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Les Petits Bonheurs

Les Petits Bonheurs – Humayrah Khan

Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

I approached Humayrah Khan, having fallen head over heels in love with her instagram gallery. I am always astounded at the detail in the older beaded and embroidered pieces I discover from late 1800s – early 1900s but when I stumbled into Humayrahs gallery her work took my breath away. Her creations are simultaneously  fresh and  timeless, thoughtful, provoking and utterly beautiful. Her work is the antidote to fast fall apart fashion, each creation fills my heart with joy with her unique interpretation of ancient motifs and exquisite techniques and just this month she launched a beautiful Etsy store where she will sell her work, wonderful embroidery kits, specialised Goldwork threads and notions.

How did you start embroidering?

“I began embroidering at the age of 14 after seeing my grandma lovingly make crocheted gifts for friends and family. I have fond memories of spending my school holidays in her home, the duck egg blue walls, hand-dyed silk saris that neatly lined her wardrobe, even the soft floral scent of her saris are still fresh in my mind.
After studying fashion at university, I was blessed with the opportunity to study Hand Embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework, in Hampton Court Palace. During the 2 year course I developed my skills in traditional Hand Embroidery techniques like Goldwork and Silk Shading and it was here that I discovered my love and appreciation for exquisite craftsmanship.”

Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

Is there anything that you cannot imagine parting with?

“There are very few things that I cannot imagine parting with. They probably are of no monetary value but knowing that these items once belonged to my grandmother and that she had once touched them, means a lot to me. The chiffon scarves she used to crochet for me, her Kohl applicator, her laces and trims, her rusty steel scissors are all very dear to me.”

Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse
How long do you ‘live’ with materials before you start working with them?

“Over the years I have collected many textiles and embroidery materials from my travels to India, Dubai, Tunisia and Thailand. I purchase them thinking that I will use them soon but cherish them for years in their pristine, untouched packaging without using them. But years later I will find a use for it and try to unearth it amongst all the other bits and pieces in my sewing room.

My favourite embroidery technique has to be Goldwork because of the way the metal threads vary in colour when seen in different lights and from different angles.”

Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

Chatoyant (adj.) Varying in colour when seen in different lights or from different angles.

Who inspires you?

“I’ve always loved discovering beautiful things. My grandparent’s belongings, lost, old objects, things I stumble across on evening walks, all inspire me. I often wander through the woods near my home, where I gather leaves, twigs, feathers and other things I can find to bring back home and preserve. I also like to incorporate the treasures I find into my embroideries and with each piece I feel that a part of me has been embedded into my work. It is this part of me that I would like to share with others.”

Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

Fuubutsushi (n.) the things-feelings, scents, images – that evoke memories or anticipation of a particular season.

“Unusual words with profound meanings also inspire me. My favourite word at the moment is ‘Kintsukuroi’, (n.) (v.phr.)”to repair with gold’; The art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken – Japanese. Usually the connection between words and embroidery is not apparent to anyone except me.”

Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

Komorebi (n.) sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees.

Where do you do your making?

“All my work is done in my room which is known by my friends and family as; The Olde Sewing Room. I am currently working on an embroidered piece inspired by calligraphy and a thought provoking word; Sonder (n.).

The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”

Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

Do you ever get creative block, what are your tips on dealing with it? I know for me I have days when nothing seems to work, it’s like I forget how to make…

“I abhor those days! On these days I simply have to step away and seek help through patience and prayer. Chocolate also helps me on days like these!”

Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

Where are your favourite places (market/online) for sourcing materials?

“I enjoy going to flee markets and local souks when I am travelling where I can be inspired by local textiles and culture.”

Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

Kintsukuroi (n.) (v.phr.) “to repair with gold”; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

Where are you happiest?

“My home is a sanctuary to me. It is where I feel my most authentic self and is where I am happiest…especially when I am alongside Mary my mannequin.”


How do you sell your embroidery work?

“I supply specialised Goldwork threads to the Royal School Of Needlework and have recently began selling my work on Etsy (The Olde Sewing Room). I also sell my work privately through personal connections and Instagram.”

Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

What is your favourite corner in your house?

“My room has to be my favourite place in my home. It is where I can escape from the chaotic world, it is my prayer room, a room to get together with family and friends and The Olde Sewing Room.”

Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

How has social media changed the way you create / connect with other creatives?

“I feel social media has changed me by enabling me to express emotions and thoughts through embroidery. It has also allowed me to make some lifelong connections with artists from across the world. I find it incredible that people who live on opposite sides of the world can be brought together through a mutual love for art.”
Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

Antiscians (n.) People who live on opposite sides of the world, “whose shadows at noon are cast in opposite directions”

Humayrah Khan Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

 For more information you absolutely must check out Humayrahs Instagram and Etsy store The Olde Sewing Room.

Les Petits Bonheurs – Miss Clara

I have a real visual treat for you this week. A few years ago I came across images of the work and home of French artist Claire Guiral of ‘Miss Clara‘ and despite the thousands and thousands of images my brain has had the pleasure of processing since, the sumptious saturated tones of Claires home and work have called to me. An enduring creative magic potion for me.

Her fingers transform modest materials into majestic enchanting characters and her words weave a potent poetry around your heart. I always remember passages of her interview, specifically those where she describes her sensual connection with the past and the colours of her childhood, so vividly that I find myself transported back in time with her; “du rouge de la tapisserie de sa grand-mère, du bleu turquoise sur l’ocre des murs le long de la vigne ou le rouge brique du chemin garni de morceaux de tuiles », – “the colours of her grandmothers home, the red of her tapestries, the blue turqouise against the ochre tinted walls all the length of the vines or the red brick tones along the lane lined with pieces of rustic tiles.”.

I am so honoured and excited to share Claires most bewitching world as part of Les Petits Bonheurs series.


Cœur Ardent By Miss Clara

Cœur Ardent By Miss Clara, Photo: Dieter Krehbiel

Have you always like to work with old and found objects?

“Yes ever since my earliest days I have been drawn to old things, I spent my days dreaming in my grandmothers attic and was seduced by everything that looked old and used, homes, objects, clothes.”

«Oui, depuis toute petite, j’aime les choses anciennes, je passais mon temps à rever dans le grenier de ma grand mère et j’étais très séduite par tout ce qui avait un air ancien et usé, maisons, objets, vêtements.»

Miss Clara Dieter Krehbiel

Photo: Dieter Krehbiel

When did you start collecting old papers and flea market finds ?

“Ever since the moment I had a little bit of pocket money, from around 12 years old.”

«Dés que j’ai eue un peu d’argent de poche, vers 12 ans »

Miss Clara Dieter Krehbiel, Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

Photo: Dieter Krehbiel

Is there any one item in particular that you remember losing your heart to?

“I remember clearly the tapestry in the dining room of my grandmothers home, it was a vermillon red, with the detail of very pale pink roses and grey and gold leaves, another strong memory is that of a printed green & orange velvet bedspread.”

« Je me souviens particulièrement bien de la  tapisserie du salon de chez ma grand mère maternelle, rouge vermillon, avec des impressions de roses rose très pale et aux feuillages gris et or, ainsi que d’un dessus de lit en velour imprimé, vert et orangé. »

Miss Clara - The French Muse

Of all your found and ‘chined’ treasures, is there anything that you simply can’t imagine parting with?

It is very difficult to say, I have so many things which have no monetary value, but they bring me so much pleasure and inspiration and so I have no desire to part with them. But knowing myself, one day I am capable, all of a sudden, to cut the connection and give the item to someone else without regret.”

« C’est difficile à dire, j’ai énormément de choses de peu de valeur, mais qui me plaisent et m’inspirent et dont je n’ai pas envie de me séparer,mais je me connais, un jour je suis capable tout d’un coups de couper le lien et de donner cet objet à quelqu’un d’autre et de rien regretter » 

Miss Clara - The French Muse

“My memories of childhood are very precise and plentiful, is it very easy for me to reach back and recall something from my past, both in terms of the sensations as well as the emotions.”

« J’ai des souvenirs d’enfances très précis et très nombreux, c’est très facile pour moi de me remémorer mon passé, aussi bien au niveau des sensations que des émotions. »


When you are looking for materials, do you go out looking for a specific colour or texture that particular day or do you bring everything together once you are back in the studio?

“In general I don’t specifically look for anything, what usually happens is that suddenly something will appear that echos what I had in mind, I buy it and I can hold on to it for ten years without using it, then one day I will have a need for it, and despite the crazy disorder of my cupboards, I will dig it out and use it.”

« En général je ne cherche rien, et soudain quelque chose apparait qui fait echo à ce que j’ai en tête, je l’achète et il peut se  passer 10 ans sans que je m’en serve et un jour j’en ai besoin et, malgré le grand désordre de mes placards, je sais le retrouver et je l’utilise. »


I would love to know where you do your making and how you visualise your materials – I always delight in discovering those who prefer chaos over order.

“I am pretty messy, but I find myself quite easily amidst my disorder. It is all in my head and all that remains is to lift the piles of boxes to get to those things I need for a project.”

« Je suis assez désordonnée, mais je me retrouve assez facilement dans mon désordre, j’ai tout en tête, il ne reste qu’a soulever les piles de boites pour accéder à ce que dont j’ai besoin »

Miss Clara Dieter Krehbiel

Short Stories of La Maison, the house of Miss Clara, Photo: Dieter Krehbiel

 Who inspires you and your work?

“Painting, antique objects also inspire me a lot, 18th century painting, the illustrators of the end of the 19th Century – early 20th century but also all the many images I find on the internet, the stories I read, sometimes it is simply a phrase which is enough to whisk me away and lead me to create a certain character. Often the link is not obvious to anyone but me.”

« La peinture, les objets anciens m’inspirent beaucoup, la peinture du 18éme, les illustrateurs fin 19eme debut 20eme, mais aussi  toutes les images glanées sur internet, les histoires que je lis, parfois juste une phrase peut m’amener à créer un personnages. Mais cependant le lien n’est pas souvent évident pour d’autres que moi. »

Miss Clara - The French Muse

Do you listen to music while you create or do you prefer to work in silence ?

“It all depends on what I am working on at the time. I love to listen to audio books, and Baroque music most often or Franceculture on the radio, but saying that, once I really concentrate, no noise can really disturb me. I go into my own world and the radio could be on for hours and I wouldn’t even notice.”

« Tout dépend de ce que je fais, j’aime écouter de livres  audio, de la musique(baroque le plus souvent) ou Franceculture pendant que je travaille, mais cela dit, lorsque je suis concentrée, aucun bruit ne peut me perturber, je suis dans mon monde et la radio peut marcher pour rien pendant des heures sans que je m’en rende compte »

Miss Clara

 Do you ever suffer from creative block and how do you work around it or get over it?

“It does happen and I abhor suffering from block as my time is so precious. I have found different techniques which help to not feel like I am turning in circles. For example, if I have a specific order for a character to create and I can’t quite find the right approach I will turn my hand at making simple things that I will always have need for: paper flowers, little hats and somehow (in general) when I am working on the ‘small’ things, a magical combination of colours, or in creating certain proportions, an idea is born which then unlocks the ‘real’ project.I also often find it helps to jump into a totally different project, one for my own pleasure, and there also, during the action of creating – a solution appears or the birth of a new idea. I believe that the most important thing is to never stop creating and working, creation always brings creation.”

« La création nait de la création. »

« Cela m’arrive et comme j’ai horreur de cela, car mon temps est précieux,  j’ai trouvé plusieurs techniques pour ne pas avoir  cette impression et ne pas tourner en rond. Par exemple, si j’ai une commande particuliere de personnage à faire et que je ne sais pas comment l’abborder, je vais me mettre à faire des petites choses simples dont j’ai toujours besoin: des fleurs en papiers, des petits chapeaux..et géralement tout en travaillant à ces petites choses, d’une association de couleurs,d’ un rapport de proportion, une idée va naitre et débloquer le vrai projet.
Je peux aussi me lancer dans un projet totalement différent, pour mon propre plaisir, et là aussi, pendant ce travail une solution, ou un début d’idée va naitre. Je crois que le plus important c’est de ne pas s’arrêter de travailler, que la création nait de la création.»

 tumblr_ne0mtuckUr1sfi6kho1_500Photo: Dieter Krehbiel

Where are you happiest?

“Where I am the most content, at my work table, with someone I love at my side”

«A ma table de travail, avec quelqu’un que j’aime à proximité. »

Miss Clara Dieter Krehbiel

Short Stories of La Maison, the house of Miss Clara, Photo: Dieter Krehbiel

Do you have a favourite corner at home ?

“It depends on the season, at the moment it’s a little cold so I love to bring a big wooden tray with my paper, glue, and scissors into my kitchen where there is a stove and where my little boy loves to come draw beside me. In summer I love an atelier of the deepest green.”

« Cela dépend des saisons, en ce moment il fait un peu froid alors j’aime apporter un grand plateau de bois avec mes papiers ma colle mes ciseaux dans ma “cuisine” où il y a un poéle, et où mon petit garçon aime venir dessiner prés de moi.  En été j’aime beaucoup l’atelier d’un vert profond. »

Miss Clara Dieter Krehbiel

Short Stories of La Maison, the house of Miss Clara, Photo: Dieter Krehbiel

I know you have a young son, do you have any advice for how best to find a balance between your creative life and your day to day life as a mother?

“I only know and want to make and do things with love and all my heart, so it is not always easy. As I had my son (who is now eight years old) later in life, at 41 years old, I already had a certain level of experience in terms of ‘work-life balance’ and was pretty efficient in certain domains. I don’t count my hours exactly but I think that I must work part time, saying that my timetable is completely anarchic. However I know that I am very efficient, when I sit down to work I am very concentrated.”

My little boy loves to play with lego, and I in turn love to create a small space in my atelier so that we can create side by side, each of each concentrated on our ” work”.

I have what some might call a somewhat complicated life, I separated from my sons father and my new companion lives in Germany. Which means that for eight days of each month I leave my son in the careful hands of his father during which time I live “ma vie de femme”, my female life if you like, in Germany.

« Je ne sais et ne veux faire les choses, qu’avec amour et tout mon cœur, alors ce n’est pas très facile. Comme j’ai eue mon garcon ( huit ans) tard, à 41 ans, j’avais déja une certaine expérience et une vrai efficacité dans certains domaines. Je ne compte pas mes heures, mais je pense que je travaille à mi temps, mais mes horraires sont totalement anarchiques. Par contre je sais que je suis très efficace quand je me mets au travail car je suis très concentrée.

Mon petit garcon aime enormément jouer aux légos, j’aime lui faire un peu de place dans l’atelier et bricoler à ses cotés, chacun concentré sur son “travail”.

J’ai une vie un peu compliquée, je suis séparée du papa de Philémon et mon nouveau compagnon vit en Allemagne, ce qui fait que je confie mon garçon à son papa environ 8 jours par mois pendant lesquels je vis en Allemagne vivre ma vie de femme. »

Miss Clara - The French Muse

One of the wonderful creatures Claire has created for her son Philemon

Where is your favourite place to source materials?

“I live in Bordeaux and my greatest pleasure is to go to the flea markets with my friend”

«Je vis à Bordeaux et mon grand plaisir est d’aller au marché aux puces avec mon ami »


How do you sell your creations?

“For a little over a year I am selling my work online and many thanks to Facebook my clientele has grown considerably. I don’t have a true boutique in the sense of the word but I am lucky that as soon as I show my work either on my blog or on my facebook page – it is quickly sold.”

«Depuis un peu plus d’un an je vend grace à internet, et je dois dire que grace à FaceBook mon public c’est élargi. Je n’ai pas de véritable site marchand, mais je montre mon travail sur mon blog et facebook »


Short Stories of La Maison, the house of Miss Clara, Photo: Dieter Krehbiel

Many thanks to Dieter Krehbiel for his beautiful photographs which accompany this portrait of Claire Guiral – follow his beautiful portfolio here on Tumblr

Miss Clara Dieter Krehbiel, Les Petits Bonheurs portrait The French Muse

Short Stories of La Maison, the house of Miss Clara, Photo: Dieter Krehbiel

 You can read more about Claire here on Emag deco

I’ll leave you with these two magical words that I discovered via Miss Clara which for me are just perfect to describe her magic. Whisper them to yourself, enjoy how they roll around on the tongue, delicious old world French and the embodiment of her work. Something simple or of little value that is transformed into utterly enchanting creations.

«falbalas & fanfreluches»

Les Petits Bonheurs – Lucie de Syracuse

Les Petits Bonheurs series is back and I am excited to introduce you to this weeks artist, Lucie de Syracuse, whose work I discovered when I visited the wonderful Avignon boutique, Les Plumes de Paon.

I am always drawn to the globe de mariages (and funeraille) which you see less and less often at the brocante so I naturally gravitated to Lucies work when I visited Les Plumes de Paon in Avignon. But it is only on closer inspection that you see that these are not your typical globes and I found myself chuckling into the convex glass of her work. Wickedly dark, humourous, intelligent and with a wonderful combination of flea market finds and found objects – I knew I had to reach out and find out more about the maker.

Before you begin….I do recommend that you press play. Lucie sent me one of her own music compositions, Berlin, and I have been playing it on loop. I am listening to it now as I create her portrait and I think it is just a perfect accompaniment to her answers.


montage Lucie de Syracuse 2

Lucie de Syracuse was born in 1981. She initially studied contemporary literature and developed a particular fondness for the 19th century literature of Gerard de Nerval and Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, whose work often speaks of rebellion and ecstasy. Through her studies she discovered the world of romantic literature, books adorned with grotesque and fantastical drawings from such rare illustrators as Johannot and Nanteuil and these works continue to inspire her art work today.

Lucie is a passionate flea market truffler. She rummages in basements, attics, antiques markets and junk shops where she is drawn to all the items seemingly unwanted, and found unworthy of the traditional antiquaire. In particular, Lucie is drawn to broken, bizarre toys, dried flowers and ephemera from the past that comes together to create her unusual work.

She builds – in her own words “inside of bulging glass frames, poetically strange pieces. A strange familiar, map of a forgotten journey, one which puts the eye in the middle of a fantastical game. Frames where unsettling, dark powers are at work; where fragments and broken pieces aim to question the splitting of our thought, of our memory. Frames where the sublime and the grotesque meet up in all the spaces left open to imagination.”


About her path to becoming the artist she is today:

“I’ve never been to art school, I studied French literature for six years at University, with a focus on black romantism and its many influences on 19th century painters, illustrators and etchers. I was been hugely in inspired by the symbolists painters such as Gustave Moreau and his tatooed Salomé, true figure of the femme fatale, and the pre-raphaelites, especially John Waterhouse. The emotion, the intriguing beauty of these women overwhelmed me.

I have always loved drawing and sketching in order to memorise and through my studies I learnt the skill of observing.”

amour vaudou

“It was while studying the writing of Gerard de Nerval, Charles Nodier and ETA Hoffmann that I found out about Tony Johannot and Celestin Nauteuil’s work, those two illustrators produced drawings for many of  the 19th century authors both French and foreign. One particular illustrator who hugely inspires me is Johannot, and his work on the first French translation of ‘The Tales of Hoffman’. It’s fascinating because he had both a very ‘classical’ pen and one for the grotesque as well, a bit like in the Goya’s Caprices.

Nauteuil’s work borrows from the fantasy world, haunted by images of witches, owls, enchanted vegetation, gracious figures and grotesques masks. It’s rather like a comic book illustration, where each of his drawings is separated not by straight lines but by a multitude of twigs which grow around each of them.”

Deliquescente Feminite

On her love for antique, vintage and found objects:

“I’ve always had a taste for vintage clothes, old radios, and old bands since I was thirteen years old. I used to keep everything I found in the street, from vintage psychedelic suitcases to sailors pictures, books, vinyl records, pieces of fabric. I also kept little hideous vitrines where I created little vignettes using my treasures.

I was really made aware of my collecting habits about 5 years ago, at the time I was living in the heart of the St Michel area where every morning around 6am, I would head out to gather objects at the flea market. When I later moved house – it was then that I really started to work with all these found objects.”

lucie globe

Do you remember the first item you found at the flea market that you really fell hard for?

“Yes, I was in the Lot-et-Garonne, and I bought a very odd object, I had taken it in my hands, was about to put it back and walk off but this tiny “globe”, by that I mean a domed-glass-frame, stayed in the palm of my hand, I was fascinated. Inside I could see some moss, a post card of Lourdes, the back of the frame was all crinkled and sodden. It was 6 years ago, I kept it for a year before opening it. Another find that I still remember clearly was a very damaged painting of Salomé holding the head of St Jean Baptiste’s in his hands.

There’s a painting picturing two women on a river bank, there’s a child and his dog, far off are the fishermen on their frail boats, everywhere are the trees, lots of vegetation and a monument with an unreadable latin mark. I get caught by the colour harmony, the blue, the old pink, the green and the shining light.”

montage Lucie de Syracuse 1

Is there anything that you just can’t imagine parting with, a piece of jewellery, a painting, a photograph, a piece of antique textile or a special globe?

“I actually keep two of my very first “globe” creations, they were made straight at the very begining. I dont want to let them go because they are the witnesses of the begining of my work .

work 1

Where Lucie does her making:

“I don’t have a workshop, in the true meaning of a dedicated room for work, I work in my living-room which after all the space my collections take up – doesn’t leave much room for a living-room.”

lucie de syracuse atelier

“I have objects exposed on shelves, in little ‘vitrines’ or displays or hanging on the walls, in drawers, which I actually tend to forget when they’re in drawers, basically they’re all around me.”

photoatelier1 sml

On her creative process:

“While gathering pieces , I don’t look for a special theme because you never find what you’re looking for, the objects find me, I join the dots later, at the workshop.”

lucie de syracuse atelier 2

“Sometimes, I start to work straight away with some pieces, others I keep two – three years before starting anything.”

Le Valls des Roms

Chez Lucie – At home with Lucie:

“The place I am happiest is always when I am in my living-room/workshop, painting, deep into music, otherwise under my sheets where I like to doze.”

detail tete en cours de réalisation

“My favourite spot is the table in front of my living-room window, a space full of light and open to the banana trees of the garden, the cat often keeps me company there.”


“As I was studying I started collecting antique books from the 19th century with beautiful etchings and lovely bindings, it’s still a great aesthetic pleasure to leaf through them, they are the secret asylum of my imagination.”

serie Holy Mother of freaks

On what inspires her:

Writers, musicians and artists including: Christian Bobin, Frédéric Clément, Félicien Rhops, Fernand Khnopff, Aubrey Beardsley, Gustav Adolph Mossa, Arthur Rackham, Niki de St Phalle, Odilon Redon, Magritte, Ernest Pignon Ernest, Tinguely, Boltanski, Chagall, Björk, Blur, T-Rex,The Kinks, Elliot Smith, Julien Pras, Bigott, Leon Newars and the Ghost Band, the Black Keys…

I often listen to music while working.


On creative block and working through it:

“When I stumble across something , I play with my cat, I play the piano, I do something else and then I get back at it. Usually it works.”

On running a creative business:

“I’d rather collect from flea-markets, yard-sales, and antiques fairs. Strolling and looking is a very important part of the process. This is where my work take roots.

I sell my work through the artshows I attend to throughout the year. Lately I had an exhibition at the Musée de la Création Franche, in Bègles. I also sell online, and of course I have a few pieces in a shop in Avignon called « Les Plumes du Paon ».

You can visit Lucies website here and her facebook page here 


Lucie de Syracuse

One of the wonderful elements of living in Lacoste is the happy occasion when my path crosses that of a talented art student from Savannah College of Art & Design (who study for eight weeks at a time here as part of the SCAD study abroad programme). One of the very first students I met when I moved here was the beautiful (inside and out) photography and writing major Aubrey Allison.

In the winter of 2011, I had created my very first teeny tiny collection of ribbon cuffs using the first ribbons that had been given to me by my husbands grandmother. Each sumptious morsel of cut velvet 1880s silk ribbon, no larger than 20cm of each design, was just enough to create a bracelet and no more.


ribbon 6

When I initially received these ribbons, I didn’t really know how I was going to transform them into jewellery, just on their own they were magnificent, they didn’t need to be embellished  and yet I couldn’t bear the idea of them lingering in a dark box gathering dust.

I had a mission – I had to create with them and make them be worn and loved again.

I’ve made jewellery since I was 9.5 years old, but had never worked with textiles before, never mind 120 year old ribbons.  It was a challenge, especially trying not to destroy antique ribbons in the process – eek! but isn’t that what makes life interesting, the constant learning, making mistakes and finding your way?

ribbon 4

Months of trial and error later, I finally finished my first collection and felt ready to open my etsy shop but taking product photographs was something I lacked the confidence to do myself. So I reached out to SCAD Lacoste and asked if any of their students might be interested in helping shoot the first collection and in late October, just as Autumn arrived, the wonderful Aubrey answered my prayers.

aix en provence

Aubrey arrived down to my humble studio space and she listened to my story, calm, generous and giving.

I should have known by the red ribbons laced into her boots, this was my kind of girl.

She took my work and the stories of silk into her heart and she shot the most incredible photographs of my jewellery.

aubrey montage 800

I always said she ruined me for ever and ever. No-one else would ever get me like she did and translate it onto a photograph.

ribbon 3

As a small gift of thanks I put together a little package of our family ribbons.

A few weeks later, I went up to see her end of term exhibition and was shocked, she had incorporated our family ribbons into the most beautiful collages. Each ribbon accompanied a photograph she had shot during her eight week term in France.

They were so beautiful, moving, personal and intimate. She had given me an even bigger gift using the ribbons I had entrusted to her.


ribbon 5

I thought of her work recently and felt it needed to be shared here.

ribbon 2

If you would like to see the full series and her other wonderful work you can visit her personal website here


In 2012, a few months shy of welcoming Charlotte into the world, my friend Corey Amaro wrote a lovely piece about Rubanesque on her blog, Tongue in Cheek and all of a sudden I started to recieve messages from women from all around the world. Words of encouragement and support, shared tales of antique textiles and their love for France.

One note in particular stood out.

Claire Lee, from San Francisco, wrote that she had been following my blog and wanted to send me some music inspired by my blog and my creations…I blinked madly at my screen wondering if I was reading correctly. A few days later, I recieved a beautiful package from her. Everything about the gift was magic, from the envelope, to her beautiful curving handwriting, the unique handmade paper ephemera cd sleeve and lovingly selected tunes contained within.

Here was someone who I had never met, reaching out, sharing her wonderful gift to nourish and encourage me.

Since then, whenever I see one of her handmade envelopes in the letterbox my heart swells with anticipation.

These gifts have arrived at moments when I needed a lift, be it from sleep deprivation or a crisis of creative confidence. I feel like part of her is with me when I listen to her music in the car, while out walking, in the atelier.

I don’t think I know anyone with such eclectic taste and knowledge of music and I asked Claire recently if she would talk a little bit about her intuitive creativity here. To let us into this secret gift of hers. How is it that she knows exactly what a person needs (despite 6000 miles seperating us) and then to translate this into a personal soundtrack.

Painting with Sound – as Claire describes it, and it is the perfect description.   I hope you enjoy learning more about this beautiful person and I’ve shared her gift of music here below.

Evernote Camera Roll 20141227 205724A selection of images from Claires beautiful Paris instagram gallery


 “I have walked through many lives, some of them my own.”

This line from the poet Stanley Kunitz resonates for me each time I reach into one of my collections.

I grew up in San Francisco. I studied art history and design at the University of California in Berkeley and traveled a lot in my younger days. My father worked for an airline and family members were allowed to travel anywhere on the world-wide routes on a stand-by basis. I went around the world at least twice, stopping in Europe, India, Nepal, Japan, Hong Kong and China. I lived in Paris for 17 years and during that time traveled to Guatemala, Columbia, Mexico, Turkey,  Tunisia, Morocco, Afghanistan, Egypt and the French Antilles. My accumulations reflect those interests…textiles, books, antiques, postcards, ephemera, songs, vases, ceramics, plants, yarn…

My husband and I have made our home in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 28 years now.  Together we have raised five children in a blended family. They are now all grown, and my husband and I are retired. We spend time in Paris at least once or twice a year.”

Ruth: When are you happiest?

“I am an artist and a maker. I am happiest when I work with my hands, be it drawing, collage, knitting, gardening, cooking, floristry, sewing. I have several art tables and this is part of my favorite one. It is in the kitchen, my favorite room in the house. Like Maira Kalman who I greatly admire, I feel life is better with snacks. I love a cup of tea nearby.”

Claires creative space in the day time
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…and at night…her preferred time to work on my projects.
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Ruth: I was just playing your album “4am with Louis & Charlotte”  for friends and telling them about this incredible person who sends me music. How the energy and creativity that goes into choosing the music and then making the album is so intuitive. Can you tell me about how you go about creating your musical gifts?

“I first began putting mixes together for people rather than sending them cards. I think about the person, her work, interests and what might be going on in her life. I then look for possible musical matches. It’s like painting with sound. Over the years I have collected music of a wide range of genres, enough to listen non-stop, day and night for over a month…folk, country, bluegrass, blues, jazz, R&B, rock, alternative, soul, reggae, world, jazz, classical, opera, contemporary, electronic.

I made the “4am” compilation for you after reading your blog posts about sleep being hard to come by after the birth of Charlotte. I wanted to express my appreciation for the daily effort you make to have a creative life while raising two very young children.

4am with Louis & Charlotte from anon-505174477 on 8tracks Radio.

Ruth: What inspires you?

“For my music compilations, I am inspired by people, places, events. I made a music mix I called “Red, White and Blue” when President Obama won the 2008 election. I play it still. It has Otis Redding’s “A Change is Gonna Come”, Mavis Staples’ “Turn Me Around”, Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane”, Odetta’s “Midnight Special”, Nina Simone’s “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Suite”, U2’s “Pride”…among other songs.

I also draw inspiration from compilations posted on the Internet and from film soundtracks. Right now, I like listening to Soundcloud.com/secousse. Film soundtracks I have particularly liked are  “Water”, “Lost in Translation”, “Marie Antoinette”, “Comme Une Image”, “Pina”, “La Grande Bellezza”.

On a compilation, I can spend anywhere from several hours at a stretch to bits of time over days or even months.  I feel as if I am sitting at a piano, the keys being hundreds of pieces of music. It is a spacious and many colored medium, expressive of states of soul.

Ruth: Can you talk a little about your collection of paper and ephemera?

“I have always collected paper for the beauty of the substance, the surface pattern or the images. I have boxes of postcards collected over decades. I have made notebooks, greeting cards, bookmarks and ornaments as gifts. More recently, I began collaging to create CD covers for my gift soundtracks.

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 “I find the collage process freeing and relaxing. Things go together or they don’t. Associations lead to other “finds”. I set out with intent but no particular expectation. I like to reflect the content of the soundtrack. Here are some of my CD covers:”

Evernote Camera Roll 20141223 180446“Here are the front and back of a cover for a classical music mix I just made for a very close friend of mine.”

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Ruth: Do you have a favorite source for your materials?

“Art magazines, museum publications and promotional materials for art exhibits are probably my favorites. Friends and family have also given me interesting paper and even vintage ephemera. Corey Amaro has kindly gifted me French material from her Tongue in Cheek brocante. I love the vintage treasures you sent me recently!”

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Ruth: Do you have other collections you would be willing to share?

“From a month-long trip to Afghanistan in the ’70’s before the Soviet war in 1979 and long before the present one began in 2001, I have some much treasured objects. They are eloquent of the beautiful places I visited and the deeply hospitable people I crossed paths with. I cannot pick these up without great sadness over these devastating decades of war. These small intricately worked purses are from the ancient covered market that once existed in Mazar-I-Sharif, none more than 4 inches in length by 3 inches in width. Have I saved these items from destruction? It is a minor comfort to think so.”

Evernote Camera Roll 20141223 183432“”More currently I have been collecting small vases…from brocante, thrift stores, sidewalk sales, gifts, potters’ studios. I love flowers and have done arrangements for a number of weddings of friends and acquaintances. I started out looking for small containers to put the less than perfect or broken flowers in. At this point, I have a growing population of small vases and here are just some of them.”

Evernote Camera Roll 20141223 183933Evernote Camera Roll 20141223 185329Ruth: Is there anything you cannot part with?

“Well, eventually one parts with everything and at this stage of my life, I try to be more modest in my collecting. I have many things from France, both old and new. Here is one thing I have always really enjoyed: My “Plan de Paris A Vol d’Oiseau” dated 1959. It is a 5ft by 8ft map of the kind that used to hang in the Paris subways. I can see every street and building. Life before GPS. Here is a small corner of my map.”

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“Paris is a magical place for me and the subject of the collection I spend the most time on these days. By this, I mean the album of photographs I build daily on Instagram. My daughters had been urging me for years to post on IG. I became an Instagramer in April 2014 as a way to show my children, friends and family why Paris has such a big place in my imagination and my life. I also post photos of the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California, but most are of Paris. Over a thousand images later, my followers assume I live in Paris. I guess I do in my soul. I very much appreciate sharing this love of place on Instagram. You can find me @kclrparis”

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 Much love to my wonderful friend!



Les Petits Bonheurs series is back for 2015 and appropriately this weeks artist, Christine Kelly of ‘Gentlework‘, is someone who I discovered thanks to Johanna Flanagan of The Pale Rook who I interviewed in November. What a wonderful gift it has been to meet so many wonderful makers, you are truly inspiring me.

I completly lost track of time the morning I stumbled into Christines blog, each image more beautiful than the next. Her handstitched treasures whisper to you, they soothe and comfort.

One image in particular touched me deeply, a photograph of antique jewel boxes inside which, Christine has hand stitched words of hope, “let go”; “have hope”, “courage dear heart”. She describes making “a collection of tiny tokens, to be called upon in times of need, slipped into a pocket, closing fingers around them, a comfort“.

I feel Christines work on a very personal level, it moves and nourishes me and right now, with events of recent days her work and stitched words have taken on a special importance.

I am so grateful to Christine for opening up her creative process and home here for Les Petits Bonheurs and know that you will enjoy discovering her work.

Image 1

“I’ve always loved vintage textiles and I suppose I’ve been collecting for about 20 years or so. I use them because I prefer them to ‘new’ fabrics. I like the fact that they have a narrative, they are often soft or faded from years of washing and handling or there may be a stain, a mend or a tear which hints at their former use. The use of these materials in my work, especially in more personal pieces, means that their story and my story become intertwined.”

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“I can get very attached to little scraps of fabric, even little plain pieces that may not seem very precious. I can’t remember the first piece of vintage textile that I fell in love with, and I get new favourites all the time, but one piece in particular is a small piece of broderie anglaise lace picked up at a Paris flea market, it’s old and hand worked with tiny pintucks along the bottom. It’s humble and stained and nothing special, but it has a little mend on it and it’s those tiny stitches that melt my heart….thinking how much it must have meant to someone for them to mend it with such care. I’ve used it in a piece of work, but it’s one I’m going to keep…”

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“I pick up vintage pieces from all sorts of places, but mainly local antique fairs, some of the stall holders know me now! I don’t buy online much as I like to see and handle things.

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When I buy vintage materials I don’t buy expensive or precious items, or anything too perfect. I’m often more attracted to something that’s a bit tatty or worn, also that way I don’t feel bad about cutting them up and re-using them.”

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“My work is characterised by it’s subtle colour palette and that’s what I’m drawn to when looking for materials to use. I like the gentle variations in tone that vintage linens and lace provide and exploit this in my work by patching together differing shades. I also like to use old mending threads to embroider with rather than modern embroidery silks as I prefer their soft and subtle colours. I especially look for interesting edges or details on textiles or bits of embroidery and lace with motifs that I can cut out and use for appliqué. I don’t set out to look for materials with a particular project in mind, rather I like things to just find me….”


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“In my workroom I’m surrounded by the materials I use and new acquisitions are kept out on display for some time before they are used, to be considered and to provoke thought. Seeing materials side by side often inspires me and happy accidents can happen through a combination of untidiness and serendipity.”

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“My favourite place to be is at my desk in my workroom, surrounded by all the things that inspire me and looking out onto trees, fields, sky and birds. I’m at my happiest when quietly hand stitching, listening to the radio or gentle music. In the past I worked predominantly with machine embroidery but now, stitching by hand has taken over. I find hand stitching more tactile and immediate, it also fits well with the vintage materials I use which have often been handled and hand stitched themselves over many hours, many years ago. The other thing about stitching by hand is that it can be very calming and meditative. I find stitching a great comfort in times of stress and some of the work I’ve made has been in direct response to difficult times in my life.”

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Do you have an absolute favourite material that you love working with?

 “I love using vintage buttons, especially really tiny mother of pearl ones that are quite hard to come by, but some of my favourite items to use have been some vintage bone buttons and some beautiful buff coloured heavy French linen, which is lovely to stitch into.”

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What is your background and how did you find your way as a textile artist?

 “I don’t have a formal education in textiles, I’ve taught myself and learned along the way over the years. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making things. I used to regret not having studied art or textiles, feeling that it put me at a disadvantage, but I don’t anymore. A lot of my work is very personal and draws on my experience of life and I don’t think I’d be making the work I do now without having been on a personal and creative journey.”

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“I’d always shoehorned my creativity around work but in 2005, myself and my husband took a ‘year out’ from full time work to concentrate on our creative selves, after the sale of a home and a business and a long period of stress. It was during this year, and having this time to devote to my art that marked a turning point in the work I was making, when lots of different elements came together, my ideas and experience, the vintage fabrics and ephemera I’d been collecting for so long and all of the creative skills I’d learned over the years. We rented a house in a rural location, the first time I’d experienced living in the countryside, something which was to have a profound effect on my work and my creative process. The house was called Trevethoe House and inspired a piece of work of the same name.”

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Who inspires you?

“Like most creative people, inspiration comes from everything and everywhere. The influence of nature is something that permeates a lot of my work. I live just next to woods and fields where I walk my dog each day and it’s often when I’m out walking that ideas come to me.”

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“There is also a connection for me between the peace and calm of experiencing nature and the contemplative aspect of slow hand stitching, the two seem to go hand in hand and this is reflected in my work. Inspiration often comes from the vintage textiles I find (a little detail may spark off an idea of where I want a piece of work to go) but mostly my work stems from personal experiences and my inner landscape, thoughts and emotional states. You asked whether I get creative block, and the answer is I don’t really. Quite the opposite, in terms of ideas I have a backlog of things I’m longing to make. Of course, sometimes, it’s harder to work at something than at other times, if you don’t feel so great or things aren’t really flowing or working out as you had planned them in your head. At times like this I try to just go with it and if all else fails, have a break, do something else and come back to it.”

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Is there anything that you can not imagine parting with?

“There are lots of things that are special to me but they are just things at the end of the day. I would struggle to part with some of my work, though. Stitching a piece of work by hand over many hours results in a real connection to the piece you are working on, often making a piece very difficult or impossible to part with (or to put a price on). Also, much of my work is inspired by my feelings and experiences, like a journal really, they contain a part of me, so it would be very hard to let them go.”

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I find your work so moving, especially the hope tokens in antique boxes and the fabric tokens where you have woven beautiful comforting words on inside. I understand that you create these not for sale but as personal talismans – could you talk about these pieces and their meaning for you?

“The use of stitched text plays quite a big role in my work. I keep a little notebook of words, phrases and quotes that are meaningful to me. I’m interested in the power of words, to comfort and inspire and remind us of things which are important. This is something I’ve explored in the form of portable little fabric tokens to act as reminders and tiny boxed stitcheries that can be kept in a pocket and looked at in times of need. I’ve made these pieces for myself over time in response to various emotional states, the act of making them is reassuring in itself and then you have them as a keepsake. I’d been reluctant to share personal items like this on my blog in the past, but when I did, particularly in the case of the fabric tokens, the response was overwhelming. I think people really connected with them, after all we all have difficult feelings to deal with from time to time, I just tend to deal with mine through stitch.”

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How do you sell your work?

“I sell my work mainly at fairs, exhibitions and at workshops I teach and occasionally to people who contact me directly. Generally, I prefer not to work to commission, which people find unusual. I have tried in the past but I find it stressful and it makes me feel constrained, and this takes some of the enjoyment out of creating and means I can’t really put my heart into it. My work means so much to me that I wouldn’t be happy to sell a piece that didn’t have my heart and soul in it.”

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Please visit her wonderful blog here  to view more of her work.


Oh the wonders of Instagram, one day you scroll down through your feed, fall down a wonderful rabbit hole of inspiration and come out the other end buzzing with the discovery of exciting talent. This is what happened when I discovered the work of Danish mixed media artist, Tina Jensen who creates under the name, Tiny Bear Studios

Tina loves to work with “everything worn and faded – vintage lace, rusty bits and pieces, vintage photo albums, old stuff with a history.”   I love how she combines all her finds, transforming the smallest, torn and discarded morsels of old textiles to create something that will be treasured and loved once more. I wanted to find out more about what how she brings her creations together and of course take a snoop in her studio to see what treasures it holds – the stacks of old books, albums and layers of antique textiles do not disappoint – I want to reach out and leaf through the books, touch the soft, timeworn stacks of lace… dive in with me and meet Tina!

Work-in-progress_5_1When did you start collecting?

“I’m not quite sure when it all started actually. I´ve always had a passion for the old and worn stuff and have spent lots of time at the flea markets. I´m drawn to the faded old worn look and to all things old. Vintage lace, old photos, old buttons and sewing suppliers, worn old paper, old books – you get the idea. I started buying these things thinking they could be used for something, not knowing what exactly. I just thought it was too pretty to be thrown out. Now I use all my finds in my creations and love the idea of giving old stuff a new life in a new way.”

flea4_1_1What was the first piece of history that made your heart sing?

“Small pieces of worn vintage lace – I loved the look. That was my first passion. Shortly after I started finding beautiful old worn books and couldn´t let them go. Old photo albums with faded photos inside too.

inprogress1Is there anything that you can not imagine parting with, a piece of jewellery, a painting, a photograph?

“Old photos from my own family – I need to keep them and some vintage textile pieces too. I´m having a hard time using stuff from my own family, but everything I find at fleas I use.”

flea11_1_1What do you look for when you are sourcing materials? Do you have a colour scheme in mind or is it random and it comes together back in the atelier?

“I look for old faded stuff. I fall for the stuff that no one wants. Books that are torn, fabric and lace with rusty marks, everything faded, worn and miserable – that´s for me. I don´t look for a specific color theme, but always ends up with dusty faded colors. There´s no bright colors in my studio.”

2How long do you ‘live’ with your finds before you start working with them?

“I buy the stuff when I see it, to make sure it’s going to be mine. Sometimes I know what I want to do with it and I start creating very shortly after bringing it home, but as often I have it for a very long time in my studio. I don´t always know what it’s for – it’s kind of difficult to explain, but I don’t go hunting for stuff for specific creations. I hunt for that special look/feel and later on I know what i’m going to use it for.”

1Where do you do your making?

“I have a tiny little room in our apartment that I use for my studio. I have all my supplies gathered here on open shelves. It inspires me to see all my stuff and that´s how new creations are born.”

studio3_3_1Who inspires you?

“I do have a few artists I have found online whose work inspires me, but most of my inspiration comes from the stuff I have in my studio and definitely from visiting flea markets, which I do almost every weekend during summer time.”

collage-book1_1_1selmabog1_1_1Do you listen to music when you work or do you prefer the quiet?

“Sometimes I listen to music and sometimes I prefer the quiet. Depending on what I´m working on.”

collagebook2Do you ever get creative block?

“It’s very rare that I get a creative block, but when it happens I take a break for a few days, go out on walks and then start organizing my studio. Going through stuff – cleaning out. And then the inspiration comes back. This would be my best advice. Don’t force it, let the mind flow and it will come back again.”

collagesWhere is your favourite place for sourcing materials?

“Flea markets – definitely”

collagebook2_2_1Where are you happiest?

“I’m happiest when I can get some creative time in my studio”

studio2_2_1Do you sell in any other way that on etsy/your blog? How has e-commerce and social media changed the way you do business ; the human experience of salons/markets vs. the International global marketplace of Etsy.

“I’m doing a Christmas Craft Fair here in Denmark once a year. I would love to do more, but we don’t have many options here. I would love to find a little gallery who would display my work.
Social media has changed my creative life. Being able to connect with mind liked people from all over the world and being able to sell my creations all over the world too – I wouldn’t change that for anything. That´s such a big part of my creative life.”

RIMG11248_1_1What is your favourite corner in your house?

“My work table in my studio”

studio4_4_1Do you have any collections you would like to share – vignette photographs?

“I’m not a collector as such, but have only collections of what I use in my creations”


You can visit Tinas beautiful blog to find out more about her world and her etsy shop is filled with wonders


Merci Tina!



yyOne of my most dog eared, overflowing with post-its, favourite creative books is Rejuvenating Jewels: New Designs from Vintage Treasures by Jeweler Amy Hanna. Its pages are filled with sumptious images, the most unexpected items are transformed into beautiful heirloom jewellery.  I have followed Amy over the years, admiring from a distance her wonderful way of combining old with new; her fantastic sense of colour and her love for the hunt, be it rummaging through flea markets or antique stores, it’s always an adventure to see one of her pieces coming together.

So I reached out to Amy, one of my jewelery making heroes and she generously agreed to share her creative process and her love of the hunt for Les Petits Bonheurs. I hope you enjoy discovering more about Amy as much as I have!


“I started collecting when I was a child. I have always had a fascination with history.” Amy Hanna


What was the first piece of textile that made your heart sing?

“When I was a little girl the house I lived in was built on top of a lot that use to have one of the oldest houses in town on it. The contents of the house are actually kept in our town museum. I use to dig around in the yard to try to find some kind of piece from the original home. One day I was so excited to find a piece of broken china you would have thought I had found a pot of gold. I guess I was always an old soul. While traveling I think Paris really blew my mind with all the attention to detail, the colors, the casual perfection of imperfection.

I fell in love with the grey beauty of it.”

handmade meritsIs there anything that you can not imagine parting with?

“There are a few pieces of jewelry that I can’t imagine parting with. One being my Great Grandmother’s rhinestone brooch of a crown that I treasure not because it is so valuable and beautiful but because I loved her so much. Whenever I see it, it reminds me of her long long hair that she always wore up in a bun and her warm sweet smile. I also treasure a small cameo of a man and a women that is actually a tiny music box.”

kjCan you talk to us a little about your creative process: how long do you live with your found treasures before you start working with them?

“Sometimes I find myself keeping certain pieces and then one day I feel like it is ok to let it go. There are a few pieces that I wish I would have kept.

One that comes to mind is a vintage French hand painted portrait of a white haired lady that was painted on to Mother of pearl. I sold the piece a very long time ago but her face was so dreamy I still think of her. But I can’t have everything and I want the pieces that I create to be loved as much as I Ioved putting them together and using unusual special things is what makes them treasured.”

1What do you look for when you are sourcing materials?

“I look for things that strike up curiosity in me. For example where did this come from, what was it used for how can I make the piece hold something or will it add humor.

I love dingy, sparkly, delicate, industrial, velvet, religious, souvenirs, mementos and playful things.

Although I am very excited to find a very old locket containing photos of a special someone inside it also makes me sad to think someone meant so much to someone at one time and somewhere this special memento got left to the world but how wonderful that someone else can appreciate and enjoy the captured moment in time.”

rezDo you listen to music while you work or do you prefer to create without distractions?

“Funny but I am usually in silence when I work. I like to be open to hearing my mind talk to me. When I do listen to music for some reason I find myself listening to the Cure, their music makes my mind dance around with crazy ideas which makes me more creative.”

Where is your favourite place for sourcing materials?

“I try to pick up interesting pieces from all over the place. I love to hunt for things while traveling to different countries, flea markets are the best.”

small cameo music box

“I’m always excited to find a good antique store and I love to support other etsy shops as well. There are so many interesting things you can find on line.”


How and where do you sell your finished creations?

“I have had my things in upscale boutiques and I sell on etsy. I also sell while teaching classes. It sometimes blows my mind to think that I have sold pieces that I have made to people around the world.”


“I feel very blessed to have been given such wonderful opportunities to teach classes and sell my pieces. I never take that for-granted it is a true gift to be able to share your passion with other women. ”


You can read more about Amys work and inspiration on her wonderful blog


And see more of her beautiful jewels in her Etsy Shop

Les Petits Bonheurs – Lucie Tales

“Once upon a time a little girl was crying and as her tears fell they turned into precious stones.?”

Welcome to the wonderful world of Lucie Tales, where French jeweller Lucie, weaves wondrous tales through her jewelery creations from found objects.  I love how she describes the “highly emotional experience” of discovering these found treasures and how she is drawn to the link between “past and present, between craftsmanship and the story of an era”. I also adore how she disagrees with collecting for the sake of collecting, but to strive to transform and make these old things live and be loved again.

Her pieces are so unique, she majestically transforms the old and “used, tumbled by the sea, painted, rusted, scratched” into contemporary jewellery and yet always retains the beautiful soul of the piece, a “trace from their previous lives”.

I’ve been a loyal reader of her beautiful blog for many years and more recently I have been following the creation of her studio with much excitement (and perhaps the tiniest sliver of envy let’s be honest) so I’m really happy to share Lucie and her work today and to give you a glimpse into her world, her creative process and her studio in the Loire region of France.
11An upcycled aluminum and antique rhinestones necklace

When did you start collecting?

“I might say it started as a little girl. I couldn’t return home without something I had picked up along the way to school : a nice pebble, a beautiful leaf or seed. Pebbles were the most cherished treasures and my mother was careful emptying my pockets before putting my clothes in the washing machine.”


“I don’t consider myself as a true collector. When I go to the flea market I don’t look for something special to complete my collections. My purchases are spontaneous and made on the spot, I don’t track down a particular item, I love hasard. And the worth of an object is so subjective! I remember the day I found a box full of new old stock brass eyelets, it was like I struck gold!!! I saw all the possibilities, the variations it would enable me to design.

For me, collections are kind of dead things, objects lined up in a show case are crying to get out. I don’t like objects sitting on a shelf without any use. They seem dead, abandoned and forgotten, they have lost their worth. I think my taste for repurposing comes from there, I want to give things a second life, rescue them from death.”


Is there anything that you can not imagine parting with?

“I think that stories, tales are what make my heart sing. My mother used to tell me about the gorgeous treasures her grand-mother Blanche had stored in trunks in the attic where my mother as a child would play. Clothes, feathers, hats, gloves, exquisite laces, jewelry, beaded accessories, ivory and silver handles… These trunks have disappeared in a bonfire in 1950s made by an unscrupulous stepdaughter for which all these things were a heap of rubbish. All that escaped are some Bon Marché and Galeries Lafayette 1920s catalogues that I still have. From time to time I sell extra supplies from my flea market visits, but these 1920s catalogues I will never part from.”


On her creative process:

“The elements I bring back from flea markets can sit for several months or even years in my studio before they find their place in a jewelry composition. When I’m in love with something, I have to look at it often, to feast over it and even if I try I can’t do anything with it because I’m overwhelmed by its beauty. So I admire it until I come full of it, then I can play and work with it. Or sometimes I decide to include it in a piece that I will keep for myself but then it always end that during the process I come to terms with it and then I can sell it.

One important thing for me is to avoid making something which would have the look of a vintage jewelry. I don’t make fakes or vintage style jewelry. It must have and show a contemporary twist.  I often transform a finding or hammer a part or add an element entirely made from scratch or add some contemporary artisan made parts for balance .

I store my supplies in small storage boxes on the wall but I usually work elbows deep in them all over my table and trays. I always work on different projects at the same time. Some assemblages are waiting on a tray because they’re not ”right” yet. The process is a continuous one, I may complete a piece while walking on the beach or having my coffee, or best of times, daydreaming.”


  Vintage burnishers tools on my new soldering table

“Having worked several years in open space offices, it is very important for me to have my own space, I need to be in my bubble, completely isolated from the outer world. In the different flats we have rented, I always had a room of my own for my different creative urges. When we bought our house, I invested a small part of the library that we parted with an antique reclaimed wooden panel, it is situated in the heart of the house and felt like a cocoon. But it is rather small and moreover it is dark. We’re renovating slowly our 1920s house and there was a kind of office separated from the house very damp and containing a disused water tank in its wall. When I received from my father, my grand-parents’ inheritance, we decided to make my dream studio come true and transformed this damp room into an airy atelier overlooking the garden. That what we’ve been working on for more than a year now. First the design and then the heavy work.”


“Just the other day, we were fitting the last missing piece of the jigsaw : an antique metallic atelier door with glass panels. Most of my furniture in my atelier is vintage. Except the metallic storage boxes. Most of my tools are vintage too! Reclaiming, repurposing is a way of life for me and has always been. As a teenager and long before it was trending, I was scouring flea markets and second-hand shops to dress myself and buy some furniture. Not for lack of money, even if it does matter, but because I’ve never seen the point in buying something new, something soul-less that everybody can have, when I can dig some treasures of much better quality both in material and craft to which I give a new life.”


On inspiration:

“I graduated in Arts studies and definitely, my imagination is built on all the works of art I’ve seen and studied. Then I’ve worked in a Contemporary Art Center so I had the opportunity to work with several talented artists, and the chance to have a glimpse of their own world. .

I’m living in a world of images, from what I access via the Internet to my everyday environment. I’m lucky to live in a beautiful and varied area, my everyday walks lead me on the sea shore and Loire estuary. I live in an industrial town which is also an harbour. I really have a thing for industrial buildings and devices.

My father was a botanist and designed his own garden and I did design my own small garden as well which is a source of everyday inspiration. All this is my soul food.

Concerning jewellery I admire Renaissance and Art Nouveau jewellery, English Victorian jewelry, Tribal jewellery and Modern Jewellery and most of all the work of Alexander Calder in which the structure is everything.”

 12Earrings with tiny vintage matte glass seed beads and glass daggers


Do you listen to music when you work or do you prefer quiet?

“I usually work in silence so I can stay tuned with my inner self. I listen to music when I’m packaging my orders, then I need to keep a certain rhythm so I found music is helping a lot in order to be fast and efficient.”

5Do you ever get creative block?

“Each time it happens, it is always difficult to deal with my frustration. I’ve found that the best way is to let it go. So I start working on something else, taking pictures of the finished pieces or list an item in my Etsy shop. Some other time, I need to get out of the atelier, go for a walk, go to see beautiful things, visit an exhibition, go to the movies or when I’ve a creative block because I’m tired, the best way is to have a rest, reading but still in the atelier so when I look up and see the work in progress I realize that I see it differently and I can go on. This is my favorite corner in my house!”

il_570xN.615874881_gb2iBlue drop earrings with artisan porcelain drops,  brass ring vintage brass hoops

I love reading about your vide grenier finds on your blog and then seeing how you transform them, where is your favourite place  for sourcing materials?

“I have some favorite dealers online but I prefer to scour flea markets and vide-greniers in my local area. The wonderful pleasure of the hunt, to discover a box full of knick-knacks pêle-mêle and at the bottom finding a full card of Victorian buttons!”

10Where are you happiest?

“In my new atelier of course, I still can’t realize it’s there! It’’s not ready yet, I still have to find the right place for all my stuff, to make this new place really mine. I’ve planned a cosy corner where to I want to put my sofa where I read, but it need times to hang my frames and mirrors. This new place is a dream, it overlooks my little garden, with big windows offering some new points of view. And the amount of light is mesmerizing!

It’s situation with its own door over the garden will allow me to receive visitors and customers more easily. Before, I did receive visitors in the kitchen and display my jewelry over the mantelpiece, not very professional.”


If you weren’t creating jewellery what might you be doing?

“Something, that’s for sure, I’m definitely a maker! Before jewelry, I had a go at sewing and the last recent years I’m always knitting something”

troisquartAntique pewter rank button

You can visit Lucies website, read about her process on her blog and buy her beautiful jewellery on etsy.

This weeks muse, Johanna Flanagan of The Pale Rook is a very special textile artist whose work I discovered via Mister Finch. He shared a delicious photograph of one of Johannas unique doll creations.

Ever since I have been utterly hypnotised by her exquisite, magical, soulful creatures – truly unlike anything you have ever seen and I really wanted to share her work and story here.

Enjoy discovering the world of The Pale Rook!

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The first piece of textile that made her heart soar….

“The first piece of fabric that I remember being fascinated by was a small, woven indigo bag, no bigger than a coin purse that my aunt gave me to hold one day at an auction house. I couldn’t have been more than four or maybe five years old. I traced the threads with my fingers, trying to follow a single one up and down and over and under the warp. I wasn’t happy just to use it or look at it, I wanted to know how it had become what it was. I held it all the way home in the car and I remember someone laughing at me for staring so hard at that little blue bag. I remember that same fascination with threads and patterns throughout my childhood. I would stare at the swirls and dashes on my duvet cover and matching curtains, working out the pattern repeat. Lace socks and tights were a whole world of twists and tucks and spaces that could hold my attention for hours. I don’t remember being attracted to the colours and patterns as such, it was always the story behind the cloth. I needed to work out how it had been constructed. When I was seven I found a ball of dark red yarn and worked out a way to loop and hook it around my fingers to make chains. It turns out what I was actually doing was crochet, but it took another twenty years for me to realise it. I covered the house and garden in crochet chains until I ran out of yarn, again it wasn’t the end result that I was interested in, I just wanted to keep transforming the yarn into something else.”

IMG_5343 smlOn parting with her creations:

“I find it easier to part with my work than a lot of people expect, because I am still more attached to the process of making the work than the work itself. Again, it’s the construction, the creation of something from nothing that fascinates me rather than having something to keep.   I own just a few pieces of my work and all of them were firsts of some kind of another. There are very few things I could not imagine being parted from. I almost always wear a silver ankh necklace that I was given for my nineteenth birthday. I couldn’t imagine ever parting with that. It’s battered and scratched but it’s so precious to me. In fact, most of things I could not let go of are pieces of jewellery that have a connection to someone important to me.   I love my home made quilts, because each one has been made from old clothes and fabrics that have their own story. Apart from these though, I don’t think there is anything I couldn’t part with for the right reason at the right time. That said, I do hold on to fabrics and threads for a very long time, some have been on my shelves for close to twenty years, but there are none that I could never part with, just some that will not be parted with until absolutely the right project comes to mind.”

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On her creative process:

“I honestly can’t remember the last time I went out specifically to buy threads or fabrics, they tend to just show up in charity shops or markets or other peoples’ attics. The base of my work is usually very plain cotton, linen and silk. I do buy unused calico and white thread from regular fabric stores but the rest all just turn up in one way or another or have been given to me.   When I do come across fabrics and threads at markets or in charity shops I only buy very specific things. I have a deep aversion to all things synthetic. The texture of polyester and nylon really bothers me, and I find that the colours just don’t have the same quality as natural fibres.   I’m very sensitive to the feel of fabric and yarn on my skin and I just can’t stand sewing unnatural fabrics so I only usually work with natural fibres and dyes. I am particularly drawn to fabrics and trims from the 18th Century and the 1930s, although the 18th Century ones are pretty much impossible to get hold of! Most of my textile supplies are from the 1880s to the 1930s. I think what fascinates me now is what fascinated me as a child – the process of construction, how each thread weaves or wraps around another, and I love to look at the back of the work, where you can see the knots and tucks and all the signs that this was really made by a human being who lived in another time and place.”

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“My colour palette tends to come from the colours I can make from plants, nuts and berries – greens, oranges, pinks and browns with the odd sky blue. Very occasionally I get a real hankering for red silk. I don’t know where it comes from or what triggers it, but I swing from natural, muted colours to scarlet every so often.”

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“My alpaca fleece comes from my friend’s farm in Sigdal in Norway. She has a flock of around fifty animals, all of them have names and I even have my own little alpaca god daughter called Caroline, she’s black with little white toes. I love knowing where the fleece has come from and that the animals are so well taken care of.”


“The same applies to my dyes. I love to know what part of the forest they came from or what tree they fell off of. Each dye batch is different so the result can be unpredictable. That’s a really important part of my process though as I am so so precise with so much of my work, I need an element of it that I don’t have full control over. My favourite dye is nettle. There are so many beautiful shades of green and nettles from different parts of the forest have different shades. Some are almost blue while others are warm and golden. I love that once I have dipped a doll in the dye bath, the dye takes over some of the design decisions for me.”

IMG_4675(1) smlOn inspiration…

I find that I am most inspired by the forest – the colours, changes, textures, sounds. I’m always collecting nuts and leaves and twigs and things and they tend to build up to a colour and texture palette that will then appear in a doll.   I am happiest when I’m near trees and water. I never feel alone in a forest, there is always so much life around. I used to be terrified of snakes and then just a few months ago, I was walking along a trail with my greyhound and this huge long black snake crossed the path in front of me, right in front of my feet. She was so languid and beautiful and so much a part of the place that I completely lost my life long fear of snakes. I’m using black silk a lot more in my work now and I think it’s probably because of seeing that snake in the woods.

IMG_4687(1) smlIn the studio:

“My studio wall is covered in bits of fabric, fleece, yarn, twigs, lichen and moss rather than images. I rarely plan a colour or texture palette, they tend to evolve as I sew. The fact that the dolls are characters who develop as they are made is a real motivator to keep working on them until they are finished. Just the slightest change in the shape of a doll’s nose or hands can alter her whole look, which then changes the colours and textures I’m drawn to for the rest of her. One of the things I love about hand sewing is how slow and steady it can be, you have so much time to get to know the piece you’re working on that you can steadily work out where it wants to go.   It’s usually only when a piece of work is finished that I can follow the thread back to what inspired it in the first place.”

IMG_4693(2) smlOn her creative process:

“I tend to become completely engrossed in a piece then there is usually a day or two after it’s finished when I decide that there is no way at all that this one is going to be sold, then very quickly it stops being mine and it comes time for it to move on to somewhere else. I love that once my work goes to it’s new home, it begins a whole new story that has nothing whatsoever to do with me. There is always a moment when I wrap the work in tissue before packing it to send it off to it’s new home where I think about how much work and time and dedication has been put into making it, but by that point it really doesn’t feel like it belongs to me anymore.”

IMG_4926(1) smlOn her favourite places…

“My favourite place in the house is usually the staircase. I tend to plonk myself down on the stairs when I need to think. I’ve always been a fan of in-between places that are neither one place or the other. I kind of feel the same way about airports. I also love museums. I work with Glasgow’s museums as a costume designer and textile tutor. All of my work with the museums has to connect with something within their collections, the costumes are maybe a recreation of an outfit in a painting or a replica of a piece in the collection, once I even had the unbelievable privilege of working directly from five thousand year old Egyptian artefacts from the British Museum! I felt like Indiana Jones, although I had a massive security guard with me the whole time, just in case. I teach museum visitors the techniques that have been used to create some of the textile pieces within the collections – embroidery, sewing, toy making, and it is incredibly rewarding. The visitors don’t just view at a piece in the collection – they leave the museum knowing how to make it themselves. It gives them a direct connection to the piece and the people who made it. Every time I go to work at the museums I have to pinch myself. I suppose a museum is an in-between place too.”

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“I am incredibly lucky to have a dedicated work room. It’s tiny but has lots of cupboards and a window looking out on to the garden. In the past my work space has sometimes been nothing more than a box, a note book, or a chair or a corner. As long as it is kept specifically and solely for the purpose of making your work, then I think it can do the job just as well as anywhere else. I prefer to work in small places with lots of shelves and drawers to keep things in. I don’t think my desk has ever been tidy, it’s buried in about 10 centimetres of fabric, thread, fleece and who knows what else. I have to keep other artist’s work to a minimum on my walls as it just takes over my thinking and without knowing it I end up absorbing it and copying it, but I do have a couple of pieces of work that have been given to me and a few antique postcards. There are stacks of seashells and jars of acorns and all sorts of bits that I’ve picked up. It’s hard to tell if my desk looks the way it does because of the work I make on it or if its’ the other way around.   Sometimes I’ll see a bit of something sitting on top of a piece of something else and decide that it needs to become a bird or a doll or a fish.  ”

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“I am very fussy about the music I play in my little studio, I love listening to movie soundtracks, my two favourites are Labyrinth and Twin Peaks. Kate Bush, David Bowie, The Cocteau Twins, Anthony and Johnsons all get played regularly too. I get a bit lost in what I’m doing if I don’t have music playing and have a habit of losing track of time, then realising that it’s two hours after I said I’d be somewhere else. If things ever start to feel stale or dull, I listen to some Amanda Palmer or Har Mar Superstar to wake me up a bit.”

IMG_5368 smlOn working through creative block:

“The only solution I have for creative block is to keep a space and keep showing up. Even if you end up sitting in your chair screwing up crappy drawings and tearing your hair out, keep showing up. I used to get crippling creative block, which, in my experience is usually the result of two things – focusing too much on what other people are doing and achieving, or worrying too much about other peoples expectations of you. I find that creative block has little to do with a lack of ideas and more to do with too much noise and clutter in your head.   The great thing about craft is that if you’re blocked creatively, you can spend your time learning something practical and technical.   Get online, find a tutorial on youtube or where ever and just show up and do something. Get into the habit of showing up and eventually you’ll realise that you’re doing it for yourself and the ideas that need to come to you will.   It might take weeks, months or even years, but if you continue to set aside time and space for yourself, you tend to find out what you need.

I don’t suffer from creative block so much anymore, but I do sometimes feel like I’m bored with what I’m doing . I find the solution to that is to either do some grunt work – cut out some fabric, mix some dye, card some wool OR to completely step out of your field of interest entirely and do something you’ve never done before. I took up playing the ukulele last year and it was changed my whole life for the better! I used to think it was a little hobby that had nothing to do with my textile work, but it’s become a really important part of how I work now. If sewing is driving me mad, or I’m not sure what direction to take it in next, I just go play my uke for a couple of hours and it all just seems to work itself out.”


On creating and selling online:

“I had a real fear of putting my work online to begin with. The internet can be brutal and I didn’t expect to have such a warm response. The textile artist Mr Finch shared just a few images of my work and suddenly I had thousands of people, literally thousands of people following what I do and contacting me. I could never have reached that number of people just ten years ago when I graduated from Art School.”

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“I think the danger for a lot of artists is that the aim of social media is to keep you using their service. The more you use it, the more you’re rewarded with “likes”, a greater “reach” and more “shares” and some people get caught up in achieving that as an end in itself. Some fall into the trap of making work specifically to get a reaction on social media, which can be damaging and reductive. I think there needs to be a balance between being savvy enough to know how to get noticed and to create work that would be precious to you regardless of who gets to see it.”

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“When I think about when I graduated, I would have had no idea how to start a shop online or how to reach a worldwide audience.   Websites like Facebook and Etsy have been able to take out the middle man, take out the large commissions and connect artists directly with their buyers.”

img_4522“I’ve also met some incredible artists that I would have missed completely if I wasn’t part of an online community, because this time last year I didn’t even know that art dolls were a genre. The big wide world of the internet has given me a way of indulging in my own little world of threads and scraps and twigs and stitches because it’s connected me with people who appreciate what I do.”

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Please discover the wonderful world of The Pale Rook on Etsy and read more about Johannas beautiful work on her blog.