Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Radio 4 comes to Chulmleigh

What an amazing few days! On Friday 4th December Hilary appeared on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour to talk about her work as a leather designer-maker.  The feature was the final one in a series of interviews with three women who listen to Woman's Hour from their workshops.

The lovely Sarah recorded the interview for the BBC in the workshop which meant that Hilary could demonstrate how the sewing machines worked and show her the different techniques involved in creating a bespoke bag as they chatted.

After the interview was broadcast we considered trying to be really cool about the whole thing - but to be honest, that's just not us - and anyway, it was WAY too exciting!!  And we're so glad that all our wonderful friends thought so too - thank you to everyone who has contacted us since the programme went on air with all your good wishes.

And now it's back to the workbench to get the festive orders finished and ready for posting with the help of Mr Bublé in the background...it's definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

ps we're working on getting the podcast onto our website, but in the meantime, if you're browsing the Woman's Hour website and come across the episode from 4th December Hilary's on at 32.52 minutes!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

hilary johnson handmade goes to Dismaland

our version of Where's Wally...spot the hjh handbag.  And no, it's not the yellow one

So, it's a random Wednesday just  after the schools have gone back, you're not at work today and hours of housework stretch endlessly ahead of you.  Yawn.  Then you get a phonecall.  Can you get to Weston-Super-Mare by 11am for a couple of hours of satire and witty art appreciation?  You betcha.  2 hours later and you're being accused of hiding illicit items under your poncho by a fake security officer in front of a cardboard scanning machine, whilst your sister sniggers like a ten year old behind you.  And it's just started to drizzle.  Welcome to Dismaland folks.

Banksy and his artist mates are geniuses.  If Dismaland was a Venn diagram it would have circles labelled shocking, snortingly funny, entertaining, thought provoking and top of the class clever.  I'm no art critic, but if any of the above are on the tick-list of what constitutes successful art then they've got it nailed.

And weirdly, when you leave you still feel like you're in there - you're half-expecting to see satire and irony in the ordinary.  The poor bloke selling buckets and spades 50 metres along the seafront must have had some very strange looks these past few weeks.

There are only a few days left of Dismaland so if you're one of the lucky people who get the remaining tickets you're in for a very interesting experience.  

Best not to wear a woolly poncho though.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

We love cricket

Josie and Susan on the Wildling stall at Somersault
Well, in true British styley we got EXTREMELY wet at Somersault the other week, but also in true British styley we put on our wellies and jolly well got on with it.  A lot of fun was had by all and we came home soggy, but glittering thanks to the gorgeous gold tattoos applied by the gorgeous Josie of Wildling.

The only rumbling we can hear now though isn't thunder but Hilary's sewing machine (along with the constant background noise of combines, forage harvesters and tractors) as we build up stock for our stall at Chagford Show on 20th.

And talking of shows, we had a cracking time at the North Devon Show last week.  We know agricultural shows seem to feature quite regularly in our blog, but Susan is married to a farmer and despite her high-heel rebellious tendencies (comfy practical footwear isn't always mandatory in the countryside) we do end up going to quite a lot of them.

nicely cut jacket
This year's show saw Adam Henson from BBC1's Countryfile judging some of the livestock classes (although knowing more about tailoring than the competitive merits of different breeds of cattle it was the rather well-cut jacket he was wearing that caught our eye rather than his skills as a livestock judge).

And cricket? As we write this the England team is wowing us with an exceptional display of bowling against Australia in the Ashes.

Wet weather stoicism, dodging sheep poo at agricultural shows and the unmistakable voice of Henry Blofeld.  British summer at its best.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Exeter was busy...next stop Chagford

Friday and Saturday's craft fair in Exeter was lovely - great entertainment (as you can see) and lots of friends old and new stopped by Cathedral Green's tented village to say hello.  

Regional craft fairs have being doing the pop-up thing for years now and the 'as if by magic' element of these events creates a real buzz among the crowds.  Fantastically for us the concept has been embraced by the foodies in Exeter - fine dining pop-ups are sprouting to great acclaim and are proving extremely popular if the stampede for tickets is anything to go by.  We caught one by Pickle Shack cheffed by the destined for great things Josh McDonald-Johnson a couple of weeks ago and it really was magical.

Whilst we're hungrily waiting for gossip of the next hot pop-up we're busy making things for our stall at the truly lovely Chagford Show which opens its gates on 20th August.  And whilst we're there we'll definitely be popping in to see our friends at the Mill End hotel right by the showground for a yummy cream tea - can't wait! (can anybody tell we haven't had any breakfast yet?) 

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

the great outdoors...

One of the fantastic things about summer in the UK is the festival season - and we're not talking harvest festivals (although they do do them extremely well round here it has to be said).  No, we mean the glorious events around the country celebrating the best in music, food, literature, fun - and friendship.

Our friends at Wildling are off to Somersault soon, (closely followed by the Port Eliot festival) and we've started to get those 'has anyone got a 6 man tent we can borrow?' requests which reach their peak in late July/early August.

We'll also be shaking our tail feathers along with the best of them and this year we'll be taking our brand new trusty backpacks (still very excited about those - absolutely 100 % definitely no kiddy snacks going anywhere near mine - that's what the chap's 'had it since travelling, never chucking it out' North Face rucksack is for).

We've even decorated our window to match our camping mood (although we don't think there will be any wild bears where we're going).

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Exeter Craft Festival's coming soon - the workshop is busy!

Friday 17th and Saturday 18th July see us at the Exeter Craft Festival on Cathedral Green (stand 73 if you'd like to come and say hello).  We love this craft fair - it has a really friendly atmosphere and there are some gorgeous creations on offer.

Hilary's been busy making lots of things to take - as well as the usual array of bags (including our brand new 'trusty backpacks' - we're very excited) there will be plenty of keyrings and smaller items on our stall.  Fingers crossed that this weirdly cold and rainy July weather will be long gone by then!

The sheep aren't too impressed with the rain either - last weekend saw the remainder of our flock being shorn and now they're all looking a bit damp out in the fields without their coats on.

Shearing is quite a mesmerising process - 4 portable clipping machines, 4 strapping men in the shearer's outfit of shearing trousers (they'd so catch on with the hipsters of Hoxton - you saw it here first), vest and sheepskin moccasins and 4 others herding the ewes through the gate, separating the ewes' lambs, rolling the oily shorn fleeces on the tarpaulin and then stuffing them into the ginormous wool sacks.  All to the deafening sounds of the clippers, baahs and a Makita radio tuned to Heart FM.

It literally runs like a well-oiled machine, with the naked sheep pogoing vertically out of the shed with their lambs at the other end.

Baah-rilliant! (sorry).

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Father's Day fun

This week it's all about the menfolk at hilary johnson handmade as we look forward to celebrating Father's Day on 21st June.  It's fair to say that our own chaps don't like a fuss and are busy making hay (literally while the sun shines), renewing the render on the front of the workshop and generally doing jobs that need doing - but we think they'd love a surprise like this on father's day...

Scones appear at most coffee mornings and bring-and-share teas here in deepest Devon and every family has its own recipe.  Ours is from the 1975 edition of Good Housekeeping Colour Cookery which is our absolute favourite no-nonsense recipe book (we like our cookery books how we like our bags - no superfluous details).  Enjoy those imperial measures!

Plain oven scones
1. Sift 8 oz of self-raising flour and 1/2 level tsp salt into a basin and rub in 1-2 oz fat with your fingertips.
2. Make a well in the centre and stir in enough milk (about 1/4 pint) to make a light spongy dough - just firm enough to handle.
3. Knead lightly on a floured board to remove any cracks then roll out to 1 inch thick.
4. Cut into shapes with a sharp cutter dipped in flour and place on a floured baking sheet.
5. Glaze with a beaten egg or milk.
6. Bake near the top of a hot oven (210 if it's a fan oven, 220-ish if not) for 7-10 minutes until well risen and nicely browned.
7. Ta-dah!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

half term tassels

Rural Devon's been busy over the last week or so. The hedgerows are now so green that they almost look fake and nature has been inspired by Jackson Pollock judging by the huge splatters of yellow gorse, pink foxglove and white stitchwort that are strewn across the lanes.  The dawn chorus is deafening but joyful and life is bursting out of every tree, bank and barn.  And parallel to all of this is the nearly constant hum of tractors in the fields - the grass is lush and ready for harvest - this year's silage crop will be a tasty food supply for stock in the leaner winter months to come.

And being half term the rest of Devon life has been busy too - the annual Devon County Show drew in the crowds and with a spell of half decent weather the beaches and cafes soon filled up with smiley people dropping down a gear from their usual frenetic pace of life.

The studio has also been a hive of activity this week - there are some lovely things coming soon - beautiful bright totes with rugged brown leather straps, backpacks for commuters (and for those of us with kids who just can't get the hang of the octopus thing) - plus some bespoke commissions.

Talking of which here's a go-anywhere cross-body circular bag with a big tassel.  This subtle greyish pink leather is proving popular for SS15 - grab some before it all goes!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

it's all gone a bit Jane Austen in here today

May I present...the fan bag.

For when you're feeling a little bit fluttery but aren't quite in the mood for empire line dresses and whispering in corners.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Chulmleigh is a stylist's dream!

Our workshop is in a tiny town perched on the top of a windy hill miles (and miles) from anywhere remotely urban or cool.  However, I have to say, it has the best  selection of random backdrops.  Without wishing to give away all our secrets - we totally love this one in the local park 30 seconds from our door.  Please don't let anyone decide that it needs a lick of paint!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

we LOVE Bristol!

There were (clean) cars, people and pavements...and more people and noise...and no muddy tractors anywhere...sigh...it was great to be in Bristol yesteday!

The Redland May Fair was heaving - lots of folk enjoying the huge mix of lovely craft stalls, fabulous food and brilliant entertainment - a truly fantastic community event.  We saw lots of Susan's old friends from her lawyer days and met some lovely new people too - and it didn't rain (hurray!)  Plus our stall was right next to Jen's which made it even more fun.  What a wonderful day.

Nice to come back home though - somehow the hedges looked even greener as we drove down the lanes at dusk, and as a silent barn owl swooped over the car - almost in welcome it seemed - Devon enveloped us once more.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

we're off to the city

A bit like Shaun the Sheep we're off to the city for an adventure - we'll be going to Bristol, the home-town of Aardman and the cultural capital of the West Country (according to Susan, although to be fair, having lived there for 20 years she does sound a bit like she works for the Bristol tourist board at times).

It's the Redland May Fair on bank holiday Monday and this year we're lucky enough to have been allocated a stall, which hopefully won't be too far from Susan's artist sister Jenny Urquhart's stall.  The May Fair is a bit of a Bristol tradition and draws in thousands of people with its eclectic range of craft stalls, fabulous food and family entertainment.  And it's free to visit!  We're looking forward to catching up with old friends - fingers crossed for dry weather...

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

hilary johnson handmade bags visit America

Josie with her acorn workbag in Central Park, New York
I was just tidying up some photo files and I found these piccies of when my bags went on a trip to America.

They had a lovely time (and so did my friends Josie, Susan and Kara - sometimes we just need to escape the peace and quiet of the muddy Devon countryside and walk on pavements and go in real shops!)

Susan and Kara in Union Square, San Francisco with a Cotehele Nosebag and a bespoke slouch bag 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

baggy boots? not any more

All sorts of things come into the workshop - I feel a bit like Bagpuss sometimes.  This week the mice on the marvellous mechanical mouse organ did some cobblery (is that a word?) on these boots.  They are now nice and snug and have lacing up the back.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

spring is just around the corner...

All the signs are here - snowdrops, lambs everywhere and the days are getting noticeably longer.  But the absolute giveaway is the smiling - there's a lot of it about, and it's LOVELY!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Valentine's day leather workshop - better than a bunch of forecourt flowers!

Stuck for ideas this year? Give the gift of time off from the kids and the opportunity to make a beautiful bag in one of our leather workshops.  There's even one on Valentine's day itself!