Art blog: Feeling guilty over a crafty Christmas

Jayne's heroine, Kirstie Allsopp, from Kirstie's Handmade Britain. Photograph: Channel 4
8 Nov 2013 @ 5.48 pm
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Jayne's heroine, Kirstie Allsopp, from Kirstie's Handmade Britain. Photograph: Channel 4
Jayne’s heroine, Kirstie Allsopp, from Kirstie’s Handmade Britain. Photograph: Channel 4

jayne-headshotWill Jayne Dwyer get round to creating handmade gifts this year? She seeks inspiration from others who’ve done it


Tis almost the season to feel a tad bit guilty. The guilt was already creeping in at the end of last month as we turned off the lights to avoid the straggling trick or treaters. Half an hour into Halloween, and we had run out of Haribos.

With Halloween out of the way, the source of my guilt starts to build in the weeks leading to Christmas. It would be nice if I could claim that the source of this guilt is purely an ethical one – should I be stashing tins of Marks and Spencer’s Christmas tinned shortbread whilst they are on offer, or be thumbing through Oxfam catalogues for mosquito nets?

I will worry about this, of course, but the main source of my guilt is that I will start the advent season with great intentions of “making gifts”, putting the thought in and using my creative talents to make beautiful presents that will become family heirlooms.

I have a sideboard full of bits and bobs all waiting to be made into something and in our new home we have a shed which we are calling Jayne’s workshop, where I intend to create “things”.

The intention is there, and I may achieve a couple of home-made cards, but already the mighty Amazon is pulling me over to the dark-side and the consumer hobby of online shopping.

I am always in awe of those people that craft and create, that actually achieve. Often, I have used the excuse of being a working mum as a reason why I don’t have time. The excuse is getting a little threadbare as the children only really need me now for the occasional hug and for proof-reading personal statements for UCAS.

Meeting the makers

This month, I have talked to two mums who have become successful designers, not in spite of having a family but, to some extent, as a result of being mothers.

Ruby McGrath’s business, Frank&Olive, has grown from a desire to make beautiful clothes for her daughter to wear. Her designs now feature regularly in magazines such as Homemade with Love and she has recently featured on Kristie (my idol) Alsoppe’s, Kirstie’s Handmade Britain.

You can read my interview with Ruby here.

Hooked on crochet

Last weekend, I attended one of Ruby’s crochet workshops. The workshop was part of Frank and Olive’s involvement in the Innocent Smoothies project where smoothies get to wear little hats and Age UK benefit from sales.

My friend Lynn and I were excited to be able to pick our own colour from the vibrant array of crochet wools in Ruby’s workshop, a room in her house near Plompton Rocks, an idyllic place that makes you want to cosy up with a mug of hot chocolate and one of her granny square blankets.

I admit, I was all fingers and thumbs for the first half hour and could have cried at the reality of my clumsy attempts to hook over.

Imagine how proud I felt when I completed something that resembled a little hat. And here is the nub of it all, the difference between being somebody that plays at arts and crafts and somebody that succeeds, that drive to finish things and not give up.

If only I could have a mentor like Ruby for everything I attempt.

Half arted

I was also introduced this month to the wonderful Halfpinthome run by Frances Chalet. Frances designs make me so broody; I want to have more little people in my life to share them with.

Amongst other things, her adorable designs are inspired by her children’s doodles and her own daydreams. Like Ruby, Frances is quickly becoming a recognisable brand, and her designs are attracting lots of attention.

These ladies make me feel guilty that I haven’t achieved more, but with guilt comes pleasure and these designers are designing pure pleasure.

Read my interview with Frances here.

Arts and crafts. When does craft become an art form? Both ruby and Frances have crossed paths at craft fairs in and around York, but craft sometimes suggests something home-made.

My ‘home-made’ involves a cut up magazine and a Prit-stick, but whilst Frances and Ruby both conduct their businesses from studios in their homes, these are professional enterprises that stem from a background in art and design.

Art to catch this month

Here are some more guilty pleasures for November and some inspiration for Christmas gifts, too:

Giuliana Lazzerini, Yorkshire Land & Sea: Blue Tree Gallery, until Saturday, November 9. The gallery is now part of the Art Council approved Own Art Scheme, making it easier and more affordable to collect contemporary art and craft, with interest free loans available from £100 to £2,000!.

Anna Dinsdale (in collaboration with storyteller, Andrew Spendlow): Mermaid And Miller from November 5. Check out Mermaid and Miller for their Christmas decorations and gifts from their regular crafts folk, as well as guest sellers and artists.

Print Club: Bar Lane Studios, Friday, November 29, 5-8pm (£10)

Christmas Lino Workshop: Bar Lane Studios, Saturday, November 30, 10-4pm (£35)