• Lovely Things Happen

    A lovely thing happened to me the other day.

    I popped into a coffee shop before my weekend dog walk and ordered two cappuccinos (it was going to be a long walk)… and then I realised I’d left my purse at home. Do I leg it home (quite a distance) and get my money, or do I do without my morning coffee(s)? Both options would be quite disappointing, let’s face it. Also, I’m not very good at making decisions. So I just stood there in my waterproofs and walking boots waiting for inspiration with my very patient pup by my side. And then the Barista said, I’ll make your coffees for free! Generous, lovely, surprising and it gave me such a boost, restoring my attitude of gratitude at the end of what had been quite a difficult week. Small things matter. And I hope you are lucky enough to have a Lovely Thing happening to you when you most need it. As a good friend told me when I was sharing my woes and wondering what, if anything, was the point of life in general and me in particular, “Perhaps there is no real point,” she said, “except for the opportunity to be kind.”

    So, the nights are a-drawing in and there’s a nip in the air when the sun goes in. I’m digging out my hot water bottles, shaking out the blankies, and looking forward to making (and not sharing) Nan’s special recipe nutmeggie rice pudding. I don’t know about you but I’m feeling a bit tired. However, I am grateful for my MANY blessings and looking forward to riding this wave wherever it takes me.

    The BIG news (and I am ever so pleased) is that Amber has agreed to run Little Mustard Club in 2023! It’s incredibly good news as it had always been a one-year (2022) project and I know it’s a lot of work for her (as well as a whole lot of fun). It’s a delight and comfort for me to have help from such a bright, creative soul.  If you don’t know already, Amber is a brilliantly talented artist and mother, making both colourful murals to commission AND uplifting paintings (get in touch with her via the Club if you’d like to know more). Such a wonderful woman to work alongside, I feel lucky to have her energy and enthusiasm to help bring the Wonderful World of Mustard alive for more people without a whole lot of extra work for myself. I know that many of you are content with my two or three catch-up emails a year, but in case you’d like to keep more up to date, I now have someone who can help!

    When I heard the good news I started thinking about where I’d like the Club to go, given we have another year. We’ve done so much already but there’s always room for improvement and extra kindnesses, right? So I’ve been dreaming up a few ideas for Autumn. I’d like the Club to develop (any ideas welcome)… and I’m trying to guess what you’d like to see. With money getting tighter and it being such an expensive time of year, I thought discounts & offers at our online shops (www.samtoft.co.uk and www.mustardhampers.co.uk) for Club Members may be welcome? Nan has a box of 2023 calendars and says she’s happy to send one out free with all purchases (if you drop her a line letting her know you’re a Club Member).

    October is Nan’s birthday month and we have a 10% off discount code for all members valid for the week 10th-16th October, and there are membership deals for early-bird sign ups. As we are nearing the end of the year, any new membership subscriptions will get the rest of 2022 as well as the whole of 2023 to enjoy all that we have in store.

    Renewing members will get year-long discount codes and surprises! We are planning a Members’ Day at our Big Studio Clear Out Sale early next year, and I’ve just finished drawing a smashing colouring-in card for Little Mustard Club which I hope you will love. You could even use it as a hand-coloured Christmas card! And we are planning a Big December Exhibition with your entries at Brighton’s Cutest Gallery Space: Dog & Bone. Whether or not you’re in the Club, you can check out the exhibitions on social media @dogandbonegallery

    But my main reason for writing is to tell you about Blankie. Inspired by the changing of the seasons and my state of mind, I have a new/old character to share. 

    Many of you will remember Roger. Doris dog’s fiancé for a while before he disgraced himself. Anyone remember the picture ‘Roger, Father of Many’? Well, the title explains the problem, for Roger was in fact a working stud dog. An EXTREMELY handsome, smooth haired Dachshund. A real head turner. To call him ‘one for the ladies’ would be an understatement. Not that he was a rascal as such, it was just his job. And there was a dog that knew his business.

    But times change, and dogs they get older even when we feel we haven’t aged much ourselves. Roger, with his confident smile and his charmed life of luxury without responsibility, was no exception. To cut a long story short, once he’d outlived his ‘usefulness’, the unscrupulous breeders threw him out on the street. An all-too-common occurrence. But this was a dog who had lived an unusually cosseted life. Hand fed the finest minced steak and poached salmon, favouring a well know brand of bottled sparkling water and receiving a weekly mani/pedi. This was not a streetwise dog.

    As a young pup Roger had been overly shy and sensitive. Never the first one out of the box, and his mother’s favourite. How he howled when he was adopted too young - first out of the litter - and taken to live on the Stud Farm. His remarkable good looks and conformation to standard were apparent even from an early age and he fetched a very good price.

    At first his new owners treated him well, looking after their investment. He instantly bonded with Nanny the house dog at the Farm so he settled in well and quickly grew in confidence as he was showered with every gift money could buy. Within the year he had grown into a fine looking hound, just as expected. But he also became proud, selfish, badly behaved and snappy as no-one bothered to teach him any different.  As he matured, he quarrelled with Nanny and his insecurities led him to compete so fiercely with the other stud dogs that he had to be kept apart. A nice cosy pen where he was provided with adequate exercise, gourmet meals and increasingly regular visits from pretty females.

    On the whole he was happy with his lot but some nights if he awoke from an uneasy sleep, the warm sheepskin blanket would remind him of Nanny the house dog (or worse his dear late mother) and he felt achingly sad. But each morning the efficient staff would bring him delicious scrambled eggs nice and early for breakfast, and his day would begin. And O they were busy days. When he thought of how far he’d come in his short life he did marvel at it. But he was lonely, and sometimes wished he hadn’t been born so devastatingly handsome and utterly adorable. 

    But then one day he was pulled up short. For some unknowable reason he found himself abandoned on the wild and dangerous streets of the Brighton Hove border. With no useful knowledge nor any social skills to speak of he soon grew thin, ill, withdrawn, depressed. But what he did have is plenty of company. There were so many homeless people, many of whom found themselves in a much worse state than himself. They had tried to catch him early on but he found his hidey holes. The urban foxes and marauding seagulls were terrifying also and for many months he lived under the prostrate cotoneaster bushes close to the amply filled bins at the back of St Ann’s Well Park Café. And it was perhaps his regular meetings there with the good-hearted Doris dog (after she’d finally gotten around to forgiving him for how he’d led her astray) that encouraged him to trust again and finally find the right kind of human and let himself be adopted.

    By this time he had lost many of his teeth so the famous smile was not so perfect, but the kind lady who lived on the square didn’t seem to mind. Her name was Daphne and she had so many old dogs that ‘one more would make no difference’. At first she pushed him around in a large pram lined with old blankets, and when he buried himself deep and refused to walk in the cold, she decided to call him Little Blankie. With her long bleached out hair and kind eyes Roger thought she looked like Brigitte Bardot in her older years. He fell in love with her instantly.

    His new life as Little Blankie could not have been more different. Every night he slept under an old patchwork eiderdown with Daphne and the rest of her kids. He ate whatever was going from the large tin bowls lined up on the kitchen floor in rows. He was no longer prized only for his good looks. In fact he was never picked out or treated any differently than the rest of the dogs and that was nice for the most part.

    It was okay to sometimes miss the heady days of his youth at Alpha Dream Kennels and Stud Farm, he told himself. He’d had some wild times as Roger, ‘Kings Blood Skyrocket Red Baron de la Mer’ to be sure. But here with Daphne he was never left alone. He had friends and they always looked forward to the stories of his glamorous former life when he was the veritable King of the Castle. And what tall tales he told.

    Whether you’d like to call him Roger or Little Blankie, I sculpted him out of clay, had him cast in bronze and now he is being editioned by the very good people of Sculpture Castings, Basingstoke. I have carefully worked on each wax prior to casting which makes each Blankie unique. He has a wonderful patina of lightly waxed russets which reflects his faded grandeur. I visited last week and fell in love once again. He truly is a little darling and I will be showing him on social media when I receive my first copy.

    We will have a limited number (from the edition of 47) available before Christmas at my late November show at www.samtoftoriginals.co.uk This little man would be a perfect companion piece to my Pocket Doris bronze edition (now totally sold out), but equally he can stand alone. He will sit quietly in your hand or pocket, and would give your bedside cabinet or mantle shelf an aura of mischievous charm. You could even knit him a little blanket.

    He will be released this year at an introductory price and offered a day early to previous samtoftoriginals buyers and Club members. Once these few have been sold there will be a 3 month wait at the Foundry and the new year will see him at his regular price, similar to the Pocket Doris.

    With help from my family at our online shops, Graham at samtoftoriginals, Mr Cain with the computer thingies and Amber at the Club I feel lucky indeed. I have freed up time to work on a few new projects (perhaps some plates and teacups for 2023) and there’s a brand new calendar and diary for 2023 which I’m very proud of (you can view them on Mustard Hampers), there are new mugs launching soon and a few surprises to come. But these things always take far longer than I imagine, so the late November show at samtoftoriginals.co.uk will be a small one. I’m hoping for a few paintings, a few earthenware Doris dogs and a few Jig Dolls too. Not forgetting Little Blankie.

    There are some wonderful bargains available at our MustardShop and Mustard Hampers online shops with club discounts. We have Nan’s 10% off too next week. And our second-year sign ups get a secret discount code until the end of 2023. There’s never a better time to join or bestow a Gift Membership.

    But I know it’s a difficult time for most with rising fuel bills and interest rates, so I hope my little stories and pictures serve as a bit of a pick-me-up. I’ll be in touch again in a little while with details of the late November online show, but until then I fondly hope that you too will find your very own Lovely Happening very soon. Keep your eyes peeled!