Friday 31 December 2010

Bible Repairs

On Christmas Day, while we digested the huge lunch ‘im outdoor’s Nan had cooked us, we somehow got onto talking about her Bible and how the cover had come off. It looked like quite a simple repair to me, so I offered to take it home and rebind it for her.
It was only when I got home that I thought – What am I doing!?! This is her Bible – quite an important book in her eyes!
But I made up some paste, removed the tatty bits that were still attached and made a new cover.
I’m really pleased with the end result, all it needs is the title in gold on the spine, but I don’t have the means to do that at the moment. Maybe one day.
I hope she likes it, I’ll find out on Sunday when ‘im outdoors takes it over to her.

Thursday 16 December 2010


Anyone who has read my blog in the past couple of years will know that I make stuff and write stuff.
I read hundreds of books and blogs and design websites (just look at the list on the right!), and anyone who makes or writes stuff like me, will know that anything can give you inspiration. A story you read, an article in a paper, the way a branch of a tree sticks out and looks like a scary man. Any of these things can make a spark that gives life to a project.
Now you might be wondering why I’m telling you all this, but it seems that while the web is great for getting our stuff out in to the big wide world, it also makes it easier for people to copy what we are creating. Now when it’s something written it’s quite easy to do something about it, but what about when its your design or your blog?
Luckily I’ve had no such problems, but others have – click here and here to read more about this.
This is something I feel very strongly about. The handmade community needs to stick together and fight this. This is people’s lives they are messing with. Not all of us are big multinational companies looking to make a profit. Most of us are just trying to make a living doing something we enjoy. Where is the harm in that?

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Christmas Writers Group

The Creative Writers Group met for the last time this year, and considering we weren’t sure if it would continue this time last year, I think we’ve done quite well.
I felt strangely powerful to find that people had actually had a go at the homework I set last month, some of which was very successful.
And I even had something to read out, although it had nothing to do with the homework and isn’t finished.
I won’t post it here as it still needs a lot of work, but the Writers Group was the perfect sounding board to check I wasn’t wasting my time. We all agreed that I need to cut some of the stuff from the beginning, where it was very obvious to us all that I’d been writing my way into the story.
But that’s the joy if editing. Let the words bubble out of you head and onto the page, then give it a couple of days, or weeks and go back and cut all the mess out until you get to the good stuff.

Homework this month:
Create a character based on the connotations of their name when their first name is the name of a pet, and their second name is the name of a neighbour.
Now think about what they look like? What their occupation is? What they spend their money on? What’s their greatest fear?

Now write a story or poem about that happens when your character desperately wants something, but this desire is frustrated?
(borrowed from Mslexia)

Friday 10 December 2010

The last bookbinding class

Last night I had the last of the bookbinding evening classes, after last week was cancelled due to snow.
In all I’ve enjoyed the classes and think I’ve learnt lots. But I found it hard work doing these in the evening after a long day at work, and was disappointed to start with, that the classes were more focused on repairing than starting from scratch.
But I finished the two big books I was working on, and I’m very pleased with how they turned out. Hopefully my mum will be too, but anything has to be an improvement on the poor book she gave me a few weeks ago.
Hopeful I will be able to use what I learnt in the last 10 weeks to improve the books that I make.

Monday 6 December 2010

Oh dear

Oh dear I’ve been rather lax with the blog these past couple of weeks.
Of course I’ve been busy as normal, but the real problem is that I haven’t made anything to write about. Essays about the courage of children in late 19th century novels really doesn’t count.
Bookbinding last week was cancelled due to heavy snow but has been rescheduled for this week, so hopeful I will have 2 finished books to display at the end of the week.
And I attended the gem and bead show in Farnham last week, so have some new beads to make into a necklace at some point.
Also the website for Garden Escapes is close to being finished, so there are many projects on the go, just none ready to show to world yet.
Must try harder.

Friday 19 November 2010

Bookbinding Evening Class wk8

No bookbinding last week as we went to see Bill Bailey live in London. He was very good.

So with 3 weeks left of the course I find myself with 2 projects to finish. The large book I bought from the library and took apart, needs putting back together and my Mum found a book which had lost its spine and both covers have come off, which she wants me to recover.
I spent most of last night by preparing my Mum’s book, and sewing the big book together.
I also watched as Sarah showed us how to round the spine of a book – you wouldn’t believe you should use a hammer when bookbinding.
And I learnt how to make a weavers knot. Very useful. It’s very similar to the sort of knot you make when casting knitting on, and means you don’t have to have masses of thread getting all knotted up as you sew your book together. It also means if you break the thread you can carry on. I also showed her a couple of the book I made last year which she was quite impressed with

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Borrowing Dogs

Yesterday we had another Lunchtime Writers Group. Once again we had some lovely pieces read out. I’m particularly jealous of the new developer who had just joined my new team and came along. Not only is she a graphic designer and a web developer but the piece she read out was the prologue to her novel (80,000 words in already) and was really good – very polished and professional and I think we all wanted to hear more.

I had a poem I was going to read out, but I lost my memory stick with all my work on so couldn’t print it out. Luckily it was safe at home so no big disaster.

The poem is inspired by all the poems for kids that I’m reading for the OU – Children’s Literature course, and of course my love of dogs.

Borrowing Dogs

Every morning at 7.58
I walk a bouncy white husky
Past our flat.

Every Monday night
I wait outside the chip shop opposite
With a curly spaniel.

Most evenings before dinner
I walk a shiny red setter
Up the road.

On Saturday mornings
I trot with black dog and white dog
In their numbered racing jackets.

And this week I’ve played
With the small black and white builders dog
Through the kitchen window.

Friday 5 November 2010

Bookbinding Evening Class wk6

I was incredibly tired last night, so didn’t seem to get much done in the class myself. But that didn’t matter too much as there was so much else to watch.

First Sarah showed us how to make paste paper.
You start with a small quantity of paste, similar to the recipe here, and mix it with acrylic paint to get the desired colour.
Once it is mixed well you apply it to your paper reasonably thickly and then the fun begins. Using anything at all you can make marks in the paste. It could be as simple as folding the paper in half and getting a stippled effect when you pull it apart, or more complicated by dragging an old comb or fork through it. Looking in the books Sarah bought to the class I saw how people had added extra colours to their paste after applying it to the paper, or drew on the paper with wax crayon first.
Once your paper is dry you only need a small piece to cover your book with, so can choose the very best part of the design.

Also being tried out last night was the stylus tool and the heated letters, both used for titling books with coloured foils, normally silver or gold.
To use the stylus tool you start by making your design on tracing paper – in this case the design was copied from the original cover of the book.
You then tape the foil and tracing paper to you cover in the desired place and using the heated stylus copy out the design. We were all very impressed how well the design came out.
The other way of doing this was to use letters similar to those used in a printing press which were mounted on a piece of long thin metal with a wooden handle. These were also heated and then pressed into the foil on to the cover of the book. Any excess was rubbed off with a little sandy brick dust and again we were impressed with the end result, especially as it was much harder to get them straight and the spacing right when doing this by eye.
This will be similar to how I get my design stamped on my books, if we can get the stamp to work properly.
All in all a good evening.

Saturday 23 October 2010

No time to think

This week we had our first writers group since June. Nearly everyone had bought some work with them and the variety was amazing; poems, a chapter of a children’s book, a description of an alien girl and some comedy sketches. All good work. I’ve been working on a set of 3 poems but they weren’t ready in time for the meeting. Maybe for next time.

Then on Thursday I went to my 5th bookbinding evening class. More work on taking a book apart and getting ready to put it back together again. But Sarah also bought in a couple of books about ‘exposed spine sewing’ which I have borrowed. I’m hoping this will help me to prefect my Coptic sewing and give me some new ideas too.

Then yesterday I finally left my job as an Programme Administator. It was a bit of an odd day as I said good bye to people I’ve worked with for nearly 4 years to the day, only to move to a new building, maybe 100 yards away, to join the web team.
To be honest I haven’t had time to worry about the new job, as my first TMA for the Children’s Literature course is due in next Thursday!

Monday 18 October 2010

Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing

Look what came in the post today!
It is a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing and is the result of all the work I put into both Creative Writing courses. I’m very pleased.
If I get another one, it will be a degree certificate! I wonder if I’ll get that far?

Sunday 17 October 2010

Bookbinding Evening Class wk 4

This week at the bookbinding evening class I finished putting back together the small book I’ve been working on.
It is a book about different dog breeds, and while putting together the cover, Sarah showed me how to make an indent so that a photo, in this case from the original dust jacket, could be incorporated.
I used a dark green material to cover the book, and to be honest found it very similar to the thick wall papers that I normally use. I think I managed to create a good finish. The only thing stopping this being a well finished book is the spine ended up slightly wonky, meaning it doesn’t sit flat. Disappointing.
Sarah said she would bring in books next week about interesting stitching patterns. I look forward to having a good nose.

Thursday 14 October 2010

The Guildford Book Festival

The Guildford Book Festival starts today and goes on till 23rd October.
There is much going on as you can see from their website. But this year I think I will have to give it a miss as my OU course is already very full on, with a hell of a lot of reading needed and the first TMA deadline creeping closer. On top of this I start my new job on 25th and am franticly trying to get my current job ship shape for which ever poor soul takes it on. Time seems to be rushing past at a rate of knots.

Sunday 10 October 2010

Bookbinding Evening Class wk 3

I’ve always been bought up to believe that books are expensive and precious. I only normally buy books if I’ve read them before from the library, or borrowed from a friend, and have fallen in love.
So the idea of deliberately taking one of these books apart, when there is nothing wrong with it seems a crime to me. As I said in my last post a trip to a charity shop got me one small book to experiment on, and a trip to my local library a bigger book to work on. Don’t worry they sell old books!
This week I started putting my first small book back together again. In this case we were to use tapes to join the signatures to the covers and had to make holes round the tapes, before sewing the whole lot back together.
The joy of having two projects on the go at one time is that I can start taking the second book to pieces while I wait for Sarah to come back to show me what to do next.
I seem to be making a right mess of the second book, so would be very reluctant of doing this to a real old book. But then I guess if it was a real book that needed repairing it wouldn’t be stuck together as well as this one is.

Sunday 3 October 2010

Bookbinding Evening Class wk 2

This week I managed to finish my first book and make a start on the second. As the class it aimed more at repairing damaged books than starting from scratch the second book was found in a charity shop and I spent the last hour of the lesson taking it to bits so that I can put it back together next week. A brilliant way to see how books are made and how they work.
I also learnt this week that you can cut round the covering material of your book on the insides of the covers before sticking in your end pages to make a very neat finish, and that by using acetate (in this case the transparencies from an OHP) between your end pages and the signatures of your book when you are drying it, you stop the signatures getting wet and wrinkling. Both good things to take away with me.
But I still don’t understand why you wouldn’t cover the whole book in your base cover – in this case a green paper bag, and then put on your spine and corners. Sarah didn’t seem to know ever. A mystery I shall have to look further into.

Friday 24 September 2010

Bookbinding Evening Class wk 1

Last night I went back to basics.
I joined the first of a 10 week bookbinding course at the local Adult Ed.
As our first project, we made a single signature hard covered book. I’ll post a photo once it’s finished – next week I hope.
The tutor, Sarah, seems very knowledgeable, but I’m undecided about the class at the moment.
I know most of the students had never done anything like this before, so starting at the beginning is a good idea. Also it means that after two weeks we will have a finished project to take home. A great way of keeping people motivated. But some of the things that I think are important – like not wasting material, or measuring things and being accurate, didn’t seem important to our tutor, while things like paper grain which I didn’t know anything about was of high importance according to Sarah.
Also in 2 hours I could have made a multi signature hard covered book, so it all seemed a bit slow.
But I will stick with it. I know there is so much about book binding that I don’t know, and in 10 weeks I can’t imagine the information I could collect. I think once we’ve done the 3 set projects to give us the skills we need, we’ll be able to carry on with our own projects – who knows what I might learn.

I believe you should be open to as many things as possible. Who knows where it might take you.

Monday 20 September 2010

Change is in the Air

It’s been ages since I last posted anything and in that time things have changed a bit.
For starters I’ve just got myself a new job. Still working at the University, but moving away from the Department of Electronic Engineering and moving to the Web Team. Finally all my hard work learning about web design seems to have paid off. Not only that but it’s the next grade up. I start on 25th October and as usual I’m a mix of nerves and excitement.
Of course that means that everyone is asking me to ‘just do this before you go’, the brand new level 1 students arrive next week and the returning students the week after, and with a work load like that it doesn’t seem possible to think of making anything.
So it’s no surprise that I’ve booked myself on a book binding evening class at the local Adult Ed Centre which kicks off this week.
And on top of all that I’ve only a week or so until the start of the next OU course.
Thank heavens for a supportive partner and home delivery by Sainsbury’s.

Thursday 2 September 2010

EA300 Children's Literature

A big box of OU text books was waiting on the door step when I got home last night. As always they look scary, but I’m sure they will be exciting and interesting once I get stuck in.
My only issue with the paper work is that the normal calendar, an A3 sheet which would show you what you should be doing each week and when TMA’s are due in, and the book with all the assignments in it are now only available over the web – on a site that doesn’t open until mid September. This is slightly disappointing and means I’ll be printing more things off myself this year. Viewing things on the web is all very well, but when I have things to do on a weekly basis I like a physical list that I can tick off, and when working on assignments I like something that I can doodle and make notes on.
Anyway, everything kicks off on 2nd October. I can’t wait.

Monday 30 August 2010

Amy Butler Sun Surf Halter

For my first clothing project I thought I should go with something that looked relatively simple, so I choose Amy Butler’s Sun Surf Halter.
I have to say that this was my first go at something so complicated but her pattern made it really easy and I might even go as far as to say it was fun. It was amazing to put things together and have them fit perfectly.
As we’ve run out of sunshine here I think it’ll be perfect for our trip to Egypt in the new year – to sit on the beach or boat, for instance.
Maybe I’m ready for one of the more complicated patterns now…

Friday 27 August 2010

Set Books

My set books for EA300 Children’s Literature have finally turned up. I can’t wait to get reading and if I didn’t have things to do; work, cooking dinner, washing, blogging, I’d be sitting in a pile of books, cardboard boxes and packing materials reading.

This list include:
Peter Pan DVD (2003)
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Northern Lights, Philip Pullman
Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome
Mortal Engines, P Reeve
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
Tom’s Midnight Garden, Philippa Pearce
Junk, Melvin Burgess
100 Best Poems for Children, Roger McGough (ed)
Voices in the Park, Anthony Browne
The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
Coram Boy, Jamila Gavin
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred Taylor
The Other Side of Truth, Beverley Naidoo

Some of these are old friends and some are brand new and I can’t wait to get acquainted.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

CIW Web Design Specialist

Yesterday I took the second exam toward the Master CIW Web Site Manager qualification. This was the CIW Web Design Specialist exam and consisted of questions covering Site Development Essentials, Web Design Elements, and Basic and Advanced Web Technologies.
I managed to pass with 79%, which considering I’m only doing this in my spare time, and not every day in my job, I’m quite pleased with. It means I can now call myself a CIW Professional and a CIW Web Design Specialist.

To be honest I’m not sure I will end up with the final qualification as that would mean also taking tests on JavaScript, Peal and Server administration, and as I don’t use any of these things at all, it would take a huge amount of work for me to pass all three. But I’m still happy. The CIW Web Design Specialist was the qualification I was really working towards and I’m pleased to have passed.

Monday 16 August 2010


I can’t believe we’re already half way through August.
But it does mean I’ve finally got my results for A363 Advanced Creative Writing from The Open University; and they’re not as bad as I’d feared. I got 79 for my huge final assignment with comments of ‘good’ and ‘excellent ideas’ (you don’t get very detailed comments because of the amount of marking they have to do). And a mark of 72 over all. This gives me a Grade 2 pass and a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing! Apparently I can put the letters DipLCW(Open) after my name now. Very exciting.

As always I’ve also been busy with other things. I’ve completed the first of my sewing projects with another close to completion.
‘im outdoors has a second hand office chair, which had a slightly torn seat cover. The tear soon got bigger until I couldn’t bear to look at it any more.
So on the hunt for material for a top for me, I found some perfect material on the remnants table. It only took a morning to make a cover for the chair, and I’ve got enough material to make a cover for the back as well if I ever have time.

Sunday 1 August 2010

New Blue Book

Now I’ve finished my OU course (until next time) I’ve suddenly got time to do things that I didn’t have time for when I was trying to write assignments. Which means I’ve made my first book in something like a year! It’s not great and could be improved but I’ve proved to myself that I haven’t forgotten how to do it, which was my main concern. It’s not bad really, just a small A5 book.
I might make some more over the summer, but I do have some sewing patterns to work on too…

Friday 23 July 2010

The Sketchbook Project

I’ve just come across something called ‘The Sketchbook Project’. And suddenly I’m really excited.
The idea is you sign up on their website, choosing a theme (In flight, A record year for rainfall, If you lived here…, Lights in the distance, to name a few) and they send you back a bar coded sketchbook. You then fill it up with things that kinda go with your theme and send it back.
Then the exciting bit, it goes on tour in America before finding a home at The Brooklyn Art Library. And because its bar coded you can keep track of who’s had a look.
I would really really love to join in, but as the art work needs to be worked on between now and January it kinda clashes with the next OU course.
Something for next year maybe? Along with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? Something else I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. Oh for more hours in the day.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Counting Sheep

We had the last writers group of the academic year today.
Last months homework was to write a poem about a day out, and although I find poems hard work I thought I would give it a go.

Counting Sheep

Does she know,
As he turns her on her back,
What he’s going to do to her?
Keeping her left fore leg
Bent with his knee,
She lies docile,
Dark eye’s unfocused.

Thick rusty arms hold her,
Twisting her this way and that,
Following the contours of her body,
Each curve traced,
She is reduced.

It’s about our trip to the Alton Show at the beginning of July. I had wanted to write about the whole day but can see that concentrating on a particular part of the day, in this case the man demonstrating sheep shearing, would make a better poem. The group must have liked it, they suggested I send it to Farmers Weekly!

As unofficial administrator for the group I’ve agreed to make us a facebook page. Something else to add to my summer list. Next meeting October.

Monday 12 July 2010

Stuff thats been happening

Tomorrow my Level 3 and M students will be celebrating Graduation. I’m hoping the day will be sunny but not too warm. And with graduation work finally slows down a little and I have time to breath and do some filing. Its been a busy couple of months.

Today I also signed up for my next Open University course – EA300 – Children’s Literature. I’m excited and nervous in equal measures, as always when I sign on to one of the OU courses. It sounds so interesting and I’m really looking forward to reading the set books, but will I be able to write intelligent assignments about them? I’ll have to wait and see; it doesn’t start until October.

And finally the best bit. ‘im outdoors and I bought our selves a Digital SLR camera at the weekend. We’ve been talking about it for ages and saving a little towards it and we finally did it. It’s a Canon EOS 550D and its lovely. We spent a sunny weekend walking round the garden with it taking photos of flowers, sparrows and hoverflies.

Thursday 8 July 2010

A New Lunch Bag

For ages now I’ve been taking my lunch into work in a tatty old plastic bag. I keep thinking to myself I should make a bag – it can’t be hard, I’ve made bags before, but making my own design was proving tricky.
Then on the spool site I found a design for a lunch bag. It looked good, was only £5 and they would email it to me so no waiting for the post.
Of course then I had to find some material. I already had some brilliant blue cotton which would make a good lining. Then I was directed to a shop called C&H which have a remnant table and there I found a lovely cream off cut. Perfect.
It only took me two evenings to put it together and some of that was making templates that were the correct size.
It’s very pleasing when a project comes together without too much work - because I was careful with my preparation, putting the design together was simple.

And on the subject of sewing I’ve just found Amy Butler. I’m in the process of trying to decide what pattern I can make. I love one of her dresses but think it might be a little hard for a beginner like me, so maybe one of her tops or a bag?
To be honest I’m pretty jealous. I love her patterns, I love her fabric and would love to be making stuff like her! I hope she realises how lucky she is.

Sunday 4 July 2010

A Book Review

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote of how I’d just won Rebecca Goldstein’s 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. I’ve now read it and here is my very first book review.

36 Arguments for the Existence of God is the story of Cass Seltzer who’s book ‘The Varieties of Religious Illusion’ has become a surprise best seller. We then meet various people from his past who have inspired his writing in some way.
The book was ok. The story was nice and the characters quirky. But it was hard work. I don’t want a book that doesn’t give me at least a little bit of a challenge, but at the same time I would like to understand more than two words in every sentence.
I enjoyed reading about the Jewish community, something I have no experience of, but felt that the flitting from current day to the past – sometimes in the same chapter made it confusing and I lost track, several times, of what was happening now and what had happened then.
I also thought that there were a lot of side plots what didn’t really go anywhere. His ex-wife wasn’t really explained and what was the point of Lucinda? I fear that these, amongst other things, are points that I missed or didn’t fully understand because of the language used.
But over all it was an interesting and sometimes funny story with a main character who you end up caring about. It was defiantly worth finishing.

Monday 28 June 2010

Enjoying the Garden

I don't know about you, but although I'm loving the sunshine, the heat makes it hard for me to concentrate on any of my projects.
The best thing? To just sit in the hammock that 'im outdoors has hung for me, and read.
But the Catalpa Bignonioides "Aurea", or Golden Indian Bean Tree seems to be loving the sunshine. I love its gold coloured leaves against a brilliant blue sky.

Saturday 19 June 2010

Curtain Bird

With no assignments to write, I’ve had to keep myself busy with other projects.
While perusing the internet and following random links between sites I found the lovely Spool. Based in Philadelphia they are sadly a little far away to visit, although I’d love to if the fabric on their website is anything to go on. But they do have a few free patterns, so I downloaded myself a blue bird and had a go. I’m not a great at sewing, (yes I know I made a blind, but some of the lines are very wonky!) so this was a good starting project.
The only fabric I have is off cuts from our bedroom curtains, which I think actually worked really well.
So having had success with the bird I shall now try a slightly harder project – a lunch bag. I just need some appropriate material first – I feel a shopping trip coming on.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

A House on an Island

It’s the last week of semester and I am totally run off my feet with Level 3 project marks and getting ready for exam boards amongst other things. But today I made the effort to attend the writers groups – seeing as we only meet once a month.
Last months homework was to write about a house. The Chair had provided pictures of houses cut out of magazines and newspapers and we had our pick.
Having chosen a small cottage I actually managed to find some time to write about it, although I didn’t get a change to edit it before the meeting.

My rough draft:

We didn’t see the house that first night. The fog was too thick; all we could see was the path leading to the door and our feet. I’ve always thought of fog as going from the ground up, so maybe this was very low cloud.
Frank had spent most of the journey moaning about the weather, and I hoped it would get better, but I didn’t really mind. At least we were away from work and the City and not stuck in some hot sticky place full of chavs.
That first night was so welcoming. Dinner left warming in the oven, a big fireplace ready for us, the bed turned down, the water hot. No people.
But that first night that was just fine, we didn’t want to see anyone either.

I was up early the next day, eager to explore the island. Frank was still asleep and I didn’t expect him to be up before lunch, we were on holiday after all.
The fog has gone leaving behind a damp island surrounded by blue sea and blue sky. In the distance I could see the mountains of Scotland, but the mainland felt miles away. In the early morning light everything seemed beautiful.
The island was unbelievably small; at one point I could see the sea surrounding us on all sides. This I had been expecting, but the fact there were no other houses I hadn’t. I didn’t think that Frank would like that, but the cottage seemed to have everything we needed so I didn’t mind.
I took my time getting back, looking at everything and thinking about what to make for lunch.
Frank wasn’t there when I got back. He must have gone on a walk of his own, although the island is small enough that I probably would have seen him.
I didn’t worry, just started to prepare lunch. He’d be hungry when he got back.

It is starting to get dark now and Frank’s still not back. I don’t know what to do. I’ve walked round the island again but seen no sign of him. He won’t have gone swimming, he hates water. Where can he be? I want this to be some elaborate joke, but Frank’s not the type. He can’t have left without me, I’d have seen the boat and all his stuffs still here…

I was trying to see if I could change the mood of a piece of writing which I think worked. The group seemed to like it. The big question; What happened to Frank?

Homework for next month: either write a poem about somewhere you are going to visit in the next month or write a story designed for a commuters journey.

Sunday 6 June 2010

Surrey Artists Open Studios

This weekend kicks off the Surrey Artist Open Studios event. This is a two week period to visit artist in Surrey - to look at their work, buy their work and in some cases see demonstrations of how they work. Some are even running workshops.
They’ve got about 440 artists across Surrey participating and all will be open on Sunday 13th June.
How amazing is that? A chance to go round and have a nose in other people’s workshops, but also to see a huge amount of art in every media possible. Just looking through the brochure I picked up at work I’m quite jealous of the work space some of these people have. Of course if I put in a few hours and cleared up the study of all the rubbish I bought back from my parents I too would have a pretty good space to work in. A task for this afternoon I fear.

Monday 31 May 2010


It’s typical that with a nice long bank holiday weekend coming up and with lots to do, I end up with a head cold. But that kicked off on Saturday and Friday was the really important day.
It’s ‘im outdoors birthday this week and as a surprise I managed to get tickets for us to watch them film BBC2’s QI. This is a programme we watch a lot, to be honest one of the only programmes that I’ll bother to watch, so to see it live was amazing. Hosted by Stephen Fry and on this occasion featuring Alan Davies, Ross Noble, Jeremy Clarkson and David Mitchell.
But not only was it 3 hours of funny discussion, it was also their 100th episode, so we all got a special badge and got to sing the programme happy birthday – not strange at all.
Most importantly I managed to keep it a surprise until we got into the queue, quite an achievement as I’ve been planning this since Jan, and ‘im outdoors really enjoyed himself. Now to start planning for next year…

Friday 21 May 2010

A363 – Done

Today is the deadline for getting the final assignment for A363 – Advanced Creative Writing to the OU.
As I posted it on Monday I’m kinda hoping it’s there by now. I would cry if they sent it back unopened because it didn’t get there in time.
My story in the end was 22 pages long, double spaced, and called ‘Blast from the past’. I don’t think it is a bad story, although ask me that again in a couple of years and I might think differently.
To be honest right now I am just enjoying the freedom of no homework to be done and no deadlines to be aiming for. Of course I’ll be keeping myself busy – I’ve a large list of things I want to do, for instance making stuff, improving my book binding skills and maybe a bit of swimming on a Sunday morning.

But now I need to decide if I want to join another OU course. I’m quite tempted by EA300 – Children’s Literature, which includes some of my favourite children’s books as set texts – Tom’s Midnight Garden, Northern Lights, and Swallows and Amazons, amongst others. Would reading them in this sense spoil them for me or enhance them? Do I really want to write assignments about them? Do I really want to spend another 9 months studying? (and its not going to be just 9 months is it? If I do this one then I’ll want to do another 2 to finish my degree)
So many questions. Luckily ‘im outdoors is being his normal supportive self, so I know that whatever I decide, he’ll be right there with me, and checking my assignments if I need him too.

Monday 17 May 2010

Ad Free Site

You might have noticed over the last week that I’ve added a little red icon on the right saying ‘Art not Ads’.
By showing this icon I’m stating that I am opposed to the use of corporate advertising on blogs (and to be honest in general – surly if I need something I’ll be able to find out about it without it flashing up on every webpage I visit).
So you can be sure that if I talk about something on this blog, its because I love it or have an opinion about it, not because I’ve been given any money to advertise it there.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

36 Arguments for the Existence of God

This is the book the nice people at Mslexia have just sent me.
In the grand scheme of things I’m a lucky person; I have a lovely partner; we have a lovely flat plus garden; I’ve got a job that pays me well, etc etc. But when it comes to competitions etc I’m not so lucky. Not, I should hasten to add, that I’m moaning. But when I do win something it’s very unexpected and a nice treat.

Mslexia have a competition every edition of their magazine for a book of some kind. Some times it’s a work of fiction like this one, sometimes a book of poems, but I always enter as I’m always interested in writing which is new to me. Imagine my surprise when I received an email to say I’d won! To be honest I’d completely forgotten that I’d entered.
I’m looking forward to reading it, but it’s on my bedside table reading pile for now.

Saturday 8 May 2010

Fears and dreams

On Thursday night I stayed late at work as I was meeting some friends in town. Taking Keri Smith’s advice I decided to try out being a guerrilla artist.
As I didn’t have any chalk, and to be honest I’m a bit worried about someone seeing me and getting in to trouble, I decided to make up flyers and post them up in the (girls) loos at work.
It’s one of my favourite quotes/sayings and in the lead up to exam time at the university I thing it is appropriate.
I just hope it inspires someone.

Only a week left before I need to post (snail mail for this one) my final assignment for A363. I’m just over the word limit with more story to go, which is amazing as normally I find that incredibly hard to get to. 4122 words so far!
I can’t wait to finish. I’ve really enjoyed the course and learnt lots, but it has been hard work and I’ll be very glad to get my Sundays and evenings back.

Monday 26 April 2010

Canoscan Lite 200

I can’t decide if my computer doesn’t like working Sundays or if it just gets so used to not working through out the week, when I get all the computer time I can stand at work so I don’t turn it on, that when I do turn it on on Sunday its forgotten what to do.

The picture above might not look like much but it’s my first scan and photoshop work that I’ve done at home (it’s a scan of one of my beady necklaces). That’s right I’ve finally bought a scanner – a tiny Canoscan Lite 200, and although I tried yesterday I couldn’t get it to work. This evening it can’t be more helpful.

I’m looking forward to playing a lot more, but it’s already cut into my A364 ECA – end of course assessment, writing time so I should probably get back to that now. The deadline is after all looming.

Monday 19 April 2010

Coffee Table

I know this blog is supposed to be about the stuff I make but I just had to share!
We’ve been needing a coffee table for our living room for a while now, xbox controllers and magazines were living on the sofa, but we couldn’t found one we liked.
Then ‘im outdoors found out about a sawmill about an hours drive away, so we went for a drive one Saturday morning. There we found a lovely huge piece of pear wood. So we took it home and I left him with it.
And now we have this beautiful one of a kind table. I’m very impressed – it’s gone from a dusty lumpy lump of wood to something that shines and has a deep pink colour to it. It goes so well with everything else in the flat! Perfect.
Thanks ‘im outdoors.

Monday 12 April 2010

The Wish Jar

Well that’s my Easter Holiday over.
I’m back at work and I’ve just come across the most brilliant blog!
What? The students and academics are off for another 2 weeks.
It’s written by Keri Smith and is called The Wish Jar.
I particularly like The Rebels Manifesto:
2# Care not for the opinions of others. They are based on their own thoughts and fears
11# Question EVERYTHING and
12# Follow your heart.
I also like her idea page, which has been printed and I shall use to inspire me this summer when the OU thing is done – last assignment date 21st May!! (TMA05 got 80%)

I have photos to show you, but my USB ports have suddenly stopped working so I can’t download my photos or use my memory stick or external hard drive! Grrrwwww!

Thursday 8 April 2010

Took Me Long Enough

I don’t know if you remember, but over a year ago now I bought some beads from Linden Avenue Designs on Etsy. I loved the colours and bought them on impulse without really knowing that to do with them. Then we moved house, and I started studying A363 and so they got put to one side for a bit.
But I have been thinking about them and so with two weeks off work for Easter I’ve finally made the necklace that I wanted.
I know it looks simple – just thread them on the wire, but I actually had to drill the holes as they were really tiny, but that wasn’t a problem with my little multi tool.

What I love best about them is the fact you can change the colours, so if you’re wearing blue you could have a blue necklace, red and it’s red and so on. Or all of them for something brilliant and cheerful.
Thanks to ShortForNothing for taking the photos!

Tuesday 23 March 2010

We’re all going to the zoo … yesterday…?

You may remember that in January for my birthday ‘im outdoors adopted a pair of aardvarks for me at London Zoo. We wanted to go and visit them but it was cold and wet and really not weather to be outside.
So yesterday we finally went up to meet them.
Typical English spring weather – sunshine and showers, but that was fine.
London Zoo is surprisingly small so it was easy to walk round and see everything in a day. We saw monkeys and zebras and macaws and of course the aardvarks Kiyo and Misha. When we first got there they were asleep, after all they are nocturnal, but then they got woken up for their lunch and came outside. As the keeper said they do kinda look like they got all the left over bits from all the other animals but I have to say I think they are very cute and if I didn’t think they would destroy the garden I’d have one instead of a dog. Wonder what they are like at keeping cats out?
Thanks ‘im outdoors. A great present, I expect to be boring people with the photos for a while now.

Sunday 21 March 2010

The Artist in the Office – part 2

It’s finally arrived – or rather I’ve finally been able to pick it up from the post office, and I have to admit I’ve read it through already.
And it was just as good as I’d hoped. I’ll be going back and reading it all again, and this time I’ll stop and do all the things she suggests.
Summer uses the word artist very broadly to cover anyone who paints, draws, writes, makes music etc.
It’s aimed at those of us who do the above but have a full time job too. I don’t know about you, but on those slow days in the office where I just pretend to be busy, I wish I could be home creating stuff or at least have photoshop on my PC so I could mess with my photos.
Summer looks at how we can use our time better. Do you commute to work? Why not try a little Commuter Bingo. Rather than sit and eat your lunch at your desk while you surf the net, why not have a lunchtime adventure?
But its not just about how to be creative in your time at work (without getting fired!). She makes some very good points about jobs/work too.
Reading this I’ve realised that I resent my job. I hate the fact I’m administrator. When I was younger I wanted to be a vet, an artist, a writer. I mean really, who dreams of being an administrator when they grow up.
So I’m going to do all of her exercises and 1. See if that helps me appreciate my job a bit more, 2. Work out what changes (if any) I need to make, to make 9 to 5 a great part of my life and 3. See if I can come up with a plan (just a little one) to take me forward in a creative way.
Exciting huh?

Wednesday 17 March 2010


We had the writers group yesterday.
Although I’d set the homework – 'She wore a red dress… to be continued in single syllables', in the end I didn’t do it as I’ve been working instead on TMA05 – due in on Friday and TMA06 due in after Easter.
So I read the first part of my TMA and received not only some good comments but some useful comments too. Which is lucky as I need another 144 words to hit the word limit.
Not sure if I should post this before submitting it but here is the first bit anyway.

In the end the banging becomes too much and she gets out of bed.
With her dressing gowned pulled tight round her she stops at the living room door and watches Adam and two work men.
She doesn’t know what they are doing; doesn’t really care. Just wishes they would leave her in peace.
They’ve done something to the window although she can’t work out what.
‘Darling; I didn’t know you were up.’ Says Adam as he turns and spots her watching them.
‘Couldn’t really help it with all the racket you were making.’ she says.
Adam says something quickly to the work men, her Finnish isn’t good enough to work out what, then ushers her out of the room.
Seated at the breakfast bar he pours her a glass of juice.
‘What are they doing?’ she asks.
‘It’s a surprise. I thought you could do with cheering up.’
‘It would cheer me up if they went away.’
‘They’ll be going soon, they’re nearly finished. Anyway you’ll love it.’
‘So what is it?’
‘You’ll see in a minute. Do you want some breakfast?’
‘I don’t know. I can’t work out what bloody time of day it is here. It’s always dark. When can we go home?’ She plays with the condensation on her glass of juice. Adam comes over and hugs her.
‘Jenny we talked about this. I’ve got to be here for the whole nine months. You were excited then.’
‘Yes, but that was before I found out it’s always bloody dark here.’ She wiggles out of his embrace.
‘Give it another couple of months and it’ll never get dark.’
‘That’s another couple of months that I don’t think I can deal with.’ As she looks up Adam sees the tears in her eyes.
‘Well that’s why I got you a surprise.’ He takes her hand and leads her back into the living room. The work men have gone and you would never know they had been there. But there is still something odd about the window.
She can’t work it out. The potted plant is still sitting on the window sill along with a large wooden sculpture and the stripy curtains which she thinks clash with the sofa.
And then she does get it.
‘How did you do that?’ She’s gone right up to the window now to look out, and she’s grinning like a child. Adam is grinning too.
Where the window before has shown a few houses and the start of a forest all encased in darkness and snow, except for a short time round midday when the sun shows its light on the horizon, now it is full of day light and summer.
‘I knew you were powerful but that’s ridiculous’ Jenny says never taking her eyes off the houses and trees outside.
‘Is it a photo?’
‘A painting?’
‘Some sort of computer thingy?’
‘Nearly. It’s a video.’
‘But how does it change when I move?’ Jenny is now pacing back and forth in front of the window,
watching as the houses retreat and the sky enlarges. Now the sky retreats and the houses enlarge.
‘I won’t pretend to know the details, but this is cutting edge technology. Officially we’re testing this for the company – only a few have been made. It’s pretty amazing hey?’
Jenny’s not really listening. She has her hands on the glass and can feel the warmth of summer on her palms.

p.s excitingly I’ve got a red card from the postman to say he couldn’t deliver a package for me as it was too big for our post box. Fingers crossed that it’s the 'Artist in the Office'.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Blue Tit House

I know it’s not a great photo, but this is evidence that someone is using one of the bird boxes that ‘im outdoors made. In the depths of winter while everything was covered in a foot of snow, ‘im outdoors kept him self busy in the garage and made two bird boxes.
We’ve put them at either end of the garden, one designed for blue tits and one for great tits. (the holes are different sizes)
We’ve seen birds looking at both and this box is getting a lot of attention. Hopefully they will decide its up to scratch.

Friday 26 February 2010

The Artist in the Office

Do you love your job?
Most of the time my job isn’t too bad; I like helping the students and making things easy for my academics. But just now I’m really frustrated with a system which doesn’t work and a lot of students nagging me for their exam marks. And on top of this is the wish to be able to do what I want with my time.

I wish I could volunteer, and write, and use the gym/pool every day, and make stuff, and go walking, and have a dog and some chickens. I guess what I mean is, I wish that money wasn’t something to worry about and I could be free.

But this is a mind set and maybe what I need to do is work out how to be free in my mind?

Anyway while taking a break from writing minutes yesterday I was looking on etsy and found an article about Summer Pierre and her new book – The Artist in the Office. This sounds like just what I need. Inspiration on how to use my creativity all the time. Now I have to admit that I’m not always working when I’m at my desk. Sometimes I write my OU assignments there and there was one time when I made paper moustache for the photos of the team outside our office. But although browsing the net sometimes brings me little gems like this, most of the time it’s a waste of my time and I should be using it better. (for work of course)
The book is on order and when I receive it (which might take a little while as it’s not released in the UK just yet) I’ll let you know what I think.

Tuesday 16 February 2010


Today I chaired the writers group. Not at all nerve racking.
We started by looking at what everyone wrote for last months homework.
We were to write 140 characters using the three words Alan gave us. When we first heard this we all wondered how you could write something with 140 people in it, but then realised he meant 140 letters, spaces and punctuation.
I however didn’t like the words I was given: dimple, teach and potato, so wrote something else instead.


The cement is late. When I ring up to ask where it is I’m told Oxfordshire instead of Hampshire. All for a missing R.

I then set the next activity. Starting with ‘She wore a red dress…’ continue using only single syllable words. This seemed to go down well and I look forward to hearing the outcomes next month.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Happy Valentines Day

To celebrate Valentines Day this year - the first in the new flat, we decided to give flowers a miss and bought a tree instead.

It doesn't look much right now, but in the summer it should have big golden heart shaped leaves. Its a Catalpa Bignonioides "Aurea", or Golden Indian Bean Tree.
I'm very excited, 'im outdoors has drawn up a planting plan for the garden and we are slowly filling it up. Roll on the Spring!

Sunday 7 February 2010

Christmas Beads

For Christmas my Mum bought me a Pandora/Troll style necklace. When she asked me what beads I wanted for it I asked for just plain silver spacer beads so that I could choose my favourite beads from sellers on Etsy.
Working from left to right:
The first bead is from Elysium Beads – all the way from Australia. It’s a lampwork glass bead called ‘Ethereal’ and in the light it really is ethereal. I was very impressed with how quickly I received it; I would never have guessed it came all that way.
The second bead came from Luccicare Lampwork. It’s a lampwork glass bead lined with sterling silver and filled with 8 cubic zirconia’s crystals. Again in the light it flashes like diamonds.
The next two come form Studio Mees & Merel. The first is ivory dots on turquoise and I think is my very favourite. The second is hot pink fuchsia stripe and was a present from ‘im outdoors. Bless him. The hot pink works so well with the blues.
The last was from my Mum. I think they are all brilliant and I love the fact that I’ve room to add more if something catches my eye.

Sunday 31 January 2010

It begins with an A...

It’s been a long and busy couple of weeks with no time to blog.
I’ve given blood and had a job interview (which I didn’t get). I’ve handed in another TMA so am now about half way through the course, and had the disappointment of my marked script back.
I’ve had a birthday and become the proud adopted parent of a pair of aardvarks – Kiyo and Misha at London Zoo. I can’t wait to visit them when it gets a little warmer.
We’ve had our first writers group without Anne, where we worked out how to make it work now. Homework to write a piece of flash fiction of 140 characters including spaces! (I must work on that)
And finally yesterday I went to Southampton again for the second OU day school for A363. Only 5 students turned up which was slightly disappointing but did mean we had more time for discussing work.
I wrote a couplet about clouds:

A baby elephant gallops over the hill
Before its gone it’s turned into a ship.

And a four line poem about the shadows of two men who have just jumped off a bridge into a river.

Shadows released,
No desire to be wet.
They sit; waiting
For their owners return.

I will try and blog more often but its going to stay busy for a bit, with exam marks at work coming in and more TMA deadlines looming, and I’m the next chair for the writers group so need to come up with a homework. Blimey!

Monday 11 January 2010

Things to do when it snows

The snow is still there, but I'm back at work.
It came at a great time, giving me that little bit of extra time needed to finish my next OU assignment. And then I had a little bit of time left over to finish the blind I started over Christmas.
This is for the front door. During the day it lets in sunshine - if there is any, and makes the middle of the flat nice and light. But at night it lets in an evil orange street light from directly out side. Its a roman blind so folds up as you pull the string keeping it out of the way when using the door. And its made from blackout material so I only need the one piece and didn't have to do any clever lining. I have to say I'm very pleased. And thanks to 'im outdoors for his help screwing it to the door.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Snow, just a little bit

I've only been at work 2 days following the Christmas holidays, but already I'm stuck at home again due to the foot of snow that fell over night. Its not too much of a problem - work is quiet and I have an assignment due in at the end of the week.
We got a little bored inside as you can see - the castle is 'im outdoors.