The Bake and Crafthouse, Cranbrook

24 December 2013

Baking and crafting all under one roof.
As it's almost Christmas so here's a post to bring cheer and delight. Toddlers wot bake and craft thanks to the wonderful setting that is the Bake and Crafthouse and the gentle auspices of Kate Alsanjak.

Yes, we're in a crafting space. The bunting is the giveaway there.
Kate is a graduate of St Martins and after working for Caramel Baby & Child as well as a stint in textile development for Burberry (AMAZING), she decided to set up her own crafty space in the Wealden town of Cranbrook.

The baking space at the Bake and Crafthouse.
The House is part of an old brewery. It caters for all ages who want to revel in the joys of creating and making. During term time there are regular classes for primary school children and evening events for adults. The toddler class is a particular triumph though.

Shhhh! Industrious mixing is happening.
In one hour the wee ones get to mix and make a marvellous mess that will - after a stint in the oven - emerge as some sort of delicious confection. These photos show the creation of Christmas cupcakes. One mother said, "I've discovered how to make baking at home a much happier experience for myself and my daughter. PREPARATION. I'll get everything weighed and measured before we start and it's meant there's no stress at all. Mess, sure, but no stress". Hear, hear.

Flour, everywhere!

But what to do whilst we all wait for the cakes or biscuits to bake?

So. Much. Mess. So. Much. Joy.
Cue the crafting. The last class of the autumn term involved Paper Craft 101: sticking paper stars onto little triangles of brown paper...

Paper Craft 101

... before sewing them together to make a dingly dangly Christmas decoration. Simple, sweet and the source of much joy for the tiny ones.

What I found fascinating was how individual each toddler's taste and eye was. One little girl only wanted light green stars on her triangles. Another alternated dark green with light whilst the wee one below decided to have a rectangle in the mix.

Dingly dangly Christmas decoration

These little ones found such pride and contentment in making and defining their own style. It's not easy for us mothers to let go sometimes, to let our children just try things their own way and experiment. Every time I do, simply watching and only supporting when asked to (not saying it's easy. It's jolly hard sometimes) I am humbled by what these children create and the pleasure it means for all.

Oooh. Sparkly decoration for Christmas cupcakes.
And all of this is accompanied by tea and - once baked - cake! It is actually a suprisingly tough thing to pull off, an activity that brings contentment for children and mothers. Both parties can spot a mile off people who claim they get on with children (but really don't) but will also revel in the presence of someone who genuinely cares for and thinks about tiny ones.

Kate Alsanjak of the Bake and Crafthouse

So all hail Kate Alsanjak and the Bake and Crafthouse! She's helping the next generation of creators with a calm and loving hand, giving them (and their mothers!) the confidence to enjoy the simple act of making.

Merry Christmas to you all.

(Images: Bake and Crafthouse, Zoë F. Willis)

Craftacular Hath Been

15 December 2013

Well now, what a marvellous way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And as it was in the run up to Christmas (traditionally a period called Advent, I believe) it proved a useful way to gather up many gifts in one fell swoop. Huzzah for Craftacular!

It was a good balance of hip and homely. I think the picture above of the Shoreditch Sisters' WI Christmas tree juxtaposed with bokeh'd elegant types sums up the vibe. There was a good range of objets d'art on offer, all produced by local artists and crafty types. Workshops created spaces for making and proved a healthy complement to the all the stuff that one could buy.

Any quibbles? Just one. The raffle was online only. So no frenzy of raffle ticket lines for me nor the slightly thrilling thought of possibly losing the winning number because it got lost somewhere in the bowels of my handbag.

Craftacular London in Bethnal Green's York Hall, December 8th 2013.

There was such a good range of works from ceramics to textiles to jewellery that there isn't the space to write about everyone. So I'll just keep to my personal favourites. Here we go:

Georgia Bosson  started a theme of strong colours and confident patterns in the textiles that defined Craftacular. With the unexpected mixed media addition of perspex stitched on to her origami-inspired cushion cover. Originally trained as an embroiderer in Manchester, Georgia recently came to the wonderful world of screen printing. Although there's the opportunity to print patterns ad infinitum Georgia made a conscious decision to limit print runs in colour ways. Thus there's no chance of an awkward "Oh! But I've got that cushion cover too!" moment when visiting a chum's residence for high tea. Rather an envious "Oooh" may emit forth from sulky lips when the exclusivity of said cushion cover is announced.

A cushion cover worthy of cushion cover envy. 

Bright and bold prints adorning Georgia Bosson's tea towel packs.

Kangan Arora and Jonna Saarinen had a joint venture stall. Jonna's "hundreds and thousands" adorning cushions, tea towels and trays worked magnificently with Kangan's bright and bold hues. And the pom pom fringing was a triumph.

Kangan Arora and Jonna Saarinen put together a fun collection of soft furnishings and other delights for the interior.
From textiles to jewellery now and I was keen on the stuff by Bobbin and Bow. Not only was there a whimsical Victoriana / Edwardiana feel to the work BUT maker Karolina Merska is another art historian who left the world of academia and has embraced all things crafty and beautiful. YES. I approve muchly.

But back to the jewellery; Karolina dyes found and acquired lace motifs in bright hues before setting them as statement pieces. Her stall presentation was also stunning, simple but effective thanks to the basic principles of complementary colours (art history again) and the use of old books.

Simple but effective jewellery and stall presentation by Bobbin and Bow.
Continuing the jewellery theme we move from haberdashery to porcelain. Quite a contrast in texture and look. Ceramicist Jade Gallup of Me Me Me originally trained as a sculptor before finding her métier in smaller creations. Here pastel colours contrast with striking geometry and linearity in brooches and necklaces whilst other works include tiny 1970s-esque toys or chunky gemstones.

And I love the fact she deploys the "I" word in her etsy spiel. "Iconography", people! Aby Warburg and Erwin Panofsky would be fascinated by how artists of today reuse and reimagine the images, symbols and icons of the past, helping pass on these visual echoes to new generations.

Geometric ceramic jewellery by Jade Gallup of Me Me Me.

Ahem. Sorry, got a bit carried away there.

Back to Craftacular and the James Brown stall. Witty, informative and striking prints abounded and - I do agree with the comment of one customer - it was distinctly masculine. For, quelle surprise, this craft scene is somewhat dominated by women. Which is fine, but we do tend toward different sorts of aesthetics and subject matter to chaps*. How many men do you really know want statement tea towels and crocheted hair clips in their lives? Not many I reckon.

So it was refreshing to find pieces made by local chaps that other chaps will appreciate and us womenfolk will approve of too. And listeners of Radio 4 will be salivating at the prospect of a map showing where the mythical regions of the Shipping Forecast actually are. "Dogger", anyone?

James Brown's prints. Informative and appealing.

Next up, Duvet Days.

Amazing. Just, amazing. Take kids duvet covers from the 1980s (Hellloooo My Little Pony/ Thundercats / Transformers!) sourced from ebay, charity shops and jumble sales...

... then turn into early 1990s inspired crop tops and trousers.


And if you're not brave enough to sport a crop top, word is there are plans afoot to make children's clothes out of said duvet covers. Little girls' shift dresses out of a Transformer cover?

As I said. Amazing. Just, amazing.

And of course there was Christmas-themed baked treats provided by the Bake and Crafthouse of Cranbrook. Yuletide "huzzahs!" all round, methinks.

Christmas baked treats from the Bake and Crafthouse

*Cue comments of heated outrage about gender inequality or casual generalisations but it's too close to the Christmas holidays for me to respond with any vim and vigour. I'm sleek and round with mince pies at the moment and it's not event the Third Sunday in Advent yet. I'll see if I can find a peer reviewed article and possibly create a footnote at some point in 2014.

(Images: Zoë F. Willis)

Craftacular Cometh

4 December 2013

In the early, early days of this blog I found a crafter happy to eat cake, drink tea and answer a few questions I had regarding craft, creativity and the binding of generations and community through making. Nothing too weighty there then...

That crafter was Chloé Burrow of the Merry Bobbins. Today she's organising BUST Magazine's London Craftacular, this Sunday Dec 8, 12-6pm at Bethnal Greens' York Hall. I would expect nothing less of Miss Burrow to organise a Craft Fair of superlative quality and academic pedigree.

Craftacular at York Hall, Old Ford Road in Bethnal Green
Let me explain: one of BUST Magazine's founders is Debbie Stoller. Armed with a PhD in psychology 'twas she who articulated a way in which Feminism and traditional (read: oppressive) "feminine" pursuits e.g knitting, crochet and handicrafts et al could live happily together. You've heard of Stitch and Bitch, I presume? She's the woman who started it all, reassuring us that we didn't need to burn our knitting needles and reject generations' worth of skill and knowledge in order to be a Feminist. 

And fortunately, if you want to be a modern-thinking woman who fancies taking up macramé, you don't need to burn your bra either. Relief all round methinks.

Anyhoo, appropriately BUST established a Craftacular in oh-so-hip Brooklyn yonks ago and luckily decided to set up shop in oh-so-hip-as-well-as-slightly-self-deprecating East London. This is a craft fair where some super smashing design talent - both established and new kids on the block - can show us all just how good they are. And we can purchase some Christmas Presents Beyond Compare for Our Loved Ones in one fell swoop. I do like that.

Cushions made out of vintage tea towels. YESSSSS.
Amongst the designers present will be famed types such as the Poet of Papercraft, Rob Ryan, whilst the marvellous Tatty Devine has given prizes for the raffle (more of which later) and delights in goody bags for ten lucky recipients. There will also be a space - the titillatingly punn'd BOOBTIQUE - for sustainable fashion as well as workshops led by the likes of Fabrications and Make, Thrift London.

Rob Ryan and the Shoreditch Sisters branch of the Women's Institute. Modernity, tradition and a papercraft guru all around one table. Only at Craftacular.
And there's a raffle. I do love a good raffle. There's the adrenalin-charged thrill of it. Good thing I'm not allowed near the gee-gees these days otherwise I'd be in penury. Fortunately, there's small chance of penury and a greater chance of a prize with Supermarket Sarah's BUST Craftacular Raffle draw. Click on through to buy your tickets here.

Supermarket Sarah's yuletide display of prizes for the BUST raffle.

Oh, and there will be music. I don't get out much after 6pm these days, so any chance of daytime boppage is always gratefully received. Ideally something that's not too vigorous. Like medieval dancing.

Which leads me on to my final point... I'm going! See you there. I can't wait to see what Miss Burrow has waiting for us all.

(Images: BUST Craftacular London)