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.

Posted on November 10, 2016

Wraptious Cushion Design Competition

Presenting three of my surface pattern designs currently available as *limited edition* cushions for sale in the Wraptious Cushion Design Competition (running until Sunday).

The designs are printed on Vegan Suede with a choice of colour for the backing, hidden zip and offered either ‘cover only’ or with a choice of insert.

Every Facebook like = 1 point in the competition, while a purchase is worth 50 points. View and purchase via Wraptious.

'Fierce Leopard' Pattern Design in the Wraptious Cushion Competition

'Squirrel's Wardrobe' Pattern Design in the Wraptious Cushion Competition

See the original drawings behind this ‘Squirrel’s Wardrobe’ acorn design.

'Oh So Autumn Leaves' Pattern Design in the Wraptious Cushion Competition

Do you have a favourite?

Although they don’t necessarily work as a collection, I wanted to showcase the designs I’m most proud of and that I thought would work best on cushions, giving them each a chance to capture people’s hearts and imagination.

Seeing my designs professionally ‘mocked-up’ and for sale is an exciting opportunity for exposure and it transforms a digital file into something tangible and real that I can imagine in someones home (including my own). Isn’t that every designer’s dream?

You can view more of my designs available as art prints/cards, framed prints, metal prints, mugs, laptop/phone cases, and more on Society6 – I bought a shower curtain in my ‘Big Love‘ design and it’s lush!

'BIG LOVE' shower curtain, Society6

Wraptious offers free UK delivery on all orders.

Cushions available until Sunday 13th November 2016 – now extended until Christmas!


Posted on October 31, 2016

Halloween ‘Ghosts & Ghouls’ Colouring Page

The witching hour is here and the spirits from the underworld have been unleashed…take a moment for yourself with my *FREE* Halloween colouring page featuring ghosts, ghouls and vampire bats – spooky!

I created this page using my own hand-drawn motifs and first turning them into a simple repeating pattern.

The vampire bat is my favourite:

Halloween Bat, free colouring page download, Dainty Dora's Inspiration Emporium

In fact, I think I’ve got a soft-spot for bats all of a sudden!

Halloween Bat, free colouring page download, Dainty Dora's Inspiration Emporium

Halloween Pattern, Dainty Dora's Inspiration Emporium

I’d love to see some creative colourings-in so tag me on social…if you dare…and Happy Halloween!

'Boo!' Halloween Pattern, Dainty Dora's Inspiration Emporium

I also have one from the archives to share – my Halloween-themed collage from a few years ago. So intricate and a lot more subtle, but still one of my favs. I love an enchanted forest, don’t you?


Posted on October 24, 2016

Book Art at Lumb Bank

Last night I dreamt I went to Lumb Bank again… no actually, I really did.

I was trying to photograph the sunset before it got too dark, then chatting in the kitchen with the others in the group. We were doing the dishes together, leaning over the sink, and then I looked out of the window and it had started snowing. The roads were flat instead of steep. The leaves were gone. Everything was slightly altered and different, but also the same…

Sunset at the Ted Hughes house, Lumb Bank, October 16

It’s only two weeks since I returned and it feels like a dream, like the dream I just had, but also so close and vivid in my head, like I’m squeezing it tighter and tighter for more inspiration.

Creativity in action on the Book Art course, Lumb Bank, October 16

The course I took was a mix of book art and poetry, both tutors (Rachel Hazell, travelling book-binder and Stevie Ronnie, poet and artist) working hard to ensure the two disciplines meshed perfectly.

We had been tasked with writing a short poem on our first night, inspired by the ‘poetry fortune teller’ that Stevie came up with (my ‘poetry prescription’ was to write a 7-line poem featuring the word ‘spinning top’ and the colour silver).

Poetry Fortune Teller, Book Art & Poetry, Lumb Bank, Oct16

Poetry ‘Fortune Teller’

The next morning was about making miniature books from a single piece of A4 paper, and filling them quickly with words or just the repetition of the word ‘word’ or ‘text’. I used my simple 7-line poem for some of mine:

She spun/ silver in the night,/ her hair splayed/out; skate-blades/chiseling ice/ faster than rain off a/ spinning top

Next we got our scalpels out to cut windows, doors, mouths, secret compartments and pop-ups in our paper books (best viewed from above I think). It was starting to feel a bit magical!

Book Art, Lumb Bank, October 16

On our second day of book art-ing, we got to use ‘the good paper’, and make bigger books with more detailed covers.

We spent some time using different methods of lettering and typography to decorate our paper, techniques like: stenciling, calligraphy, letraset, cut-out words or phrases from books and magazines, handwriting, painting and stamping.

It was my first time using a calligraphy pen (real name: pilot parallel pen) and it was A-MA-ZING.

Word-art for a book cover, Book Art course, Lumb Bank, Oct16

We were working quickly and I used words that had popped up in our conversations and our poetry workshop on the second morning, as well as words connected with guest speaker Amy Shelton‘s work highlighting the plight of honey bees. (It was a revelation to find out that pollen comes in so many different colours – red, blue, green, yellow – many more than I had imagined.)

Placing the words at random created new phrases based on each word’s proximity to another. I loved these new ‘concepts’ that I feel will definitely need to be exploited further:

Pollen Rabbit

Sleep Stanza

Porcelain Squirrel

Geisha Moon

Xerox Love

Kestrel Stitch

Star Geometry

Wow. So interesting. I would never have thought of these myself.

Later that afternoon I spent some time making a mini-book of my own imagining, to help reinforce the binding technique.

I used scraps of paper and cut-out shapes I’d saved in a tin from hole punches I used to have: stars, flowers, hearts and birds – I wish I still had them.

Book Art, Lumb Bank, October 16

I also experienced a big revelation while on the course: that I need to use textiles much more in my art. All my art as well as any book art!

I didn’t want to leave without incorporating some textile detail into a book I’d made, so I stitched up some tea-steam that became the ‘tea ghosts’ of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath on the reverse. (I also wrote about visiting Sylvia Plath’s grave in nearby Heptonstall.)

Book Art, Lumb Bank, October 16

Book Art, Lumb Bank, October 16

At first I wasn’t going to invest in the tools of the book-making trade, because I wasn’t sure if making books was going to be a big thing for me, or much more than an occasional hobby. As the course progressed though I found there was something quite magical about being in that space, with that group of people, and having the opportunity to buy the tools I was using to learn with.

Book Art tools, Lumb Bank, October 16

Tools of the book-art trade: the bone-folder, the awl, the paper knife

When I saw Rachel’s stash of supplies laid out in the barn for sale, I knew I would be making more books and that I needed these tools: the bone-folder, the awl, the paper knife.

And then I had to make another book – from scratch, by myself (OK, with a little help from Rachel).

I hand-stitched ‘Wabi-Sabi’ on the front, some of it in low light on our last night so I missed a stitch, but hey, wabi-sabi.

The wool I used cost £1 from Standard Goods at Hebble End Studios in Hebden Bridge (creative capital of West Yorkshire?!)

I love the texture and the colour which matches the grey tinge of the paper. I might tie beads onto the ends of the strands I’ve used to bind the book.

20161024_115113

Finally, part of the tradition on an Arvon retreat is to contribute to an anthology of work that everyone on the course gets a copy of to take home.

Playing to the themes of the course – and the time of year – we were tasked instead with creating a ‘leaf anthology‘ between us – our individual artistic interpretation of a leaf with words or poetry – x 17 copies!

Paper Leaves in the making of a 'Leafology', Book Art, Lumb Bank, October 16

It seemed fitting for me to use pages from my aged copy of Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca‘, and make art on the leaf: BOOK + ART.

I cut out my leaf shapes then used watercolour pencils to draw an autumn leaf.

I was surprised when everyone commented on and wanted the green one, because I thought it turned out looking more like a pineapple or a palm than a leaf

Paper Leaves in the making of a 'Leafology', Book Art, Lumb Bank, October 16

On the back of each I wrote the Japanese word KOMOREBI in gold pen, from Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders (one of my favourite books):

'Leafology' inspiration, Book Art, Lumb Bank, October 16

The sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees

I cut out little triangles to reinforce the idea of light slipping through each leaf and it felt like the perfect statement from me to my fellow book artists.

Let the sunlight filter through you. Find your unique path of light.

When we piled our leaves together, a length of gold wire at the ready so we could each construct our leaf -anthology garland when we got home, I was blown away (sorry) by how individual and intricate each leaf was. I’ve never had a leaf-anthology before and none will be as perfect as the one I’ve got.

What lovely memories I have from my week of Book Art and poetry at Lumb Bank.

Book Art, Lumb Bank, October 16

More about the poetry in another post, meanwhile check out Rachel’s post to see the garland gifted to Arvon, hanging by the fireplace.


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