Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2021

As much as I love visiting art exhibitions, I don’t think anything can top the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition for me. It’s one of the most inspirational art events to attend and I think a big part of that is the accessibility of it. Not only does it happen every year (even last year), but the fact that anybody can submit their artwork makes you feel as though you too could be up on that famous gallery wall one day. Every time I visit I always want to create as soon as I get home. 

This year in particular I felt inspired as the exhibition co-ordinator, Yinka Shonibare RA, sought to bring more diversity to the gallery. This mainly focused around the promotion of pan-African art, together with artists who are neurodiverse, disabled, or self-taught, but this also allowed for the inclusion of artwork that is more traditionally seen as ‘craft’ rather than serious art. This feels like an important breakthrough as in 1770 the Royal Academy brought in a rule stating that ‘no needlework, flowers, cut paper, shell-work or any such baubles shall be admitted’, effectively excluding crafts and, by extension, women. Throughout this year’s exhibition there were examples of textile art such as crochet, embroidery, tapestry and quilting. Although I like to dabble in all crafts I see myself primarily as a textile artist, so to see these pieces exhibited alongside more traditional art was actually quite thrilling.

The exhibition is huge. Taking up several rooms you need plenty of time to look around as there is so much to take in. Every wall is covered floor to ceiling with artwork of all different kinds. It is running until 2nd January and I am considering a second trip as I’m sure there were things I missed on my way round, and others that I would like a closer look at. If you want a sneak preview you can browse the items for sale on the RA’s website, but I would still recommend visiting because you can’t beat seeing art in real life.

Tickets cost £22 and it is well worth purchasing a list of works for £3.50. Each work is numbered and the booklet lists the name of each piece, the artist, the materials used, and also the price. The majority of pieces are for sale and can range in price from a few hundred to several thousand pounds. Whilst many of the works are one-offs with only the original available to buy, there are plenty that also have prints available so if you are feeling a bit flash you could buy yourself some limited edition artwork whilst you’re there!

If you are interested in how it all works there is a programme available on BBC iPlayer called ‘Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, which explores the selection process and has interviews with Yinka Shonibare RA, along with several hopeful applicants discussing their work. 

subscription box

Quirky Crate – 1950s Flashback

I’ve been toying with the idea for a quite a while of ordering myself a Quirky Crate, and now I’ve finally done it! Quirky Crate is a monthly subscription box containing a selection of fun, colourful and inspiring things that have been curated around a theme, featuring an item and bio card of a female artist (https://www.quirkycrate.com/). It’s a great way of bringing yourself or a loved one some joy and brightening up the day with a splash of colour. Although this isn’t technically a craft, I feel that treating yourself in this way every so often can really help to boost your creativity and act as great inspiration for future projects.

The April box that I signed up for was themed around the 1950s. I really love this decade, particularly the fashions and interior/furniture designs. I also really love the American pop culture of this decade that you often see depicted in films like Grease.

Included in the box was:

• Milkshake cross body bag
• Rockabilly sparrow enamel pin
• Dalmatian socks
• Pearl-vintage hair clips
• Polka dot headband
• Pearl cherry necklace
• Sticker sheet

The sticker sheet is designed by this month’s artist Natalie Michelle Watson, an illustrator from Melbourne (Instagram: @nataliemichellewatson).

It was really exciting to open this box when it arrived and see all the fun stuff inside. However, as Quirky Crate is based in the US and I’m based in the UK it did take a really long time to arrive. I signed up for the box on 25th March prior to the April shipment on 15th April. The next shipment date is advertised on the website for each box so you know when you can expect it to ship. I only signed up for the one box which was $36.95 (approx £29.80). I used a discount code which took off $7.39, but then had to add on international shipping at $17.25 so my total came to $46.81 (£37.78). Obviously the post is delayed at the moment due to the Coronavirus situation, so I wasn’t expecting it to come quickly. On 1st May I received an email from Royal Mail saying that I might have to pay a customs charge due to the declared value of the contents. According to the card inside the box the total value of the box is $101. Eventually I received a card through the post to say that I had to pay a customs charge of £15.63, which I sorted online (on the terrible Royal Mail website which kept saying they couldn’t find my tracking number and that the parcel didn’t exist) and finally had my box delivered on 27th May, over two months after placing the original order!

This is obviously not the fault of Quirky Crate, it’s just the hazards of shipping overseas, particularly at the moment. It does make me question whether or not I would order another one without first checking the value at which the customs charge comes into play though. My total expenditure on this box came to £53.41, including a discount, almost double the original cost of the box. If I saw another theme that really caught my attention I might consider ordering it, with the knowledge of how much it might cost, however I’m pretty glad I didn’t sign up for the three or six month subscription if it meant I had to pay a customs charge every month!

Having said that, I think it’s a lovely, well-curated box and I will thoroughly enjoy wearing all my new accessories! If I was based in the US I would certainly think about signing up and I know I would look forward to receiving it every month.

Creative blog

What crafting means to me…

I know this is a bit of a detour for me as I usually post a review of something crafty or creative that I’ve done, but this week I just wanted to talk about craft and mental health. One of my reasons for starting this blog in the first place was my belief that crafting is good for the soul.

I was in quite a low place for the first few months of this year. I was disillusioned with my jewellery as I had done a few really bad Christmas markets, I didn’t have any inspiration for new products and in short I felt like it was going nowhere and I was wasting my time. I put it on the back burner and spent a lot of time thinking about if it was the right thing for me to do or if I should find something else. I knew in my heart that I didn’t really want to let it go, which is why in the end I went back to my jewellery making roots and started again, as discussed in my previous post about my showcase. However, before I got to that point I went back even further to my childhood and remembered all the things I liked to do back then; sewing, art, reading, baking, and anything that involved making something with my hands. I’d already begun to make my pointillism pictures inspired by a visit to a David Hockney exhibition and I’d already started writing my novel.

I decided that I wanted to bring more creativity back into my life, and that I wanted to document what I was doing in order to keep myself on track and also share my journey with others who might be feeling in need of a bit of inspiration of their own. I set up this blog and my Instagram account with no idea what I was going to post at first! I spent a long time researching crafty pastimes and came across the idea of subscription boxes, bringing a different craft to your door every month, which I loved. I also researched places to go. I wanted to make sure that I went out and about in order to experience new things. I’ve always enjoyed going to art galleries, but I also signed myself up for as many workshops as I could afford in as many different disciplines as possible!

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying myself over the last few months since starting this blog. I’ve learnt so many amazing new skills from candle making to punch needle, but I’ve also remembered lost loves such as embroidery. I now feel that I’m brimming with ideas, not just for my jewellery but also for artwork bringing a range of techniques together in a mixed media style piece.

However, the reason I’m not posting a finished piece today is because I don’t have one! Over the past two weeks I’ve had a severe cold. Not quite the flu because I haven’t been stuck in bed, but I have really pushed myself to keep going because I had deadlines to meet, like my jewellery showcase, and it has definitely been to my detriment. I should have taken time to rest because I haven’t had the energy to complete some of my other projects in time and that’s made me really upset. So whilst crafting has definitely had a positive effect on me and I feel inspired, relaxed and overall in a better frame of mind, it’s always good to know when you need to take a break and recharge. I don’t want to let something I enjoy become a burden again. I have a nice quiet week lined up and I’m going to spend my time crafting at a leisurely pace and not put any pressure on myself. I’ve nearly finished one of my subscription boxes so I’ll be back next week with a review on that! I’m hoping to catch up with myself so that I can start on some of my own projects and get some of my ideas out there!


Congregation of Inspiration

On Friday last week I attended the Congregation of Inspiration, a conference for small businesses organised by Holly & Co (https://holly.co/). Holly Tucker is the founder of Not On The High Street (https://www.notonthehighstreet.com/) and has since made it her mission to support, advise and inspire small business owners and entrepreneurs in the pursuit of their own dreams. The event took place in St Mary’s Church, Marylebone; a stunning venue.

The theme of the conference was about finding ‘your diamond’; that unique thing that you are passionate about and want to share with the world. There was an absolutely packed schedule starting with breakfast at 8:30am and finishing with happy hour drinks at 7pm. In between there was a whole host of speakers and panel discussions covering a range of topics from social media to using your business to create positive change. Some of my favourites included Sahar Hashemi OBE (founder of Coffee Republic) on turning your idea into a business, Fearne Cotton on ‘Happy Is The New Rich’, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones (founder of The Black Farmer) on the danger of playing it safe and Dave Buonaguidi (artist and author) on being distinctive. The content was great and I felt I learnt something, or was at least entertained, at the end of every session.

The whole conference was like one big Instagram photo opportunity. A lot of effort had been put in to the aesthetics of the venue with an amazing neon backdrop to the stage, balloons everywhere and plenty of pretty signage. There was also a marketplace with several small businesses selling a range of items such as eco glitter, etched glass trinkets and art prints amongst other things. Throughout the day there was also a choir performing various songs.

I only found about this event after the early bird rates had finished and I spent quite a while deciding whether or not to attend anyway so my ticket ended up costing £210 plus a booking fee. I felt that this was quite a high price, definitely the most expensive conference I have attended so far. I could certainly see where the money had been spent with the calibre of the speakers and the decoration, however I was disappointed that this price did not include food. It did include pastries at breakfast and coffee (which I don’t drink) in all the breaks, but the lunch options that were offered were in the form of food trucks outside the venue, which were in keeping with the event’s aesthetic, but meant an extra £5 on top; a cost which probably could have been absorbed into the ticket price. The options were limited and the mac’n’cheese I had was pretty bland. To be honest I wish I’d gone up the road to Pret!

The other thing I found disappointing about the event was the networking. Prior to the event I joined the Facebook group where lots of people said that they were attending alone and looked forward to meeting everyone, however during the networking opportunities throughout the day I found that most people seemed to already be in groups and it was difficult to engage people or break in to existing conversations. One of my hopes in attending the conference was that I would have an opportunity to meet like-minded people, but unfortunately this didn’t happen for me.

Despite this I still came away feeling inspired and fired up about my business ventures. The speakers were all obviously passionate about their businesses and you could feel their sense of purpose and drive to succeed.

The tickets are already on sale for next year at the early bird rate but I think I need a little longer to decide if I’ll be attending again…