Tuesday, 31 December 2013

It’s Tuesday, and it’s P for Presentation

Tuesday’s blog rolls back the hours, so I thought we might take a little trip down Memory Lane again...
Back in the 90’s, stamping really wasn’t as popular a pastime as it is now. I would like to think that we have played a part in P for Promoting it! 
But back then, it was hard to make an all-year living from our stamps, so we had to come up with something else to supplement our income during the summer months.
We developed a really beautiful slate vase. Yes, that’s right! Nothing to do with stamps! But everything to do with flowers. 
Running parallel with our stamps the whole time, right up until 2 years ago, we also made fantastic slates vases.
Here’s one of the Tavistock pieces with a 2.5" pinholder. 


Our vases were really clever. They were beautifully hand-crafted slate pieces, all hand-made. Underneath was a reservoir for the water, which also housed a pinholder. You could display really tall flowers, such as lilies, or irises, or freesias on the pins, and make the most impressive floral arrangements! Flowers lasted longer, the water didn’t get smelly - they really were fabulous. 

In fact, why don’t I just grab the lilies Mark got me at the weekend and show you how they work! 


I begin with the tallest stem




then stagger them


so that you get a veritable cascade of blooms



which will last an absolute age. 
This arrangement will keep at least 2 weeks,
as  long as I remember to add some water every couple of days.



In fact the only reason we stopped making them was because we had to leave the old farm we lived in, and we just don’t have the place to make them any more. Maybe you have even seen them at an exhibition! My parents and my brother started making them, too. We would help each other. Then Dave came on board, and he also made great vases.
I used to love the outdoor marquee shows: Penshurst, Stonor, The Royal Highland, Stoneleigh, Shrewsbury - the showlist was extensive. We received several prizes for Best Stand in Show. I used to pride myself in our floral display and P for Presentation.  


The Original Slate Vase Company, we called ourselves. 



We used to work with different slate from different regions.



They were very labour intensive. A lot of drilling, grinding, sanding, waxing, polishing, glueing, painting. I remember always washing the blanks as we called them, ready for waxing, before the pots went on. I would prop them up all over the Aga, to make them dry more quickly. Cor blimey! Those were the days. And do you know what? We couldn’t make them fast enough. We sold every single one we ever made, except for a couple I still have, to remember them by. 
To be honest, I was really sad to stop production. But the Claritystamp business had gone through the roof, and we weren’t getting any younger. Carting hundreds of heavy slate vases around was pretty gruelling! I think you have to know when to call it a day. 
I enjoyed the many years of floral display and floral art demonstrations. It was so different to the stamp world. I also met some very special people in that artisan world; some real characters.  Even now, when we do the NEC, I have more friends over in the finished Arts & Crafts hall than I will ever have on the Stamps & Stencils side! 
I used to love doing Stonor August Bank Holiday. I have such great memories of camping with good people, sharing and helping each other. And when Penshurst came round, which was round the corner from the farm, good friends would come and stay with us, and we would open our home to them.  A very far cry from the highly competitive, cut and thrust craft industry I am in nowadays. 
My favourite show of the year was the Royal Highland at Ingleston/Edinburgh. I used to try and sell out by Sunday lunchtime, so that I could go and watch the Animal parade. It was the highlight of the year for me. 




So there we have it. A glimpse into the past again. 
I have never worked under contract for anybody, you see. I have never been paid a day’s holiday, and I have never been paid a day sick. I have only ever created my own work. Does that make me an entrepreneur? Who knows. It has certainly made me work hard!

The point of today’s blog, I think, is that we can’t always instantly generate enough income from our dream, but this doesn’t mean failure; it simply requires one to diversify. 


 with love from

71 comments:

  1. Wow
    I think my favorite day.is flashback Tuesday. I thank you for sharing. Happy NewYear.

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    1. Happy New Year to you and Gill !! Can't wait to see you soon! xx

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  2. Inspirational! Love your blog Barbara. Keep it up. And a Happy and prosperous New Year to you all.

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  3. Inspirational! Love your blog Barbara. Keep it up. And a Happy and prosperous New Year to you all.

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  4. Inspirational as always Barbara. Its quite possible that I have seen you when you were at Ingleston. It is such a lovely show. Very glad you got in to Stamping though. xxx
    Happy New Year to you and your family. xxxx

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  5. What a great idea for a flower display says she who was sniffing, wondering what the smell was this morning and realised I needed to change the water in the vase! Barbara, you have so many things to your bow -can't wait to read more!

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    1. Ps are you sure they couldn't do a little revival?! Put me down for one if so. I love tactile things!

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    2. If ever those vases return to Clarity, I would definitely have one. I love natural wood and stone, things that you have to touch and stroke. I have even hunted EBay this morning without success. One day....... xx Maggie

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  6. You are an inspiration to us all proves we can do anything if we really put are heart and sole into it and work hard. Thankyou for your inspiratuion over last few months has helped me through the hardest time of my life. When I so need to through myself into something. I have busted myself in cards candle decorating patch work knitting most new crafts have loved doing landscapes with your beautiful stamps etc thanks Barbara have a blessed new year and all your family and clarity team you all have been such a support to me xxx

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  7. It's so interesting to read little snapshots of your previous life. You are such a creative person and that shines through everything you do but underneath it all you are a hard worker. Hats off to you Barbara x

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  8. P for pleasure as always to read your blog. I love Tuesday's trip down memory lane. It coincides with the years that I found myself seperated and on my own with 2 very small children and decided to go to university to train as a teacher. Like you, I couldn't have done it without family to help. Happy new year Barbara to you, your family & the Clarity family too.

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  9. OMG Barbara I don't usually get excited about flowers (even though I do love them) but this reminds me of the days of "Changing Rooms" when everyone was into house stuff and Unusual vases and just two or three flowers in thin long stemmed vases was the thing, that's when I got excited about flowers. But the vases were cheap glass. What gorgeous and clever slate vases you all made I would have loved to have bought one. What a talented family you have. Xxx

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  10. You say, in your message below, that you hope we get inspiration from your ramblings. I certainly do, and am constantly amazed at your energy and sheer determination to succeed in whatever you do. Apart from that, as a shove a bunch of flowers in a vase of water type of flower arranger, I am even more in awe of your talent. Those vases are beautiful and I bet they are treasured by those who bought them. xx Maggie

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  11. You know Barbara, that's what I love about you and understand best... to work hard! I love flower arranging and my brother and I used to engrave old slate roofing tiles... I loved it... the design would disappear as soon as you wet it to get rid of all the engraving dust... and then the magic happened... it's like taking the stencil off, you know the big reveal... as it dried the image would appear; magical, beautiful, exciting! You know. that's just what I enjoy about Clarity best... Exciting, new and innovative. Love it!

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  12. Love reading your stories. Anyone thinking of starting their own business should read them they are such an inspiration . It makes you realise that with hard work and dedication your dreams can come true. Barbara I wish you and your family a very happy healthy and prosperous new year and as we say here in Scotland " lang may yer lum reek " xx

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  13. I remember those vases. I always lusted after one but I'm sad to say that my pennies went on stamps in preference. Mind you I'd never give any of my beloved Clarity stamps away - but the vases and how they looked with the long stem flowers in them were stunning.
    Not only has it been fun and wonderful to hear your stories, it has also bought back many happy memories for me, TFS Barbara. I wish you and yours a fantastic New Year - onwards and upwards as they say. One day Clarity Stamps will rule the world lol!, it already does in my world! xx

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  14. A fascinating and interesting story again Barbara, I so look forwards to your Tuesday blog and I have so much admiration for you in all what you have done and achived in your life, yet you are so natural in the way you inspire us to try and be as creative as you.
    You truly I in a million. A Happy New Year to you and yours Xx

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  15. I've got one of your slate vases, I've had it for years. Haven't used it in quite a while as it became a fascination to the grandchildren so had to put it away. I know exactly where it is so when my daughter stops having babies and they grow up a bit I shall have it out again to display my flowers.

    I had no idea you'd made these. I bought it at a show somewhere, can't remember where. Just fell in love with it.
    Happy New Year to all at Clarity and all blog followers.

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  16. Barbara, I really look forward to Tuesdays and your blog. It just gives such an insight into what can be achieved if you put your mind to it. And I would definately call you an entrepreneur. You got to where you are with hard work and now bring so much joy to others. Here is to an even more successful 2014 for the 'Clarity Family'.
    Elaine

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  17. What a truly talented lady you are….lucky to have the support of all your loved ones behind you as well, I've said it before and I will say it again….your family must be very proud of you! It must be very heart warming for you all to look back at the 90's and remember all these events and learning curves you have had and think wow…did I really do all that! No wonder you take that IPad everywhere you go - taking pictures to capture those memories is very very important. The vases look lovely…I have one of your mums slate pendants and love it so if that is anything to go on I can imagine how the vases looked in real life!!! Your flower presentation skills are wow too!
    Have a wonderful New Years Eve… roll on Sunday when you are on the TV and I raise my glass to you for a prosperous and exciting Clarity New Year, much love to you and all of your family and those Clarity workers xxxx

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    1. Mum makes the slate pendants from the cores of the vases, the apertures! Dad drills them for her. Waste not want not! X

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  18. I just love these insights into your background as I find them very inspiring. xx

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  19. Barb you never cease to amaze and inspire me!
    I can remember when I first started crafting that I couldn't get my head around why anyone would ever want to buy a stamp! In my minds eye then I couldn't understand how once you had used the stamp why would you ever use it again!!! Then I came to a craft Show at the Reebok stadium at Bolton and right on the first corner you saw was Clarity stamps. You were there in a little enclosed booth beavering away with a little corner stamp and a small multicloured adirondack inkpad and I was transfixed. I watched your demo over and over then walked round the show and came back and watched you again....then because of your P...Presentation I bought my first ever stamp (a little corner stamp) and one of the inkpads!!! And I picked up a card which lead me to the website....and I remember on there a whole new world opened up to me.
    But also on there were the beautiful slate vases!
    I do love Tuesdays as you share such lovely memories but also very often invoke me to take a trip down memory lane too! Hugs and love to you and I look forward to the New Year 2014 and hope its a happy one for you and yours! xx

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    1. Jane, know just what you mean! I started carding via die cutting and thought about stamping as 'colouring in'. I couldn't understand why people would buy them - even the cheaper ones - to use just once! Now I know!!! Happy new year to all at clarity!!

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    2. I am another who said that stamping was not for me. Not too many years ago, I walked round the NEC show and complained because there were so many stamp companies and I just could not see the point of stamping an image- not at all creative. I did not even look at any demos. All I wanted was cross stitch stalls. I did get creative with doping my own designs, even doing a huge A3 sampler for a wedding (put the kiss of death on the marriage as they broke up four years later) where I designed a collage of their interests. Oh boy, have I changed my mind now. I still enjoy cross stitch, knitting crochet and loads of other things, but I now understand the creativity of stamping, and that has helped me to get back to trying my own drawing etc. I love taking a blank piece of paper and creating something on it even if it is not perfect. Thank you, Barbara, fo opening my eyes to something I had not thought of. xx Maggie

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    3. Girls, I started crafting with x stitch and still do. I enjoyed decoupaging but now stamping is a whole new world - I think about it more than do it and my New Year Resolution is to join the Clarity Challenge. Stamping and die cutting for me from now on. Not forgetting gelli plate that is still in packet - was supposed to get on with that this holiday and have I - no! but I will. At least I made a blog for when I've got something pretty to report!

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  20. Beautiful vases, is there no end to your talent. I know what hard work it must be but how amazing you can use your talents in your work in everything you have done, long may it continue x

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  21. What talents do you have that are not yet shared with us, Barbara?? There seems to be no end to them, and I love to read your stories of the past. I have friends who have just started making tableware from slate...it's beautiful! I wonder if they ever thought you could make vases from it...?? I look forward to reading your blog throughout 2014, and would like to wish you a very happy New Year!

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    1. Well tell your friends I still have a load of pinholders here! And terracotta reservoirs!

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  22. Hello Barb, you continue to amaze everyone with your life stories, and this one even more. I remember seeing these at a show in Milton Keynes years ago, and thinking what a great idea. I regret not having bought one now. However if you had not continued to persevere with the stamps, we would not be enjoying the phenomenon that we know today. Happy New Year to you and your family and all your followers, may 2014 bring us a multitude of inspiring blogs and more fantastic Clarity creativity. Bx

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  23. What a shame the vase making had to be left behind. I'm sure there are many more homes that would benefit from a beautiful slate vase - mine for one. Slate has a lovely feel to it. I have quite a few slate coasters and clock blanks from my time in Wales and really need to get them in use somehow.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Beryl xx

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  24. Tuesday is my favourite day too! What a clever lady you are. The vases are stunning, what an amazing idea and the arrangements look fantastic. Hope you have a good new years eve. Joan x

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  25. Hi Barb,
    Another wonderful look into the world of Barbara Gray! What an extremely talented person you are. The vases are gorgeous and like JackieCou if you ever decide to do them again I would have one! However, it is also you who got me back into stamping. I had tried other stamps without success (always smudged them) and then I saw you on C&C and was inspired and bought a couple of your stamps and was hooked! I now have about 100 stamps including the little ones and would not give any away! So from my heart, thank you so much for your hard work over the years and also your inspiration, and now also your blog & time. Have a wonderful New Year everyone and looking forward to seeing you on C&C at the weekend.Alison xxxx

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  26. Good morning Barbara, I always look forward to your Tuesday post and today's is no exception. Thank you for the view of your memories/experiences, you certainly have a gift and are indeed an entrepreneur. You certainly deserve your success as you have worked so hard for it. I hope you have a very happy and prosperous New Year. x

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  27. The vases looked so elegant and I love lilies, the perfume lingers for such a long time. Pity the stamps overtook the vases, but there again the stamps are fab. I really look forward to my 'Happy Post' day; as my friend Julie calls it; when my members 'package' arrives.

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  28. It doesn't sound as though you have had an easy time but striving makes us appreciate much more what we have got, and I know you will. HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and yours.

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  29. Good Morning Barb
    Not only do you inspire, bit it is your courage to follow your dream! When I was left to manage 3 teenagers.. I chose the safe option and worked for an Insurance Company.
    I am in awe of your ability to provide for your family. Each time I read your blog I am amazed !
    Happy New Year to you Barb you deserve it!
    Love Marg

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  30. I did have some of Mum's Slate Fobs and necklaces , never had one of the Vases sorry to say ,they looked lovely too xx

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  31. What a shame you have given up the slate vases, I'm a great fan of slate, especially that from the Lake District, and I would have loved one from there. Still I suppose you have to do what keeps the wolf from the door the most. Happy New Year's Eve to you!

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  32. Lovely blog today, yet again an insight into your world. You certainly appreciate what you have got when you have to work that hard to get it. Love the slate vases up here in North Wales we have loads of derelict slate quarries around us, it's such a wonderful tactile thing , turning it into such a decorative yet simple thing as your vases was genius xxx Happy prosperous 2014 to you and your family xxx Annie

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  33. These are beautiful vases, very unusual but I am glad you chose to pursue the stamping business. Tonight I am off to a party and am taking a bowl of your Germany potato salad. I'll let you know how it is received. Happy New year to you and your family. Hope 2014 is all you want it to be.
    Lesley

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    1. Me too, Lesley. Large bowl of German potato salad is going with me and my raspberry and hazelnut meringue. Can't wait to see how it is received. xx Maggie

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  34. Lovely vases ,love your flowers ,Have a Happy new year ,Pauline xxxx

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  35. amazing vases Barbara and what an amazing lady you are - another string to your bow - wow - who would have thought it - but diversifying is such a cool piece of advice - love it! Happy New year! Hugs Rachel xx

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  36. I love the idea of those vases, and I love reading your blog. The flowers Mark bought you are very pretty too :) Happy Hogmanay and may 2014 bring you all that you wish for.

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  37. You are one amazing lady, so many talents. I reckon even I could manage to arrange flowers in one of those beautiful vases and if nobody liked my display then they would be certain to admire the vase. Years ago when my kids were little I used to make soft toys to sell, wombles were the craze then and I made loads of them. Even had my dear mum knitting scarves for them. I still have the pattern. Your Tuesday blog is great lovely to hear how successful people like you got started. Happy New Year Lynne xx

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  38. It's truly inspiring to read what can be achieved through hard work and diligence. Who would have thought that the person who sold their vases at Stonor, where we visited the craft fairs, would be the person who inspired me in later life to use stamps in my card crafting. A small world as they say. Thank you.

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  39. You have had a very diverse past but that all goes into making you the talented and inspirational person you are today! Happy new year :) XX

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  40. Hi Barbara, I have seen these wonderful vases at the Penshurst Craft Fair on many an occasion and they are beautiful, such a shame you can't make them any more. Still you just don't know whats round the next corner------ there might be a new venture for Clarity! Keep up the great work and the wonderful blog, many thanks Jane x

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    1. I agree Jane - a new venture for the New Year - it will be new for us if not for Barbara!

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  41. Ii´s always so motivierend to read about your private Story. Love those vases, wonderful! I wish you "einen gute Rusch ins Neue Jahr" and a wonderful and Happy New Year. xx

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  42. I love these trips down memory lane and really like these vases as they are so unusual. I have never seen them before and if you ever got the chance I would love to see these back in the market. I love reading your blog everyday and look forward to seeing what Clarity will be bringing us in 2014. I wish you, your family and all those who work at Clarity a wonderful new year and hope that all your dreams come true.

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  43. I really enjoy all your Blogs, Barbara. Those vases look amazing. Happy New Year to you and all your wonderful team. I can't wait to see/read what you have for us all in the next twelve months. God bless. x

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  44. Thoe vases are just stunning. Thanks for sharing another part of your life, and what a great thing to be able to have the help of all the family.
    Happy New Year to you and your family.
    Laurence x

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  45. What a lovley insight the vases are beautiful would have love to have bought one .your blog each day I love to read, I received my design club stamp yesterday and reading your letter in their I look forward to each month happy new year to you and your family and all at clarity .thank you for all your inspiration .
    Sheila xx

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  46. Those vases are stunning - I would love to own one! Another lovely blog post - it is fascinating to learn about your career. Your tenacity and creativity are inspiring - and it is great to hear that you have always had the support of your family too. Happy New year to you, your family and all at Clarity :)

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  47. I think the vases are beautiful, I would certainly buy one if they were available. Thanks for another great insight into your past. Up til recently I've always worked for a company but now I am trying to generate enough income at something I love doing..........you've given me the confidence to try. Happy New Year to you, your family and your team.

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  48. I love the glimpses into the past on a Tuesday. Wishing you, Dave, Mark & Grace a very, very happy new year!

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  49. oh barbara to think i have probably walked past you several times in stonleigh not knowing it was you then. pity as i think i would have loved those vases. their concept is great xx

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  50. I gave one of your vases to a good friend for her birthday one year - it was just lovely! I also remember buying some of the "middles" that your mum had made into handbag charms and pendants at one of your workshops in Kent - my staff really loved them. Thanks for the insights into running your own business - I stopped working for the NHS just about 3 years ago, and we now run a guest house - such hard work, but we get to meet lovely people, and not having all the hassle of being employees and having to make decisions by committee is very refreshing. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and take a chance don't you - wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year - hope the plan you made in France will give you some more "me" or "we" time in 2014! Susan x

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  51. Loved today's post. I used to own 2 florist shops before I had a family & really enjoyed your blast from the past. Lovely arrangement by the way !

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  52. Definitely an entrepreneur Barbara and a very impressive one at that. The vases are very lovely and I love hearing about your long journey to 'overnight' success. Happy New Year to you and yours. Lx

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  53. newsflash! Asked my brother. He still has 20 slate vases left, which he is happy to sell.

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    1. That's good news, you'll have to tell us how much they are & how we buy them! Alison xxx

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  54. My friend is lucky enough to have one of your vases (like the one you had at the top of the blog) that she got from the Penshurst show years ago. She still uses it and agrees that it keeps flowers fresh for ages. It is interesting to hear how they came about.
    janet (in Kent)

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  55. Another fascinating incite into your Clarity world. The vases look beautiful. Wishing you, your family and everyone at Clarity a very prosperous and happy New year. X

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  56. Another fascinating insight into your journey, diversifying hmmmm food for thought. The slate vases are stunning, such a beautifully simple design xx

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  57. Wow Barbara, I had no idea that the vases were yours. I have one bought by my Mum from Stonor years ago. It is one of my treasured posessions and I love displaying my flowers in it, especially lillies! Thank you Barbara

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  58. Love hearing your story of how you became who you are today. I would love one of your vases too. Happy new year!

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  59. I've never seen your lovely vases before Barbara, i think slate is such a lovely tactile medium ,a friend used it to tile her kitchen window sill and it looks really good. As for flowers, well i would take any help going in keeping a bunch alive longer than a couple of days,never had even the palest of green fingers. If there are any vases left i would definitely like to buy one. Best wishes to you all.x

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Thank you for your kind messages and I hope you get inspiration from my ramblings.

Barb x