Posted on March 17, 2017

A Green Collage for St Patrick’s Day

Green is poison and envy and nature and purity.

It’s trees and leaves and moss and algae. The flight of summer’s exotic birds and a delicate butterfly and leafy palms and frog spawn.

I love green. Every shade: mint, olive, grass, pine, chartreuse…

For this week’s GREEN-themed collage I chose a woodland theme: this lone toadstool standing proud in the silence (is it silent if there’s no-one there to hear?)

Into the Woods, Green collage, The Collage Club

The bird’s nest adds a hint of colour and outsize interest in the foreground, confusing perspectives, while the angles of the branches just line up between the different forest imagery, the gloss of the photograph adding surface contrast (far right).

I love the juxtaposition of the brightly-coloured budgie perching on the toadstool in the gloom of the woods. Only in a collage!

And I couldn’t resist adding some detail in a combination of bright green-greenery mending wool and this snappy metallic yarn. It came out like a simple flower outline so I went with it.

Into the Woods, Green collage, The Collage Club

The shamrocks are an added, seasonal bonus considering the occasion. I didn’t go searching for them but I found them just the same. I guess that’s the luck of the Leprichaun Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Check out some other GREEN-themed collages, here and here, plus some fun green vignettes.

Find out more and join The Collage Club.


Posted on March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day: a pink collage

PINK is The Collage Club theme this week and I wasn’t sure what I was going to create.

That was until I thought about what pink as a colour means to me; how loaded it is with connotation, how and intrinsically connected it is with girls and women and the words ‘nice’ and ‘pretty’ among countless other vague and non-vibrant words.

Today is International Women’s Day and I’m proud to dedicate my PINK collage to all the women I know (and also those I don’t).

International Women's Day PINK Collage

I’ve got so many strong, vivacious, confident and go-getting women around me, now and as part of my heritage:

My Great Grandmother danced in the chorus line of Glasgow’s famous Empire Theatre.

My Nana was a lifeguard on the beaches of Cape Town.

My husband’s Gran was a Land Girl during the war.

My Mum was running her own pub at 21.

One of my favourite quotes about women is:

“A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Yes. I like that.

Here’s some more.

And I love this ‘Suffragette’ brooch featured on The Casket of Fictional Delights:

“Purple [amethyst] as everyone knows is the royal colour, it stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette, the instinct of freedom and dignity…white [seed pearls] stands for purity in private and public life…green [peridot] is the colour of hope and the emblem of spring.”

The women in my life have experienced love, betrayal, separation by the sea (at a time when travel took weeks by ship), divorce, domestic violence, abortion, miscarriage, a 72-hour labour, and more. They’ve come through it and they’ve carried on.

International Women’s Day according to the UN, is:

“a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.”

So let’s celebrate women today. Women all over the world.

Let’s ‘Be Bold For Change‘ and support and fight for the freedoms and choices we believe in. For the equality we have not yet attained, and for the basic rights that some of us enjoy but that are under threat around the world, now more than ever.

International Women's Day PINK Collage

PS: The Be Bold For Change theme for this year suggests wearing red to show your support. I’m wearing red pants, bra, tights, probably my red beret for the added ‘French resistance’ vibe, and I drive a red car. Here’s my RED collage from last week. And if I see a protest march, I’ll be joining in #IWD

And yes, I deliberately made those flowers look like breasts. Zelda (Fitzgerald – that’s her portrait I’ve used) would have been proud!

PPS. Does that red bottle top look like a crown? I hope so.


Posted on March 3, 2017

RED: The Collage Club

I love RED.

It makes me think of lips, red lips, red lipstick; a strong woman and wartime posters. Of buying red lipstick on a Friday afternoon as a pre-weekend perk-up (someone else, not me, because I don’t really wear red lipstick – except I did on my wedding day – Mac Ladybug).

This collage is a homage to red lips.

When I started looking through my cuttings and clippings for images of lips I thought of The Rolling Stones and then the song ‘Mixed Emotions’ began playing in my head and I had my title, theme, anchor point, surface detail: buttons.

Button your lip baby, button your coat, let’s go out dancing, go for the throat…

RED, Week 3, Button Your Lip, The Collage Club

I have buttons in abundance. Jars of them. Tins with them hiding in the bottom. My Nana’s button box.

I used to sew all the time and people used to give me buttons from their old family heirloom biscuit tins and sewing tins, but alas my precious collection has been gathering dust the last few years. It was a real delight then to go hunting for some vintage buttons for this collage.

RED, Week 3, Button Your Lip, The Collage Club

RED, Week 3, Button Your Lip, The Collage Club

Would they have been around in the era of The Rolling Stones? I think they would. Well I’m pretty sure, anyway.

I was going to apply lipstick and kiss the page as a final touch, but it would have got all smudged and it felt like maybe a step too far?

There’s enough lips here and I’m trying to learn when to stop, when to put the scissors and the glue down.

Find out about The Collage Club and join in…here’s my BLUE and YELLOW collages.

Meanwhile:

Let’s grab the world
By the scruff of the neck
And drink it down deeply
And love it to death

Lyrics from ‘Mixed Emotions’ by The Rolling Stones


Posted on February 25, 2017

YELLOW: The Collage Club

This is my second YELLOW collage, and I like it much better than the first. It feels more nostalgic, more me.

It’s called ‘YELLOW MEMORIES’:

YELLOW, Week 2, The Collage Club

It’s a thoroughly ‘mixed media’ collage because I’ve used a whole load of materials: tracing paper, magazine cuttings, fabric, pages from an old book, wire, watercolour paints, pencil, stamping, letter cut-outs, washi tape…

The vintage-esque yellow flowers on the magazine cutting immediately sent me back to childhood and the kinds of patterns that featured on wallpaper, bed linen, aprons and upholstery.

I was thinking Cabbage Patch dolls and naive illustrations and the innocence of very early childhood which is so impossible to recapture.

But there’s the future too, on Kepler 16b, ‘the land of two suns’, which felt like an appropriate nod to ‘yellow’.

And stamps, they go to the future don’t they?

Here’s the quote from the book page:

The great hall began to empty. Already it wore that drab deserted air of a vanished evening and the dawn of a tired day. There was a grey light on the terrace, I could see the shapes of the blown firework stands taking form on the lawns.

‘Good-bye; a wonderful party.’

‘I’m so glad.’

Find out more and join in with The Collage Club weekly prompts.


Posted on February 19, 2017

BLUE: The Collage Club

Blue waves, blue tears, blue sky. The blue of your eyes and your shirt and your jeans. Blue means blue means blue.
BLUE, Week 1, The Collage Club

I think this ‘BLUE‘ collage works on two levels. There are the varying tones of blue and also the rain (or tear) drops that indicate sadness or being ‘blue’.

I enjoyed the contrast between the clean scissor cuts of the raindrops/teardrops versus the ripped layers of what could be the sea or at least, a sea of tears.

The remnants of my cut-outs had such an interesting texture I couldn’t bring myself to discard them, so they crept into the mix too.

The great thing about collage is that every tiny piece or remnant becomes a jewel to be saved and reworked somewhere else, so nothing is wasted. That makes me super-happy.

Meanwhile, I’m doing a course at the moment on the power of colour. It’s fascinating, especially for someone like me who regularly works with colour in designing patterns and maintaining a regular art practice. Read about the psychology of blue (and what’s your favourite shade/tint?)

Next week’s prompt: YELLOW.

Check out The Collage Club for more information and to join in.


Posted on February 14, 2017

A Montage of Hearts

Hearts are everywhere, especially today as it’s Valentine’s, so it feels appropriate to feature a ‘montage of hearts’ from my life, art, craft and travels over the last few years.

I’m not saying hearts are ‘inspirational’ as such, (though they can be!)  but they lead to other things and they connote other things.

Heart-warming stories that inspire the soul. Healthy ways to look after your heart. Friendship, liaisons and romance. Love, probably most of all. I heart hearts.

Valentine Hearts

I always seem to see hearts in random places. What does that say about me? Am I hell-bent on love? Am I constantly wearing rose-tinted glasses? (I can confirm that I’m definitely not!)

I’ve art-journaled with hearts for the Get Messy ‘Season of Love‘:

Valentine Hearts

These wires made a heart all by themselves:

Valentine Hearts

The soap dish was a heart-felt find:

Valentine Hearts

I knitted a heart for a LOVE blanket (sadly still a WIP…):

Valentine Hearts

And I remember making this ‘heart of scraps’ collage:

Valentine Hearts

I’ve written in the ‘language of the heart’ in my typewriter poetry available on Etsy.

Valentine Hearts

Meanwhile, my pattern ‘Scattered Hearts‘ is available to buy via Spoonflower.

'Scattered Hearts' surface design pattern

You can also buy a version of this design with a white background as prints, on home furnishings, tech and travel mugs. What’s not to love?

Happy Valentine’s Day <3

PS. Remember my ‘Timbergram of Hearts’?


Posted on January 16, 2017

The physics of a rainbow

Last week I had the urge to paint a rainbow. A few rainbows in fact, while experimenting with new watercolour brushes.

Rainbows just feel so happy and inspiring; I think most people enjoy the fleeting appearance of one in the sky. It feels magical and special.

Whenever I see one I feel the need to stare it down until it flits away; not let it get away too fast but then of course those bright arcs of colour dissolve right before my eyes.

The physics of a rainbow

I read an article about the physics of a rainbow, and rearranged the words and sentences to make my own ‘rainbow-logic’. It reads something like this:

The image hovering between the clouds was formed by streaming sunlight. Sunlight reflected back towards us suspended in myriad tiny raindrops. Two refractions conspire to concentrate each wavelength of light. Parallel rays entering a spherical raindrop, bounce inside, and the angle of refraction depends on the light; it’s wavelength as it hits the surface. Wavelength corresponds to familiar bands of colour…

The physics of a rainbow

Meanwhile, selfishly I’ve been keeping my inspirations to myself since embracing 2017, and haven’t sent out my regular monthly inspiration-mail while I consider what I want to do, where I want to be and what it will take to get me there. I’m taking my time to bloom into the year.

I hope you enjoy these rainbows in the meantime – see you on the other side.

The physics of a rainbow


Posted on December 24, 2016

A Christmas Gift

December has been a busy month, and I can’t believe I’ve not posted anything here since the 1st, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of Christmas preparation: meeting friends, writing and sending cards, wrapping presents and thinking about the festive feast that is almost upon is.

It’s also the Season of Gifts in the Get Messy art journal group that I’m part of; the idea being to give yourself the ‘gift of time’ to invest in and on creativity at this busy and often stressful time of year.

I’ve managed a few pages but nothing more.

A Christmas GiftSo now the time is finally here to relax and nurture the self, and I’m going to commit to it wholly. It doesn’t feel selfish, it feels well-deserved.

I’m giving myself the gift of time to create, draw, write, stitch, stick, glitter and gesso. There’s a Christmas jigsaw waiting for me too; a Christmas tradition I always love between me and my Mum.

I read a quote a few weeks ago that really spoke to me: PRESENCE not PRESENTS. I think that sums up how I feel about ‘the silly season’. There is no better gift than the finite resource of time.

What’s your gift to yourself? Make time. Make it special.

Merry Christmas to one and all x

Christmas gifts in a woodland forest

(Visit my Christmas archive for previous festive inspiration and a story of hope!)


Posted on December 1, 2016

Heirloom Recipe Tea Towel Tutorial

I’m sharing a special project today. A project I’m so proud to have discovered and something that is simple to execute but so effective.

An ‘heirloom’ recipe preserved on a tea towel: it’s the perfect, practical, made-with-love gift.

Heirloom Tea Towel Tutorial - Cut & Come Again Cake

A few years ago, my Auntie baked my Nana’s now infamous ‘Cut & Come Again Cake‘ for my Mum’s birthday, which was the first I’d ever heard of it.

Basically it’s a fruit sponge with lots of peel and it keeps well; the ideal family recipe.

On the face of it, it’s not complicated and it doesn’t really look like much when it’s made – you bake it in a loaf tin and the top goes a bit lumpy because of the fruit.

To me, it’s perfect in its imperfection (that’s what I told myself when I tried baking it for the first time this year, replicating that lovely birthday memory. Except the power was off and the gas went out half way through…)

Heirloom Tea Towel Tutorial - Cut & Come Again Cake

I had to alter parts of the recipe – 1.5 hours seemed excessive for a start (I think it has to do with the altitude as my Nana grew up in South Africa), and I don’t have scales in ounces. The confusions were also the charm of it and I imagined her there with me, guiding me through it, watching over me.

I exchanged plain flour for wholemeal, and I added some almonds. As I weighed and measured the ingredients I thought of all the stories Nana and I had shared before she died (I was only in my early teens), and how much I would have loved to share a slice of my ‘Cut & Come Again Cake’ with her now.

I even pictured her little kitchen, the tablecloth vibrant with zebras and giraffes galloping towards Table Mountain, wooden masks on the wall and Abalone shells on the fireplace; her South African treasures.

But how to preserve the memories of a cake-scented kitchen? Precious pages of a family recipe bearing the hand-writing that can never be replicated because it came from her hand?

Heirloom Tea Towel Tutorial - Cut & Come Again CakeOver time these scraps of paper get damaged, worn, butter-smudged and crinkled with flour, perhaps splashed with soap suds when the wiping-up commences. I thought the only solution was to preserve the original (still in my Auntie’s possession), and share a digital version that could be printed out as necessary. I didn’t think much more about it.

Until I was working on some pattern designs and starting to look up places to print them onto fabric. Of course my search led me to Spoonflower, and that’s when I discovered this amazing tutorial about how to turn old recipes into beautifully printed tea towels.

It was so easy to follow, right down to adding on the extra border for the seams – I would never have thought of that! (rookie mistake)

When I manipulated the file to the right size, I was worried that the writing would lose its resonance, its familiarity in the rendering of the words. What I loved however were the ruled lines and the blank spaces and the splodges and how it only added to the sense of having just been written, that minute, that morning, and ripped from a kitchen-warmed notepad in a hurry, to share.

By the time the fabric arrived I couldn’t wait to see how the finished tea towels would look.

Heirloom Tea Towel Tutorial - Cut & Come Again Cake

I wasn’t disappointed at all, the words and numbers swirling on the fabric in my Nana’s familiar script, printed in bold black and white, and the quality of the linen pleasingly thick; a proper, good quality tea towel.

Heirloom Tea Towel Tutorial - Cut & Come Again Cake

All I had to do was cut out the four designs, then double-sew the seams, ironing as I went.

Heirloom Tea Towel Tutorial - Cut & Come Again CakeHeirloom Tea Towel Tutorial - Cut & Come Again Cake

If I’m honest I would have liked them to be slightly bigger, but it’s so great that four versions of the design fit a yard of fabric.

Heirloom Tea Towel Tutorial - Cut & Come Again Cake

A few weeks later there was a Spoonflower design challenge to create a tea towel to the theme of ‘Grandma’s Kitchen‘.

I added some details to the original design – the tea and coffee pot on the tray, the mug of tea with a croissant. How continental!

I don’t know if my Nana would have gone in for a ‘coffee and a croissant’, but I hope she is looking down and smiling because she’s always in my mind and this project is dedicated to her.

Heirloom Tea Towel Tutorial - Cut & Come Again Cake

I’ve made the cake again a few times since, and now the three of us are proud owners of the ‘Cut & Come Again Cake‘ tea towel.

There’s just one left to give (but we’ve eaten all the cake).

NB. This is not a sponsored post. All thoughts my own.

Posted on November 21, 2016

Mucha: In Quest of Beauty

As soon as I heard about the Mucha exhibition at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow, I couldn’t wait to go.

Alphonse Mucha exhibition, Kelvingrove Art Gallery Autumn 2016

The aim of art is to glorify beauty; the expression of beauty is by emotion. The person who can communicate his emotions to the soul of others is the artist.” Alphonse Mucha

I feel so lucky to have had access to Mucha’s body of work right here on my doorstep, but I also thought I knew his work pretty well already. Nope.

The revelation of the ‘Q’ formula was huge for me, and ever since my visit I’ve been seeing circles and ‘Q’s – and circles that could be Q’s – in everything. The circle of life. The eternal circle. The face. The cyclical nature of life and death, of the seasons. All of those things.

I didn’t know about the ‘Zodiac’ design either, a colour lithograph from 1896:

The distinctive design incorporates the mystic signs of the zodiac, motifs from nature, elaborate jewels and a prominent halo to make associations with lavish Byzantine religious art.”

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

I bought the postcard, however my own sign (Pisces) is not fully visible. I wonder what sign Sarah Bernhardt was? I did know about her.

One can say that rarely has someone’s soul been more faithfully exteriorised… Every feature of her face, every movement of her clothing, was profoundly conditioned by her spiritual need.”

Sarah Bernhardt, Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

Mucha’s friendship with Bernhardt gave him in-depth knowledge of her theatrical expressions, but all of his women with their decorative halos appear like secular Madonnas.”

Sarah Bernhardt, Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

 

Mucha believed that beautiful works of art elevated people’s morale and improved the quality of their lives. His design formula, known as ‘le style Mucha’, became a visual language for communicating his message of beauty.”

How I loved reading that: Mucha was a man of the people: “I was happy to be involved for art for the people and not for private drawing rooms… it found a home in poor families as well as in more affluent circles.”

And by pairing each of the Arts with a natural motif – for example birdsong alongside music – Mucha emphasises the contribution of nature to creative inspiration.

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

The marvellous poem of the human body…and the music of lines and colours emanating from flowers and leaves and fruits are the most obvious teachers of our eyes and taste.”

These ladies seem like forerunners to Mary Cicely Barker’s The Flower Fairies, albeit more worldly, more spirited, similar to those in ‘The Seasons’.

Could I dare to call them nymphs?

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

Women remained central to the composition of Mucha’s later works, but they became spiritual symbols… [Below] The woman holds primroses, which enhances the sensory nature of the design.”

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

Then there was the advertising…

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

Mucha’s advertising posters reflect the rich texture of modern life in La Belle Epoque, Paris (one of my favourite periods in history). The subjects range from diverse consumer products, to cultural events and tourism. Incorporating decorative motifs and allegorical elements, central to all these compositions is the female figure, alluring potential consumers with her beauty.”

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

There are hints of William Morris’s swirling floral and leaf repeats and the work of Charles Rennie Macintosh, both of whom played a part in the emergence of the Art Nouveau design movement that swept across Europe.

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

I particularly loved the contemplative, far-away gaze of the lady below. I think she’s my favourite.

Maybe she’s bored, or simply resigned to her fate? She’s advertising a bike and it looks like the kind of item she would need – or want – the least. Where is she taking her leaves (sage?) and: is that a hammer?

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

As I left, lingering long in the exhibition shop along the way, my mind was abuzz with Q’s and circles and tendrils. Flowers. Nature. Pastels. Red. Gold. Thorns. Daisy crowns. Primroses. Stars.

These symbols return over and over again in Mucha’s art and I love that instantly he was able to manifest his signature style. Surely that is every artist and creatives’ dream?

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

A picture I believe, acts aggressively. Unhindered it penetrates through the viewer’s eyes into his soul”

Mucha: In Quest of Beauty runs until 19th February 2017 at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow, Scotland.

I was delighted it was permissible to take photographs (no flash) throughout the exhibition, however the lighting was low to protect the original pieces which has affected the quality of these images. A photograph can never hope to be as good as seeing the art in person, but I hope it gives a flavour of ‘Mucha in Glasgow’, and what to expect for anyone planning a visit themselves, or for those further afield.

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