Sunday, 22 November 2015

WELCOME CHRISTMAS - Design Team Project

I love Christmas, it is a time to decorate the house and bring some light and fun indoors during the wintery months. So I decided to make a row of houses that was inspired by a picture on Pinterest. I asked my husband to cut some shapes out of wood and then I started to play:

First I covered the four sides with pages torn from an old text book using matt medium.

Usually I like to use PaperArtsy Fresco chalk paints, but I didn't have colours I had in mind for this project. So I used acrylic paint instead, and roughly brushed the edges with grey to create a distressed effect.  

I then diluted red acrylic paint to create a translucent effect so that the text would show through once it was applied to all sides.

 Next I added some random stamping, using grey Memento ink.

I then got carried away and forgot to take photos of the next stages but the following photos will show how I added an letter to each of the houses. For this I used transfers that have been in my stash for some time as it seemed a good way to use them, but of course you can also stencil or stamp letters to make the words too. Another idea I had was to paint chipboard letters, this would be a great way of using ones up that have the wrong colour or pattern.

Talking of using things up.... I wanted texture on the roof of the houses and found some corrugated card.  I removed the paper off one side, measured and cut strips to fit, and then painted them with grey acrylic. Once glued into position and dry, coat of matt medium helped to seal everything.

Finally I decided the houses needed a sprinkle of sparkle. Working on one area at a time I stamped small dots onto areas of the front and sides of the houses using a glue stamp pad, then sprinkled with fine glitter and let it dry.
I decided it needed a bit more, so I painted small wooden stars in dark grey acrylic. Once dry I added patches of silver embossing powder; and did the same on the bottom edge of each house and the roof, to give more lift.

And here is the finished result.  The glitter does not show well in the photos but these houses will make a cheerful welcome to Christmas and to our visitors.

I'm lucky that my husband cut these house shapes for me but there are lots of pre-cut MDF projects including stars available from That Craft Place. That's where you can also buy all materials needed to complete this project or others like it. 

Here is what I used:

Wooden house shapes (see note above)
small wooden stars
Acrylic Paint in black, white, red and green
DecoArt Matt Medium
Page of text (from an old book)
Memento ink Grey Flannel
Small frost, scroll and dot stamps
Alpha transfers - but you could use a stencil or pre-cut shapes

Embossing pad
Silver embossing powder

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.  

And if you would like to know any other details about how I made the Welcome houses please leave a comment, I am happy to help where I can. Thank you for popping by and I hope you have lots of fun making your own Christmas projects.

Thursday, 19 November 2015


'Have you been blogged out?' a friend asked.
She'd noticed the lack of posts since the finish of my 30 Day Blogging Challenge. 

Not blogged out... no. 

I have a lot of drafts part written, ideas jostling for attention,
and my mind has been restless wanting to get these out. But I have tried to quieten these thoughts because I also have a design team project to make, a Christmas workshop to plan and prepare, and a host of other pressing things. So when my plans changed at the last minute and I found myself with a day I didn't expect, I thought 'GREAT'!  And I started to play...

Only it didn't happen. Not in the way I hoped. Somehow my mojo didn't get the message. Or rather, I had SO MANY ideas I didn't know where to start!  I adapted the attitude that ideas will come through the process rather than the other way round. But still I found myself flitting from one to another, overwhelmed by so many ideas and materials. I should count myself lucky, I know. And I do. It is wonderful when an idea pops and I can follow through, but gradually the table, chairs, floor, and every workspace around me gets covered. It not only looks chaotic, I feel it too.

I tried pushing though this. When ideas or projects did not turn out as I hope I carried on rather than abandon. Let's face it, sometimes happy accidents can result. Other times I learn from the experience and accept that not every thing will have the outcome I hoped for. And truly, as I write this, a sudden thought comes to me!

A realisation... 

This past month I have spent more hours blogging than ever before, and the 30 day challenge involved many hours of analytical thinking and thought processing. It's important to say that I see blogging as a creative activity because I love writing and connecting in this way with others. I do it for entirely for pleasure, but blogging every day occupied much of my thoughts even when I wasn't in front of the computer, and this involved a lot of left brain activity.

No wonder my mojo is missing! It wants to play, not perform! I feel under pressure to create, so why would my creativity want to come out if I am tense and impatient?

So yesterday I stopped what I was doing and went to the cinema.
Being spontaneous can add excitement to life, so while this wasn't exactly adventurous I've never been to the cinema in the afternoon before, so it was not the kind of thing I usually do. It was a great film by the way - A lady with a van. A true story of a lady who lived in a campervan in the driveway of Alan Bennett. I hoped this break might shift something. And today I got back to 'working' on ideas for the workshop and my  design team piece. But still my mojo wasn't there.

Now I see why!

My mojo doesn't want to 'work'. I have been too long in left brain and need to reconnect with my right! Sometimes having too much art supplies can be a hindrance and cause overwhelm.  Yes!  So in an effort to reduce this feeling I will go back and clear away much of what I got out, and just have fun.

Less is more, right?!

And this reminds me of a post I read the other day, where Lain Ehmann said 'inspiration is not enough, its too much'. Right now her words are inspiring me to keep going. 

'Instead of piling more into an already clogged conduit when
we're feeling stuck, we need to take the counterintuitive
approach and STOP the input and START the output'.
Lain Ehmann

I'm already doing this, and it's not feeling good. But Lain reminded me that it is important to keep at it, to shut down the inspirational flow and stop looking for ideas.
To just create.  At some point after all the false starts she says that the good things will start to emerge. I hope so. I am trusting my intuition and need to stop putting barriers in the way.
So, blogged out? No. Just trying to change gear and find my creativity. What do you do when you can't find yours?

Friday, 13 November 2015


Today I am celebrating... 

I have completed the 30 Day Blogging Challenge!


30 days ago I asked myself 'Blogging - What's the point?' and then explained 'Why I am doing the 30 Day Blogging Challenge'. Along the way I shared the '30 Day Blogging Challenge - What have I learnt so far'?
 But now it's over, so what DID I learn?

1. That I CAN commit to a short intense challenge and see it through to the end. And that despite this, and having so many other commitments during this time, I was able to carry on regardless.
The downside: 
  • There were times I wanted to despair, because I have had so many technological problems a long the way. 
  • Other things got left. Like housework, but often more important things.
  • I spent far more time than was needed on this challenge because I wanted to make the most of this opportunity. This was nothing to do with the challenge itself, it's more a case of me being  enthusiastic and doing more than is expected or needed. This means I can sometimes fail to reach the goal I set myself because it takes me longer to get there! This is something I continue to work on...
2. That I have a lot to write about and rather than run out of ideas these just grew even more. I am reasurred that rather than use up my creativity by writing a blog post every day ideas get replenished and I have more than I need.

The downside:
  • My draft box has lots of half started posts and this left me feeling overwhelmed. One idea led to so many others, and as I write here I am tempted to say more, but no, I will come back to this another day as it is a post in itself. See what I mean?!

3. That I have a lot more to learn!  A daily email arrives at 6am every day from Sarah Arrow and with her husband Kevin you are provided with ideas and suggestions on how to become a more effective and efficient blogger. There are links to other blogs where you can learn more and be inspired, as well as a supportive FaceBook group where you are invited to share your post every day.
Some of these tips I already knew in theory, which was confidence building: 

The downside:
  • There is never a good time to take on a challenge that is demanding. I'm sure YOU can relate to that. This meant I might be inspired to put theory into action or carry out a task but did not have time at the present. Besides which, if it is a lot of new learning, I like to gather information and then digest it, to let it germinate or go back to later when ideas have assimilated. Is this a downside I wonder? I don't think so. 
4.  Another reason for not acting on all my learning is that I have made a decision to change to WordPress.  I have thought of this over time but this challenge confirmed it will be right for me. Rather than spend time making change to my current blog it makes sense to do it when I change over.

The downside:
  • This means even more learning! It feels daunting and I will need to put on my big girl knickers, but I feel more prepared and confident now.
5. As well as making improvements to the blog design and content, the 30 Day Blogging Challenge also provides lots of opportunity to improve how you post and reach the people you would like to connect with. I am guilty of not always putting this into action! Because I want time to think about how I do this best. Not because I want it to be perfect - no! One reason I set myself this challenge was to practice imperfection. Let's face it, to post 30 days consecutively takes some doing and there have been many, many times when I have had to remind myself that there are no gold stars for a perfectly constructed sentence however many times I cut and paste, rephrase or revisit to edit my post.  In fact Sarah says in her introduction:

"Perfection is an ideal not a must have. If you are caught in the trap of perfection you’ll not enjoy this blogging challenge".

This was reassuring.  Sarah also tells a classic story of how one of her most successful posts was full of errors. I need to keep reminding myself of this!!

I learnt a lot from this course but it also increased my confidence, showing that some ideas were already being used. Like making lists, or having a plan for posts. But it also confirmed that some days it is good to go with a gut instinct and write from the heart.

6. One reason I set out on this challenge was to visit other blogs more. I had gotten out the habit as Facebook had become more of a focus. I have done this, and it is lovely to reconnect and also to meet new people. My blog has received new followers and lots more comments. In fact I have been really grateful and touched by some of the comments, for some people have spent a lot of time and thought in responding to my posts and this has been revealing, I can learn from this. 

The downside:
  • I can't think of one! Unless you count the time that I plan to spend reviewing these comments in more depth so that I can learn even more.
Here are some examples:

"I have enjoyed the variety of posts that you have done. Some very serious some more chatty".

"..and I think most of us like reading an authentic voice who sometimes posts long and sometimes posts short. So that's a win, win. And yes, I like to find out about the person behind the craft too. It's interesting: I'll google to find out how to do something and yet blogs which are all tutorials aren't the ones I add to my Reader".

"I'm with you on the type of blogs you like. Personally the very 'professional and sponsored by all and sundry' lifestyle type blogs do not appeal to me, it is the lack of connection to the real person. I might as well be reading a high street store blog.
Thanks for sharing your story AND for the links"

7. From doing this challenge I have become more clear and confident about my 'niche' and while I want to develop my skills as a blogger I like my current style.

But interestingly, while I started my blog to share and connect with other artists and creative people, I observed that these
posts do not get as many comments as posts where I share other thoughts or ideas, even though we share a common interest. 

And some bloggers have said the same about what posts generate most comments that they receive.

This is something to ponder...

My posts about travel received comments that I have inspired others to visit places.  Talking of murals I had posted about:
'Even though they are in my neighbourhood I've never looked at them all together like that - a fine case of familiarity meaning I hardly see them - I must go an have another look with fresh eyes'

In the same way, I have also been inspired by others.  I heard about The Kelpie sculptures from a blog posted by a friend.

I also learnt that it is never too late to post something, even when you think the time has past. And there are always reasons to be grateful.

'Thank you for your thanks - there's no time limit on gratitude'!   

I learnt that posts can prompt others to share or remember, and sometimes you learn that a small gesture has a bigger meaning than you realised:
'A delivery like this can really lift a day, or more. I still think often of the day your envelope arrived and how much it meant to me'

8. When I last looked at what I had learnt so far, I wrote:

          'That sometimes there is a focus on developing
       a blog to promote a business or product. That's great.
                 But it is not what I want to do'.

Well, I got that wrong!! I realise now that Sarah uses this term to include the people you want to reach out to and it is not about marketing and selling products. Though obviously this would be the perfect challenge to improve your blog if you did!  

The downside:
Not having enough time to think about how ideas related to me personally, because I was driven to write my blog post so I could keep up with the 30 day challenge. Perhaps this is not the right way to do it. But I knew if I carried out the idea in each email I might
never get any further. Some people do take longer or have breaks, and Sarah is quick to say there is no right or wrong way to do this. We all have to do what is right for us, even if that becomes another learning experience.

So, what now?

First a big thank you to Sarah and Kevin, who are very generous in their teaching.  I have thoroughly enjoyed this challenge and am pleased to learn that I will continue to receive emails and be part of the group.  Because this is the start, not the end for me. I now want to take a breather and give myself time to go through what I learnt at my own pace. This will allow me to make a plan of action and develop the skills I need to improve my blog and set up WordPress. But first I need to sort out my computer problems, because there is no need to make life even more difficult.

I also want to thank each and every one of you who has been with me on this journey, visiting my blog and leaving comments that have meant so much. It's been an interesting time and I know it has inspired others to sign up and take part. A long the way one of my readers wrote:

'I felt that I didn't have time for the 30 day challenge - but this post has made me think that maybe I should MAKE the time'
So if you want to know more, go check out the free 30 Day Blogging Challenge.

As for me? I'll be signing up and doing it all over again. But first I'm going to  celebrate my achievement and have a few days break from blogging!  Thanks for popping by and I will not be back tomorrow! 

Thursday, 12 November 2015


'Why would you WANT to create rust effect?'
I hear some people ask!

Let's face it, most people want to get rid of rust, as it can be potentially dangerous (think of a ships hull or critical part of machinery).  But when I thought of writing this post I suddenly realised how much I am drawn to rust. Because I have a large collection of 'rust' photos....

I love the texture and atmosphere they create and I have an album for photo textures, because they look great added as another layer underneath a photo.  A bit like mixed media only digital! I must make time to play more in Photoshop Elements.... 

But as well as taking photos of rust, I like to use it for putting prints onto paper and fabric...

Because this is what happens.....

 And when you put the paper and photos together, you get this....

In a previous post I showed how I made this book.  So if you missed it at the time and want to know more here is a link. 

But sometimes I don't want to use photos, I want to create a rust effect that has texture!

So here are two ways I have done this:
If you saw my post about a workshop I attended this weekend you would have seen this ATC card.  Here is a link if you missed it and want to see.

We created this effect by using DecoArt paints and texture paste. It looks pretty effective, don't you think? This is a review of products rather than a tutorial but if you want to learn how to do it Mark Gould has other workshops planned for 2016.   

By coincidence I was running my own workshops that weekend and had also planned a rust effect. So I thought it interesting to compare the two different ways of achieving this.  

This time I used RUSTING POWDER by Craftynotions. It is quick and effective, so just what was needed because my workshops were part of a larger event and I only had an hour to complete the project.

Since I had planned this as a future tutorial let me take you through the process...

Starting centre left and going down:

1. I rubbed Kraft card with an ink pad using 2 different shades of brown. 

2. I then put the card through an embossing folder (Tim Holtz)

Centre right going down:

3. I lightly inked the raised image to give definition using dark
brown (you could also use black if you prefer)

4. Here's how to add the rust powder!! 
Roughly brush areas of the card lightly with PVA glue.
Sprinkle the rust powder onto the glue, tapping excess off.
It you have time leave time for the glue to dry, although I often  continue straight on to the next step without a problem. 
Spritz the rust powder with vinegar or water. I have found white wine vinegar works well for me and I usually give 2 coats, leaving it to dry in between. A heat gun can speed the drying if you are in a hurry.
The vinegar creates a chemical reaction and you quickly get a rust effect.

Warning: It also makes you think of fish and chips (though it might not have this effect if you live outside UK)!

5. To finish, lightly go over the raised areas with a graphite pencil to increase the effect. 

In conclusion, both products gave good result and I will continue to use these. However, I plan to experiment more with using the rust powder on card to see if I can create more definition.

Meanwhile, let me quickly show you another example of creating deliberate rust effects:

These are called Ratty's and I won't say much more now because I promised a review of products and this could easily become rusty ramblings! However, if you are interested I did post about Ratty's here and my Steampunk book here.

So, I hope this post answers the question:

'Why would you WANT to create a rust effect?'

But what do YOU think?!  I'd love to know your thoughts, and your own experience of using rust or rust effects. Or may be one of the other things mentioned has sparked a memory or idea? Please do tell!   
Thanks for popping by, it's great to have company!

Tomorrow is my final day of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge.  I will be telling you how I got on and what I learnt.  Hope to see you then.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

TREE FOLLOWING - November 2015

Last month when I went to take photos of the two trees that I am following I had a surprise, because they showed little sign of seasonal change.  Other trees nearby had autumnal leaves and some had started to drop.

And just four weeks later there is a noticeable difference. From this:


To this:

Some of the leaves are on the ground

This one I bought home.  I loved the colour and plan to wax it. Others I collected to use for printing.

 At the foot of the trunk the violets are getting bigger.  A couple more months and they will be in flower.  I still remember how they made me smile during the cold winter months.

And looking up you can see the seed pods.  There was none on the ground, it looks like they may be there to stay for a bit longer.

 Then I walked down to THE OAK.

Last month this tree also had green leaves.

 What a difference this time

Though the leaves I found were lovely colours.  I bought some of these home for printing too.

The only thing that looked fresh and green was this moss, growing on the trunk.

Next month will complete my one year Tree Following.  I don't think I will continue after that although I will often visit the trees as I have enjoyed watching the seasonal change. Maybe it is time to do something different... do you have any good ideas? 
Do I have any posts that you enjoyed and would like to see more of?
And I don't mean within the last few weeks, I mean all posts. Do any stick in your mind? Do you have any favourites?  I'd love you to tell me!
My 30 Day Blogging Challenge is nearing its end and I will be looking back on what I have learned, liked, and want to change.
Thanks for popping by today, it's great to have your company.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


As well as running my own workshops I also love going to ones run by other people. There is always so much to learn, and be inspired by, especially when that someone is Mark Gould. On this occasion there was a wooden box and a set of ATC cards to decorate and because there was so many different techniques we worked on a number of projects at a time. There was lots of painting and stamping, textured paste, and stencilling; and throughout Mark worked at a pace that suited everyone. Let me show you some photos:

Can you see the ATC above? I liked the 3D effect but decided to use the skeleton and coffin on another project, so here's what I did with it:  

I like the contrast of shiny metal against the rust. And here's the others:


I liked them all, but I think this is my favourite.  I have not used acetate in this way before and I liked it so much that I added some to my shopping basket while I was in the shop. This shows the depth of the finished ATC.

And here's the four layers, starting from the bottom up. 

The next two were stamped and painted on the reverse. There was lots of checking to make sure it was properly positioned:

Because we then put the layers together. The photo does not do it justice.

And here is the box. 

I want to add more stamping on it but for now it makes a great space for my new ATC cards.   

There was one more acetate ATC that I messed up. I loved the effect of painting on the back then stamping on the front but I chose the wrong image. I will see if I can rescue it. 

Although I have shopped at That's Crafty this was my first workshop there and it was a great space. This was also the first time Mark had run this particular workshop and it ran over time, but I'm not complaining. Far from it! I learnt lots of new techniques and ideas and I loved every minute of it. Thanks Mark!! I also had great company for the day and came home with new friends and blogs to follow. 

Talking of which, do check out Mark's blog, Spesh Ink, and if you like mixed media you might want to visit That's Crafty too. As well as running great workshops they also have an online shop with an extensivie range.  What's not to love!!

So, that's me for today. Thanks for popping by and I'll be back tomorrow. It will be day 27 of my 30 Day Blogging Challenge. Time soon to celebrate and reflect on what I have learnt and achieved.

Monday, 9 November 2015


There's been a lot going on this weekend so it seems a good idea to give Sian a wave.  When she wrote her first 'ME ON MONDAY' post she never intended that others would join in, but some liked the idea and now she has a following. I've only just started joining in and may not be here every Monday but I enjoy visiting others who are. Right now it fits well with my 30 day Blogging Challenge so I am here today looking back on my weekend....

And as always it started Friday for me. It was a day for food shopping, tidying, and packing. An increasing pile for a Steampunk event that was planned for Sunday, in readiness for 2 short workshops. So it was a list making, card cutting, preparation and
packing kind-of-day. 

And a sinking heart kind-of-day when I couldn't find the rust powder which was an integral part of my design. A keep-calm don't-panic kind-of-day, and trust that it would all work out okay.

It was also another challenged-by-technology kind-of-day. There have been plenty of these in recent months when a simple task can take hours.... when my computer fails to start, or shuts down mid-way. A take-a-deep-breathe and carry-on kind-of-day. I won't bore you with all the details!  Suffice to say it seems I need to replace it and sort out other technical glitches too. 

It's a test of my patience and perseverence that I have managed to post every one of my 30 day Blogging Challenge. 

It was also 'hello son' kind-of-day, with roast dinner and catch up chats. More searching for rust powder, blogging, and late to bed... get up early next morning kind-of-day.

Because Saturday was fun filled! I finally met online friend Deb Wainwright, and we found we had even more in common than we thought. We were both booked on Mark Gould's workshop at That's Crafty and I made other new friends there too. And what a great time we all had!

Then it was a dash-home dash-out-again kind-of-day. A friend had invited us over for fireworks and we stood on her balcony overlooking the grand spectical, with mugs of hot soup and great company. A perfect end, late-to-bed, early get-up-next-morning again kind-of-day. 

Because the computer problems had persisted and I still needed print outs for the Steampunk event. And to find the rust powder! It was a
breathe slow, keep calm kind-of-day. A grateful for calm support and help from my husband and son kind-of-day. They carried bags, did what they could, and gave 'so what's new?' looks, as I dashed around and screamed with joy when I found the rust powder. It was a surreal kind-of-day in company of Steampunks, machinery, and excitement of running book making workshops. A pulling everything together even when things worked against me kind-of-day, and feeling relief, satisfaction and sheer joy as we packed the car homeward bound. 

And before the day ended there were hair cuts, curry cooking, and on-line seaches for computer solutions. A 'good-night, what a great weekend, thanks for your help', write a blog post before midnight, and go to bed happy-happy kind-of-day. 
You can find out more about the Steampunk event here, and I'll be posting tomorrow about the Mark Gould workshop so I hope to see you again soon.  Thanks for popping by and I hope your own weekend was fun filled, relaxing, or what ever made you happy....

Sunday, 8 November 2015


Today we were transported into the world of Steampunk and the Mueseum of Power was the perfect setting.  

People dressed for the occasion...

and there was tea duelling, and another that involved umbrellas.

There was also interestings stands,

and other events, which I missed as I was running two book making workshops.  

There was rust effect, stitching of pages, and college. Here is my sample book:

And here are books that other people made....

Didn't they do well!

The two workshops were only an hour long because there were lots of other events happening through the day. So I designed a book that would suit the occasion; simple in design but with some fun techniques. I made a sample and was feeling relaxed and organised, until I started to pack, and couldn't fine rust powder!

No worry, I would simply buy more.

Except that when I went to the shop they didn't have any!

To me this effect was integral to the design. I could improvise but it wouldn't look the same, and other ways of producing this effect
could not be achieved in the time scale. What to do?

I have learned that getting stressed does not help. I experimented with salt and paint, salt and glue, but there was a chemical reaction and it didn't produce the effect I hoped for. So I resigned myself to managing without.

But I didn't give up hope, and five minutes before we were about to leave I decided to look in a bag. I had taken it on a retreat and I don't remember taking the rust powder with me. But I must have. Because there it was, tucked at the bottom! What a relief! I would have done a happy dance if I'd time but a shriek of joy sufficed!

There was a lot to fit in during the workshop but it went well and I loved that some men came along to join in. It felt quite surreal seeing everyone sitting around the table wearing Steampunk costumes, but they looked amazing. I had a great time and everyone seemed relaxed and to enjoy making a book to take home.
And I hope you had a fun filled weekend too, what ever you were doing. I'll be back again tomorrow as part of my 30 day challenge. Bye for now.

Unfortuantly I forgot to charge the battery in my camera. I don't often use my mobile to take photos so the quality of these is lacking. I need to check the settings because I know it can do better than this, but at least I have a few photos to remember my day!
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