The wonderful annual Royal Welsh show returns this Monday at Builth Wells in Powys. It is always a fun day out and I have fond memories of being their with my family enjoying all that the show has to offer. Directory maker Aquila Cook of Love and Lovelier is attending this year for the first time with her fabulous range of ceramics.
I caught up with Aquila to find out how her preparation is going and what she is looking forward to on her debut at this big event...
Why did you decide to go?
I decided to get a stall there because my plan for 2018 was to break out of my comfort zone with Love & Lovelier. I've been plodding along for seven years and I thought it's time to start doing some bigger fairs and they don't come much bigger than the Royal Welsh...
What are you looking forward to?
I'm looking forward to the atmosphere, and of course meeting lots of new people. I also love the camaraderie with other stall holders at events. I always learn loads, and come away with new ideas and projects.
How hard is it to prepare for such a high footfall event?
The dreaded prep! How much to take?! I have had a five week plan to make lots of stock. I had a similar sized stall at the RHS Flower Show in Cardiff earlier in the year, which I used as a bit of a practice run.
Do you know where you will be at the show?
Yes, I will be in the South Glamorgan Hall, which is where most of the craft stands are. Come visit me!
Good luck Aquila! I am sure you will have an amazing time.
The Royal Welsh shows runs from Monday 23rd until Thursday 26th July. For ticket info, visit the RWS page.
Find out more about Aquila on her Little Otter Events directory page.
This Saturday 14th July, I am honoured to be having a stall promoting our Christmas markets and selling work from our directory makers at a very special event - Rachel's Day.
Rachel's Day is in memory of Rachel Day who very sadly died of Sepsis last summer. Rachel was just 29 years old, and fit and healthy when she contracted the deadly infection. This Saturday's event is organised by her friends and family as they aim to raise awareness of the disease and raise vital funds.
As well as working at Llanishen Leisure Centre, Rachel used to walk dogs for Cardiff company Friends for Pets, and so when she sadly passed away, her friends thought that it would be a fitting tribute to organise a charity day, involving a dog walk here in Rhiwbina.
Last year's event was a huge success and raised over £4000. This money has paid for the ‘Sepsis 6 Pathway’ scheme at Wales’ largest hospital. It means that anyone who goes into the Heath hospital in Cardiff with a fever or signs of an infection will be checked for ‘red flag’ symptoms of sepsis.
I caught up with Catherine Clarke, one of the organisers of Rachel's Day to find out what they had planned for this year...
Catherine, what does this year's event involve?
"This year at Rachel’s Day we have various types of stalls selling food, cakes, crafts and your good old fashioned village fete stalls. These include Tombola, Raffle, Kids Tombola & a Doggy tombola especially for the dogs only! We also have a signed blues rugby shirt up for grabs with a silent bids table!
"For the children we have the kids tombola, Lob the gob (throwing a rugby ball through a hole!), a face painter, crazy golf and Vale Owls are bringing some of their beautiful birds. Rachel loves dogs but she also loves Owls!
"We have a bar that will be selling beverages and cocktails including Rachel’s Delight a cocktail named in memory of Rachel. 10% of the takings from this will go towards Rachel’s Day Sepsis Fund. We also have live music from The Big what?! Band and Al Moses."
"Friends for Pets will be giving away 200 goody bags and Georgina Flambert photography will be doing portraits of families and their dogs which you can purchase, with money to go to the charity. K8’s short bark n sides a local groomer are actually closing their shop for the day to come and spend it with us! They are offering to clips dogs nails for £5 and give all proceeds to the charity. We also have bandanas for the dogs to wear."
Do you need a dog to come along and enjoy the day?
"With so much going on you don’t need a dog to enjoy the day. It’s just as much for the people as it is for them. The walk will take place at 1pm to and around Caedelyn Park. You can join in if you want but it’s not necessary and you don’t need a dog to join in the walk. Registration will take place from 12 pm. There is no entry fee for this year though donations will be grateful received.
"With the weather the way it has been we never thought we would have to worry about it being too hot! We are taking every precaution to ensure the safety and welfare of the dogs. We have onsite canine first aiders, plenty of water, wet towels, shaded area and a much shorter route around Parc Y Pentre if needed."
What are you looking forward to the most?
"What we loved the most from last year was the sight of a sea of people and dogs walking to the park and then seeing all the dogs run around playing! It made all the hard work worth while seeing people and their best friends smiling and happy. We will look forward to that again this year for sure!"
What are you hoping to achieve from the day?
"Obviously the importance of doing this event again is to further our quest in raising awareness about Sepsis. We are passionate that the money raised is spent in Wales and the family have various ideas of how to spend it. One idea is helping to provide assistance dogs for those who have suffered life changing disabilities through Sepsis. Ultimately we never want another family to have suffered like the Day family have or another to endure what Rachel did!"
Thanks so much Catherine and well done to you and the team on all your hard work organising what promises to be a fabulous day here in Rhiwbina.
I hope that you can all come along and support it and please come and see me on my stall and say hi!
Here is some more information on Sepsis:
There are around 150,000 cases of sepsis each year in the UK, with an estimated 44,000 deaths - more than breast cancer and bowel cancer combined.
In Wales, that equates to around 8,000 cases and 2,500 deaths each year.
It is a life-threatening illness, caused by the body overreacting to an infection.
The body’s immune system goes into overdrive, setting off a series of reactions that can lead to widespread swelling and blood clotting.
Symptoms usually develop quickly and include a fever or high temperature (over 38C), chills, a fast heartbeat and fast breathing.
What should you do?
Seek medical help urgently if you develop any or one of the following:
Slurred speech or confusion
Extreme shivering or muscle pain
Passing no urine (in a day)
It feels like your going to die
Skin mottled or discoloured.
Since I started Little Otter Events, I have met so many talented makers and I love following them on social media and seeing their latest work.
Last year, Cardiff based Elena Floarea came along to our Rhiwbina and Penarth events selling her range of beautiful French macarons. Elena is an amazing baker and creates some truly stunning cakes. Recently I met up with Elena to find out where this talent came from and if she has always enjoyed baking....Introducing Elena...
When did you start baking?
I started when I was 16. I went to a culinary college and at the end of the course I won a french patisserie contest. The prize was an apprenticeship in France with one of the best French pastry chefs there was that year.
That’s when I fell in love with baking and creating delicious cakes and macarons.
Who was your biggest influence?
My mum always encouraged me to reach as high as I can. I went to France to complete the apprenticeship I’ve won because she encouraged and supported me. I was only 18 so she was my rock, helping me increase my confidence.
Where did you study?
I studied for my Culinary diploma at a college in Bucharest. Then in France I’ve received a french patisserie diploma for completing my apprenticeship and also been offered a 1.5 year contract with a popular french patisserie in France.
When did you start your own business?
I set up Lolo’s Cake Away in 2015.
Where do you get your creative ideas from?
I use a lot Pinterest for inspiration! I’m also part of many cake and wedding groups on Facebook where I can follow trends and see what people like most. Then combined with my knowledge and experience acquired over the last 12 years I try to get something different to ensure our customers like the suggested design.
What is the inspiration behind Lolo's Cake Away?
‘Lolo’ comes from Lawrence which is my partner and our gorgeous son Lawson (Lo-Lo). I was in my second year of uni studying Business Management at Cardiff Uni when my partner said he would help me set up the business and follow my dream. It was one of the best days ever and I went for it! Three years later Lolo’s Cake Away is a recognisable brand in Cardiff.
I’m also trying to make Majestic Macarons the best macaron business in Wales. We’re growing every day and maybe one day we will have a shop where we can combine cakes by Lolo’s Cake Away and delicious macarons by Majestic Macarons.
Do you have a favourite flavour cake/macaron?
I have quite a few favourites. However, Ferrero Rocher macarons are my no. 1 favourite ! I’ve mistakenly ate some from my order and realised I had to make some more
And my second favourite is pistachios macarons. It always reminds me of my trips to the Parisian patisseries in France.
As you can see I find it difficult to choose one favourite only! Guess I really love my job!
What is the longest time you have ever spent creating a cake?
One week was the longest time I’ve spent on making and creating a cake. It was for a four tier wedding cake with cascading roses in pink and yellow.
I loved the end result and the hard work definitely paid off! Sugar Flowers are very time consuming but when they’re finished they look so amazing it is worth all the time in the world.
The bride and groom were over the moon and I’ve receive so many compliments on design and skill.
Thanks so much Elena!
Elena's creations are absolutely amazing - she is on social media and regularly posts up photos of her latest work.
She is very kindly offering friends of Little Otter Events a 20% discount - so if you have a birthday, wedding or special occasion coming up, get in touch with Elena to discuss your ideas.
What an amazing maker! I want to get married all over again just so Elena can make me a cake!
The last few months of the school year always seem to zip by and I can't quite believe how quickly the end of term has come around again. My eldest daughter is leaving her primary school to start high school in September so I know that her last week will be an emotional affair which I am not ready for!
She has been lucky enough to have two excellent teachers in her final year and as the year ends, we are looking for extra special teachers' gifts to say thanks for all the care and support that they have shown her.
If you, too, are looking for some gift inspiration, have a browse through this collection of inexpensive presents for teachers from our talented Directory makers. Links to makers contact details are given in the descriptions.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Ceramic brooch, £6.50 plus postage, Love & Lovelier
Sterling silver and Liberty print friendship bracelet, £15 plus postage, Lou Gray Jewellery.
Notebook, £12, Seascape Curiosities.
French macarons gift box, mixed flavours, £15.99, Majestic Macarons
Fabric pin cushion, £4.50, Stitch City
Mexican oilcloth purses, various prices, Tommelise Danish Design
Teacher notepad, £5 plus postage, oh!Susannah
Classic bara brith delivered to your door! £15.99 baked by Mel
Chunky knitted bangle in ochre, green and white. £10 plus postage. p&d designs
Ceramic triangle ear studs, £17.99 plus postage, Ruby Anne Jewellery
Ceramic dish, £10 plus postage, Love & Lovelier
Cardiff central map notebook, £7 plus postage, Stitch City
Seahorse purse, £16 plus postage, Seascape Curiosities
The fabulous Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey, Devon returns this weekend opening today, Friday 8th June and running until Sunday 10th.
If you have chance to go, you will not be disappointed as it is a fantastic event with over 200 makers selling their high quality handmade goods to the public. As well as stalls, there are demonstrations and workshops to get involved in. Bovey Tracey is a pretty little town to visit too, with lots of independent shops and a fantastic makers guild with exhibition space.
I asked Alys Wall AKA The Pocket Pirate, who has attended the festival previously, to choose her top six makers who are exhibiting this weekend....over to Alys...
Dovile’s fluid, elegant hand-carved pieces caught my eye immediately. Each item has wonderful movement to it. I love the fact that each piece evolves organically as she works on it, so is completely unique.
It is a real skill to make something that is both functional and beautiful - Lomas Furniture has truly mastered this.
Esther’s candid stories unfold softly through her beautiful illustrations, tugging at our own experiences. You won’t be able to resist.
Anya’s playful creatures belong to that place at the edge of our vision, where we are sure we saw our favourite toy move…
Manda’s characterful and beautifully handmade soft animals and children’s clothes are always displayed so artfully you will want to take up residence on her stand.
Look out for Andrew's ash splint basket combined with its hand-stitched leather lid - a thing of quiet, dependable beauty that you will suddenly NEED.
For more information on The Contemporary Craft Festival, visit www.craftsatboveytracey.co.uk or visit their facebook page.
Thanks Alys! Find out more about Alys, and her inspiration over on the Little Otter Events blog.
If you have been along to a Little Otter Events market in the past five years, you will have no doubt discovered the work of Whitchurch based maker Lydia Niziblian. Lydia's work is always popular at our events and it is easy to see why - she creates such beautiful unique pieces and is continuously coming up with new ranges, and learning new techniques to expand her knowledge as a maker.
She has recently added stunning jewellery made with a technique called Keum-boo. I asked Lydia to write a guestblog to explain the ancient technique and to introduce us to her new range.....over to you Lyd...
One of my favourite things about making jewellery is its therapeutic qualities. I often find myself making according to my mood. At one end there is hammering and forming heavy jewellery which can really release some tension! At the other end of the scale there are some very delicate, almost Zen like practices. My favourite of these is keum-boo. Keum-boo (pronounced kum boo) is an ancient gilding technique originating in Korea. I first started using the process a little over 5 years ago, and it’s become a firm favourite.
Keum-boo (meaning ͞attached gold͟) is the application of thin 24ct gold foil to the surface of metal; in this case silver. Sterling silver must be prepared by repeatedly heating the silver, quenching it, and soaking it in jewellers’ pickle. Pickle covers a variety of available mild acid solutions, although a mix of distilled vinegar and salt work as well! Some people like to brush it with a brass brush in soapy water between repetitions. After numerous soakings, the silver takes on a white appearance. This means a layer of fine silver has been brought to the surface. Now you can apply the gold foil using a combination of heat and pressure. I prefer the piece of jewellery to be pretty much finished; all soldering finished and settings in place.
Some folk use a hot plate; I prefer a butane torch as I find I get a little more control. Using a steel or agate burnisher, you tack and rub the foil into place. How the piece is finished can vary tremendously; I like to either brush the piece with a brass brush, or oxidise or patinate it for contrast.
You can treat yourself (or a lucky friend!) by using code LITTLEOTTER at checkout in my shop to get 25% off any of my ready-made jewellery until June 1st*
*offer excludes made to order items and gift vouchers
If you fancy learning a new skill or are looking for a fun evening activity to do with friends, why not book on to a ceramic workshop with Aquila Cook from Love & Lovelier.
Quil has two new workshops coming up in June:
- mini bunting on June 6th at Cobbles, Ogmore on Sea and
- a ceramic coaster workshop on 11th June at Umber and Sienna, Taffs Well.
Links to the event pages can be found at the bottom of this blog.
I have been along to two of Quil's workshops at Umber & Sienna in Taffs Well, and had a great time. Quil is lovely and the atmosphere is relaxed so there's no need to worry if you have never done anything like this before. (Rachel from Umber&Sienna makes amazing brownies and a mean coffee too!)
I asked Quil to tell us a bit more about her workshops and her inspiration behind the themes...
When did you hold your first workshop?
It was about four years ago and it was making ceramic hearts to hang on the Christmas tree. It was so lovely to see everyone designing their own personalised decorations.
What do you enjoy most about running them?
It is wonderful when someone who is a self-proclaimed 'non-creative' makes something they are proud of.
How do you come up with ideas for your workshop themes?
Most of the workshops I run are making things that I make anyway. Like the mini bunting for example - it's one of my best sellers. But I mix it up with some other ceramic makes that I think people will enjoy having a go at. If I see something on Pinterest that I think people would be able to make in one sitting then I have a go myself and take it from there.
Do you have any favourite venues to hold them?
Until recently all my workshops have been at Umber & Sienna in Taffs Well, which is nice because it's in the woods and feels cosy and out of way (plus they do amazing brownies!) But I'm starting doing them a bit further afield now in The Little Welsh Dresser in Llandeilo, and Cobbles Kitchen in Ogmore by Sea. I also like coming to someone's house and doing a workshop at their kitchen table. Those ones tend to end up with a bit of relaxed party feel!
Do you need any experience to come along?
Absolutely no experience is needed! In fact I'd say anyone over the age of 8 would make something they'd be happy with. All the techniques are simple and I guide you through all the way. I have lots of stamps so no drawing ability is needed either.
Have you been on any workshops yourself?
Well actually yes, I love learning a new skill as much as the next person. I've been to upholstery classes, and most recently I learnt to 'throw' pots at the Cardiff Pottery Studios.
Quil is holding two workshops in June:
Mini bunting ceramic workshop at Cobbles Kitchen, Ogmore on Sea on June 6th.
Ceramic coaster workshop at Umber & Sienna, Taffs Well on June 11th.
Get booking and let me know if you do go along, and please share your creations to the Little Otter page. I'd love to see them!
The ever popular Cowbridge Food Festival returns this weekend, and promises to be the best one yet with over a hundred exhibition stands spread across three sites. Friend of Little Otter Events, Melanie Constantinou aka Baked by Mel will be there selling her amazing array of home bakes.
I had a chat with Mel about this year's festival and asked her for her highlights from over the years.
When did you first start attending Cowbridge Food Festival Mel?
My first ever Cowbridge Food Festival was in 2013… the end of October and the weather was absolutely shocking! Brrrrr… cold, wet and windy, the trinity of weather-misery! I was part of the Fringe Festival held in the Old Hall gardens and supported by Cywain. Despite the conditions the fellow stallholders and lovely customers made it an enjoyable and successful event. In fact it’s where I was introduced to Barnaby Hibbert of The Gallery, Barry. He liked my bara brith and I supplied it to his restaurant where he served it on the cheeseboard. If you have never tried bara brith with cheese I suggest you give it a go, especially as I now make a walnut & ale version. It’s a little less sweet than the original so it really makes an excellent cheese-companion, though I like them both to be honest.
What do you like best about the event?
As I live in Llantwit which is only a few miles away its truly a local event for me. This means I get to see lots of familiar faces during the festival and it makes it such a lovely sociable occasion! I love saying hello to friends old and new… so it’s a wonderful, bubbly atmosphere, which suits me down to the ground! It can be a bit lonely being a home baker. There’s just me, nobody for tea breaks or to organise a Christmas do!! When I get to Cowbridge Food Festival and people come to see me on the stall, its like, hellooooooo!!!
What are your festival highlights from over the years?
I think it would have to be in 2015. I had won a 2-star award for my bara brith recipe the previous august and launched my online shop during my first appearance at Abergavenny Food Festival of 2014. It led me to have the bara brith stocked in London’s Fortnum & Mason so when I had a stall at Cowbridge 2015 I had lots of customers coming to offer their congratulations and say how pleased they were for me. It was incredibly touching and I felt very thankful.
Do you have favourite makers that attend?
Ooooh… now that’s a tough one!! Honestly it’s quite hard to say because there are truly so many excellent producers. If I have to name names I would say the Hangfire girls (love them) and Samosaco… if you haven’t tried an onion bhajee scotch egg now’s your chance!! Naturally, I also have a bit of a thing for the greek souvlaki and also a tipple with Tomos a Lilford. I must also mention Artisan Cakes which is run by my friend Myfanwy. I got a lot of love for her and I really think she is the Mary Berry of the Vale. On top of all the market stalls and demo’s, the producers and street food we also have great food coming out of the pubs and restaurants. I hope this year is as popular as ever and everyone enjoys it as much as I do!
Thanks Mel and have a fabulous weekend!
Cowbridge Food Festival returns this weekend Sunday 27th and Monday 28th May. For ticket information and the run down on who will be there, visit the Cowbridge Food Festival website.
I am still smiling when thinking about the Royal Wedding last Saturday between Prince Harry and Megan Markle. Wasn't it a beautiful day! So inclusive and joyful. And having watched Prince Harry at his Mother's funeral all those years ago, I felt so happy to see him look so happy.
More details have emerged from The Royal Wedding reception at Frogmore House where the guests were served amongst other sweet treats, champagne and pistachio macarons. If you are planning a wedding, macarons are definitely a popular choice as they are available in so many flavours and colours and can fit around any theme.
I asked Elena Floarea of Cardiff-based Majestic Macarons what the most popular colours are this year...
Elena explained, "The most popular colour this year so far has been the white and blush pink macarons and also the rose gold macarons . 90% of orders that are placed are for wedding favours and the other 10% of orders are for macaron towers."
As well as being given as favours, there are so many beautiful ways that macarons can be incorporated in to a wedding cake design too. Here are some recent examples of Elena's work....
So pretty......with a selection of macarons nestled amongst the gypsophila and roses.
Classic and simple....the macarons matched the colour of the brides floral bouquet.
Calling all brides! Elena is offering friends of Little Otter Events a 20% discount as well so get in touch with her asap if you'd like to take up this offer.
Our talented group of designer makers have been busy behind the scenes working on new additions to their ranges. I am always blown away with their creativeness and originality. Roll on payday!
Here's a selection of some of the amazing products released this month....links are in the descriptions.
Emerald, Oxidised Silver & Keum-Boo Square Pendant, £125.00, Lydia Niziblian Jewellery
Organic cotton bibs, Zac & Bella.
Stitched Recycled Vintage Badges, Embroidered Abstract Patterns. £1.20, Stitch City
Fingerprints/hand/footprints in sterling silver, 9ct yellow gold and 9ct rose gold, price on application, Lou Gray Jewellery
New card range, oh! Susannah
Insect prints, Seascape Curiosities
Pretty pink purse, Tommelise Danish Design
Coral pink chunky bangle, p&d designs
Diolch ceramic love spoon, Love & Lovelier
April Liddell. Founder of Little Otter Events. Lives a crafty life. Loves going for walks, listening to music, and eating chelsea buns. Dislikes rudeness, meanness and people who spit.