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.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Monkey Creatures

While working on the latest MATS assignment for Lilla Rogers Studio (which I will blog about very soon) I was drawing some creatures that I (at least) don't usually know. 
From Okapis to Tapirs to these guys:

Who are Lion Tamarins - a type of monkey that look as though they have lion manes. It was just after I'd got back from Japan, so I was spending some jet lagged woozy days sitting around, playing with the kuretakes, brush pens and silky ink I had brought back with me. The cheeky monkey faces made me smile when they came alive and I knew I wanted to use them in some way. I still am going to develop them by adding colours and more hand-sewn techniques in the very near future... but I refined and made a bunch of them, then I spent some time trying to make them into a repeat pattern. My first idea was to create a shirt just for me to wear... but it wasn't really working out, I felt like they needed more play. So one evening, after work, I sat down and started to embroider one of the monkeys on to calico and appliqué his body. 

I really loved how he came out, so then I did eight more!

Then made them into these monkey shaped pillows/toys/decorations 

I still want to make a monkey themed item of clothing and play with different versions in some bright colours. But I love these so much! I love their cheeky faces and how funny these objects are. What do you think? 

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Pumpkin Farm & Temp Tattoos

Yesterday we went to the local pumpkin farm to truly embrace autumn and the spooky season. We also popped on my Halloween temporary tattoos for a little photoshoot. They are available in my shop, suitable for children (and big emo kids like us!) and Halloween parties! There are bats, cats, ghosts, pumpkins, moons, spooky hands and skulls. Check them out here:

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


It's OCTOBER! My favourite month. I love it and every year I know I bang on about the leaves, the big scarfs, the dark nights, that it's acceptable to mull all drinks, hot chocolate evrrrryday, baking, knitting, crisp air and of course, HALLOWEEN. I get more excited about Halloween than Christmas. I just love the visuals. This year, Cat Ball's are back and in my shop right now! 

There's a big one and a small one. My real cat uses a small one as a toy and the big ones a decoration for Halloween/all year, a toy, a pillow... whatever. They are all unique, no two are exactly the same. Go and trick or treat yo' self! Or if you fancy getting crafty, last year I made a downloadable pattern so you can make your own! You can find that here!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Just the two of us: bear and cat.

Here is a recent one off commission I made. A lovely man got in touch after seeing my ‘Just the two of us’ greetings cards I made around Valentines Day last year, based on my Staffordshire Pottery paintings. He wanted a little one off for his fiancée, so I obliged: 

No Outcome / New Term

--> Whoa. I can’t believe I have neglected this for so long! Working at two institutions really took it’s toll and I needed a big break this summer. I was super lucky to go to Japan! Which was amazing.! I also bought a house (eeek!) so you can imagine those two activities have taken over my time over the last few months, as well as having a well deserved rest. It’s the start of a new term now though, I’m three weeks back in, which leaves you feeling whether the summer break actually did happen or not? Last week I kick started the new term at the annual Graphic Design Educators Network at the fabulous Institute for Arts in Sheffield. I spoke about No Outcome – a paper I’ve delivered at three separate conferences now. No Outcome is a fortnightly workshop I run at Nottingham Trent University, where students have the opportunity to make and play free from the pressure of assessment. I believe that assessment can kill innovation and students, who saddled with a huge fee and looming debt, are acting like consumers. I passionately do not want them to see education as a product to be purchased, with a degree classification – or any grade, at any stage, becoming a currency that they exchange for a job. I want them to learn and play and make and take risks and grow and intrinsically make and play for the sake of making and playing not for any external gain – or worry.  The paper was well received and I met some amazing other lecturers and academics who I hope to collaborate with this up and coming year. I love this back-to-school, new start vibe around this time of year. Perhaps that’s the outlook I can have with this blog… new start, back on it. 

Monday, 19 June 2017

Two for joy.

As mentioned a few posts ago, I have been working at LCA on the MAGPi pathway of FAD. Whoa, acronym central there or what?! LCA  = Leeds College of Art. MAGPi = Moving Image, Advertising, Graphic Design, Photography, Illustration. It’s been so much fun, I’ve loved being back at Leeds. Last week I blogged about our amazing FAD show, check it out. I also work at NTU (Nottingham Trent University) and trying to fit in my own work alongside being split in half at two institutions, teaching across level 3 up to level 5 (occasionally level 7!) has been (great fun, don’t get me wrong) but has left me time poor to carry on creating my own work, which I feel that I need to do to feed into my teaching practice, and for a general happy creative life. If I don’t draw or make something frequently, I just feel so … sad, so....pent up. It’s like my own Maslow hierarchy of needs - on the bottom rung; food, create, run, go to a gym class. Anyway – digressing…. today was my last day! I have also decided to halt working at the college during the summer holidays – I have been teaching classes with the Young Creatives – a portfolio development class and general art classes for students aged 7 up to 18, which has been so much fun and really inspiring.

The time has come, however, to move on, to concentrate on making more work, to stop giving so much of myself away and be a little bit selfish and make more for me. So as I depart, I wanted to leave a little memento. I’ve been enjoying working with wood recently - one of the many things I want to spend my time exploring more of - playing around making some wall hanging experiments and I thought that two (for joy) MAGPi(es) would be quite fitting. Adios LCA!