feeds in to my passion for the simple but effective.

Suann Song of ‘SIMPLESONG‘ blog always gets it right, red and white work beautifully together, along with the old school layout.