Monday, 30 January 2017

Belated Burns' Night greetings

I'm well aware that I'm somewhat late with this post - I was all set to post it on the appropriate date (25th January), but an unexpected job interview cropped up, sending me into a major panic, and pushing everything else to one side.  So please forgive the belated nature of this posting.

Burns' Night is an annual event I grew up with, having been born and raised in Scotland, although I don't think my parents (who were English and Welsh), were particularly enamoured with the event.  But I must confess to a liking for haggis, and having recently re-discovered a fondness for my Scottish roots, I thought I'd mark the significant date with a tribute to the Bard of Ayrshire, Robert Burns.

I found this lovely poem of his, 'Yon Wild Mossy Mountains', which to me conveys much of the charm of the Scottish landscape, and this beautiful painting by Gustave Dore seems to match it perfectly.

'Scottish Highlands' by Gustave Dore

I slightly cropped the image and combined it with the poem in one of my favourite book formats: the accordion book.  The tartan which covers the front and back covers was from a batch of fat quarters I had recently ordered from eBay, and I just loved the red, green and gold colours on it.  I toyed with the idea of creating a presentation box in which to house the book, but in the end, I settled on a simple sleeve which I covered in green bookcloth, to tone in with the green in the tartan, and embellished it with a silver thistle charm, the thistle being the floral emblem of Scotland.

It's been fun, and I've loved working on this project.  Hopefully next year, I'll get my Burns' Night tribute out on time!

See you next time

Saturday, 31 December 2016

End of year musings

It's that time again - and, as always, I find myself in reflective mode, thinking about the year gone by; what I've achieved, what I've messed up, and pondering what next year will bring.

I don't do New Year's resolutions any more - too much pressure.  I always start off with the usual good intentions - lose weight, get fit, eat healthy, cut down on the alcohol - until about the second week in January, when you realise what a rubbish month it is, and you need something (usually in the form of unhealthy food or alcohol) to cheer yourself up.

I know, on a general level, that 2016 has not been a vintage year - political upheaval, and a seemingly unprecedented high level of celebrity deaths being amongst the contributory factors - but on a personal level, 2016 feels somewhat like the year when I began to pick myself up.  After a tough few years which had seen me witness my mother's deterioration and subsequent death from cancer, followed by my father's death six months later, and some extra 'goodies' such as illness, redundancy, severe depression, and strained family relationships thrown in for good measure, I felt as though maybe things were starting to pick up for me in 2016.

From the outside, nothing much had changed, but my attitude and outlook became more receptive to change and possibilities.  Top of the list was finding the passion to create again.  For so long, I hadn't wanted to create anything - I didn't see the point and I just felt dead inside.  So when the desire to create re-surfaced, it was significant for me on so many levels.  In addition, re-opening my Etsy shop and making some sales, AND getting some wonderful, heartfelt feedback was EVERYTHING, and made me realise that my work did have a point after all.  Coupled with this, I realised what a wonderful set of friends and immediate family I have, and how grateful I am for their support.  So I end the year feeling blessed, daring to be hopeful for the future, and trying to forget about the bad things in the past - a sentiment echoed in this quote:

"Sometimes you have to forget what's gone, appreciate what remains, and look forward to what's coming next."

To everyone, best wishes for 2017 - Enjoy! x

Monday, 19 December 2016

I believe in Father Christmas...I think

It is with much sadness that I learned of the death of Greg Lake earlier this month - just the latest in a seemingly endless list of famous casualties who have left us this year.  I knew little about Greg Lake, other than his Emerson, Lake & Palmer connection, but I suspect, like many other people, the connection I associate with him most, is the enduring Christmas classic 'I believe in Father Christmas'.

Greg Lake: Maple Leaf Gardens, performing with Emerson, Lake, and Palmer in Toronto, Feb. 3, 1978 Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin

Released in 1975, and written by Lake and Pete Sinfield, this has remained one of my favourite Christmas songs, for its ability to transport me back to the innocence of childhood Christmases, with evocative lyrics such as 'I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn'; for its beautiful melody, enhanced by the snippet of Prokofiev's 'Sleigh Ride' instrumental; and for its thoughtful sentiment, which hints at the loss of innocence - 'I saw him and through his disguise' - and the growing commercialism of Christmas.

'Santa's Portrait' byThomas Nast, published in Harper's Weekly, 1881
It's a multi-layered song, brilliantly described by co-writer Pete Sinfield as 'a picture-postcard Christmas with morbid edges'.

Even though the childhood excitement of Christmas has long-gone for me, I still love the festive season, and I consider myself lucky to have been blessed with so many happy memories of this time, spent with loved ones, many of whom are no longer around.  It can be bitter-sweet, but I'm glad I have those memories, and one of the great joys of Christmas, for me, is the sense of continuity with the past.  In a world which is rapidly changing, sometimes too quickly, we take comfort in the traditions and rituals associated with Christmas...including Father Christmas.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Until next time...bye for now x

Monday, 12 December 2016

The Golden Age of Travel

This week's post focuses on the golden age of travel, and was inspired by the vintage travel poster, the bright colours and bold typography of which exude retro charm in bucketloads, capturing the glamour and excitement of passenger travel by boat, plane and train, and creating a sense of nostalgia for a bygone era.

Now highly collectable, the monetary value of these posters depend on factors such as print method, originality and designer.

Vintage travel poster

I love the warm colours of these images, and have wanted to incorporate them into my work for so long.  With many of these images now in the public domain, and freely available, I've featured some of them in a set of notepad holders which (so far) feature images of Stockholm, Venice and Paris.

Vintage images of Stockholm, train and boat, and Venice used on covers of notepad holders on Etsy

For further information on these wonderful images, have a
look at Free Vintage Posters , the London Transport Museum
online poster collection, or have a read with 'The Golden Age
of Railway Posters' by Michael Palin, published by Batsford.

Until next time, bye for now x

Friday, 2 December 2016

Life in miniature

I've always found miniature books very appealing.  Something about the attention to detail, and being able to hold this miniature work of art in the palm of your hand is incredibly satisfying.  I first became inspired to make some miniature books after purchasing the wonderful book 'The Neale M. Albert Collection of Miniature Designer Bindings', from an exhibition held at the John Rylands Library in Manchester.  The designer bindings were a revelation to me, introducing me to a whole new dimension in bookbinding, and the fact that they were miniatures only added to the appeal.  My creations were also a useful way to use up all the extra materials left over after making 'proper' sized books, and although they were blank inside, and technically not really 'miniature' (miniature books by definition are sized between 0.5 inches square to roughly 2 x 3 inches, and no larger than 3 inches in height, width or thickness), I still like to refer to them as miniature books, and continually delight in their compact, small but perfectly formed, nature.

In preparation for Christmas, I've been working on some miniatures which double up as Christmas tree ornaments.  Left blank inside, they are hardback and embellished with images of vintage Christmas flowers and plants placed beneath a cabochon.

For more information about this intriguing art form, I recommend having a look at the Miniature Book Society website, and of course, check out some of the awesome artists on Etsy, who create some wonderful examples of this book form.

  Until next time, bye for now x
Miniature Christmas book decorations

Friday, 7 October 2016

Take a seat...The Little Book of Chairs

It's been a long time since I posted a blog.  A long list of excuses covering everything from bereavement to redundancy and mid-life crisis could be legitimately used to explain my absence, but rather than bore you with the details, I'll simply ask you to accept my apologies, and sit back and relax to enjoy the latest posting, which looks at my latest project - on the theme of...chairs.

I'm no antiques expert, but I've always loved those old-fashioned, button-back chairs in leather or velvet.  To me, they are like works of art, extolling the virtues of craftsmanship and skill belonging to another age.

Partly inspired by a similar chair, which takes pride of place in our living room, and partly inspired by some wonderful black and white illustrations found on the 'Graphics Fairy' website, I decided to create a memento dedicated to the beauty of the button back chair in the form of an accordion picture book.

I wanted to convey the sumptuousness and elegance of this style of seating, and originally, had plans to house the book in a mock, padded chair-type structure.  I even created a padded piece covered in leather and upholstery tacks, but wasn't overly keen on the effect.

As so often happens during the creative process, the original ideas don't always materialise in the way that they appear in your mind.  I'd bought some beautiful covering paper from a bookbinders in Halifax a few years ago, which had a mottled, wood-effect design, and with this in mind, I made a small slipcase in which to house the concertina and covered it with the paper.  I kind of liked it as it was and decided against any more additional touches.

Thanks for reading.  Until next time, bye for now!

Monday, 3 June 2013

The creative muse

Apologies for lack of recent blogging activity.  Life really does get in the way sometimes.  I've been working hard on an indexing project which is a little out of my comfort zone, and has stretched me to the limit.  In addition, I've spent time caring for my mother who has terminal cancer - a challenge of even greater proportions.

Both commitments have left little time for creative endeavours, but I did manage to submit an entry into the exhibition 'Rain', held at the Funky Aardvark in Chester (my first ever exhibit!), as well as completing a number of mini notebooks for the Funky Aardvark shop.  In addition, I've had a few commissions to work on which have presented their own unique challenges.  Having never received any formal arts training, or even remotely considered myself an artist, I found it terrifying to be confronted with a blank canvas (in book form), and told to "express my personality" on the cover.  Feeling far from creative, possibly as a result of worrying about my mum, amongst other things, and knowing little about my client's taste, I lay awake over several nights, worrying about the result of the project, the deadline for which was growing ever nearer, and eventually produced a notebook which was adequate, but hardly inspired.  Thankfully the gentleman who had requested the commission was understanding of my situation, and was happy enough with the result, but I had a definite feeling of what I can only describe as 'incompleteness' (is that even a word?) with the results of my efforts.

Since then, I've managed to fire myself up a bit more, and have indulged my passion for fine bindings, artists' books and the like, and the ideas and inspiration have been a bit more forthcoming.  But the whole experience has brought into sharp focus just how elusive the creative muse can be at times, and how much simpler it would be if we could turn it on and off like a tap.

As an example, as I walked my mum's dogs this morning across the fields in the heart of rural Worcestershire (about as far removed from my urban Manchester home as you can get), although feeling tired and anxious from worry and lack of sleep, the sun was shining, and as my eight year-old daughter ran amongst the tall grasses ahead of me, the sight of her tomato red cardigan contrasting with the fresh green of the grass was truly beautiful and inspiring.  I then noticed the plants and living things around me, and immediately began to feel more alive.  Sometimes it really is just the simple things that make a difference....

Until next time...happy creating!