A (White) Christmas Market

We woke on Sunday morning to find Oxford under a blanket of thick snow that threatened to ruin this year’s Harcourt Christmas Market (organised by Chalky Chic). The Harcourt Market is a community event featuring the work of a very talented bunch of locals including artists, upcyclers, silversmiths, a ceramicist and a culinary genius.

Chalky Chic runs this local market 4 times a year and it is always great fun, bringing the local community together and hosted in the Harcourt Arms public house in Jericho, Oxford.

Whilst a couple of stall holders from further afield couldn’t risk the short drive to the pub, those within walking distance rallied round and helped each other out collecting their wares. The heavy snowfall forced us indoors but the publican generously made space for us and we set up in one half of the bar. Despite the atrocious weather, plenty of brave punters donned their wellies to visit the market and it was a convivial afternoon of shopping and socialising over a Christmas drink.

Many thanks to everyone who came along, especially our lovely bunch of locals who made the event such fun.


Last weekend I took part in the two-day Upcycled Hour Live event (#UHLB17) at the Unitarian Church in Brighton and where better to stage such an event than a city that boasts the country’s only Green Party MP.

The Upcycled Hour, created by the inspirational Chris Billinghurst, started life as a weekly Twitter forum for professional upcyclers around the UK giving us a platform to exchange ideas, advice and information.

Since its inception, the group has steadily grown, going from strength to strength and this year’s Upcycled Hour Live on the 16 & 17th June aimed to build on the success of the 2016 maiden event.

Footfall was a little disappointing, particularly on the Friday evening. Although there were an estimated 600+ visitors on the Saturday, a venue just off Brighton’s famous Lanes has the potential to attract an even bigger crowd. It was the hottest Saturday of the year and I suspect this did not particularly work in our favour. Days like that are rare and I don’t blame people for heading to the pub, beach and green spaces rather than browsing the shops.

In addition, despite the organiser’s best efforts to direct shoppers through to the back room, those of us with stands there noticed a marked difference in visitor numbers with only one major sale in the back room all weekend. However, Upcycled Hour Live was not just about sales; it was an opportunity to raise the profession’s profile, network with our peers, encourage increased upcycling and discuss potential commissions.

It was great to finally put a face to the furniture – pieces that were so familiar through social media – and to share our experiences.

UHLB1710Siren Designs (in the backroom) produce amazing decoupage statement pieces that attracted a lot of interest and a group of us discussed the pros and cons of playing it safe with neutral colours versus letting our imagination go wild. Most of my work is commissioned pieces but I do sell at a monthly market and at my own quarterly artisan’s event, so my on-spec furniture usually falls into the neutral category. However, looking at the other stands at UHLB17 I realised that whilst my work is well executed and tasteful, it is not particularly vibrant. Watching visitor browsing habits as they entered the room, I could see that the majority made a beeline to the more colourful items and I have decided that I need to create a wow-factor piece that possibly won’t sell but will attract attention, hopefully causing punters to stop and check out the rest of my stock.

Chalky Chic’s Upcycled Crates and Bottle Lamps

All things considered, I’m glad I took part in the Upcycled Hour Live and believe the experience has encouraged me to raise my game. Click on the following links for further information about both the Upcycled Hour and the Upcycled Hour Live.


A Pop Up Christmas Market

harcourtposterv2Driving home in November from my regular stall at the Magdalen Arms Flea Market, inspiration struck – how about putting on my own Christmas Market in our local pub?

The Landlord was all for the idea, a date was picked and within 48 hours I had the publicity done, launched an event page on Facebook, listed the event in local media and had a waiting list of local artisans and makers signed up for a stall.

I organised the event under the Chalky Chic banner to reinforce my brand identity.

The Harcourt Arms is in a part of Oxford known as Jericho. The area was narrowly saved from slum clearance fifty years ago, and for decades now has been a trendy, sought after, rather Bohemian part of town with streets of back to back Victorian terraces and an eclectic population of longterm residents, families, academics, students and artisans. I had no trouble in finding talented locals who wanted to take part.

market2The pub has a walled garden that was perfect for a pop up market and was already decked out with rope lights and lanterns. I added a few festive touches – such as additional battery powered lights and Christmas baubles hanging from the cherry tree in the middle – and lined the edge of the courtyard with trestle tables. The locals pulled out all the stops spreading the word through Facebook and email to their contacts and delivering flyers during the week before the event.

Then the good old British weather struck! The day before the event it took a nasty turn and heavy rain swept in out of nowhere. It was a risk but I decided to postpone the market to the following Saturday and pray for dry weather. Once again the local community pulled together and helped to re-advertise the change of date. The gods were with us and the day of the Market dawned drab but dry.

My biggest fear was that no-one would come but a steady stream of visitors filled the market all afternoon…

The pub provided mulled wine and sold out of bratwurst mid-afternoon. There was a wonderful array of stalls: Caroline‘s evocative black and white photographs, Rhian‘s beautiful silver jewellery and Rosalind‘s colourful ceramics to name just a few…

market14Locals Mike and architect Paul brought along cosy hats and socks made from Yak wool and intricate hand-drawn panoramas of Oxford. Paul and Ali (aka The Landlord) had been working on creating a new pickle and launched Winner’s vodka pickles on the day!  Obviously Chalky Chic had a stall and I also sold  prints wearing my Pip Art hat. Olivia and Dare by Arlete brought along their colourful bags and accessories, Rachel (and helpers) sold her unique chilli jam, Jonathan’s eclectic stall of collectibles had some very intriguing pieces – such as a Belgian gas mask complete with instructions – whilst Jill had a lovely display of Christmas decorations and Maria of Indigo Flip sold handmade decorations and cards.

The afternoon flew past, and with the effort and support of the local community proved to be a really enjoyable event. In fact, as some of us gathered for a drink at the end of the day, all agreed that the Harcourt Arms Pop Up Market should become a regular event so watch this space…

Pitching Up for Not On The High Street

noths-logoLast week I drove the 80 miles to Leicester to pitch to Not On The High Street. It was an interesting although sadly unsuccessful experience. The event was held at St Martin’s House, a converted grammar school in the heart of the city.

Attendees were each given a 10-minute slot to pitch their product or idea to a team of experienced Not On The High Street staff and the crowded waiting area was mainly full of bright young things each hoping that their creation was going to wow the buyers and secure them a space in this highly successful marketplace.

Although I love what I do and believe in my product 100%, I wasn’t overly confident that it is right for Not On The High Street and so went along with few expectations under the premise that it would be good experience and useful to get some professional feedback on my upcycling business. The experts liked my product too but advised that I needed to be able to offer the same item in a range of colours and perhaps with an option for customers to provide their own fabric for upholstery.

benchbrochureOccasionally I will have a limited edition of the same item such as my upholstered benches or lime-washed crates, but on the whole each item is unique and upcycled to make the most of its features.

That is the beauty of a piece from Chalky Chic – it is a world away from mass produced, catalogue or flat-packed furniture.

The Upcycled Hour

© Miskosvk

I recently joined a professional upcycling association The Upcycled Hour and one of the membership conditions is to take part in the weekly twitter forum #upcyclehour. I am a twitter newbie so I took the bull by the horns, set myself up with an account @chalkychic and at the allotted time, dived in. My first tweet announced that I was a first timer and didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Within seconds several helpful members instructed me to make sure I was on the live link and then just go with the flow…

What a stressful 60 minutes – I can only liken it to arriving in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and don’t understand the culture!

The conversation was in full flow but I didn’t understand it – tweets flew across my bow at a fast and furious pace, often responding to streams that I didn’t see the beginning of and couldn’t grasp the meaning. It was clear that many of the members were old hands at this lark and had already formed a virtual relationship with each other. I found myself wondering whether this was what the early stages of dementia was like – not being able to keep up with the conversation or recognising the participants? Blink and you missed something, leave the screen to make a cuppa and you were a goner.

Eventually a couple of other newbies made contact and we all confessed our mutual bewilderment. Eventually as the clock ticked on, I summoned up the confidence to contribute and tweeted about my experience of using Annie Sloan’s white wax for the first time. People responded, even asked me about it and whether the product was easy to use? Finally the hour was up and with a huge sigh of relief I bid my farewell and left the platform.

I guess that taking part will get easier with the passing weeks and now realise that I need to be prepared and take something to the forum each week if I want to make the most of the experience. Only time will tell whether Twitter becomes my friend, but like every relationship you only get back what you put in!