Sunday, 20 April 2014

❡ bluebell slumber ❡

One day soon I will show you the true extent of the building work and upheaval that is going on behind the hedge. It is a case of 'you can't make omelette without breaking eggs' and the eggs are well and truly broken. But the omelette is on it's way. If you think I am writing in riddles then you are correct because I have let almost a years worth of builders and living out of boxes and complete disarray finally get to me. I am living in riddles. What this does is make me almost insanely pernickety about the tiniest of details. Rather than look at all that is left to do and all that I have to organise I decide that now is the time I wish to sew pillowcases. Perfectly. I don't even sew that much. I did a meadow's worth of bunting for Daughter Number One's wedding in a field. I hem things and fix things and sometimes I sew books or into paper but I find myself drawn to the sewing machine now. I want to make dresses and bags and curtains but I thought I ought to start with squares and straight edges. You know? Try and contain some order I guess.
In the eye of the storm when I was supposed to be condensing a home's contents into 2 rooms I dug out my Singer and found a corner on the landing and sewed these from some thriving and energetic fabric from Cape Town. 
Even non sewers have fabric stashes for One Day. Don't they?
I put together a little 'how to'. Because I have got all the time in the world  a strange urge to keep blogging when all around me is unchartered and unfathomable. I think it is because blogs can make life look beautiful and ordered when the rubble, noise and disruption become overwhelming. People live in war zones and I'm fretting about dust. I feel stupid.
Looking at fabric makes things feel better, look at this amazing design. It's like torches shining a light through the night. Or dandelion seeds or pencil points or flags. 
This was the other choice. The cloth is from South Africa but this one is reminiscent of Indian paisley. But very African on closer inspection. 
This fabric was particularly narrow so I cut a long strip 182cms by 56cms. You could cut two pieces to save on waste, making one of them 21cms longer to make the pillow flap. I don't want to confuse you though if you want to make them for the first time. I think sometimes you have to dive in and learn from the first one you make then you can adapt to the fabric you have. I always get the iron out as well as the sewing machine. They partner up well to point you towards a neat finish. I ironed myself a hem either end and then sewed them without pins which would more than likely give a true seamstress the vapours.
Here's a pic of the old Singer who has lived with us for 20 years now, she was an antique when I got her. Still limping on. Just like me. The wiring would be condemned now so don't tell the sewing stewards.  
A neat hem and I'm happy, all is right with the world again.
I've got a terrible habit of working in inches AND centimetres which is a default of my generation. The young middle aged. Once you've made your hems, on one of the hemmed ends turn in 8 inches or 21 cms and pin or iron flat. 
Then you bring the two short ends together (right sides facing) and sew all the way round leaving the flap end open. Then using your bone folder or a pointy thingummy poke all of your corners out and press well. Then finish it all off with some fat border hems on the right side to make them look like they were made in a French designer's garret. And if all of that made no sense at all I made a diagram which I enjoyed more than making the pillowcases but not as much as I am going to enjoy waking up to these patterns next to my face. 

Sorry for the volume of pillow images but 3,483 images of rubble and dust and cardboard boxes cannot be made to look even vaguely lifestyle bloggy.

Then just as I think everything is under control I find myself avoiding builders, general blokeyness and decisions and swishing to the woods and lying down among the bluebells  trying to capture their particular essential bluebellness and failing. But not really caring.
OH dear bloggers, what will become of me?

Sunday, 6 April 2014


This past week was National Stationery Week and I had the complete luxury and pleasure of visiting The London Stationery Show. It was at the Islington Design Centre and was a real treat for me. Ever since my nan lived in a road that had a WHSmith at the end of it (you know when it used to be filled with proper stationery and books and mags back in the day, if anyone wants to know why it has gone wrong, see me after class) ever since then I have been a stationery glutton. A fiend for fine papers, pens and all things desky.

The London Stationery Show was as expected, very marvellously practical and beautiful. Just as William Morris suggests. 
"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” 
The show was full of those very things.
As well as seeing marvellous displays from all of all time faves like Moleskine and Scotch Tape and Post Its and the exhilaration of chatting to fellow enthusiasts there were some hyperventilation moments like when I got given a whole bag of samples to try from PLUS Japan. I was a bit too shy to get my camera out whilst I was strolling from stand to stand. I need a pal to drag along for added bravado. Anyone want to come next year?
Here's a round up of my happy stationery show moments. 
A pencil, yep, just a pencil but it feels soooo good, it has a weightiness to it and it glides over paper. The rubber works too. It's heavenly. It's a Palomino Blackwing. What a tremendous name? I was very kindly given a sample and the place to buy these top of the range pencils as well as loads of other quite delectable desk items is from here.
A stunning array of stationery without breaking the bank AND my personal seal the deal of any internet shopping. FREE DELIVERY. Toot toot. I'm going to have a whole box of them. They are so nice and sketchy.

Another discovery was the Fold Ease. A finger thimble with rollers on. For the bookbinders among you, it's a bone folder for your finger.
Check me out.
They call me Bone Fingers. Anyway, after a bit of practice as it takes some getting used to, these are quite useful little folders. You simply sweep the paper with them and you obtain a precision crease which will appeal to the perfectionists. Even if you only buy one to fold your letters with. It keeps the costs down in the Royal Mail if you keep your papers folded flat as poss. These dudes come in two sizes, there's a gap for your nail if you have talons and they are only £2.99 with free postage if you buy a couple. Fold Ease from here 
From Plus Japan  I got a whole bag of booty. they were so sweet and generous. This roller stamp which miraculously produces perfect prints every time with a variety in detail. This pen that produces a washi tape strip
My bag of swag and a whole host of paraphernalia 
I'm narrowing it all down to a palatable blog post so haven't included everything. It was a great way to spend the afternoon, I got loads of contacts, met some of the people from various companies that I already use and lots of ideas and new approaches. It was all very pleasant and interesting. I'm already excited about next year. 
If you like all this, you'll love this and I want to buy this and next week I am going to tell you all about this fabric pile of divineness.
and I'm still practising my lettering, finding a way through breaking the rules and into something that feels comfortable for me to use. And something that feels like mine despite the myriad of lettering influence that is everywhere.

Have a great week ahead, whatever you are up to.
Spring is here, it is a relief to hear the birds and feel the sun.

"Apricity" is an old word from the 1600s, 
it means to feel the sun's warmth on a winter's day. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

✳︎✳︎✳︎ L E T T E R I N G ✳︎✳︎✳︎

After a whirlwind canter around last weeks blog hop I'm back with "What I did at the weekend". Do they still make you write up your weekend memoirs in junior school on a Monday? I used to make mine up to make them sound more interesting and guess what? 
I still do. 

The sun shone and glittered over London town this weekend, accompanied by the sound of footballs, shrill squeals of delighted children, along with the hiss of opening beer bottles and the odd glimpse of a flapping sheet hung out to dry. I decide to get busy with some paper and pens and practising my lettering skillz. I wanted to try something out for a friend's new business as well as hone up my general thoughts about lettering and how I want to approach it. I want to prepare for this.

I  bought these letter cards at Paperchase which I quite liked, I wanted to buy the whole set but then in my usual miserly fashion, I thought I could make some. I think this about almost everything I see which makes me actually brilliant to go shopping with as I discourage purchases with my refrain. I enjoy buying less and living more as I pile on the years. I recite this when I look at Things I Want. My anti consumer chant.

I cut a pile of watercolour card into 110 x 70 mm pieces and set about freehand painting some borders. At this point I was simply doodling with no plan of action. I find this works for me, you may work better after doing a few sketches. I would rather dive in and make mistakes, I have learned so much from doing just that. The only thing I am going to lose is a bit of paper and I repurpose my mistakes into cards and labels so Nothing Gets Wasted. (another miserly chant)
A good sharp scalpel, a steel ruler and a cutting mat are invaluable, if you want to make any paper based items, buy these now. They last forever and make all the difference. When I was teaching at The Make Lounge (which has sadly closed) everyone loved the tips and hints I gave them about measuring well and cutting cleanly. The way you hold the ruler and the scalpel are quite important but not very easy to explain without you watching what I do. You will have to come to one of my workshops. I will let you know when they will begin. (still got a chimney stack to come down and a floor to lay)
I love watercolours, if you buy really good ones they last forever and you only need a tiny dot of colour to make a lot of paint and best of all, you don't need to rinse your palettes as a little water refreshes them and they seem to live forever.

Here's me painting on borders and trying not to think about the end result except when I decided to use some masking fluid. Then you have to think about 2 steps ahead.

Here's some borders waiting to be filled.

And here are my letter cards when I had finished. I was so engrossed that I forgot to take during shots. But I jumped in with the watercolour on a big brush with a beautifully pointed tip and then doodled them over with a few scratchy pen and ink lines...Some of them are badly executed but they are the ones I learned the most from. I'm not hiding them away, this isn't that sort of blog. ;-)

And here's some single shots of my favourites.

Yeah, they need work but they fuel other things...

It was a really great play around with some good old fashioned doodling and I relished it. I find that doing something like this really gets my mind pinging ideas around and now I have a whole set of ideas to practise. I want to get the paints out again but I have to knuckle down to some 'proper' work this week. 

I did a project similar to this in a junior school and I encouraged every child to draw me a letter which I then scanned and turned into a jaw dropping font for the school magazine we were designing. 
Here's a glimpse.

The kids loved it. I spoke to them about letter design and typography including showing them Jessica Hische's Daily Drop Cap which they all loved. Then they designed their own letters, the image above is just a glimpse into the huge body of work we did around that project. Apologies for the gloomy pictures in low light on a dark winter's afternoon. Wish I had taken better ones.

I do love a nice lot of pictures on a blog post and I am sure you all do too. Hence the endless images....Thank you for reading today, come back again soon. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

⊙ The day they let me loose in a paper factory ⊙

If you are new here then you are very welcome. 
Come on in 
Don't be a stranger.

The following is a piece I wrote whilst teaching a group of deaf Nepali girls how to make books a couple of years ago. We shared no common language, I taught by sign language and demonstrating and gentle tweaking on shoulders. The girls had been rescued from trafficking, they were learning to make crafts in order to survive. I volunteered to teach them and spent a couple of months in Kathmandu alternating between extreme home sickness and a propensity to stay forever. I did come home but I have never forgotten.

This is my homage to paper, dry soft skin and thin mountain air.


I'm being driven through Kathmandu in Nepal, in a taxi, seats furnished with bathroom mats and a very sweet, earnest driver, we swerve around school buses with drivers glassy eyed and leaning into mobile phones.
School girls with long, once white woollen tights scatter across city highways, over shawled and over wrinkled old ladies wander through heavy traffic. 
Vehicles suddenly go into reverse and one way means actually any way you like?
everyone shrugs and moves over
this would enrage the British, the rules; what about the rules?

A surplus of sadness pills in my stomach, that life can be so fragile, that this is we are, all leaning like dominoes on each others ability to think clearly, to move in turn, to skim over imminent disaster like rice rolling in an oiled pan 
no mans land:
no rules land

Oil and water, I dream of them, I'm inhaling dust here,
this airless, dirtbowl of a city,
my feet are cracking open and I have callouses on my toe pads
I'm becoming old before I'm ready
the dust settling into my lines and widening the cracks,
the thinning and drying of skin and surface whilst everything still boils and rages underneath

I am still a volcano

I reach up and out and in
over and over
feet grinding into ground that could tilt into an emergency
I'm holding on to the sides of my yoga mat in a rush of electrical storm
in a gale of thunder cracks and dry lightening

evening storms canter around the valley like dice in a cup
drying up
rolling up
spitting me out at dawn
wide awake, I recognise a cuckoo's song;
it's Springtime in Kathmandu
I'm here, I'm here

I dream of an oasis, a sea, a pool? a wetness that isn't here
I'm landlocked
I never felt so far from the quench

We survive the journey to the paper factory on a bus racing 
car chasing, 
motorbike ricocheting 
piece of road, 
"the factory highway "

Lots of industry gathered in one place, 
past the Rose Garden Restaurant and the lone petrol pump.. 
I enter through the grey gates held open by a small walk on character part Nepali
verging on the role of oriental doorkeeper of some exotic brothel, a twinkle in his toes
a query in his eyes? He should be in the movies...He is in this one, mine.

And I'm in the paper factory, a huge hanger of a building
Wide open at each end and tables in the murky dark with workers all masked
breathing in paper dust all day. 
I'm glad to see a kitchen, lunch being prepared for workers, this isn't a sweat shop
this is a good business here.
A sign proclaims they do not employ children.

The production manager is a sweetheart, he indulges my over excitement and lets me roam the factory sighing and distracting his workers. I am spoiled, suffocated by choice, overwhelmed by colour combos and size and weight and colour.

sewn book blocks
I'm here to buy paper for book covers, these are the sewn book blocks that I have taught the girls to make. And below is the first stack that I dare to rifle through. It's too much, even for me who likes nothing more than fanning through reams of print and colour.
too much choice

It's everywhere, piled high, a laundry of assorted flora.

paper towers

paper carnation

Giant carnations of pink chrysanthemum, I am high on giant dry flowers.

paper dyeing

The garden is the dyeing department, a dip into green then a spreading and a sunbathe.

paper spreading

paper drying

die maps

The paper die cutting department, located in a leaning shed...a huge press and these paper dies looking like architectural room plans. I'm in love with their lines, their ability to cut precise sharp creases. The kiss of paper, the hiss of press.

die map

die map 2


dotty spots

my booty

And ladies applying dots of colour to boxes, labouring under a rare sunbeam that spotlights spots in the dreary dark.

These last sheets are some of my buying decisions. 
They are already attached to books...drying now in the quiet studio.

Here I am
Coating myself in ointments and creams
exporting paper reams and dreams of the sea.


The PaperLove Blog Hop is a celebration of all things paper! Follow the links to discover more bloggers who love paper and use it to inspire and delight. And if you want to explore a whole world of paper, and stretch your paper passion further with a host of creative projects, why not join the innovative new online course PaperLove (starts March 31). Led by book artist Rachel Hazell, PaperLove is a five week creative adventure for paper lovers. Find out more here.

Majo Bautista / Tona Bell / Louise Best / Cathy Bluteau / Jennifer Bomgardner / Giova Brusa / Lindsay Buck / Beka Buckley / Joanna Caskie / Jonathan Chapman (Mr Yen) / Halle Cisco / Sarah Clare / Cathryn Clarge / Dawn Clarkson / Rhiannon Connelly / Jenny D'Fuego / Molly Dhiman / Ian Dudley / Ayisatu Emore / Akmal Farid / Monika Forsberg / Claire Fritz-Domeney / Louise Gale / Chrissy Gaskell / Julie Hamilton / Emma Hawman / Rachel Hazell / Holly Helgeson / Claudine Hellmuth / Kim Henkel / Sarah Hoffman / Joanne Hus / Paula Joerling / Beth Kempton / Julie Kirk / Eos Koch / Katie LaClair / Kristy Lankford / Michelle Manolov / Doreen Marts / Rosie Martinez-Dekker / Tori Mears / Maria Mederios / Lise Meijer / Debbie Miller / MaryJane Mitchell / Suzy Naidoo / Grace Noel / Hannah Nunn / Camilla Olsson / Jo Packham / Rachelle Panagarry / Monette Pangan / Melanie Paul / Nicole Piar / Jen Pitta / Liz Plummer / Julie Reed / Michelle Reynolds / Lisa Rivas / Angee Robertson / Natalie Ryan / Aisling Ryan / Elisabet Sapena / Kyrrha Sevco / Jamie Sprague / Elizabeth Steele / Terri Stephens / Juniper Stokes / Mary Tanana / Maike Thoma / Linda Tieu / Gabrielle Treanor / Tammy Tutterow / Deborah Velasquez / Jordan Vinograd Kim / Cat Whipple / Brooke Witt / Katie Wood / Amelia Woodbridge