Sunday, 30 August 2015

HALLOWEEN IN AUGUST - Design Team Project

I don't usually think so far ahead, let a lone prepare, but I knew what I wanted to do with these have MDF Wonky Houses from That Craft Place ever since I first saw them. 

And in case you are inspired to make these too, I decided to share these now, to give time for ordering and making up in time for Halloween.  Of course, they would also be good for other festivities such as Christmas (I can see me ordering another set of Wonky Houses!) and they would look pretty good for Easter, decorated with spring flowers and bunnies.  But in total contrast here is what I did to them:

First I gave them an overall colour of PaperArtsy Fresco Finish Chalk paint then used masks and stencils to add detail to the roof. 

Then I masked the roof and windows while I worked on the front of the house, to leave the inside window plain orange.  On the smaller houses I used a stamp to create an overall pattern, and decided to use a sheet of paper on the middle house. This sheet is from a set of Halloween papers in my stash and I've had it so long I don't know the manufacturer, but the large cobweb design was perfect for this project. 

And here are so close ups, showing more detail. After decorating the houses I inked the edges and painted the window frames and doors, using the same paint to decorate the base of the Wonky Houses and the MDF Halloween shapes (also available from That Craft Place).  Finally I attached these in place with PVA glue and gave it all a coat of DecoArt Matt Medium to seal and protect it.

And that's me done!  The houses will be packed away until the end of October and then they will have pride of place. I had a lot of fun decorating these and I hope they will enjoyed year after year. 
If you would like to make your own, here are the materials I used:

MDF Wonkey Houses
Halloween Grab Bag
PaperArtsy Fresco Finish Chalk Paints. I used Black Dress, Pumpkin Soup and Blood Orange - blending the colours to create different shades.
DecoArt Matt Medium
PVA glue
Sheet of patterned paper, alphas and stencils from my stash.

All these items are available from That Craft Place
Do check out other designs in the MDF range and their wide selection of masks and stencils.

To see more Design Team projects do pop over to TCP Blog and why not enter this months Mixed Media challenge?  You'll find details how to take part and lots more ideas too.  Thank you for popping by and I'll be back next month with another project. 

Monday, 24 August 2015

5 in 5- MELANIE - August 2015

Melanie is my friend who lives in Australia and she loves photography. Every month Melanie has taken part in this monthly neme and we managed to find a way round her not having a blog by posting here. I love that we have found a way for her to take part! So over to you Melanie:
Hi Guys here is a very late posting for my August 5 in 5 so late in fact that it is almost September.  The photos were taken when I returned home after an overseas trip of nearly three months.  I got back late on the evening of August 5th and looking for inspiration for a 5 in 5 subject the first thing that sprung to mind was my house plants.  Some of them were in flower, some of them had a few dead leaves but all of them had survived.  This was thanks to my youngest daughter who lives nearby.  She called round each Monday to chat to my plants and water as needed.  Hope you enjoy the selection of photos I took in the first five minutes of getting home.

It was so good to meet up with Melanie during her stay, her time here is never long enough but at least we enjoyed some days out together.  I'm glad her houseplants survived this long trip!

If this has inspired you to pick up your camera and take part in this challenge you have until 25th before this months link closes.
It's great fun and this post should answer any questions or give other information that you need.  And you don't need to go anywhere exciting to take photos, as my own post this month shows.
To see this and more links for this month just go here and
 hopefully I'll be back with more photos from Melanie and myself next month. I hope you will join us and thanks for popping by!

Thursday, 13 August 2015


Last week I was in Birmingham on a print and Book Art course and while I was there I discovered a Pen Museum! 

My excitement soured but sadly it was only open during the hours of my course. Luckily it was just a short walk away so (unable to miss this opportunity) I decided to go during my lunch break.  And boy, I'm so glad I did! 
I went in, planning the briefest of visits but was warmly welcomed and offered a guided tour. I decided I would probably learn far more by accepting this offer rather than dashing round on my own, and again, it was a good decision. I learnt so much and I will definitely be going back for a more leisurely visit.  But let me take you on the guided tour and show you why:

Making a pen nib is a five stage process and each machine cuts or imprints a different part.  I was invited to make my own!  I can't use it as the metal would have been hardened after manufacture but it is a lovely keepsake.

The museum is on the site of an original Victorian pen factory and it's hey day Birmingham provided 75% of the worlds pens!  Can you imagine how successful and busy this trade must have been!  The museum provides a wonderful legacy to that bygone era and is a hidden treasure. 
The pens were weighed after production and this 'LOT' is one persons daily production:

There are examples of all kinds of pen nibs, from basic to specialised.  I never knew music scores were written with a five point pen nib but it makes sense when you do know!

And then there are the beautiful and specially designed:

In the next room there are display cases of exhibition pieces. Unfortunately it was difficult to get a good photo in the time allowed and with the reflection but these give you some idea of the skill and magnificence of the work: 

And other writing related collections were also on display.  Beautiful staplers:

Typewriters that you could use...

A machine to print Braille. 
What's more, I was invited to print my name.  Wonderful!! 

And a Stenograph.  It seems these did not last long and like the forerunner, shorthand, it had to be transcribed afterwards. 
As does the now used taped recordings!

As well as pens there are beautiful ink wells. Does anyone remember using ink at school? My ink came in a bottle or in a small ceramic pot on the corner of my desk. Gosh - I am showing my age!

What a shame most children today don't learn proper handwriting using ink. And even more worrying, I listened to a TED TALK video where  Jake Weidmann  says that some schools in US are doing away with handwriting altogether and teaching children to write using computers and modern technology. 

There are so many reasons we can't let this happen, if only because the physical action of using the hand connects with how we process thought and retain memory.  Thank goodness there are people like Jake around who keep the art of writing and using ink alive. Otherwise beautiful penmanship like this would be lost. Do take a moment to view if you can. It is breath taking. 
Meanwhile I took the opportunity to quickly write with a quill pen. It was so smooth and easy, and I have been collecting large feathers to make my own quills.  I also have a collection of unopened inks in various colours.  I don't propose for one minute to try and copy Jake's work but I might play a bit, and show my granddaughters. After all, it is up to our generation to keep this alive too.

If you want to find out more or visit the Pen Museum there is information here
POSTSCRIPT:  In case you miss it, 'Lady Ella' left a comment below and included a link to another interesting read.  It seems Finland is also planning to stop teaching children joined up writing.
A travesty! 
As the author states 'Handwriting is the face of a person out of sight, as distinctive as their gait, their features or their dress'.
How true!!  In the days of real letters arriving through my door I would get excited looking at the distinctive handwriting and guessing who it was from. Somehow an email arriving into my box doesn't have the same thrill, but luckily some of my friends agree that real letters are both a joy to send and receive, and that hand writing is a thing of beauty even if it is not a work of art. So I do still get happy mail and the joy of guessing who it is from, and from hereon I am going to write by hand even more! And I am going to use pen and ink!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015


Last week I spent a few days in Birmingham with my blog friend Bernice, and she showed me around the city.  One of the buildings we visited was 'The Cube'.  

I loved it's strong architectural design.....

And we had reason to go inside, where I looked up....

 And looked down....

I think you will agree the view is quite amazing.  I love the geometric design, both inside and out.

Look close..... can you see red dots?

These are sculptures called 'The Lovely People', by spray artist Temper, aka Arron Bird.  These are life size  and instead of having faces each has a large red heart. I found them rather strange but I liked the silhouette in the middle photo of the floating child holding a balloon.

The reason we visited The Cube was to find owls. Yes owls. Many cities have started to organise annual sculpture trails and Birmingham was no exception. You can find out more about that here.

I am joining in with Helena today, and to find out what PHOTO PAIRS others have discovered do pop over to see.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

TREE FOLLOWING - August 2015

It's time to share this months photos. There are a few small changes. First,


Each month I check out this ivy. I remembered it being quite tall and thought it would be higher by now.  So I looked back.

This was the ivy in April....

And in January...

I had not noticed that it had been cut back in between.  My attention must have been drawn to other things. And that explains why it hasn't reached the height I expected. I know this tree is managed and cared for, so it is no surprise.  I wonder when it will be cut back again?

The leaves make a lovely silhouette against the sky.

Sadly the horse chestnut that grows next to the London Plane and intertwines branches has developed a disease on the leaves.  Luckily my tree looks healthy. So far. Perhaps this disease is specific to the horse chestnut?

You can see the violet leaves in the grass and around the base of the tree. There are no flowers of any kind this month.

But look up and you can see pendulous seeds. You can't see flowers but according to Wikipedia they are hidden inside:

'The flowers are borne in one to three (most often two) dense spherical inflorescences on a pendulous stem, with male and female flowers on separate stems. The fruit matures in about 6 months, to 2–3 cm diameter, and comprises a dense spherical cluster of achenes with numerous stiff hairs which aid wind dispersal; the cluster breaks up slowly over the winter to release the numerous 2–3 mm seeds'.

 I remember seeing the  empty shell in January:
While I have been away the field has been cut...

and cleared.  Just stubble remains.  And the dead branch.

But new shoots still emerge...

And baby spiders wait their time....

There are clusters of acorns, of different colours and size...

A bit like this lichen really.....

Thank you for popping by.  I am linking in with Lucy over at Loose and Leafy. 

Monday, 10 August 2015


I'm going on an owl hunt..... I'm not scared!     
  No! I was excited!! 
But let me backtrack for a moment.  Did I tell you that I stayed with my blog friend Bernice in Birmingham?  Well, I went for a 3 day book course and did so much more. You see, on our first day we walked from the station to The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) and came across this little fellow: 

Well not so little really.... this is one of the large owls that are currently forming a trail across the city and beyond. It is called
The Big Hoot and after taking photos Bernice and I decided it would be fun to find others.  And so we did!  A few were too far but I think we did really well finding 54 large and 4 small owls in the short time that we had. 

What's more, I was given a personal sight-seeing tour (thank you Bernice!) and despite being a native to the city, Bernice also
discovered parts she has not seen.  We also learnt that these community projects really bring people together.  We chatted to others as we took photos, gave our maps to those who needed them more, and got into conversation on the train with people who heard us talking about the owl trail. 

As an avid photographer I don't need any excuse to get my camera out my bag (ask any of my friends - right Bernice?!) but it is even more fun when there is a challenge and fun to be had.  So, do you have time to come with me? My invitation is for the armchair version, but if you are visiting or live nearby I do suggest you check the real thing out.  Or see if there are trails near you.  I understand there are dragons to be found in Norwich, sheep in Bristol.... but in Birmingham, there are owls.  Lots of them.... so this post is photo heavy, but it is easier on the feet than the real trail so I hope you can stay the course!  Are you sitting comfortably?

The owls all began like this:

And now they look like this:


I loved how some of the owls reflected their location, with design taken from buildings and their surrounding.  And we also enjoyed some of the names:

One Giant Hoot for Owlkind
Twit Choo-Choo
Florence Nightin'owl
and my favourite Tea T-owl

There were more owl photos, more stories. But for now it's time to take a break.  I'm sure you need it as much as I do, if you are still with me of course! And if you are - a huge thank you!!  Your company is appreciated, as are your comments. I have my favourites owls, which are yours? And if you have done a trail or have one near you do let me know.  I may want to visit!
I still have more to share about my time in Birmingham and will be back again soon, meantime, thanks for stopping by!
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