Thursday 11 October 2012

Making It

When you make a living from designing and making the run up to Christmas is one of the busiest times of year, so please excuse the lack of blog in September! Making the large volumes of stock needed to fulfill orders, take to shows and send out to stockists has made me feel a little bit like a manufacturing  factory recently, so it's been great to also be involved in the 'Making It' Project - a celebration of craft & creativity.

There are lots of events planned as part of the project

Diatoms, minute single-celled algae found in plankton. Image by M.I.Walker. Wellcome Collection postcard

A couple of weeks ago I spent 3 days at the Meridian Centre in Havant making and engaging with visitors. Being free to make whatever I liked allowed me to experiment with scale, and geometric shapes, taking inspiration from microscopic structures. Documentation of this and the finished pieces, as well as work by other artists involved in this strand of the project can be seen at Winchester Discovery Centre's City Space gallery until 11th November

I'm going to be attending some of the events this weekend, but for me the Making It Project has already had a huge impact on my creative practice.

Making Space in Havant is one of the partners involved in the project, and has offered 12 month residencies for 2 makers in their studios

I have been really lucky to have been selected for one of these residencies. I officially took over the keys at the beginning of September, but it's taken a while to get things moved in and organised - and there's still some way to go! I have already spent some really productive days working there, and once the rush for Christmas stock is over, I'm looking forward to experimenting with some new ideas!

Friday 31 August 2012

The Welsh Connection

Having a week away from work and the internet certainly gave me lots of thinking time!  Perhaps surprisingly, one of my thought trains was the several 'connections' that I have with Wales.

The first is most obvious - my name! A friend of mine had a much younger brother who, when the family moved to Wales, learnt Welsh at school. He took great delight in telling me, "Deryn, that means 'bird' that does".  With the modern use of the word 'bird' it wasn't something I planned on shouting about! Coupled with people often suggesting 'Darren was a boy's name', and being on the boys register as Denis Roberts at school (yes my maiden name was Roberts - another Welsh connection), I really wasn't impressed as a teenager.  Things change, however, because now I love having an individual name and take pride in designing and running my business under 'Deryn Relph'.

I'm gradually building up the number of stockists selling my work.  There are already three in Wales, and several people have commented that my designs have something Welsh about them. One of my stockists is CWT TATWS. I love that this translates to 'potato shack'.  Daloni Owen runs this business from the little 400 year old outbuilding on her farm in North Wales that once stored potatoes! Despite the rustic simplicity of the buildings origins Daloni has built up a lovely selection of home and lifestyle accessories. I'm delighted that my cushions are part of this venture! 

Another thing I really love is that I'm gradually learning some Welsh words as Daloni always writes Facebook posts in Welsh & English, and Tweets in both languages too!

You can also find Deryn Relph products at the Janet Bell Gallery, Beaumaris, Anglessey and The Little Gallery,Broad Street, Montgomery, Powys.

There is something innate within me that is drawn to Welsh wool textiles.  I remember visiting a mill during a holiday as a child, and that my Nanna bought me a little cream and brown purse which I treasured.  

I recently discovered this purse at a local second hand shop for the bargain price of £1. Far to good an opportunity to be missed and in one of my current favourite colours - ORANGE!

I think the open-ness of the woven cloth is part of the appeal for me now. There's something very honest about it as it reveals the structure and process behind it's construction.  The reversible nature of the fabric is also intriguing - there's no wrong side! This is something that  I have often said to students on workshops that I have run. It's one of those 'rules' that I like to stretch to the limit! There's no right or wrong side to knitting either - just two different sides, and sometimes more interesting things evolve where you weren't expecting them to be!

This picture shows both sides of a Welsh wool blanket that I recently bought at a Vintage Festival.  It really was a 'pot of gold' beckoning on that day. Partly because of it's Welsh origins, I felt an instant affinity with it, but also because it's PURPLE! Some of you will know that purple is a very Deryn colour. From the harem pants I made as a student to the velvet armchair I upholstered for my City & Guilds and the purple themed bed in my garden, purple seems to be a passion of mine!

I haven't decided where the blanket will live yet, but know it's going to be around for a long time yet! 

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Miro the Magnificant

Earlier this year, whilst holidaying in Yorkshire, I visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park. If you've never been I would highly recommend it!

The current exhibition shares the incredible sculpture and paintings of the artist  Miro.  I found the organic shapes of the sculptures aesthetically interesting, and at times humourous.

There was a real honesty about them.

The sculptures work so well in an outdoor space, and the beautiful backdrop makes them even more inspiring.

There is also an indoor exhibition of sculpture, drawings and paintings.  I love Miro's bold use of colour in his painting and also on some of his sculptures.

I particularly enjoyed the section of the exhibition that looked at Miro's life but as well as his artistic process.  It was fascinating to see sketches and collections of objects assembled as ideas for pieces of work. It's made me reflect on my own process.  I'm itching to get drawing again, so once my current orders are all complete I'm planning to get creative again!

I don't expect it'll be long before I return to YSP as I loved it there.  There's exhibitions of Anish Kapoor's and Richard Long's work coming soon too - trouble will be which one to choose!

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Up hill & down dale!

Anyone who's ever exhibited their work or products at a retail or trade fair will undoubtedly  empathise with my tales of the pre-show stresses, late night/early mornings and even the odd all night making session before a show.

I expect you'll also have asked yourselves 'Why am I doing this?' too!

For me it's about wanting to showcase what I do, to the best of my ability, to put on a good show. Ultimately the aim, having invested so much time and money, is about getting orders, making sales and securing new stockists - but the driving force for me is a pride in my name, my brand and my work. A definite plus is the friendly and supportive 'family' of fellow makers that grows each time I do a show!

In Yorkshire for the recent British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate, the pre-show up-hill battle was matched by one or two literal ones in the beautiful surrounding countryside! Post show the inevitable cold took hold, but I tried not to let it dampen my spirits after the elation of winning two awards. 

Extending my stay to 'make a holiday of it' gave me time for some reflection on my work and the environment around me.  Staying in a rather lovely lodge on a farm meant that I shared the immediate vicinity with many ewes and their new lambs. Aside from the amusement of watching the playful lambs I was reminded how much my business is dependent on sheep farming - much of my yarn is lambswool, and without it I wouldn't have the raw materials to make my products.  

Another local farm that I marvelled at was a wind farm.  With the fragility of the farming industry in Britain, farmers have had to diversify, be it through Holiday lets, B&B or the installation of wind turbines.  These majestic white giants have replaced their white woolly predecessors, and yet I am just as much in admiration and awe of them as the sheep that provide my wool.

This trip really highlighted the importance to me of our Countryside and supporting British endeavours - be that our farmers, technological developments or buying British made products. We live in a wonderful country that produces delicious food and drink, and many talented makers who create beautiful things - lets celebrate that!

Friday 2 March 2012

New Beginnings

With Spring looking like it's not too far off and new buds beginning to sprout, I couldn't help but notice the similarities with some of the projects I'm involved in!

Earlier this week saw the launch of the new British fabrics and wallpaper brand Scion  Meaning 'offshoot' this fits perfectly into my earlier analogy! I've been involved with this new brand for some time now, working on colour palettes, designs and styling - having been excited about it for so long, it's wonderful to be able to finally share that feeling!

Under the nurturing care of sister company Harlequin, Scion has emerged to offer uncompromisingly design-led fabrics and wallpapers in refreshingly contemporary colours.

The first collection called 'Melinki' brings together a broad range of strong designs inspired by woodland, archive prints and Scandinavian design.  

The result is a collection that offers an inspiring mix of designs with the individuality to work on their own, combined with others from the same colour group or incorporated into an existing interior.

Impressively the fabrics and wallpapers are all printed in the UK too, and with colour palettes that include on-trend mixes like sulphur yellow and grey, emerald and lime and retro-kitsch Bakelite brights, not to mention indigo blues, the only problem you might have is which one to choose!

I'm already nearly half way through a six week course of workshops at Making Space.  With the emphasis very much on trying new things and thinking outside the box, I'm encouraging participants to experiment with different techniques and materials, as well as helping them with design basics.  The aim is that they develop some new skills or grow existing ones (more of that analogy again!) to enable them to create something that is uniquely theirs.  It's amazing the diversity of ideas already developing - from guerilla knitting/art/installation ideas to textured textiles and jewellery.  The enthusiasm and buzz has certainly inspired me to 'dust off the cobwebs' and get creative to develop new products and a new collection!
Two of the participants are involved in 'Knit Pompey', an exhibition that runs until 9th April at Eastney Community Centre, Bransbury Road, Eastney, Portsmouth PO4 9SU

I'm also running various crochet workshops at the wonderful Clothkits in Chichester!  With a shop full of wonderfully bright fabrics and haberdashery as the venue I always look forward to my visits!

The workshops run on various days and cater for absolute beginners - learning basic stitches and how to make flowers in the single sessions. With four week courses there is time to learn to make Granny squares, joining and edging techniques even produce a simple project!
Maybe I'll see you there!

PS: CONGRATULATIONS! to Emma and Del on the safe arrival of their son Buddy earlier today - another new beginning!

Thursday 5 January 2012

Busy New Year!

With 2012 only just begun things are already hectic at the Deryn Relph Studio!

In just over 24 hours I'm flying out to Barcelona, then travelling to a location in France to work on a photography styling project for a 'soon to be launched' fabric and wallpaper brand.  This is part of the freelance work that I've been doing recently.  I've worked on designs, colour stories and photography mood boards, not to mention props, as part of this project - it's been a fantastic experience to date and I'm really looking forward to what the next week will entail.

I'm only sorry that I can't give any more away, but all will be revealed soon!

Meanwhile, my own work has stepped up a gear as I've prepared for my first trade show.  I'm going to be exhibiting at Top Drawer, London from 15th-17th January.

Top Drawer takes place at Earl's Court, and is "The UK's leading event for design-led gifts, lifestyle & fashion accessories". For more details visit the website or have a look at the show's magazine

I've been chosen by Charlotte Abrahams to exhibit as part of 'Spotted' which "is designed to create an entry point for a whole new generation of exhibitors and this year’s show will feature up to 12 handpicked design based businesses who have never before been seen at a major UK trade show"

If you're able to visit or are exhibiting, please come and say 'hello'!  My stand is SP12, and 'Spotted' is located near the Top Drawer entrance, between the Gifts and Stationery & Greetings areas.