Friday, 21 September 2018

cake break!

The arrival of autumn brings with it that lovely snuggly feeling - along with the usual clichés of swirling golden leaves and endless images of merino-clad people laughing joyously as they frolic through said leaves (before popping into a cosy gastro-pub for a hearty yet healthy Sunday brunch of foraged mushrooms on toasted rye-bread).

And we just love it! Autumn here in North Devon is spectacular - it really is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.  Toadstools are springing up in the woods like someone has gone mad with the fairydust and the luminous early evening light at dusk peppered with the wheeling dark shadows of the rooks coming in to roost could never be bettered with an Instagram filter. 

And then there are the apples.  In the trees.  On the ground.  On our car roofs. There are apples bouncing around everywhere.  Every village has at least one roadside bucket with a handwritten please help yourself sign at the summit of a mountain of scarlet and green orbs.  The apple crop (following hot on the heels of the risking-life-and-limb harvest of the vergeside blackberry crop) is delicious this year.  Eaters, cookers - all fantastic. 

Jo had popped in for a chat - perfect timing!
...and so this happened.  Nish walked in with a just-out-of-the-oven apple crumble tart.  Tools were downed.  Replies to e-mails were forgotten (sorry Dom) and we not very politely ate it as quickly as possible. 

We've said it before and we'll say it again...Bake-Off next year Nish?!

Friday, 13 July 2018

old bags - new lease of life (handbags that is. Not us)

There have been a few vintage hilary johnson handmade bags floating around the workshop recently - some had belonged to Nish's mum; others had been hiding in cupboards for donkey's years.  All of them were beautiful in their own way, but were looking a little bit tired perhaps.

So, what to do?  

In Hilary's words - chop, slash and add dangly bits!

It was a revelation and a tiny bit exciting too - this well-loved tote used to have a very long strap and the edges had worn with years of constant use. 

It was looking old and saggy, baggy and a bit loose at the seams (10 points to anyone of a certain age who recognises this description).  Hilary didn't want to lose the patina of the leather - it had, after all, lived quite a life - so we didn't smother it in balm to take out all of the marks, and neither did we replace the front pocket flap to make it smooth.  But Hilary did mend the split seams, added the new silver trims, removed the long strap and added a tassel.  It's now a posh shopping bag ready to waft around Darts Farm and John Lewis.

And that was just the start.  We found a couple of flat cross-body messenger bags in another cupboard.  Now this style of bag is having a moment right now.  We're a little bit in love with the very urban styles at Armani and Gucci and we've just made some of our own in gorgeously strokeable cow-hide. 

This old one from the cupboard just needed a bit of bling which it duly received. 

And then the frenzy started.  Old Christmas lights, wrapping paper, souvenir tea towels and back issues of the Chulmleigh Old Fair programme came flying out of the cupboards upstairs (by the way, well done George from year 7 Chulmleigh Community College for winning the competition to create this year's cover - love the Lichtenstein-esque design. Chulmleigh Old Fair is on from 24th - 29th July this year and it's going to be fantastic - we can't wait!) 

Soon we had quite a pile of bags to play with and so now we're busy re-working them into something new.  It does feel a bit like we've stepped into Aladdin's cave. 

Watch this space for more examples, and in the meantime, if you fancy making a few changes to your old bag let us know. It's like being given a lovely new present.

And in other news, check out Hilary's new range of equine neck straps as modelled by Arnie (he's going for the Mr T look and wearing multiple versions in this picture).  Lots of different colours available - please get in touch for more details.

And absolutely finally we have our gorgeous friend Sarah modelling her new bespoke handbag (major brownie points to her husband for buying her such a fabulous birthday present). Now Sarah can pull off the sultry model look with ease but having seen the grin on her face in this shot we couldn't resist choosing a smiley pic instead! 

PS apologies to anyone trying to look at individual bags on our website - the internet pixies have surreptitiously added an annoying glitch - we are working on it and full service will resume soon.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

carpet bags, coffee mornings, clocks and carpentry!

We love a bit of alliteration.

Well it's been a busy month in the world of leathersmithing.  First, Hilary put the finishing touches to a new selection of magic carpet bucket bags featuring two very different kinds of rug.  A gorgeously tactile weave - so soft you could fall asleep on it and fabulous kilims in muted hues of raspberry and caramel.  That particular new year's resolution is still going strong.  

Then Hilary had a stall at the Witheridge Tennis Club coffee morning - lots of chatting and cake and only up the road which was lovely.

As for the clocks - check this out! A clock made into a bag for one of the Exeter red coat city guides (as modelled by Louisa who just happened to pop into the shop after school - thanks Louisa!)

And finally the carpentry - Nish has been busy shoring up the window at the front of the shop in preparation for major renovation work on the frame.  It's going to look fantastic!

Friday, 11 May 2018

win this bag!

We'll keep this bit brief then get on to the exciting competition...

New data protection rules come into force on 25th May and to cut a long story short we need to double check that everyone who receives emails from us is pleased to get them and is happy for us to keep hold of their email addresses in our special lead-lined bank vault (we don't send many emails out, but if we have a special offer on it's handy to be able to tell people - especially those who aren't on facebook).

Anyhoo, we know everyone has been asked a gazillion times to resubscribe to lists recently, so whilst we were looking at the issue we thought we'd take the opportunity to make it a bit more fun and to thank everyone who is a valued customer or who has shown an interest in Hilary Johnson Handmade (which is you, by the way, seeing as you're reading this) by giving them the chance to win this glorious green tote.

We're going to pick a name out of the bag on 25th May and everyone who subscribes (or re-subscribes if you are an existing friend) to our mailing list or who likes our facebook page is in with a chance of winning.  The subscribing/re-subscribing/liking needs to take place on or after 11th May 2018 and before 5pm on 25th May 2018 and you have to be aged 18 or over.  After 25th May, our old mailing list will disappear in a puff of smoke and only new joiners and re-subscribers will be left.  

We'd love it if you'd like to join in.

Please click here to join or to re-subscribe to our mailing list.

Please click here if you would like to visit our facebook page.

If you do join in, you can, of course, unsubscribe from the mailing list or unlike our facebook page at any time (although if you're going to do this, we recommend you wait until after 25th May!)

And finally, here's a picture of our friend Kate with another little lamb - we've been bottle feeding this one and it's very, very cute!

Friday, 23 March 2018

Plymouth College of Art takes on a challenge

The cut throat world of advertising may not feature regularly in our sleepy little backwater (although there are a surprising number of leading creatives at the tops of their games who've nailed the work-life balance by leaving their 24 hour city lives to set up their own international practices round here - in fact it's turning into a bit of a mecca when we think about it.  Must be the lure of the weekend surf lifestyle.  Not really surprising when you realise how accessible the world is from anywhere these days - providing there isn't a flock of escapee sheep in the way, obviously).

Anyway.  We had another opportunity to work with students from the PCA recently which is always fun as you never quite know what they're going to come up with.  

This time they were working on images to be used in advertising campaigns.  They had to acquire props, build sets and then run the photoshoot. 
We sent them a selection of random items from the shop and here are a few examples of the photographs they produced.  We particularly like the hand breaking through the screen - a really powerful, edgy image and not one we would have come up with ordinarily.

Thanks guys!

Friday, 23 February 2018

Trish's lovely new bag

It was a balmy winter's day in Chulmleigh (hovering somewhere just above freezing) when artist and designer Trish Mohan came in from the cold to hijack Hilary's sewing machines in order to complete her top secret personalise a Beech Workbag for her husband Robbie's birthday. 

Trish and Robbie love the wilds of Dartmoor and have an enviable view of the moor from their home, so Trish decided to add an applique view of a tor and surrounding hills to the front of the bag. 

She added a sky-blue lining to finish it off and the result, as we're sure you will agree, is stunning. 

Think we may have to copy your idea and add it to our range Trish!


Friday, 26 January 2018

(nearly) spring greens

It was freezing cold so we nipped outside very quickly to photograph this lovely fresh tote about to wing its way out of the workshop to brighten up someone's day.

(We thought the red gloves looked better against the green than the mottled blue/grey of the actual hands).


We even found a chilly helper - thanks Mick!