Photography Skills and Byzantine Iconoclasm

26 September 2012

It's only taken me a PhD in the History of Art, a subscription to Vogue, an enjoyable biannual peruse of the Gentlewoman and many hours frittered away on Skandi lifestyle blogs to realise the following:

Yes, WORD is important. There are three major monotheistic faiths based upon this precept. But IMAGE is also rather significant. This is probably why the three faiths have been wary of images at various points, with accusations of idolatory and bouts of iconoclasm peppering their histories.  Remember that rather frenzied hiccup in 8th-century Byzantium? Of course you do.

Not that I am suggesting we daub with whitewash and burn all carefully curated Tumblr pages or back issues of Vogue. My point is that words have power. And so do images. Together, they really pack a punch.

Which leads me back to this blog. Although I'm using this primarily as a means of practising and showcasing my writing, I need this blog to also look good.

Here's an experiement.Take one glass, an old Nokia (mine) and a pair of super sexy Dior sun glasses (not mine. But I will start saving. Do you think Dior does prescription lenses?).

Place objects on table. 

Add one blogger who dreams of creating a Skandi-esque craft blog of beauty and one professional photographer who hasn't but is amused by aforementioned blogger's ambitious dreams.

Give them both the same camera. In this instance an aged and slightly battered Panasonic DMC-FZ7 (mine).

And this is what you get.

My photo. Sunglasses. Rubbish Nokia. Edge of a glass and an errant tea spoon that gatecrashed the composition.

My friend, Rosemary Allt's photo. There are no need for words. This picture simply screams Studio 54 meets Tom Ford.

Hmph. I need to up my game. And so after almost 25 years in full-time education I am taking yet another course as a means of filling this skills void.

Thanks to Brandy Frank, Texan wedding photographer and e-course doyenne of Bella Pop, I can now show you a few Things Wot I Have Photographed. And not one has gone anywhere near PicMonkey, my usual go to for whizz bang photo effects.

These are all baby steps towards getting the most Pinterestable images in the world ever or maybe the sort of pictures Emperor Leo III the Isaurian (AD 717-741) would have deemed worthy of defacement.


Well, maybe just a decent cover picture for my Facebook page. That might be a more reasonable goal to start with.

Weird, fluffy seed head things

Giant's tea party

Duck in a flower pot surveying its empire

Moss on a tile

Bath Abbey in the waters of the Roman bath in - you guessed it! - Bath

I went all David Attenborough with this photo of a dragonfly. AND I NEARLY DIED. Look at it. It's about to pounce. On me.

Dew drops on a magnolia
Now I just need a bokeh-laden image of a dew-smothered,  man-eating amigurumi dragonfly on my blog and then I'm set. There would be no better foil to my writing.

(Images: Zoë F. Willis & Rosie Allt)

The Designers: The Renegade Craft Fair, London

25 September 2012

It may not have been the most sparkling of reviews, but it shouldn't detract from quality of  the artists and crafty types selling their wares at the Renegade Craft Fair. Here are my pick of the lot, with an emphasis (naturally) on those with a textiley bent to their work.

To begin with the charming Kim Smith of Art Equals Happy, spinning her own dyed wool. It seems Kim was the face of the fair as I've seen her on a number of other blogs and the RCF website itself. Well done, Kim!

It was during an internship at Prick Your Finger that Kim learned the retrotastic and enviably useful skill of spinning. before launching her small range of wools.

On sale were deliciously named skeins of Cookies and Cream or Toffee Caramel Taffy spun from the fleeces of sheep raised on this green, pleasant but occasionally windblasted and sodden land. What to knit, what to knit?

But whilst you're considering that, do have a go at Kim's digital embroidery patterns. They're Harry Potter themed.

There's so much that's right about that combination of boy wizard and embroidery. Once you think about it.

Continuing on the themes of stitching and thought-provocation we come to the embroidery sampler kits of Miso Funky.

When in doubt - particularly when doing battle with an especially recalcitrant soufflé or curdled crème anglais or eyebrow-singeing flambé - just ask, "What Would Delia Do?"
I do like this gentle ribbing of a primness usually associated with nineteenth-century samplers. The one on the top right is particularly startling and does cause one to chuckle at the thought of some virginal vicar's daughter in the Cotswolds meticulously working away on such a piece circa 1815.

An unlikely scenario, granted. But an amusing whimsy to nonetheless consider.

Speaking of whimsy we simply must bring our attention to Miwary. Originally trained in fashion design, Miwa Vicary appears to have found her forte in tiny packets of cute (yes, that word is applicable here), kitsch, hand-stitched and totally desirable... well, whimsyness.

You're eyes are not deceiving you. It's an entire necklace made out of hand-stitched hamster heads. AMAZING.

It looks like all the pattern cutting that came with her training has set her up in good stead for turning 2D ideas into 3D mini sculptures. I do hope that one day some craft publishing house will take Miwa on board and produce a book with some of her delicious patterns in there so that we could all have a go.

By the way I now have a fabric teacup in my life. It's for holding things. You know, the general delectable clutter of life. Like washi tape

Finally, and nothing to do with textiles, but everything to do with Palladio's Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, but in miniature and made of lazer-cut birch... *drum roll*...

... *dancing girls*...

... *crash of a huge gong or giant cymbals, I'm not fussed which*...

Mr. Nico's mini theatre.


Ok, so I may have projected the Palladian vision upon it. But what fun! I'd be attempting a very tiny Goldoni comedy with this. Il servitori di due padroni, anyone? Unleash those periwigs...

(Images: Zoë F. Willis)

The Review: Renegade Craft Fair, London

24 September 2012

Apologies that it has taken a wee while to get this blog post up. It has warranted some pondering before posting.

So on Sunday September 16th I went to the Renegade Craft Fair (hereon RCF) and it was...


The pondering was necessary to work out just why it was only an "ok" on my personal scale of enthusiasm.

I think I may have been envisaging more of a fest for the imagination, with stall holders as purveyors of inspiration, providing materials and ideas which visitors could then take away and create their own projects of delight.

And it wasn't quite that. Imagine some clever science boffin had extracted Folksy from the intermeweb and made it tangible. And as Folksy was the RCF's main sponsor, I suppose it was appropriate it should be thus; 

A market where you could buy stuff.

Granted it was some interesting and desirable stuff made by the people who were selling it. Fewer air miles, support of local economy and British designers and all that.

And amongst this stuff were some lovely jewellery, witty prints, gaucho leather goods and the occasional textiley objet d'art. Which is fine. I acquired a couple of bits and bobs myself and as, you know, I'm one for a good market or fair or charity shop bargain.

But this market was on Brick Lane on a Sunday. 

Brick Lane on a Sunday. This photo doesn't do justice to the mighty flood of humanity that throng this stretch of London but you get a hint of the busyness.

I'd already passed through Spitalfields Market en route and was already feeling slightly overwhelmed already by sparkly trinkets. Underneath the RCF in the Truman Brewery was the weekly Sunday Up Market. This sells jewellery, prints, leather goods and the occasional textiley objet d'art.

Less than a 5-minute walk north up Brick Lane and - still part of the Truman Brewery complex - is the Backyard Market, which sells jewellery, prints, leather goods and the occasional textiley objet d'art.

Continuing north one reaches Columbia Road. Yes, the main emphasis is flowers but there are a lot of stalls on Ezra Street and in the shops around that sell jewellery, prints....

You see where I'm going with this? There's just an awful lot of people selling "craft" along this stretch of East London at the weekend. And the RCF didn't stand out much from a very busy crowd.

I think what I found slightly uncomfortable was the RCF's emphasis on consumption and not enough about making. Maybe next time there could be a few more indie wool dyers, jewellery kit makers and scrapbook "how to-ers" to complement all the other stuff. Really, how much Tatty Devine (whose shop is ALSO on Brick Lane) -inspired bling does one need in one's life?

I want the inspiration, the tools and kit to make my own bling.
(Images: Zoë F. Willis)

Renegade Craft Fair - London

14 September 2012

It looks like I've a free Sunday looming so I'll probably wander through Columbia Road Market to gather some blooms. I'll then amble along Brick Lane, indulging in the various tasty delights the street food scene has to offer, before reaching my ultimate destination of the Truman Brewery.

Within I shall find Renegade Craft Fair.

I'm a little bit excited about what delights will be on offer. However, it's going to be a big ask to top the fabulousness of the Kitsch and Stich Fair in Cranbook.

London: get your game on!

(Image: Renegade Craft Fair

Kitsch and Stitch Vintage Makers' Fair

10 September 2012

It's great to get out of London. Reveling in the fresh air of the countryside, enjoying the restorative effects of a bucolic escape and all that. 

It's even better when you come across a sign like this:

Which is what I did whilst pottering about the market town of Cranbrook in Kent.

And so I sped towards the Vestry Hall, followed the bunting-bedeck'd stairs (lashings of bunting is always a good sign in these instances) until I entered this happy space:

The Kitsch and Stitch fair was in full swing. Four times a year the Vestry Hall is host to this free event, providing an opportunity for local creative businesses to show their strictly vintage wares and craft skills to an appreciative audience. There's also a fantabulously decadent cake stall, the proceeds of which go to support the Hospice in the Weald.

You can imagine the sort of thing; retro fabric, mid-century crockery and handmade goods accompanied by the best sausage rolls and fairy cakes this side of Maidstone

There's probably a missing Canto of Dante's out there, somewhere, describing such a thing in a circle of the Paradiso.

Debbie Good - one of the organisers (of the fair, not Dante's renowned tour of Heaven) - has a stall displaying the wares from her own company,
Pretty Goods. Embroidered linen napkins and tea towels are resurrected as utterly desirable pin cushions, scissor cases and - my favourite - geek chic iPad sleeves smothered in blowsy tea roses. What a cunning way of cocking a snoop at all those minimalist techie types.

However in order to cock said snoop all I need is an iPad to encase with said vintage floral print cover. * sigh *

Amongst the other stall owners, I was particularly taken by
Home Front Vintage. You can buy cards made from old Brownie badges.

This is witty genius and the card poses a profound question about the times in which we live... I sense an academic niche that needs filling with a PhD.

In addition the suitably make-do-and-mend attitude of
Home Front Vintage provides a second life to otherwise damaged books and maps from the 1930s and 40s. Linen backed folding maps are reformed as bunting with a twist whilst the maps that RAF fighter pilots carried on raids have become notebook covers.

Technically interesting and great fun were the embroidered pictures of Miss Violet Vintage.  My first thought was that these were free-machined objects of desire but this mother daughter team actually hand embroider each piece. Mother Tracy has a background in illustration rather than textiles and the pieces' graphic qualities do smack of David Downton. But made with thread rather than ink. Love it.

House Martin produced some highly entertaining toys and decorative bits and bobs in an astounding array of patterns and hues. Until I spotted their wares I didn't know that my life was devoid of startled aliens and pirate gingerbread men, and thus all the poorer for it. This lacuna will be filled by Christmas.

Speaking of which, the next fair is on Saturday December 1st 2012. Fancy a jolly to the countryside to stock up on Christmas presents, support the economy, local creative types AND enjoy an astounding amount of home made cake, safe in the knowledge every penny is helping the Hospice in the Weald?

Yes, I thought you might.

(Images: Zoë F. Willis)