Sunday, 23 October 2016

Christmas Soaps launch

Well a happy autumnal season to you,

Here I am, sitting in the cosy studio with a pot of tea, surrounded by box upon box and shelf upon shelf of handmade festive treats such as newly poured soy woodwick candles in festive fragrances, glinting corked bottles of bath oils, dinky little pots filled with luscious rich butters ans waxes as lip balms and perfume balms, tubs of rich creamy body butters and exfoliating sugars scrubs - "Just right for 'chicken legs'" (as the local WI exclaimed at a talk I gave earlier this year). I've been making and wrapping in a frenzy over the last couple of months, so I thought it high time I told you about them.

But first of all, I just had to give you a little peep into my morning started like this...not bad eh? I LOVE Autumn in the UK. I can't wait to break out the woolly scarf and fingerless gloves in a week or two - a winter event essential teamed with hand warmers, stout boots (pictured) and a good flask, yes sireee!!

So, without further ado, may I introduce the featured special guests, my festive soaps.....these have been challenging to make as I've employed newly learned pouring techniques, new essential oil blends and a whole streamlined method of production, meaning I can make my soap twice as fast as before!! Oh, and I recorded video's as I made them too! I always like to make things complicated for myself it seems!!

First up, 'Snow Drift soap' - Imagine rough woollen socks stuffed into warm leather boots, crisp bright mornings and tramping along a forest path strewn with fallen leaves beneath sparkling frosted pines and the earthy scent of the springy forest floor.
Beautifully yet delicately fragranced with a fresh, crisp scent with top notes of mild menthol with a hint of pine giving way to middle notes of spruce and eucalyptus and grounding cedarwood to complete the blend. 

'We Three Kings' handmade soap - Crowned in gold and bronze micas, and sprinkled with real gold dusted Frankincense resin, this truly is a festive treat. Pure, smokey and resinous Oman frankincense essential oils give a beautifully haunting and ancient scent. Each bar is enriched with pure plant oils and butters to soften and feed the skin and lashings of fresh dairy cream for added moisture. Real tussah silk adds an extra luxurious lather and silky feel on the skin.

'Winter Cabin' handmade soap is woodsy, earthy and smokey. Blended with warming Cedarwood, comforting Clary Sage, spicy Clove and meditational yet smokey Vetiver oils.
Imagine a special escape in the forests, it's dusk, a glowing fire built with seasoned pine and dried cones is roaring in the grate, the wind lifts a spray of sparks, an owl hoots from the distant branches. As the sun slips below, a frost decends and glitters on the roof, a warming hot toddy in your hands, a hug from your favourite special one ...bliss! I can't think of a better winter escape!

'Winter Spice' handmade soap is what Christmas is all about. Spiced steam curls over the lip of a sparkling goblet of amber mulled cider, the glint of candle light on the dampened eastern spices bobbing on the surface, notes of dusty cinnamon, sharp clove and rich sweet blood oranges fill the air.

Well there they are, I hope you like them. These little lovelies and oodles more are all available to buy from my website, Folksy and Etsy shops online and will be available direct from me at the studio or from my events in the big run up to the big day. Numbers are however limited and once they're gone, they're gone so be quick if you want one (or two, or a bundle!!). 

See my EVENTS page over on the website too, for a full rundown of my Christmas events in the North East, I'll have OPEN STUDIO days throughout November and December so keep an eye out for these as well, I'll announce them over on my Facebook Page each week, so be sure to 'find and follow' me over there too if you're not already. 

If you want to see how they were done, pop over to my You Tube channel for a gander, here's one to tempt you in...enjoy xx

If you're a fan of a flash sure to sign up to my NEWSLETTER too, I'll be releasing the odd special reward to subscribers as the days get darker and the nights get chillier.


I can't quite believe I've been this organised and finally feel I'm ready for the big push towards my busiest time of year. I really hope to make a few blog posts before the BIG DAY, but if I get swept up in the whirlwind that is the Christmas countdown, I wish you all the very best for a fantastic Christmas and relaxing New Year ahead. 

Until next time, TTFN
Ceri xx

Monday, 12 September 2016

Eco Printing, campfires and stars...

Hello hello my lovelies,

It's been one busy summer and now, as the season turns it's face towards Autumn, all thoughts here at OSHQ start to revolve around Christmas preparations.

The festive soaps are well underway already and I'll do a separate post about these soon, but today I'd like to tell you a little about my other product stream, my Eco Printed range of silks and original art pieces. Eco printing is a technique to create a print from plants, leaves and flowers. Each one is unique and original, the colours and patterns cannot be replicated as the print is created from the pigments inside the plant materials themselves.

Laying out gathered Meadowsweet,
Copper Beech and Blackberry leaves onto the silks.

I've been extremely lucky to have just completed an artists residency up on the Northumberland fells at a beautiful spot in the remote region of Tarset, near Bellingham. 'Wild Northumbrian' are an eco friendly site providing very comfortable, off grid, luxurious camping accommodation in traditional yurts, tipi's and a handmade shepherd's hut. It's based inside the Northumberland Dark Sky park too, so the night skies were blimmin awsome!!

The View over the Northumbrian Fells.

My husband Phil from Scapeography was also resident and working on an ancient woodland photography project during our stay. It involved a lot of pre-dawn starts and tromping in the woods, then late night finishes gazing at the glorious plethora of visible stars in one of the darkest skies in the bad way to spend your days eh? Check out his facebook page or Twitter account (@Scapeograph) for more details of his work and a peek behind the scenes at his current projects.

Our Sweet little Bothy through the Apple trees
During our stay, we had full run of the sweet handmade Polebarn Bothy, with a gorgeous log burner and fire pit to 'cook' my eco-prints over. I spent my days gathering local plant materials, attempting new dyeing techniques with plant materials I'd never used before and using off grid methods of heating so I had my work cut out.

Lichen can also be used as a dye,
I might have to try this one day too.

We were there for 4 days and I had quite a crowd at some times with lots of interest about how each print is made, what plants I've used and how each print is created, it was a learning curve for me as well as my visitors too as I don't tend to offer workshops or talks about my work (that's what comes of being a bit of a shy bird with a fear of crowds), but the wonderful feedback I received made me think I managed it quite well...PHEW!!

My kind of neighbors.

I'm delighted to say the dying and prints worked out well and I'm extra delighted with the (some surprisingly bright) results, see some of them below, what do you think?

These are both from Madder root,
such amazing colours!!

Silk bundles cooking on the stove.

Madder root in the pot, Wild Blackberry,
Copper Beech and Sycamore leaves leaving their
 ghosts on the silk.

Eucalyptus and Oak leaves give a strong
and colourful print.

This little guy kept a close eye on the activities.

Finished Scarves, cushions and mounted prints
 displayed in our Polebarn Bothy during our stay.

 As I type I'm soaking the 30+ prints I made during our stay, so I'll add more images once they are fully finished, dried and pressed. The scarves etc will be available to buy direct from my events, my studio and if I get a chance...from the website this space.

Huge thanks to the fantastic Rob and Vicky at 'Wild Northumbrian Tipi's and Yurts' for the use of their beautiful site for this project during our stay. The Yurts, Tipi's and Shepherd's huts are available to book via their website, so if you fancy a taste of off grid, luxury camping, go check them out and book a stay, you'll want to move in...we did :)))

I'd love to hear what you think about the scarves and eco printing as I love to make them, feel free to leave a comment below.

TTFN and until next time xx

Ceri x

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Skye's the limit!

Hello lovely people, how are you today?

The sun is almost shining here in Northern England and things are good in the studio so I'm one happy bunny.
If you remember back in May I promised not to leave it so long before I updated you on what's been happening in soap land, so here we are...

I hope you are all avoiding the horrible bug that's been going around, it presented itself as flu for me and pretty much flattened me for over a week, I've never had so many hours sleep in a row in my life!, or felt quite so rotten! I'm glad to say I'm 100% better now and glad to be rid of it.

Only a week after the bug departed, we were driving all the way up to the Isle of Skye, just off Scotland's North West coast so I'm glad it went when it did!! It was a long drive over 2 days stopping off at Ballachulish on the way up, and Invercoe on the way back down to break up the journey.
I've been to the Highlands and Islands a good few times now but not as an adult, driving...and it was the first time the Hubbs had been at all, we were blown away by the drama of the place, the scenery and the weather, it was glorious!

Our first day was spent exploring on foot as I really did not want to drive ...again! We strolled along to the local village of Sconser, just about 3 miles along the rugged coastline from our sweet little croft house right on the coast. We were amazed at the views and the heat! Seriously, it was about 28 degrees C. We explored to Sligahan a beautiful alpine plateau behind the Black Cuillin mountains that evening as the sun was lowering in the sky, Hubbs accidentally took a dunk in the peat bog behind the mountains too...his camera had a bit of a drink as well, fortunately they both survived to photograph another day (!!). That evening, we sat out and enjoyed watching 2 Ospreys and a family of Otters playing and feeding right outside the cottage - our first spotting of both.

The Black Cuillin Mountains from Sligahan.

Reflected Black and light 

Muddy pup!!

The next day we decided to take a trip up to Dunvegan and Colbost beach on the North West peninsular, it was so clear and sunny, and today the car told me it got to 34 degrees!! We had a fab day exploring the coral beach overlooking Harris and North Uist, saw grey seals in the bay and lots of seabirds. On the way back to the cottage, we called into a couple of artists studios, the amazingly talented resident photographers Phil Gordon, and Russell Sherwood (part of 'Art Skye', a collaboration of resident artists and makers) who open their doors to passing visitors in the summer season. Both myself and the Hubby were very impressed indeed!

Coral Beach nr Dunvegan
Looking West to North Uist and Harris in the Outer Hebrides.

Tuesday was our Wedding anniversary, so after a day of beach scrambling at Tallisker bay, a visit to the Tallisker Distillery (be rude not to) and an encounter with a hungry peacock, we headed off for tea, we had booked a special meal at Sconser Lodge Hotel. A local fisherman dives for scallops in the bay, right outside, so we knew it was going to be good...and it WAS!!  The seafood was the best I've ever tasted!

Aging Barrels at Talisker Whisky Distillery

Talisker Bay looking towards South Uist
Hand dived, local Scallops, Langoustines and Oysters for our special tea...OH MY!!!

Next, we headed off to The Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing (a huge landslip and part of the Trotternish Ridge) on the most northerly peninsular, which was absolutely mind blowing! The dramatic slopes and ridges were just incredible, you could see for MILES! We also called in at Kilt Rock - a pleated looking cliff face with a waterfall into the sea, on the way back and saw 3 pods of dolphins from the top of the cliffs!

The Needle at Storr

Looking South over the Quiraing

On Thursday we decided to explore along the John Muir Trust path from Elgol to Loch Coruisk, it was very dramatic, but quite steep and a bit treacherous for two amateurs with a bit of a wibble with heights and steep steep drops! We made it about half way along before turning back where the path was broken down and dropped away to a rocky beach about 50m below, we didn't fancy a trip in an air ambulance! In the afternoon we went by boat over to Lock Coruisk and the Black Cuillin mountains and saw some beautiful (and very pregnant) common seals, basking on the rocks. I'd wanted to go back to this spot ever since my first visit at 14, where we camped in a storm, I still have the scars on my ankle from that first trip, where I fell and skinned it to the bone! It was exactly as I remembered, if not even more beautiful, I'm so glad we made the trip.

The Black Cuillins from Elgol beach

Boat Trip!!! with the islands of Eigg and Muck in the background

They looked like they were going to pop!! So full of pups...bless x

The Black Cuillins from Lock Coruisk.

Our last day was spent scrambling around the Fairy Pools and Glen Brittle beach in the rain...our only wet day!

The Fairy Pools, usually a lot fuller, but there had been no rain for 3 weeks!

Such gorgeous colours in the water!

Wherever I go, I find textures, I can't resist, I think it's the textile fanatic in me...I have a growing collection of images that might become inspirations for things are a few more I gathered while we were away....

I really hope we can go back there again someday soon, I'm sure I have iron filings in my blood, lining up to steer me's like a tug, pulling me back day...

Sunset over Raasay island...our cottage view.

I hope you've enjoyed our adventure, let's hope there are many more to come...

TTFN, Love Ceri xx

Friday, 13 May 2016

It's been a while...but I have some amazing news!!

Hello lovely people, how are you?

I'm ashamed to say it's been quite a while since my last update, I hope you will forgive me.

We're well into 2016 now and I finally feel almost settled into the year. I had quite a rocky start and was very unsure what direction my business should take going forward. I've suffered quite a bit from exhaustion and insecurity surrounding my business but I finally feel I have a path to follow now, it's been quite a journey!

I have spent the last few months building up stock and getting back out there to a whole host of new events and exciting venues including a pop up artists showcase in a city centre railway station, a music and exhibition venue in Barnard Castle (Co. Durham) and a well renound, historic green space in the centre of Newcastle. These have all been quite an adventure but are proving to be great spaces to sell my soap...who knew! (see my events page for the where's and when's for the next few months).

Along with trialling higher profile events and venues, I've been working on raising the barre on social media too, I've noticed there seems to be a shift towards revealing a bit more behind the scenes in a small business enabling the customer to make an emotional bond with the maker and their products because they can see the time, dedication and skills involved in creating a product, so ...despite crippling cameraphobic shyness, I've been making some little 'behind the scenes 'videos. These show little snippets from my studio, my processes, and snapshots of my events and fellow makers who attend these too. I hope I'll be brave enough soon to do a 'straight to camera' one soon...not making any promises though ;).

You can find these on my new You Tube channel, my most recent one is below.

I'd love it if you watched them subscribed to my channel and shared them, I promise I won't overload you x.

In other news....I have a NEW STUDIO!!! Sorry to shout but I'm so excited as I've needed more room for the best part of two years. I've only moved next door but I now have much more space to make, store and even have room for a little shop area too. It's still a bit of a work in progress but this is how it looks.

Looking in from the door.

My little shop and display area.

And finally, I'd like to let you know about two fabulous new stockists who are selling my wares, first up 'Peacock Blues' in Haltwhistle, a lovely little rural town almost at the border of Northumberland and Cumbria. They are based at the 'Whistle Art Stop' just off the high street. The lovely Sarah who runs the shop and exhibition space also hosts furniture restoration workshops, every time I visit I want to 'rehome' her lovely custom pieces.

My other new stockist is the beautiful 'Corbridge Larder'. They stock oodles of locally produced foods and goods, and also have a super little cafe upstairs, the cake is to die for!

Don't forget to sign up to my newsletter for regular updates, exclusive special offers and flash sales throughout the year.

Also, take a peek at the UK Handmade Summer Showcase...two of my soaps were selected from a whole host ok UK maker's products...I'm made up :)

I'll try not to leave it so long next time,


Ceri x