Whilst drinking my coffee this morning I had the most marvelous entertainment as I watched a flock of young goldfinches rummaging around our wildflowers, feasting upon the seeds. What made this even more delightful was that the bird feeder is right above that patch but still the birds were choosing to go ‘organic’ rather than the easier ‘takeaway’ route. Some people who visit our garden see only weeds and probably take a very dim view of our horticultural skills, but the initiated visitor will be joyously wrapt to observe a mature wildlife garden all abuzz, aflutter and ascuttle with insects, birds and mammals. Our recently installed solitary bee house has a leaf cutter bee in residence, who astounded us by moving in within days of us installing the little wooden structure. We have frogs aplenty, and hedgehogs are regularly caught on our wildlife camera. There are lots of resident bank voles and a pygmy shrew or two… to scrape the mere surface on the wondrous safari our back garden supports. The buddleia, bergamot and lavender sustain a ravaging, diverse horde of bees, beetles and butterflies during the day and a tantalising array of moths and beetles who make up the night shift, and who in turn feed our skyful of bats. In the six years we have lived here our cultivated “weed” patch has brought what was, upon our arrival, a rather sterile garden into the magnificent life filled paradise it is now, just as a garden should be. We have even been graced by the presence of mint moths this year, not an uncommon moth but the first I have ever seen and ermine moths too, which are my absolute favourites.
A recent visit to Natural Surroundings in North Norfolk has completely revitalised and reinvigorated our commitment to wildlife and wildflower gardening. The thing I have found most interesting in the past few years of gardening with native species is that my eye has become accustomed to the scale of British wildflowers. Initially, I was rather disappointed to be swapping burgeoning fuchsias and bulbous headed dahlias for tiny little scarlet pimpernels and sprigs of minute herb robert. The vast majority of our native species have the itsiest-bitsiest of flowers, but as your eye gradually grows accustomed to this miniature world there is a joy to be discovered that rivals any majestic tulip or rose. If you look really closely into a patch of “weedy” scrub you will find the tiniest of flowers so intricately marked that it looks as if a fairy has been busy with a paint brush. There was once a beautifully balanced ecosystem of native plants and animals which we humans have virtually cultivated out of existence, but, you know, all it takes is leaving a square-foot patch of ‘weed’s to grow in the the corner of your garden to make a huge amount of difference. Give it a go and marvel at the results.
And so to FABB FADS, for that is what you are really here on this site for. Well, what an absolutely phenomenal week it has been – we have been popping champagne corks all over the place. This week I feel I have been skyrocketed from bumbling about a bit with a bit of paint and some glue to feeling quite the professional. As many of you will know I began this rescued furniture lark with Tatterdemalia last year which has transmuted into FABB FADS – Fabbulous Finds & Designs (which, as much as I adore the Tatterdemalia name and concept, describes and fits what we do far better) anyway, the past year or so has been very much about learning and honing my skills – many of the techniques I use are craft skills I have acquired throughout my life, some from the very distant years of my childhood. I reflected recently, that it seems like all the crafts I have tinkered with over decades have finally come together in the most wonderfully exciting way to create an actual career for myself. Like with most things I do, there has been an awful lot of procrastination – I think many creative folk suffer from this malady, in my case it always comes down to my horrible lack of self confidence, it will allow me to take things to the brink but leave me teetering there, continually delaying the next step, this is where my amazing husband steps in. Over the seven incredible years it has been my absolute blessing to know the wonderful person I am so lucky to be married to, he has elevated my self worth skyward from the very bottom of the muddy pond where it lurked, and given me the confidence to achieve even the longest held of my dreams. His belief in me far, far outweighs my own, and it is purely because of his direct input, support, love and hard work that I have, in those years, published four novels and now launched my career as a…. well, I am not exactly sure how I define what I do with FABB FADS – Teddy recently described me as “emerging designer and furniture artist, Janis Smith of FABB FADS, who specializes in the unusual and the beautiful.” ‘Who’s that?’ I asked when I read the description he had put on an advert for one of my pieces, ‘You,’ he replied… and so I guess that is who I am; I like it and aim to live up to the description, I especially love the idea of specialising in the unusual and the beautiful – another word that has been used about my work a lot recently is “quirky”, and I find I love being described thus also… it certainly fits well with my newly cropped and dyed hair 😉
So, why has this week been so momentous – well this time last weekend I was working on my first ever commission. I was approached by the very gorgeous Nat from Ancient Path to add her company name and details to a chalkboard for her to use at events. Not something that I had envisaged doing when I began this venture, but I was very happy to give it a go (will try anything once, me ;)) and the end result was very pleasing to myself and Nat, who was absolutely thrilled with it – especially as she needed it asap and I produced it in record time.
This was my very first paying peice of work which was quickly followed by more success the very next day. Having appointed Teddy as my marketing manager (I love creating but I really, really struggle with actually charging people money for what I do – both with Fabb Fads and my writing) he set himself up with an improvised photographic studio and finally began to start advertising my creations for sale. Within hours of going up for sale the Victorian Mannequin I created a few weeks back was bought by a delightful couple from Norwich.
I was completely blown away by how much they liked my work, not to mention delighted, that it would appear that I just might be able to make a bit of a living from this lark. Given I would have to sell over 500 novels (at the 28p a copy I currently make on my books) to achieve the income I received from selling the mannequin alone, I think it becomes fairly obvious why I have switched professions (that is not to say I am never writing again, book fans) Following all this success I am just completing a mirror which a friend gave me a few weeks back, she was going to take it to the dump but offered it to me first.
I was rather overwhelmed when I found that she “love-love-loved” what I have done with it and is very eager to buy it back. So, it has been a busy week and one in which I can say that FABB FADS has been well and truly launched as a business. Needless to say, we have added bespoke sign making to the services we now offer, especially for small and micro businesses. We have lots of great items queuing up in the workshop to be transformed into quirky, beautiful originals and hopefully lots more customers out there eager to buy what I do.