Thursday, 19 July 2018

Lucky black cat wall hangings.

I have been using the laser cutter at the Art House to cut out wooden versions of the Chewy (the cat who inspired my appliquéd bags) I really enjoy painting on wood and I thought that my characters would lend themselves well. I cut out a few of these, and handprinted them. Then I screwed in a ring and placed a ribbon as a hook so that it can be hung - anywhere. They are also vanished so that you can hang them outside or inside with no worries. I believe - I know some people don't - but, I believe that black cats are lucky (beautiful mini panthers they are) so you can hang one in your home and feel lucky all the time! They are up in my shop now! 

The Art House

I have been spending a lot of time at the amazing Art House in Wakefield recently. It's this great studio set up, where artists, designers and makers can rent studio space and create, but also it is home to an amazing print studio, where you can become a member and use it - which I've been doing. They also run a variety of workshops and classes, which I've been involved with! I ran a placard making workshop with the TUC recently and in September I will be running creative workshops for children. You can read more about that on their website, where the classes are regularly updated. The ethos of the Art House is so great - they give artists, designers, makers and hobbyists time and space to make, play, experiment and nurture their practice. The building, as well is beautiful, full of quirky windows, wonderful open spaces, large ceilings and luscious green victorian tiles. It's just opposite Wakefield Westgate train station, which is less than fifteen mins from Leeds, twenty five mins from Sheffield and lots of other places up and down the country. The Art House is such a gem in the city - I have loved making work there, the space and the community of artists and makers that work there have really inspired me recently and the well equipped facilities enable me to be such productive. 

If you want to check it out, the Art House is open late on the bi-monthly Wakefield Art walk, where you can explore the creative going ons in the city. Check out their website to find out more. 

So, what have I been making at the Art House? I have been taking advantage of their printing facilities and my expanding obsession with Staffordshire pottery to add to my Staffordshire pottery collections. I have been drawing my positives and layers by hand using Posca pens on to tracing paper and then exposing them in the Art House....

... to make three colour A3 prints...

... and repeat patterns of the dogs on to 100% cotton which I have made into household items in my shop! All prints and items are now listed online, if you'd like to look! 

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

New Site!

New website is LIVE! I would love it if you checked it out : 

Saturday, 7 April 2018


Back at the start of the year I set myself a few creative challenges. To kick start, in January I did a painting a day which you can read and see here. I also challenged myself to make an individual new make every week - so I should have at least 52 new items or illustrations by the end of the year - which I'll showcase then. Usually, I say to myself - make a zine a month or make a new collection based on a theme, but I have come to realise that I like and respond well to a variety - a variety of work, a variety of projects on the go and having a big variety in my life. When I would set myself one thing to do I would usually not stick to it and instead of saying that I've failed at sticking to it, I think it's much better to realise why I haven't achieved it, what does it say about how I work and what I respond to. Since working that out, I have found it so much more achievable (dare I say easy?!) to make something new every week - from a new zine, to a product, a screen-print to an illustration or a character design to be printed on to fabric. Touch wood I will be able to keep it up! It's always a worry when you say something out loud and aren't quietly working on it that it comes unravelled, but I'm finding working in this way super motivating and I've been really productive in making lots of new (I think cool!) items!

Also I have been taking the MATS Bootcamp 2018 assignments, as they help me to think about subjects out of my own mind and experience and push me to create something different. They also count towards a new make a week too! I thought I would show them off as one downside to my self set creative challenge is that I was planning on sharing everything at the end of the year - but - then I realised that I am neglecting my blog! oops. This assignment was based on an inspirational women, which we had to make a book cover for. We had to research an allocated person. Mine was Maira Kalman. WHO IS AMAZING. If you don't know her, treat yourself to watching a TED talk or reading an interview. I found her to be a feisty, funny, inspirational lady, super creative with a fabulous outlook on life. 

We had to imagine what she would have in her bag and design a cover based on this. Here is my response:

I painted envelopes of moss (which she says she likes to collect from all over the world), a mug of coffee, with an 'M' for Maria, painted in the Bodoni type face (which she loves and has named her daughter after), ink and brush, a Russian doll (her Mother is Russian), a block of Cheddar (she says good Cheddar is good for ideas) and lots of photographs of dogs - which she says she takes and keeps. They are my favourite part of the illustration, you know me, I love making characters:  

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Staffordshire Dog Fabric

New in my shop! I recently printed some Staffordshire Dogs on to four different colour-ways and whipped up these fun multipurpose storage bags which are now in my shop, with lots of different lining and bright coloured zippers! I'd love to know what you think!

January Creative Challenge

I kick started 2018 off with a creative daily challenge - to paint a pattern a day, led by the ever inspiring Lisa Congdon. (Here is a link to the fab online classes she teaches). Everyone is raring to go in January aren't they? It's a perfect time to try something new, do a new challenge or revisit something. I really enjoyed painting every day and was really motivated to see my little pile of pattern samples build up over the month. Here are the results of a gouache painting a day: 

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Applique Cat Bags - inspired by Chewy!

When I pulled out my friend Ellie's name in the Secret Santa at work, I knew I wanted to get her something special... so I decided to make her a little useful bag that immortalised her cat Chewy, who arrived in her family's life this year. Chewy is a black cat with striking orange eyes. A few months ago, I had one of my good luck black cat cards on my desk, pinned up for a daily dose of good vibes and she had commented that it looked like Chewy. So I decided to make one a bit more Chewy-like - with the orange eyes and whip it up into a make-up/storage bag. The black cat has been applique on to the bright green cotton and the features have been hand embroidered. The bag is lined with padding and a dotty black fabric. I made one for myself too, as a practice (and a new make-up bag for me too!) I love how they have turned out! I posted them on twitter on the @handmadehour hashtag and I got an amazing response! I think I might make a short run this week and I'll pop them into my shop by Tuesday (maybe? hopefully?) so they will make the last Christmas post deadline in case anyone is interested in a last minute gift! 

Saturday, 16 December 2017

MATS: Wall Art

The latest Make Art That Sells assignment that I completed was called 'Wall Art' and, to be honest, I found it really challenging! We were assigned two colours - mine being red and purple which we were only allowed to use (alongside neutrals - so black, while, greys) in our work. I embraced this part of the assignment because I feel that I do need to restrict myself more with colour palettes. I think I am definitely better at using colour than when I was a student - often overwhelmed by every variation of every shade and tint available on photoshop - which I think is common when you are starting out. I also LOVE colour and have in the past, just not known when to stop, wanting to use all the combinations I can - at the same time. Even when I dress myself, I have always gone for the boldest brightest and often, most unfashionable colours that may not compliment. As I'm typing this, I'm reliving a lime green dress that I thought was amazing back when I was an early teen and wore it to every school-hall disco and ice staking night out I could, much to my friends (very vocal) horror. 

What I'm trying to say is, that I am aware that I need to keep working on my use of colour - keep refining, keep playing. But that's like anything - everything - isn't it? I suppose it's also about feeling confident in your own choices, when with lots of conflicting opinion it can be hard to be sure that something is working. Maybe I actually need to channel the spirit of young and brave teenage Jenna in the lime green dress, who really didn't care if anyone else thought she looked cool or not... 

Back to the assignment...  The first task was to create or collect as many items, patterns, papers, objects with the colours on. I spent a day painting, printing and drawing lines, shapes, textures and patterns. Which I scanned in to my computer. 

Then the second part was to combine this into a piece of wall art, with a quote and florals that could be sold at Anthropologique. So like a dream brief really... this was the challenging part for me, I started to think about what is for sale at Anthropologique at the moment - which I absolutely love anyway and began to feel a bit overwhelmed - how can I work honestly but try and fit the audience of Anthropologique? So I stumbled and overthought for a while really focused on the floral requirement of the brief, which derailed me... but then I reflected on what I am good at illustrating, what do I enjoy illustrating? Lila Rogers always says that people relate to your joy and if you are creating what gives you joy, it will shine through in your work and people will connect with it.

I think that I am good at making endearing characters with funny but charming personalities and I love creating them! They make me smile the most... so I thought I would add some critters and characters in my piece, which started to make me feel more comfortable....but what kind of creatures? Why would they be there? The piece needed to have a quote, so what kind of quote would hold it all together? 

I thought about what I believe in - things like 'turn off the TV', 'go on an adventure', 'being brave', 'just go for it' that 'making makes ideas'.... I looked through some old note books where I often record overheard conversations, inspirational quotes from films - or even sometimes scrawled on the back of toilet doors in clubs and pubs. One stood out which, I think, I wrote down when watching a film about graffiti artists called 'Beautiful Losers'. Someone on the film had said something about how we all have the right to be us, and I loved it. 'You have the right to be you undiluted and true' fitted well with strange little characters too. I thought about just making up random characters from my own imagination but I wanted it to be more meaningful than that, so I looked through a hefty illustrated animal encyclopedia and sketched animals that aren't familiar to me - or here in the UK at least - such as okapis, lion tamarin monkeys (which later became other objects and characters you can check them out here),  some unusual rats and deers too.

Then I added them all together, using the hand-painted samples I had made right at the beginning added them to the piece and lots of handmade textures. The final is a mixture of hand painted, handmade patterns and textures, hand-drawn and digitally coloured. The brief was to make the image a square size. Overall, even though it took a long time to get to where I wanted it to be - I really enjoyed the process and the final outcome. I would have never of made something like this, but I still feel that it is true to my own voice and hand. I have recently had some printed at 41cm x 41cm they are available as prints in my etsy shop!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Monkeys at Modern Painters, New Decorators.

Remember my Lion Tamarin monkey plushes/pillows/toys/objects? Well, I recently shipped off some to Modern Painters, New Decorators a fab shop in Loughborough. They are currently running a Winter Shop Pop-up with lots of amazing handmade items from local makers. It is open until the 23rd Dec and all the information is on the facebook page, where you can browse their stock! I can't wait to visit (watch out purse!) and I'll share photos once I do. 

I have also found out that these lovely lion-looking monkeys are endangered, so for every sale I will be sending 10% of the sale to the WWF to help all endangered animals like these guys.

Each monkey is made by hand and individual. There are some available in my etsy.

Sunken Studio: Make, Play and Chats with Rebecca.

Earlier this year I visited Sunken Studio, which is an absolutely beautiful workspace in Roundhay in Leeds, run by Rebecca. I met Rebecca back in 2013 when I was working at the Leeds College of Art (now Leeds Arts University). Rebecca taught and ran the Object and Spatial Design pathway on the Foundation Diploma, while I was on the MAGPi Pathway. 

She now solely runs Sunken Studio, where she delivers thoughtful workshops - which are so much more than learning how to construct an object. Read though her insightful blog, which will not only keep you up to date with the happenings at Sunken Studio - but where she writes passionately about process, play and technique - knowledge and insight that she openly shares with you as you indulge yourself in the world of clay and making. Since my visit Sunken Studio has growth from strength to strength, holding workshops in North Yorkshire, collaborating with Colours May Vary in Leeds and Mauds House in Skipton and currently selling ceramic jewellery at a pop up shop in Headingely.

Rebecca invited me into the studio to apply my illustrations on to her ceramics to use as examples in her up and coming workshops. Working in a beautiful space, the hours flew by as I spent a Saturday applying my characters into ceramics. Apart from going to a 'paint-your-own-pot' cafe-type set up in York a few years ago, I haven't had much experience translating my illustrations on to ceramics. I have always admired the work of Vicky Lindo and more recently Alex Sickling - as well as following an army of illustrators/ceramicists over on Instagram. So it was great fun to give it a go myself, under Rebecca's guidance. 

Over lunch, we had an energising conversation about craft, running workshops, learning through making and art and our shared interest of design education. Rebecca was telling me about a workshop that she runs with a local primary school, which is pure No Outcome. No Outcome is an ideology manifest as a workshop series which I run at Nottingham Trent University, based on the assumption that assessment kills innovation, and students should be given the time and space to make and play outside of their assessed work. She works with the pre-primary school students giving them lumps of clay which they play and make with, then fold it up and put it away. She said that at the start they were hiding in the corner, crying out of frustration that they couldn’t take anything that ‘real’ home to show their parents. They were frustrated that what they were making wasn’t recognisable and that they couldn’t roll out the clay. But, slowly and surely they began to work with it, to roll it out and to play. They were becoming more dexterous. I really enjoyed this story, making links to No Outcome – the clear emotional reaction to not being able to have something that looked like what they imagined, that they put value on things looking like existing objects or the fact that an object had to be constructed for there to be any value in the activity was really interesting. Where has that come from? Why do some Higher Education students feel that way too? Is it so ingrained that for something to have value it must be something that is made when the value comes from the practice, the process and the skills that they help to develop. The things we cannot obviously document. I loved hearing about how the pre-primary school students use the clay to solve problems, to become more co-ordinated and confident. It is a shame that these activities at school are seen more and more as extras as anything but 'core', when solving problems through making, through play, through exploring the constraints of materials is so important, for so many reasons and the lessons and skills learnt can be so transferable. I think I would be lost without the practical, problem solving escape of the art room and the home economics block at school and, to me, it feels horrifying that these ways of learning are becoming seen as 'extras' when to many they are vital. 

Certainly food for thought - and this is what I mean by spending time at Sunken Studio, you get so much more than making a pot. Although coming back to collect the fired results was thrilling and nervous - my favourite being these cat tiles which (I think) look great! I've just moved into a new home and I can't wait to incorporate them somewhere into the redecoration. 

You can find a series of workshops at Sunken Studio on Rebecca's website.
Follow Sunken Studios on Instragram @sunkenstudioleeds
Go and say hello at the Carousel in Headingley until the 9th Dec.