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Artists, creators and craftspeople from Hertfordshire

Landscape by Sue Nicholls CREDIT Sue Nicholls
Landscape by Sue Nicholls CREDIT Sue Nicholls

As a county of creatives, we’re celebrating the artists, creators and inspiring local craftspeople who offer their unique and individual talents right here in Hertfordshire.


Great British Life: So Cosy's ethical and sustainably sourced blankets CREDIT The Life NarratorSo Cosy's ethical and sustainably sourced blankets CREDIT The Life Narrator

So Cosy, Hitchen.

It’s that time of year when we all need a bit of cosiness in our lives and Vilija and Rimsky Birstone have made it their mission to provide it in a sustainable form.

Creating beautiful, ethical and sustainably sourced blankets, using only the finest alpaca, merino and sheep wools, was simply a hobby but a trial at Spitalfields market, then a regular pitch at St Albans market, led to a successful weekend at the Country Living Show, and from there, So Cosy was born.

The couple’s values of natural, sustainable and timelessly stylish homewares and accessories are held close to their heart. They're big on using the very best nature has to offer to enrich life at home and on the go, as well as supporting the circular economy.

With a recent accolade of Best Trade Stand at Burghley Horse Trials, the showroom gives customers a feel for their handcrafted designs in person. Visits are by appointment only.


Great British Life: Capturing summer with a vase of sweet peas CREDIT Julie ArnallCapturing summer with a vase of sweet peas CREDIT Julie Arnall

Julie Arnall, Bishops Stortford.

Having studied Three Dimensional Design and with a Master’s degree in Fine Art: Printmaking at Wimbledon College of Art, Julie went on to teach. Moving to Bishop’s Stortford 11 years ago, her printmaking practice has continued. She now runs a popular monthly life drawing class at Much Hadham, printmaking technique classes from the well-equipped print room at Leventhorpe School in Sawbridgeworth as well as drawing classes, helping to nurture the creative abilities which many people rediscovered during lockdown.

Julie said: “I find teaching so rewarding, it has really helped to establish me as part of an artistic community in East Herts. I’m looking forward to more one-off drawing events next year including the Degas-inspired class where we had a ballet dancer come, complete with music and costume changes.”

When not teaching Julie produces original prints using a variety of hand printmaking techniques including drypoint, collagraph and monoprint, often using drawings from her sketchbooks. Her popular cow parsley prints are one-of-a-kind originals, created individually by hand.

Instagram: @julie_arnall_art

Facebook: JArnallArtist


Great British Life: Jonah Maddox handmade creations tell the story of tree CREDIT HertswoodJonah Maddox handmade creations tell the story of tree CREDIT Hertswood

Hertswood, Tring.

Nine years ago, Jonah Maddox was wild camping in Dartmoor and decided to carve a spoon so he could better enjoy an evening meal - beans from the tin! From here (as well as an injury) came woodturning and the rest is history.

Creating plates, bowls, vases, airies and other beautiful wooden pieces, Jonah said: “I fell in love with discovering shapes in logs and the more I learn the more I realise I have to learn.

“What makes my products different, I believe, is that I like to pass the story of the tree along to the customer - for every piece I will not only know the wood type but also where the tree stood, why it came down and more wonderful idiosyncrasies particular to that species of tree.

“All my wood is local and sustainable and my operation is carbon neutral.”

Jonah also teaches spoon carving and volunteers at Ashridge Estate tree nursery in his spare time.


Great British Life: Necklace created by Sue Nicholls CREDIT Sue NichollsNecklace created by Sue Nicholls CREDIT Sue Nicholls

Sue Nicholls, Buntingford.

The rural landscape around her home and the plants in her garden are the main inspiration for Sue’s work. She is particularly interested in the effect of seasonal changes on landscape and the shifts in colours and patterns that it creates. She makes textured hand and machine embroidered pieces, botanically-themed prints and wearable art. Sue prefers to use natural materials and has recently started to explore the possibilities of using natural dyes in her work. She likes the challenge of finding interesting and unusual ways of combining different techniques (hand and machine embroidery, drawing, printmaking) and experimenting with different media and materials to enable her to express her ideas in new and interesting ways, sometimes creating new techniques during the process. She runs a programme of machine embroidery workshops from her garden studio in Buntingford.


Great British Life: Handmade fused glass art CREDIT Heartwood GlassHandmade fused glass art CREDIT Heartwood Glass

Heartwood Glass, St Albans.

Founded by Alex and Gavin Bray to share their love of handmade fused glass art, the couple design and create glass decorations, giftware, outside glass and wood sculptures and commissions from their studio.

Recently chosen to be part of this year’s SmallBiz100 line-up, Alex said: “We’re so pleased to be one of only 100 to have made it on the list out of so many brilliant small businesses in the UK. We’ve put a lot of hard work into developing and growing our glass business in recent years, from selling our glass art to creating our ‘have a go’ glass art workshops for all ages from five to 102, which are adapted for any special needs to ensure they are inclusive for all. To be recognised for our achievements is brilliant and encourages us to push ourselves even further.”

Heartwood Glass will be profiled on October 12, as part of the countdown to Small Business Saturday UK.


Great British Life: Colourful purses with purpose from Willow Leather CREDIT WIllow LeatherColourful purses with purpose from Willow Leather CREDIT WIllow Leather

Willow Leather, Welwyn Garden City.

Following on from her career in fashion, Amber Oates has dedicated the past five years to perfecting her craft creating beautiful, clean-looking, and practical handbags and accessories. Ensuring the utmost attention to detail and quality, these beautiful creations are designed and handcrafted by Amber who has also just launched her new marble range. Amber said: “This unique collection allows you to handpick your preferred colours, offering the joy of owning bespoke accessories which truly reflect your individual style.” There’s everything from shoulder bags, purses and key rings in the range, and for those seeking a bit of crafting at home, Amber added: “Don't miss the DIY Marble Your Own Purse Kit – a great creative gift for the artist in you.” They will make a great gift for Christmas, as will Amber’s other pieces which are not only creative but add a bit of uniqueness to your life, too.


Great British Life: Warming autumn scents from Serenity Blue Candle Co CREDIT Serenity Blue Candle CoWarming autumn scents from Serenity Blue Candle Co CREDIT Serenity Blue Candle Co

Serenity Blue Candle Co. Hertfordshire.

Jen Matthews is the creative force behind the business with her journey into the world of candle making beginning nearly two decades ago when she moved into university halls and fell in love with candles. With her candle-making ignited during lockdown, she was driven by her awareness of the harmful effects associated with paraffin wax candles.

Her initial inspiration for crafting candles came from a deeply personal place - she wanted to capture the fragrance of her wedding day – Daisy by Marc Jacobs - in a candle and now offers a range of candles which evoke beautiful memories.

Along with partner, Steve, and their fur baby, Blue, together, they embrace the vibrant spirit of their local community by taking part in craft fairs, festivals, and recently, their first pop-up shop – building relationships with the locals who have now become cherished regulars. Since the online store launched last year, candles have been shipped as far as Australia…testament to the universal appeal of their handcrafted creations.


Great British Life: Intricate detail in flower cupcake bouquets from The Flower Cup Company CREDIT Jacey SmithsonIntricate detail in flower cupcake bouquets from The Flower Cup Company CREDIT Jacey Smithson

The Flower Cup Company, Great Ashby, Stevenage.

Jacey Smithson started making these buttercream flower cupcakes presented to look like a real bouquet of flowers in July 2021 and these are the perfect gift of flowers you can eat. Jacey said: “I absolutely love making them it’s very therapeutic. Like a lot of people I started during the pandemic with a friend at first when we wanted to start a baking business selling postal brownies, I came across some buttercream flowers scrolling through Instagram and couldn’t believe how lovely they were and had to start making them myself. I really try to make them as realistic as possible.”

Available in bouquet sizes of three, seven, 12, 19, 24 and 30, customers have commented on the “amazing service”, as well as them being “artistic creations” and “absolutely stunning cakes that tasted delicious – many of our guests thought they were real flowers”.

Facebook: The Flower Cup Company

Instagram: @theflowercupcompany


Great British Life: Beautifully crafted necklace by Rachel Jeffrey CREDIT Rachel JeffreyBeautifully crafted necklace by Rachel Jeffrey CREDIT Rachel Jeffrey

Rachel Jeffrey, Wheathampstead.

With extreme dyslexia Rachel left school as soon as she could, deciding to take her A-Levels at De Havilland Further Education College to study art, photography, ceramics and pattern cutting. Having attended a jewellery evening class aged 16, she had no idea it would eventually become her career.

In 1996 a loan from The Princes Trust enabled Rachel to start her business, and later, at a craft fair organised by the trust, she was approached to design and make a brooch for the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday. Rachel said: “This is, to date, my favourite piece and is now worn by Queen Camilla.”

With a shop, jewellery school and team of makers help produce her designs, totalling over 800 different pieces, Rachel said: “I’m happy to say that, in this day of impersonal internet shopping, our customers come to us to meet the designer and see where their piece is made. Some are local, some not, but the connection and trust in our workmanship is always there.”

More recently Rachel appeared as a mentor to fledgling jewellers on BBC1’s reality show “Make It At Market” with a second series due to air late autumn.


Great British Life: Solid oak sliding door display sideboard CREDIT Blacks of SopwellSolid oak sliding door display sideboard CREDIT Blacks of Sopwell

Blacks of Sopwell, St Albans and Radlett.

Synonymous with beautiful, well-considered design-led furniture, this thriving independent family business has been leading the way in fine furniture craftsmanship for over 30 years.

At the core of their artisanal expertise lies the concept of crafting bespoke furniture, with a distinct emphasis on luxurious dining experiences. Customers have the exclusive opportunity to handpick from a diverse range of exquisite solid woods, including oak, ash, and walnut and not only tailor the dimensions to their liking, but also fine-tune intricate details such as leg designs. In an era where sustainability is paramount, it embraces eco-friendly practices, prioritising responsibly sourced wood, minimise waste through meticulous planning and recycling, and using non-toxic, environmentally friendly finishes and materials. This commitment ensures furniture is not only built to last for generations but also minimizes its impact on the planet. Blacks of Sopwell offers a refreshing alternative to mass-produced pieces available on the high street.


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