Friday, 31 August 2012

Creative Twinning - good things happen

During the course of my mentoring programme I have been introduced to some very exciting things which are going on in Nottingham and further afield.

One of these projects is called Creative Twinning, which is the brainchild of three Nottingham designers, Debbie Bryan, Jayne Childs and Hannah Lobley, who, in 2010,  had the idea of building international creative exchanges with cultural sustainable ideas. They are currently on the look out for like-mided individuals to apply to be involved, creating new and exciting working collaborations and show-casing the best of East Midlands creativity, whilst forging links internationally too!! They have already sent delegates to Karlsruhe in Germany

Sounds great doesn't it? I've already applied as this sounds just like the kind of thing I really want to be involved with, but if you want to find out a bit more for yourself then click here

Creative Twinning have quoted 'We believe that when designers have the chance to exchange ideas, good things happen. So although the initial project had the idea of twinning designers from Nottingham’s twin cities (Ghent, Harare, Karlsruhe, Ljubljana and Minsk) Creative Twinning is not limited to working with cities officially linked to Nottingham. We have ‘Creative Twins’ in many places and are actively seeking new areas to work with, both in the UK and abroad.'

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

poppy red on paper

Poppy Red made it onto paper, and I'm pleased with how it looks, the red is just the right shade and it does look (if I may say so myself) quite striking. I thought it might be a good idea to try and put the same colour red onto my other lollipop prints to see how they look as a series (and possibly use them in an upcoming exhibition) but can I for the life of me work out how to do this in Photoshop.... I've tried using the paint bucket but this comes out as a different colour. I've tried making the background layer the poppy red and cutting out the poppy bits..... nothing is working, I might have to swear lots and stomp around a bit... anyone got any ideas??

Monday, 27 August 2012

poppy red

this is a new image inspired by the poppy/lollipop design that was so popular in the ceramic design survey so I thought I'd develeop it a little further and see what it looked like with a splash of colour. I've been wanting to introduce colour into my work for a while now. What do you think?

Friday, 24 August 2012

52 artists 4 Bulwell

One of the things I have learned so far as a Mentee on the Design Factory Mentoring Programme is that I should make the most of as many opportunities as I can. So when I saw a call-out for Nottinghamshire Artists on Twitter to take part in a Community Project based around playing cards, I was intrigued. I read a little more about the project with great interest and got in touch straight away to see whether I could take part.

52 artists for Bulwell is a collaborative artwork between 52 artists who will all design a work of art on the back of a playing card (see mine above). Each artwork will then be left around Bulwell in Nottingham for chance interactions. It is being run by NottArt, a not-for-profit organisation. All works of art can be viewed in an online gallery for the duration of the project. You can find out more here and here... and I'm very excited to be taking part.

('shy bairns get nowt' may be expression you aren't that familiar with, but up North it's one that means 'the shy child was doesn''t ask will never a piece of the action').

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Featuring - TORIART

The beautiful graphic style and simple shapes coupled with the stunning colours of these ethnic inspired wall hangings initially drew me to explore the Etsy shop of Tori, a lady from the Orkneys, now living in Spain.

Tori studied Industrial design in Aberdeen, Grays school of art and life has taken her to southern Spain, where she now lives. I knew I had to look further into the array of ceramic goods on offer and also found these delightful ceramic flowers too

Tori describes her works as an amalgamation of influences, fusing sculpture, painting and jewellery. She says 'I love to experiment with different materials, patterns and colour combinations, working with my hands and essentially creating beautiful things!'

Well, I just love these gorgeous ceramic pieces and would certainly love to have them on my wall or in my garden. If you want to explore further you can check out Tori's shop here

Monday, 20 August 2012

lollipop street

Some more new work inspired by the lollipop flowers.. ladies and gentlemen I present to you...... Lollipop Street.... you like??

I seem to be always in the studio at the moment, which is great, because I went through a phase last year of never spending much time in here at all and I found myself getting quite frustrated about it and wishing I was making the most of my gorgeous work space and being in here more. So my little wish has come true. Everything seems to be coming together nicely and the pieces of my 'creative life' are slowly fitting into place now I'm getting into more of a working routine and rhythm. I'm a lot more motivated, organised and feeling more inspired, and I think the results are starting to show. My list mania hasn't shown any signs of abating, but I do think it's helping me to stay focused and use my time as effectively as I can.

I have a busy month coming up in September so this new found motivation is helping to make sure I'm prepared for it all! I'm taking part in Emerge - a Design Factory Members Exhibition at Loughborough Town Hall from 7th September until 21st October. In mid September I'll be visiting the launch event of Nottinghams Festival Of Words, which will be taking place at Antenna on 12th September. Then it's off to Derbyshire for a weekend where I'll be taking part in Melbourne Festival and you can have a look at the work which will be on show by clicking here. I also have a few research visits to some trade fairs to fit in too. Looks like I'm going to be busy to say the least, but it's all good stuff. Exciting times!!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

And the winner is.....

Just wanted to announce the Winner of the Print Draw..... Its Water Lily Wishes.... ta dah!!! Thanks to everyone who took part and left a comment here and also on Facebook, for those who had trouble leaving one on here. It's really very much appreciated that you took the time to have a look through my designs and then let me know which was the favourite.

As it happens the Lollipop Designs Top Right for both were the firm favourites and they are the designs I'll be developing for the range..

As a further token of my appreciation I also drew two extra names out of the hat (so we have like, Gold, Silver and Bronze, as I'm missing the Olympics!!). Katherine S Allen and Pastimehobbyist have won a set of three greetings cards.

If you can all email me through my website and send me your addresses I'll get your goodies off to you as soon as possible.

Thanks again

Friday, 17 August 2012


So I promised you I'd give you peek at what I was up to yesterday, after the resounding feedback about the lollipop design on my ceramics. Unless the tide turns and the topiary tree or bird house sneaks up from behind to steal gold then I think it's safe to say that the lollipop flowers are a winner. So I now have the beginnings of another new collection based on that design which first came to life at the end of last year when I drew 'The Land of the Lollipop Flowers'.

I'm loving this quiet time over the summer to work on new things. The Mentoring Scheme that I'm taking part is is hugely reponsible for this surge in motivation and creativity and it has also led to lots of exciting projects in the pipeline, which I should be able to tell you about soon. Collaborations, exhibitions, new products... it's all happening here at SB-HQ!!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Heading in the right direction

Thank you all for the amazing response to my little market research question I posed the other day. Comments have been pouring in from you lovely people, telling me which of my ceramic designs you like best (see post below, there's still time to enter the draw for a limited edition print, which takes place on Sunday!). It seems the 'lollipop flowers' design is the firm favourite at the moment so that is the one I've been spending my time developing. I think it will also be the most verstaile and will translate well onto a wider range of products.

So here is a little glimpse into how the designs look on the milk jug and the tall thin vase. It's time to order the decals.... It's also inspired me to to work on a new lollipop range of prints, which have been lovely to work on this morning. I'll show you how they are looking tomorrow.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Vote for your favourite design and win a print

So now comes the tricky part, and for this I need your help... I've gone back to basics and have been cutting and sticking, playing around with design placement and have taken photos of the two tea pots, 'short and fat' and 'tall and thin' and now need to do a bit of market research to find out which designs are more appealing!!

So if you would be so kind as to leave a comment below telling me which one you like the best for each teapot I'd REALLY appreciate the feedback. For your trouble I will put all comments into a hat and will draw a winner this Sunday (19th August) and you can win a A4 print of your choice from my Birds Range.

Thanks in advance!

Product development

So as you all know I'm working on a Mentoring Programme courtesy of Design Factory and I'm enjoying the process so much, it has given me a real boost to my motivation and I'm finding that I'm spending a lot more time on my business and feeling the benefits already. One of the things I identified at the beginning of the process was the need to develop my product range, something I had been thinking about for a while.

Having researched the possibility of getting my designs onto kitchen ware and ceramics I realised that it was possible, but that I wanted to keep ownership of the process during product development. I had the opportunity to jump in at the deep end and go straight to production, when I got chatting to someone at the trade fair, who wanted to sell my mugs for me, but having been encouraged to think this through (always thinking now, you see!!) I realised that for me it would be better to try developing this on my own first.

So with a Reseach and Development Budget sorted out I delved into my search for suppliers and found several UK companies who provide white ware and ordered brochures. I placed my order last week after poring over the pages of porcelain and china lovelies and made my order last week, going for a selection of the things that really jumped out at me, and also things that could be sold as part of a set. I'm not sure whether this will be the final collection but I now have three boxes of white ware ready for my designs.

Its all very exciting, I have vases, bowls, cups, mugs, trinket boxes, storage jars, plates, toast racks, butter dishes, egg cups... the list goes on. Now I just need to work out which designs to use and I'll be well on the way...

Tomorrow I'm holding a vote as I need your help to decide which designs are favourites. All you will need to do is leave a comment telling me which design you like best and you will be entered into a draw to win one of my A4 prints.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Laura Skilbeck

This week we are peeking into the Sketchbooks of Laura Skilbeck, an artist I discovered when I was doing some research into trade shows I might apply to next year (as part of my Mentoring Programme this is one of my tasks I'm working on over the next month or so and I have lots of exciting visits planned).

I was looking at Top Drawer, which I'm visiting in September, and whilst browsing the Exhibitor List I found Laura's gorgeous work. I checked out her website and got in touch, asking if she would like to be featured, as she mentioned having used her sketchbooks as a visual diary in the past.... ooh, very interested. She agreed to be featured on Sketchbook Peeks and this is what she had to say..

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 have been into making art since school, painting, drawing, collaging and building installations. Since leaving school I’ve done an art foundation course, and art degree before going on to work on community art projects in Manchester and forming Islington Mill Art Academy, an independent art school in Salford, and Hotpants Romance, my garage pop band. I was also working part time until three years ago I packed in my proper job, as Care Manager for a woman with a bad memory, and I decided to treat my art as a full time job.
Applying for grants and commissions, making zines, tea towels, t-shirts, illustration work, and anything else that I could try selling at shops in town and stalls at craft fairs. People started buying my greetings cards and so that is where I am now, making a wooden sign of my name for my first greetings card trade fair in London in September.

How long have you been using sketchbooks?
I think forever, I love sketchbooks, they are really at the centre of my art and illustration work.

How often do you sketch?
I aim for every day but the days just seem to slip away these days having a little baby to look after – so whenever I get a minute, but I dream of getting back to every day! I recently did a project where I kept a visual diary, every day for a year, which was a really good thing to do for getting into the habit of regular drawing – you can read the finished thing here

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
Excited really. And wanting to see all of the things that will appear inside it. I feel the same way when I have made a brand new canvas or board to paint on and it is sitting blank staring at me saying come on what are you gonna paint!!

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?
All around, everyday, if I see a sign that is falling apart from a closed down shop I love to know that I can record it in a drawing and it won’t disappear when a new shop with a big plastic sign opens. I like recording my experience of the world, documenting things that have made an impression on me. I also like setting myself little exercises like the daily diaries. I am just thinking today about starting a project in an A5 sketchbook where I draw something, anything, on each page, one page every day until the book is full.

How would you describe your creative process?
I do a lot of painting and scribbling in sketchbooks and then when I am making a new greetings card or a painting I look through my sketchbooks to find things I can use, sometimes I re-draw ideas and then I put them into Photoshop and fiddle around with them to get them ready for printing if they are going on a card.

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?
Yes, I would say they are still evolving, I think that for me is a big point of a sketchbook, a place to try things out and learn new things. I think now I am much less precious in them, I just try things out and don’t care about the stuff that looks crap, I know it’s an important part of getting to something that doesn’t look crap.

What is your favourite medium to work with?
When I first began painting I didn’t have much money to buy paint so I used to sneak into my Dad’s garage and pinch things that I could use to paint with – Polyfilla, Varnish, White wall paint, and I used to use cooking oil from the kitchen on my sketchbook pages or canvas to make them go see-through. I still have all of these things in my painting cupboard and I love smearing them and getting my hands dirty.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?
Yes, my A3 sketchbook from when I did my art a-level. It is filled from cover to cover with lovely paintings and the oils and varnishes used have such a strong smell that it takes me right back to that time in my life.

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?
This is my current favourite page, from my most recent A3 sketchbook [out in the wild world]. I suppose I like it because I don’t know what it will lead to yet, I know I want to take the ideas and colours from it further maybe into a painting or card design. I painted it one morning when my partner Darren had taken our baby Rosa out and they were late home, I knew they would be safe but at the same time I felt like they were out in the big wild world and that felt a bit scary, until then I had been at her side just about every minute since she was born!

You can see more of my work at here and my blog is here

Thanks to Laura for taking part, if you are visiting Top Drawer this year, then pop to see her and her lovel;y cards. She is on stand F112A. I'll definitely be calling to say hi, as it's always great to meet people you have only ever met online. I'm sure you'll all join me in wishing Laura a very successful show!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Design Factory Mentoring Scheme - Part 1

So last week I told you all about this Mentoring Scheme I'm taking part in (all courtesy of Design Factory). I've decided to blog about it and tell you all about how it is helping me with my business in the hope it will enourage others to apply next time or to try to access business mentors through other channels.
Our (that's me and my mentor, fellow creative and business owner Debbie Bryan) first meeting was in late June where Debbie came on a studio visit and we spent the afternoon chatting about my story so far, looking at my portfolio, going through my application form, and identifying key goals for the six month duration of the scheme, as well as 12 month and 5 year goals for my business.

We looked at the ambitions and aspirations I had identified in my application form
  • to aim to earn consistent income from creative practice
  • explore other media and expland skill-set
  • expand  range of produsts
  • develop ideas, introduce colour, new themes to work
  • collaborate with other artists and exhibit more widely
  • continue and grow creatve business blog to help showcase work of other designer makers
  • work on marketing strategy
  • identify further trade fairs to take part in
  • expand audience nationally and internationally
One of the things I am loving about being mentored is the questions I am being encouraged to ask myself. And one of the really important ones I was asked in my first week was 'What is the puropse and motivation of wanting to achieve the goals I had identified'....

At first when faced with this question I stopped in my tracks and didn't really know what to say. This isn't really something I had asked myself before but once I asked myself this question I realised that some of the initial goals I had set myself weren't very well thought through and this helped me to define goals that were more in line with my purpose and motivation for my creative business. So what is the purpose and motivation for what you are currently up to in your creative business?? Would love to hear.. please feel free to leave me a comment.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


As part of my Mentoring Programme I've embarked on the task of researching fairs and shows I might want to apply to take part in next year. One of these was Craft.Design.Contemporary at Nottingham Contemporary which took place last weekend. The location was fab, right in the middle of town in the stunning Nottingham Contemporary Gallery in The Space, a rather impressive looking high-ceilinged concrete-walled room. There were 30 exhibitors there and the quality of goods was fantastic. There were some familiar faces, such as Jane Withers, Debbie Bryan, Kate Broughton, Hello Sunshine and Amy Blackwell and it was great to say hello to some new contacts who I'd only met on tinternet...

All in all a great show, just wish I'd had more time to look around and buy. One to look out for at Christmas.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Cara Holland

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

My name is Cara Holland and I'm a graphic recorder, illustrator and, more recently, aspiring surface pattern designer. I've always drawn and have a lot of happy memories from childhood of sitting at the dinner table with a drawing book and a pack of felt tips. At 16 I did a diploma in art and design specialising in textiles, and then lost my way in the world of ‘serious’ work for the next fifteen years. Six years ago I gave in to the need to live a more creative life and set up my own company called Graphic Change, which provides graphic recording services. Don't be surprised if you haven't heard of graphic recording, it's still quite new as a field of work. Basically I get hired by companies to draw the content of their meetings or events, as they happen, to create a visual record of the key messages. I also train people to work more visually in their own work. I love what I do and have had lots of success. Recently though I have started to explore other sides of my creativity with surface pattern design and I am finding it an exciting return to my roots. You can have a look here

How long have you been using sketchbooks?
In one form or another I've always sketched since I started using sketchbooks as a teenager. I'm very undisciplined though and am always misplacing them and starting a new one!

How often do you sketch?
At the moment I probably sketch most days as I'm working on new pattern designs, though often not in a sketchbook. I sketch for different purposes. For pleasure I always sketch when I'm on holiday, at an exhibition or travelling, and I love sketching on trains. For work I take sketch notes, sketch in preparation for a job or sketch new designs.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
I love good stationery, so buying a new sketchbook is exciting. Starting a new book is a tiny bit sad though. It often means I've mislaid my last one! Or at best when I've filled one up it's a bit like leaving an old friend, there is something comforting about having all of those drawings and memories in your hand that a fresh book can't compete with.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?
What I see usually inspires me. A lot of my travel sketches are architectural; a lot of my train sketches are people and in between is a lot of random stuff. The other night while watching a film I sat and sketched objects that stood out to me as the film happened. It really could be anything.

How would you describe your creative process?
As a surface pattern designer my creative process is quite impulsive. I tend to have an idea and want to sketch it straight away. I usually do several versions and keep sketching whatever comes into my head sparked by the first idea. I then leave it and move on. When I have an idea for a collection I then revisit my sketches and see what I have to build upon into a more considered piece. I’m still learning, so I imagine it will evolve over time. When I sketch for graphic recording I usually pick a word or a theme and just sketch around that.

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?
When I look at my first 'proper' sketchbook from when I was sixteen and compare it to today I would say I'm a bit freer, with less of a need to complete. I've also stopped using biro as much and now mostly use fibre tipped pens. Apart from that they're not as different as I might have thought

What is your favourite medium to work with?
 Fibre tip pen. Any colour, I’m not fussy. Sometimes pencil but not as often.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?
Not really. Usually I’m sentimental of sketches rather than the books they’re in. As for a favourite type of sketchbook I have several. Currently I have a little soft moleskin in my bag that I have customised with one of my designs, an A4 ring bound on my desk and an A3 ring bound which I use for progressing pattern ideas.

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?
 I’m usually quite excited about whatever I’m working on right now. At the moment I’m working on a new collection, so I am busy sketching design details for that which is a lot of fun.

Thanks to Cara for showing us her sketchbooks and giving us a great insight into Graphic Recording. You can viisit Cara's website here where you can find links to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Friday, 3 August 2012

What I'm reading this week... 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success

Ok, so it's not a best seller on Richard and Judy's Summer Reads (which I must say, by the way, I'll be checking out for my next holiday) but this book, 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success, was recommended to me by a fellow tweeter and it came highly recommended indeed. I had a gift voucher to spend so decided to invest it in my 'business-learning' rather than popular poolside fiction and this is what plopped through my door a couple of weeks ago.

I've been eyeing it nervously wondering when I'm ever going to have 30 days to spare to dedicate to marketing my creative business, but decided to throw caution to the wind and peeled open the covers last week. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this book was actually dedicated to me... well to 'heroic small business owners who gain new skills every day to promote their companies and better serve their clients' so that was a good start in my opinion! Now this author, Gail Z Martin has also written other books on social networking, writing a book (which I'm now reading) and also how to market said book, so I'm pretty much convinced she is going to know what she's on about. Gail is also a public speaker, coach, and consultant about all matters marketing so I feel confident this book is going to help me gain some insight in how I get my marketing to work for my business!

Now, I'm only a few chapters in but the thing I like about '30 days' is the fact that it makes you ask yourself questions. I got out my note pad and started scribbling thoughts in chapter one and have made several pages of notes to date. I'm starting to think about my target audience and who they are, where they are and how I'm going to find them and keep in touch with them, and already I've noticed how non-existent my 'marketing strategy' is (although I think I really knew that already, in fact even the word 'strategy' makes me go a bit cold!!). This book has made me think about success (my own definition of it) and the things I want to achieve from my business, and I noticed how writing these down made a huge difference to my clarity of thinking (maybe this is my list-OCD behaviour surfacing again!).

So I'm plodding on through the next few chapters, really just taking my time, and grabbing it whenever I have some free time, and I'm really noticing a difference in how I'm thinking about my marketing. I'm not so sure on some of the terminology and have found 'defining my transformative value' a bit difficult to get my head around, but I think I'm going to get on well with this book. I'll keep you posted on the progress...

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Design Factory Mentoring Scheme - the story begins

As you all know I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the first Design Factory Mentoring Scheme earlier this summer. I applied because, having taken part in the Nottinghamshire Creative Business Scheme in 2010, I knew just how good this could be for me. Before I participated in Notts Creative I was on the verge of giving up on my creative dreams as I was severely lacking in direction and felt I was getting nowhere. With the help of the course directors and the rest of group my confidence grew, I found my creative feet, so to speak, and we went on as a group to win an exhibition at a Derbyshire Gallery, The Beetroot Tree, and have since exhibited collaboratively at several other events, including a very exciting Pop-Up shop which you can read all about here.

So after Notts Creative finished I was all fired up and ready to take on the world (!), gaining several new stockists, taking part in several other exhibitions and my first trade fair. I now know I want to pursue my creative career and in one breath, want to do it all NOW, and the next breath, not being sure of what to concentrate on next. So when the opportunity arose to apply to the Design Factory Mentoring scheme I jumped at the chance.

So what were the issues I was currently facing in my practice and what kind of things did I want to address?

  • unsure of next steps to take business forward
  • setting myself realistic goals
  • lack of marketing strategy
  • focusing and prioritising
  • developing my portfolio and skill set

and how would I use this programme to tackle these issues?

  • draw on mentors experience
  • utilise mentors knowledge of the creative business sector
  • utilising an experts opinion/critical feedback on portfolio
  • forging links with other practitioners
  • being inspired by other creatives
  • help with concepts and ideas development
  • working within specified timescales would help with goal achievement and motivation
  • giving my practice more structure

So there you go, they are the kind of things I had identifies as being issues and concerns. It will be really interesting to see how I get on over the period of the scheme. I'll keep you up to date with regular updates of my progress.

My mentor is Design Factory Fellow, successful business woman, award winner and designer-maker, Debbie Bryan, and having known Debbie a couple of years I knew she would be a great mentor as she is always involved in new initiatives and projects. An established designer-maker herself, Debbie knows all very well the challenges of making your craft pay in these tough economic times and over the last few years has built up a successful business and shop in the Lace Market in Nottingham.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Featuring Alluvial

Alluvial: of or relating to alluvium, sediment deposited by flowing water, as in a riverbed, flood plain, or delta

These gorgeous ceramic buttons caught my eye the other week whilst browsing the net so when I discovered they were made by ceramic artist Lauren, from the sunshine state of California, I knew I had to get in touch with her to see if she would like a feature on my blog.

On further browsing I found more goodies, such as these exquisitely imperfect but perfect green buttons and some some delightful mini plates with words on and also

delicate impressed illustrative shapes as seen above. If you would like to find out a bit more about Lauren and her work you can visit her blog here, her Etsy shop here (although Lauren is away on holiday you can check out her gorgeous wares as soon as she returns!)

Just look at these lovey planting labels, now wouldn't you just love some of these ready for planting season next year, or even to pop in your window box this summer?

A very talanted lady, Lauren also has an Etsy shop full of her paintings, which you can find here. Hope you've enjoyed a wander through the shop of Alluvial...

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