Monday 29 December 2008

My First A4 Book

I have just completed my first A4 book. It was quite hard work as it is so big - I had to make quite a lot of it on the floor as my work ‘table’ wasn’t big enough for it.
I love the wall paper that I’ve used to cover it in, (I may have to find some more of that) but I can see several places that I could have done better. The stitching and the end pages don’t match very well – the stitching being brilliant blue and the end pages being greeny/grey. And because it was so big I didn’t feel like I had much control over the pages when stitching them together. All things I can work on to improve in the future. I quite like the end product, but I think I will keep A4 books for when I find paper or material with a really huge pattern on it. Back to the smaller books then.

So you can get an idea of the size I was working on, I was working with A3 paper folded in half to make A4 pages. The covers are slightly bigger than A4 so they protect the pages, when laid flat that was much bigger than A3.
Normally if I am working on an A5 book, the pages are A4 folded in half and if it’s an A6 book its A4 torn in half then folded in half again. I’m sure you get the idea.
I’ve included this photo of a family of books to show the difference. They go down in size – A4, A5 and A6.

Sunday 28 December 2008

The Book Design Review

As I’m sure you can imagine I’m quite interested in ideas for book covers, which is why The Book Design Review is such an interesting blog. (Well I think so.)
Joseph Sullivan posts covers of books that he thinks are interesting and although most of them are ‘designed’, so very different from what I do - using any odd thing, I like seeing what other people are doing.

Anyway I’m drawing your attention to this blog now as you only have 3 days left to vote on his favorite book cover of 2008. Go here to see them all and vote – I won’t tell you which one I voted for.

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas

I just want to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year.
Enjoy any time you have off with family and just think what 2009 might have in store for us.

Monday 22 December 2008

Feed Your Fingers

I have just found a brilliant new (to me) website called The Carrot Box, which is dedicated to rings made from anything but metal. Alice who runs it is allergic to all metals so wears glass, plastic, resin or stone rings.
Not only do I love the rings she sells, and will soon be making a purchase, but also I think this is an example of a really well thought out web site. (Sorry it’s my course work coming out.) What I really like is the fact that not only does she sell rings, but she’d got a gallery of her own rings too.
What inspiration. I think I shall try harder in 2009 to do as she suggests and ‘feed my fingers’.

Sunday 21 December 2008

Precious stones

In July this year I went to the Rock and Gem Show. There I found some lovely beads that I made into necklaces, which I have been meaning to post up here for ages. The problem has been getting photos of them that I like. Finally with the help of ‘im outdoors I have succeeded. So here they are.
The first is rock crystal or quarts. This is my favorite. I love the feel of the stone and the way they look like plastic or glass but aren't.

The second is amethyst, which can look black without any sunshine to light it.

The last is fluorite blue, which actually looks green normally. I also love this necklace as I think the colour is wonderful and its very light to wear.

I hope to find more great beads at the next Rock and Gem Show, when ever that is.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Do you like lists?

I love lists.
Give me an old envelope and a pencil and I’m away. It might be about what I want to achieve over the next year, or during my holiday. It might just be all the stuff I’ve still got to do at work or a reminder that I really should have a tidy up, but I love the way they tidy up my thoughts and the look of a list with nice big red ticks through the things I’ve done.
So imagine how cool it is to find a website where you can list stuff and move it round to the correct order, then tick it off when it’s done and write a comment about how you did it for other people to see. This is what 43 Things is and I love it. You can put small things on, along with big things, so I’ve got ‘buy a new camera’ along side ‘see the northern lights’. You can see my list below.
The only thing that would make it even better is if you could have sub lists so I could list related things together.
So, what would go on your list?

Tuesday 16 December 2008

I don’t know why I agreed to this…

We had an early writers group meeting today – Christmas gets in the way of our normal date. Last meeting's home work was to write about ‘I don’t know why I agreed to this…’ We actually started this in the last meeting so I only had to finish it off, but that was sooooo hard.

Here’s what I ended up with;

She does this every time, makes me agree to something I really don’t want to do. This time it involved a tight black tux and shoes that pinch.
I guess I don’t look bad in a kinda James Bond way, but I can’t see why he wears one for so long. Give me jeans and a t shirt any day.
Anyway, there we are walking up the steps of this huge mansion out in the country somewhere, lights everywhere reflecting on the snow and people to take your car away or take your coat or give you a glass of Champaign, when this girl I haven’t seen in years waved at me from inside.
Waving back I had Rachel, hanging off my arm, hissing at me to tell her who it is.
‘Its only Nikki, her dad owns a pile like this.’
We wondered over to her through the crowd of richly dressed people to say hi. She was the only one I’d recognized so far, although Rach was in her element, it was after all her friends party.
Nikki looked different to how I remembered. Her eyes were glazed and her normal year round tan, from all those holidays aboard, seemed to have faded leaving her looking so pail. Her hair was flat and slightly greasy and was now a mousy brown, with none of the shiny high lights I remembered. And she’d gained a little weight so the dress she wore didn’t quite hang right.
As she leaned into me for a kiss on her cheek, I caught the aroma of chips and burgers.
‘Alright Nikki, how are you?’ I asked. But before she answered I remembered to introduce Rach. She hates it when I forget her.
With the pleasantries done we got down to life in general.
‘Wasn’t your dad in the news recently?’ I asked her. I didn’t expect that to bring on tears. I racked my brain to try and remember what the article had been about.
‘Yes’ she whispered through the tears. ‘And he’s lost everything.’ Now I remembered, his stocks had crashed or something. Whoops.
‘I’m, I’m working in Burger King now just to keep my flat.’ It ended in a wail. People where starting to look round and Rach was looking mortified.

Considering I was finishing this at about 11.30 this morning its not so bad. I couldn’t work out how to get him out of this so thought I’d just leave him. Poor guy.
At least I’ve got loads of time to work on the next home work.

Friday 12 December 2008

The Big Storm Picture

Well you should know by now how much I love photography, so it’ll be no surprise that I’m very taken with a new blog of note – The Big Storm Picture.
This blog has the most incredible photos of storms in America, with some marvellous cloud formations. I love storms here in the UK, but it’s unlikely that we’ll see any tornados. I’d love to go to the USA and do a bit of storm chasing. How amazing would that be!? Guess I’ll just have to enjoy Ryan’s photos instead.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Not as hard as you’d think

On Monday I had a well earn day off work and went with ‘im outdoors to London. We went to the Natural History Museum and looked at all the dinosaurs and stuffed mammals and volcanic stuff.
Then we had a brisk walk down Regent Street to see the beautiful Christmas lights before seeing Eddie Izzard live.

As you can see it was a jam packed day, but what I really want to tell you about was one of the shops we had a look in when we were walking down Regent Street. It was the National Geographic Society shop and was full of everything you could possibly want if you were off on a trip to a desert or rain forest; backpacks, shirts, boots, jumpers, canoes etc.
It was also full of things for the home; stuffed toys for the children, candles, prints and my favourite thing ever – pebble cushions.
They look just like those smooth grey pebbles with white stripes through them that you find on beaches. And the best thing? They come in all sizes from football to bean bag!
Looking on the web I’ve found they are made by a French company Smarin, based in Nice, who make all sorts of things including solid luminous raindrops for sitting on.

I adore their designs and am only sad that there are only a few British shops who stock them. Looks like we will have to go back to Regent Street.

Monday 1 December 2008

Ascending or Descending?

As I was moving things about in my room last week, I came across a bunch of old calendars from about 10 odd years ago. I’m rubbish at throwing things away, especially if they have pretty pictures on them, so they’d been put to one side. They include fanatic photos of deserts, world photos and drawings by Escher. Looking at them now I suddenly realised they would be perfect for covering my books, so I had a go.
The one above is my first attempt. It’s a drawing by M.C.Escher called Ascending and Descending. The paper it is printed on is perfect as it is nice and strong, and I think the drawing its self makes for an interesting cover.
I look forward to trying out the other calendars.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Love and Hate

I went to the writers group today.
Last months homework was to write about something we love and something we hate. So I wrote about summer which I love and people who drop litter which I hate.

The High Street was full of life, the sunshine bringing out the best; girls in summer dresses; guys without their shirts going pink in the sun; little cafes with clusters of tables and chairs on the pavements enjoying a mixture of sun and shade from the plane trees which paraded down the street hiding their flaky skin with huge pointy leaves.
And the worst; the car in front seemed to vibrate from the bass which pumped out of its wound down windows, causing heads to turn as it slowly manoeuvred down the street, stuck in the summer traffic.
I sat in my little car behind. I’d given up listening to my own music, as it was over powered by theirs. By the amount of arms poking out the windows I wondered if it was full of monkeys, but could see it was just a group of wiggers.
White boys trying to be black.
They were trying hard, with the loud hip hop and the sunglasses and gold chains, but everyone knows black boys do it better and they just looked pathetic to me.
Even more so when one of them chucked a wrapper of some kind out of the side window. I wanted to get out of my car and tell them what I think of that sort of behaviour, but even if they were pathetic they were still 4 guys, bigger than me, and more aggressive, just looking for a reason to start on someone.
I sat and fumed in my car.
We were stuck at traffic lights now, and I watched as people walked across the road, not always on the crossing.
Distracted as I was, I didn’t see where the little old lady came from, but she appeared at the side of their vibrating car. Wrapped in a thick coat and woolly hat even in the sun, she came dragging a red shopping basket behind her.
‘We don’t want any of that.’ I heard her say over the sound of the pumping beat. This was met with jeers from the boys in the car.
She bent slowly, and retrieved the shiny wrapper from the ground.
I don’t know how she did it, it was only a chocolate bar wrapper at best, maybe the wind caught it, maybe there was still some chocolate bar left in it. Whatever it was, she managed to make it fly through the air and sail through their open window, and maybe it was my imagination but the car seemed to shudder and roll as the sliver wrapper dropped inside.
Before the boys could react the traffic lights turned green and I beeped my horn to move them on.
I couldn’t help but give the old girl the thumbs up as I went past, but I don’t think she saw me.

It seemed to go down well, although I found it quite hard to write.
Next months starts with, ‘I don’t know why I agreed to this…’ Sounds like fun.

Monday 24 November 2008

Rare Bird Finds

Well I’m sure I’m not the only person starting to panic a little with Christmas right round the corner – one girl in my office already has her Christmas lights up!!!
Anyway the perfect place for inspiration is Rare Bird Finds. They have a huge and very varied selections of stuff – sadly mostly American, which if you order soon I’m sure will be here in time, or at least could give you inspiration for something similar here in the UK.
I also love that it changes every day meaning there is always something new to see. Today I love the Greenaid Shopping Tote and the Fingerfood plates.
So go and have a look for your self and who knows what you might find.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Photoshop 8

Monday night was the last session in the Photoshop classes I’ve been attending. It was a really nice session, where we talked about the different file types we can use and other last minute questions that we had.
I’ve really enjoyed the course and feel I’ve learnt so much; its given me an urge to learn about the other adobe products Illustrator and InDesign. The possibilities feel endless, you can go as far as you can imagine.
I love the above, a mix of some daisy wrapping paper and a zebra – this is what I want to be able to cover my little books in – my very own paper! So I guess I just need to find a friendly printer, who won’t mind me asking for weird prints like this. I can’t wait.

Sunday 16 November 2008

Christmas Craft Fair

Hello, sorry I’ve been so slow to post this week, it’s been pretty busy. ‘im outdoors has been here all week working on a patio for my parents, so I’ve had no time for anything else.

Today I went to the Christmas Craft Fair at South Hill Park.
I can’t believe how many stalls they managed to fit in, every time you went round a corner there was another one. Most seemed to be jewellery, with ceramics and knitting thrown in. There was also a stall selling yew boxes, I’ve seen him before and already own one, and a stall selling didgeridoos and bamboo flutes.
It was great to just walk round and look at what other people do, something it’s hard to do normally. The atmosphere was great and I loved the stall holders who were working on products so you could see what they were doing. One lady was caving an elephant out of a huge block of clay.
I did notice a distinct lack of little handmade books thought, so maybe something to aim for?

Sunday 9 November 2008

The One Minute Writer

I have just found another brilliant blog. It is called The One Minute Writer, and gives daily prompts to write about. You’re meant to just spend a minute to start with but I guess if it gives you an idea or the flow feels good, there is nothing to stop you from going on.
Here’s what I wrote for today’s prompt: Write about a memorable party or gathering you attended.

My favorite party so far has been in Richmond Park in London.
It was the middle of summer – a hot sunny day with no clouds. So we traipsed up the hill, passed all the shops and hustle and bustle of Richmond until suddenly although you can see London, you are in the middle of a park.
We found the perfect spot under some trees and spread out our picnic. Everyone had bought something and we stuffed ourselves with fresh French bread and salad and pimms and cake. We left as it got dark and stopped half way down the hill at a pub. Here we sat out in the warm evening and watched fire works over London.

This is a great site for someone who wants to write but doesn’t know where to start or is feeling blocked. And there is no reason why you would have to write prose and not, say, poems. You can write anything and it doesn’t matter what, but who knows where it might lead.

Saturday 8 November 2008

My Clock

‘im outdoors thinks I should tell you about my clock, so here goes.
I needed a clock for my room, but all the ones I’ve seen are pretty dull or very expensive and none were quite right.
So during a boring bit at work I started to doodle and came up with a rough draft.
I fiddled about with it a bit, then with mums OHP and some black acrylic paint I was off. I think it only took about a morning to paint it with a little longer for the clock face.
If I did it again I’d do the clock face a little different, but other than that I really like it, although I’d like longer hands.
And of course it does the job I made it for in the first place so it can’t be bad.

Thursday 6 November 2008

My favorite new book

I have made a new book, using a page of the October 2008 RSPB magazine. It was the second page in, and as soon as I saw it, I knew it had to be used. The only problem with it is the thinness of the paper. It means that it has bubbled in places and I’m afraid the spine will twist or rip.
But the picture is worth it. I’m always on the look out for something special and this defiantly is. It’s the sort of photo I long to capture and makes me think of crisp autumn days where I’d rather be out in the woods crunching over newly fallen leaves than stuck in an office.
If I find more magazine pages like this I shall have to look at how to strengthen them before I use them. One advantage of the wall paper is that it is very strong to start with.
And I’ve started to think about the use of my own photos to cover the books?

Now there’s a thought.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Photoshop 6

This week in the Photoshop course we were using the scanner. Kate had asked us to bring things in to scan last week so I took some wrapping paper, a map and a napkin. But then she scanned her necklace and I just had to use that with some news print.
I really love the scanner. It means that I can do what I used to when I was making collages by sticking stuff to a bit of paper, but now I have an even wider range of stuff to use. I couldn’t have stuck Kate’s necklace to my collage but I can scan it in.
Leaves, shoes, hands, metal, glass, jewelry, cotton, anything you can think of.
And having seen that scanners are no longer that pricy I’m starting to think that I might treat myself! Maybe.

Sunday 2 November 2008

The Rock and Gem Show

I went to the Rock and Gem Show today with mum at Kempton Park Racecourse.
I’ve been a couple of times and I’m always amazed at the variety of different colours, shapes and sizes of rocks and gems you can find there.
I was really on the look out for beads and findings (the clasps etc that go with the beads if you’re making a necklace) but didn’t see any I liked.
What I really need is the Bead and Gem Show, but I’m not sure when the next one is. I went to one in Farnham in July and found some lovely beads which I’ve made into necklaces, so was hoping to make some more.
Guess I’ll just have to wait.

Friday 31 October 2008

Photoshop 5 v2

So I promised you a look at what I've been doing at my Photoshop course. So here it is.
I'm afraid that its not that original, but it gives you an idea of the sort of stuff you can make with Photoshop, which is cool. I look forward to doing more.

Thursday 30 October 2008

Photoshop 5

I had hoped to put up what I worked on in the Photoshop course this week, but I haven’t had the time to finish it off yet. Maybe at the weekend?

Anyway while talking about photos in the class Kate mentioned Andy Small, whose work I recognised, when she showed us, from seeing him at the Chelsea Flower Show. I’ve actually got one of his post cards on my wall at home.
I quite like his work – more the simple photos of flowers than the ones that have obviously been photoshopped but I do still like his style. I like the bright colours and would quite happily have one of his canvas’ on my wall.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Catching Up

Mum was kind enough to let me use her camera so I can show you what I've been doing.
Most of these are covered in wallpapers, although the jellybeans are from the packaging of a sweet jar that I bought, and the orange bird is from a table cloth.

I love how each one has its own texture, whether it be the fake leather wallpapers or the slightly furry table cloth.

Monday 27 October 2008

Operation Christmas Child

Last week I made starch paste so I could make books with material covers.
One of these is a tiny A7 book covered with angel material (my old pyjamas). Mum was nice enough to lend me her camera so that I could take photos before I send it away, as this book was made for a special reason.
Every year the Samaritans run something called Operation Christmas Child, where they ask people to fill shoe boxes with things for children all over the world who won’t be receiving anything this Christmas. Each child receives a box filled with toys, educational supplies and hygiene items. My box is aimed at a little girl between 5 and 9, and I thought this note book would be perfect.
I’m hoping it will end up somewhere cold as I found the prettiest scarf, hat and gloves combo, all covered in small pink hearts.

Sunday 26 October 2008

Coptic Stitch

I’ve been really struggling with my last Perl assignment today. After a while I go so fed up with the damn thing I decided to do something else.

Now I’ve noticed while browsing on Etsy that quite a lot of the books that people sell there don’t have spines like mine but have decorative stitching instead. I’ve been intrigued by this and finally found out what it is last week.
It’s Coptic Stitch, and a quick search on goggle found me several sets of instructions. I printed off the set that seemed to make most sense and I’ve just tried them.
It seems pretty simple although I got lost when I tried to attach my back cover which I think has spoilt the whole book. The instructions were good until that last bit then seemed to just leave you to it.
My book seems pretty loose with none of the structure that my books have. I’m not sure if this is due to the problem with the back cover or not.
I shall have to find some more instructions with an ending and have another go.

Friday 24 October 2008

Greg Mosse – Plot Overview

Last night I went to the last event of the Guildford book festival that I’ll be attending this year – a plot workshop.
I really enjoyed it, even if some of the attendees where taking it a bit seriously.
Greg Mosse obviously knew what he was talking about, and best of all took tiny parts of real books to show us how plot can work.

We started by agreeing that plot is a series of imagined events.

One of his exercises was to ask us for a location, which ended up being Hadrian’s Wall at about 125AD. We then came up with characters, in this case a Pagan Witch and a Roman Centurion, and the plot grew from this. Which confirms what the Open University taught me, that Character + Conflict = Plot.
I like this as I always find that just coming up with a plot by its self is extremely hard work and probably why my longer stories fizzle out.
Another exercise was to look at a painting, Utrillo’s Notre-Dame de Clignantcourt (above), and write 70 words of action. I liked this also. He reminded us to write the story, not about the story.

My attempt went;
The boy ran along the street kicking up snow as he went. Rushing he knew he was late; the bells had stopped ringing at the start of the street. As he cornered, so close he could now see the doors, he felt his feet slide from under him and reached out for anything that might stop his fall.
Nothing was there and he fell with a clatter to the frozen cobbles. With a tear in his eye and pink cheeks from the cold he pushed up from the snow and, slower now, ran for the dark wooden doors.
He could hear the organ playing. If he could just slip in without anyone seeing he might just get away with it.

I definitely came away with ideas that I could work with, hopefully to improve my own writing.
All in all a good festival and I look forward to next years.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

How to Decide - Novel, Short Story or Poem

Last night I went to another book festival event at the Electric Theatre.
This one was a discussion between Gerard Woodward and Tessa Hadley chaired by Guy Pringle about the difference between novels, short stories and poems.
Tessa and Gerard both work together at Bath Spa University, and have attempted all 3 types, which I think added to the whole experience as they knew each other so could make comments about each others work.
It was a very intermit event as the audience wasn’t that big and we ended up joining them on the stage, which was really nice.
They were very interesting, and once again it was great to hear from real people about how they work, how they got published, how they juggle their time and what inspires them. Its defiantly tempted me to try some of their books.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

A quick update

So we had Photoshop 4 last night. We were allowed loose on the sample files to try all the different textures, effects and colour changes that we could find. On last weeks day off I played with some of my photos and Kate helped me with a few of the problems I’d encountered. I can feel a lot of ideas coming on.
We also discussed how something’s are best suited to the Illustrator programme (e.g. logos) so I’m thinking about training on that too.

And today was the writer’s group meeting. I’d chickened out of doing last months homework – I just couldn’t work out how to move forward with it. But I wasn’t the only one.
Homework this month is to take something you love and something you hate and write about them. Hum…..

Sunday 19 October 2008

Tea with Wendy Cope

I’ve just gotten back from seeing Wendy Cope at the Book festival.
I was most impressed and she is now my all time favorite poet. Of course I don’t really know many other poets except, for instance, Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Wilfred Owen who were all met thought school or my Open University courses and are all very dead.
So it was really great to actually see a live poet reading out her own work. She could put the emphasis where it was meant to be and tell us a little about how the poems came to be. As someone who is trying to write, it is very nice to hear that other people get their ideas from odd places too.
And she has a lovely dry sense of humor which I think adds the life to her poems. I like that she gets right down to human emotion, without taking herself too seriously.
The fact that there was free tea and cake in the interval has nothing to do with me thinking this is the best session so far.

Ray Mears – Vanishing World

On Friday me and ‘im outdoors when to our first event for the Guildford book festival. Ray Mears in jeans and a familiar dark green shirt, sleeves rolled up, sat for an hour talking to Fred Marden (whoever he is) discussing his new book and life in the wilderness. I found it quite interesting, and it was nice to see that even in the flesh he is much as he is on TV. He comes across as very sincere and reminded us on several occasions that teaching bushcraft is his job and it just happens that he’s got a TV show too. He does at least seem very aware of the plight of the people he visits and made the very good point that we should sort our own country out before poking about with someone else’s.
The half hour or so of audience questions were made up of the normal sort of questions he’d obviously been asked a hundred times before and a few more inspired ones.
All in all I think it was a good couple of hours, even if ‘im outdoors thought he promoted his book too much. It is after all a book festival, and if he doesn’t promote his book why else would he be there?

Thursday 16 October 2008

Starch Paste

I’ve just made my self some glue or to be more precise some starch paste. It’s very easy and I’d love to make all my books using homemade starch paste instead of PVA, but the paste only lasts about 3 days in the fridge before starting to grow stuff.
Anyway there are certain things which I just can’t use PVA on, for instance material, so I’ve been saving them all up and I’m going to try and make them all this weekend.

To make starch paste you just need some plain white flour and some water.
Get a bowl and about 2 tea cups of the flour. Add water until you have a dough which, to quote the guy who taught me to make this, 'is of an ear lobe consistency’. Then you fill a small milk pan half full of water and pour that into the bowl with your dough. Knead the dough gently for about 5 minutes – it will have fallen apart by this point and all the starch will be released into the water, the glutton will be at the bottom of the bowl.
Pour your mixture into the milk pan through a sieve to get rid of all the glutton and then comes the tricksy part.
You need to gently heat the mix, while stirring constantly for 10 minutes plus. The longer you heat and stir the better the glue. You must not boil or burn the mix or you have to give up and start again. At about the 10 minute mark the watery mix should start to thicken and if you’ve got it right you end up with a pale looking custard.
Pour it into a container and keep in the fridge.

Depending on the amount of water and how long you heat it will depend on how thick and strong your glue is. And of course this glue is totally safe with children as its just starch.

To use the paste, scoop a bit out of your container and put it on a flat hard surface, a clean baking tray is good for this. Then use a paint brush and brush it out flat. When it doesn’t feel lumpy any more you can use it. Don’t worry if there is the odd lump in the paste – it will dry flat.

Good luck!

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Photoshop Part 3

Had the 3rd part of the photoshop course last night. I’m very excited as I feel I know enough tools now to start doing something with my photos!
I’ve already done the first thing which was to resize a photo for my Etsy profile. Easy! And as I’ve got the day off on Friday I hope to have a go at actually putting two photos together to make one.

Also the Guildford Book Festival starts this week. I’m really looking forward to going to hear writers speak. Ray Mears is first on Friday evening. Do you think he’ll be wearing his shorts?

Thursday 9 October 2008

Wrapping paper

Its Mum’s birthday today – Happy Birthday mum.

I think she’ll like what I’ve got her, but it means that I have to wrap it up. I have a real issue with wrapping presents. Wrapping paper is so pretty and I don’t think it deserves to be used for an hour only to be ripped off and discarded!
I’d rather keep it as something pretty to look at, or to cover my books in.
One of my friends has the right idea, keeping all wrapping paper and using it again, unlike ‘im outdoors, who insists on sticking the paper to what ever the present is and so making it impossible to gently slide it out of its wrapping.
We saw some lovely wrapping paper in waterstones last week covered in cherries. It looked good enough to eat.
The problem is deciding what to use the paper for. Once the sheet has been used its very hard to get another one so it must be used wisely, but with all this dithering I end up not using it at all.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Photoshop Part 2

I went back to South hill Park last night for the second part of the Photoshop course. We’ve now covered the whole tool box, man is there a lot in there, and just started looking at Layers.
Next week we’ll be starting on real images to see what we can do, so I’ve just bought my self a brand new 16GB memory stick to keep all my files on.
I’ve found that the 7dayshop is the perfect place to get memory sticks etc at a really good price. All my memory sticks and camera memory came for there.
So now I need to find some images that I want to play with. Think I can manage that.

Sunday 5 October 2008

A New Book

I’m really struggling with Perl at the moment. This is for my CIW Website Design qualification, and Perl is the hardest thing we’ve had to cover so far, except for JavaScript.

To take my mind off that I’ve bought my self a book on digital photography in the hope it will help me choose a new camera.
Its called ‘Understanding Digital Cameras’ by Jon Tarrant, and although I’ve only read the first couple of chapters so far it seems pretty friendly.
Just in those few pages I’ve learnt some stuff about view finders that I didn’t know, which bodes well for the rest of the book. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday 30 September 2008

The wonders of Photoshop

When I was at Art College a few years ago now, I took extra lessons in how to use Photoshop. But then I went to Landscaping College and learnt how to lay paving instead and forgot it all.
Now that I’ve renewed my interest in photography and as it would be a very useful programme to use with my Web course, I’ve decided to go on a refresher course.

So off I went to Southhill Park again last night for the first in an 8 part course, which should cover all the tools and things I need to know.
The tutor, Kate Legg, was very enthusiastic and told us that we were here to play, as that’s the only way to learn with a programme like this. We started with the very basics and I couldn’t believe how much I’ve forgotten.
I can’t wait for next weeks lesson. I’ve already got a couple of projects in mind and can’t wait to know enough to be able to do something with them.
Watch this space.

Monday 29 September 2008

And now for the weather…

Haven’t we just had the most gorgeous weather this month – nearly making up for the summer, which really could have tried harder.
The above is my attempt at capturing the weather when we were in Scotland a couple of years ago. But you can see much better attempts on the BBC weather pages.
The pages are up dated once a week and they have some pretty special shots which members of the public send in.
The photos are from all round the world so you can see snow in Scotland next to a water spout in the Pacific, although they do try to theme them.
As an English girl with a landscaping partner the weather is something very close to my heart and I love to see examples of weather that I don’t get to experience; for example sunshine.
This page make me want to rush outside with my camera (when I get a new one) and take photos of clouds or snow or rain…

Sunday 28 September 2008

A Busy Week

Well this week has been a long and busy one. The new first years started on Monday and I’ve spent all week getting them settled. I also had a lady drive into the back of my car, so have been trying to sort that out too. (don’t worry its not too bad and no one was hurt)
I do find it frustrating when work takes over like that and I’m left with very little time to be creative. I’ve stories that I really want to work on and ideas for books to make, amongst other things.
I did however manage to make my first bespoke book. It’s my friend’s birthday on Tuesday and she asked for a book with lined paper!
I’ve only made blank books so far, so this was a new challenge.
Finally found some A4 pads of graph paper which were perfect. They did have holes along one edge so I cut them off, which I think made the book quite a nice shape. I covered it with blue paper with circles on, and as soon as I’ve got a camera that works I will post a photo here for all to see.

Also this week I sent off two stories for competitions, and ordered my tickets for the book festival. Something to look forward to at least.

Sunday 21 September 2008

My Camera part 2

Oh dear. As you can see from the photo above my camera really isn’t happy. I don’t think it can last much longer. Some of the other photos weren’t too bad, but most of them came out real pink.
Guess I’ll be going shopping real soon.

Saturday 20 September 2008

My Camera

My camera isn’t well.

Its making scrunchy noises when I start it up or turn it off and the lens goes in or out. And it gets really hot when I’ve been using for five minutes. And it doesn’t seem to be focusing properly either - see above (I mean thats kinda cool, but really not what i was aiming for)
All these things suggest to me that the poor thing is ill, if not on its last legs.

I really hope not as I’ve loved it these last 4 years, and we’ve been far together. We walked all round New York together, hand sized and not too heavy. We went on a balloon flight together, to Scotland and Barcelona and all sorts of walks over the English countryside.

But I’m wondering if this is the opportunity to up grade a little. Of course if I do that, I’m gonna have to find out how to use the thing properly, but that might be fun.
No decision yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

Friday 19 September 2008

The Guildford Book Festival

I’ve finally got my copy of the Guildford Book Festival brochure. Yay! I’m quite excited. The Festival is between 16th – 25th October, with lots of things happening all over Guildford. You can find out more here.

After my first quick flick through I’m thinking about going to:
‘How to Write a Novel with a Pack of Cards, a Kitchen Timer and a Piece of String’ a workshop run by Alison Joseph,
‘Plot Overview’ a work shop run by Greg Mosse,
A talk by Ray Mears called Vanishing World,
Tea with Wendy Cope and
‘How to Decide – Novel, Short Story or Poetry?’ Gerard Woodward and Tessa Hadley discuss.

Of course there’s so much else happening, Wednesday 22nd Oct seems to be a crime day, and there’s lots of things for familys and children too, that if I could just spend the couple of weeks of the festival wondering round Guildford going to talks and workshops I probably would.

Wednesday 17 September 2008


So this may look like a simple spatula for the removal of hair from legs or bikini lines but it is in fact the very best PVA glue applicator you can get.
I’d tried everything from brushes – which are wrecked as soon as you put them anywhere near a tub of PVA; to squares of cardboard that go soft after a couple of spreads.
My spatula on the other hand is made from plastic with a lovely rubbery tip which means I can use it over and over again, and get a lovely even covering of glue.
I would recommend the use of one, even if it does mean begging one off someone who uses the stuff.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

The Writers Group

The University writers group met today. Its only once a month for an hour at lunch time and I always wish it would go on longer. As this is the first meeting after the summer, no one had any homework to read out so we were set a task. First we had to pick a letter from A, B and C. I choose B. Then a letter between A and E which wasn’t the letter we had already chosen. I choose D.
Then she read out what they meant. B was ‘Two people meet on a bridge and one hands the other a package.’ D meant it had to be dealt with in a ‘Horror’ style. We then had 10 minutes to do ‘something’.
Now although I happen to think Stephen King is one of the best writers on the planet, and I’ve thought a lot about horror stories (I hate horror films with a passion) I’ve never written one. Here was my chance.

Tom stood on the bridge, and pulled his hat down against the wind. The water reflected the lights of the restaurants on the banks, but any sound was hidden by the wind as it howled down the gaps between buildings.
No one else was out tonight so when the figure started walking towards him he knew it was who he’d been waiting for.
Dread filled his heart as he saw it carrying a package. Not again. He couldn’t take it any more. When would they release her?
As he approached Tom felt the lump against his breast. He has to end this and end it tonight.
‘Have you got the money?’
‘Of course.’ Tom reached into his coat and pulled out a large padded envelope. But it did not contain money like it had in the past. No, this time he stuck his hand in and pulled the trigger of the gun.
Although it hit him square in the chest he didn’t even sway.
‘You know that won’t effect me, you idiot. Now we’ll just hurt her more.’
He turned to leave, dumping the package at Tom’s feet.
Tom just stood and watched him go. He knew what he’d find in the package and he felt sick.
Pulling a palm top computer from his pocket he hit some keys. The glow of the screen lit his frown of concentration as he looked at the information on the screen.
The gun might not kill them, but it was perfect for placing trackers on them.
Now at last he’d be able to find out where they nest and maybe, just maybe he’d finally be able to help her.

I can’t say it’s any good, but I don’t think it’s so bad; considering we only had 10 minutes and I’d had none of my normal pondering time.
Our homework is to work on it. Hum….not sure where its gonna go, or even if its gonna go at all. Now I shall ponder.

Sunday 14 September 2008


If you love handmade stuff, and I do, you need to go check out Etsy.
I adore this website. Its full of some of the most beautiful things I’ve found on the net, from jewelry to wool to furniture to badges to handbags etc etc. You can see some of the below. Ok so some of the things are a little mad, but I guarantee that you’ll be able to find something you like, maybe even love. But don’t blame me if you spend too much.
My dream is to have my very own shop some day. Now that really would be excellent.

Friday 12 September 2008


I guess that by now you know how much I like a good photo, so I was very interested when a few months ago while watching BBC Breakfast (in the gym before work) they had in a cab driver who was just about to have an exhibition. Basically he spends the day driving round London, and when he’s stuck in traffic and something catches his eye he takes a photo. Now his fellow cab drivers call him Cabarazzi!

I love London, and I think he’s captured it really well, the bright lights and the homeless, the tourists and the buildings. And now I’ve finally found his site – visit it here.
Look out for his wing mirror shots; I think they are particularly inspired.

Monday 8 September 2008

Paper Envy

Yesterday as I was going through ‘im outdoors’ latest copy of The Garden (the RSH mag) I came across an article about a lady – Maureen Richardson, who makes her own paper from the plants she grows. Not only does she make the normal sort of pulped papers out of things like yuccas or nettles but she also makes papyrus which is made from slices of the plant e.g. rings of apples.

It’s all fascinating stuff, more so as I’ve been itching to make my own paper for a couple of years now, but I never have the time. I would love to be able so say that I’d made the paper I’d covered my little books with, or even made the pages too! But I fear that’s something that will have to wait for the time being.
You can see some of Maureen’s work here.

Sunday 7 September 2008

My First A5 Book

I’ve made my very first A5 book. I used one of the wall papers which had a huge red flower on - much too big for an A6 book. And I’m really pleased with it.
Sewing the signatures together was more tricksy than with the little A6 books, but a few paperclips soon sorted that out. And the sugar paper I used for the end papers matches so well, I can’t believe they were just scraps I had.
I love it. Its as close to perfect as any of them have got so far.

Comparing the A6 and A5 books I think although the A6 books are easier to make – I can hold them in one hand without fear of the stitching being too loose, I do really like the size and feel of the finished A5 book. I look forward to making more. I wonder what an A4 book would be like?

Thursday 4 September 2008

My New Clamp

I had been making my little books using a huge dictionary and some old weights from the kitchen scales to weigh them down when drying. But unsurprisingly this didn’t give the very best results. So my dad has made me a clamp.
It’s made out of bits and bobs and works brilliantly!
I use it throughout the process for several different bits and my only regret is that it’s not bigger.
Thanks Dad!

Monday 1 September 2008

A Response

Oh my life! I’ve had a response back from one of the competitions I entered.
Don’t worry I haven’t won, but I’ve been sending stories out for about a year now and this is the first response I’ve received.
It’s not even a ‘sorry you didn’t win’, it’s a ‘you are cordially invited to the award ceremony’!! Blimey.
I’d quite like to go, although I know I’d end up a quivering wreck; all that waiting just to see if they liked a story about a man and his lawnmower. So I’m quite glad that’s it taking place in North Tyneside and so will take too long to get to from the South East of England, just for an hour ceremony.
But still, Blimey!

Sunday 31 August 2008


Ok, I’ve been looking at too many photos so I’ve made myself a Flickr page.
I love it. Not just because I can show off my fav photos, but you can look at everyone else’s and there are some totally brilliant photos on there! Its amazing what people have done. And the more I look at other people’s photos the more inspired I get so the more photos I take. I hope that with practice I will get better. But there is no better way of making myself take photos than thinking about putting them on my flickr page. See the flickr badge below which I’ve finally made work! Yay.

Horse Chestnut Trees

As an ‘artist’ I’m inspired by many things and most of them are from nature. I love the colour of the sky in mid summer and the colour of new green leaves. I find the damp over cast winters dull and wish for crunchy red leaves to smash through in autumn instead of damp piles of brown slush.
My favorite tree has got to be the Horse Chestnut, with its hand like leaves, massive size and deep summer shadow. And best of all its one of the first trees to wake up after the long winter sleep. I wait with baited breath as a green haze seems to cover them and then they unfurl, a splash of green against all the gray and brown of winter.
So you can imagine my horror on reading that ‘Chestnut trees will be gone in a decade.’
I had noticed that many of the chestnut trees in the area had looked rather brown round the edges almost from the time they opened their leaves in the spring, and if we’d had a scorching summer I could have understood it.
But now I’ve read in the local paper how the browning is coursed by leaf miner moths who burrow into the leaf, eating the internal tissue as it goes. Not only that but they are suffering from bleeding canker too.
Due to our short and mild winters there isn’t enough cold to kill off the bugs, so they are attacked season after season until they are so weak they die.
The experts think that collecting the leaves and composting them will help, but so many of these trees are in parks or along roads - they don’t belong to anyone so no one will take the leaves away.
I hate to think that these grand old trees will go the way of the elms, but it looks increasing likely.

Saturday 30 August 2008

The First Wall Paper Book

So I’ve finally made my first wallpaper book. And I’m very happy with it. Obviously I’m still learning and it’s not perfect, but the concept works really well, as does the paper itself. And I really like how the flower doesn’t fit all on one side.
I’m looking forward to making more. Although some of the patterns are too big for the little A6 books. I may have to go up to A5!!!
I guess I shouldn’t really go back to B&Q until I’ve used up everything I took last time….

Thursday 28 August 2008

I heart photograph

I’ve found another blog to love.
Actually I’ve been visiting for a while and always find it very inspiring if a little odd in places.
I love taking photos and although I’m not brilliant, I don’t think they are all that bad. So every time I visit I Heart Photograph I end up feeling really inspired. The biggest problem is that it always seems to be at work or in the dark evenings when I go, so then can’t do anything about it.
My real favorites are in the Pic of the day, including 6.30, 5.29 and 3.29.

I have to say the best purchase I ever made was my Canon digital camera. I had to buy something as my old camera got wet when I fell in the Amazon River with it round my neck. I love the Canon. It’s small enough to fit in my pocket without being so small that I can’t use it, and its been everywhere with me from holidays to trips in balloons since 2004. I just need to remember to use it more.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Short Stories

So as I said below I’ve always been fascinated with books; not just the making of them but the content too. I adore reading – anyone who knows me will confirm that and I’ve always enjoyed writing my own stories.
About a year ago I did a ‘creative writing’ distance learning course with The Open University which I really enjoyed. I think they’ve got a really nice way of learning with deadlines to keep to and a huge online community. You feel very supported.
On the course I wrote and finished my first short story (I’d written stuff before but never really finished it) and this gave me the confidence to keep going.
So now I’ve joined a writers group who meet at work once a month, which I love, and I’ve been sending stories off to competitions, which I’ve found is another really good way of giving my self deadlines to work to. And I can’t wait to finish the Web Course so I can do the ‘advanced creative writing’ course.

But now I’m about to do something I’ve never done before and send a finished story to a magazine!
The story’s a bit different from what I normally write but fits in with what the mag are asking for so I thought I’d send it, plus they will at least let me know the fate of my story.
The mag is called Mslexia and is for women who write. I’ve been subscribed since Jan and think it’s brilliant. It’s so intelligent and full of interesting information and articles.
I don’t imagine for a second they will publish my story, it’s a bit dark. But you never know if you don’t try.

Sunday 24 August 2008

Wall Paper

How amazing is this?
B&Q and Homebase and the other DIY stores seem to be quite happy to let you tear off chunks of wall paper and take them home with you.
I assume this is so you can check that the colours match other things in your house or so you can show your spouse before you buy?
But I have to say I’m taking advantage of this fact for my little books. You get some wonderful patterns, textures and colours, and it’s all very tough paper which is perfect for covering my books. And around where I live there are at least 6 large DIY stores.
‘im outdoors say I shall end up on B&Q’s most wanted, but I’m willing to risk it.

Thursday 21 August 2008

'im outdoors

I should probably introduce the Lovely Steve now, who from now on will be referred to as ‘im outdoors.
Without his encouragement and support there is no way I’d even be thinking about doing all this. Without being too gushy I think he is wonderful and I can’t wait till we can move in together.
I should explain that he is a landscaper – hence the ‘im outdoors.
He’s done some really beautiful work including the steps and deck above. You can find him at Thrive Landscapes.

As his web contract is up soon, I’m working on a new site for him, using my new skills!! I hope to include more photos and keep it more up to date. If only I could work out how to right align photos….

Monday 18 August 2008

The beginning

So lets start at the beginning.
I’ve always been fascinated with books; how they are made just as much as the content.
When I was a bit younger (maybe 12?) I took one apart to see how it was put together, and with a bit of help from my dad I made my first book. It wasn’t brilliant and if I remember right it was covered with a grey and white stripy paper bag that came from our local sweet shop. But that’s the other thing I love; using found materials.
Anyway in June I went on a 2 day book binding work shop at a local arts centre called South Hill Park. I’ve been here before and love it with all its workshops, specialists and space.
The work shop was brilliant and I finally learnt how to add spines to my books, something they had been lacking.
And now I can’t stop making them. They haven’t all worked quite right, but I love these two. The first called Three Seagulls is made from the packaging of a seagull mobile my sister gave me for my birthday. The second called Stone was made from the sample photo in a frame my dad bought.
So far they’ve all been A6, which is a nice size to work to as everything fits in your hand. I’m not sure I want to get bigger.


Hello. My name is Penny and my Wild Creations blog is about the stuff I create. At the moment that includes short stories, little blank books, beady necklaces and anything else that strikes me.
Of course that’s not all I do. I’m an administrator at the University of Surrey, and in the time that’s left I’m studying towards a CIW Website Design qualification.

I was getting along just fine with all this stuff when I stumbled across the
Crafty Synergy blog about a month ago. I might go as far as to say this changed my life!
It’s a great blog, made up of interviews with lots of people over the last couple of years. The thing they all have in common, is not only do they make things, but they have all made their creativity into a business. They may only be small and some of them haven’t given up the day job yet, but they are doing what I want to do. I still haven’t read all the interviews (work expect me to do stuff there not just look on the net) but I intend to. So thank you for all the people on the Crafty Synergy blog for encouraging me to taking the first tiny steps toward doing what I’ve always wanted to – using my creativity for a purpose.

This blog will, I hope, follow my journey as I make stuff, learn new skills and maybe just maybe start my very own business.