Creating textile art with Katie Essam

I am so excited to share with you today an amazing day I had last Friday in the company of the very talented Katie Essam and my lovely friend Lucy Bishop (of Mrs Bishops Bakes and Banter blog).

As most of you are aware I love to learn and am always seeking ways to improve my craft skills, so when Lucy and I met the lovely textile artist Katie Essam, at the Handmade Fair last September, I was super excited to hear that she ran workshops and jumped at the chance to go on one.

Her work is amazing, combining a multitude of materials including paint, wool and paper as well as the more conventional fabric that is usually seen in free motion work. I just knew a workshop with Katie would be an wonderful experience and a great learning opportunity.

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An example of Katie’s wonderful work – a bespoke boot family (photo by Katie Essam)

Luckily for Lucy and I, Katie is based just up the road from us, in Watford, so on Friday morning we headed the short distance up the M1 excited for what lay ahead.  Upon arrival the super friendly Katie welcomed us into her lovely home and we quickly settled in her studio to practice some sketching with the machine.

The freedom that lowering the feed dogs and attaching an embroidery foot offers is so satisfying, it turns the needle into a drawing implement allowing a line to be drawn in whichever direction you fancy (a rather disconcerting experience at first but awesome once you get the hang of it).   Having done some free motion work previously I took this opportunity to practice creating a blackwork style picture , using an adult colouring card as inspiration for this.

 

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 A scribble, a doodle and an attempt at a fox – practise makes perfect

We soon moved onto making decisions about our final piece, which we would be working on for the rest of the day.  I  decided to focus on animals as my inspiration as I was keen to include some of the needle felting that I had seen in Katie’s work and she had recommended something furry if that was the case.   During the week I had spent a couple of evenings sketching British wildlife and on the day, with Katie’s expert opinion to help me, I settled on a pair of leaping hares as the focus for my final piece.

Now the fun really began as we were let in on the secrets behind Katie’s amazing work and encouraged to apply them to our own pieces.  What a great time both Lucy and I had playing with fabric and transforming our designs into wonderful pieces of art. Katie was such an amazing teacher, she had prepared examples of her techniques for us to refer to as well as a handout to take home (in both a written and visual format – thank goodness as I am such a visual learner with this sort of thing!).  She was also really patient and encouraging throughout the day as well as being a generally lovely person and a mean jacket potato chef (which we had for lunch to fuel our activities).

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My sketches,  inspired by the wildlife of Great Britain

 

I loved having the opportunity to learn from such a talented artist and although I had been on a free motion course previously I gained a host of new skills from Katie as well as being offered some handy tips to help me improve my overall sewing skills when creating pieces at home.   It was also lovely to see my super crafty friend Lucy learning a new skill whilst creating a beautiful and unsurprisingly biscuit/cake themed piece.

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Sneaky peaks of the process – from template to stitched pieces (back view) 

We both ended the day hand finishing our pieces in our own individual style, with my hares getting fluffy tummies, tails and hind quarters using some wool fibers and a few stitches as well as a touch of pink paint in their ears.  These final touches, accompanied by the techniques Katie had taught us, really brought the pieces to life and I know both Lucy and I were both super proud of our completed work and can’t thank Katie enough for sharing her knowledge and skills with us.

The amazing effect of paint and fibres to bring a piece to life (photos by Katie Essam) 

Close ups of my completed piece – love how much detail I was able to achieve

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So proud of my pair of leaping hares – can’t wait to frame them

(second image by Katie Essam)

I definitely urge anyone who wants to learn free motion embroidery to book onto a course with Katie (even if you are less local than we were – it’s worth travelling for). Her workshops are tailor-made to your level of skill and she is such a lovely person who throughout the day is on hand for help, encouragement and inspiration. If you want to know more visit her website here.

I can’t wait to start my next free motion piece at home, the day has taught me so much and is really going to have a massive impact on the quality of my work going forward. Keep your eyes peeled on my social media platforms over the next month or so as I will be sharing my progress as I create my first collection of pieces to sell – so exciting!!

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Wonderful Weekends – The Handmade Fair, Hampton Court

Meeting Tilly

Some weekends are for chilling in your pyjamas and watching your favourite movies, accompanied my whatever munchies you have to hand, these are nice enough and are definitely needed every once in a while. However, other weekends  exist for making memories, this can be due to an unexpected occurrence which sneaks up on you and gives you that smile on a Monday morning that everyone notices or it can be a planned occasion which you have been looking forward to for weeks. These weekends to me often not only offer memories to cherish but also inspiration and are a little reminder that life really is good.

Last weekend was one of these weekends and although I have already blogged about my experiences at The Handmade Fair in my last post, this was only half the story. I couldn’t mention everything I saw and experienced on this wonderful day and I’m not sure Mr B wants all my pictures to fill up our yearly photobook so I have decided to share them here.

I hope that there are many more reasons to share my #WonderfulWeekends – spreading some positivity and happiness can only make the world a better place x

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sunshine, snacks and smiles

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Red tone fabrics

Inspiring sellers cards

All the fun of the fair…

Smiles, sunshine and super stitchers, this only just touches the surface of what can only be described as one of the best days of my crafting life so far.

All the fun of the fair

Decisions, decisions – so much to see, so little time x

After being the selected as the lucky winner on a giveaway post run by Melonberry Vintage on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in possession of two complimentary entry tickets to The Handmade Fair 2015, the brainchild of everyone’s favourite crafter, the lovely Kirstie Allsopp. To paraphrase this year’s event annual it is ‘a celebration of learning new things, meeting like-minded creatives, indulging in passions and finding inspiration’. These words could not be more perfect in describing the day I spent with my lovely friend Lucy (of Mrs Bishop’s Bakes and Banter fame) whose passion for all things crafty is equal to mine.

The sun shone brightly and smiles were definitely firmly placed upon every person’s face throughout the day, as we explored the two shopping villages thoroughly and made the most of the day, upgrading our tickets and attending some additional sessions led by crafting experts. The first of these was a Grand Make run in conjunction with artcuts, where along with a tent full of fellow crafters we made a hanging wooden dove embellished with delicate stamping and sparkly decorations. It was a quick, simple make that had a delightful outcome and I have already decided that will make a perfect gift for someone special in the near future.

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My completed hanging dove – such a lovely make x

After pausing for a short refreshment stop we entered the ‘Super Theatre’, a big top style tent which immediately drew the eye with its fun red exterior and built excitement in all who were due to visit it’s mysterious interior in which we would get to be within a stone’s throw of the revered Kirstie. In our session of choice Kirstie was talking to the talented author and illustrator Lauren Child about her passion for doll’s houses and miniatures.   This was a great choice for both Lucy and I as it combined my own enjoyment of creative and intelligently illustrated children’s books and Lucy’s newly found passion for doll’s houses, which she has humorously been sharing recently over on her own blog.   It was a fascinating discussion which gave an insight into Lauren’s creative process, sharing her passion and wonder at using miniatures and the origins of her use of mixed media.  The focus was unsurprisingly on her version of ‘The Princess and the Pea’ in which the illustrations cleverly combine miniatures, paper dolls and mixed media backgrounds.  Kirstie and Lauren were joined by the amazingly talented miniaturist Pat Cutforth, a lady who has been Lauren’s own inspiration and mentor in the creation of all things miniature since her childhood.  It was such a pleasure and privilege to be privy to the secrets of someone’s creative process and to understand where their passion originated from.  It is so easy to forget that everyone was an amateur at some point and that their journey to success, with its own stumbling blocks, may not be so different to the creative path you are carving for yourself.  Both Lucy and I left the tent inspired, with our brains filled with the amazingness of creating tiny versions of real life and hoping that one day maybe we could learn a little bit from Pat too (luckily courses with her are available).

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The Super Theatre experience was amazing – such inspiring women x

The early start and busyness of the morning meant that quite an appetite had developed by lunchtime and we were ready to explore the food court located at the centre of the show. This boasted an impressive twenty caterers offering a wide range of cuisines for every taste and appetite. I opted for the traditional British tourist’s day out choice of a sausage sarnie which definitely hit the spot.  Whilst sitting on our chosen picnic bench, outside the delightful ‘Super Theatre’ big top, the atmosphere of the day was so apparent, the usual awkwardness that the British public generally has towards each other was completely washed away as our common interests seemed to make everyone who attended feel almost like familiar friends.   We shared our bench with a lovely mother and daughter couple who we chatted away to like old mates and were the reason, due to their eagle eyesight, I managed to get my copy of the adorable ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ book signed by the very understanding Lauren Child, who I think was just packing up ready to have her own lunch as I approached her.

Our learning journey came to its completion with a brilliant skills workshop, led by Caroline Preston, where we were taught to make an delicate origami butterfly as well as a pair of interslotting triangles for a larger sculpture being created by Caroline. As an origami amateur I was so pleased with my finished butterfly and give high praise to Caroline for her teaching, it was perfectly paced and pitched for us beginners with a satisfyingly complicated looking outcome. Caroline was also super friendly and clearly excited to have a tent full of people to share her expertise with.

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Concentration and calmness descends upon the tent

as the Great British Paper Folders get to work!

With such an amazing day being had already it could only get better and the rest of our afternoon didn’t disappoint.  We did not know as we entered the shopping village that the most exciting part of the day was yet to come. After only a short stroll from our chosen entrance we found ourselves stunned into awed silence as we happened upon stand E4 – where the one and only Tilly stood before us. Like giggling school girls we approached the sewing superstar and chatted for a short while about her inspirational influence on novice sewers like ourselves, as well as sharing my thanks to her for pointing me in the direction of the wonderful Janome DKS100 which I purchased primarily based on her own recommendation (read more in my recent review).  My lasting impression of her would have to be a combination of her down-to-earth loveliness along with my surprise at how tiny she truly is!

Meeting Tilly

This actually happened, eeeeek!!!!

The rest of the afternoon passed in a flash of fabric induced happiness as we browsed both the shopping tents, chatting away to the ever friendly stall holders. This included the wonderful Katie Essam, a young textile artist whose free motion mixed media pieces were such an inspiration for a newbie like me, I shall most definitely be booking myself on one of her courses soon.  My budget for purchases was exceeded slightly but this is not something I feel at all guilty about, I figured where else am I going to find such a variety of quality sellers any time soon. My fabric stash is well and truly well stocked, material has been bought for a couple of patterns I have been waiting to make (Tilly’s Bettinne and easy PJ bottoms) as well as a huge array of scraps and bundles for my future free motion projects. A few notions later and I finished the day with only a few pennies left in my purse but brimming with ideas and excitement for future projects.

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My fabric stash – beauty and inspiration galore x

Before we knew it, sunset was fast approaching and it was time to say goodbye to The Handmade Fair. Like any memorable and happy day the time had passed too quickly and as we strolled past the gates of Hampton Court Palace on our way to the train station we vowed to return next year to do it all over again, perhaps over two days this time so we can fit in even more crafty experiences.

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AWESOME – definitely the write adjective for this day, good choice Lucy x