Friday, 31 October 2014

Happy Halloween from a Scary Day Challenge

Hello Lovelies

Away from the world of craft, I take part in a small business forum and we have all been given a Scary Day challenge to be completed on Halloween. Mine was to come up with vectors suitable for this funtastically spooky day.

And here's what I have come up with.


Three terrifying Jack O'Lanterns.

And just to play, I cobbled together a digital card to celebrate this most hallowed of eves.


I will, of course, be hiding under the bedsheets until the morning!


Monday, 20 October 2014

Making Cards & Chutneys

Hello my lovely friends

I pulled out all my stash today, full of ideas for making a card. It was going to be something with bells, whistles and extra special icing on top. I was going to stretch taut every creative sinew I have.

Instead...


I fell in love with a much simpler design.

It all started with great intentions. I took some wood veneer and die cut it using a Chat Bubble shape and then a Heart. I backed the result with a small piece of red card. All well and good. So I rifled through my cardstock and selected a pale blue number to trim and fold. I laid my chat bubble on top to stimulate ideas for what to do next.

And guess what? I fell at the first hurdle cos I loved it and I couldn't add anything else. I tried, but all my efforts detracted from the strong design already there.

I gave in. This was the card and how it was going to be. It was finished, whether I accepted it or not.

In other news. That mush which has been boiling away in the kitchen has just been jarred.


All our Mostarda Di Vencentino requires now are the labels. They've been ordered and are in the postal system winging their way to us. I'll design the labels on computer once I know their size, print them out and that's our quinces ready to give away.

Is it just me or does Autumn make you feel more creative and productive?


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Scrapping and not Scrapping

Hello my lovelies

It's a bit of a hodge podge of stuff to share today. First of all, if you follow me on Facebook you'll have already seen a photo of me that even I will concede, never thought would happen. Me scrapping. No not scrapbooking scrapping. Proper scrapping scrapping.


Yes that's me and my personal boxing coach and fitness instructor. Once a month, Nick & I don gloves and learn how to box and exercise. The very first time Dave instructed me to hit his pads, he barely could tell. A housefly, punching out of a wet paper bag, had more force behind it. Nowadays, I'm not the next Rocky but I can confidently land a punch.

As for the other kind of scrapping. The crafty type. Well scrapbooking is dying and breathing its last gasps. One day, it may have a retro appeal again. Look at baking and knitting these days. But we take more photos as a digital nation and scrapbooking can't keep up. Something new came along a few years ago and has taken its place.


Yes friends, I too have given up scrapbooking and taken up Pocket Pages.


And yes I know that a lot of scrapbookers make creative pages out of the pocket set up. But it has always felt to me like the emperor's new clothes. To me it's a photo album, not too dissimilar to the kind my parents kept.

As you can see, my preference is to take a monthly approach to my album and add photos which help trigger memories of what Nick & I got up to. There are no stories. I'm not interested in telling stories in my album. It's an aide memoire, a brief overview. We'll look over it in months and years to come and it'll trigger the memories we have no matter how faded or incorrect they may be.

So yes I've kissed goodbye to scrapping and embraced keeping a photo album.

Finally, T'is the Season to...no, not be jolly...to harvest. It's Autumn!


Finally, we have harvested our Spaghetti squashes. I really only thought we'd have a handful. We ended up with 23 and they're all whoppers. The reason we grew spaghetti squashes was because I have seen lots of tempting recipes but you simply can't buy them in the UK. The only way to get our hands on them is to buy seeds and put the ol' green fingers to work.

And that's not all we've harvested this week.



Our Quince tree has produced a bountiful supply of fruit this year. The above is just a fraction of the pickings. At the moment there are two large pans on the kitchen hob with boiling quince mush in them. The problem with quince is the lack of variety in what you can do with them. So for the umpteenth year running, Nick is making Mostardo Vincentina, a sort of chutney. It's utterly delish and good job too as there are jars and jars of it in our cellar. A lot of them Nick gives away as gifts. Friends and family come back for more, that and his homemade sloe gin.

So yes, this week has felt particularly like Autumn has arrived. Are you harvesting at the moment too? Or are you reaching to the back of your cupboards for an out-of-date tin of fruit to gift to your local harvest festival?


Monday, 13 October 2014

Just Because I Felt Like It

Hello there lovelies

After a self imposed break, I actually felt like making a card last night. I've been so busy doodling and drawing and sketching, I had forgotten how wonderfully relaxing and fun it can be to sit and craft for a few minutes.

I was spurred on by seeing a lovely pack of Peel & Stick Wood Veneers on my desk, which I had bought from Make The Day Special. I tried my hand at marquetry many, many moons ago and the thought of creating this same effect on a card simply couldn't be ignored any longer.


The main die I used was The Bam Bubble from Paper Smooches. I used a "hi" sentiment from another set of dies and with some trickiness, created this card. Tricky because the "sticky" on the back of these veneers truly lives up to the meaning and spent most of the time clinging tenaciously to my fingers, as I tried to assemble the pieces together.

That aside, I love the final effect. It's delightfully quirky to have a wood veneer greetings card sitting on my desk. Makes a change from coloured cardstock.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Chatsworth Lumiere Experience

Hello again lovelies

Well as I mentioned in my last post, a week later and Nick & I are both back at Chatsworth House. However this time, we saw it in a whole new light. Literally.


For the first time, we saw it at night for Chatsworth's annual Lumiere Experience. And once again, we were lucky with the weather. There was a cloudless sky, a three-quarter full moon and a twinkling of stars looking down on us. There was a lovely autumnal chill and it stayed rain-free.

As you can see from the photo above, the whole house was lit up and one wall had a hyoooge projection upon it.

However, we began the evening by visiting the interior of the house.


It's been many a year since either of us has seen inside the house, by day or by night so it all felt new to us. I couldn't tell you if it was better by night but I have to say the orange glow made the place feel warm and more opulent. Hundreds of candles were placed around the house, nearly all of them were faux flame, electric types. Which made good sense considering the ease with which an accident could see the house turned into cinder by dawn.


And here we are, posing on the staircase. One of the benefits of coming on a night event like this, is that though busy, the house was not over-populated. You weren't having to battle with crowds to see the beautiful rooms, art and sculptures. And you could pose on the stairs uninterrupted. Have to say, I felt quite at home.


A stunning sculpture made more spectral viewed in the dim light. The veil around the face is extremely clever and mind-boggingly realistic. I could swear it was real gauze but it was all marble.


All the rooms are decadent but the dining room tops them all. Oh to sit and partake of caviar, quail and an iced pudding.


The tour of the house leads you through the gift shop, obviously and then out into the garden where you are lead first along the path alongside the house, towards the magnificent spurting fountain. The trail was lit up and each statue along the way had actors reciting lines from Sheakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream piped through speakers. Hauntingly romantic.


The fountain was lit up in changeable colours and I know, this photo shows nothing of the scale but it's rather fabulous to witness.


At one of the ponds en route, you could light a candle and place in a paper lilly which was gently lowered onto the water. By the time we arrived, hundreds of them were festooned.

By far my favourite lumiere experience outside was impossible to photograph. Tiny lasers were projected onto trees creating an effect similar to watching a swarm of fireflies flitting around us. I had Nick stand in front of them to light him up.

As you can clearly see...


Okay, if I photoshop the heck out of it, you can just about make out the ghostly apparition of him


And that rounds off our quaintly english evening of romantic charm. We both came away on a high, absolutely buzzing on the atmospheric few hours we'd just spent. The only thing missing was a stall selling piping hot baked potatoes or cups of steaming hot chocolate. Mind you, tea and toast once we returned back home more than made up for it.


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Boxing Before Culture

Hello there my lovelies

If you're a long time follower of my blog, you'll know that every couple of years, Chatsworth House has an exhibition of modern sculpture for Sothebys and that Nick & I will move mountains to go and see it.

This year was no exception and on Friday, we were blessed with blue skies and warm sunshine. Perfect for walking around the tranquil gardens. But the day didn't start so promising.

Before we headed off, we already had booked our monthly boxing lesson. There we were outdoors, with our trainer, thumping seven bells out of him, when the sky turned a dark, murky grey and the heavens opened. The three of us scurried quickly indoors to the gym to dry off and continue.

When our hour was up, we looked again at the weather forecast which maintained that it would be sunny over the hills, where we were heading. So we bit the bullet and decided to take the chance.

And lucky we did.

Here's why...


Isn't that such a gorgeous setting?


This piece was highly policed. Apparently there are nine types of Japanese stone used in this sculpture and the reason for keeping an eye on the visitors is that placed around, within and on top of these pieces were small figurines which could tempt the light of finger.


If you notice the area I circled in the previous photo, this is the close up. There were little houses, peacocks, monkeys and lions hidden amongst the stones. And for the eagle eyed, there were tiny human figures having, what I can only describe coyly, as adult fun. Yes I have photos but probably best I show you the giraffes and elephants instead.


Loved the colours of this one against the blue sky & green grass.


A large metal tablet shaped design.


A fragile spiral of white metal coiled into a stunning abstract shape.


This was entitled The Swarm. And round the corner from this piece was an old fashioned ice cream cart where we ordered two large cones, dripping with chocolate sauce and finished off with a flake. It felt just like we were on holiday, sitting on a bench, basking in the sun and indulging our sweet tooths.


An arty shot of a marble sculpture. Love the minimalist style.


Nick in the tunnel which runs underneath Chatsworth's beautiful water cascade. It was pitch black and this photo is down to the flash on my camera.


And finally, me taking a self portrait in a rotating mirrored sculpture which is permanently on display in their vegetable plot.

A perfect day.

We'll be returning to Chatsworth in a week's time as we have tickets to visit their Luminaire Event. We've never experienced it before, so it should be interesting to see the place in a completely different light.

Keeping fingers crossed that we'll be lucky again with the weather and that it won't rain.



Monday, 15 September 2014

Creative Blog Hop

Hello My Lovelies

I'm here with a slightly different post today. I've been asked, very kindly, to participate in a Creative Blog Hop by my lovely friend and fellow blogger Neet Hickson. As well as having the warmest, biggest heart that I know, she is one heck of a crafter - she teaches it, she demos for other companies at craft shows and she's been published in a variety of craft magazines. She has even looked after a local craft group for several years. Where she finds the energy I haven't a clue. She is a wonderful friend with a terrific sense of humour. I love her to bits.

Back to the challenge. Last Monday, Neet posted her answers to four questions. She then nominated little old me, to keep the chain going. And as her nominee, one week later, it's my turn to answer the same four questions.

So here goes...


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What am I working on now?


At the moment, other than the occasional card here and there, I’m mostly sketching and doodling. I love the playful, whimsical nature of the drawings I’m doing in my (sort of) art journal. And because I’m purposefully not sharing them, they don’t have to be very good or original. I can sit in front of the TV or in a waiting room and just scribble away without a care. There are lots of artists I currently admire out there and I’m learning by copying. What will hopefully emerge one day will be a hybrid version of them all. There’s a wonderful book on this method for mastering art, called “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon which I highly recommend. 

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

I don’t think it does. I haven’t found my oeuvre yet. I dabble in all sorts of styles. I love making stuff in a range from clean & graphic to layered, shabby chic. However, that said, after a lifetime of opting for conservative colour schemes, I’m discovering I actually love bold, bright palettes. In my art, in my clothes, in our home - I’m slowly replacing all the safe neutral tones with a rainbow of colour and I can’t begin to tell you how much more fun it is. I think the future might see me differing through my use of a multi colour palette and maybe the incorporation of more doodles. Ask me this question again in a year’s time lol. 

Why do I create what I do? 

Very good question and one that has been chewed over by greater minds than mine through the annals of history. The simplest and easiest answer as to why I personally create is because it brings me joy. I’m happy when I create. I could dig deeper and come up with a profound answer. But what I know is that when a certain amount of time has gone by and I haven’t done something creative, I miss it. No, more than that. I crave it. It becomes like an itch I need to scratch. I don’t question it. I go with the flow and give in to it. 

How does my creative process work?

Crikey, I bet this question has stumped a few people. Or am I alone here in scratching my head? If I have a creative process, this is the first time I’ve thought about it. I suppose it starts with seeing something which inspires me or triggers off an idea. It could be something I saw on a blog, or photographed on my travels or popped into my head whilst taking a bath. 

Once inspired, I dig out all the tools and materials I think I’ll need and just begin. I have the finished vision of it in my mind’s eye from the start but it tends to change as I create. I’m fairly methodical and I’m usually thinking about design principles and colour theory as I go. 

When I’m finished I instantly find fault with whatever I’ve done. Thankfully, these days I know I’m not alone and that the nasty critical voice in my head is normal. It’s never going away but I do have better strategies for dealing with it. 

My ritual is to tidy away any mess I’ve made and put the piece I’ve created away - be it a drawing or a card. If I look at it again the next day, after having slept, I generally view it with a less critical eye. In fact, I have a poster in my room which says “Done is better than perfect”. Words I need to remind myself of frequently.

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And there you have it. How creativity fits into my life right at the moment. A strange time to be answering these questions as I'm only just coming out of a creative ebb. It'll be interesting to read my answers back to myself a year from now and see if I still agree with what I wrote.

In the meantime, that itch has started again and I need to go take care of it :)