Sunday 31 July 2011

The Mouseman footstool is nearly finished!

Had an inspiring I thought I'd make the most of it and work on the lovely little Mouseman footstool. First of all I removed the old leather seat straps that were broken...

then some old leather had to be aged to match the 90 years of wear and tear...

The new bare strips were cut and woven into place....

and finally, the new straps were antiqued to match the originals....

I'm quite pleased so far, tomorrow the hide feed will have been absorbed into the old leather and I should be able to buff the whole top, then I'll be able to do the final distressing to the new straps.

Why not pop over to Wendy's handmade Monday to see what everyone else has been doing this week?

Friday 29 July 2011

A boot sale book!

Last weekend we did a boot sale. Mother in Law's house is now nearly empty, so we have what seems like tons of things to dispose of most of which is too good to throw away. The money raised is also very welcome, nursing homes, (especially demetia care nursing) are not cheap!! There's nothing of great value to sell, but even the 50p's add up and it feels good to be able to add a few hundred pounds to the care home pot from the last few months efforts.

But when at a boot sale I can't help myself.....I just have to have a wander......I found this on my travels.

A 1949 book of basketry by Dryad Press! What makes it even better for me is Mr Crampton is working with centre cane reed all the way through the book. I'm chuffed. This little passage made me smile.....

"The beginner finds enough difficulties in his way and should be warned against low-priced and poor quality material. The real craftsman prefers to select his cane, irrespective of price, because it not only saves time but produces a superior article. You cannot do good work with poor materials"

Love it! A man definitely after our own hearts and way ahead of his time! I'm looking forward to spending some serious time with this man's book.

Sunday 24 July 2011

A "Mouseman" footstool

I think most people have heard of the "Mouseman", or to give him his proper name, Robert Thompson "The Mouseman of Kilburn". He was a prolific maker of English Oak furniture in the 1930's who preferred to stick to traditional methods and tools to produce his designs. His major influence was medieval simplicity, a single worker could make one piece in its entirety - no production line. As a result, each piece is unique with a texture all of its own. Robert Thompson started to mark his work with a carved mouse in the 1920's, apparently to begin with the mouse even had carved front legs, but as these broke off a little too easily, the mouse was redesigned and this is one way that collectors of his furniture can date a piece. The company still exists today, they have a website here:

Well........ look what came to our workshop on Friday afternoon..........

It's lovely! The little mouse's face is so well carved and the oak has a really soft tactile finish, even though you can see the marks of the hand tools clearly, every surface is smooth to the touch. The owner remembers it from when he was a very small boy and it wasn't new then, so we estimate this is a very early stool from the 1930's. He loves it and would never part with it because the little mouse brings back so many memories for him, it's part of his family.

All we need to do is to replace five of the leather seat strips, they have broken - the weaving itself is not a difficult thing to do, the hardest part will be cutting and aging the new leather strips to match the old ones! A little job for tomorrow.

Thursday 21 July 2011

What a week.

It's been very busy on lots of fronts, so a quick catch up.

Last weekend there was a of our eldest sons best friends married his lovely lady at a super hotel overlooking the sea from the cliffs around Bournemouth. Our son was the best man, he looked so dapper in his tails! The bride looked ever so scrumptious in a beautiful beaded ivory silk dress. It was so lovely to be there, most of our sons friends have been around us since they were small boys so it was like walking into a room full of family, there was a lot of laughter and reminiscing.

But it was tainted. Our son also lost his job. It is unfinished business, so I can't say anything here yet. He is fine now, in fact extremely relieved and happy to leave a company where a few individuals have been somewhat desultory and disingenuous, (not necessarily my favourite words)

He's already filling his time messing about with his new toy, (a car of course) and we are sure that when he finds his new position, it will be with a company that appreciates his inate people skills and direct honesty. In the meantime, I'm sure I can find him something creative to do!

Mother in Law's house is also on the market, so finally we have an end to the long journeys, endless decorating and cleaning of the last year, yippee!

We've just been plodding on trying to clear the pile of work, mainly rush seated chairs - we are winning the battle now I think, at least there is less to do than has already been done.

So a word or two of the week, (as I haven't done one for ages).

Desultory - lacking consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful.

Vindictive - characterised by spite or rancour, English law of damages - in excess of the compensation due to the plaintiff and imposed in punishment of the defendant.

Friday 15 July 2011

Shabby chic!

As a restorer I spend the vast majority of my time cleaning up, revitalising or replacing an original finish. It's not every day that I'm asked to paint something!

A few weeks ago two chairs arrived, they looked like this.

Now normally I would expct to remove the gold paint, re-gesso and re-gild the frames, but just for a change my client wants me to remove the finish and paint them to look like they have always been painted, ie distressed shabby chic! He wants to use them in a display.

So first they were soda blasted, the only way to remove the old finish without damaging the incrediby fine carving. The process was so gentle that it even stripped the paint from the canework in the back without damaging it.

Then they were painted in Farrow & Ball paint.

Two coats of paint later, they were antiqued to bring out the depth of the carving and then some of the highlights in the paintwork were rubbed through to give the look of a hundred years use.

Just have to recane the seats now. I'll post a picture of both when they're finished. I'm realy enjoying myself!

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Triangular rush chair and another egg basket

Another long week of mainly cane panelling and standard cane work, but there was one unusual seat weave. The Victorian triangular chair, it was an awkward one, but it's nearly finished now. All that remains to be done is the final sealing of the fibre rush and replacing of the protective wooden edging or "rub rails".

You don't see many triangular seats and this one was just the wrong size for our work table. We ended up working on it with two legs straddling the corner of the table so the whole thing tilted forwards - not the easiest way to do it! This is what it looked like when it arrived.

I've also been working on a couple of egg baskets for a commission, they're coming on well, so far I'm quite pleased with them.

A bit more weaving to do and wrapping of the handles, soon be finished.

Friday 8 July 2011

Being an Exhibitor - Episode 4

The big day.

Ever since I can remember we have done the same thing when we prepare for a show. We consult "THE BOOK"! Right from the beginning we kept a list of the things we needed to take, mainly because as demonstrators staying on site you can't afford to forget anything, (although I do remember forgetting to pack our work table's only the most important thing we need). So give it a try - imagine yourself at the fair and mentally go through your day thinking of all the things you may need and jot them down in a book. I'll start you off:

Basics: Fuel in your vehicle - stock - table/s and covering cloth - shelves/stands - any working equipment/tools - insurance documents - show paperwork/passes etc - phone

Stationery: Price tags - pens - rubber bands - business cards - staples - paper - visitor book, (for customers to leave you their contact details) - drawing pins - cheque book, (if you need to pay the organiser) - scissors - sticky tape - labels - tape measure - mirror, (if you sell goods that need to be tried on) - carrier bags - string, (you never know when you might need it)

Financial: Money belt - sales book - receipt pad - credit card machine, (if you have one) - a float for your till/belt.

Other: Flask or bottle of drink - food - sweets, (for the sore throat you'll get from talking too much) - comfy old shoes, (just in case those new shoes that you have only worn in last week suddenly start to dig into your heels) - wear layers of clothes so that you can add layers if it's cold and take them off if it gets hot.

Each time we prepare for a show we tick each item off in pencil, then when everything is packed, we rub the ticks out ready for the next time. The books looking a bit ragged now but it still works. You will no doubt think of loads of things I've forgotten, so if you do, please tell me and I'll add it in my little book!

Then the last bit of advice - smile and enjoy yourself! Remember.......


Smiling is infectious, you catch it like the 'flu,
When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner and someone saw me grin,
Suddenly I realised I'd passed it onto him.
I thought about the smile and realised what it's worth,
A single smile like mine could travel round the Earth.
So when you feel a smile begin, don't leave it undetected.
Start an epidemic - get the World infected!

Author Unknown

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Eye halve a spelling chequer!

A bit of fun, not quite a word or wisdom of the week but very nearly... I found this amongst some papers this weekend whilst we were cleaning and tidying at mother in laws house, (again!).

Eye halve a spelling chequer

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a quay and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
It's rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
It's letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

Attributed to Jerrold H. Zar in 1992 by Wikipedia.

I ran this through Bloggers own spellchecker and guess what? The only words highlighted as misspelled were Bloggers, Zar and Wikipedia!

Friday 1 July 2011

Exhibiting at Events - Episode 3

Are you ready now to make your first foray into the world of exhibitions? Have you chosen an event, sorted out your style and stand - so what else do you need to know and have in place?

You need to tell the Taxman! Essential. The tax officers are very helpful these days, phone them up, they won't bite, honest! Tell them your circumstances and about any other employment you have, then ask for advice, guidance and any paperwork needed for your new venture.

Remember, stock, material costs, overheads, stand fees etc., are all allowable against any income generated, so keep records from day one. Set yourself up with a simple day book of income and expenditure, then enter the purchase cost of your new day book as expense number one in the expenditure column!

If you also have a "proper job", it's worth checking your employment contract to make sure that you will not be breaking your terms of employment by working elsewhere. Some companies can be a bit funny if they think their employees may be being "disloyal" or creating a "conflict of interests".

Start a second bank account. A "number 2" personal account. It's not essential to have a business account immediately, but it is a very good idea to keep your self employment earnings and costs completely separate from your normal banking - it will help you with bookkeeping and to see how well or badly you are doing. You may need a business account later if for example you decide that you want to accept credit/debit cards.

Insurance. You need some, at the very least you should have public liability cover. There are quite a few ways you can arrange this. The amount and type needed will depend on the requirements of the organiser, always ask for advice.

1. There are companies who will cover you for individual events but it does work out a lot more expensive. There was a time when PL insurance was not needed by individual exhibitors at all events, (...the days when the event organisers could actually AFFORD to insure everyone!) But there were a few where you needed your own cover and I remember many years ago paying £47 for £5,000,000 product liability and £10,000,000 public liability cover for one particular five day event. Bearing in mind that the cost of the stand for five days at the time was £200 ish, you can see just how expensive it was in real terms!

2. Annual insurance cover is easier and less expensive to organise. You can either go through a specialist broker, (Google "craft event insurance" or ask other exhibitors for their agent) or you can join an organisation like the NMTF, (National Market Traders Federation) or other trade associations who will often include insurance and all sorts of other benefits like legal cover and special card processing deals to their membership. Average cost it seems is between £80-£150 per year.

Be prepared for taking payments at events. This is becoming a real bugbear. The cheque guarantee card system is being scrapped this year which means that payments made by cheque may not necessarily be honoured by the issuing bank. So if you accept a cheque from a customer the transaction will have to be based on trust......

Card payments are more and more popular, but the costs of being able to accept them can be quite high. First of all you need a business bank account, then a merchant bank account and a card payment processor like Barclaycard or Streamline. You will also be expected to commit to a contract term of generally 18 months or more. All of this will take time to organise and a lot of paperwork, so if this is your chosen route, make sure you set things up well in advance and do plenty of research and comparisons between providers before you make a decision.

Alternatively you can use one of the ever increasing number of companies who offer shorter term rental of card processing machines. They organise the processing and merchant bank account set up for you but you will no doubt pay handsomely for the privilege in terms of set up fees and commission charges. Then there's the new idea of phone to phone payments, and Paypal through a laptop, the mooted "oyster" type cards....It is a complicated labyrinth of different charges, rentals and contracts to negotiate which is incredibly "catch 22". The card processing company will base your charges on how much business you expect to do over say one year - but until you have accepted card payments, how do you know how much business you will put through? It's all guesswork!

Good old fashioned pounds, shillings and pence! It seems we are going back to the past - cash is king again. The large events now provide at least one ATM cash machine on site and most now have more than one bank offering a counter service. Even at smaller events, it is likely that there will be an ATM machine fairly close or a local shop offering a cashback service, so ironically it has become easier for folks to obtain cash than it once was. The only problem of course is keeping cash payments safe. It's a good idea to equip yourself with a discreet money belt, please don't ever leave cash lying around even in a locked box, it's just to easy to take.

What else? There are other things you will need to check out but they will depend on the service or product you are supplying. For example if you are involved in food of any description, do you have any necessary hygiene certification and full ingredients list with allergy warnings? If you are a maker of toys, furniture, clothes, household decorations etc., do your products meet the needs of Trading Standards? For cosmetics, potions and lotions, have you checked out what ingredient labelling is required. For jewellers, woodworkers, etc., there are requirements of a makers to describe their products accurately.

Better safe than sorry, a bit of time spent in research beforehand can help prevent problems later on. Do your homework!

I must point out that all of this information has been drawn from our own experience and that of our crafty friends. I can't claim that it is a complete guide by any means, but I hope at least some of it will be of help to someone. The next (and final) episode will be about the big day itself.....

Far too much blabbering again, time to go now!