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!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Mini Puppet Theatre Craft

As this blog goes along you’ll see I love all things miniature. I first made a mini puppet theatre for my friend back at university – the great thing about being on an arts course is you can make your friends bizarre presents like this for their birthday and they don’t mind.

This craft is great to do with a child as it’s fairly easy, they can throw a lot of their personality into it and make it their own. In fact, this craft is basic, the nuts and bolts are shown here but the final design will be very much down to you and your ideas. If you run a craft group or youth group, it’s also ideal, as the necessary materials aren’t hard to get hold of. 

You’ll need:
A smallish cardboard box
Scrap cardboard
Scissors/craft knife
Cutting mat
Lollipop sticks for puppets

First, you need to cut a hole in the front of your theatre for the stage area. I found it easiest to work the cardboard box apart so it’s flat, and draw a square with a ruler. Cut out the hole with a craft knife or scissors. 

Glue the box back together, and use masking tape to tape shut any flaps. The bottom of the theatre needs to be open for you to use your puppets, so cut these flaps off, or tape them inside the box to make the theatre more sturdy. If you want, cut out curtains from a piece of painted card, or fabric, and glue these behind the stage, making sure they don’t crowd the space for the puppets.

If you’re feeling adventurous you can use scrap pieces of cardboard to give your theatre more structure. I cut castle battlements and a house shape for my theatres. The possibilities are endless – a rocket, a tower, an opera-house… or why not theme your theatre around a favourite film or TV show? Perhaps make puppets of your friends or family? Next time I do this I’m making a Tardis theatre with little Doctor Who puppets… 

Next, paint your theatre. I used my trusty Plasti-kote craft paint, but acrylics or poster paint will work just as well. Again, this part is up to you and your imagination. If you’re stuck for inspiration, bright colours and simple patterns work well, or you could go for a Punch and Judy stripy effect.

I’ve painted lollipop sticks for my puppets, but feel free to go one step further – you could make cardboard or fabric puppets and stick them on the lollipop sticks for a more 3-d effect. Or maybe you could cut pictures of people out of magazines and mount them on some card.

That’s all there is to it really. Enjoy!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Photographic Memory: #1

This photo was taken by me back in 2003, aged 18. I know the year so vividly, because this is one of the photos I shot and developed all by myself. I was attending Art Foundation year at college back then, and had access to a dark room, as well as a manual SLR I bought with my first job (I was a cleaning lady when I was 16). This picture is of my favourite family pet, Soforth.

Soforth came to us as a kitten in 1991. I feel a special connection to him because out of the four cats whose company we have enjoyed, he is the only one I knew from kitten up to his death in 2004. Like lots of cats, he liked to drink from anything but his water bowl, and one of his late night pastimes included drinking from our ancient bath, catching the drips from the taps on his tongue.

I ought to explain his name – he had a brother called So On (har har har), and as a family we never got round to re-naming him. It stopped being a pun and just became the collection of sounds that made up his name. He was a real rogue, often getting into fights, destroying furniture and slaughtering defenceless animals, causing my parents no end of aggravation and me no end of happiness, as he was a really affectionate boy when he wanted to be.

What makes a good photo? Composition, lighting, careful consideration of the composition and subject… I realize this picture has a few faults from that point of view. I had to snap Soforth quickly, as when he was discovered in the bath he often leaped out guiltily so I didn’t have long to take the snap. It’s a shame his tail got cut out of the picture, but I quite like the view of the plug hole, and the focus on the taps. This bath was in the house when my parents moved in, and is probably close to 90 years old – they still have it, albeit re-enamelled and re-painted.

Our next cat, Amber, was placid and SO photogenic. A shot I took of her a couple of years back shows her facing the camera, prim and serious, like she was born to pose for photographs. By contrast this picture sums up Soforth so well to me – capture him quick, before he flees the scene! He’s somewhere he really ought not to be and he knows it.  So, although no photographic masterpiece, it’s one of my favourite pictures, and I’ve had it on display everywhere I’ve ever lived.