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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

‘Allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root, and grow’

Welcome to the third week of the New Year! I’m glad to say that so far I’m keeping up with my resolutions, and finding them quite rewarding. The wonderful thing about pledging to do a ‘deed a day’ is that there’s mutual benefit. Studies have shown that people who help other people report feelings of satisfaction and gratitude. There’s also proof that doing good benefits your mental health. Win-win! To read more about the science behind this, and get even more inspiration to help others, take a look at this interesting article from goodnet.org (link) which brings me to my second resolution – to be aware of what I Put in my body, physically and mentally. In a previous post I mentioned the book Touching Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which he explains the importance of maintaining ‘a proper diet for our consciousness, refraining from ingesting toxic intellectual and spiritual food’. I realised that by starting my day by reading of all the sadness in the world in the newspaper, and then flicking on the news channel to also view it, I was starting my day with thoughts of what I was seeing and hearing – violence, death, crime. In common with other people who suffer from anxiety, I find mornings to be one of the most difficult times of the day. Research has shown that cortisol levels (the fight or flight hormone) is at its highest during this time. By ingesting negativity I was feeding this anxiety, which is why I made the decision to instead fill my morning with craft and creative journaling. This has definitely given my sewing projects a boost! And I’ve started work on a St Dwynwen’s day (Think Welsh Valentine’s Day) inspired skirt.

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As with all my clothing this is entirely hand sewn, and made using upcycled material and vintage broderie anglaise found in my local market. The material is fantastic quality, and of course this piece will be one of a kind due to limited material. Next month I’ll be bringing you a tutorial on how to make your own basic children’s skirt, which is so easy it’s even suitable for beginners. If you feel the need to get crafty in the meantime, there are plenty of tutorials from the past couple of years to choose from:

Last week I was excited to drop off my piece at Y Galeri Caerffili (website) ready for the Winter Exhibition. It’s uplifting to see how the small town of Caerphilly has evolved over the years to now have a real presence of creativity. Next month I’ll be bringing you a review of the visitor centre/art gallery, and hopefully inspiring you to visit for yourselves. If you’re interested in seeing this year’s Winter Exhibition, which showcases the work of 72 shortlisted artists, the gallery is open from 10am – 5pm Tuesday – Saturday. The exhibition will run until 2nd February. You can even participate by nominating your favourite work for the Visitor’s Choice Award.
Although I’ve found my focus more craft-based than art-based lately I’m occasionally dipping in to an autobiographical piece that I started late last year. I’m taking my time and enjoying the process of creating. I found a wonderful quote by producer Carlton Cuse that I feel really expresses the creative process: ‘The creative process is not like a situation where you get struck by a single lightning bolt. You have ongoing discoveries, and there’s ongoing creative revelations […] along the way you must allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root, and grow’. As I paint I feel different things, ideas come to me, and the piece almost always evolves from what I originally envisioned. I like to think that’s what puts ‘soul’ in to a piece.

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Monthly Tutorial: Loom knitting for beginners (and your guide to ethical knitting)

Wool is a subject that occasionally comes up in the vegan community, and for years I was unsure of where I stood with using it. I’ve been doing some research to bring you the facts about wool, the impact it has on animals, and how you can make your knit more ethical.

So, what’s wrong with wool?

Question 1. Don’t sheep need to be sheared?

I’ve found that many people assume shearing a sheep is essential and the ‘kind thing to do’ to ensure the sheep is comfortable. This is partly true. Sheep develop thick coats that do need shearing to ensure they’re comfortable, but here’s the thing: wild sheep have the ability to naturally shed their coats, it’s breeders who have bred sheep specifically for wool to develop thick coats, which they cannot naturally shed, meaning they need to be sheared. Like with dogs, we’ve almost ‘edited’ sheep for a purpose.

Question 2. Isn’t shearing painless?

Yes and no. The cutting of the wool itself is painless, but it’s when skin gets nicked or accidentally cut that it’s painful. This is more likely when wool is being mass produced. Shearers often get paid per sheep, rather than per hour, which means workers are more inclined to work faster, which can result in mistakes.

Where your wool comes from and why it matters

80% of wool comes from Australia, where a practice known as ‘museling’ is legal. Museling is when the skin from around the sheep’s rear is literally cut away, usually without anaesthetic. Why would they do this you might ask? Well, it’s claimed that this practice prevents something known as ‘fly strike’ which is when blow flies lay eggs which eventually hatch in to maggots which eat away the skin of the sheep. This can be fatal. However, there are alternatives, as the RSPCA Australia outline on this page (link).

Question 3. Where can I get ethical wool or alternatives?

The good news is that museling is illegal in the UK, so any wool that’s produced in the UK won’t come from sheep that have been subjected to this painful practice. This may be enough for you to decide you’re happy to purchase UK wool, but of course there’s always the matter of welfare whilst sheering. In my opinion if you still feel you want to use wool it’s best to go for small businesses that don’t focus on mass production. I contacted the owner of Laura’s Loom who collects fleece from ‘small manufacturers across the North of England into the Scottish Borders’ to ask about welfare. She was most helpful, actually speaking to one of her farmers, who assured her that their small flocks were well cared for. As well as selling accessories her online shop also stocks yarn for knitting and weaving (link).

If you decide that you’d prefer to take animals out of the equation all together, there are also plenty of synthetic wool’s available. You can pick these up at most craft shops, such as Hobby Craft, at a reasonable price. Materials include cotton, acrylic mixes (acrylic, acrylic with cotton, acrylic with viscose) and there are even more options online, including materials such as bamboo. I’ve found that etsy has quite a few options available, and also means you’re supporting small businesses (link) However, if you’re looking for a truly ethical/eco option it’s important to remember that acrylic is man-made and doesn’t biodegrade as natural fibres do.

So now you’ve decided the material for you, it’s time to get crafting. This month I’ll be giving you an introduction to loom knitting. This project is so simple, and is a good starting project for beginners. I found my wool in a charity shop. It’s always worth taking a look as occasionally you’ll stumble upon a stash.

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You will need:

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  • Small round loom (mine was intended as a flower loom)
  • Scissors
  • Wool/other
  • Loom hook
  • Button (optional)

Where to buy:

Loom Hook (link)

Round loom (link)

Step 1

Put a small length of wool through the middle of your loom, so you have a little tail, then wrap your wool once, in a clock-wise way, around each peg.

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Step 2

Once you’ve done this on each peg and you’re back to your first peg, wrap the wool around it again, as you’ve been doing, to create a second loop. Take your loom hook and pull the first loop (the one underneath the second you’ve just made, and pull it over the first, off the peg.

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Step 3

Repeat above over and over until you reach your desired length.

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Step 4

Once you’ve reached your desired length, snip the wool so you’re left with another tail. This time, instead of creating a second loop and pulling the first over it you’re going to pull the length of wool through the loop.

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You’ll be left with what resembles a loose knot. (I have removable pegs so remove them as I go along)

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Step 5

Repeat above until you’ve done all of the pegs, then gently pull to tighten a bit, and tie a knot to stop unravelling. Tie a knot in the other end as well.

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Step 6

Turn your wrist warmer the right way (it’ll be inside out).

 

Step 7

Sew on either a button, or you can use a little wool to make a bow to sew on.

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Happy crafting!

Seasons Tweetings!

Seasons Greetings to all my followers! What a year! It’s been a while since I last posted, I’ve been inundated with hospital and clinic appointments, but now thankfully I have some time to myself to ease myself in to a less chaotic time, and just enjoy the season. And I kicked off with trying a craft I’ve had my eye on for quite some time: needle felting. I’ve been saying for years that it’s a craft I’d love to learn, and finally I had an excuse! My friend bought me a needle felting kit for my birthday. Take a look at my sweet little robin, who I will be giving to my Grandmother who is a wonderfully creative and crafty lady and will appreciate the love and effort behind him. If you feel like giving this satisfying craft a go, I’ve managed to find some vegan-friendly, wool-free options too! Heidi Feather’s has a wonderful starter kit which includes all you need to get going, along with a project book full of cute ideas from a robin, elephant, penguin, and even bunting (HeidiFeathers)

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Christmas is always a time when people become a bit more generous, and embrace love for one another more, and lately I’ve been reading some inspiring articles that have really brought in to focus the changes I want to make myself, not just this time of year, but for the year ahead, and hopefully the future. Already I’m laying the foundations for my New Year’s resolutions by making small changes.

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There are two books which I’d recommend if you’re interested in making similar goals. ‘Touching Peace‘ by Buddhist poet, scholar, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh may have an unassuming cover, but inside can be found gems of wisdom on many topics, from relationships to diet and general daily living. The second book I’m going to recommend is ‘Zero Waste Home‘ by Bea Johnson, which is an interesting read for anyone thinking of embarking on a more environmentally-aware lifestyle. This year I’m also pairing up with a resolution buddy! A nice idea as you can encourage one another when your motivation is flagging.

As well as being the start of a hopefully more aware year, I’ll also be kicking off 2018 as I mean to go on – in a creative way. I’m happy to say that this year I’ll once again be taking part in the Y Galeri Caerffili‘s Winter Art Exhibition after my piece ‘The Artistic Autistic’ was chosen to be included. I created this piece with the intention of communicating how it feels to live with autism in our modern world. Many people with autism have sensory issues, which can lead to what’s known as ‘sensory overload’. Whilst most people are able to filter out outside stimulus, this can be difficult for people with autism, meaning we experience a constant flow of sounds, sensations, and sights, which can become overwhelming. I chose the colours carefully to try to communicate the feeling. If you’re interested to know how it feels to experience sensory overload, there are some great autism simulators on the web. If you know someone with autism it’s definitely worth taking a look at these: Sensory overload simulator

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‘The Artistic Autistic’ Oils on canvas board

It’s become somewhat a tradition of mine to have a real sort out of everything at the beginning on December and put my decorations up, and this year I found a stash of artwork that I’ve accumulated over the years, some up to 6 years old. It was interesting to see how my style and the materials I use have changed over the years.

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As promised earlier in the year, I also kept a visual diary of my visits to my hospital/clinic appointments. I took the time I would have spent just sitting waiting to challenge myself and create super quick sketches – something which I find a bit difficult as I’m a stickler for detail! Here are just some of my sketches.

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Hopefully in the new year I’ll be back to my usual weekly posts, with reviews, tutorials, and the occasional vegan recipe thrown in!

Merry Christmas (and a belated Yule to any Pagan followers out there)

xxx

Identity crisis

So far this year I’ve been on a journey to live my life in a way that’s within my means. Whilst it’s so easy to compare yourself to others, sometimes you have to remind yourself that you’re you, with your own individual needs. The past few months in particular have felt really significant in terms of identity and adapting the way I live to enable me to go about my daily life in a reasonable, albeit limited way, thanks to fibromyalgia and the host of trials that it brings.

The past few weeks have been focused on the way I create. My creative identity. This is something I relish in – a huge part of who I am, despite the health conditions that can sometimes seem like such a dominant part of life. But whilst I’ve adapted my daily life, I’ve battled with the creative process. So what do you do when the way you’ve always worked is not always doable? I started to actually feel quite excited about the possibilities and the chance to experiment, but that openness recently brought with it a sense of aimlessness and a questioning of where ‘I’ was in all of this. I did a lot of soul searching (as I often feel art comes from the very ‘being’ of who I am) and looked to other artists for inspiration. Finally, after much thought and experimentation, I feel I’m making some headway to getting the balance I need between detailed work and more laidback work. For a few days I explored the illustrator in me, and just went with the flow to try some children’s book illustration.

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Whilst I found this relaxing I couldn’t let go of my love of detail, so combined this sort of illustration with more intricate pattern.

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I realised I felt I had to fit in to a specific category: am I a ‘children’s book illustrator’? Am I a ‘fine artist’? I now realise I can combine elements to work around my difficult days when I’m in a bit of a ‘fibro fog’, to keep doing what I love.

In other areas of my creative life, I’ve been busy trying out a new bag pattern, using upcycled material to create useful (and unique!) pouch-style shoulder bags (picture below). I’m also thrilled to share the news that my piece ‘Flower Power 2’ was chosen to be shown in the current Penarth Pavilion exhibition. You can visit the website here. The exhibition runs until 28th August.

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Once upon a time…

A while ago an acquaintance asked me to illustrate a children’s story they’d written about a little adopted kitten. I based some of the illustrations on places I’ve been/lived.

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Experiments with pen

My latest piece, step-by-step. Love the versatility of ProMarkers!

Title: The Autistic Brain

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Monthly tutorial: chickpea bites

Every now and then I like to stray from my usual creative tutorial and bring you some vegan inspiration instead. Today we’re making deliciously healthy chickpea bites, which are perfect for a picnic, and can be topped with anything you can image!

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ingredients

  • 120g tinned chickpeas
  • 70g oat flour
  • 1/2 tsp flax seeds
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • Dried dill and rosemary

method

Sometimes in vegan cook books and recipes you’ll see something called a ‘flax egg’. This is in place of an egg in the recipe, and is made by mixing crushed flax seeds with water, which creates a quite gelatinous texture, just like an egg. This is the first thing you need to do in this recipe. Crush your flax seeds, add 1 1/2 tbso of warm water and set aside for 15 minutes.

‘Oat flour’ is simply ground oats. You can be a bit creative with your flours if the mood takes you, and can find almost any flour you can imagine in health food stores, and now even most supermarkets, but oat is often the cheapest. Simply take 70g of any oats (rolled, whole etc) and blitz in a food processor.

Next, open your can of chickpeas, drain using a colander or sieve, rinse, then dry on kitchen towel.

Put your chickpeas into your food processor and blitz (you may need to stop every now and then to push them down). You’ll be left with a slightly crumbly consistency that will ‘compact’ when pressed down.

Place your chickpeas, a generous amount of herbs (and a pinch of salt if you like) your oat flour, and flax egg into a bowl and stir through. You want an almost dough-like consistency, which should happen when you begin moulding the ingredients together.

Heat your oven to 160 degrees (fan) and line a baking tray with grease-proof paper.

Form your dough into small cracker-sized rounds, pat down, and place on your baking tray.

Brush these with a little olive oil, and bake for 5 min, flip, then bake for a further 10 min.

The consistency should be slightly bready.

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Supermarket’s have come on leaps and bounds with their vegan-friendly foods. Most now stock their own versions of vegan cheeses in many exciting new flavours!

 

 

Creative chaos!

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Chaotic! That’s the best way to describe my creativity lately, flitting from one project to another depending on my mood. I’ve been in search of inspiration in many areas, from spending time in beautiful natural spaces (which often stirs something in me) to searching pinterest for art, sewing, interiors, and everything in between. I’ve been re-visiting pieces and photographs, working on my seascape (yes, finally tackling it again) and searching my photo file to create a ‘thank you’ piece for a kind health professional.

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That’s one tip I’d give anyone embarking on learning/developing artistic skills: compile a reference image folder. That way, when the feeling to draw/paint strikes, you only have to reach for your file for inspiration. Mine is divided into sections: places, people, flower/plants and misc. It also encourages an interest in photography, and is a way to capture a little part of your day. I often carry my digicam with me, even if I’m going somewhere familiar. The beauty of natural spaces and even man-made spaces/views is that things are constantly changing, so there’s a constant supply of new material to work with.

Sewing-wise I’ve been letting my creativity have free-rein, and have been creating a colourful panelled skirt with bright colours, beautiful patterns, and those little details that bring a piece together. I found the perfect fabric which I immediately saw the potential in the moment I set eyes on it.

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Although my clothing project is a little behind where I’d initially planned by this point, I’ve decided the best route to take is to take my time making and researching, and to try to enjoy the creative process, which is in keeping with my objective to be more ‘in the moment’.

 

 

Monthly mini review: Derwent pastel pencil set

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Product name: Derwent Pastel Collection

Price: £16.00 – £53.98 (for 24 piece set)

Rating: 3.5/5

About: A tin containing 24 pieces: 8 conté-esque hard sticks, 14 pastel pencils, 1 sharpener, 1 putty rubbergood

  • If, like me, you tend to use a lot of detail then pastel pencils are for you! I found I had much more control than when using stick pastels and was able to do finer details.
  • Whilst pastels can be quite mucky, the beauty of these pencils is that they leave your hands clean.

 

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  • This set can be pricey, and prices range hugely depending where you look.
  • Availability of individual/replacement pencils can be limited. My local hobbycraft didn’t stock them.
  • One thing I feel would make the set more complete is a blending stump.
  • Not suitable for large areas.

 

conclude This set gave me an excuse to get stuck in to a medium I don’t use of a regular basis. It’s suited to those who’ve dabbled, but want to gain more experience in this medium, and those who have struggled with larger pastel sticks. This set is great for detail enthusiasts, rather than those who prefer to work on a larger scale, and more for those with a real interest in art as opposed to being something you drag out on a rainy day for the kids. Although not my favourite medium, I enjoyed experimenting, and plan to use them again.

ELLIE
‘Thirsty work’

 

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Osnir Narcizo ‘Heisenberg’

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Hannah (Melomiku)  ‘Tobi the Recon/Spy’

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Susan Mitchell – ‘Work in progress’

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