A Midsummer Nights Dream….


..is what life in the archipelago is all about.. . Almost.
Of course it’s a lot of hard work, and since the peak season is in July, there’s not much time for rest for the local entrepreneurs that work day and night in order to get by during the slow season in January-may…
Never the less, when Finnish schools start, the cottage people withdraw back to the cities and visit us occasionally on weekends. Up ahead this saturday is the Night Of Ancient Bonfires, a kind of celebration to end the summer season.  Some close their cottages for the year and return next spring, others continue to visit once in a while.
This past summer was weather-wise  just awesome, warm soft days, occasional rain showers (no need to water the garden), and August has been just beautiful.  August and September are my favorite months-during weekdays is so quiet at sea, plenty of bird & mammal-life to take pictures of and the air is velvety soft -but not too hot.

Dark evenings call for sitting outside with cozy lanterns and watching the moon and the stars…

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Looking forward to the White Nights…


The days have gotten longer and it’s quite nice to have more time for working outside…pine tar treated wooden boat

May is the best time of the year for treating wooden objects with pine tar, and the wonderful smoky scent is my favorite perfume!

I love all the seasons of the year, but those white nights are actually quite magical. I do enjoy going out cayaking, and if the moon happens to rise it’s even more magical…

Despite that the summer is the busiest time of the season (besides Christmas) the long days with plenty of daylight gives one energy to endure until fall when it all calms down…

White night cayaking

 

white nights

sommarbilderMFinnish summerMidsummer's eve

Getting organized…


As the days grow longer one realizes spring is on it”s way! If you ask somebody living in Northern Finland, they say Spring is here as soon the days grow longer. They do enjoy a little more snow & cold weather than we in the south do.. ;)
Once Christmas season is over I catch my breath, and the craft-teaching semester continues. And I realize it’s time to dig into everything that has been postponed for some while… Getting organized is not a problem in it self, I used to work as an interior designer and a major part of that job was of course organizing things, solving storage problems etc. It’s just the lack of time as I travel with work quite frequently, and hectic schedules with having to pack an unpack all the time…

Spring cleaning is here in other words, and I go through all my stash & leftovers, of course throwing out everything that’snot needed. Since I have no time for selling stuff at flea-markets (besides, since I travel with my products here and there to events-it would feel just like working..) I donated all unneccesary things to a good will flea market, where I shop once in a while too…

Color coded books

Color coded books

I have quite a few of books about art and crafting. I use them when teaching, so they travel around and don’t always end up where they’re supposed to at once, due to tight schedules with unpacking & packing.  I got fed up with them not staying organized according to subject, and it looked messy even if they did, so I decided to color-code my books. Easy! Next time I return a book to the shelf I just stick it where the right color is!  And it looks nicer! :D

Haute Couture in the 1990's

Pink Lady: Haute Couture in the 1990′s

As I was going through stuff  I also bumped in to several pages of inspirational cut-outs from different fashion magazines, that I carefully organized in folders sometimes 15 years ago… Yes, I’m maybe not so neat on the surface, but my folders and closets are impeccable!  Messy storage drives me nuts… Some of the cut-outs are still useful – but I did get a laugh too and the biggest laugh got this Pink Lady, giant shoulders and with earrings that look like something you tie up your curtains with. :D  It was “Haute Couture” in those days…  Some om my favorite pictures on the wall are actually cut outs from fashion magazines in the 90′s, but they’re more ethnic/vintage-styled  & timeless, some with a twist of humor if you look real close…

Such a stylish lady, but check out the fabric pattern on the hat! :D

Such a stylish lady, but check out the fabric pattern on the hat! :D

Snowy (from Tintin) & & the little mole

Les Girls resting with Snowy (from Tintin) &  2 x the little mole, accompanied by Mickey & Flat Eric on the wall. Wall clock made from Disney’s “The Black Hole” soundtrack. It sounded better on the wall.

I’m some sort of a comic freak since I’ve always loved to read some specific comics & cartoons, and occasionally  I’ve been involved in drawing some too. Tintin is one of my favorites, and his dog Snowy aquired a honorary seat on my top shelf as well the two Little moles from the Checkoslovakian cartoon, and where “Les Girls” take a break from the hectic market seasons. I take no responsibility for the wall paper – it came with the house  and imagine how freaky – they matched the vintage lamp that I have since the 1970′s  (it’s a lot older though…)…  One day when I have nothing better to do I will paint the walls to something neutral. I’ve never been much of a wall paper fan…

Vintage lampshade accidentally matches wall paper in new house....

Vintage lampshade accidentally matches wall paper ….

Ystad- In Kurt Wallander’s footsteps


Kurt Wallander’s beach house in Svarte, Sweden

In May a group of people in our area gathered and left for an educational journey to Ystad. The Main theme for the trip was ofcourse the famous character from Henning Mankell’s books, Kurt Wallander, but at the same time we were about to learn how an area can profit and thrive from something like a book character as well. Of course Ystad has had tourists who’ve been a little confused and dropped by the local police station in order to meet him, forgetting that he is only a fictional figure. How well haven’t the books & movies been made then if he seems so real?

The area around Ystad was to die for, despite a rather cold and extremely windy weather.  But once we saw all the perfect gardens, the beach, “Ale stenar”

Ale Stenar, Kåseberga, Sweden. There’s something magical about this (extremely windy) place…

(ancient rocks) , the beautiful windmills, one forgot quickly how cold it was.

windmill park between Denmark & Sweden (Copenhagen-Malmö, from the Öresundsbridge)

The programme during the 4 day trip was intense – I think it was a two week trip crammed in to these few days-we had no time to waste-and if there was any time of our own, it was one morning, approx 2 hrs before our bus took off on our daily educational journey. I ended up renting a bicycle from the hotel (where parts of one of the Wallander movies had been made as well). I pedaled around like crazy, checked out shops I was interrested in, took photos and collected some treasures from the local beach. Oh, and I managed to squeese in a visit to the local flea market as well. We made many visits to local entreprenours, gardens, farms, crafters and other worth-while to visit places…. We also visited Cineteket/Ystad studios and got to see some of the sets for Kurt Wallander and some other movies made there.

Angry Bird a.k.a. felted goose trophy at one flea market. Must’ve been a fierce one to catch!

Once we got home I was happy but on the verge of a burn out… ;o)

As I look through the photos I seriously feel a longing of going there again, such a contrast to our archipelago, but still the closeness to the sea and old ports leading to other mystical places… Definitely a worth while place to visit! Down below a slideshow, the pictures will speak for themselves…
I found so many things to take photos of that I just might post them later to my flickr account… And HERE they are..

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How cheap can we get? Good things just don’t come cheap!


Coffe grinder, non electric

Just sitting and wondering in the times when all kinds of paraphernalia is copied and produced at any cost – and the consumers cheated to buy stuff they actually don’t need, but think that they need…
All of the sudden I remeber my espresso machine I bought in 1990 (Ithink it was some kind of special  offer – the value of today would’ve been around 200Euros), it’s still going strong and makes the best coffee ever! I’m almost afraid to see where it was made, but I think it was in an european country-maybe evven in Germany-known for making long lastin high quality technique…) Once in a while I clean it thoroughly in order to obtain the best coffe-experience. At some point I thought the machine was “wrong” when the coffe didin’t taste so good – but as I started to grind my own dark roasted coffe beans – I discovered that this coffe was at its best as just pure black espresso…

One evening I sat at the local cafe and our neighour drop by and we had a chat. He is in the hand made bussiness as well and we got in to talking about what customers reeeally want..  Quality-yes, Uniquess -yes -but most of all experiences! And why-he is so right! I drink 1-2 cups per day-and all I ask for is the utĺtimate coffe experience… One cup will do fine, lack of sleep maybe craves the second…

If I’m tired and busy and search at a shop something I really need at that moment-I might get tricked into buying something that was cheap -but fell apart within 5 days. What an experience! My life partner bought at the local market a glass-lump necklace with some sort of Viking symbol on it.The glass lump looked like ready-made and within 5 days the viking symbol started to move around,changed its shape (spooky!) and finally came off… I think nailpolish would’ve done the trick=made a long lasting sign,but no.The creater was too busy to find out I think… Or just didn’t care-I haven’t seen her around since… Honest sellers return if it’s a market. Even if what they sell isn’t always top notch, but at least they seem to try… This “hand made crafter seller” took the easy way out. Oh well, my partner paid “only” 8 euros for it – but still-my 8 euro items will last at least 6 years (maybe even longer, so watch out!) if well cared for (unless a dog eats them)..!!!! This glass lump necklace wasn’t exposed to any strange conditions-just worn around the neck for 5 days.  The moral and knowledge of people out there selling stuff isn’t allway top notch -unfortunately-and that gives the serious handcrafters some headache… I’m nowadays so fed up with the w orddesign combined with poor quality that my head doesn’t fit all that annoying stuff anymore… I buy well hand made crafts, and I’m happy to pay 30-60 euros for a basket or a traditionally knotted rope mat made by a man that looks like the real Popeye… Or a blind man that weaves flower baskets that could last the weight of 10 bricks… I would’ve even paid more…

How can a consumer know if he/she buys good and sustainable quality??? Here are a few hints…
#1: Look for uniqueness. Things that look seriously fun and well made details-are usually made with love…
#2.Does the item have a story for the items or how they’re made?
#3 Is the seller happy to demonstrate how it’s made or how it has been made?
#4. Does the seller have bussiness cards handy? (easy access contact information is a&o)
#5.Does the product have a product description of material and care instructions?
#6 If not visible (the above) if you buy -do you get at bussiness card or tag to go with the item when you buy??
#7: ask the seller for the refund policy-if it’s a gift-can it be exchanged or what alternatives do you have?
#8: A responsible seller lets you trade the gift item for another or in exchange for a gift card. That’s no obligation for the seller – but gives you some picture of whether the seller is into serious customer service or not… Do be gentle with the sellers policies if you’re buying the gift in Iceland and bring it to Holland for a friend that for some reason doesn’t like it– ;o)))
# 9.ask for care instructions in writing for everything you buy… Handwritten is okay too!

Whaat? I’m creating high quality canine felt here!

Watch out for:
#1.Over friendly sellers that tell you that they’re the best in this bussiness.It sounds too good to be true-and most likely is too…
#2. ask the seller of the refund policy
#4. ask the seller for what if you’re not pleased with the quality size etc… No serious seller will promise you Eldorado , but will be honest with contact information and checking out every case individually. If the seller sold you an item that said hand wash only-don’t machine wash it and complain. A true proffessional can tell if it was mistreated. And hardore pro’s prewash their fabrics before they create anything from them. “It shrunk in 40C machine wash” , No Ma’m, it didn’t-I wash all my fabrics in machine 40C before creating anything from them.the tag said hand wash only due to the details.”. “I want to return these trousers (true case in jeans store)-they dind’t fit me. ” “Oh, but especially the leg hems are very dirty -they’ve been worn-we cant’ take them back!” ” Oh no it was mys sister who shopped them,she didn’t wear them!” “Sorry ma’am, we can’t sell them again,they’re filthy”…
#3.If you’re buying local custom made clothing-if you order medium size-it ought to meet up to the local medium size-not asian.. “Yeah the button- sweater I order in Scandinavian Medium instead of Small to ensure large enough size -was nice, the sleeves ended up being to short, the front is longer than the back, and I know how to knit better quality sweater myself-I just didn’t have the time to knit and wanted to support a local bussiness… Ever heard of a measuring tape??” :oP

And last if not least – if you’re in the bussiness of selling poorly made things, always remeber:
#1: A discontent customer tells at least 10 friends about the dissapointing experience, no difference whether it was direct contact with the seller or just a poorly made item, and the dissapointment keept inside…

#2: A happy customer tells about a good experience to only 1-3 friends.

Just make your choice. You are what you sell.  There’s no such things as good things come cheap. Seriously.
If your wallet is thin and you wish/need to buy something  and buy it cheap-the life span will be maybe 5 months, OR pay 4-5 times the cheap price-it might even last a lifetime or longer,and top of it all-it will most likely be eco-friendly!

If  in the serious hand made bussiness: Work hard and take chances and a few beatings -be brave love what you do and “keep on keepin on” (thanks Thunder Morgan for that quote!). I just might pay off in the long run…
I once sold a necklace and the lock turned out to be poor quality. I had chosen the lock in good faith, but I was recomended something that didn’t quite meet my quality standards… I shopped a new lock from the local goldsmith, restrung the necklace (with silk as it was originally made), made a unique  bag for it, and added a brooch to it all. I think I lost about half of the price my customer paid- but she just keeps on coming back for more shopping. I think I made the right decision and profited a loyal customer! (her daughter shops at my place too) ;o)

Making an old fashioned shingle roof… This is quality before anything! ;o)

And hey…Let’s be careful out there! ;o)))

Getting through tragedies whilst crafting…


At some point in our lives there’s always some tragedies or other hardships that pop up, whether we like it or not. It takes a lot to cope with situations like that, and some times it can take quite some time too. A crafting person like me, is no more spared than anybody else, even though there might be an appearance of that all is well and life & bussiness is all sunshine from day to day. As a neighbour of mine said several times: ” There’s no use in being envious of somebody else’s life – we all get a good share of hardships and devastating experiences.”  And that is so true. And by feeding envy – we never get to know those valuable people out there. Instead there might be more harm caused instead through gossiping and other actions.

Tar treated hearts

Some months ago I faced a tragedy involving a childhood friend of mine. I was devastated and fortunately it wasn’t the busiest time of my season, so there was some time for being a little on the down side… Still I was relieved to bump in to an article about that being sad isn’t an illness, it’s a normal way of reaction and a part of the process towards healing & being able to continue with life. Good, I thought, because that’s how I’ve always felt, there are times when one must be allowed to be really sad for some time, even several weeks is normal.
This is nothing I long for ofcourse, but some years ago when I faced an other obstacle in my life, I focused on whittling hearts out of pine tree bark. I whittled quite a few, and once my hands were sore from whitling I moved to making hearts from twigs. Now when I look back on photos of these items, I get a positive feeling of getting over something, but in the same time I was capable of focusing on something positive. At first the whittling didn’t feel so good, but it keept me focused on the knife and not cutting myself. The more I whittled, the more I managed to process the sorrow, and move over to more positive feelings as watching what I had accomplished.

My recent crafting therapy was focusing on flowers. Due to a disc hernia that made my life a little more complicated at that point, I had to work on something that could be made lying down, or half -sitting. Sitting was out of the question. So I crocheted roses. In all the colours I could find suitable fluffy yarns in my yarn stash. I ended up buying more inspirational fluffy yarns, and crocheting more flowers.

I don’t own anymore many of the oroiginal sorrow-crafted items, I actually managed to sell most of them, but I enjoy watching photos of them. And watching the photos make me feel better about how I was able to process all the feelings out of me and at the same time produce something that could bring some sort of income later on-although I felt quite paralyzed while they were made.

Cayaking season is up a head...

I still whittle hearts, and today I also treat them with tar-& linseed oil mixture, for that sea-bitten scent & beautiful shade. Thanks to an ex co-worker from a previous job, I got a good recipe on this tar-mixture. I have also moved to painting the hearts with egg-oil tempera, but that procedure takes a little longer than the tar treatment. But at the same time it builds up my patience… And the few that are already done – the egg oil tempera colours are breathtaking…

With everything bad something good always seems to come along as well, but that’s something one has to realize later – not be told while your world is falling a part…

I’m so looking forward to the spring season and sitting outside in my Outdoor Office, but there’s still ice on the sea in front of me and it chills our frontyard quite effectively…  I can’t wait to tar treat some whittled hearts and hang them in the sun to dry!  And finishing the egg oil tempera painting project of my Yellow Basket… :)  And what’s yet best to come, the cayaking season (I’m no hardcore cayaker yet, with neopren equipment..) is up ahead!  There’s nothing more peaceful than silently gliding across the sea, seeing birdlife and others that have no idea that I’m out there due to this silent vessel…

Christmas and the stormy weathers


Bruno on one of his sick-leaves

Christmas arrrived faster than I could’ve imagined, time flew and I was kept busy by one of my Office assistants being ill most of the fall. Nothing fatal, but enough to keep me busy, mess upp my schedules and make me worry a lot…
And all of the sudden it was time for the local Christmas market! And there, there was Santa and his Christmassy seagull! There were plenty of visitors despite the rainy & windy weather, and everybody seemed happy despite the windy wetness…

Look, here's Santa & his Seagull!

Christmas dinner was dominated by a divine piece of smoked leg of mutton – I demand some sort of a rerun for Easter!

On Boxing day we were hit by a ruthless storm with 30m/s in the huffs & puffs, that did a lot of damage to trees and left plenty of homes without electricity. Some still are powerless…  We were fortunate enough to be without electricity for only 12hrs, and fortunately we had a fireplace and plenty of candles to keep us warm and cosy. Not to forget my irreplaceable Dynamo Radio, which I tend to keep fully charged for occasions like this… I bought it some years ago from the internet, it was quite valuable, around 100€, but I think it’s worth every penny. Brilliant to keep with you while working outdoors – and even better during power cuts…! Due to that we’re used to “hop around”  in the darkness walking the dogs, all the flashlights were in shape. The best information I received however from the neighbours daughter that drove by, she told that the area around the ferry was like hit by a hurricane, that explained that we’ll be without electricity for a bit longer… During the storm-even if our house was on the windbreak side- it was a little scary to go outside.  At one point when visiting outside I heard some trees cracking further up on our property – it felt better to go back inside… We ended up having approx. a dozen of trees blown down by the storm, fortunately none damaged people,dogs or buildings!

Near the ferry

The stormy weather isn’t over yet – yesterday Mr Wind decided to blow on our side of the hill – this time “only” something like 20m/s, but the house was shaking, the chimney was howling, it was snowing horisontally and there was some sort of wind chill factor even indoors!!! :-D I ended up stuffing newspaper in the cracks in the bedroom wall logs, by the window… Fortunately it changed direction at som point of the evening. This time the electricity hung around all the way, and no trees gave up…

Experiencing frequent storms (one more on the way tonight again) makes you think & wonder about how dependant we have become of that frizzy stuff coming along the lines… And they still try to make us buy more electrically powered stuff, as well letting us understand that wood heated homes for instance aren’t enviromentally friendly. So may be – but if it’s a quiestion of surviving in the winter – there’s nothing beating a fireplace and a wood heated stove (which I miss by the way – heating the grill isn’t an option in 20m/s winds..). Fortunately some foods can be wrapped in aluminum foil & cooked in the fireplace. I’m still for windpower-an vertical wind turbine on the roof would’ve been plenty useful this fall and Christmas in so many homes! The problem is that nobody can own the wind – why it’s made as an unattractive option.. Silly! Once I win the lottery I’ll invest in one of those, or maybe I’ll just build one myself….! ;-) http://youtu.be/F2w9k3miNrs  Strangely enough – it’s when it’s windy we get in trouble with the electricity – and that’s when wind power would be so efficient…!

Wishing You a great year for 2012! Gotta go, time to get prepared for the next storm up ahead tonight!

Dressed for surviving at the windy & rainy christmas market