Thursday 27 December 2012

Crafting With Uxi Seeds

I was recently introduced to Uxi seeds as a craft material and found very little information about them, other than the seeds offer a beautiful texture for miniature carving and the seed pods are commonly used in dry flower arranging. After a fair bit of research and translating texts from the Galician and Portuguese languages, I slowly managed to piece some background information together.

Uxi (Endopleura uchi) is a large evergreen tree indigenous to a couple of states in Brazil and well distributed within the forests. It is considered a hardwood and its straight cylindrical trunks are often used as a local building material.

 The fruit of uxi was commonly known as "fruit of the poor" as it was very inexpensive. Today it has gained popularity and the green egg-sized fruit fetches a good price in the local markets.
Shown in the image above is a seed that has been cut from the pod. These pods are covered with a thin oily pulp which can be eaten raw when ripe. This thin layer of woody flavoured flesh is most loved in icecream and also makes a good quality oil for both cooking and medicine. The bark of the tree is commonly used as a natural medicine when made in to tea.

 The seed is very hard (harder than betel nut and similar to tagua) and lends itself well to carving and polishing. Most of the items crafted from uxi that I have researched tend to be delicate items turned on a lathe. I hand carved the mushroom pendant above and crafted the ivory white stem from tagua. The cord is a 3ply linen that I coated with beeswax prior to twisting.

 Buttons are a fairly obvious and easy item to cut from the long seeds and hard enough to slice quite thinly. I have yet to experiment with how these buttons will fair if put through many washes, but imagine they should be fine. The image below shows a wallet that I made using buffalo leather sourced from Nepal with a single uxi button providing the closure.

The use of uxi in amulets is believed to bring the wearer good luck and protect them from ill health. The savoury fruit is extremely popular with a variety of mammals as it is an excellent source of calories, high in fibre and rich in minerals and vitamins. As this fruit plays an important role in the diet of wildlife, it is common for hunters to set traps near and around uxi trees.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Colchester Grand Christmas Fair

From Tuesday 11th December through to Sun 23rd December we'll be opening a stall in Colchester, Essex. It is the first year for the Grand Christmas Fair to take place which will be open everyday from 11am until 8pm.

Naturally, there will be a selection of stalls offering a wide range of stocking fillers, but also plenty of food and drink and a 1930's fairground Waltzer.

The location is the former Colchester Bus Station just off the main high street and easy walking distance from two main car parks and the town's rail station. There will be a buss at the fair, but sadly it will not get you anywhere as it will be the bar.

Entry is absolutely free and well worth a visit if you are in the area for either lunch or an evening bit combined with that all important Christmas shopping.

UPDATE 17th December
Sadly, due to poor footfall, this Christmas Market closed on Sunday 16th December and will not continue until the 23rd as originally planned. It is a shame for all involved and for everyone who planned to visit during the coming week.

Friday 30 November 2012

Tagua & Betel Nut Pendants

Working with tagua nuts is fairly new to me, although I have been aware of their existance for some time now. Tagua palms are known by several names and grow in South America from southern Panama along the Andes to Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, with Brazil's native species dominating international trade.
The large nut on the left of the image below is the whole tagua nut with a thin slice showing its hard white interior in front.
The use of these nuts stimulates local economies in South America and is said to be a substitute for the use of ivory as it has similar texture and appearance. It is for this reason that tagua nuts are commonly referred to as vegetable ivory.

The smaller nut to the right in the image above is a betel nut. Although it is commonly referred to as a betel nut, it is in fact the seed of the areca palm, which grows in much of the tropical pacific. After the seed has dried into a wood-like consistency, it reveals a beautiful pattern as shown in the small slice.
This nut is usually sliced thinly and wrapped in a betel leaf (hence its erroneous nickname) along with other spices to be chewed as a mild stimulant.

 These are my first attempts at using tagua for creating pendants and as you can see, I have inlayed betel nut into the thin slices of tagua to illustrate the contrast of the betel nut's pattern to the plain ivory white of the tagua. The pendant in the centre has been backed with buffalo leather that has been stitched into place and then adorned with a single red sandalwood seed That I sourced in Western Australia many years ago.

All of the cordage has been crafted from a European grown/produced hemp thread that I coated in beeswax prior to twisting. The image above shows the completed pendant and 6 ply cord. The toggle has been crafted from a single seed from a rather large seed pod of the Royal Poinciana tree, also sourced from Western Australia.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Making A Dreamcatcher

As well as selling organic craft materials ideal for making dreamcatchers, we also create a few ourselves and have recently been crafting a wide variety of styles and sizes using only organic materials. This blog illustrates the different stages for making the dreamcatcher shown in the above photo.

We supply three different sizes of cane rings and will expand the size ranges for our 2013 stock. I recommend cane rings as they are light and sturdy, but a dreamcatcher could be made out of almost any roughly circular ring. The beads I have chosen to use are ritha seeds, these are the hard seeds found in the centre of soapnuts.

If you have produced a ring from willow or any other naturally attractive material, perhaps you would wish to leave it bare. I have chosen to cover the this cane ring with wild Himalayan handspun hemp that we have dyed using traditional natural dyes. I prefer to coat the twine with beeswax by gently flossing the twine through a block of wax, this is purely optional. Other materials we often use from our selection for this purpose are wool, blended hempwool yarns and nettle twine.

The use of beads helps add a personal touch to dreamcatchers and needs to be decided prior to threading. The above image shows how the initial pass of the thread around the ring is attached after being tied at your starting point. As you can see, I have added beads into the initial pass, although usually I tend to add beads at a slightly later stage of threading. This method of attaching the twine (in this case 4 ply giant Himalayan nettle) is all that is required to complete the web. The second and subsequent passes no longer wrap around the cane, but around the twine of the previous pass.

With this dreamcatcher, I decided to incorporate a smaller cane ring into the centre and have wrapped this smaller ring with hemp in exactly the same way as the larger ring. After several passes on the larger ring, I added some more beads and then one more pass running through the beads to tighten everything off. For a larger web I would have just continued threading the beeswax coated nettle until I reached the centre. It is important to maintain a nice even tension otherwise your ring can be pulled slightly out of shape if too tight or alternatively result in a loose web if lacking in tension.

The next step is a little more unusual as I planned on weaving a yarn into the dreamcatcher as opposed to just a plain web. To weave the weft yarn I need a firm warp thread to weave around. I secured the smaller ring in the centre using a temporary thread and then used the original nettle twine to create a permanent fix (and warp threads) between the small ring and the beads. Again, an equal tension is vital. The photo below shows the dreamcatcher ready for the weaving stage.

In keeping with the three colours of the hemp twine used to cover the ring, I have selected blended hempwool yarns dyed with the same natural dyes to complete the weaving. This stage is a little time consuming, but not too difficult and you can easily change yarn colours.

The image below shows the dreamcatcher in an almost finished state with all knots tied off and loose ends trimmed. It was for purely aesthetical reasons that I broke the weaving sections up into to three segments. I could have been possible to weave a continues circle or indeed a dreamcatcher comprising of just weaving.

Not shown in any photographs is the hemp twine used to craft the hanging loop. I used hemp of the same three colours that were waxed and then twisted together to make a thicker twine. Instead of the traditional use of feathers, I chose to craft tassels from the blended hempwool, wooden beads and then attached using the nettle twine. The number and length of tassels is entirely upto you, as are pretty much all of the choices made in crafting a dreamcatcher. I understand that this is not a traditional looking dreamcatcher and maybe not suitable for your first go at making one, but it should hopefully help inspire anyone to have a go and be experimental. As with most crafts, imagination is the bulk of the recipe with a dash of patience and craft skill.

All of the materials used for this dreamcatcher and a wide range of other organic materials are available from our online store and can be shipped worldwide.
As always, enquiries and general queries are always welcome. We can be contacted through our contact link on our homepage which can be reached by the link below.

Friday 23 November 2012

Deer Antler Pendants

These are the five latest pendants to be uploaded into our Atslan gallery within our Tokyo Craft section. Here you can find individually crafted pendants not only by myself, but also Tokyo Green Glass, Neo Glass and Stone Dance.

The betel nut and turquoise pendants encased in buffalo leather are those from the previous blog entry, but the new pendants are slices of deer antler filled with clear resin that holds segments of buffalo bone in place.

The cord for this pendant has been crafted from six strands of beeswax coated linen which has been hand twisted tightly in the traditional manner and the toggle has been carved from the Nepalese hardwood Saz, a large sub-himalayan tree found up to an altitude of 1200m.

To view these and other pendants from Atslan, please follow the link below to the gallery page.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Dyeing With Black Cherries

Hiromi's latest natural dye experiment is with black cherries that were harvested earlier in the year and kept frozen.
The natural fibre materials used in this experiment are pictured in the photo below, they are a silk handkercheif, felted wool, hempcotton blended yarn and hempwool blended yarn.

Like all the other dyestuffs she uses, the cherries were boiled up to extract as much colour as possible and also with just enough water to stop the dyestuff from burning. If dyeing anything in volume, plenty of water would have been more suitable to create the dyebath.

You will notice that the cherry stones haven't been removed prior to boiling, this was unintentional! We recommend the removal of the stones as it will make it easier to break up the cherries while boiling them, but allowing the stones to boil with the fruit colours them nicely if you intend to use them for beads.

The image below shows the final results from the dyeing experiment. The background is the silk handkerchief that has been tie-dyed and of the two yarns, hempwool is on the left and hempcotton is on the right. The hempcotton seems to have taken less colour, probably due to both hemp and cotton being cellulose fibres. The protein fibres of wool and silk always seem to beautifully take natural dye colours.

One point that we would like to mention is that dyes from blackberries and elderberries are generally considered as stains rather than dyes as even with the use of fixative, the colour's longevity in limited. We think cherries may be similar in this respect.

For information about other dyestuffs that we have experimented with, click on any of the links below to be taken to  the corresponding blog entry.

Monday 29 October 2012

New Atslan Pendants

Betel Nut & Buffalo Leather Pendants

Betel nut is the common name although strictly speaking they are areca nuts from a tropical Asian palm and not from the Asian evergreen climbing plant called betel. Its soft woodlike texture makes it fairly easy to carve and provides a beautifully unique pattern each time. Areca nut is often wrapped in betel leaf and chewed in many Asian and Oceanic countries as a stimulant.

The cord for the pendant shown above has been created from six strands of beeswax coated hemp which have been twisted tightly in the traditional manner. For this style of cord I use many types of natural fibre ranging from linen, hemp, nettle, cotton to bamboo. The toggle has been carved from the Nepalese hardwood Saz, a large sub-himalayan tree found up to an altitude of 1200m, although I often use Ipe (Brazilian hardwood).

Thursday 18 October 2012

Betel Nut Mushrooms

The photo above shows the materials used for the mushroom pendants. Betel nuts are of course the main component twinned with either Ipe (Brazilian hardwood) or Saz (Nepalese Hardwood).
Also shown is cork and a section of a UK vine.

Betel nut is the common name although strictly speaking they are areca nuts from a tropical Asian palm and not from the Asian evergreen climbing plant called betel. Its soft woodlike texture makes it fairly easy to carve and provides a beautifully unique pattern each time. Areca nut is often wrapped in betel leaf and chewed in many asian and Oceanic countries as a stimulant.

The cord for the pendant shown above has been created from six strands of beeswax coated linen which have been twisted tightly in the traditional manner. For this style of cord I use many types of natural fibre ranging from linen, hemp, nettle, cotton to bamboo. The toggle has been carved from the Nepalese hardwood Saz, a large sub-himalayan tree found up to an altitude of 1200m.
The photo below shows the use of the cork and vine.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Green Glass Tokyo

Latest Upload

These are the four latest glass pendants to be uploaded into the Green Glass gallery of our Tokyo Craft selection.
Crafted from borosilicate glass and hung from a natural fibre cord, each pendant is unique.

To view these and other pendants crafted by Masaya Kuribayashi, please follow the link below to the gallery page.

Saturday 6 October 2012

Green Glass Tokyo


The four pendants above are our latest selection to be uploaded in to our Tokyo Craft section. Here you can find individually crafted pendants by not only Green Glass, but also Neo Glass, Stone Dance and Atslan.

These pendants have all been crafted with coloured and clear borosilicate glass. Masaya Kuribayashi from Green Glass uses a variety of techniques to fuse and blend the colours.

Perhaps the most delicate is the technique called inside-out which requires coloured glass applied to the outside of a clear tube before being inverted and formed into a pendant. The pendant below is a classic example of this technique.

I have the pleasure of creating the cords from which they hang. Sometimes I will use macrame to build up a cord from a number of threads or I will twist threads in the traditional manner to produce an even cord. The threads I use range from Himalayan nettle, hemp, linen to bamboo and all are beeswax coated before working. Toggle closures are all hand carved from either wood, bone or horn.

To view these and many other pendants from our four selected artists, please follow the link below to our Tokyo Craft page from where you can choose to visit one of the artist's galleries.

Thursday 4 October 2012

Wild Heart Gathering 2012

Last weekend saw our final outing at a UK festival. The festival season has now come to an end for us as the days grow shorter and nights colder. The weather could have been kinder, but Saturday was clear, bright and warm.

This was our second time to participate in one of Wild Heart's gatherings and first at this location. Situated on farmland tucked in a valley between rolling hills just south of Lewes in East Sussex, Wild Heart Gathering was a fairly small affair offering workshops and music.

It was a good chance to meet up with old friends and make new.
Susie Ro sang on Saturday with the guys from Avalon Roots and again with her own material on the Sunday.

Pictured above is Wayne from Wayne's Woods. If you need a hand carved wooden spoon, any advice about spoon carving or would even like to carve your own spoon, He is the man for you.
I had the pleasure of joining one of his workshops at this year's Green Gathering in Wales and was pleased to catch up with him over the weekend.

The photo above shows the spoon's progression from a blank through the various stages to the finished article. Below are just a sample of Wayne's handy work available to buy at events and festivals. Sadly, Wayne doesn't currently have a website, but I will include a link if/when a website is created. For further information about Wayne's products or events he will be attending, please feel free to contact him via his email address.

Due to the timing of this festival, it is rather chilly if away from one of the many camp fires and the valley seems to be frequently windy. Weather aside, it is a small friendly festival in a beautiful location. I believe it was the first time for this location to be used an am unsure if next year will also be there. The official website doesn't give too much away as it tries to keep the location secret!

For more information about Wild Heart Gathering, please follow the link below to their website.

Monday 24 September 2012

Neo Glass Pendants

 We are delighted to introduce the glasswork of Masaya Nouga (the sole artisan behind Neo Glass) through Sorazora.

Masaya creates delicate pendants of varying styles all with the influence of nature. Through blending and shaping borosilicate glass with the heat from a gas powered torch, he creates individual handcrafted pendants, vases, candle holders, pipes, paper weights and shot glasses. It is his intricate pendants that we are delighted to make available through our Tokyo Craft section of our online store.   

Each glass pendant is paired up with an organic cord made from either wax coated hemp or nettle that has been twisted or knotted and finished off with an ironwood toggle.

The photos above and below show the first selection to be uploaded. For more information about each pendant and plenty more photos, please follow the links below to Neo Glass' product page.

Friday 14 September 2012

Mayor's Thames Festival 2012

The 8th and 9th of September saw the Mayor's Thames Festival come alive again for another year. This annual event takes place all along the South bank of the river Thames from Tower Bridge up to the London Eye.

It was our fourth year to join the festival and our third year in the More London area which hosts many performing artists in the amphitheater cut into the walkway. The weather was perfect throughout the entire duration giving us all perhaps one last taste of summer.

The festival seemed smaller this year as the large grassed area near Tower Bridge had been given over to spectators of the paralympics where they could watch sports live on a large screen.

Those who have seen our stall before will note from the above photo that we used a smaller stall than usual. Our regular stall is too deep to be accommodated along the walkway, but we managed to show almost all of our usual products.

 The Mayor's Thames Festival always finishes with a spectacular, if not rather late, fireworks display further up the river. This year was no exception, but for those of us near Tower Bridge, we were treated to an additional short display of fireworks marking the end of the London's paralympic games.

For more information about this annual event, please follow the link below to the official website: