Monday, 23 December 2013

Sunday challenge

A bit late on the Sunday challenge as I went to the cinema last night with my daughter and didn't have the time to stop and think. 

This weeks challenge really is a challenge as it involves going outdoors and in this weather that's not always pleasant, however, wrap up warm and it should only take 20 minutes, if the kids are off school, take them along to. Grab a note pad and pen and head out to a green space. It also means taking time out from all the rushing around. 

I've taken this idea from The Wild Project,  which gives lots of ideas for things to do outside. At this busy time of year, it's easy to get lost in the maelstrom of self employment/part time job/family/Christmas tornado, so take yourself out to the nearest green space and sit for 20 minutes and just listen. Focus in on some of the sounds that are near by, what are they saying? Are they speaking to you or to each other? Draw or write down what you hear. 

 It's raining where I am today, so I'm going to save this until tomorrow. Let me know how you get on and I'll be posting about my stop and listen challenge too. 

Monday, 16 December 2013


Usually aimed at myself, the phrase, stop moaning does appear quite often in my inner monologue (often along with, 'I can't do this' and 'my lungs are going to explode and I'm going to die') and I get quite sick of myself. 

So I decided to challenge myself to the positive thinking mindset of not complaining, moaning or whinging for 24 hours and invited others to join in. 

I think I did ok today, nearly slipped into a quick moan at work, but stopped myself, just in time. 

It's harder than it sounds, because the real challenge is to stop the inner moaning. The stuff that isn't verbalised that is a diatribe of negativity is the real battle. 

It's that negative nag, the monkey mind, that keeps us in a destructive dialogue with ourselves. 

My challenge for the rest of the week? To stop taking notice of the inner whiner.  

Monday, 2 December 2013

Micro mosaic pendants

I've recently been exploring micro mosaicing to make pendants. 

I've used millifiore glass, ceramics and recycled pieces of jewellery.

I've really enjoyed making these, they are a pleasurable item to make that feel lovely to hold. 

There's still a few available although they have been selling really quickly. In looking forward to how visitors to the upcoming craft fairs will react to them. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Too busy to blog!

I never know whether it's a good or bad sign that I'm too busy to blog... 

I need to write the words that get stuck on my head for a bit of clarity and stop a big tangled web of letters bumping into each other... But then I get so busy that I don't have time to stop and reflect, which I also love, the adrenaline of being busy organising events, taking part in art fairs, planning meetings, funding meetings... and making sure I exercise for my own sanity to keep those feel good endorphins flowing. 

I think that balance has been missing, the time alone to reflect and think, to read and drink tea. To walk my dog through woods. This weekend has been one of those welcome respites to the hectic run up to Xmas, with the opportunity to climb up the steep hill near my studio and crunch some autumn leaves, to laugh at my dog trying to squeeze her middle age spread through a stile (climb over!) and to take some photos of trees. 

A brief interlude before the mad rush of domestication. 

Sunday, 22 September 2013


A short while ago I was chatting with a friend about the quality of our materials and how our own pride and integrity won't let us use inferior quality art materials. 

This differs from the ethos of recycling and I think a good attitude for an artist, for whom the aesthetic is all important. For me it means a certain level of pride in my work is present. An attitude of 'I deserve better quality of canvas to work on because my work is worth it'.

However, I still have a few cheap canvas's leftover. What do I do with them? I no longer want to paint on them but I can't throw them away as that would be wasteful. So they have become the base for some new experiments, I have been working on and have been completely transformed by layers of paper, paint and wax. I hope you like the result. 

I love how I found myself challenged and inspired to thing laterally about using a base material. I'm really pleased with the outcome. 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

September means new planning.

September and October are my favourite months. I love this time of year when the sun is still shining but there is a crispness in the year, while the colours become vibrant and delicious, I get a new burst of energy as new plans start to take form. 

I've also collected a plethora of inspirational material over the summer, taken visits to the seaside, enjoyed camping trips, late nights and bonfires.  

I've got a lot of source material sat waiting for the kids to embark on their usual routines and an order of new canvas's has just been delivered to explore some Wabi Sabi inspired paintings. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Finding Stuff.

It has taken a while to settle into this new space, but I think I'm getting there. It's starting to feel like my space to work and explore ideas, it's especially lovely at the weekends, when I have the whole building to myself! No creaking from upstairs or worrying that my music has snuck up to loud and disturbing next door....

The other bonus is that I'm slowly having a good sort and organise of my stuff. I have a LOT of stuff. The textiles have been sorted, mosaic tiles sorted and colour coordinated, canvas's leant up. 

I also found a small stack of Handmade journals which I used to love making. These are made from scratch, I've made the silk paper for the cover, glued and pressed pages, Japanese stitch and bound them together, many hours of lovingly crafting these small tomes. 

So having revisited this making last month at the request of my daughter for a leather bound journal, I've discovered my supply of raw silk to make paper with and started exploring handmade journals again. I also found the notes I'd made at University when I attended the lectures and workshops on bookbinding. I'm not sure how I'd forgotten about attending these workshops! 

Rejuvenating old work

One of the advantages of moving studio space is that I have found lots of old pieces of artwork. Little cards I'd made, small textile experiments and old sketchbooks full of ideas never realised. 

So when a new book arrived on my doorstep, 'Wabi Sabi' by Serena Barton, I embraced my revitalised creativity (thanks to a trip to see Chagall at Tate Liverpool) and used some of Bartons suggestions for experimenting. It's an American based book, so a lot of the products she suggests aren't available here and I'm quite tight so don't want to pay postage from the US! 

So I've embraced the Wabi Sabi philosophy, simple asymmetry using textures to celebrate the small and sublime, adapted my materials and started to rejuvenate & recycle some old pieces of artwork. 

I've come up with three abstract pieces using such a wide range of materials from kitchen towels to latex to acrylic and I'm quite pleased with the results. 

There is a lot more philosophy behind the concept of Wabi Sabi, a Japanese term to describe the aesthetic that is imperfect and impermanent that is subtle. I'm still learning about this term of philosophy but  it may just have become my latest obsession that I need to absorb and read more about. 

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Garden fires n children

Last night saw us start clearing out our fire pit. It's been neglected since last summer and become very overgrown, so the big girl set about cutting back the grass. When she'd half finished we started our fire by giving the two smaller girls the job of rolling the paper and digging out the dried bits of kindling. They got to light it and although only one of the girls stayed with feeding the fire, the other two had the very important task of rolling on the floor with a space hopper and climbing the tree. 

The result? A small area ready to dig for our pit kiln on a couple of weeks that we can explore smoke decorating and raku firing in. 

I'm loving having fun planning this project. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Mosaicing at Belper Goes Green

Last weekend saw the first Belper Goes Green festival organised by Transition Belper. 

It had a great atmosphere and the sun shone for the whole weekend and I spent the weekend working my way around the food stalls, well, it would have felt rude not to try the chocolate brownie from one stall when sampling carrot cake from another! 

Between cake and wild garlic potatoes, I did actually so some work, working with kids from my local community to have a go at making a mosaic heart. The littler ones used safer materials while the older children got to have a go at cutting ceramics (hurray! Got to say 'don't try this at home on mums best crockery!). 

I was quite pleased with the results, and lots of happy children took home a beautifully made piece of art work.  Time to evaluate and see what I can do better next time! 

All ages had a go at making a mosaic heart. 

Some of the results drying in the sun. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Starting the big move.

It's starting to feel like I'm really truly moving into my new studio as today I dropped some books off at Cromford. There's no furniture as yet, so I carefully placed them on a windowsill. 

It also got me thinking that I have to really make this work. So far my studios have always been rent free, so I've been able to kick my heels back a bit. But now I have to make this space pay for itself which means that I will have to put into reality the workshops and ideas I have been dreaming about. 

The 'if I had the space...' Flights of fancy. 
The 'if I could just do... Momentary ideas. 

I have given myself the space, I know when I have the times, I just need to get on with the doing and that is the really scary bit, but I really believe that once I have done the workshops, events and artwork I've been planning for the last two years, I will be achieving my own personal ideal of success. 

Monday, 27 May 2013

Exciting blog entry...

I feel I should do a blog post to talk about my wonderful weekend at Studio 61, the atmosphere, the cake, the lovely visitors and all the SEO advice, get traffic to your blog blogs says you should make each post exciting and interesting to capture a returning audience.  They also talk about algorithms but I'd got bored by that point...

But to be honest, I'm way too tired and only capable of watching kittens and dogs. Or dogs wanting kittens. 

So this is my favourite clip on You Tube and probably covers the level that my brain is functioning at...

Monday, 6 May 2013

Upton Upon Severn Folk Festival

Up nice and early on a sunny Sunday in May, my family and I jumped on the Folk Friendzy coach tour down to Upton upon Severn in Worcestershire.  My daughters enjoy dancing with this side of traditional dancers and it also means I get to spend the day in wonderful little festivals around the country such as the Upton Folk Festival where 43 sides take part in a weekend of music and dance.

The parade through the town takes a good half hour and my two girls danced their way round before joining the arch which all the dancers pass through.  There was beer flowing, dancers clogging, sticks doing what sticks do best and hitting each other and musicians in every pub.  Next year, we are going to take the whole weekend and camp! Here's a just a few of my photo's from the wonderfully bizarre english tradition.

Morgan enjoying being part of the Arch.

Branwen - arms getting tired!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Slate Cutting Masterclass

Today was my first Masterclass in cutting slate and punching holes. We started with some welsh slate before moving onto the Spanish slate. Needless to say the welsh slate is harder!

I'm quite pleased with how it went even though I feel I have a long way to go!

I also now possess the proper cutting tools to continue with this and explore using slate in my mosaics.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Running And Sculpture at Kedleston

I decided to forego my usual Sunday lie in this morning for the Jog Derbyshire run at Kedleston Hall and I'm so pleased I did!

Over the last year or so, I've come to realise that every second is precious and should be lived to the maximum of enjoyment, a mindful approach to enjoying whatever you are doing in that particular moment.

So my joy this morning when my two favourite occupations were brought together, running through countryside surrounded by beautiful scenery and sculptures.

So not a run for me to get a personal best but definitely one of excitement as I stopped to listen on the Hear Here sculptures and to take the off photo.

I'm rather looking forward toJune's run already!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Craft sessions invite.

I've been looking around my house and current studio in anticipation of packing for my move and have realised that I have lots and lots of STUFF!

My house will feel really rather big and spacious after I move the big boxes of wool, clear the desk of framed artwork, empty the sideboard of fabric and remove all the broken plates and bits of ceramic off the windowsill... and that's before I've even got to my current studio!

Having realised how much art and craft resources I possess, I thought it would be nice to share some. So how about a coffee and craft session when I'm in the new studio? I could set up materials for people to rummage through and see what inspires them. I'd be interested to know if anyone would be interested in joining me for a session where we just play and explore with what is too hand, an expression session? I would be there to guide and offer suggestions with a small charge for the materials. If you fancy this or have any ideas for something you want to try, let me know and I'll see what we can do!

Monday, 15 April 2013

New Studio Announcement! We're moving to Cromford Mills.

Oh the unbelievable excitement!  I went with Emma Parkins today to sign a shared lease for our studio in the Cromford Mills complex.  Emma runs Junky Monkey an ethical art company who provides workshops in a wide variety of settings.  We have a lot of similar values and our working together compliments our styles, not only in how we live, but our belief systems and lifestyle.

We have lots planned together, not only in approaching schools to run workshops but to run some events in our own space, Unit 2, Building 16, not a very artistic sounding name, but with the massive variety of artists, such as Laura Ellen Bacon and Rachel Emmerson already in situ, we both feel ready to join this creative community.

This really came about because of my decision to say yes through March to opportunities offered to me.  It has really opened my eyes and widened my horizons by deciding to be positive for a whole month, I have decided to keep with the saying yes to opportunities, because it has really worked well for me.  It has made me happier, more excited about life, more open-minded and in touch with what I really want to be doing.  I've also been reading Marianne Cantwell's Book and doing some of the exercises on how to be a Free Range Human, living your life as though you love it.  Because let's face it, to paraphrase Alan Watts, it's absurb to be doing a job you hate to pay for a house and life that you are never in, while teaching our children that this is the way to live.  So I finish with Watts's question that stuck in my mind...'If money were no object, what would you do with your life?'  I am taking small steps to make money no object and loving every minute of it.

Our Window is just up there on the left...

Our Room with a View...
Time to celebrate with coffee and cake in the wonderful cafe.


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Latest tiles

These are my latest little pieces of work, currently at the framers...

I spent Easter weekend at the seaside and came back with a bag of flint and driftwood. I'll be exploring what I can make in the next week.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Positive Project.

I have been working on my own secret project, I've challenged myself to say yes more often. If an opportunity, event, challenge comes up that I'm invited to join, I'm going to say yes to it.

I decided to start this through March, but not to shout too loudly about it because that may disturb the natural process and alter the discourse with others. I often shy away from things because of fear and shyness, so this will be a real challenge to me.

So 10 days in and the most major thing I have said yes to, is sharing a studio with a friend. I'll keep this blog updated with how things proceed and what else I say yes to. If I continue with this, I may start a blog of its own, but for now it's going to quietly tick along.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Advice needed!

I've been thinking about how I could run a mosaic course. I'm basically self taught in this discipline and work in an instinctive manner.

This means I don't put any design onto paper, I do use some paintings or collages that I've made, but not in any 'design' way. They are purely inspiration. I'm not sure what is expected from a mosaicing course, would an element of design be expected? Or could I teach from a purely 'see how it goes' method? I usually put my main pieces down and see what works, then work tiles, glass and beads around them. I play by moving the shapes around. Would this work as a workshop? I'd also be interested in how I could develop a community project and I'm not sure where to start with this. Any advice or thoughts would be welcome!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Belper Vintage Fair

I snuck off to have a good look round the Belper Vintage Fair today and it was well worth the visit. Not only did I buy some lovely goodies, I bumped into a friend who I haven't seen in a long time and we had a catch up. She was selling jewellery and bags that were just beautiful, so I was really blown away by her generosity when she donated some beaded knecklaces to my mosaic projects.

I also picked up a couple of rather lovely brooches.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Tools for drawing and loosing control

Part of the inspiration behind the Exploring Creativity workshops is to challenge the participants to let go of the idea of perfection.

We are taught to reproduce perfect images for our perfect worlds, when in reality, life is far from perfect. So as part of tapping onto our subconscious is to let go of the ideal of the perfect image and trying to put that onto paper.

One of the activities I'll be using is to challenge the participants to use tools that work in their own way, they don't conform to being held and controlled.

Next weekend I'll be heading into the Peak District to do some coppicing in a willow labyrinth, I'll be bring back some moon fuelled willow to cut and shave into quills and pens. Anyone who has drawn with willow twigs knows how loose our drawing will be!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Exploring Creativity Workshops at Studio 61

The dates have been set for my next set of workshops on Exploring Creativity at Studio 61 Gallery in Leashaw.

This workshop is something I am passionate about exploring further and gives me the opportunity to put into practice some of the Mindfulness techniques I've been learning about on my life coaching course.  I believe that everyone is creative, whether it is in the art they make, the food they cook or the clothes they wear, how they decorate their house or how they live thier lives.

I plan to explore different ways that we can tap into our inner imaginations and let go of the idea of the perfect image.  We'll be using tools that challenge our perspective of drawing perfectly, adding colours that expand our palettes and using beautiful papers to explore the shapes that we have accessed from our unconscious.

I'd really like to give each participant something to take away with them to keep exploring this further in their own time, but this depends on how organised I am at making some paper!

There are 3 dates to choose from and I'll be repeating the workshop with similar activities, coffee and tea are available from Studio 61 and I'm really looking forward to working in such a beautiful setting.

So, if you fancy a morning of exploration, drop me a line on my email at and I'll get back to you!