Showing posts with label My STaBLE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label My STaBLE. Show all posts

Monday, 17 July 2017

About me

Hello everyone, it seems like a long time since i just chattered away and talked about me. We'd better rectify that then, hadn't we?

Life has changed a lot for me over the last couple of years and although I love change and tend to thrive on change, I'm still adjusting to this new life style.

Two years ago, I was developing prototypes of my handmade shelves with added crochet and starting to think about building a business. I was working full time and had teenage children. I was spending my spare time renovating our house, a former dentists from the 1900's.

Now, I'm a new mummy again- well new ish, my little one is 14 months old as I write this. He's walking, climbing, and trying very hard to speak to us! I'm my own boss of two different businesses. I've hardly moved the house on at all, but it's our forever home so it's ok!

Not going out to work very often and not having colleagues are pretty big changes. Working 13 hour days looking after a baby and then starting work on my businesses is also very different. It doesn't feel like work at all and that means I am exceptionally grateful to have such a wonderful lifestyle. I do take time everyday to appreciate my life, my work, my family and friends, my health and my house and businesses. I do chat away at people when I see them though as I think I am a little in danger of not having enough conversation in my life. That's one of the definite downsides of living with four boys and being the only girl. 

My days are spent dividing my time between my two businesses and making sure I have plenty of time to play with my little man. I struggle to fit household tasks around these, but just keep telling myself that there's more to life than neatly ironed clothes. The teenagers are mostly having to fend for themselves. Ideally that will just mean they grow up to be very independent. They won't allow me to take pictures anymore, so I can't introduce you to them! 

My consultancy business is as an evaluation expert. Unless you've worked on charity and publicly funded projects in the past you probably have no idea what that means. I've been a project manager for charity projects for the last 14 years and along the way I've learned that evaluation is one of my key strengths. I'm one of those weird people who loves English and Maths and is good at both. I happen to enjoy analytical work and meeting people and evaluation means I get to do all the bits I love.

How it works is that when charities and community groups receive public money for projects, which could be from the lottery, from health funding agencies or charitable trusts, they call upon someone like me to show the impact of their work. What this means, for example, is that if a group of young people are developing a project around building a community garden and they are being supported by a gardening group: I can work with them to find out which bits of the project were particularly successful, what taking part meant to the young people and what the project did for the local community, the wildlife, the community who see the garden every day. I help projects measure things like confidence or resilience and happiness among other difficult-to-measure-things. By bringing someone like me in, the project staff can focus on running the project, I can help them to find out how they should plan another project and I can show how the project was a worthwhile investment to other funders, which hopefully means more projects in the future. It's my way of helping to make the world a better place. 

I really love this work, it's flexible and I'm my own boss and I get to problem solve too!

Then the other business is destabled. As you are reading this on my destabled website the chances are fairly high that you already know something about my work here. I'm a furniture designer and maker. Each of my products is designed and refined by myself and then made by hand by me. I work with wood and crochet and make a capsule collection of products; shelves, wall hooks, bookends, and my latest design - bedside tables.

My products are designed to echo the forest, and the shape of trees but in a clean and contemporary manner. Each of my wooden shelves and bedside tables are made from solid wood which have the knots removed, to show the shape of the original tree. This means that each piece I make is a completely unique design, just like no two trees are ever identical.

I start with the wood and make design decisions throughout. Smaller knots tend to have smaller holes and larger knots have larger holes.

The larger holes are filled with crochet. These are woolen knots, again, made by me! I use the finest hand dyed yarns and then add paint to create a truly original product which is a usable item too.

I am often asked where the inspiration for adding crochet came from, and the truth is I'm just not entirely sure. I have been crochet-ing for a few years and often used to hold my work up to the light to see how the pattern was coming along. Out of nowhere I decided I wanted that crochet to be a part of furniture. I started teaching myself woodwork only because I had a vision of what I wanted my shelves to look like. It took me a long time to get them to look like the ones you see now, which is the vision I had. I kept my early works though, to remind myself how far I've come. I'm a fairly confident person on the whole, but I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to share those first attempts! 

I use dovetail joints, they're strong and sturdy and look great. Again, that was a pretty huge learning experience. Luckily I really do love learning. To manage this lifestyle I've chosen, I've pretty much given up watching TV. I catch the odd show or movie, and sometimes I put documentaries on in the office while I tidy up or do a job where I don't need to concentrate so much. 

I don't mind not watching TV. I'm quite impatient anyway and always felt a bit like I was wasting time if I just sat down and watched something. I'm quite driven and give myself a hard time if I'm not productive. I need to stop doing that so much, as life with a baby just isn't productive and I need to get better at appreciating the little moments we have together, rather than thinking of all the things I still have on my to do list. 

I don't like wasting materials, and had all these circles of wood leftover from my shelves. I spent ages trying to think of a way to use them and then I remembered that branches of trees are natures coat hooks. Is that a saying? I've possibly just made that up! Anyway - that was the inspiration and now I use the holes I remove to make simple and elegant wall hooks. I like to try and think of it as I am using all of the tree. I use hooks a lot at home, and still need more. As I type this I realise more and more that I make the products that I need. Is that what every designer does? 

I've always loved to read. Trips to the library as a child were my favourite thing to do and I still read a lot as an adult. Not as much recently, I lost the ability to concentrate when I had antenatal depression (you can read about that here) and although I do now feel healed, I just don't have the time. I could make time probably, but I want to focus on blogging, and learning to improve my photography and improving my social media skills so I haven't really put reading as a priority right now. 

Again, I was thinking of my love of forests and woodlands and places and travel and all those images combined in my head to create a vision of these bookends which are shaped like signposts and these can be personalised with any combination of six special places. I love hearing the places people choose. Making these gives me a sense of wanderlust every time! 

Our house is a forever house, as I mentioned before and it has lots of wonderful original features. One of the most amazing parts is that we have an outbuilding with a garage, a den above and a stabIe. I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I think I own a stable! It's like a dream come true. The stable is my workshop, I make all these products in my stable, it's my little haven and I spent a lot of time in there designing, hence the name destabled.

It's so easy to talk about yourself isn't it! I've just kept writing and there's more to say! I'd like to discuss how I spend an average day, the spaces I work in, what I've learned setting up a business, and much more. I feel however that this post has come to rest at a natural place, so I shall save those ideas for another time.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

How to find balance in your life?


The title sounds like I'm going to write a tutorial on how to be perfect doesn't it? A bit Martha-Stewart-esque! Or whoever the British equivalent may be - Delia Smith? Kirstie Allsop? I actually have no idea.

I'm not.

I really haven't cracked it.

You see... I get a bit lost without a project in my life.

If things are going too well, I tend not to do so well. It's strange really but obviously I thrive on chaos.

Instead, I take on far too many things, don't always finish them all and end up spending an inordinate amount of time looking around me at all the started, almost-started, just-piles-of-stuff-and-not-started-at-all things and not knowing where to begin.

For example at this very moment in time I am surrounded by the following things...

  1. A pile of fabric, a second hand easel and a hook which combined do have the potential to make a wonderful large rug for my front room.
  2. Six dining room chairs which are in need of painting and recovering and the foam to do this with and the fabric. I have painted three of them. So I have started this, but not finished. Sigh.
  3. A tote bag full of scrapbook pages from a trip I took which need making into a book. I watched a tutorial on how to sew pages together, bought the stuff and then... Nothing. Nada. Shame.
  4. Two prototypes of my boxes/fancy shelves/ help-me-I-need-a-name-for-them which need crochet adding and painting to be finished.
  5. Three half done cushion covers.
  6. A wonderful large circular rocking chair which needs a new coat of paint as it is a hideous dark green.
  7. A fabulous planter-bottom-type-thing which was the bottom of a beautiful garden cloche which was stolen out of my front garden and which I have hoarded kept for three years as I just knew something could be done with it. I'd like to paint it and maybe add some paper and tape to it and use it on my bedroom chest of drawers to try and corrall all the products that I should use-more-often-but-am-so-tired-I-usually-forget.

Hmmm. Where to even start. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Prototypes and an idea becomes an actual thing


I made them! Here are my very first prototypes...

There was a huge amount of learning on the job, so to speak, mistakes and refining of ideas. There certainly were more than a few moments when I thought I couldn't do it. But I powered through, thankfully and this is how it came about.

I started with crochet and made some flowers.

I got the power tools out! Love a drill, but my word this one is heavy.

I made mistakes. See the big chunk of missing wood. Yep. That's not supposed to happen.

I tried different sizes and techniques.

I tried many ways of removing circles of wood, some with the knots in and some without. I tried different sizes of holes.

Some filler was required. I think the correct term for this in the USA is spackle. (As an aside I watch tutorials when I can to learn new skills and most of them use American terms which means I need to translate. It can get quite tricky. I think we need a DIY American- English glossary. Maybe I'll start to write one!).

I worked outside on fine weekends as I made a lot of mess. There were boxes everywhere.
Then I got to the fun bit. Adding colour and working out how to attach my crochet. This again took some doing and more moments of aargh-ummm-help-I-can't-make-this-happen.

Finally, I had something I could test in the dark, I always thought they would have two looks, daytime and night-time.

Then I had a bit of fun taking them through their very own photo-shoot. This was a pretty great feeling as they look so lovely done. Proud Mum moment.

Here are all my prototypes together. I think they look fab and I learned so much by doing this.

I have much more understanding now of what I need to do. But here are my latest two works in progress.

What do you think?

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The real-and-not-carefully-cropped tour of my STaBLE.


I promised didn't I? That I'd show you the warts and all version of the STaBLE and I mentioned recently about being messy...

Warning: I really am MESSY in a big way...

Here goes...

Remember these two pictures of some flower tubs I collaged and my shelves. It's true that they look like this but there is a fair amount of mess just next to them...

It consists of a wire basket thing (fairly certain there is an official name but I don't know it) full of my fabric stash and a load of bamboo stakes for the garden, plus a chair I'm in the middle of (well not-actually-started-but-nearly) recovering and painting and a fabulous vintage picture of a dog in front of Pendle Hill which the aforementioned bamboo stakes have knocked sideways.

Here you can see the chair in all it's glory, i.e. full of old painting cloths!

And hello again to falling dog-Pendle-Hill-picture. Plus you can see the mahoosive ladder that currently doesn't fit anywhere but here even though it's a huge pain and really in the way of my beautiful colour wall.

This is why the ladder is here, btw, the STaBLE is a double height room. I've cleverly used the overhead space to store some much-loved-less-often-used items including the white obelisks my brother in law made me for my wedding aisle and a frog umbrella. I know that the obelisks/frog umbrella pairing has been done to death but I love it still! Natch.

Those oh so useful jenga-style pallet shelves. They look pretty good here.

But in reality they are probably about to come crashing down on me and desperately need fixing to the wall. I will get it done before a major head injury beckons, but in the meantime, I've just put something really heavy on top to hold them down. Yes, falling down dog, we get it.

The bottom of the pallets is full of stuff-I-intend-to-do-something-with. I have a lot of this. Remember that whole severe-lack-of-laser-beam-focus coupled with too many ideas and a love of vintage shopping (because if you don't buy it then you will never ever find it again), well, this is the result.

Then the amazing painting by David...

Still amazing but currently presiding over two chairs, a stack of random items (more random than the ones already mentioned) and a gas heater, as there is no heating in the STaBLE and I live in the Northern Hemisphere in a place which rains for approximately 142% of the time.

Gorgeous blue, fab railings, brush marks, crochet, tree stump. Need I go on, this looks great!

In reality it's still next to the gas heater and random pile and with two shelves which badly need some sort of use-style-purpose.

This is a view to give you an idea of how the space physically fits together.

And this follows on to the left from the picture above and also includes a shot of the door which needs to be completely replaced. I actually have to be careful what I put near the door as if it rains in a certain direction it lets some water in. Hence it still being a mostly stone floor.

And then, just to really finish off my shame - there is another pile of random tools which I haven't found a home for yet in the middle of the floor.
So, that's honest isn't it? Messy, cluttered, but with elements of beauty and still tons of potential. I'd just like to end on a positive.
This is what I started with!



I've come a long way, baby.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, 12 April 2015


Let me show you my STaBLE (remember the branding? Well done you.)
I'm not sure if you've guessed already but I'm a bohemian at heart. I love colour, pattern and plants. I like to walk around barefoot and am pretty much a hippie and proud. I don't live alone, and for the sake of my husband and two boys, I rein myself in (a bit) when decorating our house. Being honest here, my husband would not agree. However, the STaBLE is my space. Just mine. It's in our outbuilding and I do what I want in there. 
I love colour! I also obsessively collect images I like and decided to collage them into my very own personal storage. I used flower pot holders for these and they are around 12 inches tall for scale purposes.
I just could not decide on one colour for my STaBLE. So I've painted it in lots and lots of colours. My very own colour wall. I've left the brush marks on purpose and some of the colour-joins make me so happy. 
I've also layered some fabric over my colour wall and will continue to do so and build this up. This piece of lace is spray painted. It works pretty well I find as long you do it lightly and don't attempt on delicate fabrics. 
I have a fairly large collection of spray paints. Keeping them this way makes it much easier to find the colour I want, although as you can see I have mislaid a number of the lids. 
More collage storage. This is an old one and it's just a cardboard box underneath. This one was done with PVA which I find leaves wrinkles. I use Gel Matt Medium now, which is slightly more expensive but gives a great finish. I may experiment more with wallpaper paste though. I'm trying to keep the whole of the STaBLE on a pretty tight budget as we still have bathrooms and windows and important stuff like that in our house to pay for.

I have a lot of things which I intend to do something with. I wish I knew a better way to describe this. So I have built a jenga-style set of shelves out of pallets in which to store everything-which-has-potential.
This painting is by a friend of mine and amazingly talented artist, David Newton. You can see more of his work here including a fab picture of this actual piece. He told me it was inspired by the opening scenes of horror films. Now I hate horror films (too active an imagination - I can't sleep for being scared after I've watched something even vaguely scary, so it's something I have just given up on) but I love love love this picture. It's huge by the way, 8 foot by 6 foot I think.
I have a sofa in the STaBLE. It's an exceptionally comfortable hand me down chesterfield which used to belong to my Mum's next door neighbours. It must be around 30 years old now. It was part of a matching set of two which is currently living in my brothers conservatory. He has a black throw over it and I have a pink. We're so gender stereotyped! It sadly it is a rather faded and worse for wear dirty-pink-velvet colour underneath. I plan to have it recovered one day, or potentially learn to upholster myself, but I'm waiting for the pair to be reunited before I do that.
The crochet back you can see was handmade by me. It was my first ever crochet blanket and I followed a youtube tutorial from this lovely lady called Beth in Texas (you can find her here) who explained everything so well. I got the bug after this and continue to crochet regularly.
The rug is also a handmade project. My Grandad made rag rugs when I was a child and I've always loved them. I've also kept lots of old fabrics and I decided to pair the two over winter. It's about 3 foot by 2 foot and it took me about three weeks to make. I just used old fabrics I didn't care about as I had no idea if I'd like it or not, but in the end I did.
You can see both a little clearer here.
And here you can see more brush joins as I used yet more colour. I adore the blue on the top half. It's almost-but-not-quite the cobalt blue I saw in Marrakech that I need to find a match for.
This is the original STaBLE divider. Our house is approximately 107 years old and we think the STaBLE is original. Today, it's quite built up around us, but I imagine there were more fields in 1907/8. The STaBLE is attached to a garage with a room above and we suspect that it was all designed for a horse drawn coach for the original owner. I'd love to find our more about this sometime.
Anyway, the divide was in the middle of the space to create two halves to the room. It made it an awkward space, and as it's not looking out onto fields and paddocks anymore it would be cruel to actually use it as a STaBLE. So, we moved it. It was a task and a half as this baby is cast iron, weighs about the same as four elephants and is 86 feet long or something. (I may be exaggerating). We did have to hire lifting equipment though as aforementioned husband thought asking a couple of people round to hold it wasn't a great idea and that if they dropped it we might have killed some of our friends. In case you can't tell, he's the worrier and I'm the it'll-all-work-out-just-fine one.
I spent hours removing all the old rust and paint from these. Look at them. It was worth it.
I have taken photos of all the finished bits and not the messy in-between-bits. It annoys me actually when I see this on blogs so I promise to show you a warts and all honest version soon of the bits I'm not so proud of!
Thanks for reading,