Alex Snowdon

We are pleased to introduce you  to Alex Snowdon who is making her debut at Derbyshire Open Arts this year.

alexandrasnowdon.pic.BWAlex designs and produces high quality, eco-friendly  hand pulled screen prints, giclee prints & cards, tote bags and lunch bags. We have been stocking Alex’s work for about a year now and have got to know her well on her visits to the studios.  Here is Alex writing about her work;

“I take pride in my work from the original design through to the finished product. I’ve always loved art, as soon as I left school I headed off to art college in the breezy seaside town of Blackpool. During my time there I made some great friends, met my future husband Charlie, and graduated with a Higher National Diploma in Design.

Soon afterwards Charlie and I moved to Manchester and I got a job as a graphic designer. This coincided with the whole graphic design industry going digital. I had to quickly learn how to use an Apple Mac and all the design software that went with it. Subsequently I spent the early years of my working life with the niggling feeling that this wasn’t the career that I had ‘signed up for’, but after investing so much time and energy in it I felt I had no option other than to adapt and embrace the new technology.

leap_print My life turned around in my mid thirties when Charlie and I decided to realise our long term goal of travelling the world. I took my courage in both hands and asked my employer for a one year sabbatical. Amazingly they said yes and we spent an unforgettable twelve months living out our dreams across South America, the South Pacific, (where we got married!), New Zealand, Australia and Asia.

While we were away we learned a lot about ourselves and each other. I also realised that despite my disillusionment with my career, I still had a passion for design. Experiencing new cultures and being exposed to such an amazing range of ethnic art and design really rekindled my creative flame.

beer.drawing.close.upAfter arriving back in England we set about making some changes, including swapping our tiny city flat for a cute stone cottage in the countryside. A couple of weeks after moving in I embarked on a three year part time graphic design and illustration degree. Those three years where among the best, and worst of my life. Finding time to fit my studies in around my full time job and learning to write essays again was a tough call, but learning new creative skills and rediscovering long forgotten talents were some of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I finally got my happy ending in the summer of 2009 when I graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a first class degree with honours, I didn’t stop smiling for days!

Six months later, after spending the summer designing my own collection of cards, bags and prints I launched Snowdon Design & Craft.

life.drawing.close.upIn my free time I still love to travel, and am continually inspired by folk art from around the world. My experience working as a graphic designer has taught me to really listen to what my customers want, and I always enjoy receiving feedback and suggestions from people who are interested in my work.”

We hope that you will love Alex’s work as much as we do and come along on Sunday morning when Alex is hand printing in the Studios from 11 – 1.30.


Derbyshire Open Artists: Philippa Maye

Hello, as promised this week we will be introducing you to the artists taking part in this years Derbyshire Open Arts and exhibiting their work at The Smithy Studios.

Philippa Maye

Philippa is a ceramicist working in porcelain and porcelain paper clay. Philippa’s work is thoughtful and precise; her word and letter spirals exemplify this.

P1060496The spirals are formed using letter punches, each letter individually placed. Philippa  places her text on her vessels and bowls sometimes in clear view and sometimes hidden. If you spy a bowl upon a mirror look for the reflected text.

P1060735 P1060739 Philippa’s porcelain paper clay vessels exhibit a deceptive fragility; pale, translucent and bearing her hallmark text. Here we see a pair of vessels before their firing during which the paper is burnt off leaving the emergent fragility.20120526-133349.jpgPhilippa demonstrates a skilled use of glazes in her practice creating gleaming surfaces with an exquisite use of colour.

On the Saturday of the Open Arts (if the weather is fair) Philippa and Jim Symon will be working with a raku kiln in our courtyard. Not to be missed, you can view a previous firing here.

Derbyshire Open Arts 2013

We’re excited to once again be taking part in the Derbyshire Open Arts event. As in previous years we have a great line up of artists with new work to show.

We always start our preparations with a big clear up – Philippa has been in charge of the Studios…

P1060748Outside, we have new planters a lovely trailing ivy and these…

P1060730And whilst upstairs work on the gallery shop is still in progress but we can tell you that this year there will be more space for art and craft work. This is our 2013 line up…

Alex Snowdon, original screen prints

alex where thers teaPhilippa Maye, ceramicist

20120526-133349.jpgCatherine Carr, glass artist

Thank You!!Jim Symon, potter

P1060426Erika Robertson, fine art

P1040787Habbah Dodd, Felt artist

P1060744Keep in touch in the run up to Derbyshire Open Arts as we bring you more news, our timetable of events and more photos. We look forward to seeing you!

open arts

Sewing project #1



This is my first sewing project for 2013. It is a straight knee length skirt in a blue & black houndstooth check (notice how I write as though it’s already finished? What’s that about?). The pattern is McCalls 3830; I read about it on a blog but can’t remember which one – sorry. I can remember that I bought it from sewing world and they had a very speedy turnaround. The fabric is from Caroline’s (The Sewing Box) on High St West. I think it will have a bit of challenge as I’d like the check to line up on the seams. Anyway it’s public now so I have to do it!

Sewing Zeitgeist

I hear that sewing is the new baking. It’s all over the tele. The BBC have a new series starting tonight, The Great British Sewing Bee, which takes a group of talented amateurs through their paces. I hope that it is as supportive and gentle in its on petition as the ‘Bake Off’; this approach made baking accessible and I’m all for sewing taking over the zeitgeist.

At the Studios we have held a weekly Sewing Cafe for almost  a year; first hosted by Ella and now by Bernie. The Sewing Cafe is great for those without a machine (you can hire the use of one) and those who want a bit of a safety net (that wouldbe Bernie!). I dropped in on last Thursdays session and there was pattern drafting and cutting, tailor tacks and Bernie was showing Jo how to thread up her new sewing machine.

SEWING CAFE 003SEWING CAFE 001SEWING CAFE 004At this time of year I usually start sewing summer skirts. As spring appears making a skirt in lightweight cotton and bright colours keeps me hopeful of the warmth to follow. I have to admit that this year I am still knitting a cosy jumper and a fancy cabled cowl. The summer skirt really doesn’t feel right yet. But I am looking at fabric (which must be a god sign that spring is on the way). Here are a few of my favourite online sewing places…

Gerties New Blog for Sewing is a great blog written by New York dressmaker Gretchen ‘Gertie’ Hirsch.  Gertie began the blog as ‘a modern homage to  Vogues New  Book for Better Sewing’ which was published in 1952. The blog has a vintage, couture focus with an archive of ‘how to’ sew alongs. She has been so successful she now  teaches, designs writes and blogs sewing. And the blog has come full circle with the publicaiton of ‘Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing’ (no link – support your local book shop!).

Sew, Mama, Sew is another US site. I like this as it is full of advice and tutorials especially as I have found instructions for altering specific patterns I want to use.

The Thrifty Stitcher is Claire-Louise Hardie, sewing teacher and consultant to The Great British Sewing Bee. Again, lots of useful hints and tutorials.

For a good read I really enjoy Scruffy Badger Time; written by Winnie from Bath. Winnie uses her blog as a journal, showing her makes, the piles of fabric in her stash and her    love of vintage patterns. There is also a really neat feature – Desert Island Sewing. Go have a look.

So, if you are inspired by tonights programme and want to learn some dressmaking or to pick it up again, pop along on Thursday mornings (10.30 – 12.30) and keep alook out for news of more formal sewing classes.

Bursting with ideas



The weather is bleak, I’m fed up with the grey when I look out of the window. It seems today that M&S is looming greater than ever. And just a year ago we could see the hills and the cars coming down off Snake Pass from here. I’m about to knuckle down with today’s task and make a start on sewing the flags for outside. In part, this post is to make sure I do it ‘cos now I’ve told you and you’ll want to know how I get on! The idea is to create colourful flags from rip stock nylon that will lift the outside appearance of the shop. When they are finished we will appliqué words onto the flags. We have three carbon fibre rods and so need three words, one for each flag. We have kind of agreed on ‘ART’ and ‘CRAFT’ but are stuck for word three. A word that sums up an aspect of the studios. Any ideas?