Sunday, 3 July 2011

From York to Sweden and back again

So where to begin? Do I start by apologising that it has been so very long since I last did a Sumptuosity blog -far back in January to be exact! Or do I begin by explaining the current 'travelling circus' that is Sumptuosity? or do I just get on with it???

Well, it has indeed been a good long while since I last wrote a blog for Sumptuosity. This has been because of the changing situation with the business and because once you get out of the habit of doing something it can be difficult to get back into the swing of it. Since the beginning of 2011 Sumptuosity has once again become me and John. The girls are spreading their wings, with Sophie emulating Dick Whittington and going off to live in London (although I have yet to find out if the streets are indeed paved with gold!) and Alanna (Banana) is doing her own work in between working for Gap and planning a trip to Canada. I promise to keep you posted with what the girls are up to as part of the general promise to keep up a regular Sumptuosity blog.

So where does the 'Sweden' part of the blog come in? well, I'll tell you. John was given the opportunity to do a bit of consultancy in Sweden (he is a design engineer by profession), in the early part of Spring of this year. The problems arose by the fact that we didn't want to be apart and of course the important issue of my beloved Sumptuosity! The post is a temporary one so we came up with the idea that I would come out to Sweden with John but with one of my sewing machines, lots of thread, lots of silk and bags of vintage fabric scraps. We come back to York every other weekend and then I can finish making up the work (filling lavender bags etc) and get everything packed and posted from our local York Post Office. Yes, it is completely crazy! to say the least and I can't begin to describe the nerves I had about the safety of my beloved sewing machine as it went through baggage control - not to mention the delicate attentions of the baggage handlers!! So, I do my embroidering in York and Sweden, although I haven't got around to re-designing my labels - I think that 'Handmade and designed in York and Sweden, with additional ideas coming while in Schipol airport, Amsterdam' might seem a rather long-winded! The contract was originally for three months but has just been extended another three months to the end of September.

It is hard work with the combination of travel and embroidery but there are great compensations in seeing the extraordinary wildlife in Sweden. The tiny serviced apartment where we live overlooks woodland and even when taking a walk with John to his office, you get to see wonderful wild flowers, birds and bugs. But more about that next time...

Bye for now,

Ruth xx

Three Beautiful Things (3 B.T.s)
1: The flash of Green Woodpecker seen flying past our balcony window.
2: Enormous Mountain Hares seen lolloping around the carparks and down the pathways.
3: The sight of Swifts flying above the offices of Kista.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

January - New Year - New Start - New Designs

Goodness, we are already 3/4 of the way through January, where does the time go?

John and I have been (and continue to be) busy with Sumptuosity. Firstly we have been working on redesigning the embroideries on the Mirrors (see image) and the square badges. The idea is to give them more detail with an appliqu├ęd image and an embroidered design to complement and complete the overall look. It obviously takes more time to embroider but it is fun to change the look of our designs and it is always good to keep things fresh and new.

Not only have we been working on the mirrors and the badges but the bookmark designs on-line have also been added to. Now we have added the designs that we make for Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and the designs for the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and to this list we have included three new designs of quotations from the poems of contemporary poet (and Friend) Angela Topping. These have been really great to work on and we hope to design more in the future. If you want to find out more about Angela and her work have a look at her blog you can also sign up for her blog and receive poems through email. I would really recommend this, as it is lovely to receive and read a new poem through the post (so to speak!).

John has been very busy working on a revamp of the website. This is of course still an on-going process as I need to make more items for us to be able to take fresh photographs. However we are getting there! I will be designing a lot more natural history based items, so if anyone has got suggestions for flowers, plants or insects etc, or favourite lines from poems or literature please let me know as I always like a new challenge!

2011 - I can't believe it! I shall be 44 this coming May but instead of having a mid-life crisis, I am having more of a mid-life epiphany! This means that I am returning to my first love of natural history. I recently found a notebook from my junior school days that is titled 'My Interests' and states 1: Birds, 2: Animals 3: Plants 4: Fossils. So expect in the blogs in the months to come comments about the environment and various campaigns. I don't want to nag anyone but I do want to mention things that I think are important.

3 B.T.'s

1: Pale pink tulips purchased on sale for 79p from Waitrose on Saturday evening. They are very pretty indeed and give a feeling of Spring.
2: I woke up early one morning this week and although it was still very dark I could hear a blackbird singing, another sign of the approach of Spring.
3: John made a delicious Martini this evening - a little decadent considering that it is a Sunday evening but a nice treat...

Bye for now,

Love Ruth xxx

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Christmas - woohoo

Hello Everyone,

It's December (just thought I'd tell you incase you haven't already noticed!) and a particular favourite time of the year. I love Christmas. I love wrapping presents, putting the decorations up, looking at the Christmas lights in York and smiling at the sometimes grim faced Christmas shoppers in an attempt to get a smile back! Even John (my lovely grumpy Yorkshire husband) has been getting into the spirit (...must hide that bottle... - only joking honest!) and has been asking me when I am going to be putting up the Christmas tree - this is practically unheard of! Mind you he has only just told me that he thinks that my bright glittery Christmas baubles in the shape of parrots are incredibly tasteless and horrible. He prefers a subtle tree that is just decorated with a single colour set of lights and possible a touch of tinsel.....haven't told him that I have just ordered some more birdy shaped baubles from the RSPB website (British birds this time)...ho ho ho.
My Dad really loved Christmas. One of my childhood memories are of his planning of the food (making sure that we had plenty of everything including chocolate brazils..yum!), the practically military operation of getting the decorations down from the loft and then putting them up in the living room. And of course the fairy lights never ever worked first time and my Dad (an electrician by trade) would curse and go through all the bulbs one by one in an attempt to see which one was the problem. I think of him everytime that I switch mine on.
The snow is still lying thick upon the ground here in York and I can see an illuminated gold star on York Minster - it all looks very festive out there. Web sales have been going very well, especially it seems with all the snow, as I think people have been doing more and more of their Christmas shopping on line. It is nice to think that my embroideries will be wrapped and given as Christmas presents.
Time to get sewing again. I still need to embroider more Robins (see Christmas designs at the top of the blog).
But mustn't forget my 3 B.T.'s
1: Our trip to Skye - the scenery was fantastic and the birdlife brilliant. Ravens, Hooded Crows, Common Buzzards, Rooks, Jackdaws and Robins (and most seen from the hotel window!)
2: Looking forward to wrapping presents and putting up the Christmas Tree.
3: Smiling at people that I see in York in the hope that they will smile back and enjoy Christmas rather than endure it - if only for a moment.
Bye for now,
Love Ruth xx

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Autumn and Orders, Orders, Orders


What a crazily busy October we have had, in fact I would say that it has easily been our busiest time ever! The girls (Sophie and Alanna [Banana]) have been working like troopers and John (ever the busy bee) has been moving so fast that he is more of a blur than an actual physical shape. I of course have been lying on my Chaise Longue, reading books and eating of course I haven't just testing to see if you are paying attention. I have been busy sewing away in our studio, which fortunately has a window with a nice view of York Minster and a number of lovely trees all now in their Autumn glory.

The trees along the river Foss have been full of birds.We regularly see flocks of Gold finches (so pretty, no wonder the Victorians liked to keep them as pets, although I must say that I prefer to see them flying free!), also groups of Long-tailed Tits, and Blue Tits. Starlings are also gathering in the city centre and as we walk to the post office or the bank we can hear them chattering away in the towers of a church or on the mast of the nearby telephone exchange. I do love to see and hear birds.

This brings me to my one complete and utter indulgence of the week, which is watching 'Autumn Watch'. I say 'complete and utter indulgence' because it is probably the one time in the entire week when John is not allowed to mention business, we both completely stop work and sit and watch this great programme - including 'Unsprung' afterwards. I think that the whole team are great (although I must admit that I have always had a particular soft spot for Chris Packham since being a teenager - don't tell John!). I love nature and I also love books and one of the things that I find myself doing, generally, during 'Unsprung' is trying to see if I can make out what books are on the shelves. I know, I know, that is really 'sad' of me and when I told John what I was trying to do, he laughed and said that I needed help - is there a book addict's anonymous???

Mumsie and Little Biddy are well. Mumsie has discovered that Little Biddy is particularly fond of cucumber (by the way, for those of you who don't know Little Biddy is my 87 year old Mum's Guinea-Pig!). I mentioned to her (I'm talking about Mum and not the G.P.) the other day that I would like a new scarf and before I knew it she was busy knitting away. Mumsie loves balls of wool in the same way that I love books. So now for Christmas I will be getting a multicoloured 'Dr. Who' style scarf.

In between the orders, I have sneaked in a few new designs. These are quotations from our friend Angela Topping's poetry, complete with a Sumptuosity motif or two. We have created three designs (for now) and just need to finish the printed text on the back of the packaging and then we will be good to go! We will be putting them up on our website and Angela will be selling them at her poetry reading events etc. I am really enjoying embroidering these new designs, Angela's poetry is so fresh and lively, it is such a pleasure to sew!

Tempus Fugit and it is time to get back to my sewing machine and get embroidering.

3 B.T.'s

1: John has discovered another new talent and this time it is making fruit smoothies. They are delicious and we now drink one most mornings and it really puts a zing in your step...or should I say your sewing?

2: Birds in the city, it is amazing the range of life that you see even in a city if you look.

3: Mumsie, telling me how she is enjoying knitting my scarf, the number of colours that are in it and how long it is going to be.

Bye for now,

Love Ruthie xxx

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Agggggghhhh it's nearly the end of September!

Hello Everybody - if anybody is still out there as it has been about a month since I last wrote a blog - oh dear this is starting to sound like a confessonal!. Anyway the good news is that all is well and good at Sumptuosity Towers. I have just about got everything organised (still a few tweeks here and there to accomplish) and we apparently have this fluffy thing on the floor that I have discovered is called 'carpet'.

This is just as well as we are super busy even more so than this time last year. August saw an incredible number of trade orders and so we thought that September would be a little quieter in comparison.... but no! even before we got to Top Drawer (Trade Fair in London), the spreadsheet for September was filling up quickly - as Sophie would say 'Woohoo'!

And speaking of Sophie (and of course Alanna [Banana]), they seem to be really enjoying the new working processes. Sophie decided to visit friends in London on Tuesday and Alanna (Banana) is always off somewhere seeing friends or family. Alanna is also now finding time to work on her own designs and is hoping to do a craft fair in November with a friend from university. She is a real jewelry fanatic and so is currently designing some rings, I won't say what her ideas are (there are some fabulously wacky ideas) but will keep you posted as to when they can become public. Anyway, they both seem to be able to cram lots of activities into their lives and still come to see us with a mountain of embroidery, so we all happy bunnies.

John has just submitted his last assignment for his first Open University course, he has really enjoyed AA100 - The Arts Past and Present. It has also given me more opportunity (as if I needed it!) to look for books on abebooks and Amazon. The idea being for books to help with John's studies but what can I say occasionally one or two books have come through the post for me....

We are so busy that we haven't had much time to get to Askham Bog, although we have taken to having a walk around the Museum Gardens in York. On one afternoon we counted (at least) seventeen squirrels! The view out of the windows at Sumptuosity Towers is wonderful. I saw a Kingfisher fly along the river early one morning, although generally we see more geese than anything! The Greylag Geese and the ever-present Canada Geese are making more noise than usual and often fly in 'bomber-command' like formations past our window. In fact sometimes we see them flying across the city and straight towards our window!....fortunately to turn left or right at the last moment and land on the river. I don't fancy the idea of a couple of kilo's of goose crashing through the window and into the living room...

And so time to go to the sewing machine, orders won't make themselves!

3 B.T.'s

1:The sight of a Kingfisher flying along the Foss, it's jewel-like colours of bright orange and turquoise looked as exotic as anything you might see in the jungle. Simply gorgeous.

2: Saw Mumsie on Sunday, she has been away for a week on holiday and so 'Little Biddy' has had a holiday of her own at Avalon Guinea-pig Rescue and holiday home. Please make sure I get the right Guinea-pig back she said.....arhhhh she is soooooo sweet and at 87 still busy knitting and baking cakes!

3: Alanna (Banana) had a holiday in France with her boyfriend while we were at Top Drawer Trade Fair. She knows what a bug fan I am and so when she saw a Praying Mantis she just had to take a photograph for me. I am not sure who her boyfriend thinks is the craziest...Alanna for taking the picture or me or wanting it......think it is me ;-)
Bye for now,
Love Ruth xxx

Friday, 13 August 2010

News from the world of Sumptuosity.

It is busy busy busy here in the wonderful world of Sumptuosity, which is just the way that we like it! However, we are also in the middle of a big restructure. No not plastic surgery or even Botox before anyone suggests anything cheeky! John and I have decided to leave Barleycorn Yard and move the business back home. Don't worry, we haven't thrown Sophie and Alanna (Banana) out into the snow, we have set them up so that they can both work from their own homes (or in Sophie's case from her own studio). We all meet up on a Tuesday for tea, gossip amd of course the girls to drop of their embroideries and to pick up more silk, thread and fabric. It was a tough decision but we have decided that we wanted to concentrate on our retail sales through our website and of course our many trade stockists. It will also (hopefully) give me a little more time to work on new designs, as I have got lots of new ideas that I want to work on. It is sad to leave Barleycorn but we are happy that it will give us all more freedom, as we will no longer be tied to average shop hours. Alanna (Banana) and Sophie have been working from their own homes for the last two weeks, while John and I have just started today. Alanna said last week that she is loving it as she is gets up, has her breakfast and has been known to start sewing by 8.00 a.m. while still in her pyjamas! Her parents are happy for her to work from home as long as she remembers to vacuum up all the threads at the end of the day. I also have to make sure that my work area is tidy at the end of the day, although I am not allowed to work in my dressing gown - it soooooo unfaiiiiiiirrrr!

Lots of design work to do at the moment, I have got some new bookmarks to create using some lines of poetry by one of our Sumptuosity friends from Facebook. Angela Topping's work is great and complete with some Sumptuosity images should make for some truly fab bookmarks!

We have also been asked to design some more natural history inspired bookmarks for the Natural History Museum in Oxford and I have been working on some more 'bug' designs, including one of the world's largest stick insect (not quite life size!). I also need to do some seashells and of course some more Dodos and Chamelons. By working from home I can easily refer to my library and read from the comfy sofa (not a chaise longue...yet).

3 B.T.'s

1: Have started to read Richard Fortey's book 'Dry Store Room No: 1' - a sort of 'natural history' of the Natural History Museum in London. It is hilarious.
2: Saw a Peacock butterfly on one of the Buddlia's next to the river - the first one I have seen in York this year.
3: While planning for our next trade show in London, we make arrangements to do fun stuff as well as business..

bye for now,

Love Ruthie xxx

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Hoorah for Sammy!

It has been a 'bit of a week' to say the least. We were seriously down on numbers as Alanna (Banana) was on holiday and Sophie was off sick, John was also poorly but was soldiering on (one of the few men that I know who doesn't get 'Man Flu'!). However, I was fine and we fortunately still had Sammy. She was on her second week with us on a work placement from University and I don't know what we would have done without her! She has been a real treasure, hard-working and with the ability to pick up new tasks faster than anyone I have seen. We were all really sad to see her go at the end of the week - and Sammy had even bought the team some Thornton's chocolates as a Thank-you. So it is a big 'Hoorah' for Sammy and good luck with her final year at university.

So because it was 'all hands to the pumps' at work, I haven't had time to add in the new bookmarks to the website. I do promise to do it soon and there is now the possibility of some new designs, poetry quotations from a poet that has joined our list of Sumptuosity friends on Facebook. So I'll keep you posted with how discussions with that new project are progressing.

On Saturday after taking the parcels to the Post Office, I went to have another little look at the booksale on St. Saviour's Gate....what can I say? except to quote the nineteenth century writer Mrs Oliphant who said that 'there was nothing so costly as bargains'.

Sunday morning was glorious and sunny and so John and I went to Askham Bog nature reserve. Most of the flowers have gone over at this time of the year and the few birds who are still singing are generally well and truly hidden by the leaves of the trees and bushes. Although I could distinctly make out the sound of the Chiffchaff and the Wren. There were some fabulous insects to be seen, Common Blue Damselflies and a Four-Spotted Chaser Dragonfly. The absolute hightlight was the Water Vole. We had been standing quickly by the sound of the pond looking at the insects, when out he/she popped merrily swimming along, gnawing at reeds and then taking the stalks back to it's house. It was tooooo gorgeous for words and even John (a.k.a. grumpy Yorkshireman) was delighted at seeing it and said that it was very cute, so you can imagine how lovely it was in real life. The photograph at the top is a 'valiant attempt' (his words not mine, I think it is great) by John with 'limited resources'.

Now it is time for our Sunday evening Martini....

3 B.T.'s

1: Working with the lovely Sammy, she has been great, to say the least.

2: Finding a book for my brother Ed at the booksale, I can't wait to post it to him as I am sure that he will love it...just hope he doesn't have it already. He does have quite a few books, although that is a classic case of the kettle calling the pot black!

3: Seeing the Water Vole at Askham Bog was wonderful and well done to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for managing the site so well that such fabulous creatures can take up residence.

Bye for now,

Love Ruthie xxx