Friday, 15 September 2017

what a summer that was!

It's back to school time, but if we're being completely honest we're still feeling a bit jaded after all the fun we had over the summer (the last hurrah Aperol spritzes didn't help matters either).  

a crab called Jeff caught at Morfa Nefyn
he's called Jeff apparently
In between making bags there were country shows to do, surfing to try, Coldplay to see, crabs to catch, vegetables to tend, horses to ride, racing cars to scream in, festival stages to run across, friends to clink glasses with, nights to spend under canvas listening to the rain...and obviously there were the usual harvest dramas and escapee sheep to contend with too. It was absolutely great.

definitely a night full of stars

scything...don't say the P word
in the woods with friends on their horses

tiny figure on stage waving like an out of control windmill? Yep, that's Susan

a very, very, very long way down
And to top it all off (literally) the Chulmleigh scouts decided to do this to finish the summer in style.  It was "really, really fun...when can I do it again?" (Sam, aged 9).  In relation to the summer as a whole, we tend to agree. 

Not sure about the abseiling though.😉

Friday, 9 June 2017

it's bespoke bag time again...

This week's bespoke bag is a particularly gorgeous shiny mahogany beech workbag with carry handle and detachable strap.  Before it left for its new life we whizzed it round to our friend's house for a quick photo amongst the rubble of his demolished kitchen...and there we found Mike Wilson who was minding his own business up a ladder sorting out the electrics.  Mike has managed to evade our camera so far despite being spotted everywhere (we're sure he's cloned himself and his van with the slogan 'Don't get electrocuted, get Mike Wilson' on the side) but this time there was no escape. So, thanks for modelling Mike - not what you expected when you left for work this morning but as we always say, you never quite know what's going to happen round here!

And in other news, as a break from the bags Hilary's been making lots of different keyrings - perfect for father's day!

Friday, 12 May 2017

mystery objects competition

These came into the workshop to be mended earlier this week.  From time-to-time they play a very important and very public part in life down here in our wonderful rural community in Chulmleigh.

For those of you who have never seen these items before there's a lovely handmade keyring on offer for the first person to guess what they are via our facebook page.
And if you already know what they're used for - without giving the game away as to what they are, tell us how many should be in the box and you could win a keyring too.

Happy guessing everyone!

Friday, 5 May 2017

hilary's small screen debut

welcome to hilary johnson handmade
It's been nearly a year since the Escape to the Country crew came to our bit of North Devon.  It was a beautiful, clear sunny day - fresh and glittering after the night's showers - and contestants Sally and Colin saw the countryside cloaked in the verdant finery of spring; it really couldn't have been more chocolate box if it tried.

(Unlike today - the 5 million shades of green are still out there, but the edge has rather been taken off them by the prowling dark rainclouds hovering menacingly above Chulmleigh; someone needs to tell the weather that greys and navy blues are so last year - it's all about the greens now).

technical stuff
a quick rehearsal

We'd been checking the schedules for a broadcast date and with 70 episodes per series that's a lot of house-hunting to get through.  But at long last we were on - so on Wednesday 5th April at 3 o'clock we downed tools to watch Hilary's 15 minutes of fame (with unexpected butterflies - it's very weird seeing yourself on tv and you never quite know how you'll look and sound.  Quite posh as it turns out!)

capturing the day on camera
very, very tidy workshop...just don't look behind that curtain!

window shots
Sally & Colin with their creations
...and it's a wrap!

Friday, 24 February 2017

the circle of life

series 3 must be on soon, surely!
It's at this time of year that we most notice just how cyclical our life is here among the rolling hills of North Devon.  Whilst some people measure the passing of time using the gaps between series of Poldark, we are utterly beholden to the quarterly changes in the seasons.  

As we type, the fields are humming with new life - ewes and their tiny, wobbly lambs pepper the landscape like grounded clouds as sheep flocks double in the space of a few weeks, whilst underground the moles are busy tunnelling new kingdoms; their soil volcanoes popping up between the mothers and babies with surprising speed.

The evenings are noticeably drawing out too and there's a distinct shortening of the shadows as the sun stays higher for longer.  And, most importantly of all, the people are changing - we're all smiling more and there's an energy everywhere that is almost tangible; yes, some still look exhausted - it's a busy time in an agricultural community and long nights spent in the lambing sheds are the norm for many round here, but something's changed - the coming of spring and the new life it brings also brings hope and anticipation of the end to the harsh, cold, debilitating winter. 

And whilst we've been tucked up snugly in the workshop (relatively speaking - we do actually have at least 2 layers of down-filled clothing on each) we've been carrying out our spring resolutions.  Hilary redecorated the shop and has upcycled some lovely boudoir furniture adding a luxurious touch to our displays.  (We're also very lucky to have been lent a couple of fabulous paintings by the award-winning Tony Williams which look great against the freshly painted walls).   

Meanwhile, Susan spotted a couple of beautiful mannequins going for a song in a shop in Falmouth that was being refurbished and managed to get them and the kids back to the car Chuckle Brothers-style (to me to you) without knocking over too many fellow pedestrians. 

All of this has energised us into a frenzy of creative activity - the sewing machines are working non-stop as Hilary magics up new bags and replenishes the shop with bright spring colours. 

And as for a new series of Poldark...fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017


Just like the lands at the top of the Magic Faraway Tree, the festive season has moved on and January has come around again.  

For some it's a time for introspection and self-improving resolutions (dry January anyone? Nope, nor us) and for others it's a time to look forward to the impending arrival of more sheep in the world (that'll be half the population of our bit of North Devon then).

And for those that are under 10 it's time to whip off wellies and paddle barefoot in the sea!

paddling with grandpa, Saunton Sands
However, as we write this an arctic blast is on its way so full sea immersion probably isn't on the cards for us any time soon.
Nope, we are absolutely, definitely not at all cold.
(Although we can't say the same for our musician friend Clare Mactaggart who is one of the 'Clevedon swimmers' currently appearing in a new BBC One ident).

Maybe George Ellis got it right when he wrote his poem The twelve months back in the 18th century (and it's not just the under 10s that hope he did if we're completely honest).

Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,
Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy,
Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.
George Ellis 1753-1815

Happy 2017 everyone!

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

photoshoot fun

We were delighted to be invited to join in a recent photoshoot with emerging talent from Plymouth College of Art's photography course.  The students had been set the task of taking the brief for, and then running, a commercial photo shoot based around a selection of different products.  Most of the photographs on our website are taken within 5 minutes' trotting distance of our workshop in Chulmleigh and we don't have access to studio backdrops or lighting, so it was exciting to pack up a selection of bags and send them off to the city with course tutor Gem Pope (an amazing photographer in her own right - you should see her degree show portfolio). 

As anyone who has flicked through a glossy fashion mag will realise, a fashion story image should be so much more than a 'nice' picture - it needs to reach out to its target audience and to affect them in some way (in our case they should be left thinking 'I love that aspirational handbag and I am powerless to resist').

Part of the process therefore, involved writing a brief for the students - putting into words what we wanted to see in the pictures.

When faced with what is effectively a blank canvas and an oyster's worth of choice it takes a bit of thought - we decided that we would like a clean urban look (given that most of our local locations are muddy and rural). 

It was also a great opportunity to allow the students to come up with their own ideas, including choosing models, outfits and backdrops, allowing them to practice all aspects of a commercial shoot.

The result was a very professionial, quirky selection of studio images - thanks so much guys - hope it was great fun!  

...and in another studio across the corridor some of Susan's hats were being shot too - we LOVE the lighting on these - amazing!