Meet the Stallholders: #2 Jen Gale and her Upcycle Exchange.

Settle down with a cuppa and meet blogger Jen Gale, who is spending a year not buying anything new and writing about it in her hugely popular blog. She’s also a regular fixture at the Bath Artisan Market with her “Upcycle Exchange“, a craft supplies stall which sells donated materials on a Pay What You Wish basis to prevent unwanted fabric, buttons, card etc finding its way into landfill and give crafters an affordable way to keep their passion going. Jen also runs workshops under the name Make it Better and has recently appeared in The Sun newspaper too! Here she explains more about her life’s work and mission!

“My name is Jen, and I live not far from Bath with my lovely hubby, two gorgeous small boys, who are 4 and 2, and two slightly annoying cats.

Jen Gale
Jen Gale

Last September I embarked on a challenge to Buy Nothing New for a year and dragged the rest of the family along with me. I called it My Make Do and Mend Year, and I have been blogging about it pretty much every day since then (you can catch up at www.mymakedoandmendyear.wordpress.com).  The blog has really taken off, and now has over 300 followers, and more than 2000 followers on Twitter, and as well as being a regular on BBC Radio Wiltshire, we have also been in the local press, on the local ITV news, and just last month we had a big feature in The Sun!

Jen Gale in The Sun-page-001-1 jpeg

This is all very exciting, and hopefully it is helping to spread the word about Making, and Making Do and Mending, but you may well be asking what I am doing here on the Bath Artisan Market blog!

My Make Do and Mend Year is proving to be a bit of a ‘journey’ and has helped to empower me to do things that I think I would otherwise have just sat and daydreamed about. It has given me the push to get on a actually DO things instead of just thinking about them and I have started a fledgling social enterprise which I have called Make It Better…  Along with another local crafter, Verity Scott, we are running monthly free making/mending/sewing drop in sessions in a pub in Warminster; holding regular Saturday morning Upcycle! sessions in the local library; putting on a Charity Sewing Day, making pillowcase dresses for the Dress A Girl Around the World project;  running Swishes, and also starting up a Repair Café-phew!! And that’s just for starters!

Jen's Christmas Tree made from egg boxes!
Jen’s Christmas Tree made from egg boxes!

Another ‘arm’ of Make It Better…is the Upcycle Exchange. Some of you may have seen me at the April Make Do and Mend themed market.

This was the inaugural outing for the Upcycle Exchange, and I got a fantastic response from all the lovely traders and visitors at the market. So much so, that I will now be there every month! Now, I can hear you all asking, “What on earth is an Upcycle Exchange?”, so I will explain…

Essentially, people donate any unwanted/un-loved/surplus crafting supplies, and I then make them available to the local crafting community at Pay As You Wish prices. The aim is to try and save things from landfill, and to allow local artists and makers to buy affordable supplies. Pay As You Wish pricing is exactly what it says on the tin-you pay what you think is a fair price for the materials. You will obviously not be paying even close to what the craft stores charge, but by honouring the value of the supplies you are buying, you will help the concept and the business to grow and to thrive.

There is a Wish-List available of things that I think other makers and crafters may be on the look-out for, and this will obviously change and adapt as people let me know what it is they want. If you bring along a bag full of items from the Wish-List to donate, then I am issuing vouchers for people to use at the stall as well.

A selection from Jen's Upcycle Exchange stall at the market
A selection from Jen’s Upcycle Exchange stall at the market

I will be at the Bath Artisan Market every month, with an eclectic mix of crafting supplies for your delight and delectation-from the more traditional, like fabric, wool and knitting needles, to the more unusual, like vinyl records, old keys and silver cutlery-all of which can be turned into amazing art works with a little bit of inspiration! To help you work out what to do the more unusual bits on sale, I am putting together a series called “Inspiration Station” to help inspire you as to exactly what you can make out of old CDs, scrabble tiles or mens ties…!

The Make It Better… Upcycle Exchange, is modelled on the original Upcycle Exchange, set up by an inspirational lady called Autumn Wiggins in St.Louis, USA, and is unique in the UK at the moment. Obviously I think it is a really great concept, and I hope that you do too! Next time you come to the market, please do come and say hello, have a browse and a rummage, and if you have any supplies that you have been hoarding in your stash, that you know you are never really going to get around to using, then please do consider donating them, so they can go on to help someone else Make It Better..!

To keep up to date with all the events, workshops and the Upcycle Exchange, then head to www.makeitbettermenditbetter.wordpress.com, or if you want to get in touch, then e-mail me jen_mmdamy@yahoo.co.uk

Thanks for reading.”

Find Jen at the Bath Artisan Market every month, near The Greatest Little Coffee Box!

 

 

 

 

What happened in April, what’s on in May!

April’s Make Do and Mend Day! was on one of those surprise weekends when the sun actually shines and everyone comes out to play! For those of us who’ve been at Green Park on the second Sunday of each month since last October, it was the first market when we didn’t have to wear thermals – the venue may be undercover but that doesn’t mean it’s warm when the sun don’t shine. From the moment we officially opened at 10am there was a steady stream of eager visitors shopping, browsing, getting involved in workshops, laughing, eating, chatting – happy days.

wide-shot-green-park-shoppe

This month we were lucky enough to have the Happy Inkers with us, three Bath Spa Uni Art students who regularly work with Julian House UK, teaching their clients how to screenprint. On Sunday they were running free screenprinting for children which seemed to be an instant hit and ran a printwork exhibition in the foyer, raising money for Julian House. They also showed adults and kids how to print cotton bags for £5 a time, something which appeared on quite a few blogs afterwards. Have a look at some beautiful pictures of their stall here.

We were also really excited about our student stall of the month, run by the Night Knitters, who had a fabulously creative display of teacup birdfeeders, covered notebooks, knitted mug cosies and the like. These three ladies drew a crowd, thanks to their quirky, original pieces and have a big future ahead of them. I think the key to their success was that their stall looked attractive but not over-fussy, with a few choice props (vintage typewriter and sewing machine) and products placed at different heights to make it look inviting enough to want to go and have a rummage through. This kind of display looks thrown-together enough not to make customers scared to come and touch and feel, but doesn’t look scruffy or uncared for – it’s an art. Of course this technique is not necessarily appropriate for every kind of stall, but I think it is successful for vintage and handmade sellers with smaller, varied pieces. What do you think?

NIght-Knitters-for-web
Our student stall of the month, The Night Knitters

Naturally, the rest of our sellers are of a very high standard too and we are delighted to have a great number of artists and skilled artisans among us, in addition to inspired home crafters, who never cease to come up with unusual, thought-provoking, pretty and practical ideas. Have a look out for original designs and illustrations on lampshades, aprons, bags, cards and so on – we really are the place to pick up something unique that you know has been created with love and skill and with a large amount of time spent on it too, much of it that never gets repaid financially.

There are a couple of other highlights I should also mention. The first was the workshop run by The Big Mend’s Scrapiana, a much-celebrated textile blogger and workshop tutor who holds free, monthly get-togethers in Bath and Bradford-on-Avon for people wanting to come and mend things and swap skills – darning, sewing on buttons, repairing zips, whatever. You don’t have to be a great sewer to get involved – it’s a bit like knit-and-natter but for needlework. I was so pleased that people came to the market especially to find it and now I hear many of them are going to join the monthly meet-ups. That is what the Bath Artisan Market is about – meeting people and sharing skills, experience and ideas, as well as shopping. And we want to create a fun, friendly, inspirational atmosphere too.

The Big Mend workshop table
The Big Mend workshop table

Secondly, we were delighted to have Jen Gale with us who is spending the whole year without buying anything new. She is writing a blog about her experience – My Make Do and Mend Year – but is also starting an “Upcycle Exchange” which we are talking to her about being a regular feature of the market as it involves recycling and affordability.  Take her any of your unwanted craft materials for her to sell on – the twist is that her customers twill hen pay what they want. So if you come to the market and get inspired, mosey over to the pizza place near the Green Park Brasserie – she’s just beside it – and have a little look through her treasures.

Upcycle Exchange
Upcycle Exchange

And so, with April over, it’s time to focus on May, where we are focussing on flowers and all things planty. We’ve teamed up with Bath in Bloom who will be running gardening demos, teaching kids to plant, giving garden advice and judging a kids’ garden-in-a-seedtray competition. Find all details here. We’re asking all stallholders to bring flowers and wear them too to turn the heart of the city into a floral paradise. So if you’re coming along, why not join in and wear some too. Look forward to seeing you there!

May-flyer