Goodness! It’s now September! Wow, where did the summer go?
Let’s be honest. Our British summers are can be fairly hit and miss can’t they? In fact, the one thing you can rely on is its unpredictability. No wonder our favourite topic is the weather! However, I feel like we had a fabulous August this year, probably the best weather we’ve had for the summer holidays in a long while. Lots of sunshine and lovely long evenings with many trips to parks and to the gorgeous North Norfolk beaches. I enjoy watching the ever changing ocean stretching on and on into the distant big blue skies dotted with the occasional puffy white clouds.
However, time is moving, gathering her speed as we now head towards autumn and the weather is still glorious. I do love this time of the year with the fading light levels reflecting through the changing colours in my garden and the countryside. Kind of gives me that warm, fleeting feeling inside, reminding me to make the most of it before the dreaded winter sets in… And, a subtle reminder that we also have just over month until the Balsham Craft, Gift & Food Fair on the 8th and 9th October.
I am so looking forward to this one. In fact, I am very excited! There are an amazing group of designers, craft makers and food producers again this year who are offering you something unique, extraordinary and luxurious. My gut feeling is telling me that this fair may be better than last year. So much energy, passion, drive and most of all tonnes and tonnes of time as gone into this one. So yeah, feeling the good vibes.
I don’t know about you, but I love the fact that there is something special about a gift which has been lovingly designed and created, especially if it has been tailor made to your requirements either for yourself or for that special person in your life. This year, the choice is huge. You can just buy what the stall holder has on display or have a chat to her/him about having something made for you or maybe buy later on via their websites.
I never used to be that fussed about visiting craft fairs until I meet one or two fabulous crafters and went out to visit them at the craft fair events they were at and OMG! There was so much more to craft fairs than I had ever imagined. I found smoke fired ceramics, infused glass, 3D crochet (not just rugs and shawls), ceramics, crystal and fine silver jewellery and amazing array of different types of textile products, artists and artisan foods. You have all converted me! Now I always try to buy any gifts from independent, small businesses such as yourselves. You have so much more to offer than those boring old High Street shops.
Now, I very much appreciate what goes into each and every single one of the items you design and make, the hours you spend which for most of you happens to be your spare time as you hold down normal jobs. You lovely crafters are inspiring and incredible people. You have transformed me and now I advocate supporting local, handmade, craft!
On my journey, I have come across some amazing fairs – Cambridge Made, Clare Priory Craft Fair, Sophie’s Smile, Ely Cathedral Food and Gift Fair just to name a few. Thanks to these fairs, they have introduced me to some amazing, talented people and their crafts. Go along, visit and make a small purchase from your favourite stalls. You will be impressed with what is on offer.
Talking of small purchases, I have been following the JustaCard campaign on Twitter. This campaign was set up fairly recently to raise awareness of the plight of artists and galleries, designers and makers and their futures as small businesses. Many of these have disappeared in the past few months so this campaign is to encourage you all to purchase, JustaCard, or perhaps something small. Don’t just say “oh that is really beautiful” spend time with the maker chatting about what has taken your interest and walk away without buying. This is likely to be disheartening for them. For every sale, no matter how large or small at a gallery, craft fair or on-line may just be enough to keep these small businesses going. Every single purchase you all make counts towards their survival in competing with the High Street shops and also hopefully these lovely, talented people will return to this and future craft fairs. So when you visit our fair next month, do spend some time with your favourite stalls, talk to the designer/maker about what they do and their story behind their crafts, some of them have interesting stories to tell. You may not have a lot of money to spend but a do purchase a small something from them. They will appreciate whatever you buy. If nearly all of us did, it may be just enough to cover the cost of their stall, their time, travel expenses and raw materials.
Sadly, I am writing this blog with a tinge of sadness as this is my last craft fair here at the Meadow School. As my son has now moved up to secondary school I will no longer be a parent and able to volunteer my time. I have really have enjoyed organising this lovely community event over the past three years. When I took this on after the 2013 fair I had no idea what was coming my way. Taking this project on and getting stuck in planning and running this event has introduced me to a whole new world of craft as well as meeting some really interesting people – never say what you do is “boring” – you all have a very different story to tell.
You could say the Balsham Craft, Gift & Food Fair has kind of changed my life a little. Maybe I found a little niche. Something I enjoy doing and feel so obsessive about (think about it 24/7, even while on holiday) it has become my little project, my baby I suppose.
It will be sad saying goodbye to the you all, well in this capacity. I have had an amazing journey with a lot of thrills and the occasional spill along the way.
So keep up the fantastic work you do you amazing gifted, talented, extraordinary folk. I will still be around and look forward to seeing you most of you again soon at Sophie’s in Exning, Near Newmarket on 5th November.
And visitors, please do keep supporting these amazing people and the fairs/events they attend, help to keep these small businesses and hobbysts alive.
Now moving onto some stall holder promotion:
An incredible new jewellery designer and maker is joining us for the first time this year.
After Louise of Nanuk Jewellery completed her BA (Hons) Silversmithing, Goldsmithing & Jewellery degree at Kent Institute of Art & Design in Rochester, she spent some time working at a local jewellers before she began designing, making and selling her own jewellery, including undertaking commissions.
Much of the inspiration of Louise’s work is taken from the magnificent book illustrations of the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries, particularly the works of Kay Nielsen, Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham where she aims to convey the opulent detail and colour of these illustrations by using lots of wire-wrapping and brightly coloured stones and beads. The stories themselves, myths and fairy tales also frequently provide her with inspiration, as well as the things she has read, seen, watched – almost anything really! Louise is always looking for new ideas and is very happy to undertake commissions, including wedding jewellery, so please feel free to visit her at the Balsham Craft, Gift & Food Fair on Sunday and discuss any ideas you have in mind.
All of Nanuk’s jewellery is designed and hand made in Saffron Walden, just outside Cambridge.
A fabulous new stall holder for 2016 is Helen the creator of Bearsfootprints a busy mum of three who loves all things crafty. This is Helen’s first year at the Balsham Craft, Gift & Food Fair and will be there on the Saturday only. You can find her selling her beautiful handmade creations from glasses cases, pencil cases, door stops to storage bins.
In between looking after her family, Helen designs and makes little accessories for all the family and for occasions that may be special to you. She is inspired by nature and uses many different types of fabrics from well know designers like Cath Kidston to Michael Miller to using more natural fabrics like tweed and organic linens.
Handmade and Gorgeous
Karen Banks of Handmade and Gorgeous loves making ceramic smoke fired cats and accessories down in her small shed in her back garden in Essex. All of Karen’s pieces are initially low-fired in an electric kiln. The smoke firing is carried out in garden incinerators using a mix of newspaper and garden cuttings. Each piece is prepared for smoke firing using a range of resist techniques – course clay slip, organic materials, string, wire, wax – aiming to control the intensity and distribution of the smoke to achieve the various markings. Karen enjoys the unpredictability of working with fire and smoke, it enhances the organic and natural quality of the individual pieces. No two pieces are ever the same, only similar, as if part of the same ‘family’.
Karen works with stoneware, hand building clay mixed with porcelain. After rolling out a slab of clay it is firmed up a little and then each cat is cut out. Once tidied up, they are left out to dry to a leather hard stage. At this point, the facing side of the cats are burnished several times with tiny gemstones to achieve a silky smooth finish and then left to dry out completely.
The pieces are low fired in an electric kiln. A range of resist techniques are used to control the intensity and distribution of the smoke to achieve the various markings. Smoking is carried out in garden incinerators using a mix of newspaper and garden cuttings. Each firing is quite fast, but each cat is smoke fired two to three times sometimes more to achieve the deeper tones. Once cleaned, the smooth surfaces are polished with beeswax to restore the burnishing sheen. Each cat is then glued to a white backing board then box framed.
Karen makes the perfect gift for all cat lovers. Each cat is lovingly handmade and unique due to the unpredictability of the smoke firing process. Not two cats are the same, only similar as part of the same family.
Karen offers a bespoke service to customers who may be looking for a particular combination of cats.
Ely Farmhouse Furniture
Ely Farmhouse Furniture specialises in farmhouse furniture and accessories and is joining us for the first time but is only there on the Sunday.
Their new farmhouse furniture is made from reclaimed solid wood and offer a range of finishes from clear waxed to any range of Farrow and Ball colours. Their reclaimed furniture is carefully sourced ensuring their furniture comes from good quality solid wood. For Ely Farmhouse Furniture good design is no just using the finest raw materials, the most talented craftsmen and best tradition carpentry techniques, it is making a beautiful design at a very affordable price. As a passionate team of individuals who are committee to this simple idea, they work hard to make each piece look stunning to last a lifetime and not costing the earth.
WHAT WE DO
WE LOVE GOOD DESIGN
Follow Ely Farmhouse Furniture on Facebook.
Raw and Delicious
Caroline Lemons, founder of Raw and Delicious believes in wholesome and delicious goodness and seeks to promote and share her passion for great tasting cakes using the finest ingredients to allow guilt-free indulgence. All of their creations are free from dairy, wheat, gluten and refined sugar and do not use any refined or modified ingredients.
This is their first time at the Balsham Craft, Gift & Food Fair and is joining us on Saturday only.
Just under a year ago, Caroline’s journey to making raw cakes began when she started to take more of an active interest in leading a healthy lifestyle as well as the food she was eating. Caroline has always loved sweet treats and struggled to find delicious and nutritious desserts in the shops, local cafes and markets.
Caroline’s love for delicious and wholesome food led her to start making her own raw cakes in her kitchen at home. Armed with a basic blender and a sweet tooth, she began experimenting with different flavours, superfoods and ingredients. Caroline was soon on her way to creating tasty and healthy alternatives to traditional desserts.
From raw chocolate cake to protein balls, her creations will delight any sweet treat lover. Find out what cakes she makes please visit her website.
We would like to welcome Josette of Finesse designs to the fair. Josette hand makes embroidered cards as well as working to felt to make animals, cushions, bags, decorations and a lot more.
In Josette’s youth in France she knitted and when she became a Mother, she kept going and started sewing and embroidery.
Josette then moved to England. When she retired from 32 years of teaching, she moved into a little village between Cambridge and Huntingdon and met a lovely lady who was a crafter and asked Josette to join her Monday club. Josette then started to make hand embroidered cards and got the bug!
Josette fell in love with felt where she discovered that she could make patterns of different things. She felt this was the right path for her and here we are today. Josette makes bird and animal decorations that can be attached to bags, cushions, bunting, etc. Felting is a hobby of Josette’s and really loves making lovely things and gets a lot of pleasure from people admiring them. Josette does not make money out of this hobby, she just makes enough to cover her expenses. Josette will be at the Balsham Craft, Gift & Food Fair on Saturday only.
Follow Finesse on Facebook.
From the Heart
Hannah of From the Heart has been using her computer for creative purposes for years (borne out of a love of, but no great talent for, drawing). After designing all the stationery for her wedding and making a few ‘voucher’ style and word-art gifts for her family, a friend saw Hannah’s work and asked why she wasn’t selling it. This was just a hobby and was sure no-one that wasn’t related to Hannah would be interested! After much badgering Hannah agreed and set up a Facebook page and From The Heart was born! Hannah was originally just doing a few bits for friends but her personalised and bespoke word-art has proved really popular and now it has gone from a hobby to a small business run around her three young children. Whilst the personalisations (particularly Star Wars) are great fun, Hannah does love the challenge of new commissions… from drones to monkeys, to coats of arms…
“I really enjoy not knowing what’s coming next! I’ve also decided to offer a small range of animal design generic greetings cards recently to add to the Christmas cards, which much as I object to when the sun is shining, I really do need to start on!!”
Follow From the Heart on Facebook.
These are just a small handful of our lovely stall holders. If you wish to find out about some of our other lovely stall holders please read our April or July blog or follow us on Facebook and take a look at our photo gallery.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and my other blogs. I hope this has inspired you to support craft makers, designers and producers and of course, to visit the Balsham Craft, Gift & Food Fair
Entrance is £2 for adults and includes a free tea or coffee. Under 16’s are 50p each.
Hope to see you there! There is so much to see as we have a huge variety of stalls. The Balsham Craft, Gift & Food Fair is one not to be missed.
Follow us on: