The crafted object : Quality ~ it’s in the details

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously said “God is in the details.”

Quality is being purposeful and attentive to all those little things that many of us rush over, and is the reward for those of us who choose to heed we see.


Rebecca Hannon - 'cobblestone' brooch - front and back {via}

Rebecca Hannon – ‘cobblestone’ brooch – front and back


 It’s in the interiors and undersides of objects.



yumiko higuchi {via}

yumiko higuchi


 It’s present in immense skill and precision.



thyme tealight - {}

thyme tealight – {}


 It’s in the understanding of materials, and how they look when the light catches them.



Molly Hatch  cups {via}

Molly Hatch cups



yumi okita -

yumi okita – cross’s wave moth



And NONE of it is made by casual fiddlers or doodlers.


Build your vision, build your skills by years of long, hard work; 

and one day quality will appear, as if by magic. 



Inspiring : Pendragon Shoes

Pendragon Shoes

First up I must apologise for the overload of pictures I’m about to share – these handmade shoes are just too too glorious and I couldn’t decide which ones I should show you first. Anyway, here goes.


 leaf ankle boots

leaf ankle boots


leaf boots detail

leaf boots detail


Inspired by myriad things including mythology, medieval and historical literature, Jackie Orme Ward and Adrian Lockwood create their extraordinary footwear in their tiny 6m x 6m workshop,  on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.  It’s a fascinating place with old casement windows and recycled timber floors, and it’s jam-packed with tools, fabulous old wooden filing cabinets stuffed full of everything that goes into their shoes – a variety of dyed and digitally printed leathers, fabrics, braids, buckles, tacks, boot hooks, and more.  Although they have some machines (sewing machines, grinders and sanders and a click press), the actual building of the shoe is by hand.


red renaissance slip ons

red renaissance slip ons


winged goddess sandals

winged goddess sandals


in the workshop - hand painting summer sandals

in the workshop – hand painting summer sandals


autumn leaf sandals

autumn leaf sandals


It all started way back in 1987, when Jackie and Adrian decided to make their own boots to wear to a medieval fair in Brisbane. “The rest is history – we got hooked.  We are self taught as there were no courses available in Queensland.  The name Pendragon fitted our business perfectly as we made historically inspired footwear.” Now, all these years later, they’ve built themselves a thriving business; their work  has been featured around the world, including Milan Fashion week and Design Festa Tokyo. But Jackie says that even more exciting and amazing than those was “Being asked to make boots for Italian Vogue in 2009. Our shoes were photographed with Vivienne Westwood, Prada and John Galliano clothes, styled by Karl Templer and shot by photographer Steven Meisel.”

And that’s not their only proud moment. One of Jackie’s favourite pairs of boots is from their Leaf collection. “The first pair we made were called The Prince of Autumn Leaves; they were part of an exhibition called Metamorphosis back in 1994.  It was our first exhibition of art shoes exploring themes of nature using natural leathers, dyes, embossing and moulding.  That pair of shoes is now in the Power House Museum in Sydney.”


ballet boots

ballet boots


victorian striped boots

victorian striped boots


marie antionette shoes

marie antionette shoes


What I love about Pendragon’s shoes is not only their incredible inventiveness and humour, but also their absolute emphasis on attention to detail. As a maker, I am in awe of their beautifully hand-tooled leathers and their mastery of stitching, not to mention all the little things like rare buttons, antique buckles, and the inclusion of miscellaneous fragments from other items totally unrelated to shoes (did I spy drawer handles?), that all combine to totally knock my socks off.


 men's steampunk boots

men’s steampunk boots


alice ankle boots

alice ankle boots


ancient mariner

ancient mariner


Jackie and Adrian are absolutely hands-on and work together every day.   “It’s just great to be able to work at something we love every day. It’s hard work and doesn’t pay that well but we are still going 27 years on.”

Their best piece of advice?


“Just do it!”



in the workshop

in the workshop


adrian and jackie in their workshop

adrian and jackie in their workshop


Besides making exquisite footwear, Pendragon Shoes also offer both beginners and advanced shoe making courses in their workshop on the Sunshine Coast (oh how I wish!). You can find them on Facebook, and on their own website,


Visual biz : Monday Mini Makeovers {part 6}

Monday Mini Makeovers {part 6}



Welcome to Part SIX of Monday Mini Makeovers! That means we’ve covered quite a few shops, and helped them with a lot of business presentation issues, ESPECIALLY the visual. So if you don’t find the information you’re after in this post, I encourage you to go back through and check out the other Monday Mini Makeovers. I guarantee you’ll look at your shop with fresh eyes.

{If you want to find out more about what the Mini Makeovers are, check here.}

OK, let’s meet this week’s beautiful people and check out their shops.


Jenni from The Paper Lake


Jenni Tedman sells lots of bunting and stationery through her shop, ThePaperLake – bunting always looks so cheery, don’t you think?

First up, nice logo Jenni! Your shop banner is simple and clean, and I like the handmade feel conveyed through your choice of font.

Your photos are clear and bright; however I would say that for some shots you are too far away from the bunting – I know you’re trying to include more of the whole string, but this results in too much white space in your photos, and they end up losing the impact of your lovely colours.

 Your perspective angle shots are good because they also give an idea of the close-up (colours, patterns, textures), as well as the whole string of bunting. For those simpler shots, you could also create more colour and impact by having a double string of bunting; or you could take a closer pic of just three, or five elements, so there’s not so much white space in the image, and people can see the print/texture of the paper if there is one. When you’re stuck for styling ideas, always check out the competition! What images do you like/not like from other shops that sell bunting?

For backgrounds, I also think the pics of your paper sticker stacks work well – the grey circle adds more depth/interest to image, without being distracting – it’s a clean shape and fits well with your overall aesthetic.

Don’t hide your Custom Colour Matching item on the second page! It’s a real feature of your offerings, and should be on your front page (also, change the title around a bit so that ‘Colour Matching’ is visible under the thumbnail too – every bit of awareness of what you have to offer is helpful).

And it’s nice that you’ve got a bit of a back story on your About page; it’s also good to see a variety of pics showing your materials and space and what you do. However, PLEASE don’t squash your pics! A simple two-part image with the bridal party and one perfectly matched banner would be an excellent demonstration of your colour matching.

Your policies are good and clear. And I love that you’ve said “The benefit to this is a one-on-one buying experience. My banners are not factory made.” However, I would encourage you to include something more friendly to finish with – I know you’ve told people where and how to contact you, but in sales, it’s ALWAYS about the words and where you put them!! (I am SOOO still learning all about this…) – so in Seller Information at the end, you could finish up with a friendly, “Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’ve got any questions”.


Lauren from Gears and Gadgets


Lauren from GearsAndGadgets sells a variety of luxurious handmade bags and vintage accessories inspired by many eras.

First up Lauren, your “About” page is beautifully evocative of what you do and what inspires you! Your words totally took me to another place – you should try and include some of that in your Shop Announcement. While your SA kind of says what you do, in comparison it’s a bit vague, and it could be so much more inspiring. Because you’re appealing to a very particular group of people, be more specific and more evocative of what appeals to them – mention steampunk, magical, Victorian etc – otherwise you’re not connecting with them as well as you might. I’d probably avoid using the quotation marks on “different” too – it doesn’t need it. If you need to emphasise the quality of difference more, try some other words or phrases – e.g. for those who take the path less travelled, unusual, contrary, exotic, fantastical…. a thesaurus is your friend!

The most striking thing is – you need LOTS more products. This is especially important because you have such a variety in your shop – handmade items are only about 1/3 of your 20 or so items for sale. You must give your customers a choice; if they don’t find something similar to what they want, they won’t bother asking for a custom order – they’ll go looking in another shop.

I absolutely love all the rich fabrics and trimmings on your About photos. With the words, you could also give more of a backstory to where you’ve come from, and why you’ve chosen these areas – is it the romance? Is it just the love of rich fabrics? What’s your particular interest?

And again, like Jenni, your policies are clear and comprehensive, but perhaps make them more friendly?

Remember to always think like a customer. How do you make you customers feel when they visit your shop?? You want them to feel welcome? Use welcoming language!! 😀


Lolita from LolitaStas

Last for today, but by no means least is Lolita Staskevidiene from LolitaStas, maker of delicious felted accessories from Lithunia.

I think Lolita’s  shop is already very lovely! The items are well photographed – bright, clear, and consistent in styling, and it’s nice to see how she has grouped items by colour. Currently, she only has around 40 items – which is not an empty shop, but it’s certainly not overcrowded either. Put more items in! If people like your style, they also like to see choice. I’ve heard many successful businesses suggest around 3-5 pages or more (i.e. 60+ items), although this might vary according to your type of products.

Lolita’s Policies page is concise and friendly, and I definitely like how she finishes up with a friendly reminder that if customers have questions to contact her.

But Lolita! One big area I would pay attention to is your About page!! People ALWAYS want to know about the maker – how/why you started, what inspires you, what your creative space is like, why you like living where you do, other interesting hobbies, what you do for a living (if you’re not making a career out of being a maker) – anything quirky or crazy or downright beautiful about you is great. Include photos of your workspace, your materials and tools, you doing your favourite thing… who are you???

I think your shop is already doing very well even though you’ve been open only for a few months, and with a few more little tweaks, it will be absolutely ace.


ALL the very best to today’s participants, and I thank them very much for allowing me in for a little poke around and a prod. And I KNOW it’s appreciated by my readers too, especially those of you who have shops of your own. Thanks for all the feedback!



But you know what? After taking a look at so many shops over the last few months, it is becoming more and more obvious that lots of folk struggle with the same things.

So I’ve decided to put it all together for you.

If you’re struggling with how to brand your shop; if you don’t know how to convey your vision and mood; if you have no idea what your business personality is… I’ve put it all together in a BRAND SPANKING NEW WORKSHEET.

If you’d like a quick reference sheet OR like to have a good hard think about your shopfront, you can get it here. It’s hot off the press.


So that’s it!


AS ALWAYS, if you would like a Monday Mini Makeover on your biz, you can join in too – all you have to do is follow the instructions over here.

Catch you next time!
Julie X

The crafted object : Frank Ideas {jewellery}

Frank Ideas
frank ideas - neon pink rubber and felt necklace

frank ideas – neon pink rubber and felt necklace


Rowan Shaw started designing jewellery because both of her kids were keen swimmers.  “With training every morning at 5am it meant I was stuck in a car or by a pool a lot and jewellery was portable. At that stage it was mainly textile necklaces using felt or cuffs made from vintage buttons, scavenged from thrift shops at beach towns when the kids were competing at nippers carnivals.”


frank ideas - neon green and orange earrings

frank ideas – neon green and orange earrings


frank ideas - red and black necklace

frank ideas – red and black necklace


Her current jewellery is more simplistic in style, using modern materials such as plastic and rubber in sleek forms, with bright colours, and utilising the materials themselves for textural interest.

Her world has revolved around design and making ever since she can remember. With an architect father she grew up surrounded by contemporary design books and magazines, carpet and wallpaper samples, and modern furniture. “My mother made most of our clothes and created fabulous costumes for the plays I was always in so there were always buttons, cottons, wool and fabric samples lying around. As a family we were often immersed in handmade projects for the house – curtains made from paper beads that we created from the gloriously colourful pages in glossy architectural magazines, covering walls with wonderfully textural textiles, sorting volcanic stones for landscaping in our unusual garden…My adolescence was spent rehearsing and acting, painting murals on walls, working with polymer clay (eons before it was cool) dipping wire in bright (possibly toxic) substances to make mobiles and…well, simply creating. I remember when I was about 12, making a mobile out of “dippity glass” (does anyone else remember that stuff??)  that I took to school to use as a demonstration for a talk about  processes. No one, including the teacher, believed I had made it myself, assuming it had been bought from a shop.”


 “That was probably the first time it dawned on me that not everyone spent their life making things.”


Frank Ideas originally started as a furniture design business several years ago, run by Rowan and her friend Gillian. “The name originated because we were both very frank in our taste and opinions. Our designs were  quite Scandinavian in feel using light coloured timbers, very utilitarian or modernist in aesthetic. We used to spend a lot of time in architectural hardware companies and timber yards battling with sexist males who were often quite patronising and assumed we had no idea what we were talking about. We had a lot of fun explaining to them that we were “Frank” not his assistants. I kept the name once Gill moved to a more idyllic, rural life deciding that I would still have Frank Ideas even though I was now designing jewellery. I have many clients who buy regularly from me on line and still assume I am a rather flamboyant gay male.”


frank ideas - folded silver origami necklace

frank ideas – folded silver origami necklace


After several bouts of studying and working in theatre and design, she eventually found her way to jewellery. “I now feel like jewellery is what I should have been doing my whole life, but am glad it evolved from other disciplines. I’ve done some very short silversmithing courses but apart from that am totally self taught, using intuition and trial and error to develop my own techniques and style. I am totally materials based – ie I very rarely draw a design first (unlike all those years spent at a drawing board) but instead will dye felt or knot rubber long before I know what I am actually going to do with it. I have boxes of experiments which I hardly ever throw out – even the most disastrous is set aside until (sometimes a few years later) I eventually rediscover it and it will be the solution to a current design problem. This somewhat chaotic approach to design leads to hoarding of materials – I frequently purchase vintage African beads, find pieces of rubber or fabulous bits of fabric that I have no idea what to do with – they will appeal to me because of their colour, texture or history. They will sit on a shelf until inspiration hits – hardly a disciplined or rigorous design approach!!”


frank ideas - red paper flower necklace

frank ideas – red paper flower necklace


“I love the process – probably more than the final result. I love the experimenting and total absorption that comes from working with unusual materials. I really love the solitude and am sooo thankful that the Internet means I don’t have to try to sell my pieces at markets very often. I am often amazed when people get excited by something I’ve made.”

Having such an extensive design background has given Rowan a huge pool of influences from which to draw. She says that architecture is of course an enduring backdrop to everything, but her favourites in other mediums shine through, and include the fabulous paper jewellery of Ana Hagopian, the rich colour of the legendary ceramicist Clarice Cliff, as well as the inspiring array of otherwise discarded materials used by British sculptor Tony Cragg. “I actually still believe that less is more, its just that sometimes I choose to fight against it.”


frank ideas - red and grey felt necklace

frank ideas – red and grey felt necklace


frank ideas - black rubber knotted choker necklace

frank ideas – black rubber knotted choker necklace


Working out of her home studio in Balmain, Sydney gives her easy access to the many things that are important to her – especially water. “We are a five minute ferry ride to the MCA and the Opera house so I’m close to the city which I passionately adore. I’m an urban girl who delights in bridges, buildings, art galleries and shops. We are 20 minutes drive from Bondi where I swim and walk most days in summer. During winter it is only a 5 minute trip to the local pool where I swim most mornings. I need water in my life; swimming laps is the closest thing I get to meditation. I find the repetition calming, and the rhythm of breathing helps me find the centre I need to plan the day in my studio.”

“My life is lived in total chaos, much to the dismay of my family who are all quite orderly in their approach to life and living. My husband is very tidy but has learnt to turn a blind eye to the disruption and mess that seems to follow me. I try to keep my work contained in my studio or my office but I often spill out of both spaces.”

Her favourite piece of advice is one from Ira Glass, and I love it too. It’s about just keeping on doing.


“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” {Ira Glass}


You can find more of Rowan’s jewellery in her Etsy shop, FrankIdeas.


Photography + Craft : Clemens Wirth

Clemens Wirth swears he’s not a wizard despite his red hair. But I have my doubts when I look at his miniature moving dioramas and  think about what has actually gone into making them. I think they’re incredible.


clemens wirth - gravity

clemens wirth – gravity


An Austrian filmmaker and artist living in Innsbruck, he first got himself a DSLR camera during his multimedia studies at university, and started to experiment in macro photography through investigating both nature and everyday objects. The details of the world have fascinated him ever since.

Despite graduating only three years ago, he’s already worked with an impressive list of clients including BBC1, Working Title Films UK, and Red Bull Media House, and was nominated for the 2012 SXSW Excellence in Title Design Award. In fact, it was his final year project, the title sequence for a film about World War I called Herbst, that got him the SXSW nomination.


clemens wirth - figures for herbst

figures for herbst


Working with a variety of model railway figures, he created images of the loss surrounding war, detached from reality but perhaps even more poignant for their likening war to a game played with toys.



His most recent work is a series of still photographs called New Adventures, and he describes it as “the end result of my previously learned experiences in miniature and diorama. I love to work on a small scale, to handcraft, to tinker, to make, to tell little stories and finally pack it all together in a picture where there is room for your own interpretation.”


clemens wirth - above the clouds

clemens wirth – above the clouds


clemens wirth - fly me to the moon

clemens wirth – fly me to the moon


clemens wirth - heavy rain

clemens wirth – heavy rain


clemens wirth - fireflies

clemens wirth – fireflies



clemens wirth - herbst

clemens wirth – herbst


You can find out more about him on his own site,, and purchase prints from his Etsy shop, ClemensWirth.


clemens in the studio

in the studio


The crafted object : Su Blackwell {papercut}

Su Blackwell : papercuts

In secret forests small creatures lie low and trees whisper their stories to each other through their leaves and branches. Light plays games of hide and seek with shadows as solitary wanderers search out their destinations. Birds sing quiet songs of loneliness, despite the company they keep.


su blackwell - the woodcutters hut

su blackwell – the woodcutters hut


The storybook papercuts of Su Blackwell are evocative; imbued with a sense of melancholy and longing, of magic, mystery and intrepid adventuring on a childhood scale.


“As a child, I spent a lot of time playing in the woods near to my home, in my own make-believe world. I gave the trees names and believed they would protect me. I made dens, with curtains and carpets that I scavenged from home.”


su blackwell - the raven (photo by jaron james)

su blackwell – the raven (photo by jaron james)


After school, Su drifted into textiles at the local college in Sheffield, and discovered she loved it so much she continued, eventually receiving her MA in Textiles from the Royal College of Art in London in 2003. Now living and working in West London, she has designed large-scale theatre sets, she contributes to regular columns in Intelligent Life magazine and Harpers Bazaar UK,  and her clients have included Disney-Hyperion, Penguin books, Oprah Magazine, Real Simple Magazine, British Airways and Vogue Deutsch, and has exhibited extensively.


su blackwell - treasure island

su blackwell – treasure island


Her foray into dioramas started after a trip to Thailand, when she found a beautiful second-hand book on the Kao San Road. “My father had passed away while I was studying at the RCA, and I was thinking about life, death, and the in-between. I created my first book-sculpture, ‘The Quiet American’, cutting moths from the book with a craft-knife. The piece was inspired by a Chinese legend, about two lovers whose souls re-emerge from burnt ashes in the shape of two moths. I began working with paper, because of its connection to spiritual rituals that I encountered in South East Asia, and this in turn led me to work with books, and fairy tales.”

She says although she always starts with an idea, it’s the materials that lead the work. And while textiles are still important to her, she says that paper is her medium of choice for several reasons. “Paper is more malleable to the hand, it has a visible memory. I am not tired of working with paper, in fact the more I work with it, the more fascinating it becomes. Fabric is less forgiving than paper.”

“Paper has been used for communication since its invention; either between humans or in an attempt to communicate with the spirit world. I employ this delicate, accessible medium and use irreversible, destructive processes to reflect on the precariousness of the world we inhabit and the fragility of our life, dreams and ambitions.”


su blackwell - nature in britain

su blackwell – nature in britain


Her influences are many, including Ann Hamilton, Joseph Cornell and Jonathan Callan. She says it was particularly Jonathan Callan’s show ‘Interference’ at The New Art Gallery in Walsall that had the most profound influence on her, for his ability to push the boundaries of materials.


su blackwell - the baron in the trees

su blackwell – the baron in the trees


su blackwell - the baron in the trees (detail)

su blackwell – the baron in the trees (detail)


There is always respect for the book. “I always read the book first, at least once or twice, and then I begin to create the work, cutting out, adding details. The detail is what brings it all together, the magic element. It is a tediously slow process.”

You can find more of Su’s work on her own website,