Illia Price - Caledonia Glass
I've lived aboard my beloved narrowboat since August 2014. Previously I was buying, renovating and selling on houses in order to own my own outright. I also worked on major renovation projects for other people, mostly as part of a team. I'd lived in Scotland (various parts) for 30 years before moving to the Midlands in 2012. In my time I've also been a Signmaker, a plasterer and a groom (horses) as well as doing several more menial jobs to earn a crust.
My main source of income is my industrial engraving business which I started in 1986 with a small bank loan and a second hand manual engraving machine. I specialise in producing botanical garden labels and am a well known supplier in horticultural circles. My labels are used in many major UK horticultural institutions. I also send them overseas, from Jersey to Japan. These days I have modern computer driven engraving tables and associated equipment, all housed in a cosy garden office.
I got the idea to live on a boat when I saw one for sale whilst walking along the towpath around Alvechurch.
After much research I discovered the rules and regulations would allow me to live aboard as a continuous cruiser.
While I was finishing my last house I read everything I could find about narrowboating method and etiquette.
When I was ready to buy I searched online.
My boat was the only one I actually went to see, being the right size, with cruiser stern, within budget and in need of refitting which I wanted to do to my taste. And I liked the look of her.
The boat was at Aldermaston and I needed to get her back to Alvechurch ASAP to get on with the ever mounting engraving orders.
I'd only briefly steered a narrowboat before so I booked a one to one helmsman's course for the first day of my single handed journey.
It gave me the confidence to tackle the 130 miles of river and canals and as many locks without any major mistakes. It took me 12 days, with two lost to breakdowns.
life changing experience
It was one of those life changing experiences and I loved most minutes of it!
Since then I've refitted the interior. Put in new windows etc. Had a new engine and back decks fitted last winter. This winter it's overplating after which Caledonia will probably outlive me. She was built in 1974, a 48' Fernie (very similar to a Harborough Marine but with a steel top)
I cruise many miles and commute to work during the milder months. Over the winter I cruise, take a mooring in the Midlands, or have the boat out of the water for Winter Works.
caledonia glass is born
I've always been keen on crafts and love glass in all its forms.
I decided to have a go at decorating with lead and glass paint a few years ago for Christmas presents for the family and got hooked!
Soon my boat was full of it so I applied for a trading licence which was granted. To my surprise others liked and bought it. It's now become my spare time passion, seeking out interesting items to decorate and planning what design to use. Most of my designs are inspired by nature.
Since I became a canal trader I've been welcomed by other floating traders and made some fantastic friends. I feel it's important not to copy something another boater does and I'm confident I have a unique product.
I sell as much as I can make in my spare time, attending some of the wonderful canal festivals and floating markets during the spring and summer months and at land based craft fairs in the run up to Christmas.
I also like to go to a Christmas floating market if I can. The atmosphere is generally great.
I don't sell online or post glass out as I just don't have the time (or will) to administer it.
I like to cruise in a different direction each year if possible, though the Midwest is a firm favourite so far (Shroppie, Llangollen, Trent &Mersey, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, River Weaver and the delightful Bugsworth Basin).
I'd like to get much further afield eventually...
Illia Price, trading as Caledonia Glass, has been a member of Roving Canal Traders since she began her canal business. She creates beautiful works of art using lead and glass paint, and it's a great testament to her skill as a boat designer (and her boat handling skills!) that she can carry so much glass aboard a narrowboat without breaking any of it!
Follow Caledonia Glass on Facebook to find out where she is trading. Illia will only sell from the towpath or land based craft fairs; she is unable to accept online orders or post items out.