We have often been asked how we started making jams, chutneys and glassware and it’s something we have also often pondered, here at Crafty Dog Castle. Like most good stories, it’s a rather convoluted one.
Our involvement with rescued Greyhounds has led us in some strange directions over the years and we’ve learned lots of things along the way. When we took Sally our first greyhound home we decided that any support we gave to the rescue charity Greyhound Rescue Wales would be financial and not physical. The odd donation but that would be all; we were very quiet people and happy to remain in the background.
However, we somehow (can’t remember exactly how) got involved in helping out at a Greyhound Rescue street collection. This meant taking Sally into the town centre to meet the public and talk to people about greyhounds and, hopefully, they would put money in the collection pot. It was very informative both for us and for them. People back then did not know that much about greyhounds, how gentle they were and how lazy; they did not know then as we do now, that they are 40mph couch potatoes! People were both interested and generous, we found it enjoyable (though surprisingly hard work) and Sally really enjoyed it. She was great with adults but especially loved children. She would have kids hanging round her neck, patting her and stroking her coat the wrong way but she just soaked it all up.
Fundraising then led us to help out at jumble sales where even my Mum got involved making tea and selling Welsh cakes. It was a real family affair with everyone from Sally to her Nana taking part. After the jumble sales stopped we missed meeting people so we started attending a local Craft Market in Clydach selling painted glass items and donating some of the profits (when there were any!) to greyhounds rescue.
We learned to glass paint and made suncatchers, lanterns and painted drinking glasses. Looking back we can see how far we have actually come in terms of quality and finish. One autumn our little greenhouse produced a bumper crop of chillies which Armelle decided we were not going to waste. Looking round for recipes she found one for a hot chilli jam so that’s what she made; 12 jars which all sold within a week and we never even tasted any ourselves. The feedback however was that it was fantastic!. Needing a name for our newly fledged Craft and Jam business which was about Crafts and helping the dogs, the name Crafty Dog sprung to mind. The logo was a greyhound in an artist’s beret, originally holding a brush but we dropped that. Crafty Dog Designs Cymru was born!
We trotted the jam around local craft fairs, looked for new recipes – and even made some up.
Scrumped apples meant we could make Apple Chutney, Damsons from the hedgerow made Plum and Damson jam. It took a while before we plucked up the courage to go to a shop and ask whether they would be interested in selling Crafty Dog jam but shops were really keen. Our local butcher was the first to stock our chutneys (thanks Andrew!), then the Tourist Information Centre in Swansea, and a farm shop in Herefordshire (after a chance encounter helping a charity bike ride). Today we even supply the shop at Aberglasney Gardens.
It’s amazing the skills you can discover you never knew you had; we both learned to glass paint and our work has grown in complexity over the years. Where we used to sell glass lanterns at the craft fairs we now make individual bespoke hand painted pieces of glassware and have even exported a set of Welsh Dragon pint glasses to Toronto! All this was helped by setting up a web-shop which is another thing we have to try and keep updated. Look out for www.crafty-dog-cymru.co.uk.
If anyone would like us to attend their Craft or Country Fair, or wants to stock any Crafty Dog Jams, Chutneys or Glassware, pop us an e-mail via the website above.
As someone asked us recently, how do you have time to fit this all in – the answer is, we haven’t a clue, we just do it. And, on top of that, we have to walk Penny as well. It’s a busy life being a two person industrial combo….
And then there are the books… but that, as they say, is another story!