Paper Work

So anyone who has ever glanced at this blog knows that, next to textiles, my favourite thing is paper. Paper, paper, paper, in all it’s glorious forms!

I got chatting about paper again today with a lovely girl I just met from Hungary. Johanna is an illustrator, living and creating in Brussels. We got chatting about our love of paper and I remembered of the paper projects I want to get working on. One that I’ve been toying with for ages is making another zine! In addition to my lovely chat with Johanna, I came across the below flyer for a zine workshop for kids during the summer in Brussels. Lucky kids!!

brussels zine workshop

I. Love. Zines.

I’m actually watching a Skillshare class right now about making zines! If you use Skillshare check it out – Kate Bingaman-Burt, Making Your First Zine.

I have made only one zine to date but I loved it. I only made about 30 copies and most of these I sent to people who contributed to it. I made that zine with the same approach I use for everything – bringing community together! I asked some friends and some great artists that I met online to contribute to it, and of course, because I’m surrounded by wonderful people, they all came through for me. It didn’t take so long to pull it together, and I loved the experience of piecing it, shaping it and printing. I was very lucky to have a contribution from the queen of zines herself – Linda Tieu! Her illustrations are just gorgeous and she’s of the firm belief that anyone can draw. She produces zines to encourage us scardey cats to pick up a pen and get to it!

Bazaar Zine

In Tokyo we visited a shop that both sold zines and had free ones to take away. As you can imagine, not only were there great zines, but they were Japanese! There’s something about Japan’s creative world that makes me want to give up on European life and move there and live in an osana, slowly boiling while watching the Japanese world revolve around me.

I also found a shop in Amsterdam a couple of years ago selling all types of self-published work by contemporary artists and I picked up some wonderful pieces there. Here’s a pic of two of these. The smaller one, by an artist called Brah Yak, is one of the nicest paper paper pieces I have in my collection. I can’t find anything about the artist online but the piece is a gorgeous little story called Passport to Heaven. The shop is called Boekie Woekie and is well worth a visit if you’re ever in Amsterdam!


Continuing my paper-love story, I recently took a skillshare class on travel posters. I’ve been thinking a lot about Brussels and how awesome it is as a creative city. I wanted to create a poster to reflect that. This below is a prototype which is based on all the flyers for events that I had lying around the house. It’s not the final version but I’m going to get a high quality print of the Mannekin Pis picture and use that as the base for the final version. This is just a draft that I use as my front-page link for my Creative Brussels page here on the website.

creative brussels

The other paper project I worked on recently is a series of old postcards of Antwerp, with updated captions. The idea came from an article I was reading in the new York Times on the “muslimification” of European cities. There was a photo in the article, with a misleading and factually incorrect caption, just put there to serve the purpose of their biased view. It was galling. So I played around with the idea and created this series of postcards. It’s another idea I’m going to explore some more over the summer.

Ideas, ideas! Bouncing around in there, I need to nail them down…


Speaking of paper work – I had my first encounter today with Belgian Revenue… Ugh…

So, I have info coming very soon on the jewellery workshop update. IF you weren’t able to make the first date we offered, put a Save the Date in your diary for Sunday 21 June. More info this weekend!! Hope to see some of you very soon!

a x


Spring Fever

Spring fever, eh? I am so sick of winter already. I feel like a cranky old lady, heading home straight after work and refusing to go out again. And my back is playing up, I have to see a physio this week. Every morning leaving the house I put my nose in the air to see if I can smell spring, like a bear trying to decide whether or not to come out of hibernation. My Dad sent us pictures of his Irish garden full of snowdrops and crocus’ (what is the plural of crocus?!) My body clock is ready for the Irish spring but Belgium is a few weeks behind yet. Sigh…

Anyway, moan over!

two cushions

I worked on these beauties last week. The large geometric one is just gorgeous! I’m still in the process of setting up my shop online and will launch that really soon, so in the meantime I’m working on stock.

large geometric cushionIt looks so nice on my bed, I’m a little reluctant to put it up on the shop!

point culture

The Belgian’s band had a performance last week in a venue called Point Culture on Rue Royale. They have a fun exhibition at the moment on 90’s culture, which featured this great bank of tv screens. They were showing some really fun music videos from the 90’s. All of you 90’s babies should drop in and check out their collection of Pogs and Troll dolls!

I came across this interesting article on Generation Y babies and why they’re so unhappy with their lot, despite being one of the most privileged generations since people bothered keeping these sort of records… I think that even if we’re well-read about entitlement culture and we try to maintain a modicum of self-awareness, it can be really hard to manage your personal expectations. There is only so much room for “special ones”, even if we’re led to believe that we are all, every one of us, “special”. That’s a tough thing to wrap your head around when you grew up watching Disney movies. (Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not coming down hard on Disney, I have watched every movie repeatedly, until I could quote it the whole way through!)

I really love the last few paragraphs on advice for Generation Y – 1) Stay wildly ambitious, 2) stop thinking that you’re special and 3) ignore everyone else.Read the article and let me know what you get from it. (Ignore the comments on the end of the article though, unless you love those kind of facebook “discussions” which are about people listening to their own voices!)

Go out there and be wildly ambitious people. I’m still a little grouchy so I’m giving myself a pass on wild ambition for tonight. I’m staying in tonight and watching House on tv while I finish the cushions by hand.

a x

Today is the day! Christmas Market 2014

Yesterday we spent the day preparing the hall for the Christmas Market and honestly, it looks amazing! So warm and cosy with a Christmas glow. We finished the photo booth, where you can take your own Christmas photos! And of course we had to sample it! This is us, the Bazaar Christmas Market team!

Market Team

Today is going to be just brilliant fun! There will be paper-craft workshops at 2pm and 4pm, homemade cakes by wonderful baker Amy and so many handcrafted goodies on sale! Below you can see the test samples, which were deeeelicious! Do come and say hi 🙂

Cake Prep

In addition to being the big market-prep day, yesterday was also the Feast of Saint Nicholas here in Belgium. In some ways it’s bigger than Christmas day, and children prepare for it weeks before. I started the day preparing my first-ever Assiette de St Nicolas for The Belgian. I think by the delighted expression and cleared plate when I got home last night, it’s safe to say it was a success!

Assiette St Nicolas


Hope to see some of you today!

a x

I Made This

I’m rushing out the door to work but I had to take ten minutes to compose this blog post because I’m so so proud of this piece. I finished it last night last night – check it out, my first ever pine burr quilt top!


This has taken me months to complete but it’s worth every minute spent folding tiny squares into even tinier triangles!!

pineburr detail

I just can’t wait to get the back and binding on and see it in its full glory!


a x

New on Etsy (finally!)

I spent all of last weekend working, working behind my sewing machine and then behind the camera to try and prepare my Etsy shop for a little boost. The hardest part of it all is finding the time to edit the photographs and then uploading them to create the new listings. Seriously time consuming… I imagine it’ll get faster once I have a set list of tags and stop experimenting so much with those, and once I get my descriptions perfect first time. That would save 20 minutes for each listing that goes into getting the wording just right!

1photo 2My house is always a disaster when I’m photographing! The Belgian is very good about it and doesn’t even comment one little bit about the mess in the workshop and the dining room and the kitchen and… everywhere! But you can’t make an omlette without breaking a few eggs, right?! Something I have been wondering for a while is how to bring a human touch to the photographs. I try to make them look as appealing as possible in my little set up at home, but there’s no comparison to being able to touch something, especially textiles, when you are thinking of buying. So, this Sunday, in an effort to bring a little more warmth to the listings and to show how wonderful the welcome baby boxes are, I spent an afternoon with the most glorious little model you can imagine. How adorable is she?! She adored the sets and rewarded our efforts with so many generous smiles!

photo 5I’m constantly talking about time, and the lack of it, which is why I’m writing this blog post at ten o’clock at night! But it’s a serious issue. I have so many ideas of what I want to do with these photos. I took about 400 with our sweet model, of which I have about 8 brilliant ones that I can definitely use, but the time to sit down and properly think about where and when to use them is just not there. I have all these great resources – a light filled workshop, a great sewing machine, a good camera, WIFI at home, models who are happy and willing to participate, and ideas, ideas, ideas… I just need time dammit! Phew, so frustrating…

Rant over. Sorry about that.

IMG_2880 Here are a few photos from the weekend’s shoot, and I sincerely hope you drop by the Bazaar Collective Etsy boutique to check them out! These little soft rabbit doudou’s are my favourite. There are no parts that come off in a small baby’s mouth, and they’re filled with polyester stuffing, but not too much so they’re super floppy!
1photo 1I used to look after two small boy, twins aged 3. We were often stuck indoors on rainy days and playing with them I had the idea to try soft toy balls that we could throw around inside. I made them each one with scrap fabrics that I had at home, and they were instant winners! The boys adored them and we spent ages kicking and throwing them around, without breaking one single thing in the house! I think these three balls that are a part of the Welcome Baby Box are exactly the right size and weight to make fun for babies through to toddlers to small kids.  These are in the orange and linen set up on Etsy now.IMG_2851And bunting. There has to be bunting. This set is up on the shop now and I’m happy with how that looks! There are also sets with much stronger colours, for people who have are looking for something a little more defined. This blue and red set is made with vintage fabrics so it’s a limited edition!

IMG_3135This guy was hanging around me all day while I was shooting. Watching. Waiting for me to leave the table unattended so he could push things onto the floor. He’s shedding a LOT at the moment so I had to keep a rolly sticky brush handy to keep the table and area clean of stray hairs! I’m not sure what he’s staring at in the photo. Possibly a piece of fluff that could turn into a creepy crawly for him to chase if he just keeps on staring at it…..

photo 4I also shot my recent finished oversized vintage scarf cushion. I was really unhappy with the resulting photos and I realise that the set up all wrong for photographing these. I need a clean living room with not much furniture, and all white furniture if at all possible. Which is definitely not our house! We have lots of things and things and things… And mostly dark/black furniture. So I have a few of these up on Etsy already but I’m going to try to find a better setting to photograph the new ones which will really show them off.

One last thought – this video from the Guardian made me really happy today. People taking care of each other. We need to take better care of each other…

a x


Etsy February School

I mentioned previously that at the start of the year I attended an Etsy meeting in Antwerp and met some very motivated and enthusiastic Etsy sellers from the Belgium Etsy Community. We will meet again this coming Sunday in Brussels and I’m very much looking forward to meeting them again.

meeting jan 14

Etsy is still growing in Belgium. There are over 1,000 members of the Etsy Belgium Team but only about 25 of those are really active members of the discussions. Perhaps if we’re somehow able to make the team more visible we’ll be able to encourage more active participation. It’s something we’re working on as a team for the next few months and I hope it has some impact. I think if other sellers realised how much support and encouragement there is from the other team members they’d be faster to participate. I certainly didn’t know before I went to the Antwerp meeting and I’m soooooo glad now. When you post an issue or tricky problem you’re facing on the team page there is a wealth of very constructive criticism that can help you to move forward.

To this end, I’ve created a treasury of items sold by members of the Etsy Belgium Team. Have a look at all of the talented creators creating work by hand in Belgium!


As a part of the last meeting, our team captain, Karolien of Leoki Nar shop, suggested we take part in “school” which was being organised by Etsy internationally during February. February is a great month to review and renew. It follows the exhausting winter period and (in Ireland at least, not in Belgium apparently!) spring arrives on 01 February, calling nature to wake up after the winter rest. Karolien gave us each a partner from the team and after a few initial hiccups (languages are always going to be an issue in a country with three national languages – French, Flemish & German –  and one additional semi-ubiquitous one – English!) we were off to school!

We’re two weeks in and it’s been brilliant so far. The programme and the educational tools provided by Etsy are quality materials. The School Workbook is as good as anything I came across in college studying cultural project management. I’ve had my own Etsy shop for some time but to date have only one small sale. I’m hoping that the things I’m learning through February will help me give my little shop a push and get me on the road to being a fully fledged seller.


Watch this space!

a x

Etsy Teams

Every few weeks Etsy releases a post about Etsy Teams and it usually makes for interesting reading. Etsy is the international platform for people selling handmade or vintage objects and you can buy directly from the seller and communicate with them, with no middle man retailer. I have a Bazaar shop on there for a while now although it needs some more work.

etsy logoThe idea behind the Etsy Teams is that you coordinate with other Etsy sellers in your area and offer each other support and advice on different aspects of having a shop on the platform. To be honest, I read the frequent blog posts on Teams but I never really saw the attraction of the teams until now.

This week after being on Etsy for a year or so and not selling one little cushion online, I had almost given up on it as a sales platform when two things happened at once: I made my first sale on Etsy, yayyyyyyyyyyy!! and, I received an email from one of Etsy’s European coordinators asking me if I wanted to attend an Etsy Belgium Team meeting in Antwerp today. The sale made me hold back on giving up just yet and I decided it might be worth speaking to other people to see if they had the same issues I’ve been having. It turns out, they have!


(This is one of my Welcome Baby Boxes on my shop!)

I met some great people today and came away full of ideas and, even more important, full of the energy to follow through on some of those ideas. It’s really tough to keep motivated when you’re giving 8/9 hours a day to an office that’s literally sucking the life out of you (and I mean that “literally” – I feel so drained at the end of every day) and meeting others in exactly the same situation was great. They are the kind of people who say “I can help you with that” and really mean it.

treasury team belgium

We cooked up some great plans today and I hope to share those with you all in the coming weeks. Watch this space!! In the meantime, I created an Etsy treasury (above pic!) with items from the many sellers I met today so check them out!

a x

New and improved

Winter is coming and I want to make sure I’m prepared in terms of keeping my hands busy in the evenings and not falling into the routine of crashing in front of the tv, and also in keeping my mind busy outside of my routine administration job that now occupies much of my time. To that end I’m working to shortly reopen the Etsy shop with the collection’s I’ve been building. So I spent my free Saturday photographing all the pretty things I’ve both made, and picked up at flea markets over the last few months.

Photo Shoot

I’ve been working with the wonderful illustrator and textile designer Alice De Page, on reinventing the Bazaar logo. And I LOVE what she came up with. It’s sweet, without being too over the top, and contains elements that I love in design – simplicity and clean lines. Check out the beautiful header at the top of the website! I’m going to use it on all my printed materials too, and it’s just wonderful! I’m also still working out the design kinks in the site at the moment, so don’t judge it too harshly!

One of the best things about living in Belgium, is access to some of the best brocantes / flea markets. Depending on where you go, and what day, they range from a car-boot sale type event to a full on high-range antique market. And everything in between! I love spending a Sunday morning rummaging in the rough to find the diamonds. And sometimes you find curiosities like this vintage French vegetable grater. Chic!


Keeping with a vintage-style theme, in the pieces I create I try to use fabrics that are either one-off vintage finds, or that resemble retro design, like the Petit Pan fabrics that I use for the Welcome Baby Boxes.

IMG_0428I also found some real curiosities over the last few months too, such as these tiny cups from the 1950’s / 60’s that you used to receive in Belgium after donating blood. They’re really sweet, and what a strange idea! I think you would get a cup and saucer after every ten donations or something like that.

IMG_0343I also found these incredible vintage Telegrams at a flea last weekend! They’ll go up on Etsy too! Although I’ll have to keep a couple for myself…

IMG_0479So I’m quite excited about getting the Etsy shop up and running again with all these curiosities, but am also conscious that at the moment I’m capable of very little in the evenings after work. I hope that I’ll adjust to the new rhythm and continue to work on Bazaar in the evenings.

I’ve been trying to stay away from my blog reader for a while because, to be honest, it’s kinda tough to read about “amazing” and “brave” women who are giving up full time work to follow their dreams, while I do the opposite. But I’m starting to understand that my dreams have changed somewhat. I absolutely want my own space, my own workshop surrounded by other creators in the long run. However, in the short term, I want to be sure I have enough money for things like decent hospital for when we start our family. And to have the house ready for when our Brussel Sprouts eventually start appearing on the scene. And I’m ok with working at something that’s essentially just a money earner for the present while, and approaching the bigger dreams slower and with more patience than before. But I’m still doing workshops with some lovely ladies, which is great for both the spirit and the technique!

As usual Shep was on hand to help out on the photo shoot. Here he is chasing flies in the jungle…


a x

Japan Inspiration

Ok, so this is the last post on Japan, I promise!

I have to mention a shop that we found in Hiroshima. Lisu Lisu is full of beautiful vintage and second-hand clothing and handmade pieces. The style was a bit more lace and sugar than I wear personally but I was really impressed by the coherence in the design of the shop.


It seems to be run by a few really nice girls in a sort of collective. One of them chooses the clothing and others make accessories and some handmade clothes pieces. It’s not just the merchandise though, the curation of the pieces for sale, the style of the shop and the layout all work together to create something beautiful. There’s a really sweet corner where kids can sit and play, which displays kids vintage games and kids clothes.


The girls behind the counter didn’t speak a word of English, which is kinda unusual with young people in Japan actually, and I had just about enough Japanese to say hello and thank you, so we didn’t get to talk much. It’s a shame because I really wanted to ask them more about their set up. I love that they were a collective working together and that they combined handmade and vintage things in the space.


It’s an end-goal for me to have my own space for selling pieces, although it will also be a workshop so will need to be quite large. I’m collecting bits and pieces of inspiration as I bide my time starting from scratch, and Lisu Lisu had my brain firing! Actually, that’s why I was so disappointed with the maps from Tokyo Craft Guide. Two of the places listed were shops that were also craftshops but I couldn’t find one of them, and when I found the other it was closed!!! Such bad luck. I’m always looking for people doing something similar in terms of working together as a collective so it was disappointing to not see first hand how the Japanese do it.



(Spot the artist in this one !)

Another place that had me firing with ideas was this Etsy shop Friendly Toys. It’s a bit of a funny name, but the toys are so beautiful! And, unlike many Etsy shops it’s based in Europe so the postal charges aren’t astronomical. I’m thinking birthday presents for nieces and nephews for a few years!


Here are some bonus pictures of some awesome Japanese flyers and free paper.

IMG_0216 There is so much amazing paper, and even free papers! The Belgian is really into collage work and I am a paper freak myself so we stuffed our baggage with as much paper, free and bought, that we could get in there!



a x