Back to Normality

So this week it was back to work – and it went incredibly quickly! Which is lovely. Except when the little part of my mind, hidden away at the back goes ‘One more week gone, one more week closer to that deadline!’ My dissertation is due in on the 4th September, so now just less than nine months away, and while the reasonable part of my brain is telling me I have plenty of time, just keep doing what you’re doing, that little part of my brain is making me worry – I can see whole weeks vanishing before my eyes, it’ll be end of July and end of supervision before I know it, I’m not doing enough. And round and round this goes. So last night I decided to settle down at my desk with Richard Castle and Kate Beckett (my latest favourite TV show, Castle) and my school sketchbook which I use to help out the kids. I decided, as I was feeling quite inspired by their lesson yesterday, I would have a go at the little homework they’d been set – creating a research page in their sketchbooks on Kandinsky. This little project did exactly what it was supposed to do: distract my mind and allow me to relax and have fun without worrying for a couple of hours. I’m also really pleased with the double-page spread I produced!

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I used images from Kandinsky’s works and cut the letters free-hand for the title, I then selected some of my favourites to add to the rest of the page. I stuck to the same mini-brief that the kids were given: Key facts, no white spaces, plus both cut-outs and drawings from Kandinsky’s works. I tried to use the elements of Kandisky’s works that I love; mainly the geometric shapes, the colours, and the layers.

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My own drawings and the background have been produced using watercolours and my lovely new set of Derwent Academy Sketch and Colour pencils which I won from a Niki Pilkington Facebook competition (an awesome artist who creates images for Derwent’s packaging among other things). One thing I borrowed from the teacher’s demonstration was cutting out bits from the image and layering them onto the page – I then had a play with trying to recreate the effect of the slightly faded colours around the circles using the pencils.

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I had so much fun creating this double-page. It’s been a long time since I produced an artist research page, and it made me think that I should do it more often – it forces you to look a little closer at artists’ works, how they’ve produced certain effects, whether those effects can be produced in other materials, and even looking at the influences behind the pieces. What was even better was discovering just how much I loved the format of this little sketchbook. It’s size and shape meant that I could work at my desk, where I don’t have much space, and it also forced me to think about how I was going to compose the page as I wasn’t used to working in such a small area. I think I’m definitely going to be doing more of these in future!

And so 2013 ends…

So I haven’t done quite as much blogging and arting as I would have hoped this year, but that just comes from being busy doing other amazing things! This has been a fantastic year for me; there have been some moments, obviously, that have gotten me down, but I’ve achieved so much and I can’t help seeing that the good times outweigh the bad this year. Here’s just a few things that have made me happy and grateful this year:

  • Started my new job – and quit a job I hated
  • Started my dissertation
  • Published – twice!
  • Gave my first conference paper
  • Celebrating six years’ of being with my gorgeous fiancee

It’s been a pretty good year!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 960 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 16 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Late night crafting

So thanks to my latest bout of cold (seriously haven’t had this much illness since I was at school myself!) my sleep pattern is entirely out of whack, I keep having to nap. So I took advantage of the fact that I wasn’t feel quite as crappy (thanks to a four hour nap and some dinner) to work on my mini-album and the hand-decorated notebooks that I’m giving to my Creative Writing group regulars.

I started with the notebooks as I was beginning to worry they might not get done. My production line started like this:

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I was playing with layout, lettering, and even trying out a splash of water colour. I had a lot of different ideas but I knew I wanted to keep each book fairly similar. Several hours later (after working on them either side of my mini-album page), this is what I have:

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I’m quite pleased with them. They’re really simple, minimal differences, but still aesthetically pleasing. Let’s face it – these books are going to end up rather mangled after a while so the simplicity of them works. I’m hoping the girls will use them to write/make notes on their next project. In the morning, I’m going to finish them off on the sewing machine (the pennant and the ribbon in the background are fabric so sewing will be best).

I have also been working on the mini-album, as I said. I’ve only managed two pages so far but it is coming together nicely, hopefully I’ll do some more tomorrow while I work on some Christmas cards. I completed this one on Wednesday:

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I had a great evening at the university; staff/student Christmas party/book launch. It really inspired me to get started, despite wanting to do nothing else but sleep! I enjoyed playing with some of the new embellishments I’d bought or been sent in my subscription boxes. I started off by adding some white paint with a brush and some corrugated card, then there are bits from both the September/October and November/December Quirky Kits, stamps from Paperchase, and paper and embellishments from the DoCrafts Back to Basics Christmas range. The gold ink on the stamps, the gold paper clip, and the gold thread in the twine really set the whole page off. I also got to try my new white Signo gel pen, it’s perfect! (I also still love that giant rickrack – need to buy some more as I have now run out!)

I did another page today, talking about my crafting which cheered me up from being ill. I’m so pleased with this page, it’s so Christmassy!

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I’ve been wanting to use my laser-cut embellishments from Hobbycraft for ages so I started with one of those, cutting it down to fit the page snugly. I then used a Tim Holtz Distress Ink pad and some cotton wool along the exposed edges, and rubbed the remains over the page. I love the contrast between the iridescent embellishment and the grungy background paper. Finally, I added the wooden embellishments (which I have been looking for an excuse to use as well!) before I used my white gel pen to journal. I wasn’t entirely happy with the page, it was missing something… then I spotted my Back to Basics pearls which added a little extra shine to my decorations! I want more of my pages to be like this one, I just love it!

Christmas crafting and goodies!

Once again I got very busy. The weeks just seem to disappear; work during the day, dissertation in the evening. But I have been managing to do a little crafting and arting even if I haven’t posted about it! Today I settled down to do some Christmas stuff – like my mini-album. I spent a bit of time getting organised so that I have pages ready to go during the week when I don’t have as much time, so here’s what I have so far:

Christmas album so far

Christmas album so far

I made the front page prior to going home last weekend and I’m really pleased with it! Just got to figure out how to get ’2013′ in there, I haven’t settled on a way yet as nothing’s really caught my fancy… although my new Quirky Kit arrived today with some really pretty twine which I might use. (I’ll show you the kit later on in the post, it’s gorgeous!) The inside pages are made from 6×6″ paper sewn together (for extra strength and to make them double-sided), I’ve used two different packs to add variety – Papermania 12 Days of Christmas pack and Dovecraft’s Back to Basics pack. I love the combination of colours, lots of golds, reds, greens and even a splash of blue! It feels so Christmassy already. I’ll try to update as I make the pages. I’m currently seven days behind, and the photos I was hoping to include might not make an appearance as my printer is rejecting the Wilko’s own-brand photo paper I bought, which is rather annoying… I will just have to include plenty of journaling, which is even more of an incentive to keep up-to-date! I haven’t decided how to make it into a book yet, but I might treat myself to a Zutter Bind-It-All with my Christmas money.

Another thing I have been doing today is making tags for Christmas presents while I’ve been wrapping. This one’s my favourite so far:

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I’m really loving the grungy-vintage Christmas theme this year, so I’m using a lot of sepia toned ink! (Namely Tim Holtz Vintage Photograph ink pad). I’m also loving my stamps from Paperchase, I’m building quite a collection of stamps and inks now. Oh, and you might like to see my crafting area?

Taking up all the floor-space in the living room...

Taking up all the floor-space in the living room…

Not sure why but I love sitting on the floor to craft – something about all that room, I think (much to my fiance’s dismay!) I even had my huge craft drawers pulled out beside me, just out of the shot. I’ve tidied away for now… but I might get it out again later so I can work on a couple of pages of the album, I’ll get dinner out of the way first.

Another reason for wanting to get everything back out is that  (as I mentioned before) my lovely Quirky Kit arrived earlier! And it’s awesome:

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Look at it all! Stamps, ink, rub-ons, stickers, wooden embellishments, beautiful glittery twine, washi tape, paperclips and cardstock embellishments. So much to play with, the washi tape and twine are perfect for Christmas too. I’m glad I changed my mind and went for the embellishments kit, because I tend to use more in terms of embellishments than paper. However, there were some really nice papers in the main kit which went onto the Extras page so I treated myself to some of them as well!

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My favourite is the middle paper, beautiful watercolour-look and the stars are cut-out, it’ll be great to layer. Honestly can’t wait to play with all this stuff, and looking forward to my next kit in February already!

Getting my butt in gear!

So I’ve enjoyed nearly a full week off work and annoyingly I’m no further on with my dissertation for it. Thanks to an ear infection and generally bluesy mood, I haven’t been able to motivate myself to do much – my brain has been going ‘No! I refuse! You said ‘week off’ so I’m having a week off!’ Well, I’m fighting back today. With Academic Writing Month. And muffins. That’s right, I’m going to bake my way out of my blues! I’m going to spend the remainder of my holiday from work reading, writing and note-making – with muffins and AcWriMo as my support (oh, and of course, my awesome fiance!) Thank God for November!

Aside

Quirky Kits ~ I think I’m in love

So all I’ve had time for recently is my Super Secret Project – which will be ongoing till Christmas Day when I’m giving it as a Christmas present. Unfortunately, I can’t share any of it… because it’s a secret… and my partner, the person it’s for, follows this blog. Which means I don’t actually have any artwork or craft stuff to share with you. I have a little cross stitching on the go but it’s all at an odd stage, I have a few kits I’d like to start… but nothing to share.

However! I recently discovered Quirky Kits - one of those wonderful places where you subscribe and get sent a collection of craft goodies. This one is every other month which is perfect for me as I like new things to play with but I think I’d be overloaded by a monthly one as I don’t have much time on my hands to sit and play (in other words, it’s perfect for all you busy people out there). I had spent ages trying to find a subscription based in the UK – most of the overseas ones are a little expensive when it comes to postage. When I stumbled across Quirky Kits I was super excited – not only were they based in the UK, they weren’t ludicrously expensive (£25 every other month – well within my crafty budget) and the stuff inside each box was just beautiful. At first, I was disappointed that I couldn’t subscribe, the current kit was lovely. I got in contact to ask when subscriptions opened again and received a lovely email informing me they would be open on the 1st November, and if I wanted, there might be a kit leftover from the current lot. I didn’t get my hopes up, in case the original subscriber did get back and say they wanted it… but a few days later I got an email saying that the kit was available, would I like it? Heck yes, I would! *ahem* Anyway, it arrived just before I went on holiday and, while I’ve already delved in (I couldn’t resist), I thought I’d share some of the contents with you!

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So many goodies in here. 12×12 double-sided papers, cardstock stickers, chipboard buttons (self-adhesive! Great because I’m so messy with PVA glue…), giant rickrack (which I’m in love with!), lovely stripey ribbon, bakers twine, mini envelopes, fabric embellishments, tags, and tiny little decorated pegs! I think you’ll agree that £25 inc. postage was not at all bad.

One of the things I love the most about these boxes is that for a newbie like me, there’s almost always going to be something I haven’t tried before. For example, the giant rickrack. I’ve never used anything like rickrack in my work before… to be honest at first I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Until I got an email from the Quirky Kits Blog with an example of what they’d done with the rickrack – now I’m in love with it and want more to play with! I’ve also never used bakers twine, fabric embellishments, or mini pegs – so much to explore. And there’s still plenty of familiar stuff for me to play with too! Honestly can’t wait to see what’s in the next kit. The only thing I might do is change to the Embellishments Kit, as I don’t tend to use a lot of 12×12 paper (I never work in 12×12) but I do use a lot of embellishments and journaling blanks.

So stupidly busy!

Working full-time and working on my dissertation is really draining my time right now – as you can probably tell from this being the first post I’ve made since August. However I have managed to squeeze in some craft-time, which I’m enjoying more than ever because it’s become such a rare luxury!

I’ve been planning on updating the blog all week but this is first chance I’ve had; something exciting arrived at the end of last week:

Zen Doodle - Find my tangle inside!

Zen Doodle – Find my tangle inside!

I got published again! My tangle is in the top-left-hand corner of the front cover (yep, I’m on the front cover!) Can’t begin to tell you just how psyched I am about this. It’s a beautiful book, and a real honour to have my work among so many other beautiful pieces. I was especially happy to discover that they teach Zen Tangles at the school where I work, so the art teachers have had a good gander too.

In the meantime, I’ve been getting even more into my scrapbooking, there’s something about taking your time to really compose and design your layout, so different to the way I art journal, that I really enjoy. It’s quite relaxing. I decided to scrapbook my 30 Days of Lists (using the March 2011 prompts). They are quite contrasting pages because of the different collections I was using:

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On the left, I have mainly used the G45 Steampunk Spells and Charms collection, on the right there’s a mixture of the G45 Steampunk collection, some Maggie Holmes ephemera, and a journaling page from the La-De-Dah Creative collection. Both of them use Coredinations cardstock which I am absolutely in love with! I am even more in love with my Sizzix Bigshot – such a lucky girl to have one – my new favourite die is Tim Holtz’s Alterations Torn Notebook which I’ve used with some Distress Ink and the Coredinations card stock in the first page. Both of them are experiments in composition, especially using colour and distressing. The first I’ve used subdued shades, dark colours, then the splash of orange provided by the collection. The second I wanted to combine a warm and cool colour, hence the girly pink and the cooler turquoise. They’re such different pages but I really loved creating both of them – I think they show some of the different sides to me, my girly side versus my fondness for the weird and dark.

Final note, I have to share with you my latest acquisition – very excited about this. I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to get my hands on a Smash Folio. I loved the idea of them but I couldn’t find one that I wanted, none of them were quite right for me. Well, on my last foray into Hobbycraft’s website, I discovered the La-De-Dah journal collection – which are perfect and a step up from the Smash Folios, in my opinion. Once again, you have your beautiful pages, the pen-and-glue-in-one, gorgeous kraft-coloured cover with the fabric binding – with the added bonus of it being refillable and being able to move the pages! At the moment, there is only one pack of new page designs, but I’m sure they’ll bring out more soon. I bought mine the other day after work at Hobbycraft, so happy that it’s on my route home. Last night I treated myself to some time working on the front cover:

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I’m so pleased with how this turned out – it was my first proper piece of scrapbooking, laying everything out, sketching out what it should look like in my head, arranging it, then eventually gluing things down. Working from the bottom up, we have two 6×6 patterned sheets from the G45 Steampunk Spells collection and my favourite Coredinations cardstock die-cut with the Tim Holtz die mentioned above (and sanded heavily!) I have used 3D foam adhesive to raise the green ‘notepaper’ and add depth. The ephemera mainly comes from the Maggie Holmes collection mentioned before, with a chipboard piece from the Steampunk Spells collection, and the tree, letters, and brads come from discount and pound-shop packs. The ‘Notes’ card and blank label I’m leaving to fill in later when I’ve figured out a few more things to do with the build-up towards applying for my PhD. I’ve got my fingers crossed that over the next four years, I’ll be filling this book up (maybe even having to buy new journals) – if not, it’ll be filled in when I manage a successful application. I want to fill it with my thoughts and ideas and feelings as I progress from thinking about my application, applying, going through my interview (even repeats of this process should I need to) and then during the PhD years themselves. I find that the act of filling a page with either art journaling or scrapbooking allows for more reflection time than merely ‘thinking’. It’s also very relaxing – which I think I will be in much need of should I manage to get to that point! Keep your fingers crossed for me – just in case working my butt of isn’t quite enough, I might need some luck too haha

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