Posted on September 23, 2016

Cherry blossom joy inspired by Marie Kondo

This week I’ve been reading ‘Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to Tidying Up‘ by Marie Kondo, the sequel if you like, to ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ (which incidently, I have yet to read.)

Cherry Blossom time & sparking joy with Marie Kondo

I’m late to the party on these books I know, and I’m also a bit of a hoarder; collecting bubble wrap and ‘nice’ empty boxes and ‘things-that-might-one-day-be-useful-for-that-amazing-project-I’ve-yet-to-start…’

I expected the book to be all about discarding as many possessions as possible, being ruthless with your sentimental ‘komono‘ items and keeping nothing if it wasn’t of the utmost practical use.

There was an element of that (the part about her getting rid of her vacuum cleaner because it didn’t spark joy was particularly amusing), but much more than getting rid of things, the focus was on what to keep, and most specifically, what to keep that sparks joy.

Does what it says on the cover. Good start.

But I didn’t really think I had that much to learn about all this.

I love tidying and reorganising things and feel like I’ve been on a mission for half my life to do just that.

But then that’s the problem too.

The point of the ‘KonMari Method‘ is that once you decide to keep only the things that spark joy and allocate them all a space in your home, there should never be a need to undertake a big ‘clear out’ ever again. A hefty claim when you consider the modern crisis of fast fashion, perk-me-up purchasing and the Western culture for accumulating possessions as status symbols.

And it turns out I had a lot to learn.

Cherry Blossom

This week I’ve KonMari-ed the clothes I keep in drawers – basically folded them into squares and rolled them up, and it was pretty joyful KonMari-ing the kitchen. I will never again be defeated/deflated/deafened by pans and oven trays falling from the cupboard.

And I’ve started using things I’d almost forgotten about.

A beautiful pen, a roller-ball perfume stick, hot pink lipstick, a heart-shaped casserole dish and some bright, colourful dresses that I’d never had ‘occasion’ to wear.

Use the things that spark joy!

I also discarded about 15 pens that didn’t work, didn’t write well or were just cheap promotional pens I’ve gathered over the years and kept for no reason except maybe ‘you can never have too many pens’. Except you can.

I’ve recycled manuals and papers and been able to part with things I’ve agonised over for years.

I’m not going to analyse the book in any further detail (and plenty of people already have), but I do want to share this anecdote that Marie Kondo gives in the book. I think it sums up the point of it all for me and I keep thinking of it because it’s such an uplifting story:

Not long ago, I went cherry blossom viewing with my family for the first time in fifteen years. We didn’t go anywhere special, just to a little park near my house. Despite the sudden notice, my mother had prepared a picnic lunch…but that was not all.

My mother opened another package to reveal a bottle of pink-hued amazake, a beverage made from sweet fermented rice, and small pink glasses with a cherry blossom pattern. When filled with the pink amazake, it looked like cherry blossoms were blooming in our glasses. ‘How beautiful!’

The blossoms I viewed with my family that day were the best I had ever seen. The glasses that my mother had chosen showed me the precious piece I had been missing.

Her take-out thought after this wonderful day with her family was: I want to live my life in such a way that it colours my things with memories.

I love that so much.

I want to live my life in such a way that it colours my things with memories

Cherry Blossom time & sparking joy with Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo also suggest some changes that might occur when you start to tidy:

  • You gain a little confidence

  • You start to believe in the future

  • Things begin to go more smoothly

  • The people you meet change

  • Unexpected things happen in a positive way

  • Change begins to accelerate

  • You begin to really enjoy your life

I don’t agree or disagree with these statements – I didn’t feel shy or disbelieving in the future before I read the book (or before I started this special process of tidying to spark joy), but I think for some people the act of tidying up can become a deep psychological process because it forces you to analyse how you really feel about each possession and also why you are keeping it.

One statement I do agree with comes near the end of the book:

Tidying is contagious.

Yes, yes it is!

Do you have a special ‘cherry blossom’ memory?


Posted on September 19, 2016

‘You Cut Me To The Quick’ ‘GREEN’ Collage

Through The Collage Club, of which I am an avid supporter (if sporadic contributor), I heard about the call out for GREEN themed collages.

I did a GREEN collage a few years ago, which my local council featured in their newsletter (I used elements of their printed newsletter – oh the irony), but this time I took it a step further.

It didn’t need to be ‘green’ in colour but you had to explain how the finished collage would meet the theme brief of GREEN.

In my head I saw a steep rainforest of green trees with dotted lines intersecting them, like a blueprint for destruction (a green print would be more apt here).

It sounds like a negative image, and indeed, the culling of trees and the destruction of natural habitats for endangered animals is not a happy subject, but it’s a subject I’m passionate about and having this image fired me up to create.

I started with a quick watercolour of simple triangular shapes representing trees, adding in pencil marks and patterns once the watercolour was dry.

Watercolour & collage forest

Next, I layered ripped papers, some featuring handwriting (like words of the law, like an agreement with nature?), to make a more cohesive forest.

I then photographed the page to manipulate digitally.

As I worked, more ideas came to me and I was inspired to layer a photograph of a glorious orange sunset over the forest.

I positioned it so the sun was visible and allowed the forest to show through. The thinking behind this was of ‘the sun coming down on the forest’ if it was set for destruction.

Mmm, still quite bleak. But it’s an important message because this stuff is really happening.

Sunset through trees, winter in ScotlandSunset through trees, winter in Scotland

Next, I started hacking into my beautiful, serene image with ‘digital scissors’, leaving empty spaces where the trees used to be.

This created jagged edges and sharp lines that ‘go against the grain’ of nature (like destruction), and I left them because they are the essence of my point, the prism of my view.

I still think the image is rather beautiful in a haphazard way, if a little…’busy’. But then destruction sites tend to be busy, don’t they?

Finally, I added a few pairs of scissors and crude broken lines marking out the areas to be cut, destroyed, taken out, burnt away.

'Cut Me to the Quick' collage

Effective? I called it ‘You Cut Me To The Quick‘.

Read more


Posted on September 9, 2016

How to stand out in surface pattern design

How can you stand out in surface pattern design?

It’s a big question, and one I’ve been pondering daily since my lovely friend Romana of The Creatory alerted me to this competition in UPPERCASE Magazine.

I’ve been talking a lot about patterns recently and how I’ve been sucked into the vortex of designing: it’s addictive and incredible and it doesn’t just start and end with one pattern.

It encompasses defining a palette, sourcing motifs, working to a theme or a trend or a brief or a style…

And that’s the crux of it. I feel too ‘fledgling’ to have a recognisable style.

This video featuring UPPERCASE Editor and Designer Janine Vangool, explains some key pointers as well as naming some of the different style footprints a designer might work to:

Big & bold, floral & chintzy, graphic, geometric, linear, minimalist, illustrative, cutesy, block colours, not scared of black…

Yet there are elements I love in all of these styles. I’m multi-passionate – what can I say? Here’s my 6 top-take-outs from the video:

How to stand out in Surface Pattern Design

I’m quite bold in my personal style and that filters through to the way I dress, the colours I’m drawn to and my choice of internal decor.

But I love minimalist geometric work too. And illustrative design. And I’m not scared of black: on me, on my walls, in pattern.

Black & White Leaf Repeating Pattern, Rebecca JohnstoneIn my mind I want to do something different; marry incongruous elements that juxtapose each other to stand out against the ditsy florals and the abstract colour blocks.

I want to draw on dark forces like folklore and The Brothers’ Grimm fairy tales to weave a story through my patterns and project my ‘inner world’ into the ‘outside world’. It’s a lot to consider.

UPPERCASE magazine markets itself as for ‘the creative and the curious’, and that’s definitely me. And it got me wondering:

Are creative people everywhere asking the same questions of themselves, over and over, trying to find their niche, their style, their oeuvre? Are they keeping themselves awake at night with their creative curiosity, just like me? I think the answer is ‘yes’.

There’s a lot of work to be done, and this new focus for my creativity has given me a lot to think about in discovering my design footprint and in doing so, discovering and revealing another layer of myself.

For now, I’ve been focusing on a perennial (yet seasonal) favourite: autumn leaves. I can’t believe the year has spun us round to September already, but as the leaves begin to fall, I’ll be documenting them through my patterns.

Sign up for monthly inspiration from Dainty Dora’s Inspiration Emporium. Check out the debut mail-out here.


Posted on September 1, 2016

PaisleyMake Festival: Fashion & Design Showcase

Yesterday I went ‘behind the scenes’ of Paisley Museum’s pattern archives as part of the PaisleyMake festival of creativity and design celebrations. For a student of textiles and a lover of all things pattern, it was catnip and Christmas come early. (Cue selfie with a loom!)

Rebecca Johnstone, Paisley Museum

As the Paisley2021 City of Culture UK bid gains momentum, the spotlight is on Scottish designers as they showcase their wares in Paisley Abbey for the PaisleyMake festival in partnership with Scotland Re:Designed.

As part of the showcase, experts from across the fashion and textile industry are speaking on topics such as innovation, collaboration and smart textiles. (Find out who and when.)

Being a local designer myself, I was delighted to get a sneak-peek, and was drawn to this colourful stand featuring designs and prints by Mairi Helena.

Scotland Re:Designed, PaisleyMake, Paisley Abbey

The hat and glove sets by Green Thomas lured me with their patterns, and the 100% lambswool scarves had me thinking: hello autumn accessories.

Green Thomas Hat and Gloves, Paisley MakeScotland Re:Designed, PaisleyMake, Paisley Abbey

Other designers selected to exhibit include: Barbra Kolasinski, Natasha Marshall, Rebecca Torres, Niki Fulton, Pea Cooper Millinery, Vonne Alley and Siobhan Mackenzie. (Full list plus links.)

The place to be is Paisley Abbey in the heart of the town, flanked by one of the many colourful lions for the Pride of Paisley summer art trail. 

A 'Pride of Paisley' lion outside Paisley Abbey

The striking Paisley-pattern weave on these decorated pillars create a really eye-catching entrance to the Abbey – thank Dyane Lanez of Tout Petit.

I love a bit of yarn-bombing but maybe this is weave-wrapping?

Decorated pillars at the entrance to Paisley Abbey

And while the focus is on modern innovations, and for many people tartan is the first thing that leaps to mind as the go-to Scottish textile, it’s hard to imagine today’s Paisley town-centre as a once-thriving textile hub, home to hand-weavers threading the intricate design of the now-infamous ‘floral teardrop‘ into shawls that were sold around the world.

Paisley Shawl collection, Paisley Museum Paisley Shawl collection, Paisley MuseumPaisley Pattern archive, Paisley Museum

Paisley Museum’s design archives proffer an inspirational legacy for a new generation of artisans and designers to reconnect with Paisley’s many treasures, perhaps re-working the ‘Paisley pattern’ or the ‘Paisley print’ for the modern era of fashion and textile design?

I intend to rise to this challenge and will be drawing (literally!) my inspiration from the early European and Indian influences, as well as key motifs from the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements.

I look forward to featuring more of the archival pattern books that Dr Dan Coughlan, Curator of Textiles at Paisley Museum, was kind enough to share, but for now I’ll leave you with some more creative inspiration from the Scotland Re:Designed showcase – until 3rd September 2016.

Jewellery by Others Are at PaisleyMake festival

Rings by Others Are.

Gatekeeper Art by Lil Brookes

Intricate Gatekeeper Art by Lil Brookes.

PaisleyMake street signs, Paisley

NB: Although I was lucky enough to attend a local Blogger Preview to the collections at both Paisley Museum and the PaisleyMake showcase, this is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own.


Posted on August 20, 2016

Psychedelic Forest

I’ve been working a lot on digital pattern design recently, and part of that has meant manipulating my watercolour and acrylic art digitally.

It’s something I had never really thought of doing before, beyond the usual cropping and touching up of an image to post online.

But then…the patterns.

I present: ‘Psychedelic Forest’

Psychedelic Forest: a digital collageI painted the watercolour forest while chatting on the phone, pencilled over it and added a bit of collage. A bit of fun on a sunny evening. (It was a long conversation!)

Then I was working on some new patterns for the Make it in Design Summer School 2016, and accidentally filled the background of the scanned image. Well, that’s changed everything.

I’d buy it from myself if I could. I know you’re not meant to say that about your own work but I love the drama and the colour, the vibrant, vivid colour, and the naive, hand-drawn elements.

It’s the art print of my mind right now.

Psychedelic: “hallucinations and apparent expansion of consciousness” – exactly.

If it was a real place I’d go. I wonder what adventures I’d find in the ‘Psychedelic Forest‘?

Happy (inspirational) Saturday!


Posted on August 10, 2016

Designing the French Riviera S/S 2017

For the last week I’ve been obsessively designing patterns for the Make it in Design ‘Beginner’ Summer School. It’s been so much fun!

The brief was for simple, stylised designs for multiple applications across fashion and home.

The colour palette was provided as Pantone colour samples and I used these by colour matching them in Photoshop/Illustrator using the eyedropper tool (I haven’t worked out how to load Pantone palettes yet).

My first thoughts were of palm trees, ship’s wheels, sunsets and prawns. A heady mix for the French Riviera jetset!?

Palm Tree Line Drawing

I’d forgotten how tricksy Illustrator is. Why can’t you move between artboards and still have the colour selected? #firstworldissues

I managed to learn a few new Illustrator skills in the process. Like adding gradients (a key element in the design brief), and isolating different elements of an image-traced live-paint group to change colours.

After playing about with the below design for a while, I couldn’t decide which version I liked best – thoughts?

 

Then I had to remind myself: gradients don’t repeat, but they still look nice for a single placement.

I can see this design on a beach towel, face cloth, napkins, plates (especially picnic plates!), t-shirts, a beach bag. Loads of possibilities.

The limited palette really helped me to focus on the designs, and re-use colours where I would normally have gone for more of an obvious impact. I think it’s proven to me how much cohesion it creates too. That’s particularly true with the pink ship’s wheel design below. I created it in another colour way (not shown here), and had fun playing with scale.

Here’s a few of my other favourite designs for this brief:

French Riviera SS17 'Graph Prawn' surface pattern designFrench Riviera SS17 'Leaping Prawn - with Gradient' surface pattern designFrench Riviera SS17 'Pink Ship's Wheel' surface pattern designPrintFrench Riviera SS17 'Leaping Prawn' surface pattern designFrench Riviera SS17 'Sunset Palm' surface pattern design

Most of the designs are simple grid repeat vector patterns, but the ‘Graph Prawn’ is a single ‘placement’ design. He’s cheeky isn’t he?

Which one is your favourite? I’d love to know.

***Update, Update 15.08.16***

So excited to find out that I WON one of the ’20 ways to draw…‘ books for sharing my pattern-progress on Instagram. Taking this as a sign to focus more on my patterns and design work!


Posted on July 26, 2016

COLLAGE CLUB: STRIPES

My last collage was for the theme of ‘YELLOW‘, then I missed a few. July’s theme is ‘STRIPES‘.

Geometrics are definite, daring and inspiring.

When I think ‘stripes’ the image in my head is of a stereotypical French person in a long-sleeved Breton top. With onions. I also think of zebras.

Keeping it strictly fashion, the centrepiece of this collage is an illustration by René Gruau. J’adore.

COLLAGE CLUB 'Stripes' collage, July 2016I think she’s chic, sophisticated and up to date on the latest trends, stripes or otherwise. And she’s a jet-setter, oh yeah.

Beirut, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Hollywood in Cambodia…

Everything else is just, you know? BLAH.

COLLAGE CLUB 'Stripes' collage, July 2016There’s another page to this month’s collage too.

I was going to create the male counterpart to René‘s exotic, striped lady. But I never got that far.

I’m including him anyway because…striped shirt and shades.

COLLAGE CLUB 'Stripes' collage, July 2016Find out more and join The Collage Club – creative prizes are up for grabs every month.

PS. Vertical City – does that exist? I think I’d like to visit, being tall and all.


Posted on July 15, 2016

Reflections on a Boutique Eco Pod Retreat

Two weeks ago the husband and I headed North to a tiny place called Appin, near Oban in Scotland. We were going to an Eco Pod.

It felt cool, adventurous and loaded with anticipation; the trip had been booked for months and it was a place I’d wanted to stay for a while.

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandThe sun came out briefly as we drove over the narrow bridge, in awe at the sight of Loch Awe.

It soon started pouring again as we arrived at the Castle Stalker View CafeI was glad I’d brought wellies and a rain mac.

A winding path led through the woods like a mystical fairy trail. The leaves seemed more green, the rustle of nature amplified; more noticeable, the air laden with purity and relaxation. We’d arrived. The door was unlocked.

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandThe Eco Pod was much bigger than we’d imagined, but looked just as luxurious as the pictures on the website promised (we stayed in Pod 1).

Except it was cold. The weather didn’t help, but even looking back over the pictures now, a shiver goes down my spine. (Did I mention it was cold?)

The hot tub was wonderful – the second time.

The pod features a Japanese cedar-wood affair, and for hygiene it requires to be run fresh each time. So far, so good. But on our first attempt the gas ran out resulting in less than luke-warm water, followed by a freezing shower.

The situation was quickly rectified after a desperate voicemail, text, and a hot breakfast in the cafe. (Thanks Jim.) I felt warmth for an hour, and then it was back to the Eco Pod. It was raining and we could see our breath in the air. (Did I mention it was cold?)

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandEventually the hot tub came into its own. The view was unadulterated tranquility. The view is the reason to visit. The view is worth every penny.

We took our own champagne and a basket of goodies left in the fridge meant we didn’t go hungry (eggs, smoked salmon, cheese, chocolate…)

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandOne thing the Eco Pod does guarantee is privacy and isolation, but when you want it, there’s an Apple TV, iPod dock and Wi-Fi. And a hairdryer. (If you need that kind of thing in the rain-strewn wilderness.)

On the Saturday we headed into Oban. Read more


Posted on July 13, 2016

Love Hasn’t Even Got Started Yet: Rob Ryan

Rob Ryan! In Scotland! In Falkirk! Accessible! Free!

When I read about Rob Ryan’s exhibitionLove Hasn’t Even Got Started Yet‘, I couldn’t wait to visit. I’ve admired his work for a long time, so the opportunity to see the original paper-cuts in real life was unmissable.

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, Falkirk

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, FalkirkEach word – each letter –  has been intricately carved in paper and card.

Black and white and primary colours. Hypnotic, emotional words. Aspirational ideals about life, love, relationships, the planet, the stars. Cities, towns, forests and secret spaces mapped out in paper.

The houses are crookedly cute, the birds ‘tweet’ and ‘cheep’ and every cut of the knife reveals and encloses the space beneath it in intricate relief.

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, Falkirk

The Pearl’s Story‘ was one of my favourites: evocative, detailed, true, bittersweet and personifying the treasure of the ocean.

There was a lot of monochrome, which chimes with me, and it was obvious a lot of the work was very personal.

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, FalkirkRob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, FalkirkSomeone had written in the comments book that the pieces were ‘too expensive’, but I don’t think you can ever truly put a price on someone’s creative vision, ability and time.

(You can buy Rob Ryan original artwork, prints and more here. I think they are priceless, and I’m saving up for this).

What I love particularly about Rob’s work is the sense that what you see is just a snapshot of a moment, like in absorbing the details of the scenes he creates we’re privy to a tiny moment in the great big universe of time and motion and that, well, love hasn’t even got started yet. Read more


Posted on July 2, 2016

Fairy Tale Fashion: ‘Alice Day’ down the rabbit hole

One golden afternoon on 4 July 1862, Charles Dodgson, an Oxford don, took the 10-year-old Alice Liddell and her sisters on a boating picnic up the River Thames from Folly Bridge in Oxford. To amuse the children he told them a story about a little girl, sitting bored by a riverbank, who finds herself tumbling down a rabbit hole into a topsy-turvy world called Wonderland…

Fairy Tale Fashion, Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New York

To celebrate ‘Alice Day’ (today, 2nd July) I’m sharing photos from the Fairy Tale Fashion exhibition that ran at the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New York, at the start of the year.

It was my first visit to New York in February, and I discovered the exhibition by accident, Alice-like, when I wasn’t looking for it. Immediately falling down the rabbit hole, I spent over an hour marvelling at the clever fashion interpretations of everyone’s favourite fairy tales.

Beginning in the thick velvety drapes of a prickly ‘forest’ with Little Red Riding Hood, the exhibition lured me through a magical realm of to-die-for couture and the fantastical machinations of childhood fairy tale viewed through an adult lens.

I thought the paper mask for the face of the wolf was a clever, contemporary take on the theme. The jewelled velvet gown was sumptuous (Dolce & Gabbana), and the padded, vinyl-hooded cape was by one of my favourite designers, Comme des Garçons.

Next: Beauty & the Beast. The paper mask again denotes the beast (without relying on ugliness or the grotesque). In fact, he looks rather like a lion?

The detailing of the floral layers really caught my attention here, having been a ‘corsage queen’ in my day. These shoes in the form of furry ‘beast’ claws were a real wonder:

Fairy Tale Fashion, Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New York

Christian Louboutin’s ‘Alex’ pumps embody the dynamic of beauty and beastliness. Taking the form of a lion’s foot, their craftsmanship is extraordinary: the fur-like texture is created using dense embroidery, and the ‘claws’ are made from glittering rhinestones. Wow.

‘I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!’

This Manish Arora dress (2008) was displayed in true fairy tale style with fabric playing cards, bunny mask and checkerboard tights.

I’m sure the real Alice would have been delighted and proud with this nod to Wonderland. Meanwhile… Read more


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