Monday, 10 December 2012

The Owl and the Pussycat - special commission

This is a commission I did recently for a very lovely couple I met at a Showcase event I took part in. It was for an anniversary present and is an illustrated line of poetry from The Owl and The Pussycat. I'm pleased to say the recipient loved it, and I must admit, I really did enjoy the research and doodling I did with the owl and pussycat images, something departing from the 'bird-norm', and a rather refreshing change...

If you would like something like this commissioning for someone you know then  please get in touch for a quote. I'll also be taking commissions in February when I will be the Artist in Residence at the very first Nottingham Festival of Words, 16th and 17th February at the Newton Building at Nottingham Trent University. A selection of my word-inspired work and limited edtion prints will also be available so please come and say hello.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Wedding Commissions Now Available

With my work being based upon themes of love and romance, along with the fact that my Wedding Cake Print was my best-seller of 2012, I have decided to explore the Wedding Market in 2013 and have developed this idea for a personalised wedding gift. I'd love to hear your feedback.... I took this with me to my last selling show and showed it to several customer who asked about commissions. Feedback was very positive but I'd also love to hear your thoughts on it....

Customers will be able to order these as commissions, personalised for the couple tying the knot, the one-off original hand-drawn artwork will include names of the couple, date and location of the special occasion, hand drawn in ink on 250gm2 (110lb) Grain Fin Cold Pressed NOT watercolour paper measuring 400x200mm, and will come framed and mounted and signed by the artist (me),

If you would like more info please get in touch.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

And the winner is....

I've just done the draw on the Alternative Art Journal Give-Away and the winner is Nina Fenner. Congrats Nina, and thanks to everyone who took part and left me a comment about your sketchbooks and journals.

Keep your eyes peeled for the December Book Review, coming soon

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Getting to know my customers....

Here are a couple of pictures from my one and only Christmas Fair this year, it was the Harley Christmas Market up near Worksop in North Notts and I was there last weekend. I made sure I had my thermals on as the weekend was a chilly one, but it didn't affect how much I enjoyed it.

Considering that when I first started out on my creative journey I never thought that I would ever make work that was good enough to be chosen to exhibit at such a fab event. My last two applications were turned down so you can imagine how thrilled I was to get in this year. I'd visited as a customer several times over the years but seeing it from the other side, you never know how it will turn out. The attendance was high, people were spending on Christmas gifts and also for themselves, I was well-prepared, having taken part in a couple of selling events and showcases this year and I was determined to learn as much I could from the whole experience.

I used to think that the ideal way for me to sell my work was through galleries, it was easy for me, I didn't have to spend all weekend trying to do it myself and I could get on with making new work while the galleries did their bit. Having had a few substantial sales I then got curious, and questions started popping up making me wonder who is parting with their hard-earned cash to buy a piece of my work?

So I decided to start selling direct to customers, handpicking my events carefully, and not applying for anything and everything. Now I'm no seasoned professional, don't get me wrong,  I only have a couple of such events under my belt, but I think selling direct, if you choose your locations well, can be a great way to get to know a LOT more about your customers and what makes them tick. I made a few notes over the course of the weekend, in between sales and chatting, and gained a valuable insight into my customers.

This is what I learned (and hopefully some of this might be useful to you):

- I realised my work had broad appeal: I got really positive reactions from children, one customer saying that my stand was the only one her child had said they liked, and also older customers showed a lot more interest than I had expected, proving to me that my potential customer base is actually a lot broader than I had previously thought. I need to make sure I tap into this next year.

- My work makes people smile: It was great to gauge peoples reactions to my work as they stepped in closer for a proper look and I was pleased to see it brought a lot of smiles to peoples' faces. This is something I will incorporate into my marketing and use to sell my work to future customers. I like the fact it makes people happy!!

- Market research: I had advertised commissions and had taken along with me a commission piece which I hope to advertise for the wedding season next year. I'm going to blog more about this later in the week. I asked my customers whether they liked it and got lots of positive feedback. Customers are more than happy to give feedback, use this to your advantage, and ask them, it's free and a great way to find out what people like and want.

- I also took along a sketchbook to work on, which helped make the time fly, and also provided something of interest for customers, and a great lead into a conversations. Children, particularly, seemed fascinated in what I was doing, stopping to watch and asking questions. I also had three new pieces of work to bring home at the end of the weekend!!

- Setting out you stand: I could write a whole blog post on this, but I'll keep it short, people are more likely to browse through prints and special offers if they are further away from where you are sitting. To begin with had my special offer print box right next to me and no-one was looking. I moved it to the other end of the table and all of my prints sold! Which brings me to my last point:

- People don't like the hard sell: I don't like the hard sell either, so I don't do it. If people make eye contact I acknowledge them and smile, but on the whole I found that customers wanted to be left alone to browse and would initiate a conversation if they wanted to. Taking some work along with me also made this bit easier, I felt I had something else to concentrate on, and my customers didn't feel as though they had to interact if they didn't want to. There are some who may contest this and state it isn't the way to sell things, but I found it worked really well, to take the softly softly approach and leave people to browse, always being aware of them, but not intruding.

Anyhow, thats about everything covered. It was a great learning curve, yet again, and very positive. Hope it has been a useful insight.

It would be great to hear what works well for you at your selling fairs, so please feel free to leave me a comment and share your tips and ideas

Monday, 26 November 2012

A Creative Mentoring Day Out - Hepworth Gallery and Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Last week I took a day off work to go and visit the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park with the other participants in the Design Factory Mentoring Scheme. This time had been planned in from the start of the programme for us all to get a day out together, meet up with the other mentor-mentee partnerships and share what we had been getting up and what we had achieved during our time working together.

 As well as the chance to share information with other creative people the day out also gave us the chance to step away from our practice and take in the many inspiring sights of the day. I came away feeling full of new ideas and definitely think the combination of visual stimuli, new surroundings, fantastic hepworth sculptures, creative chatter, time spent with my mentor sharing new ideas and talking about how we are going to spend the last few hours of our allotted time, certainly left me feeling refreshed and positive about my future work.

Here are just a few of the photos I took of the day out. Having never been to The Hepworth Gallery before I just loved sketching the shapes and forms of the sculptures, looking at her amazing collection of hospital sketches, reading about Hepworth and her life, and taking inspiration from a woman who lived her creative life to the full. It is obvious her work still provides inspiration anf enjoyment to visitors to the Gallery and Yorkshire Sculpture park alike.

All in all, a great day, just proving that it's good to take a bit of time away from the studio every now and again, mixing with other creative people, sharing knowledge, opinions and ideas. It is definitely something I'd love to do again.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Creative Twinning - Bethany Walker

Bethany Walker is an exciting emerging Mixed Media Artist best known for her ‘signature’ combination of materials – cement and textiles. An odd combination you may think - but this dynamic contrast of materials create beautiful and captivating pieces which possess immense tactile qualities. Bethany has developed her individual hand techniques, meaning each piece is individual and creates intrigue with its integral shape, colour and relief.

Bethany’s work explores connections and contrasts in the urban environment – things we all observe daily but often overlook. The dynamics of the graphic and organic; the old and the new are an endless source of inspiration for the artist. She aims to celebrate the mundane qualities of those things commonly seen as dull and insignificant – giving it a renewed appreciation.

Endeavouring to break new ground, Bethany is pushing the boundaries of contemporary textiles - blurring design disciplines, breaking preconceptions and traditionalist viewpoints to create pleasantly stunning pieces. I got to meet Bethany for the first time when I went to the Designers Resolutions Evening at Antenna in Nottingham, where I heard her talk about her work, and the collaborations she is currently working on. It was great to be able to put another face to a twitter contact and it was really interesting to hear about her work.

I asked Bethany why she had applied to be part of Creative Twinning and what such an opportunity means her her, and this is what she had to say:

'I am a ‘newbie’ to the Creative Twinning group, having just recently joined. I first heard about the opportunity to join the group through their ‘call out’ on Design Factory’s webpage, this summer. I have been following the group since their trip to Eunique in Karlsruhe, Germany earlier this year so was keen to apply. Unfortunately the deadline passed without me realising so was thrilled when I was contacted by Debbie Bryan and asked if I wanted to take part – needless to say I jumped at the chance!

Being a part of Creative Twinning will not only develop my network but my practice also through new input, new opportunities and new avenues to explore. As an emerging artist this opportunity is invaluable. I am looking forward to exchanging ideas with artists working across a variety of mediums and possibly striking up new collaborations.

As an artist born and bred in Nottingham I am keen to support Creative Twinning which highlights the city’s creative talents and promotes its creative businesses here and abroad. I thoroughly enjoyed my first events with the group at the end of October. I am looking forward to what the future holds with Creative Twinning and being involved in such an exciting collaboration – watch this space!

If you want to find out more about Bethany and her stunning work you can check out her website here and you can follow her on Facebook here

Monday, 19 November 2012

Book Review - Alternative Art Journals by Margaret Peot

If you are struggling to get to grips with a standard 'off the shelf' art journal or sketchbook or you are feeling confined or bored with its constraints, or want to try to record your ideas and creativity in a different way - then Alternative Art Journals by Margaret Peot is the book for you. As you all know I'm a sketchbook junkie, hoarding them old and new in my art cupboard and nosing into sketchbooks of others in my Sketchbook Peeks blog series. So when this book plopped through my letter box I was excited and intrigued and couldn't wait to delve into the pages.

The brief introduction gives us a glimpse into the many possibilities of sketchbooks, showing the variety of ways we can collect, store and express ideas, focusing on the purpose of sketchbooks and art journals as being our own individual way to do this. It gives some great options and choices of journal concepts, far removed from any I have considered or tried in the past.

This book is also very practical and key ideas and themes are explained diagrammatically and verbally in easy to follow steps, with great photos to follow, and lovely examples of finished pieces. There are definitely a few I would like to try myself. At the beginning of each project section there is a handy list if things you will need too.

Alternative art journals provides you with ideas of 'how' to collect elements which inspire new ideas for your work. This section I really enjoyed as it encourages the reader to experiment, collect ephemera, paste and stick, recording thoughts, feelings, colour and mood. From Tibetan book journals, to scrolls and accordion books, posts cards, playing cards and box journals -ideas and projects are plentiful and there is certainly something to suit all tastes.

So, if like me, you are a bit of a sketchbook or journal traditionalist this book may just capture your imagination, get you thinking outside of the box and try new ways of recording your own ideas and inspiration - you never know you might surprise yourself with what you discover!

If you fancy the chance to win this book so you can try it out yourself in my giveaway all you need to do is leave me a comment telling me about what you last recorded in your sketchbook. Comments will be entered in a draw and the winner will receive the book

You can find a preview to the book here and you can buy it here

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Creative Twinning - Ruth Singer

As part of the Creative Twinning project and event I got to meet up with textile artist, writer and tutor, Ruth Singer. I had already got to met Ruth earlier this year when I was opposite her at the Melbourne Arts Festival in September, and it eas great to be able to put a face to a name I had only known from Twitter.

Ruth Singer creates one-off textile artworks inspired by historical textiles, museum objects, personal heritage, memory and stories. Ruth uses hand-stitched construction techniques such as pleating, gathering, applique and structured stuffing to create dense surface texture and she explores layers, scale, proportion, structure and repetition using hand-cut, stitched and assembled elements. Many of her techniques are developed from the study of historical textiles, based on her own research and first career in museums.

She is also the author of two books, Sew it Up (2008) and Sew Eco (2010), and has a third in the pipeline due out in 2013, as well as having contributed to several others. She is a passionate and inspiring educator, specialising in working with adults and community groups, collaborating with museums and in developing innovative and challenging creative projects. Ruth has worked with a wide-range of audiences through her museum and textiles career including schools, families, targeted communities and young people. In addition, Ruth works as a creative consultant and project manager for arts and heritage projects, both small and large. Recent projects include creative consultancy with young people for 'Our Sporting Life' and managing a schools & museums project for Mantle Arts called 'Spin A Yarn'.

In January 2012 Ruth Singer won The Big Idea competition run by Leicester's Haymarket Shopping Centre. The competition aimed to find a new local entrepreneur and help them start a new business. Ruth's proposal for Ruth Singer Studio, a craft and making workshop venue, won the competition. Ruth Singer Studio won £1000 cash prize and a month of rent-free space in a shop unit within The Haymarket Centre during April 2012.

Ruth Singer Studio will reopen in Makers Yard, a new designer-maker studio in Leicester's cultural quarter in January 2013. Ruth Singer Studio will offer a range of beginner and advanced sewing workshops including Ruth's trademark fabric manipulation techniques as well as craft parties, private tuition and much more.

So there you have it in a nutshell, this lady knows her stuff and has accomplished so much in her creative career so far. Having dabbled in Textiles myself throughout my Foundation Course I was really interested in getting to find a bit more about why she had joined up with Creative Twinning. This is what she had to say…..

‘I thought Creative Twinning sounded fascinating - I enjoy collaboration so it seemed like a good opportunity to explore this more. I am unable to make the trip to Germany in June but I am still involved in the other aspects of the project. I am preparing to launch new work this autumn so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to get feedback from other makers and to meet new people. Getting more involved with other designer makers is really vital to my creative development and my ongoing work, so I am keen to share more with other makers and see how they are working. I am also exploring new avenues for selling and promoting my work so this will be useful to me to find out how others do this.

In the last couple of years I have mostly worked on larger exhibition pieces rather than smaller work to be sold in galleries and shops, but I am exploring ways of making my bigger work more accessible and commercial and I hope this showcase will help. I am also really interested in being involved with mentoring; I have benefitted from mentoring during my career and have recently been acting as mentor to new designer -makers. I find it very rewarding and interesting and I love to see how people can learn from my successes and failures as well as explore their own way in the world and create exciting new work.'

If you want to find out more about Ruth you can check out her website here, her blog, and also on there are details about her courses, books and current exhibitions.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Creative Twinning - Inspire and Unite Showcase

So the last Friday in October was the date of the Creative Twinning event - Inspire and Unite - a showcase of Creative Twinning Designers from the East Midlands and Karlsruhe in Germany. Location - The Space, Nottingham Contemporary. Here's my little review of the day.

The purpose of the day was to bring together all of the Creative Twinning Designers, along with those taking part from our twinned town of Karlsruhe in Germany, as well as the Creative Twinning Partners, Designer Forum , Future Factory, Design Factory and South Notts College, and it gave us the chance for an informal mingle with students from South Notts College, to taker part in workshops throughout the day, to meet representatives from leading creative businesses in Nottingham and invited members of the public who attended the evening Showcase.
My Showcase
 All of the designers were allocated a stack of pallets, which gave us a unique and innovative platform on which to showcase our work. I was really pleased with how my stand turned out, and think the pallettes worked really well. Below are the images of each of the designers who took part in the day.

Showcase - Paula Briggs

Showcase - Gillian Lee Smith

Showcase - Renate Schweizer

Showcase - Weibke Goos

Showcase - Juli Foos
Showcase - Porcellane & Duomo

Showcase - Rhea Clements
Showcase - JC Middlebrook
Showcase - Debbie Bryan

Showcase - Hannah Lobley

Showcase - Samantha Robinson

Showcase - Bethany Walker

Showcase - Ruth Singer
Showcase - Ashi Marwaha

Showcase - Foto Ceramica

Work by Students at South Notts College

Georgie Rose - who sang for us
So a great day was had by all, it was a great opportunity to showcase the talent of our East Midlands Creative Collective to all who visited throughout the day and a chance to chat to potential customers and make contacts, and generally just spend some quality time with other great creative people. I'll be looking forward to meeting up with everyone again.

I'll be featuring some of the Creative Twinning participants over the next few weeks, to have a look at their work, find out a bit more about them, and why they applied to be part of this exciting collaboration. So watch this space.... 

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