Paisley Thread Mill Museum

Earlier this week I got the chance to attend an evening at the Paisley Thread Mill Museum to celebrate the 'relaunched' display of their amazing archive of sewing supplies, patterns, patents and tools from when the mill was operational (and from sources further afield).

Paisley Thread Mill Museum, Rebecca Johnstone

Reels of cotton are suspended from the ceiling in the foyer in a rainbow of colours providing a vibrant 'welcome'.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

The archive is displayed in glass cabinets on the mezzanine level, including many pieces gifted to the museum from people in the local area. The aim is to preserve the social and industrial heritage and history of the Paisley and Renfrewshire Thread Mills for future education and enjoyment.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

I've always been a sucker for vintage artefacts, but seeing the old spools and now-vintage packaging with the old-fashioned designs; I was in my element.

Just look at the colours! And the typography!

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

We heard poetry featuring the 'Mill Girls' and I imagined snippets of what their lives might have been like, starting work there at 12 or 14; hard graft during the week culminating in the anticipation of going 'to the dancing' at the weekend.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

I love this miniature sewing machine with the ornate decoration on the side. How sweet but how many stitches has it sewn? How many hands have turned that wheel? What was it's primary sewing function? Finishing tiny pieces perhaps, or hemming, or making lace?

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

The display of all these different types of thread and sewing tools is gorgeous and so inviting, making me want to dig out my sewing box and start making something fabulous or reworking an older, vintage piece - make do and mend at its best!

I have my own stash of Anchor mill embroidery threads too in an array of colours (like many people), but it's funny to think they all originally came from this Thread Mill in the heart of Paisley.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone
Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

Looking at these things reminds me of my Nana's old sewing basket and the carded wool I inherited from her, along with a love of knitting (and the know-how - my Nana taught me to knit and there's really nothing like learning first-hand like that). Her knitting always held a faint whiff of talcum powder and her favourite 'toilet water'.

So many memories are held, suspended in time, in these things that we keep and treasure and unwittingly bestow on our children and grandchildren.

I wonder if my son will be interested in these things one day? Probably not!

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone
Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone
Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

I remember playing with old cotton reels like they were something so wondrous. The shiny gold of the end-label livery looks so regal here.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

Reels of cotton ready for weaving? Warp and weft forming the pattern, right to left and left to right.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone
Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

Seeing this old spinning wheel had me thinking of fairy tales like Rumpelstiltskin; weaving straw into gold. The production of textiles that will outlast us all certainly seems like alchemy.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

It was so nice to see these things in their new setting for all to enjoy, and I left itching to get going with needle and thread.

Visit the Paisley Thread Mill Museum on Wednesdays and Saturdays, 12-4pm and get stitching!

Portrait of a Suffragette: Carrie Chapman Catt

This month's art assignment for Lilla's Make Art That Sells Bootcamp involved drawing a portrait of a Suffragette. I got Carrie Chapman Catt, who incidentally, I hadn't actually heard of! (I don't feel too bad as she was American and I am not.)

Carrie Chapman Catt, Portrait of a Suffragette, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

Luckily I've been taking the 'Art Recipes' class 'Drawing Faces' which helped me out with this challenge; in the past I've always shied away from portraiture and drawing faces because...eyes are hard and so are mouths and don't get me started on lips.

Here there was no-where to hide.

Portrait of a Lady, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

First off I started drawing lots of lady's faces before zoning in on Carrie. I love working in pencil (my default starting pencil being a 2H), and building up the depth of detail in shadow and shading. 

Once I had reached a certain point with Carrie, there was no way I wanted to risk spoiling my drawing with colour, so instead I decided to add it into the border detail.

I chose lilac, green and off-white to represent the colours of women's suffrage and incorporated some art nouveau details too for femininity and framing.

As part of my research (and recommended as part of the class), I watched the film 'Suffragette' which stars one of my favourite actresses: Carey Mulligan. As the film ended I heard the words I would use in the background of my portrait:

"Never surrender; never give up the fight"

I think for me these words sum up the fight for equality and for women to have the vote, but also the current everyday struggles women face in all areas of life and across all facets of society.

They say 'keep going' when times are hard.
They galvanize the spirit in fine fighting talk.
Carrie Chapman Catt, Portrait of a Suffragette
Lady Portrait, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

I've not used a lot of my own lettering before, preferring the uniformity of choosing a font or typeface instead, but for this piece I felt hand-lettering would add to the 'rebel vibe' of the Suffragette movement.

I wanted to layer it behind the main portrait of Carrie and was so pleased with myself when I managed to create a clipping mask path in Adobe Illustrator - and it worked!

It always feels good to overcome both technical and art challenges in a project, and this piece definitely did both.

As I looked through all the other submissions from the rest of the group I knew there were so many that were much more accomplished than mine, but I'm not going to say the word 'better' because the more I work on assignments such as this, I realise I have my own style and take on things and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

REBECCA_JOHNSTONE_MARCH.jpg

I know I've created a strong portrait of a formidable female activist, leaving the chiaroscuro of my pencil lines exaggerating the almost masculine features of this celebrated Suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt.

I'm proud of my work and grateful to the Suffragettes for their tenacity, strength and determination #VotesforWomen!

See the full class gallery of Suffragettes.

Sign up for the Processions march happening across the UK on 10th June 2018.

Tea & Tasseography

I wrote last time about my experiencing of 'making art' and making time to create as a new mum.

Well this last month the focus has been on TEA. Oh yes, my favourite drink and subject matter. But not just any old tea - tasseography - better known as 'reading tea leaves'. How exciting!

This is my completed artwork submitted for Lilla Rogers February 2018 Bootcamp - the assignment was for a journal cover:

REBECCA JOHNSTONE 'Tea' Journal Cover Concept.jpg

For someone interested in horoscopes and the zodiac and crystals and magic, it feels a bit strange perhaps that I've never explored tasseography before?

I love the idea of having my tea leaves read; a fortune-telling of the essential elixir of my life. I have at least four teapots and even visited Teapot Island last year. 
Sewing Machine Teapot, Teapot Island.jpg

For those reasons I thought it would be an easy topic to generate art for this brief, but in fact it was the opposite. I was brimming over with so many ideas and potential directions I could go in, I couldn't focus on any one of them and felt stunted in my creation because I wanted everything to be so perfect for this so-special topic. 

The whole point of the 'mini' MATS Bootcamp assignment is to free you up for the creative process, not create barriers or limits on that process. I knew I had to break out.

So I made a pot of tea (Rabbit Hole Chai) and then...

Using Pinterest for inspiration, and my existing TEA board, I searched for 'tea leaves' and 'tea reading' and found an amazing tasseography chart which I immediately began to create in my own style. That's when things started to flow for me.

Here is an edited version layered with watercolour:

Tea Chart, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

I love matcha (it's well documented!) and although there is no 'leafy residue' associated with mixing up matcha, I knew I wanted to use its gorgeous vibrant green in my art to create a kind of 'matcha magic'.

Using a large brush I created a vivid watercolour mix of greens, blue, pink and purple, as well as a matcha-esque circle to layer behind my tasseography chart (above). The chart became my background and I could have made it the whole thing, but I wanted to cram more into my 'tea journal story'.

I didn't use all the elements in the end, which proved one of the hardest parts of this assignment: what to use, what to leave out, what would be just one 'motif' or 'icon' too far...?

I wanted to use these teapots, but they just didn't fit with the matcha theme. 

Japanese teapots watercolour, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

I was going to use my own handwriting but it wasn't right either so instead I watercoloured the letters for the words I needed. Even deciding on those felt like an agonising decision this time.

I wasn't sure about leaving the background white, but also couldn't find the right colour to use instead. In the end I went for the 'purity' angle and left it white. It felt like there was enough going on.

For some reason I associated tasseography with the night-time - fortune-telling and magic have that dusky vibe about them and so that's where this moon and stars scene stems from:

Night tim tea, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

In the end I used a mix of lots of different hand-drawn and watercolour elements, including all the special tea-reading symbols. I loved creating those.

I digitised everything and used Photoshop to manipulate and mock-up my journal cover, with a darker, patterned version peeping out from underneath as a coordinate idea.

I'm happy with the palette and I think I'd buy this. In fact I definitely would. Would you?

Check out the MATS February Bootcamp Gallery to see all the great art in the group and the amazing variation in working to this brief.

On Making Art: Rachel Maddow Book Cover

As a *new mum* I've not had much time of late to nourish my creativity, but over the last few weeks I've been working sporadically on fun, creative assignments for Lilla Roger's 'Make Art That Sells' January Bootcamp.

 January Bootcamp assignment, Lilla Rogers Make Art That Sells

January Bootcamp assignment, Lilla Rogers Make Art That Sells

It's been exciting to work to a specific brief, and discover a loose, quirky style that I've never used before. 
It's been rewarding to take 5 -15 minutes for me amidst the whirlwind that is life with a newborn
It's been interesting to see just how much I can achieve in tiny amounts of time
It's been eye-opening to realise my own creative problem-solving abilities 
It's been fun to just 'dive in' because I don't have time to overthink my plan of attack

The first element of the assignment saw me drawing what was in my bag.

This took me 10 mins - max - as I scribbled out sweetie wrappers, pen, pencil, paperclips, fabric purse, hairbrush, lip gloss and coins using a 0.1 mm uniball pen in a brand new sketchbook.

What's in my bag quick illustration, Rebecca Johnstone

With no prescriptive time commitment for the assignments, I knew I didn't need to try and set aside a big chunk like an hour; so I just... started. It was done and I was happy just to feel I'd accomplished something creative.

Having less time removed the barriers of panic, comparison, doubt and procrastination.

I just began creating; reasoning with myself that if I hated what came out on the page, I just wouldn't share it with anyone.

The second stage was to illustrate a cover for a children's book featuring the imagined contents of a famous person's bag. I got Rachel Maddow who'd I'd never even heard of! (sorry Rachel, but I'm not an American...)

I had no idea how to tackle this or whether to create a cover for an existing book or create my own? But again, I just started.

I researched Rachel and found she is an American TV host into politics and casual dressing. Immediately I had the idea of her face inside an old-fashioned TV set, and the rest flowed from there.

Hand-drawn details, Rebecca Johnstone

I drew a dictaphone (for recording interviews), notepad, post-its, microphone, magnifying glass (hopefully not too 'whodunnit' but more hinting at interrogation/investigation?), 'sneakers' and used a limited colour palette which seemed to fit with the impression I got of Rachel as a person: absolutely no-nonsense, no-frills, just what-you-see-is-what-you-get

The simple outline portrait of her face also seemed to suit the overall look and feel I was developing for my book cover:

Rachel Maddow portrait by Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

It took a while playing around with all the elements I'd created to decide on the final layout, and then I spent as much time again tweaking things and adding finishing touches such as the sound waves on the microphone.

I'm really pleased with the final design, and super-proud to have my work on display in the MATS Bootcamp online gallery for the month, alongside all the other amazing illustrators and creatives in the group.

I can't wait for the February assignment now!

Listed in the Top 100 Print & Pattern Blogs!

I was honoured and delighted to be notified yesterday that *this blog* has been listed in Feedspot's Top 100 Print & Pattern Blogs... on the planet!

"This is the most comprehensive list of best Print and Pattern blogs on the internet" Anuj Agarwal, Founder of Feedspot.

Alongside pattern and print gurus and familiar go-to sites such as Pattern Observer, Spoonflower, Make it in Design, UPPERCASE and Patternbank it feels like a very special privilege and one I'll continue to work hard to maintain. 

I even got a badge:

Top 100 Print and Pattern Blog Award Badge

Everyone loves a badge don't they? (Especially a shiny gold one!)

Meanwhile, this week I'm mainly waiting for my baby to arrive, but apart from that I've been marbling paper, art-journaling and signing up to a host of amazing Lilla Rogers courses for next year, including a brand new course on drawing faces. 

I can't wait.

And I don't think I'll be short of inspiration to keep this blog filled with great content.

Thanks for reading!

PS. There's still time to vote for my GEOMETRIC ANIMAL MOTIF cushion designs in the current Wraptious Cushion Competition...they're also available to buy for a limited time.

Wraptious Cushion Design Competition #3

I couldn't resist entering the Wraptious Cushion Competition again, this time with FIVE unique designs that also form a lovely 'GEOMETRIC' collection.

I've featured some animal 'friends' you might recognise from my design work in other guises - the Lion, the Leopard, the Polar Bear, the Penguin, and newbie, the Butterfly - all in my signature black and white sketchy-style, on geometric backgrounds.

The arctic, the jungle, the flower garden...

Meet my animal totems and their signature strengths:

The POLAR BEAR: fierce and strong yet playful too, he represents endurance, gratitude and perseverance. This guy is very friendly too - just look at that face!

The BUTTERFLY: symbolic of change, joy, hope and colour, the butterfly offers up the miracle of transformation, endurance and hope.

The PENGUIN: symbolises community and togetherness, social connection, depth of feeling, elegance and grace. I love this dapper chap!

The LEOPARD: representing power, strength and rebirth, this leopard is giving a big ROAR for confidence and courage in the face of adversity.

The LION: embodies strength, assertiveness, protection of hearth and home, co-operation and independence. 

Which animal is your favourite?

If you'd like to vote for me, then please 'LIKE' or 'SHARE' (or both!) on the Wraptious Facebook page post. (Third time lucky?)

These designs are also available to *BUY* for a limited period, which also counts as a super-big vote.

Available in THREE sizes, they're digitally printed on vegan suede with a choice of backing colours and a concealed zip. FREE UK shipping, with or without the cushion insert.

Thank you!

Scotland Re:Designed, Glasgow 2017

"You can take the designer out of Scotland, but can you take Scotland out of the designer?"

 Morag MacPherson Textiles

Morag MacPherson Textiles

Last week I attended a networking breakfast and panel discussion at SWG3 in Glasgow, part of Scotland Re:Designed 2017, where Hilary Alexander posed this leading question to designers Holly Fulton, Kestin Hare and Fashion Scout Martyn Roberts.

 Hilary Alexander OBE, Holly Fulton, Kestin Hare, Martyn Roberts

Hilary Alexander OBE, Holly Fulton, Kestin Hare, Martyn Roberts

Are Scottish designers just desperate to negate the stereotype of 'tartan tat'?

The consensus was that Scottish and UK-based designers are embracing their heritage in different ways, celebrating other textiles like Harris Tweed and Scottish Cashmere because using tartan can feel like 'too much of a cliche'; despite being a go-to for stalwarts such as Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.

Meanwhile, Hilary loved SIOBHAN MACKENZIE'S new take on the kilt, using both tartan + silk paired with surface embellishments such as diamante and crystal; a radical reinvention of the form forging new ways (and new target markets) for the modern customer.

Siobhan MacKenzie kilt, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

The message for Scottish designers was to 'embrace the heritage' of tartan, reinvent it, make it cool again.

As discussion turned to the changes in the industry, such as the mechanism for brands and studios to present their collections no longer reliant on a catwalk show at Fashion Week, the panel agreed Scotland has the edge over a city like London as a working base for new designers. Offering not only cheaper accommodation and studio rents in the city, Scotland also boasts bountiful rural spaces for creative reflection and inspiration leading to less chance of burn-out.

I particularly loved that Holly mentioned Grantown-on-Spey (in the Scottish Highlands) as her 'secret retreat', as it's also a place I know and love having spent my formative teenage years there (though at the time I'd happily have swapped it for London!).

"London is more inspiring and creative than Paris", Holly Fulton

But...

As Alexander McQueen apparently once said: "there's more to Scotland than haggis and whisky".

And thanks to platforms like Scotland Re:Designed, Scotland feels like the place to be.

Scotland Re:Designed Hypermarket 2017, SWG3

Juxtaposed with the industrial concrete warehouse vibe of the SWG3 Galvanizers exhibition space, I was able to spy the brands exhibiting as part of the event, ahead of the hypermarket that took place over the weekend.

This guy was ready for the cold-snap, dressed in scarves and hat by OLIVE PEARSON DESIGNS:

Olive Pearson Designs, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

Everyone loved the bold, limited palette geometrics from JENNIFER KENT:

Jennifer Kent, Scotland Re:Designed 2017
Jennifer Kent, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

And the quirky, fun slogan knitwear and vibrant textures of CATS BROTHERS:

CATS BROTHERS, Scotland Re:Designed 2017
CATS BROTHERS, Scotland Re:Designed 2017
CATS BROTHERS, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

The innovative and bright 3D-printed jewellery of LYNNE MACLACHLAN took the SR:D Award for Accessories, presented by Hilary Alexander:

Lynne MacLachlan 3D printed jewellery, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

As a notorious magpie and maximalist, I was drawn to ISOLATED HEROES (as always), and wished I'd booked in for their weekend slogan-sweater-sequin workshop... next time.

Isolated Heroes, Scotland Re:Designed 2017
Isolated Heroes, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

RHONA MCCALLUM'S bold, geometric jewellery really caught my attention, particularly the stackable square rings.

I also loved the leather and shearling gilets from NONCHALANT - in Scotland, it's about keeping warm as well as having 'the look'!

Nonchalant, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

Finally, the afternoon session was about sustainability and the circular economy, a big trend I touched on in my previous post.

With the fashion industry second only to oil in terms of world pollution, designers big and small need to consider the impact of their choices right through the supply chain.

James Lang from the Scottish Leather Group talked about the innovative ways they recycle old leather into energy to make more leather, and give the small off-cuts that would once have been landfill-bound, to designers who make items such as wallets, bags and purses to ensure 'zero waste' as far as possible.

Again the issue of 'investment fashion' rather than fast-fashion came up, and the morphing of the seasons to negate the need for the continuous treadmill of collections that not only contribute to a throw-away mentality, but also lead to burn-out and exhaustion for designers trying to 'do it all'.

All of these issues are important to consider behind the glitz and glamour of beautifully crafted fashion, and it was good to see them featuring so prominently on the (SCOTTISH) agenda.

I left the event brimming with ideas and inspiration for just how the change we seek is the change we choose to make, and how collaboration, asking questions and following your own ethical and moral compass are crucial components for success (alongside talent, persistence, patience...)

 Rory Hutton, Fashion Foundry

Rory Hutton, Fashion Foundry

Here's a few final snippets of advice from the morning session with Hilary et al for budding fashion designers:

  • Always wear your own designs (where possible!) = self-promotion
  • Say 'NO' to Sale or Return - don't hold stock or bankroll someone else's business
  • Aim high and value yourself and your skills - from the start
  • Get attention, trial techniques, be clever with the materials available to you
  • ...But don't do too many things - hone in on your niche

Scottish fashion, interiors and design is at the forefront of the industry and a truly exciting place to be. Having a platform such as Scotland Re:Designed to shine the spotlight on the enviable talent and innovation only makes it more exciting.

Scotland Re:Designed is the national organisation for fashion, accessories and interior designers, providing showrooms & exhibitions, annual awards and runway show calendar and stories, events and business support opportunities. 

2018 trends: fashion, interiors, lifestyle

I love finding out about new trends and seeing story boards and colour reports...

It inspires me in all sorts of ways; not just in terms of my own creativity and design process but also the reminder that the world around us is a constant source of wonder, inspiration and beauty to be experienced and interpreted.

Earlier this month I attended a trend and branding session at The Lighthouse, Glasgow, with Fiona Chautard and a room full of local freelance creatives and entrepreneurs.

It felt like a guilty pleasure - a mid-week treat - to immerse in the intoxicating flow of new palettes, yarn stories, ideas and more.

Not surprisingly, the key take-out across all industries was the rise in the interest of craft and luxury craft: handmade and traditional techniques that take time, imbue provenance into the final product and carry the authenticity of intent and process.

Another important trend - if you can still call it that - is the need, desire and expectation (from consumers around the world) for sustainability and sustainable supply chains; something that the fashion industry particularly needs to address in sourcing raw materials and in the wake of so much 'fast & fad fashion'.

Many of the emerging stories for the coming seasons had a certain rawness and textural, tactile element, either in the fabrics or the surface decoration.

'Luxury Craft' AW 2018 trend, Fiona Chautard

There seems to be a revolt against perfectionism and polish, as though we need to get a bit more realistic and embrace small flaws of nature as beautiful; deeply connecting us to our roots in society and in the world.

Lots of the surface textures and effects are inspired by the land and by water, striations and marks influenced by nature.

"Fashion becomes a process rather than any one product", each piece telling its own story whether it's crumpled, unfinished, speckled, folded, slashed, exaggerated or oversized.

Aw 2018 trends, Fiona Chautard

Colour is very much influenced by the seventies in both fashion and interiors, with lots of mustard, ochre, camel, soft pink (yes still!), burgundy and teal. In fact teal was the take-out shade of all the many gorgeous greens. 

Teal. TEAL. Teal.

I feel it sits well with the 'Fauna/Cyanotype' report and Print Direction from Patternbank for A/W 18/19 which has inspired me with all those leafy formations morphing into abstracts.

Then there were historical references and a trend referred to as 'MASCULINE REDRAFTED' which I think we see in some iteration every season/year. It's a specific androgyny inspired by rebellion, gender fluidity, tailoring and a simplicity of surface fuss/decoration in favour of a strong, classic cut.

'URBAN FOLK' was an interesting trend, penetrating deeper into anti-tech, craft techniques such as crochet, macrame and a 'charity shop' aesthetic, with a bold palette of 'world pattern' and ethnic influences.

I love a trend like this which allows much in the way of surface decoration, experimentation and multiple, clashing influences.

'Excessive' trend for AW2018, Fiona Chautard

My favourite trend however (as a not-so-closet maximalist) has to be 'EXCESSIVE' which included words and phrases such as: riot, OTT, high-shine, psychedelic medley, wallpaper-scale, glitter, floribunda, clashing patterns, YELLOW,  ornamentation.

As a surface pattern designer, I love to go dramatic with colour and detail so this is one I intend to embrace - to the max. It reminded me of this gorgeous paint-palette which was an inspiring image from my Get Messy Art Journal group:

Get Messy Art Journal paint palette.jpg

Plus my own paint-palette experiments with mark-making (using a stone I picked up on the Cairngorms!)

Acrylic mark-making in teal

Meanwhille, small styling details such as the neck and the sleeves look like important points of focus and difference in fashion stories for the year ahead, with 'comfort as the new luxury' - a concept that will never be out of fashion in the modern era hopefully, plus 'refined glam'.

Basically, there's something for everyone.

As the once very much segmented seasonal year dissolves, and the world becomes smaller, consumers are tending (trending?) towards more investment pieces for anytime-wear which sits well with the idea of 'slow living' and quality over quantity.

Everyone has a voice and most are not afraid to use theirs to protest on issues surrounding the environment, climate change, resources and fair working conditions.

As a designer, I know I'm part of that message in the choices I make for production, packaging and materials. It's a responsibility I don't take lightly and something I want to consider more carefully as my business grows.

For now, I'm going to get my creativity on and see how I can put my own spin on the trends, colours and ideas shared throughout the presentation.

NB. Trend Report images from Fiona's presentation, in association with Textiles Scotland

*New Stockist Announcement* InCube Shop, Paisley

I'm delighted to announce that an exclusive selection of my 'pattern-bomb' prints are now for sale in the InCube Shop on Gilmour Street in Paisley.

Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Prints, InCube Shop, Paisley
Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Prints, InCube Shop, Paisley
Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Prints, InCube Shop, Paisley

The InCube Shop is funded by Renfrewshire Council to support local design businesses, showcasing handmade products in a bright and spacious 'boutique' environment.

Seeing my prints alongside other designer's work in such a great location in Paisley is a dream come true (especially when I saw people stop to check out my prints featured in the window!).

Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Prints, InCube Shop, Paisley
Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Prints, InCube Shop, Paisley

Most of the photography featured in these prints are local Paisley scenes such as the Town Hall, Trinity Church, Anchor Mill and the Cart river.

I've also featured The Waverley - those famous red turrets always an iconic sight around Scottish waters - paired with thistles in the sky which almost look like fireworks in the way I've layered them through the clouds.

Lions and my own version of the Paisley-pattern account for the other prints, in multiple colourways so there's something for the minimalist palette as well as the colour-lovers (such as myself!)

Connecting with some of my fellow designers such as Lil of Gatekeeper ArtYvonne of Vonne Alley and Karen of Karen Hanvidge Ceramics has made the experience all the more special as a whole community of designer-makers come together to support and encourage each other and discuss 'all things Paisley'.

It's a particularly exciting time of course as all eyes focus on the title of City of Culture 2021, of which Paisley is named on the shortlist of five (winner announced December 2017).

Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Prints, InCube Shop, Paisley

Over the coming weeks I will be launching a selection of greetings cards in time for Christmas, which will be stocked at the InCube Shop, as well as in my own online store.

I'd also like to shout-out the historic Paisley Abbey who were my very first local stockist - they have a selection of my pattern-bomb prints all featuring the Abbey but from different angles and using different surface pattern designs: lions, umbrellas and teardrops - oh my!

Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Print, Paisley Abbey

Visit the InCube Shop in person - also a box office for The Spree in October - Monday-Saturday 10-5pm, 9B Gilmour St, Paisley PA1 1DG.

Paisley2021LogoColour

The Modern Poet: A Zine

The Modern Poet Zine by The Zine Squad

Recently I've been so immersed in designing and working with patterns, colour and photography, that I'd almost forgotten how much I love poetry.

And although I've not been writing poetry recently, words are still my poison.

I note down phrases and quotes and combinations of words that I love when I see them (yesterday I got 'faux-blithe, febrile days' - YES!), and I remember my 100 days of haiku project with fondness, yet there's been a poetic dearth this year due to other commitments.

But then a few weeks ago I received a surprise package in the mail (after a clever ploy to get my address) and when I opened the package, I knew instantly that I'd been 'zined' by the fabulous Zine Squad.

The Modern Poet Zine by The Zine Squad

I was moved beyond words when I discovered the brightly coloured, hand-bound and completely hand-made and decorated bounty inside - The Modern Poet Zine - made especially for me.

I know just how much work and love pours into a handmade work of art like this, so the fact that it was conceived and created in secret on my behalf made me feel super-special indeed. To have it to keep and treasure forever is priceless.

I also remember the thrill of taking part in a secret-zine project of my own with the group. How much fun! How time flies!

Here's a snapshot of some of the pages of The Modern Poet Zine, designed by Jules, Katie, Vanessa and Tori:

The Modern Poet Zine by The Zine Squad
The Modern Poet Zine by The Zine Squad
The Modern Poet Zine by The Zine Squad

I'm not sharing all the pages, because I'm keeping some just for myself (hint: for the zine-curious the artists themselves have shared the pages on their own sites and on social - links above).

Some more of my favourite quotes from inside include:

"Words tumble out of me like flowers or gifts"

"My dreams are like the ocean - deep and beautiful"

"I have to remind myself to think of the quiet"

The Modern Poet Zine by The Zine Squad

I love the combination of different styles of art and of writing; the bright colours and the reminiscences of the sea and the ode to the moon in the symbols on the cover.

I love the abstract art as colours morph into each other and the tactile element of different layers on the page.

I love the cut-out hearts and references to sewing and to love itself - the great poetic topic of life.

Above all, I love that this guerrilla act in the name of art has me reaching for my own art journal, also sadly neglected this year.

Currently it's the Get Messy Art Journal Season of Fairytales. I've gathered inspiration and even drawn a fairytale castle, but it's dead-end inspiration unless I make my mark on the page.

The Modern Poet Zine by The Zine Squad

The back page is the best motivation: 'It's a test. Leap.' I'm leaping!

Thank you, thank you, thank you again to the fabulous Zine Squad for my Modern Poet Zine.

Who'll be next I wonder?

A 'Weird & Wonderful' Exotic Peacock + Tropical Birds

REBECCA JOHNSTONE
REBECCA JOHNSTONE

Two of my surface pattern designs - 'Exotic Peacock' and 'Tropical Birds' have been chosen to feature for sale as vegan-suede cushion covers on the fabulous Wraptious website, and I couldn't be more excited:

It's not the first time but this time feels even more special as the opportunity came about as part of a 'live brief' in my online pattern design course, Make it in Design, run by Rachael Taylor and her team.

The theme was 'Weird & Wonderful', which of course, is right up my street!

Immediately I had the idea to use peacock feathers and set about creating motifs in watercolour and ink. I used gold and silver pens over the top for texture and once I was happy, I played about with them digitally to create a technical repeating pattern.

I wanted the design to really 'pop' and stand out from the crowd (like a male peacock strives to do) but the original palette although striking, felt more pea-hen than peacock...

There were these options too:

'Exotic Peacock' Pattern in a different colourway
'Exotic Peacock' Pattern in a different colourway

Ultimately, I needed both designs to work together, which is why I went for the very bright, almost neon/Warhol-esque version.

For the contrasting design I used an array of tropical birds - a simple peacock head and neck with plumage, then some mischievous-looking cockatoos, some filled with other vibrant patterns against a backdrop of what I *hope* looks like bamboo.

Peacock outline, Rebecca Johnstone

It's a busy pattern with a lot to 'see', but then that's what makes it so weird and wonderful - you have to delve a bit further than just a quick glance to see the story.

Which birds are scared of each other? Who's the (pea) cock-of-the-walk? Who is up to no good?

So many elements and textures went into both designs so it's wonderful to see them professionally mocked-up and for sale.

Would you be tempted to buy any of them? What colours do you associate with summer or 'weird and wonderful'?

Each design is digitally printed on vegan suede with a choice of fibre or duck-feather filling, and backing colours plus hidden zip, available for a limited time only.

They come with or without the cushion innards, so the choice is yours.

Price includes FREE UK shipping. Just click the cushion images above to be taken to the Wraptious site.

Guess what my family and friends are getting as gifts for the foreseeable...

Pattern-Bombed Glasgow

Pattern-bombing Glasgow has been a lot of fun. After the excitement and flurry of positive feedback from the debut of my Paisley pattern-bombed prints at the start of July, I've since turned my attentions to the city in which I spent the latter half of my teens and whose gritty experiences, rich creative scene and 'mean streets' have made me the person I am today.

I give you 'pattern-bombed Glasgow' in all its eclectic glory:

Glasgow Pattern-Bombed Print, Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

Marrying my moody, black and white images with the colourful repeating patterns of my imagination, I have created my own version of the infamous Glasgow Crest/Coat of Arms, featuring:

The Tree that never grew

The Bird that never flew

The Fish that never swam

The Bell that never rang

I've chosen my primary colours (plus green) from one of the original crest images, and am proud of the bold, crisp lines that keep it sharp and fuss-free - like the city itself.

I love seeing all of the images together like this; the different coloured backgrounds and the simple black and white version, but my favourite has to be the multi-coloured version on the white background.

I started with the single motif, but then turned it into a technical repeating pattern:

Glasgow Crest/Coat of Arms repeating pattern, Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

Along with other patterns such as my 'Purple Reign' (below), I then made striking new images of familiar and much-loved scenes - do you recognise the featured places?

Glasgow Pattern-Bombed Print, Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora
Glasgow Pattern-Bombed Print, Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

And there's plenty more. I'm stock-piling photographs of my city every chance I get, my camera always by my side.

The West End, the East End, the City Centre, Merchant City, Trongate, Charing Cross, the Clyde, the Kelvin. Famous buildings and derelict spaces and not so famous places and hidden corners and secret streets, all with their tale to tell. All of Glasgow's secrets to share, eventually.

I've got thistle patterns and lions and stitches and texture to pursue for the more 'tactile', mixed media vibe. How could I not with my background in textiles and fashion?

And fashion. I've not even started on that yet.

It's exciting to discover my artistic potential in this way and the endless source of inspiration that surrounds me.

Over the coming months: watch this space!

PaisleyMake Maker's Market

Today I'm proud and honoured to be exhibiting at the PaisleyMake Maker's Market in Paisley Abbey, showcasing my collection of Paisley-inspired surface pattern designs on fabric and in print.

PaisleyMake Maker's Market - Pattern Bomb Paisley Abbey

Organised by Scotland Re:Designed (SRD), the Maker's Market is part of the Sma' Shot Day festival celebrations which includes a host of other events across the town.

As a local girl with Paisley on my doorstep, it was an opportunity not to be missed!

I posted last year about my adventures 'behind the scenes at the museum', where I was able to view archival looms, fabric and weave designs at Paisley Museum and how much I wanted to design my own surface pattern concepts inspired by what I had seen.

My current collection is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ideas and material I have to work with, but so far I've used familiar and iconic Paisley motifs such as the floral teardrop, the Old Coat's Mill Tower and illustrative versions of the lions that were on show at key locations across the town last summer: the 'Pride of Paisley'.

PaisleyMake Maker's Market - 'Pattern Bomb' Old Coat's Mill Tower
PaisleyMake Maker's Market - Black & White Lion Print

For some of the palettes I've used colours from the designs I was able to view in the archive, which feels like another nice tie with Paisley's past and heritage.

There's plenty more work to be done, but for today, pop on down to Paisley-town and join in the celebrations. And, if you were as curious as I was...

The Sma’ (or small) Shot was a cotton thread which bound all the colourful weft threads into the warps of the world-famous Paisley Pattern shawls.

I love this! And you can say what you like about Paisley, but it's always been a colourful place stuffed with culture and commerce. Today it's going to be even more so.

The sun is shining too, but just in case, I designed a pattern called 'Paisley Umbrellas' using hand-inked motifs:

PaisleyMake Maker's Market - 'Pattern Bomb' Paisley Abbey

The PaisleyMake Marker's Market and exhibition runs from 1pm-5pm, today.

'SAMPLE' at the Lighthouse

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

SAMPLE was a must-see for me as a fledgling surface pattern designer with a background in textile design - and right on my doorstep too.

The premise of the exhibition was to showcase specially commissioned designs from members of COLLECT SCOTLAND, a platform for Scottish printed textile design, shining a light on this 'hidden discipline'.

(It's considered 'hidden' because it's an industry where designers are not always given credit for their work - a sad fact across many creative disciplines.)

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Huge panels of fabric hung from the ceiling with bold and dramatic prints.

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

I loved the Matisse-esque cut-out vibe of this piece:

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

And the rough, textured markings of this in a very satisfying monochrome:

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

While these mountains - of fire and ice - really drew me in:

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

There was a real diversity of work, inspired by 5 key trends identified by COLLECT:

Chiaroscuro, Earthly Paradise, Cut and Paste, Emotional Landscape and Remembered Dreams.

They all sound so inspiring I want to use them myself to spark some ideas. I especially love 'Chiaroscuro' and 'Remembered Dreams' as prompts.

My dreams are very vivid, I always dream in colour and sometimes I even dream in pattern...

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

I was drawn too to the colours and the energy in the swan design below; colours I wouldn't normally choose to work with myself. I wonder which theme it was inspired by?

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Meanwhile the organic feel of the black and white 'sample' below has so much timeless energy, reminiscent of rocks and crystals and the inner workings of the world.

Like mountains or worms or a particular type of cloud or striations in the sand when the tide goes out...

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Another really great aspect of the exhibition was to go 'behind the scenes' and see the moodboards and vision that each designer had when first thinking about their collections.

Immersing in other people's process and inspirations is one of my favourite things to do (and I quite fancy getting some of those lovely wooden stands too!)

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

There were initial sketches and drawings to view, which I also found fascinating and an aspect you don't normally get to see.

Rather you see the final iteration with no comprehension of how many versions there might have been, or how much work was initiated but never reached the final print.

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Finally, there were places to sit and books to delve and artefacts to ponder and engage with. A nice touch and it made me feel like I was viewing each designer's work in their 'SAMPLE studio'.

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

The showcase included a retrospective of work previously exhibited at Premiere Vision, Paris; an aspiration of my own for the future.

If you live locally, then SAMPLE is on until 18th June at The Lighthouse, Glasgow. I recommend it.

I didn't manage to capture the designer's names behind each individual design, but all members of COLLECT are profiled on their website.

Orange, Purple, Aqua, Cut, Paste, Repeat #Collage

I've enjoyed the rainbow effect of colour-themed collage images on my homepage recently, so I thought I'd share my latest work. I find the process of sifting paper and deciding what stays and what goes to be delightfully meditative and almost more important than the outcome.

Collage for me is a true case of 'enjoy the journey'.

My first attempts at collage (circa 2014) were very busy and took a long time as there were that many pieces to stick down, but recently I've tried to pare back my designs and try to stop myself from adding 'that final last touch'.

I like the results.

ORANGE

This was the hardest of the colours so far, and not because I don't love orange as I colour - I really do - but because sourcing images proved particularly difficult. I loved the 'SHOE GARDEN' effect though and the mixed-media flowers in paper, stiffened fabric and watercolour paper with acrylic marks I made myself. (And I'd totally wear those boots!)

'SHOE GARDEN' colour-themed collage

PURPLE

Also somewhat tricky to source purple images, this is quite a spring-effect mish-mash of florals which I like, especially the lavender. I don't always want to feature women experiencing sadness, but this just seemed to fit. I called it 'PURPLE REIGN' because the little birdy is wearing a crown.

'PURPLE REIGN' colour-themed collage

AQUA

One of the quickest collages I've made and also a strong contender for most minimalist.I love the contrast of the aqua and the olive green and the idea of paparazzi bursting from a teacup. It's called 'AQUA TEA' because I'm very inventive with names.

AQUA-TEA, colour-themed collage

Some people are purists and only use paper or card, whereas I love the full monty of a mixed-media piece and have no qualms about adding 3D elements if they fit the theme or look I'm going for.

But then does that fit with the 'less is more' aesthetic? Not really, but the main thing is producing something you like and that makes people smile and perhaps even connect with the work on a deeper level. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't!

Join in with the weekly themes and challenges in The Collage Club.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.