Sunday, 30 May 2010

Kate's visit, eating & re-organisation

We have been busy as bees all week at Sumptuosity Towers, the new layout for the studio is working well (much easier for me to sweep the floor, etc!) and we have been trying new methods of organisation in regards to the sewing, making up and packing of the orders. Sophie has proved to be John's 'Mini-Me' and is always cracking the whip! John has also been busy with the website (it is not unlike the painting of the Forth bridge...) and has now grouped the Mirrors and the Bookmarks into relevant subject areas. This means that whether you are looking for flowers or fashion you can immediately go to the area that you want to look at. We have now finally decided to put Sophie's beautiful embroidered Alice in Wonderland pictures for sale on-line. The greeting cards are now firmly established and so we are now in a position to let them go...although to tell you the truth I shall be sad to see them go as they are lovely!

What is this I hear you cry all work and no fun at Sumptuosity Towers??? Don't worry, as usual we have had a number of pleasant diversions this week. On Thursday we were visited by a lovely student called Claire. She is currently studying illustration in Cumbria and wanted to visit Sumptuosity Towers to see what we got up to.... After swearing her to secrecy and making a blood oath (....only joking!) we demonstrated our various skills, including free-hand embroidery, being silly, drinking tea and even let her have a go on the sewing machine. Basically, I told her exactly what Naseem Darby told me all those years ago - just have a go and don't worry about anything!

On Friday, we were visited by our mate Kate from Oakwood Aromatics. She appeared as if by magic the second that Sophie said that she was going to make the three-o-clock cup of tea! She and Phil had been busy at their stall with 'Made in Yorkshire', but she still found time to come and see us (which is always great) and even better she had brought a rhurbarb tart for us all to eat. John had just popped out to do the banking but I was good and made sure that we left him a honestly I really did!

I am really looking forward to our long weekend in Oxford - this is to celebrate our wedding anniversary and not to do with the business....although we do have a stockist in Oxford that we will be visiting while we are there! Don't be too sorry for us, as it is the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and I am absolutely desperate to visit again as it must be nearly twenty years since I was last a small child obviously.... (ho ho ho). I am hoping to get some more natural history inspiration for embroideries. I'll keep you all posted...

3 B.T.'s

1: Sophie and I went to Space 109's 'Gorrilla Cafe' for our tea yesterday. It was wonderful veggie food and a great arty/musical atmosphere - it reminded me of the sort of fundraiser I used to go to when I was a teenager living in Forest Fields in Nottingham... we also both ate a piece of Lemon Meringue cake..... fabulous!
2: Kate and the Rhurbarb Tart - always lovely to see her cheeky face at Sumptuosity Towers.
3: Re-arranging my bookshelves so that I can fit more on....

Bye for now,

Love Ruth xxx

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Fish in the Foss!

The weather has been superb in York this week and all of the Sumptuosity Fairies have been enjoying it...well, I say all but Sophie (who is a little Alpine Flower) has been feeling the heat and been wilting slightly. She is very pale and so burns very easily as well and keeps covered up, while Alanna (Banana) is a real sun worshipper and has been completely in her element.

I enjoy seeing the sunshine, even if it is through the windows of Sumptuosity Towers as I sit and sew away! I did have some time off this week, as Wednesday was my birthday and I had an 'extended' lunch break to go book shopping. It would have been longer but we are super busy and so couldn't really spare any more time. However, I did manage to find some nice titles to add to the Brompton-Charlesworth Library. What was super nice on my birthday was that Alanna (Banana) had made me a gorgeous Chocolate cake! It was huge and we all had large slabs of it with our morning and afternoon tea breaks....mmmmmmmmmh! The girls had also got me some lovely birthday presents - a Salt and Pepper set shaped like Guinea-Pigs ( I am Guinea-pig mad) and the CD soundtrack of 'Bend it like Beckham'. This is one of my favourite soundtracks and I had previously told the girls about how my copy had got scratched to bits in John's Land Rover. It was so sweet of them to spoil me like this, although I hope that they won't regret buying me the CD, as we have played it about three times already this week! It does have a brilliant song (one of many!) called 'Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot'. We have decided that it is Sophie's Sumptuosity Summer Song.

Fiona and Alice from 'Grace and Jacob' (next door at No: 7 Barleycorn Yard), popped in on Saturday, with a large Chocolate Muffin (complete with candle) and a lovely felt flower brooch (made by Fiona) for my birthday. Isn't it incredible how everyone seems to know that I like chocolate......? It is really good to have another creative textile-based business here in Barleycorn Yard.

The sunny weather seems to have really brought out all the York Wild life, as I am pleased to state that the Swifts are back in York and flying high overhead and I have even seen a Swallow flying above the city walls (which is a first for me here in York). What has been really nice is that we have spotted two Grey Wagtails flitting about over the surface of the Foss and we are currently busy looking about to see if they are nesting nearby - fingers crossed! What has really amazed and delighted me this week is the sight of lots and lots of fish in the Foss. When the sun hits the water it is possible to see much deeper than is normally possible and both John and I have been 'fish watching'... a bit like bird watching but instead it is fish! I am sure that yesterday we saw a Pike lurking among the Lily pads and there are lots of fish with a dark line down the centre of their body, although I don't know what they are. I think that I need an 'Observer's Book of Fish'! Anyway, the point is that it is great to know that the Foss is so teaming with life.

3 B.T.'s

1: John and I have been watching a Grey Wagtail most mornings are we walk along the Foss on our way to the Studio. It is wonderful to watch it flitting above the surface of the water catching insects.
2: The swifts are back in York and can be heard screeching above the city and this morning I was surprised (although very pleased) to see a Swallow.
3: Book buying on my birthday. I have now increased my Gerald Durrell collection, including one written by his sister, which is called 'Whatever happened to Margo?

Bye for now,

Love Ruthie xxx

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Re-organising the Studio...

Ahhhhh Sunday morning and our first 'day off' for about a fortnight. I do love to do trade fairs but because they are invariably at a weekend it means that we don't get a day off until the following weekend (unless you count the day we travelled back and unpacked the Land Rover at home and the Studio?). Anyway, we have already been out and 'follopped' around the city walls (when will it start to get a little easier?) and now having a little us time, John is reading some material for his O.U. course and I am of course writing up my blog!

I actually did some baking this week. I made a batch of iced buns complete with Fairy sprinkles for the Sumptuosity Fairies as they have been working so hard this week and I wanted to treat them. Sophie (whom John has know put in charge of production figures) says that we should have cakes as a treat on a Friday BUT only if we have managed to hit all of our making targets for the week. She thinks that this will give us plenty of incentive to really get sewing...I'll keep you posted with how we do!

Yesterday, John, Sophie and myself took a complete day off from production to re-arrange the Studio space. We originally had all the work tables in the centre of the room but have now placed them around the walls. This will mean a lot more light for Sophie and Alanna (Banana) at their work tables and I will be nearer to the Studio shop area, so that I can leap up and chat with the people who find their way to Sumptuosity Towers. We have been able to make much better use of the old bar settle, which is a feature of the room, although not for drinks! It now holds zillions of little 'Useful Boxes', all labelled according to their intended subject matter, e.g. bits of red fabric for Ladybirds etc etc. It was a bit scary taking off a complete day when we are so busy to do this work but we believe that it will be well worth it both in terms of productivity and a nicer, less cluttered area to work in. In fact there is now so much space in the centre of the room, that me and the Sumptuosity Fairies would be able to dance around our handbags to Alanna (Banana)'s Motown C.D.s. Only Joking John! We will of course be chained to our machines completing our orders...

I am counting down the days until my birthday (which is Wednesday), not that it is a particular age, it is just that I always enjoy my birthday! Alanna (Banana) has told me that she is going to make me a cake (how sweet of her!!), but that it will be a surprise as to what type it is. Everyone at Sumptuosity Towers is very keen on cake and as Alanna (Banana) is so fabulous at baking it will of course be wonderful, whatever it is! I am also going to take the afternoon off - yes, John has heard about this, I wasn't simply going to sneak off at lunchtime. I shall be having a walk around the bookshops of York, at least as many of those that I can manage in an afternoon. Who knows I may even find a book or two to add to the 'Brompton-Charlesworth Library'? I 'll meet up with John in the early evening in order to visit our beloved local for a little drinkie and then we are going to an Indian restaurant - my favourite food. John did ask if Alanna (Banana) was going to put candles on my cake....yes, you can guess where this line of conversation was going! He said that it was alright if she did because Sumptuosity Towers has it's own fire extinguisher!

This afternoon, John and I are off to the cinema to see the new Robin Hood film. This continues to be the cause of some 'discussion' between us or as John likes to call it 'The Yorkshire/Nottinghamshire Divide'. Robin Hood as all correct thinking people know was from Nottingham!!!! He was definitely NOT a Yorkshireman. Why? Well, let's look at the evidence...What is Robin Hood renowned for? - He robbed from the rich and gave to the when have you ever heard of a Yorkshireman giving anything away! I rest my case....

3 B.T.'s

1: Baking cakes for the Sumptuosity Fairies - they really liked them, especially the Fairy Sprinkles.
2: The river Foss currently has lots of little fluffy goslings swimming about on it and it is so lovely to see them in a line following their parents.
3: Sleeping in my own bed after being away at a trade fair - bliss!

Bye for now,

Love Ruth x

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Back from Bath

Whhhhhew! We are back from Bath, having been there since Saturday for a trade fair. We love being in Bath as it is such a beautiful city and it is great after a day at a show to be able to go out and find somewhere yummy to eat and of course a real ale pub for John... for medicinal purposes of course! It was an interesting fair and I was particularly pleased to have talked to a number of different museums and municipal authorities in regards to bespoke designs. This is something we are increasingly doing and is definitely a favourite of mine to work on. John checked his emails at lunchtime (while we were in a service station - is he joined to his laptop or what??) and discovered that we had just had another large order from the Museum of London, so it looks like me and Sophie will be busy embroidering more Bowler Hats designs...

During breakfast at the B&B in Bath, I showed one woman my new Dodo design and I told her about the remains of the specimen that is in the Oxford Museum, "oh My" she said "were Dodo's actually real birds?" One of my fellow exhibitor's told me about a conversation he had also overheard at Breakfast . It went like this " How is this Grilled Tomato cooked?"..... Answer "it is grilled"...

One of the things that I did love in Bath was the discovery of a wonderful bookshop. I had spotted Topping & Company Booksellers before but had never had the chance to go in, however, I went out on Sunday lunchtime in order to find some food and found myself inextricably drawn towards this shop. I felt that a little look in couldn't hurt.... Anyway, no sooner had I gone in through the door when I saw a large and beautiful book. It was 'Bugs Britannica' by Peter Marren and Richard Mabey. I had been waiting for this book to be published and so was pleased to see it, but I was soon to be even more pleased! I looked at the acknowledgement page and I was listed!!! A couple of years ago I had responded to a email request from the charity Buglife in regards to stories/information about insects and their relationship with humanity. I had sent in some information (from the Ph.D.) about the use of the Bee in 19th century literature and more especially in the trade logo's of the Lace company 'Birkins'. This information had found it way into the book and I was delighted. So delighted in fact that I had to buy the book, particularly as the shop had a signed copy. Books, bugs and finally some use for my Ph.D. - how could I resist?

Yesterday was Mummsie's birthday - she was 87, I was sorry not to have seen her but we did send her a large bunch of blue and white flowers and of course I did use the mobile phone to ring her and sing Happy Birthday - much to the amusement of the other people at the Trade Fair! Today she has been to visit a Bluebell wood, which is something that she has always wanted to do. I talked to her on the telephone tonight so that she could tell me all about it. There was a choice of two paths through the woods, a short one and a much longer one, Mummsie insisted that now she had finally got to her Bluebell wood she was not going to do anything but the long path!!! She is absolutely fabulous.

Tomorrow, we are to be up early and into the Studio, it will be nice to get back behind my sewing machine, as I do miss my embroidery, if I am away from it for a few days. We have got lots of work to be getting on with and I will have to tell Sophie that she needs to sew lots of Bowler Hats.... I'll make her a cup of tea first!

3 B.T.'s

1: Nice new book - Bugs Britannica is wonderful and a great addition to this brilliant series.

2: John and I visited No:1 Royal Crescent Bath, this is now a lovely museum of 18th century interior design. I especially loved the portrait of Mrs Delany by John Opie, she was a great Blue-Stocking.

3: Mummsie happily telling me about her visit to the Bluebell Wood.

Bye for now,
Love Ruthi x

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Dodos and Chameleons

Yesterday morning (about 6.15am) John and I went for a walk/jomp/run around the city (with emphasis upon the walk!) - call it our mid-life crisis but it is definitely time for us to eat a little less and move a little more...

Later the same day ( after our yomp) I had been busy drawing new designs - so I will soon be embroidering Ammonites, Dodos and Chameleons. The key stage is to work out a simple shape that can 'easily' be redrawn but that still looks like the creature (etc) that you are trying to convey. For us at Sumptuosity it is important that what we draw is completely freehand and NOT a template, as this will create a truely unique and fresh item for both the maker and the buyer. I shall be writing about these designs in more detail for a 'guest blog spot next weekend. We have been asked by the lovely ladies at 'Copy and Paste' to give a contribution in celebration of their first year of postings. It is a great site and we are more than happy to do so! Apparently they are are fans of Sumptuosity Towers and love to hear about the goings on and thought that we would be suitable........ - the crazy people!!!

John has been busy in negotiations regarding conference organisers who are looking for 1000 handbag mirrors for their delegates and so me and the other Sumptuosity Fairies are all poised to see if we are about to beging the mass sewing of 250 Damselflies etc. Don't worry, if we do get the final confirmation I promise to let both Sophie and Alanna (Banana) home at night..... honestly.

I am looking forward to SpringWatch, even though it doesn't start until the end of May! In the meantime I am able to watch the wildlife out of our flat window and of course as we walk around the city. My main area of interest ( and I know that I have mentioned this before) is of course Bennie the Bunnie. He has been out in force in the 'Brown Field Site' opposite to our home. Yesterday morning I was looking out of the window when I was horrified to see Bennie being hotly pursued by a large and angry looking Carrion Crow. It is just as well that I am not an impartial BBC wildlife photographer as my first instinct was to scream and yell 'RUN BUNNY RUN'. I am happy to state that Bennie lived to chase about another day but my heart was definitely in my mouth... Has Bennie learned his lesson? Well it would appear not as John and I watched him later that morning first running circles around Wood Pigeons (until they took off) and then chase a gaggle of Goslings - until the angry parent chased Bennie off. But then and I couldn't believe my eyes, Bennie took on a large Greylag Goose. He ran his usual circles around the Goose and then began to chase him! It was an incredible sight to see this bunny basically attack this huge Goose. "What are you thinking of ??? I shouted at the window but in the end it was the Goose that had had enough and took off in flight. I think that Securicor should think of employing this rabbit as he is definitely fiestier than an Alsation.

Bank holiday Monday - we went for another yomp/walk/run this morning and then once back at home I have been on t'netbook. I have recently become the Hon.Secretary for the York Bibliographical Society and so have just set up a Facebook page for them, as well as updating their information on LibraryThing. John has been busy with his O.U. assignment but now it is time to dodge the showers and have a leisurely wander around the walls (not charging around like a couple of middle-aged Hippos!).

3 B.T.'s
1: Have just seen some Lily pads in the river Foss (it is the slowest river), so hopefully Lilies will not be far behind.
2: A wren was singing away outside our window this morning, for such a tiny bird they make an incredibly loud noise - I wonder if they have mini microphone systems, like aerobics teachers wear??
3: Sorry, but it just has to be Bennie the Bunny again. His escapades make my day.

Bye for now,
Love Ruth xx