Jane Archer – The origin story

Jane Archer is one of the quieter members of our group.

But don’t let that fool you. Beneath her calm exterior lies a super fast wit and a ready infectious smile that will have you grinning back before you even realise it. She is the first to admit that she’s not hugely comfortable with having the spotlight turned on her (something I can attest to when trying to take her picture – finding one when she’s not in the middle of telling me she hates having her picture taken was slightly challenging!)  Yet this initial reticence slowly melts away when I get her talking about her love of art.

I went to visit her in her temporary ‘home’ in St Gregory’s Church in Offchurch. She’s currently exhibiting her stunning work along with three other artists at the church, adding to hundreds of other local artists dotted around the county-wide event.  It is, of course Warwickshire Open Studios, and this wonderful celebration of local artistic talent is in its 14th year.

Walking in from the bright sunny day outside, I spot her at the top of the church surrounded by her gorgeous display of watercolours and life drawings.  And it is indeed gorgeous.  The range of colours, shapes and depth in her work can be seen from across the church, and one cannot help but be drawn to it.
“In my family, I was the youngest of three girls, and if you wanted something, you made it yourself.”  She goes on to explain how the whole family was creative; from her architect father to her mother who created all the embroidery for the local church, amongst many other accomplishments.

Jane took art A level, then went straight on to art college for four years.
“It was a broad course, but I ended up specialising in textile design. I thought for a long time that my medium would be pottery, but then found a love for printing and textiles”

These early years immersed in all forms of art stood her in good stead for the future, as next came a family and her painting became a more of a hobby as she concentrated on being a mum.  During this time, she worked for the family business which was in fashion retail.  Jane found a happy outlet creating fabulous window displays and organising fashion shows for the independent shop.
It was the early 90s when Jane moved into primary school teaching, and it wasn’t long before she was stretching her creative limbs devising and running amazing sculpture classes for the children.  She recalls spending hours on displaying the children’s work on the walls of the school, even finding these small tasks satisfying.

These days, she’s in full artist mode, as can be seen by her impressive collection of original watercolours, giclée prints, life drawings and greetings cards.  She even has a range of jewellery and in the festive season has a lovely range of ‘tipsy’ angels which go down very well with the locals!
I want to ask her about her process these days.  How does she work and where does she get her inspiration from – a question artists must get tired of answering, yet we as admirers, never tire of hearing their answers.

She’s at her happiest when she’s painting in her house in the south of France. “I put the radio on and sit at the dining room table and take advantage of the light.  It’s hard to explain just how good the light is” she smiles wryly.  She takes lots of photos of many varied aspects of daily life that inspires her, and is always looking to find the beauty in ordinary things.  She goes on to mention her favourite Georgia O’Keeffe quote:

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”

Jane then carefully tries to tell me that she doesn’t want to come across as a ‘floaty artist-type always talking about the beauty in a flower’, but that she does believe in really looking at our surroundings and capturing them for us all to enjoy.
Watercolour is her favourite medium.  “It’s a challenge.  It does unexpected things – random effects that you gradually learn to anticipate and play around with.”  Something which I think you can agree she is highly adept at.

Just one of Jane's stunning watercolours

Just one of Jane’s stunning watercolours

Yet watercolour isn’t where it stops. Jane also has a notable collection of life drawings to her name.
“It’s a passion of mine.  For me, it is art in its purest form – nothing compares to it.  The human form is so familiar and yet so complex, that for an artist, it provides a constant challenge.”

She attends a local life drawing group, and mentions how even now, she has to concentrate fully every time.

“It’s completely absorbing.  The first mark on the blank sheet is always the hardest.  And then that lucky moment when the marks you are making begin to flow and your two dimensional drawing starts to take life; it’s an immensely rewarding experience.  I can be feeling tired and stressed when I get there, and then there’s suddenly no room in my head for anything except for light and shade and form.”

An example of Jane Archer's life drawing.

An example of Jane Archer’s life drawing.

Jane mentions how she wouldn’t be brave enough to be selling her work today if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement she received from all of us in the first two years of the Christmas pop up shop (where the friendships we’ve taken through to Love Handmade were first formed).  I personally think she would, because she might have exploded in a big ball of multicoloured paint without being able to have that all-important outlet for her work, but she maintains we gave her the confidence.  This of course might have been something to do with us all oohing and ahhing over her work every day…

“I was terrified to start with. You feel as if you’re putting yourself on show – this is what I do, does anybody like it?”

We like it, Jane. In fact, we love it. I’ve started my Jane Archer collection with an original watercolour.  My mum (another of the cooperative) has two.  I’m already eyeing up my next piece, so I think we can safely assume that there’s one or two fans out there!

Warwickshire Open Studios runs until the 13th of July.  All of the details are on their website, and Jane will be back at our fairs again in September.

I’m off to really look at the flowers in my watercolour painting again. There may be some more appreciative oohing and ahhing going on!

Jane with some of her work in the church

Jane with some of her work in the church

Truly Lovely Candles & Tricia – The origin story

Tricia Davison is a lovely, bubbly lady.

She also happens to be one of our craft collective and performs many important functions behind the scenes at LHF.  Yet she would argue that her greatest skill is communication with the customers and stallholders on our fair days.  There’s nothing she loves more than a good chat with a customer, and if she’s away from her stall you can guarantee that she will be off checking that everyone’s ok, be they the mum of the group, the child or even the slightly bewildered husband!
I got together with Tricia over a cup of coffee in my garden to find out how she came to be at this point in her life with a successful, gorgeously scented business that is well known in the local area for its amazing fragrances, fast and efficient service, all under the Truly Lovely Candles banner.
It all started at a very early age with her love of different smells; some of her earliest memories are of making perfumes with the petals from roses and other flowers by mixing them with water.  I remember doing this at least once as a child, but it sounds as though Tricia found her affinity with fragrances to be a strong one, as she used to visit Selfridges and Liberty in London, and spend all her time in fragrance halls immersed in the many different aromas.
“I’m always smelling things” she says to me with a grin on her face, as if she’s had some funny looks when she’s mentioned this in the past.  Yet I know exactly where she’s coming from.  I think we all have a particular smell we love, whether it’s fresh coffee, newly printed magazines or a just-extinguished match.
Tricia was taught the importance of skin and hair care from an early age by her mother who had a skin condition, so it was always going to be a natural progression into her teens and early adult life to work in the cosmetics and fragrance industries.  She completed her work experience at Fenwick department store, progressing to a Saturday job once the work experience had ended.  A job in Selfridges in Oxford followed.  At 19 she went on to work for Helena Rubenstein as one of their youngest ever consultants, for which Tricia was a brilliant fit at the time.  There followed some other impressive fragrance and cosmetics buying jobs for various companies including a string of independent chemists; Estee Lauder and Clinique, to name but a few.
“I have always loved the luxurious side of things” she tells me.  “I’m also always trying the latest new brands, such as a new mascara, and this helps me keep up with the latest trends”  She goes on to mention how she’s always loved candles and bought many over the years.
I want to find out what it was that made her decide to go for it; that special ‘spark’ that enables us to go from a cracking idea, to the reality of running your own business.
“It was five or six years ago and I was working for another business at the time.  I had been making my own candles for a while; just for me really, and some of my friends and family.  Then one day, I just made the decision to hand my notice in and go for it.  The next week I was making my candles and selling them at local events.”
Her love of fragrances exploded from there, and Truly Lovely Candles was created.
She has some simply stunning scents in her repertoire, including Lime, Basil and Mandarin, English Pear and Freesia, and White Mulberry, to name but a few.  She bridges traditional and modern perfectly and each fragrance has a very pure quality to it.  Nothing smells over-manufactured or fake.

Beautiful packaging adds to the luxury.

Just a few of the many TLC fragrances

Each soya wax candle is hand poured into various different mediums including glass votives, tins and tea lights.  She even does special orders for various customers in tea cups, which she assures me creates their very own set of challenges: The art of candle pouring and the science behind a ‘good wick’ and the diameter of the teacup changes from cup to cup.  “This always keeps me on the ball and concentrating” she laughs.
Recently she’s gone on to produce extremely high quality reed diffusers with her signature scents.  (I can actually attest to this personally-I’m rather obsessed with her White Mulberry reeds, which are still going strong months and months later!)
When asked about her plans for the future, she nods contentedly and grins.  “More of the same, really.  I love creating new scents for special orders, and working closely with people such as brides to create something special for them.”
She’s very happy with her lot.  She loves working from her kitchen with her ‘pots and pans’ as she calls them!  She’s perfected juggling a husband and children with ‘test burns’ and pootling around the county delivering her products to a select few independent shops.  “The most important thing to me is to keep it personal.  I will always want to be interacting with my customers.  I love the whole ‘people’ side of the business.”
So there you have it.  A small insight into the Truly Lovely Candle story.  Tricia is a driven, talented lady with an infectious laugh.  After a few minutes in her company it’s clearly obvious that the TLC acronym wasn’t a fluke.  She really does create her candles with Tender Loving Care.

The Truly Lovely Tricia

The origins of Love Handmade Fairs

Welcome to the Love Handmade Fairs blog!

Some of you may have stumbled on to here, others probably meant to be here all along.  Whichever category you fall into, welcome!  Many people have been asking us how we have come into being, so below is the story of our creation….

Well it all started when we all answered an advert two years ago to hire tables at an exciting new Christmas Pop Up Shop in Warwick town centre.  There were many different stall holders that year, and we had a ball.  We had such a good time that the organiser decided to repeat it for Christmas 2013 too.  There were 9 of us who had regular stalls and got on so well, that we thought it would be a cracking idea to carry it on through the whole year.  Love handmade fairs was established!  We are a fabulous team of creators, and each of us bring something different to the table….

From Nicci’s enviable skills on the computer working on all of our branding, to Jane’s beautiful artwork which forms the basis of those designs.  From Julie’s talent at keeping us all on track at meetings and her near-supernatural powers at remembering what was said, to Nicola’s experience of running the pop up shop for two years and the myriad challenges involved.  From Anita’s essential knowledge of what people want, how to get it to them, and her wonderful design style.  From Tricia’s unparalleled ability to network and market our brand, to Susan’s support and venue scouting skills (and her cupcakes!)  Then there’s me.  Well I like writing – almost as much as I like talking, so I do all the emailing and booking in of the stallholders!

We’re doing alternate months in Warwick and Leamington, in St Nicholas Church in Warwick, and Dale Street Church Hall in Leamington.  They’re great venues because they’re big, so we can fill the room with lots of lovely goodies for people to choose from.  Our fairs are generally the first Saturday of the month, but there are one or two exceptions, so it’s a good idea to check our Facebook page or the website which is coming soon.  There’s also a tea room serving scrummy handmade cakes, tea and coffee; so it’s a great place to come and put your feet up with a cup of tea before you look round at all of the tempting handmade items.

Yesterday, we had 19 different small businesses for everyone to browse through, from hand poured scented candles, to sparkly jewellery and gorgeous hand painted water colours.  We’ve got stuff for dog and cat lovers, fab wooden items for the home, and loads of other items too numerous and fantastic to mention all of them here!


There’s loads of opportunity to order bespoke items from each of us, so if you’re looking for a specific birthday present or the perfect gift for your mum/aunt/sister/gran/neighbour’s dog or even the postman, then we’re sure there will be something for everyone!

We think it’s really important to ‘shop local’, so as much as possible, all of our stallholders are from the Warwickshire area.  The quality is really high, so don’t just think it’s all plonking a sparkly crystal on a jam jar and shouting “ta da!”

We are aiming to have one stall per month run by a local charity; our first month was The Warwickshire Air Ambulance, as worthy a charity as it gets.  We feel that it’s an important chance to acknowledge the reality of all of these local charities.  They all need the awareness for their causes raised as much as possible.  So if you’re a local registered charity and would like the chance to run a FREE stall for the day, we’d love to hear from you!

We’ll have an ever changing selection of artisan goods each month too, so we really are hoping to build up a good customer base, where people feel it’s worth coming back to us every month.

So that’s it!  A short(ish!) informative(ish!) account of who we are and what we do.  Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and most importantly, in person at our fairs!



Jenn, Love Handmade Fairs