During this last few weeks of lockdown I have been in Germany. I was visiting when everything unfolded and had to stay put. It was definitely for me the best thing my only problem was that I had very few materials here for making work or money to buy things due to loosing the majority of my income in one go. I love the phrase ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and am very aware that all the best equipment in the world doesn’t necessarily equal quality or good work in some cases it can actually hinder thought processes and make us a bit lazy. I am particularly fond of a challenge and creating something from nothing, with a nod to recycling and minimising waste. So all of this has led me to make a series of sketchbooks that would enable me to draw all the things I wanted to during this time. Currently I have made five…
The first one was made from collecting end pages from some old books picked up from a free book swap box a couple of minutes walk away from where I am staying. One of the books provided the black outside cover and the three signatures of pages were stitched inside. I left most of the edges rough and this book has been for drawings of objects from my surroundings. I love how an object tells a story and sparks memories. In another post I will share some of the drawings.
Next came the ‘Fat Boy’! This one began with the label which I removed from a large bean bag chair thing that was being thrown away due to holes. It is really tough material and seemed the perfect length for a spine, the rest of the book evolved from there. It has hard covers made from off-cuts of board covered with pages from an old Italian book on engineering. The signatures are made from used wrapping paper, magazine pages washed over with white paint and some old card file dividers not needed any more. I am always picking up things when I am out and about so already had a little selection of bottle tops that when flattened made great bookmark ends. Finally I made a pocket inside the front cover and voila a second sketchbook.
After the second sketchbook I was really pleased with the magazine pages washed with white. I used a matt acylic which had created a lovely chalky texture that was working well with all my drawing materials. So on another trip to the book swap box I collected a couple of architecture magazines which had some great images in I was thinking of using for collage. However I realised that the paper was quite thick and might work well painted with white for drawing on. So book three emerged. Completely made from the architecture magazine and white paint. Three signatures stitched into a cover made from two interesting pages stuck together. This one was finished off with my corner rounder just for a little touch of class!
The final two are made in a similar way using a kind of adjusted coptic stitch to attach the signatures together and I left these without a cover. The main difference was the paint used for the white pages. This time I tried a furniture paint using a roller to apply it. The surface is nice and smooth but a bit to slippery for watercolours but good for pen and ink, biro or fine liner.
I am sure as the weeks go on I will keep experimenting but for now I hope this maybe inspires you to use the things you have to hand and that a lack of materials or money doesn’t have to mean a lack of creativity, actually I think that the opposite is true!
While I’ve been busy creating postcards for commissions I started experimenting with timelapses. I have to say it’s become really rather addictive. There are several over on my YouTube channel and also on my instagram page if you’d like to see but for now here’s a couple to give you an idea.
With most of the world in lock down at the moment many people are finding that they are isolated from the people they love and even though technology is amazing it isn’t the same as a real person or maybe even a hug. I had the idea of sending handmade postcards to people I know who are on their own for whatever reason as a way of saying I am thinking of you. It is personal, time was taken to make it and I hope communicates care and is a nice surprise. Below are some of the designs that have been received so far.
I like many others at the moment have lost most of my usual income and have been thinking of new ways to help during this time and earn some money to pay my bills. So I am offering my personal postcard services to you. I will draw/paint a 5 x 7 inch postcard either on white or brown card add a message of your choice and send to anywhere in the world! I am asking only £20/€22/$23 per card. I hope that it will be a blessing to someone you know as well as helping me to keep going. If you are interested email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with details of what you would like. If at the moment for whatever reason this is not for you please can I urge you to maybe make your own or write a letter to someone I can guarantee it will be warmly received!
Pretty much everyone is experiencing social distancing at the moment and staying home during the conovirus outbreak doing our bit to keep each other safe. Some of you may well have your hands full with children, animals or projects already planned. If you are looking for something to do or would just like to crack out your creative side then here are three short films to help get you started. Below are a set of tools that will help but they are not essential so please don’t panic if you don’t have all these things.
The first one is a simple concertina book made with pages from a magazine and can be made in any size or dimension you like.
This next film shows you how to make a concertina book with pockets. A great way to keep lots of your treasures and photographs safe and in one place. Or you could make a set of little cards using collage or simple drawings of things around your home or even draw each member of your family to pop into each pocket. Those of you who like to play with words could use this book to collect ideas/words/poems or stories.
This final film is lots of fun and is all about playing. You can make the concertina in this book as long or as short as you like, or like my book in the previous post make a little collection that can interact with each other, it’s all about playing and experimenting.
I hope you find these helpful and I would love to see what people create, please feel free to email me some images and feedback. Now go and have some fun!
This month’s ‘are you book enough’ challenge was Hexagon and it turns out that March is also Hexagon appreciation month! I have never really played with the shape before. To begin with I wasn’t sure what to do but after some research about hexagons in nature I was quite blown away by just how many things have a hexagon as a building block for their structure. I had thought I’d choose one thing to focus on but ended up thinking about nature in general picking the colours of the rainbow to represent everything. This piece is really playful thinking of hexagons as building blocks so I wanted the pieces to come out and become a number of structures. I kept the back of each piece white as white is the sum of all colours. The box it sits in shows all the workings out for the patterns, the basic structures within structures that a hexagon has. When the pieces are used to build you can create a flower and a tree which represent the life that is touched in some way by the hexagon.
My second book took a fraction of the time my other one did and I think I like it better. It’s again about the hexagon being an ancient building block for lots of life. The three sections are covered with images of ancient monuments and simple brown card for the rest. Each book has six pages each side. There are six covers all together. The books fold out into building blocks to play with and create lots of different shapes including a hexagon. In this film the end assemblage signifies life/nature with two hexagon trees and the earth. Called chapter one as it’s about the beginning of everything.
I think it is pretty obvious how much fun it has been playing with the hexagon. I am pretty sure it will be appearing again in a book somewhere very soon!
February’s ‘are you book enough’ challenge was Heal. For me making little books has been such a godsend in times when life happenings have been painful, stressful or a bit all consuming. I take myself away from it all and hide in the studio to play and let magical things happen, so in one sense any of my books could come under the category of ‘heal’.
This little book has been a particularly cathartic exercise. Made entirely from ephemera left by my parents. Letters they wrote to each other in the year before they were married, wedding photos and bank statements from the first year of their lives together. It was designed using a turkish map fold which I altered to fit the oval theme I wanted which echos a locket or keep sake. The structure and movement of the book reference a paper streamer used to decorate for a celebration and is a very playful thing which also picks up on the mood of the letters and the expectation of a new chapter in life. The leather case was not left by them but I wanted something to keep it safe and as much as I would love to have made a large silver locket, that is rather expensive and outside of my skill set, vintage leather seemed the right thing. This little book holds much that is precious to me and will be kept safe for a long time to come.
The second book for february was another teabag book (yes I am slightly obsessed by teabags!) This book is a little sense of place from a weekend spent with an old friend. We drank tea and shared our lives over a weekend during February. There was laughter, joy, tears, sadness and hope all in one weekend, everything you would expect from time with a friend. The book is made from the teabags we both used plus a map from around the area we were in and pages from a Thomas Hardy book of poetry, Thomas Hardy also being from around a similar area. The poem in the book was created by peicing together some of his words to echo my thoughts about that time.
The #areyoubookenough challenge for January was ‘in between’. I thought about many different concepts for this one but ended up pouring all my time into one book.
This little book is made up of three parts. It began as a vintage book sourced from a charity shop in Frankfurt. I took out the body of the book and cut the cover into three equal parts. Using a vintage english book, two maps and the rest of the german book I created a triptych book exploring my current life ‘in between’ two places. I live in Sheffield and my partner lives in Frankfurt.
One book is constructed of pages of english text and sections from a map of the area around Sheffield, one has german text and maps from around Frankfurt, and the final one is a mix of the two collaged together. I cut holes into the text pages so that maps would be visible through the text. The cut out circles were used as the collage pieces for the third book.
The central page of each book is the key place so Sheffield, Frankfurt and the mixed one is Manchester as that is the conduit that we both pass through to see each other. These central pages have been left solid as these are the streadfast places in my life, while everything around them is fluid. I am really pleased with the way the pages interact with each other making shadows and revealing places on the maps. The triptych format allows even more play with structure enabling them to be laid out simultaneously or left to form a dos-à-dos form. I used the spine from a third vintage book of poetry by Robert Browning and the title comes from a poem from that book called ‘By The fire Side’.
While I was away over christmas I took the fabric with me for a project that has been in my head for months now. I wanted to make something for each of my little neices as a memory of their Grandma who had passed away eighteen months ago. She was my mum’s sister and a very special lady to me too and this all started because I wanted to make something as a memory of her for myself. I had held onto some of her clothes for the purpose of creating something with them and a plan had been germinating in my imagination. The ‘From Grandma with love’ bear was born.
I found a pattern for an old fashioned teddy bear shape and my imagination went into overdrive! I cut out the pattern pieces and started playing around with combinations of fabrics (I was using a pair of jeans a dressing gown and a couple of tops). I wanted the bears to be like a family but all with something different so they were easy to tell appart from each other to prevent any mixups. The first one I made for myself as a test run.
Once the first one was made the other three were a complete joy to make! Each with a different little character that reflected the recipient a little bit whilst still being very much a reminder of Grandma. Grandma was known for her love of leopard print so a final little addition was a scarf for each of them made from her leopard print leggings! As you can see from the picture below they were extremely well recieved and that made me a very happy auntie indeed! One is still to be delivered but ssshhh that’s a secret…
Having enjoyed participating in the #areyoubookenough challenge for November so much I made a priority to find the time to concentrate on December’s word which was warmth. I had two very different ideas. One has a focus on memory and capturing a moment the other is a whimsical bit of fun.
This first book was made as a memory of a visit to a friend in Italy. I hadn’t seen her for over a year so it was lovely to catch up and share stories and laugh. All of this was a warm experience. Whilst there I collected all the tea bags we used and they became the signitures for the book. Tea bags need warmth to become that lovely rich colour when the tea infuses in the hot water so a second nod towards ‘warmth’. Finally where I stayed we are surrounded by olive trees 200 of which belong to my friend, they also require warmth to grow. I embroidered 100 little olive tree shapes throughout the book being aware they can be seen on both sides and each side is different so decided that would pass for 200! The rest of the paper and card used came from a book I picked up in a second hand shop whilst there. A lovely memory of an equally lovely visit.
The second book is a bit of frivolous pleasure. I thought it would be fun to make a cut out book of myself with each page being a layer of clothing until I am totally covered, warm and ready to head out into the cold. It was a little tricky lining everything up but I am happy with the results. I was particularly keen to make it as real as I could and also to draw the backs of the clothes as well as the fronts to keep the interest as the pages are turned. A very different project from usual but a lot of fun to do. I really enjoyed the challenge of learning the lotus stitch for the Japanese binding which I will be using again!
Looking forward to finding time for January’s ‘inbetween’ challenge watch this space…
I have just been very fortunate to take a couple of weeks out in Italy visiting two lovely friends, one in the Abruzzo region and one in Rome. I always have a sketchbook with me and try to take time out to sit and draw the things I am seeing. On this trip I especially took time for drawing in Rome spending several hours at each of the places I went, sometimes until I couldn’t feel my fingers any more! It is quite a strange sensation when the sun is burning the back of your legs through the layers of clothes but your fingers are frozen and turning blue…