Thursday, 31 May 2012


This week has passed so quickly I can't believe it's now Thursday. Where does the time go? I've managed to grab some sketchbook time this week in the evenings and have been working on some new ideas (see above), some new birds houses, new compositions etc, and generally just having a play around. As I mentioned last week I now have a few months over the summer to spend developing my work so I'm going to make the most of it. Hopefully I'll have some news about shows I may be taking part in coming up to the end of the year, and also some news about the Design Factory Mentoring Programme I'm taking part in. Watch this space..

And tomorrow I have my first ever Guest Post from Jenny Creasey of Itch Gallery in Rutland. She will be giving us a 'gallery' viewpoint of BCTF and trade fairs in general, what buyers are looking for etc. I thought this would round off my BCTF blog post series about what worked well for me, and it will give some useful tips to help you grab the attention of buyers are trade fairs. Until then, I'm off, lots of jobs to do today....

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Featuring - Ruth Robinson Ceramics

I've discovered more gorgeous new work!! Isn't it just divine? This week we have the beautiful hand crafted ceramics by Ruth Robinson, a Ceramic Artist based in Cheshire. Like me, she works from her studio at the top of her garden, and also shares my own passion for birds and trees. I was really drawn to the delicate colour palette, the beautifully crafted, yet simple, shapes of her pin brooches and buttons, the delicate designs and patterns she uses and her photography really does her wares justice and makes them stand out from the crowd.

Ruth says 'I make things that appeal to me, the kind of things I'd like to keep, It's a luxury I can't really afford, but it's what keeps me inspired. Some mornings I wake up wanting to man handle a sculpture, or I may spend months obsessing over a couple of button designs, sometimes it drives me a little mad, but mostly it keeps me sane'

All images belong to Ruth Robinson Ceramics

She currently has a lovely range of handmade (so each piece is unique) pin brooches and buttons, but she has told me to keep on eye on her shop, as she is soon hoping to launch a range of  Hare sculptures and water etched pocelain. I hope she keeps me posted, I can;t wait to see her new additions!

If you would like to browse Ruth's shop for yourself, please click here and you will be taken straight there

Monday, 28 May 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Jessica Hayes-Gill

This week we are peeking into the sketchbooks of the lovely Jessica Hayes-Gill, an artist and screenprinter extraordinaire, whom I had the good luck to meet at BCTF this year. She was on the stand opposite me, and I spied her grogeous range of printed kitchen wares on set-up day, and must admire was a little in love with her tea towels.

On the first day of BCTF when all of the newcomers in our section were saying their hello's Jessica came and introduced herself and said thanks for helping her out with Terms of Business/Sale or Return which she had emailed me about a few weeks prior. Small world eh? And it turns out she is also good friends with the lady who did the catering for my 40th birthday party and lives in Nottingham too!!

So we have kept in touch since the show and Jessica agreed to take part in my sketchbook peeks series. This is what she had to say....

''As a youngster I was regularly engaged in various craftsmanship and traditional skills, from watering plants to making cakes, to name but a few. After studying at Senior School, I went onto a Foundation course in Art and Design held in Nottingham. Here I thoroughly developed my artistic flair and the love of Silk-Screen Printing became apparent. I wanted to enhance these skills into a career and to be part of a course at a University that had room to explore, create and challenge the properties of art and design. The Graphic Arts and Design BA Hons degree at Leeds Metropolitan University supported this growth as a Designer Maker to where I now stand.

A course programme that touched many elements of art and design such as branding, packaging and web design meant that my skills were not limited but were adaptable to a wider audience. My signature style of fine line drawings and geometric shapes made by stencils became apparent whilst at University.

Transforming this illustrative design via Silk Screen Printing onto fine Cottons and Linens was established within my work and a process I love doing. Inspired by everyday objects, tools, things that we may bypass and ignore are motifs that are significantly involved within my designs. A theory that supports my business statement is Slow Design. This came about whilst writing my dissertation and it refers to the goals and approach of a designer, what is it they really want to achieve. For me it was a Social position. Living amongst a society that is wrapped up into this fast environment where everyone is rushing about, smothered by items such as furniture, clothing and food all made and sold at a disposable rate is what I wanted to tackle.

To be able to produce sustainable items, to make products that are functional yet decorative, to offer a collection that shall bring people together and to be part of the ‘Made in England’ tag are all-important. With the support of The Hive at NTU that I started last year I have been able to launch Jessica Hayes-Gill Printed Textiles.

How long have you been using sketchbooks?
Taking notes and sketches has been something I have done since I was a child. I still have my first jotter. This collection has somewhat developed and grown over time and I do enjoy having this catalogue of designs, retracing the history of my journey is interesting. I couldn’t live without a sketchbook.

How often do you sketch?
All of my design ideas are put down into my sketchbook. Whether they are to be immediately launched or to be cherished for another day, this is the place that I can record my visuals and inspiration. I try and document my designs as much as possible however I do wish that I did sit and draw more often, it is what I love and hope to do more of.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
Oh the first page is always so hard. It reminds me of my first white clean page at school where first impressions to the teacher counted! In time it has become much easier to not be so precious and l am eager to get stuck in! I do try and stick to the same format and paper to stop that feeling of something “new/unfamiliar” happening.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?
During dinner at a friends house is a popular one. Their inherited tableware and ceramics that they have collected from past generations or gathered from a car boot, these unusual shapes, prints and designs inspire me. Walking to work, reading magazines, visiting galleries all to play a role too.

How would you describe your creative process?
I see
I draw
I reflect
I draw (and colour)
I design
I trace
I expose
I print
I package
I send
(something like that!)

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?
I have tried a vast range of shapes and sizes. From spiral bound books to hard back. When at Uni I was taught how to make books so, I decided to make my own sketchbook. I thought it was a great idea for I was able to produce bespoke item using a combination of paper and card. I was wrong! The well-laboured books that I spent many hours on were useless for I was too scared to use them! This was when I first met the Muji sketchbook that rescued me!

What is your favourite medium to work with?
Whilst at uni I worked at Paperchase, here I found a pen that I fell in love with; a Staedtler fine 0.4 model. I stocked up and still am running on this stash! It is perfect, it has a fine nib that I can produce these detailed line drawings that I make, no other pen can make the marks this can! I would say a Pen and paper is my favourite medium, plain, simple and useful!

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?
I do have a thing with A4 Muji notebooks; they are perfect in terms of size and quality. Since the one in Nottingham closed down I have had to result in going elsewhere (I must stock up when I next visit Muji in London!)

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?
Designing the Household helpers tea Towel was exciting and fun. I was able to characterise kitchen utensils and make them into people that we were familiar with; a florist, a chef or a dancer. The results were endless and difficult to choose the final piece.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Hardwick Hall - why have I never been here before?

Ok, on Saturday my husband and I had planned a little adventure! We packed sarnies, cake (ginger, cooked the night before), donned walking boots, packed the map, planning on heading out to Castleton for a big hill walk. As we headed up the motorway, the rain got heavier and the temperature dropped to 7.5C, and I didn't fancy walking up a big hill....

So we cut the jourrney short, decided to do the big hill on Sunday, and took junction 29 exit and decided to go and visit Hardwick Hall. Now I have lived down here since '93, and I don't know why but I have never been to this National Trust treasure before. I have worked literally down the road for ten years, and still I have never passed through the gates. What have I been thinking?

So you can imagine my pleasant surprise today when I discovered the place for the first time. I thought it was a small country house, but in fact, it is HUGE. There are loads of woodland walks, lakes, fields to explore, as well as stable-blocks, gardens, and two houses.

The gardens were a true inspiration for me, but I also found some of the tapestries inside the main house to be beautiful, and even contemporary in their design. I'll be sharing some of my new-found inspiration with you when I next delve into my sketchbooks.

For more info visit here...

Moral of the story here - sometimes you ignore the things on your own doorstep, but if you take the time to look, there are some really amazing surprises and inspiration to be found....

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Time for Reflection

So May is nearly over and my main event of the year (yes, the trade fair) is all over and I've packed most of my orders up and sent them off, added some fantastic new stockists to my list, learned a lot of new things in the process of it all, the preparation, the actual experience show and the after-show follow-up. It's been a great year so far and hopefully I will have a few more exciting things in the pipeline, (shows I have applied to, and am waiting to hear from, possible collaborations and exhibitions etc, fingers crossed that some of them come to fruition!)...but for now I have some time to think about my business and my work and I have lots of ideas whizzing around my head. I want to spend the next three months at least developing something, I'm just not sure what at the moment....

I was lucky enough to be chosen to take part in the Design Factory Mentorship scheme and I've been to my first meeting today to find out how the new 6 month scheme will work and what kind of things to expect. As part of the brief we have to think about our story so far, reflecting on how we have come to be where we are now, doing what we are doing. Then I need to identify some 12 month goals and also think about my plans for the next five years. I think getting this down on paper will really help me to visualise my masterplan!! I need to have a good think about my strengths and weaknesses and hopefully in doing that I will be able to identify five key areas or issues I want to address/develop. As part of the scheme there will be a portfolio analysis, which I'm really looking forward to. Having a fresh pair of eyes look at my work will be fab, and a new point of view.

For me I think I'm going to need to sit down in the studio with a note pad and have a serious think, I have so many thoughts and ideas, it's going to be tricky to narrow it down to five! Once I've done this, I then need to think about one main area I want to work on during the following six months, hopefully my mentor will be able to rein me in here and help me to focus on choosing just one....

It's very exciting to be part of this new programme, I think it's going to be a really positive experience and I fully intend to get as much from it as I can. As they say, Carpe Diem, these opportunities don't come along every day, so you need to make the most of them.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Featuring - Tubi Du

Ok who doesn't love Paris? I've only visited once but I loved it, and definitely want to go back there again some day. Until then I will just have to browse the work of Tubi Du, from Ile de France, Paris, whose delicate illustrations feature the parisian landscape, from glimpses of the Tower to the backstreets and rooftops...

So I asked the artist behind these beautiful images to tell ua a little about themselves and this is what they had to say....

So I live and work in Paris, in France since two years, originally I'm hungarian. I love to draw houses, exteriors, facades, interiors, originally I worked as interior designer for six years. I really love Paris, the spirit of the city and also the people, you can find miracles in every corner. The city is romantic, exciting, there are so many cool themes to draw or to paint, I just walking on the streets and wonder always, how many small details are everywhere... I would like to draw all of them. The people are amusing, I love the fashion you can see here everywhere, the street style is really exciting :) About me... I love to draw, I draw since I was a child, and I love the fables, the miracles, my imagination is endless..... (not always an advantage:)

So if you would like to have a look in the Tubi Du Etsy shop and see what there is on offer please click here and go and browse....

Monday, 21 May 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Sarah Hancox

So tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are now in your practice
Since moving to the Peak District my lifestyle and surroundings have become my greatest source of inspiration.  Landscape; the colours and scents of the changing seasons, textures and patterns of the moorlands; sights and sounds of local birds and wildlife are always inspirational and provide starting points for all the things I want to explore; I am always short of time rather than ideas, but a walk with our beloved lurchers and border collie always provides an opportunity to re-evaluate my priorities.

I live with my partner Steve in a tiny stone cottage in a historic Peak District village so the luxury of a dedicated workspace surrounded by all my fabrics and photographs for inspiration is not possible. Everything I’m working on gets cleared away when I’ve finished and I still produce everything on a little pine cricket table in front of a log burning stove surrounded by our dogs, but if I’m honest, what more do I need?
Domestic home wares that celebrate our cultural heritage seem to be the perfect vehicle for the techniques and imagery I love working with; our homes have increasingly becoming a refuge from the pressures of the outside world and somewhere where we can express ourselves. For me creating a reassuring and peaceful retreat is essential in maintaining a healthy work / life balance.

For my tea cosy’s I like to use traditional materials, with a focus on recycling and reworking; tweeds and felted woollens supported by velvet and utility cottons are evocative of days gone by and reflect my love of traditional British fabrics, the idiosyncrasies of British culture, heritage and tradition.
Inspiration often come from the fabrics themselves - my favourite knitwear stitches, cables, traditional Aran’s and Fairisle patterns are often the focus of the individual pieces and what makes each unique. Ideas for nostalgic, eccentric or quirky motifs can come from anywhere, the fabrics themselves, childhood memories, a poem or proverb, in fact anything that celebrates how wonderful it is to live in Britain and what a rich source of inspiration it has become for me.
Using textiles instead of a digital medium to communicate is a more recent development for A VERY BRITISH AFFAIR and combines both my love of typography with my desire to create something functional and personal to the individual.  These typographic pieces combine vintage prints, Victorian household linens with freehand machine embroidery and currently adorn our beloved camper van.

I have used a sketchbook since I went to Art College myself a very, very long time ago! As a design lecturer I instil in my students that a sketchbook is essential to recording their thoughts and ideas - and the visual language of communicating the creative process; I am not however very good at taking my own advice!

How often do you sketch?
Not nearly frequently enough. There is always a discrepancy between what I teach and what I actually do myself; I know that we only get better with continual practice, but I frequently struggle with the confidence commit an idea to paper.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
I love sketchbooks, but if you talk to many creative people with a design background, the first crisp white page can be extremely daunting – I might colour my pages first with watercolour, or collage a number of surfaces in order to get over ‘first page nerves’. I really wish I could see my sketchbooks simply as everyday tools or works in progress, but my graphic design background means that I cannot help judging the overall aesthetic – which is very controlling and limiting to the creative process.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?
I’m not sure really, I guess that working in a creative environment means that there is an endless supply of inspiration – but there are never enough hours in the day to follow them! If one of my colleagues is looking into an artist or style, we may share ideas and research sources which I may follow up in the evenings. I would love to have got to the stage where drawing comes naturally and becomes a relaxing process but after a day’s work I never seem to be able to dedicate sufficient time to improving.

How would you describe your creative process?
I try to make the most of my time whilst travelling to and from work; I always take the scenic route over the hills and roads less travelled. I am always bird watching on the journey and it’s always a thrill to watch curlew feeding in the fields in early spring and lapwing displaying with their distinctive strobing flight. If there is time and I am early enough I will stop the car and just listen to their magical and eerie calls. Last week I watched a hare running down the edge of a field right next to the road, I stopped to watch and when I looked up, there was a queue of four cars behind me; nobody seemed to mind – maybe the creative process is dangerous if it starts in the car! There is always something to see if you can be bothered to look - it gladdens the heart and inspires the next range of imagery I work on.

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?
Probably; I am now more confident in trying a greater range of materials and adding my own notes and ideas along the way – I am now trying to incorporate my initial training in typography into my craft work – it helps with synthesising what I can do with what I would like to do. I am still however, battling with the desire to control the page instead of letting it evolve.

What is your favourite medium to work with?
I’m not sure I have a favourite – I’m not a natural drawer and I’ve always regretted that I have never tried to develop this further. I try to stick to the media that best allow me to express my ideas – initial photographs, simple line drawings, monoprints, mixed media collage and often poetry or the written word. I use these simple techniques to develop machine embroidery ideas and typographic images.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?
I wish I could say yes – I love bits of all of them but am probably too critical to see the value in some of the ideas, if I was able to cut my sketchbooks up and only keep the pages I was happy with, then maybe I could answer yes.

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?

I am very fond of birds as a source of inspiration therefore one of the lapwing studies would definitely be a contender. When a sketchbook page can evoke a memory of place, sound, smell, feeling and the foundation of an idea, then it’s always a favourite with me.

Well I don't know about you but I've really enjoyed that visual journey through Sarahs sketchbooks, and it has definitely made me want to do some mono printing...

If you want to find out more about Sarah you can visit her blog here and her shop here. You can like her over on Facebook here and also follow her on twitter here

Thanks for taking part Sarah, happy sketching!!

Friday, 18 May 2012

North Yorkshire snaps

This time last week I was off on holiday in beautiful North Yorkshire. It was all a bit of a last minute holiday as we didn't really know where we wanted to go and what the weather was going to be like, persistent rain and a caravan not being a realistic combination for a whole week I'm afraid. So we ended up booking a lovely cottage very near Rievaulx Abbey (which was in fact nearly in our back garden!). We spent a few days with friends and family and the last few days on our own, which was just a lovely mix. It was great to do lots of exploring in an area we have passed 100's of times on our way back up to the North East, but have never really visited. In my honest opinion, I didn't really think there was a lot there to see.... how wrong was I?

I don't think we saw an areas we didn't like, it was ALL gorgeous, so we are off again in the van in a few weeks to do more exploring.... lots and lots of visual inspiration for some new landscapes i think...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Featuring - Lauren Gray

The things that originally drew me to the work of this weeks featured artist were these beauitiful  houses I found on Etsy, whilst browsing a while ago, looking for new designers for the blog. They belong to Lauren Gray, of the Haunted Hollow Tree Shop on Etsy. Once I'd seen them I knew I'd have to get in touch and ask if I could feature them on my blog and luckily for me, Lauren was only to happy to be featured.

A little bit about Lauren, she is based in Southeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two little ones. She is  a self taught artist, like myself, and has been selling her work since 2002. She works most often in Pyrography (woodburning) and favours figurative works and nature/botanical pieces. More recently Lauren has begun working in a new genre, creating three dimensional wood sculptures and wall pieces, and whilst she is obviously an amazingly talented artist, it is these pieces which stood out for me. These works are a merge of her love for organic shapes, materials, texture and design and have received praise from Martha Stewart Living magazine, Apartment Therapy and other notable websites and publications.

As well as her wooden scupltures you can also find a selection of her detailed prints in her shop. They focus on inspiration from nature and the female form. She stated she also has a major fascination and love for crystals and minerals, from both an energy perspective and visual perspective and have begun offering one of a kind sets of crystals and stones paired with handmade wood curio's. These pieces are a merge of her love for woodworking, the visual arts and the natural beauty and energy of the earth.

All images courtesy of Lauren Gray

Monday, 14 May 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Fiona Wilson

This week on Sketchbook Peeks I'm featuring the art of Fiona Wilson, an artist I discovered last year on a trip to collect some work from The Bowery in Leeds. The next exhibition was already up by the time I arrived and I noticed a display of very beautiful wooden blocks with printed images of birds and houses on them. I bought one and then looked around on the internet for the person who had made them. I found Fiona and knew that I just had to buy some more of her wooden blocks. I dont' know if you remember but I blogged about it a while ago, for pics click here and more here when I met Fiona at The Arts Market last November

Before we start, tell us a little about yourself/how did you get into art/craft/design career and how it all started and where you are now

I started rather late, as I never thought I was very good at art at school, so my formal education in art and design began in my 30s. Having studied a Business Studies Degree when I first left school and worked in sales and marketing for ten years I realised my heart wasn’t in it. So I left with no job to go to, but an idea that I would like to try something more creative. As a child I had always enjoyed making things, (supposedly I demanded a go on the sewing machine when I was 3, insisting my Mum could do the pedal and I would move the fabric around), and so I enrolled on an Access to Art Course at Huddersfield Technical College in 2005 and spent a fabulous year drawing, doing ceramics and textiles. I was fortunate that I had great tutors, who encouraged me to consider going back to University to study. I chose Contemporary Surface Design with Textiles at Bradford School of Art, where I specialised in Print and Embroidery. After that I carried on with an MA at Manchester Metropolitan University which I just completed last year. I have been really lucky and won a few prizes and free stands at shows and exhibitions since graduating, and have also taught in universities. I have a great studio space at Radiant Works in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, originally set up by Dionne Swift and Martin Smith, who have both been extremely supportive and helpful to me over the last few years. I try to get to the studio as much as possible when I am not teaching, as its such a lovely place to be.

How long have you been using sketchbooks?
Since I did my Access course in 2005, and have continued with them in some shape or form since.

How often do you sketch?
I tend to have times when I do lots of drawing, particularly at the beginning of a new project and then gaps in between, usually when I am starting to sample things through print or stitch and making final pieces. It would be great to say I draw every day but sometimes I am just not in the right place to draw and other times my hand won’t move fast enough to get everything down on paper.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
Happy! I have a few drawing techniques that help me warm up and get me over that fear of the white page people talk about. I love continuous line drawing and drawing without looking at the page, the results are always a surprise.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?
All over the place, depends on the project I am working on really. I do enjoy spending time in museums and looking at odd artefacts. I am a big hoarder and collect objects that interest me which often find their way into my drawings.

How would you describe your creative process?
I like to read around the subject I am working on, as well as draw from relevant objects or places. Drawing is a major part of any project for me as it’s how I arrive at designs and colour. Then I move onto sampling and experimenting with materials. It’s a long and involved process before I get to something that I consider finished.

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how? I tend to work in two at the same time now, a larger one for drawing and a smaller one I can carry around in case I see something I need to capture or have any light bulb moments that I need to remember.

What is your favourite medium to work with?
I particularly like inks, whether its ink pens or bottles of it and drawing with dyes, anything with colour in it. I like to mix up my inky pages with collage, some of which can become quite 3D, piecing and placing things helps me with my design process.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?
Not really, there are some pages in them that I feel are more successful than others.

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?
I am always drawn back to look at this image as I like the colour. She is an old Victorian wooden doll which only has one arm and one leg, I drew her repeatedly as part of a drawing project for my degree.

If you would like to find out more about Fiona and her work please visit her website or her blog, where you can find out what she is up to and where you can find her work if you want to buy some for yourself.

Other posts you might like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...