Arts & Crafts: Meet the Christmas makers
Decorations are all the more special for being handmade. Louise Cummings meets three local designer-makers putting the craft into Christmas
From misshapen marrows to knobbly carrots, the irregular is often viewed as ‘inferior’, but not by fused glass artist Katie Lynn, whose clever creations show that ‘wonky’ can be wonderful.
Katie specialises in quirky handmade glass gifts and decorations – from birds and bunting to hearts and snowflakes - bursting with vibrant colour, and by their very nature wonky.
“I first discovered fused glass at a fair in London and I loved how random you could be with it,” explains Katie.
Discovering this new direction was a game changer for Katie, who studied Mural Design at Chelsea School of Art, and whose favourite medium in her early career was stained glass windows.
“I’d obviously experienced working with the wonderful colours available in stained glass, but wanted to find a way that wasn’t so restrictive to form; fusing was the way to go, much freer, more fluid and a natural way for me to work,” she says.
When Katie’s youngest child started school, she invested in a kiln and set to work on her first design; a small glass star, which remains a firm favourite with customers today.
Katie launched Molten Wonky in October 2009, explaining its title: “Molten because of the technique used to create the glass and wonky because I am a bit random and imperfect - and I like that all my products are unique and individual and lots of the time they are wonky!”
Working from a studio in Hempstead, near Saffron Walden, Katie hand cuts her forms from specialist fusing glass sheets, adding dichroic pieces, wire, paint and millefiori.
Her rainbow-hued range includes fused glass bunting (to add a splash of colour to windows); magical mandalas (which throw lively rays around the room); Wonkeylands (flamboyant windowsill flower gardens, featuring bulging blooms in eye popping shades) and whimsical birds (inspired by flocks Katie spotted on walks with her three-legged dog, Flo).
For Christmas, she’s designed a joyful selection of fused glass decorations from tiny trees and plump puddings to mini Rudolphs and mistletoe, as well as fun greetings cards.
Katie’s festive favourites are her giant snowflakes: “Even though they are tricky and fiddly to make, I still love them. They look stunning hanging in a window especially when the winter sunshine casts beautiful colourful snowflakes all round your room.”
If you’re dazzled by Katie’s Wonky world (and really, how could you not be?), book one of her glass fusing workshops, or fire your creativity with a Make at Home glass fusion kit – and conjure up something delightfully original.
Molten Wonky is sold online at moltenwonky.co.uk as well as at craft fairs, shops and galleries
While many of us face a dreary daily commute to an uninspiring workplace, Helen Strutt’s ‘office’ is the great outdoors, and nature’s rich tapestry of lush hedgerows, rolling countryside and the best of British wildlife, her canvas!
With her trusty smart-phone poised to photograph any adventurous creatures that cross her path, from harvest mice to hedgehogs, Helen doesn’t have to venture far to stumble upon inspiration.
“We’re based on the edge of a village, a few miles west of Cambridge, and our garden backs onto farmland, brambly hedgerows, wildflowers and trees – and these surroundings are both my inspiration, and home to many of the subjects of my work!” she explains.
“Sometimes the hardest part is deciding which British animal or bird to feature next! Often a chance photo-encounter with a bold creature will start the journey.”
Helen designs exquisite greetings cards, coasters, and tea towels, using a combination of applique, freehand machine embroidery and digital printing.
Passionate about conserving the environment, her cards and envelopes are recycled, her display bags biodegradable and compostable, and all printing is done in Cambridgeshire. “From the outset, I have been mindful of unnecessary plastic and wanted the business to be as environmentally friendly as possible,” she says.
Lellibelle launched in 2018, its title inspired by the cute nickname Helen’s parents gave her as a child (her twin sister was unable to say Helen, so called her Lelli). Prior to that she worked in fashion in London, but the arrival of her son (and his sister a few years later) forced her to re-evaluate her lifestyle and follow a more meaningful path.
Helen is a true artisan, and takes painstaking care in perfecting her designs, hand drawing each creature, and ensuring feathers, fur and spines look lifelike through a mixture of machine and hand stitching. “I often add final details with hand embroidery; the final life-affirming glint of light in the eye, delicate whiskers,” she explains. “The best bit is seeing how the final design comes together from a patchwork of seemingly unconnected parts.”
For Christmas, to complement her seasonal cards and melamine table mats, Helen has devised an exciting new range: “Hand embroidery remains at the centre of my business, and I don’t want to lose this connection, so for Christmas I created 100 per cent handmade padded hanging hearts – stitched freehand on my machine – with no computer programme in sight!”
Featuring a yuletide medley of holly, mistletoe and red berries, alongside stags, pheasants, foxes and boxing hares in a flurry of snow, they’re the ideal gift to show some love come December 25.
See Lellibelle in all its loveliness at the new Pop Up Art Cambridge gallery on Victoria Road.
Find out more at lellibelle.co.uk
Pain can be an incredible motivator, with artists throughout history driven to create remarkable work following periods of profound suffering. For Cambridge-based illustrator Abi Stevens, chronic migraine was her muse - and inspired her very first product, the Migraine Warrior enamel pin.
“I originally created the illustration for myself, because I was slowly improving and adjusting to my new situation after chronic migraine left me unable to work for months,” she explains. “After I’d drawn it up, I realised it would make a great enamel pin design and could be an empowering symbol for other people with migraine too.”
Abi went on to create a Chronic Warrior pin, and these two eye-catching models – which remain bestsellers - kickstarted her business back in 2019.
Today her portfolio includes 16 different pins, matching stickers, prints, jewellery, T-shirts, sweatshirts and leggings (including print-on-demand clothing).
With motivation a core value, the products feature uplifting phrases such as ‘we rise from our ashes’ and ‘productivity does not equal worth’, as Abi explains: “I love that my work has real meaning to my customers and can help them feel more of a part of a community of chronically ill/disabled people and empower them to put self-care before productivity.”
Another common theme of Abi’s detailed illustrations is bold colour. “For me colour is joy! Bright colours make me feel happy and alive and I want to pass that joy on to my customers!” enthuses Abi.
Vibrant hues course through the illustrator’s magnificent Christmas range, which spans cards, wall decorations, paper chains, gift wrap and FSC certified sustainable wood tree hangings. Harking back to classic carol The 12 Days of Christmas, they feature turtle doves, blackbirds and partridges, but are anything but traditional.
“The designs are a kind of an amalgamation of old-school stained glass window elements and my modern digital drawing style and I love how they turned out!” says Abi. “I wanted them to have
a Christmassy feel without me feeling bored or frustrated working on cliche subject matter I’m not very interested in - Santa and snowmen aren’t my thing I’m afraid!” she continues.
“I was also itching to create some illustration work referencing all the fabulous details from stained glass windows I’d photographed while driving around the Suffolk countryside with my mum over the years, and I thought it would be interesting to combine those elements with my more figurative style.”
Feast your eyes on Abi’s flamboyant, feel-good designs at the new Pop Up Art Cambridge store on Victoria Road. You won’t be disappointed!
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