A new chapter?

Posted in Curious Cat Central on June 4th, 2012 by cj – Comments Off

So, I’m currently in the middle of  Derbyshire Open Arts,  just day 4 to go.  I must remember to take my camera tomorrow and get some better shots of my fellow exhibitors work!

In the meantime I wanted to bear my soul a little.  In my last post I made a reference to an illness preventing me from working with leather.

In truth, my illness has been with me for around 25 years now.  It is depression.  There, I’ve said it outloud.  During my ‘downtime’ from craft, I rediscovered a love of painting.  I used my paints to release my thoughts and feelings onto paper or canvas.  It is the first time in a long time that I went through a full creative process with each piece.

I’ve been speaking to visitors to the exhibition about the story and meaning behind each of my paintings.  Some people are polite, some confused, but increasingly a number of people could relate to them.  To stand and speak openly with complete strangers about mental health problems has been inspirational to me.

So, I wanted to tell you the story of my 3 paintings:-

"Lonely" original art work - Cj Exley Copyright (c) 2012

“Lonely”, shows someone trapped in a self imposed bubble, trying without success to keep the bad stuff out, it drip feeds in regardless.  By trying to hide away from the bad, the good things are also locked away, the things we need to get through the day.  Strength, security, love, happiness, light, laughter, beauty etc.

For me, there is something else.  There is always something missing, some void, like a hole in my soul and I can not tell you what I need to fill it.  So, if you look, you can see the empty cell.

"Lifeline" Original acrylic on canvas copyright cj Exley 2012

“Lifeline” depicts the struggle to get out of that dark place.  Lifelines can come in all shapes and sizes, but it is only the person themselves who can finally reach out and grab hold.

"Hope Blossoms" Original artwork. Copyright cj exley 2012

If you look at the bottom of the picture above you will find thorns.  This work shows that if you can get beyond the thorns and travel up the stem you will come to buds and finally to fully open blossom.

So, what I have said to people today is that the pictures are meant to show a journey, from something so seemingly hopeless right the way through to turning your face fully to the sun.

Will the phoenix rise?

Posted in Curious Cat Central on May 21st, 2012 by cj – Comments Off

I was a little shocked when I checked the date of my last post.  It was in the run up to Christmas last year.

A lot has happened since then.  To be perfectly open and honest, I’ve been in a bit of a hole really.   Towards the end of last year it became very apparent that Craft Fairs are not the place for me to be.  I have met a lot of lovely people through the ‘circuit’, some of whom will remain my friends for good (I hope).  Sadly there is a darker side, something I won’t go into on here.

When I started my business it was to enable me to sell my work and be ‘all above board’.  Unfortunately, that also made me feel pressured to make commercial items and want to make the business a success.  What I lost sight of, very quickly, was why I started the whole thing.  I wanted to be creative in my spare time and get pleasure from that.  If people wanted to buy anything from me, that would be an added bonus.

So I found myself, trying to be a Mum and a partner, going to work and trying to fit in time to make enough products to fill my table at the regular events I exhibited at.  There weren’t enough hours in the day and I was unhappy.

My own ill health and that of my daughter brought the business to a full stop earlier in the year.  I’ve had to turn down a number of commisions and haven’t looked at my leather tools for months.

I have, however, rediscovered my love of sketching and painting.  The subject matter may be a little unusual, but I found the creative process cathartic.

"Lonely" original art work - Cj Exley Copyright (c) 2012

So where do I go from here?  Well in two weeks time I will be exhibiting with fellow Artists for Derbyshire Open Arts.  This is the first time when I’ve  actually stopped to think, ‘I really need to sort out what I’m going to do’.  I signed up for this last year and as I am with other Artists I am not prepared to let them down.

So it may be for one weekend only, but Curious Cat Creative will rise again from the ashes.

Handmade Monday – Wonderfully Made

Posted in Curiously Crafty, Featured Crafters and Artists on November 6th, 2011 by cj – 10 Comments

I’m back in blog land for Handmade Monday!  Remember to check out the other participants at 1st Unique Gifts.

This has been a busy week for myself and a number of fellow artists as we all took part in a 4 day exhibition ‘Wonderfully Made’.   The event is co-ordinated by The Peninne Artists and is held in the beautiful All Saints Church in Silkstone near Barnsley.

It’s such a great event to take part in and I love having the opportunity to look at all the fantastic work on show and maybe pick up a few Christmas presents along the way.

Here are a few shots from the event.

Curious Cat Creative table display

My display

The exhibition makes good use of all areas of the church.

More displays

This year one of the Artists, better known for his paintings, was also exhibiting leather goods.  It was great to see his work and chat about leather!

Leather bags by Simon Brock

Simon is keen to use traditional tools and British leather and, like me, he uses no machinery and creates all his pieces by hand.  His aim is create beautiful items, which are built to last.

I’m sure you’ll agree when you look at his work, he seems to be ticking all the right boxes.

More beautiful leather work by Simon Brock

Simon explained to me that as a trained cabinet maker he found he had a lot of transferable skills when it came to leather working.  Not least the ability to keep his tools sharp!

I enjoyed sitting with Simon watching him stitch and I consider myself very fortunate to have secured a stitching lesson in the New Year.  Stitching is something I’ve had on my to do list for the last two years, but something always gets in the way!

Simon Brock

So back to Simon.  I can’t let you go without letting you see some of his paintings.

Silkstone Church © Simon J Brock 2010-2011

His ‘Paintings by Simon Brock’ sign keeps getting bigger as people make the assumption that his incredibly detailed work must be photographs.  Such are the downfalls of being a seriously talented artist.

Whitby Abbey © Simon J Brock 2010-2011

Simon has many other varied interests, accordion playing and clog making to name a few.  If you’d like find out more, why not visit his blog Simon Being Crafty.  Fancy a fabulous piece of Art or maybe a greeting card a little less ‘run of the mill’? Then check out Simons Website and you won’t be disappointed!

Thanks for stopping by!

Handmade Monday – Arty Farty??

Posted in Curiously Crafty on September 11th, 2011 by cj – 27 Comments

What with holidays and kids at home I’ve been AWOL for longer than I expected!  Fortunately I haven’t been idle on the leather front.

First things first, it’s Handmade Monday over at 1st Unique Gifts so remember to check out the other bloggers!

Since I last blogged I’ve taken part in my first ‘Art in the Gardens’, which is an annual event held in my home town of Sheffield.  Saturday was windy but warm and a good number of visitors came to see the Art and Craft on show.  Sadly Sunday was wet and dreary which, not surprisingly led to reduced footfall.  Still it was great to catch up with friends and make new ones.

Stand at Art in the Gardens

This event saw the introduction of a new flower design.  As you can probably see, I enjoyed playing with colours on these!!

As a creative person I like to try different things and I keep having the urge to do BIGGER things!! Jewellery is so small!

So still working with leather and dye I tried my hand at a little freestyle art work.  This is what came out, not the best photo as it’s taken through the glass of the frame, but it gives you the idea.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed doing this, so today I made a start on another.  This time I did a sketch first to plan out what I was going to do.

Here it is so far, at the moment it’s just the outline and a bit of lowlighting.  Plenty more to do yet!  It’s also only a quick snapshot, which maybe explains why the bottom looks lighter than the top!

I’ve had my sketch book out quite a bit over the last couple of weeks.  I have a commission for a set of notebooks with dragon designs. I’ve created my designs and I’m waiting for approval from my customer.  Fingers crossed I’ll be able to show them to you soon :)

So it’s seems I’ve gone all ‘arty farty’ this week!  But I have to say I’m loving it!

Thanks for stopping by :)

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Handmade Monday – Life Begins?

Posted in Curiously Crafty on August 14th, 2011 by cj – 34 Comments

As its Handmade Monday remember to check out 1st Unique Gifts.
I’ve been absent for a couple of weeks.  The title may give you a clue?  No?

Last week I ‘celebrated’ my *cough* 40th Birthday and subsequently enjoyed a child and craft free long weekend in Harrogate.

I had a tick list of things to do which goes a little like this:-

1   Go to the cinema to see Harry Potter

Little did I know that I would be watching it on the smallest screen I’ve ever seen!!

2   Eat what I like, when I like

We had some lovely meals and  tea and cake at Betty’s tearooms

3   Go clubbing – I love to dance!  Here I am trying not to look 40!!

4  Have a spa treatment

I wonder, am I the only person who can have a full body massage and come out with a stiff neck?  I blame the toilet seat contraption you have to stick your head through!

5   Get a tattoo

You may wonder about this one.  Well, let me explain.  I have suffered with depression, sometimes quite debilitating, since my teens.  When I am at my lowest I think about my children Elizabeth and Andrew and I keep on going.  This tattoo is my attempt to symbolise that.  It’s for me,  no one else

Speaking of Andrew!  He was a welcome addition to this weekends event at Cromford Mill.  Normally we are in our own gazebo, but it was a nice surprise to find some large marquees there for us to go in.

I met up with old friends and new and the weather was kind :)

Throughout August there is a model railway display and I took Andrew to have a look.

Later on in the afternoon he had a go at doing some of his own designs with some of my scrap leather.

He was very pleased with his efforts and I think he did very well :)

Thats it for this week, thanks again for calling in!

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Handmade Monday – Hearts and minds

Posted in Curiously Crafty on July 24th, 2011 by cj – 13 Comments

Well hello there :)   When you’ve finished here go and check out 1st Unique Gifts to see who else is blogging this week.

It’s been a busy week at Curious Cat Central.

I finally had chance to deliver 18 necklaces to my new gallery.  The Created Gallery in Chesterfield is an absolute Aladdin’s Cave of fantastic original items.  If you get the chance to visit, take it.  There is so much to look at,  Art,  Ceramics,  Glass,  Textiles,  Photography,  Jewellery in a whole host of mediums and not forgetting a great range of greeting Cards. (I’m sure I’ll have missed something off the list!!) I promise you won’t be disappointed!!  If you want a gift or just to treat yourself, I can think of nowhere better.

The title of this weeks post lends itself to two things.  The first being the heart pendants I’ve just finished.

I love to play with colour and use a variety of ways to apply it. When I’m creating these types of effects I’m really enjoying myself :)

‘Hearts and minds’ also lends itself very well to my son leaving his junior school on Friday.  Here he is doing his ‘graduation’ speech.

I’ve been so thrilled with his teacher this past year.  She certainly captured Andrews heart and mind, he’s really worked hard for her and made good progress.  To show my appreciation I made her a necklace.

Teachers can have such an influence on a child,  good or bad,  and it’s been lovely to have one say such nice things about Andrew and be so determined to get the best out of him.

So thats me for this week, thanks for reading!

Handmade Monday – A pocket full of posies!

Posted in Curiously Crafty on July 10th, 2011 by cj – 11 Comments

Ok, you know how it works by now!  When you’ve finished here, hop over to 1st Unique Gifts to check out the other Handmade Monday blogs.

This week I have been mainly working on building up stock of my small flower vases. I only had a few remaining and they all seem to be similar colouring.

As you can see some are still waiting for their middles.

I’ve tried a few different colours this time, adding brown, green and blue.  I’m really liking this pale blue :)

It’s always hard to know whether I should stick to ‘proper’ flower colours or not,  so I try to do shades which may match decor too.

For anyone who hasn’t seem these before, this is what they will turn into!

I think presentation is really important,  I have a little stack of boxes ready for delivery to the gallery this week.  To date, I’ve been using my stickers to personalise my boxes.  In the future I may look at having a logo printed.

One thing I have changed is my little ‘care card’.  Until this week these were a little info sheet popped into every customers bag.  They explain a bit about their purchase and how to take care of it.

I wanted something better than a little bit of paper for the Gallery,  something that would fit neatly in the box and look good as well as be informative.  So this is the redesigned card.  It is just the right size to slot inside the box.

It features the header image from my website on the front and contains all the relevant info on the inside.  Printed on card and cut by hand, they are a little fiddly to do, but well worth the effort!

Thanks for calling in!

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Handmade Monday – missing in action??

Posted in Curiously Crafty on July 3rd, 2011 by cj – 14 Comments

Forgive me crafters, for I have sinned, it has been weeks since my last blog post.

Unfortunately a bout of illness impacted on my crafting and everything associated with it.  I can’t say I’m up to full strength yet, but I’m better than I have been.

So what better way to get back into it than to take part in Handmade Monday.  After you’ve finished reading here, pop over to 1st Unique Gifts to see who else is blogging this week.

This week has been a little overtaken by the impending arrival of my Mum’s 70th Birthday.  I wanted to do something really special and decided to do a bit of a ‘this is your life’ thing with photo’s.

So for a day and half I scanned and sorted photo’s from the 40′s onwards.  It involved undercover missions to my Mum’s house to ‘borrow’ some pics, thanks Dad!  I then spent a whole afternoon completing the online photobook!

Whilst the result isn’t handmade I can assure you a lot of prep work went into this, arranging pictures and thinking of funny bits of text!

What I did enjoy was seeing old faded photo’s coming back to life.  This one for example was completely orange! Look at it now!

My older sister and me

My favourite photo has to be this one.  Mum looks fab :)

I’ve also spent time this week getting stock ready for the Gallery I’m going to be supplying.  Here’s a new size pendant specially created thanks to the Gallery suggestion!  It’s about 2.5cm wide and it’s a lovely size.  I’m not sure why I didn’t think to make a small one before!

Finally, Billy the kitten had his first sniff of the outside world today.  I put a little lead on him for safety as he was a bit jumpy.

Billy and big brother George

Thanks for reading, I promise to get my blog back on track!

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Handmade Monday – so the story ends…

Posted in Curiously Crafty on May 30th, 2011 by cj – 9 Comments

As I’ve just returned home from 2 days at Castle Ashby, todays blog will be a quick one!

Remember to check out 1st Unique Gifts for a selection of other crafty blogs to read.

This weekend event saw the unveiling of yet another stall layout.  We’re never happy are we? I wasn’t happy with the way the stall was looking.  I have a tendancy to put too much out and I don’t think I had anything to catch the eye of passing customers. After a good talking to by my new style guru Sarah Clarke, an new layout evolved.  Please feel free to give me your opinions!

If you get chance check out Sarah’s fantastic and orginal designs which are made in silver and gold.  You can find her at Fluid by Design.

This week I mainly finished off a few bits and pieces. as it was rather taken over by a new arrival.  Meet Billy.

Billy :)

You may notice he’s a little special as he has an extra toe on each foot!  I’ve since learned this makes him a polydactyl cat.  He’s gorgeous if a little naughty! He joins our family as a brother for George.

Georgie :)

George is still a little unsure about the mad 9 week old addition, but I’m hoping he will settle down.  Billy’s extra toes are a great compensation for the fact that George doesn’t have enough!!

Finally, to the title of the post….so the story ends.

Which story?  Well regular readers will be aware of my watch strap commission.  This weekend allowed the strap and the watch face to finally be united.  I have to admit my heart was in my mouth as I waited to find out if it fitted! It did fit and I was so pleased that I’d been able to complete this.


It was great to meet back up with old friends and make new ones over the 2 days, my Pennine Fairs family!

So thats it from me for this week.  Maybe not such a quick post after all! Thanks for reading :)

Featured Crafter – Claire Doherty

Posted in Featured Crafters and Artists on May 24th, 2011 by cj – 4 Comments

Name:- Claire Doherty

Business:-  Clasicat Designs and Clasibags

This week its great to be able to feature someone I’m happy to call a friend.  She lives in Bolton with her husband and family of cats.

Claire and Ernie

The first time I met fellow Craft Pimp member Claire, we were sat opposite each other at a craft fair near Manchester.  I was a crafting ‘newbie’ whilst Claire obviously knew the ropes.  It wasn’t the most sucessful of events for either of us, but that chance meeting led to an online friendship.

Claire has always loved making things and tells me she’s been crafting for many years.  After being taught to knit by her Mum, she knitted her own jumpers and also used sew clothes for herself.

She then explains how she took up crafting  seriously about 7 years ago when she began making cards. Being diagnoised with depression led to a drop in hours at work, Claire wanted something positive to concentrate on. She began jewellery making which was then followed by her creating her own lampwork beads.

This gorgeous bracelet is available to buy here and features Claires own lampwork focal bead.

Claire says that she used to love making beads but tells me ‘I didn’t have the time to practice so I wasn’t that good’ Sorry Claire, I’m going to have to disagree on that, just look at these beautiful earrings, again made with her lampwork beads :)

By her own admission, she likes to try new things and started to make her knitted bags.  Claire explains, ‘I love making my bags, I love mixing colours of wool together and seeing the result on my felted bags plus I love the tactileness (is that a word?) of the eyelash wool that I use to make my little knitted bags.’

This is my absolute favourite and is still for sale!  Get it while you can at Clasibags!

Yeah I think I’ll let you have tactileness Claire.  As the proud owner of a fluffy Clasibag I can give you a couple more, strokeability and fluffyscrumptiousness.  Yes I admit it, I stroke mine, but come on!  Who wouldn’t??

Not content with just her range of fluffy bags Claire has more recently created a felted range too.  This is one of my favourite colourways.

Other crafts Claire would like to try her hand at include crochet, candlemaking and glass fusing.
She also says she may in the future have another go at lampworking as she feels she has something to prove to herself!

I really enjoy watching the natural evolution of the work of  fellow creatives like Claire. Seeing them try out new techniques it means I’m always looking forward to what they come up with next.

So now you’ve had a little look at Claire why not follow Clasicat Designs on Facebook, or check out her blog?

Thanks for calling in!

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