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

Friday, 7 March 2014

⚛ The Greatest Show on Earth ⚛

I am running in circles and squealing at my decision to take a sign painting course....
A fairground art sign writing extravaganza.


I've been drawing and doodling lots of letter forms lately and whilst living in London I see some very splendid signs and handwritten notices. I have always been drawn towards 3D and shadow work in letterforms and when I was a teenager 3,000 years ago it was all I did when I had a piece of paper and a pen. I didn't know about typography or fonts then. Only album covers. 

As part of my commitment to learn something new every year (last year was doing my maths GCSE which I passed ..YAY but it wasn't very exciting, it was very useful when I had to work out how many materials to buy for my new workshop-more on that soon) this year, I have chosen to go on this sign writing course. Quite simply, I want to paint signs. I want to know what kinds of paints to use and how to use one of those sticks with a ball on the end for support. There must be a lifetime of learning to absorb. I am sure I will be full of terminology and lung damage from inhaling paint fumes after my week of study. Of course, I am not going to be an expert after a week but I have got some of the skillz needed surely? The course is taught by a very skilled traditional fairground painter and that is the style we will learn. In a working fairground yard with real life examples all around us. Can you imagine? What a thrill.

Here is a circus inspired picture  I made last year. I only had a box of cheap child's paints but I really got into using them, the pastels seduced me and I ended up raiding the local toy shop for a lifetime's supply.

The colours inspire me, I might see if I can make a pastel coloured circus style sign...lead myself away from the traditional style. I guess it will depend on the materials available.

I've been pinning HERE onto a circus/fairground board for inspiration...feel free to send me any via pinterest. 
I'm already worried about Ms and Os and Ss. I've stopped obsessing about building materials and I'm back on track thinking about Words. 
Delicious words, letters and swirls.

I can't wait. It's not until November so I have ages to decide which word I should paint first? 
Any ideas? 
What word or short phrase would you paint?

Thursday, 20 February 2014

⧈ A toy hotel for Zee B ⧈

I wanted to share this, a simple project that taught me that having a lack of resources can be a GOOD thing. 

I found myself living in a beachside room in Cape Town, the one place in the world where fresh air is really really um... fresh. It hurls in straight from the Antarctic. It's gulp able, restorative and sometimes full to the edges with negative ions. And it never stops rolling in over the endless metronomic waves. It's exhausting to watch for too long. It's like thinking about infinity. Ouch.
Whilst living in this beautiful location and watching this endless sea, I didn't have any furniture and Cape Town prices for second hand stuff is waaaaay too expensive for temporary measures, so after making a bedside table out of a cardboard box and a scarf I got an idea. A creeping little voice that wouldn't go away. We had a young lady staying with us who needed to put her toys and clothes somewhere tidy. I decided to embark on a project that cost a few pence, was hours of fun to make and is now an iconic shelving system. 

If anyone would like to make one you only need some cardboard boxes, masking tape, newspapers, wallpaper paste and paint. I got a load of cardboard boxes from the Wine Shop. Wine in Cape Town is delicious, high quality and very well priced. They also have lots of strong boxes to throw away which I pounced upon. After deciding my arrangement I started to bind the boxes together with masking tape. If I had access to better supplies I would have probably used a gaffer tape or possibly even soaked strips of fabric in white PVA glue but this was the first time so I can give you the fruits of my learning curve. 

This is what it looked like at that stage

I then added a few extras to make it seem more interesting to an investigative child,  I added a secret compartment and a decorative heart cut from the cardboard. I wish I had added a couple of metal rings that screw into things as it would have been cool to hang things from it too, bunting, jewellery, key rings, goggles etc...

I put a lot more masking tape on after I snapped the above image, I wanted to be sure the boxes would stay together and the tape wasn't very good quality, you can see it starting to peel off. Next task was to tear free newspapers into strips, I used a piece of wood, You could use a strong ruler...put the newspaper piles under it with a strip sized piece showing and tear strips against the wood edge. 

Make your wallpaper paste up, a bit thicker than the usual wet slop and I pulled the strips of newspaper through the paste and used my fingers in a scissor action to wipe off the excess slop. It was messy, we did it outside. Kids get bored with this after a while so just let them have a go. You get to do loads of it. It helps that it was sunny and breezy in Cape Town that week. 
Patience is required and a certain meditative quality sets in as you glue strips, wait for them to dry and then start all over again. It's papier mache essentially. I did the back, the underneath and the insides of boxes paying special attention to box joints. The boxes get wet and warp but that just adds to the charm for me, they can be propped up whilst drying. It is very fragile when wet but brittle tough when dry. I think I managed about 5 layers of paper before I got tired of it. It looked nice like this, I left it to dry out for around a week. It shouldn't be moved whilst wet, get someone to help you if you need to put it in a drying place. I sat it on newspaper which I peeled off after. 
Here's a close up of those joints, layered up with extra strips...if I did it again, these would get reinforced with plasterer's scrim mesh tape.
The heart detail needed a bit of jiggery pokery but in the end I wrapped newspaper through and around the heart opening.
I painted the whole thing with white emulsion, it was the cheapest thing I could find and I was now on a mission to spend as little as possible.  
I managed a couple of coats, it took ages what with all those surfaces.

At this stage it actually looked like I imagined it would which is an achievement in itself for a creative idea being born into reality. It's easy to get distracted on the path of making but I was quite tenacious about finishing this and I did have a little helper who was really enjoying the making. She didn't really understand where I was going with it all but she mucked in like a Mini Trooper Art Assistant Deluxe.

Ready for embellishment (although I liked it like this)
the light and shadow make enough of a pattern for me.

I wanted to dwell on my favourite architecture in Cape Town for inspiration.

But these are my ethereal and wafty artist ways and I had to attend to the important matter of getting this project finished and accepted a helping hand from a very excited young lady.

What would you have done with it at this stage? I would love to know...

We set about making a kind of English Garden Theme as we had done a lot of birdwatching, plant picking and garden viewing. A little corner of Cape Town was made into an English garden to remind us of home. No sketching, straight in with paint and brushes. We donned knickers and headscarves and painted an afternoon away. The very best thing to do whether you are 5 or 50.

Spot the garden worms for the birds to eat?
Insects and bees and frogs and dragonflies and birds, of course.
And a throbbing pink heart thrown in to remind us all of what is important.
When LouLouLOves makes something then the heart has to become part of it.
Little ZeeB wanted to sit in every shelf when it was finished but she didn't quite fit which was just as well. It's a tough piece but not a climbing frame.
But it gave me an idea to make a puppet theatre in the same fashion.
I might do one with Aubrey when he get's older, a circus booth for putting on 
The Greatest Show In Town.

And here is is in situ, in all it's glory.
The piece is still used a year later as a toy hotel and is much loved.
I want to make another one, a grown up one...
Cost £7.50.