The Folkestone Book Festival

Back in November I undertook the largest installation I have ever done, for The Folkestone Book Festival. Over 100 paper cut snowflakes, word banners and poster. Our friends at Salt Design were asked to put a proposal together for decorating the event, and when they saw the interior of the bar area they were struck by the large circular light over a hole in the floor where you could look down in to the foyer, and instantly felt that a giant mobile, hanging from the light through the hole would make a strong statement, and instantly thought of my work.

Working sketch for the paper  snowflake mobile.

Working sketch for the paper  snowflake mobile.

Rough sketches for the paper snowflakes, based on real snowflakes under the microscope.

Rough sketches for the paper snowflakes, based on real snowflakes under the microscope.

Installation plan for the paper snowflake mobile.

Installation plan for the paper snowflake mobile.

Test cut for for the poster.

Test cut for for the poster.

The snowflakes were threaded on to sky blue organza ribbon which gave a sense of movement as you look upwards from the foyer. When planning the mobile we had to consider the weight of each snowflake and how to hang the installation. In total it was 5 metres long and we needed to be sure it would remain stable and in place until Christmas. In addition to the mobile I was also asked to make snowflake garlands for the large foyer window, and the festival poster. Salt came up with the idea of cutting the words so they opened like an advent calendar  and I suggested adding a red inlay card and making the poster double sided. It was designed in 3 panels so it could be re-usable, making the bottom panel replaceable.

Threading, threading and more threading!

Threading, threading and more threading!

3 days before the festival opened, I travelled down to Folkestone to help install the project.  We were lucky enough to have Tania and Anthony from The Quarterhouse to help us, Anthony climbing the unfeasibly tall ladder to tie the 5m garlands of snowflakes to a fishing wire grid stretching across the light, and Tania helping us thread all the snowflakes together. The project took us two whole days to install, a day to thread and hang the mobile and a day to  complete hanging the window and poster. The result looked stunning and has left me with the desire to do more large projects like this.

The bar area of the Quarterhouse in Folkestone

The bar area of the Quarterhouse in Folkestone

The foyer looking towards reception at the Quaterhouse in Folkestone

The foyer looking towards reception at the Quaterhouse in Folkestone

The brief was to create a wintery atmosphere of people together sharing stories,  the opening of the festival coincided with the switching on of the Christmas lights, so something with a Christmassy feel where elements could remain up through December were required, as were the need for some parts to be re-usable. When I saw the space, my immediate reaction was to use snowflakes cascading down. Other elements of the proposal included wall and floor decals with quotes from authors, Stella and Victoria wanted to see if this could be incorporated in to the mobile, so we worked together to convert the quotes in to vertical hanging banners which represented the creative process of writing, the snowstorm of ideas that eventually fall to earth and settle on the page.

Tania folding out all the 3D snowflakes for us ready for threading, each thread was finished of with these ones.

Tania folding out all the 3D snowflakes for us ready for threading, each thread was finished of with these ones.

Left a bit! Anthony patiently taking direction from Stella and Tania!

Left a bit! Anthony patiently taking direction from Stella and Tania!

The bar area at the Folkestone Quarterhouse bustling  with activity during  the book festival. Photograph by NGM Photography.

The bar area at the Folkestone Quarterhouse bustling  with activity during  the book festival. Photograph by NGM Photography.

Close up from the foyer window, all the snowflake centres popped out to make a 3D effect. Photography www.bernadettebaksa.com

Close up from the foyer window, all the snowflake centres popped out to make a 3D effect. Photography www.bernadettebaksa.com

The book festival poster, opening like page in a book. Photography www.bernadettebaksa.com

The book festival poster, opening like page in a book. Photography www.bernadettebaksa.com

One of the decals  designed by Salt Design. Photography www.bernadettebaksa.com

One of the decals  designed by Salt Design. Photography www.bernadettebaksa.com

Close up  from the foyer looking upwards towards the Photography www.bernadettebaksa.com

Close up  from the foyer looking upwards towards the Photography www.bernadettebaksa.com

Love how the ribbon has given a sense a movement to the installation, like the snowflakes and words are falling to earth. Photography www.bernadettebaksa.com

Love how the ribbon has given a sense a movement to the installation, like the snowflakes and words are falling to earth. Photography www.bernadettebaksa.com

 From the end of the bar area, the mirror reflects the installation beautifully. Photograph by NGM Photography

 From the end of the bar area, the mirror reflects the installation beautifully. Photograph by NGM Photography

 

Salt Design

SALT are a design studio based in London, founded by Stella Chapman and Victoria Johnstone, who have over 20 years experience brand building. For more information visit www.saltdesign.uk

Write here...

The outside of the Quarterhouse looking in to the foyer.

The outside of the Quarterhouse looking in to the foyer.

My Lovely Design Studio!

Back in June we completed the big build, my much longed for studio. We had lots of other work done too (kitchen and bedroom & bathroom extension) but really they pale in significance when faced with my very own studio, my space for my things. No more storing massive stacks of paper under the bed and behind the sofa .... and light, bright natural daylight, what a joy! 

Digging the foundations, my desk was just on the other side of the pation doors. There was a point where I had to go out of the front door to deliver the tea!

Digging the foundations, my desk was just on the other side of the pation doors. There was a point where I had to go out of the front door to deliver the tea!

So work began in earnest at the end of last year, I watched through the patio doors in the dining room where I worked, diggers moving mounds of earth until the back garden resembled something out of the trenches. Working at my standing desk, gradually my singing along to Radio 2 became quieter and my dance moves were relegated to a nod of the head and a tap of the foot as bricks were laid right opposite my desk! 

When they knocked through I moved all my equipment out, just hanging on to my lap top, working from two locations required a lot of planning, and it was blooming cold working here! If you look closely you will see that my desk and table are the most untidy thing in the room, I was put to shame!

When they knocked through I moved all my equipment out, just hanging on to my lap top, working from two locations required a lot of planning, and it was blooming cold working here! If you look closely you will see that my desk and table are the most untidy thing in the room, I was put to shame!

As work began inside the house with walls and ceilings coming down, the builders would be greeted from time to time with a curtain of flowers hanging from the exposed floor joists as I put together decorations for a retail window display, or stacks of wedding invites or valentines cards nestling amongst the devastation.

Oh my god didn't the living room wall used to be there??

Oh my god didn't the living room wall used to be there??

Once the plasterboard goes in the room really starts to take shape.

Once the plasterboard goes in the room really starts to take shape.

The most exciting thing for me was my custom build work bench made to measure with shelves to fit the 100cm x 70cm reams of paper I buy underneath, and my cutter on top. A thing of real beauty that possibly only a fellow designer or crafter will appreciate. Matt our builder coped admirably with my obsessively exacting standards for the studio (yes the desk must be exactly 100cm high, no it cannot be any narrower, yes I really do want that many lights, and yes the doors must open to the left, I am left handed!) and my more laid back approach to other things in the house (just stick the sink wherever, and honestly the cat flap looks fine to me)

Did I mention I LOVE my work bench? Thank you so much Matt & Fred,  you did a great job and the quality of the workmanship is beautiful. As a fellow crafts person I really appreciate the work that went in to it, and it really is my favourite thing in the house.

Did I mention I LOVE my work bench? Thank you so much Matt & Fred,  you did a great job and the quality of the workmanship is beautiful. As a fellow crafts person I really appreciate the work that went in to it, and it really is my favourite thing in the house.

 I have been working in my studio for about 5 months now and have started to put up shelves and really make the space my own and it really works perfectly for me. The glass doors double up as space I use to work out my retail window decorations and the white walls and work bench work perfectly for photography with plenty of light coming in through the velux windows. Not to mention the floor space to practice my dance moves - em cough .. I mean room to do my pilates stretches after being hunched over the Mac all day!

I would like to take this opportunity to extend our thanks to Matt and all his team at Millhouse Construction for all their hard work and dedication in bringing this space to life, you did a great job - the kitchen is not bad either! 

My work bench is now crammed full of paper, ribbon, card and all sorts of other bits and bobs, and all my art books now have a home.

My work bench is now crammed full of paper, ribbon, card and all sorts of other bits and bobs, and all my art books now have a home.

The sides of my standing desk double up as a place to store my orders in progress, I have my card swatches close to hand on my home made ribbon notice board, and the wall decorated with some of Hugh's artwork from when he was in foundation and year 1, I am still waiting for his year 2/3 pieces - Hurry up Hugh!

The sides of my standing desk double up as a place to store my orders in progress, I have my card swatches close to hand on my home made ribbon notice board, and the wall decorated with some of Hugh's artwork from when he was in foundation and year 1, I am still waiting for his year 2/3 pieces - Hurry up Hugh!

All the boys in the street loved the diggers, not least our son who was desperate to sit in the drivers seat!

All the boys in the street loved the diggers, not least our son who was desperate to sit in the drivers seat!

As the walls went up it became darker and darker inside until it felt like I was working in a cave.

As the walls went up it became darker and darker inside until it felt like I was working in a cave.

After the kitchen wall came down I used to thread my garlands by pinning them to the celing joists! Not sure how many buiding sites have such pretty decoration!

After the kitchen wall came down I used to thread my garlands by pinning them to the celing joists! Not sure how many buiding sites have such pretty decoration!

Inviting total strangers to work in your home can be daunting at the best of times, but when you work from home you need to be doubly sure you are not going to be driven crazy by them. We were very lucky to have found neat, tidy, thoughtful builders in Millhouse Construction who happily worked around me even when quite clearly I was in the way! I managed to stay put for most of the disruption, only briefly moving out in to Charlie's office in Witney while they knocked through, which incidentally was far less eventful than I imagined, I came home expecting dust and chaos and was greated with order and clean carpets!. 

Such beautiful light in the studio that I had to nip in once the builders had gone home to photograph my garlands properly.

Such beautiful light in the studio that I had to nip in once the builders had gone home to photograph my garlands properly.

The room looks so dark after the plaster has gone on the walls and the floor screed goes down. If you look closely you can see where Welly Cat padded across the floor before it dried despite my best efforts to keep him out.

The room looks so dark after the plaster has gone on the walls and the floor screed goes down. If you look closely you can see where Welly Cat padded across the floor before it dried despite my best efforts to keep him out.

The glass doors are perfect for planning out my hanging decorations and it is so nice to have space for my wedding fair props. The floor also doubles up as one of my photographic backgrounds.

The glass doors are perfect for planning out my hanging decorations and it is so nice to have space for my wedding fair props. The floor also doubles up as one of my photographic backgrounds.

Left overs from the new kitchen have come in handy, a spare cupboard unit houses  baskets full of my tools of the trade, and some spare bits of floring make a great photographic background.

Left overs from the new kitchen have come in handy, a spare cupboard unit houses  baskets full of my tools of the trade, and some spare bits of floring make a great photographic background.

Mr A kindly put up a shelf over the glass doors to keep all my files on, a great use of dead space and I have my nifty Ikea step chair to reach them!  (yes I was standing on my workbench to take this photo)

Mr A kindly put up a shelf over the glass doors to keep all my files on, a great use of dead space and I have my nifty Ikea step chair to reach them!  (yes I was standing on my workbench to take this photo)

From Little Acorns

Back in July I presented an extra special piece of bespoke artwork to the headteacher of our village infant school. Extra special because it was to mark our son's and his fellow classmates final year at the school, many of whom we had known since they were at pre-school together.

As I was working on the piece I was taken back 3 years to when I did my very first paper cuts, the second one I ever did was for Hugh's  pre-school, a tiny  school building built in 1847 in a nearby village overlooking fields with a tall willowy tree by a dry stone wall at the front. The tree was my inspiration and I went about illustrating it with the school building in the background. Hand cutting all the detail I went on to make little leaves with the names of all the children on.

3 years later I have seen my lovely little boy grow in height, confidence & knowledge through the nurturing of the staff at this lovely little school where doors are always open and staff make time for you. With this in mind, when I was asked if I would make one of my tree pictures, one phrase kept going through my head "from little acorns great oak trees grow"

My initial sketch of the oak tree

My initial sketch of the oak tree

So the tree became the school, the birdhouses the classes & the woodland animals the staff.  The open door represents the nurturing of the staff, listening to and caring for our children, and the ladder is the children's knowledge growing as they climb up through the school to the top class.

The finished  paper cut  tree framed and ready.

The finished  paper cut  tree framed and ready.

When I made the pre-school picture, I put all the names on the leaves, 3 years on the children of year 2 at St Peter's Infant School all wrote their own names, beautifully in joined up handwriting.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the class of 2015 the best of luck in their new schools.

The picture I made for Broadshires Pre-School  when our son left back in 2012

The picture I made for Broadshires Pre-School  when our son left back in 2012

At first I was not sure how I would illustrate it, the school buildings don't lend themselves to the way I did the pre-school picture, then I looked at the playing field, large trees and wooden play equipment full of ropes, ladders and plenty to climb on and realised the school is not just the building, it is a living thing made by the people who are in it.

A few tweaks to the tree and the illustrator file starts to take shape.

A few tweaks to the tree and the illustrator file starts to take shape.

Limited edition fine art giclee prints were made of the original paper cut, packed up and ready for delivery.

Limited edition fine art giclee prints were made of the original paper cut, packed up and ready for delivery.

Beautiful handwriting!

Beautiful handwriting!

Mrs King the Head Teacher with Raymond, Riley, Imogen Lucy and Amelia.

Mrs King the Head Teacher with Raymond, Riley, Imogen Lucy and Amelia.

A Little Bit of Bespoke

Some of my favourite words to hear are "can you design something specially for me?" The answer will almost certainly be YES!

Don't get me wrong, I love designing my range items, but there is just something special about working closely with someone to realise their dream, bouncing ideas back and forth and trying out new things. I really think the best ideas come out like this  and help to enrich my work as I am pushed towards things I would not have considered on my own.

So if you are thinking about commissioning something but are really not sure how to go about it, what can you do? Firstly, don't worry too much, ask the question and you will be guided through the rest. Some people know exactly what they want and provide all sorts of reference material for me,  and others initially provide very little except for the type of item they  want, and the design grows through discussion.

I thought I would share with you 3 projects we have worked on recently which were all briefed entirely differently.

 

The 10th Anniversary Present

When Heather contacted me, she had a very clear idea of what she wanted, a piece of wall art to represent the 10 years her sister and brother in law had spent together. Being a graphic designer herself, Heather provided an extremely clear brief, with a story board and description of what everything meant to her sister and brother in law.

This was a  great challenge for me, as my company name suggests, I am naturally drawn to  the natural world in my work so had to adapt my style to fit with man made structures, which with a little bit of thought I achieved. I started  by working on all the individual shapes which I sent to Heather for approval,  and then went on to structure and colour.

Below are the stages of approval I sent through to Heather. Once we were happy with the design I set about cutting it and lining it with coloured paper, my preference for this is to use artists ingres paper as I love the texture. Finally  I mounted it on to board, raising it off the background for depth.

The storyboard Heather put together featuring Sydey Opera House, Jodrell Bank Telescope, Warborough Village Church, & a Welsh dragon.

The storyboard Heather put together featuring Sydey Opera House, Jodrell Bank Telescope, Warborough Village Church, & a Welsh dragon.

Initial shapes worked out, took me a while to work out how to make Sydney Opera house to look good in a paper cut!

Initial shapes worked out, took me a while to work out how to make Sydney Opera house to look good in a paper cut!

Structure starting to come together, I am forever thinking about how to make sure things  all attach together as a strong paper cut.

Structure starting to come together, I am forever thinking about how to make sure things  all attach together as a strong paper cut.

Time to add colour! My inpiration for this was the blue skys of Sydney, and the green grass of home!

Time to add colour! My inpiration for this was the blue skys of Sydney, and the green grass of home!

Finishing touches - Books added to represent Alison's love of literature  and of course it wouldnt be Paper Tree with a few leaves and flowers!

Finishing touches - Books added to represent Alison's love of literature  and of course it wouldnt be Paper Tree with a few leaves and flowers!

The  completed  paper cut lined with  artists ingres pastel paper and mouted raising the paper cut off the background slightly

The  completed  paper cut lined with  artists ingres pastel paper and mouted raising the paper cut off the background slightly

The Customised Table Plan

When Andrea got in touch she simply asked if I would customise our existing Tree of Hearts table plan design in navy with coloured leaves instead of rectangular plan cards.  At first I was unsure of how it would work, the leaf shape has a lot of dead space top and bottom  where you cannot fit names in comfortably. I eventually worked out that I need to scale everything up but I still was not sure.

The different sizes of tree for different numbers of tables. My first rough draft with leaves just didn't work as I wanted.

The different sizes of tree for different numbers of tables. My first rough draft with leaves just didn't work as I wanted.

My eureka moment came when Andrea sent me a picture of the cake design she was having, decorated with a black tree and multi-coloured leaves. I suggest we went for a black tree on a cream background and used the colours from the cake for the leaves, I tried solid colour leaves and eventually settled on just the outer edge in colour. The finishing touches were adding some simple white flowers to the pegs and scattering hearts between the branches.

 The  visuas I provided.  The final version had 12 tables so we added a orange colour to the leaves.

 The  visuas I provided.  The final version had 12 tables so we added a orange colour to the leaves.

Initial print trials  on off white & biscuit card with pink flowers. We selected the biscuit and then changed the flowers to blue for the final version.

Initial print trials  on off white & biscuit card with pink flowers. We selected the biscuit and then changed the flowers to blue for the final version.

The wedding cake design Andrea and Matthew are having that sparked my imagination.

The wedding cake design Andrea and Matthew are having that sparked my imagination.

Andrea liked the table plan so much, she went on to ask if I could make matching table numbers and menus.
The theme for the tables was rustic, hessian chair covers, hessian runners, little log place cards, cake on top of a log and blue and white jam jars with blue and white flowers. I instantly thought of  leaf shaped numbers on sticks to go in the jam jars, mirroring the colours from the table plan. Cut numbers in black with a hessian backing.

Fot the menu, I felt our standard menu that matches the tree design wasn't right for this table setting. We settled for a folding menu and I suggested using bakers twine. For the cover I revisited an idea from the Vintage Rose Bowl range that I didn't go forward with, after a few tweaks it worked perfectly.

The Idea I didn't use for the Rose Bowl design

The Idea I didn't use for the Rose Bowl design

Using the colours and flower from the table plan, and the font from the table numbers, the motif is transformed.

Using the colours and flower from the table plan, and the font from the table numbers, the motif is transformed.

The finished  items all work so well together.

The finished  items all work so well together.

The New Baby Picture

This was a  bespoke commission for our good friend Stella from Salt Design. We have collaborated on projects many times and  work in a very informal way batting ideas to and fro. The briefing for this  happened over text and went a little like this - S: "have you got time to make me a new baby girl picture?" me: "yes what you you want?"  S: Will look at your gallery" Me: "How about butterflies with cherry blossom? ... or a bee? Bee, honey, Hunneysett!" S: "Oh yes good thinking!" me: "Rough sketch, Sofia font I think" S "pretty but can we have more bees and names like on squirrels design?" Me: "New sketch, I've added bunnies too, Hunneybunnysett!"

As it always does when I work with Stella, the design came together really quickly. I used some photos I had taken of a cherry tree as inspiration. Stella wanted 3D flowers, so I had a bit of a play and came up with some lovely 3D blossom heads and a fluttering bee.. Colour-wise, we went for something cheerful and natural looking using a mix of mat and metallic card, which suited the recipients taste far more than a traditional 'pink for a girl' look.

my first hasty scribble  whilst texting

my first hasty scribble  whilst texting

Final artwork for the new baby paper cut picture.

Final artwork for the new baby paper cut picture.

My second draft together with some bunny sketches I had done several years ago.

My second draft together with some bunny sketches I had done several years ago.

The paper cut brfore  it has been mounted up on card and decorated.

The paper cut brfore  it has been mounted up on card and decorated.

The completed picture ready for delivery.

The completed picture ready for delivery.

So finally I hear you ask, but how much does it cost? Well that depends on what you want. If I am adapting something existing as I did for Andrea then generally there is no extra charge for artwork unless I am making extensive changes. I also have a back catalogue of unseen designs so even if you don't see anything on the website it really is worth asking me.

Prices for completely bespoke artwork are between £100 - £300. If you are ordering wedding stationery the design fee is deducted from the final bill when you place the order. If you are commissioning a piece of wall art I recommend going as large as you dare as over half the cost will be the time it takes to design the artwork so you get better value for money.

And finally don't be afraid to ask, I am always happy to chat.

 

Whats New in 2015 Part 2

In March we made some lovely decorations for Brothers Salon in Oxford for their Mothers Day window. The Aveda gift sets they were selling had a lilac theme and this time they needed decorations to fill a third of their window.

Originally we were planning to do giant lilac decorations, however after chatting it through with Carol in the salon, we settled on garlands in lilac on matching organza ribbon. I felt it needed to be pretty and delicate whilst still standing out from the the other side of the street and suggested we made the primroses 3 dimensional and two tone which really transformed the garlands in to somthing special.

To finish off the display we provided some  lilac butterfly confetti  and large flowers to accessorise the display.

The colour we used on the paper garlands matched the Aveda graphic perfectly.

The colour we used on the paper garlands matched the Aveda graphic perfectly.

A few weeks after Mothers Day we were in Oxford for the Literary Festival and noticed our garlands were still up in the window!

A few weeks after Mothers Day we were in Oxford for the Literary Festival and noticed our garlands were still up in the window!


How pretty do these primroses look in lilac with  the magenta centres?

How pretty do these primroses look in lilac with  the magenta centres?

Can you see our paper buttercups nestling in the display?

Can you see our paper buttercups nestling in the display?

What's New in 2015 Part 1

I've been a little quiet on my blog over the last few months, mainly due to a huge building project going on here (more of this another time!) which has had me moving around from room to room like a nomad searching for some peace and quiet! its nearly finished now so thought I would give you a quick run down of a few of  the new things we have been doing over the past few months.

Most of what I show on the website is wedding based but I am always working on other things too. Back in February I decided at the last minute to design a range of Valentines Day cards, working really quite quickly for me.  I started with my sketch book before moving on to Illustrator,  I came up with 6 designs. I was really please with the response they had and  I am thinking of adapting a couple in to wedding designs and would love to hear what you think!

I always have loads of ideas going on on one art board  before deciding on the best ones!

I always have loads of ideas going on on one art board  before deciding on the best ones!

Well, I had to make a special one for my lovely husband! Biscuit and gift tag made by our lovely son!

Well, I had to make a special one for my lovely husband! Biscuit and gift tag made by our lovely son!

More sketching during swimming lessons!

More sketching during swimming lessons!

Finished cards ready for delivery!

Finished cards ready for delivery!

This one compliments our Vintage Rose Bowl wedding invite, I feel a range coming on!

This one compliments our Vintage Rose Bowl wedding invite, I feel a range coming on!

Vintage Rose Bowl Wedding Stationery

A couple of weekends a go we exhibited at the Chosen Wedding Fair in Reading and showcased our new Wedding Stationery Range Vintage Rose Bowl, a pretty horseshoe shaped garland of roses with initials entwined.

I had wanted to do something with roses for a while and already had a stash of rose motifs but nothing was really jelling so I decided to go back to the drawing board and do a little bit of research. I am a bit of a fan of early to mid 20th century surface pattern design, and started looking at the way roses on 1950s textiles look fuller and more open, a proper old english rose. I was also looking at Susie Cooper pottery from the 30s,40s and 50s and really liked the simplified and stylised look of the flowers. Roses are quite an easy flower to get wrong in paper cutting and can look quite awkward if not designed carefully. Normally I start with a pencil sketch layout then go to full design in Illustrator  but this time I decided to hand draw out all the elements first to try and maintain a softer less symmetrical  look. I used a white pen on brown paper and drew pages and pages of rose heads until I was happy I had a handful I liked. In keeping with this hand drawn look I choose a scripty font which I have used sparingly for effect.

For the printed items I decided to add an element of illustration. Previously we have kept the typography simple as a contrast against the more complex paper cut  wedding invitations, but I felt this range needed to be full on pretty, finishing it off some items with organza ribbon. This design works well in many colours but my favourites are the metallics.

Vintage Rose Bowl wedding stationery suite in silver (my favourite!). Print in lilac and grey. all print items bacxked with the lovely silver card

Vintage Rose Bowl wedding stationery suite in silver (my favourite!). Print in lilac and grey. all print items bacxked with the lovely silver card

Vintage Rose  menu in a lovely regal purple sitting next to one on my lovely Susie Cooper plates. The name cards look good tied to cutlery, wine glasses or a vintage teacup.

Vintage Rose  menu in a lovely regal purple sitting next to one on my lovely Susie Cooper plates. The name cards look good tied to cutlery, wine glasses or a vintage teacup.

Original vintage 1950s rose textiles

Original vintage 1950s rose textiles

My original hand drawn sketches

My original hand drawn sketches

Working out the shape 

Working out the shape 

Vintage Rose Bowl suite in gold with contrasting Scuba Blue print. The gold looks equally good with Marsala Red print. Loving the gold lame ribbon!

Vintage Rose Bowl suite in gold with contrasting Scuba Blue print. The gold looks equally good with Marsala Red print. Loving the gold lame ribbon!

Rose  laser cut invitation Gold
Part of our display from the Chosen Wedding Fair in Reading. Showing Biscuit and Marsala coloured card. Plus a bit more of my Susie Cooper collection!

Part of our display from the Chosen Wedding Fair in Reading. Showing Biscuit and Marsala coloured card. Plus a bit more of my Susie Cooper collection!


Trying out lots of colour option to go with our many card colours.

Trying out lots of colour option to go with our many card colours.

Christmas Window at Brothers Salon Oxford

One of the projects I've been really excited about this year are some decorations I made for the Christmas window at Brothers Salon in Oxford. I had secretly wanted to do some visual merchandising work for a while, it must be the ex buyer in me I still love a bit of retail so was thrilled when this came along.

Aveda Christmas gift packaging pattern
My initial sketch ideas

My initial sketch ideas

I used the simple white on brown pattern on their packaging as a starting point. I had just bought myself a new recycled paper sketch book so decided to sketch ideas with a white pen for a change, I quite like using it but it does get clogged up quite easily, so am now looking for the perfect white pen! 

The bags of Christmas confetti

The bags of Christmas confetti

The Window from outside Brothers Oxford

The Window from outside Brothers Oxford

The window from inside Brothers Oxford

The window from inside Brothers Oxford

If you look closely you will see my confetti on the table!

If you look closely you will see my confetti on the table!

The Aveda gift packaging

The Aveda gift packaging

Carol at Brothers  had seen my  hanging wedding decorations & Christmas bunting, and asked if I could make some giant ones for them. Brothers are an Aveda salon so stock all their lovely hair and skincare products, Carol  asked me to make something that complimented the Aveda Christmas gift range in colour and style. The paper Aveda use for the gifts is made in Nepal and they are proud to be making a difference in the communities they work in. 

The wedding garlands that inspired this project

The wedding garlands that inspired this project

Final artwork produced, Brothers choose 3 of my new designs (centre) plus two exiating ones.

Final artwork produced, Brothers choose 3 of my new designs (centre) plus two exiating ones.

I settled on a simple flower motif which I repeated in different ways across different shapes and sizes of bauble, and Carol chose a couple of my existing designs to compliment them. We chose a rich red and dark green card to cut them from, Brothers used the branded Aveda ribbon to hang the decorations from in the window and also around the salon. I also made some matching flower, leaf and heart confetti which was used inside the gift packs.

Decorations sorted and ready to be delivered

Decorations sorted and ready to be delivered

Brothers salon Oxford Aveda Christmas window
Another confetti flower decorating the cosmetics

Another confetti flower decorating the cosmetics

Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace

It's been a while since I last updated my blog and so much has been going on, so I am going to try and make up for it now.
Back in October my son and I visited the I Weiwei exhibition at Blenheim Palace, we love Blenheim and take every opportunity we can to spend some time there. Hugh particularly likes the armour in the entrance hall and never seems to tire of going room to room looking at all the tiny details, so when I found out about it I was keen to take him.
What I loved about the exhibition was the staging, the items had been placed around the Palace, nestling within the the rooms looking like they were meant to be there. You could touch some of the pieces, and in one case actually walk on it, a wool carpet inspired by a piece of dirt road in the countryside.

I Weiwei floral plates Blenheim Palace
I Weiwei bubbles Blenheim Palace
I Weiwei bubble Blenhiem Palace reflection

In the salon the 12 gilded Chinese zodiac heads looked magnificent against the set table and chairs, we talked about which ones we liked best and studied their expressions, later we worked out I was a dog and Hugh was a rat!
What makes this exhibition even more remarkable is that the whole project was conceived remotely using plans of the palace as I Weiwei has been unable to leave China since his passport was confiscated. It works so well in the Palace and surrounding grounds, and if you have not seen it yet you still have a chance as it has been extended to the end of April 2015.  If you have children then it is a great thing to take them to see, we treated it as a treasure hunt seeking out the pieces, using our printed guide. It is also very diverse so there is lots to talk about and explain. The crabs and zodiac heads have an immediate interest for children but I was quite surprised at  Hugh's favourite pieces,  the gas mask, and the oil spills in the secret garden ... Interesting I thought, just shows you shouldn't underestimate your children.

I Weiwei gas mask Blenhiem Palace

The first piece you see on entering is a massive oversized chandelier overwhelming the great hall, it looked so at home that at first I didn't realise it was part of the exhibition and pondered whether it had always been there and I had just not noticed before!
I have a particular liking for the ceramic pieces and have a real appreciation of the craftsmanship involved.  As a buyer I worked extensively with ceramics factories around the world, including China. I found myself explaining to Hugh about glazes, moulds and hand painting. The floral plates particularly remind me of a factory I worked with in China, I never tired of watching the artistry of the workers and the amazing detail in hand painting they achieved.
The blue bubbles in the south park really caught our interest, I marvelled at the consistency of the glaze, and it was a sunny day so we had fun making reflections in bubbles and photographing them.

I Weiwei Bubbles Blenhiem Palace Reflection
I Weiwei Chinese Zodiac gold heads
I Weiwei crabs at Blenhiem Palace
 

Creative Whirlwind Part 2 - The Dust has Settled

I have had to wait a little while before writing part 2 of this post, until  a couple of pieces had been presented to their new owners, I don't want to spoil the surprise!

I used the wild geranium flowers on two bespoke pieces, the first one was my contribution to the leaving collection for my sons teacher at the village school. I wanted the design to represent the community the school is within & symbolise our children learning, growing & spreading their wings. The wild geranium (also know as meadow cranesbill) was a perfect base for the design as the local bridleway was covered in it during the summer term, and to this I added  busy bumble bees and butterflies. The bee was based on a lovely chap I snapped in the flower borders at Aston Pottery & all the butterflies I found on the village bridleway, Comma, Tortoiseshell & Ringlet butterflies. The final touch was to add a printed layer with the names of all the class 1 children on it using a light blue background matching the blue from the school uniform.

Ringlet Butterfly

Ringlet Butterfly

Bumble Bee From Aston Pottery

Bumble Bee From Aston Pottery

Comma Butterfly

Comma Butterfly

Tortoiseshell Butterfly on meadow cranesbill (wild geranium)

Tortoiseshell Butterfly on meadow cranesbill (wild geranium)

 

The second design was a little more tricky. I had been commissioned to make a wedding wall art card from the parents of the bride. The client has had one of our  hand cut wall art cards for his other daughter the year before and was looking for something similar in pale pink, using our Lovely Doves card as a base. Simple I thought, hang the bird cage from a tree, but it just was not working, I must have tried half a dozen options and it just looked awkward & contrived, the tree fighting with the bird cage, so taking my own advice from my A Little Bit of Space blog post, I parked it to one side for a few weeks and got on with some other commissions. During this time I completed the school commission and it all clicked in to place, the stripes that formed the petals of the meadow cranesbill complimented the stripes of the birdcage. A few amendments to the legs of the cage helped to pull it together and all of a sudden the designed worked!

Measuring 20cm x 25cm, mounted up on daler board to make a solid piece for framing  with some lovely 3D flowers & bees

Measuring 20cm x 25cm, mounted up on daler board to make a solid piece for framing  with some lovely 3D flowers & bees

The finished design measured 21cm x 21 cm, a paper cut with prined detail underneath

The finished design measured 21cm x 21 cm, a paper cut with prined detail underneath

Had to add a little 3D element - fluttering butterflies

Had to add a little 3D element - fluttering butterflies

Matisse, Nature & the Creative Whirlwind

I have a number of new design projects on at the moment so I thought I would share with you the creative process, where the inspiration comes from and how it's used to create a new piece of artwork. As my title suggests, creativity is like a whirlwind, all the ideas and influences whirl around in my head and eventually float down to earth when the storm subsides. 

As a self confessed nature junkie, quite often the starting point for a project are the fields and hedgerows around where I live, I love the solitude, beauty, and sounds of nature surrounding me. I am utterly transfixed by the way they change over the seasons and how I can walk the same path daily and see new plants appearing, if only I could plan my garden this well. My camera is constantly snapping away, I am looking for interesting flower and leaf formations, branches and trees shapes. 

Beautiful shape, combining the sepals & the petals in a cut has proved tricky so have had to simplify

Beautiful shape, combining the sepals & the petals in a cut has proved tricky so have had to simplify

Illustrator file - working out whre the holes go to make a secure cut can be tricky! I might look at a 3d bit on top to for the sepals

Illustrator file - working out whre the holes go to make a secure cut can be tricky! I might look at a 3d bit on top to for the sepals

As a surface pattern designer it really inspired me and helped me to think about how to simplify and stylise while keeping the essence of something. I saw how he had already influenced my work subliminally seeing leaf shapes similar to my Woodland Christmas design!  I highly recommend anyone who has an interest in art & design to go and see the exhibition before it finishes in September, and take your children, the Tate Modern staff told us it's been extremely popular with children, I am taking my 6 yr old son to see it in the holidays, and look forward to seeing what it inspires him to do too!

Ooo these  Matisse leaves look a bit like the ones on my Woodland Christmas range

Ooo these  Matisse leaves look a bit like the ones on my Woodland Christmas range

Matisse - Lovely large simplified flowers 

Matisse - Lovely large simplified flowers 



Wild Geranium from the hedgerow near our home

Wild Geranium from the hedgerow near our home

Back at my studio the work begins on manipulating the images in to a paper cut and this is where the hard work starts. I usually start with a pencil sketch to work out the shapes within the flower, then move on to Illustrator to design the cut. Some flowers like primroses work perfectly for a paper cut, others are a little more tricky. I have been working on wild geranium this week and it's been a real challenge, I have had to simplify and really stylise them to make them work as a cut, and this is where I  pluck other influences out of the whirlwind to help me make the design work.

Wild geranium

Wild geranium

Rough sketch to work out composition & shape.

Rough sketch to work out composition & shape.

Recently a friend and I visited Tate Modern to see the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition. I have always liked Matisse, as an art student I had Matisse posters on my wall, and I've seen his paintings in galleries, but I had only seen the paper cuts in books. As a designer of paper cuts I was expecting to enjoy it however I was not prepared for how both of us were blown away by the exhibition, the scale, colour, and composition, my response to it was emotional, whole walls filled with a single piece, vibrant, fluid and just plain beautiful.

Love the cut words on this Matisse piece

Love the cut words on this Matisse piece

Now its time to take these flower  elements and turn them in to a whole design, think I might weave in other flowers and make a summer hedgerow.  Watch out for my post when it is completed.

Find Woodland Christmas here

Can you spot the Matisse influence?

How to be a smart bride on a budget

I had a lovely email the other day from a bride to be who we had helped by offering a make your own option on our invitations. The photos she emailed me looked amazing and it got me thinking about how to source smart and get the most for you money if you are on a budget, but still have your heart set on personalised designer touches.
When Jen first contacted us she didn't just ask me how much our invitations were, she told me what her budget was and that small bit of information was the key that helped Jen to get the perfect handmade personalised invitation she wanted without breaking the budget.

So how can sharing your budget help I hear you cry?  If you look at small made to order producers, you will find that in general they have the flexibility to help you. The very nature of being a designer means we are full of bright ideas about different materials, shapes and sizes or ways of doing things  that can help you keep in budget. 

Tree of hearts wedding invitation

Tips for sourcing smart: 

1. Give yourself plenty of time to plan, concentrating on securing your venue swiftly means you can send invitations early, avoiding the need for Save the Dates.

2. Decide what is most important to you and allocate the budget accordingly. Invest in the key pieces from a quality supplier and look at picking up the minor pieces from the high street or see what you or your friends can make yourself. Just like investing in a really good pair of designer jeans and wearing them with a T Shirt from Gap.

3. Ask your suppliers what is and more importantly what isn't included in the price. This works both ways, there may be things in the costing you can do without.

4. When comparing different suppliers prices, make sure you are comparing like for like, what are you not getting for the lower price, are you happy with that?

5. Make sure you have budgeted for every item no matter how small. Afterthoughts can be an expensive oversight.

6. Be realistic about how much you can do yourself, and seek out your creative friends to lighten the load and avoid last minute panic buys.

7. When you have found the designer  you like, look at what else they can do, the more you buy from one place the better the deal you get. If you have something specific in mind that is not on show then ask, they may be working on a new range or have something on the back burner that suits. I have a peacock design and a lovely rose filled tea cup on the back burner that I have been looking for the right moment to use, designers always have things squirrelled away so ask!

 


Jen's completed invitations

Jen's completed invitations

In Jen's case, being a bit creative she loved the idea of assembling the cards herself. We supplied her with the cut paper design, inlay card and blank inserts which saved on printing & labour costs, and Jen got to add her personal touch hand writing the inserts & finishing the invitations off with satin ribbon she had chosen. By doing this she was able to stretch to some lovely RSVP cards, choosing not to include an envelope and putting the difference saved towards a make your own version of our lovely Tree of Hearts table plan.

What we dispached to Jen, blank, inserts, inlay cards and cut panels, plus fully made RSVPs,  and a large cut tree for Jen to make her table plan with

What we dispached to Jen, blank, inserts, inlay cards and cut panels, plus fully made RSVPs,  and a large cut tree for Jen to make her table plan with

Two Turtle Doves - A Memoir of Making Things - Alex Monroe

Such a beautiful front cover

Such a beautiful front cover

Friday morning came, and the words a parent dreads came floating in to the room "mummy I don't feel well", and much as I tried to convince him otherwise, it was no use, he was burning up, my grown up day was cancelled. By lunch time Hugh had perked up, so instead of listening to Alex Monroe talk about Jewellery, his life and the writing of his book, I am sat on the floor assisting in making a Willy Wonka top hat for the Easter bonnet parade, complete with Wonka Bar and Golden Ticket.

So as consolation I went on line and ordered Two Turtle Doves - A Memoir of Making Things. When it arrived I left it unopened on the sofa and carried on with what I was doing.  Hugh called up to me "can I open this parcel Mummy?"  "If you want" I say," but it's just a book, you won't find it interesting" A little while later I return to the living room to find Hugh pouring over the book, "mummy look at the cover its so beautiful,  and there are sparkly things inside, and look at these big hammers, and the drawing of the bicycle and and and....! Hmmm I thought, this is interesting, perhaps this is not the book I was expecting...

The book alternates  between incidents in Monroe's largely unsupervised early life in Suffolk and the story  of the process of crafting a product. It is an extremely enjoyable read on many levels. As a Designer and ex Buyer of many years there is an obvious connection, and the opening chapter at a trade fair in Paris is very familiar ground for me. I find myself nodding and smiling  at his description of buyers moving in packs, Japanese in groups of 5 and 6, Americans in 3s or 4s, and the British in 2s, every detail  strikes a cord with me. The picture of the design process is also spot on, from the initial spark of an idea, the moments of doubt when it's just not working,  the elation when it finally comes together, and the overwhelming need to share the finished piece with everyone. I find it reassuring that things don't always work first time and picture in my head the items being dropped in to the reject box, I have a reject basket of paper cuts which I also rifle through from time to time cutting up with scissors and sticking roughly together with a new piece.

 

Hugh's plasticine boat rowing down the Alde. I wonder how far to great Aunt Carrie's house in Aldeburgh?

Hugh's plasticine boat rowing down the Alde. I wonder how far to great Aunt Carrie's house in Aldeburgh?

Little old me in my Alex Monroe Flowery Bird Loop Necklace

Little old me in my Alex Monroe Flowery Bird Loop Necklace

You can buy Alex Monroe Jewellery at http://www.alexmonroe.com


I had the idea for this post about a month ago, but as often happens events conspired against me. It was the end of the first day of our range photo shoot, my lovely friend Stella (who produced the graphic design elements of the range) and I were slumped on the sofa exhausted and my husband was pouring us both a glass of well earned wine. I was scrolling through my news feed on Facebook when something caught my eye - Alex Monroe  at the Oxford Literary Festival. I gestured to Stella, "the last time I went to see a designer speak I was at art college with you and it was Vivienne Westwood, she was totally bonkers, I didn't understand a word of it, but I've never forgotten it!"  "You should go" she said "we finish shooting tomorrow and they won't be edited by Friday so what else are you going to do?" Sod it I thought why not? When was the last time I had a grown up day off, so I booked a ticket!

Ready for the School Easter Bonnet Parade - now where did we leave that golden ticket....?

Ready for the School Easter Bonnet Parade - now where did we leave that golden ticket....?

A plasticine bicycle by Master H. Allen

A plasticine bicycle by Master H. Allen

It's Easter and we are with family in Devon, I am sat reading in the sunshine chuckling away to myself. Hugh asks what is going on in the book and I start reading bits out to him. Forging coins from lead salvaged from smashed up pianos, firing missiles at passing visitors, making gunpowder out of matches, and unsurprisingly, an array of accidents and injuries, Hugh is captivated, "can we make gun powder mummy?" "No" I say, "but why don't we have a go at casting some coins out of wax".

 

Casting crayon coins in clay

Casting crayon coins in clay

Don't be fooled though, this is not an elitist book about design, it's about adventure, imagination, resourcefulness and  making things - all sorts of things. Go karts, bicycles, boats (and the odd weapon). There really is something in this book for everyone, When recommending the book to my Suffolk raised father in law  I learnt that whilst at prep school he used to melt salvaged bullets over the open fire, and on one memorable occasion the bullet exploded.
 For me this book is a narrative of how a creative mind is developed through exploring & experimenting, and a reminder that we need to give our children the freedom  and space to do this. As a child I remember being slightly embarrassed that our clothes were all home made and that rather than buying something shiny and new, my dad would rifle through the garage for something he could convert  in to whatever we needed. I still remember cringing when he experimented with concrete and old egg boxes to make a cobbled path for the garden, but here I am many years later making makeshift moulds out of clay and melting down crayons- because it was what was to hand. The Heath Robinson household I grew up in taught me creativity, and I really hope Hugh's slightly bonkers imagination continues to be fired up by the stories of enterprise  in this book. I just might make a mental note to hide the matches...

My favourite necklace

My favourite necklace

Easter on Dartmoor

We have just returned from our Easter break in Devon. I grew up on the edge of Dartmoor, leaving at 18 to go to Art College. When  you grow up in such a beautiful place it's easy to take it for granted  and although I have always enjoyed going back, its only been since I have had a child that I really appreciate how lucky I was.  Endless open space to roam  in, traces of an old war time airfield and areas of quarry to explore, no path to stick to and no need to get in the car to go for a walk!

I had planned to leave early morning on our last day, but the weather was so glorious that I texted my sister "meet you at Burrator in half an hour".  in the old days we would have cycled there with a packed lunch  and some change for an ice-cream  but as we were on our way home we drove, parking up on the edge of the reservoir.  We spotted my sister and I said to Hugh (my son) Ok, which way shall we go? He pointed to the steep bank so up we climbed to the open moorland past the random iron gate  standing alone (where did it used to go?). Hugh dragged off Auntie Alison to explore while I  scoured the landscape for interesting things to photograph, dog violets, wood sorrel, celandine, nestling in the moss and between the rocks.

The waterfall is on the edge of the forestry land and  we spot that someone has been den building, Hugh run excitedly towards them then whips  out his sketch book and declares "I am going to build an extension but I need to draw a plan first, you two can collect sticks for me!" After collecting a few twigs I get side tracked by a tree in full blossom so I go and investigate and take a few pictures, I think it's a wild cherry. All too soon it is time to leave, but I am glad we delayed our departure - lots of pictures gathered to sketch from, and a lovely morning had in the fresh air.

Then I spot a hawthorn tree in full bloom, it looks like its been covered in shredded paper so I go to take a closer look. It's a lichen known as old mans beard and it looks stunning against the little white flowers, you just don't see this in Oxfordshire, it's an iconic Dartmoor image. I  have to take a picture but its at the bottom of a steep & crumbling drop, I tell Alison & Hugh I will catch them up at the waterfall  and tentatively climb down, standing on one leg with arm stretched out I get the shot I want without doing serious injury! I wonder how I can adapt the image in to a paper cut - tiny strings of paper connecting flowers? I look forward to experimenting when I get home.

Flowers and photo shoots

Entwined Range - Robins and primsoses entwined together in a twiggy garland and styled with hellebores from my garden

Entwined Range - Robins and primsoses entwined together in a twiggy garland and styled with hellebores from my garden

Our Filligree Heart range styled with fruit blossom from the tree at the end of our street

Our Filligree Heart range styled with fruit blossom from the tree at the end of our street

Fresh colours for a spring wedding

Fresh colours for a spring wedding

It's been a busy few weeks as we have been madly getting samples ready  and sourcing props for a photo shoot. We are shooting part of our range with a slightly vintage feel and the other part with a very natural country feel.

When I briefed the photographer  about 3 weeks ago  the hedgerows were yet to spring in to life and flowers are tricky this time of year. I have been studying the hedgerows for signs in life in the hope that I can use something local in the shots.

A woodland wedding themed table setting using items from our Natural Charms range - Thank you to my friends for collecting corks for this shoot

A woodland wedding themed table setting using items from our Natural Charms range - Thank you to my friends for collecting corks for this shoot

I took a walk the morning before the shoot  in the glorious sunshine and it reminded me how lucky we are to live where we do, the hedgerows had sprung in to life and I returned home armed with cuttings of catkins and plum & apple blossom, and raided our garden for green & purple hellebores  and euphorbia. 

When we started shooting the  range shots  it was lovely to see our work which is inspired by the Oxfordshire countryside, accessorised so beautifully by flowers & foliage gathered from my garden and surrounding hedgerows.

These are a few shots of the work in progress, I cannot wait to see all the shots we have done once they have been edited, we have used local stylist & photographer Cristina Colli www.cristinacolli.com and she has done a beautiful job, keep an eye on our website as they will start to go up in the next few weeks.

 

A sketch book and a little bit of space

There is a lot of evidence to show that the best way to solve a problem is to give it a little space and go and do something mundane instead. I have always instinctively done this, well before I knew about the research. As a Buyer, I was known for disappearing in to the sample room to unpack boxes or rearrange the shelves when I had hit that creative wall.

In the last year or so I have discovered how the combination of a bit of space and a sketch book in my bag at all times is a great one. As a student, the words please present your sketch book with your final design would fill me with dread as my rough sketches are quite scruffy and I hated people seeing them. It probably inhibited my ideas a little as I would work slowly, trying to keep it all neat and tidy and probably loosing a few ideas along the way. My sketch book is very scruffy now and that is the way I like it, ideas are like helium filled balloons, you have to grab them quickly before they float off, no point trying to make one idea look perfect if it means you have let go of a couple of others.

I have noticed recently that Wednesdays have become quite prolific in producing new designs and I put this down to the space theory. Every Tuesday after school I take our son for swimming lessons, I have an hour of mundane tasks (cooking tea, washing up etc) before I have to take him on the 20 minute drive to the pool. Once there, there is nothing to do for half an hour whilst he is swimming  so  I started taking my sketch book with me. Whilst the other parents  are chatting I sit quietly on the floor sketching out ideas or making notes - concentrating on the things I have been avoiding - its amazing what can come out of just half an hour doodling as you can see below - my scruffy sketches and then the finished products they became.

Just a few of my scruffy sketches from swimming - keep scrolling down to see what they turned in to

Just a few of my scruffy sketches from swimming - keep scrolling down to see what they turned in to

Excuse the crunch cream (my favourite!) these would be great to hold macaroons or little cup cakes.

Excuse the crunch cream (my favourite!) these would be great to hold macaroons or little cup cakes.

Wild flower favour case

Wild flower favour case

Loving these cut paper napkins  rings - a nice detail for your table setting

Loving these cut paper napkins  rings - a nice detail for your table setting

Great  flexible table plan,  by pegging the cards on  there is scope to add or remove tables easily

Great  flexible table plan,  by pegging the cards on  there is scope to add or remove tables easily

Card table numbers  made in two pieces and slotted together - working on matching placecard settings.

Card table numbers  made in two pieces and slotted together - working on matching placecard settings.

Pretty table plan with  free hanging tables on organza ribbon

Pretty table plan with  free hanging tables on organza ribbon

Wedding Trees & a little bit of Art Nouveau

I recently had a commission to do a variation of  my Tree of Hearts wedding invitation, replacing the bunting with a more autumnal trailing vine border. I started to cut the production this week and it occurred to me that  it has more than a hint of Art Nouveau about it. It should come as no surprise to me really, as its something I have frequently studied over the years.

 I first became interested in it aged 18, at  Art College studying Fashion & Textile Design and on a trip to Paris, my first visit. We spent hours in the Musee d,Orsay and I left the museum shop  armed with a pile of postcards of the things I loved -  Alphonse Mucha Illustrations, and Art Nouveau silverware & furniture. It is pretty hard to visit Paris without being affected by the style as you are surrounded by it, from the underground signs to the railings & many shopfront windows framed in the sinuous lines of the Art Nouveau style. 

 Fast forward a few years and I am developing products for a company that specialised in gifts inspired by historic design, Art Nouveau was one of our best selling ranges, anything with a Mucha image on it became an instant best seller! I think it is safe to say I have read almost every book on the subject of Art Nouveau and have viewed tens of thousands of images, almost a overdose of it you might say.

It's been a few years now since my Art Nouveau overload and I think I can appreciate it again in the way I did when I was 18. What I love is the way it was embraced by every creative medium and became truly accessible to everyone. jewellery, textiles, print media, furniture, architecture, the list is endless. If you look hard enough you will find a little piece of Art  Nouveau design wherever you go. One of my favourite things to do when I am wandering around a town is to look up past the store signs, quite often you find lovely little design details that give hints of the buildings past life, Art Nouveau lettering carved in to the brickwork or sinuous patterns, I've even seen some lovely ceramic mosaics. If you are ever in Leicester then check out the Turkey Cafe on Granby Street, as an art student In Leicester I  never tired of looking up past the dreary Opticians below at the stunning tiled facade nestling between some quite ordinary buildings and I would wonder how many people just walked straight past it because they never bothered to look up.

If you live in the older house you may be lucky enough to still have an original Nouveau stained glass door, railings or fire place. We rent some office space in an old 18th century townhouse and there is the most beautiful original cast iron fireplace in the kitchen  that had been blocked up and painted over with white emulsion - such a shame! 

As I mentioned before, Art Nouveau crossed in to all areas of design, and print media was no exception. My father, a Marine Historian has shelves crammed full of old books and I  have always enjoyed rummaging through the shelves. I am not that interested in Marine History, it is the bindings I love, embossed and foiled entwined flowers and foliage. The publisher  Blackie & Sons (ceased trading in 1991) produced some beautiful bindings, many designed by the illustrator Talwin Morris who was also responsible for introducing Walter Blackie to  one Charles Rennie Mackintosh. This resulted in Blackie commissioning Mackintosh to design The Hill House in Helensburgh. I would thoroughly recommend if you have the opportunity to visit this property that you take it, every last detail was designed by Mackintosh (with input from his wife Margaret Macdonald  Mackintosh) from the Furniture to the light fittings & rugs,  and I feel like it is a bridge in to the world of modern design. There are so many more examples I could mention (the Nottingham Zara building for one), but why don't you start looking and see how many examples of Art Nouveau you can find, and let me know what your favourites are.

Our New Tree of Hearts Design

Our New Tree of Hearts Design




My Favourite Children's Illustrators

I have been busy wrapping presents this weekend including a number of books, and it reminded me that I am still a sucker for a beautifully illustrated children's book.

It all started before I could even read properly, I would pore over my parents pre- loved copies of Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland & the Water Babies Illustrated by Alice B Woodward, Margaret Tarrant &  Mabel Lucie Atwell from the early to mid part of the 20th Century. I would search for the coloured plates and memorise every last detail, I still have the books and find Hugh loves them just as much.

When I started school I became obsessed with Meg and Mog illustrated by Jan Pieńkowski, full of colour and energy, a great example of how a simple concept executed well can inspire children to engage in reading. Another big favourite at this time was Miffy created by Dick Bruna, what amazes me now about Miffy is how timeless it is. I had no idea until I started to write this post that it was originally created in 1955, Miffy is  a world away from other Children's illustrators of the 1950s and with the last Miffy book having been published in 2007 it is still relevant to children today.

http://www.janpienkowski.com/books/meg-and-mog/

http://www.miffy.com

As I began to read chapter books, two Illustrators stand out, E. H. Shepard & Quentin Blake.  Although Wind in the Willows & Winnie the Pooh were originally illustrated in the early part of the 20th century, colour re-illustrations were added to both in 1969 & 1970 and so were exposed to a whole new generation of children. Winnie the Pooh was my favourite, I read it and re- read it, I still love the gentle quality of the pencil sketches and the depiction of  adventures in the countryside. On reflection I think our family time is in part inspired by Winnie the Pooh, walking through fields in wellies, playing Pooh Sticks at the little bridge over the stream near our home and dragging big sticks behind us - oh and not to forget that Grandpa makes HUNNY! Even some of my family photos seem to be inspired by Piglet and Pooh walking off in to the sunset!

I got to know Quentin Blake (as I expect most of us did) through the books of Roald Dahl and his illustrations capture perfectly the naughty mischievous nature of Roald Dahl's writing.  More recently I discovered Quentin Blakes own children's books and the Green Ship has become a firm favourite not only of Hugh but of his daddy!

Back to what originally prompted me to write this post, there are some amazing illustrated books around for children today. Yesterday I purchased a copy of A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton for a small person in our family and it is a  thing of real beauty to me. Hugh is devastated that we are giving it away and a little part of me is too. It has a rare quality of being quite clean and simple while at the same time having tiny little details for your child to search out. I am massively inspired by the slightly vintage  colours and layered tonal quality of the illustration. See his work at http://chrishaughton.com

Another current favourite is Jon Klassen. I recently purchased a copy of This is not My Hat for our young friend George which again I had to prise from my sons hands. A simple yet clever story, with a sponge printed/ paint splattered style of of illustration on a black background, its become a favourite with George and his mummy & daddy, and inspired a lovely  fish thank you card from him. Someone closer to home will be getting a copy of I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen for Christmas as consolation for giving away 2 such lovely books!

You can see pages from This Is Not My Hat  here (I am afraid it is the US site as you cannot look inside the book on rthe UK one)  http://www.amazon.com/This-Not-Hat-Jon-Klassen/dp/0763655996/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387733531&sr=1-1

 

 

 

Oh dear - yes it was me who scribbled on this!

Oh dear - yes it was me who scribbled on this!

Peter Pan by Mabel Lucie Attwell

Peter Pan by Mabel Lucie Attwell

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The Illustrations in The Water Babies remind me of our son Hugh when he was toddler!

The Illustrations in The Water Babies remind me of our son Hugh when he was toddler!

Piglet and Pooh going for a walk

Piglet and Pooh going for a walk

Pooh Sticks!

Pooh Sticks!

Its nearly Christmas!

Every Year I produce hampers for our friends at X-Press Legal Services in Witney. They are a local business who pride themselves in supporting the local business community and offering a personalised service. With this in mind we always try and reflect a little bit of Witney in the design we produce.  So I thought I would share with you how this years design evolved. One saturday back in July I was enjoying  the sun on Church Green in Witney with my 5 year old son. Mummy can I draw in your sketch book said Hugh, and he set about drawing St Mary's Church at the top of the green. As we talked about what we could see I noticed the rather lovely tree to the right of the church and I had that 'i can do something with that' feeling. I was seeing owls and bird boxes and little hanging signs. There was no way I was getting my sketch book back for more than a minute so I hastily sketched a quick rough before the pencil was wrestled from my hand! And there that little sketch sat for a couple of months, I kept thinking about it and in the back of my mind it was going to be a family tree picture with little named bird boxes.  Then when I started to research for Christmas it came in a flash - what could be better for a business on the edge of Church Green than that lovely tree I sketched in the summer.

I am still thinking about it as a family tree picture… so watch this space!

The Tree by the Church

The Tree by the Church

My hastily produced scribble!

My hastily produced scribble!

The finished design

The finished design