Amelia’s Magazine | Valentines oh Valentines…

Lili Vanili Valentines Cake

Illustration by Daria Hlazatova

It’s February. Which means, sale you know, stuff Valentines day. I have a tourettes-like response to it’s mere mention. A gag reflex and an overwhelming desire to shout obscenities at strangers.

I don’t know why this is. Perhaps it has its roots in the hell that was secondary school love angst. (Will I get a card?.. Shall I send a card… Will somebody post dog poo through my letter box?.. OMG I GOT A CARD *phones all friends*… Oh. Its from my Dad…I HATE MY DAD….*sits on inflatable chair and cries into Leonardo DiCaprio poster*)

Illustration by Ellie Sutton

This aversion to all things Valentines is odd for me because at any other time of year I’ll use any excuse to celebrate. Passed an exam? Brunch! Had a shit week? Fry up! St whatsists day? Party! Commiseratory dinners, cialis 40mg congratulatory afternoon tea’s, pity parties and apologetic lunches; whatever the occasion (or lack thereof) I’m there with balloons. But for some reason, Valentines grates on me.

The traditional options are not great. If you’re single; you could get hammered alone or with other single friends. Or watch a Richard Curtis film whilst curled up in the fetal position in flannel pyjamas. Or if you are in a relationship; try and book a table in a restaurant only to find that they are ALL booked and/or extortionately expensive. Then spend the evening looking around at the other couples who are sat within spitting distance whilst the staff incessantly sell you expensive wine and champagne with James Blunt warbling away at you in the background.

Illustration by Alison Day

Sound good? Thought not. (I sound like a love Scrooge, I definitely have issues)

I banned my mister from engaging in any form of commercial Valentines celebration right at the start of our relationship, and we’ve ended up with a fish and chips dinner tradition instead, which I am actually quite fond of.

But if you MUST release your inner schmaltz, here are some alternatives to cheap chocolates and teddybears. Don’t get me started on teddybears.

Illustration by Ellie Sutton

Firstly, if you are in a relationship, probably best not too buy a card from the supermarket. Or the corner shop down the road. Or the petrol station. It takes very little effort to make something and its much more thoughtful. How about writing a letter? It doesn’t have to be a love letter, and its nicer than a brief scrawl in a card. Or what about a stick man comic strip or a flip book? We can all draw stick men. See? No excuse.

If you hate the idea of making something yourself, there are a whole host of talented illustrators and makers out there who will happily fulfill all of your home spun looking Valentines needs. Check out some ideas in Amelia’s article over here.

I discovered via Twitter that Abby Illustrator and her boy are having a living room picnic, which sounds lovely to me and much nicer than the aforementioned Blunt-warbling-restaurant-nightmare.

If you are planning on buying flowers for a loved one (it could be a friend, your lover, your mum..) then … think again. Sorry for the eco rant but growing and transporting flowers uses a huge amount of carbon, especially if they are from overseas. If you must indulge in some floristry delights then look up British grown flowers.

Or, heres a wee crafty idea; give someone a pack of wildflower seeds. Decant into an attractive envelope, sew (or glue) on to a piece of card and illustrate with an appropriately cheesy message. (as this grows it’ll be a symbol of my love. PUKE. My love is like this red red rose. VOM. etc etc)

And for a healthy alternative/addition to a box of chocolates, pretty up a punnet of red fruit and decorate with little flags.

Cook a pink dinner. Beetroot soup to start. Rare steak with a tomato salsa dressing. Kir Royals or Rose wine. Red velvet cake for pudding, or pink macarons or strawberry angel delight… This would be lovely for one, two or twenty two.

Make cookies. Just for the hell of it. Give to colleagues, friends, family members. Or, of course, your loved one. Dust with icing sugar for a chic minimalist finish or get into an e- number frenzy with coloured icing. Home made and cheap.

Go to see Grayson Perry talk about kinky sex. Hold on to your hats.

Send a You’re rad/I like you/love note to your friends and family. Last year I sent mini valentines cards to the female members of my family just to tell them that I think they are rad, and the reasons why.

Illustration by Alison Day

Visit Love from Darkroom, an exhibition raising money for the brilliant charity Kids Company. All of the art pieces are under £150 and it runs till 14th February. Read Amelia’s full listing here.

Host a horror night. My mister and I are planning on spending the Saturday before Valentines working through some early horror films (Nosferatu, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Birds, Night of the Living Dead…) Nothing like a bit of flesh eating Zombie action to get you in that Valentines mood.

Join the Craftivist Collective in hijacking Valentines day and show some love for your global neighbour. Write letters to strangers and make a Tatty Devine key ring then leave them for strangers to pick up. (see separate listing here)


Why not send your loved one an anatomically correct bleeding heart cake by Lilli Vanilli; the creator of the fabulous ACOFI launch party masterpiece? They are made from red velvet sponge, cream cheese frosting and blackcurrant & cherry ‘blood’. I love them and they are a steal at £7.

Image via Lili Vanilli’s blog

Watch Fuck. Not the real thing, gracious no, unless that’s your thing. I’m talking about the documentary which features interviews with the world’s best swearers including Billy Connolly and Ice-T. Hurrah for obscenities!

Visit the Valentines exhibition at the wonderful Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. This is one of my favourite London museums and this exhibition is all about the culture and history of valentines cards.

Take your loved one on a ‘haunted london’ ghost tour instead, and see the grizzlier side of Londons history…

Go on a night safari with the Natural History museum: You can choose either one of 2 experiences, depending on whether you think Valentine Day is a pleasure or a pain. Both look at the different aspects of Love in the Natural World.

See? Valentines doesn’t have to be a pile of sick. There’s lots of fun stuff to do whether you are in a relationship or not. Or there’s always the pyjama option too…

And so, even I, say to you Happy Valentines day!

Categories ,activism, ,Alison Day, ,Baking, ,craft, ,Craftivists, ,Daria Hlazatova, ,Darkroom, ,earth, ,Ellie Sutton, ,Fruit, ,Fuck, ,Grayson Perry, ,Hannah Bullivant, ,Haunted London, ,Horror Films, ,Josie Long, ,Lili Vanilli, ,Museum of Brands Packaging and Advertising, ,natural history museum, ,Tatty Devine, ,Valentines

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Japanese embroidery artist Kaoru Hirota of HIPOTA

Lobster by Hipota

It wasn’t that long ago that I watched The Secret World of Arrietty (2010), the Japanese, Studio Ghibli refresh of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, and looking at Hipota‘s petite, crafted edibles and teenie-tiny animals, I can’t help but be reminded of the film. These artworks are so real, and so little that they have a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids element to them.

Pineapple by Hipota Banana by Hipota

33 year old Japanese craft artist Kaoru Hirota makes intricate embroidery pieces under the name Hipota. Having stumbled across her creations on the web, I was completely captivated with the detail and lifelike feel of her embroidery, especially the bite-size fruit and vegetables, which bear a strong resemblance to the real thing. With some pieces doubling as purses and brooches, these are the ultimate twee fashion accessory and the pinnacle of hand-made craft items. Dinner-table yummies, including peppers that bear beads instead of seeds, make my eyes water, not with hunger, but with fascination. Alice in Wonderland style pansies and blood-red lobster are all part of the foray into a thread-composed natural world that you encounter when you look at Hipota’s unique work. The detail of the pieces is striking and they have a cartoon-esque quality which gives them an extra pizzazz. Kaoru has a real talent for bringing thread to life and each of her pieces has its own personality.

Hipota Illustration by Jo Cheung Hipota by Freddy Thorn
Kaoru Hirota illustrations by Jo Cheung (top) and Freddy Thorn (bottom)

Initially these pieces look like crochet and the dexterity of Kaoru‘s fingers and the imagination of these works, really give her crafts their own stamp. The beauty is in the meticulousness of these small and lovable creations. Hipota‘s works range from tiny, delicate flowers to adorable little toadstools and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next! With swans donning regal, fingernail sized crowns and character-full monkeys, these are the equivalent of soft toys for adults. More importantly, many of then are fun pieces that could give a real hand-made addition to any ensemble, or make a statement home-ware piece.

Avocado by Hipota
Brocolli by Hipota Hipota's Peas by May van Millingen
Hipota's Peppers by May van Millingen
Illustrations of Hipota‘s peas and peppers by May Van Millingen

Hipota‘s work is more than just embroidery, it’s like crawling into a craft created world where everything is carved from thread. Avocados, frogs, zebras, her range is startling and the pieces themselves are captivating. The only real pitfall of writing this piece, is that I’m dangling an (embroidery) carrot in front of you that’s out of reach as these little gems are only available from stores in Japan.

Tiger Purse by Hipota Hipota by Levi Bunyan Shark Purse by Hipota Illustration of Hipota zebra purse by Levi Bunyan

Although Kaoru Hirota, the needle behind Hipota proved hard to get hold of, and there was a bit of a language barrier, it was worth the challenge to get a quick insight into her lovely, dwarf artworks.

How long have you been embroidering?
For seven years.

Why did you choose the name Hipota?
My name is Kaoru Hirota so I thought that I would use the brand name Hirota. I was learning Russian at the time, and in Russian, p expresses r. I thought this was really interesting. Therefore, I used the brand name of not Hirota but Hipota. The right pronunciation is actually “Hirota”. However, people often call me “Hipota”. Incidentally, in Russian Hipota is хи pota.

Monkey by Hipota
Guerilla by Hipota

How do you choose the subject of a new project?
I like to use embroidery to express well-known forms, for example: animals, vegetables, and the often seen thing.

Do you use any other crafts to make pieces?
I only embroider, I can’t knit!

Leeks by Hipota
Onion by Hipota
Hipota Pea Brooches by Sam Parr Hipota pea brooches by Sam Parr

A lot of your work is fruit, vegetables, animals and flowers, is there a reason you focus on nature?
As in nature, results differ, so I can’t make the same thing twice. For example, if two strawberries are made, both strawberries would be completely different. I think that we can say the same thing about vegetables and animals!

What are your plans for the future?
I will continue only with embroidery from now on.

Hipota by Jo Cheung
Strawberry by Hipota
Hipota by Suky Goodfellow Illustration of Hipota strawberry by Jo Cheung and illustration of Hipota toadstools by Suky Goodfellow

How do you make the pieces so small? In such detail?
I observe things intently and I strive to express a colour and a form as it is. It’s mainly through trial and error that I learnt to do it. If you look at the work I did seven years ago you would be surprised!

What needle do you use?
It is a very ordinary needle. It is a thing called “nuibari” in Japanese.

Where can people buy your products?
I don’t have a webshop but you can buy my work in some stores in Japan. At Bazar et Garde-Manger and Tote.

Sea creatures by Claire Kearns
Illustration of Hipota‘s sea creatures by Claire Kearns

When I was little my grandmother would knit cuddly toys for me. These inanimate friends were different to my other soft companions, not because they were knitted, but because they had been made with love. Looking at Hipota‘s creations makes me feel a genuine sense of wonder at the power of human creativity that I thought was all but lost with childhood. Not just that, but I feel she really manages to put a part of herself into her art, especially as she mentions that each piece is unique. Just like the lovely, loyal cuddlies my grandma knitted for me as a kid, these pieces have stolen my heart, and hopefully, yours too.

Crab by Hipota
Seahorse by Hipota
Fish by Hipota

All photography courtesy of Kaoru Hirota

Categories ,animals, ,Bazar et Garde-Manger, ,Brooches, ,craft, ,crochet, ,embroidery, ,Freddy Thorn, ,Fruit, ,handmade, ,Hipota, ,Honey, ,I Shrunk the Kids, ,japan, ,japanese, ,Jessica Cook, ,Jo Cheung, ,Kaoru Hirota, ,knit, ,Levi Bunyan, ,nature, ,Purses, ,Russian, ,sea creatures, ,sewing, ,Suky Goodfellow, ,The Borrowers, ,The Secret World of Arrietty, ,thread, ,Tiny, ,Tote, ,vegetables

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