Last week I reviewed the book ‘Making Handmade Books’ (link) by Alisa Golden. Keeping with the theme this week I’ve decided to bring you some wonderful examples of books made by talented craft enthusiasts, which would make wonderful gifts, or maybe even inspire you to learn the craft yourself!
I love Lucie’s work and think her handmade sketchbooks would make a wonderful unique gift for an art lover. Lucie creates everything from mini notebooks to planners, albums and more! Her online shop is full of treasures! I especially like her ‘sensory journal’ and recycled paper ‘rainbow notebook’.
As a vegan I feel it’s important for me to promote businesses that are concerned with animal welfare and use ethical materials. I was so happy to come across someone who sold unique, vegan-friendly handmade books. Jennie’s lino print notebooks are quirky and affordable, with my favourite being her recycled A5 heart design journal.
In Pippa’s own words she has a ‘passion for paper’ and you can see she’s very skilled at what she does! I’m in love with her beautiful books, especially her ‘Garden’ note/sketchbook (below). So beautiful!
And finally here’s one of my own handmade books. Bookmaking is an enjoyable craft and it’s a lovely feeling looking at your finished product after all your work. This one was made using materials I already had in my stash, including upcycled/recycled elements.
I’m going to admit something surprising….until the other day I hadn’t touched a paintbrush for the entire month of February. As an illustrator whose whole world revolves around art, I’ve found myself in an odd space these past couple of months. I’ve kept my creative self active, as you know, by sewing and crafts, but since the beginning of the year my artistic side seems to have gone in to hibernation. The other day, fearing I’d somehow magically lost the ability to create art, I had a strong urge to return to my desk and pick up where I left off with my autobiographical piece, and as I got lost in that bubble I enter when I’m painting or drawing, the floodgates opened. I found my heart pouring in to my work, fuelled by music (which I hadn’t listened to this year until that point), and felt just like I used to when I was engrossed in a piece; the piece becomes sort of like a puzzle, like a ‘paint by numbers’ in my head, where my brain works out what colours to mix and where to put them, until bit by bit the picture forms. As I was painting, thinking about a truly adored family member who we lost at the beginning of the year, I realised what I was actually painting: Forget me not’s.
As some of my followers may know veganism is another huge art of my life (links to recipes at the end!) and last month I was excited to attend the Viva Vegan fair in Cardiff. It seemed even more popular than last year! And it was great to see creativity, as well as compassion, was a big part of the fair. There were stalls with all sorts of creative offerings, with artists, crafters, and even a photographer selling their work. Here are my top 3, take a look at their websites, especially if you’re looking for something ethical as well as unique!
When I came across the intricately carved gemstones I was stunned that they’d been hand carved! This talented maker gets her inspiration from: ‘the amazing places I’ve been fortunate enough to call home around the world’
I was awe struck when I saw Geraint’s stunning work. From unbelievable macro shots of insects, to birds and landscape scenes, Geraint’s online gallery brings to life the beauty of nature.
I’ve always been interested in using art and creativity as a springboard to benefit other causes, from using it therapeutically, or in this case to contribute to animal welfare, which is why I jumped at the chance to get involved with Viva’s (link) planned art auction next year. For those who’ve never heard of Viva, they’re an animal charity promoting an ethical lifestyle and have gone from strength to strength over the past 24 years. The website is bursting with useful and interesting content, from health guides and campaign materials, to an ethical shop and recipes. Their ever expanding list of projects also includes ‘Art for Animals’, a way for artists and makers to use their talents to benefit animals. Take a look at the artists here, or if you’re a creative type then why not get involved? I’m already planning the piece I’m going to contribute!
In previous posts I’ve mentioned my involvement over the past two years in the Y Galeri Caerffili Open Art Exhibition and this month my ‘monthly review’ brings you an introduction to the small but blossoming art scene in this little Welsh town.
Type ‘art in Caerphilly’ in a search engine and the first thing you’re likely to see mentioned is Y Galeri. This small gallery, which moved to its current location in 2015, has become a hub of creativity, displaying work from talented local artists and makers, and bringing together creatives, as well as offering the wonderful opportunity of guidance and gallery space for each year’s Open Art competition winner. The gallery, though small, is a must-see for any art enthusiast visiting the area, and is just a stone’s throw away from the impressive Caerphilly castle, which has been the subject of many entries in to the yearly competition. One such piece which was shown at this year’s exhibition was a lino cut by Elanor Whiteman, who lives and works in Caerphilly, and has taken part in an extensive list of solo and group exhibitions around England and Wales. You can view Elanor’s work on her website here: http://eleanorwhiteman.wixsite.com/print/about
The Gallery is a great place for visiting art fans to begin, especially as just upstairs you’ll find the visitor’s centre (link) where you’ll find information leaflets, a café, and local crafts and gifts. The friendly staff are also on hand to answer any questions, and it’s open daily from 10-5:30 (The gallery is open Tues-Sat 10-5:00).
If you’re planning a trip to the town and want to cram in as much creativity as possible, Caerphilly holds a number of craft fairs throughout the year, with handmade items from talented local crafters, conveniently near the visitor centre. You can find out more by visiting the Caerphilly Craft Fair facebook page here: link
In addition to craft fairs and the gallery, Caerphilly also has an art society, which holds a week-long exhibition each Autumn displaying members work, from enthusiastic beginners, to professionals. The society also holds demonstrations and workshops and guests are always welcome (prices apply). To find out more email email@example.com
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
Welcome to your guide to an alternative Easter! Whatever your beliefs, I personally see this time of year as an opportunity to celebrate the world coming ‘back to life’ and being thankful for the beauty emerging once more. As someone with an interest in nature and preservation, I like to express this in the gifts I give to my loved ones. I recently read a quote by Maya Angelou: ‘Be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud’, because ultimately what’s the point of life if don’t experience happiness? This Easter, be that rainbow.
Hannah Marchant Illustrates: Whilst it’s lovely to receive a card I’m always aware of the waste involved, so this year I snatched up this quirky card to give to my family. What I love about Hannah’s cards is the fact that once the card has been displayed and enjoyed, it can then be planted! Her cards are infused with wild flower seeds, making this a gift in itself.
Gifts By Little Miss: This etsy shop is full of Easter-themed smellies. I loved the quirkiness of this bath fizzer, which is made with animal-free ingredients, and not tested on animals. Supporting small business? Check. Kind to animals? Check.
ajsweetsoap offers: ‘Fun Food Soap and Decadent Dessert Vegan Soap Treats’ such as these ‘chocolate’ eggs. A fun and animal-friendly gift, with the personal hand-crafted touch.
Michelle Holmes Embroidery is a whimsical Folksy shop offering unique items such as this spring-inspired bag. A sweet depiction of the season, with flowers everywhere and a cute little bird perched at the top. Made from organic unbleached cotton.
RecycledWordsArt – anything that has both ‘recycled’ and ‘art’ in its name gets my vote! This Duck Chick card would really pack a punch as a unique Easter card thanks to its striking colours. Better yet, it’s printed on 100% recycled card!
As well as starting a new pen and ink piece (sneak peek coming soon!) I’ve been busy trying out paper making, which I mentioned a few posts ago (read here). It proved to be a much messier task I’d imagined, but a great way to create something beautiful out of scrap paper, card and tissue.
I’ve also been working on the mentioned mini album, which I’ll be posting a tutorial for in the coming months to show you how to make your own.
The next instalment of my Vegan recipe ideas, this time with an Easter twist!
I have a confession…one that may surprise those who have never met me…I struggle to eat. What most people would find appealing, and indeed class as ‘every day’ foods; noodles, toasties, curry, spaghetti, you name it, I probably don’t eat it. But in the interest of my health, which determines how much energy I have to work on what I love – art & design – I’m embarking on a quest (yes, this challenge feels so monumental that I feel justified in labelling it in such a way!) to challenge the compulsion that finds me reaching for the exact same foods every day.
I’m inviting you, my readers, to follow me on my journey to discover and create nourishing vegan recipes to support both body and mind. Veganism and vegetarianism has always been an influencing factor in my life, fuelling my interest in creating eco-friendly clothing, and using our natural world as inspiration for a great deal of my artwork. In next month’s ‘tutorial’ spot, I’ll be bringing you the first recipe instalment – vegan sushi. In the mean-time, here’s a list of some inspiring and useful vegan-related sites:
Vegan Huggs – A blog packed with recipes, reviews, and more!
Wear Your Voice – A website I’ve mentioned before where a passion for art meets a passion for animals, with truly unique illustrations printed on to t-shirts.
Vegan Supermarket Finds UK – A super useful facebook group run by vegans, for vegans, where you can share your surprising vegan finds, as well as get some great tips on where to find all manner of vegan goodies!
In the interest of keeping myself distracted whilst re-building my strength, I’ve been revisiting a seascape I began last year, yet lost the motivation for. Well the itch is back! and I’ve been compelled to dip in here and there. The tones of blue in the sea are proving to be a source of intrigue, as they’re not as straight-forward as they may seem; in order to achieve one elusive tone, I found myself cautiously mixing phtalo blue, cobalt, a tiny dot of ivory black, and an atom of yellow ochre, before deciding to substitute the black for burnt umber.
The relationship between colours and how they combine fascinates me! Explaining to those who don’t practise art that a blue can contain brown, black, and even ochre, feels as though I’m revealing some clandestine key.
Whilst my home studio is a base for all my inspiration and tools – my pattern folder, old art/craft magazines, art postcards etc, over the years I’ve grown fond of inhabiting a quiet corner of a library – a haven from home. This week I’ve been squirrelling away in the reference section (often good for exquisitely illustrated nature books) trying out Derwent Inktense pencils and making notes for next month’s review.
Costing £29.99 in the Range (£40.75 on Derwent’s website) for a tin of 24, it;s understandable you’d want to ‘try before you buy’, which is where I’ve done the work for you! Look out for the full review next month, which as always will be straight to the point and up-front.
Finally, I want to tell you about the Winter Exhibition at Y Galeri Caerffili, which is displaying a whole range of styles and mediums, and at which my piece ‘One For Sorrow’ is currently on show. The exhibition will run all this month and directions can be found on their facebook page: Y Galeri Caerffili facebook. If you can’t make it in person, you’ll find some images of the artwork on display on their page and on the website.
As the festive season fast approaches I’ve found myself in a whirlwind of art and craft in my aim to make people’s Christmas just that bit more personal by adding a handmade element to everyone’s gifts. When I’ve allowed myself to be pulled away for a much-needed break from my work space, I’ve been spending my time attending and browsing craft fairs, and have been blown away by the amount of talented individuals out there.
Last Saturday I had a stall at a Christmas fair where I tested out for the first time how my paper cut pieces would go down. I was pleasantly surprised at the lovely comments and interest and will be adding some framed paper cuts to my Folksy shop in the near future, so be sure to keep checking! (https://folksy.com/shops/hmillustration)
It was whilst browsing at BelleVue Park’s craft fair a few days later that I came across a fellow artist/crafter whose cuts I fell in love with. From small box-framed designs, to larger intricate ones, the detail and whimsical work of Gemma, owner of Papur Pinc, is well worth checking out!
‘Monthly tutorial’ will be starting again in January, with creative tips and ideas to keep you busy! In the mean-time, why not re-visit this year’s ideas? Simply click whichever one takes your fancy to be transported!:
I spent months reading reviews and borrowing from libraries in the search for the ultimate hand-stitching guide! I wanted something that I could use as a reference that covered all the essentials, but without bogging you down with dense descriptions. Finally my search was over when I discovered Margaret Rowan’s ‘The Complete Guide to Handstitching & Embellishing Techniques’. If you too are looking for a sewing guide to last you a lifetime, your search may be over…
Full title: Stitch! The Complete Guide to Handstitching & Embellishing Technique – The creative guide for dressmakers and needlecrafters that takes your work to a new level
Publisher: Sally Milner Publishing Pty Ltd (2013)
So, what sets this book apart from the thousands of other sewing books? Plenty! Unlike the majority of modern publications, Rowan’s book is dedicated solely to hand-stitching, with not a sewing machine in sight! and what’s more is that the author somehow manages to make the book suitable for all abilities. Many of the books I read used terms that would only be familiar to experienced sewers, whilst Rowan maintains an un-daunting, reader-friendly stance throughout. That’s not to say this book is geared solely towards beginners; whilst it’s an excellent place to start (covering all of what I deem ‘essentials’ from which needles to select, to how to prepare fabric – details often left out in books of the same genre) the book is clearly divided into logical, clear stages, from ‘tools and equipment’ in Chapter 1 ‘stitching essentials’ , progressing to ‘functional stitches’ in chapter 2, and advancing to ‘decorative stitches’ in chapter 3. What I particularly like is the ‘stitch selector’ at the beginning of the book, which visual examples of each stitch covered in the book, along with a ‘skill level’. Depending on where you feel you are in ability, you can skip to where you feel you are, or if you’re a seasoned pro just double-checking which technique is best to use for your current project, you can dip in and out and use the book as a reference.
The layout of the book is one of the best I’ve come across, with no ‘information overload’ that you sometimes come across. There are several clear, colour images to demonstrate the technique/stitch, with clearly numbered steps, and a side-bar style panel which reminds you of the skill level, tools and materials you’ll need, and usefully some extra notes.
The books aesthetic is on a par with its functionality, with close-ups of the stitch/technique in the corner being decorative and also useful.
Another thing I found impressive about the book is that there are lots of useful extras in the ‘Resources’ section near the back. Again, Rowan pays attention to the ‘nitty gritty’ without bogging the reader down. This book itself is a manual on how to complete an entire sewing project, whereas usually you would have to consult various sources. From a ‘pressing guide’ to an ‘estimating fabric requirements’ chart, this book covers it all, somehow squeezing it all into 256 pages (including contents, index etc). You will even find a ‘Directory of Motifs’ (designed by Kelly Fletcher) in chapter 4, covering everything from nature to celebrations and lettering.
However, whilst I highly recommend adding this book to your collection (it’ll be the only one you need!) availability in the UK is sorely limited, and very difficult to track down at a reasonable price. But I can honestly say that the search will be worth it!
Title: The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos: Foolproof techniques to make your handmade creations shine online
Author: Heidi Adnum
Publisher: Search Press Ltd (21st Dec 2011)
Are you a crafter looking to show off your work online? Or perhaps an artist wanting to show your work in it’s best light? Whether you’re a complete novice in the world of photography, or are an old hand just looking for tips and ideas on brushing up your skills, then this is the book for you!
Organised into logical chunks and divided by craft (for example ‘fashion & fabrics’ and ‘knitting & needle craft’) the book is easy to navigate your way around, whilst also having the benefit of visual examples to accompany written instructions, for those of us who learn better by demonstration rather than text alone.
However, to fully understand the layout I strongly recommend scanning the contents pages before you begin (something often overlooked in eagerness to ‘get stuck in’) as subjects such as ‘light’ are found not only in the ‘camera basics’ section, but also further on in the ‘DIY accessories tutorials’ section, which without understanding the layout could cause confusion.
What’s wonderful about the book is that, unlike some photography books, it’s not automatically assumed that the reader has extensive, or even further than a basic understanding of photography, and guides you step-by-step, from the very beginning (getting to grips with a camera) to the very end (editing, uploading, and generally making use of your photos).
The book also includes interviews with practitioners who work within each subject area, for example knitting, and presents relevant questions. This allows beginners to learn from other’s experiences, saving time spent ‘hitting and missing’ – this has already been done for you! and the resulting conclusions/tips there for the taking.
The book also takes into consideration cost, meaning it’s in-tune with the reality of the often limited budget of artists and crafters. What you spend on purchasing this book, you could potentially save on photography equipment. The section ‘DIY accessories tutorials’ offers relatively simple and low-effort (not to mention inexpensive) ways of creating everything from a tripod, to a light tent and light box.
My second recommendation is to arm yourself with a pen and notepad and take notes as you read, as there are so many useful hints and tips throughout. After reading the book I came away with several pages of useful advice. Below are my top 5 favourite:
Read your camera manual! (yes, it may sound obvious, but we’re often so eager to get started with our gadgets that we fail to consult the manual. Learn the modes/settings on your camera)
Plan your shoot beforehand
To show the scale of your fabric, use items involved in the making, for example, dressmaker’s scissors
You can add ‘value’ to your photo by using your own packaging and props
Make use of what’s around you – try shooting in a forest or somewhere industrial