Monday 28 November 2011

2012 Production Period

It's that time of year again where we head to the Kathmandu Valley for another period of sourcing, sampling and production of our next collection. The downside to our production period is that we are unable to process any online orders whilst in Nepal. This means our online store will have to take a break from 28th Nov 2011 until 30th Jan 2012. We apologise for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding. We will still be checking our mail everyday and are always there to answer any questions you may have.

Two of the main fibres that we source in Nepal are their very own organic nettle and hemp. They both grow wild in the foothills and are harvested, retted, spun and woven by hand. We look forward to meeting up with all the craftspeople we regularly work with, from knitters, crocheters, weavers, dyers, and tailors. 

The image below shows a hemp & cotton blended yarn being woven on a handloom. We try to use handloom fabrics wherever possible in order to keep things as organic and handmade as possible. The standard handloom is vital for us as it requires no electricity and also provides much needed work for this group of traditional craftsmen.

Our blog will be updated throughout our production period with the latest news, so please do check from time to time. We look forward to presenting our new collection in the new year and Sorazora wishes you all a very merry Christmas and enjoyable new year celebrations.

Friday 4 November 2011

Leather Cases and Coverings

Leather has always been a material that I enjoy working with. Not having to worry about fraying or hems allows for a far greater range of detail. If the truth be known, I still haven't got my head around intricate work with woven fabrics!

The images above and below show a soft and thick buffalo leather book cover. The hand stitched edging was completed using a fine hemp twine and all intricate stitch work was done with a 100% cotton thread and with the aid of a sewing machine. I try to incorporate woven fabrics into leather products and chose a 100% hemp fabric as the background for the circular patches.

Cases for mobile phones and Sat Navs are fairly crude designs which need to simply protect devices and allow for easy removal. Both of the cases in the photo feature a cord which will eject the device when pulled. With Sat Navs it is not so much of an issue, but for a mobile phone it is important to get at it quickly!

The following pouch is fucntional, but has had a little more thought put into the choice of materials. It is a simple flap pouch that holds a set of bamboo crochet hooks.

Again, I have used a soft buffalo leather with Belgium flax used for the hand stitched edging. Half a betel nut has been carved, sanded and encased in the double layered flap.

I tried to use as many different materials as possible for the decoration without making its overall appearance too busy. The pouch's closure relies on a slice of Japanese deer antler for a toggle and a soft suede cord finished off with a bead (the seed of a soapnut) on each end.

I am trying to move away from the use of zips, velcro and poppers for any closures on bags and pouches. This currently leaves me with drawstrings, toggles and buttons. I am trying to develop other ideas for secure closures that allow for some adjustment. Taylor made pouches are fine with toggles or buttons that do not adjust, but bags need some form of adjustment as fixed positions rarely work for bags when both almost emtpy and completely stuffed! Below is a simple drawstring pouch crafted from various leathers and suedes and again finished off with soapnut seeds as beads.

Notepad covers are also fairly easy to make and are a great way of both protecting and improving the appearance of a simple spiral bound pad. One downside to these is being able to source new pads of the appropriate size when the existing one becomes full. Hand stitching on the pad's cover was done with a very strong wax coated rayon.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Leather Quiver

One of the more unusual projects I have worked on this year is a quiver to hold 12 arrows. This quiver is more ornamental than functional as it will spend the best part of its life on a wall.

The main body has been cut from a beautifully soft, but thick buffalo hide and hand stitched with a sturdy flax cord. I have tried to keep to materials that fit the period for longbows, but as you can see, there is nothing period about the design.

A very large sun & moon motif has been crafted from two other tones of thinner leather. The stitching for the motif and the finer boarder stitch are 100% cotton threads. A much smaller Sorazora logo heat branded patch has been added to the upper most part of the arrow housing.

This quiver is made up of two sections held together by a large suede wrapped bamboo ring. The reason for this two part construction is that I wanted to break up the monotony of just a large expanse of leather for the quiver and the idea of the arrow shafts being a clearly visible part of the design appealed to me.

As this quiver is purely a decoration, I didn't worry too much about how it would be carried or worn. I didn't make any straps, but added strap loops at the bottom side of the main shaft housing.

As I mentioned, it has been designed to hold 12 arrows. Longbow arrows tend to be fairly large. These long broad shafts are made from poplar.

The poplar shafts are self-notched and have goose feather fletchings bound with linen. I tipped these shafts with bodkins, (medieval tips designed to penetrate chainmail), which are apparently not very welcome at club ranges!! As they are unlikely to see much use, I welcomed the bodkins because they allowed the use of holes in the leather that were not much larger than the shafts diameter. Broad points would require a much larger hole or at least slits incorporated into the hole.

This was a one-off project that I wished to share as it illustrates my favourite materials and some of the construction techniques that I tend to use time and time again.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Weaving & Braiding

One range of objects that I am always delighted to make are tools that produce something which will become part of a finished item. Below are a few of these tools, starting with three variations of rigid heddle that I use to produce straps for bags, pouches or decorative detail on garments.

The two objects below are the most recent to roll off my work bench. The slotted disc in the background is a version of a kumihimo disc carved from a slice of pine. Kumihimo is a Japanese form of braid-making where a number of threads or cords are interwoven to create thicker ornate  cords. The four pegged disc in the foreground is for spool knitting (sometimes called French knitting) This I carved from a slice of boxwood and used just a simple pointed piece of bamboo for the hook. This is a very traditional way to teach the basics of knitting. With just four pegs, this produces a knitted cord from a single yarn.

The photo below shows two lucets. The smaller one I carved from boxwood and the larger from ironwood. These two prong tools are very similar in use to the knitting spool above. With just two prongs, it produces a thinner cord. Lucets, like rigid heddles, have a very long history and would have possibly been in use during the time of the vikings and in many parts of the world.

The following images are just a closer look at the rigid heddles I made for the construction of simple woven straps. The smallest is made up of individually carved bamboo slats that have been bound together with hemp twine, This was my first attempt at a rigid heddle. With a very small number of slots and holes, it is only possible to create rather thin straps on this one.

A beautiful slice of boxwood enabled me to create a slightly larger heddle with the ability to take more warp threads, therefore create broader straps.

The most recent and also the largest I have made is this heddle pictured below. Its frame has been carved from a single slice of soft pine with small bamboo rods used to create the holes and slots. The holes are quite small, which limits the range of yarns I can use on this heddle.

To give you an idea of the straps made so far, the image below  shows three made on the boxwood heddle and one on the larger pine heddle. All of the weaving done to date tends to emphasize the warp threads. That is to say that the threads visible on the finished strap tend to be those of the warp, leaving the weft threads mostly hidden.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Atslan Craft

With ATSLAN craft I place great importance on the raw natural materials used. The image below will give you a feel for the timeless materials that have been used for a wide range of ornate and practical crafts through the ages. I don't wish to be limited to just these materials, but at present I am still exploring their potentials whilst looking for other materials to carve.

The deer antler is from "Sika Deer" also known as Japanese deer and was picked up by a friend from the hills of Yamanashi prefecture. The large leg bone and black horn are from water buffalo, these materials I collect in Nepal. The Areca nut (commonly referred to as Betel nut) is also sourced in Nepal. Although I have worked with several different woods, the two samples in the photo are Ipe (a large tropical hardwood from South America) and Boxwood (a small native tree and possibly one of the hardest in Europe).

I am always looking for new and interesting materials to work with, not just for pendants, but also all the beads, toggles and buckles that make up important parts on bags and pouches. The image below shows simple buckle rings crafted from water buffalo bone and water buffalo horn. Wrought iron is a material that I am extremely interested in (specifically for buckles) but without the neccessary skills or access to a foundry, I will have to rely on working with other craftsmen.

Areca nut is a material that is fairly new to me in terms of craft use. It's soft woodlike texture makes it fairly easy to work with and provides a beautifully unique pattern and texture each time. Areca nut is commonly called BETEL NUT although it is neither a nut nor from the Asian evergreen climbing plant called Betel. Areca is a tropical Asian palm.

The photo below shows a range of pendants made from the selection of natural materials in the first photo. I will continue using these materials in as many new and interesting ways as possible and continue the search for further organic materials that can be added to my stash.