Makers House

I was invited by a friend who works at Burberry to come and see the Makers House a collaborative pop up space between Burberry and the New Craftsman. An empty office building in Soho had been taken over and transformed for six days into a wonderful creative panoply of craft, fashion, food and entertainment all tied together with elaborate wallscapes of moodboards plucked from the historically-inspired vision of head creative at Burberry, Christopher Bailey.

It was an enchanting space, entered through a dramatic tunnel lined with illuminated sculptuary and a delightful courtyard strung with lights. Inside, a sequence of areas were inhabited by working craftsmen, plying their trade lacquering or calligraphing within a mise en scène embellished with the tools of the trade. Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and the interiors of Nancy Lancaster, the designer who ran Colefax and Fowler in the 1930s, the experience felt like a stepping back into an 18th pleasure garden interpreted through the eyes of a 19th century aesthete for the delectation of a 21st century audience.

y nagging disgruntlement at the missing apostrophe in the event’s title, was assuaged only by the story that my friend told about how Burberry had to repaint the sculpture of a rather muscular, but disembodied pair of male legs and buttocks, as it had been covered in lipstick kisses from a multitude of drunken photo ops on the opening night!

Creative Spaces

The Dulwich Open House put me right in the mood for visiting some more creative spaces and so last weekend I trekked up to Clerkenwell to look around the many studios open for the Made in Clerkenwell event at Craft Central. I’ve been a member of Craft Central for many years but I’d forgotten just how many floors there are across the two Victorian buildings as I’ve never made it all the way round this event in one go.

I’d also forgotten how many jewellers there are at Craft Central, which I think is a leftover from the days when the organisation constituted a group of jewellers known as the Clerkenwell Green Association before its rebranding as Craft Central. There was plenty of beautiful jewellery to look at and try on in the warren of studios lining the corridors of Pennybank Chambers. My favourite was the elegant geometric designs by Myia Bonner of Myia which were on display right opposite the bench on which they were made.

I always find creative spaces fascinating and as much an expression of their owners as the creations that are produced within their four walls. Neat and organised, random and empty, or packed to the gills with stuff, these are all the quirky working spaces from which emerge all manner of creative products. Sadly Craft Central will be closing the doors of its two Clerkenwell buildings next year as the landlords are selling off the site to the inevitable property developers that always seem to turf out the artists in every area in London. Some makers have worked from these studios for many years and are now being uprooted. Sarah Herriot (above right) described how the tree outside her studio did not even reach the window when she set up her studio here 14 years ago; the greenery is so prolific now, one would think the studio was somewhere in the countryside.

Sarah Hocombe is another artist who has been painting in her studio at Craft Central for many years but she is thinking about setting up at home. As an occupant of one of the few studios at Craft Central which has a window at street level, she has had a few commissions which came about from clients seeing her intriguing painting as they passed by outside. She had painted small egg tempera frescoes on fragments of bricks which were laid out in display cases as examples of her work.

painted wall detail

I also spotted a little detail of a mural bird who looked like it had laid three real eggs on the electrical socket. It’s desperately sad to think these little signature details will all be wiped out to make way for apartments for bankers wanting to acquire some Clerkenwell cool.

NOTHS nonsense

You may have heard of If you have been eagle eyed, you might have spotted its sporadic yet polished TV adverts. If you like unique, handmade products you may well have even bought something from the site.

noths logo

I have been a seller on NOTHS from its inception in 2006 and I remember its founders Holly and Sophie coming round trade shows looking for interesting makers to promote on their site. Over the years I felt the emphasis change from an organisation which supported its makers to a slicker operation which exploited them. These two women built their business on the backs of craft makers like me and made themselves millionaires in the process.

The business was sold in 2015 and it then appointed the chairman from …. wait for it…. Poundland. For me, that was the writing on the wall.

Sure enough the email came on the 31st January this year saying that I had not brought my products in line with their curation policy and so they were closing my storefront on the NOTHS site.

Unfortunately I was a little distracted as I was due to give birth that day, so I wrote to them asking for an extension to the deadline. I was given an extra few months to update the products in my virtual storefront so I took the time to read their curation policy


Frankly there was nothing in there that I wasn’t already doing – I had my brand story, I had good quality photographs, my products are not mass marketed. What it seemed to boil down to was the accompanying document that was intended to be a guide to trends.

And oh Lord, do I wish I had taken a screenshot of that while I could!

The nonsense that comprised their trend guide was a master document in the art of marketing bullsh*t and encapsulated everything I hate about our consumerist culture. Nebulous themes such as ‘Family’ were illustrated with images of young models interacting as though they might vaguely know each other, and these were asserted to be the upcoming trends for Autumn/Winter 2016.

What?! As though somehow ‘Family’ was cool this season but we’d all be over ‘Family’ by next season! As I say, total nonsense.

So I wrote to them to ask for some clarification.


NOTHS wrote back with this advice – and I quote verbatim – “I would suggest increasing the amount of newness you add”. In the context of all the other documentation I took this to mean: “Make new products that we tell you to make”. 

In that moment I decided that I was having none of it.

I want no part of an organisation whose only language is marketing-speak. I want no part of an organisation which prides itself on its unique product offering, but then issues edicts based on mass market trends. I want no part of an organisation that builds its reputation off the hard work of makers whom it then screws with punitive financial constraints while its shareholders make their millions.

So after 10 years of selling my glassware on Notonthehighstreet, my products have been withdrawn from the site. I would suggest that if you are keen on unique handmade craft, you also withdraw your custom from the site. And tell your friends to do the same.

And for anyone who is still shopping there, I urge you to look at the Axed Nothsters page on Facebook to see just how many makers they have done this to.

MADE London

Made London took up residence in the church at Great Portland Street four years ago and has gone from strength to strength since then. I have had Made London on my exhibiting radar for quite some time as I had heard good things about it as a central London selling show. Particularly since the demise of Origin – and its predecessor, the Chelsea Craft Show – there hasn’t really been a large regular show in London curating contemporary crafts for a dedicated database of customers, but Made London seemed to be confidently claiming that position.

When curating our own show Designed | Crafted last year, we picked up a couple of makers from last year’s Made London who we thought were a great fit and one of them turned out to be Sarah Young, who also happens to be one of the organisers of Made London. It wasn’t until I spent a day invigilating our own show with her partner Jon Tutton that I heard about Made London direct from the horse’s mouth, as it were, and I decided to apply this year.

I was happy to have made it past the selection panel, as there is now a long list of disappointed applicants who try to get in to exhibit each year at One Marylebone,  the wonderful venue that is used for the show. Originally built in 1826, the Holy Trinity Church was one of only three churches designed by Sir John Soane but it was considered the most architecturally distinguished. It was sympathetically renovated and reopened in 2008 as a leading London events venue, and Made London has been occupying it for a weekend in October for the last four years. It is a magnificent space, with four levels each having its own feel which adds to the atmosphere that this is a unique selling show in the Craft calendar.

I took a large stand on the first floor galleries which had beautiful tall arched windows all the way along. Having a lovely big stand meant I had space to exhibit my Global Treasury lightboxes which I rarely display because of the space required. Hiding the electrics is always a bit of a faff, but it was well worth it this time as I mounted twelve lightboxes on the back wall plus a new piece based on the Global Treasury range but made much larger at 60cm square.

Good sales of the lightboxes during and after the show made me reconsider my Global Treasury lightboxes. I realised, with some nostalgia, that these were in fact my very first collection of retail items – they were the first pieces I thought about in terms of a product range with distinct patterns designed to be replicated. I enjoy making batches of these lightboxes as there is enough scope within them to play with colour so as to make each one unique even though they follow an overall design. Also because the cost ratio of materials to labour is favourable it means I have been able to keep the retail price consistent over the years. Although I have streamlined both the number of designs in the range, as well as the making process, the one thing I have never managed is to hone the making process down to the bone to supply them at trade prices, despite having had numerous requests from my stockists over the years. Maybe this could be a challenge for next year?

Upcoming Shows

I have two shows coming up in October.

From the 22nd to the 25th October I will be at Stand 23 at MADE London. This Design and Craft fair is fast becoming one of the top selling events for designer makers in Europe, showcasing the very best and most original makers in this country. Visitors to MADE LONDON are always impressed by the variety, quality and originality of the craft and design on show; and love exploring each of the four levels of the dramatic and beautiful building at One Marylebone.

On the 27th and 28th of October I will be at showing at the Glaziers Fair alongside three others Teepee Glass members who will also be there. This is the first time The Worshipful Company of Glaziers has held a fair and it will be in the magnificent setting of the Glaziers Hall on the River Thames at London Bridge. Forty six exhibitors (mainly glass but also other media) will be selling at this fair.

These are both perfect opportunities to get some early handmade Christmas presents which are more unique and thoughtful than the standard high street fayre.


The Thrill of Liberty

I was thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to see my work in Liberty! I love Liberty, I love its Arts and Crafts connections, I love its history and any maker would be honoured to have their work in the store. So it was a lovely surprise to glimpse my Magnolia panel through the lighting installation hanging in the atrium.


My hanging glass artwork is featured on the fourth floor balcony thanks to Patch Rogers who runs the Arts and Crafts Department.

It was wonderful to see my contemporary glass panel hanging alongside original Arts and Crafts furniture, although I was slightly surprised to see it had actually been hung upside down! Not that it matters, but it was curious to see that whoever installed it preferred it with the flowers facing down instead of up. Beauty is evidently in the eye of the beholder!

Cutting Edge Craft


For the last two weeks the Society of Designer Craftsmen has been transformed into a space bursting with cutting edge craft. We filled it with a collection of work handpicked by us from twelve artists and it made for an arresting show.

We had a stunning spread of work priced from from £25 to £25,000. Alongside the main work, we had also asked some artists to create a limited edition of 25 pieces priced at a more affordable £50. Whenever curating these shows, we are always surprised how well a diverse group of work sits together and we start to see threads of similarity that can be drawn between pieces.

It’s a process that I love and it gives one an interesting insight into the exhibiting process that one doesn’t necessarily have as a maker. Taking the overview of the curator can only strengthen one’s own practice, though the inevitable usually happens which is that one promotes everyone else’s work and forgets about one’s own work!

We held a packed private view sponsored by Grolsch and supported by the London Design Festival. A fabulous craft-driven crowd spilled out of the space into the street, which made for a buzzy evening. The three of us who organised – Alex R, Brett Manley and Lucy Batt – were really happy with the quality of the show.


Designed | Crafted 2015

I’m delighted to announce our new Designed | Crafted exhibition for London Design Festival 2015. We will be returning for the second year running to the Society of Designer Craftsmen Gallery in Shoreditch. We have a final list of twelve artists – some of whom we’ve worked with before and invited back, and some of whom are new artists we have plucked from the membership of the Society of Designer Craftsmen. We are super excited that one of our artists will be the international maker Andrew Logan who is renowned for the flair and fantasy in his sculptural pieces.

Our showcase explores the fine line between craft and design, showing contemporary work at its best in this delightfully intimate gallery in the heart of Shoreditch. From sand–etched glass and wood, embellished textiles and porcelain to bird skulls and preserved fish skins, this is where cutting edge crafts meets dreamland.

To read about all the artists, see our website.

We will be open from 11am-7pm every day from Monday 14 to Saturday 26 September.

To attend the Private View on Tuesday 22nd September (7-9pm) either reply below or send us a tweet @DesignedCrafted

Artists’ Open House

In less than three weeks 200 artists’ houses in and around Dulwich will be opening their doors to a stream of visitors as part of the Dulwich Festival. The Artists’ Open House is now an established event in the calendar and people come from far and wide to visit the artists and see (and buy) their work in the context of their own homes. Local businesses are now involved and so you will find art installations popping up in estate agents or local cafes, as well as a handful of markets and fairs which centre around the Dulwich Festival.

Over the last couple of years there has been a coordinated effort by the Dulwich Picture Gallery to invite twenty of the world’s leading street artists to study their Baroque paintings and reinterpret them in their own style on walls and pavements around Dulwich, and during the Festival there will be a guided walk with the organiser to take in this Dulwich Outdoor Gallery. There are also numerous talks, walks, recitals and demonstrations happening all around the area which draw thousands of visitors to the Dulwich Festival.

Charlotte Kessler | Alex R
I am celebrating my tenth year in business and so I thought it would be nice to open up my space to some other work. Charlotte Kessler of Lemonstone Art paints mesmerising images in oils and acrylics, drawing on themes of love, nature, dreams and freedom of spirit. I fell in love with her work just before Christmas when I bought two of her prints for my family, and as they sat so well with my own work I have invited her to co-exhibit with me during the Artists’ Open House. Together we are showing a captivating collection of work across three storeys of the house and studio which will explore the magical interplay between glass and paintings in a space bursting with poetical imagery and wonder.

Five Houses
We warmly invite you to come and visit, and as further encouragement we have joined forces with four other artists’ houses in the immediate vicinity to create our own cluster of exciting work within the larger event. Open across two weekends, our ‘Five Houses in Five Minutes’ is a mini trail which will take in jewellery, print and collage, upcycled craft and mixed media, and fine art as well as my glass. We hope you can come and bring your family and friends to enjoy a day out in Dulwich.

Artists’ Open House: 9th-10th May and 16th-17th May, 11am-6pm.

 The Glass Studio | 47 Pymers Mead, London SE21 8NH

Musical Accompaniment

I’ve just come back from West Dean College where I was teaching a three day course on Layering Imagery. My classes always take place in the same space, the Stone Room, which leads off from the main workshop. As a result of walking through this workshop every day to get to and from class we are always very aware of what is going on in there, and so I was intrigued to see the technicians opening up the bank of dividing doors in the workshop to set up a double size space with workbenches and equipment.

What course could require thirty workbenches and such an enormous space?!

Later that day I saw five tutors, huddled up in the middle of the vast room having a very involved conversation. Then, through the closed door, we started hearing sounds…. long drawn out tones which at first sounded like furniture being pulled across the floor, and then clean tones singing out and squeaky little burps of sound in the background. Every so often we’d hear a strumming and a little tune would emerge from the cacophony of other, more familiar, workshop sounds.


All became clear when we emerged for supper some hours later. The workshop had come to life with the largest course I have ever seen at West Dean – five tutors teaching thirty two students to make all sorts of musical instruments!

We saw half made cellos reclining on the benches while being administered to by their makers. We saw violins being formed around tight curves with a corona of clamps pinning them in. We saw the constituent faces of a guitar hanging on a washing line as though having been put out to dry. We saw intricate internal parts to some unfinished and unidentifiable instrument.

I found out later this was an annual 9 day course at the college which had been going for years. Students loyally returned year after year to work on their handmade instruments – one student had been coming for the last 27 years! In some cases people who started out as students eventually came back as tutors to continue their collective marathon of instrument making.