Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Summer Cottage

I found a rare afternoon by myself, when the little one was away at her friend's house for a play and I was left with a sudden space in my day to fill.  Not inclined to tackle the usual chores (which mysteriously manage to get happily ignored during the holidays) I moved towards my paints - such a while since I did any painting - and I ended up finishing this summer scene of a cottage and it's garden, bursting with colourful blooms.

I worked on Hahnemuhle paper using acrylic and collage.  With Six Music on in the background, the sun streaming through the window and a generous mug of green tea to hand, I had a rather lovely afternoon of it.  I sometimes forget the joys that working with paint brings, and after an absence it is always a delicious feeling to be squeezing out honey thick paint onto my palette, to dunk a brush into a jam jar of clean water, to make those first marks on the paper.

I think it would be nice to offer this image as prints, so look out on the website soon for these, as well as the original which will also be availalbe to purchase. 

See you soon,
J x

Friday, 1 August 2014

Loving Summer

The summer holidays are well underway here; warm and pleasant days interspersed with monsoonal downpours which leave a fresh, lingering scent that is irresistible and draws you outside to take big, happy lung-fulls.  I have been to Majorca for a week with my family, and I was deeply inspired by the turquoise of the crystal clear sea and the forever blue skies.  I was also lulled by a hot sun into dreamy slumbers by the waters edge where I let my imagination wind its own way gently towards future dreams and ideas.  It's a seductive pastime, to lie in the warmth with nothing but your thoughts to linger over.  I confess to feeling rather overwhelmed before we travelled, things have piled up this last year to make me question many facets of my life and business, yet I have come home feeling relaxed, soft and calmer than I have in weeks.

I feel a slow sense of possibility and optimism returning.  I realise there are certain things I need to stop doing in order to feel happier, and some things I need to do more of for the same reason.
It is easy to lose oneself in the daily grind, to forget our hopes and desires, to push them down and lose sight of them.  It's easy to get swamped by the visual tidal wave of talent on the internet, and inevitably begin the fatal game of comparison, which only serves to empty our souls and leave a sour feeling in our bellies. 

To walk amongst the pine trees of Majorca as the sun set behind the town I felt that I had finally reconnected with an important, and forgotten part of myself.  I stood on a rocky promontory and watched the line of a denim blue horizon become one with the fuzzy lavender sky as the evening light faded.  When we allow time for peace; inspiration and desire has a chance to blossom.  We can make space to let go of unrealised dreams to make way for the new.  We can take stock, fill our wells, let things go.

So, back home, back into the fray of a chaotic summer holiday - the children are home from school and normal life is seemingly tossed in the air and disregarded til the beginning of September.  But that's ok.  There's plenty of time for everything, and I've found that for now I am happy sketching ideas in my book, tearing out inspiring pictures from magazines for another day and making small plans.

One thing I have managed to do since coming home is to implement the beautiful new branding package my talented designer friend Angie Spurgeon has created for me.  My website and blog has long been due an overhaul, and she has captured the look I was after perfectly.

I hope you like it.

See you next time.
J x

Monday, 23 June 2014

What I've learned in MATS Bootcamp

 June assignment :: MATS Bootcamp

I've just completed a piece of work for the Lilla Rogers Make Art That Sells (MATS) Bootcamp June assignment.  This month was rather good because the subject was wall art and the theme was ocean based.  Well, I think by now most of you know how much I love to create art around this subject matter! 

There are some really talented artists taking part on this course, and over the weeks, we have shared our sketches and ideas and final pieces on the Facebook class page, so there's this constant pool of amazing inspiration to immerse yourself in.  I love getting excited by other people's art - I love seeing something new that really lights me up and makes me ask questions like 'how did they do that? How did they create that effect?' and then go away and have a play, and see what I can come up with for myself.
Lilla has been a great teacher - she's shared so much with us and I love the insights we've had as her students into what works in the world of selling art.

As a student and artist, I get deeply curious about the materials people use to make art, and the techniques they apply to create something eye catching and incredible.  From taking this course I have felt myself naturally leaning towards adding more collaged elements into some of my work - it just seems to call to me right now and my last couple of pieces have included beautiful hand made art papers that I glue on and paint over.  I'm excited by these changes in my work, and I like where I'm headed. 

 New :: Winter themed art with collage papers

And before we go on, let me just say, there is absolutely nothing wrong with learning from other artists and crafts people!  I'm always thrilled to be offered the opportunity to learn!  I love discovering what materials a favourite artist likes to use, which paint brand they prefer, what paper or canvas they like.  I like to study their work and learn from them because when we're prepared to learn, we inevitabely grow.

Learning is about embracing new techniques and then allowing them to unfold in our own unique style.  You can give a whole class the same palette of paints, the same brushes and collage materials and give them all the same theme to work to - and each of those students will create something unique and amazing when they create from their soul, which is kind of like what happens in MATS except everyone brings something different to the table there, as a whole plethora of styles are presented in both digital and traditional formats.

Learing isn't the same as copying either - without learning, we wouldn't achieve much as human beings, and when we open ourselves up to learn from someone we admire, or who's at the top of their game we allow ourselves to grow and expand in ways we can't begin to imagine.  The trick is to apply the techniques in your own unique style!  Have a play and see what happens, don't be afraid to let your own style shine through.  It's all about having the confidence to try, to see where it takes you.  My Mum always said 'You're never too old to learn' and she's right! Humans are meant to evolve, we're not meant to stagnate at one level - we need to keep moving, keep absorbing, keep seeing and thinking and dreaming.  Access the very heart of yourself and make sure you keep moving on the path that makes you feel alive, the one that allows your spirit to shine.  Be who you are - because its true that everyone else is already taken.

I'm really happy that I had the opportunity to take this course.  I'm already working on some new art to send to publishing companies for licensing based on what I've learned from Lilla, and hopefully this will be a great starting point for lots more new art to come!
I'll see you again soon,
J x

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Colourful Circles

A trip to the antiques quarter in Sheffield last week ended up with a rather exciting aquisition being made.  For a while now I've been waiting to find a nice stool for my small kitchen - it's too tiny for tables and chairs and sometimes when I'm cooking and folks are over for food I think to myself, 'well, it would be nice for them if they had somewhere to sit and natter while I stir and chop things!' and just last week I stumbled upon a little gem that was just the job.

Tucked away under a great big farmhouse table in a muddle of vintage kitchenalia, the little stool waited.  It had been painted a soft sage green, which, by some serendipitous miracle is the same shade as my kitchen cupboards so it rather felt like it was all meant to be, me finding this stool.  It's a rather smart stool too, hailing from Sweden, and has a broad circular seat of generous proportions, and nicely turned legs (it sounds like a rather lovely lady, doesn't it?). 

But something was needed that little something extra to make it well and truly fit into our colourful little house.  So I made it a little seat cover.

I used Rico Cotton DK to make the cover in random colours, most of which were leftovers from a cushion I made some time ago.  This is a pretty reasonably priced yarn, and good to work with in that it doesn't split too much.  There's also a great range of bright colours available too.  The pattern is just a simple circle pattern which I found in the Happy Hooker crochet book, but I'm sure you can find this method online too.  To secure the cover I just began to decrease the rows once I was sure the top was adequately covered and it seemed to turn out ok and fitted quite well (even though the decreasing part was very much a wing it and see sort of process).

I'm now making a slouchy summer hat, using this beautiful yarn from Begere de France here in a stunning summery turquoise blue, called Oxygene. 

Thanks so much for stopping by, see you again soon.
J x

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Contemporary Craft Fair

Last Friday I set off on a bit of an adventure; a road trip to beautiful Devon where I was to meet up with a group of friends I have got to know these last few years through Facebook.  I travelled down with Andrea Berry, who is a designer and the owner of Polka.  Famous for her amazing use of colour and pattern, she designs glorious bags and accessories and you'll be able to see Andrea at the Country Living Fair in Harrogate this year!

Anyway, back to the story!  A few months back, we had been having a natter and decided to go to the Contemporary Craft Fair which is held in the pretty village of Bovey Tracy, close to the wilderness of Dartmoor and needless to say, we were all rather excited - it's not very often we get to leave our families and head off on an All Girls weekend away!

I must confess at this point, that upon arriving in Devon I found myself momentarily taken back in time and felt ever so slightly homesick.  Several years back, this little corner of the world was my home and the sights and sounds made me very nostalgic for the good times I spent there.
We had been invited to stay with our dear friend Helen, who runs a successful textile design business called Kindred Rose - she is currently in the process of running several lampshade making courses in the South West and you can also buy her brilliant kits online here!  You may also recognise Helen from the TV - she was one of the designers on the Great British Interior Design Challenge!  Helen lives in a beautiful village, tucked away into the green folds of the Devon countryside, and arriving there was a little bit like going on holiday and finding yourself in a little piece of paradise; a cosy cottage and a warm welcome awaited us, as did wine and a lovely meal.

 Helen and her house guests :: Andrea, Jo, Helen, Kate and me

Saturday dawned rather turbulent weather wise.  Following an epic storm in the early hours we watched the dark clouds rumble in from the moors, and as we munched on crispy bacon dished up on thick farmhouse bread, we began to wish we'd brought our wellington boots! 

We drove down to Bovey and met up with some of our other friends - Ros, who is the owner of Roslyn Mitchell Designs, a very innovative textile artist who recreates buildings in fabric to make the most amazing architectural pieces of art!  Angie Spurgeon, who is a talented graphic designer and artist and owner of Artwork by Angie.  When not designing for clients, she's successfully selling her work in Waterstones and the National Trust to name just two of the places you'll find her delightful art!

The fair was wonderful and I can really recommend a visit. I can honestly say that its been a long time since I was surrounded by so much amazing talent.  Three of our friends were exhibiting at the fair - here's a glimpse at their wonderful stands:

Kirsty Elson

Kirsty is a clever dot!  Finding driftwood and other treasures left by the sea on her local beach, she creates beautiful cottages, harbours and other coastal-inpsired art from her finds.  You can discover more about Kirsty and her work here.

 Marna, centre with Ros (left) and Angie (right)

 Marna Lunt

Marna is a very inspiring lady; hailing from the North Yorkshire moors, she creates beautiful hand embroidered items which are inspired by her surroundings and also famous landmarks.  You can read more about Marna and her work here.

Claire Read (with Jo Harratt)

Claire is a lady with an eye for nostalgia and owner of Little Burrow Designs.  She uses vintage tins and ephemera to create stories and unique pieces of art, embellished with sewn elements and text.  Claire's work is truly beautiful and you can find out more about her here.

Anyway, back to the fair.  As I wandered around I found myself in conversation with quite a few of the makers.  It's very inspiring to chat to these people and I do like to say Hello and have a little natter.  One lady in particular, who I met for the first time is such a talented bean I just had to share her work here.  Julia Jowett weaves her love of a dark fairytale into her work, which is created with wire and fabric.  Here's a peek at some of her intricate art works:

 (L-R :: Me, Julia Jowett, Andrea Berry, Jo Harratt)

You can find out more about Julia here.

So, back to the fair!  It wasn't all shopping and chatting - there were also lots of pitstops for food and drink, and what a glorious selection of goodies were on offer to tempt the tastebuds!  Despite the boggy conditions, the food and drinks area had the air of a festival about it with jaunty bunting snapping in the breeze, folk music and a really happy, laid back atmosphere.  Home made lemonade and wood fired pizzas, generous chunks of chocolate cake and farm ice-creams were just some of the delicious treats available.

On Saturday evening we were joined by two other friends who had come down for the fair - Kate Brazier (who runs the increasingly successful Kate Creates), an artist who has a knack for capturing the nostalgia of the seaside with her bright watercolour paintings, as well as offering a range of fabulous greetings cards.  Read more about Kate's business here.

Our other friend, Jo Harratt who runs Elf, is a textile artist with a flair for needlefelting.  Jo has recently created a line of felted animals which are mounted on embroidery hoops - you can find out more about Jo's work here.

More shopping ensued on Sunday, and then all too soon it was time to say Goodbye...once again, the good times had flown by, and we found ourselves crawling up the M5 in heavy traffic, back home, travel weary but happy and full of new memories to treasure.
I feel very inpsired and nourished to have these lovely girls in my life.  They're there through thick and thin, and my world is much lovelier for having them in it.  Thanks all of you, for making the weekend so special

See you next time, when I've got something colourful to share with you.
J x
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