Life & Sole

This week I attended The Cinderella Syndrome, a talk at Northampton Museum & Art Gallery about research into the way shoes are displayed in museums.

It was actually more interesting than you might think and the balance for museum curators of preserving historic and delicate shoes (particularly light degradation) and making them fully available for interactive public viewing is a difficult one.

I won’t regurgitate the whole day here, but in essence, what was interesting about the research feedback, was that people don’t just want to see just the shoes, but also the story behind the shoe and the shoe wearer, or the inspiration for the design of a shoe.

Northampton Museum & Art Gallery

Image courtesy of BBC.co.uk – World at your feet conference March 2013

Although we ladies love and covet our shoes and aspire to one day own a pair of Jimmy Choo‘s, and some are even pure works of art, the humble shoe also carries us around in our daily lives and often not much attention is paid to them. They are very much a piece of personal clothing, moulding to the shape of our feet and favourite pairs invoke memories of wedding days, a child’s first footsteps or a loved one.  In a lot of museums, shoes are often accessories, becoming part of a much larger display on social history or costumes, often adapted (holes cut in them) to fit the mannequin. This is horrific to a historic shoe curator!

However, in Northampton, the home of the boot and shoe industry, shoes take the starring role, from humble 17th century workers shoes that have been worn by generations of a family to shoes of royalty and celebrities; shoes from around the world, shoes worn by animals and even shoe concepts that could never be worn.

Shoes at the Museum

Queen Victoria’s Wedding Shoes – Elephant Shoe – Strictly Ballroom

But how to make an interesting and engaging display that is not dark and drab but protects the most rare and delicate shoes?

One of the talks was from Jamie Fobert, Architect for Selfridges Shoe Galleries and this image made us all gasp with delight. These shoe display tables are made from old shoe lasts (purchased on eBay over 8 months), joined with rods and a pewter surface cast into the top and polished smooth. Isn’t it stunning? We all want one now!

Selfridges Shoe Gallery, London

There wasn’t a definitive conclusion and I expect this will continue to be an ongoing project.  I would certainly like to be involved from an artistic point of view.  Watch this space!

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For more on the history of the shoe industry in Northampton, do visit Northamptonshire Boot & Shoe website which was set up as part of the Global Footprint project in conjunction with the Cultural Olympiad in 2012.

If you have never visited the Northampton Museum & Art Gallery, I highly recommend it. You’ll find it in the centre of town on Guildhall Road opposite The Royal & Derngate Theatre.  Currently on display is a MOD exhibition, Strictly Come Dancing Shoes and of course a replica of King Richard III’s head …. but that is a whole other story!  So I’ll leave you with this quote from Gandhi

Quote by Gandhi

Christmas in July

Bizzi Zizzi Christmas Snowman KitIt’s sweltering hot in the UK (one of the hottest summers for quite a few years) and the kids have broken up from school, but already my thoughts are turning to Christmas gifts.

The festive time of the year is probably when most artists & designers make 80% of their sales, so it’s a good idea to think ahead.  I also have the majority of my family birthdays in November, December and January so it’s also in my interests to get my stock ready as early as possible. To be honest, I should probably have started even earlier, but you live and learn!

Last year I made several ready-made snowman kits. They went down really well, but took an AGE to make, so this year I’m going to do it slightly differently and make up a DIY kit with full instructions and materials.

Recently, I posted my beginners crochet tutorials for right- and left-handers on Etsy and they have been selling like hot-cakes (I’m not going to get rich by the way, they’re practically free!), so I think tutorials and workshops are the way to go!

In other news, the Summer holidays have got off to a good start with Bizzi Zizzi products now being sold along with my fellow Handmade Hub chums at Towcester Library. We have rented shelf space there for the rest of the year and while it’s not a tourist/buyers hotspot, it is a good place to test out products and display ideas.

Bizzi Zizzi Towcester Library 1Bizzi Zizzi Towcester Library 2Bizzi Zizzi Towcester Library 1

We also have a few family activities planned, including a camping weekend (which cleverly includes a visit to The Button Project at Macclesfield Silk Museum), lizard-making (with polymer clay of course) and creating our geocache trail (which might include a few of my buttons) – see, I can still get my crafty fix even if I don’t have as much time to make buttons!

OMG! I’ve won the lottery!

Not literally, but metaphorically – let me explain…

Camino de SantiagoLast week we watched a film called ‘The Way‘ starring Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez to honor the Camino de Santiago and promote the traditional pilgrimage route. It tells the tale of a work-a-holic father, Tom, who goes to France following the death of his adult son, killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), a Catholic pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. His purpose is initially to retrieve his son’s body. However, in a combination of grief and homage to his son, he decides to walk the ancient spiritual trail where his son died. On the way, he meets various characters who each have their own reasons for walking the route, be it for health, escape or spiritual reasons. As the film progresses, Tom begins to realise that there is more to life than being self-centred and working hard for a living at the expense of family time.  My favourite quote from the film is at the beginning (and implied at the end) from his son, who says “Dad, you don’t choose your life, you live it.”  I recommend you watch it, but have a box of tissues handy!

Frozen RainThe film led hubby and I to reminisce about ‘magic moments’ in our lives and it was interesting how differently we interpreted which moment was ‘magic’ to us.  For me, it was mainly to do with experiences I’ve had. For example, one day when I had been walking to work on a frosty morning after rain the night before I noticed all the leaves on the trees were covered in ice and were ‘tinkling’ in the breeze like a huge beautiful wind-chime and it sent shivers down my spine.  Another time was when I spent time volunteering in Ghana for SightSavers International and met some amazing people, who, although they had little, made the most of what they had and were so welcoming and it made me appreciate that you don’t need much to be happy.  For hubby, it was being able to make a difference to a client by negotiating a big contract. And of course, for us both, bringing our children into the world.

From this discussion we went on to talk about how fortunate we are to be in good health, have a roof over our heads and regular income to support our family.

Recently it seems, there has been a lot of sad news in the world; and also closer to home, I have friends and family who have been having a tough time with illness, loss of loved ones and financial & relationship challenges.

It’s at times like these that I reflect how lucky we are. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our own challenges too. We’ve both been married before, we’ve been made redundant, we’ve suffered loss and been in difficult and dangerous situations, but somehow we’ve managed to come through intact, maybe with a few scars but feeling stronger for it, and no doubt there will be more challenges to deal with in the future.

GhanaHowever, had we been born into absolute poverty, conflict, neglect or any of these hardships we might not have been able to do the things we have chosen to do, which is why I say that we have ‘won the lottery’ – every day in fact.  We might complain about taxes, the weather, the state of the economy or slow broadband, but we have free access to healthcare, clean water to our homes and access to education for everyone. Food is plentiful and fatal childhood diseases are rare.  Life expectation is long and  we have mail delivered to our door! We have religious and political freedom and people can marry who they want.

People say, “If I win the lottery, I would do so much to help others”. Why wait? There’s nothing to stop us from helping others right now. Some of the worlds most selfless people have also been some of the poorest.

Inspirational quote by Dr SeussSo what am I really trying to say here?  Well, for me, it’s appreciating what I’ve already got and not feeling that I NEED to win the lottery in order to feel fulfilled. Also, to see beauty in the things around us – we spend so much of our time with our heads full of work, watching TV or playing on our phones or computers, that sometimes we miss ‘magical moments’ and opportunities to enrich our lives and those of others. Every month we give money to charity – one of favourites is Care for the Family, but there are others too. I also like to ‘pay it forward‘ and give away some of my creations to others who then do the same, or give my time helping others, especially anything related to crafting!.  There’s so much more we’d like to be able to do. We’re not perfect, but we do our best with what we have.

So, whether or not you believe that your life is decided by fate, choice or a guiding hand from above, try to live it as if you have already won the lottery.

Do you agree or am I just sentimental?!

Life-cycle of a silk moth button

The Button Project – a stunning exhibition of over 300 contemporary handmade buttons – is taking shape, as buttons start to arrive from all over the world. From Australia to Norway, and all over the UK, artists and makers are translating their work into buttons for this exciting new event.

Artists were asked to work within the constraints of traditional button sizes and fixing methods, but from there, their imagination was free to roam.  Each button is a miniature work of art in its own right and highly collectible.

Burns Silk MothMy button entry is based on the Burns’ Silk Moth [Hemileuca burnsi] and I have attempted reverse metamorphosis in that my moth’s wings are made from fine silk thread stitched onto Chinese silk and a transition from traditional to modern craft.

My aim was to create a piece that wouldn’t look out of place in an entomologist’s collection. The back of the wings are painted pale cream to help the silk ‘veins’ stand out and the antennae are made from individual spines from a Blackbird’s feather.  The modern twist is that the body is created from polymer clay and the entire moth encased in resin. The silver pin pierces the body and is used to create the button shank.

This button is completely different to the ones I usually make every day and I have really enjoyed the challenge and I hope you enjoy looking at my creation.

Silk Moth by Bizzi Zizzi

The Button Project is intended to serve as a celebration of the heritage of the area, which began with the silk button. The dynamic buttons come from craft practitioners and artists at the top of their field, plus our rising stars and many who make just for the love of it. They will be showcased effortlessly alongside the silk costume collection at Macclesfield’s Heritage Centre from June 14 to August 8 2013.  Plus there will be related displays at the nearby Silk Museum showing treasures of the behind-the scenes button collections, and a lively button-making workshop for kids.

The museum curator, Annabel Wills, says

“It has been wonderful to see how our contemporary makers have responded to the historic collections at Macclesfield. A real feast of talent and inventiveness.”

From precious metals and traditional silk buttons, to glass, felt, enamels and recycled materials; the creativity from makers has been diverse and eye-catching, with The Button Project’s youngest contributor being just 11 years old. The project will be launched at, and will form part of the programme for, the Barnaby Festival, Macclesfield’s summer festival of contemporary arts, culture and fun, taking place in June. Both look set to be events not to be missed.

The Button Project

The Button Project: Macclesfield Heritage Centre Roe Street, Macclesfield SK11 6UT June 15 to August 82013.  Preview June 14 6-9pm.
Additional displays and events: The Silk Museum, Park Lane, Macclesfield, SK11 6TJ

Macclesfield Barnaby Festival is a Festival of contemporary arts, culture and fun, celebrating the town’s rich heritage. A recent reinvention of the centuries old tradition of celebrating the feast day of St Barnabas, it’s held every June in the town centre.

The Button Project is the brainchild of Macclesfield-based artist Victoria Scholes, and has been developed in partnership with the Macclesfield Museums.

The four sites that make up Macclesfield Museums – the Heritage Centre, the Silk Museum, Paradise Mill and West Park Museum – are an acknowledged treasure, showcasing all aspects of silk use and production plus other aspects of local and international history.

For Macclesfield, silk buttons are where it all began.  This cottage-based business flourished into major industry and shaped the town into what it is today. Macclesfield Museums, which recently have been designated the official western end of the Silk Road by the United Nations World Tourist Organisation Silk Road Project, present all aspects of silk use and production including fine examples of the local Macclesfield silk button as well as a nationally important collection of silk clothing, fashion and accessories from throughout the town’s silk-making history.

Links:

Follow Victoria Scholes and the Barnaby Festival using the hashtag #thebuttonproject on Twitter

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