Tuesday, 27 November 2012

More than just a doodle....

The other day I received and email from Amazon recommending a book. Sometimes I take a further look at these suggestions other times I don't. This time the book in question tweaked my curiosity, it was "One Zentangle a day: a 6-week course". I thought mmmm what's this then and took a peek and then researched this interesting idea further.

If you Google Zentangles loads of stuff comes up from books, images to YouTube videos. First called Zentangle by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas it a form of drawing that you can get lost in completely!! Their idea is start off with a small square of good paper and draw a string (line) within the square. This string can be as simple or as complex as you like and then you fill it in. The idea is that you let your mind relax and fill in the shapes with whatever comes to mind or maybe it's something nearby. The Zentangle is not really supposed to be of one particular thing, just a patchwork of drawing thoughts I like to think.

Now at first I thought this is just like doing a continuous wiggly line like I did as a kid and filling it with colour. You know those loopy pictures you used to do? However this is a bit more than that, if you look at Google images people have done some amazing things. There are some ideas of what you can fill your spaces with and some websites have special names for certain patterns and instructions on how to do them.

However for me I just wanted to come up with my own and just let my creative mind wonder and enjoy the process. The images above are of my versions and as you can see I couldn't resist adding a bit of colour! The top one is complete and I've just started with the bottom image. It's great to take some time out of a busy schedule and relax and be creative just to be creative, who knows what may happen to my little patchwork of thoughts drawing.......

Friday, 2 November 2012

My owl collection

Next to my desk is a shelf unit which groans under the weight of all my sketchbooks, files, journals, books and paper. It is also the place where I place other precious things such as china cups, special edition golden syrup tins and now my ever growing collection of owls!

The owl cushion was the first resident and I bought it on a craft stall in Richmond from a lovely lady. We found the brass bookmark in an old bookcase we bought. It's delicately embossed with the "Owl and the pussy cat" in their boat and the first verse of the poem and I love it. The jade owl was given to me by my in-laws from one of their trips abroad. The pink felt owl and owlet was from my sister-in-law. The glass owl was a fantastic TKMaxx find and was on my stand at the NEC in March alongside his blue friend, who is on the mantle piece downstairs. I also have a lovely owl pin that is on my coat given to me on my graduation by my Mum.
My most recent find was this lovely mug! I fell in love with it as soon as I spied it on a stall at Tynemouth market last week. It's a Hornsea  mug and was designed and screen-printed by John Clappison back in the 1970's. I love the simple style and the combination of colours and also the humour of the design. All the owls are wide awake apart from the one on the left who is fast asleep, which I thought would be me! It is a very welcome addition to my owl collection and I will look out for more owl things and maybe some more Hornsea pottery as I love the style as it reminds me of my childhood and the herb jars my Mum had.

Is there anything you like collecting?

Saturday, 29 September 2012

A feast for the eyes.......

 Fromental's Head Artist Master Wang, who travelled from China. Image from Decorex Int 2012 
Linwood's new collection launch. Image from Decorex Int 2012

Decorex 2012 was fantastic! I had a great time wondering around and gathering inspiration and enjoying all the new collections and a catch up with friends over a coffee or two. My bag of show catalogues was rather heavy by the time I left on Monday evening.

I would say one major highlight was watching the talented Master Wang hand painting delicate paper panels. Fromental had flown him over from their studio in China, where he is the head artist. Over the 4 days of Decorex Master Wang  painted these panels for a silent bidding auction to raise money for the Maggie's cancer centres. I was fascinated by the delicate lines he could paint with quite a large Chinese brush and loved the soft colour palette, the birds and the blossoms.

Linwood also had a great stand which was full of interesting props to display their new collections. Art house was my favourite collection, drawing inspiration from train routes, retro letters, script and tea cups. Postal prints was the other collection I rather liked, with date stamps, post marks and copperplate writing as it's theme.

All the rug companies had lovely rugs on display and the theme of traditional with a contemporary twist was very much in evidence. 

So my little head is buzzing now and full of inspiration and beautiful patterns that I could develop mmm.

Above is an eclectic mix of images taken in my favourite museum the Victoria & Albert.

I love the V & A and always make time for a wonder round when I'm in London if I can. I find even though I've been a few times now, I still see new things and always come away feeling inspired and contented. I even managed to squeeze in a visit to the cafe and have a pot of tea and a slice of cake yum!

I spent ages going round the Islamic section and took lots of pictures and particularly liked the turquoise pieces, with their intricate scrolling and layered patterns. Some of the embroidery from the same region was also gorgeous, like this floor blanket the detail was incredible and  so delicate.

I found a bit of Art Nouveau too, very reminiscent of our time in Paris. This was a window grill from a building that has sadly been demolished. I love the flowing  lines and the colour is gorgeous too.

Old labels and postal marks are very much in vogue at the moment and I loved these labels from an old box that contained fabric pieces.

The last image is of a Chinese shawl, which was quite substantial in size and was said to have been used to decorate a piano. I stood and studied this piece for ages, the detail in it is incredible and the typical boating scenes pretty. Every last stitch was perfect and the graduations on the flowers was beautiful. Perhaps I should try some on my latest embroidery piece.

Another gallery I managed to squeeze in was the new jewellery section. This has pieces through the ages and is for anyone with a magpie instinct as it's VERY sparkly. Unfortunately photographs were not allowed, but I loved the Art Deco pieces and also some filigree jewellery made from iron and steel, who would have thought such delicate pieces could be made from those materials. Some of the collection can be viewed on the V & A website if fancy a peek.

So with a head full of inspiration I better get creating!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Mr Ballistic Owl finished!

I've had a lovely few days finishing off Mr Ballistic Owl, found it really relaxing sitting embroidering and half watching half listening to the tv or radio. All I have to decide now is what to make him into, a cushion, a piece of wall art, a framed picture or a quilt.......? A friend suggested making a quilt and having it as a part of that, I quite like that idea. I found an article in an embroidery magazine about journal quilt, maybe that's an idea to pursue mmmm .

A journal quilt is where you create a section of quilt every month and it reflects what is happening to you that particular month or how you feel, a favourite find, the topics are endless really. Then at the end of the 12 months you stitch it altogether and there you have it, a year of your life in stitch fab! I'm not sure I could stick to one a month as work keeps me pretty busy, but I may give it a go and use Mr Owl as my first section.

The journal quilts of Liz Brookes are a good example of how they work and she has added a description for each one: http://www.lizbrookeward.com/journal-quilts.html

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A bit of stitching.

You may remember that a while ago I had a fantastic afternoon making cyanotypes. Well since then they have been sat in the studio waiting for something to happen to them. There are a  few that I think I'll leave as they are, as they're so pretty anything more on them will distract from that. There was one however that I thought needed something more, attempt number one was to machine stitch an image over the top, but that looked hideous especially as my machine skills aren't too hot!

However attempt two has been much more successful and much more me. I've over printed the cyanotype with my lovely Ballistic owl and now I'm merrily hand embroidering details and adding embellishments. It's a work in progress, but here are a few snaps of what I've enjoyed doing so far on sunny afternoons and cold draftee evenings.

I've added white blossom using a very light cotton so you can still see the cyanotype print through it. I also used one of my favourite stitches to outline the petals.

Lazy daisies are fun to stitch and I decided to add beads to the centres for a bit of sparkle.

As I'm stitching the pattern is growing organically. I've a rough idea of how I want it to look, but I want it to have a natural flow so nothing has been planned and I'm not working to a design.

I'm always on the look out for new stitches to learn and I enjoyed this woven stitch that can be used for leaves. I think the variegated cotton adds lovely dimension to the stitch.

It's not finished yet so I'll have to grab a few more embroidery hours, but I'll post an image when he's done. I'm still trying to decide what I should make it into, perhaps a cushion?

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Raw Edges Design Studio

Interior - Raw Edges Design Studio:

'via Blog this'

Working in the flooring industry means you become obsessed with what's out there and how designers push the boundaries. I found Raw Edges through the Elle Decoration awards and was keen to have a closer look at their work.

Raw Edges are Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay and have treated block flooring as if it were pixels on a screen. Each oak block is dyed a specific colour and then laid to make a design that has been carefully planned and mapped out.

I love it, I love the way that at first glance it looks like a random laying of coloured blocks, but when you take a closer look a pattern emerges. Bold and clever, subtle and contemporary fabulous!

For more images of these floors and more of Raw Edges work follow the link above.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Rediscovering an old love.....

A trip to Cragside last month has revived a passion for Chinoiserie and Japonisme. In 1st year at CCAD, we did a project based on these themes and I fell in love with it. I loved the woodblock prints especially and the patterns on kimonos. The inlaid work on tiny boxes and the porcelain were also inspiring. I've also been given two books by work with beautiful woodblock prints in with their soft tones and lovely detail. I could look at those for hours.

The wallpaper in the buttery at Cragside is beautiful and reminded me of the vases and tiles I'd researched at the V & A and also at the Oriental museum in Durham. The combination of white and soft cream soften this otherwise busy pattern. If you look carefully there is some lovely detail in this two colour print.

 I must get my pictures out from these trips and find that book I should have bought ages ago and buy it! Then try out some new chinoiserie patterns out.

Walking along the rock garden I spotted these beauties, I love the lollipop type flower and sadly I don't know what its called, but it has a Japanese feel to it as does the flower below it with its glorious purple/maroon tones.

So once I've got the house straight after decorating the sitting room, I'll be getting the pictures out and ordering that book and immerse myself in all things oriental.........lovely :-)

Friday, 13 July 2012

Spacecraft but not as you know it....

I've been gathering new and interesting websites, blogs and images over the last week, always looking for new and exciting things to inspire me. I came across the website of Spacecraft a design and printing studio in Melbourne. Their gorgeous designs vary from the bold geometrics to the more photographic, using old photos of architecture and people. The fabrics produced are used for interior accessories and wall panels, from the images on the site it looks like a very busy studio.

Whilst doing all their fantastic printing they discovered that as the print went through to the backing cloth over time it built up a new and fascinating design all of it's own. Now they preserve these beautiful yet accidental prints, finish them and use them in making cushions and other interior accessories or create lovely wall panels. I think they are beautiful and every time you look at one you see something different, the use of photographs and the bold patterns makes for interesting layering and textures. I'm completely inspired!!

Do you remember the backing cloths at college that we all enjoyed trying to spot different peoples work on? Well maybe we should have got the college to preserve them and then we could make fantastic things and sell them!

This is what the studio calls a Friday cushion, each Friday a member of the team chooses a selection of fabrics and makes a unique cushion. I love this jolly yellow one and the beautiful patterns that have been incorporated into it. If you do fancy a look at the website you will also see cushions and other items with the backing cloth fabric being incorporated into them.

Now I'm completely inspired I'm off to create!!

Images: spacecraftaustralia.com

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Prefab 77

As I've made my way around Newcastle I've come across some interesting urban artwork. It is often on a massive scale and something that sticks in your head. Like the eyes that look out from the balaclava, they have that spooky, haunted look that follow you everywhere. Until now I've not known who's produced these thought provoking works. Then while searching for inspiration on the web I found Prefab77, a collective of North East artists who produce cutting edge artwork often with a political feel, but as they say "always beautiful".

Their work if often on the sides of buildings often on ones around the Byker farm area where aged walls lend added texture and depth to the detailed work of Prefab77. I love the scale and the detail in these images and that they often bring life to blank space. Their take on the Queens portrait is for the Jubilee, I've not seen this yet, maybe I should take a trip round Byker and Newcastle and see if I spot her and her cheeky wink!

Images: Balaclava, thedirtfloor.com, Queen, facebook.com

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Fun with blue.

 Over the last couple of days I've been making the most of the sunlight! A while back I bought the chemicals to make blue prints, until now I haven't really had the chance to do them. After all the rain we've had I wanted to do something that really took advantage of the sun and this seemed the perfect project :-)
 After a bit of faffing mixing the chemicals and trying to keep the curtains closed to make a dark room. I was amazed at how quick the rest of it went, the reaction is instantaneous and almost like magic blink and you miss it. I was thrilled with the detail too, some things you could almost be mistaken for the real thing.
 My hoards of bits and bobs came in handy, see it was worth hanging on to them! I even tried a couple of koda trace designs to see how they would work.

So now I have 6 lovely prints that I will work into with stitch and maybe add some conventional printing. I'm going to have plenty to keep me going and I'm looking forward to having an experiment with them. I'm also thinking of other ways I could transfer images and what sort of things I'd like to print this way.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Flame on the Tyne

 Last night was a great night out on the Newcastle quayside. Although there was always the threat of a heavy rain storm, it didn't deter the hundreds if not thousands of people who came down to see the Olympic torch. We got a great spot on the junction of Side and the Quayside and it was fantastic to get a picture of the torch and it's bearer.
 After travelling across the Swing bridge the torch made its way to the Tyne bridge and Bear Grylls took it down the special zip wire to the Baltic square. If you look really carefully you can just make out the torch before Bear leapt and whizzed down. It was a fantastic event and everyone had a great time and the atmosphere was amazing. Well worth braving the wet and cold to see it.
On our way home we spotted this mural on the side of the Ship Inn in Byker, I thought it was great and loved the funny people and the style, I particularly like the dog with it's huge feet. Have a look out for it if you're ever down that way.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Jubilee, folk music and headstones.

 For the Jubilee weekend we went to visit the in-laws across in the Lakes and went to the Ireby folk festival. Our time there was very refreshing and a fantastic break away, although the weather could have been better. The folk festival was great and we thoroughly enjoyed "Time gentlemen please featuring the Demon barber road show", full of street and Irish dancing, it got the feet tapping. Another highlight for me was "Rob Heron and the tea pad orchestra" whose performance kept you dancing and singing with an eclectic mix of 30's swing, blues and gypsy jazz, I'll be putting "She don't like fish" on my ipod!

On the best day weather wise we went for a gorgeous walk up St John's in the vale, a walk that had a bit of everything a gently flowing river, a wood, a climb up to a fantastic view and an old church at the end. I spotted this lovely fern still all curled up tight and thought it had beautiful form almost heart shaped, with a little crown snuggled inside.

At the end of the walk we got to a lovely old church with a higgledy piggledy grave yard, I know it sounds a bit strange but I quite like looking at the inscriptions on headstones and marvelling at the care that has been taken to carve the names of loved ones. Some of the fonts are beautiful, I liked this one in particular in St John's in the vale. The coat of arms was intricate and gave the sense that this was an important member of the community at one time. There was a beautiful lace hydrangea growing round the church door too that I took a snap of before the camera battery ran out!

So lots of things to inform and inspire and I have realised I have an ever growing fascination with old handwriting and fonts and I'm introducing them into my work more and more.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Sun spots

WOW what lovely weather we've been enjoying at the moment! It's great seeing everyone much more relaxed and in their summer clothes, lots of pretty dresses and tops around. Not sure the world is ready for my ghost like legs yet though, may have to get out the fake tan!

Anyway, I've been looking around for new things to draw and finding all sorts of things now the light is brighter. I spotted this the other day as the sun shone through my dinning room window and thought how beautiful it was. I managed to get a snap of it before the sun moved round, I love the texture and the patterns. So this afternoon I'm going to have a go at translating it into a drawing as well as finishing a drawing sheet off I started a while ago and haven't managed to complete yet.

Keep happy enjoy the sun :-)

Friday, 4 May 2012

Should really be doing housework!

Part of today was set aside to do housework, but so far not a cloth or hoover has been picked up or pushed round oopps! The reason for this is an old printing block I inherited, that has been whispering quietly to me for months now.

I've been wanting to build it into a design of some description as it's so beautiful and if it could really talk it would tell us some interesting stories. So I've been experimenting with it and how to translate the partial design. I tried mono printing, that didn't work but it maybe something to keep trying. I tried a rubbing, but not quite the effect I want. I would splurge some dye on a pad and dip into that as it would have been used in the old days, but I like the patina on it now and don't want to ruin it. Anyway played around and I now have it on the paper surface I prepared. I'm going to repeat certain parts of it and draw and paint building up layers and images. I'll let it develop organically and hopefully something beautiful will appear.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Beauty in the new and the old.

Blossom it's everywhere!
It maybe old but it's beautiful.

Spring is definitely here, all the beautiful blossom trees where I live are out in all their glory. The huge cherry tree that I can see out of my studio window was a bit of a late starter, but has finally put her glad rags on! The birds love it and can be seen happily hopping around in it singing their little hearts outs. I love the variety of the colours of blossom and the deep pink almost magenta coloured is rapidly becoming my favourite. It all just makes me feel so happy and raring to get creative.

The old wallpaper revealed after an old box on the wall had been moved is equally as beautiful as the fresh blossom. I love the faded tones and the worn off bits. It is inspiring thoughts on a theme I've dabbled with over the last few months, but may pursue with more vigour now that I have a bit more time to explore new ideas. I've been exploring new techniques too and experimenting with my drawings for work more, so maybe I can bring some of that into some new designs for Ballistic Owl. Will let you know how I get on.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Beautiful, Kayla Coo

Image Kayla Coo

Whilst at the NEC last month amongst lots of creative people in a buzzing atmosphere, sat opposite me quietly sewing on her machine was Michala Gyetvai of Kayla Coo. On the first day she was working on a small piece that by the next seemed to have grown huge! I worked out as the day went on that it was a different piece. I grabbed a few minutes towards the end of one day and went and had a closer look at this fabulous piece of work.

Michala was lovely and very happy to talk about her work. It all starts from her paintings, which she then translates with felt, hand and machine stitch, she says she is really painting with stitches. She works on small tiny pieces such as the ones pictured above, to huge wall pieces like the one she was working on that first day. With all the stitching and felting the fabric takes on a life of it's own and warps to add further dimension and texture.

When I got home I looked up Kayla Coo's blog and wow what a treat, you can't fail to be inspired by this beautiful work. Her love of painting, nature and trees really comes through in lovely intricate stitching and thoughtful colour palettes. So if you feel like a pick me up and want to see something really beautiful pop over and have a look at Kayla Coo!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Bespoke rugs @ Ballistic Owl!

Open Seed from the Originate Collection.

Oak from the Structure Collection.

After a busy show at the NEC in March and receiving lots of lovely compliments on the Fern rug, I've been tweaking the website. It has been a work in progress for a while, but now I've bitten the bullet and added new collections and there are easy steps to follow to order your bespoke rug from Ballistic Owl.

Open Seed is from the Originate Collection and was taken from my final year project and given a bit of a scale and colour makeover. To see this rug design and others from the same collection follow this link: Originate.

Oak is from the Structure Collection and was inspired by a gnarled old tree spotted on a walk. To see this and other rugs in this developing collection follow this link: Structure.

All rugs are made order and are hand tufted here in the UK, I'm also happy to work to commission.

For those new to Ballistic Owl, I'm an awarding winning surface designer and specialise in interior fabrics and rugs. I got into rug designing through winning the 1st prize in the Goodweave 2011 annual rug design competition, judged by Celia Birtwell. I thoroughly enjoyed designing the Clematis rug and seeing it on display at Decorex International 2011, it is now available from Jacaranda. (JCD2011).

So if you have space in your home for a beautiful bespoke, hand-crafted rug pop along to ballisticowl.co.uk.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A fantastic time.

My stand at the Fashion, embroidery and stitch show NEC.

My favourite dress from the Downton Abbey collection.

Keeping my hands busy during the show.

Wow what a week it's been! This time last week (9:15 am) I was on the road to Birmingham with a boot full of exciting stuff for my stand at the NEC and feeling a bit nervous. After 4 1/2 hours I reached the enormous site that is the NEC, I've never been before and was was quite taken aback at how big it was! The hall was a hive of activity with other stand holders putting up their displays and arranging stock and the fashion show people testing the sound system and putting out chairs, the atmosphere was great.

I had an idea of how to display my work, but until I was there it was not a really firm idea. The top image shows part of my stand and the rug I had made especially for the show. I was thrilled with it and it made a real impact on the display. It was based on my design and hand tufted by the lovely people at Turnberry Carpets based in Scotland. It was held in place with velcro, nails and crossed fingers! Fortunately nothing had fallen off overnight, although Stacie and I did get to the show early on Thursday just in case it had.

The show opened to the public on Thursday 22nd and it was a very busy day. The embroidery I did for my fashion project caught peoples eye and drew them to the stand and then they noticed my other work. I received lots of lovely compliments and comments from "your work is lovely" to " you've really inspired me and I love the colours you've used". I may even have an order for a rug which will be fantastic! A few embroidery guilds have asked me to speak at a some of their meetings and I take that as a great compliment as they've all been embroidering for a lot longer than me.

All in all the show was a great experience and may even be tempted to do another. Madeira were very generous in giving me the opportunity and I'm really grateful for it.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


All lined up ready for ironing and fixing! I've had a fab day printing and only really stopped for the odd cuppa and lunch. Feels great to be printing and getting all inky, although I'm not sure my bath really appreciates it!

Sunny weekend and feeling springy

It's all hands to the pump this week as I prepare for the show that starts next Thursday! Last week I finally got some time to prep my screens and started printing some items. The first few prints were a bit ropey and I started to get a bit anxious about the whole thing, but after some thinking and problem solving and a weekend in the Yorkshire sun, I've got the printing sussed yay!!

I now have several pieces printed waiting to be pressed and finished. Today I will work on some more, happy day. I finished the button packs off and I'm pleased with them, they look quite cute in their sets of 6. My digital lengths have arrived and I'm chuffed to bits with those, I'll take a picture of them and post it up later.

So the plan for the rest of the week................... is to do more printing, packaging, labels, display layout and lots lots more!!

While on the Yorkshire coast at the weekend enjoying the lovely spring sun on the beach, I spotted this ladybird basking in the sun too. Wonder if she had her polka dot bikini on?? I found some tiny fossils as well and they will go in my box for drawing inspiration. Now with having that good dose of sun I'm ready to tackle this busy week ahead and pull things together for the show.