Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Cheltenham Open Studios (yes, really!)

Two weeks ago we were down in the Midlands for my cousin's wedding near Ledbury and, happily, it co-incided with Cheltenham Open Studios.  We only had time to visit one venue, so we carefully picked the one we considered the most interesting from the online brochure before travelling down.

We chose Bren Boardman.  Her work involves painting, stitching and distressing Lutrador, which is something that I've also been doing for some time.  Her style is completely different from mine though, and it was fascinating to see a different approach to using this material.

Bren uses Thermofax Screens to paint images onto the Lutrador.  They are absolutely brilliant, and can be made to your own design.  I have plans!!

Here she is helping Kirsty to have a go.

And this is the result.

Kirsty plans to do some free machine embroidery to stitch some flowers (I think) around the bees.  Bren's gorgeous work involves copious amounts of free machine embroidery, mostly with a botanical theme.  She stitched a small piece for Kirsty, who then distressed it with a heat tool.

The setting was the most incredibly beautiful Mill Dene Garden.  Unfortunately the weather was dreadful - torrential rain all day long - but we still enjoyed walking around the garden which had lots of interesting, quirky features.  It's open to the public during the summer (check the website above for times) and is well worth a visit.

Here are a few highlights:



Friday, 24 June 2011

Renovation project

I recently discovered a range of amazing chalk paint by Annie Sloan (a British company - yay!) in a lovely new shop called Rustiques at Milton of Crathes, Banchory.

You can give furniture a completely new lease of life with this paint, and the big bonus is that you don't have to spend messy hours preparing the furniture before slapping the paint on.

Once painted you can sand it down to give a distressed look - revealing small areas of either the wood or a layer of different coloured paint underneath.

I bought a tester pot to start with, and my first wee project was this unusual wooden musical box.  I had bought it a couple of years earlier at a charity fair for £1, unsure what I would actually do with it, but unable to NOT buy it - if you know what I mean!! 

Stupidly I didn't take a 'before' photo, but trust me, it was just tired-looking, plain, uninteresting wood.

Then a few weeks ago, at Johnshaven's annual RNLI sale, I bought this footstool with storage.  It had seen better days and only cost me a fiver.  As I usually have some kind of sewing project on the go I thought it'd be quite a practical thing to keep in the living room, but would need a complete revamp.

The storage pocket on the side will be perfect for notes, sketches, ideas etc.

It has two drawers - one with a handle missing.

It has obviously been well used as the fabric was torn and discoloured.  When I removed the fabric from the top I found the foam pad underneath was not only worn, but covered in mould.  YUK!

Here it is after a coat of paint and a quick rub down with sandpaper.

It was then waxed and rubbed down to give it a lovely sheen.  I also had a (very amateurish) go at reupholstering the top so I'll have somewhere comfy to rest my feet whilst sewing.  The fabric I've used is the same as our living room blinds, so it fits in to the room really nicely.

The finishing touch was these fab, spotty handles bought from the dotcomgiftshop.   With the paint, wax, foam, fabric and handles it probably cost around £20 to completely overhaul it.  Worth every penny!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Kirsty's Book

When we visited the Fife Open studios recently, Kirsty was very taken by some bookbinding that we saw.  She's very experienced at origami, having had two 'origami-a-day' calendars to teach her a lot about it (that's 730 origamis!), so she's good at handling paper.

Even so, bookbinding isn't exactly easy.  She had a really close look at the handmade books we saw in Fife and came up with a plan of her own.

Here she is, compiling various elements of the book in our fab new sewing room.

And, many, many hours later, here's the finished item. 
She's planning to use it to record our forthcoming holiday to the Isle of Mull.

 The cover is made from the back of an old art pad, covered in lovely fabric.

She bound the pages together with linen thread and was really keen to keep the threads visible in the spine.

The blue ribbon is threaded through the stitches and glued between the cover and the front and back pages.

Putting her origami skills into practice, Kirsty made two tiny envelopes and stitched them into the spine.

She used a variety of interesting papers and added shaped pages and tags.

Even the clock is stitched in.  She's planning to draw hands on this to show when our ferry leaves for Mull.

Friday, 17 June 2011


Remember these?

The card proofs have arrived...

... and I'm really chuffed with them!

I'm also having some cards printed with photos I took of the village in the snow.  I hope they'll sell well at Christmas.  I almost had them done with 'Merry Christmas' across them, but I reckon they look better just as they are.

Also, I'm having a whole load of cards printed of my paintings.  They are mostly reprints. but there are a few new designs in there too.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sewing Room

At the top of our house we have two attic rooms.  They have a very low, sloped ceiling - too low to be used as a bedroom -  and the stairs to get up to them wouldn't be allowed with modern building regulations, but they are really lovely spaces. 

For several years, until opening Starfish Studio, I used the smaller room as an office.  As we don't have a garden, the larger room was used for drying washing, general storage and accomodating overnight guests on a futon.

Like most crafters, I've always been constantly frustrated at having to clear everything off the kitchen table mid-project just because pesky mealtimes get in the way.  To have a permanent sewing space would be perfect.

We toyed with the idea of flooring the enormous attic space above Ewan's shop, but access to it is very difficult  - in fact, without expensive modifications, it would involve virtually crawling!!  Instead we decided to reorganise the space we already have.

So, overnight guests and the washing are now in the smaller room, a lot of clutter has gone to charity shops/ the bin, and I have a fabulous sewing/ crafting room!

Embellisher and sewing machine are both now permanently out and ready to use. 
 The embellisher is in the favoured 'in front of the window spot' as it's my favourite machine :)

I do have to share the space with Kirsty sometimes!

I had fun making labels for the drawers - using watercolour and stamps.

The only 'problem' with this room is the view, which can be somewhat distracting!  (Not that I'm complaining!)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Quilting lesson

Yesterday I went on a machine quilting course at the Seattle Quilt Company.  Quilting's not really my thing, but I wanted to learn some new techniques.

I was really impressed with Lisa's tuition - everything was clearly explained and any questions were answered in detail.

We started off by tracing a pattern onto calico, then layering it up with wadding before stitching.  It was a really useful exercise and I picked up a few excellent tips that can be used in other stitching projects. 

If you look closely you'll see that I didn't do a very good job of following my pencil lines, but once it has been washed no-one will ever know! 

I'm trying to decide what to do with the finished piece - I may paint it and add beads etc.  Any suggestions gratefully received :)

After lunch we got on to the really fun, creative bit - free machine quilting.

Again, we layered up some calico and wadding and then 'drew' with the machine.  The aim was really to practice meandering and looping patterns which are commonly found in quilting, and I did do a bit of this, but I had much more fun doing these... 

It was great to have the time to just play about with the machine.  I've come to the conclusion that when I do this at home I'm way too precious about wasting fabric and threads, and I should just buy a load of cheap fabric for experimenting.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Angus Open Studios - part two

Having done the coastal route on Saturday, on Monday I set off inland, alone this time as Kirsty was at school.

I decided that it would be a good idea to go to the furthest point first and work my way back, so I covered about forty miles to get to the absolutely brilliant Peel Farm.  Despite it being open all year, I had never heard of this place before reading the AOS brochure.  It's an absolute gem!   


Above and below are photos of the shop - light and airy with an interesting mixture of crafts and homewares.

Here's the farm shop where I treated the family to a punnet of extra-yummy strawberries, first crop of the season.

I had a delicious lunch and took home some cup cakes for tea time - they had a great selection, including some with a Blue WKD icing!   There's a play area, walks and even a duck pond, so it's a great place for everyone to visit.  I'll definitely be back with the rest of my family one sunny Sunday!

In the shop I bought these locally made, coiled fabric bowls to keep some of my sewing bits & bobs in. 

From there I travelled back home via Kirriemuir, Tannadice and Edzell.  At Tannadice there were a few exhibitors at this lovely church venue.

View from the churchyard.

Inside there was a mixture of paintings and all kinds of crafts.  The artist who really caught my eye was Love and Peas - she has an interesting, quirky style that I love.  Kirsty's really interested in book binding and is working on her own creation at the moment.  I bought this gorgeous journal from Love and Peas for me to use and for her to be inspired by!

In Edzell I visited Amy Mason's studio.  Amy's a lovely lady who makes beautiful jewellery in silver clay and I'm delighted to say that she'll soon be bringing some over to Starfish Studio.

In total over the two days I visited a total of 21 artists and makers (some sharing venues) which is a pretty good result!

So that's it over until the same time next year.  It seems to have been a resounding success - it can't be easy to launch an event like this from scratch, so congratulations to all involved!

I've been spoiled recently with the Fife and Angus Open Studios to visit - during North East Open Studios I never get a chance to visit anyone else.  Before we know it it'll be time for NEOS again - September isn't really that far away!