Monday, 28 January 2013

Upcycled chocolate tins

Two chocolate tins were kicking around the office after Christmas, and I whisked them home to have a go at transforming them into pretty cake tins. I wanted to let loose with a spray can and these seemed like the perfect first project.

The paint came from Wilkinsons, and cost about £3 per can. After each tin, I still have just under half a can left, so it was quite cheap.
Interestingly, the Heroes tin (blue) took the paint really well, but the Quality Street tin was another matter, with the paint struggling to stick. Three coats later though, and I was pleased with the effect. The spraying took up a day, with about three or four coats applied.

I faced the usual fun stuff when using aerosols – horrible fumes, motes of dust and tiny hairs deciding to stick to the wet paint, etc. I also had to be patient between coats, something I am terrible at. But at the end of day one, each tin was coated nicely. Success.

The Quality Street tin had an embossed lid that I didn’t really want people to see, so I came up with the idea of giving it a padded fabric panel on top. I cut out a couple of pieces of octagonal cardboard and stuck them together to make a sturdy base, then simply stretched a piece of scrap fabric over some wadding and stapled it all secure. Loads of strong glue and a heap of heavy books on top overnight secured it nicely. When it was dry, I ran the glue round the edge and glittered it up to hide where it meets the tin.

Next came the risky part – I bought potted paint and decided to try hand-painting the tins. I didn’t want the tins to finish up looking too polished, or mass produced, and a hand painted look would give the tins the folk-art look I wanted. But sometimes something can look great in your head and turn out, well, rubbish. But I bit the bullet and went ahead.

It paid off! The potted paints don’t smell or give off nasty fumes like the spray cans. They mix beautifully and the consistency is perfect, I had no problems with dripping or anything like that. The closest thing I can compare it to is using acrylic paint, though obviously this is a more permanent medium, and with a smoother finish. They’re also water based, so no need for horrible paint thinners to clean your brushes. It goes on like a dream and you can go into fine detail no problem. It also dries fast. Cue shouts of hooray from impatient people everywhere. 

I painted the green tin’s fairly basic patterns first, and it went so well I was emboldened to try something more complicated for the blue tin. I wanted something that was illustrator-y and slightly unconventional, so I came up with a portrait illustration for the lid, and little cake illustrations for the sides.

So, at the end, I’d probably give this revamp job 7 out of ten. I’m pleased with the end result, and the paints are really good. I learnt some lessons for next time - I’d probably mask off the top of the tins where the lid goes, as I suspect repeated use will wear the paint away there. The fabric cover on the green looks alright, but now I don’t think I’d use this tin for food storage as washing up would be tricky. But overall it’s been fun and I loved painting the little pictures and patterns. If other people have tried similar projects I’d love to hear your feedback.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A fixer-upper

I just thought I'd share this finished project with you all: I found this dollhouse shelving unit at Peterborough Market back in November. It was pretty filthy, home to some deceased spiders, and with flaking pink paint. After hauling it home on the bus in the pouring rain, I gave it a good wash, and got out some sample pots. Here it is, all clean and re-decorated. I've put some of my little things on the shelves, and I'm really pleased with it! I just wish I knew who made it, or where it came from.

The postcards I feel should get a mention, they were freebies in a zine I bought off Etsy last year. The illustrator is Kristyna Baczynski, and I'm a huge fan. I got the giant button from a fair I went to years ago. I love collecting oversized and miniature objects, as you can see from the shelf of tiny books. The photograph was a little freebie I got with a larger photo, from Silent Theatre. Finally, the lion is a carving my grandfather bought when he lived in Hong Kong in the fifties. The teeth and claws are ivory, so I doubt you could buy something like that now, not legally anyway.

I'd love my own dollhouse, this is the next best thing I suppose!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A going-away gift

I first made a going-away package for my friend Imogen when she went traveling a few years back. This year my childhood friend Charlotte is moving abroad to start a new job, so I’ve put one together for her. Below is a guide to making your own for anyone you know going off an adventure.

Firstly, you’ll need an empty box of some kind. Personally I think a shoebox or similar is a bit too big, as the whole idea is the gifts are compact. Part of the fun lies in finding small gifts to include, and the recipient probably won’t have a lot of room to pack a large collection of presents. The box I’ve used is an empty Ferrero Rocher box (mmmm), it’s an ideal size, and I like the aesthetic of the gifts behind the transparent plastic.

Now the fun bit: tracking down some cute little presents to include. Charlotte loves making a house into a home, so I’ve included some little homey bits for her new apartment: little fridge magnets, a photo frame, a teabag holder. Think about the personal situation of the friend, to help you find appropriate gifts. Where are they going? Is it for pleasure, a new job, a new relationship? Are they likely to be homesick? What will they be doing? An example: if your friend is hiking, you could get some new shoelaces, a little compass, or an energy bar.

Aim for a mixture of useful gifts and some frivolous humourous ones. I’ve used labels to make the gifts a bit more special and raise a smile (Suki’s Box of Labels). The Eric Carle strawberry badge is an in-joke: we used to have a giant strawberry cushion in our old flat. The linen heart was a great find, now Charlotte can have a little piece of the UK hanging up on her wall.

To encourage her to keep in touch (and because she loves stationary and will be working in an office) I’ve packed up this cute letter set, and some sticky notes and stickers. These are great because they are lightweight and pretty, perfect for Charlotte to stow in her case. All these came from Artbox.

I just love the look of all the little presents nestled in the box!

I rubber stamped a large sticker for the top of the box and finished it off with pink ribbon. This is a really unique way to send your friend away smiling. To turn the concept on its head, this could also be a great goodbye gift for a friend or relative if YOU are going away – a Don’t Forget Me box, perhaps!


Some other ideas for traveling/farewell gifts: 
  • Small pieces of jewellery
  • Keyring
  • Handwarmers/socks/cute tissues
  • Non-perishable food: energy bar, sweets/candy
  • Little notebook/pen
  • Small toiletry items: chapstick, hand cream, toothpaste etc.
  • A photograph of a favourite local haunt, pet or friends
 Have a go!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Hooray for the office

I feel sorry for the humble desk job. It’s taken a bit of a beating for some time as being drab, undesirable. How many times have you come across an article or blog post online enticing you to quit your ‘boring office job’ and go creative full time? Probably loads (I’m a stringent researcher).

Anyway, I thought it was about time someone stuck up for our desk jobs. I go to work five days a week in an office, 9 to 5, or near enough. Some days I sit fidgeting, hardly able to wait for home time when I can get back to whatever I’m working on. I yearn for a life with more time to do the things I want to do, to pour energy into getting things off the ground and making more money from my art. But it doesn’t work like that, not for me. I think I need to be taken out of a creative headspace, in order to be creative. If that makes sense. Some of my best ideas occur at work. I take a little notebook everywhere with me, and if something great pops into my head, I write it down, then go back to it later.  So, motivation to create is almost never a problem.

Besides, instead of heaping scorn on a job that gives us routine, regular pay, office chatter, dodgy coffee, we should try to look for the positives. After all, anyone can love their job when its their ideal job. I think the true triumph lies in deciding to love the mundane, the humdrum, the same old.

I can’t speak for everyone, but in a world of deadlines and acres of tedious admin, I do manage to find reasons to be really glad of my humble office gig. Miranda Hart in her recent book reminisced joyfully over her days as a temp. I just loved that. She could have whinged and sighed about the long, arduous road to fortune and fame, but instead she looks back at those years with real fondness, and lists the top ten things about her office years. Here’s a couple of mine:

I get to dress up
There’s no dress code at my work, and it’s really easy to slouch in wearing jeans, which is quite nice on some days.  But at least two days a week, I make an effort to go in looking nice and professional. It feels great, and when I started this ’twice a week’ thing it actually made me like my job better.  I dig out the nice shoes, a pencil skirt and accessories. I’ve met freelancers who lament having nothing to get dressed for. 

Work friends
Some argue that youd never spend your time with these people if you didn’t work with them.. Maybe true, but you have to be pretty unlucky to not have a single person at work that you like. I have lasting friendships forged in mundane jobs. Work binds us together, creates camaraderie. Office parties and drinks can be planned and looked forward to.  Peeking over the edge of the cubicle to gossip about last night’s TV, whilst checking emails and munching on toast is a pretty good feeling.

So, it’s out there. I like having a regular salary. It’s reassuring and helps me to plan. And if I want more money, that’s when I need to get up off my backside and make my other projects work harder. Security is not a sin. In these tough economic times I am truly grateful to have a job, and a salary. It’s sadly an all too rare commodity nowadays. Blessings are well and truly counted. Of course, things change, who knows what the future  holds?

Just because your job seems boring, it doesn’t mean YOU are
We all try to define ourselves by something. What defines us? Is it our marital status? Our children, or lack of? Our job? Often we look to these things to define us, and so there is a temptation to big our jobs up, or to be ashamed of them. I say no more! My office job allows me to solve problems, to work in a small team, to have a laugh, to pack interesting lunches, to shop for smart skirts and funky jewellery. My office job gives me somewhere to go each day, and stops my home from becoming a prison where I’d go stir crazy. Maybe one day I will leave this job, maybe one day I’ll pull a Miranda and be doing something  completely different and ’exciting ’. But I vow never to write off the office as a boring place. It’s only boring if you’re not looking hard enough. And it will never define you if you don’t want it to.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Welcome to my new blog, Have a Go, Hannah. In this blog I want to write about all the things I love to do, that don’t fit into my illustration blog.
For most of my life, I have loved to create… stuff. Painting, drawing, knitting, sewing, cooking, writing, restoring, adapting... Along the way I’ve roped in helpers, learned from family members and friends, and made big mistakes which have helped me improve for next time. I also love to dabble and experiment, often flitting from one project to the next. If you’re reading this and share the same haphazard approach to making, you’ll hopefully feel at home.
I’m hoping this blog will be a useful read for people who are up for having a go at something, who like to make presents or want to know how to make a certain occasion just a bit more special.

I'm also hoping to use this blog to learn and improve - improve my art, my writing, my photography, my sense of exploration.

Another thing that interests me is embracing life and opportunities in one’s local area. I’ll be aiming to explore customs, traditions, special days and holidays more closely, and writing about what I find.

It goes without saying I welcome comments and feedback. ;-) Please bear with me whilst I tweak the design and add to the blog over these next few months.

Let’s get on, shall we?