Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Sumptuosity is invaded by Vikings!

Hello There!

Thought I would do a quick blog about Saturday's invasion - as briefly mentioned by John in his blog...

Well, as you know, life in Sumptuosity Towers is always interesting, especially because being within the city walls of York we see all life passing the studio windows. Last week it was the famous Yorvik Viking Festival and so walking past our window were numerous Viking men, women and children, all magnificently bedecked in their Viking regalia. The Sumptuosity Fairies and I have been fascinated. Well, on Friday night, John and I went out for a little drinkie with our friend Brian to the 'Mucky Duck' (The Black Swan) and low and behold, there were Vikings standing at the bar. I had drank a couple of small sweet sherries by this time and so decided to say hello and ask them about their clothing, etc. The Vikings were very friendly and kindly answered all questions but sadly John didn't have his camera with him - no pictures. This was when I hit upon the brilliant plan to invite them around to Sumptuosity Towers for a cup of tea, if them happened to be walking along Walmgate on Saturday! Saturday morning came and I told Sophie all about my meeting with the Vikings and about my invitation to tea - You didn't! She said... Oh yes, I did! I replied. Well, the day wore on and as usual we were busy with our orders and so I didn't really give it much more thought, until about 3.00 in the afternoon when John said "I think your Vikings have arrived...." In through the door at Sumptuosity Towers came not just the three Vikings I had been talking to but about 12! Our studio was full to busting with Vikings (Sophie, who had been very chatty all day, was very quiet - shocked I think at suddenly having to share her Studio with hordes of Vikings!). Well, I had promised them a cup of tea and you don't want to go back on a promise, especially to people carrying axes and shields. I ended up using every cup and mug we had in the Studio but it was well worth it for a very entertaining half hour. The attention to detail displayed by one and all was brilliant, my particular favourite item was a bone comb and case. I asked the rather simple question "Why Vikings?" To which the reply came "Because Vikings were awesome!" - well I did ask!

During this invasion, we were also visited by Pauline from the Costume department of the York Theatre (this is just across the road from Sumptuosity Towers), she had seen us sewing away through the main windows and decided to pay us a visit - I am not sure what she thought about the Studio being full of Vikings but she was brave enough to come in anyway! We have been invited to pop in and see her workplace whenever we are free - something that we will definitely make time to do.

The photograph is of the youngest Viking visitor - He had been born into it and was very happy at the chance to go 'Feral' (his Mum's words not mine!) at Viking events. I was rather jealous and quite fancied becoming a Viking myself...

Bye for now

Ruth x

3 B.T.'s

1: The Viking bone comb - it was stunning.
2: The Vikings coming to tea - could only happen in York!
3: Footprints of Geese in the snow at the side of the Foss.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Cakes and Lace

Tuesday was a great day. In the first instance the lovely Alanna (Banana) had made some yummy scrummy Butterfly Cakes and even John (who doesn't normally have much of a sweet tooth) said that they were delicious. Alanna had been especially generous and made enough little cakes for us all to have one each with both our elevenses and our 3.00 cup of tea. We do love our tea and cakes at Sumptuosity Towers!

The big event of the day involved John and I driving down to Nottingham as I had received an invitation to attend the Opening of the Nottingham Trent University Lace Archive. In what now seems another life ago I worked on this collection (making an initial catalogue and writing a thesis) for my Ph.D. It has been a number of years since I have even been in the centre of Nottingham let alone back to the University and so it was with some trepidation that I accepted the invitation. The collection had gone back into storage after I completed my studies but now thanks to the hard work of devoted members of staff in the Faculty of Art and Design (particularly Dr Amanda Briggs-Goode), funding has been found and there is now a designated area for the collection with proper archival movable shelving, digital cataloguing of the collection etc and even two Ph.D students working with it! I was absolutely delighted to say the least. What was especially nice (and here I blush a little) was the fact that so many people shook my hand and thanked me for all my hard work in making the initial catalogue of the collection and how this had proved invaluable in aiding the application for funding. All those long hours (so long ago!) now seem worth it. In fact one of the Ph.D. students asked me how on earth I had managed to create a catalogue and write a thesis - I had to reply that I am not sure either! The reception was held in the main foyer of the Bonnington Building, and on a number of tables were glass topped boxes with key items from the collection. I had a real 'blast from the past' when I saw many of my original hand written labels - some of which were dated 1998 on individual pieces of lace and again when we went down into the Archive, I realised that I was looking at boxes with my writing on them. My lovely husband rather wryly commented that my handwriting hadn't improved - you can always trust a Yorkshireman to bring you down to earth! It was a great evening and I am really happy that this collection is again seeing the light of day and being put into active use.

This morning (Wednesday) we were back in the Studio early and my first job was to sweep the floor - just call me Cinderella! It was nice to see so many of my colleagues from my ol' Ph.D. student days and to be back in such a wonderful university as Nottingham Trent but I still wouldn't swap being at Sumptuosity Towers - even when I am doing the sweeping up...

3 B.T.'s

1: Alanna (Banana)'s Butterfly Cakes - the butter icing was out of this world it was so delicious.
2: The Snowdrops are coming out in the church yard of St.Denys. There are large swathes of them and they are lovely.
3: The official opening of the Nottingham Trent University Lace Archive, it was great to see so many friendly faces!

Bye for now,
Love Ruth x

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Love is in the Air

We have had a busy few days at Sumptuosity Towers - mostly men popping into the Studio Shop to buy a little gift and of course the all important card! Alanna (Banana) has also been busy with her own Valentine preparations, she has been making her boyfriend Dan a huge GingerBread Man (Alanna loves to bake!) and so that he also has a more permanent Valentine present she embroidered a GingerBread Man onto a bookmark. It was such a nice design that we may well bring into the Sumptuosity range - we will keep you posted!

We have also been making a few special requests at Sumptuosity Towers. A very nice lady called Ruth (well she would have to be nice with a name like that) came in with a request for 21 small silk drawstring bags to hold the lovely 'Betty's Chocolate Hearts' that she was going to be giving the guests at her birthday party. Her husband was treating her to a hand-made dress by Thimblelina (a great dressmaker further down from us on Walmgate) and she wanted the silk of the bags to complement her dress. Our lovely purple silk that we use (Sorbet) was just the ticket. Ruth offered to leave one of the chocolate hearts with us in the Studio so that we could use it as a measure but given how me and the other fairies love chocolate I decided that it wasn't too safe and took measurements instead. Ruth came in on Wednesday to pick up the bags and was delighted - so much so that she gave us a thank-you card and a Chocolate heart - yum.

On Friday afternoon a young man came into the Studio shop for a Valentine gift for his girlfriend, he liked what we made but wondered if it would be possible for us to make a bookmark especially for his girlfriend with her name on it. It was very short notice but who am I to stand in the way of true-love? and so I said "Of course, not a problem!" (John says that I am too soft!). Anyway, he wrote his girlfriend's name, which is just as well because it was long and foreign and said that she also liked sheep. Saturday morning and I had just finished embroidering an extravaganza of a bookmark (again on Sorbet), with the girl's name and sheep and hearts all over it...oh dear I thought have I got a bit carried away? I had just finished making it up when the young man appeared at the door - talk about 'Just in time'! He loved it and even shook my hand and thanked me for being so kind. I may be 'soft' but it is times like that which make it all worthwhile. I'm just an ol'romantic at heart!

3 B.T.'s

1: John and I visited Askham Bog Nature Reserve on Tuesday and saw lots of Long-Tailed Tits and Goldfinches.
2: Conrad's bookmark, girlfriend's name, sheep, hearts et. al.
3: Ruth's Thank-you card and Chocolate heart - many happy returns for yesterday!

Happy Valentine's Day to all,
love Ruth xx

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The Globe, Kelmscott and Dove Cottage?

I spent yesterday morning doing a full spring cleaning of the Studio shop area. Since Christmas it had been looking a little neglected - We have been so busy with Stockist's orders that we hadn't paid enough attention to it, but now that the snows have gone (fingers crossed) and York is starting to get busy again it was important to make the area look fab! We now have special areas for all our new designs and have done a big display for Valentine's Day. It must have worked because 'Heart' cards and brooches were practically walking out of the door by the afternoon. It just goes to show what you can accomplished with a bit of time, some thought and a 'Cath Kidston' flowery duster...

However, one of our shoppers told me in a shocked voice that 'Cath Kidston' dusters were not actually to be used! It did make me wonder what on earth you were supposed to do with it, if not to use it for actual dusting?? answers on the back of a postcard to; No 1 Barleycorn Yard... In any case it was part of my Christmas Present (along were some matching flowery rubber gloves) from my ol' Uni friend Jo and I am sure that she would be glad to know that I had used it... in fact given how untidy I was at University she would probably be 'amazed' that I knew how to use it but that as they used to say on 'Tales of the River Bank' is another story...

The exciting news this week is that we have received new orders from The Globe Theatre (Specially commissioned Bookmarks and Handbag Mirrors). Kelmscott Manor -Home of the William Morris (again specially commissioned Bookmarks and Handbag Mirrors) and have sent upon request similar samples to Dove Cottage - William Wordsworth. We also need to work on samples for Scottish National Trust in reference to Robert Burns and some vintage fabric brooches (1930s & 1940s) for the NPG. So definitely no rest for the wicked at Sumptuosity Towers! I really do love to do the historical/literary work because it means that I get the opportunity to use both my university education and a lot of my more specialised fabric stash; for example a bag of scraps of Indigo-resist Dyed cotton by Morris and Co, or my nineteenth century patchwork scraps. I am always telling John that these purchases will come in useful and so they do....eventually!

One of the things that is fun about working at Sumptuosity Towers is of course the lovely Sophie and Alanna - the Sumptuosity Fairies! And a key part of this is what we have now got to come to call 'The Sophie Question', when during any given time of the day Sophie will go a little quiet (as she is obviously thinking) and then come out with a 'random' question. An example that leaps to my mind this week is "Do young women still become Nuns?", Followed by "How does one become a Nun" and "How do Nuns earn a living?"... These questions always come completely out of the blue and leave you often reeling for an answer - I can only imagine the questions she must have asked her parents as a child, probably followed by the inevitable "why?" Needless to say I first discerned that she didn't actually want to become a nun herself before suggesting that she google it. I will try to make a note of some of the even more random questions that we get during the week so that you get more of a flavour.

This all reminds me of one of my favourite episodes of BlackAdder, where Edmund BlackAdder is helping Baldrick to fill in a form... 'Any sign of insanity in the family?', mmm he says, "I shall cross out the 'In' part. And so 'Any sign of Sanity at Sumptuosity Towers?'...absolutely not!

3 B.T.'s
1: Using my 'Cath Kidston' flowery duster to Spring clean the Studio shop and finding out that I am not supposed to actually use it.
2: Seeing a family of Long-Tailed Tits in a tree in a courtyard on our morning walk to the Studio.
3: Finding a copy of Bee Wilson's book 'The Hive' at Minster Gate Bookshop to add to my Bee collection of Books.

Bye for Now,

Love Ruth x