Category Archives: News

One Suitcase, A Village festival, Pimms and Needles

One Suitcase

One Suitcase – What would you put in yours?

I’d like to introduce you to my new project …

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m really interested in genealogy, partly because I wanted to know how and why my Maternal Grandmother was born in Middlesbrough, and how I came to also be born there. It’ll be no surprise to people who live around Middlesbrough when I say my relatives came to the town from Ireland, in my case via Liverpool.

My great grandad Henry Healy worked all over the UK wherever there was unskilled work, from Middlesbrough and Sunderland to Kent, but the last place he lived with his children was Lower East Street in what is known as St Hilda’s, but I always knew as ’Over The Border’ in the area between Middlesbrough Station and the river Tees. This was where the original Middlesbrough grew in the early 1800s from a simple fam to the ’Ironopolis’ – the centre of UK iron production needed to build the world’s bridges and railways as the Industrial Revolution changed industry forever.

I was more surprised to find my Great great grandad on my Dad’s side had lived in Lower Gosford Street, across the road from my previous employer, and recently that my Husband’s 4 times Great Grandad lived in Middlesbrough after running a Jet Ornament business in Whitby, with 8 employees and a shop on Church Street ( this shop still exists although as a different business).Bearing in mind he was rural Kent born and bred, this was quite a surprise.

So I think if you know anything about Teesside, you know it’s an area built on Immigration. After the Industrial Revolution the next big influx of immigration came after WW2 when we were desperate for workers so sent out the call far and wide to all the ex ’Empire” (by this time, rebranded as Commonwealth) countries to extend the hand of welcome. It wasn’t really like that when people arrived unfortunately, and for some, whatever welcome there was didn’t last very long.

More recently, Middlesbrough and Teesside have become a dispersal area for Asylum seekers, this time because there is an abundance of cheap housing which the companies given the contracts from the government make much use of. Needless to say this is a story on repeat.

I’ve always found it strange, then that anyone in Middlesbrough would be anti immigration. The town simply wouldn’t exist without Immigrants, and to tie in with what was happening in London between 1950 and 1970 which we know more about, including the Windrush arrival, and subsequent more recent scandal of people being sent back to places they’ve hardly, or never lived, I really wanted to get my teeth into what happened here., and be the artist again. Taking inspiration from what I discover to create works for Middlesbrough Art weekender in 2023 and an installation in Kirkleatham Museum in June next year, as well as activity at this year’s Middlesbrough Mela and Festival of Thrift.

SO here’s some info about the project… if you know anyone who might like to be involved, do message me.

I’m looking to speak to and record the discussion with people about either their experiences of leaving their mother country and landing in England / Teesside.
This project concentrates on people who came / whose parents came here 1950 and 1970
Also I’d like to chat to people whose heritage is more local about how they would feel if they had to leave for another place.
Our discussion will be mostly about what people brought to remind them of home, what they would bring if they had to leave for a place with a different culture that they could fit in one suitcase – but also including less tangible items such as sounds and smells.
We’ll be looking at expectations and realities of migration, and what people feel the welcome would be in in new place .
The discussions will be saved and documented, and I will use excerpts as a piece of art I am making for Middlesbrough Art weekender, and an exhibition in Kirkleatham museum, both next year.
All discussions can be as private / anonymous as required and interviewees will have the option of having their photograph taken.
I am also looking for people interested in being further involved in influencing the project.

FURTHER INFORMATION:
Miki Rogers is an artist and community worker who was born in Middlesbrough working in community led arts for the last 15 years
She brought up her family on Teesside, though her heritage is from Irish immigration into Middlesbrough in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The towns of Stockton and Middlesbrough have a long story of immigration due to access from the River Tees which originally welcomed ships to both towns, and the industries around Teesside expanding at a rate which local workers could not fill. Teesside more recently has become a dispersal area for people seeking asylum.
The project investigates what happened here on Teesside at the same time the Windrush and further transport was bringing in Jamaican workers to London, between the 1950s and 1970s and we’re interested in people who came to Teesside from abroad during this time or whose parents did, especially where the culture here differed noticeably from their homeland.
We know people came to fill our need for workers for the Shipbuilding, Steel and Chemical industries, with the promise that their inclusion as part of the Commonwealth would allow a welcome here.
More recently we have seen the mass exodus of people from Ukraine, and this has brought Immigration, asylum and migration into sharp focus for many people.
Interviews will form part of a work which will be exhibited as part of Middlesbrough Art weekender, and at Kirkleatham Museum through the Festival of Thrift, and there will be an element of creative response to the interviews by local young creatives, as well as a piece of sound art using the Oral History recordings which will play during the Kirkleatham and old suitcases, exploring what people did, and would put in that suitcase…

Exhibition/Festival of Thrift
Contact miki rogers : hello@mikirogers.co.uk
Naaila Shabir (Borderlands) N.Shabir@tees.ac.uk


A Village Festival

What did you do over the Jubilee weekend? I have to admit to not being particularly royalist, especially as I’ve been married to an old punk musician for the last 27 yrs…but I knew that the Platinum Jubilee weekend or ’Platty Jubes’ as I heard some people jokingly call it was, in fact going to create a great opportunity for communities to get together and work on their ’community-ness’, and there was some money being made available for this very thing!

With this in mind, I was so happy to be asked to be part of the team working on the East Cleveland Big Jubilee festival, particularly as it’s based in my corner of the world.

I worked with the wonderful Jo and a group of committed community champions who had set out a vision of village togetherness across East Cleveland, plus a dance spectacular on the Jetty at Skinningrove.
We got the funding 7 weeks before the event so we had A LOT to do, but we made it! 8 village halls decorated and providing exhibitions and activity, an oral history element, a bus tour and the promised dance on the jetty!

What a joy!

Here’s a little snapshot of some of the activity …

Thanks to all the villages, Arts Council England, Big Local, County Durham community


Pimms and Needles

In between all this flurry of activity, I’ve been doing workshops for the fabulous women’s befriending and creative group Pimms and Needles.

Founders Donna and Charlotte set up the first group in and around Darlington, when they realised there was a space for women to find friendship and fun and new experiences which had traditionally been taken by the WI and other organisations, but where they could share tea, cake and the odd glass of wine!

Pimms and needles now run 20+ groups across the Tees Valley, Co Durham and N Yorkshire, as well as free ’Silvers’ groups for women experiencing isolation and those over retirement age.

I got involved at the beginning of 2022, doing tea workshops with just about every group, and now i’m hist of the Redcar group !

See their website below to join and see some of the amazing activity which includes Life Drawing, mosaic and watercolours, and even Burlesque!

www.Pimmsandneedles.Co.uk

For more about workshops click here

The Dreaded CV , Going it Alone, International Women’s Day

The Dreaded CV – sometimes you just have to rest

‘Sometimes you just have to rest’ by Miki Rogers Digital illustration using watery colours and pencil sets of naked plus size woman by a stream with her hand in the water
‘Sometimes you just have to rest’ digital illustration Miki Rogers

In October 2021 Mr R and I finally succumbed to CoronaVirus. Officially we’d both managed to avoid it, even though at the very beginning of the pandemic I’d been ill enough to need paramedics, with all the symptoms of CV except a temperature. At that time your temp was a main test criteria, before the heady days of Lateral flow tests and PCRs.

I’d dreaded getting Covid after my lovely friend, Zetland Radio presenter and star of The Mighty Redcar Julie Donaldson succumbed, and sadly died on Halloween 2020. I’d messaged her everyday after she went into ICU, and it was, and still is a huge shock and loss that she’s no longer with us, her wicked sense of humour, boundless support for local communities and fab taste in music though will remain.

We had the jabs. Having an Autoimmune illness, I was first at the gate, and I truly believe, bearing in mind how ill we both were, I wouldn’t have survived. I was beginning to think, I definitely had it early doors so had some kind of natural immunity. ….Nope.

I’d recently gone it alone after leaving my job of 8+ years (more of that in a bit) and – feeling a renewed sense of independence, when a dear friend had a close family member die , I decided support her at the funeral – driving alone to Kent and booking a last-minute AirBNB. The funeral was a sad and celebratory affair, and my friend – a bar owner, battled through the wake which they’d held at the bar, but was clearly ill. From the stresses of her dog having had a terrible accident, her Mum dying and a car crash in quick succession, we thought.

In reality she’d contracted Corona Virus – from her brother’s Girlfriend who was supporting her before the funeral, and so I and all my friends who were at the funeral got it too, then my husband, and I managed to pass it onto my daughter’s partner’s parents, a source of shame for me at the time as they’d been totally isolating up to the point we all had dinner together.

Luckily we all got through it, after a good 10 days of both being really ill, a couple of takeaways and a doorstop delivery from Morrisons, Chris now totally over it, me left with a very odd sense of taste and recovering from chronic fatigue on top of my normal chronic fatigue. I think we had a close call. As I write, what seems like the end of an unsavoury and sad period of time overshadowed by the terrible atrocities in Ukraine.

Going it Alone – back to Freelance

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed this website having had an overhaul and name change from Ruby & Blue to mikirogers.co.uk. – I’ve gone back to working freelance …

I’d left community curator job in September, and felt unsure of the future but was dedicated to making it alone. My disabilities had deteriorated, and I’d been diagnosed with Hypermobile Joint Syndrome – an aspect of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a confirmation of Fibromyalgia connected to the illness and widespread Osteoarthritis. Clearly all of these illnesses had been there all along, and I’d started having treatment and odd diagnoses aged 8, but the combo of CV on me both physically and mentally, with the added treat of menopause had sent my illnesses into the stratosphere.

When I returned to work in Spring 2020 after being furloughed, my place of work and work conditions had changed, and even my job was about to change.

I’d been working for the previous few of years mainly just getting on with my own projects and reporting in. It was an exciting time full of possibilities, and I had a great oral history / music project to work on with the amazingly talented Patrick Dineen, funded by Great Place. and with images by my fabulously talented photographer friend Kev Howard taken at the very doorsteps I was dropping off recording equipment for interviewees. I found myself working in the project between my home and these doorsteps, Md online, which I found suited me well.

Through these oral history interviews about their experiences of living in and around the formerly thriving Steel town of Redcar, Patrick produced ‘Not in a room of our own’ a soaring piece punctuated by these voices. Listen here:

https://soundcloud.com/patric123/not-in-a-room-on-our-own-the-social-life-of-steel

From there, the changes brought my mental health and neurodivergence into sharp focus. The lack of directly supporting communities I had taken hard and what was on offer was neither a replacement for this, nor something I could work with. My working relationship deteriorated, and after being encouraged to do so by many supportive friends and colleagues, I called it a day on the job I had previously adored and had much pride in.

Around this time I met the wonderful Catherine ’Katnipp’ Kay, an illustration superstar with her fabulous Katnipp illustration, online vlogging and digital empire, all run from a couple of floors above my former place of work on the Seafront in Redcar.

I introduced her to illustrator and educator friend Frances Moffatt, who was in the process of setting up the inspiringly wonderful School of Illustration with partner Nick Moffatt, and I’ve been reaping the benefits of our support and friendship together as well as attending workshops set up by the SoI. Fran and Cat have helped me to work on my own Illustration practice and supported me in the changes I needed to make to go freelance with my work.

I was also contacted by the creative and community powerhouse that is Donna Freeney of Pimms and Needles, and have been providing tea blending workshop with the fabulous women who attend, plus there’s been work on a couple of top secret projects.
One I was asked to help put a bid in for and project manage, the other my own project working with some of our bigger cultural powerhouses and our communities here in Teesside. What an exciting time!

International Women’s Day – my take

International Women’s Day 2022 is Tuesday 8th March here in the UK, so I thought I’d start with some of my illustrations of women and nonbinary people I know or admire, starting with the fabulous three at the top:

Edith- my dear friend and sister, owner of refill shop and eco hub The Cut Back and eco warrior woman in her own right, alongside Edith’s eco sidekick, my very own singing squirrel Sadie Joan, and my co-director supporting Edith, Saltburn Solidarity Foodbank Doyenne, and my other sister from another mister, Lynn JP.

Closely following are Dolly, Greta and Frida … not much needed to say about these three, but if you don’t know about Dolly Parton’s work for communities, go have a look at the Dolly Parton Foundation.

Row three is all about those wonderful people I’ve met online, and now consider friends….

Fantastic body positive maker, beauty practitioner and designer Lou Worrell to the left : https://instagram.com/_loulala and queen of all things colour and pattern, Siobhan Murphy to the right who, alongside the whole crew kept me entertained and enthralled during lockdown on Interior Design masters. I’ve loved watching these two go from strength to strength. https://instagram.com/interiorcurve

They flank an image straight out of my brainbox which I’ve now attributed to glorious body positive LGBTQ+ skater Courtney Shove aka @fat_girl_has_moxy on Insta.

You’ll see I’ve included non binary people, and my approach to Femimism is an inclusive one. The issues we face are the same for cis women, trans women and non binary people who either present as fem or deal with women’s health issues, and I’ve run the Community Craftivism group Women of The Resistance Teesside For the past few years on this premise.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias supporting equal pay for women across the world. I’ll be joining by doing some work for Break The Bias, but also wanted to support Ukraine, so you’ll see me illustrate my take on work by Ukranian Folk Artist Maria Prymachenko. The museum dedicated to her work in Ukraine was, in the last few days destroyed by Russian forces.

Drawing for a cause, Back to Work, Sea Swimming

Find my cards here

Drawing for a cause

One of the issues facing people throughout the pandemic has been the sense of isolation many of us have had to cope with.

I’ll talk about getting back to work later, but for me it’s been a really tough nut to crack, even though I had my husband at home when he wasn’t working as a key worker, and my son living with us, as just as lockdown was announced he was between homes and then without work as a chef. 

Personally, I lost my purpose for a time – furloughed from the job I love, unable to work with communities, missing my daughter who had moved in with her then boyfriend’s family to keep me safe, and unable to do markets. This time last year, I was about to do a March market then had very little until a rare market in December. I filled my time making scrubs for friends working on the Covid ward of a local hospital, setting up a community group locally, and later running a Christmas Window project in homes around the town. In-between I worked on the Middlesbrough Mela mandala project and shared my love of crochet, teaching people online whenever the opportunity arose. 

For people who have had to shield like my parents, this period will I’m sure, go down as one with never-ending days and realising the simple things are those we miss the most. Hugs, holding a hand, watching a band, having endless cuppas and chats in real time, laughing together. 

Saltburn Community Response, a group set up in our neighbouring town of Saltburn-by-the-sea wanted to tackle these issues while making some much needed funds for the group.

The group have been outstanding in the way they have worked to help people during this time, working alongside Saltburn Solidarity Foodbank, setting up community cupboards and running trails in the town that people can safely follow while out on their walks during lockdown.

The group commissioned me to design three postcards, each one a positive message of hope, which could be sold with some of the profits going to their cause, and I was happy to oblige. I’d been teaching myself to use the Procreate app do develop my digital drawing and designs over this time on my Ipad and withe help of Lisa Bardot and her amazing online workshops – one of the benefits of endless days without work

I used this do design the three postcards which I had printed locally by Teesprint in Middlesbrough. the timing for this was perfect, with sunnier days on the way and the opening of my friend Tracy’s Eco Hub and Zero Waste shop The CutBack gave me a bricks and mortar outlet in Saltburn ( they also sell my teas and all manner of eco wonderfulness)

Each card benefits the Community Response group, and it feels great to add something positive and help out at the same time.

I’m selling online too, through my ETSY shop and you can find that here. I hope you like them!

Back to Work

It’s so great to be back at work – at Tees Valley Arts

We’ve been slowly working away from home working towards being back in our space at The Palace Hub in Redcar and preparing for the opening of our Honest Shop and Gallery.

Ongoing lockdowns and changes to rules for both retail and cultural venues mean plans we had in place for an opening earlier in the year with a new show and the fab Honest Shop have been a movable feast, but we’re looking forward to a safe Mid-May opening.

In the meantime, I’ve been working with the hugely talented composer, producer and lyricist, Liverpool’s Patrick Dineen on an Oral History project – talking to the communities around the Steelworks and people who live in and visit Redcar, about their experiences of the town and what it has and had to offer.

We’ve had to tackle the thorny issue of interviewing people in lockdown., which we’ve managed with the use of Zoom (which we all should have taken out shares in during early 2020!) and using field recorders (also made by a company called Zoom, but unconnected as far as I know) – so I’ve spent much of the last couple of moths at people’s doorsteps.

The Honest shop is our latest big project – taking its lead from the Honest Shop project set up by Grizedale Arts who have been supporting us, our shop echoes other similar projects being run across the world from Japan to Australia.

Our shop will sell items made and grown by local hobby and community makers, and the stock will change on an ongoing basis depending on what people can provide. So far we have links to a whole range of local community groups including the Barefoot Kitchen who will bring orchard produce, and all manner of food based packs and items to purchase.

We still have space for community groups interested in selling craft items handmade from natural materials – email me for details projects@teesvalleyarts.org.uk

Sea Swimming

In September I was lucky to be able to go Sea Swimming with the Saltburn Sea Tribe – in the North Sea just off our coast here, buoyed (see what I did there) by the idea that it might be good for my worsening Fibromyalgia and Arthritis.

My first foray into the surf was admittedly a freezing one and we had headed down long after dawn, the temperature in the car reading at 6 degrees centigrade.. cold by anyone’s terms. Initially the bitterly cold water on my warmest body parts was a real shock, but after getting my shoulders in and swimming along it was a huge thrill to be in the water. It was a gorgeous day, the sun still low in the sky with just us, the birds and what lived beneath the waves as company.

The serenity of the calm sea in the distance, alongside the awareness of its obvious power in the breakers and the feeling of insignificance and grounding in such a huge body of water was really overwhelming and quite surprising.. I’d been swimming as a kid, but as someone who has mobility problems, the utter freedom of moving in the huge sea, the former rusting Steel Works in the distance was not lost on me. It was magical.

Never one to do things by halves I was wearing a 1950s style swimsuit, retro bathing cap and swim shoes. As we emerged from the water to wrap up tight in woolen hats, huge towelling robes, drinking hot tea and coffee, I knew the experience had been a positive one. I felt elated and my pain at least for a time after the swim was reduced.

Back in the car park, I met a photographer friend, Ian Crockett who showed me some photos he’d taken of us, saying he wouldn’t be publishing them unless he got us to agree. He was particularly please with a closeup he had got of a swimmer in a red costume – the closeup made through use of a really long lens making the image appear to show a lone swimmer in front of the Steel Works ( which are in fact a few miles up the coast) … In a red costume .. me!

I’m hoping to be back in the briny this spring.. maybe I’ll have a new swimming cap but I’ll still be wearing my red costume.

And here it is. ( thank you Ian for allowing me have this image) So proud of myself.

Lights, Camera, MELA !

Find my Mela Workshops HERE

A couple of years ago I was asked by Middlesbrough Council to work with another artist and with loads of groups, making 100 (I kid you not) hula hoop sized textile Mandalas to be displayed around the park at Middlesbrough Mela. No mean feat.

 

This year the amazing Middlesbrough Mela  – this celebration of Asian culture, of music, taste, colour  and sound could not happen in its normal home of Albert Park- at the centre of the town – because of Covid restrictions… so what is a group of creatives to do? Take the Mela online!

 

Making films isn’t entirely new to me, but making films in my workroom at the back of the house in between the dog barking, people delivering and an assortment of DIY going on outside certainly was a new experience.

We began our journey with a meeting of the fellow artists on the project .. Leader Lisa and JR from the council had assembled a fantastic group of creatives both local and from further afield.

The project sits around an online and physical children’s book, which in the tradition of the Mela would bring in a story that picks up on Asian tales, written by Umar Butt, who also translated  it into a range of languages, and beautifully illustrated by Becki Harper. It tells the saga of Sara the Tortoise who loses her home and all her friends, picking up on themes of migration and asylum but in a totally child-friendly way.

After some great Zoom meetings (who knew Zoom would be such a thing) and loads of watsapp discussions between all the artists and project leaders we came up with a range of activities;  Dance , mask making,  printmaking, windsock creating, yoga and banjo making on the website, alongside my two workshops (see the workshops at the end..)

And off we went – Filming our little instructions as we went – I bought a tiny light rig and phone holder to stand above my table to do mine, attached to a wooden box. A real Heath Robinson affair. After lots of head-scratching download / upload fun, all the film clips went to film-maker Paul to create his magic. Meanwhile we artists and a willing small socially distanced gang of helpers were making 100 free kits to go with each film – that’s A LOT of free kits!

On top of this, I’ve started making my own films, the first one can be found here: 

So here they are .. I’m really chuffed with my films and amazed by the others, the story and Umar’s storytelling too.  Get yourself to the Mela website and fill your own world with colour and magic…

Wrapped Mandala ( using the basis of god-s eye wrapped sticks)

https://youtu.be/53OhjN9zbcQMela Granny Mandala (a mandala based on granny squares)

 

insta: @boromela website : https://middlesbroughmela.co.uk/lets-create/

 

Time, Time, Time.

It’s been a really long time since I posted and mostly that’s because things have changed. (A bit more about that in a minute).

Time, though has been very much on my mind of late as I’ve reached a landmark year in my life. I don’t feel the need to say which one, but to help, I’ll give you some facts from my birth year: An Iconic Beatles album was released, it had been a year since England won the World Cup, the UK’s first Shopping Mall was built, and Noel Gallagher, Mark Llamarr, and Davina McCall were born (so I’m in good company).

Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

It’s been a real thinking time, though. I have days when I’ve been less warrior and more worrier, and my overthinking brain has taken over, so getting to at least half-way in my life had given me plenty of food for thought (too much). By the time I got to my birthday, though, after an amazing, funny, dance and laughter filled party with those closest to me, I shook my head and made some decisions:

  1. Living fully hasn’t passed me by, and there are loads of fun times to be had yet.
  2. Life is too short to waste angsting about how short life is.
  3. If I care so much about how long I have, I’d probably better look after the body I inhabit.

I feel I’m over it, at least for the next 10 years.

So – time.. Now a good amount of time has passed since we last conversed. It’s a year since I last posted (God, how could that…. Stop right there! That’s how you got into the angsty time thing mentioned above) Anyway it has, and I’m sure you’ve all been having as much fun as me, and I have certainly had some serious life changes:

We bought a house, my son left home and went to Uni, I left my shop.

We’ll skip past the first one quickly  – So I’ve now got an amazing Edwardian town house in the lovely Guisborough. I’ve filled it with colour already, and I’m so chuffed with it it’s probably worthy of it’s own post.

The Grand Arcade, Leeds

My son is doing Music Tech at Uni in Leeds. Like his Sister and Dad, he has the music gene, except he also has a good dollop of my techy nerdiness, so this is a good thing. He’s been there a year, has a fab house now and loves the whole Leeds vibe. Yet another post I think, especially on Leeds where I spend more time now than I expected to! I absolutely went through the whole empty nest thing, and I have to admit it took a real effort to get used to not having him around (especially our cups of tea and chat late on when his dad and sister have gone to bed) but he’s doing brilliantly and I’m chuffed for him.

And then I left the shop I shared with the 4 other wonderful ladies in Guisborough, and it’s simply about time…

So, for those who don’t know, most of my days are spent in my work as Projects Officer for an arts charity, so I’m there 4 days, and it’s an amazing role, bringing me in touch with some of the most fantastic interesting people. On top of that there are markets and shops to work with; No.30 Westgate in Guisborough now stocking a blend I madewith them as well as Preston Park Museum who I’ve developed new Teesmade teas with in collaboration with River Tees Rediscovered.

Crafts in the Pen, Skipton

There are workshops and bigger events  – The Festival of Thrift on the horizon, and even Christmas Markets to think about. I’ve been accepted for Crafts in the Pen too, and I couldn’t be happier. There are lots of things to make and do!

I get asked constantly how I fit it all in and I honestly don’t know, but I do know that trying to manage everything with a Chronic Pain illness, mean things don’t always get done as they should, and when that happens, something has to give.

So it was a hard decision to leave the fabulous Maison Belle and my fellow Belles there, and I wish the ladies all the love and luck in the world, but I’m off to packet up some tea…

It’s all about time….

Making Stuff Happen, a Change on Tea Corner.

Making Stuff Happen.

So  – if you know me, you’ll know that I am always up to something or other. I find that throwing myself into a challenge is the best sort of therapy there is (I have some experience of therapy, I know these things).

I’m a pragmatic person, and don’t believe that your luck is made by, well, luck as it goes! I personally think it’s a combination of continuing to work at it, seeing everything as an opportunity, and being able to adapt when things don’t work out.

Now I can’t say that that has made me a multi millionaire, but the age I am now, I’m quite clear about what I want in life and what makes me happy, and though being a multi-millionaire in its-self is, I’m sure, a great goal for some it’s not mine. What I’ve searched for in life are a few things.

  1. To be able to work with vulnerable people (I knew this from working with children as a Primary School Teacher) I am able to do through my role at Tees Valley Arts, and the workshops I do too.
  2. Have opportunities and outlets for being creative. This sounds more simple than it is. I have what I have heard called a ‘portfolio career’ so I make my way in life with some paid work from different sources, from some selling, some workshops and whatever else comes up. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for the creative stuff, so any time I have to make is precious.
  3. Having freedom (see above). I am really fortunate – I do have some days which I’m tied to in the week, but have loads of wriggle room, and I try to keep a day I can use for me/swapping/workshops, which works really well. Having freedom is a vital part of what I do, and as I am a long term Fibromyalgia sufferer, means if I need to I can use that one day to recharge – sometimes that means a day in bed.
  4. Working with and helping others. I love working in out team at the shop. It means the world to me, likewise our market and Saltburn Farmers’ Market. I am part of these mini-communities, and within each one are people who inspire, support and are brilliant fun! At TVA I’ve recently written research on how we can support our local Arts and Makers communities, so more on that as it progresses.

There’s always something happening. You have to talk to lots of people, keep your eyes open, separate the real opportunities from those which will distract you from where you want to go (I have learned that not every opportunity is worth seeking further.) Some, however do seem to have dropped in your lap from who knows where… Keeping your eyes open and the conversations gong sometimes really pays off.

A Change at Tea Corner

All this talk of opportunity, and I can’t yet tell you about the one that really has been dropped at my lap, but can say that something exciting is in the offing, and it’s where my teas and a major local tourist attraction meet…. I’ll leave that with you for now.

So, there will be some changes. I made a decision a while ago, based on where the tea sales were going and who was buying my tea, to have a bit of a shake up.

The main changes I made were based on the buying demographic. Many of my buyers are men, yet I sell a brand of tea labelled in what I consider to be a somewhat female manner, and have wanted to make a change to this for some time.

I didn’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but have decided to rename the tea brand, away from Ruby and Blue. So it will very soon be called Taaadaaadaaaaa…..

Whole Lot Of Rosie Teas. 

I love the song ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ by AC-DC. I suppose I identify with the lyrics. It’s sort of  flattering in a round about sledgehammer way, written in 1977 when feminism played no part in rock music but tells of a love of an ample lady (such as me!)

Wanna tell you storya whole lotta rosie
About woman I know
When it comes to lovin’
She steals the show
She ain’t exactly pretty
Ain’t exactly small
Fourt’two thirt’ninefiftysix
You could say she’s got it all

Labels will change too  – less of the flowers and more of the plain cups of tea.. still hand-drawn by me. I won’t be taking away my personal touch. The new website and FB pages will have less of a female lilt. I’m going for a mid-century feel.

Watch this space…

 

 

 

The Maison Belles, Tea and Thriftfest

I start this post with some fantastic news ..

After successfully selling some little bits and bobs in gorgeous Guisborough shop Maison Belle, I’ve been asked by the wonderful owner Laura to have a more substantial presence there.

So, from 11th Oct I’ll be one of the ‘Maison Belles’ The four artists maison belleshe has asked to join her in the shop. Not only will we be retailing alongside Laura’s own stock and work, you might just find us in there holding the fort!

With me and Laura will be my best friend Geraldine of ‘Bean Creative’ (with whom you’ll often see me sharing a stall or doing a workshop ), Abi of ‘Oh Abigail‘ … another wonderful friend and painter of the most amazing handmade signs, and by no means least my friend of 30+ years since we were at Art College together, Kim from ‘Daisy Bloom‘, purveyor of the most stunning bags, scarves and jewellery.

Allowing us to sell and help in the shop allows Laura to concentrate on her new project, the prettiest little cottage literally doors away from me! Couldn’t be more excited.

TEA !   …. If you know me, you’ll know I totally love my specialist teas. I’m not talking fruit teas here (unless you mean Cherry blossom green tea), I mean real leaf teas…

My obsession with tea started as a child, and as a young adult was soon exposed to the delights of Earl Grey. I have passed this on to at least one of my children, with my son drinking Earl Grey with lemon from the age of 8, and seeking out the tea section in Harrods the last time we visited.

Running a teashop I could totally indulge in my love of tea and helped by Carly the owner of The Old Young Teahouse I filled the shelves with all manner of interesting brews… a year on from my exit from the shop and I am missing being around the stuff , so after a great conversation with Rockwood & Hoot’s Jane , I’ve decided to sell teas!

I’ll be selling under my own Ruby & Blue brand and you’ll be able to buy soon at Maision Belle as well as order here. Crack out the china teacups!

THRIFTING in Darlo…

What an amazing time we had at The Festival of Thrift at Lingfield Point in Darlington .. 20,000+ people came on day 1 and more on day 2 … It was buzzing!

On top of that we got the most amazing feedback from the festival organisers for both my ‘Kitchen Cupboard Books’ class and for our stall…

The stallholders, food , entertainment and classes were all superb and Geraldine and I had an absolute ball (if a tiring one!) The photos tell the story (and you can see my Ruby van in the last one). Totally booking for next year!

 

A Welsh Hug & a Fab Festival

Cwtch

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Our morning view of Fishguard

I wanted to start off this blog with the view from the window of our caravan . Completely untouched by Instagram or Photoshop, this was how we woke every morning during our week away, to the view of Fishguard harbour, perfectly framed by the curtains.

We went to Wales for the first week in August, and as our first ‘holiday’ day was my birthday, I chose to visit one of my all-time favourite places, Slova. Solva is one of the most beautiful little enclaves along the Pembrokeshire coast, and for a tiny place still boasts the most idyllic unspolt homes and some wonderful little galleries . I couldn’t help but do a watercolour of the harbour, which I gave to Liz and Pete, my gorgeous in-laws as a thankSolva by Cedric Lockwiood Morris you for spending lots of time with us and feeding us on most evenings.  While we were there, I learned a new word … cwtch. It means to cuddle in Welsh but also to protect and (oddly it may seem) it describes the cupboard under the stairs!  – Not sure Harry Potter would like the word, but I suddenly spotted it everywhere, and adopted it as my new word of choice, and managed to get Liz a gift of a cwtch heart hand embroidered and made from up-cycled Welsh blankets.

Galtres

This moves me on nicely to our weekend at Galtres festival. Having told my friend and fellow maker Geraldine about the word ‘Cwtch’ she kindly made me some fused glass pieces, featuring the word as she was making fused glass for our stall. All ready with our handmade wares, our new huge Gala tent and bags of wool roving for our felting classes, Geraldine and I  set off with my teenagers, George and Sadie in our camper, Ruby.

We spent a hugely rewarding but really tiring weekend in a field in North Yorkshire. We met ‘Haley’ from Coronation Street (the lovely, and extremely cool Julie Hesmondhalgh) whose daughter bought one of Sadie’s tie died t-shirts, we danced along to The Human Leaugue, The Levellers, Morcheeba, Bellowhead and Tricky, and tried not to be driven mad by the music from the fair directly opposite us! There was fun on the dodgems, the odd fish finger and cheese sandwich from the ‘Fish FInger Heaven‘ stall and lots of fun all round with the most wonderful set of people. We’re all signed up for next year.

More workshops, festivals and markets to look forward to until Christmas so it’ s a mega-busy time . Look forward to seeing you there!

Thriftfest and Pot Dogs

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What brilliant news we had this week that Geraldine and I have been accepted to have a stall at the Festival of Thrift at Lingfield Point in Darlington, this September.

For any of you who are in driving distance and didn’t go last year this is an unmissable weekend with loads of handmade and upcycled loveliness for sale, delicious and diverse food, and fabulous events and workshops (we loved the hula-hoop lessons). It’s a real honour and we hope to rub shoulders with the likes of Wayne Hemingway and Max McMurdo, a fab upcycler who’s appeared on both Kirsty Allsop programmes and ‘Small Spaces’, both of whom were there last year!

So, bringing myself down to earth and thinking of new recycled projects I have been looking at ceramics for inspiration, having come across some iconic Staffordshire pottery dogs whilst perusing Ebay. Looking a bit further it seems I’m by no means the first to be inspired by these lovely objects, and I found examples of updated versions by Rob Ryan (whose work I have long had a love for) and Donna Wilson…

 

For my own version I have used a quilting method and 2 layers of thrifted sweatshirt fabric to create some dog and cat brooches, but there’ll be lots more to come.

Don’t forget to book your workshop if you want to come, we’re planning water-colour, free stitching, crochet and pattern-making after this round too! See the Facebook page to keep updated! Book a current workshop HERE and see below for details!…

See you on the flip side!

hub workshops apr 14 photo

 

 

Tweeting along

On Monday I spent the morning optimising my use of twitter with the wonderful G who I do lots of markets and art sessions with, so all you little tweeters can follow. I’m at @rubynblue if you fancy following my exploits on there. It was run by Mark of @BestDadICanBe . He writes a funny blog about his exploits as a father and is great fun to have as a tutor. Something I always think about when I am running sessions… Who wouldn’t want to have some fun while learning?

The posters for the new courses are ready, and we’re enjoying the process of booking people in, don’t forget you can book them on Eventbrite and all the details are here.

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Monday night I spent with the little gang at Totally Locally Guisborough , the shop local scheme I co-run. We have the meetings at a gorgeous rustic little pub at the edge of the town; The Anchor. What a great place, with open fires and photos of sports teams (many of whom are still in the pub, but a bit older). We’re in the final stretch of the Spring market planning and it’s really exciting, with a ‘maypole’ theme of bright colours and flowers, the market is going to be a real spectacle, so we can’t wait. Alongside this, we’re running a ‘Magic Tenner’ campaign , which highlights the positive effect it has on our community if every adult just spends an extra tenner with a local independent business.. all good stuff!

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The basics of both the markets and the courses are now ready so I’m back to some making, at the moment I’m onto some cheeky embroidery tweaks, taking old embroidered images and updating them.. Take a look below.

These will soon be making their way to a market stall of shop, so I’m off to continue with them. Keep on with the craftiness all you makers.. Miki

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