Hiatus

Hi All,

It’s been some time since I posted and I thought it would be best to let you all know what’s going on, especially in the light of today’s events in Brussels.

I’m going to take a little break from my lovely Bazaar Collective community for a bit. I’ve already told our close team and they’re so sweet and supportive. That’s not to say I’m going to be totally anti-social, I’m still going to see everyone on the ground here in Brussels, but I have less time for organisation get-togethers and less time for creative work at the moment. There is an awful lot going on at home and it’s taking all of my energy just to stay on top of it and stay sane.

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This is my garden. It’s all mine. And The Belgian’s, of course. We bought it and will spend the next 20 years paying for it and it’s my small little slice of heaven. Once I get through the next few months, I will lock myself away here for a short while to recover. I am going to garden, cook, eat, read, do some office work in the mornings, some house repair in the afternoons, and not much else besides for just a few months. I hope to burst out the other side full of energy.

I’m writing this today in Brussels, a few hundred metres from the Maelbeek metro station where a suicide bomber just blew up a metro carriage, killing a number of people. This morning three bombs went off at Brussels Airport. Looking out my window, it’s a glorious evening and there are people walking around a sunny park and cars going up and down the street. Those weird Brussels wild parakeets are flirting in and out of the still-bare branches, concentrating on forming their next batch of crazy offspring. If it wasn’t for the sound of the sirens and the constant text messages from my family back home, I would not have the feeling that anything catastrophic had happened in Brussels today. Catastrophic doesn’t even cover it, this changes our lives completely. It changes how we see Brussels, ourselves within the city and our own daily actions. I find it all so elusive. I can’t grasp the events or their consequences. Since November we’ve not only been expecting something like this but I’ve thought about it daily. My new commute involves that same metro line. I think about it constantly and am often anxious when I’m pottering about on the tram or metro. Now that it’s actually happened it doesn’t change anything, only justifies the anxiety somehow.

How do we manage this? I had already stepped a little back from my creative world because of other pressures, but if I step back from the world any further I’ll become a hermit. And this is not the way to deal with this new world we’re in. But how to deal with it? With platitudes and “show them no fear” slogans and pictures of beaches with the words of Paulo Coelho in some godawful font? No thank you, that’s not my style. For the last few years I’ve been dealing with fertility issues. I initially took a step back from the blog and from creative work because I’ve just been so exhausted trying to manage that. It’s three years later and we’ve moved no further on that, so I’m quite destroyed by it all. Around November last year I sat back and said no more for a while. No more drugs, no more tests, no more 7am hospital appointments, no more tears. We’re now about half way through an adoption process that we had started last summer, which would mean a child brought into my life within the next year or so. The idea fills me with equal parts delirious joy and abject fear. I desperately want a child in my life but how do I manage that if events like today become a European norm? I have absolutely no answers. When I was a kid, I thought my parents had all the answers. My Mum gave birth to me when she was 20 years old, 13 years younger than I am right now… Any child arriving in my life now would have every right to expect that I have all the answers but here I am, asking you…

So, excuse me for a while, I’m going to hunker down with The Belgian and create a nest where we can feel safe together and from which we can fly. I’m posting pictures of the renovation process on our old townhouse apartment, which is fun but also total madness. We had no idea what we were getting into! If you’re interested in following that process, please have a look

Otherwise, give me a while and I’ll be back. Probably unchanged, with as many questions and fewer answers. But hopefully with a little more calm.

a x

PS this is a good piece by Deborah Orr in The Guardian today on Brussels. If the government could see their way clear to sorting out their petty disputes and forming a common ground, we’d be right behind them in support.

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Back to normal

Today was a super productive day and, given the current outpourings from media, a surprisingly positive one. I’ve been reading a lot lately about climate change and climate emigration. I think I said this before, it makes for scary reading. But today was one of those gems. The kind of day when you start to believe it might just work out. We might just be able to pull together and take care of each other and our futures.

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The Bazaar Creative Sunday group met for the first time since the summer break. As usual, some people couldn’t come and we had new faces. So it was a lovely mix of old and new faces, old and new projects. Next month, if you are thinking of joining us, we will meet slightly later because of the Brussels marathon that morning. I’ll send an email closer to the date but about 1.30pm next month, I think! Lots of lovely positive vibes, shared experience, helpful advice and knowledge. Perfect!

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Amy and I worked on a banner that we took with us to a big public meeting at the Brussels refugee camp later this afternoon. The meeting was really impressive. The idea was that all of the people interested in volunteering at the refugee camp should come together to be organised into groups. The help has been a bit scattered and ad hoc until now so it was a great initiative. Myself and Amy have joined the animations group to organise some activites in the camp as long as it lasts. There are many people doing logistics, food, communications, fundraising and lobbying. We feel it’s also important that we bring something of the host city to the camp while people sit around waiting for their fate to be determined.

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The banner in situ at the camp this evening! For anyone else interested in volunteering, the organisers are communicating through the facebook group Platforme Citoyenne de soutien aux refugies Bruxelles. They will publish information on how the groups were organised today. Anyone who is interested in joining myself and Amy in our activities are more than welcome. We’re searching for small textile ideas that don’t take a lot of time but which can be distracting/engaging for both adults and kids. And for all hands on deck! This was the first weekend that made it clear that there is a crisis to be solved, but it won’t end here and it would be wonderful to have helping hands once the initial buzz fades.

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I’m listening to the radio as I write and just now on the BBC news at 6pm, I heard that the Austrian chancellor spoke today about the situation saying that the open gates policy, ignoring the law that states that migrants must register in the EU country where they land, needs to be rolled back. He said things must “go back to normal” now that the initial crisis has passed. (I literally heard this on the news 5 minutes ago and can’t seem to find a news reference to link to. I’m sure there’ll be more in the papers tonight.) It’s amazing to me that a man in such a position should think that we could ever go back from this point. This is the new normal. This first wave of refugees fleeing death in their own lands is not the last we will see of the mass movement of peoples. I mentioned above I’ve been reading a lot about climate change, and there exist already in the world, large groups of displaced peoples. They have been forced out of their lands, either because land has become inhospitable as a result of fossil fuel mining, or because their land is literally disappearing. (This is one of many links to articles you can find with a quick google search…) Here and now. This is the beginning. I believe the sooner we adapt to this new situation, the better it will be for everyone – for those fleeing famine and war, and for us preparing the welcome them. We will be stronger for it.

The guy speaking in the photo above spoke on behalf of the refugees. Of the few short words he said, one sentence stuck with me. “We are not dangerous. We are endangered.” As a society we cannot fear this change, fear these people. They are desperately in need of help. We are strong and well able for what will come, as long as we stick together. Come along to the next meeting and see how comfortable and joyful people are as they’re working to help others out of a bad situation. See their hearts open, wide open.

I have family all over the world – Australia and the USA mostly, but other places too. And it’s not because Irish people are addicted to travel and can’t wait to get away from their lush green island. Over our long history we were forced to flee not once, not twice but many times. The Great Famine (‘Great’ is a dubious choice of word but I guess it was named in an era when ‘great’ meant impressive/enormous and not awesome) saw a quarter – A QUARTER – of the Irish population flee overseas in search of a life in which they would not be forced to watch their children starve to death. Again in the 1950’s the Irish economy took a nose dive and people were forced to journey to the UK and Australia to find work. There are many great Irish nurses in English and Australian hospitals as a result of that flood of emigration. And let’s not forget what the Irish media have taken to calling Generation Emigration. I’m one of these myself – I emigrated to find a more sustainable life, in which I could expect to live in a big city and afford a life that won’t drown me in debt forever. But here’s the catch, I’m lucky enough to have enough money in my pocket to earn me the title of Expat, not immigrant, on these Belgian streets.

There are many other things I could say on this subject, but I’ve already bored my friends to tears, and I don’t want to do the same here. Just read this one for the feels!

a x

 

Showing my true colours: green!

In the last few weeks, a number of different pieces of reading and listening have come across my workshop table and I thought it might be interesting for some of you if I put them all together here in one post.

I make no effort to hide my green leanings. I’m pro-bio/organic, super pro-recycling, pro-energy saving, pro-public transport and on top of that a socialist (believe me American friends, in Brussels this is not a dirty word!) I try not to go about these things all the time because that gets boring, even for those of you of the same motivations. However, a few thought knocking around in my head recently were consolidated when I started reading Naomi Klein’s new book This Changes Everything. I’ve heard only good things about Ms Klein’s writing for a while now and I can’t believe it’s taken me quite so long to pick up one of her books! She writes of climate change and how we led ourselves into our current disastrous situation. I’m only 50 pages into the book yet, but I’m terrified… The reviews say that the book contains a positive message, so I read with hope.

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This Changes Everything brought together many ideas that had taken root when I came across this Ted Talk by writer and activist Paul Gilding.

Gilding describes the conflict between our demand on the earth’s resources, and the earth’s ability to produce said resources. It’s frightening stuff to hear, but in the end of the short talk, he delivers a message of hope. Of potential and possibility for those of us brave enough to take on the challenge of a earth of little resources. Part of me is already plotting my participation in a different world, should a crisis arise in my lifetime.

Part of my plotting includes building a self-sufficiency garden. The Belgian sent me this article (in French) last week about Joseph and his micro-garden. Joseph produces 300kg of veg for his own consumption, near Rouen in France. I’ve tried looking for allotments in Brussels, but shared community gardens are the preference here. Everyone contributes to the work, to share the harvest of whatever plants are decided by the group. I’m a bit too picky in terms of my diet to share my garden with a lot of other people. For example, I’m not so interested in growing fruit, but any green veg has a welcome place on my table! So for me the solution is to find a space for my own garden, where I can decide myself what to plant and any excess I can share with friends. I’ll have to be patient on that one – our apartment is a beautiful example of 1920’s Brussels architecture, but unfortunately we don’t have even a small terrace here. We stayed with friends in Italy at the start of the month and their parents have a whole acre of allotment. Tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, melons, and more tomatoes. I was green with jealousy! (See what I did there?! Woka woka!!)

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Gardens feature in some reading I came across about Victory Gardens in the US and Europe during WWI and WWII. Countries at war are far more willing to accept radical ideas than those in at state of “peace”. The idea was that fruit and veg were planted in private residences and public gardens, and were intended for public consumption. They engendered a shared responsibility and a shared ownership of the nation’s ability to feed itself. The beautiful idea that everybody should have access to fresh fruit and veg, and that it wasn’t necessary to transport food great distances to feed the country. I love it!

Although Victory Gardens are a thing of 20th century wartime west, there are a number of current initiatives that address not only food production and distribution, but also food waste. We all know of the few pieces of cheese that we never got around to eating and are now too green at the back of the fridge, or the leftover yogurt that is way past it’s sell by, hiding behind a carton of milk. But the Guardian published an article on the depth of food waste in the west, and it’s predictable, but no less shocking because of that. Have a read if you’re brave enough…

On a more positive note, in the spirit of recycling and reuse, myself and The Belgian will take part in the Flagey’broc (brocante) on 13 September. We have a huge collection of crockery built up since our wedding and it’s time to say goodbye. We’ll be somewhere on Malibran, so keep an eye out for us!

Our lovely Bazaar Creative Sundays will be back on track shortly, with the first meet up proposed for Sunday 6 Sept. I’ll send out an email shortly with full details, so if you’re not on the mailing list, drop me a line and I’ll send you details!

Looking forward to seeing some of you real soon!

a x

Stationary Love!

Hi all,

I’m thoroughly enjoying my summer break and taking time to sort out my home, my workshop and catch up with family & friends. We just spent ten days in Italy with good friends and my husband’s gorgeous Goddaughter and it was hooooooooooooot! So hot! I love to see new places and spend time with friends. The heat, however, is another story. This pale Irish consistency doesn’t stand up very well to the burning Italian sun! So I’m glad to be back in Brussels. It’s quite warm here this week but is still a relief compared to the heat of the Adriatic coastline! If one should get too cross and tired of the Italian sun, however, you can stop a moment and thank it for the incredible food, which it produces. Check out these tomatoes from our host’s veg garden. MMmmmmmmmmmmmmm…

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Just as I got back, I received an email from the lovely Linda Tieu at tortagialla asking me if I would like to try out her Happy Print Club. Well you know me and gorgeous stationary – I was on that like white on rice!! (What a curious expression, non?!) And what perfect timing too, I want to send some summer letters to friends before getting stuck into projects and all that sort of thing in September. The prints are very sweet and themed. At the moment there is a summery feel to the illustrations and my favourites are these pink flamingos.

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Linda’s a great illustrator, I’ve been a huge fan of hers for some time and asked her in the past to contribute to my own projects, such as the zine I made a couple of years ago. (Another zine is somewhere on the long To Do list – I swear that list gets longer with each passing hour…) The idea with the club is that each month Linda produces new illustrations, to which paying club members have access.  You can print the illustrations at home and use them in your own paper love way – sending letters across the sea in my case!

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I’ll get back behind my sewing machine this week too. I’m thinking about the Christmas markets already and think I’ll take a box of sweet rabbits with me to the markets this year! They are super cute and I love putting them together. Out of holiday mode and back in planning mode! Wahey!

And now I have to go. I’m off to collect this guy from his holiday home, where my super generous friend Amy woke this morning to find him like this on the couch…

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Lush!

a x

Jewels on a Sunday

How much do you know about Silver Clay? I knew nothing before last weekend when we did the workshop on making our own jewellery from silver clay. It was incredible!

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We had a lovely instructor, called Bea, and you can find more information about her on her website. She explained that silver clay is recycled silver dust, mixed with a gum. You sculpt the jewel in any shape or design that you want. Once the piece goes in the oven, the gum disappears and you’re left with a beautiful piece of pure silver jewellery. It’s magic!

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The clay, however, is really tricky to manipulate. There are lots of tools and tricks but really it’s hard to get it right. Our group is pretty talented though and we made some gorgeous pieces!!

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This is my ring below. My hand looks freakishly red… I don’t know what that’s about. I swear I don’t have sunburn!

photo 3-4But how gorgeous is that ring!? I’ve always admired the work of Irish designer Eily O’Connell and I was inspired by her to make the ring, although it’s nothing compared to her work!

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Some of the other pieces by these very talented ladies! We’ll be doing more of these types of workshops and if you’re interested in joining, keep an eye on the blog!

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This weekend we’re holding the last of the Bazaar Craft Sundays before the summer break. If you’re in town drop over to Rue Maes after 12noon and say hi!

a x

Pride!

It’s been something of a whirlwind weekend here in Brussels. I wasn’t able to get to Ireland last Friday to vote, but if you were following the international news you’ll have noticed many references to Ireland and the Marriage Equality Referendum. I am so proud of my beautiful, strong country. The first country in the world to vote for legal recognition of homosexual marriage  by popular vote. It’s an incredible step towards socio-cultural change in Ireland that can only make the country stronger.

Nobody would deny we still have a long way to come – some of the arguments presented by the No side of the debate were shocking in their prejudice, and Ireland still hasn’t fully addressed the abortion question that was thrown into the spotlight following the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012. The subsequent legislation has wallpapered over the issue, leaving a huge gap for debate if the circumstances surrounding Savita’s death should ever be repeated.

But today I’m proud. My wedding in 2013 was the best day of my life – cliché I know, but it’s also the truth! A whole day with my family and friends around me, all of them there to celebrate my happiness. The idea that now my gay Irish friends can experience the same outpouring of emotion and the resulting legal recognition of succession rights and family law… Well it’s just awesome!!

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Brussels is gorgeous at the moment – check out all of this green surrounding the lakes at Flagey!! We’re training for the Brussels 20K and running through the woods and forest is glorious! As soon as I finish writing this I’m off for another 15k run, so I hope the sun stays out for the afternoon!

I started back on some great projects this week, ones I’ve been putting on the long finger. I saw a paper butterfly lamp months ago and had it in mind all winter. Then last week I came across this photo of paper butterflies on a wall and that was it! So I spent Friday evening cutting and sticking and the result is a flock of butterflies in the corner of my bedroom! It was so easy to do – if anyone needs help with it send me an email or pop along to the next Bazaar Collective workshop and we can make them together!

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I love them. I’m a total sucker for butterflies anyway and these make me smile in the mornings. My room is coming together now, although this summer I want to make a really light bedspread. The one I have functions as an extra blanket if we’re cold, but it doesn’t cover my toes! Brrrrrrrr…

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The other small project I’ve been thinking about for ages was a padded glasses case to protect my sunglasses. I have never seen any that I would really like to buy and had all the materials at home, so just decided to make my own. I finished it this morning and love it! It’s lined with navy cotton and has a layer of wadding to protect my glasses.

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Cute non?! I’m in the middle of making a weekend travel bag with the same fabric – sweeeeet!!

I have lots of other news for you guys:

Bazaar Collective won’t be meeting on the first Sunday of June. Instead we’ll meet on 21 June and we’re offering another date for the brilliant silver clay jewellery workshop. So, if you weren’t able to make the last date, here’s your chance! Send an email to bazaarcollective@gmail.com to sign up for the workshop on 21 June.

‘Tis the season of the flea – I love this time of the year. The weather starts to finally lighten up a bit, even if it can be quite wet, and people come out onto the streets to sell their old junk – or as you and I know it – treasure!!! There are weekend brocantes in lots of different communes in Brussels and the best way to keep up to date is with Que Faire.

I spotted a sign the other day for Brussels’ DIY Day, which sounds kinda cool. The full programme isn’t finished yet but it’s a day of workshops, concerts and intallations, all free and all on the theme of DIY. Great! I’ll be there.

Lastly, well done Sweden !! Eurovision 2015 was as much fun as ever. For me it’s a family affair and we had an awful lot of fun live-vibering it during the course of the evening. Next year, Stockholm, yayyyyyyyy!

a x

Winter Woolies!

We had the most wonderful Bazaar Creative Sunday for March. One of our newest members, Marjorie, is a dab hand at knitting beautiful pieces. She very generously offered to give us a workshop on knitting and crochet and it made for a cosy, comfortable and especially relaxed Sunday.

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Have a look at Marjorie’s beautiful handiwork. She tried her best to convince us that it’s all very easy, but a couple of hours with a crochet needle convinced me that she has some serious skillz! Maggie took to it like a duck to water though. Look at her go! maggie crochet

For those of you who come to the monthly crafty meetups, we’re running a quick poll to see what workshops you are interested in. As a part of the crafty Sundays we will host a few formal, more structured workshops with experts to demonstrate. We already have strong support for making jewellery out of silver clay, advanced knitting classes, clothes-making without patterns and cartonnage. If you come to the workshops and you’d like to see us do something unusual or new, add your comments to the poll!

Coucou Shep!

Shep in Hiding

Given my last post, you all know well that I’ve been struggling a bit with the long cold days. The weather is starting to pick up a bit but I’m still struggling to come out of this winter funk. I thought it would be a good idea to learn/try something new to get my brain running again and get the creative juice flowing. I’ve been having issues with back pain so a run was out of the question, so I looked to creative friends. Just when I was thinking about it I came across a post on Instagram by Anne Ditreyer, a.k.a. Pret a Voyager, about her new class on designing travel posters. She’s running the class through Skillshare so I had a look and I loved what I found. I had no idea Skillshare existed! It has a 3 month free trial and you should check it out.

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I started Anne’s class and am having a lot of fun with it. I decided to make a travel poster for Brussels. I love this city and I think it has a lot to offer, and often people just see the grey of the institutions. Above is the first draft of the poster. The cut out images are taken from all sorts of event posters and flyers. It needs to be tidied up but I think the nugget of the idea is there! “So you think you know Brussels?!”

So, I hope March is a good one for you all. I’m off to Ireland next weekend so expect lots of images of planes, green and snow photos on Instagram!

a x

Updates to the site

Hi All, I hope you’re getting back into the swing of the year and aren’t frozen in this awful weather. I’ve been very slow to restart. My body and mind seemed to shut down after the first weekend in January and I can only feel myself coming around now. I decided not to fight it – last year was a long, busy year, so I allowed myself the time to recuperate. Now I can feel the cogs starting to thaw and I can see how the year ahead might take shape.

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I started the year, as I did in 2014, with a workbook from Do What You Love, to analyse where I am and what I would like to achieve this year. The New Year’s Revolution goes through your personality and how it ties in with your business ideas. I have to admit that last year I completed the workbook in January, but then I didn’t look at it again for the rest of the year. However, it was still useful because when I completed the 2015 workbook last night, I looked back at what I had intended for the year last year. I managed to surprise myself – something that hasn’t happened in a while. I had the feeling that I achieved very little last year, what with personal issues taking fore and changes to work during the year. In fact, I managed to tick off all of the proposed ideas I had penned at the start of 2014. How wonderful! It gave me a huge confidence boost last night and spurred me on to making even bigger and better plans for 2015.

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To that end, I’m in the middle of a big project at the moment. I have decided to close my shop over on Etsy and I will open one that I manage and control myself. I’m looking at Big Cartel at the moment and am working on a plan to merge a big cartel shop with my website. That is why the format of the site has changed a few times in the last few weeks. I apologise for the confusion! I’m doing my best to streamline my visuals and it’s going to involve a few weeks of trail & error. So please don’t go anywhere! I’m here, just trying on a new face!

The first Bazaar Craft Sunday of 2015 will happen this weekend on 1 February and I’m so looking forward to seeing the gang again and catching up with what everyone got up to over the break. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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My pine burr is finally gone. My heart is broken! It’s on a ship bound for the new world and my months of work with it! It’s always so hard to send off my favourite pieces!

a x

Christmas Madness Continues

When you sell at markets it always feels like you’re ready for the holiday season far sooner than most people. It also means we’re way behind on regular holiday things – I still have no Christmas tree!!

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I have some wonderful photos of the market this weekend, courtesy of A Mama’s Blog. Before I get stuck into those I just want to let you all know that I will be in Micro Marché this weekend with some more of these gorgeous bunnies. The box above is fresh off the machine! Get them while they’re hot!

The market this weekend was just incredible. I posted a photo of our team on Saturday night before we got stuck in. They are the best, most creative, hardworking and inspired bunch of people that you are every likely to meet! We started early on Sunday morning, setting up and as soon as we opened our doors at noon we had a steady stream of people in all day! They were kept warm with the delicious Vin Chaud from Holy Bagels!

SONY DSCThe quality of work on display was astonishing. There was a real handcrafted quality to the fair and I can only hope that any market we do in future proves to be an equal showcase of work made in Belgium. I’ll shut up now and let you enjoy Alix’ photos!

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Beautiful little peg-men by Sil in Pensilory.

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The lady Sil herself!

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Warm lighting and soft toys from Le Souk de Killy.

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A new range of Christmas illustrations from JoJackLee. Illustratrice extraordinaire Maggie is one of the organising team.

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Original pieces from E20 Bijoux.

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My very own Welcome Baby Boxes and luxury handmade cushions!

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Amy holds sway over her busy kitchen!

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And no wonder the kitchen was so busy. Mince pies – yum!

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I had an awful lot of fun showing creative hands of all ages how to make Christmas trees and snowflakes!

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Christmas decoration bows made by Iris in prep for the workshops. They’re so sweet and so easy to make!

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Busy heads bent over scissors and paper.

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The market was hard work but also so much fun. We’re already thinking about when we might be able to host another one. We’ll keep you informed!

Hope to see you this weekend at Micro Marché!

a x