Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Crafting and boys

I volunteer at a youth group for secondary school-aged children (11-16 years). Every week for an hour and a half in the evenings, a community centre in my city opens its doors. Some of the kids are from deprived backgrounds or have chaotic home lives. 
Boredom in these kids can be an absolute nightmare so we try to make sure there is plenty to occupy them. For some time now I've been in charge of the craft table, and I've been able to observe the impact art and craft can have on the kids that visit us. The results have been really surprising.

The girls do join in, of course, although a lot of the girls are quite happy to sit and chat, play on their phones or with a tatty card deck we put out. The boys are the ones that really seem to benefit from the craft activity, something I never would have guessed before I started going there.

Funny really, how just having something to do with your hands opens up conversation avenues. I get to chat to the kids in a way that would be much harder if I just went up to them when they are lounging on the easy chairs or round the pool table. A lot of the time, at the end of the night, the boys aren't interested in keeping the thing that they've made, they toss that night's project on the table and walk out. It seems the process itself matters more than the outcome. I don't think this is a problem, as long as they are enjoying the process of making something, that's all that matters. As I start to make a career change into teaching, all this observation is really valuable. It may not sound surprising to those that work with kids full time or have a better knowledge of the therapeutic effects of art and craft, but still, I've learnt a lot at this youth group. I struggle sometimes to think of craft ideas for boys, but I may put together a list soon of crafts I have tried with lads that have gone down well. I'd love to hear from other people with thoughts about this.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Fun with blackboard paint

Hannah, Hannah, Hannah. When did you get so bad at updating? Now Transformers Prime has finished airing I really have no excuses. Britain has been basking in hot sun which has lasted for more than five minutes. That's been nice. I also made a little something for the kitchen: a blackboard, which I've always wanted, out of an old picture frame.

All you need to make a customised blackboard of your own is the following:

  • Old picture frame
  • Blackboard paint
  • Paints for the frame (I used acrylic)

Buy an old picture frame in a charity shop, or find a disused one in the home, and chuck away the print and the glass (obviously not literally). You should be left with the frame and the wooden backing that holds the picture in.

Paint the backing board with blackboard paint, and fix it back to the frame. I think I gave mine about three coats, and that's basically it. I could try to drag out this simple upcycling post, but theres really no need. I decided to go for a fun, jolly look with the foods, plus food is colourful and kitcheny. Stripes would have looked good as well, maybe I'll sand and re-paint it when I get bored of it. Hope you're having a good summer. :-)

Sunday, 28 April 2013

My Leibster Award

About a month ago, Sabrina from Butterfly Brain nominated me for a Leibster Award. I was moving house at the time so it's only now I've got round to actually sitting down and responding to it.

So, I gathered it works like this. You write 11 things about yourself. Then you answer 11 questions put to you by the blogger that gave you the award. Then you set 11 of your own questions. Then you nominate 11 other bloggers with under 200 followers for their own Leibster Award, and in this way we all learn a bit more about each other, and there's a nice little bit of promotion into the bargain. :-) 

So, here we go...

11 things about me...

1. I'm a huge fan of transformers, as in the cartoons, though I did enjoy parts of the Bay movies. I'm lucky enough to have male friends who let me go on about the merits of having Frank Welker back to voice Megatron, and laugh with me at the crummy scripts and awesome theme tune. My girlfriends tend to nod and smile.

2. When I was a child, I used to say goodnight to all the pop stars in the posters on my walls, as well as to all my cuddly toys on the bed, before going to sleep.

3. One of my best friends is my grandmother. She's 83, and one of the biggest Harry Potter fans I know. When the books were coming out, the best thing was going to her house and discussing the plot with her. (We both guessed right about Snape.)

4. I have a goldfish called Charlie, who I've had for… wait for it… twenty years. My Grandad won him for me at a carnival, back when that was legal. He's a true friend and very beautiful, very social. He's getting a party this year in recognition of his long life. Charlie, you're awesome.

5.When I feel down, scrapbooking makes me feel better. Cutting out pictures and gluing them into a sketch book feels very cathartic.

6. One of my dreams (as in: it'll-never-happen-in-a-million-years dream) is to play Christine in The Phantom of the Opera on stage. Whenever Think of Me comes on my iPod, I immediately picture myself in a huge pouffy dress and diamonds, singing my heart out to an adoring, packed opera house. The reality would be quite different. That's why daydreams were one of God's brilliant ideas.

7. I love notebooks, and tend to buy them because they're pretty. Then I get them home and don't know what to write in them. My mum shares this trait, we are, as she puts it: Suckers for Stationery.

8. One of the best things about my course at university (I studied Illustration) was getting there and finding out other people bought books because they like the front covers.

9. I fancy loads of men off the TV and films, including but not exclusively: David Tennant, Richard E Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch, Philip Glenister (weird older man crush, it's the driving gloves he wears in Ashes to Ashes that does it) Hugh Jackman (who doesn't?) Stephen Mangan, James Nesbitt…

10. I don't know much about them, but planes and flight fascinate me. Flying lessons one day is a must before I leave this earth.

11. I can happily drink about ten cups of tea a day, easy.

Answers to Sabrina's questions...

1- What's your favorite book?

Very hard to answer, but I'd have to say A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Bennett. The prose is beautiful, and the story about triumphing over the odds gets me every time. I go back to it every few years. 

2- Have you ever wished you were born in another time period? If so, when?

Oooh, it would be a hard period, but I'd love to have lived back when Celtic tribes roamed the UK under the Romans. They were very far-thinking when it came to sexual equality, and I also cite Queen Boudicca as a source of inspiration (if you don't know who she is, look her up, and feel her awesome power). 

3- Describe your morning routine on a Saturday.

Set my alarm to get up early and make the most of the weekend, then press the snooze button for two hours. Finally get up, feeling guilty but also sort of naughtily pleased. Wander downstairs, make tea, turn on radio, check emails, then up to the studio for arty fun. 

4- What do you cook (or eat) when you don't feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen?

Beans on toast. Filling, hot, easy, delicious. 

5- What's a good movie you've seen lately?
RED, with Bruce Willis. I laughed a lot. You can't really go wrong with good old Bruce.

6- What's your favorite scent?

As in perfume? Not sure, but one of my favourite smells is cut grass, can I have that? 

7- Coffee or tea?

TEA. Tea tea tea tea tea. 

8- What is your greatest accomplishment?
My independence.

9- What is your favorite season, and why?

Autumn – I love autumn because firstly there are bonfires, colourful leaves, grey swirly skies, it's just very atmospheric. But also I always get a sense of excitement in the autumn, as if something is about to happen, or I'm about to go on an adventure. A friend said it might be because as kids we went back to school in the autumn, and the feeling remains. 

10- Are you an introvert or an extrovert?


11- What is your favorite color to wear? 

I wear a lot of navy at the moment, it's quite forgiving. To make sure it's not too boring I pile the accessories on.  

My Questions:

1. If you could be a character from a book, who would you be?

2. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

3. Favourite meal when eating out?

4. What's the best, and worst thing, about running a blog?

5. Where do you go to find inspiration?

6. Who is your hero?

7. Imagine you're a dish. Would you run off with the spoon?

8. What's your earliest memory?

9. Do you have a 'photo face?'

10. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

11. What would your ideal job be?

And my lovely nominees:

Thursday, 25 April 2013


I have moved! Welcome to the new space where Have A Go Hannah will be operating from, from now on. I have much more space and I’m scared at how easily I’ve filled it already. Also - it turns out spare rooms are perilous for dumping stuff you can’t be bothered to unpack. I need to work on that.

In other news: I hosted a St. George’s Day party which involved flags, red and green jelly and sword fights in the garden. In the UK poor St George tends to be a bit unsung, probably not helped by the fact he doesn’t have a huge beer company pouring money into his special day. Lots of people apparently write to the Prime Minister every year asking if he’ll think about letting us have the day off. So far no luck.

Next year I may share some St George tutorials with you from stuff I learnt this year - like how making a lance from cardboard seems a great idea in your head but actually all that happens is it ends up a mess of tape and floppy cardboard. We had a lot of fun though.

I’ve also been nominated for a Liebster Award, which I had to google in order to find out what it was (Thanks Sabrina, I promise I haven’t forgotten about it). Which is really lovely, and next post I’ll go along and answer the questions accordingly.  

Have a good rest of the week!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Happy Easter!

Easter will soon be here, and with that in mind, welcome to my ham-fisted attempt at painting real eggshells. Why? Because polystyrene ones feel like cheating. This craft was in an activity book I had as a child and it's one of the first crafts I remember doing. It was one craft I was desperate to do as well, perhaps because it carried a certain amount of risk and responsibility, but nothing a child couldn't handle. And the sense of satisfaction when you finished your egg without breaking it and felt the fragile, beautiful weightlessness in your hand couldn't be topped. This blog post is the first one I photographed using my new Nikon  D3100. Hooray!

You'll need:
Free range eggs
A pin
A glass bowl
PVA glue (to varnish if you want)
Cocktail sticks

So, first of all you need to make a small hole in the top and the bottom of the egg. The hole in the bottom needs to be slightly bigger to allow the egg to come out. Now the tricky bit, (and I'm NOT providing a photo of me doing this): you need to blow through the top of the egg to force the contents out into a bowl. Use the egg to make cakes, omlettes or any other egg-based deliciousness you fancy.

Now that's done, run your eggshell under cold water just to make sure all the egg is out, although what's good is that there's usually little to no residue left after you've finished blowing (stop giggling). Now you're ready to paint!

Plasti-kote craft paint came to the fore once again. Poster and acrylic paints are also fine. I sponged my eggs all over in pale colours, then painted all over using stronger tones for the patterns. I was slightly cowardly and went with simple patterns for my eggs, but I was pleased with the overall effect, especially when they're viewed altogether. 

Saying that, there are examples online that just blow mine out of the water. I'm sure with practise I'd get better, I'd also love to try other concepts, like painting portraits onto eggs like these by Brittany on Craft Phesine.

To hang your eggs, you simply cut cocktail sticks into approximate one inch sections, and tie thread around the middle. Push your stick into the hole in the eggshell, and you're left with a secure  hang for your egg.

Oh, and if you're wondering why there's only two eggs hanging in this last picture... it's because when I was trying to hang these on my wall for a nice white background, two fell off onto the floor... and smashed. Fail. At least it happened at the end of the shoot! So, to conclude... polystyrene eggs are easier, cheaper and won't break. But I still loved painting these. Try tying yours to an ornamental tree branch or hanging them somewhere safe at home. :-)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

5 Books / Publications I find inspiring

I thought I’d share some of the books I turn to again and again when I need inspiration. I have an illustration background and illustration has always been a huge passion of mine. Over the years I’ve accrued a great selection that keeps growing all the time. The following books inspire me in different ways. To try something new, to be myself, to have fun, to think carefully about composition, colour, character... I could go on and on. Instead, have a look at five of my favourite tomes:  

This is for You by Rob Ryan

Maybe not the most original of choices, after all, Rob Ryan has enjoyed massive popularity in recent years and rightly so, his papercut artwork is everywhere now. BUT the real thing to admire about this little book is that it grips you from start to finish, even when you’ve read it a few times before. The artwork is so beautiful and so intricate, but also interesting, in that the nature of the cut-out words means your eyes have to work harder to read it, so you find yourself really looking at the imagery instead of just skating over it. 

This book teaches me that time, thought and developed skill really can’t be beaten, and that’s why this book can be found on coffee tables and inside wrapping paper across the land.

Ms. Rubenstein’s Beauty by Pep Montserrat

I found this in a small book shop in Indiana, back when I lived in the States for a short while. This was in between terms at university so I was always on the lookout for gorgeous imagery to add to my collection. I won’t ruin the story for you but it centres on inner beauty and true love. 

Best thing about this book? The AMAZING limited colour palette. I think this was the first piece of illustration that really sold me on the impact of limited colour. The prose is also pretty and eloquent, I think it’s a translation from Spanish, either way it’s lovely. The paint-y textures are lovely too, and all the little people populating the backgrounds.... basically it’s great, OK? Buy it!

Okido - The Arts and Science Magazine for Kids 

I first saw this magazine for sale in one of the big London galleries - it might have been the Tate Modern or the V&A Museum, both of which have amazing gift shops that I could spend a lot of money in if I had it! I’ve also seen this magazine in The Museum of Childhood in the East End. It’s cute, bright, and packed with really alternative illustrations aimed at learning. Each issue has a theme - growth, weather, etc. I don’t have every issue but I pick it up when I can.

They’ve got a website too which is well worth a look.

Hand Job by Michael Perry

Aaaarggghhhh this book is SO COOL! And probably the most well-thumbed and stared at and generally drooled over book in my collection. I’m really into typography, more so in recent years, and this book is stuffed with amazing examples of type from many talented illustrators.

Everything about this book is gorgeous. It’s colourful, printed on beautiful heavy paper stock, it even has blank bits for you to draw your own stuff in! Brilliant! 

And lastly....

I have a couple of friends who just seem to have a knack for finding amazing things in charity shops. My friend Karen found this book in a charity shop and bought it for me a couple of years back. I think it’s one of those illustration sample catalogues that agencies send out to their clients. I like to get it out and look through it from time to time, it’s packed full of weird and wonderful imagery. And the great thing about looking at illustration from other cultures is you get a fresh look at the creative process, with a completely different angle.

I could definitely have made this post "50+ books Hannah likes to look at", but you can have too much of a good thing. I think I’ll definitely be doing another Top 5 post on books again at some point!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Birthday party in a Bento Box

Remember when I got all excited about bento boxes? This is my first attempt. Not very healthy but I love how cute the little treats look all next to each other in the box.

The nesting boxes are for sale in Paperchase at the moment, you get four in total so you can play around with different sizes. This bento box is meant for a friend's birthday, so I included a teeny birthday cake, a little bird's nest, a chocolate covered strawberry and some marzipan treats.

The marzipan sweets were made simply by adding food colouring to separate lumps of marzipan, then rolling out four equal sized sauages and pushing them together to form a long block, which you then cut into cubes with a sharp knife. You can roll them in a bit of icing sugar to stop them sweating, then I used chocolate writing icing to draw little kawaii faces.

I got a Bento recipe book recently so I'll definitely be making up some more bento boxes. I can't wait to try some healthier recipes and making up some fun lunches for work. :-)

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Photographic Memory: #2

This was taken in May, 2012, at Portabello Road Market, Notting Hill, London.

I loved all that was going on in this shot. This was taken on a warm spring day, as I and a friend strolled eating strawberries, soaking up the music, chatter, and all the amazing stuff to be found in this corner of the world. I quite like how the eye is drawn down the middle before  wandering around to explore. See if you can find the following objects:

A giant electricity plug
A cake stand
A brass horse
A wrist splint
Clothes pegs
A Royal Jubilee mug
A mini parachute
A yellow satchel
Two gold vases

Happy hunting! :-)

Monday, 25 February 2013

Greetings cards in a hurry - rubber alphabet stamps

I often find myself putting together greetings cards in a rush (Sorry, friends and loved ones). The following post shows an idea for a personal greetings card that is laughably simple and requires little to no artistic flair whatsoever - if you're intimidated by drawing or printmaking then this is for you. The end result is quirky, witty and really simple, but in so many cases the simplest ideas can be the most striking and effective.


Rubber alphabet stamps (mine are from Muji)
Ink pad (Hobbycraft)
Blank cards
Baby wipes/damp tissue

The little extra something comes in the form of a multi coloured ink pad - I got this one at Hobbycraft. When I saw it I was immediately tempted by it, as I can never really be bothered with lots of different coloured pads, a bit too faffy for my liking. This is perfect and there is a nice little range of colours. The alphabet stamps were a present from friends several years back, but you can see they came from Muji and are still available in their shops now.

TIP - buy a pair of cheap baby wipes and have one to hand to blot each stamp after you use it. This stops your colours from getting messed up. I got mine in Wilkinsons for under £1. Bless you Wilkinsons, saviour to cheapskate crafters everywhere!

The real beauty in this method of card making is that the creativity and genius lies not in the technique, but the words you choose to put on the card. As well as the obvious 'Happy Birthday' etc, you can put someone's favourite quote from a film, a joke, a poem, a personalised greeting... the list goes on. All the cards you see here are completely personal to the people receiving them. These are cards for three special girlfriends who made my recent stay in London fantastic from start to finish. They're already through the postal system by the time this blog post goes out, so the surprise hasn't been ruined. ;-)

I really like the personal touch, the splash of colour and the classy minimalism of these cards. The materials are easy to get hold of, will last for ages and can be used in so many different ways. This is also ideal for a craft group of any age. I think blokes would like this style of card too, what do you think?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Bento Boxes!

How cool are Bento boxes? Very cool, is the answer. Anything small and compartmentalised with opportunities for creativity and colour are a big yes in my book. I can't wait to have a go, in a few months with better light and a bigger kitchen I'm going to do just that. In the meantime here's some top examples on Pinterest. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

London Town

I LOVE going to London, and I’m lucky to live within a reasonable distance. I’ve just got back from an excellent long weekend, and what a weekend! Three, no, four birthdays were celebrated if you count mine too; I saw a stage show, a film at Leicester square, rode the London Eye, ate out in restaurants, went to a house party, went shopping (oops), drew pictures and of course took lots of photographs. I got a precious day to myself where I just wondered about, drawing, looking up at all the great buildings and taking photos. Very soon I’ll have my own digital SLR, but for now these are all on my iPhone.   


It was great getting back into the mindset of a photographer – snapping anything that moved basically. I often put the camera away only to whip it out again as soon as I saw something else that interested me. A lot of these are mediocre but that’s okay, in some of them I was trying to capture a nice composition, in others it was a shot of colour or a small moment that caught my eye. I’m just glad to be practicing again, and things can only get better!

5 Highlights from the weekend in London town:

  • Witnessing a marriage proposal at King’s Cross Station in front of Platform 9 ¾ . Four hundred tired people facing long delays breaking into applause – not a moment I’ll forget in a hurry.
  • Feeding the tame squirrels in St. James park by hand.
  •  Eating sushi for breakfast on Oxford Street as the sun comes up.
  •  Closing my eyes during a showing of Les Miserables at Leicester square to hear people crying into handkerchiefs.
  •  Dancing to Florence and the Machine in a packed living room at 3 am, whilst eating crisps.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

To whoever you are out there...

Most years I tend to ignore Valentines Day, relationship or no, but this year I thought I would hurriedly spread some love, in the original sense. St Valentine used to give people paper hearts to remind them of God’s love. What a nice guy!
So, early this morning, someone walking to catch their bus will find this…

Happy Valentines Day, internet!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

2012 in review - photographs

Okay, I know it's a little late to be reviewing 2012, what with it being February and everything. But oh well, this blog is very young and I think sometimes the rules can be bent in these circumstances. I want to get back into photography this year - back in my late teens I had some tutoring in good photography and a few helpful books, as well as my manual SLR which is sadly no more. But this year I plan to get snapping again and re-learn some of the things I used to know.

The following snaps are snippets of last year. Some of them are momentous occasions, others are just tiny moments from ordinary days. I suppose in that way photography can be as good as a written journal, you can treasure memories you might otherwise lose. Without further ado, here is my 2012 in a series of snaps:

Zine Fair

I went alone to this zine fair in early 2012, and blogged about it in more detail here. It was in London, and I had a wonderful day meeting other zine makers, swapping and buying. I realise Instagram-type photos are ten a penny now, but at this point I had only just got an iPhone, after years of sturdy Nokias that played snake and let me send texts but not much else! So I was enjoying playing with effects like these. This was a lovely day. When I look at this picture, I am galvanised to keep creating, and to organise a fair of my own one day. One for the to-do list!

I was a guest artist

What a great opportunity. I went along to the Overground Arts Festival at the Green backyard, Peterborough, and got to paint on a board supplied by the organisers. I had a fairy small board, others had huge ones, but they were mainly spray artists. I was one of the very few using brushes. Half way through this piece I decided I hated it, but I pushed on through and really cheered up, after a few beers and compliments! It was one of those rare, perfect days in England, warm sun and cloudless skies, magic.

Trips to the seaside

I LOVE the sea. This year I went camping in Norfolk and walked round Cromer with my girlfriends, as well as a trip to Skegness and a stroll through the markets which sit underneath this giant roller coaster. As you can see, the weather varied, but I honestly don't care what the weather is like by the sea, it can be p*ssing it down and I still have a whale of a time. For some reason, grim weather by the sea feels atmospheric rather than just miserable. Both times I've been to Skegness and admired this beauty of a roller coaster - but I've always been alone in wanting to ride it. Shame!

Everyone watched the olympics

Several room shots I took at a friend's wedding then sloppily put together in Photoshop. I know most of the people in this picture, they are all enthralled by Jessica Ennis, about to win gold. The bride and groom were very gracious about their guests crowding around the TV.

I saw the sun come up

I'm nuts about camping, and luckily have several friends I can drag along. Whenever I go camping, this zealous light comes into my eyes that absolutely nothing can dampen, not even rain. I just find the whole experience one huge adventure. Being an experienced camper, I shrugged off the lack of a sleeping mat last summer, thinking I was hardcore enough to sleep well without one. I turned out to be incorrect, waking up at 4 am, freezing and achy from the lumpy ground digging into my back. I pulled on my boots and walked the three miles to the coast. I walked the sand and climbed the hill to the right, feeling very small and very peaceful as I watched the sunrise, just me and waves. I couldn't stop snapping the sky, though as ever, the pictures never do something like this justice.


One day we were walking by the river and suddenly there were loads of swans, they extended out  way beyond the picture. It was as if they knew exactly how to create a kodak moment. Needless to say we raced off to get them some treats so they would stick around for a bit.


I often trawl the BBC website to see about getting free tickets to my favourite Radio 4 comedies. Bleak Expectations and Cabin Pressure are my ultimate favourites. The BBC are excellent, you just show up with your ticket and you're ushered into a studio to laugh your face off for about an hour, all for free, and what's so great is you get a peek into how these shows are produced. I'm not that interested in the world of celebrity, but I've seen some famous faces - Anthony Head has to be my favourite, the man giggles non-stop throughout recordings.

Mum saw there were Miranda tickets for the third series being filmed and we applied, though I told her not to get hopeful as TV shows are always impossible to get tickets for. We were successful - apparently we were one of 250 people who managed to get a ticket, out of 16,000! We had an amazing day together, a picnic in the park with wine and salmon sandwiches made by me, before queuing at the BBC Centre to get in. Miranda was so lovely in person, and kept us all amused in between takes with chatting and silly dances. Highlights? Choosing my BBC mug in the shop, and then walking out of the BBC building, ten 'o' clock at night, to see the full-sized Tardis, lit up in all its glory. Most excellent.

Christmas lights

I was walking through the city centre late one night in December and snapped the edge of this glittering canopy of lights, with the cathedral in the background. The lights extended across the whole square, I never wanted them to come down. This is another photo where I didn't manage to do justice of the lovely atmosphere, or how gorgeous the buildings looked all lit up. The limitations of a camera phone, I guess. I hope this year sees my photography improve as I try new things out!