As Winter wanders away….

…I am feeling so much brighter and happier.  I do dislike the greyness and general coldness of winter, and to be honest, if I won the Lottery I would probably buy another home somewhere that was warm and sunny.  Why buy another home and not just relocate?  Because I do love the UK bizarrely.  I’d just like it to be warmer and sunnier…

As it was half term last week I did some tidying up in the garden and my next thoughts should what I’ll try and grow (and most likely fail at) in pots in the garden this year.

As last week was a busy one with the children generally I didn’t get a huge amount done, but I did just about complete a necklace that I was embroidering (you’ll get a proper picture once it’s all finished) and I got some fabric flowers made. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with them yet…..

Once I’ve decided what I’m doing with them I’ll let you know..

And in dance news, well, I’m working on something for my solo at Hipnotic in March, will be tweaking and honing what my Tribal ladies and I will be dancing to at the same event, drilling my learning disability class in readiness for their performance in May, practicing with Covert Bling for the upcoming performances with them, researching what I’m going to do in my new fitness and drills class and start teaching my daughters Primary school class a (hopefully) simple folklore/fakelore dance as this term they are learning about ancient Egypt.  That should be enough to keep me out of trouble….

Weekend Tasks

This weekend I shall be child-free so I really need to organise myself.  My under-stairs cupboard is full to bursting with *things*.  Some of it needs to be sold but isn’t suitable for Etsy really, so Ebay is the way to go.  So I need the motivation to get it all out, get it photographed, sized where appropriate, and get listings written up ready to go onto Ebay.  This includes fabric, lace, jewellery, clothing, beads and braids.  If I have time some of it might get made up into stash packs that I can sell.  People around me are very generous and let me have all manner of things that they think I might be able to use.  Being a magpie means that I am sometimes unable to say no when I should but I figure that everything is useful one way or another.  But as the children’s toys and books are increasing with every birthday (and of course Christmas is coming up) I need to both make some extra money and create some space for their things.

Other items need the same treatment (photos and descriptions) but can be listed in my Etsy shop and I like nothing better than having a whole heap of draft listings ready to go so that I can add a new item every day over a period of time.

Then of course there’s the task of gathering up everything that is already listed on Etsy and making sure it’s all in one place instead of there being things all over the house in various drawers, bowls, boxes and decorating my bedroom.  This would actually be one of the more useful tasks to complete this weekend so maybe that one should be first on the list as it’s probably the easiest to complete in a short space of time.

Next there are all of the things that I stash as supplies for making new stuff – I really need to remind myself of what I’ve got and see if I can be inspired….or at least remind myself of what I have, week out things that could be sold as they are or dismantled and sold for supplies if I think I may not be able to use them.

Once I’ve done all of this I need to get on with finishing a custom Tribal belly dance bra and belt and get on with a custom headdress order.  So I’m not sure that I’ve got enough time to do everything over the weekend, but I’m certainly going to make a good attempt at it.  Probably fuelled with coffee and chocolate cake to keep me going!

Oh, and let’s not forget that I have a Belly Dance event, Hipnotic, to run and dance at on Sunday night

Headdress Drama

Yesterday produced a flurry of Etsy activity that was….interesting.

The upshot is that this piece sold to someone going to The Secret Garden festival in the UK.  What was even better about it was that the customer was on Etsy looking for inspiration for something she was making and decided to buy my headdress instead.  Yay!

So first of all I get an email asking how quickly I can get it sent to her as she’s in the UK and she assumed I was in the US.  Nope, I’m here in good old Blighty.  I can send it today (yesterday IRL).  Ok, customer doesn’t have a Paypal account……  That’s ok, I can send an invoice and she can send via Paypal without setting up an account.  DOH!  There are to-ings and fro-ings that I won’t go into but eventually the sale is made, the price is paid and I get it in the post at 3pm guaranteed to get to her the next day (today).

As would be expected her last email to me was to check that the item was as good as it looked – I assured her that it would be better than it looked in the photo as photos are not my strong suit……

The feedback was worth all the online fretting – “She just arrived and she’s GORGEOUS, thank you so much!!”

Ah, I love a happy customer…….

Spiderman and Supergirl

It’s a shame I’m so precious about posting pictures of my children online or you would get to see a cracking photo of my son (two years and nine months) in a Spidey costume (complete with muscles) and wearing a red sequined cowboy hat…..

For now you’ll just have to imagine it….

Two nights ago I wore a sequined Baladi dress for a talk I gave at a branch of the local Women’s Institute here in the UK.  I figured practice clothes were too boring, full on costume bling might have been a tad too much.  So I wore a Baladi dress and took some other props and based my talk around costume genres and changes within belly dance culture before doing a touch of teaching to end the night.

But the point is my daughter (aged seven) was blown away by the dress and asked if she could have it when she was big enough.  Apparently I looked like a Princess (sometimes even a compliment from a child is a massive compliment!)

Tonight, when she should have been getting ready for bed she decided to go and dig through the box of dressing up clothes and found an old Shalwar Kameeze dress (sans sleeves that I have used for a costuming project) and came down-stairs, resplendent, happy that she had something similar to what I had worn.

To keep up with the gang my son came down, Spiderman costume in hand, insisting he put it on.  I helped him put it on and much laughter ensued as they danced for me (he in costume and aforementioned hat), before they played Super-baby (where he jumps off a chair into her arms which always ends with a banged head to at least one of them and tears and a cuddle before bed).

Twenty minutes later, Spiderman and Supergirl (as he called his sister) were dispatched to their beds after the foreseen bump and a cuddle (by Supermum no less, although I’m pretty sure that internally they were calling me something less flattering).

Supergirl was happy to step out of her costume.  Spidey was less happy, and so he has gone to bed in a padded acrylic costume, worn over his pyjamas.  I guess I now have to go up and relieve him of his super-powers or I shall be awoken by a very hot, smelly boy at a ridiculous time in the morning (ie, earlier than I would like and not quite early enough to get another couple of hours sleep in before we all have to get up).

Wish me luck.

Being Ethical

This is about what I make as a designer and I dare say I may meander into other areas…..

Tonight I made this.

Titania Headdress

As Blackwillow I get to make and sell things.  I do this because I have a creative streak that really only gets going once the children are either in bed or when they are with their dad (ie tonight).

But, this is about being ethical.  Here’s why this particular item is ethical.

The fabric used for the base I bought some 15 years ago from a charity shop.  It’s a beautiful brocade sari and choli (I used a sleeve from the choli) and it’s taken me this long to get around to cutting it up because it’s SO beautiful.

But I had the urge to use it this week. The sari is hanging in my bedroom at the moment and may well become something else (a skirt or trousers).  The choli had been taken in at least three times so there was a lot of stitching to undo but it was worth it.

The flowers I have had in my collection for some time too but don’t ask me how long.  They came from a charity shop too as most of my items do – you can count into that the jewelry and the pearls and beads and lace that I added.   All of those things came from a good friend of mine who works in a charity shop and puts things aside for me.

The earrings than brooch that form part of the design are pretty old, probably vintage (I do as much research as I can into designs).  The beads and wire part at the brow were second hand.  Inside the base is a belt I bought some time ago (from…guess where, a charity shop) and the elastic that makes up part of the ties is one of the only things that was bought new.  So I can’t claim that the whole item is ethically sound.  Just 90% of it….. maybe even 95%…..

Why is this important?

Because if I use things that have come from charity shops (goodwill or op-shops depending on where you live) then I am re-cycling or up-cycling.  Sustaining the life of an item that someone had decided they had had enough of.

The recent upsurge in fast fashion disturbs me, even though it suits my single parent pocket.  Even more so that I am now reading *To Die For* by Lucy Siegle, and then two days ago there was the rehash of a Panorama (BBC) programme about children working in sweatshop conditions for one of the biggest retailers of fast fashion here in the UK.  The BBC said that they were going to apologise for showing a programme that had *flawed footage*, apparently made up footage by the investigative journalist Dan McDougall.

If the footage was faked then I am disappointed.  That means that many people will continue to disregard the reports (that they cannot ascertain as true for themselves) about the working and living conditions of those who are subcontracted to make and decorate the fashion items that we now all take for granted as being as cheap as chips on the High Street in the UK, the US and in Europe.

But.         Think about it.        If you can buy a hand beaded top in Primark or a Walmart store for less than £10 then someone is not being paid properly.  Full stop.  I KNOW how long it takes to hand bead something.  I can’t bead a vest top, let alone a dress or a skirt for the price I could buy one for.  New.

In fact I can’t make my own clothes for less than I can buy them in a High Street store.  I certainly can’t grow, harvest, weave, dye, cut, sew and embellish a top for less than £10.00………….

But someone (in fact lots of someones) does all of these things in order for us to get such cheap fashion.

So how can we all play out part?  Do our bit?  Feel as though we have made a difference?

Get the most out of what you buy and wear.  Wash and care for it correctly and it’ll last longer, ensuring that you don’t have to buy more often.  If you’re going to buy something new then maybe buy something that is better made, better design, better quality.  BUT don’t be fooled by Fairtrade labels.  Fairtrade labels only refer to the growing of the cotton, possibly to the way it was woven.  They do not refer to the making/sewing/embellishing.  Sorry to burst the bubble……

Another alternative is to buy second hand and make alterations to ensure it’s unique to you.  Buying second hand makes sure that an item does not end up in landfill.  That it does get a second or maybe third lease of life.

And the hardest one?  Don’t be seduced by fashion.  Fashion is fleeting.  An industry that WANTS our support, but that does not need it if you are able to follow your own path.

DO NOT buy into the fantasy that buying a cheaply made top/skirt/dress means that someone somewhere IS getting a fair wage that will feed their family and keep them employed.  Consider this.  If there is no other work than the work that is offered by subcontractors for the clothing industry, then where are you going to get a job?  When you have worked a shift (8 plus hours) and your manager is under orders to complete and order and s/he instructs you to work another 8 hours 9through the night) before your next shift, are you going to ask your children (aged 5+) to help you or not?  Take a guess.  If you live in one of the many locations that are subcontracted into this work then you probably will tell them to help you.  Many hands make light work.

Take a stand.  Buy second hand.  Buy from people that up-cycle.  Have a go at making things yourself.  Wear things for longer.  Don’t be fooled by the foolishness of fashion.

End of rant.  You may now switch off.

Distractions…..

So tonight, once the children were in bed I was planning to make a KILLER headdress.

Killer as in fabulous fabric, chains, dangly jewelry bits, feathers, flowers – the whole shebang.  But in order to clear a bit of head-space I needed to do some house-keeping first. NO!  Not house-work, but check my bank account, do my books, tidy up the boring stuff.  That allows m the creative space I need.  And what do I find?  That I just paid for my ex’s motorbike (a hunking piece of rust) to be insured.  What…..?

Last year, when we were still pretending to be in love, I paid for his motorbike insurance from one of my miniscule bank accounts (ok, I’m a Taurus so I have more than one and one day they will all be filled with moolah…)

I had forgotten about this and didn’t realise that when it was due to be paid again they would write to him, and would then automatically take the payment from my account…. (because he never opens letter, that impinges on his life too much and *ties him down, man*).

In fairness he responded to my text message about it pretty quickly and I will get the monies so that I can sort out the debt but FFS.  That messed up my creativity big-time.

Tonight’s lunar eclipse is supposed to be a significant one, and for me one that relates to monetary matters.  *Rolls eyes*.

So instead I’ve just spent the last two hours adding to my blackwillowbellydance website and SEO’ing for all my life is worth.  Well, got to do something constructive…..

It’s now 11.03pm and I’ve got bread in the oven so that I can eat Tricolore Salad before bed (I am willing the avocado to be ripe enough…..)

In other news I found out tonight that the first campsite I am going to with the kids is on rocky ground so I’ve had to buy rock pegs and a claw hammer to accommodate this…that’s ok, I don’t want to return the tent I’ve borrowed with 20 bent pegs at the end of the summer.  I’ve only borrowed a tent because the one I have is huge and takes up three very heave bags because when I bought it I wasn’t a proper camper and didn’t look at how it was constructed, only at how big it was.  The tent I have borrowed is just as big but fits into one bag and I can put it up by myself.  I do have a girly tool box that contains a hammer, but it’s not a claw hammer so hey, I needed one didn’t I?

And tomorrow I will again give the killer headdress a couple of coats of thinking about during the day when I am busy with my small son, and tomorrow night might get around to getting the base ready for some magnificent accessorizing.  Fingers crossed eh?