I’m very excited to have a stall at this event celebrating Small Businesses in York. You can read more about the event on the Proudly… website. The event will take place in the glorious Merchant Adventurer’s Hall, from 10:00-15:30 on December 7th. The the 14th century hall was originally a meeting place for Medieval merchants– the perfect venue to celebrate the vibrant independent businesses of York. ”Merchant Adventurers” were seafaring merchants who brought back goods from many places to sell in York– they were traders with “an adventurous spirit”. What a wonderful company– not just the current traders but to be part of a tradition that spans centuries. I’m proud to be included.
It’s Thanksgiving and this year I’m really thankful to the rush of new customers who have found me through Staci Perry’s lovely knitting tutorial which features my Anglo Saxon Pennanular Brooch. I’m also thankful to Staci herself– who has been professional and inspiring to work with. She’s using her talents and skills not only to make us all better knitters but also to support small makers and independent businesses like myself.
This cardigan pattern pairs well with the brooch, and it’s exactly the kind of design I had in mind when I forged these brooches. I love to wear cardigans but don’t like the fuss of buttons or belts so I’m always wearing my hand-knitted cardigans with these pins. Staci’s pattern is the perfect weight for the Yorkshire winter, too!
A simple, endless circle inspired by the moon, ouroboros and archeological finds. This penannular brooch is based on an Anglo Saxon design discovered in North Yorkshire. My version is cold-forged in copper. Cold-forging means no heat is used to form the metal– just hammering and sheer force of will! The bottom edge of the ring has been hammer-finished, the small facets giving the piece an ancient, earthy feel. The pin comes in two sizes– the larger one for bulkier knitted garments and the other for finer, lace-weight shawls and scarves. – See more at: http://feralstrumpet.indiemade.com/product/anglo-saxon-penannular-brooch#sthash.Y9xN339u.dpuf
It’s that time of year when I start thinking of a place that has never been. I get homesick for a mythic land, that hybrid place of Mexico-in-America. You tengo morriña de Aztlan. I hunt down Mexican hot chocolate and make huge piles of tamales so that we end up freezing them and eating them for months afterward, and I dream of the sun. Ironically, this place inside a place is exactly the psychic locael I inhabit as an immigrant in England. Being in two places at once is something I learned way back when I lived in Cali.
This Yule design came out of that nostalgic emotion. I was thinking about the Aztec moon goddess Coyolxauhqui whose name means “Golden Bells”. Bells have long been a way to call to the Goddess, and I prefer that aspect to the anachronism of sleigh bells ringing this time of year.
It is said that Coyolxauhqui was killed by her brother who dismembered her, flinging her body into the sky so that her head became the moon. When the moon is low and bright in the sky, you can see the golden bells of her cheeks shining there. She is also the goddess of the Milky Way.
For a wonderful interpretation of Coyolxauhqui’s story, go to Thalia Took’s Goddess pages.
This necklace is the green of nopalitos, the red of sangre in the sol.
Blessed Yule for those that celebrate it.
It’s the busiest time of year for the shop, and I’ve been working even harder to get my new website up and running for the holidays.
To celebrate, I’m offering free shipping at my new online shop for the entire month of November on all orders over 15 pounds. Use coupon code WELCOME. (Offer can’t be used on reserve or custom orders and can’t be used retroactively).
Taking the leap to build my own shop was a long time in the making– years, really. When I first opened my Etsy shop in 2011 I had no idea that two years later I would be making a living making beautiful things for lovely people. My favourite part of running my Etsy shop, besides making things, was thinking of names for the designs. If I couldn’t think of a name for something, I wouldn’t make it– it clearly wasn’t ready to come into the world yet!
I also relished the idea of the camera as an eye on a dark corner of the imagination filled with books and mysterious objects, much like 18th century still-lifes of the mundane objects of daily life. I have tried to recreate that in my product photographs.
Originally I established my shop with these aesthetics, but over the past two years Etsy has changed, specifically the search function which prioritises simple descriptions, making my poetic titles obsolete. Etsy’s emphasis on urban chic and Amazon.com-like product photography (high contrast with a white background) means it is difficult to get my moodier product photographs seen in search.
Though I made changes to my item’s titles and photography in order to stay in the game on Etsy, it always felt like something was missing. I now had a lovely costumer base who continually told me they liked the names and stories that came along with my work, and the photographs that evoke these things.
So I created a website where my loyal customer base can have these things, and really immerse themselves in the experience of reading and enjoying the site as they shop. Also, I’ll be offering designs and sale items exclusive to my website to reward those who visit!
In my last post other artisans were asking how I set up my independent shop– I use Indiemade. Their customer service is some of the best I’ve ever received. You feel like you have this team cheerleading you every step of the way. The folks at Indiemade understand what a handmade artist might need in a web presence. At feralstrumpet.co.uk, you’ll find past custom work in galleries and archived one of a kind pieces, like my Mina Harker necklaces. Customer praises now have a place to live next to my shop, and you can find press mentions of Feral Strumpet as well as my musings on my process– all in one place.
Though Etsy has been a great place for me to get started, it’s time to grow. Though I’ll still keep my Etsy shop going, the real home for my designs will become feralstrumpet.co.uk. Perhaps the best part of my new site– I don’t have the share the profits with Etsy. Every pence I earn goes back to me, the artist.
Well, hello my pretties! I’m having a sale to celebrate my favourite day of the year, Halloween, (or Samhain if you are so inclined.) 20% off your entire order with coupon code SAMHAIN. (Coupon good only for today. Can’t be used on custom or reserve items, and can’t be used retroactively.)
This is a picture of my workspace. It ain’t pretty, but it’s where pretty things are made. It’s my one woman factory.
Etsy made big news a couple of weeks ago when it announced that factory made goods and drop shipping would now be allowed on the site. Drop shipping allows for factories to make many of something and send it to a third party to be shipped out.
For many who shop on Etsy to have a clearer connection with the people who make what they wear and use every day, this is going to be confusing. For one-woman businesses who do it all and have built their shops on Etsy and earn their livelihood there, this may be devastating.
What this will mean for small businesses like myself is invisibility, as Etsy’s search becomes flooded with products you can find on Amazon or Ebay. Some are saying Etsy may be bought by Amazon in the future, and there are many changes Etsy has made internally that have already shaped it to be more like Amazon.
While this will mean challenges for me as a seller, if there is anything I have learned in the two and a half years of building my business, anything is possible as long as you have a little mountain goat attitude. It is time to evolve. I’ll be sharing these changes– a new online shop, other online selling communities– as I make these changes.
I have started by creating my own independent online shop.
What I mourn is my experience as a buyer on Etsy. I could easily find the products of creative hands and get the feel of an individual’s vision, a glimpse of her creative process and in some way engage with this. This could be found easily through Etsy’s internal search engine, which may now be flooded with factory made goods.
Oddly, as more and more sellers bemoan the “Made in China” goods sold at prices with which small living room operations like myself can’t compete, I have wondered what handmade means, and what I have in common with the workers in these Chinese Factories.
Around the same time Etsy’s CEO made this announcement, I found this photo essay by Michael Wolf of Chinese Factory Workers and the Toys they make. Now that Etsy is featuring “artists” whose work is made by “interns”, I’m fantasizing about what Etsy’s coverage of selected makers will look like when the factory workers, like the women in Michael Wolf’s photos, get to speak. It is of course a fantasy.
This is a missed opportunity– rather than Etsy reaching out to international cooperatives that might be working with free trade models and broadening its international focus to bring goods to its conscious, savvy shoppers, it’s totally confusing things and going for profit margins, betraying all the hard working one-person shops who’ve worked hard publicising the site and making Etsy what it is today.
While my hours are sometimes very long, and my callouses are painful, I still don’t have the resources for interns and personal assistants. The new Etsy would like to cater to sellers who outsource the making of their goods because it means more volume and money for them. The decision makers at Etsy are looking a lot like the big businesses insisting on the bottom line, and the creative hands and hearts that originally built the site are ransomed in the process.
I’ve been featured in an interview up at the Folk Reveries blog!
Folk Reveries is an Etsy team of artists and makers who share a common aesthetic, inspired by myth, folklore and the narratives implicit in the natural world.
Etsy teams are groups of Etsy makers who work together to support each other’s shops, coaching, trouble shooting and inspiring each other.
Having an online shop and being an independent artisan can sometimes feel quite isolating– many Etsy sellers create and participate in teams to find support others might have at a more traditional workplace. I am part of many teams but Folk Reveries has been the Team I have drawn the most inspiration from, and one that genuinely supports its team members. The quality of the artists and makers on this team really shows Etsy at its best. Check out the blog– you can see many other wonderful artists interviewed, with a sampling of their work!
I just completed this set of miniature witch balls for a special customer. Sometimes my shop supporters will have these wonderful requests, ideas that really let me revel in my materials and designs. This set of 8 witch balls in different colours, all with hand-forged hooks and adjustable chains, was one such request. They look so happy together, don’t they?
I was inspired to make my version of the traditional witch ball after seeing a one such wonder in the “moorland cottage” room of the Castle Museum in York. The museum has myriad recreations of domesticity throughout the ages. I was particularly moved by the 18th century cottage, full of rough-hewn furniture. Every object had at least one use, if not three or four. But there in the window– something mysterious and glamorous, even! A glass ball, decoupaged with roses. I, like many unseelies before me, was certainly mesmerized by it. This is my take on the witch ball– made with love and mindfulness, based on old Yorkshire custom where glass orbs were blessed by a wise woman and placed in a window or mantle for protection against malevolence.
You can see more of my miniature witch balls in my Etsy shop.
I’m honoured to have my Tribal Hoop earrings included in the Artisan Issue of York’s One&Other magazine.
This issue is the second anniversary of this special magazine– it has lived in York about as long as I have. This little free bi-monthly magazine captures the soul of York– not an easy thing to do. Though the city is beautiful and full of history, the constant crowds of tourists can blur its essence.
The magazine captures what is going on, much in the way the LA Weekly did when I lived there, but One&Other is not only stylish and knowing, it’s got soul. Seeing the city through the loving lens of this magazine affirms my pride in living and working here.
When Alice Ostapjuk contacted me saying they wanted to use my Tribal Hoops in a photo shoot I was thrilled.
The Editorial Director, Vicky Parry says it best:
…We live in a walled city, one that has flourished on chocolate and attracts millions of tourists to bask in the shadows of its iconically-crafted buildings, to a modern labyrinth of eateries and crafts that bring us industry today…
…this issue pays homage to those that have passion; the people and projects that, like ourselves, were borne out of a hunger to create.
Thank you One&Other for the lovely feature– I’m proud to be included with the other artisans of York.
Last week I was staying with a group of writers in a rambling old house in the woods and photographer Gordon Fraser was there with this Katamari-looking portable darkroom and trays filled with mysterious fluids. Every day these glass plates would transform to little windows of shadow, revealing the woods around us.
I was so excited to sit for him– this involved a neck brace thingy, as one has to remain very still, and a camera that looked like a cross between a wonder cabinet and a concertina. Also there was a pink velvet cape involved. The less said about the sheep’s skull the better.
I asked Gordon about this magical process and this is what he had to say:
When did you first start taking photos with antique cameras? What prompted you to start working in this way?
Well, there is a long long story about how i came to end up taking photos, full stop. However, the vintage camera thing happened because i was specialising in making fine art photographs with my iPhone and one of the post processing styles i was interested in was a Man Ray style of solarisation, which i then started to tinker with and found “plate photography” overlays. I liked the vintage look and decided to find out more…and then I saw a video on youtube of a guy who did the actual Victorian process and I decided I’d have to have a go. It was around June 2012 I decided to try to get involved and it was Sept 2012 by time I got a camera and took a course. You need to take a course I think, there are serious health and safety issues involved here as some of the chemicals you need to mix up are very dangerous indeed.
The one I used for your image was a late 1800′s Tailboard Studio camera that shoots 10″x12″ plates…that’s what you call Ultra Large Format these days. I got it from India and it was in quite spectacularly good condition. My other camera is a smaller french one from Paris 1885 and it was a mess and needed a lot of work to get going. One of the more interesting aspects about your portrait was that I used a period accurate lens with a Petzval design. That is one of the reasons there is such a fall off in to out of focus and also why the out of focus areas look so beautiful. Those old lenses have a focal plane that is quite unlike any modern lens and it gives the picture a very specific look that I find quite beautiful.
Yes indeed I do. The collodion process is slow and involved. The plates themselves have about 100th the light sensitivity of your digital camera. That means unless you are using very powerful studio strobe lights or are outside on a bright sunny day, you are looking at exposure times measured in seconds up to minutes. Outside in the shade in the summer your shot was, I think from memory, 15 seconds. That’s a long time for someone to put on a forced smile…there is nowhere to hide. This means that often a sort of tranquility or thoughtfulness appears in the sitters’ features. It’s as if you are truly seeing in to someones soul. My portraits using my previous digital cameras were not the same.
I think my favourite part is the bit at the very end. With the process you spend days preparing chemicals, cutting and polishing glass, making sure everything is clean and ready to go. Then there is the ritual, like a dance, for making the plate light sensitive, pouring on the collodion brew, dunking it in the silver bath and the short prayer to the collodion gods in the hope it will all work. Then the short 5 minute window of opportunity where you must compose and make that perfect image. Counting out in your head the seconds till you put the lens cap back on…then back in the dark room to develop, followed by the climax, my favourite bit, The Fix. The fix is the moment when your plate turns from one state in to another and you see the final image appear before your eyes. It’s amazing. I’ve done loads of plates now but every time I see that happen I smile.
For commissions for wet plate collodion images just fire me an email to email@example.com i can come to you or you can come to me…