Something for the Weekend

Some greetings cards don’t need words to make you smile, feel happy or even convey a meaning. Lucy Monkman’s illustrations are just so and her latest range of cards are upbeat, cute and perfect for adults or children alike.

As a freelance illustrator, Lucy has worked in design, editorial, publishing and her clients have included Harpers & Queen, Woman’s Journal, Junior, Paper House and Penguin Books. Her work has spanned abstract art, fashion and children’s illustration and always combines line drawing and collage. Luckily for us, she recently went on to create her own collection of designs for cards, notebooks and stationery.


Second-hand buttons

This is a slightly gratuitous post but all of you button lovers out there will hopefully appreciate (or sympathise with) this one.
I went to one of my favourite charity shops the other day (luckily located just down the road from where I live) and lo and behold, they had a great stash of second-hand buttons. Normally I would have just looked, admired, toyed and coveted them but since I learned how to make jewellery from buttons recently, I now have the perfect excuse to buy them. Here’s a selection of some of my favourites so far. I hope to have transformed them into wearable objects of desire before too long. Which ones do you like the best?


Making jewellery

Is there any more satisfying and smug phrase in the English language than, “actually, I made it myself”? Not really and I have to admit to being very pleased with myself after attending a one day jewellery making workshop with the brilliant ArtisOn team in Masham, North Yorkshire.

I was lucky enough to win a free place on the workshop after entering a twitter competition last year. I decided to choose the Extraordinary Jewellery course as I liked the sound of making things out of everyday, recycled or found objects. Our tutors for the day were the lovely Josie Beszant and Rosie Scott Massie, both professional artists and designer-makers themselves, who were inspiring, encouraging and patient in equal measure. This is how I got on.

The course was split into four sections, teaching us four different techniques and the skill level increased incrementally, which was great as we slowly built up our confidence. We started by making a bracelet using safety pins threaded with beads. This was simple but the results were so effective and I really enjoyed choosing the different coloured and shaped beads (I am such a magpie I realise).

Finished bracelet

The next stage taught us how to make our own beads by tightly winding strips of paper (in this case Monopoly money) onto cocktail sticks, which were then glued and strung together with thread. This was quite tricky but you could create some great effects with different kinds of paper.

At this point, we broke for lunch and enjoyed a delicious home-made meal of vegetarian Shepherd’s pie followed by Apple Crumble and custard!

 The afternoon session pushed the difficulty rating up a notch as we were shown how to make a button brooch by threading a selection of old and new buttons onto thin wire. This sounds easier than it was and required a bit more patience and elbow grease (attributes I’m not naturally blessed with) but, as you know, I love buttons so was determined to make a success of this one. Lots of lovely rummaging in pots and boxes was also involved as I tried to choose my favourite buttons. Perhaps I could just pay ArtisOn a small fee in future, so that I can just go and look through their stores of craft paraphernalia…?

Finished brooch

Flushed with success, and fuelled by tea and homemade Rolo tarts (amazing!), we ploughed on to the fourth and final segment of the day, which involved customising jewellery. Again, there was lots to excite my inner magpie including old charity shop necklaces, watch parts, ribbons, lace, beads and broken pieces of jewellery. In fact there was almost too much choice and I nearly ran out of time. However, it was useful to learn how to dismantle existing pieces of jewellery and add new items, using different fixings. In the end I simply attached an old pressed flower pendant to a string of plastic beads – not very imaginative but I quite like the finished result.

“Yeah, I made it myself!”

 For more information and to book a course visit


Something for the Weekend

You know I like a good teapot but I’ve often erred on the side of vintage, retro, even slightly chintzy designs. There, I have admitted it and one day I might even reveal my teapot collection to you all. However, I could certainly deviate from this path to include one of Lizzie Prestt’s teapots.

Lizzie’s cityscape illustrations cover lots of other things too, including fabric and wallpaper so you could find yourself sitting on a very cool sofa covered in one of her drawings of Amsterdam, staring at a wall covered in her English City Break print or drinking tea from a cup covered in England-upon-Sea (or all three?).

While I really like Lizzie’s endlessly interesting designs, I love the ceramics she has chosen for this part of her range too. This teapot is modern, angular and monochrome (words not usually on my checklist of teapot attributes) but it still oozes charm and character and what a fab talking point, if you needed one?


Myroo skincare review

I recently came across an independent skincare label called Myroo – a range of all-natural, luxury products for the face and body, which are hand-made by founder Rachael Dunseath right here in Harrogate. During the winter months my hands really suffer in the cold weather so I was keen to try out her popular Geranium Hand Treat, which is just what my chapped mitts needed at this time of year! Here’s the verdict:
I really like the simple, clean packaging of this range, which seems premium but not superfluous. The white paper box felt like I was opening a present to myself and as soon as I unscrewed the jar there was a nice, potent smell of geranium with a hint of rose oil. The hand treat is made using Shea (fruit butter) and a little goes a long way.
Unlike some sticky hand creams I’ve used, this has a really light yet rich feeling because it instantly melts into your skin and doesn’t leave it feeling greasy. I love the way that the heat from your hands releases the smell of the plant oils, which are fresh and botanical rather than artificial or ‘granny’ fragranced.
I’ve been using the hand treat for over a week now and my hands feel soft and nourished. I keep it by my bed and put it on before I go to sleep because I find the smell is really relaxing too. My mum suffers with chapped hands like me so I think I might buy her a pot or it could make a great Mother’s day present.
I caught up with Myroo’s founder Rachael Dunseath to find out more – here’s her story:
Myroo is a real labour of love for Rachael Dunseath, the Harrogate-based businesswoman and mum of two who launched her hand-made skincare range a year ago. She has just celebrated her first year in business and in profit to boot, proving Myroo is no handicraft hobby but a brand in the making.
“I’ve always loved making things,” says Rachael who laughs when she admits that she has probably tried every craft possible and is certainly no slouch with a sewing machine. Like many others though she fell into a corporate career, working in financial services in London. Ten years and a move to Harrogate later, she found herself facing redundancy and as a budgeting exercise one Christmas she considered what she could make as presents for friends and family.
“I found a recipe for old fashioned bath salts, which I made as gifts and everybody loved them,” explains Rachael. “It planted a seed of an idea and when I set up Myroo the first thing I made was a salt scrub and a bath soak.”
She took a stall at a craft fair to test her products on the market and received a great response, prompting her to take voluntary redundancy and invest the money in launching Myroo. As the saying goes, she hasn’t looked back since.
“When it comes to making skincare products, there’s a lot of legislation and paperwork involved,” she says “which was quite daunting but I saw it as an opportunity as well as a challenge. I love all the elements of this business from the making to the packaging, design and branding.”
Both Rachael’s skincare ranges Myroo and Milly & Flossy (her baby range, which she named after her two young daughters) are created from 100% natural ingredients, which she makes herself in her converted garage. While this hands-on approach is fundamental to the range’s USP, it in no way demeans its efficacy. All of her product formulations are approved by a cosmetic scientist and are safely tested on humans.
“There’s nothing artificial or synthetic in my products,” declares Rachael. “and because they are so pure and contain no water there’s no need to add preservative, yet they have a shelf life of 12 months. The ingredients I use, for example Shea which is packed full of vitamins and minerals, undergo minimum processing, and just like food, this means they retain all their goodness.”
And just because her products are hand-made this doesn’t mean that they should be presented as overly-worthy. In fact, Rachael describes Myroo as a ‘masstige’ product – a range with a luxurious feel aimed at the mass market.
“I think some hand-made cosmetics tend to have a sack cloth and ashes feel,” says Rachael, “packaged in brown paper and string but I wanted Myroo to feel more luxurious and premium.”
Aside from its completely natural and hand-made attributes, Myroo also boasts strong eco-credentials since all its packaging is recyclable. But essentially Rachael wishes the product to remain honest and effective as she explains.
“No matter how big it grows, I will always want Myroo to remain hand-made and will always keep it simple. All I need is a gas hob and a hand-mixer and I like the fact that every product I make doesn’t look completely uniform.”
Myroo and Milly & Flossy are sold through Rachael’s websites and at selected craft fairs. New products in the pipeline include foot care and facial products as well as a liquid soap.
Rachael is kindly offering a 10%  discount for readers of this blog, using the code kat10 until the end of March 2010.