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.

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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.


Posted on October 17, 2016

Acorns, acorns, everywhere

In responding to a themed call-out last week via Pattern Camp for pattern designs featuring or inspired by ‘ACORNS’, I’ve become a little obsessed with them the last few days, like a squirrel scavenging, well…acorns.

ACORN, noun: the fruit of the oak, a smooth oval nut in a rough cup-like base

My first step was to create my motifs, and I chose to use ink for the first time. (If there is anything I’ve learnt about creativity, it’s that experimentation is A GOOD THING.)

I was really pleased with the results of the ink, which allowed a level of precision and intricacy which I hadn’t anticipated.

'ACORNS' surface pattern design motif in ink

I enjoyed layering up the colour, starting with a pale grey wash, building up the intensity and adding in finer details with the tip of my brush.

Turns out I love ink!

Next, I used watercolour pencils to draw some similar acorns but this time in colour.

As a final touch, I outlined them in gold pen.

Golden acorns are the best kind aren’t they?

'ACORNS' surface pattern design motif in watercolour

Both sets of acorn motifs made pretty patterns and I’m pleased with the results. But I want to make more.

One comment I loved on this black and white version was how ‘sophisticated’ it made something as simple as acorns look – and I agree, so I’m stealing that (squirreling it?) and calling this pattern ‘SOPHISTICATED ACORNS’:

' SOPHISTICATED ACORNS' surface pattern design, simple repeat

I also liked these alternate versions: the autumnal colours of SAGE and BRIGHT RED for different backgrounds, the faded look, the shiny MAHOGANY BROWN. It’s just a shame the colour bled through the non-enclosed spaces that were white #backtothedrawingboard

These are simple repeats using a ‘scatter’ technique, which is fine, but…

For the coloured acorns, I thought I’d get a bit fancy and try a half-drop repeat.

A bit more technical, I always get confused half-way through, but you can do so much more with a half-drop, and dare I say it, make even more sophisticated acorns:

'ACORNS' surface pattern design, half-drop repeat

It was OK plain, but then I added this orange background – which I’m calling ‘burnt sienna’ (great colour, amazing connotations).

I toned down the acorns and feel this combination really makes them ‘pop’. It feels the most autumnal, too.

'ACORNS' surface pattern design (burnt sienna), half-drop repeat

I love the way this pattern has a ‘rope’ effect, like banisters on the stairs.

I can see this working for thanksgiving or Christmas, but especially – and this is particularly sophisticated – in a squirrel’s pantry!

What do you think?

'ACORNS' surface pattern design (burnt sienna), half-drop repeat

I could have made the background a bit more detailed, rather than so plain, but that’s for another day; I’m not that fancy yet.

I’ll leave you with these lyrics from this song, which has a really lovely message

Be like the squirrel girl, be like the squirrel”, Little Acorns, The White Stripes


Posted on October 3, 2016

Finding inspiration: shapes, patterns & motifs

Last week I started a new course in pattern design (yes, I’m obsessed!), and the homework was to find simple shapes and motifs in the everyday things around you. Noticing the everyday things around you, really.

The idea was to get out and about, away from the computer, observing nature and the great outdoors in real life, sketching and photographing along the way.

Finding inspiration: wild flowers

Each day I excelled at finding the inspiration:

On walks around my town (cracks in the pavement, sunlight dappling a brick wall, fallen leaves)

In my garden (different shaped leaves and petals, holly, snail trails)

Even in the everyday objects of my home – the bristles of my washing up brush for example!

Finding inspiration: washing up brush

I’ve not yet had a chance to really delve into these inspirations in my sketchbook, save for a few quick studies.

This one below features the stems of a flower I managed to grow, but I’m not even sure what it is?

Finding inspiration: sketching flowers

It was the first time I opened this box of pencils and it felt…like the start of a new chapter in my creativity. That’s fitting for autumn isn’t it?

And as I head off on a week’s writing and art retreat at the Ted Hughes Arvon centre, Lumb Bank, I thought I’d document my ‘finds’ so far so I don’t lose momentum.

While I’m away I intend to spend a lot of time working in my sketchbook, and will also be creating a hand-made book, so all these inspirations will blend into the mix.

I even managed a quick visit to the Kibble Palace at Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens – isn’t this lady so wistful? I bet she has plenty of inspiration to share!

Finding inspiration at the Kibble Palace, Glasgow

The succulent garden was especially inspiring – all the gorgeous, perfect natural shapes.

Finding inspiration: succulents

And here’s my interpretation in watercolour:

Finding inspiration: succulent sketch

I loved that I noticed these patterns that perhaps I wouldn’t normally have stopped to photograph. The condensation particularly caught my attention, with the vibrant green of the grass behind the glass.

 

Finally, a bit of colour in these hydrangea petals as they transform into their autumn shades:

Finding inspiration: hydrangea

The holly leaves in my garden were so pristine and shiny, so I’ll definitely be sketching them. The heather has such interesting little flower tips too, a bit like the lavender I picked.

 

Now I can carry all these thoughts with me as I pack my selection of travelling art supplies.

Updates on my trip next week!

In the meantime, you might want to subscribe to my ‘inspiration’ newsletter. Check out last week’s mail-out all about autumn.


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‘.

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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.

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