Happy Mail – Snail Mail

Green LadyI received this beauty through the post recently.  Happy Snail Mail. There is no better sort, and even more lovely because it was completely unexpected and had a really lovely message about my creativity on the back. I’m too embarrassed to show you here, but it was lovely to have someone say kind and complimentary things about me, completely unprompted.

Happy Mail –  Snail Mail

The postcard was a complete surprise from my friend Ruth Hinman, in Montana, USA. I’ve written about her and her work before. I admire her totally. She is completely open to any new form of media or technique and gives everything 100% of her time and effort. Ruth is the most prolific artist I’ve ever come across. Just take a look!

She is totally unafraid. (Except. I think she might sometimes actually be a little bit afraid and then just does stuff anyway! Boom!) As well as having a pretty high-flying job and a family. And then a bazillion friends to whom she sends random supportive postcards. Where she finds the time, I have no idea at all. I suspect she might be a witch. If I ever have the pleasure of meeting her face to face then I’ll be sure to use the infallible Monty Python Witch Test to check . If it’s not witchery, then she probably has one of those golden time-turners that Professor McGonagall gave to Hermione. Now I’m a big Hermione fan, having been something of a boffin at school myself. But if I’d been given one of those, I’d have  a whole list of stuff I’d be wanting as well as extra Muggle Studies.

  1. An hour between 6am and 7am – a lie in without being late!
  2. A hour-long bubble bath that didn’t involve small children with ducks and/or toilet needs.
  3. An hour or two added for marking school work without it eating in to my evening plans.
  4. Laundry Hour
  5. An hour between 10pm and 11pm to read, guilt free.

With all of this sorted in my “extra hours” only then might I have enough free time to keep up with Ruth’s work rate.

Did we ever find out if the time turner worked the other way in the book? Because I can think of a few times when moving forward an hour would be useful too. PD Day springs to mind this close to the new term. Dental appointments. Rainy February afternoons.

It all sounds so good. In the spirit of must-get-out-more-often I did a quick search for a golden time turner… and would you believe they’re available on Amazon here for the bargain price of £6.49 with free P&P?! I imagine that, with the end of the Harry Potter series and movies, Professor McGonagall found herself at a loose end and short of Galleons, so she set up her own little mail order company. I’d’ve thought she was more of an Etsy lady myself, but there we are.

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The Book of Books by Mahe Zehra Husein [Free tutorial and printable]

I made a paper-bead tutorial a year ago during a sleepless season. It was so popular, I couldn’t believe it. I ran a class at my studio and also gave a talk and workshop at the local women’s group about it. And then to my total surprise, I was approached by the wonderful Mahe Zehra Husein of AlteredUpcycling.com and asked if I’d put together an upcycled project for her publication The Book of Books. Obviously, I was ridiculously excited to be included and got to work straight away, adapting the paper beaded bracelet by making it from pages from a book. It’s one of my quickest but favourite makes to date. And oh so stylish. My primary photograph was even featured on the front page! There I am in the bottom left hand corner!paper bead necklace

 

 

I’ve included the tutorial again below, with the free printable patterns. But it’s definitely worth popping over to see what Mahe is up to at the moment, too!

Materials:

  • Printed pattern x1 for a bracelet or more for a necklace, depending on length.
  • PVA glue
  • cocktail sticks or skewers
  • shellac / varnish /Mod Podge (optional but recommended for longevity)
  • beading thread or elastic
  • seed beads (optional)

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1. Print your pattern and cut out the skinny triangles.

 

 

 

 

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2. Choose a triangle and start to roll it on to the cocktail stick, wide end first. DO NOT USE GLUE YET as it will stick your bead to the stick. (Ask me how I know!) Once you’ve done half an inch or so, you can add a spot of glue. It doesn’t matter too much if it oozes a little, because you can smooth it over the bead with your fingers. But don’t go wild.

 

 

DSC02316I actually prefer to switch to roll with my thumb at this point – I seem to be able to keep the bead tighter this way. I turn the stick with my right hand and use my thumb to press the paper down. As you get towards the end of the strip add another little dot of glue to secure the tail.

 

 

DSC023193.Your bead is now complete. Poke the end of the cocktail stick into something soft to hold it upright while the glue finishes drying. Take up your next skinny triangle and a new cocktail stick and repeat from step 1 until you have sufficient beads.

 

 

DSC023224. Once all the beads are made and dried, cover them with a coat of lacquer or mod-podge or varnish. This is optional but it will mean that you can wear your bracelet out in the rain. The beads are made of paper, so they’re never going to survive a bath! But you can keep them looking smart for a long time by giving them a coating of something. You could also make them lovely and shiny, if that’s your thing. Me, I prefer a matte finish, so I used a good quality gel matte medium to coat mine. (Don’t use a cheap one or they’ll end up sticky for ever!)

DSC023235. Again, once the drying time is done, you’re ready to string them up. Use anything that takes your fancy. Beading thread, ribbon, elastic, leather thong, embroidery thread even dental floss (not dental tape – it breaks too easily- and probably better to choose the non-minty type!) will all work. I alternated my paper beads with tiny glass seed beads for a bit of extra pretty.

To finish off: if you’re using elastic then just tie a knot. You can see mine there on the left – it will slip under a bead and become invisible once I’ve finished. If you’re using a non-stretchy type of thread, then you’ll need to engineer yourself a clasp of some sort. An extra bead through a loop works well. Or a button and loop. Or just a pretty bow if it’s a ribbon. There are some other ideas for fastenings right here.

DSC02329Voila!

If you’re here from Handmade Monday over at Lucy Blossom Crafts, HELLO THERE! Do drop me a lime to say hi! (And if you’d be interested in doing a guest blogging exchange with me, email jemmafifield@gmail.com)

Featured Artist Part One: Catherine Pape, Illustrator

Is there a word for the way that a picture makes you feel? I need a word that can express the way certain pictures connect you to their subject and draw you deep into the story that is being told. They are the pictures that I keep going back to. The ones that I wonder about once the book is closed. Pictures like those created by my favourite illustrator Irene Haas. Her pictures have a soft, detailed quality that reach deep inside me. She uses words with a flowing grace that perfectly complements her illustrations. Her work is tender and soulful and since a child I’ve been drawn deep inside her books. The Maggie B and Carrie Hepple’s Garden are tiny kids’ tales and yet they are amongst my favourite books in the world because of the places I’m taken to by the pictures. I need a word for that…

… because recently I’ve had the good fortune to meet another illustrator whose pictures touch the same place in me.  Catherine Pape is up and coming in the world of illustration. And she can do this thing that I’m talking about.

Moth Girl

Moth Girl: A Fable was the first piece to grip me. It’s an exquisitely illustrated comic strip. I  particularly love this picture of the moth resting on the window before she becomes the Girl. I’ve always wanted an excuse to use the word “chiaroscuro” without sounding like a wally. And I think that this might be my opportunity. The light shining from between the cracks in the window frame draws me into the room, just as it attracts the moth herself from the darkness outside. The whole story has had this affect on me. There is only an excerpt of it on Catherine’s site and I just can’t stop thinking about how it ends. Does the Moth Girl manage to save the Boy? Or is his life ultimately burned out by the stars he can’t draw himself away from – just like a moth is sometimes burned by a candle flame? [Edit- I’ve since been granted a peek at the ending and it doesn’t disappoint!]

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Girl Sailor: Similarly, there’s a teaser on Catherine’s website called Girl Sailor. The top image takes me to the bleak, wild Norfolk coast.  The way she uses blue in this creates such a poignant atmosphere that you just can’t help wanting to know more about the journey the couple are taking together. Girl Sailor reminds me a little of Catherine herself… I wonder…

I could talk for hours about other pieces of her work. So I’ve decided to split this post into 2 parts and get the lady in to talk about herself. But you just need to go over to her site and see for yourself. www.catherinepape.co.uk 

I’ll be back next time with an interview with Catherine.

 

Coming Up Roses

Out for a walk in Bury St Edmunds with MoonMunkie today and we came across a lovely treat. Elsey’s Gallery run by Cate Hadley.  A tiny little exhibition space we’d never spotted before, tucked away from the main street. And even better: a show of work by young textile artists from West Suffolk College. Coming up Roses: A selection of garments and soft furnishing.

It was a little treasure. MoonMunkie was entranced by the display and I could see her struggling between knowing she shouldn’t touch and desperately needing to feel those flowers. Her good manners won out, but it was a close call! I think that can be used as a test of good textile work. You should feel the need to stroke it, feel it, scrunch it. Sadly, the batteries on my phone died after the first picture. So I can’t really show you most of the exhibition – but that just gives you a reason to go there and see it for yourself. It’s on until May 28th. Head down Risbygate Street as if you were going out of town. It’s down the Elsey’s Yard alleyway, towards the Maltings project. If you go past Wilkinsons you’ve gone too far.

Elsey’s Gallery is open Friday, Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Visit this weekend! Tell them MoonMunkie sent you!

Featured Artist: Dizzydollylou

lou's felt

Dizzydollylou is a local artist who hails from Cambridgeshire. I met her about a year ago and loved her immediately because she was wearing my favourite shade of green and had also dressed her angelic daughter in the same colour. No, it’s not a sound method for scouting out new friends and acquaintances but this time it worked like a charm. So she’s my featured artist for this week.

Dizzydollylou works in wool and in silver. Getting to know her felted work has been a huge lesson in texture and colour. Her felted pictures are best described as sumptuous. Exquisitely composed, they draw the eye deeper into the story she is telling in her wool. The processes of felting intrigues me. It’s spectacular to be able to take sheep fluff and craft it into something so full of personality. She’s handy with the needlefelting, but for me her wet-felting is just out of this world.

lou sheep

It’s hard to pick my favourite, but perhaps it’s these sheep. I love the way the two on the left are cuddled together. I can hear them baaaing gently to one another.

 

 

lou dove

Although there’s this dove sitting among the blossoms. Can’t you hear her cooing? That’s my favourite too.  And the one with the poppies which takes me away to Flanders … And the one with the sand-dollar … And the one with the rain over the fields which isn’t quite finished yet. They’re all my favourite.

And then, just when you think she couldn’t get any more talented, you find out Dizzydollylou also works in silver. And not your run of the mill, spoldge-your-fingerprint-here-that-will-be-seventy-quid-please silver, either. Her silver work is quirky and unusual (not unlike the lady herself!). And she does capture fingerprints, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that she does it with an elegance that I haven’t seen from other fingerprinting outfits. I’ve even overcome my personal dislike of silver jewellery and am all set to order the finger prints of my own little cherubs as a keepsake.

lou physalis

But where her work really comes into its own is when she lets her imagination run free. lou toadstoolUnique is not even the word. From the delicate filigree of a silver physalis seed pod to the humour and merriment of her little whimsical creatures, I find her creations captivating. And in a market that is saturated, it’s refreshing to come across an artist who isn’t afraid to step away from the typical and share her tiny silver fantasies with the world.

lou bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New process, making progress

Age 16 I was sitting trying to paint a lovely rock I’d found on the beach. It was a really unusual rock in the shape of a tear drop with purple and grey colouring and a bump on the top where (I imagined) a shell had made its home once before. I’d never painted still life before. As I sat there pondering how to create a picture that showed the true beauty of my new treasure a well-meaning person wandered by and asked what I was up to. When I said I was trying to draw and then paint the rock, the person commented that if I was going to ‘be able to draw’ then I would have discovered that skill already. Oh, I thought. What a shame. I put down my brush and that was the end of me trying to paint or draw for the next 20 years!

Then in September last year I came across a group of artists who didn’t seem to believe that the ability to draw and paint are given to the fortunate few at birth.  A group of people who see making art as much about the learning process as about the finished piece. Who try new techniques and share their successes AND their failings as a way of encouraging others to grow too. And they welcomed me as a fellow artist. Me! Who had not been blessed with the ability to draw or paint, but was sort of ok with a sewing machine or a needle. In fact, they resisted all my attempts to explain that I’m not an artist, that I can’t draw, that I’m just playing at making art for fun. Apparently, this is what an artist does! And it’s a lifelong process of making progress. There are no barriers to what I can learn to do. A couple of artists in the group were especially encouraging so I’m going to try to write about them over the next few posts.

12squarecreationsRuth Hinman is a mixed media artist in Montana. She keeps several daily art journals, writes at least 3 blogs, supports artists through the Artist Trading Card group on Facebook and somehow manages to fit in working a real job, managing her home, a functional relationship with “honey” and an online gaming presence, too. She refuses to accept that  there are not enough hours in the day to do everything that she wants to do. Her energy is an inspiration and her art work is just to die for. I find myself thinking, “I wish I thought of that!” with almost everything she creates. I like that she will share work that she made that she doesn’t necessarily love. And will regularly explain a technique she used that didn’t go quite the way she thought it would. She also vents really well!  I found this rant on art and art journalling particularly liberating. I’m going to ask her to do a guest blog over here at Moon Munkie … but she’s starting a new job at the moment so that may need to wait a while.

So as a result of all of this positive input, I’ve really been working hard to improve my drawing / painting skills. I’ve started to keep an art journal myself and I’m also running some workshops locally to encourage others to do the same. My skills are coming along nicely. (If you’ve not read ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain‘ by Betty Edwards and you think you can’t draw, then get a copy immediately. It’s incredible how fast I improved once I learned to look and see properly.) There are still loads of things I want to learn: shadows, perspective, colour, blending, shading, proportion, composition … everything, really! But the big change is that I know that with practice it will come.

I’m so glad I kept that rock.