Wednesday 21 November 2012

The run up to Christmas

Always a busy time of the year one way or another! For us it's the deadline to finish customers furniture in time for a perfect Christmas holiday and the time when our regular customers for materials need to stock up to meet their own deadlines. So all in all we are very much kept on our toes.

The last few Mondays in particular have been very busy on the phone, so much so that sometimes as soon as you put the receiver down, it rings immediately. Doesn't leave a lot of time to weave, but we are getting ahead now.

Some Magistretti seat pads

Quite a few unusual cane chairs

And a few very old and very beautiful rush chairs

Our first order of cane materials has arrived and a second is due here in the next week or so. Hopefully we will have enough to keep everyone going for quite a few months yet. No sign so far of the Indonesian rattan embargo being lifted, but keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday 4 November 2012

Rush and cane weaving, perfect for cold, dark winter days!

It's cold!! The leaves on the oak tree have turned a gentle shade of gold, toadstools grow in clusters like freckles on the lawn and the days are shortening.

We haven't had much luck with our efforts to grow vegetables this year, normally we have so many courgettes that we sicken of them, but not this year. This tomato sums it up I think, one of the very few that grew to a decent size and it somehow managed to get caught between the wire shelf!

I enjoy cane and rush weaving more in the wintertime, they are both nice clean occupations that can be done in a small well heated space. We've got plenty to be getting on with and a lot of variety just now. Old and new rush seats,

and lots of bergere work

It makes for an interesting life.

Friday 12 October 2012

What is it Winter already? Time to look at old photos then.

Strange times. This week the weather has swung from mosquito ridden damp warmth, to very heavy rain, then sunshine followed by chilly, cloud free nights. I'm obviously not the only one who's confused by this weird weather. These are emerging daffodils in our garden today.

And this is a beautiful flower that has decided that October is the month to shine.

All so very topsy turvy. The rhododendron hedge was in flower at the end of last month for the second time this year and oddest of all, a white rhododendron flowered white in the Spring and then purple in the Autumn. Peculiar.

However, the unpredictable weather is a perfect excuse for getting all of the admin and other boring "housekeeping" duties in order. It was while I was in the process of filing old photos that I came upon these very old images of work I'd completely forgotten about. Work that was done at a time when I did more of the heavier restoration....and had more space! Here's a "before" photo of a well worn piece.

We still have this old shopfitting cabinet, it's perfect for holding all of the bits and pieces you need to use every day. Each drawer is familiar to me, I know exactly what is in each one without even looking. It still looks moreorless the same, even though I've used it everyday for about 10 years, but here was the photo I took immediately after it was finished.

I don't care where I end up, or what I end up doing in the future, this cabinet goes with me!

Friday 28 September 2012

The end of the Summer Season

Where did the Summer go? We seem to have had wet, wild weather for months now and it's been punctuated by far too few days of sunshine and warmth. What's the betting we'll have beautiful bright clear skies right through the Winter when it's too cold to go outside and enjoy it.

The bad weather has made a lot of jobs more difficult. We've been trying to "get our house in order" for months, (if not years) now. Clearing out the detritus that seems to accumulate and multiply over time. We are getting there, spaces are beginning to appear and rooms are beginning to look tidier, but oooh it's hard work and the bad weather isn't helping!

There's always another weaving or restoration job in the workshop waiting to be done, which is wonderful, but also means that we are usually under pressure and get very little time off. We keep our diary of work over on Facebook these days, mainly because it is quicker and easier to update. We will still be blogging regularly, but I'll try and choose the subjects or jobs that deserve to be described in more depth than can be done on Facebook.

So....the last few weeks - what's been happening? Well we've had loads of Bauhaus Cesca chair panels to replace, (the 60's are definitely back in vogue). The second of four very large African chieftains chairs needed a new seagrass seat, a couple of sets of Moller Danish chairs needed re-cording and a surprising amount of pots arrrived for cane wrapping of the handles. We also did our last show of the year at Frome. For once, it was a gloriously sunny day! I'll leave you with some pics.....

 The early morning mist
 After the mist burned away it was a glorious day
Quite busy too.

Sunday 9 September 2012

An update on the embargo

I'm sorry, I didn't realise how long it had been since we last blogged. We have been busy on a lot of fronts.

In the last month, we have done our last two weaving demonstrations of the year. It was a strange feeling, demonstrating the craft that we have practised for so long, meeting new people wanting to have a go, their fresh faced enthusiasm, whilst at the same time knowing that the rattan embargo problem hangs over all of us involved in this specialist trade. Should we really be encouraging new blood into the craft when there is the possibility that the necessary materials may become totally unavailable? A difficult dichotomy.

We decided that we couldn't just sit by, watch and wait. So I e-mailed and tweeted a few people with a link to our blog post about the embargo. It took a while, but thankfully people are rallying. Robin Wood of the Heritage Crafts Association has told me that he is "on the case" bringing the Basketmakers Association and other individuals together to see what can be done. One of our customers, a full time professional weaver is so concerned that he has bravely set up an e-petition, thank you. Here is the link:

As I write, almost a hundred people have already signed and commented in the first two days. Now other organisations and individuals are adding their weight to the cause by blogging, tweeting or commenting on Facebook. Thank you all, please spread the word!

Whether all of this wonderful support will have any effect goodness knows - but doing nothing isn't an option, hope you agree.

On a purely selish level I want to be able to continue to restore things, bring stuff back from the brink. It hit me hard when I realised that without rattan peel, splint and reed, this crib would be have been landfill. Is it wrong to feel that way?

Thursday 16 August 2012

The Indonesian rattan embargo

A lot of our regular customers are worried. They have been asking us about the future of rattan supplies as they are hearing rumours.....

At the beginning of this year the Indonesian Government implemented an embargo on the export of rattan. Last year the Jakarta Post wrote:

"Early this December, the Trade Ministry of Indonesia, totally banned exports of raw and semi-processed Rattan starting from January 1st  2012 as part of efforts to revive the ailing local rattan industry and to give higher value to the commodity at home. Along with this move by the Trade Ministry, the Industry Ministry and Forestry Ministry show their support for this policy. MS Hidayat, Industry Minister, has also created a road map as guidance for developing the domestic furniture industry and boosting the competitiveness of locally made furniture during the next five years."

So yes, I'm afraid there is a problem for those of us in the restoration industry that use rattan products. Even though we pose no threat to the Indonesian home market, we are caught up in this event. At the moment, many of the processing factories outside of Indonesia have retained back up supplies of the raw materials, but these are dwindling fast and they cannot be replaced. Raw material prices have increased massively, we have had reports of rises up to 200% during this year alone. The factories that produce hand weaving cane and woven panelling are selling their stocks at hugely inflated prices and then closing. Their staff are finding new careers in other industries as even they see no future in rattan. We have been told by a friend of ours in the industry that up to two thirds of the factories have already closed.

Where does this leave us? For now supplies are available, but the prices are going to be much higher than we have ever experienced before. Some of the products that we are familiar with will no longer be available as the skilled workers who make them leave the industry. Indonesia isn't the only area of the world producing rattan, but is generally acknowledged that they are responsible for about 80% of the production and needless to say there will be stiff competition for the other 20%. Will the ban remain in place for long? We don't know, but it's effects will no doubt resonate for a long time to come.

So where's the good news? Synthetic rattan has already made itself a firm favourite and almost replaced rattan as the material of choice for conservatory and patio furniture in most areas of the world. Take a trip to your local garden centre and see how many suites you see in synthetic versus natural material. Maybe over time the dwindling demand for natural rattan furniture will encourage the Indonesian governors to view the export ban differently and see that there are other important markets for their semi-processed premium materials....that is all assuming that we as premium consumers can survive in business for long enough!

Meanwhile all is not lost. We have some ideas that we are already formulating to ensure that we can continue on helping our customers to stay in the restoration business, so don't worry. There is always an alternative.......we just need to find it first, but be assured, we are doing all we can.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Preparing for Stock Gaylard Oak Fair

There's still quite a bit of client work to do, but we are getting ahead as most of the jobs in the workshop now are scheduled for September delivery. Sooooo.....we can begin preparations for our final demonstration of the year at the Oak Fair. The "to do" list is endless, the horsebox needs work, we have very few pieces for exhibition, must make some footstool frames...etc....etc!

The vintage crib frame that we bought a few weeks ago is getting restored. It's time consuming, but I'm pleased so far.

Going to have to get my old sewing machine out and my thinking cap on - next task is to line the inside with something beautiful! Any suggestions? At least it will be something different to put on our display, with or without a lining!

Here's one of the most recent client jobs we've finished, this chair had a full restoration and is due to go home soon. A lovely old armchair that would originally have been on rockers.

We're also enjoying the Olympics, it's one of the great things about being your own boss, you can watch, (or at least listen to) the telly while you work. Thank goodness the weather improved over the last week, otherwise it would have been a complete washout.

Hey ho, onward and upward....lots to do.

Monday 23 July 2012

Summer sunshine

It's amazing what a difference a bit of sunshine can make isn't it? The world seems like a different place. We love it when it's dry and warm, work dries more quickly and joy of joys, we can work outside. Case in point, on Saturday we sealed the seats on the last chairs for the National Trust outside in the sunshine, they were dry within the hour....

Ready to go back to Cornwall!

The garden has suddenly burst into life, plants that I thought had died in the torrential downpours had survived after all, triumphantly raising their heads to the bright warmth of a somewhat belated summer.

Glorious. Hope it lasts.

Friday 20 July 2012

Whizzing along

Almost August.....can't believe it! At least it seems to have stopped raining for a while and the ground is finally starting to dry. The legacy of so much rain is obvious here, the drains in the road have sunk down at least four or five inches creating regular pot holes. Every so often you will hear a car or truck bumping it's way through - not good, there'll be some buckled wheels I think!

The good news is we have finished the commission for the National Trust on behalf of the Chapel at St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. The first batch of 54 rush chairs that were delivered to us in January had to be finished for the Chapel opening at Easter and now the last 12 are due to be returned for a large wedding party next month - phew! It has been a long hard slog.

I still need to work it out exactly, but we've replaced 14 or 15 seat rails and a couple of stretchers to be able to re-weave the seats.

Now we can turn at least some of our attention to the last show of the season, (one of our favourites) the Oak Fair at Stock Gaylard. I found this little crib at the market last weekend, I'm so excited about restoring it and hoping that it will be finished for the show.

It looks very sad and neglected here, but I've got plans for it......progress is being posted over on our Facebook page if you're interested.

Well, must get back to it, lots to do!

Thursday 12 July 2012

A rainbow and maybe a UFO?

Well I did say that the weather was very strange yesterday, everything from hail, thunder and lightning to clear blue sky and sunshine. Then yesterday evening there was a rainbow, so I grabbed the camera to take a photo, but it was set on video and I ended up with this little snippet of film....very strange, there seems to be a hovering round thing moving from the centre to the left of the film....a UFO?!

All suggestions welcomed!

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Weather and work

I'm sure everyone is fed up of hearing about the British weather, discussing it is our all consuming pastime. But I must admit, I can't remember another time when it has rained so much and been so cool and windy at this time of year. There have been floods everywhere, local businesses losing all of their stock to the freak conditions and trees broken like matchsticks causing chaos on the roads. One poor soul was queuing in traffic in the next village along when a massive oak just fell....landing on his van. Luckily he told his passenger to get down on the floor as the tree struck, both of them walked away from the scene shaken but mostly unhurt. The road was closed for the rest of the day while they chainsawed the lovely old tree into manageable chunks and removed it. The old church yard where it grew looks so different now, it's like a huge slug has eaten a chunk out of the vegetation!

We have been lucky in many ways, yes the drive and garden have been under a fair few inches of water, veg and border plants have struggled to survive and most worryingly we haven't seen our tame blackbird Mrs B for about two weeks now, (hopefully she's raising young....) But all in all the only real problems it has caused is with work, nothing is drying as quickly as it should. Humidity is always a problem when you're trying to glue, polish or refinish furniture so all of these things are taking much longer than normal to do, frustrating, but not life threatening!

We've had a lot of work to do over the past two weeks, dozens of cane panels, a glut of rush armchairs, more chapel chairs for St. Michael's Mount and even a couple of unusual Danish drop-on seat pads.

At the weekend we needed to go to the yard to get some rattan poles out of storage for some customer orders. No problem you'd think, but the yard is next to the airport and you have to cross a causeway over the river to get there. Well, you've probably guessed, we got there to find the water gently lapping 12" over the top of the highest point of the causeway and one car already broken down after trying to get through it! We turned back for home. By the time we had a chance to go again two days later the water had gone down, but only just below the level of the road.

As I type it has started to rain.....AGAIN! Heavy almost hail like blobs are beating on the roof of the workshop. Wherever you are please be safe and I hope you can make the most of the day.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

So why you can't use ready woven cane panels in an old hand woven chair?

"I'll have some of the cane panelling, it'll be a lot easier to do won't it? My chair is so old it's not worth spending the time or money on hand weaving it, I'll just put a few patches in.....or push the ends of the panel down the holes and glue them in, keep it looking okay for a bit longer, it'll be fine I reckon"

No....... no it won't. Please don't even try.

Why not? Well a hundred and one reasons, but I'll try and put the main ones in order.

Reason 1. Hand woven cane gets its strength from each single strand being woven back and forth across the chair frame stitching up and down through the holes. No glue is needed and eventually when the holes are dry plugged with centre cane you've got a strong but flexible seat. Machine woven panels are not fitted into holes, they need to be stretched into a rout or groove around the frame perimeter which is then lined with glue and a centre cane filet is hammered in over the top to fill the groove. It's strong and can't pull out when it's fitted like this. The two attachment methods are very different.

Reason 2. Pre-woven panelling more than likely won't fit hand drilled frame holes. Machine woven panels are just that - machine woven, they are more accurately spaced than any hand woven chair could ever be. The Victorians, Edwardians etc. didn't always use a ruler when they drilled the holes around the perimeter of a cane chair seat, they often had a template set up by the designer or manufacturer that would create the gauge and design of weave that they wanted that would fit well with their desired overall effect.

Reason 3. If by luck you did manage to get a pre-woven panel to fit into hand drilled holes, then what's to stop it from pulling out the minute someone sits on it? Nothing. I've seen chairs where this has been done and the only thing that was holding the cane in place was a bit of glue on the hole plugging pegs. Now bearing in mind how glossy cane is, it's not going to hold in place for long like that before it goes baggy or worse still gives way leaving the poor soul who sat on it wedged into an open seat frame - not a good thing to happen.

Reason 4. If you're trying to patch an old panel with bits of pre-woven, then the new cane will stick out like a sore thumb. New cane is creamy beige, old cane gets darker with time, so unless you're prepared to do a lot of careful colour matching, forget it. Old cane has usually broken because it's come to the end of its life, it's dried out, become brittle. There's nothing that can be done about this apart from replacement and if you start to try and weave wonderfully supple new cane through the old stuff, you will find the breaks in the old stuff spreading further and further into the panel making more and more work for you.

So what's the answer? Well some would advocate adapting the hand woven chair to take panelling by filling the holes and putting in a rout instead. Sounds great, except that doing this will take about half of the structural wood out of the frame in a crucial spot. You see, seats that are intended to have panelling fitted have the groove cut at least 3/4" away from the edge of a good chunky frame, the holes for hand weaving are generally much closer to the inner edge of a much finer more delicate frame, so if you rout a groove between them....crack....potentially the inner bit of wood can break off. Great Aunt Mildred could find herself once again wedged into an empty seat frame, but this time with some painfully located splinters!

It's up to you, but if you'll take my advice don't waste your precious time trying to "cheat" it really is a false economy. If you love your chair, then have a go at re-weaving it by hand with a cane seat kit or similar, or ask a professional. If neither of these things are possible just now, put the chair in a dry attic, shed, garage....wherever until you can do the repair, or sell it to someone who wants a project or is keen to breathe new life into something beautiful.

For lots more information please look at our websites at or

Saturday 23 June 2012

Garden gherkin and a post box

We've had a lot of work to do over the past few weeks. Most of it has been rush work of one sort or another, quite a few Magistretti Carimate seats and various handsome antique armchairs. It is satisfying to see them all lined up when they're finished waiting to go home and ready for another few decades of service.

But I still have to find some time to do a bit of exploring, some experimentation. I had a deadline to come up with a few design ideas for a local magazine, so it gave me a brilliant reason to spend time making a few things that we needed. First was a post box. We couldn't bring ourselves to make a letterbox hole in our new front door, we liked it better without one, so the only option was to buy a post box. I looked around at loads, but couldn't find anything that would be just right, so I made one and here it is.

Not necessarily everyone's cup of tea I know, but it's made out of outdoor quality synthetic materials and is big enough to take the largest of envelopes. I was chuffed when the postman used it the first morning after I put it in place!

The second thing we needed was a protective cover for our herb "bag". The local family of sparrows have taken a real shine to our plants especially the chard, they were coming in like little vultures and eating the lot even though it was right under the kitchen window - little beggars!

So I built a "garden gherkin" as a framework to cover with bird mesh.

It works a treat.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Holton Lee Summer Fair

The first thing we did yesterday morning was to look out of the window.....were the weather men right, or please just this once, would they have got it wrong? No such luck, this time they were dead right. The wind was blowing a hooley, trees bending almost sideways under the force, patio furniture all over the garden. Oooh no, not again. We'd already heard on the local news that there had been flooding on the road leading to Holton Lee, and trees down all over the place in Dorset, all in all not a good start to a Summer Fair!

We set off at 10am. All along the dual carriageway the horsebox was swaying like a ship at sea, now and again a huge gust of wind would push us into the grass verge, or worse still, towards the middle of the road - not a good omen. We arrived late, thanks to the heavy traffic as much as the weather and it quickly became obvious that an awful lot of people had decided that staying at home was the best option on such a rotten day.

Yet again we had to say thank goodness for Bernard. Our trusty old truck is the best wind break in the world. We stood in the shelter of his bulk all day and managed to rush seat two chairs without any problems, but for everyone around us sadly it was carnage. Every so often the wind would blow a gale, the stallholders were hanging onto the frames of their canopies - literally - hoping that the wind would drop soon, but it didn't. By the end of the day no less than five canopies were wrecked, mangled heaps. It was so saddening. One couple had parked their car behind the stand and tied their canopy to it. Eventually the canopy frame was so distorted that they had to take it down, revealing two massive dents in the wing and door of their car where the wind had bashed the legs against it with huge force.......There were several standholders left sitting out in the elements with no shelter. I forgot to take the camera, but here's a photo, (not great quality) taken with our ancient phone.

Bleak - almost midsummer and everyone is wearing a coat - it was such a shame. The fair itself was really well attended by the supporters of this lovely place and the ring events, music, activities and facilities were great. The children had a fab time trying on police uniforms and hats courtesy of the local police represented by a lovely lady officer who was parked next to us. She had such patience with the kids, giving them guided tours of the police van and handing out pictures to colour in.

So who'd be an event organiser? No matter how hard you try or how carefully you plan, you can't predict the weather.

Saturday 9 June 2012

The final day of Dorset Art Weeks

Today would have been our last day at Stewarts Garden Centre taking part in the open studios event organised by Dorset Art Weeks but unfortunately when we arrived, there was no space for us to park. We tried a couple of options, but it soon became clear that there wasn't really anywhere for us to go, so we had to come home. Officially tomorrow is the last day of the event, but we know already that the weather is due to be really awful and as we are working outside, it just can't be done in howling wind and rain. So by way of a round up, here's a few photos I took during the two weeks to give you a flavour of some of the hidden talent in Dorset.

This is the work of Tricia Warman. The most beautiful combinations of hand sewn and woven textiles you could ever see. Such careful, delicate work from a lovely lady.

This is the pottery of Fiona Kelly. I bought one of these soap dishes as a gift for my Mum complete with handmade lavender goats milk visitor soap. Lovely! The fishes are a theme in Fiona's work, they all seem to have their own personality. Once glazed and fired the pots look like this:

So it will be another two years before the next Dorset Art Weeks, will we be part of it then I wonder? A lot can change in that time, it will be interesting to see what happens....! Meanwhile next Saturday we will be demonstrating our work at Holton Lee near Poole for the day.

Thursday 31 May 2012

Top jobs for the ladies?

Something a bit "off the wall" today, but I am a woman in business....... so.....

This article by the BBC was bought to my attention by a friend on Twitter. They asked the question "Are women their own worst enemy when it comes to the top jobs?" The contributors came up with some good points about how women see themselves differently to their male counterparts in the workplace. How they can lack self belief, confidence and tend to be too cautious and not aggressive enough to get to the top jobs in their profession. Interestingly it also quoted that girls outperform boys at school and make up 60% of university graduates and yet only 32% of upper management in the general workforce are female. The article also cited some parochial reasons for the possible lack of female "high flyers" - motherhood, believing a woman's place is in the home..... etc.

Hmmmmm, I thought, but that reasoning doesn't really make sense in today's world of equality......does it? The idea of introducing legislation which encourages companies to employ women in top jobs seems bonkers, but it has apparently been discussed. How would that work? Maybe there are other more subtle reasons for some very capable women, (and probably some men too) for not wanting to occupy these top positions.

I don't personally know many women or men who have what would be perceived as a "top job", but I do know plenty who run their own businesses very successfully. Most of these self employed people are probably considerably better off in terms of the quality of their lives and peace of mind than if they were employed "high flyers". Out of choice most have built a business around an aspect of their lives, some based on skills they gained in previous employment, others by using skills they acquired while at home with young children or through doing DIY jobs around the place. They are all very bright people. What would it take to persuade them to work as hard as they do for someone else and make that person's business successful instead of their own?

Like me for example. My occupation was born out of necessity, we had a houseful of decrepit furniture, it was all we could afford and I enjoyed learning the restoration skills that enhanced the quality of our lives, it was a useful, meaningful challenge. I never considered the fact that my new chosen occupation was male dominated and that potentially once I set up in business no-one would take me seriously as a tiny, young girly, (which I was then!) I must admit, I was taken aback the first time a man at a show came up to me and asked to speak to the chap who did the restoration. Then there were all the other times when a customer would start talking to my husband about a project, then their look of shock and horror when he referred them to me. It didn't put me off then and it doesn't happen at all now I'm older interestingly. I'll never be rich and powerful, but I wouldn't change my lifestyle for anything.

Perhaps there are a lot of women like me who are happy to just do what they do without a fanfare. When you work for yourself there is no corporate pecking order to respect, no terms of employment apart from the ones you set yourself and best of all there's the chance to use those perceived female "weaknesses" to advantage without corporate criticism. In running your own business a cautious nature is good. Attention to detail is a great asset. Quietly getting on with things and ignoring the chaos around you is useful, as is the ability to multitask and not panic in a crisis. The gift of being able to chatter away happily, (sometimes a lot) to anyone, regardless of age, status or anything else is priceless. I know lots of women that can do all of these things in spades!

Perhaps corporates will always struggle to persuade some women, (and men) into the top jobs. When I see someone advertising for an "aggressive, go-getter with ambition to head up our forceful and successful team" it doesn't do it for me I'm afraid! And maybe there are other less stressful ways to fulfill life's needs for a lot of folks. Money, prestige and power aren't everything.

From my point of view life's too short to bicker and fight your way up a corporate ladder. What's wrong with running a business in a ladylike way anyway - it works for me?

Bit of a different blog post for me don't you think, all comments welcomed!

Monday 28 May 2012

Dorset Art Weeks at Stewarts Garden Centre

What a start to the two weeks of open studios in Dorset, so sunny and very warm. Stewarts Garden Centre sizzled under a cloudless sky. Bernard's parking space was already reserved when we arrived on Saturday morning, it didn't take us long to set up and start work.

The garden centre is such a beautiful place, tucked away in the village of Holt, just a short drive from Wimborne and the coastal towns of Bournemouth and Poole. Everyone is so friendly and helpful there, the centre is full of gorgeous plants, gift ideas and the food in the restaurant is to die for - proper home cooked and fresh! It's no surprise that so many people visit.

We were in the shade for most of the morning and managed to weave a couple of footstools each day. Here are the first two, a hand made rattan stool we've christened "Wedgwood" and a restored vintage pine stool.

We also finished the "cricket" stool and another hand made taller rattan stool.

Need to make some more frames now, two more weekends to go.....will the weather hold?

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Sunshine and the show season begins

After weeks and weeks of rotten weather, Dorset is sunny at last! Up to 25 degrees yesterday with little or no wind - bliss. We're hoping it hangs on for a while, Dorset Art Weeks starts this weekend, a great idea which happens once every two years. Lots of red and yellow signs appear all over the county directing you to studios, workshops and galleries that are participating in the event. It's a great opportunity to see artists at work in their own environment doing what they do.

We took part for the first time two years ago. Stewarts Garden Centre hosts an event. The garden centre is a really inspiring place in a gorgeous location and during Dorset Art Weeks they invite a few local folks to come along to demonstrate and exhibit their work. Last time there was a potter, a textile artist, a furniture maker, a stained glass artist, a sculptor and us! We had a great time.

We were set up with horsebox Bernard in the car park, (the weather was good two years ago too!) It was lovely to be out of the workshop, in the fresh air for a change and we met some really interesting people. If you get the chance, please have a look at the DAW website, there are loads of events all over Dorset for the next two weeks. Come and say hello, or take a leisurely drive around this beautiful county and follow a few of the signs!

We've made some footstool frames especially and will be weaving seats on them during the event. Here's a preview....

The "cricket" stool is recyled from an old child sized cricket set.

Monday 14 May 2012

A new week

Well Mum in Law's funeral took place on Wednesday, so needless to say that this week has been topsy turvy. But a new week has dawned now and we are back to work with a vengeance. Life has to go on.

We spent what turned out to be a lovely sunny, warm weekend sorting out rattan again. We've got tons of the stuff. Everything from 32cm diameter Tohiti to fine 2mm golden Palembang. The problem is that most of it is over 15 feet long and our courier will only deliver parcels measuring up to 10 feet. Going to have to get our thinking caps on and work out what quantities we can retail! This is just a very small sample of what we have - the "overspill" in the horsebox yesterday morning before we sorted through it all....

We took most of it to the yard where there are now two very full containers!

I've bought some odd lengths of various poles home to the workshop so that I can experiment, a local journalist has asked me to do some bits for an outdoor feature in a magazine this August - could be fun!

Saturday 28 April 2012

A bereavement

It doesn't seem to make any difference at all how fully you understand that someone is seriously ill and likely to die, when the time comes, it is still a shock. Mother in Law died at 9.50am today. She had been in a dementia care home for just over two years. At the beginning of February she decided that she no longer wanted to eat or drink and quite honestly other than tube feeding, there was not a lot that anyone could do to change things. Her sisters were visiting regularly and reported that she was "drifting away", staring through the window and hardly speaking. She would have the occasional spoonful of ice cream, but not not nearly enough to keep even a bird alive. I did my research and it seems that this is not unusual in late stage Alzheimer sufferers, the brain can apparently stop sending out  hunger, thirst and even pain messages to the body. It is such a cruel disease.

She is at peace now, no more confusion or fear.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Bluebell Wood

What a beautiful morning, but this afternoon it's back to typical April showers. It doesn't matter though, we spent a lovely hour or so wandering around the local bluebell wood earlier, it was gorgeous - warm, sunny and highly scented. The ground was still wet and muddy from all of the rain we've had over the past few days, but that was good because it made the flowers and earth smell even more.

This view caught my eye, the bright yellow field in the background, a farmhouse and then the bluebells and trees in the foreground. The bluebells are not as prolific this year as they were last but they are a bit earlier, so maybe that has something to do with it. It was still a good show.

There are some really old trees in this woodland and the crows have built there nests very high up in them this year.

A lovely morning out.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Spindle back chairs

This week I have been consumed working on a set of old spindle back dining chairs. You could say that they had seen better days, all four were "rocky", every joint either loose or apart. One had a broken back rail and another was missing two of it's spindles. A job like this seems straightforward and normally it wouldn't be too bad, just very time consuming. But when woodworm are involved, you never know how much their infestation will affect the work.

It didn''t take long for me to realise that the worms had been in residence for quite a long time!

From the outside there are not too many holes, you'd think that it wasn't too bad - until you see the inside of the wood - just a honeycomb is left! So this leads you on to check all areas around the wormy wood just in case more of the frame is affected and so you end up chasing the damage further and further, making the workload bigger and bigger!

This is the replacement rail in progress.

First the new rail was "blocked out" and then roughly hewn to shape.

Then the slightly oval ends were turned on the lathe.

The remains of the honeycomb of wood need to be taken out carefully before the chair can be put together again!

So eventually number one of four is back together and we start on number two with the missing spindles.

Two new copies made from old wood. For once I really enjoyed making these because we've got a new toy now, an electronic Vernier gauge and it is brilliant! It's so much more accurate than the old manual ones.

Then the chair had to come apart so that I could fit them, easier said than done! It's guaranteed that there will always be one joint that will not come apart no matter what! Anyway about two hours later I could get on with the fitting and colour matching.

Luckily the other two frames only needed to be reglued. So after an overnight rest....


........all that needs to be done is the easy bit, to put some rush on those seats!