Friday, 29 November 2013

Ink, card and robins.

There have been some changes in routine here at Ballistic Owl, for those of you who follow me on Facebook you will already know why, but for those who don't, perhaps you could join in the owly fun over on I post updates as and when they happen and little studio bits and bobs, as well as inspirational images from my travels about the region. 

Anyway for those of who don't know I now have a job four days a week in the fabulous Newcastle Arts Centre  in Details art store. It's a great place to work and I've met some lovely people and starting to recognise the regular customers. The shop stocks a vast array of media and materials from tracing paper to artist quality oil paints and anything inbetween.

I've been enjoying my time in the studio more as time here is more concentrated than before, but in a good way. It means I have to plan my activities such a this week,  where I've been making my own Christmas cards, something I've not done for a while. I had a great day printing and getting the ink out and covering the room with prints on Monday and had already made a start on my robins, but did more of those on Monday afternoon while my prints dried. Today (Friday) I've finished off my robins and I'm now assembling my cards, with the wishful thinking I'll get them written on Sunday!

Screen printing session

First few robins being made

All felted and outlines stitched (sure there's a pattern in there somewhere!) 

A finished card!

I've also been enjoying drawing (with a little purchase from the shop!), I love drawing and I've got loads of media to play with, but these pencil crayons are beautiful. They're Faber-Castell polychromos and beautifully smooth to draw with and blend well too. There's 120 crayons in the series and I have 47, so I may be on the look out for the others too!
An evenings entertainment.

So remember if you want to keep up with my studio snippets pop over and find my page on Facebook or follow on twitter. I will continue to write my blog with news too, so do keep popping by.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Patterns going mobile!

The last few weeks have been really exciting for Ballistic Owl! I've not only been working on a commission, but I've also had 10 of my designs licensed! 

Keka Case is an American based company who design and produce cases for mobile phones and devices such as Kindles and ipads. They have a core group of designers, which include Rachael Taylor and Debra Valencia, but have expanded their design collective to include some new kids like me! 

At the moment 6 of my patterns are available, but soon that will go up to 10 with my remaining patterns still being mocked up at present. I chose a mix of patterns based on my themes of botanical gardens and microscopic plants cells. So some are more illustrative and others more funky.

They are available to order and are shipped to the UK as well as throughout America. So if you're wondering what to buy your friend this Christmas, why not get them a designer ipad case or phone cover.

News on my commission will follow shortly and I also have now got a job at the Newcastle Art Centre working in the art shop with a possibility of leading some print workshops :-)

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Mixing it up

I have had fun over the last week or so and have got back into screen printing after I had a light bulb moment on what I could try with the designs I currently have on my screens. I knew I hadn't finished with the design, but until now had sort of run out of things to try. 

A while back I read a post by Clarissa Hulse whose work I really love and admire. It was about a trip the John Lewis team paid to her studio and what a great time they'd had experimenting with print. I have always loved the colour blends in Clarissa's work, but for some reason not dared to try it myself.

Last week I had a go and had great fun mixing my inks and allowed myself to be looser in my work and not worry about straight lines or miss prints. If you check out my facebook page you'll see some of the results.

The piece featured below is one of those prints that I decided to use as a further experiment. I've been given a book that explores mixing up techniques and textures and includes a lot of collage using layers of paper as well as fabric. Based on some of those ideas and inspirations I got sewing and playing around with bits of wood, paper and scraps of fabric.......

Across the meadow - by Tracy Bidwell copyright 2013

Detail of Across the meadow - by Tracy Bidwell copyright 2013

On the same day I printed the background for Across the meadow, I also printed these lovely table mats with my Gothic print. A friend gave me the mats to play around with and I'm pleased she did, may have to find some more now! 
Gothic printed in dark chocolate and coffee - by Tracy Bidwell copyright 2013

Off now to play with another print that I did in a similar style! 

Thank you for all your support and encouragement and for reading all my ramblings :-)

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Made By Hands of Britain.

I can now reveal that after a few weeks of preparation and some tweaking that Ballistic Owl is now featured on the fabulous Made By Hands of Britain website!

Made By Hands of Britain was started by Gillian, who after seeing a basket weaver on the BBC show Victorian Farm, and was the only person in the country now doing this particular craft, felt that something needed to be done. This spurred Gillian onto create a platform to showcase and promote craft and hand made products within the UK. The website has within it "mini shops" where individual artists and designers can show and sell their work.

I feel so privileged to be part of this and in my own way keep some of the traditional skills alive, of course with a little Ballistic Owl magic! There are lots of fantastic artists on the site including the lovely work of Louise O'Hara from Drawn to Stitch, whose work is full of texture and atmosphere and I love seeing snippets of her work over on Facebook.

My little shop has a mixture of my creations, from digitally printed pieces with hand embellishments to my screen printed cushions. So pop over and have a look and spread the word.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Structures - if only they could talk

Lately I have been experimenting with a few ideas and have really loved the results so I thought I'd share them with you.

I have enjoyed printing with my little birds and stitching into them, but thought that perhaps a change of theme would be good. I have always loved architecture and the details you might find if you look carefully, and love both old and some new alike. In the North East as with many historical towns and cities there is a vast array of buildings that if they could talk would tell many a good tale.

So I decided to start a new series and so far it's called Structures, I wanted to keep it open so that I could perhaps add other interesting architecture not particular to the North East too. I'm also experimenting with digital print and loving exploring the effects and layers you can build up. It's not to say I'm leaving the beloved hand printing behind, that may come into it later so keep your eyes peeled!

Here are some of my first pieces in the series.

 Flour Mill - copyright Ballistic Owl 2013
 The old school - copyright Ballistic Owl 2013
 Tryptych - copyright Ballistic Owl 2013
Millennium Bridge - copyright Ballistic Owl
Detail from the Quayside - copyright Ballistic Owl 2012

All the prints are created from images in my own vast archive, collected for college projects and trips around the UK. I've loved adding little embroidered details just to highlight key features, sometimes very tiny features! These are now available through my Etsy shop and I will be adding more as I create them, more waiting to be printed as I write this.

Don't forget to look out for my variations, will post about those once I've had a play around.

Thank you for dropping by and don't forget to tell your friends about Ballistic Owl and where you can find me on the web.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Liebster Nomination

Thank you to Lauren Cherice Designs for nominating me for the Liebster Award. Firstly here's what it's all about, it is to nominate and share new up and coming bloggers that have less than a 200 followers. You answer the questions that the nominator has sent and then ask 10 or 11 more to other bloggers with less than 200 followers.

It's similar to a blog hop, but you get to know a little about the person behind the blog too. It's about sharing and support for fellow bloggers within your field.

So here are the questions Lauren asked me:

1.Who is your biggest inspiration? Design wise it has to be Lucienne Day and the way she took the 1951 Festival of Britain by storm. I love the optimism of the whole of 1950's era and the way they were not afraid to try new things.

2.What is your favourite food? Mmm tricky, I have a sweet tooth so puddings are probably it, especially Pavlova or panacotta!

3. Reading or Blogging? I would say a bit of both, I love finding out what other people are up to and what projects they are working on. But I also like sharing what I'm up to or something that has inspired me.

4. Countryside or Beach? The countryside! Always full of inspiration and I love taking pictures of flowers and interesting views or worn stone walls.

5. Have you got anything exciting planned for the rest of 2013? I'm trying to build up my little one woman business at the moment and hopefully once a few teething problems have been resolved, it will tick along nicely.

6.What is your biggest achievement? It's got to be going back to college/uni to retrain and achieving a 1st class degree! I enjoyed every minute of my degree course and made some lovely friends and learnt tons. 

7. Ice cream or chocolate? Tough one this as I really like both (just eaten a curlywurly!), my favourite flavour ice cream is rum and raisin.

8. The one thing you can't live without? Please can I have two things?!?! My cats Snowflake and Sparkle, gorgeous silver tabbies, who keep me company in the studio. My lovely Marek who bless him always gets my latest creations to look at! Oh so technically that's 3 oopps!

9. What is your design starting point? I always start with visual research and then move onto         drawing and draw until I feel I have enough to start designing with.

10. What is your favourite memory? Being proposed to on the very top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, magical :-)

So here are my nominations:

Some great blogs that I follow and enjoy reading and seeing what they're up to.

So to my questions.....

1. If you were given a travel ticket where would it take you?
2. Favourite designer and why?
3. What flavour ice cream would you choose vanilla or rum n raisin?
4. If you were put on a desert island what book would you take?
5. When you work do you have music on or like to work in silence?
6. Night owl or early bird?
7. Where would you most like to see your work displayed/sold?
8. What is your main source of inspiration?
9. Banana or strawberry milkshake?
10. What is your favourite colour combination in a design?
11. If you had the chance to work alongside a famous designer past or present who would it be?

Have fun!

You can also find me on facebook and

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The not so desolate North East and how it inspires me!

One of the most recent topics of conversation in the North East this week has been the comment made by Lord Howell of how fracking would be OK in the North East as it is a desolate place. It has been commented on numerous times in social media and has been taken on board by groups such as @NorthEastHour and Who are all for promoting how great the North East is and wanting to show that the region is a great place to live and work.

As a textile designer and maker I love living in the Newcastle and find it a great source of inspiration. My latest prints inspired by the puffins on the Farne Islands is just one example of how where you live feeds into your work. The pictures below taken by Marek were then used by me to produce the delightful characters in my prints below. If you are a regular visitor to my blog you will have seen my previous post on these cheeky little chaps.

Staple Island Puffins- Picture credits Marek Bidwell

 Fish Supper- Tracy Bidwell for Ballistic Owl copyright 2013

The Offering- Tracy Bidwell for Ballistic Owl copyright 2013

It's not just the wildlife that inspires my work but also the built environment and the beautiful countryside. The Baltic and Central station have fantastic architectural details and the prints shown below are from those great landmarks from architectural history.Newcastle's Cathedral is also a beautiful building with many great details to inspire the creative mind.

 Baltic Flour Mill- Tracy Bidwell for Ballistic Owl copyright 2013

Central Station- Tracy Bidwell for Ballistic Owl copyright 2013
 Newcastle Cathedral - Picture credit Tracy Bidwell

Gothic Cushion inspired by the Cathedral door- Tracy Bidwell for Ballistic Owl copyright 2013

The architects of the past, such as John Dobson left us with a great wealth of inspiring buildings, whether they be industrial or residential. Even having lived here for many years I'm still discovering fantastic buildings within the region.

As for the countryside we couldn't really ask for anything better, open fields, woodlands, coastline and meadows. As well as a wealth of beautiful stately properties and gardens. Images I take as I walk around these places all form a vast library for me to work from either in print or stitch.
 Secret Garden (detail)- Tracy Bidwell for Ballistic Owl copyright 2013

Grasses from around Cragside's extensive grounds- Image credit Tracy Bidwell

So as you can see I love nothing more than going round where I live and taking pictures that then inform my designs. So lets hear it for the fabulous North East and all it's beauty and variety!

To see more of my work please go to or visit my Facebook page

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Puffins galore and Drift

I've been a little quiet of late and that is due to several things. The first is that I went on holiday and had a great time in the Lake District and in Northumberland. The second is that I've been working on a little project for an exciting opportunity that arose while on holiday.

One of our day trips was to Staple Island the home of the puffins within the Farnes and wow did we see lots of these funny little chaps. They were all full of personality and I loved watching them landing and taking off as they are not the most aerodynamic of birds. The little chap pictured below really charmed us with his little present. I came away inspired and knew there was a project theme to start work on.

The offering- photograph copyright Marek Bidwell 2013

 After a lovely lunch in Seahouses we popped into Drift a gorgeous art, craft and gift shop owned by Julie and Nick. They asked me if I would produce some prints for them and that is what I've been working on. It's been so exciting to have a live project and I enjoyed it so much and feel I've caught a little of each personality in my prints. Today I took them in and I'm delighted to say that they took the lot as well as some other pictures I'd taken. So I now have my first stockist whoop!

L-R Gossip, Fish Supper and The offering, copyright Ballistic Owl 2013

If you find yourself at Seahouses do pop into Drift and look for my puffins and perhaps take one home with you!

 Drift art, craft and gift shop Main street, Seahouses.

Thank you for stopping by and I promise to not leave it so long next time :-)

Friday, 21 June 2013

Blooming Marvellous.......

This is my new collection! 

The Plant Hunter Collection: Inspired by visits to some of the most beautiful botanical gardens around England, this refreshing collection presents the exotic and the more ordinary, from the eye catching pin-cushion protea to the majestic beech.

From top left & clockwise: Jade Vine, Stellata, Beech Nut and Passiflora

Over the last few weeks I've been busy drawing and creating these gorgeous patterns and I've loved every minute. For a while I've been thinking I should create a new collection to work with, visiting Kew Gardens at the end of April and coming home feeling so inspired gave me a great theme to work with and lots of visual research too!

From top left & clockwise: Pin-cushion, Carduus, Dandelion-Taraxacum, and Iridaceae

The collection consists of 8 designs and I'm hoping to add others to it as I've still got lots of inspirational images to explore and work with. I've sent off for some sample prints and once I've checked the colours I will get some lengths printed and make gorgeous things. They will also be available to buy through my Spoonflower shop, which I've yet to stock so watch this space........

I hope you like them and thank you for stopping by :-)

You can see some images of work in progress for this collection and other Ballistic Owl projects on: facebook page  or on Twitter and also on Instagram

Monday, 17 June 2013

Woop Studios a creative collective.....

I was out and about the other day buying milk and bread when I happened to pass the magazine rack and the lovely bright cover of the Homemaker magazine caught my eye. I'm always on the look out for inspiration and things to make and ideas for trends. I'd not noticed this particular magazine before, but after a flick through I just had to buy it! 

It has lots of lovely ideas for things to make from blinds to cakes as well as ways to perk up tired furniture and liven up your home. It has a mix of vintage inspired design as well as the more contemporary. Pieces on current trends in the stores for fabric and home wares and interviews with creative companies and people.

This issue (7) also has a fabulous supplement full of the gorgeous work of Woop Studios. The founder members Miraphora Mina, Eduardo Lima, Harriet Logan, and Mark Faulkner all share a love of words and graphic design. This combination is used to create beautiful and  fun prints with collective nouns in a variety of interesting fonts. Below are 3 of my favourites, two of which are in the supplement and one I spotted and fell in love with on their website.

This lovely and serene print of swans gliding across the pool is great with it's limited colour palette and very much reminds me of images from the Art Deco period.

Sitting in my garden over the last few weeks has been lovely, because if you sit quietly enough you not only hear the blue tits and the black birds, but you may even get to see one hopping around in the branches looking for the fat balls and seeds we put out. This poster just reminds me of my little birds flitting around and singing their little hearts out and certainly is charming.

I just had to include this one, being a ballistic owl. I've been calling my little collection of owls an Owlery, but perhaps the correct term should be parliament as in this poster. I love all the mysterious eyes shining through the darkness.

Woop produce these great prints as posters and also on greetings cards and home wares. I think I've just sorted my father in laws birthday present out for this year, as well as finding a great studio to be inspired by!

Thank you for stopping by and hope you find some inspiration too :-)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Having fun with textiles

I have really enjoyed being able to print and embroider over the last few weeks and have loved planning my little pictures for the market stalls and Folksy shop. It's great to have lots of ideas buzzing around my head and then experimenting with them. 

Yesterday with the buzz of having sold two of my bird prints as well as a few other things on the stall on Sunday, I got to thinking of other techniques I could bring into my textile pictures. Below is an idea I tried out using reverse applique and my ballistic owl lino print. I think he looks rather smart and will soon be in a frame ready for my next market! 

Ballistic Owl in a suit! Copyright Ballistic Owl 2013

Along side making new and exciting things with textiles, I'm also busy drawing so I can expand my pattern portfolio and also have some designs to print and later add to things like my lampshades and pictures. This drawing forms part of a sheet inspired by the fantastic flowers I saw at Kew Gardens in April. Once it's finished I will experiment with pattern repeats!

Sketch book drawing. Copyright Ballistic Owl 2013

I'm loving Instagram at the moment and find it's a great way to show work in progress and quickly put them up on my Facebook page or on Twitter. I also use it when I'm out and about, and take a snap when I spot something that could inspire a design. I have also taken quite a few of my cats, so you will have to excuse me on that, but they are very cute!

Instagram picture of work in progress. Copyright Ballistic Owl 2013

As some of my lovely prints have flown the nest, I have added these two gorgeous ones to my Folksy shop and they will also be at my next market stall at Tynemouth which I'm planning on doing on the first Sunday in July. The Ballistic Owl is a lino print with hand embellishment and framed in a smart white box frame and is £24 plus p&p. Humming bird with tropical flowers is also available in the shop and will be on the stall if he doesn't get snapped up from the shop first! 

 The Ballistic Owl. Copyright Ballistic Owl 2013

If you love these, but would like something a little more personalised for yourself or as a gift then please get in touch either via my Folksy shop or my Facebook page, links above or they can be found down the side of the blog.

Humming bird with tropical flowers. Copyright Ballistic Owl 2013

Thank you for popping by and I'll look forward to seeing you again soon :-)

Friday, 31 May 2013

Remodeling and new work

Over the past few weeks I have been re-familiarising myself with some of the tools in Photoshop that I've not used for a while. I'm an old fashioned girl really and love hand drawing my designs and pattern repeats. But in the digital age you have to embrace some aspects. I've quite enjoyed tweaking old designs and experimenting with new ones. 

Moorish was my design for the Kleenex competition and I decided it would make a rather nice pattern for other things. 

 Moorish copyright Ballistic Owl 2013

Here I've changed the colours to give it a more earthy tone and I liked it so much it has become one of my new rug designs.

I've also tweaked a few other designs, giving them a more neutral colour palette. I rather like Sycamore in it's grey scale colour-way.

 Sycamore charcoal & grey copyright Ballistic Owl 2013

Look for these in the Originate collection at I've also reformatted the pages and tidied a few things.

This design was for a entry to a design brief that I really enjoyed doing and got to explore some of my floral drawings and a more pastel colour palette. It also got me practising my digital repeat skills! Fingers crossed it is chosen by the company who set the brief.

Passion Flower copyright Ballistic Owl 2013

I've been loving making items for my market stalls and really love this tiny, itsy bitsy piece that has a combination of screen print and embroidery and yet only measures about an 1 1/2 inches! If you'd like to see it and more then they will be with me at Tynemouth Market this Sunday (2nd June) on the East concourse

Itsy Bisty lavender copyright Ballistic Owl 2013

Hope to see you all soon, and thank you for the support and comments, it is very much appreciated :-)

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Fancy a bit of retail therapy?

I've been busy over the last few weeks designing and making these gorgeous little chaps. All hand printed and hand embroidered. They look lovely on my shelf but would look even more gorgeous on yours.

Little bird in the lavender is a lino print and he's enjoying a spot on the lawn by the lavender bush. He's in a 10 x 10 inch black box frame and can be your's for £24 + p&p. Click here to find him perching in my  Folksy shop.

Little bird amongst the flowers is also a lino print, but he is exploring the trellis which has been screen printed in a lovely soft blue. He is perching next to lavender bird in my Folksy shop too, and his measurements are as lavender bird and he is also £24 + p&p.

If you'd like to see more of my items on Folksy just click the link in the side bar under the title of 
Retail Owl: online shops.

My Etsy shop sells mainly cushions at the moment ranging in price from £30-£65. Including this screen printed Gothic cushion, measuring approximately 40 x 40 cm and includes a pad for UK orders only.

I'm trying out both these shops at the moment, but will make sure I leave the link for each item so you can easily find them.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

All the fun of the fair!

My last post was all about getting ready for Tynemouth Market and making lots of gorgeous cushions, lampshades and gifts. Well that was a weekend ago now and what fun we had! We were up early packing the car up and checking we had everything. I nearly forgot my coat as it was such a bright sunny morning, but later I was so glad I went back for it, brrr it was chilly.

With my very lovely assistant we soon got set up and all our layers on and I must say the stall looked lovely and jolly. People were certainly drawn to the bright bold colours of my Pods cushion and the Fern rug. I sold a few items and got some lovely comments on my work and people seemed impressed that it was all designed and handmade by the same person. 

The market has such a great atmosphere even on a grey, cold day and lots of the other stall holders gave encouraging comments and tips. I certainly felt welcome and often got asked if I'd be there next week.

I will be hopefully doing the Tynemouth Market once a month and will be busy making things in between.

All packed up and ready to go!
The boot is stuffed, good job the car is an estate.
Nearly set up, with rug, lampshades, cushions and gifts.
One of my bird prints, with hand embroidery. 
Copyright Ballistic Owl 2013

This Saturday I will be at the Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club with MC Craft Events. I'm really excited about this as the organisers asked me to come along after seeing the stall at Tynemouth! 

I'll have my cushions, lampshades and my gorgeous embroidered pictures as well as a few other things. So if you're at a loose end on Saturday, why not pop along and come and say hello.

I am also accepting commissions on my fantastic printed and embroidered pictures. So if you have a special birthday or wedding coming up, drop me an email or get in touch via my Facebook page and I would be delighted to make you a special and unique gift. 

For Ben & Caroline's wedding in April 
copyright Ballistic Owl 2013

Thank you for dropping by, see you next post :-)