Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Not what I'd planned for today at all

I saw my hub off to work at 7.15 this morning and decided to get on and do some serious housework before setting up my projects for this week. I'd only been motoring for about half an hour when I got a call from him. He cycles 10 miles each way, so he's under strict instructions to call me as soon as he arrives at work each day so I know he's safe. Unfortunately this was the morning he wasn't doing so well.

He'd been on a cycle path (thank goodness) when another cyclist rounded a bend and was about to hit him head on. Both of them swerved and hub was knocked off his bike. He was travelling downhill, so going at a fair speed. He was stopped by a wall. The other cyclist didn't even stop to see if he was OK!

This was the point where he called me and said he was going to walk the rest of the way because his bike was broken. I didn't know that it was another mile and a half and that he was carrying his bike on his back because of broken finger bones!

He got to work and was immediately sent off to hospital where the poor thing had to go through the ordeal of having his wounds scrubbed to remove all the gravel. They gave him gas and air which wasn't doing the job at all and finally administered a local to the worst areas before continuing.

I didn't know any of this until afterwards because he'd played it all down so as not to worry me. I felt terrible for not being there with him.

He went back to work just after lunch when they'd finished with him, but he was so poorly and still bleeding so they sent him home. One of the girls brought him back and he's been on the couch feeling worse and worse all afternoon. He's dosed up with painkillers and somewhat woozy, but not in as much pain now. He's VERY unhappy that it's his right hand all strapped up. He's in the middle of painting his entry for the Golden Demon competition - I don't think he'll be holding a paintbrush for a while. They say 6 weeks or so until it all heals. I know how cross I'd be if I was out of action for that long!

I am now playing nursie, not that I'm any good at it. I'm terrified to go near him in case I hurt one of his ouchies!

Monday, 30 May 2011

This is how to relax

We've been lounge lizards today here. I was supreme wifey and made a delicious cooked breakfast, much to the glee of hub, who usually grabs cereal. Next we installed ourselves on the couch, still in pyjamas and watched film after film after film. I spent the whole time knitting as well, just so I wasn't totally slobbish.

The bag is coming along nicely. I've finished the body of it and am now making the shoulder strap. After that I'll crochet some flowers to go on it, sew it all together and felt the whole lot. I can't help but think this would all be much easier and quicker if I were a knitting machine user, and I doubt I'll be making many more of these because it's so very time consuming. I did want to make just one though because I love felted bags muchly. I purposely chose a colour scheme that isn't my personal favourite because I will probably want to give it as a gift. If it went with all my outfits (black and purple) I don't think I'd ever part with it!

I'm still not dressed, though I have punctuated my day by having a bath and a read. I'm not sure how it could have been any more of a relaxing day. Wonderful!

Oh and for anyone who reads this before midnight and would like one of my paintings, there's a half price sale in my shop. One has already gone, four left. I'm now working on a whole load of new work in larger format, so they'll all be more expensive. Get it while it's hot folks! (edit - and another one gone)

Sunday, 29 May 2011


I've just become the proud recipient of the above award from the lovely Pam at http://lovesagoodyarn.blogspot.com/

"I love reading your blog and I think you deserve this, so I'm awarding you with the Versatile Blogger Award.

I'm also passing the rules for accepting this award:

* Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to their site in your original post.
* Tell us seven things about yourself.
* Pass along the award to five newly discovered bloggers.
* Contact these bloggers and let them know they got this award.

It’s as simple as that. Hope you accept!"

What a lovely thing to have! I've been blogging for many years and this is my first award of any sort. See, I said something good would happen today after passing the 50 milestone on here and my facebook page.

Seven things about me? OK, here goes.

1. I adore pumpkins. Autumn is a most glorious time of year for me and I always go to the pumpkin farm on my birthday to choose some special characterful ones for carving. I take the carving very seriously. I also collect ceramic, glass and any other sorts of pumpkins I can find, as long as they're not the jack o' lantern types. I have teapots, plates, candle holders, a giant soup tureen and many rather large pottery pumpkins in both natural and crazy colours. One is even chromed.

2. I like to wear my art. My left arm is almost completely covered from elbow to wrist in a tattoo of purple paisley, and my feet have poppies tattooed on them. They're all from my own drawings.

3. I am the reigning Splat the Rat Champion 2010/2011 of Brakes Foodservice, Runcorn Depot. I beat the whole department in splatting that vermin at our annual awards ceremony just before I left to become a full time artist. The boys were outraged - a woman has never won this before, especially not a 40 something woman with a renowned lack of co-ordination. In yer faces, lads.

4. My desk calendar permanently says it's April 51st. It's one of those with cubes that you turn over and it landed thus when I knocked it over one day. I liked it so much that I've kept it that way ever since. The anarchy of it makes me smile.

5. I can sing (OK, I use that word loosely) the full versions of many 1970s and 1980s adverts, including Hoseasons Boating and Matey Bubble Bath.

6. Topics on which I have very strong opinions include religion, religious schools, astrology and alternative therapies (raiki for example). I will not enter into discussions about any of these (especially online) due to my tendency to become frustrated, angry and wanting to tear my hair out. They're best avoided.

7. Stephen Fry is one of the few celebrities I can tolerate. He's actually one of my all time heroes and I would love him to read me a bedtime story every night from a rocking chair beside my bed. I would crochet him a blanket to go over his legs and keep him cozy.

Right, those are my random points plucked from somewhere in my head.

I now officially pass the Versatile Blogger Award to the following very worthy recipients:

Natalie at http://nofkantscurios.blogspot.com/

Lorna at http://dabandadash.blogspot.com/

Emma at http://ritzyswish.blogspot.com/

Jane at http://theemporiumofcuriosities.blogspot.com/

Hannah at http://shooglybeads.blogspot.com/

Book Press

I want this so badly, I haven't the words. Alas, I also haven't the money!

*thinking cap on*

(now edited to add that after mentioning this to my father in law he has offered to make me a wooden book press. I am filled with glee and joy!)


Life Drawing

Early blogging today. I've been up a while and managed to wake up, but not before sleepily spilling half a glass of lemonade down my front while I was trying to have a drink. That'll shock you into having your senses about you, I find.

I'm fighting for time right now. There are so many things I want/need to do and it's all so pressing, but I can only do one at a time, which is vexing in the extreme. A common theme for me I know, so I won't go on, but I'll be busy as a demon today.

We've touched upon the topic of life drawing on the Folksy forum. It's never been mentioned before in the time I've been participating, so it's wonderful to see some examples. I'm of the opinion that there's nothing like it for honing drawing skills; it's such a difficult discipline and takes a massive amount of concentration and application. I don't go to classes any more for it, but I'm very fortunate to have a few willing models when the mood takes me to draw.

Here's one of mine, a study of foreshortening, one of the skills that I've always found ever so tricky to peg.

And another quite old one. Someone once looked at this and advised me to stay away from abstract painting because I'm clearly no good at it. It's not actually an abstract, it's a negative study with the reclining figure itself nestling within a very free ink depiction of the background. Maybe art school experiments are just a bit too much for some folks, or maybe it's just me, but I like this one a lot.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

A Lovely Saturday

Lovely trip to Liverpool this morning with hub and youngest daughter. There were a few craft stalls on a little market type thing in Bold Street and I had a chat with the owners for a bit. Folksy was mentioned, as always!

We did a few shopping things and I've volunteered to make a large latex "skin" banner for the Games Workshop's trip to Games Day in Spetember. I spent a little time taking measurements and going over what they'd like. It will be a very fun project for me and something to take me back a few years, as well as making the lads very happy. They're over the moon at the prospect of a custom made prop to show off, bless 'em.

We walked miles and wore ourselves clean out, so we had a delicious lunch and regrouped ourselves at Wok & Go, our favourite noodle bar. Finally there was the compulsory trip to the art shop where I got an extra special treat of a new professional style portfolio. Despite my many hundreds of years painting and drawing I have never had a proper portfolio, I've always made my own or had battered second hand ones. It's never bothered me at all, but a recent development (which I don't want to talk about yet and jinx the whole thing) means I need to be polished and official looking in my presentation. I must say it's rather swish and looks the business with my paintings in.

I don't have a lot of energy left now after all that, plus I suspect it's my *ahem* most hormonal/weird day of the month today, so I'm not pushing myself too much. I've been sitting on the couch doing some knitting and watching a movie. I can't just do nothing, so I appeased myself by continuing the handbag (which is actually going to be a shoulder bag I think).

The jury's out on how long I'm going to be awake this evening. It feels like midnight to me right now, despite my clock saying 6pm (surely it lies?). I'm going to try and stay awake, but no promises. Perhaps draw the hours out with a bath and a read of something wonderful?

I could do with going over my Sizzix machine and dies, which I've asked if anyone on Folksy is interested in. A few have replied via PM and said they might want it, but I am unable to organise myself right now. I need to take some photos of the whole kit so people can see what exactly is on offer, and decide on a price for it. All way beyond my skills while I'm tired.

If anyone reading this feels kind enough to help me out a bit, it's a Sizzix Big Shot, about 2 months old. It comes with cutting plates and dies, including cupcakes (decoupage style), 3 sizes of flowers, 4 of circles, a large butterfly (3 or 4 layers to it) and 3 or 4 embossing folders of birds, flowers and leaves, etc. I might be forgetting a die or two, but they'll all be included anyway. How much do you think I should charge?

Friday, 27 May 2011

Can you keep those pencils from Ikea?

The first thing I saw this morning was my husband bursting into the bedroom naked after his shower, exclaiming, "Good morning buxom female citizen! I am Amazing Man!". I knew right then, it was going to be one of those days.

It may have been ever so slightly manipulative of me, but I decided to cash in on the husbandly good mood by suggesting a trip to Ikea. Woo and yay, he went for it! I got a couple of picture frames for photographing my work in and some AA batteries for my camera. Don't ever let it be said that I'm a pedestrian shopper. Not I. While I was there I also pilfered one of those paper tape measures for measuring the frames and one of the little pencils. Both are now folded up neatly and stashed in the inside cover of my Fiona T notebook. I'm not sure if you're allowed to do this, so I apologise right here and now if I've committed a faux pas/crime type thing. On the other hand I did feel gleefully naughty doing it. I'm a bad person.

We almost came home, but remembered we needed to go and buy new razor blades. Hub has a beard like Desperate Dan and requires the strongest razors known to mankind. These can be purchased on the market at discount prices (which encouraged a whole load of "Market? No, Meerkat!" carry on from aforesaid giddy spouse), so off we went.

The razor stall also sells books, though I don't see a logical connection. I got one on Victorian murders that looks rather intriguing. I'll pass on any good tips after I read it.

Now we're back home and surveying the crazy jumble-sale-tip state of the house. Together we are trying to inspire and motivate each other to do some tidying up, which we may well get round to eventually. We're finding our progress impeded by earl grey and this here massive bag of Riesen toffees that fell into our basket in one of the shops. I do so want the living room to look lovely and clean, really, I honestly genuinely do. It's just such a chore. Gah.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

A day of special books and stuff

Bursting with squee at my zombie notebook that arrived a little while ago. I didn't think it was coming today, but as usual our postman didn't get here until late. What postal service worth its salt makes a person wait 'til after 3pm for their zombies? Sheesh. Still, it's here right beside me and is the best present I've had in AGES. I'll probably not write in it for a while because I want to keep LOOKING at it! OK then, I'll share, here you go

I have also been out for lunch with an old work friend and my hub, which was delightful. This was followed by a trip to town for book boards and thread. I have much bookbinding to do. Very much. I'm getting on my own nerves because I can't make books and paint at the same time. I'd be happier if I could clone me and set myself to work on multiple projects. My hub would probably throw himself off the roof if two of me appeared.

I bought two books in HMV last night (sale sale sale), one of which is entitled "F**K YOU, PENGUIN - telling cute animals what's what", for no other reason that it looks fairly interesting and I needed to have a book of that title on my shelf. The other one is called "Watching the English" and is an observation of modern etiquette. It's much more interesting than it sounds, I promise. Oh and at the weekend I got an Irvine Welsh book that I'm not sure if I already have, but it was 20p at the car boot sale so I thought I'd risk repeating. I know it sounds odd that I don't have a clue what I have or haven't read, but I've been a bookworm since I was a child and it's impossible to remember the thousands I've chomped my way through. Even hub, who's more Rainman-esque than most is losing track. Maybe it's an age thing.

Before I go I must add something that I've already put on my facebook page this morning. As you know, I do bookbinding (you'd have to be living under a rock to miss my constant bleating about it). Now I can use most materials for the covers, as long as they're not too stretchy. I've decided to make myself a few out of pieces of clothing that I've saved over the years, such as my wedding dress (it got ripped and is black chinese silk, which will be awesome) and the t-shirt that my beloved was wearing the night we met - that sort of thing. So it occurs to me that other people may well be the sorts who save stuff like this (maybe your child's favourite item of clothing or something like that?) and would like to have it made into an object that can be used and treasured. It could even be used as a keepsake or photograph album, thus increasing that old sentimental value even more. If anyone would like something like this, just let me know and we can have a chat about it. They'd make for wonderful gifts too.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


That thing where you work your socks off for days and then you get one where you can't really put your mind to anything? Yes, that. Today. I reckon my brain just goes, "Nope, done enough for now, stop it and do some cleaning up, you scruffy-housed bint."

I've been at my desk since silly o'clock as usual, but nothing's happening. Well, nothing of much note at least.

The one little spark of anything like creativity was earlier when I was packing up yesterday's sales. I always wrap them in tissue paper and put a bow or something on, then make an envelope the right size from card. I had the tiniest brainwave to have a quick go at carving a cork into a stamp to add a little pazazz. Amazingly, unlike my experiments with rubber carving, this went splendidly and worked first time. Very simple of course, but the texture of the cork gives a really nice surface. I knew that buying corks would be a good idea along the line. Funny that it should happen today.

Anyway, here's the little parcel that was about to be put in its envelope (a gold one no less). Sorry for the dark photo, it's a bit grim in here 'til midday.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Crooked Neck and Cookies

I was banished from my desk today so my youngest could use my computer. How strange to be back at the dining table with my paints like the old days before desk moved in. I'd completely forgotten how uncomfortable it is in there, probably something to do with the height of the table and chair.Or maybe it's from being in close proximity to dishes that need washing but which I was studiously ignoring. Guilt based aches?

So I was hunched over for several hours working on my latest painting. It's derived form one of the miniatures I did a few weeks ago, though I changed the colours. I decided to go for peacock feather hues, though in a different arrangement. Sounds funny, I know, so I'll just put the pictures here and be done with the descriptions.

It was really tricky to get a decent photo for some reason, so I took a few close ups of the detail, which I think are quite nice.

I don't know if karma has anything to do with sales, but I gave in to huge temptation and bought a zombie notebook from Fiona T this morning. I've wanted one for as long as I've been hanging round on Folksy and I worked out that I could just about manage to pay her for her labours. This evening I've had three sales of my own stuff. Maybe I ought to be treating myself more frequently? I know Fiona would agree with that sentiment.

Finally, I must tell anyone who reads this about my latest find in Asda. Now I'm not usually a great fan of cookies or biscuits, but I found these ones by Chesapeake/Pepperidge Farm tonight. I got the dark chocolate and pecan ones, and so far I've scoffed 4 of them, despite each of them being about the size of my head. They're pretty damn awesome. They also come in a paper bag type affair like cookies in the US. I feel most multicultural, as well as piggy. Still, one can't be expected to live on dust and twigs all the time.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Fruits of my evening

Been here by myself tonight, so I've done some more painting. A mini triptych this time.

Working in stormy conditions

It's stormier than I've seen for years! The rain and wind are going crazy out there and youngest daughter was outraged at lunchtime that our Sky service went down. It has to be pretty extreme for that to happen.

I'm about to brave it and go to the post office to send another book on its way. I was up bright and early working on it again today and it's finally finished. I did manage to cut out all 80 pages the wrong size of course, and had to redo them. I'll save the mistake ones and make a book that size this week. Never waste things!

A new Folksy listing today, a painting I did yesterday in between waiting for things to dry. It definitely works having several projects on the go at once when so many of them have drying time to be factored in. It's like a huge logistics plan of how not to allow Jools away from her desk for ungodly stretches at a time, but it gets the job(s) done.

I'm feeling a bit pressured about getting lots of work done this week. My last splurge on multiple books where I made 5 or 6 over a number of days worked well, so I may call on that system again starting this afternoon. It's really intensive and it causes my hands to rebel, but I've been and got a roller thingy for burnishing the book cloths down, so that should save me some aches and pains. I've also got hold of some more leather, a shinier finish this time, so it'll have a completely different look. Again, it will be very limited runs, but I like that. The last thing I want is to be making lots of the same thing. At the very least I'll be introducing new trims and finishes and sewing with different coloured threads.

And speaking of different coloured things, the wool I'm using for this felting project is another variegated one. It changes colour every 4 inches or so and it mesmerises me as I'm working with it. I get a little (terribly pathetic, I know) thrill of joy every time it matches up with the row below. I often wonder if my brain was wired up by some dodgy apprentice in a rush to get home for his tea. I can also clearly imagine my husband nodding in agreement with that last sentence.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Insert title here

Today has supplied the antidote for yesterday's laziness.

The car boot sale bore fruit in the shape of some really old pocket dictionairies, just the thing for drawing on. Three for a quid. It's a shame to butcher them really; they're so battered and elderly looking already, full of charm. Maybe I won't. Who knows?

Shopped for food, came home, made breakfast, put a casserole in the oven, made book covers and set them aside under weights to dry, painted pictures, served dinner, painted some more, knitted, and hey presto, here we are blogging.

Tiredness is overcoming me now. My poor eyes are throbbing from all the close up work and my left hand is seized up form knitting. I've decided that crochet is marginally more pleasant to do. I'm making that bag I threatened yesterday and shall be felting it when it's finished. As a nod to crochet I think I'll do some flowers to decorate it with when it's done. Mainly though I'm hoping not to run out of wool before the end. Yes, I really am that disorganised.

As soon as tomorrow's books are done I promise myself that I'm going to do some damn heavy housework. This place is more of an outrage than usual and I'm adding to it as I go along. Cor, it's gonna be a busy week.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Lazy Day and Noodles

Ohhh what joy. We decided on the spur of the mooment at about 4pm to go to Liverpool for a quick dash. Hub did his geek thing and I went to the art shop, the Body shop and we topped it all off with my all time ever EVER favourite noodle takeaway for dinner. This is why I love Saturdays so much.

I got some pure new wool from the art shop for some felting things. I have it in my mid to make a handbag or a purse or something. I also got some of those mini easels for photographing my miniature paintings on. There was heaps of stuff I wanted, but I was a good girl.

I have now just had a glorious bubble bath (orange flavoured) and shall soon be settling down for a lazy evening.

Short update today because I don't want to interrupt my idling around too much. I'm sure you understand.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Friday is bookday

Another busy day round here. This is becoming a theme, not that I'm complaining!

I made a special book today for my father in law's birthday. I thought I'd try out a new method for the stitching, which worked well but was a bit slow. It could be that it was a bit of pilot error and the fact that I haven't done it before of course, so I won't throw the idea out just yet. It looked gorgeous, but I didn't manage to get a photo because I was in such a hurry. For what it's worth, it was a black leather cover with black stitching and a closure of a large red enamelled coconut button. I also made him a card before dashing off for a shower and to the bus to meet hub from work. What a tizzy!

I'm back home now, obviously. We've had a really big treat of squid for dinner and it was scrumptious. I need to clean up my working devastation and get onto the next book (another leather one has been ordered - yay!), but it will be tomorrow before I make any move because I'm whacked now.

No specific plans for the weekend, apart from work related ones. We'll see how it pans out. Maybe a trip to the cinema or a browse round the car boot sale. Who knows what mysterious fun's in store?

Oh and I do have a book planned that's a bit different. I found some fabric yesterday that I'd put away for the future (about 4 years ago if I remember correctly). I might keep this one for myself, because crazy as it sounds, I don't actually own one of my books. I should really be carrying at least one round and using it so people can ask me where I got it from!

A happy weekend to all.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Zumba for fat people?

Just got back form a lovely trip to town with youngest daughter. While we were out we discussed Zumba (should it be capitalised? I have no idea). The other day I mentioned that I might consider a Zumba class and I haven't heard the end of it since. Daughter is keen to enrol in a class, "sigh", now I've done it haven't I?

Now I don't get a lot of exercise, and it's plainly obvious to look at me.  I have neither the time or inclination to throw myself around, sweating and heaving, and the world is likely most grateful for this. I have however, heard people say that Zumba is a lot of fun and how they lost 30 stone doing it, or whatever. Since exercise is more torture than anything else I thought I might look into it. Fun and fitness? This is worth consideration, surely?

I may have pondered here before on how I'm lacking in the co-ordination department, so before ringing that number on the card in the post office I thought I'd better look into what exactly Zumba is. After a silly bus journey full of speculation by youngest daughter on just what it may entail, we got home and YouTubed it.

Holy jumping jehosephat.

Ten seconds of watching them grinding and bouncing was enough for me to cry nay. I can't do that! So I tried searching for a video of "Zumba for fat people" and it was even worse. Now I know what I'd look like doing it.

Looks like I am to remain lumpen and ugly for the rest of my days, unless anyone has any experiences that might help me reconsider?

My Amazing Craft Class People

After a horribly stressful day yesterday (non work related things) it was a tonic to go to the craft class and have a wonderful evening with the ladies. We had a healthy turnout, lots of cakes and tea and a good old chinwag! One of these days they're going to come in and tell us to pipe down for fear of disturbing the neighbours!

Our theme was ACEOs/ATCs and we started with a good look at some of my work, as well as Xena's wonderful collection that she brought along. Some people wanted to play with the materials I took (and boy did I go crazy with that - we could have spent a year working on them and not used up everything, but better than running out!) and some were interested in an introduction to watercolour techniques. It was brilliant to share my love of watercolour and have folk dive on in there for a good old play around. There's much interest now in a class devoted solely to watercolour, so I've put that on my list.

I have to say, it's truly inspiring to spend a few hours with people who want to create. I feel recharged after a class, despite the tiredness! That's mostly my own fault though because I spend so long preparing and gathering materials to take (as I've droned on about before). We also all have such a good chat and a giggle, they're a smashing bunch to spend time with for so many reasons.

We have an age range of 17 to 60+ regularly attending and I think everyone takes something from it, whether it be the picking up of ideas or just a bit of socialising and confidence building. One lady told me last night how nervous she'd been about coming because she didn't think she'd be able to keep up, but I won't have that kind of talk. It's my job to make sure that absolutely everyone who joins us, whatever their ability, can do something to be proud of and go home feeling that they've made an achievement. It might be something as simple as using rubber stamps or sewing on a button, but it's always a progressive step for them. This is why I take so much kit, to make sure nobody is ever left out.

So, on to our results. I only managed to get photos of the ACEOs, not the other work that was done. Also, some work had vanished by the time I got the camera out, because people were already swapping their work. How's that for success? Trading their pieces like seasoned collectors. Fabulous!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Chop Chop Busy Busy

Very early and bustling start today. I have a list a mile long of things I need to do; stuff to pack, cakes to decorate, hair to dye (I look like a Clampet at the moment), card to cut and things to find. I sat in bed last night with my notebook (I keep one on the bedside table) writing things that I need to remind myself about today. I so need a workshop here where I can hold my classes to save carting twenty million things across town and running the risk of forgetting something crucial. I haven't had to call Jay mid-class to bring vital kit over yet, but it's going to happen one day.

Hopefully I'll get everything done first thing and then I can get on with some work and not waste the day too much. I was incredulous at the backgrounds I did yesterday morning. I don't know if it's the current weather or what, but they still weren't dry at bedtime! They're ready now though, luckily. I'd have thrown a wobbly if they were still wet this morning.

I had a lovely sleep last night with happy dreams and all that. I all too frequently have nightmares and strange sleeps, so it's notable that it was a good one. I wasn't altogether delighted at 6.15am when the alarm went off, but I'm here, I've had my coffee and I ought to be running at full power in oh, about half an hour.

Tomorrow I must have the place cleared and be busying myself making another book. We have my father in law's birthday coming up and the general consensus is that he'd love a leather book. He makes a lot of stuff himself, mostly in wood, so he appreciates hand crafted things. I also have a commission to do, though the date has been moved, giving me a little more time. It's a really special one and needs particular papers sourced as well as a spectacular cover. I'm giving it a good long coat of thinking about just now.

My paintings are receiving some fantastic feedback. I'm very touched at what people are saying and the amount of folk who are saving up to buy them. I know what it's like to have items that really call out to you, but not have the cash to indulge yourself. I have a good twenty things on Folksy that I'd buy in a heartbeat if I could afford them. Unfortunately we makers are mostly all in the same boat, eeking out a living and not able to purchase luxuries, yet we're the ones who most appreciate them. Oh the irony of it all. I'm still looking for that elusive platform for promotion, but all things come to those who wait, etc.

Right, on with my tasks. I could use a small army of helpers right now if any are at a loose end :-)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Tuesday's Child is full of Squee

Despite still suffering from terrible tiredness today I have good news to share.

As well as the six sales on Folksy (here) this week I've managed to sell one of my leather books! I got an email notification while I was in Asda, of all places, to say that Cherry Picked For You have featured me on their site and blog (here) as artist of the week, and that I've had my first sale on there. How brilliant! There aren't many smiles going on in Asda at 5pm on a Tuesday, but I changed all that. I have the joy and the squee and all kinds of other jubilant things. I have treated myself to a chocolate mousse in celebration.

Not much going on workwise to report today. I've been painting backgrounds ready for my next set of watercolours, but mostly I'm readying myself for the craft class tomorrow. The organising of everything I need to take is a killer! That's aside from the cakes that need baking and decorating and the various drink makings that I take along with me. They get treated like royalty, but they deserve it. I'm looking forward to a lovely few hours with my arty crafty ladies.

We're settling down to watch Game of Thrones now and then an early night. Many plans afoot for work for the rest of the week, including a special birthday present to be made. See you lovelies here tomorrow!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Work Update

Losing energy fast here. I've been at my desk for over 12 hours now, with just a short break to heat up some chilli for dinner and eat it. Pretty soon I'm going to take myself to bed with a book and show the world how relaxing's really done.

I've had wins and fails. A couple of the big paintings I did aren't up to scratch, a few of the ACEOs aren't to my taste, but the rest are OK. I may be able to salvage the bad ones with a bit more work, but certainly not today!

Here we go then, ACEOs first, then two full size watercolours.



Sunday, 15 May 2011

Things that go bump in the night

Sunday has mostly been about tiredness. Our neighbours from hell had another one of their loud nights; rolling in from the pub at 1am with a host of ne'er do wells in tow, singing, yelling, making loud phonecalls in the back yard, etc. They do this a lot and the volume wakes the whole street up, but I of course have the particular pleasure of living right next door, where every noise might as well be in my bedroom for all the sleep we get throughout. The only solace is to lie there awake thinking up new and interesting ideas of daytime noise to get back at them, which then degenerates into fantasies of bulldozing their house while they're sleeping it off at 3pm.

We went back to bed for a nap at lunchtime, thus eating into our day and throwing our body clocks right off. Little of much use has been done apart from a bit of laundry and some food. I've been here at my desk doing a touch of painting, but there's no light now and I'm like Blind Pugh going crosseyed over bits of paper. Time to throw in the towel methinks. I've resolved to buy some £ shop reading glasses to see if that'll help. My son asked me if I shall go for ugly black or ugly leopard print, as they appear to be the two options on sale. It'll be the black.

There's much buzz on the old interwebs about this weeks craft class. The option to have a go at some watercolouring has fired people up, which is brilliant. I'm already gathering things to take along, as it's a long list in order to account for all abilities. Some people will want to stamp and collage rather than just painting, and some will sew. I'm also taking the good old failsafe shrink plastic, as it will work well on the small cards we're doing. Beads, buttons, threads and glues too. Then there's the cake baking and decorating for refreshments. It looks to be a goodie. I'm ever so pleased about it after the rough few weeks I've had on and off. It's very rewarding to have the evening with folks who want to learn new things and make their own creations.

Tomorrow I shall paint more and perhaps do a little crochet if I have time. I'll probably do some more listings for Folksy too and see how that goes. I'm unbelievably tired now, despite the extra sleep I've had, so it's off to beddybies for me very soon.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Party Time

No work has been done today. We had to pack up a gazillion Ebays and my three sales from yesterday and get to the post office before trundling over to Runcorn for Jay's auntie's 70th birthday surprise party at lunchtime. Bless her, she was so shy when she walked in - she actually walked back out again and had to be ushered to the party to meet everyone. I'd be the same, I'd probably leg it and jump on a bus home!

Been having some very interesting chats on Folksy about artist status and work. They're so supportive, helping me a lot with my inner wrangles.

This lot are watching Dr Who just now and I'm having a damn good chill out, at least I would be if there wasn't a big, fat, hairy legged fly buzzing round me being annoying. It's days are numbered, I tell ya. It's that big I could probably catch it and hook it up to a dynamo to run the lights.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Are We Fixed Now?

Cor, it looks like we had a massive to-do in blogland yesterday; stuff vanishing, coming back, going again. There have been wails and gnashing of teeth, but it looks as though things are sorted now. And I'm just in time to write a quickie now before midnight, thus keeping me on my daily blog train without issue.

I've had a bit of a fail day, but I forgive myself since I've worked so hard this week. I did get motoring a bit with the painting this afternoon, but it was a far cry from the plans I had for myself. I have an old dictionary that I use sometimes for backing paper, origami and such. I found that it still had the page with "poppy" on it, so I made this:

It was a fun thing to do, so now I'm considering tearing pages randomly and drawing something appropriate to the words on it. It would certainly be a challenge! Duly added to my list of things to do (thousands of them).

I decided to do some Pay it Forwards this evening for a few reasons. Firstly, the sales and exposure can't hurt, secondly I think it's lovely for people to be able to have a little bit of original art and thirdly, so many have told me they'd like an ACEO but are having to save up for them (and goodness knows I'm in that same skint boat) that I wanted to make some of my stuff available cheaply. I've sold three more this evening. There are loads more to list, so it's not going to be detrimental to my shop.

I had a lovely day out with some of the crafty ladies yesterday in Liverpool. We went for lunch and then round the shops, ending with a cup of tea just before 5pm. It blew the cobwebs away and gave me a bit of unusual social time, which was ever so nice. They're threatening to drag me away from my desk again  soon, which I very much look forward to.

No other riveting news I'm afraid, but I did say this was going to be a quickie.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

My Hero

In response to a very interesting request from Folksy (here) about people who have inspired and encouraged.

When I was at college, back in 1995 I had the good fortune to be friends with one of the world's most amazing art teachers. I've mentioned him before, but his praises cannot be sung often enough. A humble man, at that time in his mid 40s, John was my hero. He had such a wonderful manner about him and a wickedly mischievous sense of humour. He was warm, friendly and aside from my husband and sister, the singularly most supportive and encouraging person in my life. I often wished he'd been my dad, or at the very least that he'd been in my life for longer than the time he was. I could tell a thousand stories of our adventures together, but I don't have time today. I should write a book sometime.

Aged about 25 I decided to go back to college and study art and design. John was there in his capacity as head of art and to say he took me under his wing was an understatement. I was a bolshy, confused and cantankerous individual back then, some of which I've managed to tame over the years, I'm happy to report. John saw through this and coaxed the humour out of me in most situations.

Having a person take on the role of rock in your life is a stroke of good fortune that can hardly be described in mere words. A person who chooses to have utter belief in you both as a person and an artist is nothing short of miraculous, especially when you've strived all your life to please but never quite managed it.

John loved everything I created. He was genuinely interested in my thought processes and resulting work. I was a very committed student, usually staying late in my studio and always skulking around looking for new ideas, projects and access to the various equipment on offer at college. It was frequently by John's sneaky aid that I bagged the kiln for the night or talked another tutor into allowing me an illicit "sit in" on their classes. Later on when I was at university he would allow me to attend his college evening life drawing classes for free, as money was tight. I would bus back from my day's lessons in Liverpool, call in to the supermarket and grab us some chicken and salad for dinner, arrive at college to have a chat and our food, then do the class. I would mostly listen to what the others were doing that particular night, but get on in my own way that suited whatever I was doing in university at the time.

In the days since this, I have often appreciated that John spent so much time with me in one to one teaching sessions. Having gone on to instruct students myself I now have an understanding of how it feels to have someone really want to learn, and the desire to take them under my wing as they progress.

The interview for University in 1996 was possibly one of the scariest times of my whole life. There were very limited places and a huge amount of applicants, so I had little confidence in getting anywhere with it. As I had children it was impossible for me to travel very far, which was one of the factors in choosing Liverpool, but I also really loved the Constructed Textiles course on offer, as it was a very free subject allowing huge scope. I always liked to diversify, it's both my greatest strength and greatest failure, as I am constantly changing methods and projects with my brain rattling along at breakneck speed.

John was massively supportive of my university choice. He spent an age with me, going over my portfolio and giving me very sound advice on how to collate it. The interview was during our easter break so he gave me his mum's phone number (he always stayed with her in Cumbria when not teaching) and told me to call day or night if I wanted to talk. I was given strict instructions to ring him as soon as the interview was over, which I did, in a state of extreme upset and stress after being grilled for almost two hours. He calmed me down and assured me that they had only been so hard on me because they were interested in what I had to say. I wasn't so sure, but he turned out to be absolutely right and within the week I'd been offered an unconditional place on the course of my dreams.

I shared every little success and strife with John over the years of my studying. He remained my support and inspiration, offering advice and teaching at every stage. It was he who taught me to bind my own books, suggested artists to study, critiqued my progress, but most of all pushed me to do things that I would never otherwise have had the confidence to do. He would whisper like the devil on my shoulder, with a little chuckle.

The end of year exhibition? Why didn't I take charge of it and get a splendid external gallery venue, make it something the college had never seen the like of before. So I did it.

I loved glass sculpture, why didn't I speak to the ceramics technician and talk him into allowing me to stay overnight at college and use the kilns? So I did it (it is now offered as an option to students, after my success with it).

I longed to go to the National Gallery in London but couldn't afford it. Why didn't I ask the bursar to make it a student trip? So I did it.

I was studying architecture and wanted to draw in cathedrals across the country. Why didn't I ask for a week off and some coach tickets to the cities in question? So I did it.

I had a great interest in working with latex fabrics, but nobody had any experience i it to teach me. Why didn't I just ring the biggest latex designer in the UK and ask for advice? I did that too and spoke to the man himself who gave me loads of advice on his techniques.

While I was at university, John was made redundant in staff cuts at Halton. We had just lost one of our tutors so I talked him into applying for the job. What a change in me, advising him what to do! He got the position and became my tutor for 3rd year. I couldn't have asked for a better final year with him on board, having lunch with me every day and sharing the trials of my nerves, failures and successes.

John died suddenly in 2003 of a massive heart attack. He was only 54 and it was the first time I had ever lost anyone important in my life. I think of him often, especially when I'm working. Sometimes I find myself going over a particular lesson with him step by step, trying to remember exactly how to do a process. I always have a smile on my face when I remember his irreverent sense of humour and mischief. One of his favourite tricks was to tell an anecdote and wait until you had a mouthful of tea before delivering the punchline. He would cry with laughter at the choking people around him and refuse to give first aid unless we actually died (he was the first aider on duty every day).

Mostly though, I remember John as the first person in my life ever to have faith in me. Even now I find it hard to understand his belief in my work or me as a person. I grew so much under his guidance and changed into someone completely different from that shy, constantly vexed human being that I had been. He did it all with humility and grace, never once acknowledging his own artistic talent, always insisting, "I'm a teacher, not an artist". The world has lost a great man.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Painting Day

I've not long finished work for the day, and what a fruitful one it's been. I popped to town quickly this morning and set up painting when I got back. I probably shouldn't say how much painting I can get done in a day lest it devalue my work, but once I'n in the zone I motor along. It's good to see results happening and I must say it gives me a boost to produce a lot of stuff in a day. It's a poty that the craft things don't speed along quite as much!

Also, more whooping with joy because I sold two more this morning. I didn't think I could be more pleased than I was yesterday when I got my first sale, but I was wrong. What a lovely email to wake up to! All this walking to the post office is good for me too, so it's a win win.

So here are todays ACEOs. I've finally got round to using my poppy photos as I've been threatening to do for a while. They are all listed in my art shop (click here).

I also managed to do a full size watercolour, again influenced by the poppies.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Happy Tuesday

Utter joy of joys and splendor, I sold one of my ACEOs today. In monetary terms it's very little, but I feel on top of the world about it. My shop had only been open for a few hours when I got a notification of the sale. I was on a packed bus full of weirdos at the time and my little squeak of joy brought their bugged eyes to staring at me for the rest of the journey. I really didn't care though, I was so beside myself with the happies.

I'm still not happy with my photographs of them, they're way better in the flesh than in anything I've managed to capture thus far, but this is the one that's now fighting its way through the Royal Mail system to a new home (I really hope Aunty Joan likes it):

I said I was going to paint didn't I? I've certainly had a kick up the jacksy now. I tried to continue this afternoon when I got back from lunch, but I had the most raging headache and try as I might, I couldn't focus on the page. This is a very recent develoment, as I've mentioned already, so if it doesn't clear up this week I'll be trotting off for an eye test. I have a clear day tomorrow to get cracking on it, so I can assess if it's the old peepers or just tiredness and/or headache symptoms. I can't afford new glasses, so let's hope it's a minor and temporary complaint!

On a lighter note, I did manage to mostly keep out of the rain today. It's been a bit grim out there and there was the occasional dash for cover but nothing that spoiled my specially coiffured hair. Well I say special, but all I did was blowdry it like I used to do every day before I became a full time loony artist type. It'll be back to normal nestishness tomorrow.

I'm off to Ikea asap to get a few frames for the old photographing. I am definitely going to do some more full size paintings this week and I think they;re best shown off in a frame, though I won't be selling them like that due to my deep lack of faith that they'd ever arrive with the glass intact. I have a good amount ready to be done and I'll add to them this week. I'm still really excited about it.

This new life of mine is a whole mass of ups and downs. Last week I was in misery and right now I'm back up again. If anyone was studying me they'd have me locked up by now.

My other pressing job is to sort out the next craft class. I've been reluctant because of my indecision regarding a project for this month, but now I'm considering doing an ACEO class where they can use all sorts of different media to make one of their own. There's been interest in stamping and embossing, as well as carving stamps to use, which would be great for small scale work. I do also like to make each class fit with whatever work I'm doing at the time, so it would be appropriate. Maybe next time I could then have them make a small album to keep them in. I shall remind myself to ring and book the room tomorrow. Always a pleasure speaking to the community centre people (that was sarcasm by the way).

I've Earned a Trip Out

A lot has happened already this morning. I've set up an art shop on Folksy and stocked it, albeit with hideous photos which I'll redo later when the light's more favourable. Just ACEOs in there for now, but I'll consider listing some of the full size work I have loitering here.

I'm off out for lunch today with an old work mate who I aven't seen since December. Very exciting!

In the menatime I shall be eyebrow plucking, showering and beautifying as well as doing a bit of work if I can squeeze it in. It takes longer and longer these days to make me fit for public viewing.

Monday, 9 May 2011


What a wonderful day it's turned out to be. I've had a really fruitful one with my painting (the lovely Folksy people have responded to my photos and given me some confidence, brilliant bunch that they are) and then at lunchtime I had a phone call from Nina at Cherry Picked For You to discuss my work and have a chat. She was so lovely, offering me lots of excellent advice and a bit of a pep talk after my miseries last week. I can't describe how good it is to have that kind of support. And to add to all the Monday joy (that's a weird thing to say, I used to despise Mondays) I can now share a link from Nina's site where my work is on sale:


I should be getting tired about now and be thinking about settling down for the night, but my brain is buzzing and I'm all excited. I could carry on here for hours, but I know I'll be better off trying to have a rest and start again in the morning.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Remember I said I was doing something new and interesting today? I did some ACEOs for the first time ever. They aren't plucked out of thin air, more a little summary of some of my work. The photos are my usual version of slapdash; there's no natural light just now so I'll do some proper pictures tomorrow.

Dunno if I'll be going forward with any of this, but it's been a nice day doing them.

Special K Red Berries Disappointment

It's a sorry state of affairs when you can be in a huff for the whole day because there aren't enough berries in your cereal. There aren't many pleasures in the mornings, especially one like today when I actually caught myself leaning on top of my coffee cup falling asleep. Berry deficit just makes it worse.

I don't like cereal and especially not for breakfast, but I make myself eat it because it's good for me. Granted, I've been up for four hours now and it's only just food time (I absolutely could not eat cold cereal as soon as I get up), but that means I've had time to look forward to the berries. Lord knows that a bowl of seed dust and skimmed milk needs a bit of tarting up. I do wonder if someone else in the house (I'm looking at you, teenage daughter) has been seeking out the good bits on purpose.

I'm doing something new and interesting today. If it works out I'll be back with photos later. I am also getting very strong neck muscles from constantly swivelling round to keep an eye on the weather conditions. There's washing on the line and it's lovely and breezy, but clouds loom in the distance. My rage knows no bounds when my laundry gets rained on. I am the Godzilla of domestic goddessity and I'll stomp this town flat.

Before I go, I must mention my pride in relation to my beloved's cycling. Now we're not sporty people here, we're geeks. Pale, indoorsy, movie watching, book reading geeks. For many reasons my darling husband made the decision to cycle to work this year. It got off to a poor start because of all the snow in January, though bless his little cycle shorts he made the effort. He has finally broken through the pain and inconvenience barrier and is steadfastly taking himself 10 miles each way every day. That's 100 miles a week under his own power, kitted out with a bag of food, work clothes and tools for the frequent repair of falling-off-pedals. Incredible. He now has thighs of steel and is pleased with them, as am I. He's utterly drop dead gorgeous anyway, but with extra thigh about him I do approve.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Move Over, Nigella

I've been most industrious today planning for the week ahead. In an effort to save money and be healthy I went shopping last night and bought heaps of lovely fresh ingredients for meals. I started cooking this morning and made huge amounts of:

1. Root vegetable soup (orange soup)
2. Cauliflower and broccoli soup (green soup)
3. Scouse
4. Spinach and coconut soup (also green, but called sister soup because she gave me the recipe)
5. Chilli

All are now frozen in portions ready for grabbing whenever we need them and should last the month. I feel like I've chopped a million onions and washed the whole world's dishes, but I still managed a little cuddle and nap with my beloved around lunchtime. I've also done some laundry. This evening I am feeling extremely proud and virtuous. I didn't get round to doing onion soup, but there's not much room left to store it, so I'll make it fresh when we fancy it.

We have a film to watch in bed and some of that nice microwave popcorn, so there's a well earned chillout on its way.

I want to factor some exercise into my upcoming week. I've become a bit of a hermit and got used to being at my desk all the time, which is kind of necessary, but no individual ought to be totally still apart from the occasional yomp to the kettle. I'm notoriously useless at making my idle self exercise, so it'll take some serious and stern talking to myself to ensure it happens. I can't make any promises.

It irks me that I'd have lost twice the amount of weight this year than I have, if I'd only paid attention to my own nagging. I wish I could think of some moving around type motion that I'd actually enjoy. I used to quite like going to the gym but I can't afford a membership just now. Swimming's out for the same reason, but also that I despise the stink of chlorine. Walking is boring, at least round here. Running is, well, totally out of the question (if you could only hear me laughing at myself for the very mention of it!). I guess I could lumber up and down the stairs. Tsk. Sometimes I really annoy myself!

Tomorrow, among other things, I am going to crochet myself a wiggly snake. No reason for this apart from I want to and I think I can manage it. It'll make a change from flowers.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Skivvy on, Cinders

Day off on a Saturday? Perish the thought.

I may have revisited my mojo after the doldrums of this week. I decided to redo all my graphics and get them in situ, so that's Folksy, Facebook and here done.I'm a little sad to see the old ones go, but they were very much a grab it quick solution when I was setting up and needed pictures quick. They were photos I took in Scotland at xmas and they have great sentimental value to me, but rest assured they'll still be working hard on the sidelines as inspiration for future projects.

I'm also working on a mega admin task this weekend. My work is to be submitted to another site that I've been accepted for, details of which I'll post later, so I'm filling in upload forms for every item and gathering pictures to go with the descriptions. This promotion mallarkey is a full time job in itself. I need to be ultrasuperduper organised if I'm to continue being productive in any arty sense at all.

One thing I ought to be thankful for is that people can't actually see me while I'm a hive of productivity. It's almost 1pm and I'm still sitting here in my dressing gown, slurping tea and ferretting away at everything. My immense lack of glamour would put off even the most foolhardy shopper, should I be on view.

In my defense, I have been here since about 9am and stopped only briefly to make cordon bleu beans on toast for the Monsieur and myself for lunch. He's busily uploading geeky bits and pieces onto Ebay as I speak. We're pulling out all the stops to dredge up cash for the rest of the month. Someone loves a tryer, think it might traditionally be god, but we don't subscribe to that. Let's substitute Darth Vader for now, which has quite a ring to it in my opinion.

Something peculiar occurred to me this week while I was knee deep in sewing. People who create art do it partially to put their creativity out into the world, yes? But has anyone ever considered the DNA forwarding that goes on? Seriously, it happens. I frequently have to pull one of my hairs out of my sewing, crochet, paint or whatever, but how many make it past my eagle eye? Then there are the hand sewers who lick the end of the thread before they can get it through the eye of a needle. I reckon most have that habit. So when you buy a handmade item, you are also likely to be receiving a little piece of the artist himself/herself.

I should keep my big mouth shut. I can put people off buying seemingly without even trying, so I shall keep any future observational grossness to myself, I promise.

Friday, 6 May 2011

New Items In Store

New books on the loose. Listed for sale here.

Gloomy Gloomy Gloomy

I'm suffering just a tiny bit from procrastination this morning. I can pin this down to my slovenly ways as follows:

1. I'm a scruffy beggar when I'm working and in the zone.
2. I've been hammering away at bookbinding all week.
3. I simply had to go to the shops.
4. I couldn't go out with my hair as it was, so I had to spend a while washing and de-nesting it, which cut into my morning routine. I shall spare you the description of what I looked like pre shower, suffice to say it wasn't good.
5. When leaving the shop, my car wouldn't budge. I tried for a few minutes in forward and reverse but it was jammed. I feared the worst. Broken car, too poor to have it fixed, car stuck at Co Op for weeks.
6. Garage man was just turning out of the road opposite and came to my aid. He got in it and it worked first time. he laughed at me and I think the car giggled up its exhaust too.
7. I came home and made a cup of tea.

So, obviously I'm back at my desk now and all is (fairly) well. I must keep on working and striving to make money, as there's a cash crisis chez Umbel this month. The details are boring but I spent a while in uncharacteristic tears yesterday over it all. We're not going to die or anything, but it rocks my confidence in myself and my ability to keeps heads above water with this pipe dream of being a working artist. I do the work bit, but I seem to keep falling short of the money earning part, which isn't on at all. I've said it before, but I need longer days. Ten hours work in every twenty-four isn't doing it for me. The rest of my life must be cancelled in order to produce enough stuff that eventually it will start selling.

Do I cut a few days out and get a part time job? I have one already at weekends but it's not consistent, and whereas I love it, I can't count on it 100%, hence my penniless state right now. Or do I strive at what I'm doing art wise and keep faith that it will eventually work? I desperately need a crystal ball or somesuch to help me through this rough patch.

Speaking as a middle-aged (ish) woman it's hard to know what's right/wrong, real/drama sometimes. Hormones, solitude, other people's weirdness and general life worries can cloud your view and you can end up feeling whacky emotions that you'll look back on and want to give yourself a smack round the chops for even entertaining. The worst part is that when morose episodes happen it's nigh on impossible to work. Somehow I managed to shake it off yesterday, probably through sheer bloody mindedness, but that's rare when I have the dooms.

Gawd I'm depressing. Stop reading this at once!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Thursday Bookbinding

As promised, I've worked my socks off today. I'm desperate for my bed, but I thought I'd put a few photos up and also continue my daily blogging that I've been doing so well in keeping up.

I've got four books finished and I've listed a couple on Folksy this evening. The others need daylight. Wouldn't you just know that black leather is the devil itself to photograph? Still, I'm very pleased with them, even with my hands all twisted and rubbed raw from relentless sewing all day. Once I've had a rest I hope to finish the last two and meet the deadline I set myself of the end of the week.

So without further ado, here they are, one fabric and three leather.