Thursday, 18 September 2014

Art & Craft at Kirsty's Handmade Fair

My relationship with 'craft' is, truthfully, not that great.  Basically, I'm better at buying it than I am at doing it.  It's one of those things - like cooking - that I totally mean to get the hang of, i.e. I fully intend that one day I'll make staggeringly beautiful quilts (in a How To Make An American Quilt kind of way) - and there's a bit of me that aspires to the handmade embroideries in the V&A -   and then it takes me an hour and a half to sew on three name tapes and I remember the issues that I'm facing:  impatience, lack of lasting enthusiasm, and, most crucially, total ineptitude.  (And my mother-in-law already makes staggeringly beautiful quilts, so I don't really need to.  As for the embroideries?  There's a tapestry I was given when I was 10 that I still haven't finished . . . )

But every so often I forget all those things, and cheerfully go off to spend an afternoon at the V&A learning how to make paper cut-out bunting with Kirsty Allsopp and Poppy Chancellor, because, you know, it sounded fun, there was the promise of cupcakes, and we all love Kirsty, don't we?

It transpires that making paper cut-out bunting is ridiculously time consuming, horribly fiddly, and actually not that much fun.  What was enjoyable was eating the goodies from the Hummingbird Bakery, and chatting to the other women there - about our children, yes, but also about Russian art, Russian emigres, the future of 'handmade' (I was sitting opposite the editor of Selvedge Magazine) and who are the contenders for best playwrite of our time (we never definitively agreed on an answer.)  And that bit, the cake and - more pertinently - the conversation, made spending two hours with a scalpel worthwhile.

And at least Kirsty was doing it too.

And this was tea . . . 

And that is Kirsty's point - that craft is about bringing people together, forming and preserving communities - it's a bit WI-y, but kind of brilliant and why she has launched The Handmade Fair, which opens today at Hampton Court and is on all weekend.  There are numerous skills workshops, from painting furniture with Annie Sloan (I've already done that course - at the Phoenix on the Golbourne Road - and it's brilliant, though I've yet to actually put any of it into practice at home - I initially visualised Omega workshop/ Charleston-like wardrobes, doors, floors and everything else - see 'lack of lasting enthusiasm') to food decorating, sewing (though not name tapes, I note), Etsy business school . . .  basically everything that any craft enthusiast could possibly dream of, and more.

The drawing room at Charleston

Fortunately, for people like me, there's also shopping . . . .

I love Molly Mahon's block printed fabrics, wallpapers (which you can see at Tent, also taking place right now) lampshades and stationery.  I have rather a lot of it already, but there's always room for more . . . 

I'm obsessed with everything about The Painted House.  I fully intend to actually buy some of their rollers, and redecorate our walls - or at least the cupboard doors - at home.  I feel that this is within my grasp.  Maybe . . . 

How hard is it to find attractive place mats?  Answer: very hard.  I know this because I've actually spent a long time looking.  I could make my own!  (If I were even remotely talented.)  Or I could buy these.  How pretty?

There is one very valuable lesson that I took away from the craft workshop, however, and that is that next time one of my sisters gets married, I'm totally inviting all my friends over for bunting-making and cake.  Many hands, it transpires, really do make light work . . .  (and nobody at the V&A tea resorted to stapling the triangles onto the ribbon.)