Just taking the chance to breathe.
The last few weeks have been quite manic in this household and with the business. You see, selling on the internet means a lot of packaging and posting at this time of year, and I am not complaining, was even quite concerned in October and early November as sales were very slow getting going.
Those of you who have come to this blog via annmade.co.uk know that I make and sell slate-ware. All sorts of items made from slate.
I got into working with slate in a rather roundabout way. Our lovely 16th century house had a thatched roof. A roof that we had totally replaced twice in the, then, twenty two years we had been here, and the second time using the more expensive and usually more durable water reed, hoping for at least 25 years from it. Alas, it was rotting on the roof in twelve and we applied to be able to change the roof back to slate. Yes, back to slate. I had evidence that the house was only thatched in 1954, so, though the house was now listed, it wasn’t an original feature. What is more as I did more research it turned out that this was exactly the problem. The angle so the roof had not been altered to be right for thatch which needs a steeper roof for the rain to drip from end to end of the reed and thence off on to the ground, rather than having a chance to soak in bringing all the problems with it that we were encountering.
Thatch on a shallow pitch roof gets wet and stays wet, moss and lichens grow, insects take up residence, birds scratch at it to get the insects, more wet gets into, the broken bits of reed break down, seeds start to grow in it. We had reed, grass and a tree trying to grow on the roof.
Eventually we were given permission to get it returned to slate and then had to find a suitable slate for the job. This was a task that I was set and took myself off to a slate supplier to look at different slates and try to find something that would look good on an old property, something that also matched the lighter grey slate slabs that surround the front of the house and form the path to the front door, slate which I suspected to be local.
Eventually I found a slate I liked, colour was a good match and the variation in the slates meant that even when new there was an irregularity to it, giving a aged feel to the results.
However, along the way I handles and looked at lots of types of slate, I asked the slate merchant how slates were cut to form the straight edge on one side and the broken edge on the other and was shown a hand-held slate guillotine. The tool on the far right in this photo:
I was hooked. I loved this material and began to think of items I could make from it to start a small business. I had recently taken an early retirement from teaching (in an inner-city comprehensive) and was looking for an enterprise.
I began making items in slate and items in fabric, adding repoussed aluminium work later and started by selling at craft markets. I had already thought of the name annmade, but thought that every Ann would have thought of it and there wouldn’t be a decent web-address going (and indeed there are a lot of annmades out there – but most had added their specialism into their name, like annmadeart, annmadecards etc) – so to my delight I found annmade.co.uk available and snaffled it immediately as at that time I was doing many things, not just slate.
I am lucky to have two sons whose business is making wonderful websites, (and now much more) and after a while they found time to create a website for me and annmade.co.uk began to take off.
With many innovations and experimentations I created the annmade range of slate plates and slate cheeseboards. I asked an environmental health officer to test my resulting product and the results were very good.
I was already selling to hotels and restaurants when I had a call from a TV company making The Great British Menu. It was all hush, hush, as ordering the 120 Quattro slate plates (my smallest size plates) would have given away the results of the finals, but that was how my slate plates first made their way on to TV. The following year they made lots of appearances in the different heats as chef after chef used them to display starters, desserts and even a fish course.
Last year I had another call, this time from Channel 4, the TV company had a request, from chef Richard Corrigan, for 7 of my Standard-pro slate plates for his new programme, Cookery School, where they appeared twice when it was screened this spring.
Annmade slate plates and cheeseboards have found themselves sent as far as Chicago and Connecticut in the USA, and Adelaide in Australia, and in hotels from the furthest reaches of the Highlands to The Berkley in London as well as to hundreds of individuals all over the UK and Europe.
…… and get ready for the Christmas rush on the home front…. Only eleven for Christmas day this year .. but I have the cake made (Same recipe as used for My Nephews wedding cake * see blog) – maturing in the freezer (if not yet iced) , mince pies made and frozen, pickles in the pantry (except the red-cabbage – need to do that) … oh but .. not got the decorations up yet … nor made the door wreath … or finished the shopping … oh oh …