Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Creative wish list for 2014

This is the last in my recent series of three very reflective, contemplative and slightly self-indulgent blog posts all about things that have been pinging round in the old grey meter of late. I've tried to put down in words some of my internal dialect, in the hope that others may relate and identify with the some of the things that I've been thinking....

You can read the other two blog posts here and here

OR to summarise, busy year, lots of things happening, work very busy, personal life very busy, not enough hours in the day, several selling events, weekends away from home, a looming exhibition and Christmas..... Mini-meltdown, considering giving up on creative dream and not feeling very happy at all.... Lots of thinking time, chatting to others, reading, having a break and coming to some conclusions.....

I'm attempting to redress the balance, changing what I can, and learning to adapt to the things I can't (the economy) in the hope that 2014 will be a fulfilling year, for mind, body and soul. And this is how I'm hoping to do it....

I'm going to spend some time visiting some of my creative friends, chatting to them about life, ideas, and why we do what we do, getting an insight into what makes them tick, and having a nosey into their creative lives. I might even do a couple of their workshops too.

I'm going to stop thinking of end goal when commencing new work, and start just creating for the sake of it, shifting my focus from end product and how well it will sell (commercial viability) and heading back to my creative roots, starting to examine what I'm truly inspired by, in the hope that I can find my way again, and start making some work that I can really connect with again.

I'm researching courses in new media, in the hope I can break away from intricate and detailed black and white and explore the land of messy colour for a while.

I've been researching creative sabbaticals, contacting other creatives who have stopped making for a while in order to refuel their creative engines, and I'm going on a new journey starting next week, with new ideas for work I'm interested in exploring. The sketchbooks are ready, the Pinterest boards are stocked with divine images to spark ideas and I will even be getting out the old sketchbooks from right back when I was on the foundation course and looking through them to see what I can find.

I'm determined to get out of the studio on my creative days and take my sketchbook with me. I need to book in a couple of sketching days with my sis. I'm going to rediscover the reasons I chose this route in the first place and enjoy it once more, rather than constantly feeling that my creative time is running out and trying to jam pack as much into it as possible, measuring the success of a day by the number of ticks on my to-do list.

I want to take my time, stop rushing from one task to the next and just immerse myself in my work, forgetting about results but concentrating on the process, I want to be more present, and to be more mindful and to make sure I enjoy ans savour my creative time, for I'm mighty lucky to have it.

As for my blog, it took on a life of its own in 2012 and 2013, but again in my period of negativity it was something that suffered. I felt I had nothing to say of any great consequence, and anything I did have to say would have come out as a whinge!! So as for blog plans, I'm just going to wait and see what happens. I will continue to blog about my creative journey, but maybe just not as often as I did in 2013. We will just have to wait and see.

My goal is to not put myself under any pressure to make everything perfect and sellable, or to get five blog posts a week published, but to just get back into drawing, painting, recording and looking. I'm taking a leaf from the book of Gillian Lee Smith and I'm going to start making art for ME.

So there you have it, in typical 'me'- style I've actually just written myself my resolution/wish list for 2014, without even realising it. I always like to kind of know what I'm going to do, but this year I'm conscious to make my plans looser and more fluid, to take the advice of my mother-in-law and to go with the flow..... Let's see how it goes shall we??

What are your creative wishes and plans for 2014? Having written mine down has actually made me feel like a weight has been lifted, I feel excited about the coming year and not filled with unease and restlessness, as I did a few weeks ago. 

It would be great to hear from you, please feel free to get your thoughts down in the comments section, and share your plans with us.... 

Monday, 30 December 2013

Contemplation and head space

Warning - this is a long blog post - you might need to put the kettle on and grab a biscuit before starting to read....

Following on from my last post I've been trying to put into words how I've been feeling recently, about my creativity and the direction in which I am heading (or not, as it seems, over the past few weeks!!). Whenever I have even had flicker of this 'feeling' in the past I always think it's a good idea to reflect, look back before you look forwards and you will sometime find your answers to your questions without even realising it.

The last couple of years have been an amazing journey, I'm over the moon with what I've achieved, and going back and reading my first blog, which I started in 2007, I realise how much my work and I have moved on and grown in the last 6 years, moving from a hobby or pastime into my very own creative business. I've also been reading blogs by other creative people I know and following their creative journeys, Helen Hallows, Gillian Lee Smith, Johanna Basford, Anna Simmonds, to name but a few. This has helped me to realise that my recent feelings of negativity and doubt are a completely natural part of 'being creative' and this realisation has actually helped my feel a lot better about things.

Taking part in creative business courses and working with a mentor from 2010 until 2012 has given me a fantastic vision of what my business can become and I have been storming ahead with my to-do lists and tasks which I have set myself. This has led to major developments for me, new product lines, new work and a major grande finale to 2013, a collaborative exhibition with two other artists. This has fulfilled a lot of my personal ambitions for myself and my business which is extremely satisfying.

But.... During the last few months of 2013 I started to notice how I was feeling, how my enthusiasm was waning, everything seemed to be getting on top of me, and I wasn't enjoying my creative business as much as usual. These feelings were most definitely unwelcome. I LOVE feeling positive, energised and happy, enthused about tackling the latest to-do list with vigour, excited about the possibilities and opportunities the world has to offer. I most certainly do not LOVE the 'unwelcome' feelings, of self-doubt, apathy, general 'pissed-off-ness' and demotivation.

Now before you start yelling at me, I know on the creative path I have chosen, there are always ups and downs, peaks and troughs, and periods of intense creativity and progress, followed by periods of quiet reflection, rest and replenishment. But after a few opportunities that's didn't go as well as expected  and I was even considering packing this creativity lark in, I knew that this time it was a bit different, something needed to change. Questions needed to be asked and answers needed to be found.

Hence the creative break, the absence from blog land, the withdrawal from making new commitments and the hiatus in preparation of new website.....

So what now I hear you ask? Well.... all the thinking and reflection time has been a godsend. It was the break I needed to digest, dissect, examine and put back together my own thoughts on my creative journey, my unwelcome feelings of negativity, and the reasons I wanted to be 'creative' in the first place, where I want this creative journey to take me, what I want to achieve etc etc etc

I've found a few answers to the things that were bugging me, I now know why I ended up feeling so negative by the end of the year. It was a combination of over-committing myself, taking on too much, and saying yes to too many things, seizing the day at every opportunity, as I was scared that if I said no to something no other opportunities would come my way. Basically putting myself under too much pressure, plus other stuff going on at home and in my day job = me in a big huff with life, considering chucking in the towel and handing over the studio keys to someone who can be arsed with it!! Sounds dramatic I know, I think I'm over it now!!

I'm super conscious that this post is turning into a bit of a 'Gone with the Wind' blog post of epic proportions so I will bid you farewell, before I bore you to tears and will be back with more next time..... Answers to questions, solutions to problems, a course of action and a bit of a loose plan for 2014.... See you then!!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Quiet time

Hello lovely blog readers, it has been a while since I blogged last. I hope you have all had a great festive break. So what have you all been up to lately? Lazy days in front of the fire, visiting fiends and relatives, enjoying the crisp winter sunshine?

I've had a very quiet and peaceful Christmas this year, which I think is what we both needed after a very hectic and stressful couple of months. I decided last month that I was going to take a step back from my creative work for a while, which is what I have done and this has given me time to reflect and look back at the last few years since I decided that I wanted to pursue a creative life.

 I have been doing a lot of thinking, listening to the radio, sleeping, reading books, and generally having a lot more quiet time than usual. We've made the effort to get out and walk our dog early and then head back home for a chilled out afternoon in front of the fire. This has given me time to catch up with myself. I've been browsing Pinterest and finding lots of inspiration in the plethora of beautiful and inspiring imagery. I've also been reading lots of blogs which has given me great comfort in knowing that I'm not the only one who sometimes feel frustrated, demotivated, lost, drained, lacking in direction and confidence.

I have been experiencing an internal struggle recently about my creative direction, and it has been difficult to try to put into words how I have been feeling. I'll try to get it all down on paper (or on my ipad), which I think will help me to find some answers and to move on into 2014 with a clear head and an exciting sense of direction and purpose.

 Have you ever felt this way? What did you do to overcome your creative inertia?

Friday, 13 December 2013

Prints Charming - the Grande Finale of 2013

All images here are shown courtesy of SOCK Loughborough.

So we did it. From an initial idea a beautiful exhibtion was made!! Helen, Fiona and I all got together for the Private View last Friday and we were really pleased with ourselves and how the exhibition looked. From Helens inspiring landscapes to Fiona's gorgeous printed figures I think you will agree from the images above that us girls have done ourselves proud!! If you fancy nipping to Loughborough to have a look the exhibition is on until Mid-January, so there's plenty of time to catch it!!

For me, this is my Grande Finale to what has been a very busy year. From being Artist in Residence at the first Nottingham Festival of Words, to my second outing to BCTF, a new ceramic range and several selling fairs I can safely say that it has been another enjoyable and rewarding year for me in creative endeavours. 

As for the next twelve months, They are going to be a bit more sedate and peaceful, certainly the next six will be. I'm planning a few personal projects, treats to myself, a couple of workshops and courses and maybe a new direction or new subject matter. I have bought myself two new sketchbooks which I'm itching to begin. I'm planning several sketching days out and am hoping to reconnect with the heart of my creativity, and getting back into habit of drawing, creating and making, just because. I will still be blogging, so feel free to follow me, on the next year of creativity. 

I hope you all have a restful and relaxing festive period and I will see you all in 2014. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Prints Charming - a collaborative exhibition


So this is the culmination of my creative work thus far - a collaborative exhibition with fellow artists Helen Hallows and Fiona Wilson which opens this Friday at SOCK Loughborough. It's a biggie for me, in fact the biggest exhibition I have ever taken part in!! I've been to SOCK today to set up. The team there are so friendly they made what could have been a slightly nerve-wracking experience into a really pleasant one, being available to help with the technical side of hanging our work and offering us a ready supply of tea, coffee and encouragement!

We managed to transform our space from this.....

into this.....

in a matter of a few hours (although if my lovely Dad hadn't been there to help I think I might still be there, scratching my chin and looking a bit helpless!!).

So if you are in the Loughborough area and you fancy coming along to see us at the Preview - it's on Friday evening 6-9pm - bring all your friends - it's going to be good!!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Sketchbook Peeks - Anne Davies

I first discovered the work of Anne Davies via Twitter when I came across the hashtag #drawingaugust. Being the nosey person I am, I decided to have a look and I found some gorgeous work on show.Intrigues as ever I wanted to find out what all of this #drawingaugust was so I asked Anne to tell me a little about it

'I was quite new to Twitter (I started in June this year I think) and I saw some references to getting ready for #DrawingAugust from some of the people that I was following, I think it was Jean Stevens and Jean Edwards. I jumped in feet first! I've been meaning to renew my habit of regular drawing for years but there's always something more pressing to do! I got very addicted to posting every day and took my little drawing book everywhere. As it was a holiday and weekends-away kind of month there was plenty of landscape inspiration. I loved #DrawingAugust for the sense of community and support, seeing the different syles and looking forward to what my favourite artists were going to post that day. It re-ignited my passion for drawing and I have continued to draw almost daily. Its now a part of my creative process again and I think my paintings are better for it'

 I asked Anne whether she would like to be featured on my blog, as I was really drawn to her sketchbooks (if you will excuse the pun!). They reminded me of textile pieces, patchworks of coloured fabric, so I was intrigued when I found out they were painted. I asked Anne to tell me a bit about herself 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 loved art from a young age and went to art college straight after school . I continued to paint after graduating, usually while working at other 'day jobs' to pay the rent. I started selling work in earnest about 18 years ago and now show with several galleries.

How long have you been using sketchbooks? 

Since my foundation course at Chesterfield art college - we were very much encouraged to keep a sketchbook and I was almost obsessive about mine - I think I did some of my best work in it.

How often do you sketch? 

It varies but at the moment I usually draw at least four days a week and paint in my sketchbook once or twice a week.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook? 

I love it, maybe that's why I have so many on the go at once! I'm not one of those people who has fear of a blank sheet of paper, I love a fresh start.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages and how would you describe your creative process? 

My main inspiration comes from the landscape. I'm also fascinated by colour. Working in a sketchbook is very liberating because no-one else is necessarily going to see it so for me it is a place where I can work very freely and experiment with colour and shape. A lot of my work is about memories of landscape rather than about re-creating a particular view and so the landscapes in my sketchbooks are often created out of my imagination. In some ways my painting sketchbooks are a place to 'limber up' before I start on my other work. I don't recreate work from my sketchbook into a finished painting but some of the colour or composition ideas will find their way in along the way. When I'm drawing I will sometimes draw from life. Even then the drawing is filtered through my own way of seeing and won't be a technically accurate depiction of the scene in front of me. I'm more interested in the way a place feels and the memory it evokes than trying to produce a photographic representation of it. I see the landscape in terms of line, shape and colour and the stories behind the buildings held in it.

 Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how? 

Yes. When I look back at old sketchbooks they were mainly colour studies and very loose/abstract ideas. Now I tend to try to make each page more resolved as a drawing/painting. I put a lot of energy and time into them. I went through a period of feeling that this was time misspent if I had 'finished' pieces to get ready for a deadline but now I feel like it's such an important part of my practice that I allow myself that time. It all helps to make me a better painter. Just because no one sees it or it doesn't end up in a frame doesn't mean it's not worthwhile.

What is your favourite medium to work with? 

Acrylic paint is my favourite medium. It dries so quickly which suits my way of working and some of the colours produced are inspiration in themselves. I'm also a big fan of the humble HB pencil.

 Do you have a favourite sketchbook? 

I have a tiny moleskine cahier that I paint in. I painted the cover as well and it's gradually building up into a little work of art in it's own right. The paper is very thin, probably not meant for paint, and the build up of acrylic gives the pages a 'leathery' feeling. I paint on a small scale anyway and the double page 5 x 7 inches is the same as one of my smaller pieces, so the size is perfect for me.

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

See above. I like the colours that I've used in this painting and it's loose and a bit odd and scruffy. All the things I like best in a sketchbook painting.

Thanks so much Anne for taking part in my blog and being the last sketchbook peek of 2013. Come back next year for a new selection and maybe a revisit to some of my old favourites!!

If you want to see some of Anne's work in the flesh then go to the Bircham Gallery, Holt, Norfolk Christmas show where you can see a selection of her landscapes from November 30th - January 8th

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Harley Christmas Market

So where will you be this weekend? Starting your Christmas shopping?

If you want a high quality hand crafted show, full of exciting wares by a selection of the UK's best Designer-Makers then come along to the Harley Gallery Christmas Market. It's open from 2-7pm Friday 22nd November and then 10-5 Saturday and 10-4 Sunday. As well as the Art and Food Market the Studios will also be open, so you will have the chance to visit the Makers who have studios there, and see how they do it. It'll be a lovely day out!! Hope to see you there!!

There's a full list of exhibitors here and there is something for everyone, jewellery by Adele Taylor, mosaics by Angela Ibbs, ceramics by Bridget McVey, delicate lace by JC Middlebrook, luxury printed textiles by Sky Siouki  and prints by James Green, to name but a few.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Taking my time

Hi there, I'm still here just in case you were wondering where I had got to. Been busy beavering away in the background, sorting stock for selling fairs and exhibitions, travelling to and fro, frantically trying to tidy up the studio so the four walls don't feel as though they are closing in on me! It does feel a bit like studio-tetris at the moment, not quite enough room for everything, or quite enough space to manoeuvre things in and out. The only time it ever seems tidy is when the car is packed to the brim and I'm off to a fair or show.

As I have hinted in the previous couple of blog posts I have been doing a lot of pondering recently about the things I am enjoying/not enjoying about my business at the moment and I want to redress the balance. Some of the tasks I found really enjoyable this time last year are now becoming draining and more of a challenge and I'm consistently finding I'm not getting time to do some of the things I really want. All of this thinking and pondering has lead me to a big decision. 

I have decided that from January 2014 I'm taking several months off (I'm thinking 6??) from new events and projects and instead I'm planning some quality time in the studio and out and about. I think I need to get back in touch with creating 'just because' rather than working to someone else's time scale and brief. Although I love my illustrations and working with ink, I want to spread my wings and rediscover the other media I love such as watercolour, ceramics and print.

I've been researching this idea already and I've been pleasantly surprised about the things I am reading. From the informative and inspiring blog detailing Johanna Basford's creative sabbatical, to the TED Talk by Stefan Sagmeister I hear one strong message coming through, we can all benefit from taking a break.

I want to get inspired again, rather than feeling I have to stick to the same formula, allow space and time for new ideas, rather than feeling under pressure to meet deadlines and demands. I know I'm lucky to be in the position to choose this path, as I also have a job which pays my bills, but I think if I want to be serious about the longevity of my creative business I need to give myself some time to experiment and grow....

Does this sound familiar? Is anyone else feeling the same? Have you had a break from your creative business and how did it feel?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Inspired by...

a trip last Sunday to Newstead Abbey... 

A well needed break as I have been feeling a bit under the weather lately so we decided to get up early on the Sunday morning when the clocks went back and made the most of the glorious morning and took ourselves off to Newstead Abbey for an explore and a trip down memory lane for my hubby.

Even though it didn't seem like a good idea when I had to drag myself out of bed, not feeling tip top and hoping to make the most of the extra hour in bed, I really enjoyed getting out and taking in the scenery. It has made me realise how easy it is to become blinkered, stale, tired and uninspired, so I have made a few decisions about next year in the hope that I will feel quite the opposite - eyes wide open, creatively refreshed and inspired!

I'm going to spend some time getting back to basics again with my creativity, exploring a few different techniques and enrolling on a couple of courses and workshops to get the creative juices flowing. It has been a busy couple of years for me, I'm really pleased with what I have achieved through the mentoring course and beyond, but now I feel as though the time has come to step back from feeling as though I have to do and try everything, taking every opportunity that comes my way, and instead just slow down for a while, regroup and begin exploring my creativity and trying new ideas, experimenting and playing again and just see where this leads.

I feel a break from the non-stop busy-ness will do me the world of good and hopefully it will give me some reflective thinking time, after what has been a very busy and exciting two years. It will give me time to think about what I want from my creative endeavours and put me back in touch with the real reasons I started this journey in the first place.... I know I've rambled on, I think what I'm trying to say is, I just feel like I need to reconnect with myself. Does anyone else ever feel like that??

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Oops I did it again!!

So it's that time of year again when I slap myself on the forehead and wonder why I have committed myself to so many things in the run up to Christmas. It always seems like a good idea at the time when i start booking things in but then as deadlines start approaching I can feel the mild stirrings of panic setting in. I'm on top of things but feel a though I could just do with an extra hour in every day and an extra day in the week!

I've been very busy with preparation for my Upcoming shows and am looking forward to my debut appearance at The Art Market in Holmfirth next weekend and also the superb Harley Christmas Market from 22nd to 24th of the month. I will be launching my new range of ceramics here so if you're in the area please come along and tell me what you think of them!!

That's not all though, I'm pleased to say I'm exhibiting with two other artists, Helen Hallows and Fiona Wilson throughout December and you can find out work at the Prints Charming Exhibition at SOCK gallery in Loughborough. our preview is on Friday 6th December and the exhibtion will run until the beginning of January 2014. This will be the first time I have taken part in an exhibition of this scale and I am excited to be taking a broad selection of my work.

December will see me taking a well needed break (once the exhibition is all set up) and spending some time planning my pursuits for 2014, this is going to include some very much needed research and development time for new work as well as a couple of creative courses to help expand my practice. I'm planning to take a step away from direct selling events and will be concentrating on getting my online presence sorted out and brand new online shops in place. So if you do want to come and see me to buy something for yourself or your loved ones before Christmas then you only have two chances.... Holmfirth and Harley. If not you can always drop me a line if three is something in particular you are after.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Sketchbook Peeks - Helen Lang from Wetpaint

I've been an admirer of the work of Helen Lang from Wetpaint ever since I saw one of her gorgeous colourful prints in a lovely design shop in Nottingham a few years ago. I then saw her designs on some books in Waterstones and was really drawn to the colours and subject matter. As you know I'm a huge fan of birds and trees so another reason I love Helen's work. Helen is based in London and has worked with an impressive array of clients, including John Lewis and Harper Collins Publishing.

I feel honoured to have Helen's delightful sketchbooks on the blog this week. I asked her about her sketchbooks and her creative processes 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

Hullooo.. okay, well I now describe myself as a freelance illustrator, 3 years into my fulltime freelancing career. I’ve always drawn and created work for family and friends and was also previously employed in creative roles. My first being that of a product designer in a greeting card and cracker manufacturing company. I also worked for over 5 years as an illustration agent and in my more recent past I worked in the creative design team at an art and card publishing company

However, in late 2010 I started to realise that I wanted to explore the talent I felt I had and I day dreamt of going freelance. I started to draw up a list of things I wanted to achieve and had some very strong goals in my mind. Slowly through a series of happenings, (meeting my current partner who was extremely supportive about my ideas, the company that I then worked for going into insolvency and the death of my grandmother) and working on new ideas and taking part in exhibitions, my work started to evolve and I began to explore a new style and approach to my work. I became more dedicated to finding out what I could achieve in my own artwork after years of supporting, promoting and researching other artists and designers.

How long have you been using sketchbooks? 

Essentially I've been using sketchbooks from when I was a kid. When I was really little it was sheets of wallpaper stapled together to make a book and then when I was older I used to thread together sheets of folded coloured and flouro paper from my dads work (he was a printer so I used all the off cuts) and made sketchbooks out of that. More recently though its A4 in shape and is usually a Pukka pad or a little A5 moleskine one I keep in my bag with me.

How often do you sketch? 

I have to hold my hands up and say I don’t sketch enough. I have spurts of ideas on themes that I want to explore so my pukka pads and notebooks are usually stuffed with old bits of paper or invoices I’ve drawn on the back of in a hurry. Its all just stuffed into the cover of the sketchpad and kept

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?

Love the feel of a new sketchbook but I think I have a tendency to get a bit precious about the first page so I usually get one or some of the kids in the family to draw on the first couple of pages to break it in !!

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages? 

I'm a massive fan of pinterest at present. Its a great resource of ideas and knowledge of artists old & new. Work and artwork inspiration can also come from absolutely anywhere! I get inspired by lettering on old packaging, graffiti, music flyers, interior and music magazines, album covers, engravings, adverts etc; inspiration and influence really comes from everywhere.


How would you describe your creative process? 

Lots of thinking, tea drinking and procrastinating…and then a big flurry of ideas and trying to get things down on paper !! …And a steady hand when creating the final artwork

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how? 

I think my sketchbooks have remained relatively constant -­‐ I’m not sure if that's a good or bad thing? I think I can be a little formulaic in my approach and that is something I hope to change with some new line markers and pens. I used to draw a lot in biro initially which leaves no room for correction or editing and more recently in a very fine pencil which allows more control over the line and small mark making detail.

What is your favourite medium to work with? 

I work initially in pencil and then artwork final pieces in gouache and a very thin sable brush.I love the flow of a line with a brush and ink. However saying that more recently I’ve become aware of some amazing looking calligraphic marker pens which I’m going to purchase and test over the next few months.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook? 

Not really if I’m honest. But I do like to look back and see the development of work and ideas and will often return to pages or characters that I’ve previously created and develop them into something more detailed and finished.

Well, I'm sure you will all agree it's been fascinating to hear all about Helen's work. If you want to find out more about her you can check out her website here

Monday, 14 October 2013

new website and new products coming very soon...

It's all go at SBHQ at the moment. If you have tried to get on my website you may have noticed that it has disappeared. There's lots going on behind the scenes and very soon I should be unveiling the shiny new website. It will be a big step forward and will include my blog and shop all in the same place...

It's all very exciting, and I'm really looking forward to joining the world of e-commerce in the run up to Christmas and maximising sales.

We've also been developing some new product lines, something which I have been wanting to do since I took part in the Design Factory Mentoring Scheme last year. I have finally sat down and measured up and sorted all of my designs out and will be launching the range very soon. There will only be very short runs to begin with until I get to grips with the process but my samples all came out very nicely and I have a lot more off to the kiln this week.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Exciting product developments

Last year as part of the Design Factory Mentoring Scheme I worked with my mentor Debbie Bryan and we looked at how I could expand my product range. I had always been interested in looking at how I could adapt my designs for different media, ceramics, print and textiles being three areas I wanted to explore. I invested in some whiteware with a view to getting some of my designs onto them and testing a sample of new products with my market. Well, it's a good job no-one was holding their breath whilst waiting for that to happen... It has been on my jobs list for the past twelve months but The Festival of Words, BCTF and other shows kind of took over and my focus was elsewhere.

Time has passed but I have always wanted to get on with this and I'm pleased to say I finally have. I have ordered the decals and have arranged some kiln space (with the help of a very kind friend) so very soon I should be able to unveil my new collection to the world. I'm VERY excited!!

I also have some more exciting news which I can tell you about very soon too in other areas of my business... Ooh, the suspense of it!!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Featuring - Helen Russell Creations

Welcome to the land of Helen Russell Creations where the only luggage you need is your imagination! This week I'm featuring the work of the lovely Helen Russell of Helen Russell Creations.

I first met Helen Russell on Twitter a couple of years ago and we struck up an e-conversation about my first trade fair, BCTF in 2012. Helen kindly gave me some help and advice about the show and it was lovely to get to meet her on set-up day at Harrogate. We have kept in touch with each other since then, catching up with each other at BCTF again this year. I was in admiration of her gorgeous stand, and her work, see below.

I've been keeping track of Helen's work, and after a big website redesign, she has a fantastic web presence, where you can find out all about her quirky little creatures, the Blob Birds, Wonder Mice and the Gang from The Glade. Her imagination has been fed by (she says) too many hours reading books with beautiful illustrations... her own storytelling ability is also evident across the whole body of her work. Take a look at her website, you will know what I mean!

Image courtesy of Helen Russell

I asked Helen to tell us a little more about her work and this is what she had to say...

'Helen Russell Creations was born out of my on-going fascination with the natural world and the way people ‘collect’ items to remember events, holidays and people. I love using animals to create scenes that echo human nature and hope that my work helps support memories old and new.I’m a passionate creative who loves taking inspiration from the world around me. My brain clocks up new ideas constantly and I really enjoy working to bring them into reality. My love of illustration, nature and storytelling is central to my work. Each day I have to pinch myself, I have the best job in the world!'

Image courtesy of Helen Russell
If you want to find out a bit more about Helen and her imaginative quirky characters, all you need to do is head on over to her website and explore.

If you want to find out more about Helen or catch up with her on the road from now until Christmas, this is where you can find her:


The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair at Spinningfields, Manchester on 10-13
October Country Living Christmas, Harrogate, Stand A8 28 Nov-1 Dec


 Objects of Desire, Chapel Gallery, Ormskirk 24 November – 12 Jan
 Craft in the Bay Christmas Show, Cardiff 9 Nov-12 Jan

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Ceramic range samples

Exciting news part 1 this week - as well as it being my birthday and our 14th wedding anniversary (and 20 years together) another exciting development is that my ceramic design samples have gone into the kiln today!! This experiment has been in the pipeline for over a year now and I'm pleased to say I have finally got around to doing it with the very kind help of a friend of mine.

Watch this space later in the week or next week for the finished results..... AT this ratye my new range will be ready for my Christmas selling events!! Hurray!!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Sketchbook Peeks - Harriet Alice Fox


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 actually work full time as an assistant buyer at a clothing company and all my illustration and design work is done in my own time. I have always been creative and enjoyed art from a very young age. I studied art at A-level, Foundation Diploma and went on to study Surface Design at Degree Level graduating from the University of Huddersfield three years ago.
Since then I have spent the majority of my free time pursuing my love of illustration, design and crafting. I design and print my own cards and you can see a full range on my website. (www.harrietalicefox.com) I currently live with my partner Tom and cat Moby who enjoys being my desk buddy.

How long have you been using sketchbooks?

I have used sketchbooks for as long as I can remember, I still have some from when I was twelve years old, though my art style has changed quite a bit. In my house I have a painting I made for my neighbour of my childhood home when I was seven, she framed it for me as a graduation present.

How often do you sketch?

I sketch every week, I try to sketch most evenings, and more if I have a free weekend. Lately I have been sketching to try to improve a weakness of mine – faces. How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook? I really like it; it’s just like having a fresh start. You can take your art in a whole new direction, although the very first piece may be a daunting task. I have just started working on my sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project (www.sketchbookproject.com) and I find it quite exciting starting a project specific sketchbook.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. I do follow a lot of blogs and I find the writers to be very inspiring. I also have a small library of books that I use as reference points for ideas or techniques. How would you describe your creative process? I sketch out ideas in my sketchbook or on paper, then draw again if need be or redefine the original sketch with a fine liner pen. Sometimes I paint the piece or I will scan into the computer to colour it. Most of my cards are created this way and printed at home.

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?

Completely, I have learnt to use sketchbooks for the development of pieces rather than just the finished design, and not to worry too much if it’s not perfect.

What is your favourite medium to work with?

I think my favourite medium is acrylic paint as I love how bold and bright it can be, although the medium I mainly use is a fine liner pen. The majority of my work is outlined with fine liner and has a bright colour scheme.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?

One of my favourite sketchbooks is one from my first year of University. It was a trend book project based on colour. The sketchbook was a mixed media piece of collage, paint and stitch, bound together. I loved the book as lots of different elements were pulled together, and the exploration of colour is a subject I found really interesting. Another of my favourites is my sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project, based on my family, although this is a project and a sketchbook that has just begun.

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

My favourite page so far out of my sketchbook project sketchbook is one where I have planned out some portraits. It shows the plan for the cover of my sketchbook ‘I See No Ships’ and two of my family members dressed in their army uniforms. Although they are only the first drafts I like the page together as is encompasses the theme of my whole project. I will be posting updates of my project ‘I See No Ships’ on my blog throughout this year.

Blog: http://harrymissbarry.blogspot.co.uk/
Website: www.harrietalicefox.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Harrietalicefoxdesigns/194059747275782
Twitter: @harrietalicefox
Instagram: http://instagram.com/harrymissbarry
Shop: http://society6.com/HarrietAliceFox

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