Who’s Your Inspiration?

Obviously, as we go through life lots of people inspire us in lots of different ways, but when it comes to your business – to creating, making, drawing – who are your biggest inspirations?

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Jill Barklem
Ever since I can remember I’ve loved the Brambly Hedge books. They are the most detailed, most beautiful, most accurately researched Children’s picture books that you’re ever likely to find. I can spend an age just staring at one illustration because there’s so much to see. Brambly Hedge was created by Jill Barklem and was first published in 1980. As it says on the official Brambly Hedge websiteThe world has changed dramatically since the first publication of Brambly Hedge back in 1980, but the ethos of Brambly Hedge remains unchanged. Community spirit, seasonal cooking and sustainability are perhaps more relevant in today’s world than ever before.” 
I love escaping into such a charming, idyllic place every time I pick upone of the books and this is something I try to bring to my own drawings; the feeling of traditional British countryside at its very best.

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Beatrix Potter
When you think of illustrations of well-dressed animals, or particularly stories full of different animal characters, Beatrix Potter is probably the first person to come to mind. The world-famous story of Peter Rabbit was first told via sketches in a letter in 1893. It wasn’t until 1902 that thestory was published by Frederick Warne & Co and became commercially available for the first time, introducing to the world the beautiful watercolour illustrations and anthropomorphic characters that are still popular today. Not only do I love the images – inspired by the Lake District and surrounding countryside – but I love the Victorian social history that creeps into the tales; shillings, hearth-rugs, gigs, and ‘No more twist’! I like that the animals run shops, sew jackets, hide under tea cups, and the stories mix the world of people and animals so well.

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Cath Kidston
I’m sure Cath Kidston would be a feature on many small craft businesses inspiration lists. The epitome of ‘modern vintage’ when you think of a brand with a handmade, British, nostalgic feel this is the most likely brand to come to mind. There are Cath Kidston stores everywhere, you see people with the bags, the phone cases, the notebooks, all the time, yet the brand has also retained it’s quirky, home-crafted feel, so naturally it makes you think “what if my business could one day be like that?”. You can read the full story of how the brand started, expanded, and became what it is today, here!

Well, that’s some of the people that inspire me and my creative business. What about you?

P.S All images are from the official sites linked above & are not owned by me!

 

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The Great British Bake Off – Pies & European Cakes Challenge

I need to fill you in about two weeks of my Great British Bake Off Challenge. I suppose the reason this post has taken a while to write is because they were both – well – rather bad weeks. I certainly wouldn’t have won Star Baker. I would likely have been eliminated from the show.

First was pies and tarts. I chose to make a savoury red pesto, pepper, tomato and mozzarella pie. This was my first ever go at making pastry and ironically the pastry wasn’t what let me down. It was the baking time, the putting it all together, and the making it look nice. It had caught on the top by the time the rest of it had finished baking and there was far too much pastry compared to filling. However, it tasted pretty good. I had another go at making it this week and it turned out a lot better.

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Whilst I may have clung on by the skin of my teeth during pies and tarts week, I would definitely have been voted out on European cakes week. My Savarin was a disaster. To be fair to myself, I think a lot of this came from the fact I didn’t have a properly shaped tin. I had to improvise by using a cake tin with a round oven-proof pot in the middle. This made the shape of the cake rather odd and also caused it to get stuck so I had to cut it half. And it was a bit burnt. And – well, let’s face it – it was awful. If we’re honest, this was my equivalent of the bin-cident expcept I braved it out and didn’t put the Savarin in the bin. Enjoy the photographic evidence of the monster in all its splendour. Have a good laugh, treat yourself.

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And finally, with all the baking I’ve been doing I’ve found myself eyeing up some pretty pastel baking equipment. I especially want that amazing mint green mixer…

Pastel Baking Goods

Pastel Food Mixers
Pastel Scales & Mixing Bowl
Retro Icing Bag
Lemon Yellow Silicone Utensils
Floral Cupcake Cases

Here’s hoping that this week’s bake turns out better!

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Great & Small Christmas Range 2014

It’s that time of year again… Well, I’ve been working on Christmas since May or June but finally it’s all just about finished (I think I’ve been saying it’s just about finished for a month, but really, it is just about finished.)

Today I hit the publish button on four brand new Christmas products on Not On The High Street and yesterday I added two new lots of festive bunting to Etsy. So, without further ado, here’s the brand new Great & Small items for Christmas 2014…

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This year I’m offering Personalised Pet Christmas Tree Decorations (sets of 4, 8 or 12), Personalised Paw Print Decorations (in either silver or copper), Personalised Canvas Cards, and Personalised Pet Christmas Cards (sold in packs of 10). The bunting comes in either a Robin or Reindeer design and consists of 7 paper flags set on string.

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At the moment Beat The Christmas Rush packs are also available on both Etsy and Not On The High Street. They include gift wrap, tags, cards, bunting and a Christmas journal, all at a great discounted price. They will be available until the start of November and are a great way to sort something unique and handmade for Christmas before the mad rush starts.

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I have a few more Christmas items to add and will post these in the next couple of weeks. I’m just waiting for final versions to come back from the printers! If you want a sneak preview make sure you ‘like’ my Facebook page.

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Time For Some New Shoes

Modcloth Shoes For Blog
All the above shoes are available over at the wonderful place that is ModCloth. Which pair do you like best? I’m having to try very hard not to purchase the turquoise ankle boots. They’re just so lovely…

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The Great British Bake Off – Baked Alaska Challenge!

I feel before I even begin this blog I need to say - I didn’t make my own ice cream. I know. Sacrilege, travesty. But before I bin my whole bake, perhaps I should share with you my mini Bake Alaskas & hope you can forgive the shop-bought filling. I’m actually quite pleased with them.

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I decided to do six mini deserts instead of one big one simply because we don’t have the freezer space. & they do look rather more cute, don’t they? They were chocolate and raspberry flavour, which I always think is a tasty combination. 

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I made little chocolate sponges which I then hollowed out, ready for the ice cream. The meringue was fun to make, (I always find it amazing how much the egg whites fluff up) and I was relieved it went ok as I’ve only made it once before. If I was to give any meringue advice, it would be to add the sugar very gradually, not all in one go, and to not whisk the mixture too fast. I had my whisk on setting 3 instead of the maximum setting 5. 

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I decorated the mini deserts with a magic star. Again, probably wouldn’t be approved of by Mary & Paul but I thought it added a little something. A nice, little chocolate-y something.  

So there we have it. Not quite as traumatic as the Bake Off. Have you been watching? Have you tried any of the recipes?

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The Great British Bake Off – Ciabatta Challenge

For my Bake Off challenge this week I decided to have a go at the ‘Technical’ bake – often the trickiest – as I haven’t attempted one of Mary or Paul’s own recipes yet. To make things even more difficult, I’ve never baked so much as a loaf of bread before, let alone a ciabatta.

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I got the recipe from the Great British Bake Off website and you can find it here. The advice given to the contestants as they prepared to make their ciabatta was ‘be patient’ and this was definitely good advice. I spent a lot more time waiting for my bread to rise than I did actually mixing or baking it. I did my best not to handle the dough too much as this knocks the bubbles out of it, and a well-risen loaf with lots of air bubbles are key to a good ciabatta (I think!)

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It was really lovely to fill the house with the smell of baking bread – there’s nothing quite as appetising as homemade bread, is there? The ciabatta seemed to rise well in the oven, and it had a good, crisp crust when I took it out. I think I would’ve been marked down for the slightly odd shape of my loaves and also because they were slightly denser than you would look for in a ciabatta. But they tasted really great. Especially with some oil and vinegar to dip into. 

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I’m pretty happy with my first attempt at making bread and will definitely have a go at some other types in the future. My next Bake Off challenge is likely to be even trickier. After last night’s dramatic episode there was only one desert I could possibly attempt – the dreaded Baked Alaska! Hopefully mine won’t end up in the bin…

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The Great British Bake Off – 3D Biscuit Challenge

After baking a Swiss Roll last week, my second Bake Off challenge was to make a 3D biscuit structure just like the Great British baker’s in this week’s Show Stopper. I love baking so I thought it would be fun to (try and) have a go at one of the recipes/tasks from Bake Off each week, after watching the latest episode of cake-y, pastel-y goodness. 

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For my 3D structure, I decided to make a biscuit representation of the Lonely Mountain Erebor and the dragon Smaug, in the style of Tolkien’s map at the front of the Hobbit. Naturally. (If this means nothing to you, go and read the book. No really, do. Off you trot.) 

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I chose to make a spicy gingerbread to try and reflect some of the flavour of Middle Earth. I drew and cut out paper templates which I used to cut the biscuit into the right shapes – particularly the mountain, so it would slot together and be free-standing. I’m not sure what Paul & Mary would make of it but I think at least the biscuit was pretty tasty & I had a lot of fun making it. 

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It’s bread week next week. This could prove to be really difficult for me as I’ve never made bread before, but hopefully I’ll rise to the challenge (I can only apologise. The Bake Off tendency to make a bad pun happened.)

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