Category Archives: all

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Shop update: Waves and Angles

Waves and Angles – two new collections that I will be slowly adding to the shop. Three notepads of each have already been listed.

They’re connected like cause and effect. Waves, with the transparent paper for the front covers, wavy shapes and pinky pink pages led to the black covers, straight cuts and dirty pink pages of Angles.

Visually, they’re the most delicate designs I’ve ever created and looking at them it’s hard not to think of weddings. But this was not my intension and I hope they will find other uses, too.

PS
From now on it’s Etsy and Etsy only. Let’s keep things simple.

stuffedmice paper goods notepads waves

stuffedmice paper goods notepads waves

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stuffedmice paper goods notepads angles

stuffedmice paper goods notepads angles

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The Tiles of Lisbon (2/2)

Not sure if you’re ready for some more but, as promised, the second batch of Lisbon’s tiles is here (you can see the previous post here).

What is it about tiles that fascinates so many people? I’m not sure. For me, it’s the repetition, the fantastic idea of decorating floors and buildings with puzzles, and the magic of turning dust (clay) into beauty. What is it for you?

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Blogging commitment

This is a very backstage post about blogging, my plans and commitments that relate to this space. It’s been a long time since I started stuffedmice dot net, many thing have changed both in my life and among bloggers since. Right now I need to clarify certain aspects of my idea of blogging in order to move forward.

PURPOSE

The purpose of this blog is to share things that inspire me, things I’m working on and have already done (in another word: life). It is also to seek out makers and shakers, learn from them and share it with you here. It is not to preach, teach how to change lives and promote anybody’s products or business. And so…

SPONSORED CONTENT

I removed all links that have been sponsored (there were fewer than ten of them) and won’t post any links that are part of affiliate marketing. Why? Because of my simple wish to keep this space advert-free, without any hidden agenda and promotions. The only products I promote here are the ones I choose to promote because I sincerely believe they’re worth it. And yes, I do and will post about my own products / services here – they are part of the “things I have done” bit.

FREQUENCY

This winter I had more time for blogging because of having been between contracts. I really enjoyed and needed it but times are changing and I know I won’t be able to commit as many hours to writing in the months to come. Work, handmade products and new challenges I’ll be embarking on very soon will leave me less and less time for here. To keep this space alive, I commit to post minimum twice weekly for the rest of the year. There, I’ve said it:)

COMMENTS

Like many bloggers, I decided to use a third-party commenting system. I’ve signed up to Disqus some time ago, as a commenter, and can definitely see its advantages over the in-built WordPress commenting system. More than anything, I like the ease with which it enables quick replies to any comments. I know it can be off-putting to use a system that requires registration but I’ve decided to give it a go and hope you will too.

Here is is. My blogging plan for the rest of the year. All that remains is to put it in action.

lisbon tiles arts

The tiles of Lisbon (1/2)

Who loves tiles, hands up!

Just like my very old tile reports from Marrakech, this will be a total tile overload and I’m publishing it all in two posts – the second one coming up soon. It’s easy to get a headache from ceramic artwork in Portugal. Tiles are everywhere. And because we decided to visit Lisbon’s Tile Art Museum when we visited the city for a short break in January, the headache was very, very intense.

The museum was located in a former convent and we took a long walk to get there. Well, it was a long walk because we visited a cemetery on our way (photos to follow, I hope!). And cemeteries take time.

I took photos with my camera, with my phone – as you might have noticed on my Instagram account – and did it mainly to memorise all the ingenious patterns, colour selections and often amusing details. But, as it usually happens, I never touched the images afterwards and so they became a reference in my mind but not in any physical place. By displaying them here, I hope to be able to get back to them more often.

Which ones would you have in your home? I know which ones I’d swap with those in our hallway.

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Stuffedmice cooking approach

What’s for dinner? Not my problem.

We’re one March later from this post in which I wrote about my cooking and grocery shopping habits. It’s a good time for a review.

What did I want to change?

Goal: to give organic vegetable deliveries a try.
Done.

This was a disaster. Encouraged by my friend Aga, I started ordering vegetables from Abel and Cole. It lasted a couple of months before I got fed up with the whole procedure. Firstly, I kept forgetting about their deadlines (despite their email reminders). It was just another thing to remember and another thing I failed to add to my weekly mental check list. Consequences? I always ended up with potatoes and stuff I didn’t know what to use for (red carrots anybody?). Abel and Cole has a set list of vegetables every week and you need to adjust it if you have preferences. But the trick is this: you tick a product you don’t like and then get something else instead. What else? You find out on the day your box is delivered. You don’t like the replacement? Tough luck. I had a problem with this system. It didn’t work for me at all. I stopped the deliveries after third or fourth unused bag of potatoes.

Goal: monthly shop at a farmers’ market
Not done.

The Brockley Market I mentioned in my last year’s post was too far of course. Luckily, a new farmers’ market was opened nearby and it had more produce and hardly any street food on offer – great! It stopped for the winter months and, after my vegetable box delivery trial, I didn’t have much chance to visit it on a regular basis. But no more excuses, spring is on its way and we’ve already paid the Horniman farmers’ Market a visit. The goal is still on!

Goal: make and freeze stocks.
Done

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen the evidence: I made plenty of vegetable stock last year. It made perfect sense and I was pleased to use up all vegetables that would have been stuck in the fridge forever otherwise. I did not make any fish stock but don’t remember needing any either.

Not bad and not great. I’m pleased with the fact I’ve tried different things but not so happy that these things didn’t work out as I hoped they would.

But there have been changes, too.

My new approach to cooking? Spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.

Christmas, holidays and dinners with friends are the only times when kitchen becomes my castle. I can and do spend hours preparing food then, and I enjoy it. At other times? I don’t.

A – I hate cooking when it’s dark outside. Artificial light simply doesn’t cut it for me. B – I have better things to do than cook every day. Not a fan of take aways, not wealthy or convinced enough to eat out every night – what do I do? I cook all my weekday meals at one go and freeze them.

This is something I observed years back, while working with African and Asian colleagues: they had the food for lunch every day (usually rice with curry or rice with chicken). Simple.
I have many years of cooked lunches, even if this means leftovers, behind me so decided it was time to do something similar with weekday dinners.

Results?

Freezer filled with homemade ready meals.
Maximum time spent preparing dishes on 1 day + cleaning afterwards: 5 hours (meals for 2 weeks of weekday dinners)
Maximum time spent preparing + cooking + cleaning after dinner daily: less than 15 minutes.
Number of who’s-cooking-tonight arguments: 0

This is something I tested every month this year (despite the fact that I was in between contracts for a while and could have easily spent more time in the kitchen). Every time, the hassle and time I saved me and Karol was worth the initial effort. Cleaning the kitchen after one long cooking session is much easier than after daily evening struggles. It’s also the best and tastiest method I’ve ever tried to stay away from emergency take aways.

If your priority is to enjoy cooking and eat as fresh food as possible – then this approach is no good. But if, like me, you’re fine with fewer nutrients and more time instead, then I suggest you give this idea a go.

I’ll share some recipes I use for my freezable dinners soon.

Ginkgo notebooks stuffedmice

Shop update: Ginkgo Notebook

Yes, China again! Ginkgo – China’s national tree – among other things, was the inspiration for my latest notebooks. One of them has been sold, the other one you can find in my shop.

The crazy binding design is by the super creative and helpful Becca – thank you for the instructions Becca!

I’ve started a shop on Etsy, by the way. For now, I’ll keep the one on Big Cartel, too, but I’m pretty sure that one of them will have to go at some point. Different image dimensions combined with different pros and cons of each platform mean one thing: more time spent in front of a computer. And this is the last thing any maker wants to do.

Hope you’re having a good day!

stuffedmice blog teaching

What I can’t teach you.

Can you teach me how to lose weight? – asked my friend right before we were about to have our late lunch.

She didn’t ask because I’m qualified to give her well-rehearsed answers. She just knows I’ve had few problems with staying slim. And she has a mind open enough to listen to my suggestions.

This isn’t anything unusual. I’m sure you get similar, if not the same, issues as a matter of pleas for help from people you know. When you do, what is your reaction?

You feel flattered?

Somebody thinks you’re special. That tiny little bit better. The wizard with all tricks up their sleeve.

You feel responsible?

After all, there are not only the good but also the bad and the ugly that can crop up as a result of your changing somebody’s way of living.

Or you feel at a loss?

Because the truth is, you don’t know the answers.

As a teenager, I enrolled in a teachers’ training college. I was not convinced by the idea of becoming one and so I dropped out. Some time later, I worked with people whose lives were in tatters. It never felt good to tell them what to do. It felt arrogant.

Just like you, I do happen to know a thing or two. And I’m willing and going to share whatever I know with you. But let’s make a distinction in the kind of knowledge I’m talking about.

I can speak from my experience and share whatever I’ve learnt from it. But I can’t preach or repeat trendy slogans as I feel I have no right to do so. And anyway, many things happen to me by chance. Certain lucky genes equipped me in better metabolism than that of my friend’s – for starters.

When we talk about teaching and learning I’m like a kid. I look beyond words. Won’t buy advice from somebody who doesn’t practice what they sell. What about you? Who or what do you learn from most?

StuffedMIce Stationery Handmade Paper Notepads Origami

Shop update: Origami notepads

It definitely looks like Asia will be inspiring my paper goods this year. Well, this is hardly surprising, considering what I’ve been reading and what trip I’ve been planning – in my head, for now – for the last couple of months. This time it’s about origami, clean lines and basic Japanese stab binding again. I wrote these words and started laughing because clean lines and Japanese aesthetics is nothing new to me really.

What notebooks / notepads / planners / diaries do you use? I look around me and I have four different kinds of notebooks on my desk right now – each for something different. I’ve tried going paperless, I do use Evernote but it turns out that I’m most productive when I use two simple things: a pen and some paper. And because I don’t like accumulating stuff or keeping too many to-do lists in too many different places, my favourite notebooks are those with either hole punched or perforated pages. I use them up page by page, enjoy while they last and then recycle whatever remains. This is my idea of impermanent, perfect imperfection of useful paper goods. I’m definitely not in the let’s-keep-these-forever camp. What about you?

There is a great thing I’ve learnt about imperfection quite recently. Back in 2012, I made my first notebook for a friend. Lately, she’s told me that she never used it because… it was too pretty. Would you believe it? What an utter disaster! I was striving for function and unintentionally created a piece of art? It was invaluable feedback and suffice to say I’ve decided to steer away from perfection since my friend shared it with me. Complicating things, even when dealing with paper goods, can end up intimidating their users. I think I should simplify this sentence and put it up on my wall.

Perfection guarantees rejection.

Sounds about right.

Oh, you can get your Origami Notepad here.

StuffedMIce Stationery Handmade Paper Notepads Origami

StuffedMice books - The Piano Teacher

2015 Reads – 3 – The Piano Teacher by Janice YK Lee

Not a single sentence to quote.

I read this book back in January and already had to pick it up again to remind myself what it was about.

It’s a typical page turner, with great characters and a fascinating glimpse into the 1940s and 1950s Hong Kong. Pre-war and post-war worlds that end up being partially woven together are meant to intrigue and grab readers’ attention. And they do.

This is a story about transformation. Feeling ready or not to let go of certain memories, hopes and assumptions.

But the end… The end disappointed and left me in disbelief.

I experienced exactly the same reaction while watching I Am Love with Tilda Swinton. All nice and pretty but the story seemed too bold for its heros. She wouldn’t have done it – I kept thinking. There was not enough love between I and you. The whole affair seemed utterly implausible.

Then again, maybe I was looking for a conclusion – but not necessarily a happy ending – which Lee failed to offer?

StuffedMice books - The Piano Teacher

StuffedMIce London People SE Sewater

Strangers in London – South East

We’re sitting in a local bistro. Before visiting a bookshop, after chatting about health, families, movies, books and jobs.

A woman who spent some time drinking coffee and talking to her kids nearby:

– I think I designed your sweater. It’s from XY, isn’t it?

I confirm.

– Yes, I remember the side stitch. I worked for XY for ten years, now I make recycled knitwear. It looks good on you!

I’m too stunned to say anything. To ask anything. So I just mumble some incoherent I-like-it-a-lot. My friend is naturally impressed. She knows this is pretty cool and confidently lets the woman hear about it.

Not sure why but I keep thinking that I got the sweater from a charity shop. It cost me a fiver. This makes me feel apologetic. As if I had been responsible for its previously diminished value.

StuffedMIce London People SE Sewater

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Etsy wishlist – tablewares

Shopping local is important, quality is important and so are makers. When I started learning calligraphy and bookbinding, I truly understood how much time and, I know it sounds corny but there is no better way to describe it, love goes into everything handmade. This year, I will support artists whose work, to me, is outstanding, and also promote them by linking to their products and shops (no, I don’t get any commission from doing it).

Yes, Etsy! I’m probably the last to the party but finally started putting together my lists of favourites. Most of the stuff I like is produced in Europe, almost nothing comes from North America as it clearly, and naturally, dominates the Etsy marketplace. The smaller items I choose are mainly produced in England. And yes, everything is handmade. Cheap alternatives from South Korea? No, thank you.

Let’s start with something I seem to have never enough of – tablewares! Some of my current favourites:

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CERAMIC BOWL from ONE AND MANY,
Israel

This is just one of many items I could easily see in my kitchen from Ya’ara Landau-Katz’s design studio. “It’s important to us to work on research processes in different materials side by side with daily products when both processes have a strong elements of aesthetics and usability.” Or in plain English: we care about looks and functionality. Needless to say, I love this approach. No nonsense? Yes, please.

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GRAY PORCELAIN PLATES SET by GOLDEN BISCOTTI,
Switzerland

Matt porcelain plates in various shades of grey definitely rock my boat. So do the super sleek chopping boards from Golden Biscotti (love the name, by the way, don’t you?) but this is another matter. How do the Swiss always get it right?

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SET OF TWO PORCELAIN COFFEE CUPS from THESEUSCLAY,
Hungary

Can you have too many mugs? Yes. Can you have too many cups? Not yet. The way these cups break, reflect and let light shine through is mesmerising. The size is cortado-perfect. It’s like taking coffee snobbery to another level.

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PORCELAIN JUGS from CHITOKURODA,
England

I don’t need more jugs for milk. But if I did, they’d be my first choice. So pretty!

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Support local. Support small. Or not?

It’s hard.

How many times have I heard this from different small business owners? More than I remember.

It was hard for a photographer I knew. The big chains came and took the customers away. The digital age came and stole if not the tricks of the trade, then definitely its value.

It’s hard for a local hairdresser although the salon has existed for a long time. They need to look at online beauty directories to seek more customers.

Not easy to be a bookstore owner. Everybody knows this one.

Rather hard to be a small digital design agency – I was told time after time. “It’s more to do with keeping your head above water” than running a business.

It used to be easier to run a cafe, too. Now the competition makes it almost impossible.

This is one side of the story.

It was easy to have an unheated extension as a toilet – and say sorry, with a joke, to every customer who needed to pee. For over fifteen years.

How many trainings do a local hairdresser attend compared to one who works for a chain? Easy to guess. How many times a local hairdresser asks if they can text you with a reminder of your next appointment?

No strategy, no time to seek new clients and no money / energy to redesign your own website. Not hard to figure out which business relies on these easy excuses.

It’s easy to ignore the fact your coffee sucks. And even if you get a decent roast, you never invest in getting a proper coffee machine or training – you leave these to the “fancy hipster places” instead.

I know it’s hard. I grew up in a family who changed their small business to another small business from one decade to another. Because times change, markets change. I truly understand lack of money, lack of time but what I usually notice is ever-present lack of effort.

I visited my local hairdresser the other day. Not a biggie. Booked online, miscalculated the distance between my home and the salon and ended up being late – my fault entirely. The appointment was back to back so I was told that we’d skip the blow dry. No worries, I can hardly stand sitting still and avoiding looking at my reflection for over thirty minutes. There was a kind “are you Marta or Martha” question and I solemnly affirmed the former. There was some small talk when I confessed that I usually don’t keep regular appointments until I make them in advance (hint, hint). Yes, some water was running down my neck when I had my hair washed because she didn’t put me in the right position. But my hair was cut the way I asked for so who cares. No expert suggestions surfaced during the whole process but that’s fine, maybe the hairdresser trusted I knew what I wanted. By the end of my visit, with the next customer waiting, I was given a card and heard “you can book your next appointment online, Martha”. My hair was still wet when I was leaving and no ginger and Paracetamol could stop a cold from its winter 2015 second coming.

It’s hard. I know. Customer service in England is rubbish – I know. But if not small business owners, then who should know better?

And so my question is – am I expected to support local and / or small business because of its quality or simply because it’s there?