Friday, 29 August 2014

le grand tour

I know that cycling seems to have very little to do with a crafting DIY blog. But I've always seen my dad was a bit of an oblivious fashion icon, ever since he climbed Helvellyn in Aviator shades, a pringle jumper and vintage adidas shorts and pumps...in1997. This was all a happy coincidence, as my dad was simply wearing his own dad's cast offs, making him a vintage legend who wouldn't look out of place on an outward bound themed shoot in Esquire.

Day-glo dad
His bike is also noteworthy in the style stakes. Hand built and made to measure in 1966. yes that's 1966! His Whitcomb frame has just been resprayed and is looking as clean and shiny as it did in our World Cup winning year. The greatest achievement is that it hasn't been stolen all this time. 

Dad and his children have a constant struggle to convince the world they are welsh. We go to the rugby and everything - we supported Wales even in the 80s and 90s when no one given the choice would have. To no avail apparently, people still needed convincing, so we set off to cycle from Bristol to Crickhowell, where my Aunt and Uncle live.  My Aunt Cathie was the previous owner of my own Orbit frame road bike. It's not quite as old as dad's but this seems like a bit of a veteran's day out when it comes to the kit. 

The significance of this pilgrimage to Cathie so she could see the bike had gone to a good home encouraged me to also use the 1970's halfords gloves and the equally advanced in years panniers. 

Dad 's water bottle beats them all however. If anyone knows what year Halfords brought in this logo I'd love to know. 

Our trip took us winding through the hills and valleys, zig zagging back and forth across rivers banked by Wales and England. It is breathtaking countryside all the way, with particular highlights being Tintern, and it's glorious Abbey ruins.

Tintern Abbey on the old Instagram

We stayed the night in Monmouth, a town with endless enticing shops, I was rather gutted I only had a modest pannier so couldn't fit in all the beautiful odds and ends. 

lycra-clad Harriet

I was rather thankful for this lack of baggage later on up the steepest of hills to Grosmont.

the Whitcomb outside the chemists

The orbit trying to blend in with the crowd

Rossiters of Monmouth's food writing section.
 Of course we had to check that Meera's book was in stock!

 The trip took us to Cathie and Peter's in Crickhowell, and then ack to Abergavenney train station where we found a pint and a furry friend.

On return to Bristol I was strictly ordered into the shower because of the pungent odour I now omitted. I was blissfully unaware of this as I stood on the packed train back to Bristol.

On our trip, by some stroke of luck, we managed to encounter an incredibly talented crafting duo going by the name of father's shed

We found them in a Skenfrith village hall Market, touting their incredibly superior wares. What particularly caught my eye was their inventive use of chintzy glass bowls to make beautiful lamp shades for light fittings. Beautifully judged with quirky light bulbs and coloured cord, these guys will make anything you want. Just ask!

The trip was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with my dad, who lives in Twickenham, so I don't get to see him much unless I'm up in town for work.  

As you watch the clock ticking all the way to the weekend, how about dusting off the bike in the garage and seeing the world with a bit less traffic this weekend?

I urge you all to get on a bike and see the world on two wheels, even if  - 2 days on - I sit down on hard seats with trepidation.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Wedding Bunting...not for the faint hearted

I normally warn people off wedding bunting as it is invariable underestimated in required length, required time etc.  But how could I quibble when called to arms by one of my earliest icons of crafting prowess, my oldest friend Chloe's mum, Jan Fuller?! 

It was only one flag, mind.

I had a little bit of breathing space this how did I fill it, a bit more sewing, what else!?

Chloe is getting married in a few months. The invite popped through the letter box on friday, complete with 2 bunting flags and instructions to get creative! I am always keen, when presented with a crafting challenge, to use up what I have and not have to buy anything new - Jan would surely approve - that is the whole premise of make do and mend is it not?

Most useful kit is at the studio but my quilting kit still resides at home and with it, a healthy amount of embroidery thread. 

I haven't done any embroidery since I monogrammed Ant's initials for his birthday present last year. I'm a bit rusty to say the least, and improved considerably as soon as I found a needle with a big enough eye to fit a full strand of embroidery thread through...  

So far, a little bit wobbly, but I like to think it is friendly embroidery. 

I love colour graded embroidery thread...these three ferns were done with one thread that gradually got pinker and pinker!

For those of you keen to have a go yourself, I used a split stitch to write my font. I faintly drew it in a water soluble pen. To decorate, I did a variation on the two below stitches, Tete de Beouf and Fern.

Split Stitch

Tete de Beouf stitch

Fern Stitch

And here is the finished article, complete with tassel so I'll be able to identify it from the thousands 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Food Styling

photo Carly Wong
 I got asked a little while back if I ever did any prop/food styling...Not as such, but I thought what a better excuse to get some very talented friends together and get some good food out of it at the end, that is if we hadn't varnished it or used any other horrifying food styling techniques.

Photo Carly Wong
 The flower petals in ice cubes was something I'd seen on that wonderful lifestyle porn site, Pinterest. I had to have a go.
Photo Carly Wong
Wonderful Carly Wong and Simon Withyman shot the food, cooked beautifully by Belle Mayo (who also salvaged a rather sorry looking thai green curry that I had attempted.)

Belle suggested some rather good looking dishes and ingredients. Those heritage carrots at the top were to die for!

Photo Carly Wong
I was interested in creating storied around the food and finding interesting table tops. Clifton Stone kindly lent me a piece of slate and limestone for the shoot. I also found a beautiful old board game board in a charity shop that suited this bright, vintage brands shoot above.
Photo Carly Wong
 The plates were an assortment of family bits and pieces that I have inherited as well as Mum's ever interesting stock.

Photo Carly Wong

Photo Carly Wong
I had been trying to find a reason to hold on to the dominoes for years. I'm so glad I did!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Another new venture?! Part 2

SO off I went to Seville. I went alone and had an incredibly productive time as I had no distractions. although I could have really done with a friend in the evenings! I powered through my book very quickly!

Seville was perfect. I was so lucky because I hadn't done all that much research other than having people rave about it whenever I mentioned I was going. That was good enough for me.

The city is covered in beautiful hand painted tiles wherever you look. Even the most ordinary housing has hand painted tiles porches and window sills.

There is a wonderful mix of the earlier, Moorish style geometric designs alongside the later, lyrical pastoral spanish designs. This gave me the idea to layer up contrasting styles of tile design using fresh contemporary colours to create brilliant borders for my wedding stationery.

There were some brilliant fonts on display too.

I took my sketch book everywhere I went and jotted down interesting patterns in the stone, tiles, and general architecture.

I had also brought out my watercolours so here is the first attempt away from the Folk House class room

You'll have to wait a wee while for some finished products...they are being kept under wraps for now...

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Another new venture?! Part 1

You may think I have enough on my plate...?

Well I clearly didn't think so...and have added another string to my bow. In doing so, I have made the tough decision to fine tune what I do and cut out the event and interior design (it was SO hard to say no to a job of that nature today.)

Last year, my step sister Sally, asked if I could help with her wedding stationery. I couldn't resist but jump in with both feet. Soon a fully designed invitation was in existence and I had been bitten by the bug. The wedding industry is something I have always felt I could contribute to but was never sure of what particular field. 

Sally and Andy's invitation from my instagram 
Meetings with my good friend and super wedding stylist Kirsten Butler helped me start on the long path to becoming a wedding stationery designer, with the opportunity to design some invitations for a shoot at Arnos Vale. I featured those on the blog a little while back and it really got me inspired.

I needed to improve my painting skills so I enrolled on a wonderful 5 week course at the Folk House and got back to basics with the watercolours. It was a botanical drawing class, which is a subject I love, and just happens to be all over high street prints and homewards at the moment. 

These seems to go pretty well, so I started to have a think about what kind of designs I wanted to do for my wedding invitations. After narrowing it down from being everything to everyone, I settled on hand painted, high end, beautiful and delicate patterns inspired by botanical prints. But I had a strong desire to add a contemporary edge. This would come in the use of colour. Poppy Delevingne's second Pucci Wedding dress summed up the feel I wanted to give: incredibly elegant and drawing on traditional fold art and crafts but beautifully bright, daring and contemporary.

This led me to think of the traditional floral patterns found in Mexican Folk Art...Could I justify going to Mexico just to look at embroidered flowers? Hmm, I needed to think a bit closer to home...

So I booked a ticket to Seville.

You'll have to wait for the next post  to find out if Seville gave me what I needed and to get a hint of my drawings and paintings of Seville tiles and architecture

Monday, 11 August 2014

Where have I been?

So where have I been these past few months?

I won't lie, I've been having some fun. Ant and I have been to the odd festival, found a shepherds hut or two down in Cornwall for much needed intervals in our busy lives.

Photo Anthony Jolliffe
Somersault Festival, after too much sun

Photo Anthony Jolliffe

There has been an awful lot going on in our lives. Many creative excitements and challenges and some personal ones too...

...One of my best mates Polly has been getting through Breast Cancer, she is an incredibly cool, well dressed individual and has been tackling it all head on with an incredible blog. I decided the least I could do was run the Race for Life

Photo Anthony Jolliffe

But I couldn't do it without emanating a bit of Polly's innate style. I LOVE these trainer wings, and I can't believe I got them from a joke shop. They are still on my trainers, a month on.

My human sketchpad, Al, has gone under the pen again for another nautical themed tattoo. This was a halfway through photo but I almost prefer it to the finished result as you can see the pain he is enduring for his art!

I've spent a fair bit of time in London, working on a few shows, that you will no doubt hear about soon. This incredible installation at the SouthBank Centre is all about its LOVE festival. This euphoric assault on the senses is what I think love looks like. A little too painful to start straight in the face, but if you are brave enough to do so, you will discover new hidden delights the longer you look.

Saying that, it was a bit of a grey day when I took the photo!

One of those London shows is one called Fat Man, devised by Martin Bonger and Alex Swift, produced by Little Mighty and Move to Stand. I won't give too much away but it's touching, bloody funny and will completely turn the myth of Orhpeus on its head. Find out more about the tour here

Martin is, by no stretch of the imagination, Fat, Therefore he needed a pretty pimping fat suit to get the job done. I called up Jill Molyneux and Kelly Jago at Jag Props who made an incredibly life like fat suit. I then dressed it, grubbed and sweated it up and, voila! that protruding tummy above is in fact  a prosthetic tummy on a glorious fat suit. 

My theatre company Dot and Ethel is going from strength to strength, with Heidi and I just about keeping up. We have secured Arts Council Funding for a national Tour of our christmas show the Little Match girl, now transformed into the universally seasonal 'MATCH'.

Photo Chris Collier

That scraped the surface of the past few months. The pace still hasn't let up and at times it feels like I'm keeping just out in front of the tidal wave. I'm sure many of you feel like that, but we all keep coming back for more.  I look forward to sharing all that comes with you in future posts.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Play Hair

I've been working with the uber talented photographer Carly Wong rather a lot recently. A few months back she shot and I styled for a new Hair extensions company Play Hair, set up by stylist Mia Stronach.

Here are some of my favourite looks from the shoot; a young, playful image. Items from Miss Selfridge, Quiz and Oasis. Three highstreet shops I haven't been into for years, I was extremely pleasantly surprised!

Mia adding extensions to model Amy Burnett
 Here is a behind the scenes video of the shoot, made by the brilliant Joe Murphy