Friday, 3 May 2013

"Soap Making isn't a Craft!" - I might well rant!

Carla makes some of the most amazing soap you are ever likely to see.  I am biased - I'm her husband - but to be honest the images speak for themselves.  Each Fruit soap is poured, fragranced, hand painted and coated so as to look like the real thing.  No two fruits a identical and yet all of them life-like.

Her art from is unique to us in Europe and even Peter Pavia (our teacher in Brazil) didn't go to the lengths that I have witnessed Carla go to in a bid to get her soap to look so realistic.

So you might understand my frustration with Northern Ireland's Leading Craft Organisation yesterday.  It a short but courteous e-mail I was informed us that Craft NI would not be able to support or promote or soap-making workshops or open studio during the month of August (or any time in the future) as soap-making didn't come under their remit.

Our soaps may not be mass produced, may even be hand-painted, celebrated globally for their artistic masterpiece even, but here in Northern Ireland once again we seem to have excelled ourselves at knocking others down before ever celebrating success.

Is it just our culture? NI has a reputation of finding ways to make success something to criticise rather than encourage.  We like to think that people and business' must prove themselves before we ever consider supporting them.

And, prove ourselves I feel we have done.  Carla's artwork has been celebrated globally.  We have people travelling from other continents to learn from her such is her reputation for pioneering a way of Soap Art.  We have started small, granted, and have still a long way to go, but in a short time we have become leaders in the field when it comes to how we think about soap.

There is a certain amount of irony too - In Northern Ireland we are covered by two bodies.  The Craft Council of Ireland, which does recognise Soap-making as a craft and Craft NI which does not.

Part of it comes from a reluctance to promote anything mass produced or something which can be replicated in some way - but I fear that CRAFT NI both failed to look at the photographs of some of our products nor take into account that we both imagine, design and create our soaps.  We accept specific commissions, make one-off "show pieces" and sell internationally.  We may still be small - but we are doing our bit to put Northern Ireland on the map whilst the very agencies supposed to support us are failing miserable to help put us on the very same map!  I mean it is crazy!

So I got a little miffed on behalf of the beloved and dedicated wife of mine and decided to take a stand.  I believe in justice.  I know that if we were doing this in the US - we would have agencies bending rules at every possible avenue to ensure they promoted success and encouraged entrepreneurship.

I've rallied a few people to start commenting on CraftNI's facebook page, twitter feed etc., but really I feel I need to do something more.  Its the needless use of red tape that needs to go in a bid to support Craft wherever it is found.

So I am asking for more... I am asking if you would be interested in challenging Craft NI's Stance and asking them to review how they categorise "Craft".  Say what you like, say what you feel, but at a time of austerity and unemployment surely statutory supported agencies should be doing everything possible to support people trying to get themselves off the ground.

Note too the irony of their strap-line "Champion for Craft in Northern Ireland".  It is time to hold them to account!

Craft Northern Ireland
Cotton Court, 42 Waring St, Belfast BT1 2ED
028 9032 3059 /
find us on facebook & follow us @CraftNI

You can also contact DCMS or DECAL


Craft Definition.

 1. Skill in doing or making something, as in the arts; proficiency.
a. An occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or skilled artistry.
b. The membership of such an occupation or trade; guild.

tr.v. craft·edcraft·ingcrafts
1. To make by hand.
2. Usage Problem To make or construct (something) in a manner suggesting great care or ingenuity:

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Octonauts to the HQ... The boy has turned 4

If any of you were reading Carla's Raising Little Hero's blog last year then you will understand the great joy, enthusiasm and pride we both took in celebrating Eli's 4th Birthday and 18 months without hospital admittance and subsequent surgery.
Eli had a particularly difficult beginning to his little life and we never really got a chance to celebrate with friends and family in his first few years.

This year we realised he understood what having a birthday party was all about - and with a new interest in the "Octonauts" (which was a much celebrated shift away from cars and trains) we decided to throw our first ever children's party.

I say we decided, to be honest, this decision was made for us, as my sister-in-law, Luciana, who runs "Casa de Papel" in Brazil was so desperate to make invitations that she had also recruited my mother-in-law into making some masks that Carla and I had no choice but to invite some children to an event which had yet to be planned.

The result was an overwhelming success.  Eli' Got the chance to celebrate his 4th Birthday in style.  With invitations, masks, bunting and thank you cards having been sent over from Brazil we decided that nothing would do but to make our very own assault course.  Bring on the cardboard tunnels, ball pits, spider's webs, stepping stones and plank walks.

And credit to Carla for the sheer amount of work and dedication that went into all the catering.  The children were treated to some Croissant Crabs, Turtle Watermelon, Clam shell plates, Clam shell cookies and even sea themed sweets!

We also need to thank Victoria for one of the best Birthday Cakes I have ever had the pleasure of both looking at and tasting.  It was a phenomenal Octonauts Cake.  

I've also included some of the materials and equipment we used in order to make the party a success - including some of our very own Peso Penguin Soap Favors below.