The Handmade’s Tale: Miss Lady Abroad

Welcome to the latest instalment of the Handmade’s Tale. This week Natasha talks to pinup girl-turned-jewellery designer Miss Lady Abroad.

She’s a mother-of-two, a pinup pageant queen/ organiser and a dedicated pilot for the Australian Air Force. When she’s not on a mission Miss Lady Abroad loves nothing more than hanging out with her family, quaffing coffee at her favourite cafe and working on her own handcrafted jewellery line with her husband.

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Hailing from Lilydale, Victoria, the internationally published pinup and pageant winner who has titles in Miss Viva Las Vegas 2013 and Miss Pinup Australia under her belt, made her first vintage-style brooch in 2013 for the Miss Ballarat Beat pinup competition (which she organised with her friend Ruby Rabbit). 

It was an immediate hit and Miss Lady A Broad Design soon began slinging her range of wearable works of art throughout the vintage and pinup community and beyond.

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Her 1940s-style brooches, crafted from layers of wood, printed design with a resin coating incorporate both vintage and modern elements. Each piece has been designed with a slightly aged look and customised illustration to give it an authentic vintage appearance.

Their creativity doesn’t stop there – Miss Lady Abroad and her hubby make everything from handcrafted timber signage and theatre props to pin up pageant trophies!

Read on to find out more about Miss Lady Abroad!

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Have you always been a vintage jewelry lover/ collector?

I’ve always had a love for 1940 jewellery due to the intricate detail and craftsmanship.

Over time I have collected a range of 1940-1950 brooches to help me with my own designs and inspiration. 

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What are your creative inspirations?

The beautiful paintings of George Petty, Alberto Vargas and Zoè Mozert have inspired my designs. Each image that features on our brooches has been created and reworked to come up with an authentic looking vintage illustration. A lengthy process but very rewarding knowing that it’s your work.

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My aim for the appearance for the brooches has always been to make them look like they are aged and vintage in style. Timber and premium printing create a soft, gentle and warm feeling. 

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Were you always crafty/ creative as a youngster?

I have always been an artistic soul with lots of ideas and creativity. From an early age I was making crafty Christmas presents for friends and family and selling my illustrations in a local shop. I have always felt a pull to design, making and producing something. As a trained Graphic designer, working on corporate designs just wasn’t my style. With little confidence in my talent it was hard to find my passion and self worth.

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What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make?

Recently we have incorporated acrylic into the mix to enhance certain features on some brooches. Each brooch takes upwards of 30 minutes to complete depending on how intricate it is. It is very much a labor of love with every brooch assembled by hand and lovingly completed in a uniquely designed box to protect them when not being worn.

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Are your designs mainly one-offs?

Custom orders are a specialty for us and we enjoy working with clients to make something that stands out and reflects their personality. We make all of our designs to be clever in some way. If it be the name of the brooch or the combination of images. Our brooches tell a story through imagery and material. It’s the little details and the thought that goes into the piece that makes it so special.

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What do you enjoy most about what you do?

The greatest enjoyment about what I do is the feed back I receive. 
It is so humbling to know that others see our vision and acknowledge the craftsman ship put into each piece. Over the past year our designs and techniques have incorporated different types of timber along with mirror acrylic.

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How has your style evolved over time?

Our style has expanded into a spiritual range of brooches. This required a lot of research and was challenging. I wanted the brooches to be minimalistic in style yet hold a wealth of information and be subtle enough for everyday.

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Any plans to branch out into other areas/ products besides jewellery?

In time, we hope to move into Christmas decorations and timber mobiles that hold meaning and worthy of becoming a family heirloom and in time becoming true vintage.

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Do you have a favorite piece you’ve created?

There is an attachment to all of my brooches but I am very fond of the Theresa Dee brooch ( as in 3D ).

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Her theme is watching a movie with her real 3D glasses and 3D popcorn with a surprised or worried look on her face. A simple overall design yet her 3D glasses were tedious to make with timber veneer and cellophane.

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Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?
Lady A Broad, works of art can be purchased at www.ladyabroad.com.au

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The Handmade’s Tale: An interview with Audrey Moorehead from Tee-ki Togs

Welcome to a fresh installment of the Handmade’s Tale–a regular series in which we celebrate crafty ladies! This week Natasha meets international jetsetter, DJ and jewellery designer Audrey Morehead from Tee-ki Togs.

Audrey Moorehead might hail from California but her work takes her anywhere the tiki winds blow.

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Born to be wild: Teeki-Togs designer Audrey Moorehead.

Raised in Downey, California, her childhood was a whirlwind of luau parties, lava fountains and trips to local alohawear store, Peg’s Tiki Togs. She even grew up in a Polynesian-themed apartment complex!

“I’ve been interested in loud and vibrant clothing since birth, she says. “My mother was quite the fashion plate and always wore the coolest clothes.

“Rudi Gernreich was her favourite. She also loved ‘Fumi’s’ [a vintage Hawaiian clothing company] because of the great colours and styles they made.”

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This is me wearing a Bosko Pendant and my model Sharon [Pinup Little Bit] wearing a Tiki Tony pendant

So when the time came to create her own business it felt natural to take the Tiki Togs moniker, tweak the spelling… and her jewellery line Tee-ki togs was born!

Inspired by the outrageous jewellery worn by 60s icons such as Edie Sedgwick, Audrey crafts her pieces using a variety of chains, beads, resin and acrylic parts, glass, ceramics, plastic and wood.

Her mantra is ’round, shiny and plastic’ and nothing is too wild or crazy in her book.

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Punk icon Jello Biafra wearing one of Teeki Togs’ collaboration pieces- a Bosko cat

It was in the 1980s that Audrey experienced the first wave tiki revival while working on a 1960s -style TV show with her longtime friend Domenic Price.

Together they’d sit in his bedroom surrounded by his tiki mug collection, listening to exotica masters such as Les Baxter and Martin Denny while they worked on the show.

Price then introduced Audrey to none other than tiki archivist and urban archeologist Sven A Kirsten and  it’s been one long cocktail party ever since!

Read on to find out all about Audrey and her handcrafted jewellery line Tee-ki Togs!

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What is it about tiki style that appeals to your particular aesthetic?

For me it’s the boldness of the colors and patterns! Like my mother, I am drawn to the pure design and colors of the Aloha wear. I’ve been wearing it forever because it was the loudest most psychedelic clothing I could find here in California.

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How did you come to be making your jewelry range?

My jewelry role model is Edie Sedgwick, she had the most outrageous earrings ever, and also Paco Rabanne. My mantra is “Round, Shiny, Plastic” I just love those elements! I used to make my own earrings and then repaired many of my vintage items and often elaborated on them to make them wilder.

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I have a background in Graphic and Interior Design. I also took jewelry design but that was completely useless because I wanted to repair things not cast things in gold and silver.

I wanted to work with plastic! Over time my styles have evolved to BLEND with the Aloha wear that my friends wear but I would love to make mod jewelry again.

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Tell me about the process involved in making your pieces.
 
So many things I see inspire me. I get an idea, then start looking for the right hardware for it, how much I can manufacture myself, or search for vintage jewelry that needs to be reworked into a more wearable design.

Some pieces are hand painted, some are found, other artists make some pieces and some are designed by me and manufactured by someone else, like my acrylic parts.

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What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make?

I use a variety of chains, beads, resin and acrylic parts, glass, ceramic, plastic, wood. Each piece varies in the time it takes to make it just right. Some pieces take 10 minutes, some take hours.

It’s a labor of love with some pieces that I cannot charge enough for the amount of work that went into it but the pride I get from seeing someone wear my jewelry outweighs the time and money I put into it.

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Tee-ki Togs model Pinup Little Bit.

 
What do you enjoy most about what you do? 

The freedom to go where I want, that I am able to make something people love, but mainly the joy of seeing customers wearing my designs. I was at a party and there was 8 ladies dancing and they were all wearing my earrings!! I got a little emotional from that.  I felt so loved.

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Tee-ki Togs model Pinup Little Bit.

How has your technique evolved over time? 

With time you become more discerning, find better quality materials and of course you become more skilled in your assembly and production.

 

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Tiki Tony shows off a collaboration piece created in conjunction  with Teeki Togs

I notice you’ve done some great collaboration with fellow Tiki artists. Can you tell us about some of them and which has been your favorite collaboration? 

I started making jewelry for BigToe and then Tiki Tony, both wonderful artists, of course they all are or else I wouldn’t work with them! Odd Rodney has even put my logo on the back of his Moai for me!

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Buzzy Meeker and Bosko make some great stuff that I love to work with. GoGo Tiki makes me wonderful ceramic pieces and so does Mikel Parton. I can’t say any of them are my favorites because I am honored to work with all these talented artists and feel grateful that they allow me to use their creations in my work!

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Collaboration with artist GoGo Tiki

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Any plans to branch out into other areas/ products besides jewellery?

I originally was going to make cute summer dresses and hats, along with men’s jackets. I still may get back to that! 

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Tee-ki Togs model Pinup Little Bit.

  
What are your creative inspirations? 

LIFE! I love to watch people and nature, I see what my friends are wearing and I think to myself, now what’s missing from that outfit is some outrageous earrings! Many of the Hawaiian dresses are very high necked so I sell mainly earrings that add that pop of color and compliment the dress. For men, I usually make natural colored pendants to pop on their colorful shirts. Lately men have wanted really bright stuff too and I love that!

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Have you always been a vintage jewelry lover/ collector? 

Yes! My aunt Candy said I would always play with her plastic jewelry when I was a baby. I was drawn to that instead of the silver stuff. My father was a plastics engineer so I think it runs in my blood!

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Reagan Foy wearing my Floats

Were you always crafty/ creative as a youngster? 

I loved to draw and thought I would become an artist growing up, but I was more into my motorcycle and my dogs as a kid.

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Tee-ki Togs model Pinup Little Bit.

Do you have a favorite piece you’ve created?  

I do love most of what I make because it is an extension of what I am feeling when I make it. Usually when I make something really special for myself, someone falls in love with it and I sell it to him or her. I don’t regret it because it will bring that person so much joy and I can make something else!

I do love my Tiki Tony “Markesan Sun” pendants, I will be making more soon. I also really loved how my collaboration with Mikel Parton (MP / Thrift Emporium) came out.

His mid-century ceramic fish with my “bubble chain” works perfectly with his pieces. My customers loved them too so much that I sold out the first time I showed them! I will be making more of those soon.

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Mikel Parton ceramic fish

 
Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?
 
Come see me at events such as Tiki Oasis, Tikiland Trading Company, Tiki Trader, Shipwrecked, The Hukilau, even out at the new “Malihini” in Kansas City. I bring my newest and most unique pieces to shows to ensure that my customers get first choice for coming to see me. If you can’t see me at a show, I have an Instagram page where I post everything (@teekitogs), as well as a Facebook business page (facebook.com/teekitogs). 

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If my followers see pieces on my Instagram feed that they want, I am happy to make custom pieces to sell direct or post in my Etsy shop. Business has picked up and I am often away selling at shows, so sometimes I don’t have time to list the newest things in the shop. But I am always happy to do so if an item is requested. It’s a pleasure to create for my customers!

Thanks for reading!  Go and follow Audrey on Facebook  or Instagram now!

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The Handmade’s Tale: Nana Glamour

In this edition of the Handmade’s Tale, Lisa from Nana Glamour tells Natasha about her vintage-inspired creations made from old cards, tatty books, and vintage magazines.

Lisa from Nana Glamour could happily spend the rest of her life making hex boxes. “It’s actually ridiculous how much I enjoy this craft and never seem to tire of it”, she says.

After spending years toying with the idea of replicating the little octagonal boxes you might stumble across in op shops made from vintage greeting cards , she decided to take the plunge and try making them herself.

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It was during a very sad chapter of her life. Her sister had recently passed away and she was craving distraction. That’s when the enthrallment with her craft began and she’s never stopped.

A lifelong crafter, Lisa’s always had a fascination for all things retro and kitsch. “Looking back through rose-coloured spectacles as the social aspects of the time were not always so great, but seeing all the amazing fashion, jewellery, hairstyles, houses and furniture is just so captivating.”

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She has a penchant for the simplicity of time’s past: “peg bags made from sacking, embroidered pillow cases, dolls made from shells, chocolate boxes to die for…”

So it’s no accident that her business ‘Nana Glamour’ harks back to a simpler time of handicrafts, thrift and frugality; when the mend/ make/ do/ reigned supreme.

Her work is unapologetically whimsical and sentimental. Icons of kitsch are rife: whether they’re such cutesy kittens in baskets, religious figures, chocolate box roses, Disney cartoons, lurid pulp fiction covers, souvenirs,  or tacky Christmas cards.

But there’s a special place in her heart for woman’s magazine’s from the 1950s.

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“The advertisements are laugh-out-loud and the exotic images of legs and lingerie are very appealing. We certainly wouldn’t get away  today with some of the claims they touted back then- such as encouraging housewives to have a nip of  tonic to get through the day, lordy knows what they were imbibing, pleasing your husband and always looking your best..”

 Reading these magazines is a history lesson and a social commentary of the times, although I love vintage, I much prefer living in the present!”

Want to find out more about Nana Glamour? Read on!

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How long have you been making things? Were you always creative/ crafty as a youngster?

 I’ve always loved using my hands and attempting to have a go at things.

I remember as a child making dolls clothes and quirky little bits and pieces for a dolls house.  I would have loved to be able to paint and illustrate but this was a complete disaster as I don’t have any talent for art. 

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My sister was very good and used to draw me my pictures for school projects which I even won prizes for, naughty, but a nice memory.  I have tried leatherwork, jewellery making on a very basic level, sewing, photography etc.

Many aspirations but I have found it is always enjoyable to have a go and find out what you are good at and when you actually achieve something worthwhile you are on the way.

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Styling and photography by Tannia Lee.

Where does the name come from?

It evolved from trying to capture the feel of what I am about.  I chose Nana firstly as most of my work embodies craft from my grandmother’s era.  A simpler time of handiwork and frugality. 

The beautiful and innovative techniques on domiciliary items always amaze me and I appreciate the talent and eye for beauty when you come across a gorgeous hand worked tablecloth or lingerie bag from 50 years ago.

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 The word ‘glamour’ evokes such a nice feeling, dressed up, sophisticated, romantic. I like to be a bit about that too in my work.

Using 1950s images of movie stars and pinups or 1930’s/40’s cigarette card images, it’s all so appealing and resonates with people today.  Hence the name ‘Nana Glamour’.

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How did the idea for your business come about?

Initially all I did was knit. I so enjoyed finding vintage patterns for berets and cloches etc and would spend hours and hours knitting up a storm.  Eventually I had to come up with another idea as I enjoy participating in markets and it is not so easy selling woolly hats on hot summer days. 

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All that glitter and kitschy images got my blood singing and during a very sad period in my life when my sister passed away when I badly needed some distraction the enthrallment with this craft began and I have never stopped making and devising since then.

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Why the fascination with kitsch/ retro?

Everything is so engaging from the fashion to homewares to lifestyles.  It’s probably looking back through rose coloured spectacles as the social aspects of the time were not always so great but seeing the amazing fashion, jewellery, gorgeous hair styles, amazing houses and furniture is just so captivating. 

Then there are simple things like peg bags made from sacking, embroidered pillow cases, dolls made from shells, chocolate boxes to die for.  Everything simple had an allure and enchantment compared with today’s mass produced goods of dubious quality.

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How would you describe your aesthetic?

I refer to my niche as “vintage inspired”.  Having that love and sentimentality for beautiful old children’s books, playing cards and ephemera from previous generations it is all inspired by my penchant for those era’s.

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How has your taste and work evolved over time?

When I started I used old greeting cards as was the norm.  I hand cut the backs and fronts and used contact as a protector.  There were some pretty sad results as often after hours and hours of work I would end up with a wrinkly, ripply box that seemed quite inferior to what I had in my mind. 

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Although I still loved the process I knew I had to improve my techniques and gradually over the years through a lot of time and trial I admit I am now quite a dab hand although I still can easily make an error like punching a hole where I shouldn’t or maybe the picture is not quite straight enough.

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I have a fascination for woman’s magazines from the 1950’s.  The advertisements are laugh out loud and the exotic images of legs and lingerie are very appealing.  I toyed with the idea of using these in my work, a great way to legitimately and productively utilise such treasures.

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We certainly wouldn’t get away with today some of the claims they touted back then, encouraging housewives to have a nip of tonic to get through the day, lordy knows what they were imbibing, pleasing your husband and always looking your best.  Reading these magazines is a history lesson and a social commentary on the times, although I love vintage I much prefer living in the present! 

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What’s the first piece you remember making?

One of my first pieces, and I still have it, is a rather squashy, misshapen box made from a cat calendar.  I just love it as it reminds me of my initial struggles and all the rejections. I have, I hate to admit, finished something then promptly jumped on it and thrown it in the fire I have been so annoyed at the outcome.

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One thing I have learnt though is that even if I don’t think my work is good enough other people are captivated by it and I shouldn’t be so harsh.  I often sell these pieces at a much lower price point and they are always snapped up and enjoyed.  A life lesson there I think.

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Are you mainly making boxes or do you make other pieces as well?

To be honest I LOVE making hex boxes and I would make them all day every day if I could (and my body would allow me to). The lovely curved panels and how it all fits together is so engrossing for me – it’s actually ridiculous how much I enjoy this craft and how I never seem to tire of it.  I think it’s all the possible materials and combination’s that could be used and the outcome of a perfectly shaped and constructed box. 

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My workroom is chock full of material for future work and my lovely husband has built me a shed for storage.  My best days are spent crafting away in my work room with a talking book playing and my glorious collection of old wall paper books, wrapping papers, old scraps, vintage magazines and gorgeous old books that have seen better days. 

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I also make tissue box covers which is a good way to utilise the lovely playing cards of pinups and movie stars as you can use more of the image than in a box panel. I have a process of scanning them in then dropping them into a a wonderful Printshop I use to blow up and print out for me.

This is a very expensive process but I think the results are worthwhile and it’s not something I can do myself. I am thinking a basic graphic design course would go miles in helping me with my work and this is something I will consider down the line.  

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I am currently making Christmas decorations from old greeting cards, the images are just superb and a fantastic way of prolonging the life of these beauties.  I make bookmarks, fridge magnets mainly from old scraps (cat and bunny images are the favourite), also reusable notebook covers from sewing patterns etc and needle case covers.  My favourite thing to make though is my hexagonal box.

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What are your top sellers?

Definitely my boxes are at the top of the list.  Sometimes I have a run on the pinup or movie star tissue box covers but I think it is the nostalgia of my boxes that fascinates my customers. 

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At every market I have numerous comments from people about a mum or aunty who has made these boxes and where they are now and what is stored in them.  A little anecdote of their life and it feels good to jog these memories and make them smile.

Are the majority of orders custom made/ one offs?

All my work is originals.  I love the variety and choice of what I make.  I am happy to to make things up for people using their precious old cards or children’s books but time is a constraint as I still work and have other commitments.

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I love starting a project and mulling over during my walks whatever I am keen to try out next. My brain is usually focussed on either my family or my craft, sometimes I think I need to get a life but I love reading and watching Crime Noir and Scandi thrillers although I have to knit rather than make boxes so I can concentrate on the sub-titles.

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Tell me about the process involved in making Nana Glamour pieces. 

Usually I go to my workroom and forage through my resources for inspiration.  Sometimes I lean towards using a Woman’s Journal from the 50’s or 60’s.  They have the most devine fashion plates in each issue which are a joy to use. I am always on the look out for these.  Other times I may have come across an old book in the recycling that has amazing images. 

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The one I am currently thinking of using is all about trains and the illustrations have the subtle hues of vintage colour and such charming train related pictures I can’t wait to use it for a box. I get quite excited. 

I love pouring through my stash of vintage greeting cards, the gaudy, glorious, overtly cheerful depictions of flowers, houses and people are so wonderful.  I have been blessed to have awesome people in the vintage trade who are aware I love these and let me know if they come across any. 

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Vanessa and Warren from Two Squirrels have been amazing and bestowed on me marvellous scrapbooks and collections of these rare treasures.  I use templates I have constructed for each type of project, these are traced around over the images I want to use, then laminated. I then hole punch around each panel, crochet every side, then stitch the whole piece together.

It is extremely important to finish my boxes and other work with a lovely lining.  I gather scrap-booking pads for this purpose and there are some beauties out there.  I have gone a bit mad and have a huge pile to choose from but I also love using wallpaper and wrapping paper. I try in my mind to keep a theme going so there is cohesion in the finished project. 

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I love the pop of colour when a box is opened and you see what is inside.  The other important component is the crochet cotton which actually hinges the whole piece together.

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I have a rainbow of colours on hand and once my panels are all stitched I group them together to see what I have in my stash that would work best.  I love using gold, raspberry pink, bluey/greens and red the most.  

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The other hugely important tool in my workroom is my laminator.  I have blown up 4 or 5 through over use.  I have learnt to manage and condense my use so that I don’t have the expense of replacing this vital machine too often. 

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After doing everything by hand and not really liking the result my precious laminator caps off the process and just gives such a great finish to my work. 

It’s been extremely investigative over the years and I have learnt what is the best weight cardboard (cat food boxes), heat setting and laminate gauge to use.  It has been like a science with lots of hard fought study to get to this stage of expertise.

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Each piece takes a few hours or a couple of nights work. I don’t think of the time involved too often, to me there are never enough hours in the day for all the things I would like to do and life just seems fly by, I am never ever bored, lucky I know.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Everything, I love all the stages and processes of what I do.

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What do you do when you’re not making things?

I love walking, reading and movies. And a bit of baking. But to be honest my craft is a huge part of my life.  I am just lucky I have a husband that helps and supports me by ferrying me to markets out of town and helping on my stall. 

My family has always given huge support also, my three daughters (and their boyfriends) at some stage have been my market helpers also critiquing and advocating my work.  They have had to live with the distraction and clutter of a crafty person but it makes me happy and it’s my life and I would be sad if I couldn’t do it.

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Finish this sentence: Handmade is best..

Because in every piece is a small amount of the makers heart.  (It is nice to earn some revenue from what you to do but for me it is all about the making and you never ever break even)

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Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?

I have a Facebook page Nana Glamour and I also use Instagram. I have sold a lot of work through queries on this social media. As I sell most of my work at markets, it is difficult to also have website sales as you are taking those items online to the markets and you need to be onto what has sold as you don’t want to be advertising something that has already gone.

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From time to time I load up some hexes on Felt but this is very slow for me as I think my work is much better received when it is seen.  I would love to be more savvy with my on-line sales but I need to get better at photographing etc and advertising as I know I have quite a unique product to offer.

Travelling to markets can be tiring so I guess I will have to give it some serious contemplation eventually if I still wish to keep “making”. 

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For now, I love attending markets and have plenty of bookings to keep me going from Christchurch to Nelson to Central Otago. I would love to really branch out and hit the North Island at some stage.

 I love a weekend away, spending time with family, visiting opp shops searching for treasures and seeing the sights.  I feel blessed to have this life.

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Styling and photography by Tannia Lee.

 

 

The Handmade’s Tale: Little M Creates

Welcome to the sixth installment of The Handmade’s Tale! This week Natasha meets British-based jewellery maker, Little M Creates.

Ever hankered for a brooch featuring Vladmir Tretchikoff’s iconic green lady? Or fancy having Bette Davis’ terrifying visage (circa What Happened to Baby Jane?) swinging from your earlobes?

If quirky statement jewellery is up your alley, you’ll be hooked on the whimsical creations of Michasia Stevens aka ‘Mimi’ of Little M Creates.

The UK-based jewellery queen describes her style as “DIY punk meets drag queen” and  her aesthetic’s all about camp kitsch for pop culture junkies!

“[My jewellery] is unisex, inexpensive and most importantly fun! I like to think that whenever someone wears one of my pieces they are smiling and having a bit of nostalgia trip!”

Mimi, who graduated from Plymouth College of Art in 2009 with a BA Hons fashion degree, has always loved fashion and is a self-confessed magpie.

The crazy cat lady (with no cats) loves nothing better than raiding charity shops for bargains, “honestly my house is full of figurines and random bits that take ages to dust!” 

Read on to find out more!

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How long have you been making jewellery? Were you always creative/ crafty as a youngster?

I’ve been making jewellery for as long as I can remember, me and my sisters were always very crafty growing up, we had a cupboard full of paper, pens and other bits and pieces and could usually be found drawing things or doing random projects.

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Originally fashion was always my thing, I was always designing and graduated with a BA Hons fashion degree in 2009 but never ended up pursuing it further as I kinda lost the passion and have no patience.

I’ve been making jewellery for a living for three years now which I still find quite unbelievable as I never imagined that it would take off like it has!

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How would you describe your aesthetic?

My aesthetic is camp kitsch for lovers of pop culture! Its unisex, inexpensive and most importantly fun! I like to think that whenever someone wears one of my pieces they are smiling and having a bit of nostalgia trip!

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The Bronte Sisters (minus Anne)

Why the fascination with glitter?

I just think glitter is fun! It’s a bit of a childish throwback and it makes the details in the drawings pop against different fabric so its functional too!

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Nick Cave on fluffiness- can’t go wrong really!

What are your creative inspirations?

I mostly draw on the old TV shows and movies my Dad used to make us watch; things like Hi-de-Hi, Dad’s Army, Allo Allo and Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em which I think I hated at first but really learnt to love.

I’ve always loved ’70s and ’80s music too so that turns out some great ideas!

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How has your taste and work evolved over time?

I think the quality and size of my drawing has evolved, at first my pieces where simple block style but I’ve been getting better at mixing in more detail recently.

As with anything you learn as you go along and learn better processes/products to use. I think my confidence has grown too and I’m less afraid to try out new ideas.

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Fresh batch of Vampira pins!

I’m very lucky to have some great friends on Instagram that are always suggesting characters so they widen my horizons when it comes to new character ideas.

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Carmen Miranda necklace with gold chain.

What’s the first piece you remember making?

Oh, I love this story..and its basically how Little M started! My friend Debbie was having a really tough time with things and I wanted to do something to cheer her up, because no one likes seeing their bestie upset.

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Anyway, I happened to have some shrink plastic in my crafty bits so I decided to make her a pair Chas and Dave earrings (she’s a massive fan) as a bit of a joke to make her laugh, she posted a picture on Instagram and I got people asking if I could make them a set, she then gave me counter space in her vintage shop and it escalated from there!

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Are you mainly making brooches or do you make other pieces as well?

I make necklaces and earrings too, but brooches sell the most, I think its because they are so easy to wear.

It’s so easy to add a brooch to an outfit and I know lots of people who find earrings harder to wear so I always make the characters available in all styles so they can choose which one they prefer.

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Vincent Price pin

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Portrait of Diana Dors- the British answer to Marilyn Monroe.

A sneaky hint too is brooch converters! that way you get a brooch and a necklace in one!

What are your top sellers?

I get phases where certain characters are popular but steady top sellers are Rik and Vyv from the Young Ones, Patsy and Eddie from Absolutely Fabulous and Bette Davis from Whatever happened to Baby Jane? 

I think it’s because they are such iconic faces and they are known and loved around the world.

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Anna May Wong portrait brooch

Are the majority of orders custom made/ one offs?

I’ve found that custom orders are becoming a very important part of my business and the amount I do has increased since I started.

I genuinely love doing them too because most of the time they are people I’d never think of doing or people I’d never heard of so I end up learning something new! 

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I branched into portrait pieces and have even made a necklace to commemorate someones beloved dog which was a massive honor, to be asked to make something that important really did mean a lot to me.

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Tell me about the process involved in making Little M pieces. What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make?

Each piece varies in time and is totally dependent on the size and detail. Simpler monochrome designs take about an hour plus drying time for the resin, or the colourful pieces it takes about two, the glittering and filing stages are probably the most time consuming bits.

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The initial drawing stage takes a while but once I have that done its simply a case of tracing it onto the plastic sheets and adding all the detail, I think its this that makes my work so unique because I can vary each design or add different details so that no two pieces are ever identical.

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Custom designs usually take a lot longer because I research the character, find out if the buyer has a favourite image and send regular updates until they are totally happy with the finished result.

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What do you enjoy most about what you do?

It sounds really sappy but I love that people enjoy what I do and buy it! I never imagined that I’d have my own business and make so many friends in the process so that really is the best feeling in the world! 

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What do you do when you’re not making things?

I am such a crazy cat lady (with no cats) and love nothing better than raiding charity shops for bargains, honestly my house is full of figurines and random bits that take ages to dust! 

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I have a Sunday job working at my friends vintage shop in Margate which I absolutely love because I’m surrounded by beautiful clothes and accessories , it keeps me sociable and she stocks my pieces!

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Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?

I have an Etsy shop www.etsy.com/uk/shop/littleMclothing where you can find all of my designs and also enquire about custom orders.

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If you are in the Kent area you can find me at Madam Popoff Vintage in Margate or at Made in Ashford which is a pop up shop for makers in Ashford.
You can also find me on Instagram @little-m-creates

So, what do you think of Little M’s handiwork? Do you have a favourite character you’d love immortalised as a piece of  jewellery? Let me know in the comments!

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Freddie Mercury from Queen

The Handmade’s Tale: An interview with CatHouse Modern

In the fifth installment of The Handmade’s Tale, Natasha chats to Kate Smith who creates mid-century modern inspired furniture for the discerning feline.

Ever noticed how fugly most cat furniture is? Every time I go shopping for my precious Puss Puss I find myself recoiling at the sheer hideousness of most cat scratchers and cat beds. Occasionally I find a cute little mouse or a catnip-infused toy which has some aesthetic merit, but this is few and far between.

As a mid-century kitsch fan I have a hankering for atomic symbols and retro styling but until now, have found it nigh on impossible to source anything decent for my beloved fur baby.

That is until I stumbled across the wonderful Kate from CatHouse Modern when she posted in one of my favourite global Facebook groups, Mid-Century Modern Cats (yes, there’s a group for every taste, no matter how niche!)

CatHouse Modern’s raison d’être is to craft one-of-a-kind furniture with a Mid Century Modern bent for you and your favorite cat or kitten.

Made with new and reclaimed materials, her products combine rescued vintage and durable fabrics in colors and patterns which blend in with and accent your retro lifestyle.

She also designs toys and furniture that keep in mind the need for comfort, and the innate curiosity and playfulness of cats.

Kate’s artistic muse is Roy, her 8- year-old silver tabby who has a penchant for 3am wake-up calls, attacking his food bowl, devouring cheese and nestling in the warm lap of his humans.

Read on to find out more about this unique business and how to source some sweet MCM flavoured pieces for your favourite feline!

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CatHouse Modern Logo – That’s not Roy in the photo, but it looks just like him. The ‘H’ in catHouse is a take on a shape you see in some Mid-Century-Modern architecture. 

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CatHouse Modern creator Kate Smith. “Me in Palm Springs – This is me being sassy at the Caliente Tropics Hotel in Palm Springs. The entire hotel is Tiki themed. Being photographed in front of “don’t be doing this” signs is a tradition with me...because I’m a rebel.”

How many cats do you have?

Currently I have one cat, Roy. I guess you would say he’s an American shorthair-type silver tabby. He came from a no-kill shelter five years ago as a kitten, and he’s a real imp.

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Roy & Cat House prototype –made from Bamboo, wool felt, aluminum legs. 

Were you always creative/ crafty as a youngster?

Yes, all my life. I come from a family of creative, artistic people. My sister is an exceptionally talented mosaic artist and other family members include a ceramicist and two professional dancers.

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Roy modeling my Starburst Collar Charm. Laser cut & etched Lucite. 

My mother taught me how to sew at a young age and she and my dad were always big do-it-yourselfers, mostly out of financial necessity but they both had artistic talent. I majored in art in school and eventually got a degree in Commercial Art.

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Starburst Earrings – Same as the collar charm. I plan on doing more of these with different designs. Matching jewelry for the cat and their human companion

How long have you been making things?

I’ve been making things forever. When I had my Etsy shop I did a lot of ‘upcycling’ of vintage pieces that either wouldn’t sell as is or needed a facelift.

If I find a vintage piece that has any chance of being revived, I can’t help but be inspired to give it a new life or purpose.

 The vintage boxes available on catHousemodern.com reflect my artistic vision applied to objects that were popular in the past and have lost their appeal but can still serve a useful purpose. My parents and grandparents were Depression Era folk and their frugality has rubbed off.

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Witco Box: My take on a vintage Witco wall art design. Rescued cedar box. 

How did the idea for your business come about?

The idea started after I remodeled my living room. When it was finished, I just couldn’t live with the cat tower I had. It was all sisal rope and beige carpeting. It didn’t suit the design or color scheme of the room and I realized that I could make a better one with a mid-century vibe.

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Nelson Ball Clock Box – Vinyl graphic based on the iconic ball clock design by George Nelson. 

The design and construction took me out of my comfort zone as I had to learn about metal bending and a bit of engineering, and the best materials and hardware to use. It was a long process, and I knew it would require some capital to make more to sell. In the interim I realized that I already had what I needed to start making pet beds, and that provides the funds I need to produce other pieces.

How long have you been in business?

I started last year, and I launched cathousemodern.com web in 2018.

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Tiki Toys – Felt toys with vinyl graphics, stuffed with catnip and either polyester fiberfill or crackly mylar. 

Do you trial your products on your own cat?

I do. Although Roy is not a big fan of catnip and he’s kind of lazy, he likes the felt toys because he can get his claws in them and really flip them around the way a cat will do with prey. I send sample toys to friends who have cats, so I can get feedback.

Roy loves the prototype cat house, it’s one of his favorite places to sleep and it’s positioned to give him a good view of the backyard.

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Yorktown Lanes – The bowling alley where I grew up. Googie architecture. Believe it or not, the building is still there and still a bowling alley.

Why the fascination with Mid-Century Modern?

 It’s more of an obsession than a fascination! I was born in 1956 and grew up with that style of architecture and design so it’s something I was exposed to and found appealing. 

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Congo Room – Vintage Neon at Caliente Tropics Hotel

There are plenty of examples of Mid Century architecture in Cleveland, OH, where I grew up.

I appreciate the uncluttered, sleek lines, minimal ornamentation and the juxtaposition of traditional and non-traditional materials. The “form follows function” principle (another nod to frugality) which I try to adhere to in my designs.

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Sears Middleburg Hts., OH – This is the Sears department store where I grew up. Classic Mid-Century roof line. Believe it or not, I went to charm school there. I am a VERY charming person.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Organic, no frills, practical, authentic.

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Caliente Tropics: Example of Tiki Art in Palm Springs, CA – Caliente Tropics Hotel 

What are your creative inspirations?

James Herriot said, “Cats are connoisseurs of comfort,” which is a phrase I keep in mind when I’m working on a project.

For capturing the mid mod style, I look to the designers of the period; Charles & Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, George Nelson, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Poulson, Donald Wexler, Hans Wegner to name a few. I’m also inspired by the playfulness of Googie architecture, Tiki style and Witco wall art and other décor pieces from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

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Gift it forward: This vintage Kromex ice bucket is an example of a piece that was a mess when I found it. Not sellable as it was, I took it apart for a clean and polish. The outer surface was scratched so I repainted and added a mod vinyl graphic. It hadn’t sold when I closed my Etsy shop so I decided to give it away as a social media promo. The ‘gift it forward’ part, I had Facebook followers tag a friend they thought would like to have the ice bucket and then did a random drawing to pick the winner. It was fun, and I plan to do another gift it forward promo again soon. 

How has your taste and work evolved over time?

I’ve learned that simple is better. Projects that are abandoned have usually become too complex or they just don’t feel right.

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Googie Cat Toys – These are fairly large (6”) felt toys in a space age/Googie style. Stuffed with either polyester fiberfill or crackly mylar and organic catnip, the graphics are die cut vinyl. (Googie is a form of modern architecture, a subdivision of futurist architecture influenced by car culture, jets, the Space Age, and the Atomic Age. Originated in California, popular from the 1940s to 1960s. )

What’s the first piece you remember making?

If you mean for catHouse, it would be the prototype. One of the first arty objects I ever made was a Valentine’s card box for my daughter when she was in elementary school. It had fabulous 3-dimensional artwork on the box that I made using clip art.

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Kohala Cat Lounger & Roy – This is another rescued piece of vintage furniture. Has a storage area and the fabric is also from Spoonflower. 

Can you talk us through your range of products?

The cat toys are my original designs with retro themes and fun details you don’t find on commercially produced toys. The felt is die-cut and I do the stuffing and sewing myself. Collar charms (kitty bling) are laser etched Lucite I design and are made by a company that’s based in New Zealand.

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Minimalist Fish – Felt & vinyl cat toys based on Mid Century metal wall art. Stuffed with catnip and polyester fiberfill with a little bell between the back fins. 

The cat beds, or loungers as I call them, are a combination of vintage furniture parts and reclaimed wood. I sew the cushion covers using period themed, durable fabrics. Some of the loungers have die-cut vinyl accents that are also my original designs. Another section in my shop offers vintage pieces that I’ve updated to give them a modern appeal.  Currently I have a selection of cedar boxes embellished with vinyl graphics that are fun décor items.

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Tiki Lounger – Reclaimed wood, vintage tapered wood legs, fabric from Spoonflower. 

Are the majority of orders custom made/ one offs?

Yes, one of a kind, apart from the cat toys and collar charms. I’ve been using reclaimed materials and vintage parts for furniture so each one is unique. Future plans are to produce original loungers and towers in small quantities that may have customizable options.

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Tell me about the process involved in making catHouse Modern pieces. What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make?

The process of designing can take minutes or hours or weeks depending on how inspired I am and what I have to work with. Sometimes designs get put aside because it’s not working for me on an artistic level or there are engineering issues to work out, or I can’t find the exact materials I want to use. When it does work, it takes about a week to make a cat lounger, toys can be produced in a matter of hours.

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Mid Mod Fish Lounger – Not vintage furniture but rescued. Storage under the top, fabric from Spoonflower. The framed art is a real favorite of mine, Roy looks over his shoulder in the exact same way. 

When deciding on materials, I first take into consideration that my products are going to be used by cats. I want to make sure they are durable and non-toxic to felines (or people for that matter). I like to use wood because it has intrinsic beauty and it can be sustainably sourced. Bamboo is a favorite of mine.

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Starburst Collar – Roy modeling my Starburst Collar Charm. Laser cut & etched Lucite. 

I like the color and grain and the durability. As you’ve seen, I am a big fan of Spoonflower fabric products. Their fabric choices are great, and I like supporting the artists who offer their designs on the site because they’re small business owners too. I also like Spoonflower’s option of creating custom fabrics which is part of the grander plan for catHouse modern.

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Gusdorf Cat Lounger – The wood base was previously the bottom of either a stereo or TV stand, made by the Gusdorf Company. I found it at an estate sale (in the garage under a bunch of junk). The Gusdorf logo is really neat so I recreated it in vinyl and put it on the base under the cushion. You can see it on the website. The fabric is from Spoonflower. 

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

As with most of the creative people I know, being ‘in’ the process is a completely happy and satisfying space for me. Finishing a project and loving the results is exhilarating, and positive feedback is great too.

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Star Diamond Box – Rescued cedar box with vinyl graphics and felt lined drawers.

What do you do when you’re not making things?

I handle all the non-creative aspects of the business and do research for my designs.

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Rescued Lane Furniture Co. cedar box with brushed nickel tapered legs and vinyl graphic based on Mid Century starburst clock designs. These boxes were given to graduating high school girls. They are miniature versions of Lane cedar chests. Supposed to inspire the girl to dream about her future as a good wife and homemaker and think about her dowry. I guess the men at Lane didn’t imagine a woman could be something other than a housewife. My sister had one of these, but she’s a feminist! 

Finish this sentence: Handmade is best because………..

It contains the mojo of the person who made it.

Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?

Visit my website www.cathousemodern.com

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The Handmade’s Tale: Estelle of Brighton

Welcome to part four of our Handmade’s Tale feature which celebrates crafty and creative women. This week Natasha chats to Estelle Pemberton aka Estelle of Brighton.

Napier-based artist and maker Estelle Pemberton has long been a voracious reader of classic literature, as her own library of well-thumbed Penguin classics will attest.

As well as being an avid bibliophile, the 46-year-old takes creative inspiration from her vintage paperbacks and reimagines her literary masterpieces– in the form of reproduction novelty bags.

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Estelle Pemberton aka Estelle of Brighton.

 

 

“When you look at bag history in the 20th century, there have been many periods where the novelty bag has been popular”, she says.

“I was thinking about a bag that Schiaparelli designed in the 1930s that looked like a newspaper and this inspired me to create a handbag which resembled a magazine.”

The result was an artfully rendered copy of the famous 1950 Jean Patchett Vogue magazine cover. It was such a hit that it sparked an entire series of magazine style clutch purses- including a limited edition piece featuring the visage of New Zealand’s own country star Tami Neilson!

Whether it’s a bespoke bag modeled after Anais Nin’s celebrated erotica collection Little Birds or a rendition of jazz-age classic The Great Gatsby,  or even a coin purse fashioned to resemble a par avion letter, Estelle of Brighton’s pieces are bound to become conversation pieces and collector’s items in their own right.

Read on to learn more about this clever lady and her creative inspirations.

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How did you first get interested in making bags?

I studied fine art sculpture in the United Kingdom. During this time I was using metal and ceramics. After I graduated, I immediately started making bags, it kind of came from a compelling need to create, to make money and also from having seeing this painting, The Cadet and His Sister by Paula Rego.

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Her paintings are heavily symbolic, the bag being so much more than it was… so the idea of the clasp purse and what it could be (and how to construct them) was the challenge I needed.

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Novel idea: Some of Estelle of Brighton’s literary inspired creations.

How would you describe your particular aesthetic?

Vintage but in its own time, colourful but quiet.

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How did you come to be making your range of purses and pocketbooks?

For a few years I worked for a lighting design firm in Auckland, I specialised in making stretch lampshades.

I worked with linen a lot and I kind of fell in love with it. From there I found how well it dyed and how it looked with embroidery.

This was combined with my love of pop artists like Claes Oldenburg and it developed from there.

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Tell me about the process involved in making your bags?

I usually have ideas whirling around my head for a few months or sometimes year. The perfume bottle bag being one example!

I always sketch out ideas and then first of all make a mock up in paper, so I can get the proportions right, then I make one in calico to make sure it’s going to fit in the frame.

I use a lot of techniques from my lampshade-making time too.

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What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make?

I use mixture of linen, Harris Tweed, Liberty florals, leather and suede.

Some bags take days to make and others are quicker – I will make about 20 in one go and that production line method speeds things up!

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What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Lots of things. The moment I come across the last bit of inspiration that makes an idea pop up in my brain for a bag design.

When I’m having a productive day, the moment a bag is finished and it’s perfect…And definitely when a bag finds its owner and they adore it!

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How has your technique evolved over time?

When I started making bags back in November 1994, I had all the ideas but really no knowledge of how to make them.

There was no YouTube or Google to help me out, so I was really hindered but over time I got better.

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Then 10 years ago I started attending a pattern drafting course. There I learnt how to make the shapes I wanted, and the correct order of making.

In the last few years I have stripped away some of the more ‘crafty’ aspect of how my bags had looked.

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Any plans to branch out into other areas/ products besides bags?

I’d like to do some soft furnishings, I still love making lampshades too. I think about getting into illustration as I think the way I use appliqué and embroidery would translate well.

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What are your creative inspirations?

I  get inspired from the world around me, objects in my home, paintings, fabrics I find, I stay away from looking at what other people are making as I don’t want to imitate, however there are some bag designers I love.

In the 1930s called a label called Marie of France, made amazing novelty bags – champagne buckets, cocktail bars, telephones…

She had been a total inspiration for many designers and in fact some of their bags are complete copies of hers and other 1930s novelty bags.

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Have you always been a vintage lover/ collector?

Yes from a very young age, my mother was and is a collector of vintage clothing. We would go to jumble sales and find beautiful 30s and 40s clothes.

I still have a beautiful and unique Art Deco clutch bag and gown that I bought when I was about 11!

When I visited England last year we went vintage shopping… and she said “let’s find vintage Biba”… and we did – an iconic sequinned chevron waistcoat from the 60s… she has a sixth sense!!

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Were you always crafty/ creative as a youngster?

I was forever cutting, snipping and sewing. My mum taught me to sew on an old fashioned treadle machine to make dolls clothes, and the nuns at my convent school taught me to embroider. I can still remember the embroidering a felt owl cushion!

I had a dolls’ house and I was always making furniture out of anything I could find… as I said earlier I’ve always had a compulsive need to create!

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Do you have a favourite piece you’ve created?

That’s tricky! I think it’s the Vogue bag… and the popcorn bag! Hard to choose, I love the popcorn bag, there’s no frame so technically, making it to hold its shape was the hard part.

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What are you working on at the moment?

I’m starting to work on a bag design for a magazine… it’s a little hush hush and I can’t say what it is but it’s going to be a fun project!

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Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?

I make to order and do occasional markets and sell through an amazing store in Napier called The Department Of Curiosities & Fine Things.

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The best way to contact me is through my Facebook or Instagram pages.

So, what do you think of Estelle’s handmade creations? Which is your favourite? Let me know in the comments.

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The Handmade’s Tale: Interview with Hey Muchachita!

Welcome to part three of our Handmade’s Tale feature which celebrates crafty and creative women. This week Natasha meets Mexicana-inspired jewellery maker Dani Spadevecchia.

It started with a vintage handbag. It was a beautiful black Italian raffia purse with a crocheted shell pattern, dark wood handle and decorative gold studs – and Dani Spadevecchia had to have it.

Despite agonising over the price, she decided it was an ‘ investment piece’ so snapped it up.

Soon she needed matching accessories for a special event. Nothing seemed right… until she bought some black rayon raffia and fashioned a pair of earrings with dark wood bead detail and the Cha Cha earring was born!

It wasn’t long before she had her own jewellery range Hey Muchachita! which she began selling at vintage fairs and markets and via her own Etsy store!

Today the Brighton-based collector is a self-employer jewellery designer/ maker. And when her hands aren’t tied up in raffia,  she also works as a training co-ordinator for a child safeguarding agency.

Read on to discover how a girl from a mining town in the north of England developed a passion for Mexicana , the process involved in making each of her pieces and the new products she’s planning to roll out in future!

Juke Box Fair 2017

Dani Spadevecchia ‘womans’ her Hey Muchachita! stall.

How did you first get interested in Mexican style?

It’s really difficult to pinpoint, but since I was a teen I’ve been fascinated with Mexican and Latino style, culture, music and dancing, which is quite unusual for a girl from a mining town in the north of England! After taking salsa dance lessons, I was really interested in the Mambo craze of the 1950s, and so my interest and passion for other music and style elements from the mid-century era grew. 

My love of Mexican culture was more than justified after I travelled to the Pacific coast of Mexico on my honeymoon. I loved how aesthetically pleasing pretty much everything was – the traditional dress, food, artwork, architecture, and landscapes. Even the cemeteries were beautiful and bursting with colour. It really is such an inspiring place.

Range of Fiesta Earrings

How did you come to be making your jewellery range? 

I’m an avid collector of 1950’s raffia handbags, which started after I bought one bag in particular – a beautiful black Italian raffia bag with a crocheted shell pattern and dark wood handle with decorative gold studs. Some time later, I was looking for some accessories to match this bag for an event I had coming up, and was frustrated that nothing seemed quite right. So, I bought some black rayon raffia and made a pair of earrings for myself with dark wood bead detail. The Cha Cha earring was born!

When I purchased that black handbag, it was quite pricey and I remember beating myself up about spending so much money on it. I genuinely said to my now husband “it’s not just a bag, it’s an investment”, and it really did turn out to be just that.

Pina Colada Brooch

Tell me about the process involved in making your pieces.

Should I really give away my secrets?! OK then…

For my earrings I use a combination of crochet and weave. The top parts of the earrings are always crocheted, and depending on the style the process for the lower parts vary. Most of my earrings consist of woven raffia around a hoop of some sort, and can be adorned with beading or stitched into. My new Maya earrings however are completely crocheted, meaning no glue is needed at all to construct the earring (apart from to attach the backs of course). I’m pretty proud of them! 

I tend to work in a production line type style;  for instance I’ll weave around large multiples of hoops, finish them with glue, and then whilst the glue is drying I’ll crochet the tops. By the time I’ve finished crocheting, the glue is dry and I can move on to finishing details like stitching, before constructing the earring. Et voila!

Cha Cha Earrings Gold

What materials do you use?

The predominant and reoccurring material used in every Hey Muchachita piece I make is rayon raffia. I adore it’s versatility; it’s as easy to work with as yarn, has a beautiful texture and lustre, and comes in a multitude of colours. My earrings are predominantly made from raffia, but I do use different materials when making brooches. For the western style brooches I embroider onto natural denim.

For some of my more Tiki style brooches, I use genuine vintage buttons. I love coming across vintage haberdashery at second hand shops, as simply finding a set of beautiful buttons or beads can inspire a completely new design.

Ranchera Earrings

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

I really enjoy selling my products at vintage fairs and events, as it is a great way to meet other like minded people, and I get to meet some of my lovely customers! I’m so grateful to  the internet and social media for being a fantastic platform for small businesses to gain publicity, but it can be quite a daunting and isolating place. I’m really sociable and love interacting with people face to face, so it is nice to come out from behind the computer screen and meet my customers from time to time!

Fiesta Earrings Red and Gold

How has your technique evolved over time?

I wouldn’t say my technique has evolved as such, but I definitely have got neater and a lot quicker over time. I guess it’s like anything, the more you do something the better you become. It’s almost becoming muscle memory now, I’m sure I could make earrings in my sleep! Also, as my brand has become more well known and demand for my products has increased, I have had to adapt my production methods to keep up. Making large quantities of each element of the earring at once is definitely the way forward.

Cactus Blosom Brooch Red

Any plans to branch out into other areas/ products besides jewellery?

I still have so much to explore within jewellery! At the moment I’m working on some ideas and designs for a range of bangles, which will hopefully be coming soon. I’ve had so many exciting ideas for necklaces and hair combs too, it’s just having the time to play whilst trying to keep my existing products in stock! I’d love to explore embroidery more, and have sketched up some ideas for purses and clutches. So watch this space!

Sarahs Doowop Dos with Fiesta Earrings

What are your creative inspirations?

My ideas usually stem from me making products to match some of my favourite vintage pieces, like the handbag I mentioned earlier. Also, I own a beautiful vintage mauve wool jacket with gorgeous cream and brown western stitching, and initially designed my Lasso earrings to match this. I get so much inspiration from my customers however – I love it when I get a request for a custom order in a colour way I hadn’t initially thought would work, because more often than not they look great! When initially coming up with a new concept I tend to use colours that I like and that match my wardrobe, so having suggestions from my customers really helps me to think outside the box.

Classic Carboot Sale Hastings 2017

Were you always crafty/ creative as a youngster?

Absolutely! As a young girl I was obsessed with making and loved to watch the arty kids shows on TV. I saw potential in pretty much any bit of discarded string or card, and my poor parents couldn’t throw anything away without me trying to give it a new lease of life first. Also, I spent many a Sunday afternoon learning to knit with my Grandma. It was being able to knit that led to me being interested in and then learning how to crochet, so I guess Grandma Joyce has played a big part in Hey Muchachita’s set up!

Lasso Earrings on Tamara

Do you have a favourite piece you’ve created? 

I really like the shape of my newest style, the Maya earrings. Personally, I love to wear mine as I feel they are bold and unique, and so eye-catching. I’ve had so many compliments whilst wearing them! But I also feel really fond and proud of my Fiesta earrings, which have proven to be my best sellers by far. I think the versatility of this style, with limitless colour ways and sizes, make them a really popular choice across my wide spectrum of customers.

Maya earrings all colours

Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?

Etsy

Instagram

Facebook 

What do you think of Dani’s handiwork? Let me know in the comments! x

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The Handmade’s Tale: Nifty threads from Wellington label Cry Cry Cry Clothing

The Handmade’s Tale: An interview with Maryann Roy

Welcome to part two of our new Handmade’s Tale feature which celebrates crafty and creative women. This week Natasha meets mid-century dream maker Maryann Roy.

At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled across the Mad Men set.  Joan Holloway’s apartment is rendered in exquisite mid-century detail– right down to the cigarette embers in the ashtray, the martini cocktail on the table and the barkcloth curtains in the background. But look closer and you’ll see it’s all a mirage. These are miniature dream worlds which have been created in painstaking 1:6 scale by the talented Maryann Roy. 

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Welcome to the dollhouse: Barbie dons a red bouffant and trademark curve-hugging dress to portray Mad Men’s Joan Holloway.

The American-born doll doyenne creates neo-retro intricate furnishings and dioramas  for discerning doll collectors looking for the perfect mid-century set to complement their miniature muses.

A regular contributor to Fashion Doll Quarterly, Mary Ann has been featured in publications including Dolls in Print, Barbie Bazaar, Haute Doll and Miller’s Magazine as well as designing shopfront windows for Gems & Jewels jewellery store in Australia.

Whether she’s crafting tiny Sexton cats,  glorious room dividers or iconic modular furniture, Roy is truly in her element when crafting miniatures.

Despite her penchant for mid century interiors, she says her own home is quite traditional.  She says many of her customers have a nostalgic connection with the style

“Either their homes were this way as they grew up, or a relative’s home.”

“If any are like me, they might not be able to have THEIR homes look MCM, but, at least their dolls can live that way – for now,” she laughs.

Read on to discover why it’s a small world after all!

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What is it about mid-century modern that appeals to your particular aesthetic?

MCM (or mid-century modern) is a term we use that encompasses product development from the 1930s through the 1960s. This includes not only furniture, but architecture, advertising, art, home accessories, right down to the style cars we drove.

When I think about anything mid-century, I tend to see beauty, glamour and even luxury.  This is the look I like to portray in my work. In a way, it’s how I “feel”.

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How did you first get interested in mid-century modernism?

I’ve always been interested in interior design, but there came a time when I was contributing to a doll publication, and I needed props for an article I was writing. The feel of the article was very 1960s and so I did some research to help me decide what furniture pieces would best suite my needs.  I guess you could say that exploring all the possibilities is what led me to mid-century modern.

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How did you come to be making 1:6 doll’s furniture? I understand you started out by restoring vintage Barbie dolls isn’t that right?

Yes, correct! For a time, I did business restoring vintage dolls. However, I am an artist at heart and have had my fingers in many mediums over the years.

I also collect vintage fashion dolls and as mentioned, was contributing to a few doll publications. I wanted my articles to POP and needed an aspect other than writing to do that, so I built and designed my own furniture and props in 1:6 scale to accompany dolls in my articles.

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What is it about miniatures that fascinates you so much?

Gosh, I think almost everyone loves miniatures in some respect.  Whether it’s a miniature scene or miniature couture or a miniature painting. . . For me, I think it’s a mesmerizing aspect. Miniatures can be so engaging as well as entertaining!  Think of animatronic or mechanical toys from as early as the 19th century. Some were miniature interpretations of peoples’ actions, meant to capture hearts and entertain the old as well as the young! You really can get lost, at least for a time, in anything miniature.

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How has your technique evolved over time?

I’ve grown so much since I started crafting with wood (“furniture making” some call it) 🙂 I prefer to think of it as an art, or inspirational furniture design.

Like any craft, practice and trial and error certainly help perfect technique. Any failures are my own learning curve and a chance to try again. I don’t necessarily think of that as a bad thing. It’s a learning experience.  Challenging myself to go further and try different avenues helps my talent evolve and grow.. Even if certain things don’t work out, I like to say: I wanted to do it and so I did.

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Have you always been a doll lover/ collector?

Yes, I’ve loved dolls since I was a little girl, but did not become a collector until adulthood.  And, dolls are a miniatures, are they not? So, in a way, my designing furniture in miniature is not surprising at all.  It’s all connected in a way.

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Were you always crafty/ creative as a youngster?

Yes, I’ve always had a creative streak..

I’ve tried just about everything from working with clay, oil and watercolor painting, illustration, cartoon art, and even miniature millinery, to name a few.   I still have a few hidden talents that not many know about. I’m musically inclined, can sing and play a little guitar as well.  I’ve been very blessed in the creative department.

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What are your creative inspirations?

I’m asked this quite often. It really is a whole world of things that inspire me.  Sometimes it’s researching a project or reading about an interior designer. Sometimes it’s a just a piece of fabric or the colors on a package.  For me, it’s seeing the beauty or possibility in almost anything.

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Are all your orders custom made/ one offs?

I’ve found that people really like what I offer at any given time, so I am hoping it’s my style and individuality that attracts people . So, I usually offer sets, or pieces of a collection that I’ve designed and sell through My blog..  Occasionally, I offer OOAK (One Of A Kind) sets for sale. This may be a complete room including walls along with furniture and accessories.

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I don’t often have time for custom made orders, but will consider requests on and one by one basis. If the opportunity arises and the project interests me, I will take on commissions.

In the past, I’ve had the honor of working with several well-known businesses and fellow artists, as well as a popular furniture company. I hope to do more projects along these lines in the near future.

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Tell me about the process involved in making Welcome Home pieces. What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make?

Once I’ve decided on a piece or pieces as the case may be, I will make a sketch (strictly for myself). If I’ve never made the piece before, I need to draft a pattern. Usually out of cardboard.. This process takes the most time because I need to calculate measurements and size and what angles, width, etc would work best.

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 The pattern is then transferred to wood and cut out using one of several  wood working tools. Then, the piece is assembled.

The finishes are either painted , stained (or both) and then upholstered with fabrics.

The length of time depends on the piece. A collection, for example, may take a couple of weeks to complete, but a single piece may only take a day or two.

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What do you enjoy most about what you do?

I think what I like the most, is taking a pile of wood, that may look like nothing – just flat boards, and creating something special with it! When I am nearing the completion of a piece and seeing with my eyes what I envisioned in my head, it gives me great joy!

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Do you have a favorite piece you’ve created? 

That’s a tough one.  Any piece might be a favorite at any given time, because I may be loving the way it came out, or loving the way it fits in a space, or loving its’ finishes.

 I do favor making Living Rooms though. I think that’s because when I am envisioning how to create a realistic looking space, that’s where I imagine most people are. I like making sofas and credenzas, so I guess you could say I have favorite “types” of furniture rather than a favorite piece.

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Who are your customers? Are they collectors too?

I have a worldwide customer base. People from all walks of life. Some are doll collectors, some are furniture aficionados, some are companies that utilize miniatures in their line of business and some are collectors of art.

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Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?

You can follow along on :

Blog:    

Facebook:   

Instagram: 

I also have a “First To Know List” which provides updates, sales and happenings with Welcome Home.  If you would like to be placed on the list, please send your email address and I will add it to the list.

For inquiries, email:  welcomehome@maryannroy.com

So, what do you think of Maryann’s handiwork? Which is your favourite diamara or piece of furniture? Are you an MCM fan? What would you commission her to make a miniature version of?

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