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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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It’s in the details…or not

Since January I’ve been working on a Children’s Illustration course and recently I’ve been finding that I’m really enjoying it. Oddly, it’s the more basic things I find difficult. My brain loves details and up until a year or so ago my work had more of a fine art vibe. I’ve always had a soft spot for children’s illustration though and admit that I’ve spent much time in the children’s section of Waterstones looking at the variety of styles in the picture books.

I find it difficult to limit myself when it comes to details so the most recent task in the course was challenging for me. We were to first use the ‘wet on wet’ method to apply watercolour or gouache to a page and do this with 4 different colours. Once that was dry we were to create a scene using only basic outlines, which we would cut out from the watercolour sheets and stick to a blue background. I found it quite liberating roughly sweeping and dabbing the gouache on and being really free with it. In fact, even my ‘mistakes’ turned into positives as they added interest to the look.

Whilst waiting for my pages to dry I sketched out an idea of how I wanted my final page to look. It was enjoyable just going with my instinct and not worrying about whether what I was doing was ‘good’ or not.

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I used letters as a key of what colour to use where and considered what colours would stand out against each other.

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I was worried the final piece would look too basic but I was quite pleased with how it turned out. I feel like the exercise helped me loosen up and feel better about omitting detail.

I’m looking forward to starting the next brief, which is a double page spread for a story book aimed at 2-4 year olds. Check back for the finished version in next month’s update post!

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Catch him while you can!

Last week I finally visited the ‘Leonardo da Vinci: A life in Drawing’ exhibition at the National Museum & Art Gallery in Cardiff and it just so happened I was visiting on the actual day of the 500th anniversary of his death.

To mark the anniversary art galleries across the UK from Cardiff to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester (just to name a few) held a simultaneous exhibition of some of his fascinating work.

As I walked into the building I was met straight away with the sight of a large banner advertising the exhibition, showing just a glimpse of one of the pieces that I soon found out was on display. What became evident to me almost immediately was that our native language was also used (and I’d soon see more of this throughout the entire exhibition). I feel the National Museum & Art Gallery value heritage and encourage visitors to be curious about our past culture. In the gift shop you’ll find a host of treasures giving a nod to Wales, from traditional gifts such as Welsh love spoons, to Welsh language books.

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The exhibition itself was situated in a somewhat small room off from the main gallery and was guarded carefully by a member of staff. Tickets had to be bought before-hand in the gift shop and punched before you could enter (adult tickets £5, £4 concession, children free). Although I’m personally happy to support educational public spaces such as libraries, museums and art galleries, I wondered if some people may be put off by the price, particularly given the fact that we were given a limit of half an hour to view the pieces. That being said, I feel the majority of the visitors to this exhibition understood that to see first-hand some of da Vinci’s work is a rare opportunity. I should also mention that purchasing a ticket in Cardiff meant half price off your ticket if you visited Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

The layout of the exhibition was fairly well thought-out given the slightly cramped space and it was nice to see ‘extras’ such as a corner dedicated to books on da Vinci, an interactive board and activity booklets for children (or big kids like me!). I feel like the exhibition was curated for a wide range of ages, though perhaps not very young children.

Whilst we were there we encountered a group of school children enthusiastically trying to re-create some of da Vinci’s pieces in their sketchbooks and I liked the fact that they were free to pick up magnifiers and activity booklets (though the magnifiers were so badly scratched it did very little to help see the pieces clearer). However, as there were a lot of people in the room it was very crowded and small queues had begun to form around paintings. I feel it would have been better for large groups to have been able to book in advance to avoid this.

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The free booklet managed to pack in several suggested activities, whilst also revealing a bit about da Vinci and the way in which he worked. I felt this was a good way to get children participating in art and engaging with the exhibition. The reverse side of the booklet was in Welsh.

In addition to the pieces on the walls there were two plinths, one with a piece showing a technique da Vinci used, which was described in the information board below. I feel there was the right amount of information throughout the exhibition, with small descriptions next to each piece, but larger boards giving more in-depth details, such as da Vinci’s background and most interesting to me, the materials he used.

Although the 12 nationwide exhibitions have now finished it’s not too late to see da Vinci’s precious works. From the 24th of May to the 13th of October over 200 of da Vinci’s drawings will go on display at The Queens Gallery (link).

Overall, whilst things were a little cramped, I’m glad I saw this exhibition. I feel as a former art student (though still a student in some ways as we never stop learning) this was one exhibition I shouldn’t miss.

 

 

Quick update

Lately I’ve been allowing myself some more creative freedom, which is really refreshing. I’ve mentioned before trying to get away from the focus on a piece of work being ‘good’ and allow myself to just create. This week I’ve been working on part of my Children’s Illustration course that emphasises the use of texture, rather than solid outlines. I’ve been allowing myself to just go with my instinct and find I’m enjoying the act of creating much more than if I were worrying about how ‘good’ it should be.

I’ve also been experimenting with decoupage during my one-to-one volunteering through the Alzheimer’s Society. I really feel that creativity can have a beneficial effect on people and can be very therapeutic. For me, combining music with creativity helps me experience what’s called ‘flow’ – when you’re utterly immersed in what you’re doing – especially with classical music. As someone who has experienced difficulties with my mood I can really appreciate the benefits of making creativity a regular part of life for individuals suffering from depression and anxiety.

As well as art and crafts I used to write a lot of poetry, although the urge had left me for quite a while until the other day. I find writing poetry a good way of immediately letting out emotion and I’m happy to be inviting more forms of creativity back into my life.

With Easter just around the corner this is the perfect excuse to let your creative self out!

Happy creating!

Monthly tutorial: Spring decorations

This month I’m showing you how to make your own spring decorations. These clay butterflies are super easy to make and would make a lovely handmade gift for someone.

You will need:

  • Polymer clay in two or more colours (such as Fimo or Premo)*
  • Thin ribbon or embroidery thread
  • A small rolling pin (or even a pencil will do!)
  •  Something to make holes (such as a large safety pin)
  • A cookie cutter

* A more eco-friendly alternative to polymer clay is air-dry clay. I’ve noticed it now even comes in different colours, take a look at hobbycraft’s selection here: link

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Step 1

Take a chunk of each of your coloured clays and warm them between your hands until pliable. Roll your clay into a sausage shape and twist, working the clay until you get a marbled effect.

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Step 2

Roll your clay out evenly using your rolling pin and place your cookie cutter over the clay, before pressing down firmly.

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Step 3

Carefully pull away the excess clay (save this, you can use it to make unique beads!)

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Step 4

Poke a hole in the top of your shape (depending on your shape you may need two) and thread some colourful embroidery thread or ribbon through and knot the ends.

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Handmade Easter gift guide

It’s official, spring is here, which means Easter is just on the horizon. Instead of chocolate or something mass produced, why not get something unique with the added benefit of supporting small business and creative individuals? I’ve been scouring Folksy and Etsy to find you some great Easter alternatives!

Cards

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I love print so this card really appealed to me. I like the use of bright, cheerful colours and the detail on the eggs. You can find this and other beautiful cards here: Louise Slater Cards & Prints

 

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If you have a few people you want to send a special card to this ‘Trio of Lambs’ set is perfect. I’d actually frame one of these and have it in my kitchen. You can find this set along with many more goodies here: Bear Print Design

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This design is simple yet effective. This is another one I’d like to frame and put on my wall. I love that this card is also eco friendly, even down to the biodegradable protective sleeve it comes in. Find this card and eco friendly offerings here: Hayley Potter Studio

Decorations

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How sweet is this ceramic bunny decoration? Hand cut by the talented Sarah Duke, this decoration is just one of many gorgeous items in her online shop (inluding the egg decoration below!). Visit: Dottery Pottery

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These make a good change from the usual eggs/chicks/bunnies you find at Easter and would also make a lovely gift! You’ll find all sorts of stained glass creations in Handmade by Joolz (I’m loving her stained glass flowers!)

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Gifts

Every little girl (or boy of course!) will love this super cute bunny bag. Made from quality 100% cotton in the UK. You could fill it or give it as a gift on its own. You can find it, along with other sewn goodies here: Sarahjane Sewing

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I love this quirky brooch, which can be worn all year not just as Easter. This would be great for a loved one and arrives boxed. This was made in the UK by Ellen McCabe who runs Willowgifts on folksy. Her shop is well stocked with all sorts of ceramic gifts, from beautiful plant pots to unique buttons.

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This would be the ideal gift for that person in your life who celebrates the seasons or follows Celtic traditions. This intricate brooch comes ready to gift, wrapped in tissue and a pouch (though I’d be very tempted to keep it for myself!) You can find this item along with Shron’s other metalwork in her online shop: Archives Crafts

 

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More wonderful metalwork! This cute bunny is made using sterling silver and copper and is cut by hand. It comes in a gift box and a silver chain is included. You can find more unique jewellery in Silver Birch Studio online shop.

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Next week I’ll be bringing you some inspiration with my Spring craft tutorials, perfect if you want to give something specially made!

Last minute Mother’s Day make

If you had your heart set on something handmade this Mother’s Day but left it a little too late to order anything, why not try making your own? This month’s tutorial shows you how to make a simple decoration and is suitable for anyone who can use back-stitch. This can also be done on a sewing machine but I find it relaxing to work by hand.

You will need:

 

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  • Pink felt (you can choose whatever colour your mum will like)
  • sew-on decorative elements
  • embroidery thread (or ribbon) in keeping with your colour scheme
  • Cotton (I used a stand-out colour for a decorative effect, you can use same colour as your felt if you like)
  • scissors
  • pins
  • Cookie cutter or template
  • Stuffing (you can use pillow stuffing but all items should be available in HobbyCraft)
  • Optional: essential oils

Step 1

Fold your felt in half and draw around your shape with tailors chalk (available super cheap from craft stores)

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Step 2

Pin inside your outline and cut out your shape.

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Step 3

Separate your two pieces and position your embellishments where you’d like them before pinning into place and sewing.

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Step 4

Place your two pieces together and pin into place, leaving a gap at the top to stuff/insert your embroidery thread or ribbon.

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Step 5

Back-stitch (or machine sew) around the edge of your shape (remember to leave a gap for stuffing)

Step 6

Get bits of your stuffing and start filling your heart. If you want to you can add some essential oil. I used lavender. Carefully use a pencil to push the stuffing in and make sure it’s evenly distributed before sewing up the gap.

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This idea is highly adaptable. You can attach all sorts of things, even add beads for a bit of sparkle. Craft shops usually have ready-made shapes for you to buy so you can skip the delicate cutting out and get straight to the sewing.

 

 

A handmade Mother’s Day

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted as I’ve been fighting off illness but I’m alive! And this week I’m bringing you some unique card and gift ideas for Mother’s day. As any regular readers of my blog will know, I love to promote other creatives and support small businesses, so all of my choices are handmade, making them extra special!

Primrose Place Art

This Folksy shop is run by Helen Wainwright who uses her artistic talent to make cards and prints. Her work is super cheerful, which is what I love most about her designs. Here are some of my favourite Mother’s day cards (click the picture for a direct link).

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DaisyWings

Tina Martin designs and prints all her cards and has recently started stocking an eco-friendly range, offering 100% recycled cards/envelopes in biodegradable bags. Below are some of my favourite picks for Mother’s day but it’s well worth looking at the rest of Tina’s shop as you’ll find everything from prints and gift tags to painted stones and bookmarks.

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Art Glass By Jessica

I’ve always loved glass work and Jessica’s shop is a treasure trove of beautiful gifts. There were two decorations that really caught my eye and I think the daffodil one would also make a wonderful Easter gift.

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Warm Glass Fusion

This Etsy shop, run by Christine Layton is another must-see for glass lovers. I love Christine’s cards with little glass art keepsake!

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Next week I’ll be bringing you a quick last-minute handmade gift tutorial and as this is the time of year when my favourite flower is in bloom: the daffodil. I’ll leave you with the famous (and also my favourite!) Wordsworth poem.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
               – Williams Wordsworth, 1804

Resurrecting the old

Recently my focus has been a bit all over the place when it comes to where to direct my creative energy. I’ve been dipping into my children’s illustration course then reviving old projects and feeling the need to work on those. Over a year ago I started an autobiographical piece that after a bereavement I felt unable to complete. I thought that that would be that, I’d never have the inclination to finish the piece as it reminded me of a difficult time in my life. However, the other day the urge to get back in to some….forgive me for this term….’serious’ art overwhelmed me.

It’s been a little while since I did what people in my life know me for, which is more fine art (not including the still life we had to do for one of the units in my course). As some of you may know over the past year I’ve been turning my focus more to less precise work and embracing the freedom of illustration but I do miss that feeling I get when I get really engrossed in detail. I’m having mixed feelings about beginning work on this piece again but I have this feeling that right now I’m supposed to be out-letting some emotion with it.

The other project I’ve brought out again is one I worked on years ago after the loss of my beautiful Springer Spaniel. Wanting to create something good from something bad I used the box her ashes came in to create a piece of work that had meaning behind it. I called it ‘The Fairy House’, but in a way it’s like a memorial piece. A lot of the materials I used represent something meaningful.

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‘The Fairy House’ by Hanna-Mae Williams

 

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‘The Fairy House’ by Hanna-Mae Williams

In addition to the box that made the main structure of the house I used twigs collected from places I visited regularly with my dog. The field I used to walk in with my Nan (who has also now passed), moss which I dried from places we’d also walked, and even the shells on the roof have their own story. Many years ago on freecycle someone was advertising a box of craft materials that had belonged to their late wife. They wanted them to go to good use as his wife had spent many hours enjoying crafting with them. I promised they would and so they became part of the Fairy House.

Some of the elements are handmade too; I used polymer clay to make tiny mushrooms that are ‘growing’ out of the roof, the blanket in the shell bed was knitted and the little pillow was a section of an old teatowel that I embroidered. A lot of work went into this project, yet for the past year the Fairy House has been sat in a shed. Now feels like the time to tidy it up a bit and decide where it belongs.

I’m enjoying my volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Society and am incorporating my love of craft and all things creative into the session I’m doing. I feel like getting creative can have a positive effect on our wellbeing, even if only for the time we’re doing it.

I’m yet to visit the Da Vinci exhibition in Cardiff (I mentioned in my last blog about the nation-wide exhibitions that were being held to mark the 500th anniversary of his death) but as it’s running until the beginning of May there’s still plenty of time to get there. Since I started researching the Italian Renaissance during my A levels (13 years ago) I’ve had an interest in the subject and artists from that time. I love the use of symbolism and considered using this era in my dissertation but opted for the Symbolist Movement (late 19th century)…you can see why.

This week I’m allowing myself to just be creative in whatever way I feel. How much I create and how much I engage with my work is often dependent on how I’m feeling. This week I’m feeling in need of some freedom, to outlet emotions with whatever project feels right at the time.

 

 

 

Monthly tutorial: St David’s Day

For those of you not from Wales you still may have heard of St David’s Day but not know much about it. Saint David’s Day is the feast of Saint David, patron Saint of Wales, and is celebrated on the 1st March as this is the day he’s said to have died in 589 AD. Today we mark the occasion in different ways, including wearing our national emblems the leek and the daffodil. Schools often hold concerts and special assemblies and I remember being so excited to wear my traditional Welsh lady outfit to school. As this special day is coming up soon, I’m dedicating this month’s creative tutorial to it and will be showing you how to make a decorative pinwheel daffodil. I got the idea from when I helped out at a children’s summer art school where we made paper summer flowers and have adapted it to fit this specific occasion.

Decorative Pinwheel Daffodils

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You will need:

  • Light yellow thick paper
  • Darker yellow (or orange) thick paper
  • A yellow or orange button
  • A split pin
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (or strong double-sided tape)
  • Thick craft wire
  • Any tape (I used masking tape)
  • Green beads (optional)
  • Green floral tape (optional)

Start by cutting out two squares from your papers. I cut mine to 10x10cm but you can make them larger or smaller depending on how big you want your pinwheel.

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Draw a line from corner to corner on each piece of paper and mark 2cm from the centre on each line.

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Cut from the edge up to the 2cm mark and stick the lighter paper on to the darker paper using glue dots.

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Now you need to start folding your edges over. Start at the top and alternate. You need to bend to the right and stick the end with a glue dot until you have the shape below.

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Make a hole through your pin wheel and secure with a split pin.

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Take your wire and cut to the desired length. You can get coloured wire or you can jazz up plain wire by wrapping floral tape around it and adding some beads. Leave a little of the end unwrapped so you can push it into the ground. Attach to the back of your pinwheel using tape.

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Use all purpose glue to attach your button to cover the split pin. This step is optional but I like the look it gives.

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These pinwheels are decorative so don’t spin, but they look beautiful placed in plant pots. You can get creative with your pinwheels and add glitter glue or use any colour paper you want. All the materials used for this tutorial are available in Hobbycraft.

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

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