My new website can be found at http://www.quernuscrafts.co.uk/

Wee Frog (b.3 February 2010)

Wee Frog
Introducing another first for Quernus Crafts! Meet Wee Frog, a very laid back dude who is taking some time out from hopping about on lilypads.

Wee Frog came into being at the request of Carey, the lovely lady from Harrogate who commissioned Wee Crystal and Wee Strawberry, along with a large menagerie of other wee creatures. (I had the pleasure of meeting Carey on 20 February when I handed over the bag of wee creatures, and it was just lovely to meet the person behind a fun and prolific email correspondence!)
Wee Frog prototype
It took a bit of time for Wee Frog to reach his final shape. Initially, I had tried to keep to my usual style - roundish, simple shapes with clear characteristics to identify the particular creature in question. However, no matter how much I tried, the frog just didn't seem to work. Here's one of the early prototypes - I quite liked the legs and the toes, but it just didn't look like one of my wee creatures.

Martini, anyone?
And then one evening, just when I was feeling a bit frustrated with it all, I stopped thinking about it and just let my hands get on with the job (this, I've found, is usually when I come up with my best designs!) When I started shaping the body, I found that he naturally had a wee pot belly and he seemed to want to lie back. This led to the idea of having his arms behind him and his legs out in front, bent at the knees. It didn't take long to make up the basic shape based on these ideas.

I played around with his webbed feet, and in the end I had him crossing his legs - he looked a bit too wanton otherwise - and I added 4mm black onyx beads for eyes and left them standing proud on his head. I kept thinking of Kermit the Frog when I was shaping his head, and that's why he ended up with a triangular face which seems to imply a wry smile. (#It's not easy, being green/# etc.)

Wee Frog is 2.5cm high and 5cm long. I haven't made any more Wee Frogs yet, but they'll let me know when they're ready to make an appearance! I have this vision of a whole group of frogs, sunning themselves round the edge of a swimming pool, lying on beach towels. (I think I need to get out more!!)

Sittin' on the dock of the bay...

Breaking News! Quernus Crafts at Ilkley Arts Market 13 March 2010

I've booked my first craft fair of the year - I'll be at Ridding Hall on 13 March 2010 for the Ilkley Arts Market. This will be the third time I've been there, and out of all the craft fairs I have done, this is my favourite one!

Ilkley Arts Market is run by the indefatigable Jo Whitehead, who is also known as Glassprimitif and is also one of the main bods behind the wonderful Artists in Business blog.

I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things this year - the next few weeks I'll be making up stock, trying out some new ideas and gnerally having fun with wee creatures! Wee Moles will be joining the Wee Beasties range, and I'm also going to be making up some framed polymer clay panels. I'm really excited about moving in this particular direction - I'll be writing about them soon, as no pictures have appeared on the blog as yet. A good friend, Sharon (aka Blissknits), asked her husband to commission a framed picture based on the Four Seasons. If you want a sneak preview of what this turned out like, Sharon wrote about it on her blog here.

Hope to see you along at the Ridding Hall on 13 March!

Wee Alfie (b.2 February 2010)

Wee Alfie
I'd like to introduce you to a very special wee pony called Alfie. Alfie is a 3 year old Welsh pony and he currently lives at Hope Pastures, a horse and donkey sanctuary on the outskirts of Leeds.

I was contacted at the end of January by Amy, who is a volunteer at Hope Pastures and works there every Saturday. (Amy has also got a law degree and is looking for a traineeship - get in touch if you can help her out!) Hope Pastures is a wonderful sanctuary which is currently called home by a couple of dozen horses and ponies, with a few donkeys and mules as well.
Alfie is currently a resident at Hope Pastures after his knee was injured in a tussle last year. He's been on box rest for quite some time, and he still has a limp. It's not clear whether he'll ever recover, but I do hope he does. I had the privilege of meeting Alfie on 20 February - the first time I've ever met one of my horsey models! - and he is such a sweet pony. Cheeky, yes; boisterous, yes; likes to nibble you, yes; and he's very, very sweet.
Wee Alfie

I was so moved by Alfie's story and the good work that Hope Pastures does in looking after neglected horses and ponies that I wanted to do something for them. So when I went to see Alfie, I met with two of the trustees to talk about how I could do this.

Hope Pastures have an adoption scheme where people can adopt a horse, pony or donkey to help with their upkeep. I have offered to make up wee horses based on Hope Pastures' most popular residents which can then be sold to raise extra money for the charity. So, I am donating six wee horses to Hope Pastures, and I will also donate 20% of the sale price for every wee horse ordered through Hope Pastures. This is such a worthwhile charity - I met a few of the other horses and ponies there, and although they all have a sad story of how they arrived at the sanctuary, they all look well and happy, and are being carefully nurtured back to full health.

I'll be writing about the Quernus Hope Pastures herd very soon - I'm making wee models of Muffin, Mr Jingles, Jasper, Trigger, Sparky and Prince, and I'm really looking forward to getting to know them all!

The End!

Nifty Knits: This is...Kirsten Miller (23 February 2010)

Click photo for more about Harry Hill Meerkat
Nifty Knits, aka Heather, the creator of the wondrous meerkats (and other stuff), has kindly interviewed me for her blog! This not only allowed me to to wax lyrical about my latest creations, it also gave me a chance to showcase some of the amazing artists and crafters whose work I really admire.

Nifty Knits has recently entered The K Factor, a competition run by Harry Hill's TV Burp to find the best knitted Harry Hill. As you do. Best of luck to Nifty - her meerkats are taking over the world! (Actually, that's very nearly true - her meerkats are currently on a World Tour - visit her blog for more information!)

Click here to read the interview, and click here to visit her blog for all the links to her growing meerkat empire!

Wee Indy and Wee Paddy (b.30 January 2010)

Wee Indy and Wee Paddy
I'd like to introduce Wee Indy and Wee Paddy to you. I was contacted by Vicky, a lovely lass, at the end of January through the website. She wanted a wee momento of her lovely horse, Indy, who was put to sleep last November. She also wanted a wee horse for her friend, who's horse, Paddy, was also lost a few months before that. So it was with a bit of a lump in my throat that I accepted this very touching commission.

Indy was a beautiful horse with A LOT of hair. Although he's shown here with his forelock neatly tied up, we agreed that it would be best to let his mane and forelock flow free and loose. His mane was mostly cream with a few strands of black near the top, and his forelock was mostly black with a few strands of cream. He had a lovely pink muzzle with black spots around his mouth.

It was fun to replicate Indy's lovely black markings as closely as possible - shrinking them down to a one inch ball of clay can be challenging at times, but I've been struck by how similar shapes keep appearing in the horses I've made. So I shaped the two large 'saddle bags' of black on either side of Indy's rump by rolling out a sheet of black clay very thinly and then cutting out the shapes by hand. I've discovered that placing these shapes is like pulling off a plaster in reverse - you've got to do it quickly and confidently to get the best results!

Wee Indy
Indy also had a few spots of black and a black underbelly - because I roll the body to make sure the colours are well blended, it's important to bear in mind that the shapes do spread out a bit, so I deliberately make the markings a little bit smaller in the knowledge that they'll reach the proper size once I've blended them in.

Paddy, on the other hand, had very few markings - his most distinctive marking was the white blaze on his nose, and he also had one white sock. I love replicating blazes and stars as closely as possible - again, it's important to remember that the clay tends to spread when I'm blending it in, so what looks like an impossibly thin strip of clay will actually bulk out quite a bit when it's applied. So I cut a very thin strip of white clay which had a bend in it, and then placed it carefully on the face. The best way to blend in clay to the head is by a very, very thin knitting needle.

These two beautiful horses are clearly very sorely missed by their owners. I've really come to appreciate the amazing people and animals in the horse community. I spend a long time examining the photos of my horsey models, and I do get to know them pretty well. And their owners are always happy to give me lots of extra background information about their personalities, quirks, etc. It really makes the whole process so more much enjoyable for me to try and capture something of their personalities when I'm making them. Thanks to everyone who's given me the chance to have fun with these wee horses!

The end!

Wee Stella and Wee Harvey (b.30 January 2010)

Wee Stella and Wee Harvey
I've had lots of requests for wee horse commissions after a few of my early creations appeared on the TrotOnline forum. The word has spread, and so I was delighted when Kathy got in touch with me at the end of January asking if I could create a Wee Stella to commemorate her chestnut mare who she lost before Christmas. She also wanted a Wee Harvey for her friend.

Stella in action
It's always so helpful not only to have photographs of the horses, but also some extra information about them. Kathy describes Stella (aka Belladonna) as "a grumpy, cantankerous but immensely loveable old chestnut mare"! She was a marmite horse - you loved her or you hated her, and it was clear from the pictures Kathy sent me that this was a horse that had lots of character, and then some.
Wee Stella
Stella had a flyaway forelock and a mane that wouldn't lie on the right side. So I felt it was important to imcorporate these features when making up Wee Stella. Up until now, I had always put the mane on both sides of the neck and body, but because Stella's mane was so contrary, once I made up the basic shape, I built up the mane so that it lay on the right hand side. This involved blending in a little extra piece of clay between the head and the body, and in order to capture the right effect, I laid the mane over to the right and then 'combed' it over to the left. For her forelock, I placed some shortish pieces of extruded clay and then 'fluffed' it up using a scalpel.

Harvey was a very interested horse to make. You can see that he's got amazingly hairy feet, and some of the action shots Kathy sent me showed how very much they were integral to his personality! He also has a wonderfully long mane and tail, and we agreed that it was important to have these flowing freely (he often has it tied up to stop it getting into his eyes).
Wee Harvey
For his feet, I cut the usual circle of clay and then cut a small strip of white clay to wrap round the circle to act as a 'skirt'. To make sure this strip flared out at the bottom, I coiled three strands of extruded clay around the circle, which provided some additional padding. I did try to put small strands of extruded clay around the hooves, but this looked a bit strange. So instead, I 'fluffed up' the white skirt of clay with a scalpel, and that gave the impression of hair.

I love these two wee horses - I feel that my technique has advanced that much more as a result, and I'm delighted with the way they turned out. Kathy loves them too, as does her friend Laura, who owns Harvey. This is such fun work to do!

The End

UK Handmade: Quernus Crafts blog feature 9 February 2010

I'm delighted to tell you that I've been interviewed by UK Handmade about Quernus Crafts, and you can read the post here.

I've been a member of UK Handmade since I first started out on this journey, and I've always been impressed by what a handful of dedicated creative people have achieved. And I've been so impressed that I've offered to help out, and so I am now joining the team!

Watch this space for further announcements, and have no doubt that you'll hear a lot more about UK Handmade in the future!