My Spoonflower Shop

My Spoonflower Shop
Newly opened!

11/04/2014

Band of Brothers





“ From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered,-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”

Henry V  Shakespeare


We have been to several remembrance services in our home town and visited the installation at The Tower of London- “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. This amazing and poignant work of art was created by ceramic artist Paul Cummings, with stage settings by stage designer Tom Piper. The installation was far from complete at the time of our visit and yet the effect was breathtaking. By the time of completion 888,246 poppies will have filled the entire moat, each poppy a life lost including one for my great uncle John.


On this day, a hundred years ago, my grandfather Thomas and his brother John were already enlisted as regular soldiers. As a mother of two boys I can only imagine my great grandmother’s feelings on hearing of the outbreak of WW1. John was killed at the very beginning, Thomas, a Royal Engineer, survived the entire conflict from start to finish.

 


Many of those who returned home safely went on to develop what is now understood to be post traumatic stress disorder, a condition little understood in those days. One of the charities to benefit from the Tower of London poppy appeal is Combat Stress who help today's veterans affected by stress. Coping with life after conflict can be extremely challenging, not only for the ex-service men and women but for their families too. Victims often suffer horrendous flashbacks, depression and character changes; fortunately charities like Combat Stress can offer help and support but need our help. You can find out more here-

Double page spread from "Can it be true?" by Susan Hill
Illustration by Valerie Greeley.

With so many references to WW1 and with thoughts about my grandfather and his brother, I found that WW1 imagery crept into my work. This illustration from “Can it be true?” could have had any number of interpretations; I saw it as a nightmare from the trenches. For me the two men represent the brothers Thomas and John. With so many disparate images to include- whales, soldiers, shrews, ferrets, stoats and a General dreaming, I choose to make the bed covers part of an undulating landscape with dreamlike waves and harpoons turning into arrows and bayonets. It was certainly the most challenging thing I have ever had to illustrate and kept me awake on more than one occasion.



10/20/2014

Christmas Books Giveaway.



Annie Cholewa from Knitsofacto is running a Christmas book giveaway and if you are quick you can enter.

On offer is a signed copy of "Can it be True?" and also a retelling of The Snow Queen by Sarah Lowes illustrated by Miss Clara.

The giveaway is open until the 24th October and Annie would like you to share some of your Christmas thoughts with her.

Annie is a talented photographer and has managed to capture the gold foil on the book jacket so beautifully.

And now, if you will excuse this very hurried post, I must dash, I have books to deliver.



10/09/2014

The Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers

"Full Moon Hare"
This year I decided to submit two miniature paintings for possible selection for The Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers annual exhibition. After being inspired by an earlier trip to Wells to see the work of The Hilliard Society and reading other artist's blogs such as Tracy Hall's Watercolour Diary I finally plucked up the courage and entered my paintings for the first time.

This entailed a trip to London to submit the artwork followed by an anxious wait, checking the website to see if my work had been accepted. I was both surprised and delighted to see my two registration numbers amongst the list of accepted works, in fact I had to ask my husband to double check to see if my eyes were not deceiving me!

The paintings I submitted were “Full Moon Hare” shown above and “Tawny Owl in Oak Wood” shown in a previous post.


If you feel inspired to do the same yourself you can find all the details on the RSM website together with the exhibition schedule.


The exhibition opens on Tuesday October 14th daily until October 26th at The Mall Galleries in London.
 

9/28/2014

Tudor Houses


Illustration for "Can it be true?"
written by Susan Hill for Long Barn Books.

I thought you might be interested to see some of the thought processes and inspiration behind my recent illustration project for "Can it be true?” for Long Barn Books.

It was decided from the beginning that this book would have either black and white illustrations or restricted colour, we wanted to give a more simplified “printmaker” feel to this new edition in contrast to the very detailed water colours used previously.



When I had to think of an image to use to illustrate the towns page I immediately thought of Tudor style houses. This very decorative style of building lends itself to black pen and ink drawing and so was a natural choice. There are very many wonderful examples around our home and county town of Chester. Some date from as far back as Henry VII.





The illustration started as a black and white pen drawing, which I scanned into the computer. I then added colour and a lino print texture on Photoshop. The original idea was to have gold on some of the pages but to do this would have added considerably to the costs. We decided to add a gold effect instead, this was also done on Photoshop by scanning a piece of gold leaf and then “pasting” the effect in the windows and onto the stars. (see top)

The illustration suggested a repeat pattern so when the book was finished I turned the page into a textile design. To see how this would look on fabric I decided to try out the Spoonflower site. This is a place where you can upload your own designs and have them printed for your own use or for sale in an online shop.



The problem for me was choosing the right fabric, in the end I opted for Kona cotton, thinking it might be nice to quilt. The obligatory sample arrived in due course and when I saw it my mind turned back to books again. I thought it might be good to try out the fabric as a book cloth;- here is my very old and tatty address book sporting its new cover. It seemed an appropriate choice.

If you feel so inclined you can try out the fabric yourself, you will find it here-

9/01/2014

"Can it be True?" BBC Competition.




August came and went in the blink of an eye and now it seems we are almost into autumn. A new term for those returning to school and great excitement for a certain little boy who starts school tomorrow. How I wish I could be a fly on the wall!




I seem to have been very busy with one thing and another. I have redesigned my website in order to make changes and updates easily without having to ask for help. I made it on blogger, better the devil you know, it will be a work in progress.

A box full of ‘Can it be True?” book samples arrived followed by some rather exciting news. Those of you who listen to BBC Radio 3 Breakfast might have heard about a new Christmas Carol Competition. Listeners are being asked to set the words of a new version of “Can it be True?” by Susan Hill to create a new Christmas carol. If you are musically inclined you might like to enter, details are available here-



I took this photograph to give you some idea of the scale of the book. As you can see it is Christmas stocking size.

I hope to have some of the Christmas books for sale soon in my bookshop, maybe in the next few days. It seems a bit too soon to think about the festive season so maybe I will leave it for a while, not wanting to wish away the last of the summer.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary by a trip to Bodnant garden, which is probably the most beautiful garden I have ever visited. With panoramic views of Snowdonia, wooded glades, waterfalls, lily ponds, terraces and rose gardens all combine to create an earthly paradise. We have seen the garden before but not for some years now and noticed many improvements, we hope to return soon.



 Are you looking forward to the next series of Downton Abbey when it returns to our television screens soon? I love cosy Sunday nights with a new craft project, a glass of wine and good old Downton. I am hoping for lots lavish interiors and posh frocks and people looking wistfully in the mid distance whilst opining that "times are a-changing".


You may have noticed that I have been playing around on the Spoonflower site. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this website, it is a print on demand site for textiles, wallpapers and wraps. I thought I might try out some new ideas and make available again some designs that have been retired. Like my website this is another work in progress activity. At the moment I am waiting for some samples before deciding what to do next.


Sometimes it seems that I have so many projects on the go and hardly any finished but I am pleased to report that I finally managed to complete the miniature painting I started in the summer. Now what shall I paint next?




7/31/2014

July, New work and Texprint.



July is almost over; I can hardly remember a hotter summer. It seems strange that most of my work has been winter themed. So whilst the bees have been humming and the flowers blooming I have had to turn my thoughts to snow and ice.

I mentioned before that I have been illustrating a Christmas book not quite knowing when it would be appropriate to reveal exactly which book and for whom. Well, now my secret is out, a recent article online reveals all.
I have been working on a series of illustrations for “Can it be True?” by Susan Hill, her company Long Barn Books will publish it in September. I will post more images soon when we are all in a more Christmassy mood.

Each illustration started life as a black ink drawing and colour being added digitally at a later stage. The owl drawing is very much a work in progress; the final pages are in colour. When the book was first published it was illustrated by Angela Barrett. I make no secret of the fact that I was absolutely thrilled and terrified in equal measure to get the chance to do a new version. I hold Angela’s work in the highest esteem; she is without doubt one of our greatest illustrators and an impossibly hard act to follow. I was given great freedom to create my own version, the one condition was that I had to do something with a very different feel, to say that I have lost sleep over this would be an understatement, too late now though, it has gone off to the printer.

As you can see I have drawn some of the ivy growing in my garden, although it looks more like this at the moment.



Earlier in the month I went down to London to see this years Texprint exhibition. Each year 24 textile design graduates are chosen from UK colleges and universities to take part in this prestigious event. In 1975 I was amongst the fortunate ones to participate, in those days the exhibition was held at The Design Centre which was on The Haymarket, this years venue was The Chelsea College of Art and Design. The graduates are given the opportunity to connect with industry professionals and hopefully gain placements, jobs and commissions. I was very impressed with the overall standard of work on show, so much talent, innovation and skill. You can see some of the things these young designers produce by following the links here Texprint helped me to make my dream of becoming a designer a reality and I wish each and every one of this years graduates the very best of luck.



I will leave you now with this darling smile from our beautiful granddaughter. In the background you will see my ancient dining room curtains. The bolt of fabric was given to me by Jane Teale; who I worked with in the seventies. She commissioned and printed my design “Blue Jays” (this being a brown version). Oddly enough I met Jane through Texprint almost forty years ago. It’s about time I got myself some new curtains don’t you think?

7/01/2014

Out and About.



June has been and gone already! Time is flying by at lightening speed maybe because we have been so busy with work and a London trip- more of that later…

Much of my time has been devoted to promoting “White is the Moon”; this has included a very nerve-wracking telephone/radio interview. A school visit and a book shop signing.

Let me tell you about the school visit first. I was invited to attend a Literary Festival at The Excel Academy in Stoke-on-Trent. Of course I enlisted the help of my husband Tony, a retired advanced skills teacher. We had five one hour sessions with year seven pupils, each session involved an introduction to my books and then a workshop where the children tried their hand at writing and illustrating. In the short time allocated they produced some interesting adaptations inspired by “White is the Moon”. The children were well behaved, imaginative and co-operative. We had some very interesting questions about publishing and illustrating; all in all an enjoyable day. You can see some of the work they produced below. I have to confess by the end of the day I was exhausted!



The shop signing was by invitation of the beautiful and historic Nantwich Bookshop.
This event coincided with a school festival in the town centre so the place was buzzing with visitors. The shop gave me a window display and a table inside where I displayed my books, old and new. They very kindly plied me with cups of tea and toasted teacakes! Like many bookshops nowadays they sell food and drinks, pre-loved and new books and host many events. The day was a success and we sold lots of books and I met many customers, children and book lovers. I hope to return before Christmas; by that time my latest venture should be published. This time an illustrated gift book by a famous writer, more of that soon...



June wasn’t all work, as I mentioned earlier we had a London visit, which was a mixture of cat sitting and sight seeing. We also saw many friends, family members and spent some very special time with our two grandchildren. We did lots of walking as the weather was kind and visited two very different houses.

One was a National Trust property in Chelsea, former home of historian Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane. I especially enjoyed reading some extracts from Jane’s letters where she writes about the trials of house keeping and hiring servants. The house is still very much a home and has many personal effects. The artist Helen Allingham was a frequent visitor and painted the rooms and their contents some of which are displayed on the walls. She also painted a portrait of Thomas, which you can see, here-




After our visit to the house we spent some time in the lovely enclosed garden and planned our next visit.



The next house was very different, much less a home, more of a place to entertain and impress. Chiswick House is a magnificent neo-Palladian villa. The gardens at Chiswick are said to have been the inspiration for the gardens in New York's Central Park. Our time was limited and the sky began to grow dark, conscious of our long walk home along the river we had to cut our visit short.



We also had a trip to the theatre to see Les Miserables, something I have wanted to do for ages. It was a spectacular performance, Probably the best musical ever!